Last Updated: January 29, 2015
Perhaps for some of us, every now and then, in the meaningless moments of revelry, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s poetic cynicism of the Jazz Age insidiously plays like an inextricable tragicomedy in our muddied heads. At CBD-housed The Black Swan, where there actually is a Jazz Night every Tuesday featuring artists like The Steve McQueens, those moments will never seem more real.
The magnificence of The Black Swan epic begins with its setup. Not only is The Black Swan named after the rare financial phenomenon, but the Roaring-Twenties-themed bar was also the headquarters of the now-defunct Kwangtung Provincial Bank.
Of the bank’s original facade, the double volume ceiling and basement vault have been retained and converted to a private dining chamber, available to guests with a minimum spend of SGD 1500. A mezzanine lounge adorned with the same unworldly bird-man paintings that litter the vault is one of the bar’s enhancements upstairs.
The restaurant’s elaborate layout, where traces of the 1920’s still linger, is the result of punctilious retooling amid the architectural preservation. Those of us unfamiliar with such an era can almost from the interior imagine a time when Singapore was not as populated as she is today and consumerism was only ripening.
When I made my entry into The Black Swan one Tuesday afternoon in my rather unbecoming casual wear, it was very humbling to see other more urbane lunch patrons scattered around the spacious and elegant interior.
Soaking in the grandeur of the golden horseshoe-shaped bar racked with more than just rose colours underneath the vertical expanse of low-hanging spherical brass lamps, I wondered curiously if I would have ever guessed this place was once a bank.
Before I came to any sound conclusion, lunch commenced. Our Lo & Behold hosts had prepared for us a glut of European classics and financially-inspired cocktails.
Throughout the lengthy meal, the impeccably-dressed service team, led by The Black Swan General Manager Thomas DeSouza, darted up and down the restaurant with grace and aplomb, furnishing us with new cutlery and plates every time a course finished. I don’t remember a prolonged moment when my plate was dirty.
Gillardeau Oysters ($54++ half a dozen). Founded by the Gillardeau family in 1898, these French oysters are part of 4 varieties—2 French and 2 American—that The Black Swan offers.
The burst of sourness from the champagne mignonette and elegantly squeezed lemon juice coalesces with the icy oyster’s fresh and creamy body for a lovable intensity that underpins the exuberant support for Oyster Happy Hour (30% off regular price every 5 – 8pm from Mondays to Fridays).
Flying Swan ($19++). We were presented with a few cocktails to sample while having the oysters. The aurora pink concoction that is Flying Swan pits homemade raspberry syrup, fresh lemon juice, and gin together for a piquant fruitiness to largely conceal the note of alcohol.
Like many regulars, I found this to be my favourite of the 4 that I was to try as it was the easiest to drink.
Golden Parachute ($19++). Much of the smooth 15-year old single malt whiskey is evident from the full-bodied flavour of the mildly sweet Golden Parachute, another adequate executive term that guarantees you will be taken care of.
A thematic golden gilded cherry also lies on the rocks of the cocktail stirred with fragrant vanilla bean, pure maple syrup, and livened with mandarin zest. A sweet yet strong drink.
Good Night Peru ($19++). Though this and the Flying Swan are fairly simpatico with regard to the sour note, Good Night Peru—an infusion of chamomile flowers, sugar syrup, and fresh citrus into floral grape spirit smoothened with egg white—is presented more impeccably with a thick froth.
Safe to say, this heavier body with a good balance is another crowd favourite.
Cecil Sour ($19++). Dark chocolate on sea salt will be the trusty pal of the more pungent Cecil Sour made out of a 15-year old single malt shaken with vanilla, Mandarin peel, and egg white, though one could find it a little odd to have to pace the drink with the chocolate. The bitter cocoa aftertaste that the chocolate leaves does make this a rather ambivalent choice.
Truffled Egg & Bacon Confit ($14++). Uncover an enchanting mixture of truffle oil and bacon bits below the foamy egg shell. As a savoury spread for the exceedingly crispy crostini bread, you might soon realize it is (in spite of the converse use of the Gardenia adage) “so good you can even eat it on it’s own”.
A more classy rendition of breakfast bacon, eggs and toast, the mix of crisp and creamy textures as well as burst of egg and saltiness makes this dish a must try at The Black Swan.
Crispy Calamari ($18++). It is refreshing to find calamari in differing shapes and sizes, perhaps a testament to the freshly produced appetizer with a delicious crispy skin. The serving portion is undoubtedly generous.
