Julien Royer is descended from four generations of hardy French farmers and cooks. Which is why the Cantal-born, Singapore-based chef could not have picked a more perfect, bucolic spot to open Claudine – his sophomore restaurant – than the bijou, late 19th-century Ebenezer Chapel in Dempsey Hill’s leafy grounds.

Dempsey Hill is a decommissioned colonial military barracks cosseted by tropical jungle, and the chapel had, over the years, served as a school for children of the British military and a place of worship (first for the then colony’s Roman Catholics and later the Presbyterians) before it was converted in 2007 into a restaurant.  

Claudine: new Singapore restaurant designed by Nice Projects

New Singapore restaurant Claudine in a refurbished chapel, designed by Nice Projects

In the midst of the pandemic, London-based interior designers Nice Projects orchestrated, mostly from afar, a tip-to-toe refurbishment of the chapel, stripping everything down to the original mosaic floor tiling, curlicued window grilles and the stone-cut holy water font. Cleaned up and repointed, these features now add a charming historical palimpsest to the restaurant, and, says Sacha Leong, Nice Project’s co-founder and project lead, ‘give a special sense of the character and context of the original architecture’.

To give the lofty space a more human scale, the studio dropped a white 15m-long cylindrical paper lantern by Santa & Cole from the rust-red ceiling and dressed the room with bespoke banquettes swathed in green velvet and sand-hued linen, and bistro chairs clad in vegetable-tanned leather. Wrapped around the restaurant are glass wall panels designed by local florists This Humid House to encase locally harvested dried pressed grass. ‘Our intention was to reference the greenery that surrounds the restaurant,’ says Leong.

Food at restaurant Claudine in a refurbished chapel

This concern for the natural setting is reflected in the kitchen, where Royer and his executive chef Julien Mercier channel the nostalgic rustic flavour memories of Royer’s childhood in the countryside. 

And so, whilst Royer’s first restaurant Odette (winner of Best New Restaurant in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2017) – which, incidentally, Nice Projects is currently refurbishing – is a local byword for refined contemporary French cuisine, Claudine sends out zhooshed-up Franco country fare, such as a terrine of kurobuta, an intensely flavoured Cevennes onion soup paired with Comte cheese toast, and a crisp shell of vol-au-vent stuffed with a fragrant stew of cockscomb, morel and sweetbreads. §