With borders closed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there's no way one can travel with ease. Yet the renowned Orient Express managed to find its way from France to Singapore. Nope, not by tracks on land but via sea instead. And it will arrive at Gardens by the Bay this December after 40 days of travel.
Resulted from six years of planning, this pop-up exhibition will be the first in Asia. The restored Orient Express will assemble into a historical and educational presentation spearheaded by the Arab World Institute (IMA). In addition, we can expect all things travel, culture and gastronomy relating to Orient Express' illustrious legacy.
Formerly a luxury train service that bridges Europe and the east during the second half of the 19th century (such as its original route from Paris to Istanbul), the Orient Express now serves as a platform that chronicled the train's past and a testament to this geographical relationship. Expect artworks, furniture, and over 300 artefacts linked to the Orient Express.
Time travel on the Orient Express
Two of the original train carriages and locomotive, including the fourgon car and a Pullman car, will base in the 2000m² exhibition space within Gardens by the Bay. Its interior, decorated by René Prou, features superb lemon burr marquetry inlaid with pewter floral motifs while decked out in lavish fixtures such as Cordoba embossed leather ceilings, Lalique crystal basreliefs Gobelins tapestries, velvet curtains from Genoa, silverware, precious tablecloths and crystal fine glasses.
Its elusive luxe reputation is further boosted by literature and cinema since its creation in 1883. Of course, Dame Agatha Christie's novel and the James Bond-starred From Russia, With Love comes to mind.
The voyage starts at a facsimile train station, the voyage continues in the showrooms. Inside are objets d’art, archival documents, photos, news videos, movie extracts and items from noted eras that evoke the rich literary and cinematographic heritage inspired by the Orient Express. Referencing the different stops on the train’s past itineraries, the touring exhibition travels to cities that form part of the train’s historical itineraries, like Venice, Vienna and Istanbul.
Another area of the pop-up is focused on the desire to abolish borders between the east and west. Texts, works of art and films like one that's shot in Lebanon at Rayak station by Gilles Gauthier and Eric Damon, spoke in turn about the correspondences that arose between Orient and the Occident, to remind visitors of the meaning of travel.
Opulent nosh and dining car experience at a pop-up restaurant
Gourmet food is another highlight of this travelling exhibition. The Orient Express once served distinctive cuisines reflecting countries that passengers journeyed across. Hence, this modern iteration will be equally delectable. Helming the kitchen is chef Yannick Alléno, who was awarded twice with three Michelin stars.
Diners can feast lavishly on board the replica Anatolia dining car furnished in period décor from the train’s heyday in the 1920s. Made in 1925, it is outfitted with luxurious interior decoration based on drawings of British cabinetmaker Albert Dunn, spotlighting marquetry and mahogany wood-panelled walls with flowers garlands.
Custom recipes devised by Alléno reflect and mirror meals of past eras, both in terms of dishes and decoration. Following the codes of French gastronomy and fusion cuisine, whether consommé or modern food, the creations interpret the myth of the Orient Express in all its glory.
Tables can be booked online at the Orient Express exhibition website.
Perk up with coffee at the Orient Express Road Café
Besides a full meal experience, the Once Upon A Time on The Orient Express exhibition also offer quick bites to those feeling peckish while combing the detailed exhibition.
The 40-seater Orient Express Road Café features coffee blends discovered and made famous by the many stops along the Orient Express route such as Paris, Venice, Vienna and Istanbul. Curated specially for Singapore by Visionairs in Art, the menu will include the traditional local coffee, Kopi O.
In addition to aromatic caffeine, Chef Alléno and his team will also prepare an exquisite selection of dishes aligned with the road map concept.
Reservations will not be required, and visitors can choose to take away their orders.
Once Upon A Time on The Orient Express starts on 12 December 2020 at Gardens by the Bay's West Lawn, 18 Marina Gardens Drive. Tickets can be purchased through the Orient Express online booking platform and Sistic. Admission tickets sold will be available for selected timing and date in accordance with Safe Management Measures. For more information and details, head over to the Once Upon A Time on The Orient Express exhibition website.