February 2021, Singapore - Housed in a beautifully modern yet intimate setting in the heart of Singapore’s glittering Marina Bay, Sommer is the latest addition to Singapore’s fine-dining scene opened by Ebb & Flow Group in collaboration with Acquired Capital that made its debut at the end of January.
Head Chef, Lewis Barker, formerly with Bacchanalia and Vianney Massot, comes to his own at Sommer, where he showcases his modern European culinary approach using exceptional seasonal produce from around the world, notably Japan, where prized ingredients straight-from-the-source are flown in fresh twice a week by sister brand, Supafresh, a boutique purveyor of top-quality Japanese produce.
Upon stepping into the elegant 28-seater restaurant via a discreet entrance from the ground floor of The Sail@Marina Bay, diners will enter a welcoming, day-lit space that reflects Chef Lewis’ contemporary outlook and philosophy of simplicity and purity at the core of what he does. A soothing palette of charcoal grey juxtaposed against warm woods exudes relaxed charm while an open kitchen offering diners a glimpse of the chefs at work is a key feature of the convivial dining experience, conceptualised and designed by Acquired Capital in tandem with Chew Lewis and Ebb & Flow’s team.
The menus are a tribute to nature’s diversity, where Chef Lewis deftly infuses techniques gleaned from his years spent in fine-dining kitchens including Michelin starred restaurants across England, Australia and Singapore with his touch of ingenuity, to craft sublime dishes executed with precise finesse where ingredient, texture, flavour and aesthetic are bound together in perfect harmony.
Displaying deep reverence for the pristine ingredients that take centre stage in his cooking, Chef Lewis relishes in taking diners on a personal journey of his culinary evolution. Be it imbuing dishes with nostalgic touches from his childhood or gently infusing them with flavours he has come across in his journey across the globe, every element and flavour component is carefully considered for its role in the entire experience, down to the selection of ceramic pieces handcrafted exclusively for Sommer by Kevala Ceramics in Bali.
The Mackerel on “Toast”, served as part of a trio of canapés in the 4-course Inspiration ($168++) and 6-course Experience ($228++) menus, recalls a familiar dish he had as a child, but playfully constructed using homemade crumpet, smoked Japanese saba and kaluga caviar.
The Majestic Oyster comes as a sensorial surprise where plump hand-selected delight from the remote clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean is nestled beneath creamy oyster bavarois and served with green apple sorbet, green chilli ponzu and briny bursts of umami flavours from kaluga caviar harvested from 12-year aged sturgeon.
Served with a tableside flourish, Kuri Pumpkin from Hokkaido is transformed into ethereal gnocchi balls served in a deeply savoury grelot onion broth with smoked eel, aged parmesan cheese espuma and a generous shower of shaved black truffles.
The delicate sweetness of the Roasted Langoustine shines through under Chef Lewis’ attentive touch, paired with a slice of roasted eringi mushroom and enveloped in an intensely flavoured broth of ceps, shells of the roasted crustacean and foie gras.
The Dry-Aged Irish Duck is a true showcase of Chef Lewis’ meticulous care to retain the superior flavour and texture of the beautiful ingredients he selects while teasing the flavours out with an extraordinary touch. As a nod to the iconic Asian dish, duck breast is lightly seasoned with five-spice and slow-roasted to succulent perfection, served with duck leg confit “kromeski" and an exquisite tartlet composed of duck liver, duck skin and buckwheat. This is balanced with a sweet sand carrot puree while a drizzle of natural jus made from duck bones ensures all parts of the duck is used, a reflection of Chef Lewis’ no-waste ethic.
Chef Lewis’ childhood fondness for the caramel-flavoured confectionery, Caramac comes into play in his whimsical dessert creation comprising roasted white chocolate cremeux studded generously with armagnac-soaked medjool dates, decadent bittersweet cubes of aerated 72% dark chocolate and a sprinkling of caramelised Piedmont hazelnuts for a nutty finish. That, along with equally elaborately-crafted petit-fours, promises to end the meal on a stellar note.
Aiming to deliver a singular experience premised on exceptional quality and value, menus are available at $68++ for a 3-course Discovery lunch menu, $168++ for the 4-course Inspiration menu and $228++ for the 6-course Experience menu. To complement the experience, an extensive list of wines with over 300 labels from France and Italy's finest vineyards have been handpicked to complement Chef Lewis’ creations.
About Chef Lewis Barker
Unlike most peers his age, 27-year-old Lewis Barker did not have a very conventional childhood where he grew up in his hometown of Leeds, England. The precocious Lewis, who spent Saturday mornings glued to cooking programmes, started cooking for his family at the age of 11 and formally entered the industry as a 15-year-old where he worked part-time at the local fine-dining restaurant, Anthony’s while attaining his college education majoring in culinary arts and hospitality.
The earnest and ambitious young Lewis joined full time as a commis upon graduation and swiftly moved up the ranks to senior chef de partie. He blossomed under the tutelage of Anthony Flinn, the first British chef to have been paid for working at El Bulli in Spain, who was critically acclaimed for bringing molecular gastronomy to a new level in the Yorkshire city. “It was a small, tight-knit team of three and we bonded over our love of experimenting and throwing convention out of the window,” he shares. “There were foams, gels and crazy flavours but they worked and importantly, you had to master the flavours and basics of cooking first before you could create new dishes. I learnt so much from Anthony in the four years and he has really shaped my perspective and the way I cook, even to this day.”
Keen to expose himself to diverse culinary experiences, he left for Australia at the age of 19 where he trained under Shannon Bennett at Vue De Monde, recognised as one of Melbourne’s best restaurants, redefining French haute cuisine with modern interpretations of Australian fine dining. He further honed his skills under Peter Gilmore at the three-hatted Quay restaurant, where he developed an appreciation of nature’s diversity inspired by the pristine produce from farmers, fishermen and small producers, presented in modern ways while accentuating the natural flavours of the ingredients.
When the chance came later for him to move to Singapore after he spent a gap year in Barcelona soaking in the rich Spanish gastronomic and cultural experiences on offer, he jumped at the opportunity to further his culinary ambition in one of Asia’s leading culinary destinations with a uniquely diverse dining landscape.
As sous chef at Bacchanalia, Lewis seamlessly supported the day-to-day operations of the kitchen while continuing to push the boundaries of culinary innovation and excellence under the radical Executive Chef Luke Armstrong. He continued in the role after the restaurant changed hands under the helm of Vianney Massot, a protégé of the late Joel Robouchon, who later rebranded the restaurant as Vianney Massot Restaurant and was awarded a Michelin star six months later. After two years of operation, the restaurant served its last service in May 2020 and Lewis was given a brand new opportunity for him to showcase his culinary approach through his personal evolution over the years at Sommer, a modern European fine-dining restaurant by Ebb & Flow Group in collaboration with Acquired Capital.
As Head Chef at Sommer, Lewis continues to pay tribute to nature’s diversity and carries on the unrelenting commitment to excellence instilled by his mentors while continuing on an explorative journey where ingredient, texture, aesthetic and flavour come together in harmony. “It was important that I started with a clean slate,” he says emphatically. “I am very lucky to have direct access to exceptional produce straight from the source, flown in from Japan twice weekly. We go through a long process of trial and error for each dish, where every element and flavour component is carefully considered for its role in the entire experience.”
For Lewis, it is all about the constant evaluation of how things could be done differently and better. “I never stop pushing the boundaries of experimenting and discovering new flavour combinations that work. But at the end of the day, we want Sommer to be a place where people can come to enjoy good, uncomplicated food in a relaxed environment and have a great time.” He adds matter-of-factly, “Not just for occasion dining.”