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29 Questions With Luke Armstrong

The head chef of The Kitchen at Bacchanalia tells us how he likes his coffee and why he is not into sous vide.

By Tiong Li Cheng | 12 April, 2017 | People, Profiles
2017-04-12 08:01:41 2017-10-10 11:53:27

29 Questions With Luke Armstrong 3

Since taking over the reins of Michelin-starred The Kitchen at Bacchanalia from Ivan Brehm, Australian-born Luke Armstrong has completely overhauled Bacchanalia’s menu because he feels that there’s no point as a chef to cook someone else’s food or if it is not what you believe in. The 29-year-old chef shares: “In the beginning, I was going to change the menu gradually. And now Ivan [Brehm] and I, we joke about how fast we have moved in changing everything. Ivan says he doesn’t recognise the restaurant anymore.”

Having trained at one-Michelin-starred Pied a Terre, two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury – both in London – and the now-defunct three-Michelin-starred Oud Sluis in the Netherlands, there is a simplicity to Armstrong’s modern French style of cooking. Sous vide techniques are eschewed; instead the meats are mostly roasted on bone or crown a la minute to bring out more flavour. “Instead of looking for modern interpretations of how we cook, we emphasise how we finish our dishes,” says Armstrong. For example, cream content in sauces is cut down. To keep the 7-course degustation meal ($188) feeling light and balanced, sugar and carbs are reduced and even the sponges (cake) don’t contain flour.  “At the end, you can still go out for a drink,” says Armstrong.

Roast Monkfish with Zeeland Mussels, Mizuna Emulsion with fragrant Saffron Sauce
Roast Monkfish with Zeeland Mussels, Mizuna Emulsion with fragrant Saffron Sauce

The new menu seems fairly straightforward. Signatures include: Hokkaido hand-dived scallop ceviche with black truffle and yuzu dressing; and roast monkfish with Zeeland mussels with saffron sauce. There is also a Singaporean chilli crab inspired canape- a crab sphere with a wrapper made from crab bisque and served on a flower crab shell.

Handing me a spoon, he offers me taste a pink whipped cream that the pastry chef was working on.

“What do taste?,” he asks.

“Strawberries and… maybe beetroot?”

Armstrong nods but says that on the menu, it will just be called strawberry cream. Excessive explanation of the dishes and the providence of the ingredients are kept to a minimal. “I’m not going to tell you about George who woke up at 5am to pick the tomatoes,” says the no-nonsense chef who just wants to cut the malarkey and focus on the food.

The Kitchen at Bacchanalia. 39 Hong Kong Street. Tel: +65 9179 4552

As editor of SALT magazine, Li Cheng spends her days eating (pancakes), drinking (buttery Chardonnays), and punching out stories faster than you can say “Where’s the food?”. When not in front of the keyboard, she enjoys classic films, Japanese-everything, and countering the calories with hot yoga.