Tag Archives: brunch

Soupe au pistou

Inspired by Bliss Travel’s suggestion of using my basil pesto to make soupe au pistou, I raided my fridge for what vegetables I had on hand and et voila ! A delicious vegetable soup made even more delicious with the addition of the fragrant pesto. I spooned the pesto on top of my bowl before serving and let it slowly melt over the vegetables and into the soup to keep the flavour as fresh as possible. Alternatively you can add some to the soup and warm through before serving. Use my recipe below as a guide only – vegetable soup should be made from whatever is in season or, whatever is in your fridge.

Ingredients

  1. Smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
  2. 1 onion, roughly chopped
  3. 2 sticks of celery, sliced
  4. 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  5. 1 large leek, trimmed, washed and sliced
  6. handful of cherry tomatoes
  7. 1 cup dried puy lentils
  8. handful spinach leaves

Method

  1. Fry bacon lardons over high heat in a large saucepan until crispy
  2. Reduce heat to medium and throw in onions, celery and carrot and stir so that all the vegetables are coated with the rendered fat from the bacon
  3. Gently fry for 5 minutes
  4. Add leeks and tomatoes and repeat steps 2-3
  5. Add lentils and repeat again
  6. Add enough water (or stock if you want but remember the pesto will add flavour to the soup) to cover the vegetables.
  7. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes
  8. Season at this stage but again remember there will be additional salt from the pesto
  9. Throw in the spinach leaves just before you are serving
  10. Ladle into soup bowl and top with a generous spoon of basil pesto

Artichoke Cafe and Bar

Pan-fried hamoumi with mushrooms and avocado on toast

Tucked away behind Sculpture Square on Middle Road lies a quaint courtyard where Artichoke starts. On a Sunday morning, the small cafe was busy and bustling with groups of friends catching up over cups of coffee and brunch.

The menu is Middle Eastern inspired, and I ordered the haloumi with mushrooms and avocado on toast, and the toasted sourdough was barely visible under a mountain of rocket, shitake mushrooms and pan-fried hamouli. I do have a bit of an issue with shitake mushrooms in non-Asian cuisine, preferring plain old button mushroom with my toast – I think shitake have a slippery texture that I’m unused to, at least for breakfast. I ordered a side of scrambled eggs which was equally enormous, and cooked absolutely perfectly, creamy and just cooked through so their still wobbly, again, reminding me a lot of Bill Granger’s famous scrambled eggs.

I think the service lets this charming cafe down – there’s plenty of staff, they just didn’t seem to be well connected to the kitchen. One order, and three different waiters came to tell us at different times that the sausages, apple juice and fries were not available that morning.

Given that Artichoke is a stone’s throw away from my home, I think that it could be a regular weekend breakfast/brunch destination. The only problem is it’s popularity. Walk-in diners on that Sunday morning were basically turned away as the place was fully booked. So plan ahead and book if you want a seat. I’ve heard the dinner menu is pretty awesome as well.

Artichoke Cafe and Bar
161 Middle Road
Inside Sculpture Square (beside NAFA)
Tel: 6336 6949

Open:
Brunch: Sat & Sun 11.30am – 4.00pm (last orders at 2.45)
Dinner: Tues – Sat 6.30pm – 11.00pm (last orders at 9.45pm)
Closed Mondays


Pamplemousse Bistro + Bar

 Jamón Ibérico with figs and manchego cheese

Surely Singapore is reaching its saturation point for new places to eat with its tiny population ? The Dempsey Hill area alone seems to be continually expanding with new restaurants, bistros and bars, with Pamplemousse being one of the newer residents (it’s been open just over a year now).

My friend M and I went there to catch up a few weeks ago and decided to forgo the set lunch menu, instead opting for a few appetisers from their a la carte menu and a bottle of champagne. To be fair, in this instance the bubbles were more of a priority than the food.

We ordered the  Jamón Ibérico, homemade fresh goats cheese and the beef carpaccio.

