"Let them eat cake!" Well, Marie Antoinette may never have said those words often attributed to her, but she apparently did love pastries. As such, she is the inspiration for Chef Pang Kok Keong's new Parisian pâtisserie, salon de thé (tea room) and restaurant, Antoinette.
Chef Pang is well-known for his desserts (most famously at Canelé, and the Les Amis Group), but Antoinette has superb savoury selections as well. But I'll start with dessert, because they are just so pretty and exquisite!
The Saint Honore L'Amour (S$8.50 per slice, S$38 for 500g, S$75 for 1kg) is a rosy elegant tower of red fruit compote and rose petal cream filled profiteroles sitting on an almond tart base. If you love rose-flavoured desserts, this one was made for you.
Antoinette (S$9 each, S$40 for 500g, S$80 for 1kg) is a sweet nod to the last queen of France. Smooth milk chocolate infused with earl grey tea envelops a hazelnut feuillitine enhanced with dark chocolate earl grey tea crémeux. Yes, basically there's lots of earl grey, chocolate, and hazelnut.
But the most interesting thing is the raspberry coulis "cherry" on top. They went to quite a lot of trouble to create this. The raspberry juice had to be frozen first, and then coated with the "bubble" casing and brushed with an edible pearlescent sheen.
Choclicieux (S$9.50) is a popsicle-shaped treat made with dark chocolate, hazelnut nougatine, dark chocolate biscuit and almond chocolate glaze. When it was brought to the table, everyone thought this was ice cream. But surprise! It's a treat that's even richer and more decadent.
There is a beautiful display case at the front of the shop. Your familiar favourites from Canele are here too - the Royale, Mont Blanc, Strawberry Shortcake, macarons and so on.
The decor is aptly decadent and deliberately luxurious, as Marie Antoinette was certainly famous for her rich tastes and excesses. But it's designed to feel like a cosy home too. Sink into plush, custom-made velvet chairs for an intimate tête-à-tête, next to a mock fireplace and a birdcage filled with blooms. Bronze lamps cast a romantic glow, and the ceiling that resembles a gold chocolate bar reflects more opulence. It isn't a large space - it fits only 27 patrons - but that only adds to the exclusivity of the place.
Antoinette has quite a selection of custom-blended teas, such as Earl grey d'Antoinette; Fleurs confiture d'oranges, and French apple tart (all S$9 per pot). The taste and aroma of the teas I found very gentle but pleasant. Even the teapots and crockery are all quite ladylike, and embellished with the initial "A".
All right, that's it for dainty desserts and lovely teas. Let's check out their savoury items, which I would gladly come back for.
Scrambled egg gratin with tomato fondue, Paris ham, sauteed mushrooms and parmesan cheese, served with pain de mie toast (S$15). Supremely hearty and satisfying - my kind of breakfast! It will possibly be the only meal you will ever need for the entire day.
If you prefer a sweet start instead, I hear the French toast with crème Chantilly (about S$10.50) is really good. You can have it with maple syrup, salty caramel, caramelised banana or hot chocolate.
There are various sandwiches too. This is the Antoinette Burger (S$18) - pan-fried apples with chicken leg patty, pommery mustard mayonnaise, butter luttuce, onion chutney, tomatoes, chips and petit salad. You could also opt for Club Antoinette (S$18), a triple decker of pain de mie toast, yuzu crab mimosa, omelette, tomato, chips and fresh lettuce.
From the pasta section comes the interesting Gnocchi carbonara (S$16.50) with caramelized bacon, white wine cream sauce, poached egg and aged parmesan cheese. Chef Pang's dumplings are made without potato! It's a mixture of gruyere cheese, herbs, egg and flour that are blanched and sauteed in clarified butter until golden brown before being tossed in the sauce. Fried cheese dumplings! Yes!
Please note that most of the savoury stuff is in tasting portions. Like this Ballotine de poulet a la Grand-Mère (S$26, left) and Bouef Bourguignon (S$28, right). I thought I would automatically like the beef (it's wagyu beef brisket!) more than the chicken, but the roasted chicken roll was surprisingly tasty. Crisp skin wins. It comes with a Chasseur sauce (white wine, tomatoes and mushroom). Probably still more refined than Grandma would make, but pleasing nonetheless.
For a lighter meal (or if you are just adding on healthy greens), try the Salade Antoinette (S$14.50), which gives you mixed greens with crabmeat, boiled egg, tomatoes, pine nuts, toasted brioche cubes and a zesty yuzu dressing.
Chef Pang has always been fascinated with breads, so there are a few varieties like brioche, pain de mie, and a baguette that takes 24 hours to proof, so that it's more crisp and flavourful.
The 24-hour baguette with Serrano ham, emmental cheese and French butter (S$14). Tasting portion shown here, of course. Sometimes all I need is good bread and cheese.
Antoinette at Mandarin Gallery is Chef Pang's second outlet. The first one is at Penhas Road and is much larger (that one takes reservations, Mandarin Gallery does not). There will be a third outlet at Scarlet Hotel, which is slated to open in November.
It was a great pleasure meeting the effusively cheerful Chef Pang. I like what he's done with Antoinette, and look forward to more of his Sugar Daddy Group ventures.
333A Orchard Road
#02-33/34 Mandarin Gallery
Tel: +65 6836-9527
Open daily 9am to 10pm (last order 9.30pm)
Original branch at Penhas Road
30 Penhas Road (off Lavender Street)
Mon-Thurs: 11am to 10pm
Fri & eve PH: 11am to 11pm
Sat: 10am to 11pm
Sun and PH: 10am to 10pm
(last orders all half hour before closing)
Thanks to Noelle of Sixth Sense Communications for inviting and hosting us, and to Chef Pang too for the dinner.