Friday, April 12, 2013

Singapore slinging - part 4: Pollen

The new Gardens by the Bay attraction by Singapore's Marina Bay was high on my list of 'touristy things to do' when I visited last year.

It just happened to get ticked off one day after an impromptu lunch at Pollen restaurant - a new addition to the Singapore fine dining scene within the expansive Gardens by the Bay grounds.

Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay, Singapore
With all the affordable food options in Singapore, I hadn't planned for any fine dining so it was a pleasant surprise to be whizzing through Gardens by the Bay in a seatbelt-free golf cart to the Flower Dome, where Pollen awaited with its smart, climate-controlled interiors.

Pollen at the Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Pollen is said to be a "Mediterranean-inspired modern European" restaurant, from the same chef and group as London's popular Pollen Street Diner.

It's most appropriate that the restaurant is located within, essentially, a huge flower and plant house showcasing flora from all over the world in a necessarily temperature-controlled environment.

Pollen dining room
The almost chilly restaurant interiors were a sharp change from the Singapore outdoors, though the locals didn't seem at all bothered.

The spacious restaurant is surrounded by garden greenery, giving it quite the relaxing, getaway feel. There was very much a corporate crowd at lunch, in addition to the requisite ladies of leisure and indeed, couples of leisure.

Plates at Pollen

Complimentary bread
To start there were a few varieties of bread, served with butter, olives and a decidedly Mediterranean bacalao salted cod spread that had me starting to forget that I was in Singapore.

Pollen offers a set three-course lunch that seems reasonable at S$70 given the a la carte pricing. Our group was split between the two options, with the set menu portions noticeably smaller in the end.

Jerusalem artichoke soup, roasted scallop, squid, eggplant puree
Off the set menu was a creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup, served at the table from a small, shiny saucepan. The foamy soup joined a large, golden, pan-fried scallop and baby squid, tentacles and all, and was easily one of the most luxe soups I've tasted.

Crab cocktail, avocado, sweet corn sorbet, caviar on toast
One of the popular a la carte entrées was the generously filled martini glass of crab meat, served with a sorbet of sweet corn and avocado puree beneath, creating a somewhat familiar combination.

Pimping it up was the caviar served in what looked like a beauty cream jar of crème fraiche. The set menu featured a similar entrée as a smaller size sans caviar and crisp breads.

Roasted quail "brunch", foie gras on toast, cereals, quail tea
From the a la carte menu, the roasted quail dish was quite the sight of earthy browns and golden surfaces. The small bird looked perfectly cooked atop a dark risotto with something that quite resembled a potato gem.

Quail dish's foie gras on toast and quail tea
Proving the value of the a la carte pricing, the quail dish actually came in three parts with quail "tea" consommé and foie gras mousse accompanying the elaborate entrée.

Line-caught John Dory, saffron mash, "bouillabaisse"
One of the set menu main options was a John Dory dish, with the fish sourced all the way from France. It was served as a lightly pan-fried boneless fillet atop of sturdy quenelle of saffron-touched mashed potato done exceptionally well.

The squid ink-cooked squid and vegetables were really just props with the real flavour coming from the "bouillabaisse" seafood-based broth, presented and poured around the fish at the table.

Braised Welsh lamb shoulder, lamb cutlet, baby gem, baked celeriac
One of the other set menu dishes featured lamb two ways: a medium-rare cutlet, in all its fatty glory, propped up on a crumbed square of lamb shoulder, tenderly pulled and full of meaty flavour.

The grilled baby gem lettuce and celeriac were much-needed additions to bulk out the dish, which looked a few cutlets short of a main meal.

Palate cleanser: Lemongrass jelly with passionfruit espuma
It was a memorable palate cleanser that was served after the mains: a clear jelly flavoured with lemongrass, topped with an espuma foam of high-impact passionfruit that totally overwhelmed the jelly, but was lovable nonetheless.

"Ocumare cremeux", pistachio parfait, honey saffron ice cream, toasted brioche
Pollen's concept and technique really seemed to shine come dessert time, with many a pretty option on both lunch menus.

The pistachio parfait dessert looked fit for the gardens with its decorative leaf and soil-like chocolate bits beneath an intriguing honey saffron ice cream.

Crispy and burnt lemon meringue with cucumber sorbet
Meanwhile, I had quite the exciting dessert of many flavours and textures. Two meringues for starters: a soft, stickily torched Italian-style meringue and a hard-shelled one that the child in me loved cracking with a spoon.

Cubes of mango and a refreshing green cucumber sorbet were offset with flakes of black - salt, perhaps - although I was too enamoured with the meringues to notice.

"Japanese green tea", raspberry sorbet, yoghurt mousse
It was a fun clash of colours with the green tea dessert featuring some liquid nitrogen-frozen green tea crumble - or perhaps it was the yoghurt mousse topped with frozen raspberry bits.

In any case, the fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet and dense, moist green tea flavoured cake made for a joyfully harmonious, if not too sweet, dessert.

A la carte dessert
One of the dessert's off the a la carte menu was completely too much for me to take in; mostly due to the oversized rock it was served on.

I have no idea what the dessert was and no idea whether I'd be able to enjoy a sweet dish when I'd be too concerned over the source/weight/type/brittleness of the rock.

Petit fours selection
Pollen is renowned for its dessert and petit fours bar and it's no wonder really. Even for a non-sweet tooth, it was quite a sight seeing jars and row upon row of delicate hand-made chocolates, sweets and cakes just waiting for diners to finish their desserts.

Chocolate pop

Petit fours
I can't even remember what I had, washed down with a macchiato, but I do remember the table's collective admiration for each little, specially crafted piece.

View back on Gardens by the Bay
For me - the tourist - the setting and surroundings just outclassed the food at Pollen (though not the top-notch service). However, I'm definitely glad that I got the chance to check out Pollen and its garden surrounds - one can always fit a little fine dining into a touristy schedule.

See more photos from Singapore's Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands on my Facebook page. A final Singapore post to come, on a hawker food centre.


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

When I was in singapore this was just being built. All I saw was a massive dirt land. Amazing to see the final outcome. I am in awe over that japanese green tea and raspbery dessert. It looks so intriguing!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The crab salad caught my eye-the caviar accompaniment is just about the most delicious partner I can think of to crab! :)

john | heneedsfood said...

I was a shame the gardens were still under construction when I was in SQ last year. Had they been open I'm sure I would have eaten at Pollen. Looks great! Although, the big white rock is a little odd.

Anonymous said...

I like the looks of the quail dish and the fact that it came in 3 pieces. Desserts look super interesting too, lots of elements, textures, flavours. How much is S$70 in Aussie $?

Maureen said...

I drooled through this post until I got to the photo with the white rock and thought, "what the heck is that and did she eat it?" Then I read that it was a rock and felt stupid. :)

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Oh wow the gardens look fab! And everything looked superb, except that rock lol :D

Tina said...

Hi Tina - The gardens are quite a sight; even if it's touristy... ;)

Hi Lorraine - It looks so much like a beauty product, I thought!

Hi John - It was a great experience that started and ended with the golf cart :D

Hi lateraleating - I don't remember our exchange rate, but we just did "AU dollars, but cheaper" in our heads! :)

Hi Maureen - It was shocking and novel, but pretty weird...

Hi Angie - We ate everything but the rock!

Spencer said...

Looks like my kind of place. I'm loving those petit fours!


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