Something many of you may not know about me is that I am a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Wun on Tong immigrated from the Canton province in China to New Zealand in the 1930’s to flee the changes in government. He met my Irish grandmother in Auckland; they married and had a family of three children with my mum being the youngest. As is sometimes the way, their marriage unfortunately wasn’t meant to be and she left the children to be raised by their loving but hard working father. Sadly I never got to meet my grandfather as he passed away before I was born but my mum has very fond memories of him and has shown me some gorgeous photos of him. He was quite a handsome man!
My Chinese ancestry is one I know little about and I wish I had more knowledge of this side of my family. I love traditional Chinese food culture and I am not averse to trying unusual dishes however I am often heavily restricted with what I can actually eat because of gluten. Soy sauce is used ubiquitously in Asian cuisine however I am yet to see a bottle of gluten free soy sauce on supermarket shelves in any of the Asian countries I have visited.
Recently on our return from our Thailand wedding we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore. One evening we dined at their Cantonese restaurant Cherry Garden and I was blown away how capable they were at accommodating my gluten free requirements.
I don’t usually like eating at the hotel we stay in excluding breakfast but with our post-wedding exhaustion kicking in we were both happy to be able to dine out without having to go very far. On arrival at Cherry Garden we were warmly greeted and taken to our table. We were offered some crispy fish as a complementary starter. They were like prawn crackers; crunchy, quite salty and very tasty. Fish pretzels!
One of my favourite Cantonese starters is chilled jelly fish. This is considered a delicacy and is usually prepared with oil, vinegar, chilli, sesame seeds and soy sauce. The chef was happy to make this dish gluten free for me. The jelly fish had the perfect texture and was resilient without any excessive chewiness. It wasn’t too spicy either meaning both the Boy and I could enjoy it together. We have mismatched chilli tolerances; he can barely tolerate any whilst I enjoy a bit of kick. Our polarised taste buds can run us into trouble sometimes when we share spicy meals.
Our next dish was a “trilogy of hand-picked mushrooms “. There were shiitake mushrooms in a spicy garlic vinegar emulsion and some Monkey head mushrooms in a tangy sweet and sour sauce.
The third and best part of this dish was the deep fried enoki mushrooms. Frying these tiny little things turned them into semi-translucent crisps that almost reminded me of whitebait. Being such a mushroom addict I was in seventh heaven, the combination of these three morsels made it a truly delectable dish. As we gobbled up the portions we were glad we didn’t choose the set menu as we would have never got this dish.
After walking past a number of bird’s nest stores earlier in the day, we were intrigued enough to try this delicacy for ourselves. Edible bird’s nests are among one of the most expensive animal products in the world with an average nest selling for about $US 2500 per kilo. When added to a soup, the bird’s nest forms a gelatinous substance. I was surprised at how mild its flavour was and it had quite a firm texture. The addition of crab and egg white gave the soup a lovely sweet after taste however I went bit nuts with adding the chilli oil to my soup, added too much and ended up nearly coughing up a lung.
Our next dish wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I ordered chilli crab anticipating it to be whole pieces of crab however out came a creamy crab soup. The Boy’s soup was served in a Mantou which is a type of Chinese bun and for mine they replaced this with some gluten free bread on the side. Considering how many fine dining Western restaurants don’t bother sourcing gluten free bread I was very impressed to be served some here. The soup was so velvety smooth and despite not being what I wanted I was not left disappointed.
Our final main dish was braised homemade tofu with monkey head mushrooms and green vegetables. The tofu was set with seaweed on top and was incredibly silky. It makes such a difference in texture when the tofu is made in house.
At this point our attention was drawn away from our own table and over to the couple next to us. The waiter had just brought out a spectacular looking dessert complete with dry ice. The smoke was tumbling down off the edge of their table and was mesmerising. I hoped that we could order one too. I was in luck once more. The waiter said that it would be possible to do a similar dessert gluten free. This would have to be the first time I have eaten a gluten free meal in a Chinese restaurant and not felt like I miss out whatsoever.
Our dessert consisted of cherries marinated in two Chinese rice wines: Nui er hong and Kuei hua chen. It was served with refreshing lychee sorbet. After so many courses it was good to end on something light but sweet.
Our experience at Cherry Garden was a polished one from beginning to end. It was a little on the pricey end but we did eat a number of delicacies and receive impeccable service. Their ability to adapt their traditional dishes to be gluten free was done with a can-do attitude and at the end of the night our waiter came over and gave me a fresh long stemmed rose to keep. A sweet gesture that brightened up our hotel room for the duration of our stay.www.mandarinoriental.com Price: $$$ Food: 4.5/5 (totally adapted for GF, wonderful flavours) Service: 5/5 (very polished without stuffiness) Ambience: 3/5 (a little dark and not a lot of other diners) Drinks: 3.5/5 (inflated mark ups on wine prices as often in hotels) Total: 16/20
I may have inadvertently blown our wedding budget to the point that there was very little left in our kitty for a honeymoon. Our original plans were to go on a six week drive up the West coast of America followed by a week in New York. My fantasy of cruising up Route 101 in a bright red convertible with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world has been pushed far, far away into the very distant future. Our make shift post-wedding holiday was instead to be a four day stopover in Singapore; an easy holiday to do as Jetstar land in Singapore on their way back from Phuket anyway.
We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental which is a five-star hotel very conveniently located in the heart of the Marina Bay district right along the Grand Prix track. Our room offered stunning views over the Bay and the city skyline in addition to directly facing onto the Formula One racetrack itself. You could watch the race directly from your own room if you booked it enough in advance! I chose this area knowing it is very central to all the foodie, entertainment and shopping places I had on my wish list to check out. It is also only a couple of tube stations from the Orchard Road shopping district. Our Premium Ocean Room was clean and reasonably newly appointed with a pillow menu, twice daily housekeeping and free WIFI.
On our first night we had already been out for a beautiful lunch at Sky on 57 with my Dad and Stepmum as they were passing through Singapore on their flight home to Melbourne. Ordering room service seemed like the best way for us to kick back and relax. Earlier that morning when we were still in Phuket we had obtained all our unedited wedding video footage from our videographer and we were both itching to watch it.
The Boy ordered one of his favourite comfort foods; a traditional Italian lasagna made with fresh tomatoes, minced beef and mozzarella cheese layered between home-made pasta sheets. Retrospectively, it feels quite odd now writing about him eating meat. In the weeks following our return from Singapore, the Boy made the surprising decision to become a vegetarian. After years of being a big meat eater, I wonder what his favourite comfort food will be now?
I ordered the grilled Norwegian salmon with steamed potato and baby vegetables. Desperate for some greens I also ordered the garden salad which turned out to be quite an enormous serve. In addition to the usual greens it contained asparagus tips, avocado, olives, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese shavings.
During our stay we visited the Axis Bar a couple of times to put our feet up after a hard day eating and sightseeing. Overlooking the Marina Bay they have plenty of comfortable lounges to allow us to unwind from all the wedding excitement over a drink or two.
