Chef Kirk Westaway, Strawberry Pancake as a take on strawberries and cream for dessert.
Food & Drink Restaurants

There’s more to British food than fish and chips at this Singaporean landmark

The Michelin-starred restaurant JAAN has radically changed its menu from nouvelle French to modern British fare thanks to its English chef Kirk Westaway
Cyrene de la Rosa | Aug 06 2019

I first heard about Restaurant JAAN when it won the One to Watch award in the inaugural ceremony of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2013. At that time, this intimate 40-seater was already one of Singapore’s best restaurants thanks to its nouvelle French fine cuisine and its stunning skyline view. It also gained a reputation as a breeding ground of sorts for some of the city-state’s most acclaimed chefs, including André Chiang of Raw in Taiwan (and the now-closed Restaurant André in Singapore), as well as Julien Royer from France, who now runs Odette, just named Asia’s Best Restaurant 2019, also in Singapore. Since 2015, English chef Kirk Westaway has been at JAAN’s helm.

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When I ended up staying at Swissôtel The Stamford Hotel last June, I took that as a sign to finally try JAAN. As it turned out, the restaurant had just announced its name change to JAAN by Kirk Westaway, signaling a big change in the menu.

Perched on the 70th floor of Swissôtel The Stamford, the restaurant boasts one Michelin star.

Under Westaway, the last four years have seen JAAN slowly evolve from a French to a more British inspired restaurant. It’s a shift in focus that became more obvious when Westaway launched a new menu last year, dubbed “Reinventing British.” It’s an ever-evolving menu that presents British cuisine in a modern light, focusing on seasonality.

Hailing from Exmouth, a small seaside town in Devon in the southwest coast of England, Westaway has always wanted to go back to his roots since he took over the reins of the restaurant. “Unlike French or Italian cuisine, I can reinvent British cuisine as it is what I know and what feels true to me. I wanted to change people’s perception of British food and create a modern and refined version of the food that I grew up eating,” he says.

Nothing epitomizes an English summer more than Pimm’s, made into a refreshing palate cleanser called Pimm’s in the Park, featuring Pimm’s-infused pomelo, fresh orange and cucumber, lemon granité, lemonade foam, nestled on a bed of wheatgrass grown in JAAN’s herb garden, with an accompanying poem penned by Westaway himself.

For the longest time, British food has carried the reputation for being bad and boring, which some attributed to the nation’s decade-long, post-war rationing efforts. However, others contest that British food was frowned upon because of people’s general lack of knowledge of what British cuisine has to offer, thinking it’s all just fish and chips and bangers and mash.

A slow-cooked hen’s egg sits on cauliflower custard, pickled brown shimeji mushrooms and pickled Cevennes onions, topped with caviar, and served with Berkswell Cheese, a 10-month old sheep cheese from Coventry, England.

With his ongoing Reinventing British menu, Westaway is determined, not only to change misperceptions that people may have towards British food, but also to share its rich and unheralded culinary heritage. Based on the summer menu that I was able to try, I can attest that, indeed, he succeeds in doing just that.

According to Westaway, each dish in JAAN’s multi-course menu pays homage to classic British flavors but presented in a fresh and modern way. For example, he started dinner with bite-sized Fish and Chips Tartlet, which is traditionally simple and ubiquitous fish and chips in a more refined tartlet form. 

Westaway’s Fish and Chips Tartlet uses a beautifully crisp potato shell, encasing lightly salted codfish brandade, accompanied by a delicate tartar sauce made with hard-boiled egg mayonnaise.

Another snack, the Duck Sausage Roll, is his sophisticated take on the classic British savory pastry. First steamed then cured, the sausage combines ground organic duck with English pork belly pancetta stuffed inside a delicate spiral tube made from pretzel dough.

This version of Duck Sausage Roll is topped with a flavorful onion ketchup and garnished with a local white Pentas flower.

Then there is this Instagram-pretty salad inspired by Chef Kirk’s fond memories of summer salads with his family that he simply calls English Garden. With over 30 vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers, the salad comes with a very light Scottish seaweed seven-herb broth in a custom-made watering can. Diners then “water” their English Garden salad with the broth.

Among the seasonal vegetables in this summery English Garden salad are baby carrots, Romanesco leaves, kohlrabi, tomatoes, baby gem lettuce, white cauliflower, broccoli, radish, with a sprinkling of black olive powder and anchovy dressing, served with a light Scottish seaweed and herb broth in a watering can.

One of the highlights of the meal, though, was the addicting country sourdough loaf served in a basket above hay and hot stones to keep the bread warm. The loaf is served with extra creamy Exeter butter sourced near Chef Kirk’s home in Devon. It is softened and remolded into beautiful bars garnished with freshly picked herbs from his own garden and sprinkled with Cornish sea salt.

Reminiscent of an English farm, bread comes in the form of a country sourdough loaf in a bed of hay, served with Exeter butter from Devon.
Another menu highlight is plump and succulent Chargrilled Roasted Langoustine that comes with violet courgette and English goat’s curd.

Also worth savoring are pan-seared, hand-dived Scottish Scallops finished tableside with a bacon stuffing, as well as the Strawberry Pancake for dessert. More reminiscent of a tart than a pancake, it features the season’s finest strawberries nestled in a thin tart made from pancake mix, and paired with thick clotted cream ice cream. 

Poached Snapper with English Peas

Take note that Westaway changes dishes often, based on the fresh produce he gets every day, so the dishes on the summer menu aren’t always served on a daily basis. But Westaway makes sure to offer each diner an unforgettable dining experience through his dishes, along with the restaurant’s commendable wine selection, warm personable service, plus the stunning views of the Singapore skyline from its prime 70th floor location at the Swissôtel The Stamford. Make sure to request for a table by the window when booking your table.

 

JAAN By Kirk Westaway, 2 Stamford Road, Swissôtel The Stamford, Singapore, www.jaan.com.sg

Photos by Cyrene de la Rosa

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