Need a great date-night dinner spot but don’t know where to start? These two expats living in Singapore have done the hard work for you.
With a seemingly endless number of restaurants here, it can be quite daunting to decide where to have dinner on any given day. Which is why partners KARIN VAN VLIET and PETER ULRICH, Dutch and Swedish respectively, decided to launch Table Tales. Now in its fourth year, this hardcover book featuring a curated selection of 10 restaurants carefully handpicked by the foodie pair has become a much-anticipated annual release for anyone who loves to dine out.
“We wanted to share the best dining experiences we’ve had, so it’s a very personal book,” says Karin, who has lived in Singapore for the past decade. “It helps to get people doing date nights again, especially once they’ve had kids, it encourages them to explore new restaurants and it takes the hassle out of deciding where to go.”
Table Tales is more than a list of recommended spots. It’s a book of experiences to be had, memories to be made, and tales to be told about extraordinary dining destinations. Here’s how it works: Select the restaurant you’d like to visit from the book; make a reservation and mention that you’ve got Table Tales; bring your book with you on the evening of your reservation and you’ll receive a signature from the chef and enjoy special privileges – a complimentary main course or 20 percent off both diners’ set menus.
“For some people, the idea of meeting the chef to ask questions or thank him or her for a great evening lends a more personal aspect,” says Karin. “It adds to the memory and allows the chef to share their passion; it creates an experience beyond just what’s on the plate.”
It’s about connecting with your friends or loved ones over food, and, in doing so, “unplugging” from the digital world, explains the couple, who believe in the good old fashioned idea of “spending time together in real life!”
“The digital world makes things so fleeting. Very often we want that instant gratification, so what I love about the book is that it makes you plan in advance and get excited for date night. It makes your memory and experience last so much longer,” says Karin.
This idea extends to the fact that the book is hard copy only – there’s no app to download for diners, and no plan for Table Tales to turn into one. The books are limited edition, with only 3,000 printed, each numbered.
“We want to encourage a tangible experience; also, the book is small enough to fit into most purses!”
Making the cut
For Karin and Peter, an excellent dining experience depends on many factors. “It’s about the total package,” says Karin. “You can have good food and good service, yet still walk away thinking there was something missing. It’s also who you’re dining with, the ambience, the concept and the location that are important, too.”
So, what exactly goes into choosing the restaurants that make the cut? A lot of eating and drinking, of course. (For the latest edition, the pair tasted 228 dishes and drank 171 glasses of wine!) They don’t choose based on just one experience at a restaurant either; Peter and Karin normally go to shortlisted restaurants anywhere from one to four times.
“Very often with new restaurants we start by having a drink just to test the ambience. As we continue narrowing down the list, we try to send our friends to places to get different perspectives. People value different things; it’s very personal,” says Karin. “Even when we have disappointing experiences we always return to give it another try. At the end of the day we’re human; I enjoy going back and seeing how restaurants have improved.”
Once Karin and Peter narrow the list to 20, they start talking to chefs and inviting them to be in the book (restaurants can’t pay to be included in the book – they’re chosen solely on the authors’ personal experiences). The chefs are always happy to be invited, particularly because the book helps introduce lesser known restaurants and puts the chefs more in the spotlight.
“Chefs like that it’s something tangible and a high-quality publication featuring only 10 restaurants. They want to draw in new regulars, and the whole intention of the book is to introduce diners to new restaurants; then they can go back and create new favourites.”
For 2019, there’s a mix of Mediterranean, modern Asian, Spanish, Italian, experimental fusion and modern gastronomy, Thai, modern European and French cuisines across the island. From an Art Deco-inspired dining room in the CBD and a 26-seater Duxton shophouse to a rustic, barnyard-style spot at Dempsey, each one is its own unique experience.
More perks and partnerships
For every book sold, $3.50 is donated to Babes, an organisation providing support for girls under 21 years old who are going through unplanned pregnancies; the charity strives to ensure that each teen is aware of her options and able to make important decisions.
“For me, it’s really important to contribute to a charity,” says Karin, who has worked with Charity Water and Venture to Impact for previous Table Tales editions. “Just as we introduce difference restaurants in the book each year, we also like to highlight different types of initiatives too.”
Karin and Peter also aim to draw attention to boutique suppliers and smaller scale brands that complement the lifestyle that Table Tales is offering.
“While our 10 restaurants encourage you to go out and try something new, we’re very into hosting dinners at home as well. So, we wanted to find brand partners that can really elevate that experience at home,” says Karin. This might include the way you set your table, the type of wine you serve at your dinner party, or creating an environment that represents “you”. As a book owner, you’re entitled to special discounts and deals from four Table Tales partners including ByRos Ceramics, ArtyShock, Oakwood serviced residences and Bacco Wines.
Read about all 10 restaurants and get a look at the book at thetabletales.com.
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