It’s probably technically incorrect to label what the Garden serves up as spa cuisine. But this restaurant is located right next to a spa; its motto is ‘Conscious Dining’; it eschews the use of any butter or cream; and its ingredients are sourced from organic or bio-dynamic farms. In my book, that’s spa cuisine.
More to the point, the food is excellent. Expensive, yes, but everything is executed with such panache and wonderful flavours that when the bill comes, you don’t begrudge it the way you do at Braise. The twin logs of warm flaxseed and spelt bread served with a yoghurt-and-chives dip augured well for the main meal. As did the palate-teaser of creamy, custard-like cauliflower mousse delicately flavoured with beetroot juice – the dish deserved its own entry on the menu.
Salads were mixed and matched, table-side, with a cornucopia of leaves, vegetables, seeds, fruits, nuts and dressings (in a test tube) to choose from. Yes, Alain Ducasse did this a decade ago at Spoon, but any potential ennui was rescued by the freshness of the 40-odd ingredients.
And freshness is a recurring theme at the Garden. It would be impossible to do this kind of cooking with second-rate produce. The flaws would show on the first bite. And so, at one dinner, the daikon roll – a thin radish strip wrapping up sweet raw snapper and watermelon sticks, dipped in toasted sesame seeds and ponzu – was a triumph of textures and distinct flavours. As was the hiramasa kingfish sashimi layered on a heady papaya, avocado and onion guacamole given a quiet lift by citrus vinaigrette.
Mains rarely disappointed either, even if the chicken rice was rather forgettable. Plastic parchment opened with a puff of smoke to reveal a thick cut of fresh snapper lounging in a fragrant pool of laksa broth, with just a puff of coconut foam, orange with grated carrot, chilli, tomato and kaffir leaves.
The crowning glory, though – despite being ruinously expensive at $46 – was the thick cut of Scottish salmon. The flesh was cooked sous-vide style until it had the texture of cotton candy, and fairly melted in sweet and salty waves on the tongue. It says something, too, that the accompanying quinoa risotto drizzled with roast chicken juice was equally worthy of a separate mention on the menu. Of the few desserts offered, the quark cheesecake, with its lightly brûléed skin, surprised with its balance of sweet and tart. In the end, there are many reasons to come back to the Garden – its high prices notwithstanding.
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