Singapore’s go-to cocktail bar for modern gastronomy and a regular in the ranking for Asia’s 50 Best Bars, Tippling Club is turning 15 this year. The contemporary gastro cocktail destination first opened its doors in Dempsey Hill in 2008. Now spanning three heritage shophouses in Tanjong Pagar, the cocktail bar and ultra-progressive restaurant is renowned for its inventive menu, ambitious cocktails and ever-evolving dining experience. Helming it is British chef and owner Ryan Clift.
We chat to the Tippling Club owner Ryan Clift about his trendy Tanjong Pagar restaurant and cocktail bar in Singapore
How did you get started in the F&B industry?
I started in a restaurant near my hometown in Devizes, Wiltshire, and worked my way up to the kitchen from washing dishes. The chef quickly realised my potential and fronted me to go to culinary school, before getting me a job at Claridges (one of the most prestigious restaurants in London at the time). Stints at The Oak Room with Marco Pierre White and Flocons de Sel in France with Emmanuel Renaut followed – and I was still just 19 at this point.
I then moved to Australia where I worked with Raymond Capaldi for a year before joining Shannon Bennett at French restaurant Vue de Monde in Melbourne. During my first year as head chef, the restaurant attained three “Hats” (the highest accolade for gastronomy in Australia), and we retained these during my nine and a half years there.
“It was in 2006 that I had the opportunity to meet Spa Esprit Group’s Cynthia Chua who helped me realise my dream of starting my own restaurant,” says Ryan Clift. “We chatted for a year or so and I made the move to Singapore in 2007 to open Tippling Club.”
Tell us a bit about those early days of Tippling Club.
When Tippling Club first opened, Singapore’s restaurant scene was very different to that of today. There were only a handful of fine dining restaurants and few that were pushing boundaries. Back then, our dishes were considered weird and our drinks too strong and wacky, but now there are many modernist restaurants ad cocktail bars in Singapore – and countless bars that are in Asia’s 50 Best (Tippling Club in Tanjong Pagar included!).
What do you love most about your job at this Tanjong Pagar restaurant and cocktail bar in Singapore?
You’re always learning in this industry. Even a young chef can inspire you with a concept or idea that you may not know about, and it’s incredibly humbling to see how you can evolve.
What is a go-to dish on the menu at Tippling Club?
Our food evolves at such a fast pace and the menu at Tippling Club changes weekly so nothing has time to become a favourite. However, I do have a favourite season, and that’s the period of spring going into summer. I love the spring-summer flavours as it produces lighter vegetables, beautiful summer leaves, herbs and flowers.
What might surprise diners about Tippling Club?
The high standards that we set – especially for guests who have never dined with us before. There are a lot of factors that go into delivering an experience, and we’ve always been able to wow our guests by the third course. It’s a combination of the level of food we’re putting out, the ingredients used and our price point.
What is your favourite dish to cook for yourself and guests at home?
An off-the-bone rib-eye steak topped with pepper sauce served with a simple cos salad with cucumbers and red onions.
What are your favourite local dishes?
I started going to Long Beach when Tippling Club first opened in Dempsey and I love their chilli, black pepper and white pepper crabs. I used to have a healthy fear of chilli growing up in the UK, but my father would eat bird’s eye chillies with everything and I gradually built my spice tolerance. When I had my first chilli crab, I was amazed that it wasn’t actually that spicy – instead, it’s fragrant and filled with rich umami.
Other local dishes like chicken rice from Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Peking duck from Imperial Treasure, as well as laksa and curry noodles, also blow my mind.
What is your most essential kitchen utensil, and why?
I couldn’t live without a Thermomix. So many of my recipes require a Thermomix at some stage of the dish and we’re very fortunate to have a few of them in the kitchen.
What is your most essential kitchen ingredient?
My key ingredient is good quality white soy sauce from Japan. It’s clear and different from normal soy sauce, and for me, it goes in nearly everything I make – whether it’s a soup or a salad dressing, to finishing a seared scallop or a splash on bread or sweet pastries for that added salinity.
This article on Ryan Clift and his Tanjong Pagar restaurant and bar first appeared in the August 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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