The Jamón Ibérico was “draped” over figs and manchego cheese with some Frisé. I think they tried to get the same effect as using prosciutto but because this type of ham has been cured for longer it simply doesn’t drape as well, so in this instance rather than looking like the slices magically fell on to the plate, it ended up making the dish look quite sparse. Having said that, the ham was delicious with that uniquely intense saltiness that seems to get more intense as it melts in your mouth as you chew.

Fresh home made goat’s cheese with sliced beetroot

The goats cheese was a surprise for me.  I’m not a huge fan of goats cheese. That twanginess that makes it so appealing to most is the thing that I dislike about it. Pamplemousse serves their fresh homemade goats cheese with thin slices of fresh beetroot and there is only a subtle hint of that twang. That, for me, made it palateable but I would think someone who likes goats cheese might want something to taste a bit stronger ? Having said that, it was a light and fresh dish and was refreshing with the strips of beetroot, especially in the hot Singapore humidity.

Beef carpaccio with Chinese pears, quail’s egg yolk with a yuzu and sesame oil dressing

The beef carpaccio was served with dehydrated Chinese pears, a quail egg yolk (which my friend and I ate around) and a mesclun salad with a yuzu and sesame oil dressing. This dish to me captures what Pamplemousse tries to do – European dishes with an Asian twist. I like the idea, but I found their dishes to be a bit confused and instead of being a perfect fusion of east and west, ended up being a bit schizophrenic.

It’s not that Pamplemousse is not good, it’s just that there are so many places out there, that competition is fierce, and I need that wow factor to make me want to go back again.

Pamplemousse Bistro + Bar
7 Dempsey Road #01-04
Singapore
Tel: +65 6475 0080


A Saturday of French – starting with Cocotte

Cream of cauliflower soup with garlic cream

In the middle of nowhere, on Dixon Road in Little India is Wanderlust – a cute, hip boutique hotel where you can dine at Cocotte. Cocotte is centred around communal dining (dishes can be ordered a la carte or for two, four or six people) where they serve rustic French cuisine in a charming dining area that makes you feel like you have walked into a villa in Provence.

We struggled to choose between some of their signature dishes like fried tripe or poulet roti and their specials and we ended up with a good combination of both.

frisée salad with bacon lardons and poached egg

For me, a cream of cauliflower soup and the fried tripe, and for D a frisée salad and venison. My cauliflower soup was silky and creamy and came with a drizzle of garlic infused cream. Just a hint of garlic in the cream meant that it that didn’t overpower the intense flavour of the cauliflower.

D’s starter was what he called a “healthy fry-up” – bacon lardons and a perfectly poached egg on a bed of crisp frisée lettuce dressed lightly in a vinaigrette.

Signature fried tripe with tomato salsa

My main course – Cocotte’s signature fried tripe – was slow-cooked until tender, and then crumbed and fried so it was super crispy outside. Served with a wedge of lemon and a fresh tomato salsa, I have to say that although I enjoyed it, I think it was mainly because of the crumbed deep-fried goodness. The flavour of the tripe was delicate and not too strong and the paprika in the crumb mixture added some lovely spice to the dish.

Bacon wrapped venison tenderloin with buttered peas

D’s venison tenderloin came wrapped in bacon, seared so that it was almost crispy on the outside but perfectly pink in the middle, with a citrus jus with a garlic purée and buttered peas and peral onions.

Cocotte is a wonderful retreat from the heat and chaos outside in Little India (which has its own appeal) and I’d be really interested to see how the place feels at night. The food is impressive – enough for us to want to return to see what else they have on offer, which is a big thing in Singapore, where there seems to be an abundance of new places opening recently.

