The smell of Jack’s Place hits me first. It feels out of place here in Parkway Parade Shopping Centre, one of Singapore’s happily sanitised malls; it’s the smell of meat grilling and potatoes baking – a warm, comforting scent that evokes an English kitchen warmed by cups of tea and occasional wafts of heat from the oven.
While my English mother’s fine home-cooking is grounded in traditional roasts, stews and casseroles, her repertoire includes a good steak; and that’s what’s cooking at Jack’s Place. The roaringly successful Singaporean chain with branches all over town has been serving reasonably priced Western comfort food for the past 50 years.
Most of us grown-up expatriates will not be with our parents on Mother’s Day (filial British sons and daughters will already have ordered the long-distance flowers, since Mothering Sunday comes earlier in the UK), but for a taste of home, with or without your mother, Jack’s Place is offering a three-course Mother’s Day menu on 8 and 9 May. I had the opportunity to taste-test it in advance.
The menu begins with soup of the day, available in several varieties; for an extra couple of dollars, you can upgrade to lobster bisque – a hearty, tomato-based soup bobbing with fat chunks of seafood.
For mains, you can choose between rib-eye steak ($19) or a combo of slipper lobster and chicken ($22.50). My steak was ordered medium-rare and that’s how it arrived: the inside a blushing pink that fell away under the knife. My partner’s surf and turf with its juicy grilled chicken breast was also good, though the lobster had perhaps shone more brightly in the soup. The king of spuds, the baked potato, accompanied both mains. Liberally slathered in sour cream, chives and bacon bits, it sat beside obligatory greens, just like the ones your mother would have made you finish before you could have your pudding.
Speaking of pudding, we opted for an unfussy, pecan-studded brownie with vanilla ice cream. I’m known to champion a well-known UK supermarket’s choc-chip muffins as one of mankind’s culinary masterstrokes, so this was right up my street. Not too sweet, satisfyingly stodgy and just the right size.
While quality steaks at a reasonable price are probably the main reason to go to Jack’s Place, it does a variety of other, similarly comforting dishes: pizzas, pasta, and even local dishes like beef kway teow noodles and sambal prawns. The ambience at this and all the Jack’s outlets I’ve been to is warm and welcoming.
This may not be fine dining, nor does it aspire to be, but it is comfort food with friendly service.
For details of the various Jack’s Place outlets in Singapore, visit www.jacksplace.com.sg.