Chef Pang Kok Keong wasn't kidding around when he said last year that he had big expansion plans for his Sugar Daddy Group. In the 15 months since it made its debut, the company has rolled out two Pique Nique outlets (an American-inspired restaurant and bakery) and four Antoinette salons, the largest and grandest of which opened in May this year.
Called Le Jardin D'Antoinette, this French bistro and tea salon takes over the space vacated by Heart Bistro in the basement of Palais Renaissance. And as its name implies, it is fashioned after a garden in Versailles, replete with a trellised gazebo, ornate benches lined with pastel-coloured floral cushions, some gilded wall panels and plenty of faux flora.
While much of the menu is the same as at other Antoinette outlets, there are a few new dishes that are worth checking out. The classic French onion soup (S$16.50), for one, is lovely and rich, made from a mix of reduced veal and chicken stock to give it just enough deep flavour to anchor the sweet, caramelised onions. I like the way it was served, its bowl capped by a salty Parmesan wafer that not only provided some crunch to the dish, but also a happy snack as we waited for the next course to arrive.
A slab of traditional French pork belly confit (S$36), cured overnight before being cooked slowly in duck fat for 12 hours, arrived meltingly soft with shards of paper-thin crackling that were both crispy and sticky. With its slightly sharp but creamy mustard sauce and crunchy seasonal vegetables, this was a dish that wouldn't be out of place in a fine dining restaurant.