For those that know me well, they understand my poison of choice is wine. After 10 years of working in hospitality and attending numerous wine tastings I have developed an appreciation of European and New World wines. So when I came to Singapore I struggled at first to find my feet. Alcohol is expensive here and if you don’t have the budget or know any better, you can easily end up drinking cheap and nasty Australian chardonnay every time you go out. I first discovered Ginett quite by mistake. Ginett is a French wine bar and restaurant that is part of the G Hotel brand located close to Bugis. This is where I go for shopping and I decided to pop in for a glass of wine when walking by one weekend. Ginett offer a fantastic wine menu at reasonable prices, with good French wine for as low as $6 a glass, which is a bargain in Singapore.
Because of its excellent wine list Ginett has fast developed a reputation for being the ultimate place to enjoy a drinkie or two but the food has always been lacking. On a few occasions I ordered their cold cuts and cheese platters, which quite frankly were the same quality as Wine Connection. In other words, pungent cured meats and too many soft cheeses that melt within minutes in Singapore’s humid temperatures.
This weekend was a special weekend for France. It was Bastille Day as well as France’s time to shine (and win) in the World Cup. Being the only French establishment I knew, I decided to splurge on a French meal and wine fest at Ginett to celebrate the occasion. I was excited to learn that at long last, a new Executive Head Chef has taken the reigns here with a view to creating an affordable French bistro-style venue with meals as delicious as the wines that they offer.
Herve Frerard stepped into the role of Head Chef at Ginett in July. He is considered to be one of the few true celebrity chefs in Asia and I attribute that to his warm and humble nature more than anything else. Herve grew up in the Sancerre region of France before cutting his teeth in the kitchens of Paris. For the past 25 years he has been making waves in Asia, having worked in and run outstanding establishments in Thailand, Vietnam and Japan. The majority of his time in Asia has been spent in Bangkok where he ran Aldo’s Bistro for multiple years.
This weekend we enjoyed a special five course menu with wine pairing, created especially by Herve for Bastille day. We drank delicious sparkling French wine on arrival with French baguettes and plenty of butter. It might sound obvious, but you cannot enjoy a proper French meal without good bread and butter. So we started on a good footing! Within 15 minutes of sitting down we were served our first course, which was pan fried foie gras with candied apricots. Wow, what a surprise for the senses. I hadn’t tasted foie gras this good since my last trip to Paris and the fatty, velvety texture was contrasted with a crisp finish. I savoured every bite.
Next on the menu was French onion soup. At first I was sceptical. Having done my time waitressing in London for several years I know that French onion soup is a classic dish often bastardised by mainstream restaurants. This was different. The colour was deep and the flavour was rich, with generous lashings of cheese in the broth. The French soup was rich enough to be a meal on its own but it came served with hot French baguette baked with melted cheddar which was an indulgent although calorie laden accompaniment. This was true French comfort food served with a stunning Chablis wine.
Our next dish was quenelle de crochet gratin, a specialty of the Lyon region but more simply titled as pike fish dumplings on Ginett’s menu I presume for the benefit of non-European diners. I have not eaten quenelle before and fish cake is a fairly accurate description. It looked like polenta but tasted very light and grainy with a subtle fish flavour. The granular texture was a pleasant contrast to the normal staples of the Singapore diet. It came served with a very rich Chardonnay sauce with baby shrimp.
After requesting a generous break between courses the supposed highlight of the meal was served next, salt crusted beef prime ribs with red wine jus. Unfortunately it was a bit of a downer after three very rich and delicious dishes. The reason for that could be that we were already feeling full and therefore did not savour the food with as much relish as at the beginning of the meal. Or it could simply be that I am especially picky when it comes to beef. The waitstaff did not ask us for our preference as to how the beef should be cooked and it was served medium, which was overdone in my opinion. As a result the beef tasted slightly dry and whilst it was a good quality cut, the heaviness of the sauce that coated the plate simply overtook the dish. The beef was served with a Chateau Fourcas-Hosten, Listrac Medoc 2012.
To finish things off we had an apricot and goat cheese tart for dessert. Whilst the tart was tasty it was served with a side salad and not an ideal way to end a rich and heavy meal. I would have preferred something lighter and creamier that was garnished with fruit. However the accompanying glass of Jean Milan Rose, NV champagne did the trick.
It was a satisfying meal with an interesting palette, a few surprises and a thoughtful wine pairing. However the most enjoyable aspect of our visit to Ginett was seeing chef Herve out of the kitchen and out on the floor, getting to know the diners after the lunchtime rush. This is a rarity in Singapore and it reminded me of the homely feel of bistros and local restaurants I was used to frequenting when I lived in Europe. Unlike other well known chefs, Herve has humble ambitions to create a warm, friendly and affordable dining experience away from the typical expat hubs. I appreciated his time visiting our table and he got me excited about his plans for transforming Ginett.
My readers will know it was love at first sight when I drank my first glass of bubbly at Ginett. But there is more to French dining than just wine and I can’t wait to try more delicious French dishes from the genius of Herve in the future.