January 25, 2016

Food Review: Bread Street Kitchen

The name Gordon James Ramsay may have different effects of different people - but the underlying sense of awe would be a common feature. 

I was quite excited that he decided to open Bread Street Kitchen in our little island's Marina Bay Sands, right next to a spectacular view of the waterfront. Described as 'Sophistication meets casual dining', it features some of Ramsay's best pub food and British-European grub, and it has already made waves in the local food scene, along with the occasional appearance by Mr Ramsay himself (a big selling point for many diners).

As a Singaporean, the idea of travelling to Marina Bay Sands was not favoured by me. I've been once or twice (the first time was to DB bistro but that's a review for another day), but evidently, distance is a small issue when it comes to food. 

It's not difficult to make a reservation at Bread Street Kitchen - I just popped online to make my reservation - a day later had my email confirmation (I've had experiences with telephone reservations only to turn up and find my reservation missing with no concrete proof of my call), and another day later a call to confirm and remind me of my attendance. 

I'll be honest and say I was glad it was not a frou-frou dining establishment. Humbly-sized with vintage decor and a full bar, all the staff were dressed in smart-casual with big smiles on their face and observant glances as they busy themselves with service in a full restaurant. Gunmetal black furnishings, an exposed kitchen behind the bar and tall glass walls to utilise the beautiful waterfront view and sunlight. 

I was seated quickly since I had a reservation - ushered to my seat with a full view of the restaurant. My server made quick work of my drinks as I took in the surroundings, and while she poured my water another stepped in with a selection of warm bread, served with a slab of butter and a dish of what I assume is olive oil or melted butter or both.

I did not have much of my bread, because I fully intended to eat to my fullest.

Diving right into the food - I kicked off my meal with a cold starter of Spicy tuna tartar ($19)

Served with sour cream and wonton crisps, this was a zinger dish. Meaning it kick-starts your appetite well, with its addition of chili, garlic, sesame oil marinating a cool dish of fresh tuna. The fish had a clean-cut freshness to it, seasoned well without overpowering. Piled on a crispy warm wonton crisp with a dab of sour cream, it transforms into multiple textures and was a lovely start. 

Of course, a hot starter would be needed for me now that our cold dish has successfully whet the appetite with some Seared scallops with carrot puree, treacle cured bacon, apple, celery cress ($24)

While seared scallops are common as warm starters, these precious shellfish are notoriously easy to mess up in a dish, and easy to overcook. These scallops, however, were lovingly caramelised on their surface, seared brown just so while keeping their plump flesh soft, pearly white with just a touch of pink in the middle. Paired with sweet accessories like the carrot puree, tart apple slices, the savoury touch of treacle cured bacon, and a touch of aroma from the celery cress. 

Well and truly remaining true to the seafood, this dish was an understated classic and made me very excited for the rest of my impending meal. 

My main was a point of contention for me - since the beef wellington was not on the menu (I assume it's because I was there for lunch) I was between ordering the recommended dishes, between the grill selection ranging from beef to lamp chops, to the classic pub grub of Shepherd's Pie or Fish & Chips.

At the recommendation of my server, I went with the Fish & Chips ($26) - enticed by the addition of the smashed peas and chips, and I also recalled seeing Ramsay making these once or twice in his kitchen on screen and found myself jealous of his family, who seemed to be immensely enjoying their comfort food.

While Fish & Chips is not my idea of a comfort food, it was still a good main to order.

I was a little deflated at seeing only one serving of fish on my board, but as we go on you will find that this one serving of crispy fried fish was justified. Alongside a tin of thick cut chips, a dish of smashed peas and tartar sauce, everything about this dish was familiar and welcoming to me.

A spritz of lemon, and I cut into my relatively thick fish, delightfully reveling in the aromatic steam released with the guarantee of a crispy batter announced by the obvious crackling as my knife sunk into the slab. 

