Cocotte, Singapore

an old and dear friend recently celebrated her 21st (we are all getting old) birthday at cocotte, a casual and unpretentious french restaurant on the ground floor of wanderlust hotel located along dickson road. the sunday crowd in little india left me a little frazzled but thankfully i found a lot and parked without much difficulty and more importantly, without knocking any random jaywalker over.

the wanderlust hotel exudes a quirky, eclectic and yuppy vibe, and cocotte is no different – it is country-style decor with modern touches at its very charming best. i’m not sure what the restaurant layout is like on a regular day, but this is how it looked for my friend’s very nice do 🙂
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we had the whole place to ourselves, and a special menu was put together for the event:
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cocotte believes in communal dining where large servings of yummy food are shared across the table, so that’s how the lunch that day rolled as well. before any of the proper food came, we were served a basket of warm bread – yum yum love me some carbs. the bread was crusty on the outside but soft inside, nothing to shout about but was a promising indicator of the good food that was to come 🙂
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the first dish to be served was the french onion sandwich!
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french onion “soup” sandwich – walnut rye bread, onion confit, veal jus, melted gruyere cheese

picture of its cross-section so you can see how its constructed:
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we all really liked this sandwich! i haven’t had anything like it before, and it was an interesting take on the classic french onion soup. taste-wise i have to say that it was really quite on point, tasting very nearly like a non-liquid form of french onion soup. and because my utmost favourite part of a piping hot bowl of french onion soup is the sinful layer of gooey cheese on the top, this was just my cup of tea. wonderfully-flavoured onions and a layer of melted gruyere cheese are generously layered onto a slice of (freshly-baked?) walnut rye bread and it makes for a really tasty open-faced sandwich with a range of textures. yum yum, though i can imagine it getting a bit heavy if you have too much of it. best to share, especially if you’re planning on trying lots of other food! i’d certainly order this again when i return.

the next starter that was served to the table was a salad:
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poached egg & lardon salad – frisee with french lardons, barn-raised poached egg & smoked bacon-infused sherry vinaigrette

this was a good second starter to follow the french onion sandwich as it was much lighter and cleansed our palettes for more food to come! the salad was alright, nothing to shout about although i did, as always, appreciate the very well-poached *barn-raised* (whatever that means hahaha) egg! the greens were quite fresh and the dressing was pleasant with a hint of bacon infusion. for the health-conscious, the addition of lardon (pork lard, basically) turned this into a not-so-healthy salad though.

now on to the mains, the first thing we had was the duck confit crepe:
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duck confit crepes – homemade duck confit wrapped in a warm crepe with roasted shallots, red cabbage, & fresh herbs with citrus jus

i was most excited for this wonderful-sounding dish but have to say i was a little let down! here’s a picture of the crepe cut up so you can see the inside a little better:
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i thought the crepe was too thick and for some reason the components of the filling didn’t come together as well as i imagined they would. the duck was moist but was unlike the usual duck confit-type meat i was expecting – maybe because my favourite part of a duck confit is the thin layer of crispy melt-in-your-mouth skin but that was nowhere to be found here; it tasted almost like braised duck..? so that was quite disappointing. the red cabbage was also a little too raw for my liking; i think the filling of the crepe might have been more harmonious if the cabbage was cooked a little softer but maybe its crunchiness was intended to be maintained to add some crunch to the crepe. i probably would give this a miss when i return.

thankfully things looked up for the mains after we were done with the confit crepe! the next main we were served was a whole fish:
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whole roasted seabass – tomatoes provencal, slow roasted garlic, fine beans, grilled eggplant, peppers and courgettes and saffron aioli

i really liked this dish! it was a big plate meant for sharing, and reminded me of home-style chinese cooking 🙂 hidden under the fish (sorry i didn’t take a picture of what lay beneath) and accompanied by the beans was a bed of wonderfully roasted aubergines, peppers and courgettes – i love my roasted veggies; so yummy! as for the fish itself, it was very lightly seasoned and perfectly roasted such that the skin outside was mildly crisp while the meat within was extremely fresh and moist. i really should have taken a picture of the inside.. we were all impressed by how it was extremely fresh and very tasty yet light and moist. it was also accompanied by a saffron aioli dipping sauce which was a great accompaniment for those who wanted a more flavourful fish. i thought the aioli was not particularly necessary because the fish itself was tasty enough and i didn’t want to overpower the freshness of the fish. i was much more willing to slather the yummy aioli over my roasted vegetables instead. a great dish for sharing!

