New restaurant Catalunya certainly has a lot going for it – a great location within the Fullerton Pavilion floating dome with a view of the Marina Bay area, and bragging rights that their founders used to be El Bulli alumni. The ex-El Bulli team at Catalunya includes a former chef and a restaurant manager, both of whom worked at El Bulli for at least a decade.
That sort of pedigree definitely brings with it some major expectations; indeed, it seems to be on everyone’s radar because weekend dinner reservations are pretty hard to come by. Good thing we went with reservation guru W, who snagged us a table at 6.45 pm on a Saturday. In retrospect, eating early was a good thing – we got to appreciate the view before it got dark.
Catalunya also boasts an award-winning mixologist, and I would recommend ordering something from their very comprehensive drinks list just to sample one of his creations. His combinations are far from ordinary, including one containing cheese and rosemary that I ordered, but somehow everything comes together quite well. Also, the drinks may seem innocuous but they’re not watered down at all. The seemingly flighty drink that A ordered packed quite a punch about halfway through.
Their food menu is a bit easier to navigate than their drinks menu. They have different sections - hot tapas, cold tapas, main courses, side dishes and desserts, with no more than 8 to 10 dishes in each section. Between the four of us we shared 2 cold tapas – a stack of grilled vegetables with smoked eel and foie gras, and a bacalao ceviche of sorts, and 4 hot tapas – boneless chicken wings, a cannelloni stuffed with roasted meat and topped with cheese and basil oil, eggs with Iberico ham, and a ham, cheese and truffle “Bikini” (a colloquial term for a ham and cheese sandwich in Spain).
I found the hot tapas more memorable than the cold ones. In particular, I liked the chicken wings (no surprises there) and the cannelloni, which was rich but really tasty.
A and I decided to order their specialty – the traditional suckling pig Segovian style, since we figured we had W and M to share it with. Alas, both W and M barely took any and we were struggling to finish most of the half suckling pig on our own. I highly recommend this if you have enough people to share it with. They cut the pig up tableside with a plate just to show how tender it is.
This really was one of the best suckling pigs I’ve ever had. The skin was thin and crisp all over, and the meat extraordinarily tender. The meat around the leg and shoulder was actually better than the more predictable belly/rib section, probably because those areas have more muscle and are generally more flavourful. At $125 for half a pig, this is much better value for money, not to mention just plain tastier, than the one from Osvaldo’s OLA.
M ordered the fish stew which was good, and W had the lobster rice which was excellent. Next time if it’s just the two of us, we’ll share the lobster rice and order a bunch of tapas. It’s worth noting that if you don’t have enough people in your party to tackle the pig, you can still sample it in the form of a hot tapas, where it’s served with lemon puree.
We tried the fried milk bread with smoked milk ice cream, and a chocolate dessert with passionfruit (M had most of the latter). The smoked milk ice cream was quite strong on its own, but paired really well with the donut-like fried bread.
Granted, our meal here didn’t come cheap, but that was mainly due to the pig, and a bottle of wine that we shared. I reckon if you order some tapas and maybe share a main course, you can probably have a pretty good dinner for around $75 a head. We certainly plan on doing that some time soon.
Starters/tapas are excellent. Service is excellent. Cocktails are excellent. Everything is pretty much excellent. Plus if you don't order the mains or alcohol, it's not that expensive. Recommended.
82 Collyer Quay
The Fullerton Pavilion
Opening hours: 12 noon to 2 am