Bites: Lunch at Commonground, Our Tampines Hub

The first time I saw the name ‘Our Tampines Hub’, I thought it was just some possessive eastie who really likes the place. But no – turns out, in our gradual slide into Orwellian horror, it’s the actual name of the actual building complex. Repeat it enough times, I guess, and it will feel true. This is Our Tampines Hub. Our Tampines Hub. Our Tampines Hub…

Anyway, wouldn’t have known about this place, or be within 10 km of it, if not for a little errand I had to run. Also a blazingly sunny day that forced me to seek shelter anywhere. But since I was there, Commonground – well-situated right at the front of the building – seemed worth a visit.

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‘Almost Benthic’: Rice and Fries, Kembangan

Restaurant and Bar in Kembangan, Singapore

This was an invited tasting. Deep gratitude to the hosts.

I’ve been hearing enough things about Kembangan to make me wonder – is it that Kembangan is actually becoming more happening, or is it just me being very late to the party? For while new joints have been popping up, Rice and Fries – which has been around here for some three years – is evidence of the latter.

Rice and Fries Kembangan Somersby

And with (relative) maturity comes a certain, characteristic charm. They maintain the aesthetic of an earlier cohort of cafe, the lighting bright and welcoming and the decor slightly quirky – before concrete and sexy dim filament bulbs and Crate and Barrel became the industry standard. It so happens I like the old style a little better, if only because I can clearly see what I’m eating. But they also know how to put on a good welcome – a big glass of crushed ice, with a bottle of Somersby stuck upside down in it, is immediately enticing. 

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Review: Sunrise Bistro and Bar, East Coast Park

Note: This meal was a media tasting. Much gratitude to the hosts and fellow diners.

No, no, no. This is too much, even for me. See, I’ve never been one to mind going to a park out of season, or when the weather isn’t miles of blue sky and scorching sun. Going to East Coast Park when rain has driven the rollerbladers, barbecuers and pretty young things all away is a surreal sort of pleasure – you buy a drink, preferably mildly alcoholic, and sit in one of the pavilions staring out at the iron-grey sea under clouds like mille-feuille or great banks of cotton candy. Or maybe take a book along with you. Everyone should try this at least once, it’s brilliant.

But even this sort of beach holiday has its limits. It’s certainly not recommended for the day I was invited to Sunrise Bistro and Bar, situated in what used to be Big Splash amusement park; between the drizzle and the haze, I cannot see the sea that is at most 200 metres away. You can imagine my relief, therefore, when I ducked out of the smog and into the restaurant – a deep, almost cavernous place that leans into the coastal vibe with its woven chairs and blue-lit marine fish tank. Its decor is relatively simple; they know they’ve got space working for them and don’t try to pack it too tightly, which adds to its relaxing feel.

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Review: Ottoman Kebab & Grill, Bedok Mall

Ottoman Kebab & Grill Bedok Mall Interior

Istanbul was Constantinople,

Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople…

— They Might be Giants

The waiter – turbaned, with a mask holding in his beard, and very polite – nonetheless is a little disturbed when I ask him a second time about the shish platter at Ottoman Kebab & Grill. I know he’s doing this for my own good – he’s already told me it’s a dish for two. But I’m insistent.

‘Maybe you can order one skewer each to try?’ He suggests.

‘Yes, but is there pide and pilaf with that?’ There isn’t. I stand my ground and order the platter.

It’s not just because I was ravenous, though I was. I chanced upon them while on the way elsewhere, and if not for the dinner crowd I would have changed my plans there and then. That’s how much I like Turkish food. Ottoman is an ocakbaşi restaurant, the term meaning ‘by the grill’; it is also a venture by the folks behind Zaffron Kitchen and Prata Wala, where they’ve installed Ali Kose – a former sous chef to the Big Sweary at Michelin-starred Maze, in Mayfair – to head the operation. This history is mentioned on a billboard at the entrance, and is a good thing to know. 

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