SINGAPORE - After the recent conclusion of the Mirazur residency at the members-only Mandala Club, its next high-profile pop-up will feature the gregarious chef Gaggan Anand of his eponymous restaurant in Bangkok.
Known for its progressive Indian fare, the fine-dining establishment - which debuted at No. 5 on this year's Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list - is the second iteration of chef Anand's original restaurant Gaggan, which closed in August 2019.
His two-month residency at the Mandala Club in Bukit Pasoh Road will run from Nov 3 to Jan 6, Wednesdays to Sundays.
Lunch is priced at $288++, while dinner costs $388++.Wine pairing starts from an additional $148 for lunch.
Priority registration for the event starts at noon on Tuesday (Sept 21) at this website. Ticket sales for club members start on Thursday (Sept 23), while non-members who have pre-registered their interest can buy tickets from noon on Sept 27 - 24 hours ahead of general sales to the public.
Like the three-Michelin-starred French restaurant Mirazur, the Gaggan Anand Restaurant residency will take over the space that housed the now-defunct Restaurant Kin and Straits Clan - both on the first floor of the rebranded Mandala Club.
The format will be slightly different, says Mandala Group chief executive Ben Jones via a Zoom interview from Berlin. There will be fewer seats - 55 instead of the 70 for Mirazur - as chef Anand's menu will be longer.
His other concept - Ms Maria and Mr Singh, which serves a hybrid menu of popular Mexican-Indian dishes - will operate at the lounge area of the club. Dining here is not ticketed, so club members and the public alike can enter for drinks and tapas.
It will be a "slicker, smoother" operation, emphasises Mr Jones, who started discussions with chef Anand in February this year.
On lessons learnt from the Mirazur residency, he adds: "I've learnt not to do pop-ups before 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated, that's my key takeaway.
"It was a roller coaster. We were supposed to do 12 weeks, and ended up doing 10, but had the team and staff on for 18 weeks. It was a challenging situation because of morale, and we had to keep the momentum."
The Mirazur pop-up, which started in May, had to be extended by six weeks to Sept 12, due to delays from the dine-in bans during the heightened alert periods.
It also had to deal with reallocating reservations and managing some disgruntled diners who were unhappy over not being able to see Mirazur's chef Mauro Colagreco.
The chef was in Singapore for a brief two weeks only and his tightly controlled itinerary did not allow him to interact with diners or do face-to-face interviews with the media.
This time, Kolkata-born chef Anand - together with a team of 20 vaccinated staff, including his head chef and restaurant manager - will be in town for the full duration of the residency.
His restaurant has been closed since April due to the pandemic and is slated to reopen in February next year.
Speaking to The Straits Times from New York via Zoom, Anand, 43, enthusiastically expresses his desire to return to cooking.
He says: "I have been dreaming of going back to the kitchen to cook, have fun and interact with people. The happiest feeling is to see people in the restaurant. This is the first step to going back to normal. It is the right time, right place and right city in Asia."
This will be unlike any other pop-up he has done.
Calling it the "most challenging", he says: "This is not just taking three guys here to cook and people don't care. They think, 'Oh, Gaggan is here, so f*** the food.' We don't want to do that. We are working hard to give something new."
Expect two doses of "food porn" from the irreverent chef - his unconventional and creative cooking from his restaurant, along with new dishes featuring seasonal ingredients and locally sourced produce served on bespoke ceramic tableware crafted in Kyushu.
To support the chef's team, Mr Jones is recruiting about 20 more staff.
For Mirazur, he hired about 35 people, and about half of the group will remain in permanent roles at the club.
While the team takes a break before the Gaggan Anand Restaurant pop-up starts, the space will display an art collection in collaboration with the Opera Gallery at Ion Orchard.
Mr Jones is still working on what takes over the space after the pop-up - whether it hosts another residency, or launch a permanent concept to replace Restaurant Kin.
In mid-November, he is also looking to launch the rebranded club, which is under renovation to house new concepts. These include a Japanese omakase concept, a bar offering local and Japanese-inspired snacks, a walk-in wine cellar and a tasting lounge.
On his outlook for the upcoming pop-up, he says: "Given the vaccination rates, I don't believe Singapore will go into lockdown. If it does, it implies that there is never an end to this, ever. We've enough contingency plans and experience to navigate the bumps in the road. But if there's a full lockdown, there's nothing you can do.
"We're on the same page with Gaggan. We understand the risks and are fairly confident."
- The Gaggan Anand Residency at Mandala Club runs from Nov 3 to Jan 6 next year, Wednesdays to Sundays. Priority registration starts at noon on Tuesday (Sept 21) at this website. Ticket sales for members start on Thursday, while non-members who have pre-registered interest can buy tickets from noon on Sept 27. The sale opens to the public at noon on Sept 28.