New restaurants open all the time in a city as busy and buzzing as Singapore. Which means some open with greater fanfare than others. Some open quietly, with nary a whisper of publicity or media interest. Others open with a bang. And when a new restaurant is opened by a chef whose last efforts helped his former establishment get ranked among the world’s top 100 restaurants, everyone notices. The food writers for the two (main) papers of record here raced to see who could be the first to write about Gunther’s, dining not just during its first month of operations but on its very first night. The country’s Prime Minister has already taken his family to dine there, giving the restaurant an unofficial First Family stamp of approval.
Gunther’s, a joint collaboration from the talented and charming carrot-topped Belgian chef Gunther Hubrechsen and the very well-established Garibaldi Group of Restaurants, opened in Singapore on 1 August. After just one week of operations, this sleek 50-seater is fast on its way to establishing itself as one of the best and chicest French restaurants in town. Hubrechsen, as every foodie in the region already knows, was most recently in charge of the kitchens at Les Amis, which last year was ranked by Restaurant Magazine‘s annual survey as the world’s 83rd best restaurant. Before coming to Singapore, he spent 5 years working at Alain Passard’s famed L’Arpege, reaching the rank of sous-chef before his departure.
Hubrechsen’s food is light and subtle. It’s food that demonstrates restraint, maturity and a focus on the purity of good ingredients. It’s not the kind of food that leaves you feeling overstuffed and ready for bed; it teases, tantalizes and leaves you just a little hungry (and energetic enough) for other, equally satisfying and seductive nocturnal activities.
S and I have had the pleasure of dining twice at Gunther’s since it opened. We had lunch there last Sunday and dined with friends just a few days ago. While some have commented that the interiors are a tad too somber and plain for them, S and I really like the dark, urban and minimalist interiors. It’s a nice grown-up environment for very grown-up meals, which is always good to have. After all, not all restaurants have to be fun and bright and cheery. We also need nice, sleek spaces for business meals and romantic tete-a-tetes.
Gunther’s currently offers, in addition to the a la carte menus, a set lunch at S$38 and a set tasting (dinner) menu at S$128. The latter is extremely good value (given both the high level of service here and the quality of the food). At present, the tasting menu consists of Gunther’s cold angel hair pasta with oscietra caviar; seared foie gras with crushed candied almonds; grilled Scottish bamboo clams; a choice of a cod dish or a braised veal cheek; and a lovely apple tart, served with vanilla ice cream. The angel hair pasta with caviar and the bamboo clams are stunners. Both are beautifully prepared dishes bursting with natural flavours. On our last visit, S had the cod, which is plated in a rich creamy sauce and which I sneaked a taste of. It was very good, tasting like what I can only describe as ultra-high end comfort food. One of Gunther’s specialties is his cote de boeuf, which while excellent is quite expensive (at S$110 a portion). His lobster Provencal is lovely; succulent, tender lobster is served with a rice pilaf that has been inspired by local chicken rice and is cooked with both French and Asian herbs. A dish that I really enjoyed is the grilled mushrooms, served with a sunny side up egg and just a touch of ham. It’s the kind of breakfast food that I could have anytime of the day and works very well as a starter on Gunther’s menu. The apple tart, which is the chef’s signature dessert, is light but full of flavour. Our friends swooned over it. S also enjoyed the restaurant’s cheese plate, which offers 4 small slices of excellent French farm cheeses.
Gunther’s is a nice addition to the local dining scene. It’s a fantastic place for that romantic dinner you’ve been promising your loved one but still haven’t gotten around to arranging. It’s also good for a lavish group dinner — the restaurant has two private rooms that can seat up to 12 persons each.
I have no doubt that Gunther’s, whose phones are, from what I’m told, already ringing off the hook, will soon become one of the must-eat-in restaurants for travelling gourmets who stop off on these shores. And as for how it will rank among the world’s top 100, well, from what I know, the jury for next year’s survey is just only now being regrouped. Hopefully, enough of the panelists will find time to stop in and sample Hubrechsen’s food before casting their next votes.
Gunther’s is open daily for Lunch and Dinner, from noon to 2.30pm.and from 6.30 to 10.30 pm. The set lunch menu offers the choice between 3 appetizers, three main courses, plus dessert, coffee or tea is prized at $ 38. A 6 course Tasting menu runs $128; also available is the “Carte Blanche” menu, in which Gunther makes whatever he wants for you. Price depends on the produce and ingredients used.
Lunch: 12-2.30 pm
Dinner: 6.30-10.30 pm
Sadly, all the photos I took turned out awful (tough lighting to shoot in), hence I have asked the restaurant to let me use some of their images in this post.