My colleague P recommended this place, so on Tuesday night we decided to give it a try. It’s located on the second floor of Jelita, taking over the space where Pizza Hut used to be. I’m glad a half decent eating place is finally available in the building, since Pizza Hut was a waste of space, as is the O’Brien’s downstairs. Friends opened very recently – 1st February, but according to their website, they have an existing branch near Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Gardens.
When P had dinner there, he chatted with the owner Thomas Chiam, and found out that he’s quite a foodie and a major wine buff, and the selection of wines is apparently quite impressive. As you know, we’re not wine people, and on Tuesday night Thomas seemed to have his attention focused solely on one table; interestingly enough, the table with a certain opposition MP sharing his surname… Are they related, I wonder…?
What with all the Chinese New Year feasting, we weren’t particularly hungry so we just ordered a main course each. Someone was giving out vouchers downstairs for free dessert with any main course, so we had a dessert each as well. A had the squid ink pappardelle with sun dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese, and I had the caramelized pork belly with mashed potatoes and arugula salad.
The pork belly looked impressive when it arrived, and at first bite it was pretty good. But the flavour mostly came from the arugula salad and balsamic vinaigrette, because when I had the pork on its own, it was tasteless and quite dry and tough as well. The pork belly at Archangel was way better.
The pappardelle fared much better though. It may not look the most appetizing but frankly, what squid ink pasta does? The pasta was well cooked, and the balance of the squid ink and parmesan was perfect. Very flavourful, and the sun dried tomatoes and shallots added some kick as well.
Alas, that was the only high point of the night. The free desserts were a disappointment. I had a sherry trifle, and it seemed like the sherry was just poured on top of the custard as an afterthought. The custard was a bit powdery as well, so perhaps it was pre-mix custard rather than made from scratch?
The molten chocolate lava cake was paired with passionfruit sorbet, I guess in an attempt to make it different from the usual vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately, if it ain’t broke… Passionfruit and chocolate don’t really go together, at least not in this particular dessert. A ended up having the sorbet and cake separately; it worked much better that way. The cake itself looked promising, but when we cut into it, the chocolate inside didn’t flow out, but rather flopped out in a semi-solid chunk. And it wasn’t warm inside at all. At the risk of sounding annoyingly pretentious, I think they probably put it in a too-hot oven for too short a time, so the outside was baked but the inside didn’t get a chance to heat through. I’m just glad the desserts were free because I wouldn’t pay for desserts like these.
This place has potential, but it has many teething problems that it needs to iron out. The place was almost full on Tuesday night (a public holiday), with 2 fairly large tables of about 8 diners each. We didn’t have starters, so the wait for our main course was almost 45 minutes. The maitre’d kept apologizing, though, and gave us each a glass of sherry to tide us over. Same thing with the dessert – after waiting almost 15 minutes after our mains were cleared, he came out and said the desserts would be another 8 to 10 minutes because the lava cake had to be baked. I couldn’t help but think that a more competent maitre’d would have noticed when we were almost finishing our mains, and asked the kitchen to fire up the desserts. I guess we’ve been watching too many episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares…
This place also seems to be a haven for families with small children, because we were treated to the sounds of crying babies or overactive toddlers almost all night. The wait, the wails and the none-too-cheap prices (mains are between $20 and $36) are a bit of a deterrent, so I’ll give them some time to find their footing before we head back.
Considering the menu and the prices, I expected this place to be way more stuffy. But it really lived up to its name cause it’s like a casual place for friends and family to eat good food. Much more affluent friends and family though. Must be the area.
Anyway, the squid ink was damn good. The steaks don’t really seem worth over $30 though. Especially since C can make more affordable and probably equally tasty steak with the quality cuts from The Butcher.
I will probably give this place another chance and see if the service timing improves. If not, then I’d probably only recommend it for people who want to spend a long evening out drinking wine in the company of friends. That’s what the name suggests I guess.
Friends at Jelita
293 Holland Road, #02-04
Jelita Cold Storage Building
Tel: 6463 1011
Open 12 noon to 10 pm daily