There isn’t any marmalade in The Marmalade Pantry, at least none that I can see. But everything that I see in this avant-garde bistro is everything that I like: open space, bright lights, cupcakes (yay!), and a fixating dessert display. It’s Sunday brunch and Bin’s and my Singapore-based friends, Karen and Paolo, have taken us here for our last meal before we fly back to Manila.
As the guys find the girls a table, Karen leads me to the back of the main dining room. I’m immediately taken by the expansive stainless steel table where diners can choose to perch, should they prefer to eat incognito. But what grabs me are the desserts glinting behind sheet glass, an entire array of cupcakes and sweets. Because she’s as much a dessert-lover as I am, Karen and I consider getting one of everything, but our conversation is interrupted by the guys calling us to the table.
It’s the nearness of a sugary treat that compels me to order three cupcakes before I even sit down. “Cupcakes for dessert then?” The server inquires. “No, as appetizers please,” I reply. Dessert as a starter must happen quite often here because the server didn’t even bat an eyelash. Cool! This is my kind of place.
I’m perfectly happy to coddle my cupcakes but the guys encourage me to try some of the mains. We start off with a sandwich aptly named, The Elvis. Purportedly the singer’s favorite, peanut butter and banana slices are scrunched in between two slices of soft bread and then deep-fried. Just reading its description is spine-chilling even for me, but there’s something attractively audacious to eating something so obviously, gloriously calorific. While I think the sandwich needs more peanut butter, it has a delectable, almost melodious crunch that makes up for its lack of filling.
Here’s the chicken pot pie hiding bashfully under a cover of crust. In the same way that a passenger will “shout shotgun” just so he/she can nab the front seat, I lunge for the top crust. “Hope you guys don’t mind!” I say swooping down and picking it up. Slightly piquant with a nutty flavor, it’s a cheddar cheese crust that cuts through the richness of the chicken filling. It’s a dish that’s meant to impress more than it’s meant to satiate, especially since it’s being shared among four people.
Paolo often orders the portabello mushroom and asparagus risotto when he’s at The Marmalade Pantry and this time is no exception. Delightfully al dente, it’s a toothsome dish given texture with the cheese tuile of sorts that garnishes it. I’ve come to believe that a person will deem a risotto as good or bad depending on how saucy or wet it is. Most people I know prefer risotto as it’s seen in the photo above, whereas there are others who like it almost soupy.
My Bin, the burger lover that he is, decides to splurge on the foie gras burger. Just saying its name evokes images of such ludicrous luxury that it seems almost sinful to eat it. But almost all foie gras burgers I’ve seen have such a smidgen of the esteemed liver that it might seem like just any ordinary beef patty. Ah, it’s all in the name! The Marmalade Pantry’s foie gras burger is so juicy that it leaves a trail of bovine juice on the plate. Dividing it into quarters leaves each of us with a whisper of a portion but one taste is enough to reveal the pedigree of this beef. Enough goose liver is in the meat that its magnificence gushes with each chew, its essence clearly defined. One day I’d like to order a foie gras burger in a restaurant that is just that ”“ a thick slab of foie gras ensconced between two slices of bread. And heavy on the fries, please.
“I’m telling you that you must have the sticky date toffee pudding,” Paolo says emphatically as he takes the last forkful of the side salad. I take it in good faith since he doesn’t bow at the temple of sugar as his wife, Karen, and I do. So we do order it, and it’s just an epitomic yin/yang moment. Never will I guess that there are dates in this, their contribution here only to moisten the cake and not to reveal their distinctive flavor. The pudding is deeply caramel with a top note of molasses contrasting with the subtly refined chill from the vanilla bean ice cream, its several black specks a testimony to the use of real vanilla. As it turns out, the guys enjoy this dessert so much that Karen and I barely get a spoonful each. “Ack, let them duke it out,” I say to her, with a dismissive wave of my hand. “We have the cupcakes.”
Having had to set aside these little cakes at the beginning, I rub my hands in anticipation. Handing the Nutella cupcake to Karen because she’s the chocoholic between the two of us, and because I don’t seem to like chocolate cupcakes, I nosh on the coconut first then the lemon, and then alternate between the two. Karen has a little forkful of both but prefers her chocolate. The cupcakes themselves define what a good cupcake should be: cakey with a touch of bite and enough moistness to differentiate itself from a regular sponge cake. Of course a cupcake should have loads of icing, and while the frosting on these are far from making my teeth ache, they’re rightfully sweet. Ah, Singapore truly so good, lah!
The Marmalade Pantry
Unit B1-08 to 11
390 Orchard Road
Tel: 6734 2700