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T Suggests: A Fashion Designer’s Rattan Furniture, A Fermentation-Forward Feast, and Lobster Rolls

By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

Inspired by the ancient technique of rattan-weaving, the “Suvarnabumi Rattan” collection is the fashion designer Ong Shunmugam’s first foray into furniture designing.
Ivan Tan. Styled by This Humid House
Inspired by the ancient technique of rattan-weaving, the “Suvarnabumi Rattan” collection is the fashion designer Ong Shunmugam’s first foray into furniture designing.

A Singaporean Fashion Designer’s Rattan Furniture Collection

It’s been less than a week since Priscilla Shunmugam, the Singaporean designer and founder of fashion label Ong Shunmugam, arrived in Singapore after a few gruelling months in London. Her brand’s boutique in London’s Notting Hill neighbourhood — her first overseas outpost — was in the works earlier this year. The blow of the pandemic, however, which led to the British city’s prolonged lockdown, made it impossible to continue. Shunmugam pulled the plug, vacating the already-renovated space.

But since then, it’s obvious she’s been keeping herself busy. Earlier today, while currently serving her two-week quarantine, Shunmugam launched her first furniture collection. Heavily inspired by the ancient technique of rattan-weaving, the 12-piece debut, titled “Suvarnabumi Rattan” ranges from a room-dividing screen and a dining table to standing planters and a tray. 



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“We tried our best to take a different path by ignoring the common references of rattan furniture and upping the design value and differentiation quotient in a way that feels instinctual to us,” says Shunmugam, who worked on the collection during her time in London. This expansion into the world of furniture designing was simply a natural progression in charting the relatively new territory of homeware under her expanding label, which she began last year with intricate porcelain plates.

“Most of our pieces had no template to build upon, meaning we had to draw from scratch and the craftsmen had to build from our drawings,” she says. “We also introduced the use of foreign elements like fabrics and batik in particular, and challenged the craftsmen with technically demanding requests to merge materials and structures together in ways that hadn’t been attempted before.”

The furniture’s indigenous rattan is harvested in Malaysia, and then weaved by craftsmen who melded the mediums with a confluence of Shunmugam’s talismanic Southeast Asian elements: Indonesian batik, Chinese jacquard and Iban weave patterns. Starting today, the pieces are on view in a special installation, done in collaboration with This Humid House, at Shunmugam’s atelier in Chip Bee Gardens. — Bianca Husodo

Ong Shunmugam’s “Suvarnabumi Rattan” collection is available for pre-orders online. Its special in-store installation with This Humid House is on view till 26 September at Atelier Ong Shunmugam, 43 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-76, Singapore 278115. Book a slot to view at info@ongshunmugam.com. 

In Tiong Bahru, a Gluten-Free, Fermentation-Forward Restaurant That’s Anything But Bland

Courtesy of The Butcher’s WifeChef Mariana Campos D’Almeida brings two new gluten-free fusion menus to The Butcher’s Wife.
Chef Mariana Campos D’Almeida brings two new gluten-free fusion menus to The Butcher’s Wife.

Ever since the pandemic forced a collective retreat into the home, and blurred work, sleep and play into each other, people have started taking their food more seriously. The exclusive pleasures of the weekend have also turned into everyday affairs, observed the head chef of The Butcher’s Wife, Mariana Campos D’Almeida, such that lunch is now known as brunch, while dinner has become all about invention. The Brazil-born chef, who is also the first woman to run the bistro’s kitchen, believes in sustainable, zero-waste cooking — and is unafraid to experiment with local produce in her first foray into the Asian culinary scene.

From this July, D’Almeida is injecting new life into the establishment located in the hip estate of Tiong Bahru with two fresh menus for brunch and dinner service respectively. For the day menu, enjoy the beetroot and spices cured salmon, which is enhanced with a special sambal chilli paste that contains flavours of zesty lime and tropical coconut. Or try D’Almeida’s take on Middle Eastern cuisine — the vegetarian blue pea flower naan sandwich, where naan bread is folded around a falafel patty fermented from black beans, red lentil hummus, roasted carrots, coriander and cumin. For night, the Paris-trained chef shines the spotlight on the goat cheese she cultures herself, using raw milk from Singapore’s sole goat farm, Hay Dairies, in a gradual two-week process. The goat cheese also features raw honey from the local bee farm, 13 Honeys, and the delicious pairing is spread like butter onto gluten-free walnut and buckwheat bread from Oh My Goodness!, a local e-bakery. For something closer to home, Buckwheat Tagliatelle is the option to go for. Inspired by the Filipino dish sinigang na baboy, a pork and sour tamarind stew she discovered through a fellow chef, the dish offers more than a few surprises. Instead of pork, fresh tagliatelle pasta is served al dente with French duck confit for a comforting dish that blends East and West perfectly. — Terence Poh

The Butcher’s Wife, 19 Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168650.

A Famous Maine-Style Lobster Roll Joint at the Heart of Orchard Road

Courtesy of Luke’s LobsterLuke’s Lobster signature rolls come with a choice of three fillings: chilled juicy Maine lobster, crab or shrimp.
Luke’s Lobster signature rolls come with a choice of three fillings: chilled juicy Maine lobster, crab or shrimp.

Within Isetan Scotts’ departmental store, a modest restaurant reminiscent of a classic seafood shack stands. A neon sign depicting a lobster — an unlikely sight amidst the gleam and polish of the store’s beauty counters — is visible from the outside.

It’s Singapore’s first Luke’s Lobster, whose famed lobster rolls hail from New York City. Its obvious must-try is its quintessential Maine-styled rolls, available with a choice of chilled juicy Maine lobster, crab or shrimp served overflowing out of a crisp buttered split-top roll. Whatever the choice, they come lightly seasoned with lemon butter, mayonnaise and the brand’s so-called “secret seasoning”, the fundamental linchpin of the juicy seafood affair. To complement it, a hearty bowl of clam chowder and a draught beer by Australian brewery Little Creatures can’t go wrong.

The restaurant’s menu has a no-nonsense approach in its dedication to fishing sustainably and sourcing their ingredients from trusted fishermen, following an “ocean-to-plate” policy. The restaurant chain’s venture into Southeast Asia comes as a first between Luke Holden, the founder and CEO of Luke's Lobster and Vijay K. Pillai, the CEO of Caerus Holding. Despite its opening’s pandemic-induced delay, Holden says, “Partnering with great people to bring sustainably sourced seafood to an incredible market like Singapore is easy to get excited about.”— Marisa Xin

Luke’s Lobster Singapore opens on 23 September at Shaw House, Isetan Scotts, at 350 Orchard Road #01-K4, Shaw House, Isetan Scotts. Pre-orders for takeaway can be made online.