Friday, November 13, 2015

Hipster Sunday Brunch at Artichoke

A few friends have separately recommended Artichoke as the place to go for Sunday brunch in Singapore so we decided to give it a try while on a quick weekend holiday there recently. There are quite a number of small cafes and restaurants serving brunch-style food in town but we were told Artichoke does something different, and better than most.

The restaurant is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in between Bras Baseh and Bugis, a long block away from the Art Museum at the junction of Waterloo Street and Middle Road, an area which I happened to be quite familiar with - my ex-client office happened to be just nearby. We arrived a bit too early by mistake, thinking the place opens at 11 instead of 11:30am on Sundays, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we had some troubles finding its exact location, and when we got there, a handful other people were already waiting in line.

Luckily they were able to seat us right away when the gate opened. There's a certain hipster vibe to this place - I don't know whether it has more to do with the outdoor courtyard with communal tables, or rustic decor with the walls in bold colors and graffiti art, the loud music played in the middle of the day, or the predominately expat crowd mixed with a young and trendy clientele. I couldn't think of anywhere quite like this in Hong Kong - hip and cool while spacious and comfortable.

Artichoke described themselves as being in Middle-eastern style, but to be precise it's more like western cooking with heavy Middle-eastern influence. The weekend brunch menu features a handful of dishes in main course portion while the dinner menu has both small dishes for nibbles and family-style main courses for sharing. After a big meal the night before, we went easy and ordered just a few dishes to share among ourselves.

The bacon & eggs was easily our favorite dish of the afternoon. At first glance it's just like any regular poached eggs breakfast dish, but the thick slaps of bacon that came with it were heavenly, with the perfect balance of fat and tender meat from the belly cut filled with smokey flavors then glazed with maple syrup outside. We found that irresistible even we were still pretty stuffed from our dinner last night. I also loved the roast pumpkin chunks as the side dish, cooked perfectly with a crispy crust and sweet inside.

Before we came, we were told the namesake Fried Chicken was another must-order item. I thought it was quite decent - though not out of the world - with three pieces of chicken deep-fried with honey-lemon glaze, and served with pickles, coleslaw and paprika fries underneath. I loved that combination of exotic spices for what otherwise would have been just like any other southern dishes.

A handful of vegetarian choices were available and we picked Cauliflower Sabbich, with a split pita served pizza-style with scores of ingredients as toppings, including fried cauliflower, smoked eggs, hummus and so on. Probably not something I would normally order looking at the menu description but it was surprisingly delicious, especially the slightly burnt flavor of the cauliflower florets.

All of us still felt a bit of a hangover from the drinking just a few hours before in the wee hours, so we all reached out for the non-alcoholic drinks for a change. The homemade elderflower slushies (flavor of the day) gave me an immediate brain freeze but it's sweet and aromatic and gave me just the enough jolt to keep me awake and refreshed. I heard the homemade lemonade was nice too.

They seems to have a good selection of ice-pops as dessert with interesting combination of flavors, but by the time we finished with our food I was simply too full for anything more, unfortunately. Overall I agree Artichoke is a worthy stopover, especially if you are looking for somewhere nice and cool to chill on an easy weekend.

When? November 1 2015
Where? Artichoke, 161 Middle Road, Singapore
Menu Highlights? Bacon & Eggs: Thick-cut maple glazed bacon chop, roasted pumpkin, pickled red cabbage, poached eggs, pistachio dukka

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