On the side is a perfectly-complimenting wholegrain mustard kaffir-lime dijon sauce to lighten up the batter.
Char-Grilled Beef Tartare ($26++). USDA 365-day grain-fed wagyu is the prime ingredient in this char-grilled tartare with toasted sesame served atop morsels of Nashi pear. The compacted mound delicately breaks apart with a little knifing, and delivers a fatty treat soft to the bite that is contrasted with the more crunchier pear.
A slightly sweet, tender beef spread that goes well with the crostini bread.
Seafood Linguine ($32++). The plethora of herbs such as garlic and chili blended with the prawns, calamari, and clams imbues the predominantly tomato base of the fairly al dente linguine with a fishy and delectable sweetness. All the elements of seafood are also served by The Black Swan in generous amounts.
Brandt Ranch ($45++). A rich beefy overtone in this 365-day grain-fed 9 oz striploin is not its sole strength, for the red-wine-glazed piece of meat is exceptionally tender, and to my surprise, has very even marbling. In that regard, you might not reap a copious amount of juicy fat, but can still experience a nice burnt tender cut.
On the same black serving slab lies crunchy roasted fingerling potatoes and 4 piles of fragrant cep butter.
Duck Leg Confit ($36++). Fans of duck should most definitely have a bite of this succulent leg confit that first undergoes an 18-hour sous-vide to tenderize, then baked. Beneath the sizzlingly crispy skin is evenly cooked flesh that retains just the right amount of oil and juice to nicely crumble in the mouth.
A fresh thyme stem sits above the leg, while bacon potatoes rest on its underside for a very hearty dish.
Mangalica Pork Collar ($42++). It appears we have come to the fattiest dish of the day, the 6-7 oz pork collar. The Mangalica is an unusual European pig breed that actually grows fleece-like fur. Because this beast is largely bred for lard, we can expect an astronomical fat concentration that I found to be heavenly with the grain mustard jus.
Pickled red cabbage and apple purée are served together with the pork collar, which features a more intense ‘porkiness’ than usual, to soften the marbling.
The Black Swan Burger ($30++). Streaky bacon and thick fries are served on the side of the self-titled burger with a seasoned chuck patty, mature cheddar, bibb lettuce, onion, and sunny side-up. A clean slicing of the burger is most possible with precisely-placed burger stakes.
It really is impressive how soft the entire pile is, especially the toasted bun pillows and chuck. Odd, though, that I would have preferred a version firmer to the bite rather than it crumbling apart.
Grilled Wakanui Spring Lamb Cutlet ($45++). Beignet de Courgette and stewed cannellini beans are intertwined in a swivel with the 6 pieces of lamb doused in port wine glaze and a liberal coating of black pepper.
I would certainly have liked more juice to be oozing out of the meat, but the peppery and tender meat provided a gamey enough flavour for it to still be a decent buy.
Date & Toffee Pudding ($14++). It’s hard to find eateries that serve decent sticky toffee puddings in Singapore. This impressive dessert with varying layers of sweetness probably ranks in my top 5. The pudding was just right in sweetness but somewhat reminded me of banana bread—topped with rum infused vanilla ice cream, doused with delicious burnt caramel, and served with caramelized banana slices.
Dark Chocolate Dome ($16++). The simplistic chocolate dome with a gold leaf is visually impeccable, and is actually a Valrhona Guanaja chocolate shell shielding rich vanilla creme atop a crunchy hazelnut praline base. Despite the dark chocolate and tangy seasonal berries, I still found it a little too sweet.
Coconut Crème Caramel ($14++). The unconventional use of Asian ingredients like the rich gula melaka (palm oil) and coconut is impressive for this French signature dessert. Not only was the blend harmonious, the deep fried ginger peel strips gives the coconut-flavoured pudding a hint of spice.
Bringing something truly outstanding in the dull factory that is Raffles Place, The Black Swan is a premium escape haunt among professionals in the vicinity.
Above all, The Black Swan with its curated fine dining menu, jovial staff, and classical display will definitely leave an indelible impression. With an artistically curated interior built on a strong running theme, the combination of great service and fine European cuisine within this dining establishment form the ideal experience.
Afterall, The Black Swan was also a finalist in the Best Dining Experience category for the Singapore Experience Awards 2014, a hallmark of excellent experience and exceptional service standards.
The Black Swan hardly provides the answer to all your financial troubles, but if you fancy the futility of existentialist discourse in a post-work stupor, perhaps there can be no better place than this opulent structure in the financial district.
Expected damage: $60 – $110 per pax
This post was curated by the Singapore Tourism Board