Singapore fancy dining with and without kids.
Singapore isn’t all about street food, though a lot of it is.
Out of the 12 days we spent there, we wanted to at least try a couple of fancy restaurants, if only to escape the stifling heat and humidity and have the opportunity to dress up. The Lion City abounds with high end establishments: from the outposts of famous establishments like Sydney’s Tetsuya’s or California’s Osteria Mozza, to local prodigies like Andre and revered classics such as Raffle grill…you could spend a lifetime eating your way around, not mentionning depleting the kids inheritance!
Talking about them, we thought we’d have 2 nights out: one with them, one without.
Teenagers and fine dining are not really compatible in our family: not that they misbehave ( they don’t ), but they eat a lot and always feel uncomfortable staring at a menu where mains cost over $50. Invariably they end up ordering the burger or the pasta of the day, and finish with ice cream, too financially self-conscious to expand their culinary repertoire. I know I should be happy they have this mind set rather than expensive taste in food, and believe me I am. So what works with them is All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, and we found this great Seafood Buffet at Melt Cafe at the Mandarin Oriental. The main reason we chose to dine there on a Saturday night, was that we had been looking for a venue from where to watch the National Day Celebrations rehearsal and particularly the fireworks finale. This was in July, and preparations were in full swing to celebrate Singapore’s Independance Day in August. Our tour guide gave us the tip, telling us where the best viewing spots were. The problem was, Singaporeans are either very patriotic or hungry for entertainment, so it felt like half the country was lining the streets and the shores of Marina Bay in anticipation. Mixing with the crowd was out of the question for Mr T who tends to suffer from agorophobia at times, and since every bar with a view ( rooftop or not ) were charging a hefty cover charge that night it didn’t make much sense to bring along a 14 year old who can’t drink.
Enter Nisha, from Melt, who hearing what we were trying to achieve ( i.e have our cake and eat it too!) assured me the problem could easily be solved: we could come in anytime and start eating; just before the start of the fireworks she would come and fetch us so we could watch the finale from the rooftop, while she would keep our table available, and we could resume our dinner afterward. I could have hugged her! The drinks waiter became Mr T’s best friend when he mentionned the S$20 free flow of wine and beer ( though I wish we’d known about this before we spent S$80 at the bar for beers and cocktails beforehand! ) On to the food: we were taken thru the buffet selections, which were quite varied: seafood, western style, bbq, indian curries, asian stir fries, sushis, cheeses and desserts…there was definitely enough to please everyone and we certainly ate our S$85 worth of it. Terry found the indian selections and would not eat anything else ( he is a curry fanatics and always laments that he is missing the “real” thing only found in Asia!),
Anne dabbed into the savouries ( mostly sushis and caesar salad ) but really saved herself for sweets and I swear she must have sampled every morsel on offer!
Marc bypassed the seafood and went straight for the BBQ, carvery and spicy food, followed by numerous plates of desserts.
All within 30 minutes. Luckily for him, Nisha came in to announce the fireworks were about to start. By then, I was so engrossed in my 2nd ( or was it my 3rd? ) plate of seafood that I could not be swayed away from the table, so I handed the camera to the kids and sent them off to walk off dinner and take shots of the firework display for me. The food was just too good: tiger prawns, oysters, Maine lobster claws, spanner crabs, …seafood is my weakness, along with cheese, so that is pretty much all I ate that night.
As we sat at the table, full and happy, I looked around at the other diners: a mix of single travellers, some young families, Nisha introduced us to a British family who was staying at the hotel on a stopover and they raved so much about the food and the service saying they chose to eat in most of the time. Anne replied that “Had we been staying here, I would have done the same! “ That was the lure of the chocolate sensation bar talking, I think.
When the time came to choose a restaurant for our anniversary dinner, the decision was made simple by Mr T who wanted local Singapore foods. As he had missed out on a lot of our hawkers expeditions ( either studying or keeping Anne company ), he figured he would kill 2 birds with one stone: romantic dinner with wife AND hawker food. I agreed on the condition that the restaurant had to be fancy enough for me to dress up, have a view and a rooftop bar.
The Fullerton Bay Hotel fitted the bill perfectly. From the moment we stepped into the lobby and checked our reservation with the Clifford Pier restaurant, the evening ran effortlessly smooth. This is a plush and stylish number, deco-inspired and full of so many exquisite details, my eyes kept darting from one beautiful flower arrangement to a jaw stopping chandelier or the reflection of the curved beams onto the marble floor!
The view greeting you coming out of the lift at the rooftop Lantern Bar is priceless! The drinks on the other hand are quite pricey ( cocktails S$25 and local beer S$17 ) but that’s standard practice in Singapore and the price to pay for such a great atmosphere, surrounded by shimmering lanterns and overlooking the bay. As a matter of fact, I could drink that killer view over Marina Bay!
The Clifford Pier is famous for its “heritage menu “, offering typical Singapore delicacies in the sophisticated setting of a restored British colonial building . Mr T had a craving for prawn laksa, a comforting bowl of prawns, rice vermicelli, quail eggs, puffed bean curd and bean sprouts in a spicy coconut gravy. He loved it so much he nearly drank the sauce out of the bowl.
I chose the roasted duck pancake which bizarrely looked and tasted more like a duck quesadilla rather than the chinese pancake i was expecting.
I had more luck with my main, Wagyu Beef Rendang, beautifully presented along traditional achard pickles and rice. The meat was the right amount of spicy and melt in your mouth tender.
Mr T went for his favourite dish, Nasi Goreng, an indonesian style fried rice with crispy chicken and a fried egg. This was quite a generous serving, and after polishing off his bowl of laksa beforehand, I have no idea how he could fit a plate of fried food!
But he managed to finish his main course, then decided to order a key lime pie for dessert! I joined in, though I was pretty full by then, and chose the classic tiramasu. This came as a mousse in a clip-on jar, with double espresso and lady finger biscuits, It was not bad, but was not great either, I’d say it needed more coffee.
Same issue with the key lime pie, a layering of ginger biscuit crust, key lime filling and meringue. While it was refreshing and tangy, it missed “ a bit of oomph!”, as Terry put it. Maybe western dessert tasted bland, because the courses we had during the meal were redolent in so much spices and flavours, our tastebuds expected more of the same for dessert.
Still, we really enjoyed our dinner, the surroundings were magnificent, service was faultless and judging by the numbers of families dining there that night, heritage cooking isn’t going anywhere!
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must mention the stunning surroundings, both inside and out: I don’t think I could ever tire of Singapore city lights and I fell so in love with the architecture and myriads of bespoke artefacts that without even seeing the guestrooms, should money not be an object ( which sadly it is!) this hotel would be our pick to stay at next time.