Canele patisserie chain closes, Les Amis group to open new restaurants

Macaroons from Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Macaroons from Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Pastry fiends found plenty to ogle at, from macaroons to fresh chocolate, at Les Amis' Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie. -- PHOTO: LES AMIS
The interior of Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie in Paragon shopping mall. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Canele patisserie's former outlet on the fifth level of Shaw Centre. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Canele outlet at Paragon. -- PHOTO: LES AMIS GROUP

Canele patisserie, one of the first shops to serve high-end French pastries, dainty macarons and fancy cakes, closed its last remaining outlet in Shaw House on Sunday, after a 10-year run.

On the closure, a spokesman for the Les Amis Group, which owns the patisserie chain, says: "Canele was not doing as well as our other brands. With the labour crunch, we looked at the options before us and made a conscious decision to weed out the weak ones to support those that are doing well."

Besides the flagship fine-dining French restaurant of the same name, the Les Amis Group also owns the Peperoni Pizzeria, Bistro du Vin and NamNam Noodle Bar chains, Japanese shabu shabu restaurant Shabu Shabu Gen and Italian restaurant La Strada.

Canele's exit makes way for the group's new projects this year.

One of them is a Spanish restaurant, even though the hype over Spanish cuisine has died down. The group is embarking on a joint venture with Terry's, a popular Spanish restaurant chain in Manila, run by Spanish chef-owner Juan Carlos de Terry.

The group's spokesman says: "The Spanish cuisine trend seems to be over, but after we did a market survey of the Spanish restaurants in Singapore, we feel that there is a lot of room for improvement. We don't have celebrity chefs and are not the sexiest restaurant, but we want to be the most authentic."

The restaurant will also have a Spanish gourmet shop called Terry's Gourmet next to it. Both are slated to open on the second floor of Shaw Centre by Oct 1.

Banking on the success of NamNam, the group will open two more outlets; at Resorts World Sentosa next month, and at Farrer Park Medical Centre by early November.

The medical centre is part of Connexion, a mixed-use complex that includes a hospital and upcoming hotel. The group will open a Japanese sushi restaurant there, and a premium fruit shop called My Goodness, complete with a fruit box subscription service for delivery of seasonal fruit such as Japanese grapes and melons.

Staff from the three Canele outlets that have closed - at Paragon, Raffles City Shopping Centre and Shaw House - will be deployed to these new outlets.

The Canele brand was the brainchild of pastry chef Pang Kok Keong, who built the chain under the Les Amis group in 2004. The patisserie distinguished itself from the rest with its chic and stylish restaurants, complemented with upmarket dessert offerings that paved the way for more entrants into the pastry and dessert industry.

Chef Pang, 39, says: "I felt very sad when I knew Canele was closing. Even though it was a competitor, Canele was my baby. I worked on it for so long and was very attached to it. After I left, the direction changed to be more casual. It is not what I had imagined the brand to be."

He left the group in September 2010, and is the chief operating officer of the Sugar Daddy Group, which owns French patisserie chain Antoinette and casual American-style restaurant Pique Nique.

Acknowledging that its share of the scene has been reduced, the Les Amis spokesman says: "We used to own the pastry space before brands such as Paul and Laduree, as well as the Japanese bakeries came in.

"Canele had a good run and it is time to move on."

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