Novel ‘Folklore & Fiction’ Cocktails @ The Monarchy, Tras Street

You know them from books and films, and now you can enjoy them as cocktails. Thanks to the ingenious bar team from The Monarchy at Tras Street, iconic British fictitious characters the likes of Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and Mary Poppins are now available as “one-of-a-kind, quintessentially British” cocktails.

Located in the heart of Tras Street, The Monarchy is styled like a typical British cocktail bar with its walls bedecked with huge portraits of iconic royal figures such as Princess Diana and King Henry VIII (by American artist Alex Wakefield). It opens till late on most days, so it is a popular after-work / after-dinner spot for cocktail lovers to hang out at.

Cheers to British Folklore & Fiction

For the launch of their new Folklore & Fiction cocktails, The Monarchy produced a gorgeous 16-page leather-cover, storybook-like menu filled with water-color illustrations of the 14 fictitious characters who inspired their newly-concocted cocktails. Just look at the cool pages for iconic spies Austin Powers and James Bond pictured above.

Harry Potter’s “Butterbeer”

Each invited guest was given two tokens to order the cocktails we wanted to try. My first choice was their version of Harry Potter’s “Butterbeer”. The “original” Butterbeer I consumed at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Orlando, USA, is purely a delicious root beer sundae made to look like foamy dark beer (they do have to consider the younger fanbase…) So it was quite cool to try a Butterbeer that has real alcohol in it! The Harry Potter cocktail contains Copper Dog whiskey marinated with melted butter overnight, then topped with ice cream soda, salted caramel and vanilla foam. What you get is a sweet, creamy, buttery whiskey-based cocktail that is strong and delicious!

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

As I usually prefer rum in my cocktails, and also love chocolate very much, the bartender closest to me at the bar counter recommended that I pick Charlie & The Chocolate Factory as my second choice. This beauty took some effort to make but basically it is Pampero Blanco Rum mixed with chocolate liqueur, vanilla, whipping cream and egg, then topped with cocoa dust and mini marshmallows. A true yummy delight, it tastes even better if you give it a good stir. Its ABV is also definitely stronger than the Harry Potter!

The Artful Dodger

In between my cocktails, I moseyed down the bar counter to check out the other guests’ choices. This fancy fruity baby is The Artful Dodger (from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist), a medium dry, sherry and port-based cocktail, ordered by a guest who also generously provided us with great lighting from his video light lamp, bless him!

Mary Poppins

The sweet guest who sat next to me ordered the sweet red vermouth-based Mary Poppins which actually has a cute way of serving – the bartender completes the drink by placing a spoon with sugar across the classy wine globet which will then be poured into the cocktail. “A Spoonful of Sugar”, geddit? Believe me, it was really cute…

Mr Bean

You can’t do Britain icons without Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean, which was the cocktail the sweet sud’s friend ordered. The Bol’s Genever gin-based cocktail is green because of the blend of pandan with matcha tea and soy milk. Cuteness is complete when the cocktail is topped with Mr Bean’s beloved teddy bear in cocoa powder.

Sherlock Holmes / Sweeney Todd

The Sherlock Holmes cocktail, borrowed from yet another guest, doesn’t really look exciting but then again, you would expect the 221B detective to enjoy a drink that looks exactly like that! The smoky cognac and whiskey-based concoction is said to be “strong and balanced”. Meanwhile, served in a chilled globet looking bloody red—complete with a tinted-red rim—by the bartender at top right was easily recognized as the tequila-based Sweeney Todd (aka the Demon Barber of Fleet Street).

