The name of the new restaurant by Ms Violet Oon (seated) and her children, Tay Yiming and Tay Su-lyn, has yet to be confirmed. Image: Violet Oon Singapore
Cooking doyenne Violet Oon and her two children are opening a second, larger restaurant - this time in town. While they cannot disclose its location, it is going to be at the National Gallery Singapore.
The museum, housed in the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, has gone to great lengths to keep its restaurant line-up under wraps.
However, The Straits Times reported in November last year that Italian restaurateur Beppe de Vito is opening the 3,000 sq ft Aura there, and last month that former Jaan head chef Julien Royer is opening a fine-dining restaurant at the museum, with The Lo & Behold restaurant group.
Ms Oon, 66, daughter Tay Su-lyn, 38, and son Tay Yiming, 33, recently went into partnership with Mr Manoj Murjani, 45, chairman of Group MMM, an investments and acquisitions group that focuses on developing lifestyle, hospitality and food and beverage companies and brands.
This second restaurant, expected to open in November, is part of their expansion plans, which include product lines and opening restaurants overseas. The flurry of activity comes after a rebranding exercise.
Ms Oon's restaurant in Bukit Timah, previously called Violet Oon's Kitchen, is now called Violet Oon Singapore and has been renovated.
While that restaurant has a spiffed up yet family-friendly vibe, the new one, which seats about 60 indoors and 40 on a terrace, will have what Ms Tay describes as "a sense of occasion".
"What we are excited about is that we are going to be able to celebrate Singapore," she says. "We want to be able to offer the most exquisite local meals in an elegant environment," she says.
The 3,000 sq ft restaurant, whose name is yet to be confirmed, will offer all-day dining, serving breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner daily.
Mr Tay says: "What we will have there is something on a different scale. We are taking it to a whole new level and attracting people who might not otherwise come to our Bukit Timah restaurant.
"It's worthwhile to differentiate the restaurants slightly. They have the same DNA but are sisters, not twins."
About 70 per cent of the menu will be similar to what is served at the Bukit Timah restaurant, with 30 per cent of the dishes specially developed for the new place.
The terrace will serve cocktails and a menu of small bites that might include stuffed chicken wings, mini chilli crab claws and sang choy bao, a meat and vegetable stir-fry dish wrapped in lettuce leaves.
There will also be a Singapore high tea at the restaurant, with kueh and savouries served on specially designed tiers together with scones, clotted cream and Ms Oon's jams.
Other offerings include one-dish meals such as prawn noodles, braised beef brisket noodles and Hainanese chicken rice, for lunch.
Ms Oon also plans to serve nasi ulam, a dish of rice and finely shredded aromatic herbs, at the restaurant at least once a month.
Prawn satay, Hakka abacus beads made with yam and Nonya ma mee with lobster tail are also expected to be on the menu.
Authenticity, she stresses, will be key.
"We are not trying to reinvent the wheel," she says. "But we want to make the wheel perfect."
To reinforce the restaurant's Singapore identity, local aromatics such as pandan and turmeric leaves will be planted on the terrace, so people can see, smell and touch some of the ingredients that go into their meals.
A lot is riding on the work they are doing, getting the recipes and the look of the restaurants right.
It sets the stage for them to take Singapore food to the global stage.
Asked if they are looking at specific cities overseas in which to open restaurants, they say they want to perfect what they have in Singapore first.
Ms Oon says: "We should have a proper Singapore restaurant. We want to create an atmosphere where people are excited to be in. A sense of occasion should not just be for French restaurants, but for a Singapore one too."