Whilst the bar menu did not have many gluten free options, the kitchen was more than happy to make up for us a special platter each visit with a variety of gluten free snacks including roasted duck with caperberries, smoked salmon and marinated olives.
In addition to two bars, the Mandarin Oriental has five restaurants. MELT ~ The World Café is their buffet style restaurant where our included buffet breakfast was served. They had an excellent range of gluten free options and every morning the waiter would come over to our table and ask if I wanted my gluten free waffles and pancakes. I’m sure this is the first hotel I’ve been offered both waffles and pancakes that I am able to eat. No wonder I put on so much weight! The waffles had a wondrously thin crisp outer layer and were light and fluffy on the inside.
There was a huge range of salads, sliced meats and pastries in addition to both Asian and Western style hot dishes. There was even a waffle counter making fresh waffles while you wait. On our last morning we slept in, nearly missed breakfast and ended up dashing down all dishevelled and sleepy. As we finished off our meals the manager came over to us with two glasses of champagne and a camera wanting to congratulate us on our marriage. Even without any make-up the natural glow of happiness from us both was easy to capture. Within minutes of returning to our room the photo arrived in a Silk quilted photo frame. What a thoughtful and personal touch.
In addition to the buffet restaurant there are four other restaurants which include Dolce Vita (Italian), Cherry Garden (Cantonese), Morton’s (Steakhouse) and Wasabi Bistro (Japanese). We dined at Cherry Garden one evening where I was gob-smacked that I could enjoy beautiful Cantonese dishes made especially gluten free. Read my review of our meal at Cherry Garden here.
Throughout our stay we found there to be a high level of attention to detail with excellent communication amongst their staff regarding my food allergies. It was refreshing to not have to reiterate at each venue what I could and couldn’t eat and I would have no hesitation staying here again upon our return to Singapore.
Note: We stayed in a Premier Ocean Room for $437AUD/night which included a buffet breakfast. Mandarin Oriental Singapore 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Singapore 039797 | +65 6338 0066 | www.mandarinoriental.com/singapore
I cannot believe it is nearly six months since the Boy and I tied the knot in Phuket. I still have a long backlog of blog posts from our wedding holiday that I desperately need to finish. Normally I am such a disciplined person and I think part of my procrastination is because I’m sad that it’s all over and our lives have settled back down to normal. I have finally decided to bite the bullet and plan to complete the last of my wedding trip blog posts over the next few weeks including our time in Thailand which was followed by our four day eating binge in Singapore.
Once we arrived in Singapore glowing with post-nuptial love our serotonin levels were high and thus so were our appetites so we filled our days with sleeping, eating and drinking. For our wedding present to each other we both decided that a gift was far too traditional and wanted to have an experience together instead. Memories are always more precious than materialistic objects and some of my best memories are of course involving food. So the Boy suggested I pick anywhere regardless of price to enjoy a meal of a life time together.
In Singapore that is no easy feat. This is a city known for its fine dining and the decision wasn’t an easy one. Our last trip to Singapore we dined at Guy Savoy’s celebrity restaurant so I wanted to choose something other than traditional French and settled for Chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands. Ok so there IS a bit of French influence in Tetsuya’s style but it is very Japanese focused. A fusion of two of my favourite cuisines! A perfect way to celebrate the fusion of two people!
Waku Ghin serves a ten course degustation only and you are advised to book your table well in advance as they have a reasonable waiting list and only seat 25 people each evening. They have been awarded number 68 in the San Pelligrino World’s 100 Best 2013 and achieved 11th place in Asia’s 50 Best. I have always fantasised about having a world trip where we visit as many restaurants as possible off these lists, so it was fitting that one of them should feature on our wedding holiday (Note this is NOT our honeymoon!). I had emailed in advance to notify them of my gluten free requirement and asked them if they needed me to bring gluten free soy sauce with me. They do not have their own gluten free soy available so I was grateful I had been lugging it around in my luggage all the way from Perth.
After making a bit of a spectacle of myself at the bar by knocking my cocktail over with my animated flying hands we were shown to our dining room which only seated four people. A lovely Japanese couple were just finishing their meals and left shortly after we arrived giving us the whole room to ourselves.
Our chef for the evening came out and introduced himself before presenting to us a box filled with all the seafood delicacies we were about to commence devouring. Everything looks so exceedingly fresh and some creatures where still alive.
Our evening started with a salad of Buratta cheese with dried tomato, rocket and fennel. Burrata means “buttered” in Italian and you will understand where this fresh cheese got its name when you taste it. It literally oozes creaminess and paired nicely with the full rich flavour of the dried tomatoes. It was the perfect lead into the following much more opulent course.
Next up was one of Tetsuya’s signature dishes, the marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietra caviar. Mind blowingly creamy and luxuriously luscious this dish left us hanging on the edge of our seats for more. The balance of salty caviar, sweet shrimp and custardy uni was an orchestra of perfection.
Our next course was some slivers of slow cooked John Dory layered with smoked eggplant and drizzled with a richly flavoured chicken jus. The fish was slippery soft and melted in the mouth like sushi. I am a big fan of slow cooked anything; it introduces such a silky element of texture to ingredients unobtainable with traditional cooking methods.
Our fourth course was a steamed Alaskan Crab claw with lemon and olive oil. With such simple preparation and very few ingredients the secret of this dish’s success was in the freshness of the crab. The chef shows us the bright red crab claws before proceeding to steam them on a bed of rock salt on the grill right in front of us.
Once cooked to perfection he dressed them with just a light splash of lemon scented olive oil. And it needed nothing more. With four courses down and our eyes wider than saucers we sat on the edge of our seats ready for more.
Our next course was live Tasmanian abalone served simply with fregola, tomato and basil for the Boy with the fregola omitted for my gluten free version. This was my first time having fresh abalone. I found it a little disturbing watching the live abalone squirm before my eyes as the chef cooked it on the stove top.
I consoled myself with the thought that that surely these creatures don’t have enough awareness of self to suffer? I was surprised to find the abalone a little chewy and tough but not having tried it before I’m not sure if this texture was to be expected? Maybe the abalone eaters out there can educate me better.
The next course was certainly one of my favourites; braised Canadian lobster with tarragon. Although I have enjoyed Australian “lobster” countless times I only recently tried Maine lobster for the first time at Sky on 57. Anticipating it to taste much the same as crayfish I was astounded by the lobster’s delicate textured richness. I didn’t realise I would get to try it again so soon.
Waku Ghin prides itself on its fresh produce which is flown in fresh and often live each day. Our Canadian lobster was prepared in front of us braised in a robust flavoured tarragon sauce that is made with stock from the lobster’s shells. The rich sauce balanced the sweetness of the oh-so-tender lobster precisely. I cannot wait to eat lobster again sometime.
Wagyu is such an overused term in the restaurant world and I never realised how truly amazing it can be until we tried Waku Ghin’s version. They serve Ohmi Wagyu beef which comes from the Shiga prefecture in Japan. This type of Wagyu is considered to be distinctive from other types as it is the only type with fat that has “viscosity” which gives it that incredible dissolve-in-your-mouth sensation.
