Raffles Courtyard Italian Restaurant and Gazebo Bar
1 Beach Road
Mostly for its nostalgic ambience, we regularly gravitate back to the gazebo bar in the courtyard of the venerable Raffles Hotel. Now that the space has been made over into an alfresco Italian bar and eatery featuring an open kitchen and a fragrant pizza oven, there’s even more reason to visit.
Of the two aperitivi della casa ($15 each), I prefer the refreshing Spritz – Aperol, Prosecco and a slice of orange – to the Bellini. Then, despite a neat range of well-priced Italian wines, we give the vino della casa a go. It’s served in an anfora (earthenware jug) and priced at $12 for 150ml, $18 for 300ml and $34 for 600ml – and even a surprising 3,000ml (yes, three litres!) rounded off to the auspicious sum of $188. The Bianco Trebbiano is from Lazio, and is surprisingly drinkable; the Rosso Sangiovese is even better.
From a tidy menu of salads, pastas and pizzas – no complex or heavy meat or fish dishes here – we start with the beautifully fresh insalata primavera ($21), the caprese (tomatoes, mozzarella and black olive sauce; $21) and a sterling version of Roy’s favourite, vitello tonnato ($29), thinly sliced loin of veal dressed with a tuna sauce and capers. Avoid ordering the focaccia con Parmigiano ($9) if you’re watching your weight; it’s that sinfully good.
Chef Nicola Canutti uses his mother’s recipe for lasagne alla Bolognese ($25), we’re told. It’s not bad, but I have to say I prefer my mother’s richer, saucier version. Today’s special pizzas ($21 to $29) – one Parmigiano, the other topped with buffalo mozzarella – are tastier choices. Medium-sized and deliciously oven-charred, they beg to be rolled up and eaten with the fingers; you can order them to take away, too.
Four flavours of excellent gelato ($8) are made on the premises: milk, pear, strawberry and chocolate. That’s it, dessert-wise – it’s a good thing almost everyone loves ice cream.
Despite the restricted menu, Raffles Courtyard’s popular Italian fare and reasonably priced wine deserve to attract a steady crowd of both locals and expats, in addition to the usual tourist trade.
Must-try dish: Vitello tonnato