There’s a high chance that a meal at Jaan now might yield you a dessert of Conference pear tart with vanilla custard. It’s part of chef Kirk Westaway’s “Reinventing British” menu, and it might just be the most British thing on it — perhaps even more than the somewhat token (If you’ve ever breathed the eye-watering mix of aerosolised cooking oil and malt vinegar in a cramped chippy, you’ll understand that Westaway’s version falls a little short in conjuring that particular memory), but admittedly very delicious interpretation of fish and chips.
There are a couple of reasons that make this so. Besides the fact that you’ll find pear tarts around the country, it’s the use of Conference pears. The fruit was named as such — almost dryly so — after winning first prize at the National Pear Conference in London in 1885. That’s a very English thing. The other very English thing is the light, pouring vanilla custard, or as the French might call it: creme anglaise.
Other hidden, British parts of your meal at Jaan might be found in a dish with mildly irony, tender venison loin with quince puree, potato terrine, and orange-glazed chicory. Westaway could have stopped there with diners none the wiser, but there’s a fourth thing: tiny ball of what tastes like off-cuts, wrapped in caul fat, and covered in some kind of demi-glace. It’s not described on the menu, nor is it given much fanfare, but reminiscent of a British offal dish called a faggot. It’s slightly spiced, slightly livery, and very good — albeit not the most glamorous thing to describe.
A snack labelled as “Rabbit Pie” also draws references from multiple sources. There’s the idea of a glassic English game pie, filled with meat from the hunt. But there’s also the fact that Westaway’s version is redolent of spices, and comes stuffed in a panipuri-like semolina shell — bringing to mind the unofficial national dish of the UK, curry.
Some things are easier to make sense of. For the winter menu, Westaway has left behind his gargouillou-like English garden with its 30 herbs-and-vegetables for heartier options like celeriac and beets. The former goes through a painstaking process where Westway chars it before marinating the root vegetable in barley miso, then baking it in a salt crust.This gets served in thin slices with celeriac trimming “risotto”, a sweet morsel of fresh Alaskan langoustine, and an intense bisque sauce.
It seems like Westaway is rather fond of the humble beetroot too, as it appears a couple of time on the menu. There’s a snack of melt-in-your-mouth beetroot meringue, made savoury with smoked eel; and a full beet blowout of earthy, sweet heirloom varieties pickled, baked, churned into sorbet, and treated in all manner of ways. Here, whipped burrata and briny trout roe acts as salty and creamy counterpoints to the sweet, earthy beets.
Other British imports on Jaan’s menu feel a little more personal. Produce from Westaway’s hometown of picturesque Devonshire feature in a couple of dishes: from a perennial favourite, poffertjes-like balls of buckwheat pancake stuffed with Devon cheddar, to waxy pink fir potatoes, which are pan-roasted with aromatics before being simmered in a vegetable stock. The singular spud comes in a dish named “Just a Potato”, although it really isn’t, since this one comes topped with Alba white truffles and Joselito-brand jamon iberico.
If you’d prefer not to think too hard about what you’re eating, then know this: Westaway has an eye for detail and precision, which, together with a penchant for well-sourced ingredients, make for a solid, enjoyable experience at Jaan. The techniques and style might be largely French (with some Japanese), but Westaway is surely coming into his own, and owning his Britishness. It’s not just a pear — it’s a matter of British pride.
Jaan is located at 2 Stamford Road, Level 70, Equinox Complex, Singapore 178882. Tel: +65 6837 3322