Review: The Garden by Sofitel - 'I suggest they leave the intricate peacock-ing to the birds that roam outside'
The Garden by Sofitel Singapore | 30 Allanbrooke Rd
6708 8364 | Book here
Situated amongst dense greenery in a white bungalow on an island that is so hard to get to for us normal folks, is The Garden Restaurant by Sofitel. If you fancy a meal overlooking free-roaming peacocks, peahens, and the occasional peachick (not to be confused with the similarly named legume, chickpea), then The Garden is the place to be. Located at 30 Allanbrooke Rd, Sentosa Island, The Garden is an offshoot of SO Spa (with which they share a space) serving calorie conscious food that caters to the health-conscious, body-conscious, and generally people who are very conscious of themselves.
The nature concept flows into the indoor dining area where you're greeted by a really huge tree (which I think is artificial, though I could be mistaken) right in the centre of the restaurant. The restaurant is small with a combined seating capacity of sixty for both indoors and al fresco. The al fresco view is a swimming pool where Caucasian tourists lap up this country's tortuous sun in barely-there swimsuits and nary a drop of sunscreen on their alabaster bodies. I, naturally, chose to sit indoor in aircon comfort where a peachick and I made acquaintance through the looking glass.
Reservations made for twelve noon, I drove up to Sofitel hotel fifteen minutes to the appointed time mistakenly assuming that this is where The Garden is at. It is not, as we were so kindly informed by the concierge who directed us to the hotel shuttle bus service that would bring you to SO Spa, a mere meters away but in his weather, could possibly pass off for longer. The Garden is located around back although who's to stop you from wandering into the conjoining spa premises and centering your qi with a delightful aroma of spa-esque scents.
I'm here today to sample the monthly all-organic brunch for the health-conscious, body-conscious... you get the drift. The food comes from the prix fixe menu, which could really benefit from a little more assisted paragraphing. My friend and I spent a good ten minutes figuring out what's on our plate as we tried to discern from the menu where a dish ends and where a new one began. But I digress. For $78++, you will be served with ten dishes to be shared, inclusive of one hot meal of your choice and free flow organic juices. A top up of $20 gives you free flow organic wine. It's all served tapas style (as with most places these days) and, fortunately very amply sufficient with regards to quantity.
The food was quite hit or miss. The organic sourdough bread served with the tastiest seaweed butter was truly a wonderful start to the meal. But three of the starters served together on a plate was not all fine and dandy. The Beef Carpaccio was in serious need of SOS seasoning and for a moment tasted slightly bitter (I suspect it’s due to the vinaigrette, certainly a regret). It took me a while to figure out what the pink blob was even with constant reference to the menu and its bad paragraphing. Is this is quinoa and pomegranate dressing? It isn’t. It is, in fact, organic salmon tartar with beetroot pickles that tasted nothing like the name describes. Fortunately, the wrap with barbecue tofu, organic kale, and mango chutney saved the very disappointing start but only because it is naturally bursting with rich, tangy barbecue flavours. But then again, can anyone ever go wrong with barbecue sauce?
The organic eggs with smoked green asparagus and hollandaise foam are almost too theatrical to be taken seriously. I thought that such overt dramatic presentation was a thing of the past; certainly most dishes these days prefer a quiet understatement rather than a busy masterpiece on the plate. But I was wrong. Two eggs (both alike in dignity), halved, lay dormant on a bed of hay. Inside, the asparagus is served with steamed tofu that was so spectacularly unspectacular that I don’t even have tasting notes for this in my notebook. It feels like presentation being overdone and over-the-top to compensate for something so, for the lack of better word, pedestrian.
Let me straight up admit that I hardly ever consume oyster. It is not something I actively seek out because of a craving nor is it a food that I encounter with exceptional regularity. So I will say this about the sustainable, Irish Fine de Claire Oyster on ice with three condiments: It is small and it doesn’t go down your throat in a satisfying cascade. The three condiments (lemon vinaigrette, shallot vinaigrette, and chives) are mostly acidic, which leads me to think: ‘Is this how people usually eat oysters?’
The wasabi miso glaze organic salmon brought me to metaphoric tears. I’ve never had a salmon more perfectly cooked than this masterpiece on my plate. Hearty salmon is cooked almost medium rare, served on a bed of mushrooms and garnished with delicate sprigs of pea sprout. But it’s that sauce that really brings the dish together: a light mixture of green tea and Japanese beer. Combined, it makes the journey across to Sentosa and weathering the punishing weather all worth it. I now measure all salmon fairly against this one, but I’m quite certain everything else will fall short.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. And at The Gardens, the organic brunch wraps up with a haphazardly thrown together dessert platter that came with an assortment of cakes, lemon tart, pancakes and an extremely and irrationally bland soya bean pannacotta. One would expect the fruits that come with to provide that satisfying taste of saccharine sweetness, but alas, they were sour. Like this concluding experience.
Come for the salmon and the grandiose atmosphere of dining by a garden. Few places in Singapore warrant such an inconvenient travel with an experience that pays off. Unfortunately, The Gardens of Sofitel does not fall into that category. Save for the peacocks, I really don’t find much of anything that The Gardens can be proud of. I suggest they leave the intricate peacock-ing to the birds that roam outside.