It was pure luck, but a great honour, that I managed to get in to Cheek by Jowl in the last weeks of them being open in their current guise. They were closing to open as a Bistro while opening another top end restaurant in a different location. I am glad I got lucky as the odds of being back in Singapore to try the new places are slim, but I know I will do if I get back!
Having booked in advance all I had to do was get there without working up too much of a sweat walking from the hotel, but lucky it was not too far.
A lovely welcome from Manuela and a fantastic position at the counter with a great view in to the kitchen, perfect for me, I love sitting at the counter, especially when dinning alone.
As with a lot of my meals it was a tasting menu and the obvious choice is to have the matched wines, which Manuela took care of perfectly.
Starting with a lovely selection of little snacks including Lettuce with a ‘Cigar’ and a divine Oyster (the first of many on this trip) which were accompanied by a Grower Champagne, the 100% Pinot Noir Brut Reserve from Bereche & Fils.
This was a perfect way to properly kick off my wine exploration, which is what this trip was really focused on.
Next up came the Smoke Mackerel with Green Pea, Pickled Cucumber and Burnet Lemon. Smoked Mackerel, when done properly, is one of my favourite dishes, and this was right up there with the best of them. Perfectly smoked, soft, juicy and full of flavour. The wine was the Huber Gruner Veltliner (2016) from Traisental in Austria. Gruner is one of my favourite varietals and by this point I knew I was in for a great evening.
The next dish of the Beef Tartare, with Brussel Sprouts, Macademia and Smoke Maple Butter was another hit and one for this that do not like Brussels to give a try to! The Jean Paul Thevenet Morgon Beaujolais (2017) reminded me how good Beaujolais can be and worked really well with the beef. It had a very fruit driven nose and pallet, a lot more to it than I had expected.
One observation about the team at Cheek by Jowl, especially Manuela and Rishi (the chef) was the fact that they had time for their customers, but at the same time they also never took their eye off the ball and made sure that everything was perfect. A skill that is not always found in restaurants.
Back to the food, the Roast Quail with Chestnut, Mushroom and Mint, wow! Perfectly cooked and then the wine pairing took me to one of my favourite regions, Oregon, for the Ken Wright Pinot Noir (2015). I absolutely love Oregon Pinot as I find it a good balance between the old-world Burgundy and the new world Pinot’s. This was an incredibly good Pinot to go with the Quail.
And now for the fish, this was where the Australian influence become more obvious with the Barramundi, and the Bonito Butter, Baby Leeks and Caramelised Onions made it a delicious dish, especially when paired with the Rougeot Pere & Fils Les Grandes Gouttes (2015) Burgundy.
The one challenge with this wine, which they acknowledged, was that initially (for a Chardonnay) it was too cold and did not let it shine, but this is Singapore so it did not take long to warm up and then it really opened up in to a delicious full bodied, well balanced Chardonnay.
Thinking about it at this point there had been no bread, but then as if by magic, and pretty magical it was, the bread arrived. Not like anything else I have had, the Pop Corn and cheese bread (14 month matured Comte). So good it disappeared quickly, but I was lucky to get another one!
This was served with the New Zealand Lamb Saddle, with Aubergine, Caper Berries and Roasted Salsify, another perfectly cooked dish with a great array of flavours, paired with Pierre Et Jerome Saint Joseph Le Paradis Saint Pierre (2015) Cotes Du Rhone, which had an interestingly good body with a bit of spice.
It was then time to move on to something a little sweeter, but equally good. The Honeydew, Mascapone Parfait with Caraway and Pickled Melon, which was a brilliant refresher and followed up with the Coconut and Laksa Leaf with Green Chilli and Peanuts, both of which were paired with a lovely Holdvolgy Exaltation Tokaji (2011) from Hungary
And obviously, I finished with the Cheese!
Wow, what a meal and I was counting my lucky stars that I made it there before they closed to open the new ventures.
Wishing Manuela, Rishi and all the team great success, I am sure they will smash both new places