Tan's taste provides the sweetest link

0 CommentsPrintE-mail Shanghai Daily, August 27, 2009
Adjust font size:

Brian Tan is a man who takes desserts way beyond just something sweet to finish a meal. The brains behind House of Flour in Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park has taken his bakery and dessert concept up market, opening a dessert and cocktail bar, HoF, in Sinan Road in Luwan District.

The 1920s building is the perfect setting, a sleek, stylish lounge crossed with a boutique dessert parlor.

Brightly colored cupcakes in the window catch the eye of passersby, while inside there are handmade chocolates and a range of desserts to tempt the discerning sweet tooth.

As Tan talks at breakneck pace about the finer points of his single origin chocolate desserts, one can't help but be impressed by his passion for the sweeter things in life.

The Malaysian chef has plied his trade around the world and has designed delectable desserts at a range of top-end hotels.

He worked his way up the ladder at the Four Seasons in Kuala Lumpur before being part of the opening team at the Ritz Carlton Singapore.

Other stints included two years at the Hilton in London and a year and six months respectively at the Four Seasons in the Caribbean and Sydney.

"I came to Shanghai eight years ago, and as a chef you have to be really flexible wherever you work," he says.

"In Shanghai you may not have all the quality produce you are used to but Shanghai has very good peaches and great kumquats, so as a good chef you learn to adapt and be flexible."

For Tan, food runs in the family.

His father and three uncles were all butchers and his grandfather ran coffee shops.

Growing up in Terengganu on Malaysia's east coast, he said food and the culture of quality food was a central part of everyday life.

"Malaysians are crazy about food, they will travel miles for food," he says.

"Growing up with my father I learnt how to debone a whole pig, we would make our own sausages and my mother made pastries for my grandfather's coffee shops," he says.

Sitting in the sleek surroundings of his latest venture, it is clear that the passion for fine food remains.

HoF is aimed at a clientele looking for a more sophisticated dessert experience than that normally offered around town.

"We want to take chocolate and desserts to the next level, we want to go to a higher level in terms of our skills and product knowledge."

"We don't want to be a cafe, we want to be a lounge matching both wine and cocktails to desserts and chocolates."

HoF keeps it simple with 10 cocktails and a wine list of about 25 wines.

"We do a small focused list of 10 cocktails and we don't have a big long wine list. We want to keep it small and do it right," Tan says.

Since its soft opening in mid June, HoF has tried to create a niche for itself as a place for an afternoon treat or an after-dinner destination.

It has attracted a range of local and foreign customers but has also been a hit with women, who are 70 percent of its clientele.

HoF also offers basic bistro style food, including cheese and antipasto plates and bruschetta and Tan says he has wanted to keep prices for their food, dessert and drinks reasonable.

"We want to have mid-range prices but the quality of our product is more than mid-range, especially the chocolates," he says.

"My food costs run high but I care more about customer experience than about profit."

When it comes to chocolate, Tan is aiming at the connoisseur with exquisite truffles and handmade chocolates made from single origin chocolate.

He uses three types of chocolate for his desserts - a 66 percent cocoa from the Caribbean, a chocolate from Madagascar and darker chocolate from Venezuela.

Tan delves into the kitchen to grab bags of the three types of chocolate for an impromptu tasting.

The Madagascan chocolate has a higher acidity making it a perfect match for citrus, while the Venezuelan chocolate has a mellower flavor with a long lingering finish, making it ideal for truffles and other artisan chocolates.

The chocolate comes from a single plantation.

"Single origin chocolate is not so well known because it is so expensive," he says.

"It was usually only used by five-star chefs or pastry chefs but that is why we wanted to specialize in this area because not so many people know about it."

Like wine and coffee before it, Tan believes that Chinese consumers will demand a premium product.


Address: 30 Sinan Rd, near Huaihai Rd M.

Tel: 6093-2058, 6093-2052

Opening hours: 3pm-midnight (closed on Mondays)

PrintE-mail Bookmark and Share


No comments.

Add your comments...

  • Your Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter