Playful contemporary European restaurant HEVEL on Keong Saik Road delivers precision and purpose, and where fortified wines find an unlikely champion.

Few dining establishments in Singapore, even wine-focused ones, put weight on fortified wines. But HEVEL, one of the newest openings in town, thankfully does.

Contemporary European eatery HEVEL on Keong Saik Road looks totally unassuming from the outside. It’s wholly different when you step in. Designed by boutique design agency Studio Beckon, its dining room is full on retro modernism with splashes of marble, suede, and stainless steel that complements in some places, and deliberately clashing in others.

It’s what a science fiction set designer from the 60’s may have put together trying to envision a utopian future in the 25th century.

HEVEL - interior

And while most contemporary-minded restaurants leap on what’s in fashion – champagne! minimal intervention wine! – HEVEL bucks the trend by building a wine programme around fortified wines. Sherry. Madeira. Port. Marsala. Vermouth. You know, the wines that were trendy during our grandparents’ time.

How utterly quaint!

Sure, there’s enough regular still and bubbly options from small producers to satisfy most standard wine drinkers – as well as a bevy of cocktails for those not quite so wine-inclined – but tapping into a niche that has been for decades largely out of fashion is both brave yet, dare we say it, groovy.

Then there’s its food. HEVEL marks chef-owner Stefan Liau’s first solo venture, after celebrated stints in Michelin-starred restaurants such as Spoon by Alain Ducasse in Hong Kong, Tokyo’s Terra, as well as Cure here in Singapore. He was most recently head chef at The Mandala Masters, working alongside culinary legends brought to Singapore for kitchen residencies from around the region.

Small plates

Chef Stefan’s take on contemporary European cuisine – that catch-all term encapsulating trendier approaches to classic Western gastronomy – looks boringly familiar at first glance. I’ve seen all these somewhere before, I tell myself as I peruse the menu. And again when the small plates arrive.

Until I set fork to mouth. Perfect execution. Chicken liver pate en croute that’s airily creamy and light, as is his take on Japanese chawanmushi that would make the most celebrated Japanese kaiseki chefs cry with envy.

HEVEL - custard

Slices of marinated mackerel that present the perfect harmony of sweet, briny and sour, with a punch of tropical fruitiness from passionfruit and a hit of chilli. Grilled octopus Spanish style, but playful with layered flavours from the piquillo pepper puree to the root crisps. The mains of iberico pork presa and beef short rib, again pedestrian in most contemporary European menus, but delivered with spotless culinary precision.

Then there’s his calling card. Simply called duck on the tasting menu, this is a dreamy bowl of barley porridge with shredded confit duck. Sublime, tasty, and jolts those childhood memory banks whether you’re Irish or Teochew.

iberico pork presa and beef short rib

Chef Stefan’s version of contemporary European cuisine at HEVEL may not try to be progressive and cutting-edge as some of its peers, but that’s only because there’s a serious respect here for delivering where it counts – flavour and flawless execution.

Those among us who study the Bible may know that the word ‘hevel’ refers to vanity or emptiness in Hebrew, used particularly in the book of Ecclesiastes to describe the futility of life. There’s nothing vain or empty here. Hevel can also mean breath, and here I’d like to think that Chef Stefan has breathed new life into the Keong Saik dining enclave.

[Photo credits: Joel Lim Photography]


Address 1 Keong Saik Rd., #01-04, Singapore 089109 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6.30pm to 10.30pm Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays
Tel (65) 9622 6679
Facebook hevelrestaurant
Instagram @hevelrestaurant
Reservations book here

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