As the date of departure grew closer, I was spending increasing amounts of my time thinking of how to describe what everyone had assured me would be the punishing heat an humidity of Singapore.
To arrive and find it only marginally irritating caused much confusion. I wasn't sweating out of strange places, I wasn't melting from within and I wasn't asking street vendors for water by pointing with a shakey, dehydrated arm.
Instead of suffering, I mostly spent my first day walking around, trying to put my finger on the smell that permeates much of the surrounds and wondering how my appetite would be on this trip.
The first night was spent at one of Singapore's well-known fine dining restaurants: Restaurant Andre.
You initially want to hate Restaurant Andre when you sit down and get bombarded with "The Octophilosophy", which is used as the basis to dictate the entire evening. 8 vague buzz words like "salt" and "artisan" frame each dish but the jury is out as to whether explaining the philosophy of a dish adds anything to it.
Nevertheless, you're told that there is only one set menu and get hit with a selection of appetisers sitting in an edible soil (garlic and chocolate), matched to a biodynamic, natural wine. The latter sets the tone for the meal, with all matching wines coming from small, natural producers in France.
The appetisers are, as expected, a bit of a riff on common dishes like fish and chips (a small piece of fish wrapped in potato), butter chicken (chicken skin with marsala spices) and patatas bravas (a small roasted potato topped with 2 sauces).
Then the first proper dish arrives and we get tentacle deep in the octophilosophy.
The dish is presented, the philosophy is explained, and the waiter adds "I hope you enjoy [buzz word]" before leaving.
As with most Singaporean restaurants, ingredients are pretty much entirely imported. One dish ("terroir") all comes from France.
Smoked eggplant with duck's tongues, fried salsify and smoked eggplant finally reveals what the smell of Singapore is. It's also a cracking dish.
It's later slightly amended with the eggs in the foie gras pudding with truffle sauce (a bloody good dish).
Seafood features heavily on the menu and one dish is a glorious presentation of the sea, with cured fish, roasted bass (?) and peach sorbet providing a nice hot/cold, sweet/savoury contrast, next to another plate with a sea urchin rice that comes topped with more seafood.
The chef's French learnings are reflected best in a dish focusing on artichoke, with an artichoke sauce, young barramundi, confit tomato, onion and oyster flower. The Japanese influence is also strong, with the dish an interesting balance between the richness of French food and the more pure flavours of Japanese cuisine.
Pictured above as a dish of a risotto made with finely chopped squid, cauliflower puree and crisps made with rice and dehydrated, charred vegetables. Great flavours and texture.
Wine matches work well for the whole meal and service is excellent throughout.
I wouldn't rate the food amongst the best I've had in the world, but it's certainly a good meal. The majority of dishes are very good, but I wasn't astounded much during the meal.
Cost is around $500 a head with the matching wines.
41 Bukit Pasoh Road