Mandarin Orchard Singapore
333 Orchard Road
+65 6831 6288
Since it opened in 1971 as the first hotel restaurant to serve hawker fare, The Chatterbox has become a Singaporean culinary institution
It’s most famous for its Mandarin chicken rice ($22), so that’s what I ordered. I like chicken rice – moist breast of chicken served on sliced cucumber dressed with light soya and sesame, served with tasty rice (boiled in the chicken-stock) and three sauces: ginger, chilli and dark soya. As you’d expect for the price, the portion was generous and it was served very prettily.
Sadly, by 7.45pm on a weekday night, the Boston lobster laksa ($28) – by far the best-looking item on the menu – was no longer available. Roy nearly cried, and would not be comforted by the explanation that only so many portions are made each day, and when they run out, they run out. Only the excellence of his snapper curry ($22), a good portion of fish and brinjal in a spiced-just-right coconut gravy, restored his equilibrium.
We loved the coconut ice cream ($10), dusted with chocolate, studded with walnuts and served in the shell. The mango pudding ($8) was just all right.
Semi-brusque service and bright lighting give The Chatterbox an amazingly local ambience for a five-star hotel, yet we found some of the prices ($9 for a coffee; $8 for tea; $16 for a glass of house white) surprisingly steep. That’s not putting other diners off: an incredible 250,000 portions of chicken rice are served here each year.
We won’t rest, however, until we’ve sampled that lobster laksa. Next time, I’d better phone ahead to reserve two portions.