Singapore is a food haven, bringing in delicious southeast Asian street food from hawker stands to sophisticated Indian dishes to fine dining, something Michelin recognised with the launch of its first restaurant guide to the city-state in July.
In the past five years, Singapore’s culinary scene has exploded, with cocktail bars, restaurants and private members clubs. Chefs have arrived from all over the world. There are more than 6,500 food outlets, of which about 2,500 are sit-down restaurants, making it tough environment in which to make your mark.
One man who has managed it is Co Mayo chef Andrew Walsh, co-founder and owner of one of Singapore's top restaurants, Cure. "Eating out is the number one pastime here in Singapore," Walsh says. "People here are very educated in high cuisine and western-style cuisine, and they are looking for a new experience. Singapore is not cheap, so people want a new experience but they also want value for money. Produce is never cheap."
The Straits Times complimented Walsh’s creativity in a recent review. “The way flavours and textures play variously with one another in each dish means you never get bored with it. Yet nothing feels forced or gimmicky.” The influential Asian food blog Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow named Cure its 2015 restaurant of the year and said it was “in love with” Walsh, a native of Breaffy.
Singapore diners thrill to Walsh’s foie gras brûlée and his sourdough bread, beef and smoked bone marrow tartare, grilled Iberico pork loin paired with deshelled smoked mussels and smoked mackerel, while the more Asian-inflected crab salad and basil sorbet are big hits.
Cure, which comes from the Latin “curare”, meaning to “to care for”, is tapping in to the vogue for casual fine dining in Singapore, with bare tables seating 40 people and an open kitchen. It is the latest stop on a long journey around the world for Walsh.
Born into a family of eight children, Walsh went to Davitt College in Castlebar, before becoming a kitchen porter at the TF Hotel, where he was taken in by his chef brother Lyndon. He enrolled in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and was sent by his teacher Ida Jennings to d'Arcy's of Kenmare, followed by a stint as a commis chef with Kevin Thornton in the Fitzwilliam Hotel at St Stephen's Green in Dublin.
After a year cooking around Australia, he moved to New York to work in Farmerie's PUBLIC restaurant.
"I loved New York, but I heard of this great Irish chef in London at Lindsay House in Soho so off I went knocking on Richard Corrigan's door. I started there, before moving to my great friend and mentor Tom Aikens at his Michelin-starred restaurant of the same name. His was the hardest kitchen in London at the time," Walsh says.
He worked as sous chef at Jason Atherton's Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social, shortly after Atherton had split from Gordon Ramsay. It was Atherton who dispatched Walsh to set up his first Singaporean venture, the Spanish-influenced Esquina, in Singapore's hip Keong Saik neighbourhood.
He worked with Atherton's business partner Loh Lik Peng, a major figure in Asian restaurant circles. "Peng was actually born in Ireland as his parents trained there to become doctors, so I guess we can claim him."
“Wherever we (the Irish) go, we try to do well. It’s like we have something to prove and we are very keen to make something of ourselves. And I’m doing that in Singapore.”