Fresh from opening smart casual chain Carne’s first international outpost in Singapore, Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco was all ready for the year’s most elaborate pop-up: Mirazur Singapore at Mandala Club.
There was just one hitch – just as the opening weekend approached, Singapore announced that it was entering a Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period, with no restaurant dine-in allowed. Thankfully, Mandala Club has announced that affected guests who had booked from 18 May to 13 June will be allocated new dates as the residency has been extended to 4 September.
The extended residency began while Colagreco's three-MICHELIN Star Mirazur in Menton remains closed over winter and spring, with a summer 2021 re-opening as Covid-19 restrictions ease in France. This will be the first time that diners outside of Menton have the opportunity to taste Mirazur’s completely reimagined concept revolving around the lunar calendar and the four "universes" attached to its cycles: leaves, flowers, roots and fruits.
Though chef-patron Colagreco was in Singapore in the first few weeks to supervise the collaboration, he won’t be doing the heavy lifting – that falls on his A-team lead by head chef Luca Mattioli and restaurant director Geoffrey Le Mer, complemented by 55 front and back of house staff under the purview of Mandala Club’s new executive chef Reuben Davis.
We went behind the scenes to find out how it all started, who are the key personnel, and what to expect over the popup taking place 14 May to 4 September.
The stars aligned
The membership club formerly known as Straits Clan has now changed hands, evolving into Mandala Club come the official unveiling in September. Mandala Group’s co-founder and CEO Ben Jones recalls that back in February, he was looking for something engaging for their “under-utilised” ground floor cafe space. “People in Singapore at the moment have a hunger for experiences, so we thought of doing something really special. We reached into our network to speak to different chefs and owners of concepts, not necessarily restaurants,” says Jones.
He continues, “With a little bit of luck, we were connected to Mauro, and we talked to him about the space and opportunity, and the stars kind of aligned.”
Colagreco, in turn, holds Singapore in high regards, not just as a place for inspiration for his cuisine, but also as a platform of excellence for new concepts and avant-garde gastronomy. He says, “It is also very important that we work with the right partners to put together an event of this scale and are happy to have found the right partners in The Mandala Group. They are true professionals in the delivery of hospitality. Combined with my team’s ability and professionalism, we hope to bring an extraordinary fine dining experience to diners in Singapore.”
Bringing nature into cuisine
While Mirazur has always been renowned for its garden and produce, the team has gone further since its reopening in 2020 to introduce Mirazur as a “garden with a restaurant”, guided by the Maria Thun lunar calendar which divides the transit of the moon through the zodiac into root days, leaf days, fruit days and flower days. In Mirazur’s menu, this is now enshrined as the four "universes".
Says Colagreco, “The confinement period in France was a particularly challenging time, especially with the change in pace. I devoted most of my time to our vegetable gardens as they are just beside my house, and this allowed me to enter a state of introspection and questioning. It was then I felt the strong desire to synergise the energies of the land, its resources and the people who work on it, thus the idea of a “Lunar Cuisine” that brings us closer to the forces of nature was born.”
In Singapore, rather than heavily rely on ingredients specially flown in, the menu for the residency programme will incorporate local produce and possible items from iconic culinary institutions. The Mirazur team will present a holistic interpretation of Mirazur’s traditional four lunar menus with Singaporean influences and ingredients throughout. To tie the theme together, the ground floor Clan Café has been transformed into a lunar garden lobby complete with The Artling’s art pieces curation, while the former Kin dining room features local botanical studio The Humid House’s curated plantscape.
The majority of the Menton team, who arrived in Singapore around 21 April and served their two-week hotel quarantine, have been visiting markets and food institutions, including Tekka and Chinatown markets, Bib Gourmand-rated Zai Shun and Kok Sen eateries, and they will be working closely with Edible Garden City to source local ingredients. Colagreco adds that he was introduced to local kueh specialist, One Kueh At A Time, which he loved and is now planning to incorporate dumpling-inspired elements into one of his dishes.
The menu comprises:
Leaves, 14-15 May, 14 Jun onwards: a celebration of the sap that circulates in plants, exploring different textures.
Flowers: a colourful menu guides a pictorial and fragrant journey.
Roots: the most energetic part of the plant brings a connection to the earth.
Fruits: freshness and the regenerative power of nature comes to the fore.
We take a closer look at two of the standout dishes from the first menu, Leaves, along with the wine and non-alcoholic pairings.
Celtuce: The specially cut celtuce is served with a base of stracciatella and seaweed cream drizzled with an intense green chlorophyll oil and caviar.
