Restaurants at the National Gallery Singapore - modern French restaurant Odette and Singapore restaurant National Kitchen by Violet Oon - picked up Best New Restaurant honours last night at the annual G Restaurant Awards, which is organised by luxury magazine The Peak.
A total of 53 awards were given out at a ceremony held at the InterContinental Singapore, which was attended by about 270 guests, including restaurateurs, chefs, readers and advertisers of The Peak.
In its seventh edition, the G Restaurant Awards, which recognise restaurants that deliver top-notch dining experiences, is put together by The Peak Selections: Gourmet & Travel, a quarterly spin-off title of The Peak magazine.
Odette's chef-owner Julien Royer, 33, says the win is "extra special and meaningful" to him. The restaurant is named after his grandmother, who was his culinary inspiration. He adds: "Diners are tired of complicated concepts of fine-dining and being told how to eat a dish, so we are going back to a classic approach that puts cooking styles and ingredients at the core of the dishes."
Singaporean cooking doyenne Violet Oon, 67, co-owner of National Kitchen by Violet Oon, says she is humbled by the win.
She says: "We try to cook the food in as authentic a way as we can and we try to source the best local ingredients such as gula melaka. Our goal is to preserve the traditional methods of cooking - like grandma's way."
European restaurant Corner House at Singapore Botanic Gardens was named Restaurant of the Year, after winning the Best New Restaurant accolade last year. The restaurant, which is almost two years old, also debuted at No. 17 on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list this year.
Chef-patron Jason Tan, 33, says his win comes as a surprise, given that Restaurant Andre has been winning Restaurant of the Year for the past three years.
"I hoped to win this award, but I didn't expect it to come so soon," he says. "Having a prominent gastro-botanica cuisine makes us different from the rest of the Singapore dining scene."
He plans to take time off to travel to Australia next month and to countries such as Japan and Italy later this year to source for inspiration to refresh his menu.
Dr Chng Chai Kiat, 41, head of the dental service department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, who has been a judge for the past four years, is heartened that Singapore chefs have a strong showing on this year's list.
He says: "National Kitchen by Violet Oon has kept to traditional renditions of recipes such as kueh pie tee, beef rendang and kueh bingka, yet it is not afraid to have fusion dishes such as buah keluak pasta. It makes for a fun dining experience."
Of the 43 winning restaurants, 21 of them made their debut on the list - the highest in the award's history.
Mr Sylvester Ng, 37, editor of The Peak Selections: Gourmet & Travel, says this is a sign of a more competitive restaurant landscape. He says: "Restaurants are operating in a market where more well-travelled diners have highly discerning palates. Thus, they not only have to consistently uphold standards, but also continually up their game."
Winners were selected from more than 100 restaurants shortlisted by food critics including The Straits Times' Wong Ah Yoke and Lianhe Zaobao's Ng King Kang.
A panel of 12 judges, including ambassadors, head honchos and directors of companies who are food and wine connoisseurs, dined incognito at these restaurants over a six-month period that started in September last year, to decide the winners.
The selection criteria included the quality of ingredients used, range of menus, service and ambience.
•The Peak Selections: Gourmet & Travel costs $12 and is available at major bookstores including Books Kinokuniya, Times, Times Newslink and MPH. The digital edition, which also costs $12, is available on the iPad and Android tablets.