Jack Sparrow / Paddington Bear

Must say that practically none of The Monarchy’s Folklore & Fiction cocktails seem easy to make. The bar team really went the whole nine yards to deliver one-of-a-kind cocktails. Take Jack Sparrow (pictured above left) for instance: the rum-based cocktail served in a bronze mug has so many layers, from crushed ice to various garnishes, and seared with a blow torch spray too! (Never ever thought of the Pirates of the Caribbean character as British, but maybe it’s because he’s based on The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards…)

As for Paddington Bear (above right), the gin-based cocktail is one of the rare ones that uses a tall glass and hence requires an elongated ice-cube—”So that it gets chilled longer”, says the bartender preparing it⁠—and its garnishes include a gummy bear!

The Ultra Lounge

Whilst showing me the way to the restroom, one of the servers also introduced me to The Monarchy’s Ultra Lounge which is a cool secluded area with its own bar and great for private parties. Here, the portraits are more of celebrities the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Helen Mirren. Apparently every painting at the premises is available for sale.

Musings on the M49 is really chuffed to be invited for The Monarchy’s new British-centric cocktail menu, truly had a fun time. If you love trying new cocktails and everything British, do check out the Tras Street bar’s Folklore & Fiction cocktails (priced at S$22++ each) which will be available for the next couple of months.

The Monarchy is at 56/58 Tras Street. Opening hours: Tue-Sat from 6pm till late. Ultra Lounge opening hours: Fri 10pm-3am, Sat and PH Eve 10pm-4am. Tel: +65 98003787.

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Triple Three @ Mandarin Orchard

A Birthday Buffet Bash

For my name day earlier this month, I really wanted to celebrate with a good buffet, so me BFF and I opted for the Japanese-inspired international buffet at the long-established Triple Three at Mandarin Orchard.

Named after the hotel’s address (333 Orchard Road), Triple Three’s buffet spread, which has a few live cooking stations, covers a huge area so one has to check out every corner and nook so as to not miss any of its extensive offerings.

The first thing that had us at hello was this gorgeous Honey Glazed Ham, flanked by cute Yorkshire puddings. There was roast beef too but it wasn’t as enticing as this hunk of a ham here!

This massive Grilled Grouper was hard to miss too, and its tasty meat really went well with rice.

The cold cuts section was right by the roasts. Its selection of meats including parma ham and smoked salmon, just to name but two.

My game plan though was to focus on the seafood-on-ice section where I could have all the utterly huge, fresh and juicy Sakoshi Bay oysters from Japan that I could eat…

… and, most of all. succulent Alaskan King Crab legs as well! (So good and yummy!) The station is also filled with other under-the-sea delights such as prawns, mussels, clams and crayfish.

Another popular Japanese-inspired counter is the Yakiniku (grilled meat) live cooking section. This evening, we had this heavenly grilled Wagyu beef with vegetables that was simply da bomb!

The sushi and sashimi counter is understandably another popular section especially when you can order to your heart’s content items such as freshly sliced yellowtail sashimi or wagyu beef sushi made on the spot.

As focus was to be on just a few stations, counters I had to forgo include the Asian wok-fried favorites, Japanese tempura, and I’m sure there was even a pasta station…

Our tummies practically had no room for this rather tempting Indian section although I couldn’t resist a scoop of the fragrant balmastic rice (which I ate with the grouper fish) and a piece of crispy papadum.

And we’re still not done: There is a decent looking cheese section…

…an impressive bread stand (although the buns and rolls we picked were surprisingly tough…)

…and a good range of pretty and delicious-looking cakes and pastries.

Last but not least, there were healthy fruits to end your feasting, along with premium machine-brewed coffee (or tea if you prefer).

We love to stuff our faces but the primary reason my pal and I have not been indulging in hotel buffets is because buffet prices can be quite hefty these days. During my birthday week however, there was a Triple Three promotion whereby for the weekday dinner of $88++, the second adult gets 50% off if you pay by DBS, POSB and UOB cards. That was why we picked the spot and we ended up paying about $78 each which was decent for such a good spread.

So overall, an enjoyable experience at Triple Three just like the last time when I was there yons ago. Would definitely visit again.

