With its pretty door girl, thrum of loungey electro and plum location in the spaceship-like Fullerton Pavilion, we half-expected to find Catalunya too pretentiously cool for our liking – a fear heightened by the irrationally irritating fact that it was booked up the first two nights we tried to eat there. Thankfully, it’s a lot better, and less peacock-y, than that. Yes, it’s sleek, dark and the music’s a touch loud – but down at water level in the circular Fullerton Pavilion, with the ceiling-high glass windows showing off Marina Bay Sands and its neighbours, it must be one of the most spectacular dinner locations in town.
It also seems to have acquired that thing that many Singapore restaurants fail to achieve – buzz. Eating here feels not just special, but fun. Then there’s the food and service, which are both excellent. Chef Alain Devahive Tolsa spent a decade at elBulli, probably the most hyped restaurant on the planet, and is joined by restaurant manager Pol Perelló, who spent 12 years at the same establishment. CVs can only go so far, sometimes leading to a reliance on reputation over product – yet here the waitstaff are friendly, knowledgeable and not too cool, while the tapas-focused Catalan food is unpretentious and, if you stick to the tapas dinner, not overpriced.
The tapas highlights include a suckling pig with a lemon purée ($19), so tender that it’s almost foie gras-like in consistency. The actual foie gras dish, an escalivada of goose-liver pâté with smoked eel ($19), is remarkable for its clean flavours, and not as overbearingly rich as the two ingredients might suggest. Dishes are mostly simple classics, like the Barcelona bombas (potato and beef croquette balls, $10) – though there are hints of elBulli’s molecular-type food, such as the exquisite Omelette Deconstrucción ($10), a kind of gazpacho of foamy mash in a cocktail glass, with caramelised onion lying at the bottom.
Pricier mains include the likes of Segovian-style suckling pig ($125, serves two to three), Suquet (Catalan seafood soup/stew) with scorpion fish ($50) or the Cape Grim Tasmanian dry-aged Txuleta (Basque for ‘steak on the bone’, $100, serves two). We could take or leave the smoky wood-roasted pineapple side dish ($12), but mostly the food is spot-on, down to the desserts – the highlight being an exquisite gooey almond tart ($12).
As well as a vast 34-page, Spanish-dominated wine list, starting with $18 whites by the glass, mixologist Dario Nocentini has created a selection of maximalist cocktails. These include the Stairway to Heaven ($19), a creation fusing celery, egg white, pineapple and vanilla that saw him crowned the 2011 Bacardi Bartender of the Year. The cocktails are a little fancy for our liking – our Mistery Backyard ($26) comes flaming, with half a passionfruit atop sherry, Domaine de Canton, mint, honey and more – but they’re top quality and not stupidly expensive.
We expected style to outshine substance at Catalunya, but it somehow manages to maintain the soul of its namesake Spanish region. As a place to impress, the restaurant has to now be up there. The location’s possibly the most spectacular of the city’s high-end restaurants – and while it’s not cheap, it doesn’t feel like a rip-off. Join the queue for a booking.
The Fullerton Pavilion
82 Collyer Quay
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat, noon-2.30pm; Mon-Sun, 6-10.30pm; Sunday brunch, 12.30-4pm|
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