With the opening of Catalunya, it almost feels as though all of Spain’s top talent (when it comes to the kitchen at least) has migrated to the sunny shores of Singapore. First we had Santi open up at the Bay Sands – while the venture did not last very long it was delicious while it did! I’m so glad I made it there for their warm hospitality and to partake in their fatty little friend, the Spanish suckling pig, with its layer of thin crisp perfectly browned skin, so tender it could be cut with a plate.
To be entirely honest, I didn’t mourn the closing of Santi much – what I felt keenly was the sudden inability to get some of that divine swine in my stomach. We used to head there after work to have tapas at the bar, and the lovely maitre d’ always allowed us a teensy plate of crackling to accompany the rest of our meal.
Which is why when the family decided to go to Catalunya to dine for the first time, there was no doubt in my mind that I would go for the swine. My only worry was whether or not it would be on the menu. After all, the apprentices of Adrià (Head Chef Alain Devahive Tolosa spent a decade in the kitchens at El Bulli) might not appreciate the simplicity of a little pig prepared to perfection.
(Adrià and Santi spent their entire culinary careers at odds with one another – Adrià prided himself on being at the forefront of complicated cooking, while Santi was famous for sticking to tradition and serving up Catalan food at its purest and finest)
You can imagine my relief when I saw the little porker on the fourth page.
The décor of the restaurant is distinctively Spanish without being overwhelmingly so – warm palette, low light, lots of dark wood, and a bull’s head mounted to the wall (okay, so that bit was a bit obvious).
The food is thoroughly Spanish, and wonderfully so. You’d have thought Tolosa would have brought a lot more of El Bulli into the menu with molecularized this and liquid-nitrogened that, but I’m so glad he didn’t and that the restaurant reflects a completely different vibe from what’s described of where he honed his skills.
Ironically, the food reminded me a lot of Santi. Classic and perhaps a little traditional (for those of you expecting something avant-garde), it was all beautifully done – the exquisite ingredients were prepared quite simply which says a lot about the folks in the kitchen and their ability to match the natural flavours and play up the textures without adding anything with a -hyl, -ine or -ium on the end.
There was one dish that showed up – the anchovies in olive oil – four little slivers on a plate and I thought that’s it? But when it hit my taste buds I realized that was all it needed. Beautiful.
And the rest of the meal went up and up from there. Everything was simply prepared and absolutely delightful. It goes without saying that you must order the tender suckling pig with its crisp layer of skin cooked to perfection (in true traditional style, they’ll cut it at the table with a dessert plate). Also good? The succulent lobster served on a bed of risotto (cooked in fish stock), the steak tartare, and a side of iberico ham. For the health freaks, there's a grilled fish that's apparently amazing (according to my sister's boyfriend who had it).
As for dessert? They’ve done an excellent job. You must try the fried bread with milk ice cream and the chocolate with different textures (there’s passion fruit in it, and that has got to be one of the best culinary combinations ever discovered). The milk ice cream had this incredible smoky texture, like that first taste of Laphroaig on your tongue, and I could eat like, 11 balls of that passion fruit and chocolate amazingness if you gave me half a chance.
No pictures of the food, just one of my greedy family – too busy eating, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
82 Collyer Quay 049327
For reservations: 6534 0886 | firstname.lastname@example.org