If you are going to patronised for being white….

….make sure it’s by a Singaporean taxi driver. It’s worth paying for. On Sunday I thought we should go to Singaporean Dim Sum and had in mind Tim Ho Wan’s Orchard Rd outlet in the Singapura Plaza. Famous for his one Michelin star HK venture which he brought to Singapore, he rather shocked the sort of people who think Michelin starred restaurants must be expensive. He wanted to provide high standard dim sum at a good price.

Straight away the taxi driver asked ‘Why you go to Orchard Road’. I said we wanted to eat dim sum there and he immediately set us right. ‘You white people don’t know. Orchard Rd twice as expensive as Chinatown. I take you to good dim sum in Chinatown and cheap shopping, I show you wholesale shop’. As we headed in our changed direction he interrogated Manny ‘Why you have beard? Why you not shave?’, the start of a hilarious conversation in which he was rather disappointed to hear that Manny was a researcher and not a Beatle. At any rate, he dropped us in front of a hotel in Chinatown with directions to go upstairs. We did that, queued for a bit and then we left to get another taxi to Orchard Rd. Manny wanted to know why we hadn’t just got the driver to take us to where we wanted to go in the first place. Because I figured pretending was the best way out? Because the trip to Chinatown was so entertaining?

They know how to make queuing efficient in Singapore. When we arrive at Tim Ho Wan, there is a girl ordering us around like the boss of a taxi rank, we are all given order forms so we can make our decisions while we wait – there are pictures and descriptions of the dishes at points along the queue, as well as stools so you can sit as you progressively shuffle along. As soon as we got our seats inside, we gave our order to the staff and sat back.

First up were baked BBQ pork buns. I have to say, these are the only buns of its type I’ve ever liked. The filling was not too sweet, the casing was sensationally light. We ordered one more of the ‘big four’ as they are referred to here, that being the rice noodle rolls with pig’s liver. I got to eat all three of these – well, eat is almost the wrong word to use, as their silkiness slips down the throat. A couple of the dishes didn’t inspire: the chickens’ feet were not a great rendition of this dish and the squid, a chef’s recommendation, left me cold, though Manny was enthusiastic. The glutinous rice in banana leaf was wonderful – I’ve never had Chinese sausage I’ve enjoyed eating before and I surmise it is their own creation rather than the mass produced, and in my opinion very indifferent, product normally found in this dish. I really liked the congee too, though I’d be curious to know if a congee afficionado would agree. I suspect those who complain this is just an over-hyped place may be correct. Not that it wasn’t good, but I bet there are stacks of wonderful dim sum places in Singapore. Another claim to investigate next trip.

A comment was put on the facebook page of The Lokal a while ago, that if you are going to make the kitchen open to view, it has to look like the workers are of good cheer. I agree, but is it possible? Working in a restaurant kitchen is generally stressful and frenetic. I guess the answer is to have a closed kitchen and it is certainly my preference. Here at Tim Ho Wan, the kitchen staff cannot possibly be having a good time – and it seems to me that the food that comes to the table is divorced of any good karma that comes into enjoyable preparation. The staff are efficient, but equally pushed. The packed tables of eaters were having a great time, but was it despite this? Do none of them notice? I wonder.

We pay $47 including tea which is presented in mugs and filled when needed. We ordered just at the too much mark, but not uncomfortably so. This makes it about the same price as in Melbourne but very different in style. Apparently the way of serving via the trolley where you look and pick and choose is out of favour in Singapore. I rather think that’s a shame. It’s part of the fun, those trolleys coming around. I guess if space is at a premium, then ordering from a menu is necessary.

We walk up Orchard Rd, which turns into an arty, old area. It’s hot and it would be nice to while away a couple of hours of the oppressive afternoon heat so we pick the Intercontinental as the place to do that. The Lobby Lounge is magnificent, a perfect retreat. Good quality tea is presented well, an extra pot of hot water came upon asking. Four macaroons accompanied our drinks and they were far superior to any I’ve tasted before. They melted in the mouth, it was the first time I’ve ever liked one of these biscuits that are inexplicably the fashion world wide at the moment.

Next Raffles and although we were disappointed, I imagine it would normally be much nicer. Sunday was the big day for petrol heads in Singapore, and I speculate that Raffles was expected to host the biggest of them. The Grand Prix really made it rather hard to judge and even access the area around it.

On our way to Little India for dinner, our attention was taken by Park Square. This is the most incredible building I’ve seen, though some prejudice may attach to my view since I love Art Deco and this building has had Art Deco lavished upon it. It is perfectly 1930s, but an early 2000s building commissioned by the Taiwanese businessman Mr. C. S. Hwang who has surely immortalised himself with this monumental tribute to a period. A $90M fan building. Wow. Although the building is largely offices, the ground floor is a lounge bar which is like no other: Divine. You must MUST click on the link to look at the pictures. Apparently it is not permitted to take pictures inside the building. But we didn’t know that….so without further ado:

Divine Bar Park Square
Divine Bar Park Square

Manny had to try the Singapore Sling. As usual, I was happy to have dessert before dinner:

A chocolate mint concoction which was not light on the alcohol.
A chocolate mint concoction which was not light on the alcohol.

What a marvellous contrast was our next stop. As we walked rather aimlessly around Little India, we came upon two chaps jamming at the Prince of Wales a grungy Aussie pub, according to Lonely Planet. It comes well regarded as a backpacker’s haunt. We’d just missed the Sunday barbie, so it was a quick drink before moving on.

Jamming at the Prince of Wales. A bit of Australia in the middle of India in the middle of Singapore.
Jamming at the Prince of Wales. A bit of Australia in the middle of India in the middle of Singapore.

Little India is overwhelming. Packed streets, a million places to eat and we had no idea what we were doing. I wasn’t feeling entirely comfortable, not least because of the thousands of people on the streets, about two of them were women. Consequently when we were spruiked into trying the Jungle Tandoor, we were kind of relieved the decision had been made for us. I really wished we hadn’t fallen into this, the place was plain creepy. When I go out for Indian, I’m really only interested in the breads as I can do all the rest better myself. Both the breads we tried – a naan and a roti – were dry and hard, quality test failed. Bread’s always a good indicator and it’s the hardest thing to do. I’m really surprised to see that it is very highly regarded on trip advisor, but on the local site Hungrygowhere, it is not, and I’m rather inclined to trust the latter.

A lot of people rate this place highly for the decor. I will leave you with that thought.

Surely only in Singapore. An Indian restaurant boasting a plastic jungle including elephant, polar bear and various dinosaurs.
Surely only in Singapore. An Indian restaurant boasting a plastic jungle including elephant, polar bear and various dinosaurs.
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4 thoughts on “If you are going to patronised for being white….

  1. ” he was rather disappointed to hear that Manny was a researcher and not a Beatle” – you really should have played along with him.. “oh he is a rock start.. in his native country!”

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    • My, you are thick-skinned, Lynn. Perhaps it was easier for me to spot because I have more familiarity with it. I used to be lectured on my natural deficiencies as a white person by my Singaporean mother-in-law.

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