You are here
Exploring new taste landscapes
Tablescape Restaurant & Bar
Level 3, Grand Park City Hall
10 Coleman Street
Tel: 6432 5618
Open daily for lunch and dinner: 12pm to 2.30pm; 6pm to 10.30pm
ONE thing we have to say about the new hotel restaurants that have been popping up lately: they try. The onslaught of competition out there means they can no longer coast on the old generic formula of all-day dining for transient tourists armed more with jet lag than sharp palates.
Now they face a much tougher gig - cynical Singaporean diners - and the pressure is on them to come up with hipster-compliant concepts, so they can earn some street cred while keeping their American and Continental breakfasts intact.
They try really hard to put together everything from steakhouses to cocktail bar & restaurant pairings; Josper oven-starred menus, and so on. They spend on decor, menu planning and concept building - we can't actually say they succeed, but still, it's not without effort.
And so it is with Tablescape, the cosy and well-outfitted semi fine-dining flagship restaurant of the freshly refurbished and renamed Grand Park City Hall.
Despite a carpark in various stages of decay - the hotel stands like an elegantly coiffed lady against scrappy neighbours like the Excelsior Hotel and Peninsula Plaza. It's too fancy to be a boutique hotel yet not polished enough to be a luxury five star, and this indecision carries through to Tablescape which offers the semblance of a fine-dining restaurant but not the ability to pull it off.
The restaurant itself is tucked into the furthest corner of the reception floor, and the first thing you see is a beautifully stocked bread trolley, carelessly pushed against a wall at the entrance.
We make a mental note to take points off if we are served bread off that trolley - a blatant disrespect of baked goods in our opinion. So when our server wheels that same trolley and proceeds to explain the different varieties we all but spit out, "You don't expect us to eat bread that has been sitting out there like that, I hope?" To which she is slightly taken aback before explaining, "Oh no, that's just for display," pointing to a basket of still-warm fresh breads she had placed on a lower shelf of the trolley.
We proceed to devour the enjoyable light, feathery texture of olive oil brioche in a little flower pot. We pull apart leaves of the brioche, smothering them with smooth, creamy butter from the quenelles our server shapes from a large ball of cultured goodness sitting under glass on the trolley.
Tablescape's greatest pull is its value-for-money set dinner, which is priced like an executive set lunch in high-end restaurants, but with a lot more food. At S$48 for three courses and S$58 for four, with all courses picked from the a la carte menu, it's a no brainer choice.
Beef tartare chopped by a less than confident hand yields some nice minced bits and chunks of meat that are impossible to chew. It's too bad because it's otherwise a thoughtful twist on the original, with raw egg yolk replaced by a battered and deep-fried runny poached egg. Artful dollops of horseradish mayonnaise complete the dish.
The house-cured salmon gravlax goes down very nicely with its smooth, slippery texture that isn't over salted, with an inspired scoop of refreshingly sweet and icy cream-cheese ice cream.
Orange carrot soup is passably creamy if not full-bodied in flavour, with a top note of orange juice that really makes it taste like the juice was whisked in at the last moment.
It lightens the creaminess but somehow doesn't quite hit the spot. It's the same with the beef consomme and truffle ravioli. Sherry wine gives the clear broth a distracting tang, and tastes almost commercial, although the server says it's a home brew simmered for hours. The ravioli lacks any evidence of truffle, tasting a little more like a salty bacon filling.
The main course of roast lamb rack is the complete opposite of the prosciutto wrapped monkfish with lobster claw in terms of enjoyment.
We've ordered lamb racks in other restaurants that can cost S$58, so having this two-cutlet portion in a set menu is super value. Sure, the quality isn't quite as prime, but it's still juicy and tender, served with a rather blah cone of mashed potato coated in a crispy bread crumb crust.
The lobster, on the other hand, must have committed harakiri when it was caught in the fisherman's net. It made sure no one would enjoy its limp, mushy and almost offensive texture, draped over two circles of monkfish wrapped tightly in over-salted bacon. The thin strips of fish didn't have a chance, suffocated by its insufferable cured companion.
The dessert trolley, pretty as it looks with its array of sweet treats, has the same effect of taking part in one of those sure-win lucky draws where you're rewarded with multiple packets of tissue or bottles of brown tea. From the sticky brownie to the artificially tasting lychee layer cake, featureless spicy mango mousse and more, we go through a disappointing waste of calories with each bite.
While there are setbacks to the meal, we're not writing Tablescape off because it has a very pleasant ambience, friendly servers who do their best, and plenty of good intentions in the cooking. And the price is really hard to beat. It's a little too ambitious a concept - a couple of good desserts in hand are worth more than a compilation on a trolley - but we appreciate the effort.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: BT pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.