22 June 10 The Business Times by Kalpana Rashiwala
THE new tenant of the former Alkaff Mansion plans to invest about $5 million to spruce up the property and convert it into an Italian restaurant, a caffe (or coffeehouse) with a pizza outlet as well as a weddings/functions venue that should be ready for business before Christmas this year.
LES Pte Ltd, which was awarded the tenancy for the landmark property last week by the Singapore Land Authority, yesterday detailed its plans. The business will have about 80 employees.
The elegant casual dining restaurant, which will serve Tuscan cuisine to the lunch and dinner crowd, will be located in the main two-storey mansion.
It will feature a central cheese and cold-cut room on the first level in a jewel-cube enclosure using colour-changing LED lighting.
There will be a bar on the second level, with a panoramic view of Telok Blangah Hill Park. The restaurant will also have four private dining rooms and a cigar room.
The caffe will be located in a single-storey building overlooking the hard court. It will feature a wood-fired brick pizza oven and diners will have a view of the chef at work.
There will be outdoor seating on the elevated terrace. Besides pizzas, the caffe will serve bread, tapas, pastry and dessert.
It will be open for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and cater to visitors to Telok Blangah Hill Park.
LES also hopes to restore Alkaff Mansion's past splendour as a famous wedding venue; the hard court will be used for weddings and other functions.
Axis Point Design's Mr S P Tan has been engaged as design consultant for the project. Fenestration, or windows, will be retained and restored and new coloured glass windows installed according to conservation guidelines. A pair of European-styled fountains will be sourced and located in the front of the mansion.
A water wall feature will also be created on the wall directly under the azotea, or flat roof. Careful attention will be given to lighting and ventilation.
LES has three shareholders, including Honolulu-born Chef Kenji Tanaka Salz, who will be the company's CEO. He is currently working as the executive chef in Four Seasons Hotel Doha.
Another shareholder of LES is Gabriele Piegaia, formerly the executive chef at Senso Ristorante & Bar at Club Street and now executive sous chef at Palio restaurant at Hotel Michael at Resorts World Sentosa. He will be the executive chef of LES, assisted by three Italian chefs.
Chef Piegaia, who is in his early 30s, was born and raised in Lucca, a city in Tuscany in the central region of Italy. He is now a Singapore permanent resident.
LES's third shareholder is LHN Lifestyle, a fully-owned subsidiary of LHN Group, which leases old buildings, upgrades them and finds new uses for them. LHN Group's managing director, Kelvin Lim, will be LES's chairman, overseeing the company's strategic planning and overall direction.
Chef Salz will be in charge of the restaurant's daily operations as well as weddings and other functions while Chef Piegaia will lead the management and daily execution of the culinary operations of the restaurant and caffe.
LES has agreed to pay SLA a monthly rental of $79,251. Its tenancy is for an initial three-year term and is renewable for a further two terms of three years each.