Lolla's Secret Supper: A secret dining club in Singapore
I shouldn’t be writing this story. Because it’s about a well-kept secret. That really should remain so.
Lolla’s Secret Supper has recently emerged new and fresh in the Singapore dining scene. It's a guerilla-style private dinner event, held in a secret location disclosed to guests only a few days before the dinner with a secret chef preparing a secret menu.
So when I was given the opportunity to attend the event I had to give it a go.
Organized by passionate food and wine devotees Pang Hian Tee and Carolyn Kan, these suppers sell out shortly after they are made known to a select group of friends and followers -– mainly through Facebook, email and flyers distributed at Pang’s wine business, Lollapalooza.
The dinner I attended was the fourth installment, and previous dinners saw guests being treated to a 12-course Spanish tapas meal by chef Heather Barrie of Fine Palate (52 Monk's Hill Terrace, tel +65 6463 1671) and chocolate truffle desserts by Truffs' (79a Telok Ayer Street, tel +65 9088 2736) chocolatier Teng Ei Liang in a private kitchen or someone's private residence.
Therefore it was with some anticipation that I read the invitation to dinner:
"We’ll have two secret chefs for this supper. And we think we may have outdone ourselves with this rather charming secret venue! The evening promises to be a throwback to interesting times.”
The email I received some days later revealed the location, a gorgeous black-and-white bungalow that was in fact the hallowed halls of Singapore’s most private of private clubs, The Pyramid Club.
Inside a secret club
Google The Pyramid Club and you won’t find much about it. There is certainly no number to call, no department in charge, no link to a website. Its members are thought to number a few hundred today and comprise the upper echelons of Singapore’s government, military, industry and society, though don’t bother hunting for names because none will be found.
So it was a privilege to count among one of the dinner guests, a gentleman (who shall remain unnamed) who had grown up in that house and who spoke to us about some of its history and his experiences there.
“I often watched the Lee children [of MM Lee Kuan Yew] swim while I was being tutored by my Chinese tutor,” he reminisced. “There were lots of parties here too.”
The Pyramid Club was a private club founded in the 1960s by political elites such as the late Goh Keng Swee (former deputy prime minister) and MM Lee Kuan Yew, as a place where they could gather openly, away from the glare of the public and their political opponents.
It became the setting for key political discussions, private get-togethers and a place where their wives could meet and children could play. It continues to be that. In fact, just earlier in the day, the wife of a cabinet minister was there for her tai chi class.
With this intriguing information swirling around our heads we were presented with our feast for the evening, a communal Malay meal called nasi ambeng.
A feast fit for a king
Pang explained that this meal was thought to be Javanese in origins, and migrated to Johore and Singapore.
Customarily eaten at special celebrations, this meal was served to us the traditional way -– with assortment of dishes, such as beef rendang, sambal goreng, ikan and ayam goreng, sambal sotong and bagedel, piled on a mound of rice and laid on a large round platter.
Preparing the meal were husband and wife team Kamisah and Mokthar, cooks well skilled in this specific culinary tradition.
Seated by the poolside (the very same pool where the Lee children swam), we were grouped four to a platter and asked to eat with our fingers, the old fashioned way.
A banana leaf initially separated the dishes from the rice, which we had to slide out to allow the tasty sauces to soak into the rice.
That done, most of the guests dived into their platters gamely, doing their best to press bits of food and rice into balls and bring them into their mouths still looking somewhat elegant.
Traditionally one is supposed to leave a good amount of food on the platter, which is then taken home for one’s family to share. But as fingers wiped-up platters, and food was rapidly cleared, this was one tradition that we were clearly going to dispense with.
Satiated and needless to say quite full, we sat back and finished our glasses of New Zealand Mount Difficulty Reisling, a light, slightly fruity wine that nicely paired with the spicy meal.
“But the main course,” Carolyn then said, “is dessert.”
Sweet secret endings
And she meant it. Four glorious desserts prepared by Charles Quek of Classic Cakes (41 Sunset Way, +65 6762 8019) graced the center of our banquet table: lemon curd and caramel cake, vanilla mille crêpes, chocolate brownie with sea salt and profiteroles.
Each dessert was absolutely exquisite, a perfect balance of flavours and textures; accompanied by a deliciously sweet dessert wine, the Austrian Tshida Samling 88.
By this stage of the proceedings, some of the mystique of our venue’s secret history gave way to relaxed, lively conversation that was now flowing freely as guests became more acquainted.
The question does remain, how long can Lolla’s Secret Suppers keep going? The nature of a guerrilla events is that they can’t work beyond a certain size or popularity or they become mainstream.
“About 20-30 people is the maximum,” says Pang. “Tonight’s dinner [about 30] is the largest we’ve had so far.”
So don’t spread the word too far; we don’t want too many people knowing about these secret suppers. Like I said, I really shouldn’t be writing this story.
To find out the next Lolla’s Secret Supper visit their Facebook page or email Hian Tee at firstname.lastname@example.org