Comfort food: Warm chocolate pudding with salted caramel at Telok Ayer Arts Club
This deeply chocolatey confection with a rubble of coconut crumble was the best thing we ate this week, especially in this frightful weather.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … and the monsoon season. The weather outside is wet and grey, and as close as it’ll get to perfect for enjoying a warm, fluffy pudding like this one. Airy to the bite, yet deeply chocolatey, this baked chocolate pudding (S$10) served with salted, jaggery caramel, and a rubble of coconut crumble was an unexpected afternoon delight.
This, we enjoyed, in the oasis of calm that is Telok Ayer Arts Club at lunchtime in the CBD. Part bar, part restaurant, part art gallery, this spartanly-appointed space plays host to a revolving collection of artwork that could include photographs and paintings, sound installations and other mediums. Currently, the walls are adorned with ceramic sculptures and photographs depicting pleasure, desire, romance and Malay masculinity by artists Megan Miao, Susie Wong and Zulkhairi Zulkiflee.
Whether gazing at expressions of sexual desire and erotic forms makes for a suitable amuse bouche is a matter of personal taste. Evidently, we had no problem noshing on the food executed here by head chef Bertram Leong and his team.
Their cuisine is described as French Mediterranean dotted with Asian inclusions. These take the form of dishes like Seafood Fettucine (S$25), modelled after both French bouillabaisse and Singaporean prawn mee. It was difficult to tell where the influences lay since the pasta quickly soaked up the mildly seasoned sauce, so that their strands were heavy and sodden. What little sauce remained was more sweet than briny, and studded with tomatoes, baby squid and clams.
A locally bred spatchcock (S$28) was also dominated by the sweet notes of honey butter that drowned out the chicken’s natural flavour and smokiness of the bacon that lay at the bottom of the plate.
What fared better were the appetisers, including a satisfying salad of tomatoes tossed in red wine vinegar and cubes of brined and fried tofu (S$14) with deliciously crisp edges. Their bright, piquant flavours were layered with the umami depth of parmesan and shitake pesto.
Most appealing of the establishment’s offerings is its bar programme. Beverage manager Din Hassan has created a menu of drinks that taste as good as they look. His day drinking menu, available between 12pm and 7pm on weekdays, features draught beer and low ABV (alcohol by volume) concoctions priced from S$10++.
Among the larger list of cocktails are a couple of classics re-imagined with Southeast Asian flavours. The Cosmopolitan (S$22), for instance, is sharpened with a dash of sour plum prosecco syrup, while a White Lady (S$22) is infused with curry leaves and adorned with a papadum cracker.
Even the quotidian iced tea (S$6.50) is presented in a beautifully cut glass, topped with a scoop of lemon sorbet – an inspiring touch, especially for those faced with the middle-of-the-workday slump.
Telok Ayer Arts Club, 2 McCallum Street. www.telokayerartsclub.sg