Back into the swing of things after the Christmas break, it was time for a long overdue catch up with my friend Nik. He’s a man of good taste, someone who enjoys a dining experience as much as I do, and it was he who suggested checking out the newly opened 13 Duxton Hill for dinner this week. (We’d had a couple of previous shocking duds on the restaurant front, so no pressure.)
I love Duxton Hill anyway, with it’s gorgeous shophouses and the pedestrian tree-lined street, feeling somehow tucked away from the bustle of the city even though it’s right there in the heart of it all. So with location on its side, and an appealing concept of a daily changing seasonal menu of 13 dishes and drinks (beautifully written out by hand), I had high hopes that we could be on to a winner. I was right. These two Australian foodies have set up something special here.
The shophouse is open fronted out on to the quiet street, and inside this cosy, modern and bright cafe/bistro/bar you’ll be welcomed with a beaming smile from sommelier and co-owner Sally Humble, who will explain that day’s menu and give you the choice to choose a selection of dishes to share from the 13 inventive dishes listed, or to experience (a great value) tasting menu of the chef’s discretion. Nik had had a big lunch, and so we decided to go ‘a la carte’ and were advised to select 4 dishes between the 2 of us. It’s worth pointing out here that given the excesses of the festive season we were opting (aka forcing ourselves) to go booze-free, but Sally hosted us brilliantly, offering different types of tea and soft drinks, and making us hot water with lemon. I can’t wait to go back and try out her wine recommendations; her true expertise.
On to the food. The first 2 dishes, starters if you like, we chose were the ‘Corn, prawn head butter, croissant’ (which is a more regular feature on the daily changing menu) and the ‘Ceviche, bone vinegar, samphire’. Both were delicious. The baby corn was still on the right side of crunchy, enveloped in the rich butter which was not fishy but just very flavoursome and slightly salty, dusted with a kind of cocoa to add a slight edge of bitterness, and served with the freshest flakiest croissant to mop up all of the wonderful buttery sauce. It was a very rich dish, but very tasty. The ceviche was therefore a perfect contrast. Thinly sliced tuna (sustainable, we asked) was beautifully light, fresh and simple. The bone vinegar added the sharpness required, and micro herbs over the top added bursts of fresh flavour. The samphire appeared to be missing, and when we asked it wasn’t quite clear if it had been hidden somewhere in there or not, but nevertheless it was a really lovely plate.
The ‘main’ dishes we opted for were the ‘Head less fish, sour orange curry’ and a lamb dish which had replaced the pork for that day, with beetroot, onion and yeast. The fish dish was confusingly named, coming as it did very much head-on. A beautiful whole sea bass. Not perturbed by the head we tucked into the soft sweet fish, which went so perfectly with the slightly spiced orange and coriander sauce. Delicious. The lamb was just as good, beautiful rare-pink slices, with the soft, sweet and earthy beetroot and onion. I could have eaten it all to myself.
That said, the portion sizes were generous (some of my past sharing plate experiences have left me gasping ; you’re charging what for that minuscule plate of food?!!) and very fairly priced. We both left very much satisfied without being stuffed full. The dishes weren’t 100% perfect, but certainly impressive and packed with flavour, and I love the concept. I’m looking forward to seeing more of what this place can offer. We paid up and wandered out, with Sally following us out with another beaming smile thanking us for coming in. I told her I would see her again soon.
Thirteen Duxton Hill (TDH), 13 Duxton Hill, Singapore