You may have heard of – and even indulged at – Lucali BYGB, famed for its cult Brooklyn ‘pie’, but the team behind the restaurant has put together an American fine-dining restaurant and an unorthodox wine hall with Singapore-based hospitality pioneer, Gibran Baydoun that you must visit at least once in your life.
Named Corduroy Palace, you’ll find a unique bevy of wines to complement the classic American fare that is as equally humble as it is over the top.
Keep reading to find out what AVENUE ONE thinks of the food and drinks after a weekday night bacchanal at this watering hole.
Drink and be merry before sundown
We’ve been told by the floor team that the wine is the main reason why guests turn up. In true Baydoun fashion, do not expect a massive encyclopaedia – read: formulaic “wine bar” – organised by region and varietal, or showy displays of empty wine bottles and wine crates or narrow and specific lanes to say who belongs there.
The unorthodox and visionary wine hall is a first in Singapore, intended for exploration and discovery where you get to pick directly by the bottle from the 10 wine coolers flanking the long wine hall or get recommendations from head sommelier and wine director Marcus Chen, formerly from two-Michelin-starred JAAN by Kirk Westaway and a finalist of WGA’s Rising Sommelier of the Year Award, any staff on the floor who are all trained and certified sommeliers.
If you don’t feel like talking, then there’s no need to. Instead, make full use of Corduroy Palace’s RFID technology for almost 70 wines in their collection that give you the tasting notes, why they like it, and even a photo so you can post to your story or save to your personal collection right away.
In the same vein as an Aoyama concept store or a group show at a contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Corduroy Palace presents an imaginative bevy of smashable wines that live unconventionally together in self-service, convenience store fridges organised by price.
Natural and biodynamic wines live in peaceful coexistence side by side to classic and cult wines of all price ranges.
There’s also an entire two-door cooler dedicated to just bubbly with prices ranging from S$100 to S$2,000.
The eclectic selection of over 300 bottles curated by Chen oscillates between cult favourites and rare, uncommon grapes from uncommon regions, and everything in between to suit any palate, mood, occasion or budget.
Beyond the wine, the bar also offers a menu that feels appropriately mid-century, serving only true classics in very chilled and strong fashion, just as head bartender Nina Kong, formerly from Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse, Sugarhall, and Jigger & Pony, wanted.
At over 140ml, the Proper Martini is American-strength, made using two different gins and two different vermouths, served with oversized gourmet olives from Santa Barbara Olive Company, some stuffed with lavish bleu cheese.
Like drinking at home or a friend’s, there is no cocktail list. Instead, Corduroy Palace will share a small list of classics that they are particularly enjoying at that time, like a Hanky Panky, Gimlet, Fernet and Cola, Manhattan, Last Word and even a John Daly, which is vodka mixed with iced tea and homemade lemonade.
Satisfy your appetite with high-quality food
The food by executive chef Ariana Flores was created with wine and design in mind. It started with oysters and dumplings, the two favourites of Bayoun, Flores, and Chen for when they have their proper drinking sessions.
The fresh oysters are the finest they could find from Normandy; the dumplings come from one of their favourite hawker stalls from Upper Bukit Timah, You Peng, who worked with the Corduroy team to make a specific xiao long bao that is authentic, delicious, and of course, topped with caviar.
We opted for the latter to start off the night and were not disappointed by the little pockets of minced meat and soup. The xiao long baos were served piping hot, just the way we like it, and each dumpling was so simple in appearance yet packed a punch of flavour with every bite.
10 pieces of these little babies will set you back at S$50 but the caviar-topped dumplings are definitely worth the money if you ask us.
We ordered the xiao long baos together with Jonah Crab Claws (S$40) for our appetisers. The latter was served with a trio of sauces: cocktail sauce, clarified butter, and remoulade but the dish paled a little in comparison to the flavourful dumplings that comforted the soul.
Another snack you can try before your main meal is The Brown Derby Tamale (S$18), a starter featuring a blend of pork and beef with garnishes.
Caviar is also served tableside on a custom-designed trolley, available by the bump (S$20) or the whole shebang (from S$150) – a definite splurge you should consider if you’re at Corduroy Palace to celebrate any occasion.
Honest sandwiches (S$25) like turkey, egg salad, chicken salad for the humble everyday approach are also on the menu, as well as canned fish from Portugal and Spain (S$25).
For the main stars of our dinner, we opted for Chicken Cordon Bleu (S$34) and a plate of Eggplant Parmesan (S$28).
The former was sous vided whole, then battered and deep-fried before cutting, resulting in a plate of yummy, cheesy goodness that wasn’t dry or difficult to eat.
