The hype: Cookbook author and doyenne of Nyonya cuisine Violet Oon has opened her flagship store, a 2,700 square feet space in prime downtown Orchard that marks her eponymous brand’s entry into all-day dining and retail territory.
The vibe: You’ll find this fourth venture of hers to be familiar – green and black remain the dominant interior colours while Peranakan tiles, gold trimmings and white marbled tables lend that same air of colonial-era opulence. It takes over the space formerly occupied by all-day dining favourite Marmalade Pantry, and while they’ve kept the low-wall perimeter, they’ve also expanded and added glass panels to give the place more room, privacy and class.
The food: This is the most accessible of Oon’s current concepts. If her OG Bukit Timah outpost is the most authentic, her National Kitchen expansion the most elevated, and her Clarke Quay bar and grill a satay specialty space, then her conveniently-located flagship store is where you get a broad taste of Singaporean food on the daily. It’s the gateway Peranakan restaurant for locals and visitors alike, if you will.
Her classics like the Kueh Pie Tee ($17), Chap Chye ($15), Dry Laksa ($24), Ayam Buah Keluak ($23) and more are all here and as good as ever, while fans will be pleased to know that Oon’s buttery-good Shepherd’s Pie ($24) with slow-braised minced beef is back on the menu. Definitely get the Shepherd’s Pie, or if you’re looking for more English colonial influences, start with the Mulligatawny Soup ($16), a creamy soup curry that represents a cornerstone of British Indian cuisine.
Hainanese cuisine that was interpreted for the British palate during Singapore’s early days make an entry into the menu here too. There’s the Hainanese Pork Chop ($34), where a large slice of Kurobuta pork loin is served crusted and with a side of steak cut fries and salad, and a definite crowd pleaser, the Beef Hor Fun ($26), that uses slices of black Angus tenderloin and which carries just the right amount of wok hei.
The desserts here are superb, and are worth every calorie. Indulge in the Gula Melaka Tea Cake with Coconut Ice Cream ($15) that tastes exactly as delicious as it sounds, or check out the cake counter where nostalgia-inducing creations like Horlicks Cake, Rum Balls and Pandan Gula Melaka Cake await. Be sure to check out the retail area before you leave and bring home bottles of freshly produced Kaya ($12.50), Homemade Pineapple Tarts ($28) and other goodies.
The drinks: There’s a decent selection of wines, cocktails (try the Assam Martini; $20), spirits and beers (and even an Orchard Road Cider; $14/bottle) available, but it is the tea and coffee programme that impresses. They carry tea blends made specially for Violet Oon Singapore, and they’ve got tea sommeliers that regularly update the offering as the seasonality changes. And while they’ve got the regular barista-made coffees, go for the local kopis instead, that get an elevated treatment here through the use of Arabica beans.
Why you’ll be back: There’s a time for hawker-style laksa, and there’s a time for Oon’s take on the Singaporean favourite, which is called for more often than you’ll think.