To get the most out of your experience, we’d advise arriving at Botanico at around 6pm for sunset drinks on the terrace. This charming space, shaded by the generous foliage of the surrounding trees, is ideal for both an aperitif at the bar or al fresco dining, as a unique air-conditioning system keeps diners cool despite being out in the elements. On our visit, in the relatively cool and breezy February weather, the experience was closer to dining in the temperate weather of the Mediterranean than the city’s usual 90%++ humidity.
Should you choose to dine inside, the generous dining hall features delightful high ceilings, with hanging greenery providing dashes of green in celebration of the greater location. Wooden floors and bare wooden tables provide a more casual bistro feel to the interior but there’s nothing casual about the quality of the food from the kitchen.
At the helm of The Garage is Chef Antonio Oviedo, whose wide culinary experience in Singapore includes opening the highly-respected Binomio restaurant in Tanjong Pagar and heading the kitchen at Iggy’s. Further back, he’s worked with the legendary Roca brothers at El Celler de Can Roca (repeatedly voted Best Restaurant in the World) and was Head Pastry Chef at the 2-Michelin Star Zaranda in Madrid.
At Botanico, he has created a menu of modern ‘bistronomy’ – easy accessible seasonal dishes that pay homage to the quality of natural ingredients. The cuisine is inspired mainly by his native Spain, but for some dishes he sources his produce from countries as far-flung as Japan, Australia and France. The common thread is quality – this is a menu where the ingredients do the talking.
Printed on a simple piece of paper, the daily menu offers a choice of ten tapas-size starters followed by a choice of seven more substantial main courses. To accompany, the ‘House Cocktails’ list on our visit included choices like the Garage Gin’onic – a refreshing palate cleaner of gin, tonic, elderflower-infused syrup and a wedge of grapefruit – the Garage Bloody Mary, a Thyme Lemonade and a Blackberry Lychee Mojito. There were also six wines (three red, three white) available by the bottle, ranging from $92++ to $118++.
Stand out dishes included the hearty Idiazabal Croquettes ($14++), generously-sized crispy croquettes served wrapped in Chorizo which oozed a rich creamy sauce of unpasteurized Idiazabal sheep’s cheese, milk and flour – be warned, they are addictive! Also hard to stop eating are the Calamaritos ($12++) – perfectly seasoned and grilled baby squid, served with lime and a seaweed Aioli. More sizeable starters include a wonderful Botanico Salad ($18++), a bowl of succulent heirloom tomatoes, Canarejal cheese, black radish, charred cucumber, peach and the tang of pickled beetroot. For me, this dish highlighted Chef Oviedo’s skill in creating a delicate balance for the palate, as did the beautifully presented Lamb Tartare ($20++). Served with mustard ice cream, pickled onions and black olive arlette, this chopped lamb tenderloin presents a wonderful contrast of flavours, none overpowering the other but blending instead to form a bold taste statement.
Of the main courses, we’d recommend the Japanese Scallops ($27++), succulent Hokkaido scallops prepared with Iberico lardo and served with Jerusalem Artichoke puree and sweet potato chips and sprigs of Salicornia (sea beans). Also excellent was the Roasted Pigeon ($27++), served with parsnip puree, and the Chargrilled Wagyu Flank ($34++), served with burnt onions and mashed potato.
If you started your meal with the Garage Gin’onic, a fitting end to your meal might be the dessert, the Botanist ($12++), a cleansing plate of cucumber sorbet, compressed apple cubes infused with gin and juniper berries, coconut foam and kefir lime zest. The more adventurous should try the Tropical Fruits, which pairs the often maligned jackfruit with laksa leaf ice cream, white chocolate turmeric ganache, longan and sea coconut in a surprisingly tasty ode to the immediate surroundings.
With its blend of excellent but affordable dining choices, beautiful location and attentive professional service, The Garage looks set to become a major player on the Singapore stage – our advice is to enjoy it as soon as possible before the inevitable rush.
The Garage, 50 Cluny Park Road, Singapore Botanic Garden, tel: 6264 7978, thegarage.sg
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