Of all the cities I travel to, I think Singapore has done an amazing job of combining culinary destinations with sight seeing destinations. What do I mean? You know when you go to a restaurant in a city…the one with the amazing view….and the food is entirely average? I hate that and I bet you do too. Why should one have to compromise? But it seems to be a fairly common formula – think any sky high resto in NYC, quite a few in London….don’t get me started on Bangkok or Tokyo. But Singapore is truly an exception to this unfortunate formula. Whether it is Cataluyna at Fullerton Bay, Ku De Ta at Marina Bay Sands, Level 33 at the MB Financial Center…there are a great variety of restaurants in Singapore where the culinary arts are as compelling as the view.
Pollen is a great example of this. Nestled under the Super Trees in the Garden by the Bay in Singapore is one of Jason Atherton’s signature restaurants. Unlike Esquina, also in Singapore, this Atherton restaurant is a white table cloth affair, decidedly more formal than the usual Atherton joint. That said the ambiance is softened by the great expanse of light let in by the glass dome and the indoor gardens which blur the distinction between indoors and out.
The menu is constantly changing seasonally, so I am not sure it would make sense for me to detail every wonderful dish we ate….and they were all wonderful! But I would like to tell you about the highlights.
At Pollen, the focus is definitely on seafood. And there are a great many types of seafood that are rather out of the ordinary for Singapore. For example, they had one of my favourite fish on the menu, John Dory. This is an elusive item, really hard to find a outside of Australia and New Zealand. Also Boston Lobster and a variety of oysters can be found on the menu.
In fact I enjoyed a lobster salad (no longer on the menu) which had a thoughtful combination of textures and flavours intended to play off one another. The crumb looking bits you see in the photo was tomato water frozen by liquid nitrogen. Meanwhile the lobster was perfectly poached in the tradition manner. And this is what is always signature about Atherton’s cooking – the use of molecular gastronomic elements is always in service of the dish (in texture or flavour) rather than just for novelty’s sake.
My second course was a classically prepared black cod with razor clams. I chose it because I love razor clams and you don’t often see them on the menu where I live in Shanghai. In fact the only place I know of that has them is Atherton’s Table No 1 in Shanghai.
Unlike Atherton’s other restos which are small plates to share, this is intended to be a multi-course dining experience. And so there is also a tasting menu on offer. I would always suggest in any good restaurant to do the tasting menu if you have the time, the money and the appetite. It’s always the best representation of what the chef can do – the dishes and combinations he or she feels represents them best.
We decided to refrain from dessert but were greeted with a lovely complementary platter of sweet treats to enjoy with coffee. It was a fantastic array of little bites. Despite our protests of being too full for dessert, they all managed to disappear quickly!
I have since been back to Pollen a couple of times – once for lunch and another time for afternoon cocktails. And my experience has been consistently good. Having seen the place at both daytime and nighttime, I can appreciate the visual charm of each – the greenhouse “effect” is quite different in daytime versus night. Considering the loveliness of both times of day, I would suggest sunset cocktails upstairs in the garden followed by dinner downstairs in the main dining room.
Note: plan to arrive a bit early as you will need to take a buggy to the restaurant from the main entrance of Gardens by the Bay. It comes every 5 minutes so you shouldn’t have to wait long.
Flower Dome, Gardens By The Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Lunch: 12pm to 2.30pm
Dinner: 6pm to 10pm