This review, and our experience of Pepper, changed dramatically in the last 15 minutes or so of our visit. We started out quite enthused, but by the end I was seething and couldn't wait to get out of there.
First off, Pepper is not to be confused with Pepper Lunch, the casual/fast food chain from Japan. Pepper Steakhouse is actually part of the folks behind The Pump Room (literally; the restaurant has been carved out of The Pump Room's premises at Great World City). They decided to open their own steakhouse, sourcing almost exclusively grass-fed beef, after being dissatisfied with the quality they were getting from their purveyors.
The restaurant is still pretty new - I think it's still only in soft launch phase, so from now till 30 November they're offering 15% off your bill. I guess just-opened jitters accounted for our experience, though to be fair if we judged them purely on their food they would still score pretty highly.
In addition to quite a selection of typical mains, they have signature steaks, currently from five different breeds. Besides their sharing cuts for two (an Entrecote and a Chateaubriand), the rest of their steaks come in 200 gram portions, and range from a very decent $32 to $38 (for the non-wagyu beef).
After much deliberation, we decided to try a ribeye from a New Zealand Harmony Prime Beef, and a tenderloin from a New Zealand Savannah Black Angus. Both medium rare.
It's usually the case that ribeyes are a more flavourful cut but tend to have a bit more bite, compared to tenderloins which are tender but lack much beefy flavour. But comparing the two, the tenderloin came out the clear winner in both departments. Much better texture and flavour, and even the colour of the meat was far superior. The ribeye was rosy, whereas the tenderloin was a deep red, almost burgundy - the mark of good aging. That's not to say that the ribeye wasn't good, it was; just that the tenderloin was much better.
You can choose from a selection of sauces - we picked wild mushroom and bearnaise, but firstly the sauces weren't good, and anyway the meat was good enough without any sauce.
The steaks come with free flow fries, but they're the thick cut steak fries. They're still quite addictive, and at least they serve good ketchup. We ordered a creamed spinach which was more of a sauteed spinach in cream sauce, but was pretty good anyway.
We ordered a starter of crab cakes with a watercress salad and mango chutney, which came in a decently sized portion and was pretty good. Wasn't bursting with crab meat but what do you expect for $18.
We tried the chocolate lava cake which was decent, but the cake had a weird alcoholic flavour to it that we couldn't put our finger on.
That was the food. Now on to the bad stuff. Firstly, I don't know if it was just this particular night, but we were plagued with screaming babies all night. And parents who were content to let them continue wailing.
Then the service. Food took a while to arrive, which was bad enough but still forgiveable. What wasn't, was the fact that I had to wait 15 minutes after giving them my credit card, for them to bring it back to me for signing. After 5 minutes I got impatient and started chasing them. After 10 minutes I started asking anyone who walked by and when still nothing materialised, I was really pissed. Finally when they brought the credit card slip there was nary an apology, and the waitress only muttered an insincere "sorry" to A, not to me although I was the one who was (a) paying, and (b) looking almost murderous by then.
So, food-wise yes, I think I would recommend Pepper for the quality of the meat and the price you pay for it. But if they don't improve the service then I don't think the food is worth the angst.
I hope this place just has teething problems because our service, while polite, was incredibly slow. As was the kitchen. And a 15 minute wait to pay is plain bad.
Food-wise, the crabcakes, spinach and harmony ribeye were good, while the savannah tenderloin was excellent. Everything else sucked. Especially the steak sauces (thankfully served on the side) and the horrible molten chocolate cake.
We’ll probably be back later next month (while the opening 15% promo is still on) to give them another chance. But if the service and the kitchen are going to be as bad, they’ll definitely get a not recommended rating.
Pepper Steakhouse and Bistro
1 Kim Seng Promenade
#01-66/67 Great World City
Mon - Fri: 10am - 10pm
Sat & Sun: 9am - 10pm