Located in Gillman Barracks, the British army compound recently converted into a major art enclave, Masons is the fifth opening from local restaurateurs Robert Coldman and Karen Yeo, owners of Verve Pizzeria (three branches) and the recently opened Wings Bar in Clarke Quay. Housed in a refurbished black-and-white colonial building and surrounded by lush greenery, Masons makes good use of the historic setting, with the monochromatic colour scheme continuing inside the dining room, photographs from back in the day hanging from the walls, tiled marble flooring and glowing candles set up on all of the dark wooden tables.
It’s the main dining draw thus far for the area (Timbre has opened a Gillman branch, and The Naked Finn is opening soon), which is unsurprisingly quiet. Though it feels strikingly similar to Dempsey, the art galleries certainly don’t bring the same amount of crowds as the wildly popular dining area. Nevertheless, Masons seems to be drawing enough of a crowd – though you’ll likely get a seat even without reservations – with its promise of ‘European cuisine with a strong French influence and a Singaporean touch’. With several French staples like Coq Au Vin ($32) and duck confit ($34) on the menu, along with British classics that include their take on fish and chips ($28), the European inspiration is clear – there’s even an amuse bouche served along with warm rolls after you place your orders. The Singaporean touch, however, is nowhere to be seen. While it’s always a pleasant surprise to receive an appetite-whetting morsel – in this case, a fried calamari laid on a bed of steamed eggplant purée, with a light drizzle of balsamic reduction – there was a distinct lack of seasoning which ultimately defines much of the food at Masons.
As a starter, the macadamia nut and ricotta ravioli ($18/$28 for main portion) is served on baby spinach with a lacklustre garlic cream sauce – its saving grace comes in the form of a few crispy parmesan clusters. More flavourful is the impressively presented pistachio-crusted baked brie ($18), served atop the crossing point of two long sticks of crispy flat bread on a large serving dish. As per usual, melted cheese can do no wrong – a peach compote is served on the side in a ceramic soup spoon, giving a sweet, acidic punch that balances the cheese’s slight bitter taste.
The main courses come close to covering all of the bases, though they’re also a bit bland and innocuous – Masons’ dishes are perhaps best described as top-notch country-club cooking with a slightly more modern presentation. The duck confit arrives perfectly crisp above a bed of potato rösti and a few thin slices of green apple, alongside a miniature tart filled with sweet onion jam; and the beef tenderloin ($48) is prepared perfectly medium rare – as requested – with a golden crisped Yorkshire pudding that’s great for mopping up the steak juice and horseradish sauce. A few lightly sautéed asparagus and peppers tick the veggie box for the steak, while the same bouquet of undressed salad wrapped in cucumber that comes with the brie is served with the duck.
Finally, like the savoury dishes, the desserts at Masons go the European route. We recommend the Crêpe Suzette, which comes served with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, homemade marmalade and juicy slices of tangerine. The dark chocolate mousse ($14), crowned with a ring of tart raspberry compote, also goes down well with an after-dinner latte ($6). As a whole, neither the setting nor menu bring anything particularly new to the table, but the location can make it worth a visit for an arty night out. We just hope the dining in the area will be able to sustain itself. Alexandra Karplus
8 Lock Road
|Opening hours:||Daily 11.30am-11pm|