What I just love about Singapore is the complete mix of cultures that often results in wonderful things to discover. The city is such a rich and remarkably well maintained tapestry of interwoven threads of heritage and technology – where buildings of over 100 years ago shine white in the sunlight next to ultra-modern buildings, all surrounded by lush greenery. Its in this city that you will meet people that take what they have discovered from around the world, and mix them to develop something that is truly amazing – and thankfully, on day 1 of my return to Singapore, I discovered Flor Patisserie – the Japanese-French hybrid bakery that has simply perfected the art of the confectionery.
Set within the heart of China Town on Duxton Hill Street, Flor unassumingly sits hidden away from the hordes of pedestrians and cars not a block away. Having arrived in Singapore on a Sunday, I doubt I would have ever found it had it not been for the steady stream of locals making their way towards Flor to buy their mothers the ultimate confectionery treat for Mother’s Day. Now, if you know anything about Japanese culture, Mom’s are precious, and are often the idol of their children well into adulthood – and with that comes a great deal of respect – so you can’t just give just any confectionery to your mom on Mother’s Day – it MUST be the best, and here, people filed in, wanting to honour their mother with something special from Flor.
Now Flor it not just any patisserie. Oh no, it is a intricately crafted business with a very clear message at heart – produce the highest quality cakes imaginable, and the chefs aim to achieve this on every creation. Flor, as they explained, means flower (ironically in Portuguese – but that’s as close to the Portuguese culture as this store gets). They went on to explain that the flower represents the perfect balance of nature and beauty, and has come to represent the principles of love, beauty and passion. Therefore, they believe that their creations need to aspire to the same level, hence they refer to their displays are gardens of flowers, and invite you to create your own confectionery bouquet to present to family, friends, and honoured guests.
So, after having all that explained to me, seeing the long queue forming, and the expressions of joy when customers received their Flor branded pastry box, I was very eager to taste my own selection of Flor ‘flowers’.
To say that they were delicious would be to say that Helen of Troy only launched a few fishing boats, or that Britannia only ruled a few ripples. As I bit into the special the Chef had created specifically for Mother’s Day, the look on my face must have betrayed me, as the manager said (with a large smile), “don’t cry, don’t cry”. There have been few food experiences that have brought me to the verge of tears – tears of gratitude for allowing me to experience the pinnacle of human gastronomical endevour; Gnocchi at the Golden View Open Bar next to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Pinchos at the Mercado de la Reina in Madrid, Mushroom Risotto at a family Italian restaurant in Boston, Chicken Satay at Hakkassan in London, and now the confectionery at Flor in Singapore.
I was first given a piece of the Chef’s Special – a Martini and Lichee cream sponge slice, complete with an olive. Flor states that it has a signature sponge cake – and truly, it is like no other I have ever experienced. It is soft beyond words, and not even the slightest hint of dryness. While it must have been standing in the display case for over 30 minutes, the sponge retained this cloud like state, with an ever so delicate Martini flavour. The cream had the consistency of an extremely light cheese cake, infused with strawberry and, yes, olive, which was surprisingly very good, and matched the flavour of the Martini sponge perfectly. Topping it all off was a fresh Lichee lovingly covered in, what I think was the thinnest drizzle of a sweetened martini reduction.
Following this, I was not sure what else would possibly measure up, but the chef decided that, due to the ever increasing heat, I would require a couple of variations of their very famous Ice Cheese Tarts. Given a Chocolate/ Orange and a Mango Ice Cheese tart each to try, I ventured out into the ever humid Singapore, however found myself very quickly within an air-conditioned Starbucks. Before I am assaulted, yes, Starbucks probably makes the worst coffee ever, but in Singapore, don’t judge wherever you can find an empty seat with air-con. It was here that I decided to try the Ice Cheese tarts. Both are, as you expect, extremely light in texture – almost like a cheese cake, just lighter, on a delicious biscuit base, and a concentrated dollop of flavour directly in the middle. These are extremely rich and decadent, but just the right size to enjoy. More than one and they would probably make you feel a little sugar-ill.
The reason for this extremely fresh and high quality creation? Simply, they refuse to use anything but the highest quality, fresh ingredients, and only use chefs that live up to the highest Japanese confectionery standards. They source most of their ingredients from Japan, and never use any artificial sweeteners or preservatives – that means no baking powder. These ingredients at the hands of top chefs result in extraordinary confectioneries – which sell as premium price. For the South African in Singapore, a slice would set you back between ZAR60 to ZAR110 – but a better-spent ZAR60-110 you will never find again.