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Freestyle cooking at Hathaway
Blk 13 Dempsey Road
Open Mon to Sat: 9am to 9pm.
AS a name, Hathaway will mean little to you unless you're also named Anne and own a tight-fitting leather catsuit. If not, then it's just a throwaway, pleasantly rhythmic but utterly arbitrary name you can give to a furry pet or all-day restaurant.
In this case it's the latter - a relaxed cafe-brunch-lunch-dinner spot that is as flexible with its mealtimes as it is with its cooking style. It's bagged itself a cosy corner spot in Dempsey village - a few steps away from Culina market in a lush cul-de-sac that gives off a holiday chalet vibe.
The relaxed air continues within its wood and wicker interiors, its tasteful curved ceiling features and Edison lamp-like wall fixtures a sign of design thought and investment in this venture. A bread and pastry display behind its speckled tile counter is a nod to Hathaway's older sister Bread Yard, an artisanal bakery at Fusionopolis with a strong brunch-centric DNA.
That means Hathaway's strength lies in anything you can put on a slice of toast, but once it ventures into serious cooking territory, it bites off a little more than it can chew.
It's not for lack of enthusiasm - it packs in every cooking genre under the sun from Asian to Spanish to Italian or French, sometimes all in the same dish. It's like being fed by a multicultural grandmother trying to kill you with kindness.
There is a promising start with its mezze platter (S$28) - more like a Northern-Indian-with-a-Mediteanean-stopover combo of dips and chutneys to go with some pliant sourdough naan. The latter itself is an identity crisis in the baking - since it identifies as a naan but presents itself as a pita without a pocket. Whatever it is, it's satisfying pliable if dry on the finish, and good when dunked into some savoury, curryish tofu makhani aka butter tofu.
Scoop up some eggplant mash with the exotic name of Baingan Bharta, a herby coconut chutney of questionable origin, and a straightforward couscous with cashews and raisins.
Hathaway's Asian side comes to the fore in wagyu and chicken skewers (S$24), a quartet of gamey beef and tender chicken satay which are too reticent in their seasoning, with an equally shy peanut sauce.
Langoustine tartare (S$32) reveals the most polish, with a crackly squid ink puffed rice cracker couching a filling of chopped raw crustacean with a bare hint of lemongrass and moistened with chive oil, topped with some black caviar. So you get a good crunch of cracker, the silky slippery mouthfeel of sashimi and saltiness of the caviar.
The octopus bakar and sambal udang (S$42), on the other hand, is a tone deaf liaison of charred kicap manis-marinated octopus leg unable to find common ground with fat but limp prawns in a smoky sambal, while a bed of buttery polenta wonders what it's doing there. So do we. The kindest thing for this trio would be to set them free to seek solo careers.
Showing the way is Ah Nya's Fish Curry (S$32) which has the right blend of nose-tickling spice and pleasant laksa-ish accents. You can taste the galangal, lemongrass and dried shrimp in harmony, and fleshy, moist barramundi sealing the deal. The potato nuggets, though, are distracting bystanders. And you can either try biting on the footlong breadstick or use it to beat any wild critters that might jump out at you from the wild shrubbery outside.
There are good intentions behind Hathaway's cuisine but a good dose of restraint and a better understanding of harmony between flavour and textures are sorely needed here. A perfectly good kueh sarlat gets better justice served on its own, not overwhelmed with pengat pisang sauce and blue pea flower ice cream with some kind of crumble - all on the same plate. Individually, each holds its own - lump them all together and it feels like there's some sugar conspiracy at work.
Hathaway has a lot of good things going for it as a casual, easy-going chillout place with good pastries, coffee and drinks. But if it wants to get to the next level, practice and a stronger identity are the next things to add to the menu.
DINING OUT 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.