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Feast For The Senses
Murray Terrace Brasserie
Six Senses Maxwell
2 Cook Street
Tel: 6914 1425
Open for lunch and dinner Tues to Sat: 11.30am to 10.30pm. Sun to Mon: 6.30am to 10.30am.
HOTEL all-day-dining restaurants are like bridesmaids. Always hovering in the background, looking pretty but careful not to outshine the bride, circumscribed by convention and perhaps the bride's bossy mother, to be helpful but not steal the limelight.
Inside the kitchen of Murray Terrace Brasserie could well be a talented chef just itching to get out. But it's hard to shine when you have to appeal to the generic tastes of hotel guests and curious walk-ins who have no reason to eat here apart from checking out the heritage decor of the Six Senses Maxwell.
And attractive it certainly is, true to its Six Senses' DNA of rich, elaborate detail and cultural appropriation - the good kind. You can't step foot into the lobby of this conservation building in Chinatown without gawking at the flamboyant, Art Deco-inspired, perfectly choreographed ornateness of its interior.
You have to walk through the entire length of the corridor to get to Murray Terrace, passing by little nooks made up to look like small living rooms and a library. The brasserie itself looks like a large study, furnished in warm wood panelling and plush carpets, walls covered with uniform, framed drawings as if arranged by a decorator with OCD.
The menu is said to be South European-inspired but it's pretty much designed to appeal to a wide range of tastes, with everything from steak frites to jumbo crab cakes. There's a S$68 three course set dinner that isn't a bad deal - although the hamachi crudo appetiser is such a tiny portion of paper-thin raw yellowtail slices, you can be on a 500-calorie fasting diet and still have enough left over for a 9-piece chicken McNuggets.
It's pretty good though - the hamachi, not McNuggets - marinated in a sweetish light olive oil dressing. It's certainly better than the lobster bisque (S$24) from the a la carte menu, which is so diluted it's as if the chef only made a small pot and realised it needed to be stretched over more servings than he thought. Stale croutons and a limp lobster claw tossed in to justify the price tag do not convince.
But back to the set dinner menu - most of the money goes into a very respectable grass-fed Australian ribeye steak that's slightly on the chewy side but with enough fat to keep it juicy. It sits on a bed of mashed potatoes that is not ashamed of having a chunky texture instead of a Robuchon-esque smoothness - because it's comfortingly buttery - while a few leaves of braised kale try to alleviate your carbo guilt.
If you've already checked your diet at the door, you might as well add your wallet too, as the Maxwell Sirloin Burger sets you back a good S$30. It's a good burger nonetheless - one of the few where both meat patty and bun hold equal clout in their relationship.
This juicy cheese-topped patty and toasted fluffy bun combination also gets a good sidekick in the form of hand-cut fries. They don't look like much but the spears of potato have been fried to the point that the crunchy crust seems to be independent of the pillowy texture within. Hopefully, it's not a fluke fry.
Flashes of inspiration from the steak, burger and the crab cakes we order (just to test the kitchen) show that there's a responsible hand in the kitchen, even if it's not smooth-sailing all the way.
Crab cakes are usually a good test of how a kitchen respects its ingredients - in this case the generous sized patty of loosely packed crab meat (S$34) which, while not fresh-picked, is of very acceptable quality. A creamy grain mustard sauce weighs it down a bit but orange segments help to counter it.
The set dinner ends with a crisp tart shell filled with smooth-textured lemon custard that's lightly torched on top for a brulee effect. It's passable but doesn't really make an impression.
Neither does the mixed berry crumble (S$13) which will please those who like their berries mouth-puckeringly sour but naturally unsweetened. We would have doused them in a sugar bath so we're not a good judge of this.
Compared to its sister outlet Cook & Tras Social Library which seems to have found a following with its library concept and bar-centric menu, Murray Terrace could use a stronger identity to stand out.
It's a nice-looking restaurant with the kind of ambience that makes you want to linger. Now it just needs to give people a reason to stay.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times 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.