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The restaurants at the National Gallery are as worth seeing as the art (Part 1)

SMOKE & MIRRORS 
(06-01 CITY HALL WING)

National Gallery, restaurant design, Smoke & Mirrors
Photo: The Straits Times 

The uninterrupted views of the Singapore skyline from rooftop bar Smoke & Mirrors cannot be beaten, but it is the circular stainless-steel bar that takes pride of place here. Reflecting the city's skyline on its polished surface, the 4.7m-wide and 400kg counter had to be crane- lifted in four pieces and welded onsite by a specialist from China.

It was well worth the $180,000 cost and effort, says Park Hotel Group executive director Tan Shin Hui, 32. "We wanted to create a visually powerful and iconic bar that is modern and stylish. It was befitting that the bar gives guests a sophisticated place to lounge in." The 65-seater bar is the group's first F&B venture outside its hotels and renovation cost under half a million dollars. It is located on the sixth floor of the National Gallery Singapore and is accessible from either side of the City Hall Wing.

Singapore design studio Asylum, who was behind the branding of the Gallery, was in charge of the bar's interior design and branding. The firm's creative director Chris Lee, 45, says: "Since it is at the National Gallery Singapore, we came up with the idea of having a sculpture that doubles as a bar." True to the bar's name, the mood is intimate and enigmatic, with a lot of reflective surfaces.

National Gallery, restaurant design, Smoke & Mirrors
Photo: The Straits Times

The narrow hallway entrance has a mirror running across its length, reflecting the feature wall of 600 wine glasses stacked atop one another. Inside, the space is finished off in copper and silver tones. The stainless-steel bar straddles both the indoor and outdoor areas. But given the spectacular view, most people are likely to be heading outside. Due to strict guidelines set by the Gallery, most of the alfresco decor of the City Hall rooftop was left untouched. When it rains, guests have to vacate the partially sheltered area and move indoors.

The bar's 15 signature tipples by head bartender Yugnes Susela include the New & Old Sling ($26), a reworked version of the iconic Singapore Sling with whisky, orange, cassis, angostura bitters and prosecco.


YAN
 (05-02 CITY HALL WING)

National Gallery, restaurant design, Yan
Photo: Yan

Since it is located in the National Gallery Singapore, the country's biggest art museum, Chinese restaurant Yan went for an artistic touch in its decor. Its entrance light fixture is crafted to resemble a Chinese scroll. Further back in the restaurant is a glass ceiling feature of about 400 hand-blown glass vessels, each individually screwed into the ceiling.

While its menu is old-school Cantonese fine dining, the decor is bright and contemporary. Grey circular booth seats that can accommodate up to six people contrast with red and purple woven silk dividers. Looking out of the angled wood feature wall, diners get views of the Gallery's rooftop garden.

There are three private rooms in the 2,700 sq ft, 154-seater restaurant. Two are at the back and hidden between a screen of woven Chinese fabric. Each room can accommodate up to 12 people and can be linked by removing the divider. The third private room is to the left of the restaurant's entrance.

Yan, along with rooftop bar Smoke & Mirrors, is the first F&B venture for Park Hotel Group outside its hotels. The restaurant was designed by Singapore design studio Asylum for under half a million dollars. Ms Tan Shin Hui, 32, executive director of the Park Hotel Group, says they sought to create a space where people can gather over food. The Chinese character of Yan also refers to "feast".

She adds: "We wanted to go back to the core value of the Chinese, which is unity - where they feel it is important for families and friends to gather and bond over meals." Helming the kitchen is Hong Kong masterchef Chan Kung Lai, who has more than 20 years of culinary experience. His signature dish is crispy roast suckling pig served in three ways.

The restaurant has introductory set menus for lunch (from $58++ a person, minimum two to dine) and dinner (from $78++ a person, minimum two to dine) to coincide with the opening of the Gallery. Go to www.yan.com.sg for more information.


AURA
 (05-03 AND 06-02 CITY HALL WING)


Photo: The Stratits TImes

For restaurateur-chef Beppe de Vito, artworks are not just for display inside a gallery. Works from local artists decorate the 9,000 sq ft Aura, a two-level dining concept featuring a 90-seat Italian restaurant on Level 5 and a 200-seat rooftop bar Sky Lounge one floor above.

Singapore art consultant Audrey Png of Asian Art Options picked the commissioned pieces for the space. Inside the Sky Lounge, there are two floor-to-ceiling sculptures by artist Grace Tan, who was inspired by the Corinthian columns fronting the Supreme Court and American artist Jeff Koons' whimsical style. Her work has two columns connected to the ceiling in violet and gold metallic "blobs" that look like splats of water.

Artist Chun Kai Feng brings the heartland to the city with his "neon light triptych", modelled after the retro window grilles found in old HDB flats in the 1970s. They hang in the window of the Sky Lounge.

Chef de Vito, 43, who also opened restaurants ilLido Bali in Indonesia and Osteria Art in Market Street this year, wanted to create "a unique space and setting that would integrate well with the Gallery". He adds: "It was also our way to support local artists that aren't featured yet within the Gallery, but have already made their mark in Singapore and overseas."

Complementing the artworks are luxe interiors by award-winning architectural agency JPA Design. In the restaurant, a feature wall of hexagons references a detail on the balcony parapets of the museum's facade. The hexagons, laid on top of one another from big to small, pop out in uniform rows. Rose-gold mirrored ceiling panels create the illusion of volume. The terracotta booth seats are a mix of fabric and faux leather, while marble partitions add a luxurious touch.

The 6,000 sq ft Sky Lounge's best feature is its unblocked views. When you enter the space from the restaurant, you can walk outside to the deck on your left for a panoramic view of Marina Bay and the central business district. On the right, the view is of shimmery pools and vertical gardens of the National Gallery Singapore and the current Supreme Court's spaceship-like dome.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

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