It’s almost June, and if you live in a temperate region, this is reason to rejoice. For one, cherry blossoms are almost in full force, and another, cue the flurry of excited proclamations that “spring has sprung” and summer is here, ish. Unfortunately, in little old Singapore, it’s sunny (hot) everyday and the daily grind doesn’t abate. In other words, there is practically not much to look forward to.
If you happen to be raring for travels to the far-flung Med, look no further than the CBD for your little escape. Here are five semi-escapes from the harsh reality that is life.
Fair warning: these CBD med restaurants not for those with hard budgets.
For those familiar with the Amoy Street area, it’s possible that you may have walked past this spot several times without knowing about Alati’s existence. I head for Atlati when I am in a mood to eat clean. Since their 2018 revamp, the Med-inspired interiors evoke feelings of being in a Grecian cave hotels. It’s all white carved walls, made cozy with warm lighting—all in all, unpretentious and welcoming. Alati is not cheap, especially if you add on the wines (which were excellent).
The lavraki carpaccio ($26) was tangy from the squeeze of lime, thinly-sliced and incredibly appetising. Mains were the standard fare with ubiquitous fries. Get their salt-baked fresh aegean catch, which they will bring out on a platter to carve for your viewing pleasure. The traditional Grecian dessert, bougatsa ($23) veered off from the norm, was lighter tasting, more crispy and curiously paired with a mediocre orange ice cream—an acquired taste indeed. Most starters and desserts are best for sharing.
73 Amoy St.; 6221 6124.
A pretty new joint, AMO sees a trendy crowd most nights. Whilst none of the starters particular stands out, the mains will more than make up for that. The beef shank pasta ($28) comes wrapped in a delightfully earthy sauce and the generously-sized, mildy gamy chunks of beef are fork-tender and well flavoured. With the Salmoriglio spice of lemon juice, olive oil and garlic, it skews more Southern Italian. Save your stomach also for the butter roasted spring chicken ($28) that is cooked to perfection, bursting with flavours and sitting in a pan of rosemary jus. Be sure to mop up that greasy goodness with the accompanying roman potatoes and you’re set. For a small eater, the portions were horrendously huge, but the umami-laden menu did leave me wanting, hence the return visits.
33 Hongkong St.; 6723 7733.
Known for rocking up “gourmet kebabs”, the Fat Prince definitely looks and feels the part, with its dark wood interiors, low-slung velvet chairs and industrial drop lights. I love the Fat Prince because it’s a medley of flavours with a good selection of dishes for vegetarians, tapas style. The updated menu has replaced the well-loved duck fat hummus with a less indulgent roasted cashew hummus ($12), served with pita, of course. In fact, the new menu is all about sourcing locally.
Try the herb-filled avo and kale tabbouleh ($15), for sharing. Of course, old-timers know about the best-selling fried cauliflower ($15) with spiced nuts (an acquired taste) and sweet potato. Confidence shines through their relatively short menu, but definitely try the fresh prawn kebab ($9), with parsley, that will come with smoked tomatoes; and the roasted lamb shoulder ($9), pepped with a Yemeni spice of Zhoug, of cilantro and peppers, skewered with tart-tasting pickled cucumbers. They only have two desserts, get them both.
48 Peck Seah St.; #01-01; 6221 7794
It’s starting to feel more and more like there isn’t a specific anchor restaurant on Hong Kong Street, for the current joints that reside on it now are all equally solid. Reservations are necessary HERE, no least because it’s pretty much a go-to for those craving Spanish tapas, sangria and sunshine; but because the restaurant seats only about forty diners at any one time. The menu is short, but most dishes excellently executed. Go there for the Jamon croquettes ($12 for 4), Cherry gazpacho soup and smoked olive oil ice cream ($12) that is quite unlike any start you will have, tangy and slightly salty with the ice cream. The best paella there would be the squid ink ($30), for sharing; and round up your meal on a sweet note with the chocolate galaxy dessert ($16).
40 Hongkong St.; 6100 4040.
I love a good Greek meal, complete with olive oil, white fish, wine , herbs and yogurt. One of the mainstays, FOTIA does all of that and more, and depending on the crowd of the day, staff can be accommodating to a fault with your dietary needs. There, you really want to try the eggplant starter ($14.80), smoked with herbs, replete with fresh peppers; and the rolled Baklava with ice cream ($14.80) for desserts. But mostly, go there for the meats. The blackened, charred grilled baby lamb with tzatziki and pita bread ($38.80) is clean-tasting, juicy and flavourful. FOTIA offers an extensive wine list, so have at it and don’t bother driving there.
1 Club St.; 9455 1004.