NN Header

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Chilling out at Smoke & Mirrors Lounge @ National Gallery

1 St. Andrew’s Road #06-01 National Gallery, Singapore 178957
Tel:  6384 5595
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” - Albert Einstein

Smoke and Mirrors is a new bar concept under the Park Hotel Group. It has opened its doors at the newly refurbished National Gallery (the ex-Supreme Court building), and everything about it seemed to be laced with a chic sophistication and enigma.  I fell in love with the name bearing a concept I use a lot in my writings and muse, the alluring images on the website, as well as the photos I’ve seen in social media feeds, so I told myself I had to visit this place. 

The first two trysts proved unsuccessful because they were booked for the 2 Fridays I had intended to visit. Finally, on a Wednesday evening, I managed to visit this enchanting rooftop bar with a new friend, *Camelia.

The settings were dimly-lit, crusted with lots of mirror reflections to give it an intimate and mysterious feel, darkly seductive and posh all at the same time. The stunning sculptural bar counter was the centre of attention, lit tastefully like a beacon in the dark night. Sitting alfresco means being accorded panoramic views of the colorful cityscape while sitting indoors bring about a heightening of the senses amongst the dark earth tones and glossy reflections. It was as sexy as it could get.

We sat indoors because it was beginning to drizzle. The leather seats were comfortable and service was excellent – polite, professional and quite attentive. There were bar bites as well as mains on the menu, as well as a wide array of drinks (cocktails, wine, etc).

A good many items were unavailable due to being “out of stock” because they were a new bar, because they have been operating since 11.00am so food ran out, and because not much storage space. They included the basic calamari, crab claws, churros and chocolate fondant cake, which the service crew had to keep retuning to apologise and inform us of the unavailability of our orders.

The starter snacks were good - assorted mix of sweet and salted almonds that were refillable.  It was a refreshing bar bites and rather addictive.

In the end, we stuck with Signature Chicken Wings (SGD$14.00), consisting of 6 crispy fried chicken wings marinated with a light tinge of spiciness. The skin was crackling and thin, and the overall texture was light, moistened and tasty.  

We also went for the Popcorn Chicken with Dried Chilli (SGD$14.00), which was the most unique I have ever seen, having eaten the same item at many other spots prior to this. The Popcorn Chicken here was crispy on the outside and tender within, the chicken also well-moistened so it was not dry or rough. Best of all, there were dried chilli and leek pooled within the serving plate and which the popcorn chicken pieces were infused with, to add a tangy touch to the dish. It was indeed tasty, especially with drinks.

For drinks, *Camelia had a glass of Trimbach Pinot Noir Reserve (SGD$18.00), which she commented was smooth and lovely.

I went for the artistic touch, and one of their special cocktails – Painting Class (SGD$22.00) comprising Peruvian Pisco, fresh lemon, Smoke & Mirrors strawberry cordial, prosecco and edible chocolate paint. Their cocktails in this series are inspired art on exhibit at the National Gallery - mine was inspired by Lim Yew Kuan. It had a lovely plum and kumquat combination kind of flavor, was refreshing and sweet; I loved the edible chocolate smeared on the outside of the glass as well, and I scraped it all up too.

The overall experience was pretty awesome – we could still overlook the beautiful night scene outside, even though we were seated within. The music was jazzy and lounge music type, so it was relaxing and unobstrusive for our conversation. The food, drinks and service were all top-notch; our only grumble was that many items we’d wanted were sold out, so hope that this could be looked into.

To end this review, I would like to add on that service was excellent, especially by one of their crew *Byron or something, who heard our rants patiently, and as a gesture of apology / or to placate us, he offered us a couple of shots (gin with lime, I believe). It was a nice gesture, and gave us hope that things would definitely look up here – that perhaps when we visit again, the experience would be perfect. Anyway, I loved this place, and shall name it my next hangout of choice.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Afternoon Tea at The Providore Cafe @ Mandarin Gallery

333A Orchard Rd, #02-05 Mandarin Gallery, Singapore 238897
Tel: 6732 1565

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon before our Makeup Lesson at Make Up Store, so *Charmaine and I met up for catching up at The Providore. The other cafes were all crowded, and I have been to most of them anyway.

The Providore is a café, a grocer and a bistro all at once, reminding me greatly of similar concepts such as Dean & Deluca and Jones the Grocer – where cheese, dairy products, and spirits etc are retailed and we could have the option of dining in. 

Ambience was casual and relaxing, with a choice of indoor and outdoor seating. Service was surprisingly good – it had been painfully slow and inefficient when I visited around a year ago. Orders were taken promptly and the crew was very polite. The Providore brand does not just serve food, but also adore food; bringing some of the best locally-produced and globally-sourced products to us in Singapore where they choose to build their brand.

Anyway, *Charmaine and I shared some Cheese and Ham Croquettes, deep fried. The exterior was a crumbly coat opening up to reveal bits of ham and melted cheese. This simple but palatable snack was perfect for munching during tea-time, over coffee or tea.  And I really liked how it had the right texture - not too dry, not greasy, but the right level of softness.

The Chai Latte (SGD$6.50) was presented prettily with a cinnamon stick. The beverage was made up of Providore 7 spice Chai powder and steamed milk, giving it a smooth, creamy texture and piquant aroma of Chai. I loved the tinge of spiciness amongst the bittersweetness of the drink.

*Charmaine had the Flat White (SGD$6.00), also served with pretty latte art. She mentioned the coffee was silky in texture and tasted good. 

Rose Earl Grey (SGD$7.50) was served in a pot, infused with the fragrant sweetness of roses amongst the darker, smokier, natural taste of the tea itself.

