Monday, May 21, 2012

Jason Atherton's Esquina Tapas Bar @ Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore

Back in February this year, Hubby took me to Singapore for Valentine's Day. We had a great time and vowed to return. What better time to return than Mother's Day in May,  for another eating and shopping spree in Singapore :) 

During my last trip, I wanted to go to Esquina Tapas Bar but due to time constraints, we couldn't make it there. Hubby made sure my wish came true this trip. :) Anyway, Esquina is a collaboration between one of my favorite UK Michelin-star chefs Jason Atherton and acclaimed Singapore hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng.

Jason Atherton has a very impressive CV - he was the first British chef to complete a stage at Spain's famous el Bulli restaurant in 1998 and has worked with culinary bigwigs such as Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White. Back in the UK days, I used to watch Jason Atherton compete on Great British menu on TV and also got the chance to dine in Maze, London while he was helming the kitchen there. It was a very memorable meal, and if I get to go to London again, I would like to visit his 1-Michelin star restaurant, Pollen Street Social. Btw, he is also opening Pollen in Gardens by the Bay in Singapore end of June 2012, something to look forward to!

Esquina is inspired by the colorful tapas bars found in Spain, serving modern tapas. It is located in Jiak Chuan Road in Chinatown, in a colonial looking shophouse.  

A piece of invaluable advice that I can offer you is.. be early! Esquina does not take reservations and can only seat up to 19 people at one time (and if you're not seated, you don't get served!) so you have to be there before the doors open at 6pm. We arrived around 5.45pm and there were already 3 couples waiting before us. Your name will be taken down, and you can sit outside the restaurant (the staff will serve you beverages or cold water while you wait) and the doors will open at sharp 6. 

An experience worth being early for!

While waiting, you can browse the one-paged menu. There is also a specials board inside the restaurant. 

Take some photos while you wait
Can you tell that I'm very excited?

Lady luck must be on our side as we scored the best seats in the house! Esquina is designed with an open-kitchen concept with a long bar and high stools, so half the fun was watching the kitchen action and we got to sit right in front of Executive Chef Andrew Walsh!! Wooohooooo!

The restaurant has a raw industrial vibe, and is accentuated with cool decor and these avant-garde stools. Looks slightly uncomfortable but it was alright once you got seated. And sat in it we did for the next 2 hours!

An amazing experience..

This is Executive Chef Andrew Walsh which made our meal in Esquina extremely memorable.Chef Andy is of Irish descent, and has worked in Michelin-starred restaurant Public in New York, Tom Aikens in London and Pollen Street Social in London.

The kitchen guys were so good... very coordinated and pretty calm throughout service. It was definitely one of a kind experience to be able to so up-close and personal to the people preparing your food.

Specials boards - they change regularly according to seasonal ingredients

All diners will be served with a complimentary sangria (we got two each!). YUMMMMMM!

Check out this bad boy.. the Iberico Bellota (S$27) which is sliced right before your eyes.

Best seats in the house...

See how close I was to Chef Andy? Barely 1 metre ;P Scoring the best seats (sorry had to gloat a little) meant that we got to chat with Chef Andy and it was thrilling watching him plate up dishes with precision, one after another. Sorry about the photo overload in this blogpost but it would be a pity not to photograph the buzzing kitchen action.  My only regret is not bringing my DSLR and  had to shoot with my iPhone4S instead since we're on holiday.

It's amazing watching them, and they never stop! Busy busy kitchen from 6pm to closing time

That's someone else's tuna tartare with avocado and sesame (S$21). 

And now he's plating up our two dishes :) Time to tuck in to our food soon.

We ordered the poached hen's egg with asparagus salad, foie gras butter and toast (S$18) from the special's board. OMG I'm not exaggerating but this is THE BEST poached egg dish we've ever eaten. The flavours were amazing, so so divine. The egg is poached to perfection and sits atop the asparagus salad with a drizzle of truffle oil. The foie gras butter was rich and delicious too, we only wished we had more bread to finish off the butter! Definitely the highlight of our meal.. simplicity at its best. I hope that they will put this on the permanent a la carte menu.


