Photo: The English House
Walking into The English House, the three-week-old restaurant by British celebrity chef Marco Pierre White in Mohamed Sultan Road, you feel like you've entered a world where old England and Singapore merged.
Housed in two adjoining houses that date back to colonial times, the original structures of the conserved buildings are maintained. Wall design features are restored and, in parts where they have fallen beyond repair, replicated and aged so well that you have to look hard to see which is original and which isn't.
The dining room is furnished with marble-top tables and wooden chairs that look like they come from an old kopitiam. But look closer and you notice that the custom-made chairs are slightly wider to suit diners with bigger builds.
Photo: The English House
Filling up almost every corner are knick-knacks, curios and antiques from England - from busts of Queen Victoria's little princes to a long table that used to grace the Rolls Royce boardroom.
On the walls are framed black-and-white portraits of British celebrities by well-known photographer Terry O'Neill. Fans of old British movies and pop music would have fun picking out stars like Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie, while younger diners would recognise the late singer Amy Winehouse.
Photo: The English House
The food is traditional English fare, though you may find a touch of Singapore in some dishes. White no longer cooks, but nonetheless has a big hand in creating the menu.
It is not fine-dining, but hearty fare with some main courses served in mammoth portions that can feed four people. So although prices may look dauntingly high for many dishes, you find your bill to be rather reasonable once you divide it around the table.
Starters are the least exciting part of the meal. It's not that they are not good, but items such as Fresh Asparagus With Truffles ($28) and Parfait Of Foie Gras Au Raisan Sec ($35) are not going to make your jaw drop.
A bit more interesting is Mr White's Stuffed Cabbage ($28), which has steamed cabbage leaves wrapped over a ball of delicious minced pork. It is served with freshly made tomato sauce and the acidity is exactly what is needed for the fatty meat.
Leave lots of room for the mains because you will need it.
Photo of Honey Roast Belly Pork Marco Polo: The English House
On the menu, it says the Honey Roast Belly Pork Marco Polo ($68) serves two, but unless you are a big eater, order it for four.
The dish, served in a claypot, has four thick slabs of pork on a bed of fried kway teow. Snuggled among the rice noodles are thin strips of soft pork skin, fried together with excellent dark soya sauce. On top are four large pieces of crackling and a sprinkling of spices such as peppercorn and cloves.
I have eaten the dish three times and come away every time convinced that this is one of the best fried kway teow you can find in a restaurant.
The dish also comes with apple sauce that is so silky smooth I can eat it on its own. And I don't even usually like apple sauce.
The other meat dishes I've tried are very good too.
Roast Rack Of Lamb, a la Dijonnaise ($165) easily serves four, with eight ribs of lamb that are nicely rare and juicy. This comes with mangetout (snow peas) and gratin dauphinoise.
Photo of Grilled Rib of Black Angus Beef: The English House
The Grilled Rib Of Black Angus Beef ($225) is also good for four persons. The 45-day dry-aged beef is excellent, and comes with braised spiced tendons - something that White grew to love after eating them in a Cantonese restaurant in Singapore. And they are certainly good enough to be on the menu of any respectable Chinese restaurant.
The Fried Fillet Of English Turbot, which is the restaurant's version of fish and chips, costs a whopping $98. The fish is good and comes with addictive beef fat chips. But it is a single-person serving, so order this only if you do not mind paying for the typically expensive fish.
Photo of Champagne Poached Pear: The English House
Desserts, at $22 each, are not cheap either but they are good. Servings are not big, but share them anyway to spread the calories around.
Bread And Butter Pudding has just a thin layer of bread on top of smooth egg custard and is the most refined version of the iconic English dessert I have eaten.
Or do away with the bread altogether and get a slice of English Egg Custard instead. It tastes like an egg tart, which is not a bad thing at all.
For something a little lighter, get the Champagne Poached Pear. The pear is perfect, and I say only a little lighter because it comes with creme vanilla that is to die for.
What is not good at The English House is the service. It has improved by leaps and bounds when I was there last week, compared with the restaurant's opening day three weeks ago. The food comes at a decent pace now, but the staff still need more rigorous training so that diners no longer need to ask for simple things like sharing spoons or a knife to cut the pear.
One hopes the restaurant will iron out the wrinkles fast, because as far as the food goes, this is a house worth visiting.
Address: 28 Mohamed Sultan Road; Tel: 6545-4055; Open: 6 to 10pm (last order), Mondays to Saturdays. Closed on Sundays; Price: Budget from $70 a person if you share. More if you order the turbot
This story was originally published on The Straits Times.