Triple Three is @ Level 5, Mandarin Orchard Singapore, 333 Orchard Road, Singapore 238867. Breakfast – Daily: 6.30am-10.00am; Lunch – Mon- Sat: 12pm-2:30pm; Sun: 12pm-3pm; Dinner: Daily – 6.30pm-10pm. Tel: 6831 6271

The Art @ APS Cashew Road

“You wanna go so far north for lunch?” That was my response when a pal suggested going to The Art at Cashew Road on her off day because “the bread is very good”. So off we went as the casual dining restaurant, located within Assumption Pathway School (APS), is just a bus and MRT Orange line+Blue line away.

The Art, or Assumption Restaurant for Training, is the Catholic educational institution’s culinary skills establishment that allows APS students—some of whom have special needs—to learn cooking and baking techniques, as well as to gain experience interacting with real customers.

The restaurant is located deep inside the Assumption school premises. Once out of Cashew MRT station, we entered via the front gate of Assumption English School, followed the covered walkway for some distance till we reached and climbed a short flight of stairs. The Art can then be seen atop a “hill” (which faces a football field), and after signing in at a guardhouse—it’s a school after all—we finally arrived at the dining establishment after climbing yet another flight of stairs.

For a place sited far from the main road, The Art was quite a busy place during lunchtime, though not exactly packed. Still, my lunch mate was crestfallen to discover that the “very good bread” was already sold out by the time we sat at our table. “Must come early at 12 next time!” she said. Yes, m’am.

The lunch menu is relatively simple: soup/dessert of the day (each $3); six choices of mains ranging from Deep-fried Breaded Chicken with Cheese Sauce ($9/set $13.50) to Daily Roast (done medium; $15/set $19.50); mocktails ($3.50), and hot beverages ($2-$2.50). It also contains a special Tea-for-Two set (2.30pm-5pm, $12 nett) that comprises 12 pieces of petit fours and two hot beverages.

Interestingly whilst we were there, there was also a “Food Street” where pop-up stalls were set up along the restaurant’s al fresco area. These are manned by APS students, selling fare such as prawn noodles ($4.50), curry chicken ($4.50) and assorted desserts ($1), and which you can order at the table. This is only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 12pm-1.30pm.

Good 'o Fish N Chips

We decided to go for a la carte and my friend ordered Fish N Chips ($12) while I opted for the Daily Roast ($15). The tasty Fish N Chips came with crispy French fries, salad and tartar sauce, and my friend had no complaints about it.

I had no complaints about my beef steak either, which was served with mushrooms in cream sauce, potato/carrot combo and some greens. Beautifully done medium, the steak was tender and juicy, and enhanced much by the lovely gravy.

Juicy beef steak beautifully done medium.

We had actually wanted to order dessert from the Food Street but by the time we finished our mains, the stalls had already closed shop! Luckily. there was a deli counter filled with a variety of cakes, so we ended up with Tiramisu and Black Forest cakes, both of which were very well made. I also had a coffee ($2) to end my meal. (If you order the 3-course set meal, coffee comes along with the dessert).

And oh, there was good news re: the “very good bread”. By the time we ended our meal, the kitchen came out with a couple of huge pita-like bread that were topped with pesto, cheese and olive oil for the deli counter. It wasn’t the bread my friend was looking for but since we came all the way here, we bought one each. And let me tell you, the fragrant bread was really, really good – you can eat it on its own or dip it into thick chicken curry or a creamy soup.

Tiramisu and Black Forest

The Art, which has a cosy ambience, also serves set dinners (from $16.50) on Friday nights (except last Friday of the month) and porridge buffet (from $12.50, only on last Friday of the month). These are however by reservations only. The daily menu is also subject to periodic revisions.