last but certainly not least, we had cocotte’s signature roast chicken:
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signature poulet roti – whole roasted antibiotic and hormone-free chicken served with pan gravy, spring vegetables and creamy potato gratin

my dining companions and i thought this was the star dish of the lunch that day. we concluded that it is their signature dish with good reason! a whole chicken is roasted to perfection and served on a big wooden board to the table, accompanied by some yummy vegetables and potato gratin mmm. the chicken was definitely one of the better roast chickens i’ve tasted in singapore. the meat is tender, moist and juicy while the skin outside is crispy and super tasty. we hardly touched the gravy at all because we didn’t need it at all! the natural sweetness and juiciness of the fragrant and flavourful chicken was more than enough to make our tummies very happy. 
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the accompanying potato gratin and beans were also well-received and by the time we were done with the chicken, most of us were at the brink of falling into food comas.

so we took a break and headed to the quirky and super trendy hotel lobby to play some foosball in preparation for dessert…
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and also a spot of retail therapy:
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alas it turned out to be the most unoptimal decision of the afternoon because when we returned to our table, we found to our great horror that we had missed our chance to be served a dessert platter 😥 had to settle for taking a picture of a half-eaten platter that the people at the other end of our table were tucking into:
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our crestfallen faces were spotted a mile away by the birthday girl’s mother, and she very kindly arranged for some cherry chocolate cake for our dessert:
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its worth saving some space for cocotte’s chocolate cake. it is a chocolate lover’s dream – moist, dense and extremely chocolate-y, the non-chocolate fan in me was a little scared by how heavy and chocolatey it looked but i ended up really enjoying it! have it in small quantities and you won’t be overwhelmed by its richness. the dark chocolate ganache that topped the cake was really really good, and the little crunchy balls added a different texture to the cake. the cherries within made it into something like a blackforest cake without the cream, and everything came together very nicely in the little foil loaf tins to make a yummy little treat. the cake is definitely way too much for one person to finish alone; it’s perfect for sharing, and i can imagine how delicious it would be when accompanied by some ice cream!
as for the cupcake, it was a banana cupcake if i remember correctly, topped with the same oh-so-good dark chocolate ganache. i thought the cupcake was a tad dry though, and it definitely paled in comparison to the chocolate cake.

finally, we had their ice cream sandwiches! snagged a portion of the burnt caramel ice cream sandwich to try:20140720_151345
i thoroughly enjoyed this burnt caramel ice cream sandwich – burnt caramel ice cream sandwiched between two thin speculoos biscuits. i absolutely adore spiced speculoos (!!!) biscuits, so this was quite a hit with me. the taste of the burnt caramel was rather strong, but i thought the speculoos biscuits balanced the potency of the homemade ice cream out rather well.

all in all, it was a good meal at cocotte and if you are a fan of roast chicken, you should definitely check this place out. on weekends, they do brunch in a really cute way – apparently they bring around a trolley of food for you to pick things off, instead of the boring old ordering off a menu. sounds like fun!

Cocotte
2 Dickson Road, Wanderlust Hotel
Singapore 209494
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PS. happy birthday sarah ❤ (birthday girl in the centre)
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i’d like to think we’ve come a long way from our 12-year-old selves who were tyrants doing bridges at the back of the classroom during higher chinese lessons… from 12 to 21 :’)

Artichoke, Singapore

located in sculpture square (a place i think not many people even know exists), artichoke is like an oasis of calm amidst the usually bustling bugis area. my friend and i had a great time there when we met for brunch on a saturday morning – we ended up staying for 3 whole hours having great conversation over amazing food in a nice setting.

we knew how popular artichoke is, especially on weekends, so we made a reservation and managed to get a lovely raised table meant for 4, by a big window that looked out into the artichoke courtyard. yay!Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

the cafe exudes a laidback yet sophisticated vibe; it is casual but not sloppy and spacious but still cosy. it is also bright and airy, and i love how the tables are well spread-out so that it doesn’t get too noisy and you don’t have to worry about other diners hearing your entire conversation.20131221_11305920131221_113150

they serve dinner tuesday-saturday, and brunch on saturdays and sundays. here’s the brunch menu for the saturday we visited (i heard it changes):
20131221_113329i was really excited by the menu – everything was different from the usual brunch fare available elsewhere, and had nice middle eastern/turkish/arabic touches to them. artichoke prides itself on serving moorish cuisine. not quite sure myself what exactly moorish cuisine entails, but that might be because that is exactly what it is – a cuisine that comes from a huge variety of sources and has all kinds of influences (african/spanish/middle eastern etc), with no true definition that encompasses everything under it.

we opted for the scrambled eggs and mushrooms and the lamb shakshouka, and boy am i glad we did, because they were both amazing.

