With it’s classic Art-deco style French interiors and opulent chandeliers, Joel Robuchon was a glittering jewel crowning the top of the local culinary scene when it first opened at the Resorts World Sentosa in 2011. In addition to the elegantly appointed dining room, the restaurant is touted for its three-Michelin starred appeal and decadent 16-course degustation meal sets. Chef Joel Robuchon was also one of the first world-class celebrity chefs to open a flagship here in Singapore.
Yet come end June, the nation-state will lose its only three Michelin-starred restaurant. Its sister outlet, the two-starred L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, will also close, although it may be resurrected at a different location.
The two restaurants are the jewels of the cluster of fine-dining restaurants at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), and were among the first crop of stars to be awarded in the influential Michelin Guide's Singapore debut in 2016.
The restaurants will serve their last meals on June 30, shortly before Michelin Guide unveils its list for 2018 on July 25. It is unclear how the new development will be reflected in the guide.
The closures will be a blow to the local fine-dining industry, which has already lost the two-starred Restaurant Andre, which bowed out of the scene in February when chef-owner Andre Chiang decided to return home to Taiwan. Joel Robuchon Restaurant and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon had just installed new head chefs last November – Kim Joinié-Maurin and Vianney Massot respectively.
Since they are part of the Joel Robuchon Group, they will likely be transferred to other restaurants within the group. The Robuchon group may look for a location in Orchard Road to re-open L'Atelier and Yoshi, Mr Robuchon's Japanese concept restaurant from Monaco.
However, even if that happens, it takes at least a year to get everything in place, which means they're unlikely to open anything before mid-2019.
Hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng of the Unlisted Collection and co-owner of Restaurant Andre, reacted with shock to the news. "Still, I'm not that surprised, as the restaurant hasn't been doing particularly well. It's not good news for Singapore's restaurant scene and it's not a sign of a healthy industry. I hope this does not presage more closures, but high-end dining in Singapore is very hard indeed."
Sebastien Lepinoy, chef of the two-starred Les Amis, said the F&B industry in Singapore "will be less strong compared to Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai", but it also reflects how tough it is to run a restaurant of such calibre.
"Your payroll costs are so high because you need a lot of staff to maintain a consistent standard, plus food and maintenance. Even if your restaurant works in terms of customer numbers, it doesn't mean you're making money. Just breaking even is already a good result."
Wee Teng Wen of the Lo & Behold Group, which includes the two-starred Odette, adds that "it's a constant reminder that the industry and diner preferences are ever-evolving and that we need to be fully invested in creating timeless concepts and enduring experiences to remain relevant."
Beppe de Vito of the one-starred Braci believes that the Sentosa location may have played a role in the closure. "It's a pity to lose such a well-recognised brand. It may send the wrong message to other world-class chefs who may have been thinking of setting up shop here. On the other hand, we may now have a Singapore brand that can achieve the coveted three stars."
For local diners however, there are still many other award-winning restaurants to choose from when dining out. For now, the local dining scene remains vibrant and upbeat in spite of this great loss.