First Look: Whey, Chef Barry Quek’s New Central Restaurant Dedicated To The Flavours Of Singapore
Whey by chef Barry Quek will finally open its doors in Central’s Wellington Street on May 25, 2021, after months of anticipation. It signals the Singaporean chef’s triumphant return to the fine dining space since the untimely closure of his award-winning restaurant Beet in April 2020, and a positive sign for the revival of the local F&B industry as it joins recent openings including Vicky Cheng’s Wing, located in the same building.
Whey will be a modern venue dedicated to and inspired by the flavours of Quek’s Singaporean upbringing, on a level more pronounced than ever before. Serving a tasting menu that turns the spotlight on local, seasonal ingredients, Quek aims to combine his modern European culinary training with the flavours of his childhood—the opening coda will serve as an introduction to his point of view through dishes inspired by the likes of bak kut teh, laksa, and the divisive durian fruit.
A dish of whey and mixed herbs featuring local spring peas will set the tone for the meal in a nod to the restaurant’s name and the top-of-the-season produce, while the bread course—which many will remember fondly from the days of Beet—will showcase freshly-baked brioche that is made using buah keluak, the intense, chocolatey nut native to South East Asia. Ingredients such as jackfruit and prawn floss interplay with classic fine dining staples such as seared scallops, while local New Territories pork—an underrated meat that Quek has championed since his early days cooking in Hong Kong—is used in conjunction with pork heart, fermented cabbage and black garlic jam. House ferments and pickles will also feature prominently in a bid to minimise food waste.
Quek’s motivation to support local farms and producers has been a common thread throughout his career (he was also one of five chefs who took part in Tatler Dining and Swire’s Great Farm Feast, a dining event dedicated to locally grown ingredients) and so his menu is built around sustainable sourcing and minimising food waste. That philosophy continues its trajectory through the drinks menu as well, which features local and seasonal fruits in the house-made cocktails, designed by long-time collaborator and bar consultant Raphael Holzer of Fernet Hunter.
The restaurant project comes off the back of Uncle Quek at J.A.M, the chef’s first collaboration with ZS Hospitality that featured casual Singaporean dishes at the Asian food hall in Central and, with the help of Norwegian design firm Snøhetta, the venue is visually, as well as spiritually, different. The look and feel of Whey celebrates both Scandinavian and Peranakan architecture and design, with materials such as brass, marble and rattan contrasting with a palette of tropical greens and warm earth.
While the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble is shortly on the horizon, potentially opening up opportunities for diners to experience the flavours of the Lion City more frequently than before, it will be great to see how Quek will bring a little bit of his hometown to this city in the long run. Reservations for Whey will open from 14 May for seatings starting 25 May.
Whey, UG/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2693 3198; whey.hk