Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Binge - The Lighthouse

When I was told that Fullerton was going to re-open what was once San Marco into yet another Italian restaurant, I must admit I suppressed a yawn. (Sorry, C – being honest here.)

Another Italian place? We need another one, just like we need another ERP gantry. But having since been there twice – within a three-week period – I stand thoroughly and head-smackingly corrected. And I have fallen in love with The Lighthouse at the top of The Fullerton Hotel.

Remember the old San Marco? Broodingly dark? Well, this is totally different – floods of cheerful sunshine, seriously great food and happy people as your service staff.

Nothing particularly exciting concept-wise, but this trinity coming together so well is monstrously rare in Singapore.

Toss in a 180 degree view of the marina, and it’s up there in blinking lights for me. And one more thing I like about this place – it’s got a sincere, happy, welcoming spirit and you feel it from the time you walk in, to the time you walk out and throughout the meal in between. (Seriously, after 19 years in this business, I am so tired of pretentious, so-stylish-it-hurts type places trying to be too cool for your business!)

It had been some time since I last ventured up there, and travelling up the box of a private lift to the restaurant, I encountered a cook who walked in at the ‘in-between floor’. Confused, I asked if I had reached the restaurant yet, but he offered most helpfully that no, it was the kitchens and the toilet. “How hygienic are you guys then?” I asked. “We are very hygienic indeed,” he gamely replied, and offered some historical information about the kitchen once being the living quarters of the lighthouse caretaker and thus the toilet conveniently next to it. The current restaurant by the way is where the beacon itself was located. Friendly chap, I thought.

The cook turned out to be the main man himself, Chef de Cuisine Diego Martinelli who – I soon discovered - churns out stylish, exquisitely executed, keel-over-and-die good Italian cuisine – particularly his red meats. Leave the more pedestrian pasta aside, for while it is excellent, simply cannot beat his grilled pork cheek ($36), which – being totally, gravely serious – was unbelievably good, easily the best in town. Juicy, melting, tender, it was as comfy and seductive as an unhurried afternoon nap. This was served with a blob of pumpkin puree with a crispy bit of apple.

Next best thing on the menu is the wagyu beef tenderloin($44) – equally mesmerizing with its juicy, tender meat, served with creamed celeriac – a classic side – sautéed vegetables and porcini jus. Which underlines the fact that if the main attraction is that good, you don’t need other novelties to help it along.

Of the pastas (if you really need one after those meats), the tagliolini with prawns, zucchini and tuna bottarga ($35) was pretty enjoyable though the butternut tortellini ($36), a house specialty, was so sweet and thick I almost fell off my chair. If you like your main course sweet and sticky though, this would be the baby for you. I liked the appetizer of rucola, green apple, walnut and fennel salad with grilled ricotta ($20), and the beef carpaccio, leisurely indulgent in a tai-tai sort of way. Nice with some bubbly in the afternoon.

For dessert, go for the balsamic vinegar sautéed strawberries with lavender ice cream ($18) and the tiramisu ($15), which is non-alcoholic by the way and end with a digestif of strawberry and basil infusion ($18) made by the restaurant staff themselves.

On National Day, I pottered over to The Lighthouse again to try their brand new Sunday brunch, only into their second week.

Once again, the restaurant outdid itself. Brunch was a la carte dishes but with free flow wine and prosecco. While the menu held most of the lunch items, there was also a hearty Tuscan tomato bread soup ($16), poached eggs Florentine which was perfect in all its simplicity ($18), and steamed mussels with tomato, chilli and capers served with bread ($20). All lovely. Three of us dined with four courses each and the bill came up to only $330. That’s good value. Definitely a must go.

Oh yes, and one more secret. Ask to have dessert and coffee at the rooftop after dinner. A fantastic view with a top of the world feeling – very romantic, but only if you don’t have vertigo.

8th floor, The Fullerton Hotel
1 Fullerton Square
Tel: 6877 8933


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