Cocotte (ground floor of Wanderlust)
2 Dixon Road
Singapore
Tel: +65 6298 1188

Opening hours (closed Sundays)
Lunch:
Mondays to Saturdays 1200hrs – 1430hrs
Sundays 1200hrs – 1500hrs

Dinner:
Mondays to Thursdays 1830hrs – 2230hrs
Fridays to Saturdays 1830hrs – 2300hrs


Mag’s Wine Kitchen

Pan-fried beef tenderloin with veal jus

From many of the cooking shows on TV, there seems to be a few basic principles of running a successful restaurant. Keep the menu limited, and do what you do well, use only the best ingredients, don’t forget your front of house and love your what you do.

Mag’s Wine Kitchen ticks all these boxes – with a smiley stamp and a gold star on each of them for good measure. Which is probably why it’s still around 15 years after it first opened its doors in 1996.

Creamy artichoke soup

Nestled in the quieter part of bustling Boat Quay, you walk in to this charming French bistro and are greeted by either Mag  herself, who has an uncanny knack of remembering faces and names, or Seth, her maitre d who has been there since Mag’s opened.

The kitchen is open for all to see, the menu small and focused on using the best seasonal ingredients that Mag travels to acquire – we once visited to have fresh umi – Japanese sea urchin that she had just purchased from a trip there, on top of chawanmushi – steamed egg custard – delicious.

Kurobuta pork chop with pineapple salsa

D and I visited during the Christmas period for a quiet lunch and had the two course set from the menu of the day. I had the artichoke soup and the beef tenderloin with a veal jus and D had the beef carpaccio and the kurobuta pork chop with a pineapple salsa.

The soup was fresh and light while creamy and warming at the same time, and the beef – oh my goodness – the most tender and tasty piece of meat I’ve had in a long time, perfectly cooked medium rare, perfectly seasoned and accompanied with velvety mash and roasted vegetables.

Wagyu beef carpaccio

D’s wagyu carpaccio came served wafer thin, with parmesan shavings and rocket and the kurobuta pork came with what tasted like a hoisin glaze and the meat was tender and moist – not an easy task for such a large cut of pork.

Mag’s also has an terrific wine selection to complement all her food, or if you just want to go in for a drink. What more could you ask for ?

Mag’s Wine Kitchen
86 Circular Road
Singapore
Tel: 64383836

Open:
Lunch Monday to Friday – 12noon to 2pm
Dinner Monday to Friday – 6pm to 10pm

Saturday 6pm to 10pm only (Closed for lunch)
Closed on Sunday


Merry Messy Christmas !

A wonderful way to celebrate anything

I love a Sunday champagne brunch. Add it being Christmas so that someone else cooks you an enormous array of food with none of the stress of having to cook, and more importantly, none of the washing up, and that makes a pretty good way to spend any afternoon in my books.

D and I were family-less in Singapore this year, so we were adopted out to a friend’s family who were visiting from the UK, and we decided to celebrate Christmas with them at the gorgeous Fullerton Hotel.

Roasted turkey with Yorkshire pudding and gravy

The hotel extended their usual brunch area to include the other restaurants and half of the lobby so we were literally surrounded by happy, festive people, and a lot food.

The essentials for Christmas – roast turkey, ham, beef and lamb were on offer with all the trimmings, in addition to the standard brunch fare of cold seafood, Asian roast meats (char siew, roast pork and duck), breakfast station, and the appetiser station. And of course let’s not forget the sweets, for which the Fullerton outdid itself this year. I think I counted three dessert tables that included a chocolate fountain and so much cheese I found it hard to find my favourites.

Selection of appetisers – foie gras on a fig compote, champagne truffle risotto and roasted pumpkin ravioli

And with a glass of Moet champagne that was attentively never less than half full throughout the four hours we were there and we had a very, very, merry (and messy) Christmas ! I hope everyone had a wonderful festive weekend with family and friends as well !


Il Lido Easter Sunday brunch

Parma ham in rockmelon cups

It’s been a while since we’ve been to Il Lido.  It’s got a much more relaxed atmosphere than Beppe’s other restaurant, Forlino, and I think that allows you to enjoy the food and your company better.

