The White Rabbit at Dempsey Hill has long been recognised as one of Singapore’s more inventive restaurants. Let’s start with the location: it inhabits a former 1930s chapel, and still retains the soaring wooden ceilings and stain-glass windows. The food is also meant to have a whimsy that matches its namesake (from Alice in Wonderland), as the seemingly traditional European fare is never quite what it seems; the hearty pork belly is paired with pickled cabbage and chilies, for instance (totally delicious, by the way), while the cheesecake is “deconstructed” into heavenly dollops of cream cheese mousse and marscapone over graham cracker crumbs.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – we need to start with a refreshing cocktail to set the mood. One of White Rabbit’s hidden charms is its expansive backyard garden bar (affectionately known as The Rabbit Hole).
Abutting a gorgeous meadow (where else in Singapore will you see that, especially five minutes from Orchard?), it’s an ideal place to sip on a twilight tipple. And you’re going to want to go there more than ever, mama, with their carefully curated list of 16 artisanal gins from around the world that will be officially launched in mid-June.
A fantastic new bar menu emphasises G&Ts that play on a variety of themes, including “Simple & Honest”, “Traditional” and “Floral & Elegant”. Paired with housemade tonic and incorporating fresh herbs and edible flowers from the new backyard garden, the cocktails are meant to draw on the wholly botanic feel of the venue. Soon there will be a yummy crepe menu on offer as well.
If gin’s not your thing, there’s also a newly-revamped wine list that features an impressive 29 wines by the glass. These aren’t your standard supermarket blends, either, but rather an exciting mix of European, South American and New World varietals (I personally enjoyed a glass of Riesling from the Mosel region, such a honeyed treat!). The sommelier even employs a high-tech contraption called a Coravin that keeps bottles extra fresh.
And the wine pairs so nicely with the food, mamas. I started out with what, for my money, is the best salad in Singapore, the signature Salad Printemps with a vibrant mix of greens, avocado, radish, mango and even truffle. I offset all that beta carotene and Vitamin A with the indulgent Rangers Valley Wagyu Carpaccio – insanely thin slices of succulent beef topped with truffles, parmesan, and a delightfully surprising burst of Balsamic agar balls.
I was spoiled by three signature mains, most notably the 60-Hour Braised Mangalica Pork Belly with Pickled Cabbage and Cannellini beans. It’s infused with miso broth (so moist and tender), while the fiery chili paste and tart cabbage cut through the richness of the pork and the beans.
Chef Benjamin Tan actually took the staple 36-hour Brandt Shortribs off the menu for a year until he could get them just to his liking. That’s evidently the perfect amount of time to make for a crunchy truffle-miso glaze on the outside and pink, tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat on the inside. The Alaskan King Crab Tagliatelle is just as hearty and satisfying; Chef Tan actually draws inspiration for its spicy flavour from his favourite Hokkien Mee hawker stall, believe it or not.
Chef Tan created the airy Deconstructed Cheesecake (with pop rocks! So fun!) to please his wife. As a chocolaholic, I actually preferred the Chocolate Fondant with banana ice cream (all ice creams are made in-house, by the way). I loved the salted caramel that balanced so well with the sweet, rich chocolate. Bottom line: there’s sure to be a wildly inventive dessert to suit your taste.
In a place like Singapore where restaurants come and go at, well, a hare’s pace, some might wonder whether the White Rabbit (which opened in 2008) is a stalwart or a dinosaur. With its re-worked menu and delightful new emphasis on its outdoor space, I’d encourage you to give it a re-visit, mamas.
The White Rabbit, 39C Harding Road, Dempsey Hill, Singapore 249541
Tel: (+65) 9721 0536, www.thewhiterabbit.com.sg