Cooked with utmost precision this meat needed minimal garnishes and was served simply with some freshly grated wasabi, garlic chips and light citrus soy. It had the texture of butter and was truly like no other cut of beef I have ever tasted. The chef was so flattered with our crooning that he offered us another serve which we both wildly agreed to.
It was hard to believe our evening was drawing to an end and we were up to our last savoury course. This last course was a bit of a let-down considering the repeated wow factors we had received consistently throughout our evening. The Boy was served a consommé with rice and snapper which was tasty but had no specific element that amazed him in any way.
My gluten free version didn’t even contain any fish. I received a small bowl of polenta with a scoop of ratatouille. I am a huge fan of ratatouille; it reminds me of my father’s cooking however considering the price of our meal I expected a replacement dish with a bit more effort.
Before being moved into the lounge room for desserts, we were given some gyokuro green tea. Gyokuro is considered by the Japanese as the finest green tea and has a very delicate, sweet flavour. The tea is grown under shade cover, usually made from reed or straw screens, for around three weeks before harvesting. Reducing the available sunlight alters the level of photosynthesis in the young leaf buds thus reducing the chlorophyll concentration in the leaves. This has a direct effect on the proportions of sugars, caffeine, amino acids and flavonoids resulting in a much milder and sweet taste.
For dessert we were moved in to the main dining area which overlooked the stunning skyline of the Marina Bay area. Our first dessert course was a salad of raspberry with wasabi and honey granita. This dish was more of a palate cleanser than anything else and whilst it was refreshing it didn’t have any of the elements of excitement we were anticipating.
The Boy’s main dessert came complete with a message of “Congratulations” for us smitten newly-weds. His chocolate mousse cake glistened like a mirror and I was so jealous it had gluten and I couldn’t steal a mouthful. Gluten schmooten….no fair!
My envy deepened as I looked down at my replacement option; a fruit platter. Whilst each piece of fruit had obviously been carefully selected and prepared it was still just a fruit platter nevertheless. I confess this was my only real disappointment of our evening.
Our night ended with some very moreish petit fours; vanilla and pistachio macarons, chocolate orange mousse, meringues and tangerine jellies. The kitchen kindly separated the gluten free ones to avoid any confusion. I was able to have most except for the orange and chocolate mousse which the Boy took great pleasure revealing to me how amazing it was via his facial expressions and rolling eyes.
Accustomed to missing out on some foods I still gain some level of enjoyment just by watching love ones eat so I requested to our waiter to bring us some more petit fours so I could watch my husband savour the flavours once more. It made a great series of photos but to maintain his privacy I’mu afraid you won’t get to see them!
Waku Ghin was quite possibly one of the most expensive meals we have ever eaten with the end bill entering the four digits for just two people. Was it worth it? Eight out of our ten courses left us amazed, impressed and totally nailed the wow factor that I would expect to receive for such a price. The two courses that lacked wow were still executed beautifully and I cannot fault them with anything specifically except for the fact they just weren’t incredible like the remainder. The service doesn’t skip a beat with a warmth and friendliness that you don’t always see at fine dining establishments.
My answer; yes it was worth every cent.Waku Ghin The Shoppes, Atrium 2, L2-02, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8507 | www.marinabaysands.com Price: $$$$$ Food: 4.5/5 (they just need a little bit of work on their desserts) Service: 5/5 (impeccable) Ambience: 4.5/5 (feels exclusive and special) Drinks: 4/5 (a very extensive bar; with a very wide price range) Total: 18/20
One of the many unfortunate consequences for me if I eat gluten is the way my skin reacts. Within about eight to twelve hours of being “poisoned” I break out in an extremely itchy rash that often spreads to my face. The itch is incessant day and night breaking my sleep into fitful scratching fragments. The eczema is unsightly and I’ll confess to my vanity as it makes me feel highly self-conscious taking over a week to heal, sometimes longer.
Understandably in the months preceding our wedding I became painstakingly cautious with everything I ate. I was not ready to take any risks of accidental gluten ingestion. My sufferance paid off because on the wedding day my face was blemish free and radiant. On the return trip home from Thailand via Singapore my newly wed husband and I spent nearly four days eating non-stop. I was so relieved to finally be able to stop scrutinising everything I ate; it felt like a pressure was lifted off my shoulders. However as is often the case with me it is all-or-nothing and consequently I swung too far into complacency resulting in the obvious; gluten poisoning.
The following day the Boy dragged me from our hotel room to the Singapore Botanical Gardens where he started to get a little frustrated with me. I am normally a very energetic and excitable person sometimes to the point of excess. In stark contrast gluten transforms me into a lethargic, whingeing misery guts. As we walked around the beautiful gardens all I could selfishly think of was finding a cool place to sit and enjoy a drink and hopefully some gluten free food. We were right in the heart of the Gardens so the Boy thought the easiest thing to soothe for his poor suffering wife was to take her to the café inside the Gardens themselves; Halia.
As we walked toward the restaurant my head was spinning and I felt nauseous. Gluten does evil to me I tell you! Desperate to escape the humidity we moved inside keen for some icy air-conditioning. I noted two big split systems side by side on the wall inside and chose a table where I thought we would receive most of their blast. Sadly it turned out that it didn’t really matter where we sat because the sliding door opening out onto the decking outside was continually left open by passing staff members.
The prices on the menu were fairly high for Singapore standards and I hoped this meant we were in for a fine dining treat. Our fine dining experiences in Singapore have been out of this world but these meals haven’t come cheap. Halia offers a set menu for lunchtime or you can order dishes at full price off their à la carte menu. There was a dramatic difference in prices between the two menus but sadly nothing appealed to me off the cheaper set menu. I ordered a single course off the more expensive option with a garden salad on the side whilst the Boy opted for the two-course set. I was brought out a small serve of raspberry sorbet as an amuse bouche but because the boy had the set menu they didn’t offer him a serve. It was very refreshingly and cooled me down nicely.
Despite advising them I would like my salad to come out with my main, it was brought out separately on its own without any other meals. We finished it well before either my solitary main or the boy’s entrée even made it to our table. Each of our meals then came out slowly one by one, the Boy ate his entrée, after a bit of a wait his plate was cleared and then out came my main dish, and then just as I finished my food out came his main. What terrible timing!
The Boy ordered what was described on the menu as harissa marinated tuna tataki, tuna tartare, daikon salad, avocado and lime. However placing our order we were informed that there was in fact no tuna left and that the tataki and the tartare would be replaced by harissa chicken tenderloins. Hey? That’s one way to save on kitchen costs! The Boy was served a couple of barely edible dry pieces of overcooked chicken bedded on a smear of avocado with some grated daikon.
