How could we possibly visit Singapore and not eat at the Asian cousin of our favourite London restaurant? Actually, we hadn't intended to do so but after two nights eating in food courts, we had 'saved' enough money to justify this as a last lunch splurge before flying on to Sydney.
The first obvious difference between the two is that we hadn't needed to book weeks in advance. Indeed, when we turned up 15 minutes early there was no trouble in seating us immediately since the restaurant was two thirds empty. This is a shame since the original Pollen Street Social is a vibrant, lively place no matter what time of day you are there. It certainly doesn't need to resort to the canned music which was too much in evidence on this occasion. Conversely, the Singapore location beats its London counterpart hands down: adjacent to the excellent Flower Dome, part of the Gardens by the Bay complex, it has its own internal garden and is partially open to the elements. Disconcertingly, this means that small birds often fly through the room looking for gourmet crumbs. (I think Jason Atherton should avoid replicating this with London pigeons....). Early TA reviewers seemed very exercised about the inaccessibility of the restaurant which is puzzling since it is only a short walk from Marina Bay Sands. If you prefer to arrive by taxi, you are picked up by a golf buggy and driven through the Gardens which are worth a visit themselves.
So what of the main deal, the food? To my mind, although both savoury courses were good, they were not in the PSS league. They were preceded by the customary large olives (not quite the same iridescent green as in London, though.) and salt cod dip (better and more fishy here) but also by a very generous portion of succulent deep-fried baby squid served with a hot red chilli sauce.
From the pris fixe lunch menu we both opted for the crabmeat starter which was a work of art in terms of its presentation but to my taste was lacking in flavour and seasoning. The white crab meat was accompanied by wafer thin slices of cauliflowers and a slice of Japanese pear with peanuts scattered over it. The main course, fried red snapper, came in the form of a large piece of fish on a bed of saffron mash, topped with 2 prawns and an artichoke with a rich sauce 'Bouillabaisse' poured over. This was colourful, robust and pleasant eating although again not at the level of PSS; the fish was just slightly overcooked, its skin not quite crisp enough, and the whole dish was cooler than I prefer.
Having begun to reach a conclusion about the overall standard of cooking, to my great surprise at the dessert course the kitchen suddenly raised its performance by one if not two levels. My wife inevitably chose what she thinks is her fourth incarnation of Jason's famous PBJ since his Maze days and pronounced it the best version to date. My choice was an 'Ocumare Cremeux' which translates as pistachio parfait with honey saffron and a toasted brioche base, better presented than the dessert I had in PSS this January and even more delicious. The dessert chef was clearly on a roll since he followed this up with a complementary mini-Magnum apiece (truffle and honey ice cream beneath the chocolate casing which seemed to have been dusted with a fruit flavour, possibly black currant) and 3 large macaroons before, stomachs groanin, we polished off a plate of petit fours with our coffees.
A bill of about $S300 makes this a trifle more costly than the London restaurant but Singapore is not a cheap city and I suspect that this is probably par for the course so far as fine dining is concerned.
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