With its first-class French-European food at affordable prices, with a side of excellent service, Cotton Bleu is winning fans all across Singapore.
Contributed By Melissa Chen
Awarded top marks for food and beverage, ambience, value and service on popular foodie portal hungrygowhere.com, by diners who have actually gone and eaten there, French restaurant Cotton Bleu has seen swift success within just a few months of its launch.
This family-run bistro, bar and tapas restaurant located along Upper Thomson Road is the place to wine and dine on a French-European fusion menu at reasonable prices. Charming upholstery, ambient lighting, and oh-so-romantic table lamps make for a cozy space. The three-month-old outlet may be new to the market but already, it has received overwhelming media response from the likes of MediaCorp Channel 8 and lifestyle magazines such as 8 Days, Golf Magazine and Chinese language fashion magazine, Nuyou.
Who would have thought such a popular business would emerge out of an interest for cooking and monthly dinner sessions? Bryan Lee, 21, who is currently serving his National Service in the army, teamed up with his auntie, Susan Lee, a sales and marketing executive in an air pollution control company, and her husband Herve Cotton, who holds a day job in a chinaware company, to run this restaurant.
“My uncle, Herve, is from Lille in northern France,” Lee explains. “The restaurant is called Cotton because it is a play on his surname.”
The Cottons became a household name when they entered the Channel 8 reality TV show, Fairprice Family Cookout. Cotton, Lee and their three sons—Alexandre, Olivier, Reginald—participated in the exciting program as the team called “Cotton Bleu” and beat the other contestants to be named the winners last December.
“It was that experience that motivated and inspired them to venture into the F&B industry,” says Lee. The Lee clan jumped in to help run the business, which costs about S$100,000 in start-up capital.
The process of helping to start Cotton Bleu from scratch exposed the mass communications-trained Lee to a whole new experience when he had to deal with the marketing and operations of the outlet. Lee says, “We strongly believe in setting the standard when it comes to the freshness and consistency of the food we serve. We will do regular food quality checks on the types of ingredients—both herbs and seasonal ingredients—and for the overall taste, so that we can be ready to improvise, and work with the best ingredients that are available on any given day.”
Lee emphasizes that after the food items, the presentation is the next most important element in ensuring diners have a memorable experience.
“Presentation of our dishes is a crucial factor—packaging invigorates one’s senses. Also, to us, waiting on tables is never merely about service. We personally train our staff to be able to explain to the customers the tastes and flavors of a dish, and how to complement it with other selections.” Thoughtful service, coupled with good value for money, fresh ingredients and carefully blended flavors are the core values of Cotton Bleu.
Cotton heads a team of local chefs, and they have, together, created the signature dishes for the restaurant. The Frenchman has no formal culinary training, but a naturally-honed gift for cooking that was developed where he toured round Europe and had to prepare his own meals daily.
For the owners of Cotton Bleu, time and energy are two of the biggest challenges as they juggle between their day jobs and operating a restaurant at night. In the highly competitive restaurant business, Cotton Bleu aims to win the hearts of their regulars by creating a memorable dining experience for them and accommodating “special requests.”
Cotton also makes it a point to come out of the kitchen nightly to meet and garner feedback from customers, making the entire dining experience at Cotton Bleu a personal one. Relationship-building is a powerful way to make customers feel valued and create a desire to return for that same, pleasurable experience.
Lee also organizes regular food tastings of new dishes for regular customers, to better understand them and their preferences. “I applied what I learned in church to this business. When sharing the gospel, I will want to put a concept into the person’s mind. When sharing about Cotton Bleu, I want to put the desired taste into the person’s mouth.”
Cotton Bleu is marketed through various networking platforms like Facebook, food review websites, media reviews, word of mouth and events. The restaurant recently hosted an event for the NUS French Society. Cotton Bleu also constantly changes its main menu, which keeps regular patrons surprised and in anticipation of new palate-pleasers.
How To Eat A Perfect Cotton Bleu Meal
Our writer’s top recommendations at the French eatery.
Start with the Half Dozen Baked Escargot with Fresh Herbs, Tomato and Garlic Butter: the chewy escargot are bathed in garlic butter and herbs, which give off a fragrant aroma and a tinge of salt, while the tomatoes leave a sweet aftertaste on your taste buds. A good alternative starter would be the Skewered Scallops in Fresh Rosemary with Seasonal Salad, a healthier choice than the escargot, but no less delicious. Teal sauce is poured over fresh salad, giving it a distinct flavor that is surprisingly light, while the rosemary enhances the fresh succulence of the scallops.
Cotton Bleu’s signature main course—highly recommended for meat lovers—is the Rosemary Lamb Racks with Pomme au Gratin and Red Kidney Beans. Their air-flown lamb racks are cooked till tender and prettily pink. The meat is so soft that it slides off the bone at the lightest touch, and is topped with pepper sauce that perfectly complements instead of overwhelms. This simple dish is in a class of its own.
Next, dessert! Weight-watchers can now have their cake and eat it … if the cake is the best-selling Homemade Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce, which uses cheese that is 50 percent lighter in fat content. Belgian walnuts and almond biscuit form the base, which has that satisfying crunch, and the cheesecake is topped with raspberry sauce and fruit, which would make it healthy … right? For chocolate lovers, you’ll want the Chocolate Fondant with Fresh Berries. What sets this meringue-like dessert apart is the ooze of rich chocolate the moment you sink your teeth in. Enjoy it with fresh berries and cream, and it is a perfect end to a meal at Cotton Bleu. A three-course set meal costs S$42++.
205, Upper Thomson Road,
Yew Lian Park
Tel: +65 6252 5525