first, the scrambled eggs:
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scrambled eggs and mushrooms: local farm mushrooms/grilled halloumi cheese/za’atar toast – $22

this was super yummy! being an egg and mushroom lover, this was heaven on a plate. the mushrooms were fresh and juicy, and were cooked to finger-lickin’ perfection 😉 love how they’re local farm mushrooms too! nothing gourmet or fancy, but tasted just as delicious. as for the scrambled eggs, they were also pretty much perfect – not too wet nor dry, wonderfully creamy but not mushy at all! the eggs & mushrooms were topped with some fresh greens and these unidentifiable crispy bits (still don’t really know what they are) that were glazed in something (couldn’t really place what the glaze was either… oh dear) that were extremely delicious and added texture to the dish. the za’atar toast was also delicious, making for a super satisfying plate of goodness. our only (tiny) complaint was that we found the grilled halloumi a tad too salty. but other than that, it was grilled well and yummy like everything else! not sure if you can see in the picture because of the lack of scale, but the serving was pretty big! definitely filling, yet light.

instead of the mushrooms, an alternative is to have to have the scrambled eggs with “thick cut maple bacon chop”. when they say thick, they really do mean thick – the slice slab of bacon was about half an inch to an inch thick, and we spotted it glistening away in all its smoked glory at many tables. looked incredibly delicious but also very very sinful. best to eat in moderation! hahaha.

20131221_121628lamb shakshouka: stewed eggs/tomato sauce/roast lamb/cheese/pistachio dukka/toast – $26

i was really impressed with this. it was a pan full of bold flavours and hearty goodness. it was something like baked eggs, but even better. a giant serving of tomatoes, two runny eggs (hidden somewhere in there), amazing braised lamb shanks, cheese, topped with dukka, pistachios and some yoghurt – my idea of moorish food heaven! it was very filling, but so delicious that i just couldn’t bear to not finish it! though it sounds like a huge mess of flavours and things piled together in a pan, i must say it was a pretty organised/beautiful one 😛 the flavours and different components combined wonderfully and the lamb (which they were very generous with) was braised to perfection – it was moist, tender and extremely tasty, with none of the “smell” that people sometimes complain of when eating lamb. dunking the toast in all this was really, one of the best things ever.

case in point:Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetdespite the slightly heftier price tag, i would highly recommend this to anyone dining at artichoke! the serving is big and its definitely something different from the typical brunch fare of eggs benny etc, and in my opinion, in a really good way. its pretty heavy and and can get jelat though, so best to share this and some other lighter dishes with your dining companions if you want a greater range of things to eat.

given the big servings for the mains, we were stuffed by the time we were done with our mains, but were so pleased with the food that we decided we just could not pass on dessert. besides the desserts on the menu, they have a little bakery next door that sells an impressive range of tarts/muffins/baklava (traditional middle eastern/turkish dessert) etc where you can order some sweet treats to be eaten at artichoke:
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the tarts and their really interesting flavours were highly enticing, but we eventually decided on the sticky date pudding from artichoke. once again, no regrets at all because it was very very delicious! check it out:
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date pudding: burnt milk custard, coffee jelly, peanut caramel, smoked salt – $14

it appeared at our table completely different from what we expected, and looked good enough to warrant some oohs and aahs from us and envious glances from neighbouring tables. serving was like everything else big, and the pudding itself was sitting in this deep dish of burnt milk sauce, which to me sounded very interesting but to others might sound odd, i realise. if you belong to the latter category, do not let that deter you from ordering this, because trust me, it came highly recommended and with good reason! the date pudding was not cloyingly sweet like many sticky date puddings tend to be. neither was it very sticky actually! but it was moist and dense and was heavenly when eaten with the sauce surrounding it, the coffee jelly and the caramelised peanuts that topped it. the salt also added a very nice salted caramel-ish twist to the dessert. its priced rather steeply but the serving is definitely huge enough for sharing. so very satisfying! need to try the turkish apple crumble next! and some overdoughs delights.

as you can tell from my pretty much rave review of artichoke, i thoroughly enjoyed it and will be back for more. i loved the ambience, the food, and the service (they give each dinner a pack of sour gummies as you leave the cafe – a nice little touch and really helps in cleansing the palette after all that delicious food!). it was quite pricey but i thought it was nevertheless pretty worth the money. be sure to make a reservation on weekends or you might have to queue or be relegated to an outside seat (which is fine on a breezy day, but rather unoptimal on a sweltering one). i think they allow dogs in the courtyard too! saw some people dining with their furry friends so that’s something worth noting for dog owners out there.

i’d like to return for dinner one day, to see what they have to offer! they do communal dining for dinner, and i’m sure the great food and excited passing around of large sharing plates will make for a lovely experience 🙂

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outside seating area

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my habibi & i 😉

Artichoke Cafe & Bar

161 Middle Road, Sculpture Square
Singapore 188978 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset