Features 3 minutes 25 January 2024

Behind the Dish: Poise Singapore's Coq au Vin

At MICHELIN-Starred Poise, Steve Lancaster's original take on the rustic French chicken stew impressed our inspectors greatly. Lancaster shares more about the dish and the inspiration behind it.

From being a self-confessed “little troublemaker” at school to undergoing rigorous culinary training and refinement at many a MICHELIN-Starred kitchen such as 2-Star Midsummer House, Steve Lancaster now stands proudly as chef-owner of Poise, a contemporary European restaurant at Teck Lim Road, Singapore. At Poise, Lancaster opts to showcase his culinary creations in a monochromatic room with theatrical lighting to call attention to the food. His tasting menu changes with the seasons, as he reinvents European classics using Nordic techniques. Poise also was awarded its first MICHELIN Star in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2023.

Poise is a modern European restaurant that’s kind of like a creative collective of my entire career,” says Lancaster. “A lot of the dishes I serve contain influences that I’ve encountered at some point of my journey, whether it’s from my home [in Devon] or in one of the kitchens I’ve worked at. It’s all congealed into this restaurant.”

Lancaster cites that one country that has made an enormous impact on how he enjoys and prepares food is Sweden. “I’m quite classically French trained, so prior to moving to Sweden, I was used to dealing with food that was quite richer and on the heavier side, but my experience in Scandinavia opened my eyes and palate to a whole different range of flavours.” He expresses that his discovery of techniques such as preservation and fermentation provided him with the ability to lighten up a dish’s flavours and leave a refreshing impression.

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“This has led me to distil my culinary philosophy at Poise,” he says. “I’ll think of a dish that might have been inspired by some point of my career — maybe something I enjoyed while I was on holiday or in a restaurant — and make it lighter. I don’t use too much fat when I cook, and I try to utilise a few ingredients and bring out their maximum flavours. When guests finish a meal at Poise, I don’t want them rolling out of the door — I want them to leave satisfied without feeling the need to loosen their belts a notch.”

When our inspectors went over to try Poise, one dish stood that out to them was a creative and classic rendition of a French classic — Coq au Vin — layered with textures and nuanced flavours. Poise’s Coq Au Vin (pictured in the header image) is, essentially, a chicken, bacon, and onion dish that comes in the form of a chicken lollipop stuffed with chicken mousse and set atop an onion purée, with the bacon and allium imparting complex flavours.

In its original form, Coq au Vin is a rustic French chicken stew where the whole bird is slowly braised in red wine and a touch of brandy, along with some bacon, mushrooms, and onions. The liquid produces an opulently rich sauce to complement the succulent meat and its accompaniments. “Coq au Vin is a richly textured dish. It’s perfect on a winter’s day when you’re cold. For Poise’s version, I wanted to impart those same feelings of comfort and warmth, but in a more elegant presentation and with lighter flavours that still echo the original form of the dish,” he says.

“I think people underestimate chicken as a protein because it’s always one of the cheaper meats. In a restaurant setting like this, guests instantly lean into the pigeon or duck. It's rare that people will say ‘oh, I can’t wait to come back for the chicken’,” says Lancaster, “so I wanted to challenge myself and create a chicken dish that people can get excited about”.

Lancaster goes on to explain that the Coq au Vin dish at Poise takes nearly two days to prepare. “We first debone the chicken wing, and then we make a wine reduction where we will marinate the chicken for 24 hours. Then, we make a chicken mousse, fold it, and then stuff it back into the wing. The foam that accompanies the dish is made from lacto-fermented white onions, and we also infuse smoked bacon into the foam. At this point, most of the elements lean on an acidic taste, so we need something sweet to balance that out. So, we make a caramelised sweet onion jam to sit underneath the chicken wing. And then, we have a few pickled onions, smoked bacon lardons, and some button mushroom on the side. Lastly, we finish the dish off with a red wine sauce.”

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Despite Lancaster’s obvious poise in the kitchen, the chef also professes that he makes a mean chilli con carne that he cooks in batches at home. Having lived in Singapore for over six years now, the chef also shares that he holds a soft spot for the Lion City’s noodle dishes, particularly Wanton Mee and Laksa. As for Chicken Rice, Lancaster will have it as a snack after his workout in the gym.

“You really need to work hard to get what you want. Nothing in life comes easy,” says Lancaster. “I believe it’s really important to push yourself.” Now in his thirties, the chef shares that he travelled a lot in his youth, moving to live in different countries with only his backpack in tow. “I think for young people aspiring to be chefs, they should put that energy into travelling more instead of attaining the position of head chef at such a young age,” he advises.

“For Poise, at the moment, we’ll continue to improve every day — not only in terms of the food, but also in other aspects that we can do better at. I’ve always wanted to open my own restaurant,” says Lancaster. “This is a dream come true born out of hard work and a bit of luck. And now, with the MICHELIN Star, I feel that I have a heightened responsibility to keep showing up and keep doing the right thing. Let’s see what the year brings!” he says with a glint in his eye.

All images are courtesy of Poise; image of the chef is credited to a+ Singapore
Poise is at 6 Teck Lim Road, 088384, Singapore. Make your booking here.


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