Sunday, November 04, 2007

Not Quite Spa-ctacular

There has been a proliferation of chic eating places in Singapore, particularly at Dempsey where there is now a whole slew of designed-to-the-hilt chi chi eateries. My fear is that it will all add up to naught, more eye candy than real food. Ideally, of course, the competition will weed out those that merely look good. Nonetheless, I worry about my fellow Singaporeans and their appetite for hype. Having said that, it was the Barracks at House's publicity hook that caught our attention. It offers what it calls spa cuisine, presumably as a complement to sister business, House the Spa. Spa cuisine sounded intriguing, so after HM had checked out the spa one Sunday morning, we adjourned to the Barracks for brunch.

The first thing that struck me was the design of the House complex. A mixture of exposed concrete, camouflage and glass, it was part army barracks (a nod to its past), part spa chic, but mostly post-modern pastiche. The effect was interesting, possibly eye-catching, but not necessarily effective. The army motif carried into the details.

napkins and cutlery in a mess tin

Curiously, the interior of Barracks featured yet another layer of the palimpsest. This time, it was the inspiration of Alice, as evidenced by the 3 m high table that sat in one end of the room, over one of the regular-sized dining tables. Was this another nod, one to Alice's Tea Cup, the New York tea room inspired by Alice in Wonderland?


Finally done with gawking at the space, we got round to ordering. The menu was all freerange this, organic that, and herbs everywhere - very Californian.

skinny capuccino

HM's mwah mwah tea

my mango power

The mwah mwah tea - white tea, raspberry and chocolate - was a good start for HM. I wasn't sure the mango power - a mango banana smoothie - while refreshing, was worth $10. (To be fair, it didn't come in a tall glass full of ice.)

ahi taki salad aka yellowfin tuna salad

The ahi taki salad was another curious affair. An upmarket tuna salad essentially, the greens - heirloom tomatoes on homegrown greens - were good, but the decision to saute the ahi was debatable. Stirfrying it made the tuna much more savoury. I normally like savoury but in this case I felt it made the dish that much more pedestrian and in any case was a waste of good tuna.

mushroom risotto

The mushroom risotto - cheese, fava beans and shortgrain rice in a forest mushroom sauce - was delicious but not extraordinary. Still, I liked it, although HM found it much too cheesy.

7-layer pancake

Of the three dishes, this was the best, and we were unanimous on that one. In between the layers of pancake were pistachios, almonds and nutella, and the whole thing was drenched in maple syrup.

So what did we think of Barrack's take on spa cuisine? We expected it to be healthy hence it seemed odd that the food would be so rich. Perhaps the intention was to prove that healthy doesn't have to be bland. I thought it was a waste of all that organic produce. Better to let the ingredients speak for themselves.



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