We are over a year into the pandemic and while vaccination rates in Singapore are steadily picking up, the latest round of measures has all but dampened the nation’s spirit.
The restaurant scene is still the worst hit as dining-in is barred once again. This time, chefs and restaurateurs are more prepared than ever to deal with deliveries and in some cases, retail.
That includes the likes of three-Michelin-starred Les Amis — synonymous with starched white tablecloths, impeccable classic dishes and service more polished than the gleaming chandeliers of Versailles Palace. It is the acme of French fine dining in Singapore; a luxury that may at first seem a little out of place at a time when people are more concerned with their well-being than they are with the amount of caviar on their mother of pearl spoons.
But perhaps that touch of luxury is exactly what the soul needs in these depressing times.
“I feel [that] food and the entire dining experience brings excitement and joy into people’s lives, “said chef Sebastien Lepinoy. “People, by nature, like to be pampered, and it’s our job here at a three-Michelin-star fine dining restaurant to pamper our guests. In a sense, our restaurant serves as a respite for people to escape from the monotony of everyday life.”
That pampering during this Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) comes in the form of items available for retail and takeaway. While the restaurant focused on comfort food to be enjoyed with the family at home during Circuit Breaker, the offerings have gotten a little more decadent.
Gourmet ice creams in tempting flavours like Sicilian Pistachio and Blue Mountain Coffee are available from $32 while a 250g dark chocolate cake goes for $45. At the most wallet-friendly end of the spectrum are classic French baguettes going at $5 while a whopping 1.7kg tin of Kristal Caviar exclusive to the restaurant goes for $4,825. Despite the hefty price, the caviar is sold out at press time with new shipments coming in from 2nd August. In between, there are savoury options like artisanal butter churned in a wooden drum ($12), onion soup ($15) and roast chicken ($150).
Takeaways from a space dedicated to gastronomy was unheard of just a few years ago. In pre-pandemic France for example, bringing leftover food home from a restaurant was a matter of national debate. As the pandemic raged, the fine dining stalwarts across the world from Noma to Alain Ducasse had to pivot to keep their lights on and wages paid.
“Back in 2020, during the first lockdown, we were not as prepared as we are today,” said chef Sebastien. “It was definitely worrying when the government announced that dine-in was not allowed. Since then, we have developed financial safeguards and even protocols to ensure that we are prepared. We’ve learnt from our past experience — what works and what doesn’t. As the saying goes ‘Once bitten, twice shy.'”
Now, the restaurant is taking the bull by its horns, investing in a state-of-the-art chiller containing retail items accessible by finger print. It can house goods summing up to six figures thanks to the volume of caviar kept at a precise temperature.
“As much as I wish we didn’t have to close dine-in, it gives my team and I an opportunity to also work on other projects in the pipeline,” explained the chef. When asked what the fasting moving items are, he replies,”Caviar, ice cream and the chocolate tart.”
“We are very grateful to have the consistent support of our regulars and the public,” he adds.
For more information on the menu, head to lesamis.com.sg/gifting. (All images courtesy of Les Amis)