Ahead of Raffles Hotel’s much-anticipated re-opening, its signature restaurant La Dame de Pic will be taking reservations starting from 5 July. Opened in partnership with celebrated chef Anne Sophie Pic, the restaurant is the latest in the series of offshoot-restaurants that Pic has opened around the world — in Paris, London, and Switzerland. It’s also her first in Asia. Ahead of its opening we got to speak to her, sample the food, and be thoroughly impressed by both.
To talk about Pic’s cuisine though, we have to inevitably bring up her gender. It’s an angle that’s somewhat tired and irrelevant in gastronomy — to place women in a separate category; to label someone as a “female chef” rather than just a “chef”, ascribing additional values to her cooking based on her gender. Yet the topic comes up repeatedly because there are still glass ceilings in places, because Pic is still the only woman in France to currently hold three Michelin stars for one restaurant (she has a total of 7, if we’re keeping count).
Everything that Pic has done so far for La Dame de Pic has fit into this heuristic. The restaurant has been described as her “most feminine” yet, with plenty of pink pastel hues, floral motifs, and metallic accents all tied together by a central chandelier with laser-cut spades — a play on the restaurant’s name, which translates as “the queen of spades”.
It’s not symptomatic of Pic’s gender though, but an indication of her personality. The soft-spoken Pic shares:
“I strongly believe my gender influences by cuisine. I’m sure of that. But feminine cuisine is not linked to gender. It influences, but much more than gender I think it’s the personality of the chef shows in the food. It’s more of a personal philosophy.”
To prove a point: there is a strong femininity to Pic’s dishes. They come with a graceful levity that belies the understanding of French cuisine, but helming the kitchen for La Dame de Pic Raffles is Pic’s protege of 8 years, Kevin Gatin.
While the food is light, both on the eyes and palate, flavours abound. Dishes at La Dame de Pic are all cleverly perfumed with a myriad of herbs and spices — butter is spiked with sweet star anise; while turbot — one of Pic’s favourite ingredients to work with — comes with an almost juice-like broth of Granny Smith apples, marigold, and tarragon. The acidic, slightly sweet broth smells strangely enough like a forest, and flits and weaves in between bites of mild, meaty fish.
Everything from snacks to the mains and petit fours often come with edible flowers garnishes. Even when there are no flowers on the plate, there are. Saga wagyu, faintly smoky from being cooked over coals, comes with beetroot ribbons fashioned into the shape of a rose.
What Pic’s gender has defined strongly though, is her motherhood — something that she feels has completely changed the way she cooks.
“You become more sensitive to things. You have to make a lot of decisions when you’re a new mother, which definitely makes you more confident and mature. It makes you a more nurturing person — you have to take care of your children, and then you also learn to take care of your guests. I was definitely a different person, more nurturing,” explains Pic.
Efforts have also been made to contextualize the restaurant. One of Pic’s signatures is Berlingots, a triangular parcel-shaped matcha pasta filled with goat’s cheese and served in a herb-suffused consomme. While the format of pasta-cheese filling-sauce remains consistent; the ingredients change with the seasons and restaurants.
For Pic’s Singaporean outpost, the sauce has taken on the flavours of herb-of-grace, a local herb that Pic found while exploring Chinatown with Labyrinth chef Han Li Guang. Colloquially known as chou chao (literally “stink grass”), herb-of-grace once commonly used to add an ironically fragrant edge to Cantonese-style red bean soup.
The drinks at La Dame de Pic too, are an inspiring affair. Pic has her own range of wines, made from her family vineyards in Rhone Valley, and vinified by biodynamic winemaker Michel Chapoutier. They’ve been working together for 12 years now, producing mostly single varietals like the outstanding Saint-Péray Lieu-dit Payrolles (which was served with the Berlingots) — a 100% Marsanne that’s grown in granite at a high altitude, and naturally fermented for a wine that’s rich and complex, yet balanced with fresh acidity.
Wines though, are only the beginning. Even after over two decades in the business — she took control of the family restaurant, Maison Pic in 1997 with no formal culinary training — Pic still finds things that excite her, sharing that while wine is still important, “the future is in non-alcoholic and non-wine pairings”.
On the cards is a whole world of possibilities: tea (Pic is a big tea drinker herself), coffee, and even cocktails, prepared tableside.
Reservations for La Dame de Pic open 5 July 2019
1 Beach Road, Tel: 6337-1886