My first review began with figuring out where to take my wife for her birthday dinner. For the past two years, I have taken her to fine dining locations which require me to book at least two weeks in advance: the famous Ristorante de Valentino (moved from Rifle Range road to Turf City in Bukit Timah) and Pollen in Gardens by the Bay. Both restaurants have provided a great fine dining experience to me. As ambience is an important criteria to my choice, I selected Catalunya Singapore, a Spanish fine dining restaurant located at the Fullerton Pavilion, which boast a beautiful paranomic view of Marina Bay: the floating stadium, Marina Bay Sands casino and convention centre with the ArtScience Museum and new Marina Bay Financial Centre. Till date, I have not experienced good Spanish tapas in Singapore and it will be interesting to explore Catalunya.
Every fine-dining experience comes in three stages: one, the dinner reservation by call; two, the entire dining experience from the moment you enter into the restaurant; and three, how you are treated when you leave the restaurant. A good fine dining experience is consistent from the start to the end. It is important the person who take your reservation noted down the needs or indicate if you are there for an important occasion for example, birthday or wedding proposal. When you are in the restaurant and if you are an inept to the type of food you are about to taste, the waiter should be well-versed with the menu and wine while at the same time, guide you with the reliable choices from other customers.
Let’s start from the first stage. I called in to Catalunya Singapore three weeks during lunch time weekdays before my wife’s birthday to book a dinner reservation on 4 Sep 2013. During my conversation with the person taking my booking, the attitude is both cordial and polite. I deliberately let slip that it’s my wife’s birthday to check if they are able to make the extra mile of making our dining experience special. The answer to that question came later when we get to the restaurant. Prior to my booking, I have done some research on the food menu provided by Catalunya on their website and the speciality of this restaurant is Spanish food, which you should expect some tapas, chacineria and paella (which is only available on Saturday and Sunday for lunch).
It was on a Wednesday night in the city when we were at Catalunya for dinner. My wife and I met at about 6.45 pm and we were fifteen minutes early. Upon entering the restaurant, I gave the details of my booking to the host manager (or greeter). He retrieved my details quickly through a laptop and took us to the table. The host manager was polite and took us to a corner seating table by the direct view of Marina Bay.
The whole restaurant is encased with a glass dome with an wide panoramic 180 degrees view of Marina Bay from inside the restaurant. On a Wednesday evening, we were treated with a glowing twilight ambience view where one or two boats were sighted around the bay area. Upon sitting by a table, a waiter presented both of us with the menu. We took a quick glance of the menu and decided that we would let the waiter provide a few recommendations. I asked the waiter back to the table and asked him what his recommendations are. The waiter was knowledgable with the food and suggested that we should try the following dishes: (a) Jamon Ibérico for the chacineria, (b) bikini and (c) octopus a feira. To be honest, I am satisfied by his patience to clarify what some of the dishes entailed. We took about another five minutes to deliberate and made our order.
Here’s our main course order in the end:
- Chacineria: We selected Jamon Ibérico, ham from a noble black Ibérico pig and also asked for the bread to complement the dish as well.
- Avocado roll: Spanish tapas filled with lobster, avocado and lobster roll.
- Bombas de la Barceloneta: A Spanish tapas dish from Barcelona which is basically a potato croquettes with minced meat and spicy dipping sauce inside (and in Catalunya’s case, they used Brava sauce).
- Octopus A Feira: Another spicy Galician tapas dish served with octopus and pork dewlap.
- Bikini: a ham, cheese and truffle sandwich.
with both my wife and I took different wine choices. We decided not to take a bottle because I had to drive. I took a full bodied red wine, Catena Zapata 2010, where the grape variety is Malbec from the Mendoza wine region while my wife selected Fenomenal 2011, a Sauvingnon Blanc white wine.
Before our main course dishes were served, our wines were served by two different waiters. The first waiter (who is same person who served us earlier) was fully fluent in the way of pouring the red wine by letting me taste the wine first to get my permission and serve it with the correct grip holding the bottom of the wine bottle. Unfortunately, his fellow colleague did not follow the standard procedure and served a different wine. That was not a normal practice and probably one area where the restaurant could actually improve on. As time went on, the restaurant ambience transformed from a quiet romantic one to a busy and vibrant after office hour evening there, and that also made a significant difference in our waiting time for the main course and desserts. For the main course, the timing was fast and efficient given that the crowds had not gathered. Of course, the dessert took a significant waiting time of about thirty minutes which you should not expect from a fine dining restaurant.
How did the food tasting go for the main course? Probably, we can start with the Jamon Ibérico, which was actually the main course as the others were in the form of Spanish tapas. It was important that we ordered the baked bread that came with a tomato spread to complement the slices of black pig ham. The blended taste of dried meat coupled with bread gave a delicious taste that urged you to want more. The serving of the main course came together with the Spanish Tapas. The avocado roll was served first and on first impressions, the dish stood out with the taste of the lobster meat and roe. While we were recommended the Bikini, the ham, cheese and truffle sandwiches, we did not find the dish special probably because we have taken the Jamon Ibérico with bread. The two outstanding tapas dishes were the Bombas de la Barceloneta that came with minced meat and spicy brava sauce within and the Octopus A feira where the flavour from the pork dewlap stood out stronger than the octopus.
We took about thirty minutes with the main course dishes, and ordered our desserts, where my wife ordered a cheese flan and I was eager to give the torrija which consisted a soft and sweet bread put together with milk ice cream. Finally, the final test I set was to see if they remembered the special event tonight. They nailed this one, as they brought a simple chocolate birthday cake on the house to celebrate my wife’s birthday. I did wonder if they remembered that as I indicated the event when I booked the restaurant. That would help to make my experience better despite the long wait between main course and desserts.
For a first experience, Catalunya will be ideal for gathering of friends rather than romantic evenings. It is likely that my wife and I will organise a gathering of friends to come again to try the Paella which was only available for lunch in the weekend.
Here’s my rating for our entire first experience with Catalunya Singapore:
- Service Standards: 8/10
- Ambience: 6/10
- Food: 7.5/10
- Knowledge of Waiters: 8/10 if I only consider the first waiter, but about 6/10 overall.
- Overall: 7.5/10
Information about the restaurant:
- Restaurant Name: Catalunya Singapore
- Food Genre: Spanish
- Address: The Fullerton Pavilion, 82 Collyer Quay Singapore 049327
- Reservations: +65 65340886