After researching many restaurants over the g-f years, there are a few clues that lead me to be a little sceptical that the ones I check out are capable of providing safe food for the gluten challenged amongst us. One of those clues is when a restaurant doesn’t post it’s menus online – it is at odds with the open-armed welcome suggested by the sculpture outside.
Brasserie Les Saveurs which is the ground floor restaurant in the five star international hotel, St Regis at the Tanglin Road end of Orchard Road, has drop-down links from the menu bar on its website to five options ranging from lunch through afternoon tea to dinner. Instead of a menu for each, it shows a selection of black, brown and grey lines, and has done on each of the occasions I have checked over the past few weeks.
Whilst I still find it shocking, the lack of any menus posted online was at least a clue to the exchange that was to come….
Q: Do you have a table for lunch for two today?
Q: Could I just check that there are items on your menu that can be cooked gluten-free.
A: Yes, I think so, but let me check with the kitchen
New person on the line: Do you have a booking?
A: Yes, for lunch today, your colleague was just checking something with the kitchen
Reply: we don’t have a booking for you
First person: “I have checked with the kitchen and we aren’t specialists in gluten-free food”
Q: Does that mean you aren’t able to prepare any food gluten-free?
A: No we aren’t.
End of conversation!
If you take the time to google St Regis and gluten-free as I did you will find that St Regis is listed on www.glutenfreehotelsguide.com as the 21st hotel in Singapore capable of providing gluten-free food. Given our experience, either the compiler of this guide hasn’t checked with Brasserie Les Saveurs, they mislead, or there is another problem.
Deciding a couple of weeks later to try to establish which of those it is, reasoning that it may just have been someone inexperienced who picked up the phone the first time round, we were startled to find the same reception when we asked the same question in person. The receptionist, Tram, recalled the phone conversation with us and no, things hadn’t changed, St Regis weren’t able to offer gluten-free food: end of story.
Tram, shadowed by two stoney faced assistants, was sticking to this even after we had pointed out that the restaurant’s own menu states that “If you have food allergies or food intolerances please inform our service staff”. She didn’t seem to understand why it might be puzzling that such a statement is on their menu if they aren’t able to offer anything for a coeliac to eat. What transpired later graphically underscored the importance of employing and training competent front of house staff.
Fortunately a manager overheard the conversation with Tram and offered to speak to the chef. When we met the Italian sous chef Fabio, he couldn’t have been more understanding and knowledgeable about gluten intolerance. In the course of several conversations at various stages of our meal he showed he knew the extent of the incidence of coeliac disease, which foods contained gluten, how little can cause a problem, and described why berries had been substituted for the pistachio and citrus compote I wanted to try. All entirely professional and constructive.
What is even more remarkable given the two exchanges with Tram is that the kitchen was able to serve home-made gluten-free bread. This shows a level of preparation for hosting gluten intolerant guests that goes beyond spur of the moment adjustments to omit problematic additions to an otherwise gluten-free dish: in this case, omission of the baguette and rouille on the bouillabaisse and substitution of berries and ice-cream for the langue chat, biscuits and compote which were to accompany the lavender creme brûlée.
In the end, and entirely due to Fabio’s efforts I enjoyed an excellent traditional French bouillabaise followed by a lovely light slow poached maine lobster, mango and cucumber salad with a ragout of bell peppers and sweet onion served with a light vanilla scented dressing
Although the lavender brulee had to be served without the compote (the problem turned out to be that a very small amount of flour had been added to thicken it) it was nonetheless an intriguing combination, made more interesting by Fabio’s description of the critical timing of the lavender infusion.
Whilst we can put the first time we tried to eat there down as an ‘own goal’, the second, which was heading for the goal-line, was definitely saved by Fabio’s intervention. If St Regis Singapore want to maintain their five- star hotel chain’s international reputation, its local management may need to improve their front-of- house training standards to reflect what they say they can do, not least as such embarrassments reflect on the group as a whole. Oh, and by the way, please post your menu on your website: some six weeks after our visit it is still an abstract collection of lines – not helpful to anyone thinking of dining with you.
Brasserie Les Saveurs, St Regis Hotel, Lobby Level, 29 Tanglin Road, Singapore 249911: Tel: 6506 6860