Weekend brunches in Singapore seem to fall into two categories: the bubbly ones which come with a lavish buffet spread where you can drink yourself hoarse; and the ones where you can sink into your seat and mop up delicious gooey bits with chunks of sourdough bread.
The weekend brunch special at pop-up restaurant Bistro November headed by chef John-Paul Fiechtner and sommelier Sally Humble falls into the latter. At $45++ for five dishes, it’s a real steal. This is not your standard come-gag-me list of café cliches like pancakes, waffles and poached eggs here that we’re talking about but a thoughtful rotating menu that beckons with elements like smoked mussels, cod cream and prawn head butter.
After all, the duo behind this initiative co-founded restaurant Lume in South Melbourne in 2015 – a fine dining spot with the ambitions of standing shoulder to shoulder with the world’s best.
Brunch starts with a serving of three of its dishes which arrive together: whipped cod cream with sourdough, burrata with smoked mussel butter and the barley porridge with prawn head butter.
The whipped cod cream is a delicious dip to accompany the sourdough – light to the point of being ethereal and with the brininess of cod without being overwhelmingly fishy.
The barley porridge on the other hand, is like a comforting hug where each grain is cooked till just chewy, elevated with the lusciousness of prawn head butter and a dusting of mushroom powder.
Then there’s the burrata with smoked mussel butter – hands down the best dish on the menu. The soft creaminess of cheese harmonises beautifully with the smokey notes of the bouncy mussels and the edamame gave an overall welcome bite to the ensemble.
These three dishes exemplify the true meaning of comfort food – where each element is as well-thought out as it is executed. It is also incredibly satiating so when the next course arrived, it was a relief that are no carbs in sight.
What greeted us was half a roast chicken sourced locally which came with its claw still intact (reminiscent of the presentation of Odette’s smoked pigeon dish). “Sunday roast, with roasted wongbok,” said the sommelier Sally Humble as she places the dish on the table.
The local chicken is delightfully fatty and it came lathered in beurre noisette and capers for a salty kick. On its side is a wedge of wongbok roasted till bits of it are charred, served with a house-made malt vinegar. If the chicken is ying then the cabbage is the yang as the fattiness of the chicken is well-balanced with the acidity – almost pickle-like tanginess of the wong bok.
To end the meal, a raw cacao ice cream with chocolate sourced from Bali is served topped with dried chocolate and shiso leaves. It sounds fairly straight-forward but digging into this little bowl of richness yields a challenging find: honeyed shitake stems. Dig even deeper and you’ll find what looks like baby corn but is in fact, the corn pudding that’s the restaurant’s signature dessert.
It’s without a doubt that a brunch like this is one that takes effort to pull off. The aesthetic is rustic; the flavours (and portions) are hearty. Yet despite the elements many would consider rich, none of it was too much. These aren’t run-of-the-mill dishes one would easily slap together and almost makes us wonder how it’s priced at an affordable $45.
Still, if you’re looking to for an unpretentious spot where the food is hearty, the vibe is outgoing and the service is stellar, head down to 50 Keong Saik Road – and be sure to do so before it wraps up this November. Bistro November is a pop-up restaurant at 50 Keong Saik Road.