My friend Evie was back in Singapore and I thought I would spring a birthday surprise on her. I asked if she would like to go to the newly open Gardens by the Bay and perhaps be interested in having a meal at Pollen. She gamely said yes.
Helmed by Jason Atherton whose first venture, Esquina, is a hit in Singapore, Pollen is set to bedazzle the crowd with modern European fare with a hint Mediterranean flavours. Pollen is also the only restaurant that is located inside the conservatories (it is located in the Flower Dome). And apparently, they get their herbs and vegetables from their in-house garden.
There are two seatings for lunch – noon and 1.30pm. At the time I made the reservation, I was only left with the 1.30pm seating. Both Evie and I got really hungry around 1pm, so we went ahead to Pollen and hoped that we can have our lunch earlier. We were ushered in to the restaurant and we were told that we could order some drinks while we wait till 1.30pm for our lunch.
After a 15 minute wait, the maître d’ came and asked if we had a reservation. I gave him the details and the next moment we were guided to the lower level of the restaurant. We didn’t take too long to decide what we wanted. We both chose the set lunch which was reasonably priced at S$55 and it included a starter, a main and a dessert.
Once we ordered our food, the staff brought us the bread basket – we had a choice of sourdough and baguette – we greedily grab both. To go with our bread, we had butter, olives and this small dish of mashed trout and potatoes (with garlic and olive oil). That tiny plate of mash was delicious – it was sweet, pungent and comforting. I had no idea where they got their olives from but they were equally spectacular. They were not oily or too acidic. I was just happily nibbling on them.
Both Evie and I chose two different starters. Evie had Pertuna ocean trout with aubergine while I went with the slow-cooked egg, chorizo and patatas bravas. Evie’s ocean trout was beautifully cooked – I think it was poached in olive oil. It was accompanied by an aubergine mousse which mellowed the flavour of the trout.
I surprised myself by ordering a starter that had both egg and pork. But I really wanted to try patatas bravas which were basically fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce. Though my starter was not as pretty as Evie’s, it was darn delicious. And it also came with a potato mousse. I got a bit of the tomato sauce, egg, potato mousse and the thinly slice chorizo on my spoon – it was warm and comforting. I even dipped my bread in some of the remaining sauce – nothing shall go to waste.
We ordered the same main – John Dory with minestrone and baby courgette. Once served, the maître d’ poured in the seafood broth. The broth was thin and rich – the taste reminded me of lobster bisque. The fish was not overcooked and had a good bite. It was quite a hearty main.
Before our desserts were served to us, Evie and I ordered some coffee. Halfway through the coffee, Evie was worried that they forgot our dessert as we waited quite a while. I enquired about it and guess what, they really forgot about it. And how we knew? The executive pastry chef, Andres Lara personally served us our dessert. When the desserts were sent to our table, I could see the gas from the liquid nitrogen. Perhaps I watched too many Heston Blumenthal’s cooking shows, I was hoping for more “drama” but nothing happened. Just gas from the liquid nitrogen (I blame you, Heston).
Despite the anti-climax, the dessert – bitter chocolate banana with white sesame ice cream and caramel nitro – was my favourite dish. It was not overly sweet. Though I did not detect the white sesame flavour in the ice cream, I absolutely love the chocolate banana crumble. And there was a pomelo or grapefruit sorbet that was snuck in, it was a much needed palate cleanser.
At the end of the lunch, we were served with a petite four to share. It consisted of two flavoured marshmallows and two types of nougat. All were really good and went well with our coffee. The only problem was we wanted another plate – they shouldn’t make us share.
While we waited for our bill, the maître d’ came and apologised on the service. I readily admit that the service was shaky and it was rather hard to get the attention of the staff. However the food compensated for everything – they were too good to be ignored. This was definitely one of the best meals I had for the year.Pollen
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Opening hours: 12.00pm–2.30pm, 6.00pm – 10.00pm (daily)