I ordered the salmon gravlax rosette with ginger flower perfumed Hiramisa kingfish sashimi and salmon roe. Sounds amazing. Priced at $32 Singapore dollars I was expecting either incredibly high quality pieces of fish or a decent sized serve on my plate; one or the other. Unfortunately I presumed incorrectly. My salmon roe was not fresh and left an overly fishy aftertaste in the mouth. The small serves of salmon were a little chewy and lacked much flavour. The biggest joke of all was the “ginger flower perfumed Hiramisa kingfish sashimi”.Blink-and-you-will-miss-it pea-sized nubs of kingfish sat inside each rosette and were each barely bigger than the baby capers on my plate. It was embarrassing.
The Boy’s main arrived just as I finished my three mouthfuls of tired fish. He chose the aged grain fed Rangers Valley Wagyu rump cap. His dish was the only one for our whole meal that had any merit. Although his piece of rump was not much bigger than a large spoon, the meat was buttery and tender.
Having visited Singapore twice in the past three months we have been consistently wowed with some incredible food on both ends of the price scale. Halia was our only disappointing meal for both of these trips. I found this quite a surprise considering the prices of the meals and the location but I guess I should be grateful. Two trips spanning over a total of seven solid days of eating yet only one meal that didn’t hit the mark is a pretty good innings!Halia Ginger Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Rd, Singapore 259569 | +65 6476 6711 | http://www.thehalia.com/ Price: $$$$ Food: 3/10 (lack of fresh ingredients, over-priced, no flavour) Service: 2/5 (very slow and unresponsive) Ambience: 3/5 (dirty glass widows and poorly functioning air conditioning) Drinks: Unable to assess Total: 8/20
On our way home from Phuket still loved up and emotionally high on wedding bliss, we stopped over in Singapore for a few days to unwind before heading home. We flew in Singapore accompanied by my Dad and Step mum who were also stopping over albeit only for a few hours. The thought of returning back to a heavy work load loomed dark over their minds so for one last hurrah we took to the incredible SkyPark up on the 57th level of the MBS building. There are two restaurants up in the clouds on SkyPark; Ku Da Ta and Sky on 57. As Ku De Ta served a buffet style lunch we chose to dine at Sky on 57 for a more classy experience with a view.
Our time in Phuket was the most amazing holiday of our lives and we were strongly determined to hold onto the last shreds of celebrations over a bottle of champagne. Still not accustomed to all the bling on my finger, I couldn’t help but take a little cheesy shot as it glimmered in the light. Excuse the shrivelled eczema hands thanks to years of eating gluten.
Head Chef Justin Quek’s style pulls from local Asian cuisines with some hints of European influences. Singaporean classics like Hainanese Chicken Rice and Hokkien Mee featured on the menu alongside more French inspired dishes like pan seared foie gras and mussel veloute. The view from the dining room expands across the whole end of the SkyPark’s end deck giving impressive views across the Marina Bay and the city skyline.
My salmon and oyster tartare tasted like a breath of the sea, fresh, salty and not overly fishy. It was beautifully presented with carefully blobbed pearls of mango and basil coulis polka dotted around my slate plate. The mango gave an added creamy sweetness that wasn’t too overpowering.
Dad and the Boy often share similar tastes in food. It was no surprise to me when they both ordered the soft-shelled crab, a dish that has reached near obsession level with the both of them. These critters were very meaty and the serving size for an entrée was substantial considering this was fine dining.
My Step mum ordered the Buri oh ceviche. Wafer thin slices of sustainably farmed Japanese Amberjack, or Hamachi fish sat on a bed of fresh micro-greens and colourful flowers. It was served with truffle vinaigrette however I couldn’t taste any truffle in the mouthful I tried. Her fish was similarly fresh and delicately soft.
My Dad and Step mum are generous people and love to spoil those they love. When Dad spotted the two of us pretending not to see the Maine lobster dish on the menu he asked us if we had eaten it before. I confessed I hadn’t the only crayfish I have eaten has been Australian in origin. Upon hearing this he insisted we all have the Lobster despite it being nearly three times to price of the rest of the mains choices. It was lightly sautéed in an Asian Pepper sauce and was nothing like any Cray fish I have had before. In a mouthful I understood what all the fanfare and fuss is about, it is surprisingly sweet and incredibly tender. Totally out of this world. I want more. It’s hard to believe this delicacy was once a food reserved only for slaves and prisoners!
We still had a bit of time to kill and looked around for our waitress to order some desserts. Unfortunately it would appear that in the afternoon the restaurant staff seemed to develop a little bit of amnesia and forgot about our existence as they vacuumed around us and moved tables. After a good 15 minutes we managed to catch their eye and finally order our desserts. We ordered two serves of the Milo ice-cream to share amongst the four of us. This dish was ultra-chocolaty with a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Any excuse to squeeze in a bit of Valrhona chocolate is fine by me!
Once again there was a virtual cloak of invisibility surrounding our table while we were waiting to order our coffees and then again for said coffees to be brought to table. It was a little disconcerting that while we waited for over twenty minutes for our hot drinks most of the staff chatted and laughed standing by the bar. A sad drop in customer service compared to the beginning of the afternoon. The wait was long enough for my Dad to write nearly four pages full in my wedding guestbook. I was so touched to read later that night that he had remembered his speech from the wedding night off by heart and written it down word for word for me to keep forever.
Sky on 57Sands SkyPark, Tower 1, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8857 | Price: $$$ Food: 4.5/5 (exceptionally fresh ingredients, faultless preparation) Service: 2/5 (unfortunately didn’t match up to the incredible food) Ambience: 3.5/5 (wondrous views, dining room a little clinical) Drinks: 4.5/5 (champagne, what can I say?) Total: 14.5/20
Our post wedding stopover in Singapore consisted of four days of non-stop eating, drinking and sleeping. After having our whole week in Thailand planned down to the minute, it felt like a luxury to be somewhere on holiday without any schedules and we made the most of it. One of the few tourist attractions I wanted to see was the new marine park S.E.A. Aquarium opened on Sentosa Island. Just a tip, there are two marine parks on Sentosa. The original one is called Underwater World is hideously out-dated and not worth wasting your time. S.E.A. Aquarium in Resorts World is the second addition and is contrastingly modern, huge and very impressive.
S.E.A. Aquarium is home to over 800 species of marine animals which are divided up into regions around the world. Amongst its many breathtaking tanks, S.E.A. has the world’s largest aquarium which you can view from a massive viewing panel measuring about 36 metres long and 8 metres in height. Swimming in this vast man-made structure are many of the gentle giants of the sea including a “flock” of graceful manta rays, leopard sharks, saw fish, mahi mahi and goliath groupers.
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora is the Aquarium’s celebrity restaurant located inside the venue directly facing the main tank. Cat Cora is the only female chef from Iron Chef America and her signature dishes tend to reflect her Greek heritage and southern US upbringing. Her restaurant strives to help protect our world’s marine ecosystems and only serves sustainable seafood.
The marine park is quite a size and took us some time before we found ourselves at the restaurant by which we were informed we only had half an hour to order and eat our meals as they were to shut the restaurant for 1 hour before reopening for dinner service. To maximise our dining experience on such a strict time restriction we ordered three entrées to share between us and asked for them all to be brought out a once.
