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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Only 10 no-shows at Diner en Blanc

Almost 900 people turn up for posh 'white' picnic despite controversy.
The Straits Times - August 31, 2012
By: Rebecca Lynne Tan
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Only 10 no-shows at Diner en Blanc Diners dressed to the nines in all-white garb at Asia’s first pop-up Diner en Blanc, near the ArtScience Museum last night. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

MORE than 800 people, dressed from head to toe in white, descended upon the promenade near the ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands last night to dine and drink under the balmy night sky.

The diners were taking part in Asia's first pop-up Diner en Blanc, or White Dinner, an open-air picnic which started in Paris 24 years ago and now takes place every year in over 20 cities, including New York and Sydney.

The women donned gowns and frocks and matching high heels, with many wearing hats or fascinators. The men were dapper in crisp shirts, trousers and white straw trilbies.

In line with the event's tradition, the guests brought their own tables, chairs, linen, cutlery, stem ware, flowers and food.

The venue was kept a secret from the guests, gathered at Stadium MRT station and Liang Court, until they were ferried to the venue by bus and bumboat.

As a band played jazz tunes and popular hits and the city skyline glittered across the water, the guests dined on home-cooked gourmet meals and takeaway hawker food.

Towards the end of the four-hour evening, sparklers were lit and white helium balloons were released into the sky.

Bank executive Wayne Ang, 25, spent all of yesterday preparing a two-course meal for himself and his three friends. They had a salad with home-cured salmon to start, followed by individual bowls of vinegared rice topped with braised pork belly, Japanese omelette, flying fish roe and miso-glazed prawns. They bought soya beancurd tarts for dessert.

He said: "I was preparing the food for friends, and that's why I was willing to go through all the trouble."

At Mr Allan Lim's table, he and five dining companions feasted on chicken rice and char siew (barbecued pork) from his favourite stall, Loy Kee in Balestier Road, as well as baguettes from Tiong Bahru Bakery and cheese.

The 39-year-old chief executive of a bio-fuels company, dressed in a white motif shirt and a crocheted hat, said: "The event is about having fun, dressing up - we should enjoy ourselves."

Ms Foong Chui San, 39, a musician, who was dining with her husband, prepared French-style smoked duck.

She said: "We knew it was a French affair, and it did not cross our minds to have local food."

Despite a public relations fiasco last week when the organisers were thought to have banned local hawker food, there were only 10 no-shows out of the 888 registered guests.

The international organisers of Diner en Blanc, the founder's son, Frenchman Aymeric Pasquier and French-Canadian Sandy Safi, said it was a misunderstanding.

Ms Safi, 32, said: "We embrace local culture and food is a big part of it."

Local organiser Clemen Chiang, 38, a private investor, admitted living through a "tough week" but added: "Let our diners be the judge of what Diner en Blanc is. Their criticism will be most valuable to us."

The bad publicity last week did not faze sales manager Kim Lim, 32, who used the occasion to propose to his girlfriend of 31/2 years, Ms Choi Ee Von, 30, an auditor.

The couple climbed to the top of the staircase near the ArtScience Museum, overlooking the water, and Mr Lim got down on one knee to pop the question. He said: "I thought the event would be a unique occasion - after all you only do it once in your life."

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