SINGAPORE - Wouldn't it be nice to be able to dine outdoors amid verdant greenery without the heat and humidity that defines our climate? You can, actually. At Pollen, the much-anticipated restaurant by Michelin-star chef Jason Atherton.
Truth be told, we weren't really outdoors since the restaurant is set in the climate-controlled Flower Dome at Gardens By The Bay. But it certainly felt like it, since we could smell the scent of the olive trees and herbs surrounding the bar area, and look out onto more greenery in the sunshine outside. Unlike Atherton's Pollen Street Social in London, this Singapore sister is more laid-back. It is simply and prettily appointed, and has the air of a conservatory of a home in the South of France.
A meal here isn't exactly inexpensive, but given Atherton's street cred as a Michelin-star chef, it isn't cutthroat either. A three-course set lunch is marked at S$55, while the seven-course dinner menu costs S$150. Compared to other big-named restaurants, these prices are rather egalitarian. To suit its surrounding, which includes a thousand-year-old olive tree nearby, the food features light Mediterranean flavours that don't so much rock your palate at first bite, but rather unravel tantalisingly as you make your way through them.
To wit: The salad of buttered lobster, handmade pasta, seaweed and maple dressing (S$30) which was a study in unerring restraint. There was exemplary balance in the dish, with just enough of each ingredient on the plate. The poached lobster - deeply buttery with a briny edge - was well foiled by the soft acidity of the dressed pasta, which later gave way to haunting endnotes of maple.
Later on, the charms of a succulent roasted sea bass (S$48) snuck up on me. It was at first merely a deftly cooked piece of fish bathed in a smoked tomato and olive dressing, but as I ate, the flavours began to unravel discretely - a whisper of fennel here, a murmur of sweet, slow-cooked peppers there.