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Lunch in Singapore: The best cafes and restaurants for dates with the girls

For an updated version of our ladies who lunch story with even more lunch spot recommendations by area, head here.

Oh aren't these ladies just having the BEST TIME?
Oh aren’t these ladies just having the BEST TIME?

 

“Here’s to the ladies who lunch, everybody laugh, lounging in their caftans and planning a brunch …” starts Stephen Sondheim’s famous tune “Ladies Who Lunch” from the musical, Company. Caftans aside, there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than enjoying a lively meal amongst friends. Here are a few of our favourite spots in popular neighbourhoods across the island.

 

Location: Ion, Orchard Road

Alfresco Gusto
Orchard Turn #01-15 ION Orchard 6509 9380 | www.alfrescogusto.com.sg

If you’re someone who pores painstakingly over a menu for as long as it takes to run a 10km (slowly), then you may find Alfresco Gusto’s multifarious new menu overwhelming. You’ll love it if you’re a fan of fusion. You’ll hate it if you’re a traditionalist who thinks that Italian food should only be served in the manner of an osteria.

Chef Kelvin Lee marries his passion for robust Italian ingredients with his French training, simultaneously introducing Asian flavours to cater to a lighter palate. The result is immaculate presentation and gastronomic harmony.

I started with the burrata ($23) – an oozy mixture of mozzarella and cream served with a side of bacon, crostini and caramelised onion. Maintaining Italian orthodoxy was the herb-breaded mozzarella balls ($14), deep-fried to perfection with a side of pureed tomatoes.

The sea urchin risotto ($32) exemplifies East-West fusion; it retains the traditional creamy consistency expected of this Italian staple with a subtle hint of truffle oil, while the sea urchins add the Asian element. The subtlety of flavour and texture really sets this risotto apart from its more traditional counterparts

The menu also boasts 13 varieties of pizza (from $18 to $28) if you’re in the mood for paper-thin crispy dough doused with lashings of basil pesto and ribbons of stringy mozzarella.

Sharp service, an elegant setting and a “dare to be different” take on old favourites make Alfresco Gusto an ideal choice for a mid-shopping respite with the ladies.

Alex Westcott

Also try:

Marmalade Pantry
For salads and pastas
2 Orchard Turn #03-22 ION Orchard 6636 1816

Wild Honey
For sandwiches and salads
6 Scotts Road Scotts Square, Level Three 6636 0903

Where to park:
Enter the ION car park via Orchard Boulevard. Weekday rates from $2.67 (for the first hour); and from $3.74 on weekends.

E Food&Wine
E Food&Wine

Location: Dempsey Hill

E Food and Wine
Block 6C Dempsey Road
Tel: 6475 8806 | efoodandwine.com.sg

“Hearty, tasty, comfort food with an Asian twist” is how E Food and Wine describes its food and it’s pretty apt. It was a wet, grey Monday when Alex and I went there and our soup starters were perfect for the weather. I chose the c lassic French onion soup ($10) with grilled cheese on wholemeal bread floating on top. It really was just like what they make in France. Alex’s carrot and cumin soup ($10) was a meal in itself; rich, smooth and creamy. The cumin added a smoky, earthy flavour.

The Cajun chicken Caesar salad ($20) – fresh garden greens tossed with house-made Cesar dressing, Cajun chicken, bacon, croutons, egg and shaved parmesan cheese – was a good light option, but a bit bland. Though the chicken was tender and the mango complemented it well, something that would have made it memorable was missing. I loved the homemade crab cakes made with garden herbs served with a wasabi dipping sauce and fresh salad greens ($19). The desiccated coconut crust added a little extra crunch, but I could have done with a lot more of the tasty wasabi sauce.

Hedonistic is how Alex described our shared dessert sampler served with vanilla ice cream ($18). It came with bite-size pieces of the “to die for” brownie made with Kahlua, New York-style strawberry cheesecake, a deliciously thick apple pie and John Erdos’s mother’s strawberry rhubarb pie, which was definitely the standout dessert for both of us. It offered a fruity reprieve from the richness of the other desserts.

E Food and Wine is located at the very end of the main Dempsey Road strip behind the John Erdos home decoration store and art gallery. The restaurant overlooks a lush rainforest – the perfect respite from city life. You can choose between alfresco or indoor dining, depending on the weather, and there’s a cosy, separate bar area if you just fancy a tipple.