We lapped up every last bit of the poached egg.. so delicious

The salt and pepper squid served with a unique, creamy black ink aioli (S$22) was a great bar snack. I could munch this all night with a glass of wine. So crisp and addictive. This is perhaps the most popular dish that night, as we saw so many couples ordering it.

Salt and pepper squid, black ink aioli

Flames in the Josper grill

Do you agree that this is one of the prettiest looking tapas dish? The scallop ceviche with radish salsa (S$19.50) was not only pretty, it was so delicious too. The plump raw scallops were very fresh, marinated in a tangy Yuzu lime juice with a tinge of sesame oil. The radish added colour and texture to this dish.

Chef Andy and my scallop ceviche

Chef Andy plating up another special for other customers - Josper grilled pork chops (S$35 for 2)

Compliments of Chef Andy (thanks!) - another special of the day, the sauteed gambas with sherry sweetcorn bacon dressing (S$25). Large prawns that are so sweet and juicy, complimented very well by the flavoursome dressing.

The Josper Grill

Moving on to the meat section, we ordered the baked bone marrow with snails, parsley and horseradish pesto (S$25). Very nicely presented, the bone marrow crumbs was topped with snails and onions and served in a bone. There was different plays in texture and was certainly a very interesting dish.

Snails, bone marrow with parsley and horseradish pesto

We ordered the heritage tomato with sherry dressing (S$13.50) to meet our daily vegetable quota. It was a great choice, the tomatoes (green and red) were very juicy and so flavorful and was simply topped with tomato salsa, avocado mousse and some fresh basil. Loved it - a big thumbs up from us!

We tried the Albarino from Spain (S$18 per glass) and Viognier Sainte Fleur from South France (S$16). They also serve beer, prices from S$9.

Pre-dessert, complimentary sangria ice cream in mini cones

Happy diner :)

Now the chef is preparing our dessert :)

On the current menu, there are 5 types of desserts. It was quite hard deciding which one to have, if I had more tummy space I would certainly have ordered them all to try since I am a dessert person. We finally settled for the grilled pineapple salad and watermelon salad.

Salad for dessert?

We loved both the desserts. The grilled pineapple salad was served with coconut sorbet and coconut lime jelly (S$12.50), a very light and sweet end to our meal.

The watermelon salad, gazpacho and basil sorbet (S$12.50) sounded very interesting on paper and just as delightful to savour. It was very refreshing. The basil sorbet was a first for me, but went well with the watermelon gazpacho. We noticed that it melted quite slowly compared to the coconut sorbet.

The kitchen and the communal bar.. it's really cosy and intimate in there!

Goodbye Esquina, til we meet again. 

Some old buildings on the way to Esquina

Night view from our hotel room. We stayed in the Swissotel, and we were lucky to have a gotten a room facing the Marina Bay Sands, more about that later.

Verdict: Will we be back? DEFINITELY. Although this was our second main meal in Singapore, I decided to blog about this first since it was the most memorable and fabulous experience we had in Singapore this trip. Not only is the food great, I really enjoyed watching all the kitchen action. Service was very good too. We would definitely recommend Esquina to any of our friends/readers visiting Singapore.

Full set of photos available to view here. 

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 12.00-2.30pm, 6.00-10.30pm. Saturday 6.00-10.30pm. Closed on Sundays.

Price: S$166.90. No service charge.

Location: Esquina Tapas Bar, 16 Jiak Chuan Road, 089267. (If you're taking the MRT, you can alight at Outram Park and take the exit towards New Bridge Road. It is a 10-15 min walk from the station to Esquina).

Tel: +65 6222 1616



  1. I c my eggtastic drug...slow-cooked egg, bravas sauce, potato n crispy iberico =)

    The cerviche looks scalloplicious while my dessert pick would be the grilled pineappletriscious salad was served with coconut sorbet and coconut lime jelly :D

    1. Imma gonna try the slow cooked egg next time I go back too.

      I can still rmbr the experience so clearly in my mind... so exhilarating!

