2 revamped hotel restaurants to try this weekend

The Ritz-Carlton Millenia and InterContinental Singapore refurbish their restaurants to offer us “Asian heritage dishes”, house-cured meats and fresh breads

1. Colony
1. Colony
09 Dec 2015

1. Colony

L3, THE RITZ-CARLTON, MILLENIA SINGAPORE, 7 RAFFLES AVE, S038799. TEL: 6434-5288. Open daily 6.30am-10.30am; noon-2.30pm; 6.30pm-10.30pm. Last orders 15 mins before closing. www.ritzcarlton.com

The word ‘buffet’ often strikes fear in the heart of discerning epicureans. After all, buffets usually suggest quantity over quality. Fortunately, Colony offers both. Replacing the 19 year-old Greenhouse cafe on the third level of The Ritz-Carlton Millenia, this colonial restaurant boasts eight street stall-style open kitchens, each helmed by a chef, and serves a myriad of Asian heritage dishes like dim sum, rojak, and Indian curries that you’ll want to have seconds and thirds of. Instead of just being a clutch of food stations in a generic hotel buffet restaurant, there is an element of showmanship at the various live stations with chefs doubling up as performers, whether it’s flambéing a crepe suzette, stretching out handmade noodles or simply shucking fresh French oysters. Prices start from $45 per pax for lunch and $78 on Sun-Thurs for dinner; $88 on Fri-Sat.

THE LOOK: Posh without being intimidating. The devil is in the details at this 260-seater restaurant designed by award-winning interior designer, Tony Chi, who has worked on restaurants for Alain Ducasse. Nostalgia permeates the overall theme without being too tacky. The colonial English décor draws inspiration from sea voyages the British took in the late eighteenth century, and there are leather-bound chesterfields, vintage photos and maps to tie in the look. Perhaps this is what it felt like to be part of the upper crust living it up in the old days.

Colony: The Food
Colony: The Food
09 Dec 2015

Colony: The Food

The Chicken Rice (above left) is a surprising hit. The recipe is by Hainanese chef de cuisine, Leo Kee Meng. You won’t be able to resist the deliciously plump, chicken fat-infused grains or moist bird. Easily one of the best we’ve had. Also spot on: the Sri Lanka Chilli Mud Crab (above right). Scooping up the unctuous, uniquely sesame-tinged gravy with fried mantou is a must. 

Colony: The Food
Colony: The Food
09 Dec 2015

Colony: The Food

Other hits are the Iberico Suckling Pig, succulent and fork tender flesh with Balinese spice rub, and the collagen-rich and flavourful Sop Buntut (above left, Indonesian oxtail soup). Remember to save space for dessert! If you only have room for one thing at the dessert station, make a beeline for the Strawberry Shortcake with its pillowy soft sponge layered with juicy berries and fluffy whipped cream. But we also highly recommend the Homemade Ice Cream, especially the Earl Grey and Chendol ones.

Also, we’re told that the Laksa (above right) with homemade lobster balls is a hot fave here. Made from live lobster, each oversized globe is smooth and bouncy, but rather tasteless without the rich and flavourful laksa gravy or the fragrant house-made sambal.

While drinks are usually a waste of stomach space at buffets, there are handcrafted specialty cocktails ($22 each) here, shaken and stirred tableside by a mixologist. Yes, it’s gimmicky, but we love the showmanship and storytelling aspect as he explains how each cocktail, inspired by the passage from Great Britain to the East Indies, is created. Go for the Long Journey, a bittersweet spin on the traditional whiskey sour made with Irish stout and whisky.

BOTTOM LINE: Colony has single-handedly changed our view on buffets. Almost everything here — including the charming retro décor — is a hit. This is the place for all sorts of gatherings where good food and company is required.
 

2. Ash & Elm
2. Ash & Elm
09 Dec 2015

2. Ash & Elm

INTERCONTINENTAL SINGAPORE, LEVEL 1, S188966. TEL: 6825-1008. Open daily noon-2pm (semi-buffet lunch); noon-3pm (a la carte lunch); 6pm-10.30pm (a la carte dinner). Last orders 15 mins before closing. intercontinental.com/singapore

After 20 years, InterContinental Singapore has finally replaced old-school Mediterranean-themed restaurant Olive Tree with the sleek and modern Ash & Elm, a modern European dining concept with three separate culinary theatres including a charcuterie and cheese room, a wood-fired oven and an open charcoal-grill kitchen. There’s a semi-buffet lunch ($48 with a main course and free-flow appetisers and desserts; $58 if you choose Australian beef as the main event) and also a la carte lunch and dinner. Opt for a counter seat overlooking the main open kitchen to watch the chefs at work.

THE LOOK: The stylish contemporary décor with exotic marble and aged oak accents lends the 140-seater restaurant an air of elegance, while a skylight canopy that runs the length of the dining area alters the atmosphere by changing colour palette throughout the day. For couples looking for a little privacy, we recommend nestling into one of many cosy enclaves filled with plush leather seats. If you want an Instagrammable backdrop, chope the only semi-circle booth fitted with exquisite Paul Smith textile.

Ash & Elm: The Food
Ash & Elm: The Food
09 Dec 2015

Ash & Elm: The Food

The stars of the menu are really the selection of hearty a la carte sharing platters with house-cured and premium meats from the Charcuterie & Cheese Room and Open-Grill Kitchen. For an all-round winner with robust flavours that hit every note, go for the Ash & Elm Platter (above left, $24 small for two pax/$42 large for four pax) with house-cured beef pastrami, house-smoked pork loin, air-dried rolled pork belly, cold-roasted beef and our favourite, the pressé de foie gras with smoked duck. The latter is a layered terrine which is so creamy it melts in your mouth like a savoury jelly shot.

We also suggest skipping the mains and opting for the Beef Tasting Platter (above right, $108; feeds two as a main course) instead. Grilled to perfection on a charcoal grill with Manuka woodchips from New Zealand, the French Skirt Steak, Australian Rib-Eye and New York Striploin are beautifully caramelised and juicy.  

Ash & Elm: The Food
Ash & Elm: The Food
09 Dec 2015

Ash & Elm: The Food

The breads from the Wood-Fired Oven station are so good they make us want to abandon our no-carb diet completely. We love the flat breads made a la minute in a wood-fired oven kindled with aromatic Jarrah hardwood from Western Australia. Especially the super fragrant Pumpkin and Bacon Flat Bread ($18) stuffed with parmesan and mascarpone cheese which has the texture of a fluffier naan. It arrives piping hot at our table in less than 10 minutes. There’s also the superb Chocolate Hazelnut Pizza (above, $24). This dessert tastes better than it sounds, with dark, milk and white chocolate oozing all over pillowy chocolate brioche topped with silky white chocolate ice cream. It’s meant to be shared, but it’s so good you’ll want to hoover it all up yourself.

BOTTOM LINE: Zoom in straight for the lovely sharing platters heaving with tasty house-cured meats and steaks in place of the middling mains. Also prepare to binge on the gorgeous baked-to-order breads here. The restaurant’s sexy ambience and private booth seats are perfect for dates.

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