Its location sees a lot of traffic: set at the intersection that leads towards Chinatown and Orchard Road, the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel watches a steady flow of residents, tourists and clubbers go by. A shame, as this Zouk neighbour should command more attention as a destination, especially for its restaurant, Pontini.
Sardinian chef Domenico Piras steers this stronghold. The former Prego (The Fairmont) chef, inspired by his South-East Asian travels, sticks even more closely to his native flavours. The portly Italian advocates his cuisine’s traditional leanings: an earthy focaccia studded with black olives is served with home-made capsicum purée, tapenade and olive oil; a smoky seafood cioppino (stew) smoulders with rosemary and essence of tomatoes; and an equally rustic, al dente ravioli al tartufo e parmigiano in salsa di funghi (ravioli with porcini and parmesan in cream sauce) cuts open to a strong but sweet blend of earthy, meaty notes.
There is however a curious addition to the menu: a kueh lapis-like carrot cake dessert with a texture that’s derived from using brown sugar, served alongside cubes of carrot jelly. It’s a golden, warm sweetness that veers more towards the modern, local palate than the Sardinian. With menus changing every two to three months, we suppose such idiosyncrasies are inevitable.
Nonetheless, Pontini’s dishes will appeal to hearty diners of all stripes, while the decor caters to the area’s businessfolk. The lofty interior and floor-to-ceiling teak blinds form the backdrop to minimalist chairs and white-tableclothed surfaces set on parquet flooring. Large, raised art pieces make for conversation points, as do the generously proportioned chef’s table, wine cellar and glass-encased kitchen tucked in the recess. If you’re more comfortable holding discussions in non-public spaces, there are four private dining rooms.
This is far from a stuffy restaurant – for the most part, its breezy, air-conditioned enclosure, along with the relaxed service style, echo Piras’ philosophy of avoiding pretension and sticking to pure tradition. Rachel Tan
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