The first time I heard of Hediard was during my second relationship. There was a certain upper class demeanor about him that I found seductively refreshing. He wasn’t specifically all about labels and branding, but he was a true purveyor of quality, the arts, good design and good food. He was pretentious without all the “pretensions” of the faux hipsters you meet in the streets these days. And yes, that meant he nearly despised everything that Singapore culture stood for. The filth of local hawker fare was an open defiance to his mantra that food should look aesthetically pleasing and body revitalizing. He viewed the decadence of Singlish as a poison to whatever cultures and languages it touched, and it wasn’t something that should be promoted or encouraged. He fancied Singaporean culture unworthy of his attention and adoption, and saw himself as a global citizen albeit with an upper class Japanese perspective. But breakfast however for him, was almost always exclusively European. From Hediard to Harrods, Quartier and Fauchon, he knew em’ all. I on the other hand, hadn’t, and I suppose to him, it was like being in a relationship with a caveman. To be fair, it was 2007 and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in Singapore at our age who’d know about the things he was into. Alas, the relationship ended as most relationships do. I’d like to say I moved on, but with nothing and nearly nobody else to grab hold onto, I literally fell into clinical depression.
“Why is this important”, you’d ask. When you’re clinically depressed, it’s unlike being depressed. You suffer so much emotional trauma that it literally throws your mind and soul into a disarray. You develop anxiety…a fear, especially towards people you know and their associations, i.e. memories, places, et cetera. I never returned to Hediard Cafe (despite my discovery of French cuisine 2 to 3 years ago), nor have I ever bought their merchandise. After so long, it’s no longer avoidance, it’s instinctual.
My return to Hediard came by way of Darren, who alerted me that the cafe was offering a dine-in promotion in the form of a SGD 10 off of their range of croque-monsieurs. All we needed to do was sign up for the free e-vouchers, and they’d be emailed to us, along with frequent email newsletters. It seemed like a good deal. Since this evening was as good as any for a French meal, we hopped down to redeem our e-voucher. Typically found in French cafes, a croque-monsieur is essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with bechamel sauce, and topped with either Emmental or Gruyere cheese. The name croque comes from the word “to crunch” in reference to the toasted sandwich. There are other varieties as well. A croque-monsieur served with a sunny side up or poached egg is a croque-madame, while a croque-mademoiselle is typically sweet.
Above, Special Hediard. Top, Croq’ Germaine
Hediard Cafe appears to subscribe to the operating hours of a Parisian cafe, so when we went at 6pm (they close at 8pm), it was hardly packed. The French cafe has a handful of croque-monsieurs on offer, including a Croq’ Ferdinand, which is the classic croque-monsieur; Croq’ Germaine, which is the classic croque-madame; Croq’ Ferdinand with Black Truffles; and Special Hediard, which is a Croq’ Ferdinand served with a roquette salad in mandarin pulp vinegar, duck foie gras torchon and smoked salmon. With the latter costing SGD 29, it seemed like the best use of the SGD 10 e-voucher, at least for me, so I went for that. Darren went for the more traditional Croq’ Germaine.
It was definitely lovely, my Special Hediard that is. I’m not going to describe the croque-monsieur to the skies, but it was simple, hearty comfort food and it definitely took me back to days in Paris. It might be a toasted sandwich, but it was certainly pretty substantial. But what really impressed me was the foie gras torchon, of course. Served cold, it was rich, buttery and the accompanying side of fig jam complemented the foie gras on toast combination perfectly. The smoked salmon was a tad on the salty side, but for the portion, it was palatable. Personally, I don’t do too much smoked salmon since I much prefer the natural flavors of raw salmon. With the Orchard Road’s Christmas lights in full swing just outside, it almost feels otherworldly.