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The restaurants at the National Gallery are as worth seeing as the art (Part 2)

NATIONAL KITCHEN
 (02-01 CITY HALL WING)

National Kitchen, National Gallery, Violet Oon, Peranakan food
Photo: National Kitchen

A genteel old-world atmosphere pervades Ms Violet Oon's new venture National KitchenThe design blends colonial influences with Peranakan elements, fitting nicely with the varied Singaporean cuisine the restaurant is offering. Besides Nonya fare, it has local dishes such as Hainanese mutton stew, Eurasian beef semur and Hakka abacus seeds. Vegetable dishes and mains start from $12.

In the interiors, Western influences can be seen in the dark wood panel mouldings and glass-beaded chandeliers. The floor is covered with colourful Peranakan tiles, bordered by black-and-white floor tiles commonly found in traditional coffee shops in Singapore.

The chef also displays a bit of personal history. On the restaurant's ash wood-panelled walls are framed photographs from her career as a journalist and chef. For example, there is a picture of the 66-year-old's first recipe book, which she has kept since she was 16, as well as a black-and-white image of her aunt Nona - her culinary mentor - pounding spices with a stone pestle and mortar.

Ms Oon's daughter Su-lyn Tay, 39, oversaw the restaurant's design. She worked with Singapore interior design firm Laank and the restaurant's co-owner Manoj Murjani, founder of the TWG Tea company. The renovations took seven weeks and cost about $500,000. Laank and Mr Murjani had also worked on the design of Ms Oon's other eatery in Bukit Timah Road, the three-year-old Violet Oon's Kitchen, which has a similar vibe.

National Kitchen, National Gallery, Violet Oon, Peranakan food
Photo: The Straits Times

National Kitchen has an indoor floor area of 1,300 sq ft and can accommodate 50 people. The 1,700 sq ft verandah, which has views of the Padang, seats 35 people. Inside, diners can slide into black leather booth seats for privacy or sit at elegant marble-top tables.

At its entrance, traditional Peranakan tableware such as spice pots, bowls and tea jars are displayed on a wooden bookshelf and cabinet. Ms Tay says: "Peranakan culture is warm and hospitable, so we wanted the hallway to feel warm and inviting, like someone's home. That was important to us, rather than just trying to max out seating space."


ODETTE
 (01-04 SUPREME COURT WING)

Odette, National Gallery
Photo: The Business Times

Modern French restaurant Odette has impressed food critics since it opened a few weeks ago. But as diners praise fine-dining dishes such as Challans Guinea Fowl and Hokkaido Uni, its interior has also gotten its fair share of Instagram likes.

Push past the heavy Roman arched wood doors and you will enter an intimate, elegant space. The design elements are clean and understated, with a light palette. Think blush curtains, grey seats and a cracked marble floor filled in with pale pink grout. Gold accents are found throughout, such as the brass planters and stems of lighting fixtures.

Odette, National Gallery
Photo: The Business Times

The main dining room seats 32 and a private room can take a dozen. A special chef's table in the kitchen is being finalised. In the meantime, diners can still watch chef Julien Royer and his team at work in the kitchen via full- height, gold-rimmed glass panels.

Odette is named after Royer's grandmother. The French chef opened the restaurant with The Lo & Behold Group. The owners turned to London- based Universal Design Studio for the interior design. Lead designer Sacha Leong, 36, who once worked at home-grown architecture firm Woha, says the team drew inspiration from Royer's cooking.

Mr Leong says: "His plates are incredibly delicate, delicious compositions which celebrate the best ingredients. We felt the space had to have the same understated elegance, but without the strict formality of traditional fine dining." Prices start from $88 for a four-course lunch menu and $206 for a six-course dinner menu.

Artist Dawn Ng, who is married to Mr Wee Teng Wen, managing partner at Lo & Behold, created an art installation for the restaurant called A Theory Of Everything. For the work, she spent time in the kitchen photographing raw ingredients such as truffles. After treating and printing these images onto archival paper, she stuck them onto thin oak panels, which were later folded into random shapes. These shapes are hung from the ceiling over the quadruple banquette in the main dining area, hovering like a big mobile.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

 

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