Al fresco dining in a lush green setting. Casual atmosphere. Reasonable prices. Ahi tuna tartare with toasted ciabatta and avocado salsa. Steamed ginger date pudding with chocolate toffee sauce.
Limited menu. Few wines by the glass. Mushroom risotto with truffled hen egg.
Yesterday was Sandy's birthday ... Happy Birthday! Unfortunately baby Olive hasn't been sleeping well of late and we were worried she would wake and freak out when faced by a strange babysitter so we decided on a quick bite out at a nearby restaurant. Sandy had read about a place called Spruce on Chubby Hubby so we booked a table for 8.45pm.
Spruce is located in Phoenix Park, the colonial black-and-white enclave on Tanglin Road, facing the High Commission of Brunei Darussalam. It's only a ten-minute taxi ride from home so we put Olive down at 8.15, changed (we were too scared to let Olive us in our party clothes!) and rushed out. First impressions were good. The restaurant is housed in a colonial black-and-white surrounded by greenery. Outside is a casual al fresco dining area with funky orange lampshades, simple black-paper place settings and timber decking; inside are several airconditioned dining rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. We'd booked a spot outside and were ushered to a table on the edge of the verandah, overlooking the garden. The atmosphere was very Australian, in fact all the tables outside were taken by ang mohs so we almost forgot we were in Singapore.
Spruce's website is still not up and running but I'm assuming it's positioning itself as a casual, hip cafe à la PS Café in Dempsey. This was substantiated by the menu, which is small (not a bad thing) and very simple (also not a bad thing). There's nothing on the menu that you wouldn't cook at home but we're happy to go out for simple comfort food as long as it's well executed.
We sort of forgot that the burger was the signature dish so we didn't order it. Actually, I'm not sure we forgot this fact or we just couldn't imagine how a burger could be the speciality of the house. We saw other guests eating it and it looked OK, kind of like a burger really. Hey, I luurve to eat burgers but I'd rather prepare a huge, fresh, juicy burger stuffed with harissa or Stilton at home. The only optional extra for this particular burger was bacon. Oh, and hand-cut chips. Yeah, I also slice my potatoes by hand. The rest of the mains took the form of three pastas, a risotto, a couple of steaks, a rotisserie chicken and some fish dishes, including fish and chips.
The appetizers looked interesting and next time, if there is a next time, we'll order more of these instead of sharing just one dish. The dish we did share was excellent though. Ahi tuna tartare was served with toasted ciabatta and avocado salsa and was sublime. Unfortunately everything peaked early and that was really the highlight of the meal.
For mains, Sandy chose braised duck pappardelle with rosemary while I had the mushroom risotto with truffled hen egg. The pasta wasn't bad, it was quite a hearty dish but the flavours weren't that impressive. Thank god for the rosemary was Sandy's comment. It reminded me of a dish of pappardelle tossed with braised white rabbit with glazed eschallots, green olive and parsley I ate a few months ago in Australia but this fell way short. My risotto was swimming in liquid and I gave up using a fork to eat it. I don't think it was supposed to be a watery risi e bisi-style risotto but maybe I'm wrong. The runny egg was fun but when the yolk ran into the rice flood it all got a bit scary. The flavour was too bland for what is usually a fantastic dish. For dessert we shared a steamed ginger date pudding with chocolate toffee sauce, which was delicious. To be honest the ginger didn't really come through but it was tasty all the same. According to Sandy, her coffee was excellent ... a Melbourne coffee called Giancarlo, apparently.
Service was friendly and we didn't need to wave too much to get the attention of the staff. The prices are very reasonable for Singapore but is it worth paying S$22 for a mediocre pasta or risotto? I would like to come back and try more starters, some of the fish dishes and maybe the burger, and I really want this place to do well. I like the ambience and prices and I want to enjoy the food. On the way out we caught a glimpse of the cheese board, which looked very tempting so that's a good enough excuse for a second visit.
Update: Sandy thinks I've been too hard on Spruce and that the problem was we chose the wrong dishes. Er ... yeah, but it's a restaurant, there aren't supposed to be any wrong dishes. Anyway, we did enjoy the evening, it was a pleasure to be out of earshot of a screaming baby and Sandy looks forward to returning to Spruce soon.
Spruce - restaurant • bakery • bar
320 Tanglin Road
Reservations: +65 6836 5528
Rating (out of 10)
Do try the ahi tuna tartare with toasted ciabatta and avocado salsa and perhaps try the burger.
Casual and relaxed, a lovely spot.
Friendly, we had no complaints on this front.