Along with the intense anticipation of the opening of the National Gallery Singapore that occupies the former City Hall, there has also been great expectations with regard to the food and beverage outlets that will be opening at the iconic landmark. Staying ahead of the game by lifting its shutters on the top floor of the heritage building before all other outlets is Aura, an ambitious project that is a fine-dining Italian restaurant, trendy bistro and hip cocktail lounge all in one. It is, quite simply, a concept that has not been seen or done before in Singapore to date, and cleverly aims to match both the architecture and the unique experience of the majestic National Gallery Singapore. We say that it’s destined to be THE place to be seen at.
What is is: Aura is an elegant and modern multi-concept dining establishment celebrating the passion for quality hospitality and cultural authenticity, while offering high value-for-money standards with its accessible prices. Featuring a 90-seater Italian Restaurant and a sprawling 200-seater rooftop Sky Lounge, Aura offers a variety of chic dining options throughout the day; each an independent concept that complements one another seamlessly from day to night.
Who’s behind it: This is the third and biggest opening by renowned restaurateur Beppe De Vito this year, after oyster bar and lounge Southbridge at Boat Quay, swish Italian restaurant and bar Osteria Art at Market Street and Il Lido on the island of Bali. De Vito is also the man behind popular eateries such as &SONS at China Square and Latteria Mozzarella Bar in Duxton Hill.
What it looks like: Offering a spectacular and one-of-a-kind view of the Marina Bay skyline, Aura Sky Lounge is a stylish and design-centric lounge and bar with a strong Mediterranean focus. Just like how the Gallery presents Singapore and Southeast Asian art histories within a global context, Aura features custom furnishings from top interior designers, specially-commissioned sculptural arts from established Singaporean artists, and award-winning museum furniture pieces by top European designers. In fact, De Vito worked with with award-winning architectural agency JPA Design and local art curator Audrey Png of Asian Art Options to carefully curate every element of the space, in order to bring the design concept of the Restaurant and Sky Lounge to life. As De Vito sums up, “simply put, Aura is envisioned as an integrated part of the Gallery, as one of its permanent exhibitions – one that you can truly experience with all your senses.”
What it’s got: The trendily decorated Sky Lounge which is located on the sixth floor and boasts a sprawling terrace with a view that’s to die for, offers three luxurious dining options that are ideal for groups and parties for all occasions and of all sizes. Raw Bar (daily, 11:30am to 2:30pm) is a sumptuous free flow buffet of hearty Mediterranean-style roasted vegetables, salads and homemade breads prepared with fresh seasonal harvests and the exotic spices. While the offerings routinely change, they include delicious selections boasting flavours from Italy, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon, with options such as Wild Rice Salad with Fava Beans, Olive Tapenade and Tarragon, Amaranth with Lentils and Grilled Endive with Truffle Vinaigrette and Hazelnuts. And the best thing about the buffet? It costs only $18++ per person.
To battle the midday lull, there’s the Tea Lounge (daily, 2:30pm to 5pm), which is a classic European hi-tea set of gourmet sandwiches and decadent pastries, accompanied by fine teas and coffees.The price is also a wallet-friendly $18++ per person.
And as the sun sets on Singapore, Lounge Bar becomes the perfect spot to savour the evening view as it morphs into an after-hours drinks venue serving up deluxe bar grub. The cocktail menu is as straightforward as it comes: the spotlight is cast on unfussy, classic drinks alongside a list of refreshing coolers and long drink classics created with Singapore’s tropical climate in mind. In line with De Vito’s goal of delivering quality with value for money, artisanal champagnes, fine wines, international spirits and beers are all set at friendly prices from $10 and up — a classic Manhattan rings in the cash register at a very competitively priced $18. And terming the food served as ‘bar grub’ is seriously undermining the menu — crowd favourites are reimagined extravagantly, and highlights include Artichoke Fries with Truffle Mayo ($16), Oyster Sliders ($18), and Foie Gras & Duck Sliders ($24).
But that’s not all. Aura Restaurant, on the fifth floor, is an intimate and luxuriously decked-out 90-seater fine-dining restaurant that is a blend of old-world elegance and sleek and modern finishings. The restaurant’s symmetrical design combines a vintage sensibility with its custom-made smoked mirrors, handsome copper lamps and art decor-like fittings, with modernist bursts of colour in hues of teal, emerald and amber.
Look out for: The variety of unique seating and dining chairs. This includes the ‘Uragano’ by De Padova, a contemporary wicker chair piece inspired by the classic bamboo armchair, with the curved wicker pieces of the seat crafted by hand. Designed by two-times Compasso d’Oro winner and famed industrial designer Vico Magistretti, the ‘Uragano’ is a museum piece that is part of the permanent exhibits at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
1 St. Andrews Road, 05-03 and 06-02 National Gallery Singapore; 6866 1977; www.aura.sg