The Sybaritic Single settled in his Palm Court suite at Raffles Hotel Singapore – it was his fourth visit since the renovation that also brought two French chefs to the hotel, Anne-Sophie Pic and Alain Ducasse.
Yet to his surprise, he could no longer find the Ducasse name anywhere – neither at the hotel, nor on the Ducasse website. It seemed like Monsieur Ducasse had discreetly checked-out from Raffles, following his exits from the Eiffel Tower and Plaza Athénée in Paris, InterContinental Hong Kong as well as the Emerald Palace in Dubai, where he had once attempted to run a venue with over 400 covers.
The Sybaritic Single has been watching the demise of the Ducasse empire for a while. He remembered when the chef was accused of thieving New Yorkers at the Essex House. The proposition of ADNY there was of a difficult haute gastronomie francaise. It had a faithful public, Essex House foodies, who would join a six-month waiting list just to drop a $500 per person (in early 2000s money) despite the disappointing cooking and the perception of French arrogance. Ducasse sniffed: “If people will not accept this price, we will go elsewhere”. Eventually, The New York Post called it “the eatery that destroyed ‘French dining’ in New York City” and the restaurant shut down.
Ducasse, regarded as the world’s greatest chef at the start of the millennium (21 Michelin stars), today runs only a handful of restaurants, mostly in France, Qatar and Japan, along with the kitchen of the Air France La Première lounge at CDG, culinary schools and a chocolatier.
The Sybaritic Single feels sorry for the good old Bar & Billiard Room at Raffles, which fell victim of the Ducasse redo. It almost feels like a crime – the restaurant traded its colonial past to become a quite casual “osteria” offering honest Italian cuisine in some wackily designed space. We certainly don’t travel all the way to Singapore for that – we want the tiger and the billiard table back where they were.
Quietly, Raffles bid farewell to Ducasse and removed his name. Would it prompt the grand chef to rethink and reinvent? The Sybaritic Single, still one of his greatest fans, certainly hopes so.