Corner House takes over Au Jardin spot

Co-owners (from left) Renny Heng and chef Jason Tan, who will helm the new Corner House restaurant at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Co-owners (from left) Renny Heng and chef Jason Tan, who will helm the new Corner House restaurant at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

60-seat restaurant offering casual and fine dining to open next month

When the black-and-white bungalow called EJH Corner House at the Singapore Botanic Gardens was vacated by the Les Amis Group's French fine-dining restaurant Au Jardin, wine merchant Renny Heng set his sights on opening a restaurant there.

The location also proved irresistible to chef Jason Tan, who was happy with his job heading Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), where he had been working for four years and was part of the fine-dining restaurant's opening team.

Now, the two of them are opening Corner House at the bungalow at the end of next month.

Mr Heng, 34, executive director of Wine Culture, says he did not hesitate to bid for the location the moment word got out that Au Jardin would be moving out after 16 years.

Chef Tan, 32, who worked at Les Amis in Shaw Centre for six months a decade ago, says: "When I started my career at Les Amis and dined at Au Jardin, I told myself that, maybe, one day I can work here. It's hard to find a restaurant in a garden here, like in France. It's easy to get inspired here.

"At Corner House, food is at the forefront for us. If not, I would have been hesitant to leave MBS. After Renny told me about the restaurant location, things happened very quickly."

They are now co-owners of the new $1.5-million restaurant, which will start by serving dinner from Tuesdays to Sundays.

Subsequently, it will open for lunch, brunch and afternoon tea, as the 60-seat restaurant will offer options for both fine and casual dining.

The interior of the 3,400 sq ft EJH Corner House is being renovated. The building, a stone's throw away from the garden's Visitor Centre (Nassim Gate), was the home of the late botanist and mycologist Edred John Henry Corner, hence its name.

Chef Tan, formerly chef de cuisine at the now-defunct Julien Bompard restaurant, says the menu is currently "80 per cent done". It will feature what he calls "gastro-botanic" cuisine, where dishes are made with sustainably-sourced seasonal produce, vegetables and herbs.

And, of course, with a nod to its home in the lush garden, ingredients such as ginger, pandan leaves, mushroom, as well as edible flowers will also have a strong presence in the menu.

Some dishes that the chef will serve include a degustation of onion, which is his favourite vegetable; as well as Spanish Carabineros prawns with seasonal tomatoes, such as Sunsugar from Japan, or San Marzano from Italy which he marinates with Thai basil to "showcase Asian heritage".

Menu prices are not fixed yet but the average bill per person is about $100.

Wine Culture will supply the wines, with more than 50 labels of half-bottles and wine by the glass, and 800 to 1,000 rotating labels on the wine list, says Mr Heng, who founded the company in 1999.

It also owns Verre Wine Bar at Rodyk Street, which opened in 2011, and European restaurant Shelter In The Woods at Greenwood Avenue, which opened last year.

On the partnership with chef Tan, Mr Heng says: "We share the same vision and we are both creative and passionate."

Chef Tan says: "Au Jardin has always been associated with this location, so we have big shoes to fill. It's a good and bad thing, I guess, as some people know the place well and yet others may not know it at all.

"But I'm sure Singaporeans want to try something new and lots of research has gone into planning the restaurant well."

euniceq@sph.com.sg