Botanico: Contemporary season-focused fare below lush foliage.

New kid on the block worth you throwing out the dollar bills for is Botanico. Make sure you grab a seat on the outer patio while you're at it, fully air-conditioned and blessed with an concave type structure pushed up against a slight hill, you'll be assured a cool and almost chilly type atmosphere even as you embrace the last drops of sunshine from the day as it dissolves it's imprints on your skin. Fairy lights, wooden paneling and navy blue sofa couches. I love it. It's cheerful as hell.

Housed in a conserved 1920s Art Deco Garage within Singapore Botanic Gardens, the premises were constructed under tight circumstances, the menu limited not only by price-point, accessibility to the park-goers but also propelled by the creative juices of Head Chef Antonio Oviedo who preaches the use of natural flavors via seasonality-driven cuisine. Hailing from Spain with a balanced out parentage from both North and South of Spain, you can say that Chef Antonio reaped the best out of his early culinary exposure; using that to his advantage whilst under the tutelage of the Roca Brothers at El Cellar de can Roca.

The menu here threads carefully on being borderline Spanish Tapas without construing the safe standards such as Gambas al Ajillo and Tortilla Espanola. The Idiazabal Croquettes ($14) for example are positively classy yet still maintaining it's tapas snack culture roots. You'll be urged to eat them while their still hot as the dignified nugget with golden crusted walls gives way to liquid centers of smoked idiazabal cheese emulsion in a bechamel like form, chorizo slices interrupting the salacious ooey gooey moments. This, is an example of the formidable strengths that arise from the kitchen.

There's nothing about the menu that spells orthodox, and dishes here emulate a certain light summery garden feel booted by a clever use of pretty herbs. Adventurous ones will love the Smoked Sardines ($24) -  Japanese Iwashi sardines smoked in house and served with Ajo Blanco - a creamy pure white soup made of crushed almonds, garlic and olive oil. A bed of migas, croutons fried in Iberico fats complete the equation but I'm left perturbed as to the ratio of ingredients which undermine the main ingredient.

You may strive to pick out the dishes with the most innovative spins, but do not miss out on the starter bread basket, a combination of rye sourdough, white wheat sourdough, smoked butter and Arbequina olive oil, the whole humble experience complete with temperatures that make you feel as if you're dining out in a temperate country, can only be topped with a glass of red vino.

Calamaritos ($14) which can be a miss usually in Singapore restaurant circumstances; is exemplary in this joint. Crispy baby squid dusted with tempura flour and fried just till enough to give hints of a chewy tentacle once in awhile. Good on its own but devastatingly irresistible when dredged through the accompanying seaweed aioli. One bite and I was hooked.  

Also excellent was the moreish plate of raw lamb given a new lease in life as a tartare. I've been blessed with a great impression of raw lamb ever since my ex-boss, Sam of The Grounds Keeper Cafe in Sydney exposed me to tidbits of it while carving. Similarly, this experience was just as exhilarating. The Lamb Tartare ($24) propelled forward by the fresh intensity of superb quality lamb tenderloin, served with mustard ice cream, smoked olive oil and pickled onions is an utterly fresh and zesty idea. The absolute highlight? The Black Olive Arlettes used to scoop up the lot and transport it safely into your mouth.

Try to work up the elasticity of your stomach when coming into Botanico for a meal, totally not obligatory but it definitely ramps up the experience covering the menu from small plate to larger ones in one swoop. The Chargrilled Carabinero ($35) assumes a motherly figure, one that nurses you to health on days that the school bully pushes the boundaries. Plump Scarlet prawns meet the Inka charcoal grill, mellow rice is sunshine yellow from being cooked with a rich prawn bisque and saffron. Nothing goes to waste in this dish and besides having the prawn heads restored, pork crackling is made from stewing trotters in stock with a mirepoix, removing the bones before being painstakingly compressed into a terrine. Further dehydration and a trip to the deep fryer later, you've got wonderful pork crisps.

Pleasantries continue with the Japanese Scallops ($30), sustainable, hand-dived from Hokkaido. These plump variants are sent to Jerusalem with topinambur puree (artichoke) and do a detour with Iberico lardo draped across to enhance the natural butteriness of the scallops.

I won't blame you if you didn't press on to have another main dish though you'll most probably regret not going ahead with my recommendation of the Roasted Pigeon ($30). Look at it, the kitchen even gives you a choice of both pigeon breast and pigeon leg, each piece cooked to perfection based on the Macgyver techniques of sous vide and regular pan searing on both cuts for comparison. It smells like a dream, mostly due to the brown butter inceptions introduced into the dreamy parsnip puree. Feeling full but can't resist another dish? This, with a slight neglect for the dessert department would be my best proposition.

The dessert options were squishy and only abet in lifting the ridiculously rich and luxurious cloud of air that had settled like a genial glow at the table. Botanist ($13) could well be your palate cleanser, a play on the classic Gin and Tonic, compressed granny smiths infused with gin and juniper berries meets cucumber sorbet, coconut foam and coconut sable crumble. It's forgettable; whereas the Tropical Fruits ($14) fends off disappointments with a very compelling scoop of laksa leaf ice cream surrounded by white chocolate tumeric ganache, palm fruit, jackfruit and longan. Still, it seemed to me, that the sudden enthusiasm to incorporate local flavors muddied up the seemingly Spanish tapas impressions of the establishment. Casting a shadow of doubt, just slightly.

Then again, when my mind flashbacks to the impeccable lamb tartare dish, it's hard not to want to revisit.

50 Cluny Park Road
t: 6264 7978

Operating Hours:
Wed - Sun

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