  2. The sangria looks different..and the egg is too sexy. With all those food, you're definitely a happy diner. Love the building. Nice and quaint. Will be good to have some of these here:D

    1. Ah it's sangria with sangria foam. But very tasty.

      The only restaurant located in a heritage building in KL I've visited is Ril's.

    2. R u revisiting Ril's soon? =)

    3. Not so soon... go Prime first while Starwood card still valid.

  3. You're very darn lucky man! Best seats in the house and all....

    Anyway, you look really slim. kekekeke

    1. Thanks for the compliment :P

      Yeah we were lucky.. sitting there right in front of the chef really added to the whole experience.

  4. Those are the best seats in the house, what with the opportunity to chat with the chef and crew. Hmm, I sure wouldn't mind hitting this tapas place with Devil once he's better. :)

    1. Didn't really chat with the rest of the crew.. they were very busy running around the kitchen and cooking. Despite being busy all the time, they were very organised and calm.

      I hope to go back again next time I'm in Sg :)

  5. Replies
    1. LOL no need jeles... Sg not tht far away. :P

  6. WAhhhhh... all the food looks so delicious!!!! I only go down to Singapore for work. I think it's time to make a short trip to indulge myself.

    1. I really love going around the restaurants in Singapore. I can't wait for Pollen restaurant (by the same ppl) to open, they have a dessert bar and their executive pastry chef has worked in Noma, el Bulli and Iggy's before.

  7. We always makan around Orchard when we in SG, next time should try other places. :D

    1. We only like to shop in Orchard lol! I got so many other places I wanna try in SG but always not enough time! Rmbr to go to the foie gras place I told u abt.. Since u love it so much.

  8. bone marrow! and it looks like quite a hefty, sinfully delicious portion too. imagine the cholesterol overkill if each serving of bone marrow comes together with the poached egg, topped with the fattiest bits of the iberico ham! :D

    1. Sean: Portion was generous, yes, but we wouldn't have minded more :)

  9. I've been waiting for this post! Can't wait to give it a try. Will make sure I go early as you suggest. :-)

    1. Yes, we've been telling our friends to go visit this place if they ever visit SG! It's quite an experience.

  10. Oh mai all looks so good I don't know what to say! One question though - what's the deal with that Josper grill? lol

    1. I first heard about Josper grill/oven when I interviewed Chef Reto of Mandarin Grill, they have one in the restaurant but I've never seen it. Apparently, it gives the meat better flavour with greater heat control etc. Hence I was excited to see it here at Esquina. ;P

  11. a place must not miss... thanks for the good shots.

  12. Free "entertainment" while dining, great! Lol! I live basil, so basil sorbet definitely caught my eyes!

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  14. Free "entertainment" while dining, great! Lol! I like basil, so that basil sorbet definitely caught my eyes.

    1. Haha yes, watching the kitchen action was the highlight of our meal!

  15. Yen:
    el Bulli is still ranked the 2nd or 3rd best restaurant in the world, is it? Just few weeks ago, I read from the internet about the top 50 restaurants in the world for year 2012 & it was a young Danish chef who stole the title & became the 1st restaurant in the world for the 2nd consecutive year! I think one of the Singapore's restaurants made it to top 50s!

    What you pay is what you get. Look at these chefs, every single piece of food was prepared with so much of care! Singapore is another country that will make me "shop & eat till I drop!"

    1. El Bulli has closed down last year (if I remember correctly) and no.1 restaurant now is Noma. I would love to dine there someday.

      Iggy's and Les Amis made it into the Top 100 Best Restaurant's. I have yet to try them both. But I hope to someday. I really love to fine dine in Singapore, the food is really good.

  16. Yen, I wish you had told me this place when I was last in Singapore. I will definitely check it out on my next trip.

    1. I think I did tell you but you already had your meals planned out. It's definitely worth checking out but not sure if Gary's back would agree with the high stools?


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