All in all, The Art is a nice place to dine in and service by both students and volunteers was good. It is definitely worth going the long distance (if you don’t live or work around the north-west, that is) for its quality food items including freshly baked bread, cakes and pastries. My mains/dessert/coffee meal came up to $24 which is decent, especially with a delicious steak in the mix. Will be keen to try its porridge buffet one day…

The Art is located within Assumption Pathway School at 30 Cashew Road. Opening Hours: Mondays to Fridays (during school terms). Lunch – 12pm-3.30pm; Teatime – 2.30pm-5pm; and Dinner – 6pm-9.30pm (on Fridays and by reservations only). For Reservations, call +65 6892 6187 or email the.art.aps@gmail.com. For more info, visit www.aps.edu.sg/theart.

Grub And Grog Galore @ SFFA And RPB Asia 2019

If you love grub and grog as much as I do, joy is being in a hall filled with hundreds of fine food and drink booths offering samples for anyone who’s keen to have their taste buds tickled. I was hence delighted when Musings on the M49 was invited to the 3rd annual Speciality & Fine Food Asia (SFFA) and Restaurant, Pub & Bar Asia (RPB) 2019 where I could do exactly just that!

Held at Suntec Singapore from 17-19 July and featuring more than 200 artisanal food and drink producers, the trade show is primarily a platform for producers to network and forge business opportunities with people in the food service, retail and hospitality sectors. It was truly a global affair as there were exhibitors from Canada to Spain, Taiwan to Uzbekistan. It was also good to see much local representation with many Singapore producers showcasing their locally-crafted fare – from cheese to beer to mead.

Thanks to organiser Montgomery Asia, a specially curated media tour was arranged for us to check out a diverse range of products on display. Here’s a selection of the goodies that yours truly had the pleasure of sampling.

FINE GRUB @ SFFA2019 & RPB2019 (Selected)

Meats from Spain

Though this Provacuno (Spanish beef industry) booth says “Beef from Spain”, the professional chef doing live demonstrations prepared a few different meat dishes for visitors to try including beef kebab, roast lamb skirt and a veal item. We only had time for the first two but the wait was absolutely worth it – both meats were succulent and absolutely juicy and delicious. (www.provacuno.es)

Dried Fruits & Nuts from Uzbekistan

Truth be told, I noticed Uzbekistan only when they play in an Asian World Cup qualifying round. At their pavilion, we learnt that the Central Asian country is also known for being producers of high-quality dried fruits (grapes, apricots, melons, etc), nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc), jams, as well as flour and sugary confectionery. The samples we tried were definitely good and tasty. (http://uzkand.uz)

Cashew Cheese Crafted in Singapore

We were also introduced to Kroodi cheese, the first plant-based artisanal cashew cheese in Singapore. Created by Claudia Cani, an Italian based here, her cheeses are “dairy-free, lactose- free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and preservatives-free.” Now I love cheese and I love cashews, but the cashew-based cheese took a while to get used to. Still, I’m always game to try new types of cheese. Purchase is available at kroodi.com and RedMart.

Pastry, Baked Goods & Tea from Taichung, Taiwan

Taiwan food fare is very popular with Singaporeans and seven foods companies from Taichung, Taiwan’s second largest city, were out in full force to promote their products. Items include various Taiwanese pastries and handmade baked snacks such as tasty almond cookies and pure milk shortbread, as well as fragrant milk tea and coffee drinks. (www.taichung.gov.tw)

FINE GROG @ SFFA2019 & RPB2019 (Selected)

Gin & Natural Mineral Water from Sri Lanka

One of the first fine grog we tried was from Rockland Distillery. Colombo No. 7 (www.colombosevengin.com) is a Sri Lankan take on a London dry gin, flavored with seven spices and botanicals including juniper berries, curry leaves and cinnamon bark. With a ABV of 43.1%, the gin when taken neat is complex and vibrant. At the same booth, we also got to sample Olu Tropical Water (www.oluwater.com), a “natural mineral water sourced from the cloud forests of Sri Lanka”. One thing for sure, it definitely tasted better than your regular tap water!

