It is an easy trap, in my opinion, to anticipate something too much and be set up for disappointment. The first I knew of Verre was blatantly one such trap. It was a beautiful looking seafood papillote, parchment unfurled like rose petals, prawns and scallops and juices inside making a whole range of autumnal hues.
And because it looked so very lovely in the photo, I decided not to have it when I finally dropped by Verre with a friend. My expectations were high enough as is. And I was, to be honest, bracing myself already even before the pal arrived. While the restaurant occupies an absolutely lovely niche facing the quiet upper reaches of the former Singapore River, the atmosphere inside somehow felt… odd. Something was off – something felt off. But I couldn’t put my finger on it.
What I do know is it has nothing to do with the looks, which are clean and and sleek. The absence of booths, and an outdoor area, add to the open feel of the restaurant. But in case you forget this place is all about the wine, the tables are arranged around a walk-in wine cooler, a cube of chilled pleasure.
Behind the menu lies some real weight; Masashi Horiuchi, previously from Shelter in the Woods and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in London, is the consultant chef here, a job which must include menu design. He has come up with something that mirrors the physical space – centred around wine, with a whole section devoted to dishes paired with specific wines. To keep our options open, though, we don’t order from there, opting for a mix of starters and mains instead.
In keeping with the glass (verre, in French) theme, the dishes all come covered in glass cloches. A salad of tomato and burrata is everything we could have hoped for – the burrata soothing and gentle as a lullaby, the contrast between stretchy pouch and creamy, clumpy insides subtle but clear. Tomatoes come in several forms, fresh cherries and tangy sun-dried slivers. But the exquisite olive oil almost upstages the fruit – grassy, botanic, almost spicy towards the end.
Another dish whose pictures we’ve enjoyed is the half lobster salad, and what arrives on the table is a lovely bit of plating, reclining lobster tails and lettuce jutting out of a pool of guacamole. The lobster itself lives up to the promise, springy and seawater-sweet, with small flakes of salt crunching away. But the avocado that underlies it is a little too unassuming – too finely puréed, too isolated in flavour. Alongside the lobster it doesn’t really register.
The suckling pig is one of Verre’s signature dishes, and as befits a French-style dish it is really a lot more than the name suggests, a towering arrangement of elements. The base is somewhere between potato mash and mousse, smooth and airy, with lines of balsamic and hefty-tasting pork shoulder. Actually, compared to what’s below it, the suckling pig feels a bit like a side-show, crisp entertainment to pave the way for the heavy hitters.
For desserts, sensing the serious damage of the previous courses, the pal and I keep ourselves to the less steep options. There’s chocolate entremet, gleaming and dark as jet, covering chocolate mousse that in turn covers a small sponge cake. Given the glory of the outsides, the liquor-like heights of the chocolate, the core feels anticlimactic. Still, the fact that it is fine chocolate is good enough for me.
The canéle, on the other hand, reaches expectations both within and without. A caramel crust resists the knife mightily, but then gives way to a custard whose mild sweetness is as comforting as its pillowy texture.
At Verre, the cooking isn’t afraid to combine European and Asian strands freely, revealing the varied and skilful background of its executive chef. But Horiuchi and team never lose perspective – the combining and playing around is done with an effect in mind and never for its own sake. The relaxed confidence extends to the staff as well, who know how to fit palates to their offerings – the pal requests ‘full bodied’, and the glass that comes to her is positively voluptuous. The pace of service when there’s practically no one else in the restaurant is also relaxed – it would be slow, but we’re too busy talking in the calm to notice. Verre does its thing andante, and I appreciate it all the more for that.
Verre Wine Bar
8 Rodyk Street (map)
Mon – Thu: 5pm – midnight
Fri: 5pm – 1am
Sat: 3pm – 1am
Sun: 3pm – 11pm