Cat Cora’s signature dish of sous-vide King Salmon may as well have been butter it was so soft. It needed no encouragement with a knife and was slipped onto our forks and down our hatches perhaps a little too quickly to truly allow us to appreciate its perfection. This slice of heaven was served with a generous scoop of sustainable black caviar, a dwarf little pear marinated in Prosecco and coated in crushed almonds, some tart vine tomato jelly and what was meant to be water cress but really looked more like chicory.
The tuna tataki salad was also made using sustainable tuna and came with cucumber mint yoghurt and curried oil. A couple of pixie sized pickled sumac onions created a bit more balance on the plate. Seared lightly on the outside the tuna was delicate and soft but nowhere near as impressively velvety as the salmon. Each condiment brought an interesting layer of flavours and left us feeling teased as we knew our half hour was soon to be up.
Our trio of soft tacos included a perfectly browned Hokkaido scallop with pineapple salsa, diced Japanese sweet prawn with asparagus verde and the third one came with more of that silky salmon topped with some avocado. Each taco tasted like its ingredients were plucked fresh from the sea making this was a hard dish to share as each taco was a stand-out in its own right.
As we tried to divide up each taco the aquarium suddenly burst into life. It was feeding time and the previously calm fish quickly grouped into schools and started to swim themselves into a frenzy. The manta rays began gracefully swimming large loop-the-loops scooping up all the debris from the mêlée. It was quite a sight to watch as we finished of our meals. We had barely raised the last mouthful to our lips when our waitress came over informing us we had to make our way to leave shortly. I found it odd that we weren’t allowed to sit in the empty restaurant for a bit longer to digest our food and gaze on the spectacle in the tank. Upon asking this request I was told there was some training held during the hour they are closed and so all customers have to leave.
Despite being a bit of a whirlwind experience for us we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Ocean. If fish are your thing, a visit to the S.E.A. Aquarium is an absolute must-see sight of Singapore. Be sure to book a reservation at the Ocean restaurant at a time that affords a more relaxed normal style of eating than we had.
Travelling to Singapore? Be sure to checkout the Lonely Planet Singapore City Travel Guide before you go!Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora S.E.A. Aquarium Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore | 65-6577 8888 | www.rwsentosa.com/language/en-US/Homepage/ThingsToDo/MarineLifePark/SEAAquarium Price: $$ Food: 3.5/5 (not exactly a fine dining experience but fresh produce and clean presentation) Service: 2.5/5 (maybe would have been less abrupt if we had dined at a more appropriate time) Ambience: 4.5/5 (be sure to get a table next to the aquarium) Drinks: 3/5 (hard to fully assess as ordered a glass of house white in a hurry) Total: 13.5/20
It was the day after attending our dear friend’s wedding banquet at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore. Knowing that avoiding gluten at a Chinese banquet would be literally impossible I made the choice to eat gluten that night so I wouldn’t miss out on any of the gorgeous delicacies served to us all. I had psyched myself up for this event for months and was fully prepared to deal with the onslaught of symptoms that would ensue in the following days.
When I got up that morning it was hard to distinguish what were the after-effects of eating gluten and what were due to the alcohol excesses. The tell-tale spots of eczema were only baby fledglings at this stage and for a change had not appeared on my face…yet. As a gesture of their gratitude to us for coming to all the way to Singapore to share the happiness on their big day, our friends and their parents invited us to join them and their family for lunch at Pow Sing Restaurant; a place famous for its Hainanese Chicken Rice along.
Since my arrival in Singapore I have been dying to try this classic favourite especially as I know it is one of the main hawker’s foods that is easy to do gluten free. Hainanese chicken originates from China and it is found in Singaporean, Malaysian and Thai cuisines and many Singaporeans consider this to be their national dish. The whole chicken is delicately poached in a broth of pork and chicken stock which is infused with ginger. This stock is then used along with rendered chicken fat to prepare the rice resulting in an extremely flavourful dish.
Pow Sing’s Hainanese chicken did not disappoint. The chickens were plump, soft and very succulent; the meat nearly dissolved in your mouth it was so tender. The rice looked innocent enough but as soon as I served myself some I could smell its fragrant aroma. Each rice grain was coated in the tasty oily broth giving it a full body of flavour. To accompany our chicken; my friend parents proceeded to order a long list of Nyonya favourites for us to try. I could feel myself getting caught up in the fun of it all and figured seeing as I felt rotten from the night before eating a little bit more gluten was hardly going to make that much more of a difference provided I was careful and didn’t go overboard.
The sweet crunchy honey bean pods served with the delicate, musty, slightly earthy flavoured straw mushrooms were a refreshing dish after the oiliness of the chicken. Straw mushrooms have been used in Chinese cuisine for over two thousand years and are so named because they’re grown on straw that’s been used in a rice paddy.
The crispy Nyonya squid was another flavour bomb. The squid are coated in a batter containing coconut and then deep-fried giving them a very crunchy texture. They are then stir-fried in chilli and garlic and then dipped in a tangy sweet and sour hot sauce before serving. This was quite unlike any fried squid I have had before and I could have easy demolished the plate but I held myself back knowing the batter would probably contain flour. One taste was all I allowed myself….pace yourself girl!
The ngog hiang is a Nyonya style of spring roll. Meaning “five flavours” in Hokkien, it was initially brought to Singapore from the Fujian province in China. The original five flavours were prawn, pork rolls, pork liver, egg and pork sausage. These days they are made with all sorts of different meats which are usually combined with water chestnuts, other vegetables and then seasoned with five-spice powder. The outer layer is made with bean curd skin. For preparation they are steamed first followed by a short time in the deep fryer. Absolutely delicious but not for those with heart disease as I’m sure too many of these tasty morsels would clog the arteries!
Many of you may know my penchant for tamarind dishes; I love the sweet and sour aspect of these dishes much better than the horrific sickly Australian take on sweet and sour. The asam pedas is basically a fish curry made with tamarind paste and various vegetables. Ours contained okra, tomatoes and eggplants. It had a fair bit of kick to the heat and I noticed the Boy politely avoiding serving himself seconds as the rest of us dipped in for more.
Otak otak are a type of fish cake made from fresh mackerel meat pounded and marinated with ground chilli, lemon grass, ginger, turmeric and coconut milk. The end result is something that looks more like fish paste than the traditional fish cakes I’m accustomed to in Thailand. This fragrant paste is then wrapped in banana leaves and gently steamed or cooked over hot charcoals. The banana leaves trap in the moisture and flavour making it into a mouth-watering, custardy sweet treat.
The crispy Nyonya Tauhu is made from egg tofu and deep-fried to exact point to have a crispy thin exterior yet a velvety moist interior. The egg tofu is made by filtering whole beaten eggs into the soy milk before the tofu is set. It is a paler yellow colour and has a silken soft texture and milder flavour. These little creamy logs were to be dipped into the accompanying sweet black sauce and nearly seemed like a dessert than savoury course.
