Lunch in the Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens are one of many places in Singapore where you can enjoy a lunch surrounded by lush greenery. Even at night these green spaces offer a sparkly world of fairy lights and a quiet that you just don’t get in the city. The Botanic Gardens are probably the most accessible green area close to town and you can really feel a million miles away. Towards the end of last year a new dining option entered the Botanic Gardens with the opening of The Garage at Cluny Park Gate. Actually it was two dining options. There’s a casual cafe downstairs called Bee’s Knees and a slightly more upmarket (and air conditioned) venue upstairs called Botanico. Last week I visited Botanico.
Here’s a quick summary of Bee’s Knees. Firstly, you are now allowed to sit outside with your pooch. Given the casual setting that’s made up of a majority of outdoor seating it seemed silly not to allow dogs in the beginning. Food and drinks are ordered at the bar and then served to your table. The menu is a simple cafe style, offering eggs, croissants, sandwiches and salads, pizzas and sweet treats.
If you head around to the side of the building you’ll find stairs leading up to Botanico. The room has been lovingly restored, with black and white beams, simple furnishings and a lovely, green outlook. Service on our visit had its moments. Generally it was ok but there were a few strange things that happened like after we ordered a bottle of sparkling water our iced water glasses were taken away. Why? No idea.
The lunch time menu is a simple choice of a 2 course ($35++) or 3 course ($45++) lunch. There are three choices each for starters and mains, and two dessert options. The menu is seasonally driven (I think even McDonald’s is seasonally driven these days!) and the choice we were given seemed to reflect that.
Bread is served to begin. A lovely basket with two slices of sourdough and two of rye bread. I was ravenous after a morning workout so I tried the sourdough first, it was so good that I decided to go for a piece of the rye as well. The bread was gorgeously soft and fresh with a crunchy outside. The butter was a rich blend with a strong smokey flavour that was highly addictive. A great start.
For my starter I went for the Heirloom Tomatoes with black olive ‘soil’ (where is my eyeroll emoji?), preserved lemon and smoked anchovies. This beautifully presented dish had my tastebuds all in a tizz at moments but the tomatoes and the ‘soil’ let the team down. The tomatoes were well seasoned and had been peeled for a good mouthfeel and soft texture. Ultimately though they lacked flavour and the zing of the preserved lemon and the salty smokiness of the anchovies couldn’t save it.
My dining partner, Moo, went for the Smoked Farm Egg but she gobbled it so quickly I didn’t get to try! The egg looked lovely and the pork tender, but I think she found it a little on the rich side. The other choice on the menu was Hokkaido Scallops Carpaccio with ricotta, raspberries and Jerusalem artichokes.
Next up we both went for the Smoked Iberico Pork Belly. I could let the picture do the talking in this case because it did live up to its visual appeal. The flavour combinations were gorgeous, the subtle and clean carrot noodles breaking up the rich meat and sherry sour sauce. The meat itself was tender, not too fatty and well seasoned. Possibly worth a return visit in itself. The other mains offered were a cuttlefish tagliatelle with cheese and a smoked egg yolk, or a glazed beef cheek.
We skipped dessert but could have chosen between a cucumber sorbet with apple, coconut foam and kaffir lime or warm organic chocolate with ginger ice-cream and brownie croutons. Instead we both decided to have a post lunch beverage. I chose to try a coffee, I’d heard that coffee downstairs was underwhelming but I risked it anyway. Big mistake. Huge. I’ve included a photo because I knew as soon as it arrived that it was going to taste like dishwater. And it did. I had one mouthful and couldn’t take another sip.
The coffee was bitter, the milk was slightly burnt and it was super weak. I actually decided to tell the waiter before we got the bill, to see what he would do. Unfortunately he didn’t do anything and I have to say that was a big X on my list. He probably hadn’t been trained properly but all staff should know that if a meal or a drink hasn’t been touched, and there’s something wrong with it, there should be some effort to explain or redeem the situation in some way. This wasn’t the cafe downstairs it was a restaurant charging city prices and the standards simply should be better.
I feel bad ending this post on a rant so I will say that I would re-visit Botanico. I’d love to go at night and see how the backdrop of the Botanic Gardens works with the space. I’d also quite like to try the Sunday brunch that’s just started from 11.30am to 3pm on Sundays. There’s a fixed price for food of $65++ per head, and they serve AIX Rosé at $80++ per bottle. I can easily visualise a relaxed Sunday afternoon in the Botanic Gardens sipping Rosé on the terrace!
Botanico and Bee’s Knees at The Garage
50 Cluny Park Road, Singapore (Cluny Park Gate)
phone +65 9831 1106