Portico Prime: 'Portico Favourites' New High Tea Set

Here it is, a high tea stand exuding grandeur and finesse from all angles; even from the makeshift Velcro strips stuck to the edges, converting a humble wine rack into a garden-esque display of petite sweet treats and savory bites. All is innocent and expectations kept to a minimum, until you chomp down on the dainty Eclair of Singapore-style chili crab meat and there is an explosion of flavors.

My first meeting with pastry chef Charlene Ng of Portico was at its flagship outlet, some 2 years ago, the air thick with musk and lazy mosquitoes fleet through the non-stirring air. With beads of sweat rolling down my back, I opened my bag to reveal a couple of samples of Amedei chocolate in hope that the young starry eyed chef might see some use in employing these chocolates in her kitchen, to breathe new life into the dull callets that brimmed with potential. She shut me down, saying that each and every recipe implemented in her kitchen had a calling for a specific chocolate, demonstrating a deep understanding for flavor profiles and cocoa percentages. "To fully develop a recipe based on a test batch of chocolates would take months," asserted the bushy eyed and bright tailed chef; I relented with hopes of further sampling, but had to leave with my tail tucked between my legs. Her attention to detail and obsession with product development seemingly evident even in the early stages of her career. 

Fast forward 2 years and portico has spilled out from its Alexandra headquarters into the quaint neighborhood of Dempsey Hill. The new establishment touting an upgraded brass and metal facade with gorgeously high ceilings and a chef's table to die for. Plopping down upon the industrial modelled low chairs, I found respite in the breezy sanctuary, the heroic appearance of an Espresso Martini soothing the nerves.

Portico's New High Tea was about to be rolled out and Chef Charlene waltzes out of the kitchen, holding the fort with solid introductions to each and every menu item. Was I impressed? Sure I was.. even as the table top chatter builds up to crescendo, the stalwart chef stands her ground, explaining that the Chilled Truffle-scented angel hair pasta, avuruga caviar, kawa ebi shrimps has to be consumed immediately in its chilled state to avoid a impression of over-seasoning.

So, for starters, the High Tea set begins with a a chic presentation of  three items. The above mentioned pasta, Crostini of Asian-cured salmon gravlas, coriander creme fraiche and Skewer of Tiger Prawn, compressed melon sheet, tobiko roe and brandy sauce. The star showing being the latter, the tiger prawn, a refreshing affair with compressed melon enhancing the innate sweetness of the lightly blanched crustacean. 

Moving with regimental order from the bottom, up the tier. You'll uncover delightful texture-specific treats in both sweet and savoury context on the racks. Here's the rundown

Bottom Tier: Eclair of Singapore-style Chili Crab Meat/Fish Otak Otak Toast/Squid and Salted Egg Croquette

2nd tier: Homemade Carrot Cake, maple cream cheese frosting, toasted walnut/ Pistachio Nut, cranberry and white chocolate bark/ "Bandung" rose cream, strawberry and lychee tart

3rd tier: Homemade peanut butter and confetti cookies/ Marsala Chai Tea Cake, honey ginger cream, orange confit

4th/Top Tier: Baked Apple Crumble Tart, sweet basil cream/ Mini Deconstructed Blackforest/ Chilled Cheesecake, mango gel/ Mini Passionfruit Spheres

On the side: Freshly Baked California natural raisin scones and citrus peel scones served with homemade honey kaya, homemade seasonal preserves and clotted cream
Free flow Twinings tea or Dutch Colony Coffee

First things first, its hard to stop talking about the scones at Portico Prime. Sporting a lovely egg yolk hued glaze, these have fluffy sweet innards hiding beneath browned crusty walls. Dollop the kaya on with a heavy hand and you'll be rewarded with a mind altering bite of intense wild honey tainted coconut jam. So good if not for the intermission of cold Devonshire cream... these alone are worth the long hike into its premises.

I could go on about the Eclair of chili crab too. Modelled to look like a miniature chili con carne hot dog, this teensy bite will have you wishing that you could make a breakfast out of a up-sized version, the gentle crackling of the choux pastry highly desirable amidst sweet spicy waves. 

And Marsala Chai Tea Cake, with wafts of muted spices astray within moist cake is given an edge with honeyed cream cheese frosting and a timid dabble of piquant orange confit. The generic Homemade Carrot cake gives the former a good run for its money, the sufficient embodiment of roughly grated carrots, walnuts with the final flourish of southwood dill giving the square a push up one notch in its sweet deliverance. 

It is good to strategize a palate cleanser or two among the line-up, like the Momofuku Milk bar inspired Homemade peanut butter and confetti Cookies and bittersweet Mini Deconstructed Blackforest. Both will leave you revived, if perhaps not quite, reaching out for the tea pot and the nearest server in hope of a refill. The peanut butter cookie, sized to fit in your palm has a crisp patch on the bottom and a freckling of fun-filled hundreds and thousands on top. The ratio of peanut butter to sugar is exact.

Better to end with the heartstoppingly rich Pistachio nut, cranberry and White Chocolate bark, too addictive to be quite of this earth. It's color composition reminiscent of Christmas and an ode to the terrific high tea feast you've just embarked on.

Taking a tour round the swanky interiors of Portico Prime, You would envision many private dinners, if not special occasion, themed chef-table type dinners with the bustle of the activity in the kitchen, up to the patrons to scrutinize. Here, the sky is the limit and the ominous presence of the Tochigi Wagyu Rib Eye ($116/200g) in the chiller upfront; apparently unique to Portico Prime; reaffirms that.

On a separate note, Portico Prime (Dempsey) will be participating in Singapore Restaurant Week 19th March - 26th March and will be featuring some of their restaurant week menu items in their weekly set lunches. Feel free to join them for lunch to get sneak previews for the week to come!

Like Portico's Facebook page or follow them on Instagram to enjoy the High Tea Set at just $38++ per pax (U.P. $48++/pax) from 15th March till 14th April. Available from 3 to 5pm daily except Mondays, when the chefs are off taking a much needed rest; you might just want to call ahead to make a reservation as these coveted sets are only available in the thirties daily!

Thanks to Portico Prime for the invite!

Portico Prime
10 Dempsey Rd
t: 6474 7427

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