There was a special Easter Sunday four-course brunch served that day. On the menu:

A selection of classic Italian antipasti including zucchini flower stuffed with prawn and gazpacho, parma ham, caprese salad, calamari and asparagus flan.  Every single one of these was absolutely delicious.  A perfect combination and balance of delicate flavours, beautifully presented.  I could have just eaten these for the rest of the meal.  My favourites were the parma ham, which was served in delicate rockmelon cups, and the asparagus flan which was like a souffle of asparagus air.

Pappardelle with duck and orange

For first course there was a choice of homemade pappardelle with duck and orange or pumpkin gnocchi with prawns and pesto.  I had the pappardelle (it’s always hard for me to go past my favourite pasta) and for the first time had duck and orange together.  I know it’s a classic combination (duck a l’orange) but for me the sauce was a bit on the thin side and not robust enough to work with the thick pappardelle pasta.

Atlantic cod with truffle, artichoke and cream leeks

For second course there was a choice of Atlantic cod with truffle, artichoke and cream leeks, spring lamb with creamed truffle potatoes and goose liver sauce or Black Angus beef tenderloin with crispy polenta, Montasio cheese, radicchio and barolo wine.

Surprisingly no-one on our table of ten ordered the beef, so it was fish and lamb all around.  I had the cod and it was cooked perfectly and was tender and flaky, and worked very well with the sweetness of the cream leeks.

Desserts were also very well done with classics like chocolate fondant, creme brulee and meringues and almond biscotti.

Add freeflow champagne overlooking Sentosa golf course and that just about tops a pretty perfect way to spend a Sunday.

Il Lido Restaurant and Lounge
Sentosa Golf Club
27 Bukit Manis Road
Tel: 6866 1977


				

Wild Honey

The English breakfast at Wild Honey

Over Chinese New Year dinner our friends told us about Wild Honey, a cafe in the Mandarin Gallery, where you can get breakfasts from various cities/countries around the world.  Sounded interesting enough for D and I to get to Wild Honey at 10am on a Saturday.

It was already packed when we got there.  This cafe caters to the expat community on the other side of Tanglin and it was full of people chatting happily in different languages over lots and lots of food.

Wild Honey serves breakfast all day, every day.  And from their menu you can select a breakfast from destinations like Belgium (Thick fluffy waffles served with coconut cream, grilled mango, blueberries and toasted coconut), Switzerland (Home made bircher muesli with organic yoghurt and seasonal fruits), Californian (Eggs softly scrambled with tofu, yellow and red peppers, fresh herbs on char-grilled ciabatta and Japanese (6 omelette balls filled with smoked salmon and garnished with wasabi mayonnaise. Served with sushi rice and wake salad).

Of course D and I had the English breakfast (if it ain’t broke…) – which comes with creamy scrambled eggs (although I asked for mine fried), pork sausage, sauteed mushrooms, dad’s baked beans, bacon and vine ripened tomato with toasted brioche.

When the plate comes, it is almost overflowing with food.  The servings are huge, so go when you’re hungry, or prepare to leave a lot behind.  I am not sure brioche is the right bread to have with a fry up – it’s almost too fancy, as I also thought with their mushrooms.  These were really really garlicky (I love garlic but not that much, or so early in the day) and I just remembered that there was also sauteed potatoes, which were equally garlicky.  I never thought I would turn potatoes down, I pretty much love them any way they are served, but again, these were overpoweringly garlicky.  The beans on the other hand, were awesome.  I couldn’t get enough of them – clearly home made, not overly seasoned or spiced.

If you’re going to pile that many things on to a plate, make sure they all work together, and don’t have each fighting for prime position.  Maybe the other destinations would work, but for me, so far, the best fry-up in Singapore is in our apartment on weekend mornings (although I may be biased).

Wild Honey
#03-02 Mandarin Gallery
Orchard Road
Tel: 6235 3900

Open 9am – 10.30pm Mon – Fri (open from 8am Sat and Sun)
Get there early if you don’t like to queue


Pancakes

With breakfast being such a rushed affair during the week, it’s nice to enjoy a leisurely meal to start our weekend mornings.

