HAVING cooked for celebrities and the anonymous, for others and himself, Gabriel Fratini sets down — he hopes for his final run — at The English House by Marco Pierre White.
The Italian chef who closed his eponymous outlet just before COVID-19 kicked in, has grown weary of balancing shifting tastes in a challenging business and tiring partnerships, and is content to now manage this place, and focus on serving up fare along White’s principle of back-to-basics but tasty food.
The English House is a study in contrasts, pretty much in keeping with White’s own reputation for being an enfant terrible turned rock star chef. White was among the youngest English chefs to get 3 stars, which he then returned for the obvious marketing memorabilia they represent.
That said, the Michelin man is among the eye-grabbing array of memorabilia that has relocated from White’s collection to the Mohamed Sultan Road restaurant.
When asked what’s the value of all the White stuff in the restaurant, Fratini doesn’t even want to hazard a guess.
The English House is set in a couple of deep and narrow, walk-up shophouses. It is hidden from view behind a dense garden of foliage, which caresses you as you climb the stairs leading to the entrance. Past statuary and other choice pieces able to withstand the tropical onslaught of heat, humidity and showers, guests file in, observing the needful safe distancing protocols.
As you enter the warmly lit, casual-chic house, you find yourself in a collector’s treasure trove of prized ornaments. The walls are lined with limited-edition celebrity photographs, many long since passed.
Shelves are lined with wooden toys, large statues of the Michelin Man, larger-than-life male and female toilet door icons, deer, and many more disjointed discoveries as you pick your way past the shelves.
We wind up at a table with a monochrome of the late Amy Winehouse and a couple of stubby reindeer tails framing an antique, silver lobster serving platter in our line of sight.
Gabriel rocks up with a plate laden with a knobbly mound, like the brain fell out of a small animal. It turns out to be a piece of white truffle with a street value of around $600. That’s going to add some value to a dish.
The serving staff, dressed like schoolmarms, are efficient, presenting menus and taking orders, and swiftly despatching drinks so we can drop our masks.
We opt for a quick meal, which still allows time for us to survey the room and its eclectic decorations.
Soon the wait staff are presenting the amuse-bouche of crab cake, Scotch egg and Kurobuta croquette; 3 brown balls that will challenge the Instagram generation, but are delicious little bombs of taste that explode in your mouth.
Ravioli filled with Ricotta, Spinach, with Truffle sauce follows, another challenging dish to photograph. But, once again, lip-smacking fare, with the truffle flavours mixing things up with the warm cheese.
The Fish Fingers of Hake, with chips and tartare sauce was a good follow up to the ravioli. The light serving with a crunchy batter added enough substance to keep those on a diet in check.
But then everything was messed up by The Box Tree Eton Mess. Raspberry, strawberry, Chantilly cream, meringue kisses, vanilla ice-cream, any diet would have been blown out of the water by then.
Coffee to conclude — expensive for a small cup — is a good way to round off the meal that is clean, without distractions like elaborate plating, which allows the surroundings to build the ambience.
The concept of the English house is less about English cuisine and more about the fare that would be whipped up. As a result of globalisation and the Internet, access to a range of cuisines and ingredients (let’s see how things go after the Brexit deal) allows for greater latitude in the types of dishes served. Hence, you’ll find chilli crab sauce mixed into Singapore noodles on the menu. And a few orders of that were served up during lunch.
This is Asia, after all, and if chicken tikka masala has become the must-have symbolic dish of England’s restaurants, then why not Singapore noodles served up in an English house?
The English House is located at 28 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore 238972. For more information: https://www.theenglishhouse.com