Tuesday, January 27, 2009


C says:

Many thanks to S for recommending this place to me, albeit quite a long time ago. We finally got a chance to try it on Tuesday, when we wanted to try some place new, yet didn't want to stray too far from home.

Verve is located in the Gillman Village/Lock Road area, and occupies the space which used to be Turquoise Room. Decor is very simple and understated, with dark wood flooring and white wooden tables and chairs, with some sofa seating lining one wall. Adjacent to the dining area is a chill-out bar, and a few alfresco tables are available on the patio outside.

The food is predominantly Italian, with a few anomalies in the pizza section throw in – think rendang chicken pizza, peking duck pizza and thai lemongrass chicken pizza. Their motto is “simple things done right”, and it certainly shows. Their pastas range from basic bolognaise and carbonara sauces, to more gourmet/signature pastas containing prawn and arugula, crab meat, slipper lobster and duck confit.

While making a note of all the various pastas/pizzas that I want to try in future, tonight I opted for the duck confit fettucine, with generous chunks of duck confit tossed in olive oil, garlic and topped with a slice of crispy proscuitto. This was really good – the pasta was cooked perfectly and the flavours weren’t overly complicated.

A had the owner’s special, which was linguine with sundried tomatoes tossed with olive oil and shaved parmesan. It sounds a bit plain without any protein, but again it was executed really well, and for once I think the lack of other ingredients actually did it justice, because this way you could really taste the combination of the tomatoes and the parmesan.

We shared a Calvados apple crumble with vanilla cognac ice cream (they like their alcoholic desserts here). This was a little less stellar because the crumble topping was anaemic and soggy, when it should have been nicely browned and crisp.

Still, suffice to say that this is our new second favourite Italian place, for its sheer simplicity as well as proximity to home. Can’t wait to head back and try the many other enticing items on the menu.

A says:

Another big surprise. I fully recommend it for food, setting and service.

On a side note, the parking may be a bit confusing at first. Just look for the small V sign, go down the slope at the entrance, ignore the restricted parking sign and turn into the little lane until you reach the small car park.

Block 7, Lock Road
Gillman Village
Tel: 6473-3655
Mon – Thurs: 12 noon to 11 pm (last order 10 pm)
Fri & Sat: 12 noon to 12 midnight (last order 10.30 pm)
Sunday & PHs: 12 noon to 10 pm (last order 9 pm)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Brunch at Relish

C says:

Relish has started offering brunch on weekends, from 10.30 am to 4 pm. In addition to some of their regular items like the Wild Rocket burger, there are some interesting items on the brunch menu like the Wild Eggs Benedict, sweet items like pancakes and French toast, and the two that we ordered – the Breakfast Burger and the smoked salmon bagel.

The Breakfast Burger comprises a toasted English muffin, a sausage and apple patty, egg, cheese and arugula, served with baked beans and sautéed mushrooms. The burger itself is a bit like an uber high-end McMuffin, but having said that, it was still pretty good.

Next time I’m definitely going for A’s smoked salmon bagel though. I’ve never been much of a bagel fan, because I’ve always wondered what the fuss about hard, chewy lumps of bread was. Well it appears I haven’t been having the right bagels, because the one here was really good. Toasted just right so that it was crispy outside and chewy but still soft inside, it was piled high with smoked salmon, cream cheese and arugula (again). Served with cubed potatoes which I suspect were cooked in duck fat, this is definitely an indulgence but it's worth it for an occasional treat.

Do note that while Relish was open over Chinese New Year, I think they’re taking a break the week after so to avoid disappointment, you may want to give them a call before making a special trip down.

A says:

Awesome Salmon Bagel! I really didn’t expect the brunch to be as good as it was. Definitely on my list of brunch options now.

501 Bukit Timah Road
#02-01 Cluny Court
Tel: 6763-1547
Mon - Fri: Noon to 3 pm, 6 pm to 11 pm
Sat and Sun: Noon to 11 pm (Brunch 10.30 am to 4 pm)

Sunday, January 11, 2009


C says:

This place definitely wins an award for having the worse name ever. Provided you can even remember it, when you do you’re almost too embarrassed to actually say it out loud. Instead of “let’s meet at Oomphatico’s” I’ll probably just say “let’s meet at that mad hatter place in Tanglin Mall.

The interior decor here is supposed to be like a mad hatter’s tea party, with all manner of floral wallpaper, coloured chandeliers and chintz sofas. I’d actually recommend sitting in the outdoor seating area located in the covered walkway between Tanglin Mall and Trader’s Hotel. You may not have much of a view because you’re essentially looking into the Trader’s Hotel coffee house, but it’s very pleasant and breezy.

