My wife N, who has ¼ British blood in her heritage has a penchant for all things with Anglo Saxon associations. English Tea, Marks and Spencer, Harrods, Fish and Chips and the Raffles Hotel are some of the things and icons that can set her rattling away in the Queen’s English. Anyway one of the latest Anglo culture to hit us this year is the opening of the V Tea Room in Esplanade Mall. Designed to look like a typical Victorian Time English Tea Room with all the necessary props and even staff in housemaid uniforms, N has been nudging me to check it out for weeks and until we found time during the last long weekend, we finally made it there. From the pictures featured the media reviews and write ups, you would presume the place to be reasonably big but actually it is not. At most, it can only take in 30pax in a full capacity. So it makes sense to make a booking first before coming down.
Stepping in, my feel was that the décor and layout made me feel like I had just stepped into the tea and coffee retail department of Harrods in London. In the middle of the room, there it stood a cake display with the house specialties in it. Looking through the classically written and designed menu, the prices also look like those in Harrods. Written in Victorian manuscript, it takes two point five seconds longer to understand each word.
Being an English concept, the cakes offered were typically European favourites and liqueur flavoured tea cakes are one of its specialties. Besides cakes, it also has home made ice creams, cookies in elegant boxes with elegant prices. A small savoury menu compliments the pastries and sweets together with an extensive selection of tea blends, regular and flavoured coffee. I must say that the service here is very good and from the time of reservation till sitting down with the menu on hand, the servers have taken all that is necessary to make us feel comfortable. What I am impressed is that they also have good knowledge on the items in the menus and other products that is sold in the tea room, right down to explaining to you how the various different types of cookies are made and their taste profile. Certainly you don’t get this kind of service often in Singaporean restaurants.
Having skipped lunch, we ordered a Mortadella Sausage and Cheese Quiche, Shepherd’s Pie with Meat Loaf and House Special Mushroom Sauce, Three Queens Liqueur Tea Cake and Home Made Hazelnut Ice Cream. For tea, we took on an Early Grey-Lavender blend and a Lychee Rose Blend. Tea is served from dainty trolleys with traditional English tea service and fine bone china. All has been well until the food we order arrived. Bearing in mind that we are paying a premium price for such a concept on everything we ordered from the menu, I expected the food to live up to the service and décor as well. We got a large wedge (it better be) of quiche with two thin slices of Mortadella Sausage and some unexciting cheese topping. I was wondering given the price we are paying for and all the time we have, why can’t they bake us a nice small 4-5inch tartlet instead of giving us a slice of a pre baked tart? The Emmental Cheese flavour was missing and the custard was full of onions. It tasted plain, buttery and unexciting at all and I don’t understand why they serve it with sliced Valencia oranges which happened to very sour on that day too. That was a first disappointment and just as we put down our forks, the Shepherds Pie arrived. I can accept if they try to be a bit innovative in presenting the pie in a different way from the regular mash potato topping on top and the meat stew below. However our Shepherd’s Pie came the other way. The mash potato wasn’t creamy at all and in fact tasted more like Potatoes Au Gratin so I looked into the menu again to make sure what I ordered was right. Yes! It says Shepherds Pie with Meat Loaf and I am staring at two slices of rolled up picnic ham. FYI, meat loaf is supposed to a thick slice of a cooked meat terrine and it tastes something like premium luncheon meat. You can’t put rolled up picnic ham and try to pass it off as meat loaf to your customers like that. It’s heaven an earth to bite into a slice of picnic ham and a real meat loaf. To rub it in, it was picnic ham and not shoulder ham despite the premium price tag. The special mushroom sauce was a thicken version of foodservice mushroom soup with a few slices of button mushrooms and a cup of cream poured in. It totally lacks body and a proper mushroom direction. I mean rather than just the measly few pieces of button mushroom, why not some dried porcinis? That would have really helped. Food Cost is not an excuse here, after all we are already paying such a premium for it, which for that, better flavour mushrooms should be expected.
In between clearing away the first dishes and desserts, our server went through the entire cookie list and sampling with us. Don’t be mistaken that we got to bite a small chunk for each variety, you only get a small button and hopefully you can spread that all over your mouth to enjoy the flavours.
Desserts came soon after and we witness the three pourings of different liqueurs over our tea cake. It’s a secret blend of Kahlua, Grand Marnier and Baileys Irish Cream liquers. The tea cake is baked with a generous amount of macadamias and dark chocolate, served with an orange butterscotch sauce. The taste and combinations of liquers made the cake more interesting although I found the orange sauce a little too overpowering. Still it was a comfort from the two disasters earlier.
The finale was the Homemade Hazelnut Ice Cream. I appreciate the generous coarse bits of hazelnuts in the ice cream and it does look and tasted home made. How to tell the difference? Commercial ice creams have emulsifiers and stabilizers in their recipes hence the ice cream does not melt that fast into a watery mess, but still thick and creamy. Home made ones tend to melt much faster and becomes more watery. However the ice creams taste more natural, fuller and you can play with more exciting flavours.
Overall, I felt that the V Tea Room was selling more of a lifestyle concept than its food or drinks. Its chic appeal will attract those who would love to go there to see and be seen. Ladies will have a weakness for such places because it represents the haute couture of lifestyle living and all the pampering attention lavished on you.I am not such a fan for these places but if my wife wants an experience, I will oblige.
On my own, you probably find me next door at Max Brenner Hot Chocolate or Chocz Café on the 2nd level. As for their food, don’t even bother other than the pastries which are still worth some consideration if you have a deep pocket to dig into.