Blueberry Wine from Michigan, USA

Hailing from Michigan, USA, Vintas Sapphire Blueberry Wine carries much fruity aromas and is sweet on the palate, though not as sweet as a dessert wine. With an ABV of 11%, it’s easy to drink and goes well with the generous cheese and dried fruit platter provided. It would certainly pairs well with meat and dessert items as well. (www.vintas.com.sg)

Mead Made In Singapore

“It’s not beer”, screamed a banner at the Lion City Meadery booth. Well, beer it’s definitely not but mead is still an alcoholic beverage that is basically made from fermented honey, yeast and water. Two local mead-loving lads decided to start their own craft mead brewery and now has three flavors available – Classic, Spiced and Hibiscus Blueberry. Visit www.lioncitymeadery.com for the outlets where you can find their mead.

Gin & Sour Beer from Norway

A Norwegian gin that really took our breathe away was the Harahorn Pink Gin which looks more orangey than pink. At 38% ABV, it has robust citrus aromas and floral undernotes. Its taste is wonderfully smooth with a slightly bitter aftertaste. We also got to try a fascinating Norwegian sour beer-which I forgot to ask how to pronounce its name-that is yet to be in the market. And oh, the booth used really lovely glasses for tasting. www.detnorskebrenneri.no/www.nordicbev.com)

Luxury Chocolate Wine from England

Made in England, Rubis Chocolate Wine (www.rubiswine.com) is exactly what you expect it would taste like – a rich tasting fine red wine blended with premium chocolate. Good enough to drink on its own or over ice, you can also make cocktails with it (just add Schweppes tonic water, for example). It can also be used for tiramisu, or added to ice cream and coffee. Currently available at The Rubis Kiosk @ Raffles City Shopping Centre B1.

Ending the Day with Coffee & Ice-Cream

My media session ended at two live demonstrations. First, it was to be served a yummy cappuccino by a robotic barista from homegrown company Crown Coffee Robotics (www.crowncoffee.co). Think of it as a sophisticated coffee vending machine where you can actually see the coffee being made. Then it was off to the live demo of the artisanal made-in-Singapore vegan, plant-based ice cream by Smoocht (www.smoocht.com). I tried their durian flavor which was served on the smallest wafer cone I’ve ever seen. And yes, it was good and flavorful. Just wished the sample was bigger…

The event was certainly interesting and Musings on the M49 was glad to have some spare time to check out other booths (especially those hawking local and foreign beers.) Here’s to the next SFFA and RPB Asia!

The next Speciality & Fine Food Asia and Restaurant, Pub & Bar Asia trade show will take place from 29 Sept – 1 Oct 2020. To register as a participant or visitor, visit www.speciality-asia.com and www.rpb-asia.com.

Rooftop Bar @ 1919 Waterboat House

A pal and I have always wanted to dine at 1919 Waterboat House but when the time came, we decided to check out its rooftop bar first. Considering the hot/wet and humid weather Singapore been having of late, it was rather brave of us to attempt The Rooftop even for a Friday evening. But praise be to God as not only there was no rain, there were cool breezes aplenty although that didn’t quite stop the sweat from flowing. Also, the panoramic views at the bar – which spread from Marina Bay Sands to the Esplanade, from the Padang to Fullerton Hotel – made it worth the visit.

So it was good that there was nice chilled beer available (albeit there’s only three choices and you have to drink fast before it gets warm depending on the time you are there.) The Rooftop has a simple drinks menu comprising mainly of cocktails ($16), mojitos ($16-$18), twin shooters ($17/pair), champagne ($26/glass), wine and spirits ($16/glass). There’s also a separate wine menu. There’s also a cool 1-for-1 Sunset Happy Hour before 8pm, and for everyday, it’s 1-for-1 half pint beers for $12. So we started off with their main draught beer, Hofbrau Lager, which is a golden hued German Helles type beer that was light, hoppy and went very well with the food we ordered later.