Harriet Empey

E Food&Wine
E Food&Wine

Also try:

Culina Bistro
Block 8 Dempsey Road #01-13 Dempsey Hill
Tel: 6474 7338

For yummy and modern gourmet food.

PS Café
28B Harding Road | Tel: 6479 3343
For traditional and modern food, plus great desserts

Where to park: Parking spots are available all over Dempsey Hill but they are uncovered, so bring your umbrella in case it rains.

The Veranda
The Veranda

Location: Thomson

The Verandah @ Singapore Polo Club
80 Mount Pleasant Road
Tel: 6854 3999 | singaporepoloclub.org

Some people’s idea of a restaurant with a view is one from which you can see the ocean, or one that’s located at a dizzying height. On the Clubhouse verandah, a glass of sauvignon blanc in hand, my friend and I delight in the expansive view of the lush polo field and its tropical surroundings. One of the great things about the Polo Club is that you don’t have to be a member to dine there. Non-members are welcome every weekday (and Saturdays after 8pm), so you could happily go along to watch one of the late afternoon polo games on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The club hosts a real mix of expats and locals, which is reflected in the Western and Asian menu. We choose the Singapore tandoori chicken pizza ($18) with yoghurt, mozzarella and coriander – a gourmet-style pizza with a deliciously thin and crispy crust; and crispy cereal prawns ($18), another delight from the local menu, which proves to be a big hit with my friend. Deciding we needed a faultlessly healthy accompaniment, we ordered the caprese di bufala ($17), gratifyingly light and fresh buffalo mozzarella with sliced tomato and basil.

I say “almost” because there is no way I’m going to pass on the dessert menu, which features two of my all-time favourites – crème brûlée ($7.50) and crostata di lava ($10). I can’t possibly choose between them, so despite my friend’s valiant protest, I order both (one for her, of course). Both are every bit as good as I hoped. The final hurrah is a very good cappuccino, doubly pleasing to me as it means I no longer need to bemoan the lack of decent coffee in the Thomson area.

That’s funny – I’ve suddenly developed an interest in polo!

Natasha Young

The Veranda
The Veranda

Also try:
Canopy Garden Dining & Bar
Bishan Park 2, 1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1| Tel: 6556 1533
For Australian-style café food in a peaceful garden setting

E-sarn Thai
9 Thomson Ridge | Tel: 6554 4174
For north-eastern Thai cuisine and excellent tom yum goong.

Where to park: Parking at the Polo Club and Canopy is never a problem; both have on-site car parks. For E-sarn, you’ll have to try your luck on the side streets.

TWG
TWG

 

Location: Marina Bay Sands

TWG Tea Garden
2 Bayfront Avenue #B2-89 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6565 1837 | twgtea.com

Requests for a lunch “tea for two” began back in 2008 when TWG opened its first boutique in Republic Plaza, the building where I used to meet my husband every week for lunch. Heading for the basement food court, I’d enviously watch as women in impeccably tailored suits disappeared into the grand TWG loft restaurant above. “Perhaps today?” I’d beckon. Pointing to his watch, he’d shake his head, and we’d descend the depths for yet another Subway six-incheer. One day, one day…

Fast-forward three years. When a friend cancelled our lunch date in the CBD at the last minute, I knew exactly what to do – and who to call. Husband and I finally sat down for our (read: my) long-awaited lunch at TWG – the TWG Tea Garden in Marina Bay Sands, in fact, a space that the company considers to be its “most impressive outlet” yet. Surrounded by orchids and suspended on a circular platform with a moat-like pool of water below, the restaurant is designed to evoke an afternoon tea-party setting – one with Prada and LV stores within a stone’s throw, that is.