Pairing: To cut through the fattiness of the dairy and cheese, Orgo Blanc from Georgia brings a perfumed expression and fresh fruitiness of indigenous Georgian grapes. Or, choose the sparkling green apple drink made with their own ginger bug fermentation, with algae dulse for umami, topped with tonic water.
Mille-feuille of leaves and suckling pig: This star dish swaps out the lamb that’s used in Menton for roast suckling pig Chinese style, sourced from MICHELIN Plate restaurant Man Fu Yuan in InterContinental Singapore. Layers of fresh and dehydrated leaves, including kale, Savoy cabbage, iceberg, nori, Okinawa spinach and red spinach, are layered with kombu cream, with the suckling pig nestled in between.
Pairing: To tame the dish’s crunch and astringency, Jean-Luc Jamet’s Côte-Rôtie 2015 brings rounded notes with finesse from its multiple plots in the famed Rhône. Or, choose the non alcoholic cassis that continues the flow of freshness to cut through the dish. A touch of mint and tonka bean adds the complexity and layers echoing the Syrah.
Meet the Team
As Paul Bocuse replied when someone first asked him: “who cooks when you are not there?” The answer is: “The same people that cook when I am there.”
Colagreco shares the quote above when I ask him how he chose his team for the Singapore pop-up. He explained, “I was in the kitchen for the initial set-up period, and I came with 12 of my team members who have worked with me for many years from across each section of the Mirazur kitchen and restaurant. They will be here for the whole pop-up, including head chef Luca Mattioli, who has trained with me for more than five years and is leading research and development at Mirazur.”
“They have the same rigour and passion as I, and they are the ones who will ensure the residency is working at a high level.”
Luca Mattioli is a dynamo of an Italian chef, who raves to us about ulam rajah, Chinese lily buds and lavender sorrel which he’ll be incorporating into his dishes here. He describes the past year as being particularly inspiring, where instead of following four seasons the kitchen team is now working according to 365 seasons. “The power to think differently is the result of the need to go out and see what’s growing each day,” he tells us. “Real seasonality is not just having pumpkin in winter or tomatoes in summer. The brain starts to work with every single ingredient in your vicinity.”
To that purpose, what they have done at Mirazur includes rethinking the concept of high-end ingredient. “One of our signature dishes is the beetroot and caviar. You might think the high end ingredient is caviar and peasant ingredient is beetroot, but it is the other way around,” he enthuses. “It is the beetroot that is the real luxury, as it is cared for to develop its flavours over two years, and then cooked in a salt crust to bring out all the flavours.”
Geoffrey Le Mer, who has been at Mirazur for three years and was recently promoted to restaurant director, brings the institution's famous service standards of the house to the equation. “We discussed the training in advance,” he divulges. During quarantine, the front of house staff were divided into groups to work on menu training, service knowledge and brand collaboration.
To provide the local service team with support, Le Mer has organised the restaurant into sections, ensuring that guests will be able to chat with a section manager from Mirazur if they wish, but more importantly, for guests to feel at home and leave with a good experience. Though time is short, Le Mer had the chance to pay a call at leading local restaurant, three-MICHELIN-star Odette to discuss with his counterpart there about service expectations in Singapore, and hopes to dine there before he leaves.
Juliana Carrique, the head sommelier of this pop-up and alumna of Rene Redzepi's 108, notes that her role is to “copy and paste” as much as possible the extensively researched wine list at Mirazur. There will be up to 300 label to pair with the cuisine, many of it being sent over exclusively. “There is a flow of energy in the style of wine that works with our cuisine,” she describes, adding that Colagreco is particularly fond of natural wines from Georgia. But the drinks list is not confined to wine, as evidence by the non-alcoholic menu. A wide range of made-from-scratch kombuchas, kefirs and infusions will accompany guests looking to venture beyond biodynamic and sustainable wines.
Reuben Davis arrived in Singapore in Jan 2021, with experience working with Jason Atherton at the now-closed 1-MICHELIN Star Maze, Pollen Street Social and two-MICHELIN Star Sat Bains, before moving to Australia for The Press Club with George Calombaris. The executive chef of Mandala Club will be setting up Mandala Club’s upcoming new F&B outlets, including a Japanese yakitori restaurant on the third floor and a brand new concept on the ground floor. The unfazed Englishman shares that working with Mirazur has been a great opportunity to go back to the fundamentals of seasonality and ingredients.
Bookings and waitlist for the Mirazur popup can be accessed here.