Last weekend, I had a craving for pancakes.  Thick, fluffy, American style pancakes with crispy bacon on the side and drizzled (or, smothered) in maple syrup.  And a big cup of tea.  Ah, what a lovely way to spend the weekend.

I’ve struggled for many years to get that super fluffiness in pancakes and now have a fail proof method.  It’s all about gently folding in stiffly beaten egg whites into the batter.

Ingredients (for 6 pancakes)

  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. pinch of salt
  4. 1 cup milk
  5. 1 egg, separated
  6. 2 tsps caster sugar
  7. 1 tbsp oil

Method

  1. Combine flour, baking powder & salt in a bowl and mix well.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together egg yolk, sugar and milk followed by oil.  Add into the flour mixture and whisk to combine.
  3. Beat egg white until stiff peaks form, loosen the batter with a small spoonful of the beaten egg whites, then fold the rest gently into the mixture. You really want to keep the air in the egg whites as much as possible.
  4. Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium low heat then scoop batter, about 1 ladleful, onto the pan. Cook until bubbles appear evenly on the surface, flip it over and cook until golden.

Brunch @ the Greenhouse @ the Ritz Carlton

Caprioskas waiting to be mixed

I’m going to attempt writing this post while trying to sober up from a food and cocktail coma from 3 hours of indulgence at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. There for a friend’s birthday, the festive atmosphere was surely enhanced with freeflow champagne and a choice of mojitos, caipirinhas, Bloody Marys and caprioskas (most of which were doubles). Aside from the drinks, the choice of food we had available was impressive.

“Buffet hack” – chawanmushi with caviar

The best thing about buffets is that you can have a little bit of a lot.  The ability to sample as many dishes as you can want appeals to someone like me who has difficulty making her mind up on what to order and often ends up with food envy for my friends and their choices.  The birthday girl added more choice with her “buffet hacks”, my favourite was her topping chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg) with some caviar from one of the cold starters – perfect.

We all started with cold seafood.  I was focused on oysters, trying the eight varieties of freshly shucked oysters from France and New Zealand and then I spotted a tray of jamon de iberico, of which a small pile made an appearance on every plate I brought back to the table the entire meal.

The awesome roast pork with crackling

My favourite little things at the buffet were a four cheese tart with fig and walnut, the wagyu roast with the best Yorkshire puddings and gravy, the roast pork (mainly for the super good crackling I have to admit) and the very tart lemon meringue dessert.

Four cheese tart with fig and walnut

The four cheese tart came in a pastry shell that was just firm enough to not crumble and was a terrific contrast to the creamy cheese filling, which was the perfect partner to the sweet fresh fig on top.

Yorkshire pudding with wagyu roast

The wagyu roast was so tender – no matter if you sampled a more well done slice from the edge, or an almost blue slice from the middle – and the Yorkshire puddings were the perfect “mop” for the puddles of gravy that were generously ladled over them.

We finished the meal with a generous sample of the 50 cheeses on offer.  I have to admit, after a good camembert and brie, and a wonderfully tangy roquefort, the rest of the cheeses on my plate were there more for the fact that I could actually have that many varieties on one plate.

Lemon meringue

For a five-star establishment, the design and decor of the Greenhouse gives it a slight feel of a buffet in a cheap Caribbean resort – not helped by the live band playing songs like “Guantanamera” – and I think that detracts from the appeal of the whole experience, which is a slight shame, because the food is really very very good.  Perhaps I’m spoiled by the Raffles Hotel Bar & Billiard Room’s more personal serving of their food, along with the more sedate ambiance, but after all those cocktails, I’m sure no-one cared much, and also, for our boisterous birthday table, perhaps it was the best place to celebrate after all.  Happy birthday Chrissy !

The Greenhouse @ the Ritz Carlton Hotel
7 Raffles Ave
Singapore
Tel: 6337 8888

Sunday brunch: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m