I arranged a rare lunch date with Hubby yesterday. Chose the newly opened Pollen at Gardens by the Bay due to the novelty factor which includes (1) being transported to the restaurant in your own personal buggy, (2) eating food prepared (or at least conceptualized) by a one star michelin chef, (3) gaining free access to the Flower Dome thereafter and (4) getting up close and personal with a 1000 year old olive tree! Wow! How's that for SGD55 per head? I'm in! Was quite fortunate to secure reservations one week earlier. They are fully booked most of the days so reservations are a must.
It was a sweltering hot day and the restaurant is not exactly very near the main entrance so the restaurant's complimentary buggy service (which runs every 5 mins) was a very nice touch.
Pollen is located within the Flower Dome itself. Its furnishings are classy, white and seem to carry some Nordic influences. Most of the diners were locals comprising well heeled executives, rich tai tais and the occassional auntie. Formal wear is not a must here. Hubby and I wore jeans (paired with a smart top) and looked perfectly in place. However, I must also add that skimpy tops are also not recommended due to the chilly temperature in the dome. If you must, bring along a jacket or shawl.
Table 8. That was my requested choice of seating since it was recommended by an 8 Days article and purportedly boasts the best view (which includes close proximity to a 1000 year old olive tree on the 2nd level). Unfortunately, the restaurant doesn't open its 2nd level for lunch and Table 8 turned out to be a really shaky table on the first floor with a clear view of the Flyer, joggers and tourists.
The SGD55 menu offers excellent value.
For starters, we were served with some tough baugettes and sour dough bread, a potato cod spread and some clean tasting preserved olives.
The waiters don't seem to possess the finnesse of upper end eateries in Singapore like Cut, 1929, Mortons and St Pierre. One waitress spilled our bowl of olives just as it was about to be served to us while the other gave me a clueless look when I asked about the 1000 year old tree on the second floor. They were however attentive in refilling our water (yes, its only tap) and paced the meal nicely.
The food however redeemed the whole dining experience. Clean tasting notes with surprise ingredients that we never thought could work so well together. Portions were just right- leaving us satiated but craving for more.
Hubby's salmon starter was an interesting match of ocean trout (looked like salmon to me) with beer pickled onion, oyster mayo and smoked eggplant. A most unusual combination which left him a little perplexed and strangely delighted.
My starter of slow cooked egg with some tomato puree, cubed potato and chorizo chips was a savoury mess of comfort food at its best.
For mains, we both had the roasted pork belly with broad beans, squid and chorizo. Pollen's version isn't the crackly brown kind which you find at Chinese roast stalls. Rather, this one was caramelized with a melt in the mouth tenderness and richness that only pork can offer. Placed on top of the dish was a crackling piece of keropok that added some localised feel to the dish. What caught us by surprise was the addition of small pieces of slow cooked squid. Who would have thought pork and squid taste so good together? I suddenly recall a nyonya dish where minced pork is stuffed into fresh squid..looks like the Europeans also have their own ang moh version.
Dessert was interesting...a play of colours and textures. More to tease than to fill. Hubby's dessert of beetroot sorbet with hibiscus compressed apple and salted milk chocolate was again an evolution of taste that entertained our palates. It was so girly looking he almost wanted to swap with me.
My dessert was substantially less flamboyant in sight but no less interesting in taste. I opted for something more sourish and was rewarded by a cucumber sorbet with crispy and burnt lemon meringue. It was unlike any dessert I have eaten before. Heavenly.
We didn't linger too long at our table our lunch and promptly adjourned to the 2nd level to admire the 1000 year old olive tree before moving on to the main Flower Dome.
The transition from taste to sight, smell and sound of nature was seamless and left me slightly breathless. I felt as if I had been teleported to some flower garden in Cameron Highlands. An almost ethereal experience that I strongly recommend.