COCONUTS CRITIC’S TABLE — Despite the fact that his self-claimed mentor Guy Savoy chose to bid adieu to Marina Bay Sands just last year, Chef Gordon Ramsay has said fuck it (as he often does) and taken a gamble by opening Bread Street Kitchen near its ashes.
So we have ourselves yet another celebrity chef in town, and Ramsay could be the best qualified for the title. Running top-rated restaurants around the globe, and with 16 Michelin Stars awarded for his efforts, Ramsay’s face and ferocious temper have crept into many of our living rooms through his ongoing TV hits.
In 2013 Ramsay landed on the island, and in a big publicity stunt challenged three local chefs to a cook-off of their specialty dishes. After the event, he stated, “I can say without a doubt that the people of Singapore have much to be proud of: authentic, genuine, simple food that is of amazing quality and full of flavor.”
Similar adjectives can be used to describe the menu at BSK. A mixture of British classics and traditional European dishes with a twist, the menu represents him fully. Born in Scotland, raised in England, Ramsay has studied under several esteemed French chefs and traveled extensively throughout the world collecting new flavors.
Tending to the needs of all of his restaurants, including five other BSKs around the world, Ramsay has put Sabrina Stillhart at the head of his local branch. We were eager to find out if this Swiss chef, who helped in the opening of the original rightfully named Bread Street location in London, is worthy of being hailed the best female chef in Singapore.
The interior designers have succeeded at checking the shopping mall vibe at the door. There is a playful contrast between elements such as traditional checkered tiles, mustard leather upholstery, and a backsplash of vintage globes and library lamps, with a sprinkling of modern industrial chic trimmings like the black steel panels that frame an orange geometric patterned ceiling and funky cage-wired lights. Although it is the mosaic flooring made from Singaporean manhole covers in the entrance, as well as a panoramic view of the city skyscrapers that best help distinguish this restaurant from the London original.
English originals are what we felt curious to sample, however the Shepherd’s Pie we ordered was not available on the night of our visit. We couldn’t help imagining Ramsay’s fury knowing that we were denied this simple dish commonly found in home kitchens. We opted for fish and chips ($26), which turned out to be the least impressive plate of the night. Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the perfectly battered ling (a type of cod flown in from New Zealand) and mint-flavored crushed peas, however the chips were nothing to write home about and overall no better than what you could pick up at the average London chip shop — or Smiths for those staying on the island.
So on to to the star dishes, as there were most definitely several that impressed us. We started with a cutting board covered in finely sliced cured meats (soppressata, prosciutto, salt pork) and a ramekin filled with pickles, olives and balsamic onion ($25), all shipped in from the London headquarters. Our standout hot starters included a beetroot tart ($20) topped with a goat cheese dollop resembling soft meringue and drizzled with a balsamic glaze. The seared scallops ($24) were served on a soft pillow of carrot purée, each delicately topped with julienned apple, celery cress and cured bacon.
The thick slabs of slow-roasted pork belly ($28) used in our second main were sourced from Dingly Dell, a British farm proving that happy pigs make for delicious pork. The meat is served atop a spiced applesauce with finely diced Granny Smiths, providing a tart contrast to the salty crackling.
Our waiter suggested we pick a side dish, as the pork is served alone. This pairing may have been better made with the chef’s own selection, as the macaroni and cheese ($16), with a mixture of cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella and sprinkled with horseradish and bread crumbs, was a heavy addition to the fatty slabs of pork. The creamy pasta would perhaps be better reserved for one of the lighter dishes.
Despite the heavy meal, we were still keen for a sweet finale and went with the sticky toffee pudding ($18), which fell short, lacking in the level of sweet goo for which this dish is famous, and simply resembling a slice of banana bread.
Visiting a celebrity chef’s restaurant that strikes a balance between casual, family-friendly intimacy (the kids’ menu includes a chef’s hat and coloring book) and fashionably-hip elegance (the two bars shake up ultra-classic cocktails including a circa-1934 Cosmo recipe) is refreshing. Is all of this enough to keep the doors open longer than Savoy? Only time will tell.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands #01-81
2 Bayfront Avenue, S 018972 Singapore
Tel: +65 66885665, www.marinabaysands/breadstreetkitchen
Thu & Fri 11:30am-12am
Coconuts Critic’s Table reviews are written based on unannounced restaurant visits by our writers and paid for by Coconuts Singapore. No freebies here.