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Featuring Boufe Boutique Cafe (Tanglin), Benjamin Barker Cafe, The Marmalade Pantry (Downtown), HĒ Bistro and Bar, Astons Specialities (Bugis+), Poulét (Raffles City)
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Located deep within the quiet enclave of Phoenix Park, Boufé Boutique Cafe is a charming little restaurant with a whimsically pristine setting that evokes memories of a Sunday brunch by the garden as transparent drops of dew cascade down a blade of grass, signifying the end of a rainy midsummer night. With that, I conclude the pretentious introductory passage and consequently begin the process of detailing my experience to share with you lovely readers in hopes of educating and perhaps even convincing a trip down to the location described. Talk about extra-pretentious writing, one might think that after 30 articles in the span of almost 2 months that I would cease this madness. For over 4 years, Boufé has stayed true to their philosophical approach on making every dish and ingredient in-house whenever possible. From freshly baked sourdough breads to a carefully brewed cup of coffee, the attention to detail that Boufé regards is a feat, one that would go on to serve fantastic food to hungry customers making their way into the stillness of Phoenix Park. Their steak dish, punningly named Steaks Are High ($20++) on their menu is a leaning tower of homemade onion rings rested on a seared Australian oyster blade beef steak served on top of two golden brown hash browns that are laid on top of a simple salad of roquette leaves. Quite a mouthful of words to say the least, or should I say “to say the most”. As unorthodox and rather amusing the presentation was, the oyster blade (more commonly known as the flat iron) cut was rather chewy despite being well-seasoned, and unfortunately, the onion rings felt more dry than crisp, almost as if they have been left out for some time before service. However, a triumphant duo from their Sides menu managed to pull through, with sublime Truffle Fries ($10++) that made for a wonderful appetiser alongside their Mini Mushroom Melts ($10++), which were marvellous. Great place to come down for a weekend brunch.

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Everybody knows Benjamin Barker when it comes to a topic regarding prim and proper fashion at an accessible point. Of course, my primary intent is to disseminate food culture and tasting notes, not discuss the intricacies of tailoring down to the weave. As such, one would also come to note that Benjamin Barker has a rather quaint and simplistic café concept that serves up food as comfortably fitting as a double-ply European cotton shirt. At Benjamin Barker Café, one can hope to find an array of modern-classic fares, as well as fusion dishes incorporating Singaporean flavours into more Western plates. With a distinctive day and night menu that provides customers with a more refined experience, the food and the environment more than makes up for a thoughtful day of work and play, be it discussing ideas or simply relaxing over a warm cup of Flat White ($5.50++). I decided to try their Mr. BB Burger ($20++), which featured a rather classic burger combination of organic Angus patty, caramelised onions, portobello mushrooms, vintage cheddar, jalapeños and hot sauce. The addition of the jalapeños and the hot sauce were a sublime addition to the warm meaty flavours of the burger, giving a much welcome piquancy to cut through the vintage cheddar. A rather comforting joint to just hang out or grab something delectable on a weeknight.

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With a familiar sense of extravagance and a notable place for wonderful casual French dining, Poulet has always been a delightful experience when it comes to good solid French fare. In terms of presentation and flavour, the food at Poulet is remarkably polished for a chain restaurant, serving up their popular roast chicken to satisfied customers all over the tiny little red dot. Albeit an unpopular opinion, their other dishes are a league above their classic rotisserie chicken when it comes to decadence and overall flavour with value-for-money. One of the must-tries at any Poulet restaurant has to be their Truffle Mashed Potato ($6.90++), a luxuriously smooth and creamy mash with a seductive punch of truffle in every bite. I really do mean it when I say that this is one of, if not the best side dish at any restaurant that I’ve tasted, period. Every spoonful is a magnificence, and one is almost never enough. After having tried their Pork Belly on their previous menu numerous times, a visit to the restaurant to sample their new and revamped menu was in order. Their Pan-Fried Salmon ($18.90++) was served quite simply with some sautéed mushrooms, celery, roasted potatoes and a velvety beurre blanc sauce, top with some alfalfa sprouts for a crisp round-off. Definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for an affordable casual French dining experience.

