Just like the craftsmanship at The Balvenie Distillery, it takes determination, dedication, and a whole lot of passion to commit to tradition and celebrate flavours that are so deeply ingrained in culture and heritage. At newly minted MICHELIN-Starred restaurant Cure at Keong Saik Road, chef-owner Andrew Walsh, in collaboration with The Balvenie, champions Irish cuisine through his culinary craft that tells the story of Ireland’s landscape and history.
“Our restaurant name, Cure, comes from the Latin word cúram, which means ‘to take care of people’. Cure opened six years ago and taking care of people has always been the foundation of our hospitality,” says Walsh.
At Cure, Walsh describes the restaurant’s cuisine as “nua Irish” or “new Irish” and defines it as a reflection of the Irish landscape, focusing on dishes that are anchored on Irish history, personal anecdotes, and local Irish produce. “You can call it an evolution of sorts,” he says. “Our food at Cure takes inspiration from the double meaning of the word nua. It’s an old Gaelic word for ‘Irish’, and it also means ‘new’ in modern Irish,” he explains.
“The Balvenie whisky and their craftsmanship ties in perfectly with what we do at Cure because it's Celtic, and it comes from the Highland, which is very close to the Irish waters,” says Walsh. “When we try this beautiful whisky and pair it with our dishes, we can just re-imagine the dish that's coming through the notes. Whether it's the whisky’s vanilla notes, the smokiness, or that honey-like flavour, we can comfortably pair The Balvenie with Cure’s dishes because the whisky plays so well into our repertoire.”
According to Walsh: “No one was taking Irish cuisine and the interpretation of it to a new level, so that's what we decided to do at Cure”. For example, a dish of Irish potato, seaweed, and caviar, called 1845, which was on Cure's previous menu, is a nod to Irish history as it reflects the Irish Potato Famine. “Currently, I'm researching Irish poets like Yeats and Beckett to understand the relationship between their works and the food that was consumed during those years,” he says.
The whole concept of Nua Irish cuisine is, in fact, a byproduct of the pandemic. Walsh says: “Upon reflection after the first lockdown period in Singapore, and with great help from my team, we knew we would be reopening, and we asked ourselves, ‘what would it be this time around?’ This is where we had the breakthrough idea of doing nua Irish at Cure. I didn’t want to reopen and do the same thing again. I wanted a new direction.”
An Irishman’s Story
“I started my journey very young. I used to wash pots and pans for my brother, who was already cooking at 14,” Walsh reminisces. “I went to culinary school at 15, backpacked through Australia, helped out and worked part-time jobs at restaurants. I travelled to New York before I decided to move to London, which is closer to home. I eventually found myself in Singapore a few years after that,” he says.
“I want to fly the Irish flag high in Asia, and, why not for the rest of the world? Ireland is emerging.”
“I believe I have a story to tell. For my own progression and story, I wanted to go out on my own, which I did with Cure six years ago, and we couldn't have achieved what we have today without the great, hard work and determination of my team,” says Walsh.
The Role of Craftsmanship and Heritage in Nua Irish Cuisine
For Walsh, both craftsmanship and heritage play a vital role in Cure’s cuisine, and he believes that it forms the core of his mission and purpose as a chef. “Craftsmanship is everything,” he says. “It’s taking something and making the best out of it. It's a connection that ties everything together. A craft provides inspiration whether by flavour, by its story, or by the people behind it.”
“We’re honoured to be partnering with The Balvenie since I believe both brands share the same value of creating amazing things from the heart.”
“When it comes to The Balvenie whiskies, it takes years and years of ageing, distilling, and dedication from generations to make these unique products that deserve the utmost respect. Craftsmanship is all about making the best out of something that's quite humble, for other people to enjoy in an elevated manner,” he says.
“Also, just like with The Balvenie, heritage plays a huge role with the way we do things at Cure,” says Walsh. “Ireland has great produce. Especially now, it's a lot easier to get great Irish cheeses, Irish mussels, and Irish clams, whereas if you look back at Cure six years ago, it was not as easy. I’m proud of Irish produce. Right now at Cure, we're cooking from the land.”
Pairing New Irish Cuisine with Storied Whiskies
In an exciting collaboration with The Balvenie, Cure has crafted two dishes and a whisky-based cocktail that are all paired with The Balvenie’s roster of storied whiskies.
For the main course, a dish of salmon is cured, brushed with The Balvenie The Week of Peat 14 Year Old, cold-smoked, and then hot-smoked. “We’re also going to glaze it with molasses treacle, which is quite popular in Ireland. It has a stickiness and umaminess that pairs greatly with the smokiness of the whisky. We add a bit of horseradish for some heat, and top it off with some roe and flowers. It's a dish that brings back a lot of memories from eating smoked salmon in Ireland when I was a child,” Walsh explains.
Dessert is presented inside a box and is inspired by Walsh's childhood winter memories with his father. “It’s called Childhood Memories of Peat,” says Walsh. “It reminds me of going to the bog in Ireland with my father. This was before central heating and gas. We cut the turf, turn the turf, and that is used in the winter months to heat our home.” In this dessert, charcoal dough is cut into small logs to resemble peat. They are deep-fried and filled with a peat-smoked milk ice cream — the peat itself comes from The Balvenie Distillery — and served with The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old to enhance the smoky aroma. The whisky’s vanilla and cinnamon notes, according to Walsh, lift the dessert.
Lastly, to celebrate its recent MICHELIN Star accolade, Walsh and his team have crafted a cocktail called Star in Orbit. “It is a playful take on a whisky sour,” says Walsh. Using The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old as the base, lime juice, umeshu (Japanese plum liqueur) honey, sage, and egg whites are added. The drink is given a dry shake, and then a hard shake, before serving. “The hint of fruit and toffee notes from The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 provide a lingering finish to this cocktail,” he explains.
Putting Irish Cuisine on the Map
“Ultimately, the inspiration of Cure's cuisine comes from two points. One, missing home. Thinking about Ireland and the landscape, my family, the food and the culture, and the heritage of it. And two, Singapore has a massive appetite for restaurants,” says Walsh. “The goal is to really put new Irish cuisine on the map, and to keep telling Ireland’s story through Cure.”
“Being a proud Irish man who hasn't lived in Ireland for 18 years now, I want to give back something to where I'm from.”
With Walsh’s craft of telling the Irish story through food, he hopes to champion not only the Irish landscape, but its people as well, particularly Ireland’s producers, farmers, foragers, and fishermen. “I am happy to take a key part in that,” he says. “These Irish craftsmen who are so dedicated in their work, and they give it their all so that their products can be turned into something great. I believe it’s about time Ireland deserves recognition in the food scene, too. I know I have a duty with that, and I am very comfortable to fulfil it.”
Experience Nua Irish Cuisine at Cure with Dishes and a Cocktail Designed with The Balvenie
From 21 February until 21 April 2021, diners can experience Cure’s twice-smoked salmon prepared with The Balvenie 14 Year Old The Week of Peat, the Childhood Memories of Peat dessert served with The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years, and the special Star in Orbit cocktail crafted with The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14. Book a table at Cure here.