We finished our feast with a recommendation from the Bride; a chendol. Like all Asian desserts this came laden with all the sugar in all the land! The basic ingredients of this sticky drink included coconut milk, green jelly made from rice flour and Pandan flavouring, shaved ice and sugar. Ours was enhanced with layers of presumably highly artificial colourings and flavourings. At the bottom of my glass were red beans and grass jelly. The beans were a welcome relief from all the sugar!
Giddy with the sugar combined with my gluten induced haziness I felt like I was intoxicated all over again. Despite knowing the next week was going to be rough on the body, I walked away feeling satisfied that I had made the most of my gluten onslaught by eating wonderful dishes that ordinarily I would avoid. Most of all, not only did I get to appreciate how insanely delicious Hainanese Chicken rice is I tried it from a location that many consider to be the best in Singapore!Pow Sing Restaurant 65 Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 217970 | +65 6282 7972 | http://www.powsing.com/index.html Price: $$ Food: 9/10 (ok now bear in mind this is coming from a naïve Westerner, but all dishes were brilliant) Service: 4/5 (speedy, no fuss) Ambience: 3.5/5 (hustling and bustling; this place remained packed) Total: 16.5/20
The exciting event of the wedding of a close friend brought us back to the lovely city of Singapore for the first time in over ten years. It was to be my first experience of a Chinese wedding banquet and was to be held at Szechuan Court, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore. I felt so privileged to receive an invite and prepared myself right from the outset that for that one night I was just going to have to eat gluten. Avoiding gluten in a Chinese banquet of any occasion is literally impossible due to the ubiquitous use of soy sauce. I knew that if I was to eat the banquet regardless of the gluten I was going to suffer for it the next day however I figured it would be worth it.
As we were shown to our seats I noticed that both our table and the bridal table next to us was much more lavishly decorated than the rest of the tablets. Our table was covered in a bright red table-cloth and decorated with bigger bouquets of flowers. As the night progressed I also observed that our plates were filled with more food and served to us in larger bowls.
In eager anticipation for the feast I forced myself to only graze on a few small snacks over the day. As we headed to Szechuan Court I was so hungry I could have nearly eaten my own arm. If only I had known before that it is common custom at these important Chinese events for there to be quite a wait before food is brought out! By the time our starter combination arrived I was so utterly famished that I demolished it all far too quickly. There were beautifully plated slices of roast duck sandwiched around a fresh sliver of mango, there was a richly coloured chunk of Soya chicken, a thick wedge of succulent honey glazed pork and a cute little lettuce cup of chilled spicy jelly fish. This was one of my favourite dishes for the night and I really regretted my gluttony wishing I had savoured its flavours for more than a millisecond.
I love the deception of clear soups. Gazing into my reflection in the bowl I always wonder how something so watery looking can manage to pack such a powerful punch of flavour. This crab soup was no exception and the table went silent for a few minutes while everyone slurped away hungrily.
Bamboo fungus is a type of mushroom that is claimed to have many medicinal properties including antibacterial and anti-cancer effects. Another more unusual fact about this fungus is that the smell of the fresh fungus has been reported to trigger spontaneous orgasms in women!
The next course was some lightly steamed live Marble Goby served in a broth of superior soy sauce. Marble goby is a type of freshwater fish that considered something of a delicacy by many Chinese as for its flesh is delicately tender yet has a lingering sweet flavour.
With a number of gluten containing courses now under my belt, I accepted my fate that in a few hours I would start to feel the aftermath of my indiscretions therefore I really had nothing to lose and must press on. I had psyched myself up for this banquet for months and certainly wasn’t going to turn any of these sumptuous dishes away! The next two dishes steered away from the more traditional Chinese style infusing some modern fusion flavours. The wasabi prawns crunched loudly as I bit into their crispy exterior and I couldn’t help but feel liberated to cast off the shackles of my allergies for one night even if it made me unwell and covered in eczema!
I was informed earlier that evening by the dear mother of the bride that sea cucumbers are very laborious to prepare for eating. There is an extensive amount of work involved over several days which include slitting them open, turning them inside out and then repeatedly washing and boiling them over a few days.
The Boy and I first tried eating sea cucumber many years back at Shung Fung in Perth and we both really loved its slippery, nearly rubbery texture and subtle flavour. Sea cucumbers are a highly nutritious food and contain large amounts of protein in addition to many essential compounds including iodine, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium, manganese, chondroitin sulphate, saponins and vitamins like vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
The beauty of eating slowly is that you get full much more easily as your brain has time to actually register the food you are shovelling into it! The polite sized scoop of seafood fried rice was just enough to fill the last gaps in my stomach before dessert.
Many of my dear readers may recall my obsession with food shaped in tiny balls; tobiko, caviar, sago, tapioca, you name it I’m sure to squeak with delight if you serve them to me. I think this obsession is one of the main reasons I love Asian desserts so much! The chilled cream of mango was not overpoweringly sweet and the tang of the pomelo gave it more depth and flavour.
By this late stage of the night things had started to become quite rowdy, but in a good way. The bride’s father proudly led the bridal party in a procession to each table individually bearing a very elaborate looking bottle of whiskey. At each table he would stop, pour healthy size nips of whiskey to everyone before drinking some himself and then commenced to singing very loudly at the top of his lungs. No one required much encouragement to join in and before long dining room was filled with the booming voices of all the guests joyous for this wonderful marriage of two very beautiful people.Szechuan Court, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore 80 Bras Basah Road, Marina Bay, 189560 Singapore | www.fairmont.com/singapore Tripadvisor Price: $$$ Food: 8/10 (I am no expert on Chinese fine dining but my taste buds don’t lie!) Service: 3/5 (a little slow serving drinks) Ambience: 3.5/5 (the function room was filled to the brim with cheerful, noisy guests) Total: 16.5/20
After landing in Singapore on the overnight flight from Perth I was accompanied by the Boy and one of my business partners Woki to attend a friend’s wedding at the Fairmont Hotel. Not willing to be discouraged by our lack of sleep we refused to waste our free day and spent most of it exploring the city. We conveniently ended our self-guided tour at Ku De Ta which is situated on the 57th level of one of the three Marina Bay Sands (MBS) towers. Sipping our drinks we watched a blanket of dark ominous clouds slowly envelop the city from our viewpoint on high and by the time the tropical storm reached us we were all seriously hungry. We headed back downstairs in search of some food.
Back on the ground floor foyer, we were served by a small framed, elegant woman who kindly took great trouble to ring around a few restaurants in the complex in search of a table. She managed to secure us a booking at Guy Savoy, one of the “celebrity restaurants” at the Casino. The only time available was just an hour away yet there we stood all wind-swept, sweaty and in no way presentable for fine dining.
Jumping in a cab the Boy, Woki and I made a mad dash to return to our hotel but as we crawled inch by inch through peak hour traffic I started to feel the tension among us rising. By this point, the monsoonal downpour was in full force and I could barely see the road in front of us. Jumping out of the cab to proceed on foot was completely out of the question!
