Tiong Bahru Bakery @ Raffles City Singapore
Over the last year or so, we saw several new patisseries and boulangeries coming up in Singapore. International names like Paul and Maison Kayser made it to our shores and yet, we also saw several local establishments like Antoinette bloom. The latest new kid on the block is of course Laduree. But the one which garnered the most raves and truly worthy of the limelight is undoubtedly Tiong Bahru Bakery.
Yet another F&B venture after their incredibly successful Tippling Club and Skinny Pizza, the folks behind Food Collective under the Spa Esprit Group flew in the suave and dynamic Parisian boulanger Gontran Cherrier to helm this establishment. Born into a family of bakers and patissiers who passed down the know-hows of the trade from generation to generation, Cherrier subsequently received his professional training at l’Ecole Ferrandi, and then l’Ecole de Boulangerie et de Pâtisserie de Paris. Stints at l’Arpège alongside Alain Passard and later Lucas Carton with Alain Senderen, as well as the growing up experience in a family-owned boulangerie by generations of traditional bread makers help to shape and sharpen Cherrier to become what he is today. Yet interestingly, the bakery did not bear the “GC” label, umlike those in Paris as well as Tokyo. “Tiong Bahru Bakery” with a name unassuming and reminiscent of an old school confectionery which many of us here in Singapore may affectionately remember was thus born. But being rustic and nostalgic are hardly the hues and tones this artisan bakery exudes. Those who come in search of traditional kaya toast and egg tarts would be surprised… pleasantly surprised…
We visited their outlet at Raffles City for a late weekend lunch shortly after their branch at Raffles City opened. Part of the spread we had… it was a fiesta of breads and pastries.
Their signature Croissant au Beurre which so many folks have raved about. Crisp and aromatic to the max! It was as what a butter croissant ought to be, really really buttery. Those from another long-withstanding frenchy establishment DF should really shy away in shame.
Just look at those lovely layers of lamination! I would dare say yes this is indeed the best croissant I’d had in Singapore to date.
The Pain au Chocolat was also beautifully crafted. Folds of laminated pastry like a huge surfer’s wave, with a single baton au chocolat encapsulated within. The textures and flavours of the pastry is fairly consistent to the butter croissant. So we didn’t really mind having only a teeny bit of chocolate within. That just means we get to taste more of the delicious flaky pastry!
Croissant aux amandes. Don’t let the drab look fool you. It was very good! The flavours are very apparent and the almond cream was very delicious! However, we’d hoped that they had been a tad less generous with their dusting of icing sugar over the pastry. It looked like an avalanche just occurred. A sugar rush quite literally. We had to pat off quite a large amount of the icing sugar over the top to uncover pastry beneath.
On the contrary, we’d hoped for more almond cream filling as that was really the star of the show here. Alas that didn’t happen. Still a really good piece of pastry though. We also tried their Kouign-amann on a later occasion. Needless to say, it was delish 🙂
Tiong Bahru Bakery serves french “President” butter as well as Alain Milliat’s Confiture de Fraise Sengana. The latter was good to go along with simple loaves and probably the brioche. It was spot on on the Brix scale and had whole strawberries “compoted” into it. The pastries we ordered were rather intense in flavours as they were but that most certainly didn’t stop us from enjoying the strawberry jam. 🙂
The croissants and other laminated pastries worked very well for us. But how did the other breads go?
Parma Ham and Cheese Focaccia. Well, firstly the cheese was hard, despite that pseudo-melted appeal. It was too rubbery chewy somewhat. The focaccias were reheated upon request but that didn’t help to make the cheese work for us. The cheese remained unperturbed… in their unmelted state. And that brought about something more catastrophic. The rocket salad was reheated TOGETHER with the bread base and that caused the leaves to wilt quite a bit, making them lose their delightful crunch. And no one in the right mind would cook rocket, albeit in a careless manner as that would just accentuate their bitterness. The brief microwave experience did cause the cherry tomatoes to soften somewhat, which was nice. Much like how they would have been like if they were lightly sauted. And the focaccia was unfortunately not fantastic at all. It was rather hard and chewy. Not rustic and robust kind of hard which we’d probably have enjoyed. But just cold bread chewy hard. We had expected an explosion of flavours, particularly from any herbs and olive oil used. But we got none of that . To make things worse, the cheese was really briny and so was the parma ham. It was a really salty mess all in all. Quite a disappointment really.
The Tuna and Mozzarella Focaccia was slightly more tolerable. At least no overpowering briny taste from the poor execution of salty ham with salty cheese. Likewise the half steamed salad topping didn’t work for us, though we did enjoy the tomatoes.
Ham was dry. Cheese was also dry and chewy. Bread was dry and hard. All amounts to form something quite inpalatable.
And finally the desserts. Tarte Citron. Reasonably well made. Not the best we’d had but definitely not amongst the worst either. That would have been Paul’s soggy Tarte au Citron Meringuée. Be warned, TBB’s lemon tart is really acrid. Not unlike the ones from Joel Robuchon. The sight of us cringing our faces and squishy our brows with every bite into the lemon custard filling was quite funny to start with. And we found it quite entertaining watching diners from other tables who ordered the same tart do the same face thing as well. Tried very very hard to suppress our giggling. In short, the flavours were really POW right on!
The tart was “ok” on the whole but could have been better in several ways. The pate sucree base was too thick. Good for those who enjoy a bit more of the crunch and crumbly textures, but truth be told, not really a good testament to fine pastry making skills. Thankfully it was still very buttery. That we like. The filling was also too “solidified” from either a wrong ratio of flour to eggs when cooking the curd or overzealous use of gelatine. It was custardy alright. Just not wobbly custardy as we would have liked. Hope I’m not being too anal retentive about this.
The Chocolate Tart fared better. Still the same
curse of a thick crust tart base but the filling was delicious. Dark chocolate ganache filling over a bed of toasted nuts, dried fruit and orange confit. The chocolate ganache was tipped on the other end of the scale compared to its lemon tart cousin. Less cream was added into the making of the ganache as what would have been standard, resulting in similar somewhat hardened texture. It had more of a sticky mars bar kinda consistency than the flowy gooey ganache we’d more accustomed to. But that we didn’t really mind as delicious chocolate is delicious chocolate as it is afterall. The bits of candied orange peel is probably what made this tart work for us. Additional dimensions in flavour and aroma, not to mention a hint of zing as well.
Reasonably well baked tart base, well docked. Then again, if I could actually invert the entire tart like this to capture a photo of the base, it says pretty much about how “solid” the filling probably was.
On the whole, a bunch of hits and misses. We enjoyed the laminated pastries tremendously and would definitely continue to visit TBB for them. But no more focaccias for us. TBB could definitely do better and likewise, we definitely deserve much better. Tarts wise, we are a bit “iffy” about it. Pastry chefs do have their bad dough days and probably deserve a second try. Would probably do so again if we manage to spot more decently made pieces on our subsequent visits. Then again, looks can be deceiving…
Tiong Bahru Bakery
56 Eng Hoon Street (main store)
#01-70 Singapore 160056
Tel: +65 6220 3430
Daily: 8am – 8pm (closed on Tue)
252 North Bridge Road (branch)
#B1-11/12 Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: +65 6333 4160
Daily: 9am – 10pm