Whether infused into the salad dressing or the ice cream, every dish hosts one of TWG’s 800-plus teas. We started with a seaside salad ($26), a fresh plate of greens topped with calamari beignets and flavourful anchovies, paired with pots of white Earl Grey ($20.50) and Oriental Empire ($11) tea. The summer quiche ($19) is a generous portion of French-style pie filled with large chunks of seasonal vegetables, and the Wagyu burger ($24) and matchstick potatoes are portioned perfectly for carnivorous lady lunchers who want something filling yet not overwhelming

Alongside Tea Party tea ($11), a black tea with a note of sweetness, we ordered a slice of Singapore surprise cake ($9.50) and a Normandy apple tart ($12) for dessert. The male wait-staff, all whom were delightfully easy on the eye, either misheard my order or were extremely generous, as they brought us both one of each. A taste of this one, a bite of the other; I tried to figure out which one was better than the other. In the end, I just couldn’t choose, as both were phenomenal, but I had a tremendously good time trying

Monica Pitrelli

Also try:

Pizzeria Mozza
B1-42-46, Galleria Level | Tel:  6688 8522
For pizzas and paninis by Mario Batali

Jean Philippe Darcis
L1-38 Bay Level | Tel: 6688 7202
For fancy sandwiches and Belgian chocolates

Where to park: The car park entrance is located at Sands Expo and Convention Center, via the Bayfront Link. Self-parking is free from 10am to 5pm on Mondays to Thursdays when you spend $20 in the stores or restaurants at The Shoppes. Valet parking is available at Hotel Tower 1 and the casino; first hour $12 plus $1 per additional half hour.

Location: City Hall

Garibaldi Italian Restaurant

36 Purvis Street #01-02 6837 1468

Although Garibaldi doesn’t have a view, this classy Italian restaurant is sure to impress. At $38, the set lunch menu that changes weekly is good value and includes a choice of three starters, five or six mains, dessert and tea or coffee. For starters, try the generous portion of perfectly cooked deep-fried calamari with tartara mayonnaise or, if you’re watching your weight, opt for the beautifully presented mesclun salad with apple, orange, toasted hazelnut and lemon dressing. The hearty penne with pork sausage ragout, saffron and green peas is perfect on a rainy day. If you’re looking for melt-in-the-mouth beef, order the grilled US beef tagliata with potato gratin and mustard sauce. At the end of the meal a trolley of six or more delectable desserts is wheeled out, and you might find it difficult to choose just one! A selection of Italian wines is available by the glass, starting at $20.  

Should you or shouldn’t you? When it comes to alcohol at lunchtime, Jerry Comfort, Senior Manager of Wine Education at Napa Valley’s Beringer Vineyards, says yes: as long as you exercise moderation – a couple of glasses of wine or champagne should do the trick.

Location: Greenwood Avenue

Donna Carmela
For pasta and all things Italian
2 Greenwood Avenue 6463 4206

Shinyuu
For an à la carte Japanese buffet
16 Greenwood Avenue 6763 4939

Where to park: Parking is available right next to the Greenwood Avenue restaurants.

 

Location: Robertson Quay

Graze *This restaurant is now closed*
38 Martin Road
6509 1680 | www.graze.com.sg

When I wrote about the opening of Graze at Martin 38 some months back, my astute colleague, Verne Maree, approached my desk to question my oxymoronic description of the restaurant as “country urban”. Whitewashed furniture, chopping tables and walls adorned with vintage pots and rooster-emblazoned plates juxtaposed withelegant candlelight and upscale cuisine seemed to fit the bill to me. In the end, my description got the green light. Thanks, Verne.

But it’s one thing to pass through a restaurant, like I did when Graze opened, and another to sit down for a meal. The lunch menu offers brunch and sandwich options, but I decided to stick to what Graze does best – grilled mains of meat and fish. I’d normally choose sumac seared scallops ($19) over upside down duck pie ($24) any day of the week. But to do so would be a mistake. Tender morsels of flavourful duck upon a bed of pastry bed and a layer of mash was my pick for the best dish of the day.

Pan-seared barramundi in a chorizo broth and a salad of ruby red grapefruit, avocado and mint ($34) is a solid choice, and red-meat eaters can find solace in the buttery 220gm eye fillet ($40) of pasture-fed Gippsland, Australian beef. Tack on a side of tomato, pomegranate, sumac and cumin salad to lighten things up. An apple tarte tatin with orange marmalade and vanilla ice cream ($13) will make sure there’s no need for an afternoon snack that day – a good trade-off, I’d say.

Monica Pitrelli

Also try:

eM By the River
For riverside sips, savouries and salads

Limoncello
1 Nanson Road  #01-05 Gallery Hotel | Tel: 6836 9691

Where to park:
Try your luck roadside on Mohammed Sultan or dip into one of the car parks at the Gallery Hotel, Riverview Hotel or Robertson Walk, to name a few.

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