#StraitsTalk: Chef Rishi Naleendra of Cloudstreet dishes on his favourite wines and building an eclectic wine list
Born into a family of food professionals, Chef Rishi Naleendra first got his foot in the industry when he was working as a dishwasher in Sri Lanka. He received his first Michelin star rating – for the now-defunct Cheek by Jowl in 2017 – just 1 year after being in operation. Today, he is the Chef-Owner of two-star Michelin rating Cloudstreet, Kotuwa and wine bar FOOL and we’re proud to be serving Straits Wine wines along side his exquisite cuisine.
In today’s #StraitsTalk, we had the opportunity to chat with Chef Rishi, who shared about his love for wine and the story behind the success of his restaurants. Psst, read till the end to discover Rishi’s favourite wines, grab a bottle and get same-day delivery if you order before 6pm.
Pic Credit: Cloudstreet
Hey Rishi! You lived in Australia before moving to Singapore. What are some things you miss about Australia?
I really miss the sporting season – from F1 to tennis to Australian football and the summer of cricket. The sporting scene was a massive thing for me when I was living in Australia. I also miss Four N Twenty’s pies, I really like them and they are always sold out here. I miss the Australian music and arts scene, as well as Australia’s amazing produce. Not to mention, the coffee and Vietnamese food in Australia.
Would it be safe to say Australia is home to some of your favourite wines / wine regions?
When it comes to new world wines, there are some amazing wine regions in Australia. Tazmania produces some fantastic wines too.
I really like Australian Chardonnays. I know it’s big and oaky but it is very characteristic of that region and it reminds me of my time there. Giaconda chardonnay is one of my favourite wines to drink, as well as Leeuwin Estate’s art series chardonnay.
William Downie used to be one of my favourite wine producers. I also liked a lot of Adelaide Hills’ wines when they just started the natural wine movement – a lot of our favourite natural wines came from there.
What led you to open Cloudstreet? Any fun stories along the way?
Pic Credit: Cloudstreet
After a couple of years into Cheek by Jowl, I was looking to see how I could take the restaurant to another level. I was exploring options of either staying in Singapore, moving back to Australia or going to London but ended up opening Cloudstreet here.
When I opened Cloudstreet, I only wanted to have one restaurant but we could not let go of the space at Cheek because the lease was not up. So we held on to that and rebranded it to CHEEK, a more casual restaurant. But that was also when I learnt that it was possible to run more than one restaurant. Hence, that led to the opening of Kotuwa and FOOL.
Cloudstreet’s wine menu is fascinating. Can you explain a bit about the approach to creating the menu?
Cloudstreet’s wine list is genuinely the brainchild of Vinodhan Veloo, our then Head Sommelier who has now moved into a different role within the company. It was his idea of how a wine list should be. He knew how we had a lot of fun wines at Cheek by Jowl and how we used to do our wine program a little differently from other restaurants. Vinod stayed true to that approach but took it to a very different level with the Cloudstreet wine list.
How closely do the kitchen and wine teams work together?
The wine team works really closely with the kitchen team. When there are new dishes, we always talk about it and do tastings together, especially for the wine pairing. When we do wine training for the front-of-house staff, we involve the kitchen team as well so they understand the wine side of things.
Finally, we have a treasure trove of wines for both on-trade and retail at Straits Wine. Could you share some of your top picks?
These are great wines/wine producers and I personally love how these wines drink with and without food.