If you’re picturing a grimy, carpeted pub in the heart of Duxton that smells of spilt beer, think again. This isn’t that kind of gastrobar. Set up by banker Celina Tan and her engineer husband Kok Fook Onn, this shophouse bar bistro has all the modern sensibilities of a pleasant eatery down pat: polished concrete floors that are easy to mop, self-stickered decorative decals that are easy to clean and plain white walls adorned with sunny, Impressionist style oil paintings that can be removed for the monthly retro-music videoscreening. Lying in the middle of this contemporary space is a glass-encased kitchen from which modern homemade food is served.
Almost everything is made in-house. Every couple of days Kok pickles cabbage and carrots, and bakes focaccia. He puts this together with his wife’s cumin-, vinegar- and tomato sauce-marinated pork strips to make the Pork and Pickles Sandwich. On a recent visit, the pan-fried pork, was sliced a little on the thin side, but the padding of pickled vegetables with mayonnaise and soft, crisp-crusted bread, resulted in a light yet comforting lunch option.
Equally gentle was the Laksa Pasta ($13), a combination of home-made pasta tossed in a rempah (‘paste’) sauce made from a recipe handed down by Celina’s mother. The al dente noodles, cut wider than the tagliatelle, was rolled to just the right thickness and then coated in a creamy but surprisingly light lemongrass, chilli, ginger and onion sauce. The crunchy textures given off by the sliced raw cucumbers, beansprouts and fishcake made it a refreshing lunch option. The same could not be said of the beef burger, however. The patty, though thick and soft, was over-salted, and the flat – homemade too, we were told – bun did not rise to the standards set by the cushion-like focaccia.
The drinks list may look extensive but for a gastrobar it reads to be unadventurous, consisting mostly of New World wines – a glass of house wine is $10, and bottles like the Larral, an Australian cabernet sauvignon, are upwards of $40 – alongside sake, shochu and grappa. Whiskeys and draught beer are also at hand, but don’t expect to be raising pints and chanting footie slogans; the soundtrack here is early-’90s pop music. Xueling Li
|Venue name:||Celina's Gastrobar||Contact:|
51 Duxton Road
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri noon-2pm, 5pm-midnight, Sat 6pm-midnight|