Jasmine: I am not a Francophile, I just adore everything about France :p
The language, architecture, history, sidewalk cafes, chocolate eclairs, Parisian style and err.. Dior, Chanel, Isabel Marant and Yves Saint Laurent. (Andrew: Hmm, seems more like Parisian luxurious style rather than just style – but is there any other style in Paris?)
Disneyland Paris, not so much.
One of the simplest ways to recreate that Parisian chronotope is to visit French restuarants in the heart of Singapore.
Jasmine: Choupinette is not just my favourite French cafe but it’s my favourite cafe, period. Andrew first introduced me to it on my birthday last year, thnking I would enjoy the food and atmosphere, and he was spot on! We’ve been here thrice, at different times of the day for brunch, tea and dinner, and I really like that relaxed vibe of young families playing with their children, women reading French magazines or friends having coffee and conversation.
Andrew: I recall that we celebrated Jasmine’s birthday last year on a Sunday and I had a hard time finding reasonably priced French restaurants that were open on Sunday for brunch. Another plus point for Choupinette is that it’s relatively accessible (so accessible that I bumped into a student here!) compared to other French places (like the French Stall, which you’ll read about later) and parking’s not a problem.
My pretty Dearie in a very ‘summery’ outfit
(Jasmine: Hee, thanks dear. Both the hairband and the top are from Hong Kong. The hairband cost more than the top?!)
There’s a very wide selection of fashion magazines here for perusing while waiting for your food, some even in French!
Jasmine: I ordered one of their brunch sets, a Smoked Royale that came with a steaming pot of ginger lemon tea. My salmon was very lightly smoked and salted, and the texture was fairly delicate. The egg was perfectly poached, with its runny yolk, and all the components of the Smoked Royale combined to make an appetising brunch that was just right in terms of portion size and flavour.
However, the comparison here would be to Dempsey’s Cafe Hacienda, which does a really mean poached egg, with a deliciously silky-smooth egg white that seriously trumps all other players in its league for texture. Thus, to be perfectly impartial this is not excellente nourriture (French for "awesome food"), but Coupinette’s great selection of French cuisine, leisurely vibe and cosy location along Bukit Timah Road make it a perfectly lovely place for a first date.
Andrew: I was looking for a healthier alternative on my third visit and I made the cardinal mistake of thinking that vegetarian = healthy. I ordered the vegetarian lasagna and it was one of the cheesiest, most rich lasagna’s that I’ve ever had! I loved it. There was a great abundance of stringy, melted cheese and the vegetables were baked to such chewy softness.
We didn’t take a photo of this, but I had a creme brulee with my set and unfortunately it wasn’t very good. The sticky layer on top was burnt and too hard and the creme below was rather tasteless and thick. One minus point for Choupinette, but we know to avoid that in future and go for the macarons or eclair instead!
Romance Factor: 4.5/5. This is a good place for dating, especially for dinners as it is quiet and cosy. It’s especially lovely if you manage to get the table for two at the corner, which Dearie says is ‘our seat’.
The French Stall
This was one of the French places that I was considering for Jasmine’s birthday last year, but rejected as it wasn’t opened on Sunday. Furthermore, this place is very difficult to get to and it took us almost an hour to drive here through the mad traffic in little India and we had to park in some alley behind the restaurant.
Jasmine: Yes, this was the day I was feeling a little down, and Andrew, sensing that, sweetly changed plans and brought me here as he knows that I love French food. I was really touched by how he drove through awful traffic just to get us here.
Andrew: I quite enjoyed the feel of this restaurant. It immediately reminded me of the humble, homely restaurants we saw in Paris just beside the streets. It was really like we were transported upon entry into another ‘chronotope’ (as Jasmine put it so aptly earlier!).
Andrew: Both of us ordered a set meal which began with potato and leek soup, which was thick and creamy. I liked it! (Jasmine: Ditto! The French Stall started out offering authentic European cuisine at food court prices. This three course set meal included soup, mains and dessert, and cost $20/pax.)
Our main courses:
Cod in butter sauce
Andrew: The portion was generous and the cod was excellently prepared and went well with the butter sauce and herbs.
Jasmine: I preferred my cod to Andrew’s pork as the cod was mildly flavoured and retained its moisture, pairing well with the piquant butter sauce. The mashed potato was also worthy of mention as it was unbelievably creamy.
Andrew: The pork medallions were a little dry and the sauce was pretty standard. Nothing too amazing.
Our desserts: Creme caramel and tiramisu
Andrew: The creme caramel was the standard dessert that came with the menu and we had to top up for the tiramisu. I liked that the tiramisu had less alcohol than others I’ve tried, but I thought it would have been better with more sponge and less cream. It was too creamy for my liking. The creme caramel was significantly better tham the creme brulee at Choupinette in terms of texture and taste.
Romance Factor: 4/5. The inaccessibility is a great minus point for this place which otherwise has some good photo opportunities (like the one below), very authentic decor and decent food at reasonable prices. However, the heavy traffic outside the restaurant does detract from the ‘out of Singapore’ feeling (and the romance factor) that Choupinette manages quite well.
Jasmine: In a newspaper interview given by the French chef, the out-of-the-way location and the tree-lined sidestreet outside the restaurant, which has an al fresco dining concept, are meant to give diners the feel of being in a sidewalk cafe in Paris along some tree-lined boulevard. I thought that The French Stall’s homey, publike decor also imbued it with a nostalgically authentic feel.
On Jasmine: Kate Spade knockoff dress from Far East Plaza