HENRI, the dual concept bistro and bakery at Far East Square which offers French-inspired food and wines, has rolled out a delightful year-end menu. Chef-owner Henry will take your tastebuds on a gastronomic adventure with French cuisine fused with local flavours, paired with wines from the Rhône Valley’s vineyards. Notably, HENRI offers a excellent value set dinner on weekdays (S$48++) in addition to set lunch (S$29++ for two courses, S$35++ for three courses) which feature many of the dishes reviewed here.
Although HENRI is relatively new if you consider that it was established only at the start of 2022, it comes from the same folks behind Bread & Hearth and SOURDOUGH factory. Having just discovered the restaurant for the first time, I had high hopes for HENRI’s bread, although I did not bear any prior expectations for the food and ambience otherwise. I was not disappointed at all.
On top of the excellent country-style bread, I was pleasantly surprised by the coziness and authenticity of the interior design, which made me feel like I was in a warm and friendly Parisian bistro. As it turned out, one can enjoy an authentic French meal here without having to make that 13-hour flight to France. HENRI’s sommelier can also recommend a wine-pairing from the bistro’s 50-label collection, rounding up your French dining experience.
If one does not count the crunchy candied walnuts as a palate teaser, our first course would then be the bread from the in-house bakery, which also creates pastries and confections that you can enjoy with a coffee if you return on weekends. The Baguette Tradition takes a quality approach that contains no additives and is made with imported French wheat with up to 18% starter and a fine Red Label T65 flour. The bread alone is a star to be enjoyed not only slathered with butter, but also to mop up the sauces on my plate over the ensuing courses.
We were next served a trio of starters, which blended the sweet and savoury, East and West. Salmon Tartare is a pink blend of Norwegian smoked salmon with sashimi-grade fresh salmon trout, further mixed with dill, crème fraîche and a hint of sesame oil and creamy avocado. Topped with a few wafer-thin slices of herb-flavoured cheese crackers, this was a creamy combination that could not go wrong.
The Honeyed Goat Cheese that I tried next is a fusion of East and West. Goat cream cheese, typically stronger than cow cheese, was infused with truffle paste and truffle oil was encased in popiah skin, with the spring roll invention then drizzled with honey and paired with salad and grapes, The combination rendered the goat cheese friendlier and not gamey for even those who do not take cow’s milk cheese.
The Duck Rillette rounded up the previous seafood and vegetarian starters as a good meat option, with all three offering a good range if you are intending to share several starters. This is a treat that can be also consumed on its own, with that delightful bread, for a light brunch or afternoon snack.
Rillettes are a labour of love, where meat is marinated and cooked in fat slowly for many hours, in this case six, before the meat is hand-pulled and seasoned with cognac and served with gherkins and mustard to balance the richness. Fusion strikes again; if you are already out of bread, HENRI presents mantou (fried buns) to go with the savoury flavours.
I was extremely happy just basking in the afterglow of eating the starters with the rustic chewy baguette at this point. But we were told there would be a couple of surprises, and here they arrived. No one at the table baulked at the idea of eating raw beef, and all for the better.
Beef tartare is not something that is found everywhere and you should be discerning where you consume it. Henri serves a good and fresh version if you are a newcomer eager for your first taste, served alongside a quail egg. The other surprise starter was a hit too. Mussels in a bowl of light cream sauce had us slurping up the sauce. At this point I even thought that Henri would do quite well alone on baguette orders to mop up the dishes’ delectable sauces or bread takeaways for one’s other saucy dishes at home .
The mains were yet to come. The ones we tried were crowd pleasers and surely cater to everyone in a group no matter whom you come with. The classic French bistro dish, Confit de Canard or Duck Confit, was as well done as the earlier duck rillettes. Also slow cooking duck in its own fat, in this case the mulard duck known for its fat, the legs are then briefly sizzled in a pan until the skin is deliciously crisp and both skin and meat fall off the bone. Not all duck confits fulfil that last requirement, but this one did.
Next came a platter that could be shared among four sufficiently, together with some sides. The French Grill Platter “Plateau de Grillades” is a trio of Poulet Roti (French roast chicken), a no-nonsense staple that works here due to the tender spring chicken that results in juicy meat beneath a wonderfully crisp skin, accompanied by roasted vegetables bathed in rich buttery garlicky chicken juices. On this platter though, the more plebeian chicken took a backseat.
The ‘Travers de Porc’, a hallowed variety akin to the kurobuta. These pieces of melt-in-your-mouth french char siew is the result of pigs which stores fats from nuts, chestnuts, pasture grass, wheat oats, barley rye and more goodness. If you fear fat, you can head instead for the Carre d’agneau, a grilled lamb rack that was tender without being gamey.
Some of us in Asia may find lamb a rather foreign concept, but in France, lamb is often considered the most premium among the meats. The chicken and pork sausages in the platter are also of premium quality and should please those who prefer their meat to be 100% done. There is something that everyone will find in this comprehensive platter.
We ended off our meal at Henri with its Crème Brûlée, a creamy blend of vanilla custard with its signature caramelised sugar. Other dessert options available are brownie, cakes and panna cotta.
The food at HENRI is French comfort food at its best, offering traditional French favourites executed impeccably and a good selection of wines. For a downtown location that offers not only a ‘formule du midi’ for business lunches but also a weekday set dinner and an excellent artisanal bakery, HENRI is a bistro that finds few rivals in Singapore.
48 Pekin St
Tel: +65 8690 4927