Crispy Kurobuta pork belly.
SINGAPORE - Few have gone from catering company to restaurant successfully. The exception could be Fine Palate, the high-end catering company run by Australian Heather Barrie who, besides purveying a charming private dining venue at Monk's Hill, also has a cafe tucked away along Waterloo Street.
Since it opened early last year, the Fine Palate Cafe has garnered its own share of fans - if the crowd we witnessed during a weekday lunch was anything to go by. The menu is simple, with dishes that the company describes as "modern European with a twist". It's a lean list that includes a salad, quiche, some pastas and modern bistro classics like duck leg confit and crispy pork belly.
Mixed greens and quinoa salad
The prices are pretty friendly, too, with appetisers starting from S$12 and mains topping out at S$26 for a duck leg confit. Go for the set lunch, at S$26 for two courses, and S$30 for three courses, and you get good bang for your buck.
Our mixed greens and quinoa salad (S$12) was fresh and a little tart, a solid palate opener that made us feel like we were eating healthy - at least until the crispy kurobuta pork belly (S$16) arrived. It had been cooked long and slow in the oven before being sliced and pan-fried. This yielded a nice crisp crust, though the meat emerged a little dry. Good thing there was a drizzle of a sweet chilli sauce made from miso and mirin to accompany.
From the selection of mains, the cold tuna and capellini (S$20) was what I enjoyed most. The thin strands of pasta had a punchy umami flavour while the sesame shoyu sauce harboured a hint of sweetness to give the dish some much-needed complexity. Meanwhile, the Parmesan chicken with a Parma ham crust (S$20) was deftly done - still succulent and tender, though the accompanying mashed potatoes were gummy.
Cold tuna and capellini.
At first bite, our vegetarian tortellini (S$18) was delectable. It had a tasty mushroom filling and a silky pumpkin puree doubling as a sauce. But it got heavy into the fourth bite and left me wishing that they had made actual sauce to help the dish go the distance. For dessert, the mango panna cotta (S$10) started out a little disappointing, mainly because we weren't expecting to taste more yoghurt than cream. Once we got over that, however, it wasn't bad at all.
Fine Palate Cafe
Where: 51 Waterloo Street
Telephone: 6336 5120
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 11am to 4pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm