SINGAPORE â€” I’ve always had a love-hate-hate relationship with restaurants at the Robertson Quay neighbourhood. It is a stone’s throw away from two of the busiest parts this side of townâ€”Clarke Quay and Liang Courtâ€”yet such a nightmare to reach. The journey to any restaurant here is an opportune moment to strap on that good ole Fitbit and DriFit athleisure, and start counting steps. Other writers berate my whining and implore me to take a Grab. But I write and review not just for the hoi polloi. I write for the regular people who would appreciate the option of knowing how to get to a restaurant in my purview by public transport.
But occasionally, it’s restaurants like SPRMRKT that makes all that walking, huffing, and puffing worth the effort. Although artistically bereft of vowels, SPRMRKT more than makes up for this glaring omission with a service that’s stellar, food that is satisfying, and a view that never gets old. Stepping into SPRMRKT is akin to visiting a pared-down Wes Andersen movie set. The seats are a mix of blush, dark cerulean, and slate. The tables are beige with shiny gold trimmings that complements the hanging pendant lights. Soft piano music fills the airâ€”sometimes in the major key, but most times in the minor. It all feels very minimalistic glamour with a touch of luxe.
The food itself was rather laid-back. It doesn’t try to adhere to a culinary theme neither does it veer into being factitious. Instead, chef-owner Joseph Yeo goes to great lengths to ensure that every plate on the table is the best version of that dish. Not only does it have to the best, it also has to have elements of reinvention alongside the basic expectations of texture and great taste. Like the Brussel Sprouts (S$15). It comes tossed with burnt corn and pomegranate, and drizzled liberally with sriracha mayoâ€”a slight bitterness tempered with a delightful acidity of the tangy sriracha mayo.
A plate of Eggs Florentine (S$20)â€”that classic breakfast made Ã la Florentineâ€”is served with house-made Quinoa Cakes instead of the more common English muffin. The quinoa cake is a gluten-free marvel that tastes much, much better than its name suggests. It’s a delight that made me squeal a little too loudly upon the first bite, much to the amusement of my lunch company.
The Pesto Pasta (S$22) is a rambunctious affair. House-made basil pesto is the colour of fresh-cut grass and generously coats each strand of pasta. It is served with plump heirloom tomatoes and a medley of fresh vegetables that are roasted till just about cooked. The resultant taste is a riot in the mouth and momentarily makes me forget that this here is a vegetarian dish.
The star of the Spicy Prawn Marinara (S$25) is the prawnâ€“that plump, juicy, fresh piece of heaven that makes me want to sing. Forget the usual, unimaginative tomato sauce for your marinara. Here, Chef Joseph elevates the common with the addition of Sambal Belacan and Hae Bee Hiam. The resultant flavour is a heady mix of umami with strong Asian influences that we’ve come to know and love.
The new dinner menu features a drop-dead gorgeous hulk of Seabass (S$49) that has been thoughtfully deboned (my greedy and lazy soul thanks you, Chef) and slow roasted with capers, tomatoes, and lemon herb crumbs served with trimmings of grilled vegetables, and purple sweet potato croquettes. Oh, that sweet, sweet potato croquette. Peeled, coated with corn flour, and every inch covered with Panko before being bakedâ€”now this is how sweet potato should be prepared and eaten every time.
The Whole Roasted Free Range Chicken (S$52) is brined, and slow roasted with a special house herb marinate and infused with aromatic oils. Personally, I have brined and cooked many a chicken in my lifetime. And I know that an adequately brined chicken will have the juiciest, most moist chicken breast whether you like it or not. So I went straight for the jugular with this roast and unfortunately the breast was still slightly dry. Make no mistakeâ€”every other part of the chicken is cooked to perfection. Sadly, in this case, breast is not best.
With every meal, one would hope for a denouement that’s satisfying and worthy of fireworks. In this regard, SPRMRKT exceeds expectations. A slice of Lychee Chiffon appears, and a waft of Lychee aroma excites the senses. This tall cake slice is sturdy, proud, and dignified. It stands tallâ€”two layers of chiffon infused with rose water, stacked and covered in luscious lychee cream.
Obviously, a lot of thought has gone into the creation of SPRMRKT. There are some wonderful, sensible management folks tasked with ensuring consistency in its interior and a strong culinary team to ensure a stellar food quality that excites and titillates no matter how simple the ideas on the plates are. SPRMRKT should take pride in its careful and meticulous execution of the familiar and, if anything, take comfort in knowing that their paean to the ordinary, is a paean worth celebrating.
SPRMRKT at STPI, 41 Robertson Quay, Level 1: +65 9736 4032
Mon-Sun: 8am â€“ 11pm