Sunday, January 2, 2011

Green brunch

Singapore as a whole really surprised me. I was I guess expecting this anonymous, big city, full of tall buildings, very clean, and not a lot else. I certainly did get all of this, but it was so much greener and comfortable and full of air than I had expected. I'm definitely going back again. And another great surprise was when Eunice took us out for brunch, it was to a place that would not have been out of place in London.

One of the big frustrations with living in Hong Kong is that I feel that cafes and restaurants here are all so identikit, it's almost like there is a manual for making nice, shiny, anonymous places with absolutely no character or design about them. When I went back to London for Christmas, the thing I loved most was walking around Soho, seeing little cafes like Flat White, the fact that Banksy had just done a pop up gallery next to a bunch of sex shops, still spotting new graffiti by Invader, getting annoyed that Koya was closed... How surprised I was then when something in Singapore really embodied the spirit of this, albeit in somewhere that looks like a strip mall on first site.

House on Dempsey Hill is an ambitious project that seems to encompass a restaurant, a spa, a retail shop, and a corporate conference centre in some space by the trees. You could call the place completely design over function, as the dining room features an over-sized table that patrons eat under, arm chairs which are too low to sit in and eat, drinks served in jam jars, but the place really won me over. It also helps that their house slogan/poem made me wonder whether they had stolen lyrics from the Manics, but that's another story...

I read in their funky over-designed newspaper menu that one of the chefs is a graduate from Peter Gordon, and the fusion influences are clear to see, although in some ways the menu is play-it-safe with more brunch classics like eggs, asparagus and hollandaise and French toast. What is innovative though is their presentation. I did love their choice of crockery, all so deliberately mismatched and shabby chic. Although I still think any chef putting sauce in a shot glass should just be shot:

After our massive amounts of pigging out, I went for their Ahi Taki Salad, which was really very good. We were all debating on how to recreate this at home, the tuna having been marinated in what we guess is soy, chilli, fish sauce, tamarind, peppercorns.

They are also very famous for their thin crust pizzas, which are enormous. This is a English breakfast version of it, easily would have fed a family of four:

Their dessert and cakes menu allows their strength in food design to shine. Everything is again impeccably presented, but potentially at the expense of flavour. For example, their grapefruit tart with green tea pastry was stunning visually, but the actual taste was way too tart, with both grapefruit and lemon, and the huge blob of solid meringue didn't really belong.

The spa and retail shop upstairs has equally the same amounts of attitude, with a browbar, someone making cakes live, and lots of too expensive toiletries. They also managed to steal $2 from me for a Sylvia Plath pencil, but I loved the fact that they sell Sylvia Plath pencils! Oh what I would give for a place like this in Hong Kong!

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