Congratulations, Singapore Botanic Gardens!

Burkill Hall, Botanic Gardens - a unique example of colonial architecture. (source)
Burkill Hall, Botanic Gardens – a unique example of colonial architecture. (source)

How wonderful – having had a woeful and overpriced brunch today around Bukit Timah (I’ll get to that), I decided to at least walk it off in the Botanic Gardens, one of my favourite places in Singapore. And now comes the good news: after some years of preparation and consideration, the Botanic Gardens has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The coverage in Singapore has focused a lot on the Gardens’ role in supporting Singapore’s urban greening, its own aesthetic qualities, as well as the notable architecture on the park itself, notably Burkill Hall. I personally think, though, that even this is quite an understatement of the effect that the Singapore Botanic Gardens has had on Singapore’s history. The innovations that were created on the grounds of the Gardens had effects that didn’t stop at making this little island a garden city; instead they changed the economic destinies and lives of millions across different countries and even continents. We can look at just one such innovation, that underlaid the industrial age – rubber.

Continue Reading

Review: Bottura, Suntec City

The whole array of the degustation menu.
The whole array of the degustation menu.

The Americans take its name, transmuted into sausage and slightly modified, as a byword for nonsense. Stendhal considers Rome the city of perfect love, while ‘when we are in Bologna, we are perfectly indifferent’. And its great contribution to Italian and world cuisine appears in many an ‘Italian place’, bastardised beyond recognition – chunky, hapless tomato paste with some mincemeat thrown in, slipping off spaghetti that it was never meant to be paired with.

Bologna, poor Bologna. But in Singapore at least, the cuisine of the region has found an adept representative; its name is Bottura, and it resides in the renovated part of Suntec City. When I first walked past the hoardings around April, the name made me do a double take. Wait, Bottura? That Bottura? The Osteria Francescana guy?

Continue Reading

Bite-by-Bite: Waffles, Symmetry

Symmetry Waffles 1

Mirrors on the ceiling,

Pink champagne on ice, and she said…

– The Eagles, ‘Hotel California’

I don’t think of the Eagles a lot, but for some reason Symmetry brought them to mind.

Not the food, no; I was still waiting for the food then. It’s 3 in the afternoon, the sun is still trying to immolate all life on the island outside, and I’m sitting in the corner, a curmudgeon among the effortlessly pretty diners. There’s an Andy Warhol Campbell soup pastiche (a meta-pastiche?) on the wall; kerosene and gas lamps hang over the bar; there’s a rusty kettle and a guide to London cafes in ye olde vintage times (2012) on the windowsill. Oh, and my brain is being pounded by deep-bass dance music to within an inch of a migraine.

So as the visitor thinks to himself at Hotel California, this could be heaven, or this could be hell. The jury is out until the waffles are in.

Continue Reading

Bite-by-Bite: Kaisendon, Teppei Syokudo


Millennia Walk is a mall that’s built for two groups of people: the people who can get to it because they work nearby, and the people who can get to it because they have a car, and would much rather be in a place where not too bothered by ease of public access, thank you very much.

Sure, now Promenade MRT is right next to the premises, but the shops and restaurants in Millennia Walk still reflect this audience. But Teppei Syokudo fits in this picture lengthwise, rather. What the successful Teppei restaurant (and by successful I mean there’s a post on their Facebook feed that might as well read ‘abandon hope all ye who want to have our omakase over the next few months’) has done is to open a cheap and cheery looking little joint, catering for… who, exactly? Well, whoever it is, they’re not supposed to have the time or inclination to eat away from a computer screen. Man lives on rice, but the market doesn’t really care about man.

Continue Reading

Bite-by-bite: Eggs Benedict with Cured Salmon, The Missing Pan

I present thee the dish under scrutiny herein.

Note: Sometimes I am struck by one dish, or visit a restaurant alone and so will order just one dish; Bite-by-Bite will be where I review the dishes I’ve had. I might follow up with a full review of the restaurant later, so do keep an eye out!

Ah, Bukit Timah – there’s nothing like visiting one’s high school neighbourhood to make someone feel old, even if the changes have been surprisingly limited. Sure, there no longer is a Tenderfresh at Coronation Plaza, but fried chicken is bad for health anyway so fair enough. But I’m here for something new, I suppose, and when I pass The Missing Pan – a lovely mix of bakery and restaurant, connected by elevator – something on the menu catches my eye.

Eggs Benedict with Cured Salmon. Sure, I’ll read the menu to make it look like I’m considering all my options, but it’s all a facade – I’m already sold. And yet, thinking back on it now… I’m troubled.

Continue Reading

Restaurant Review: Kazbar, Church Street

The spread.
The spread.

This is how we are with wine and beautiful food: We want, and get drunk with wanting… — Rumi (1207 – 1273)

Kensington is one of my favourite parts of London, a triangle of three pleasures – the complex of museums (Science, Natural History, Victoria and Albert); music at the Royal Albert Hall; and meze or sweets at Comptoir Libanais.

Sure, it’s a chain; sure, there are probably better Middle Eastern joints in London. But when you’ve been under the brightly coloured eaves enough times, sipping on mint tea and swirling falafels in tahini and brushing flakes of honey-soaked puff-pastry from your lips, you end up getting pretty drunk with wanting.

Continue Reading