Restaurant review: MEATliquor vs. London Fat Duck

This week, we check out MEATLIQUOR from London and LONDON FAT DUCK from, er, Singapore

MEATliquor
MEATliquor
23 Jun 2015

MEATliquor

99 DUXTON RD, S089543. TEL: 6221-5343. OPEN DAILY EXCEPT SUN AND MON. 5PM-2AM (3AM ON SAT). LAST ORDERS 1AM (FOOD); 1.30AM (DRINKS). WWW.MEATLIQUOR.COM

It’s 8.30pm on a Wednesday, and the two-week-old restaurant is full. “You can have a drink first at the bar,” says the grungy-slinky hostess in an LBD, her arms painted in tattoos. Rock music throbs amid the chatter of the mostly expat crowd. We perch on a stool beneath the neon-lit “SINgapore” sign. It’s dark here, the graffiti art-lined ceiling trippy, the crowd high-energy, the staff friendly yet cool. This is not a truck stop diner in LA Ink, but the English MEATliquor, an edgy burger-and-cocktail chain with long queues in London. This Duxton branch, which also doesn’t accept reservations for groups of less than eight, took over the short-lived southern American joint Life is Beautiful, and is the brand’s first overseas outpost. Just about every foodie, yuppie, and hipster is here tonight.

THE DRINKS: Although there’s the word “liquor” in its name, we don’t expect artisanal cocktails at a place that looks more like a gritty designer nightclub. So the New Cross Negroni ($22), served in a cute apothecary-style bottle, which you pour over ice, is perfectly acceptable if not life-changing. Adequately boozy, with hints of orange, honey and vanilla. Soon, we are shepherded to our table. Unsurprisingly, it is rocky and scrawled with graffiti like “Sweet whisky Jesus!” Our helpful server tries to stablise it with a wedge of paper, but it remains wobbly. All the better to eat our grungy grub off, we suppose, since it’s served sans plates on metal trays (lined with hip red-and-white paper).

THE SIDES: We want to kick things off with the unique-to-Singapore snacks of Sambal Chicken Wings and Fries, but they are sold out. According to our friend who has tried them, “the sambal is like a sweet, non-spicy chilli crab sauce for angmohs”. Instead, we have the piquant, juicy on the inside, crunchy on the outside Fried Pickles ($9) with blue cheese dip. And the Chili Cheese Fries ($18), nondescript shoestring potatoes smothered in eye-wateringly salty beef chili and cheddar.

MEATliquor
MEATliquor
23 Jun 2015

MEATliquor

THE BURGERS: We don’t know how to put this subtly, but the house special, the double-patty Dead Hippie ($22), tastes like a better Big Mac. Seriously. The American Angus chuck patties fried in mustard are a bit too thin to yield much discernable beef flavour and are almost well-done even though we’re told the meat here is cooked medium. At least they aren’t dry, and the mildly tangy Thousand Island dressing-ish “dead hippie sauce” and fluffy-squishy demi-brioche buns make the patties quite palatable. But the plain old Cheeseburger ($19, pictured above) fares much better. It’s got a thicker beef patty with a deeply crusty sear and decent amount of meaty flavour. Alas, it is only slightly better cooked — a whisper away from well-done, with barely any traces of pink left. The worst thing we eat tonight is the Buffalo Chicken Burger ($20): bone-dry chicken breast battered and slathered in a too-sour, too-salty blue cheese and hot sauce.

VERDICT: Go for the fun, raucous vibe, not so much the food. At least not until the kitchen is more settled in. The only impetus to dine here sooner rather than later? You may win a chance to eat for free via a generous game of dice this month. Yay for the ecstatic ladies beside us who got their bill waived. Boo for us — we paid in full.

London Fat Duck
London Fat Duck
23 Jun 2015

London Fat Duck

#B1-16/17 SCOTTS SQ, S228209. TEL: 6443-7866. OPEN DAILY. WEEKDAYS 11AM-10PM; WEEKENDS 10AM-10PM. LAST ORDERS 9.30PM. WWW.LONDONFATDUCK.COM.SG

You need plenty of patience to dine at London Fat Duck. We thought we’d beat the queue by turning up at 11am one weekend at the no-reservations eatery, but apparently a million other people had the same bright idea. And so we join the line outside the cramped, red-and-wood accented month-old Cantonese restaurant at Scotts Square. Inside, things don’t get much better. “Our ordering system is down!” trills our harried waitress. This means a few of our dishes go missing later on.

THE VIBE: We tread gingerly on the greasy floor outside the narrow glass-walled kitchen, where a team of stressed-looking chefs hack meat, and a shiny cylindrical oven and rotating meat-dryer provide some entertainment. Because it is so crowded and chaotic, and due to the usual manpower shortage woes, our dirty plates do not get cleared once, nor our tea refilled till we ask our nice but overwhelmed auntie server repeatedly.

Still, there are some things to like at this local copy of roast duck specialist Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant in London (which has a mediocre outpost at Capitol Piazza). Strangely, it’s a venture between Japanese food group Akashi, and Fei Siong (the latter owns Legendary Hong Kong at Jurong Point, which serves roast duck too). What’s even stranger: the food here in general, is better and cheaper than the original Capitol Piazza restaurant it’s modelled after.

London Fat Duck
London Fat Duck
23 Jun 2015

London Fat Duck

THE FOOD: “Wagyu of duck”, boasts the restaurant of its “premium Irish ducks”. Certainly, the signature London Roast Duck here ($12.80 for a single portion; $26 for half a bird; $48.80 whole) is tender, succulent and fatty. In fact, a little too fatty — there’s plenty of the gelatinous stuff beneath the unfortunately limp skin. Also, the accompanying soy-based sauce it’s drenched in is a touch too sweet and overpowered with spices.

London Fat Duck
London Fat Duck
23 Jun 2015

London Fat Duck

THE FOOD: To us, what really stands out here is not the bird but the Char Siew ($14.80, pictured above). The portion is meagre for the price, but the sexily charred, juicy pork basted in sticky, sweet, umami sauce is worth every cent and an extra order.

Another unexpectedly good dish: the Shrimp Dumpling Noodles ($6.80). Ultra springy strands slicked with a blend of mysterious but tasty oils and fragrant oyster sauce, plus crunchy dumplings.

London Fat Duck
London Fat Duck
23 Jun 2015

London Fat Duck

THE FOOD: We’re less thrilled about the Signature Black Pepper London Duck Bun ($4.80 for three), which everyone raves about, though. The charcoal powder-dyed crusty bun is a too-sugary, more peppery duck meat-filled interpretation of Tim Ho Wan’s superior char siew specimen.

VERDICT: The grub is quite good, but not outstanding enough for us to endure the long lines and not-quite-comfy environs. Perhaps we’ll drop by again when we’re in the area… at 4pm.

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