Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Whether it is roughing it in a simple beachside site with no amenities or living it up in a plush city, my college mates and I get-together once in a year. This time round we decided to do a reccee on Singapore roads to discover food and of course shopping was on our agenda as well (what with inexpensive packages at lean time). We had booked ourselves in Swissotel Merchant Court in order to be closest to Clarke Quay, the most happening night out place in Singapore.

 After freshening up and a quick Breakfast later we decided to go to Orchard Road for some shopping. The brand new Ion Orchard Mall sure looked stunning and what caught my fancy was a dainty little Tea place called TWG. I discovered that Established in Singapore, The Wellness Group (full form of TWG) Tea offers over 800 types of tea. I loved the tea and the macaroons menu. It was a pleasure to look at the rows of tea canisters lining up in the dark wood paneling and shelves. Needles to add I bought some “Singapore Breakfast Tea” and something called “weekend in Shanghai”, absolutely delicious especially how the Tea expert Alex brewed it for me.

Breakfast at the “Killiney Post office” the next day was quite a uniquely fun thing to do. It was interesting to watch people buy their stamps, post letters etc while we were sipping on our cuppa coffee and some American Breakfast. More shopping on Orchard Road and Buguis village later, we had Hawker food at Maxwell in the afternoon, a great place for those on a shoestring budget. The setting is food court style and the centre is clean, cheap, and offers diverse and delectable food. There was this huge long line for the chicken rice stall. When my friend Ravi came with our chicken rice, I soon realized why. The chicken broth infused rice, tender chicken, and the dipping sauces all perfectly complimented each other. 
Later in the evening the gang and I went over to “The Tippling Club” housed next to Spa Esprit on 8B Dempsey Road. In this restaurant, home to one of the country’s greatest culinary getaways, you need a reservation, of course. We started with a Singapore Sling each outdoors which came in with all the drama and I’d say it was much better than the one we had at the Raffles the night before. Once inside the restaurant we could witness Chef Ryan and his staff on a steel island where they concoct food that surprises.

Mixologist Matthew Bax’s unique cocktails complement the chef's food. Ryan and Matthew are partners in the restaurant, as is Cynthia Chua of Spa Esprit. Anyways to start with we first got “char-grilled” capsicums lightly coated in batter, with soy Wasabi dip, which we ate using forceps. This was followed by fried calamari rings served with a sweet basil emulsion, which we were to slurp up from a curly straw. I loved the champagne carbonated frozen grapes with mint julep, which came in next. There was more good food later like the Pumpkin soup, Pork Belly and char grilled frog legs and snow ball for dessert. I would simply say that all dishes had the perfect equilibrium of flavors and the spirit of originality that reigns in this theatrical environment would never cease to attract the most demanding gourmet.
After a lazy morning and still hankering for Singapore chilli crab, we hopped on to “Long Beach Seafood” on Dempsey Hill (which seemed to have become our hang out place). Glad we were as many of us as the best set menus are for 10 people.On offer was an extensive range of fresh and delectable seafood dishes such as the air-flown Alaskan crab, Australian Lobster and Canadian geoduck and oysters. We ordered the famed chilli crab of course which came with some steamed Chinese buns. There are lots of different versions but it's generally made using mud crabs. Ours was the authentic Singaporean dish version using Sri Lankan crabs that are far smaller, sweeter and have tougher flesh suitable for longer periods of cooking. While the name Chilli Crab surely conjures up an image of hot and spicy, it was actually mild spicing with a hint of sweetness. The gravy was nice, flavorful and starchy with the addition of chicken eggs.
After lunch we went for a visit to the Asians art museum and a river cruise to the famed Merloin Park, some more shopping later at The Esplanade Mall we had dinner at “My Humble House” (it’s a restaurant, lest you think I have a home in Singapore). This reputable establishment has a loyal local following and tourists alike. Well, just stepping into this one feels like royalty! Presentation is cheerful and very upscale with prices to match.The food is Superlative running the gamut from crispy tiger Prawns glazed with citrus cream on grapes salsa to wok fried fish noodle with seafood in X.O sauce. The more common fare ranges from crispy noodles to fried chicken. For esoterics try the wild berries lemongrass gelo with Lime sorbet. Service at this well –appointed restaurant is near faultless.

Yes of course most of our late evenings were spent at Clarke quay, the location is terrific for one thing, and it is at the waterfront of a historical riverside quay near the mouth of the Singapore River. It’s buzzing at night with bars et all and the night scene is terrific and absolutely a safe place to walk around even if you are alone. We loved sipping on Tiger Beer or just some wine by the river and chatting up, catching on old times. And of course we did the unique Reverse Bungee-jumping at the Clarke as well. It sure was a fun vacation and I’d simply put it this way that Singapore’s fine city reputation is well-earned, and in fact, most people like me will admire at once the clean, modern metropolis and Certainly the Island Republic of Singapore as a culinary paradise is well earned and merits more than one reflection of what makes good eating.

Published in ET Travel in Oct 2009 (writer Rupali Dean)