Saturday, December 29, 2007

Barracks at House

C says:

I was here a month ago for S’s hen night, and was so impressed with the food that I’ve been meaning to bring A here ever since. We finally got a chance on Saturday, since A’s friends were also keen to give the place a try.

Barracks is the restaurant section of House, the spa destination recently opened by Spa Esprit in the achingly hip (and showing no signs of slowing down) Dempsey Hill area. House itself is the main day spa, with concept treatment rooms on the second floor, as well as yoga and art classes. Barracks occupies the ground floor, and Camp is the bar section adjoining Barracks. Apart from the main indoor dining area, Barracks has loads of space with amazing party potential – from totally private rooms (like where we had S’s hen night… no windows so guaranteed privacy) to glass-walled rooms overlooking greenery, and a great space for outdoor parties if you want to set up a marquee and take a risk with the weather.

But enough about the décor. On to the most important element, without which the appeal of the location and the ambience won’t have any staying power, in my opinion. The food was surprising very very good. Prior to my first experience here, I honestly didn’t have high hopes for the food here because I assumed they would focus on the spa and other aesthetic aspects of the place, and the food would be an afterthought. I’m very pleasantly surprised that they’ve definitely prioritised the food – the menu is a good combination of some innovation, without trying too hard. They’ve made an attempt to create interesting dishes, without overly strange ingredient pairings, or throwing everything and the kitchen sink into a dish in the hopes of impressing.

We were definitely a bit over-zealous with the ordering, because we ordered way too many starters and hence didn’t have room for dessert. (Think it’s no huge loss cos the last time I came, the starters and mains were way better than the desserts, which were a tad heavy.) We shared the Patagonian wagyu rib-eye, which was both tender and flavourful, and the macadamia-encrusted pumpkin with arugula salad, which was an interesting and very good pairing.

Soup of the day was tomato with turkey ravioli – A ordered that, and I had a foie gras ravioli consommé. My soup was a little bland, but A’s tomato soup was very good. Instead of super-heavy (and super-sour) cream of tomato, this was slightly clearer and lighter – more like vegetable stock with tomatoes added. My only complaint would be that the soups were generally served lukewarm, and I personally like my soups if not piping hot, then at least a bit steamy.

Each order of the mini burgers (they’re called American Sliders on the menu) comes with a pair, so we ordered a bunch to share, and A had his own pair as his main course. They’re in the sandwich section of the menu, and you can choose from a selection of five toppings, including sautéed mushrooms and onions, blue cheese and bacon and cheddar cheese and bacon. Unfortunately, their sandwiches are only available from 12 to 6 pm, i.e. not for dinner, so while you can order the mini burgers at dinner time, only the cheddar cheese and bacon ones are available.

These were really good – they’re a pretty decent size, not White Castle small, and the patty was tasty and not dry. The best part was the accompaniments – their signature sweet potato fries, which are tossed with sugar and salt, and truffle fries, which are tossed with salt and truffle oil. With the almost heady truffle aroma, the truffle fries are seriously addictive, and it’ll take a better person than me not to finish every single one.

The last time I was here I had the Veal Cheek Provencale, which was again a winner. Two meltingly tender braised veal cheeks were served with mashed potatoes, green beans and some crusty bread, and while the portion didn’t look all that huge, it was very substantial. This time I tried the Bay Prawn Capellini, which was a variation of an aglio olio, but jazzed up with lots of what they term “micro-herbs”. The prawns were very fresh but the garlic was a tad overpowering and it was a bit on the oily side.

Needless to say, everyone was stuffed so dessert wasn’t even an option. A did order an iced coffee though, which was a very good brew – smooth, mellow and just the right strength.

This is definitely a “we’ll be back” place, hopefully sooner rather than later. In fact, we’re already planning our next trip one lunchtime so that we can sample all the rest of the mini burger toppings. And more truffle fries. Lots more.

A says:

I was expecting the place to be a bit poser but once you get in, it’s really relaxed. Service, atmosphere and food were all good. Prices were also very reasonable for the area.

Miniburgers are great. Fries are good, but to my barbaric junk food palate, taste just like really good McD fries. I prefer the fatter kind myself. Iced coffee rawked too.

Would definitely recommend this place.

Barracks at House
8D Dempsey Road
Tel: 6475-7787
Mon – Fri: 12 noon to 11 pm
Sat – Sun: 11 am to 11 pm
Trunch: 2.30 pm to 6 pm (sandwiches and desserts only)
Brunch (Sat & Sun): 11 am to 4 pm

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