The 1919 Rooftop Bar has a decent food menu and that was why we decide to check it out first rather than its main restaurant on the second level of the colonial heritage building. Items include Spanish Tapas ($8-$22), personal-sized pizzas ($18) and sharing platters ($38-$58).

A little problem was that, though the place is spacious, the tables are rather small and when the food came, they came in very big plates even for the tapas. Also, my clinical lab rat of a friend was rather miffed when the cutlery served was not up to par-there was a dirty spot on a plate, and a veggie thingie stuck to a fork. Thankfully, other that that, the serving staff was attentive in other ways and the evening went swimmingly.

First to arrive was the Truffle Fries ($10) served with truffle mayo which was a great treat. And if they could serve it in a small basket, it will save much space on the table.

Okay, we ordered a Chef’s Salad ($11) for the healthy bit but seriously, if you are going to have a drinking session, forego this as it just doesn’t go with the grog. The salad, akin to a Caesar, is decent actually (although with an over dosage of dressing) but no go as a pub grub.

With beer, you can’t go wrong with meat items and these spicy buffalo wings marinated with secret spice ($12 half dozen/$22) are da bomb. Juicy and spicy hot, it certainly made up for the soggy salad!

Crispy calamari ($14) should be another great grog grub but we suspected that the serving staff forgotten about it ‘cos it took a while to arrive and by the time it did, the items were cold. Add to that, the strips of squid were so miserably skinny, that all we ate were just batter, crispy as some may be. Pity as it looks good visually but we had to leave most of the dish aside.

Prior to 8pm, we went for our second round of Happy Hour half pint beer and this time we went for the Hofbrau Hefeweizen which is darker gold in hue and richer in taste. It is also more fruity and malty in flavor and a good way to end our evening.

Actually, we ended our evening by playing tourist and taking photos on all sides of the bar. Before Happy Hour ends, you can catch a beautiful sunset over Anderson Bridge at about 7.15pm.

When the manager saw us clicking away, he sweetly pointed us to the bar’s outer area where we could get better shots of landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands (without its laser show sadly) over Marina Bay…

… The sparkling Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay over Esplanade Drive…

… Lasers shooting from the Padang (later, we found out that a National Day Parade rehearsal was taking place…)

And last but not least, the majestic Fullerton Hotel that faces the front of the Fullerton Waterboat House and which is well lit after dark.

Overall, the 1919 Rooftop Bar is a nice drinking spot, perfect weather permitting. Bill came up to about $85 for two pax, which is decent for a Friday night session. Would consider coming again and will definitely check out 1919 the restaurant next.

The 1919 Rooftop Bar is 3 Fullerton Road, The Waterboathouse, #03-01, Singapore 049215. Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-12am; Fri & Sat 5pm-2am; closed on Sundays. Advisable to make a reservation first at +65 6538 9038.

Beauty In The Pot @ VivoCity

Another hotpot alternative close to the ‘hood.

To celebrate her name day, my hitting-a-milestone pal opted for a hotpot dinner. As Beauty in the Pot has a new outlet at VivoCity, we decided to give that a try, having enjoyed their first outlet at Centrepoint. Knowing how popular hotpot is in Singapore, I made the table reservation two weeks ahead via phone and was relatively amused when asked what occasion were we celebrating. “Birthday,” I replied without hesitation and didn’t give it much thought thereafter (more on that below).

As the table will only be held for 10 minutes, we arrived rather early for our weekend booking only to be told that we still have to wait till our reserved time. Which was fine as there were seats and free water available. (If you have kids, there’s a playpen for them.) Not to mention that the overly-pink restaurant is also located directly opposite the largest public library in a mall, library@harbourfront.

Beauty in the Pot’s key attractions are of course its signature Beauty Collagen Broth, and that you can have up to four (out of six) soup bases at one go. We decided two soup bases will do and went for the rich, flavorful collagen broth ($15/twin pot) and the Herbal Drunken Chicken Broth ($12/twin pot).