The latter is a vegetarian option featuring Australian eggplant with a housemade tomato sauce that was cooked for four hours for maximum flavour.
For a true night out, ask for the 300g Prime Rib (S$150), served with a fully loaded baked potato topped with Oscietra Caviar for the ultimate splurge.
If you’re a fan of cheeses, round out your meal with a lovely cheese platter for dessert. Also presented tableside, the cheeses are from Le Maison Mons by Lauren Mons in Saint Haon le Châtel, France.
We wanted something sweet to end the night, so we ordered the Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana (S$12) and a slice of Pie of the Day (S$18).
The mini chocolate-coated bananas had the perfect balance of sweetness that gave us a much-needed respite from all the rich foods we’ve been relishing throughout the night.
On the day of our visit, we had the option of a 20-layered chocolate cake or pot de crème, which is a chocolate mousse with crème fraîche and sea salt.
Despite being stuffed to the brim, we went ahead with the 20-layered chocolate cake that was embellished with sugar crystals on top. It was rich but not too sweet, the perfect ending to our meal.
You’ll also be happy to know that you have the option of grabbing a slice of pizza, Stromboli or meatballs from Proper Slice BYGB (opens till midnight daily) on their way out after knocking back a couple of bottles, with an original cheese pie, pepperoni, white pizza, spinach, and ricotta and sausage options on rotation.
Admire the space while you’re savouring the food at Corduroy Palace
Aside from the food, wine, and cocktails, Corduroy Palace is quite the place to fawn over while you eat. Think of the space as the love child of a dive bar in the middle of America and a grand hotel ballroom.
The result is an unorthodox and visionary wine hall in the bosom of a midtown mid-century Manhattan dining room. Just like a worn corduroy blazer that sits deep in your closet, it is something that feels as if it has always been there, doesn’t fit quite properly, and is intentionally effortless, never replaced but only repaired.
To create a culture that is distinctly Corduroy Palace, Baydoun tapped creative strategist and designer Jason Schlabach and architect Jin Seow to make magic.
Stepping into the intentionally small space will feel almost as though Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, David Bowie or even Jean-Michel Basquiat inhabit its every crevice, showing utter disregard to the traditions and legacy of the mid-century Manhattan business elite that dined before.
The mission was to have Corduroy Palace be something you undress, slowly, in layers. First, by finding the alleyway off of an already quiet Gemmill Lane.
The entrance is not behind but through Proper Slice BYGB (a true New York-styled pizza-by-the-slice joint) which greets you with a long maroon awning that feels like a pre-war building on the Upper East Side.
Once through the Jean Prouvé-inspired pocket door, you are greeted by a glass block wall that leads down a narrow cherry wood-panelled hallway to the final reveal.
The bricked walls are graced in Kvadrat Husk Fabric from Denmark as a subtle nod to corduroy fabric. On the floors, over 21 different vintage and antique rugs from three different countries were hand-stitched and applied for seamlessness, curving all the way up to the Brazilian Karmarica granite.
There are seven large, oversized banquettes all draped in original Pontoglio corduroy fabric, silky yet durable, imported from Italy.
As part of Corduroy Palace’s mission towards authenticity, the fabric is crafted by Pontoglio, the original artisans producing corduroy back in the 1800s.
Also authentic, is the column in the middle of the space donned in genuine Schulte mohair – the actual fabric used for Steiff teddy bears and purchased directly from Steiff in Germany – as a deliberate nod to owner Baydoun’s favourite story, Corduroy by Don Freeman, and the endearing spirit of a good teddy bear.
Tables are in high-gloss burl wood, which required dozens of layers of lacquering to achieve the luxurious effect, accompanied by Fritz Hansen chairs in the space.
The space is theatrically lit to create a cosy, dramatic atmosphere, from the use of industrial lamps with mercury-dipped lightbulbs down to the theatre booth downlights that illuminate every step through Corduroy Palace.
As you head to the hall of wine, the 10 cooler doors are lit to be a nod to installations of mid-century artist Dan Flavin.
The art is the jewel in the crown, as Corduroy Palace could not exist as a home for the creative set of the mid-century without an eclectic assembly of modern and contemporary pieces to showcase at Corduroy Palace.
Here, you’ll find an abstract Gerhard Richter print featured prominently alongside a high-gelatin and high-gloss print inspired by Corduroy Palace commissioned by local photographer, Ethan Lai, and a Picasso original that hangs irreverently on a bathroom wall.
Corduroy Palace is located at 110 Amoy Street (off Gemmill Lane), Singapore 069930 – enter from Proper Slice BYGB. Corduroy Palace opens from 3pm onwards daily, click here for table reservations.