The menu is quite comprehensive, but at the same time doesn't try too hard. They have breakfast till 11, as well as pizzas, some pastas, sandwiches, and regular mains. A had the rib-eye sandwich on ciabatta, and I had the duo of beef – a seared fillet steak and a braised short rib with red wine sauce.

A’s sandwich was pretty disappointing – too much bread and not enough steak, which was sliced so thinly that it should’ve been called a roast beef sandwich instead. My beef dish was mixed. The fillet steak was really good – perfectly cooked and the meat was tender and sweet. The short rib was just so-so; it was braised till fork-tender, but it still had a rather strong beefy aroma, which for once wasn’t a good thing.

Surprisingly, my favourite was the side order of rocket salad with parmesan that I ordered. The balsamic and olive oil evenly coated every single rocket leaf, and they were very generous with the shaved parmesan as well.

We shared a couple of desserts – the bread and butter pudding was pretty good, but do not order the masala chai creme brulee. It comes with apple and coriander sorbet (*shudder*), which we changed to honeydew, but even for a fan of chai tea, this was way too spicy for my liking.

All in all, this is a very pleasant weekend lunch/brunch place, and I’d like to try some of their other menu offerings.

A says:

The food’s good but not great. What is great is the service and the setting. And this is probably one of the few places where I’d recommend sitting outdoors. The corridor effect makes it really cool and breezy.

As far as things go, I’d probably recommend this place for a lazy Sunday brunch. Just don’t look too sloppy. The clientele there isn’t exactly your local kopitiam sort.

163 Tanglin Road
#01-03 & 01-35/36 Tanglin Mall
Tel: 6733-9088
Open daily: 8 am – 11 pm

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bella Pizza

C says:

I definitely underestimated Bella Pizza. A colleague recommended it to me, so we went there after work on Friday without making any reservations, fully expecting it to be half empty. To our surprise, they were completely fully booked (indeed, the entire Robertson Quay area was pretty buzzing, to the point that you may wonder “what recession?”), and the chef only took pity on us when we promised to be done by 8.15, which is when the reservation for that table was.

It was the speediest dinner we’ve ever had. We were greedy and had a starter, main and dessert, but we told them to bring everything as soon as it was ready. We shared a rather interesting starter, which had cubes of buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes wrapped into a parcel with parma ham. This sounded better than it actually was. The mozzarella was a bit hard and wasn’t really creamy, and the parma ham was a bit chewy and quite salty.

The pasta was only slightly better. The concept was good – fettucine with Italian sausage and truffles and a touch of cream – and the actual sauce and sausage was quite tasty, but the pasta was a bit undercooked. I’m not sure if that’s their version of al dente, or whether they were rushing to serve us the food so that we’d eat and go.

The meal was more than redeemed by the pizza though. I guess that’s why the place is called Bella Pizza. They have both red (with tomato sauce) and white (without) pizzas. We ordered the Mascarpone pizza from the white pizza section – mascarpone cheese, mushrooms and truffle oil. When hot this was absolutely heavenly. The mascarpone cheese was soft, rich and oozy, and the distinctive aroma of truffle oil never hurts. The crust was thin and crispy and perfectly delicious on its own.

The pasta portion is pretty small and the pizza is also pretty light because the crust is so thin and it’s not loaded with toppings. I’m clearly trying to justify our ordering dessert… Because you can never have enough mascarpone, we had the crepes with mascarpone, nutella and banana. Again, with a combination like that you can’t really go wrong.

Well we’ve learnt our lesson. Next time we'll definitely make a reservation, or alternatively just takeaway a couple of pizzas for dinner.

A says:

Excellent food and service. I’d like to come back with a reservation and try more things.

Bella Pizza
30 Robertson Quay
#01-14 Riverside View
Tel: 6734-0139

Sunday, January 04, 2009

La Petite Cuisine

C says:

La Petite Cuisine at Serene Centre has expanded both their premises and their menu. In addition to the few tables along the corridors, they now occupy a very cosy outdoor platform just a few steps down from the cafe. Lit with tiki torches, this is a very pleasant area when the weather is in your favour. Do note that I think they only open up the platform when the restaurant gets crowded.

Their menu has also gotten somewhat of a facelift. At least there’s now more than just the duck confit to order, which delicious as it may be, is not exactly the healthiest option if you’re eating here on a semi-regular basis. They’ve included a Magret de Canard (duck breast) dish, but it’s for 2 persons at $40. They also have quite a high end offering of veal tenderloin with chanterelle mushroom pasta, at $28. I haven’t tried that yet but it does sound quite enticing.