Then it was off to prepare our sauces whilst waiting for our food items to arrive. For my usual red chilli, garlic and spring onion combo, I added a creamy peanut sauce plus a dash of soy sauce which was a really good mix. Another nut-based combo with Thai red chilli and chilli oil wasn’t half bad but didn’t have much kick.

The menu has an extensive meat selection comprising chicken, pork, beef, lamb, and seafood (fish, crab, octopus, etc). On this occasion, we decided to stick to just Sliced U.S. Beef ($19.80/full portion) and Live Drunken Tiger Prawns ($13/half). And have to say, the premium quality of Beauty in the Pot’s food items are still as good as before.

Veggie wise we went with the usual suspects except with a different variety. Instead of plain lettuce, we had Baby Romaine Lettuce ($3.70/half); instead of “big” spinach, we had Baby Chinese Spinach ($3.70/half). Sliced Lotus Shoot ($3.40/half) was as it is…

We also had White and Hon Shimeji ($4.50/half), which on hindsight was unnecessary as there was actually a good helping of these mushrooms, and tofu slices too, in the collagen broth. The crispy and tasty Fried Fish Skin ($5.90/half) though is always good as a snack or appetizer.

A good choice was the Teochew Style Fish Balls ($4.90/half), which were really yummy. The Prawn Dumpling ($7.50/half) though wasn’t as great; the wrapping was very sticky and the taste not as scrumptious as we hoped it would be. No faulting the Silken Tofu ($2/half) though but as mentioned, the collagen broth also contained tofu slices.

Oh, one item that is a must-have is the Fried Beancurd Skin ($5/half), which tastes especially good when dipped into the collagen broth. It can be very filling though, so best to eat it early in the meal rather at the tail end.

We were getting really stuffed when a staff asked if we would like more dishes. It was then we realised we’d forgotten about our drunken prawns which were hidden away in the side trolley. Fret not, said the nice chap, who simply proceeded to peel for us the prawns which was fresh and sweet.

It was when we were having fruits for dessert, that the fun bit came. Just like at Hard Rock Cafe, Beauty in the Pot diners celebrating birthdays get cool perks. Not only you get a cake and balloon, the staff—like these two sweet suds here— would sing “Happy Birthday” to you three times – in English, Mandarin and Cantonese!!

That my very shy friend—seen here heavily filtered with her complimentary cake and balloon—was utterly surprised was an understatement. That it was one of the most funniest moments I’ve ever observed is of no doubt, hahaha!

Lastly, the complimentary Yuzu drink was served at the end and that went really well with our cake [as they have already stopped re-filling our Luo Han Guo / Sour Plum Juice ($3.80/glass) once they cleared the table].

Well, our Beauty in the Pot experience at VivoCity was certainly better than our first one at Centrepoint. Service was certainly better – we were led to our table at the appointed time, items came fast, refilling of the soups and drinks was done without our asking, and every staff member was courteous and attentive. Only one or two still bow at almost 90 degrees but though admirable, it is seriously not required.

I didn’t even have to prompt about the birthday bit – it was noted via the phone reservation and they delivered without the need to double check. Kudos indeed. Also, though it is stated in the reservation that small groups have a 90-minute time limit, at no time were we asked to finish up though we stayed about two hours. (Guess it also depend on how busy the place is.)

The bill was about $140, i.e $70 per person, which was decent considering what we ordered and the quality of the ingredients. Except for the far walk to the restrooms (down the escalator and to the right, due to the structure of the mall – it’s the same for the rooftop Haidilao), it’s definitely good to know there’s another reputable hotpot restaurant near our ‘hood to consider whenever we have steamboat cravings. In fact, Beauty in the Pot has just opened another outlet at The Star Vista, even closer still. Have to check that one out soon!