Overall, The Providore was a pretty neat place to hang out at. I would like to be back for one of the wines or ciders, over a proper meal or slice of cake another time.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Def Leppard's Concert at Suntec CIty Convention Centre

Venue: Suntec City Convention Centre, Level 6, Hall 601-604
Date: 24 November 2015 (Tuesday)
Time: 8.00pm - 10.00pm
Tickets price: SGD$108.00,  SGD$128.00,  SGD$148.00 and SGD$168.00

Being a fan of Def Leppard's songs, I wondered for more than a decade why they did not come to Singapore to perform at all, since year 1996.  I was still in elementary / primary school back then, and have not heard of them.

I fell in love with them when I was in high / secondary school, hearing their "Love Bites" on Class 95 FM and then 98.7 FM radio stations.  I loved the song so much because it was so melancholy and haunting, evoking weird feelings in me. So I called into the latter radio station (in the past you could do that, and sometimes the DJs would pick up and chat with you, if they were nice enough) - and asked the male DJ what the song was.  He recited the name to me, which I'd thought was "Deaf Leopard", but a visit to the music store (we did not have much use for the Internet back then) yielded me the right spelling, and I bought a few of their CDs.

It was then I began to fall in love with them and their songs more and more, even though they are a band way beyond my era.  I listened to their songs fervently, and finally in 2015 they returned! The Beau and I bought tickets for the Standing Pen, since I have never been to a concert and had to stand before - he said I would be closer to the rock hand.

The day came and the turnout was not bad - more foreigners.  Anyway the band came only at 8.30pm, but belted out many of their popular hits including my favorite "Love Bites", then "When Love and Hate Collide", "Pour Some Sugar on Me', etc. The concert-goers were all enjoying themselves and rocking to the music, singing along with the band as well.

I was a little disappointed that they did not perform 3 other favorite songs of mine, namely "Too Late for Love"  and  "Foolin' ". Also, their conclusion was very abrupt - they just performed till around 10.00pm and then suddenly paused while fans shouted that they wanted more, and then the band said goodbye and walked away. But oh well, we can't have everything, riight? They sounded better in person, and I had fun.   

Many of them were holding up their phones to record the band's performance blatantly, and I was surprised that the Suntec City Management did not control the recordings. Isn't it an infringement of copyright? Anyway it was a little annoying because their lifted arms were blocking those behind. Mind you, I only started to take some photos when I saw practically everyone was using thier phones to video the performance. 

Overall, I enjoyed the concert and was happy to finally meet Def Leppard in person. They promised to be back more often - well, let's see.

You might also be interested to read about Air Supply's Concert in March 2015 by clicking here.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner at The House of Robert Timms @ Suntec City

3 Temasek Boulevard, #01-361 to 364, Suntec City Mall, Singapore 038983
Tel: 6338 7758

I had lunch at The House of Robert TImms (review here) around a year back, and rather liked it. The Beau and I were rushing for the Def Leppard Concert the other night, and one of the available options was The House of Robert Timms, so we decided to dine there. We observed that many of the other patrons that night were also rushing their meals so that they could catch the concert on time.

The ambience at this outlet was casual chic, with wood panels, mirrors and comfortable seats. Service was effective in general, especially that of a short-haired lady who was always friendly with smiles. We just wished that they had informed us of the waiting time for our orders before submitting, knowing that we were rushing for the concert at 8.00pm.

Anyway, The Beau and I decided to go for the festive menu items aka our advanced Thanksgiving dinner 2015. We both selected the 2-course set meals; I chose the Bun-less Turkey Burger (SGD$32.00) while he had the Grilled Striploin Sleigh (SGD$37.00). All the items listed here could be ordered on ala carte basis as well.

They started with my Halloumi Cheese Prawn Salad (SGD$12.50), consisting of fresh prawns, grilled haloumi cheese, Kalamata olives and mesclun greens. The prawns were indeed springy and crunchy in texture, indicating their freshness; and the greens were refreshing. We also loved the tiny cubes of grilled cheese which had a lightly-saltish flavor, complementing the salad very well. 

The Grilled Striploin Sleigh (SGD$29.00) came in skewered form, and was served with roasted capsicum glazed in berry balsamic, served with spiced roasted kumara wedge, cherry tomatoes and buttered zucchini. The grilled Striploin beef pieces contained a slight-charred flavor to their sweetness, and the gravy had a strong, tasty flavor to it, that added a touch of juiciness to the tender meat. I did not really like the kumara (sweet potato) wedges though - too saccharine for my desire.

My Bun-less Turkey Burger (SGD$24.00) was interesting. Two thick pieces of pan-fried stuffed turkey breast formed the topmost and bottom layers of this burger, clasping between them bacon, grilled tomatoes slices, caramelized onions, and lettuce, topped with sunny-sideup egg. Fries and red wine sauce were served on the side – we were informed that the turkey breast tasted best when dipped with the sauce. I pierced the egg yolk immediately to let it cascade over the burger, so that the sweetness could infuse into the meat. An innovative creative with succulent turkey, and it was pretty tasty. However, I still believe that turkey tastes best with cranberry sauce.

Finally, time for desserts. The Lemon Meringue Tart (SGD$9.00) was served warm, and was a huge tart. The buttery crust was crunchy and fluffy at the same time, filled with zesty lemon curd and topped with a mound of cream. I liked it that the smooth lemon curd was citrusy enough to please the palate, and the sweetness of this tart still prevailed beautifully.

Overall, it was quite an enjoyable meal with substantial portions. It would have been lovelier if not eaten in haste, but slowly savoured, probably over a glass of reds or two, too.  Well, Happy Thanksgiving 2015!