Beautifully seasoned prior to being coated in the batter and cooked, the fish was a generous slice of delicious flavours and just ridiculously moist. There was no uncooked layer of batter, a faux pas easily committed to fish cooked this way. The reasonably thinly coated batter on the white fish was crispy all around, really placing focus on the meat, which could well be eaten on its own, actually. Of course, I didn't hesitate to smother on some tartar sauce and smashed peas, so no matter how I ate it, this could do no wrong for me. 

One would think that three courses and a bread basket would be adequate for someone who was dining solo on this occasion - but I've never been a quitter and so I added a very modest side of Macaroni and cheese with garlic roasted crumbs ($16). 

(I am also physically incapable of not ordering Macaroni and cheese in any form if I see it on any menu.) So if Gordon Ramsay's menu has the good ol' mac n' cheese on it, I am getting it come hell or high water. 

What I can say about the Macaroni and cheese here, is that you shouldn't underestimate the portion. It is presented in quite a small-sized dish, but it is a very filling side. 

While the dish itself is luxuriously creamy, the crumb sprinkled atop of it really finishes off the Macaroni and cheese perfectly, providing a different texture while giving it a subtle hint of garlic and an aftertaste of nutmeg. They didn't use a strong or sharp cheese, providing mildness without it being boringly bland or underwhelming. 

While I slowly made my way through my meal, my server routinely came over to check if things were alright (I have a very stoic expression as a default), refilling my water, attentive smiles and ensuring I had everything I need. I was dining alone so I didn't have anyone to distract me while I was eating, observing the environment around me. All around all the diners seemed to be having a good time over food, even chatting animatedly with different managers and staff about the food or wine. The bar was bustling (it was close to 4 in the afternoon), tables were always cleared quickly, wine refilled, big smiles all around whether staff or customer. 

At some point a couple of unruly (read: unreasonable) men just waltzed into the establishment from behind me, opening up the glass doors behind me with no permission and demanding something from one of the managers, who had to handle the situation without causing alarm or triggering an even bigger reaction from these very rude customers. After two cases of the same men barging in, the same manager calmly and firmly requested the men leave, and locked the glass doors. 

As my server cleared my table, he spoke to me about the dessert menu, and I of course, could not pass up a chance on dessert. Recommending me different desserts, the server spoke fondly of several different sweets, from a refreshing course of pineapple carpaccio with sorbet to cleanse the palate, to a rich chocolate brownie, to the popular banana toffee pudding. 

I went with the Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding with muscovado caramel and clotted cream ($18), to which the server very happily complied (it was his personal favourite).    

I have to say when I put in my reservation I mentioned that I would be documenting the experience due to the nature of the occasion, which was my birthday -- so the lovely staff decided to help me celebrate with a cute message and a myriad of birthday wishes from the staff and managers on duty. 

I was further congratulated on my birthday by the strangers seated around me - particularly two very lovely ladies having a lunch at the table next to me, who offered me a glass of wine or dessert. I'll be honest and say it was a little overwhelming but it made me smile. 

Back to this pudding - let me tell you I've had many a pudding - from sticky date to bread and butter, but this banana toffee pudding was just a slice of decadence for me. Glazed in a warm toffee sauce was a log of steaming, moist pudding, with darkened layers of caramelised bananas infused within. The bottom was a crust of beautiful things, packed with flavour and the whole slice was absolutely soaked through with whatever magic Ramsay used in his pudding syrup to concoct this wondrous creation. 

You would think that the rich cream paired with this would be an overkill but for some reason the cream only sought to amplify the flavours of the pudding, wiping the slate for my next mouthful of toffee goodness. 

If anyone reading this needs any convincing that trying out Bread Street Kitchen is definitely worth your time and money, I hope this post was adequate. The dishes are beautifully classic with no frills or unnecessary additions to make it fancy, the place is lovely and quaint with excellent service - there's not much else a diner would wish for in a meal.

At the present moment, I'm just looking forward to going back because I simple will not rest until I've tried the beef wellington (and basically every other item on the menu). 

Bread Street Kitchen can be located at:

Bay Level, L1-81 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 018956
Tel: 6688 5665

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