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After writing up on lesser-known upscaled, “mid-scaled”, midtown, uptown funk gon’ give it to you (???) joints for a while, there was one place that I’ve always wanted to talk about and promote simple because of how accessible and amazingly delicious their dishes still remain to be. The Astons name is of course, no stranger to Singapore’s bustling chain restaurant scene. From its humble beginnings in 2005 as a western hawker stall helmed by the very man himself, Aston Soon, to a global empire with 11 brands and 35 outlets worldwide. Of course, with a business as expansive as that, it comes as no surprise that delicious food and good quality can be expected when dining at any Aston’s outlet. With a vast menu including most recognisable western favourites such as Pork Chops ($12.90) and Surf & Turf ($21.90), the food at Aston’s is affordable and positively consistent. Their Chargrilled Chicken ($10.90) is one simply delicious blueprint for their Grillworks Chicken menu, featuring succulent and juicy chicken with crispy skin. My personal favourite at Aston’s is their Fiery Chicken ($10.90), a spicy take on their Chargrilled Chicken that promises nothing less than a savoury, spicy chicken packed with flavour. Served with two complimentary sides from their menu, the Fiery Chicken stands as my favourite chicken dish in Singapore that I’ve come to have by the dozens.

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The Marmalade Pantry, through its brand new outlet opening at the heart of the city in ION Orchard, as well as a collaborative menu with Singapore’s very own Genevieve Lee (runner-up of MasterChef Singapore) has caused quite a stir in the ever-bustling food community. With a second visit to the flagship ION Orchard outlet planned in mind, a prerequisite dinner at one of its original outlets located at the Oasia Hotel Downtown was in order. Chic, elegant and modern, The Marmalade Pantry’s decor combined with the architectural genius of high ceilings of the hotel lobby was more than a pleasant welcome to the establishment. Their Roasted Stuffed Chicken ($28++) showcases a beautifully stuffed French-cut chicken breast with sun-dried tomatoes and portobello mushrooms, served with some simply seared asparagus, heirloom carrots and roasted potatoes before being rounded off with a seductive Dijon Velouté sauce. Simple and well-executed, with the stuffed tomatoes giving the chicken a delectable savouriness when paired with the sauce altogether. Worth a visit for entertaining work associates or even a laid-back weekend dinner.

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When it comes to food that is a cumulation of various cultures and ideas that sprouted as a result of meandering from the norm (aka fusion food), there is somehow an inevitable formation of a grey area where the dishes become lacklustre and the fusion fails to even occur. Well thankfully, HĒ Bistro and Bar seems to lying comfortably, albeit just inches short of this uncertain area, serving up fusion dishes combining Western cuisine with Singaporean flavours. Their Har Cheong Kai 鸡-ken Cutlet ($22) arrives at the table looking like a simple chicken cutlet meal one can expect from a Western hawker stall, but a first bite of the crispy, golden-brown cutlet released that ever so familiar flavour of prawn paste chicken together with the thin but juicy deboned chicken drumstick meat. Served with a fresh salad, some fries (although written on the menu as criss-cut fries, I received straight-cut fries) and spicy chinchalok which gave a nice contrast of flavours. Their Chilli Crappy Pasta ($22) was however a fair bit of a let-down. The sauce was undesirably diluted and watery to say the least, and little of the actual chilli crab flavour was present. On the other hand, one of the sauces that managed to subdue my attention was the Kopi sauce used in their Kopi Ribeye Steak ($30), which seems to go surprisingly well with the beef given that coffee and meat is of course, a modern classic flavour combination. Suffice to say as a place serving fusion cuisine, there could definitely be more finesse in the execution of the dishes, despite its creative output.

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