Alkaff Mansion holds a special place in my heart even for the fine dining experience. Located on Telok Blangah Hill next to Mount Faber in Singapore, the mansion has been an icon to those who lived nearby. For me, my home was next to Telok Blangah Hill and I have seen the mansion in its current form since the age of seven. When I was a child, it was the only mansion on the hill along with a Chinese temple nearby. Subsequently, the Singapore government turned the hilltop to a recreation park, by removing the temple and kept Alkaff Mansion in tact. During my college and university days, I usually jogged around the hill and was often fascinated by the infrastructure of the mansion. The location has gone through two incarnations as restaurants, and in her second incarnation today, it has taken the form of an Italian restaurant. Hence for me, reviewing this restaurant takes on a different perspective from the fine dining restaurants located in the city.
For me, this is my second trip to Alkaff Mansion Ristorante for a fine dining experience. The building has been restored into a two storey restaurant with a beautiful courtyard. Located on a vantage point in the hill overlooking a park, the ambience is slightly different from the fine dining restaurants located in the city. Of course, the best way to get there is either you drive there or take a cab there. There is a free valet service when you drive into the road heading up to the mansion. Upon arrival, you can pass your car key to the person in charge of the valet, and walked up a flight of stairs to the courtyard before the restaurant.
Of course, upon reaching the courtyard, I was greeted by the reservation manager. In both my trips to Alkaff Mansion for dinner, I just made a call to book for a table of two. There is no fuss and the experience is smooth and simple. For the second time, I did get a SMS reminder that I have a booking. The reservation manager made a quick introduction and asked me if I like to have a cocktail drink before my wife arrive. I did make a choice to take a mocktail in the form of virgin mojito because I am driving. Probably, the experience can be enhanced if the waiter could bring my drink to me within fifteen minutes because there are very few people in the courtyard bar. It ended up that the drink turned up on my table after half an hour, with the consequence, of course, to bring the drink into the dining table.
My wife arrived and we were brought up to the second floor where our table is situated. The ambience of Alkaff Mansion was ideal for a date night between couples. We looked at the menu quickly and made a decision on what we would be having except for the wine. It came across quickly that the waiter was not familiar with the different wines and not able to tell us whether it was a full body red wine. That is probably my criticism about the restaurant and I expect the waiters to know everything in the menu or should be able to check with a senior waiter about an item which they are not familiar with. Nevertheless, we decided to make our decision about the wines on our own.
Back to the dinner, I have taken the Gourmet menu without the option of wine pairing given that I was driving. It turned out to be a good choice because I was able to focus the conversation with my wife without the need to take notes with Evernote. That’s the problem I have with all my fine dining trips so far. The process of data collection is not a seamless experience. I expect myself to get better as time goes on.
The gourmet menu which I have selected, comprised of the following cuisines with a glass of red wine (Chianti Classico Riecine Sangiovese, 2011):
- Carpaccio Di Salmone Marinato, Insalata Di Rapanelli Ed Erbette Con Le Sue Uova – Marinated Scottish Salmon ‘Carpaccio’ with Red Radish, Micro Herbs Salad, Salmon Roe
- Ravioli Di Pesce, Zeste D’Arancio E Bottarga Di Muggine Sarda – Homemade seafood ‘ravioli’ with orange zest & grated grey mullet roe ‘bottaga’. Yes, I forgot to take a picture of the cuisine while enjoying the dinner conversation with my wife about selecting a pre-school for my daughter.
- Maialino A Bassa Temperatura, Sedano Rapa E Frutti Di Bosco – Slow suckling pig with celery root & wild berries sauce.
- ‘Cheese Cake’ Semifreddo, Coulis di Arance Rosse con Zeste Croccanti – President cream cheese cake ‘parfait’ with blood orange coulis & candy orange zest.
As for my wife, she decided on À la carte menu and picked the following choices to be paired with a glass of white wine: Sleeping Giant (Chardonnay 2005, New Zealand).
- Zuppa di Asparagi Verdi e Tartufo – Green Asparagus Soup with Black Truffle Scent for starter, and guess what we were in deep conversation to miss taking the picture.
- Merluzzo al Forno, Vellutata di Porri con Ragu’ di Funghi Porcini – Oven Baked Atlantic Cod with Leek Velouté & ‘Porcini’ Mushrooms Ragout which served as the main course.
- Semifreddo al Cioccolato Bianco e Caffe’ – White Chocolate & Coffee ‘Parfait’ with Espresso Sauce & Hazelnut Meringue as the choice for dessert
Since both of us had the opportunity of dining on both first and second floors respectively, we collectively felt that the ambience was far better on the second floor as compared to the first. The mansion, a relic of the colonial style building, lit up differently in the night, and often gave the sense that we were dining elsewhere out of Singapore.
The gourmet menu was balanced and each cuisine combined the splendour of taste without the feeling that I was eating too much. The dish may look small, but the overall flow of each dish to the table was steady. That was probably the best part of the dining experience even though they have screwed up in the bar and on the knowledge of the wine. The service of the waiters were above average but they did their best to provide a good Friday night evening for both of us.
After I paid the bill and walked down the steps to get my car, I can’t help to look back at the Mansion. It always remain an icon to me given that I have seen the state of this old building transforming across the ages from youth to now. Hopefully, the next time when I come, I hope that the waiters have done a better job in learning about the wine choices and the cuisines.
Here’s my rating for this second experience with Alkaff Mansion Singapore:
- Service Standards: 6/10
- Ambience: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Knowledge of Waiters: 5/10
- Overall: 7/10
Information about this restaurant:
- Restaurant Name: Alkaff Mansion Ristorante
- Food Genre: Italian
- Address: 10 Telok Blangah Green, Singapore 109178
- Reservations: Call 65103068 or firstname.lastname@example.org