Holy orders: new Singapore restaurant opens in 19th-century chapel

Singapore restaurant Claudine, refurbished by London designers Nice Projects, serves up French country fare in a converted chapel

Interior view of Claudine restaurant, Singapore in a refurbished chapel. There is a dark wine coloured ceiling, an arched stained glass window, curved paper lantern lighting suspended from the ceiling, wall panels, green and light coloured seating, tables with tableware and a view of the bar
New Singapore restaurant Claudine, refurbished by London designers Nice Projects, features a 15m-long cylindrical paper lantern by Santa & Cole and glass wall panels designed by local florists This Humid House to encase locally-harvested dried pressed grass. Photography by Hosanna Swee.
(Image credit: Hosanna Swee)

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

Exterior view of the entrance to Claudine, Singapore. The walls are white, there are arched windows, the double doors are open offering a partial view of inside and there are plants in the ground

(Image credit: Hosanna Swee. )

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.

Close up view of food including bread, fish and meat and a glass of wine on a table at Claudine, Singapore. The table features a light grey table cloth and a plant in a brown pot. The background is dark brown

(Image credit: Hosanna Swee)

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.

INFORMATION

A version of this article appears in the April 2022 issue of Wallpaper*, on newsstands now and available to subscribers.

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Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.