Upon our return to Fairmont Hotel we quickly raced upstairs dripping wet to our rooms. With my heart pounding in excitement I flurried about spraying my hair with a ton of hair products and my face with a lathering of makeup. After the finishing touch of a smear of bright red lipstick I prayed my transformation into something more elegant was successful.
However, our building anticipation was not to end there. It almost felt like fate was against us as we ended up taking the wrong train, got off on the wrong station and then took a full circle route on foot of the entire MBS complex before we could actually find the restaurant. Let me tell you, it is not well signposted and MBS is huge!
A little flustered and nauseatingly hungry we were seated at our table ready for the fun to begin. Our meal was kick-started by a few adorable bite size canapés.
The gluten eaters received a pint-sized foie gras club sandwich and similarly Lilliputian cube of parmesan waffle.
My gluten free canapés included a spoonful of miniature cubes of beetroot sprinkled with black truffle on a herb purée and some finely grated apple with baby celery leaves on an almond crumble.
As we allowed these flavours to entertain our palate, our waiter wheels out an old polished wood trolley with a whole leg of Joselito’s Ibérico de Bellota Jamón. Ibérico jamón is a type of ham made from black Iberian pigs that are kept free range on pasture and oak groves where they feast on a diet of acorns, grass, herbs and roots. Joselito’s Ibérico jamón is world famous for being the best ham in world and wholesale prices start at around $600 for a small leg and can get well over $3000-4000 for an aged leg. They pride themselves on raising “happy pigs” and believe this is a major factor in their meat quality.
The waiter carved in front of us about a dozen slices straight off the bone. Dark purple in colour and with multiple thread-like veins of white fat coursing through the meat; the wafer thin slivers of ham nearly dissolved on contact with my tongue. Eating Joselito jamón is quite an unforgettable foodie’s experience and I highly recommend that you try it yourself if you ever have the chance.
The unusual pretzel shaped bread was unfortunately not gluten free and as there wasn’t any gluten free bread option I had to satisfy myself by just having a brief sniff of its fresh doughy aroma. I cannot deny it is always a little disappointing when I visit fine dining institutions such as this and a gluten free bread option is overlooked. Not that I really needed bread given the enormous meal we were about to enjoy!
Our Amuse Bouche was a chilled Vichyssoise-styled soup made from leek, potatoes and cream. The addition of fennel gave a slightly sweet and refreshing after-taste. Curiously hidden under the small mug of thick soup contained two little half spheres of fennel and leek “royale”, basically a smooth lime green custard topped with minuscule little micro herbs and pea sized blobs of herb purée. With the subtle sweetness of the fennel in the soup still lingering, this little dollop served to extend and enhance the ambrosial experience with utmost precision.
Both the Boy and Woki ordered the “crab with multi-coloured beetroot variations” for their entrée. The concept of this dish was to “marry land and sea”. The blood red and lemon yellow shavings of roasted beets were curled into cone like flowers. Each little beet “flower” was filled with a foamy light beetroot blancmange followed by delicate portions of the cooked Australian Spanner crab meat. Savoury shortbread crumble and flecks of beetroot crisps sprinkled over the dish to add more complexity.
Alongside the salad was served a warm golden beetroot tartlet containing hints of cardamom and orange. The pastry collapsed in the mouth like fairy floss. It lay on top of a wafer thin square of transparent paper that looked a bit like cellophane. We were informed this was salt paper and was entirely edible. Despite the tart being the accompaniment, both the boy and our companion agreed it was the star of the two components.
This photo of my entrée is not my own and is courtesy of the restaurant. My mosaic of poulard, foie gras and artichoke was by far and by large the highlight of the evening yet for some strange reason it completely bypassed me to take a photo. Like a bizarre form of savoury layer cake, thick door stop-sized slices of young fattened poulard, wedges of soft foie gras and similar textured artichoke sat relatively unimpressively on my plate. They were accompanied by two precisely equal sized blobs of black truffle vinaigrette. The appearance of this dish does in no way make one’s mouth water; which is perhaps why my photography was overlooked. However just one mouthful of these three simple ingredients with a conservative smear of the vinaigrette and you will change your mind forever. This dish was absolutely mind-blowing; the rich buttery elegance showed true respect for the ingredients with no need for embellishment.
As we waited for our mains to arrive out came a little prequel, some sort of intermission entertainment I guess; named the Chestnut Royale. Now I am quite partial to chestnuts, yet I rarely see them feature on the menus in Australia. They always conjure up memories of walking down the streets of Paris where street vendors roast them everywhere in the winter. This innocent looking dish was quite a taste sensation. A perfectly formed dome of smooth chestnut custard sat swimming in a light bed of chestnut milk. Carefully placed on top a milk glazed chestnut glistened under the dim lighting garnished with tiny little pygmy sized celery leaves and chestnut chips.
Woki thoroughly enjoyed his “Shoulder of Australian Wagyu in two preparations”. By using an oyster blade steak or “paleron” as it is called by the French, the meat contained wondrous marbling and flavour. The first portion was braised in a red wine jus topped with baby carrots and a black pepper mignonette. The second portion of beef was purely just seared and garnished with dollops of wasabi. Both portions of beef sliced like butter at room temperature as good Wagyu should.
The accompanying side dish of potato Maxim’s and bitter greens was comparatively lacklustre and did not wow Woki at all.
I ordered the pan seared duck breast with eggplant “gianduja” sauce and “au poivre”. I was informed by our waiter that in order to achieve the creamy pate-like texture of the meat the duck breast was seared, then cooked sous vide, and then finally seared again. On my plate balanced so carefully like a stack of cards were thin slivers of eggplant served with gianduja chocolate sauce. The sauce tasted a little reminiscent of Nutella due to its high hazelnut content. Tiny little purple delight flowers scattered amongst the eggplant giving a splash of colour and bitter flavour. The duck was richly flavoured and buttery tender and left me wanting more.
My side dish was potato tagliatelle; thin ribbon like curls of deep fried potato. This was the only dish I ate that I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps some seasoning would have improved this element however even if that were the case it felt a little mismatched to the fabulous duck dish.
The Boy ordered the “Saddle, rack and shoulder of lamb; Land and Sea”. Unfortunately for him, after being left relatively unimpressed with his entrée choice his main didn’t manage to suitably wow him either. The main part of his dish contained a roasted rack of lamb placed on an almond and hazelnut praline. The saddle of lamb was stuffed with bamboo clams and pan roasted. Next to the lamb I recognised some emerald-green samphire on his plate; something we were introduced to during our beautiful lunch at Millbrook Winery last year where the chef forages it from the banks of the Swan River.
The second part to his dish was his favourite. The shoulder of the lamb was braised and wrapped in thinly sliced potatoes and topped with sprinklings of purple potato crisps. I recall the waiter mentioned that this component contained melted onions so I didn’t get to taste it! This dish was apparently seasoned in the bamboo clam jus.