Beauty in the Pot is at 1 Harbourfront Walk, VivoCity #03-08A, Singapore 098585. Tel: +65 6255 0758. Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am to 3.00am (Last order at 2.15am).

Ash & Elm @ InterContinental SG

Scrumptious European dining at Ash & Elm.

For our latest quarterly dinner date, my church mate who shares the name of an evergreen climbing woody plant and I decided to go for European flair this time. That’s how we ended with Ash & Elm at InterContinental Singapore, which now occupies the space where the former (and rather good) Olive Tree restaurant used to be.

Decor was chic and elegant, and though the tables for two were small, the space however was comfy. After the waitress presented us with the menus, a waiter popped over to run us through the very extensive wine list comprising reds, whites, sparkling, champagnes and ports. Ash & Elm boasts three culinary theatres including a charcuterie and cheese room, wood-fired oven and an open charcoal-grill kitchen. The dinner menu thus comprises sections for charcuterie and cheese ($24-$60), wood-fired flatbreads ($22-$28), charcoal grill items ($39-$188) and a host of other meat and seafood items “from the pan” ($22-$69), plus good selections of hors d’oeuvres, salads, soups, sides and desserts.

Thought the restaurant was trying to match the water with the nice cosy chairs!

The first thing we were attracted to was the “non mineral nor sparkling” water they served us – whether warm and cold, it was a lovely blue! When asked, our server told us that the color comes from the butterfly pea flower which is said to have loads of antioxidants and health benefits for the body. Apparently the hotel was taking part in Singapore International Water Week 2019 and offering a healthy alternative for serving water was one of their contributions. Well, that’s rather ingenious I must say!

Super cool bread basket.

We thought of trying one of their hand-crafted, sourdough-based flatbreads but was quickly told that for every table, a bread basket will be provided. And what a great basket it was, there were five different types of yummy bread—the chewy mini-baguette was my fave—with portions enough for two, served with salted and seaweed butter. (So good I actually contemplate coming on my own next time and maybe just have a small charcuterie and cheese platter along with this bread basket!)

A carnivore’s delight: the Ash & Elm Platter.

Except that even a regular charcuterie and cheese platter is way too much for one person (unless you really, really enjoy chewing lots and lots of meat!) We had a regular sized Ash & Elm Platter ($28/$48 for large) which comprises house-cured beef pastrami, house-smoked pork loin, air-dried pork belly, cold-roasted beef and pressé de foie gras with smoked duck. Every item was delicious in its own way but the platter was seriously big enough for a party of four. Went very well with the wonderful bread though and I kinda regretted not ordering a red wine to go with all these great red meat.

Love it when chefs put effort to make a dish look pretty.

Knowing the platter will have a lot of beef and pork—plus the fact that most of really nice sounding meat items (especially the steaks) were a tad expensive—we went for chicken for our second dish. The French free-range yellow chicken breast a la basquaise ($34) was alright — tasty but nothing out of the extraordinary. Top marks though go to its presentation and the delicious Basmati pilaf rice and sweet cherry tomatoes.

Seasonal Vegetables Persillade

For our “healthy” bit, we opted for a side of Seasonal Vegetables Persillade ($10) which is really “side dish” sized (read: not meant for a vegetarian meal). Still, it had a good mix of veggies including sweet corn, carrot, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, and long bean. Other choices for sides include homemade ratatouille ($10) and sauteed mushrooms ($10).

All in all, we really had an enjoyable time at Ash & Elm, definitely one of our most satisfying dinners. As we decided we needed a walk and will have coffee and dessert elsewhere, the total came up to about $85 which is decent for what we ordered. Will definitely come back again to try other items, especially the other charcuterie and cheese platters — and to enjoy that bread basket again!

Ash & Elm is at Level 1, InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road, S(188966). Breakfast: 6-10.30am daily; Lunch: 12pm-3pm (Mon to Sat); Sunday Champagne Brunch 12pm-3pm (Sundays); Dinner: 6-10.30pm daily.