On Sunday we had a chicken liver salad, and the filled salmon pasta. The salad was great – the livers were perfectly cooked so they were still slightly runny inside, and the sauce/dressing wasn’t too tart and sour. It’s a bit much for one person but perfect to share.

The pasta is essentially penne-like pasta stuffed with a salmon puree, and served with a light cream-based lemon butter sauce. We’re both not penne fans, but it’s a whole different story when it’s filled with salmon. This is really good and not too rich or heavy either.

The tarte tatin was a bit less outstanding. I think it's because there wasn’t enough caramel, and the apples oozed a fair amount of water during baking so it was swimming in apple juice. At $6 I can’t really complain, but I’d rather save my calories for a kick-ass apple tart somewhere else, like maybe Cafe de Amigo.

If you come here on weekends it gets quite packed – a far cry from when we first started coming when they just opened. More proof that sometimes you don’t need to be too fancy; just serve simple good food and people will come.

A says:

This place is still one of my favourites.

La Petite Cuisine
#01-05 Serene Centre
10 Jalan Serene
Tel: 6314 3173
Weekdays 11.30 am to 10 pm, Weekends 11 am to 9.30 pm

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Anchovy and Olive Focaccia

C says:

As you can tell, I’m in somewhat of a savoury baking craze. I figure that even though it’s still essentially a carb and a fair amount of olive oil is involved, it’s still healthier than butter and sugar in cakes, cookies and muffins. At least I get to satisfy my baking obsession without any (or rather, less) guilt.

My new goal is to make a light yet crisp focaccia that I can adapt with various toppings. The one I made at Christmas was a tad too dense and heavy for my liking. My first attempt at this Anchovy and Olive one was yesterday but it was such a spectacular failure that I had to do it again today, just to stop myself from obsessing about it. Yesterday’s ended up sticking to the damp towel as it was rising so it was a complete mess and essentially was just a hard flatbread. Today at least it rose nicely but somehow the crust was still a bit too hard and crisp. You can tell from the picture which one is which, haha.

The only problem with making breads is the rising that’s involved. The actual preparation and baking is fairly minimal, but because it entails 2 risings of about an hour each, you pretty much have to be home for a 5-hour stretch, even though you can leave it alone and do something else for about 75% of the time.

Anyway, now I’m obsessed with thinking of new focaccia pairings/toppings. So far I’ve done Sundried Tomato and Parma Ham, and Anchovy and Olive. I’ve brainstormed a bit and I’d like to do a Smoked Salmon and Mascarpone Cheese one, as well as something with gorgonzola, though I’m not sure what to pair the latter with. Any suggestions, or ideas for alternative toppings?

A says:

Nowhere near as good as C’s very first batch of sundried tomato and parma ham focaccia.

More from Prive Bakery Cafe

C says:

Happy new year, and just a quick one on a couple more dishes that we tried at Prive for brunch today.

A’s choice of scrambled eggs with toast and smoked salmon was a winner. Granted that almost anything with smoked salmon would be perfect for A, but objectively this was simply and very well executed. The eggs were really creamy but not overly rich, and the smoked salmon was nice and smoky without being excessively salty.

Mine was called The Fabulous Prive Burger, but unfortunately it was anything but. It’s a 200g wagyu patty topped with gruyere cheese and crispy onion rings, which had so much potential but the execution fell flat. The meat was packed way too tightly, such that for a 200g patty it looked pretty tiny.

Then they cooked it to death. When I ordered it they even (almost condescendingly) said they do the burger medium rare, to which I responded that that was perfect. What was finally served to me was more like medium well or even well done – all the juices had either been squeezed out from the tightly formed patty, or dried out from over cooking. The only thing that redeemed this dish was the fries.

The food took ages to arrive today – we had to wait about half an hour, so what was supposed to be a fairly quick brunch ended up taking way longer than expected.

Definitely no “Fabulous” burgers for me here, but I’m not ruling this place out entirely, because everything else we've tried so far has been pretty good. The breakfast and pasta items seem to be a safe bet, and if you come prepared to laze the day away, you won’t get impatient if the food takes a little longer than you’d like.

A says:

Really good scrambled eggs and salmon. Everything else was so-so. Still, the best thing about the place is still the environment.

Prive Bakery & Café
2 Keppel Bay Vista
Marina at Keppel Bay
Tel: 6776-0777
Sun to Thurs: 9 am – 1 am (kitchen opens 10 am; last orders midnight)
Fri to Sat: 9 am – 2 am (kitchen opens 10 am; last orders 1 am)