By this point in time in the night I was starting to receive a number of subtly concerned looks from the Boy and knew he was worried as to how much this meal was going to cost us. He is never been one to be a killjoy by any means and during our near fifteen years together we have shared some highly priced memorable meals together. But he is also a sensible man, and he knew all too well that just coming over to Singapore alone was breaking the budget so close to our wedding, so enjoying a four figure fine dining experience was definitely going to break the bank. A smart move from me at this would have been to proclaim total fullness and call it a night.
And then out came the cheese trolley. And all my sensibility went out the window. My thoughts of finances, savings and budgets temporarily felt incredibly less important. Our dinner companion Woki was no help either. Being a father to two little ones means he rarely gets to experience such incredible culinary excellence and wanted to make the most of our evening. After a long consideration we settled for three cheeses: the curious looking Mimolette, Fourme d’Ambert and most dear to my heart Saint Marcellin; a cheese produced by my late uncle Jeannot’s factory in the Alps of France.
The Fourme d’Ambert is a very mild blue cheese that is considered to be one of France’s oldest cheeses dating back to Roman times. It is a semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk and has a luscious creamy texture and leaves a slightly sweet earthy mushroom after-taste.
The Mimolette had such a curious appearance that it was our wild card choice for the evening. The cheese looked like a cross between a rock melon and a dusty cannonball. It was a hard round ball with a pocked dimpled surface. I later learnt that the dimpled appearance is actually due to the activity of surface mites that burrow their way through the surface rind which in turn allows the cheese to breathe and mature. From the heart of this bizarre rock, our waiter scooped out some bright orange brittle cheese. It tasted quite unexpectedly sweet and caramelised, and felt like you were eating a hybrid of fudge and cheese, but in a good way.
Our portion of the Saint Marcellin cheese regrettably wasn’t warmed to room temperature and thus failed to relax into that sexy goo I have enjoyed many times before. I was very disappointed because for a number of years I have been talking up about this cheese to Woki. It is not easy to come by in Australia and this was his first time trying it.
For some reason the next two following pre-dessert dishes managed once again to escape my camera. I think I was a little distracted by my growing concern as the impending bill. Our first pre-dessert was so delectable that Woki jokingly exclaimed to the waiter that it was “no good” and that we all requested another one. His sarcasm was lost on our waitress and with a worried look she scuttled away to get us another serve.
We were too full to order a dessert but were tempted by the trolley of “petit fours”-styled mini-serves of ice cream, sorbet and biscuits and each tried a little portion for ourselves.
Just when we thought the near theatrical dining experience was over, as I sipped on my peppermint tea an Earl Grey Sorbet was delivered to our table for a final palate cleanse. Served on top of a black pepper crème anglaise the subtle flavours of the bergamot from the tea left a very refreshing end to our wondrous meal. Suffice to say, the Boy was right; we are still paying back our share of the meal to Woki!Guy Savoy The Shoppes, Atrium 2 L2-01, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8513 | www.guysavoy.com Price: $$$$$ Food: 4.7/5 (my choices were nearly faultless but there were some hits & misses at my table) Service: 5/5 (very knowledgeable and attentive with a noticeable lack of any pretension) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a little formal and stuffy but some fabulous views) Drinks: 4/5 (very extensive wine list but a considerable mark up on bottle prices) Total: 17.2/20
Our last visit to Singapore was during a stopover ten years ago en route to London where we lived for a number of years. We had spent our last few weeks in Perth burning all the candles at every end bidding our friends farewell and by the time we arrived in Singapore we were left feeling like a clump of melted wax. We were young and comparatively naïve and got easily caught up in the flurry of hotel booked tours and commercialised tourist traps.
Fast forward to the present and we are now both savvy travellers; we know what we enjoy and more importantly how to find it. Consequently I was super excited to be returning to Singapore to attend a close friend’s wedding armed with a multitude of eating recommendations from all my fellow blogging friends.
The wedding banquet was to be held at Fairmont Hotel so to simplify things we took opportunity of the discounted group rates and stayed there. The location is very central being walking distance to the harbour, CBD and Marina Bay Sands; and has a subway train station in the shopping complex attached to the hotel. Public transport in Singapore is quick, efficient and easy to use. We actually discovered it to be a quicker way to get around the central city than a taxi.
We stayed in the Fairmont Room which is their most basic room; however it was relatively spacious with a lounge chair, extremely comfortable king sized bed, fully equipped working desk and a private balcony overlooking the city.
There was a selection of bathroom amenities using Le Labo products scented with their signature Rose 31 fragrance. The thought of rose fragrance conjures up in my mind subtle, underwhelming, floral scents so when I took a waft of the luscious hand cream I wasn’t expecting the complexity of spice and woodiness. Other components of this fragrance include cedar wood, cumin and olbanum giving a sexy, nearly masculine scent. We only stayed for two nights but I ensured to clear away the products each service to ensure getting refreshed with another batch!
Another highlight of our room was the addition of a Nespresso machine. Since my Mum gifted to us a Nespresso machine for our engagement last year, I have realised my coffee addiction has been lifted to new heights and I cannot start my day without a decent coffee.
My initial excitement at seeing a Nespresso machine was short-lived when I realised the only pods on offer were in fact the only pods I didn’t like! Thankfully a Nespresso Boutique was not far from our hotel and before long I was back in 7th coffee heaven.
Breakfast is served buffet style downstairs at their Italian restaurant Prego. I always find Asian hotels offer a much great variety of foods for breakfast buffet than our Australian counterparts and this buffet was no exception. Gluten free bread was available on request however unfortunately none of the buffet food was sign posted whether it was gluten free so I was a little nervous in knowing in what I could and couldn’t eat. The non-allergic Boy on the other hand went nuts and piled his plate high of an assortment of curries, pastries and meats topped with a pile of crispy bacon.
On our second day in Singapore we returned fairly late back to our room after a full day walking around the city. The wedding banquet was to be held that evening so we planned to quickly beautify ourselves ready for a few pre-dinner drinks to set the mood for the occasion. To our dismay, on entering our room we were confronted by the same mess we had left hours earlier that morning. Housekeeping had forgotten to clean our room! I cannot deny this is a major oversight for a premium hotel establishment and I couldn’t help but be annoyed that I had to wait for fresh towels before I could start getting ready for the evening celebrations. Consequently we missed out on the pre-drinks and had to rush straight to the wedding reception.
Despite this frustrating hiccup the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore proved to be a great accommodation option for us during our recent stay. The central location, reasonable room rates and well-appointed room made our whirlwind 2 day stay an enjoyable and comfortable one. Our only complaint (other than our un-made room) was we didn’t have enough time! As a result we have decided to stop over again on our way home from our wedding to finish off our hit list of must-eats!
80 Bras Basah Road, Marina Bay, 189560 Singapore | www.fairmont.com/singaporeTripadvisor reviews Food: 3.5/5 (based on buffet breakfast at Prego only) Service: 2.5/5 (check out process was slow, housekeeping forgot our room) Rooms: 4/5 (clean, well-appointed and spacious, BTW the bed is the BOMB) Location: 4.5/5 Total: 14.5/20