Sabio at Duxton Hill is now BTM Mussels & Bar, which seeks to enthral diners with the best seasonal mussels from across Europe.
The dining and entertainment enclave of Duxton Hill is a notoriously competitive stretch; establishments come and go at a twinkling of an eye. And sometimes a refresh is necessary, and that’s what happened with Sabio Spanish Tapas – it’s now been reworked by owners Deliciae Hospitality Management (DHM) into an entirely different concept in BTM Mussels & Bar.
BTM Mussels & Bar – with BTM meaning “back to mussels” – is DHM founder Olivier Bendel’s return to his roots. The long-time restaurateur first foray into the F&B industry was many years back when he helped Léon de Bruxelles group – the first moules-frites focused restaurant chain in France – to open multiple locations across France.
Moules-frites – i.e. mussels and fries – is really a gastronomic construct of Belgian origin, but that the French would embrace the dish isn’t a surprise considering their shared border. Neither is moules-frites new in Singapore; many years ago there was the Belgian beer bistro Oosters, and that was followed by Emmanuel Stroobant’s chain of Brussels Sprouts. Yet those moule-frites eateries are today defunct, so BTM’s timing couldn’t be better.
As one can expect, the star dish here are the mussel pots. BTM offers seven different versions of these mussel pots; there’s the very traditional Marinières, which uses the classic base of white wine, butter, parsley and some onion. Similarly of a familiar vein is the Ala Crème, which is the Marinières with a touch of cream.
There are some uncommon flavours too; we like the Thailandaises – its broth infused with chilli, lemongrass, and kaffir lime – because we’re Asian and need our spice that way. The Au Roquefort – which adds some of the blue cheese into the Ala Crème – sounds bizarre but somehow works, especially when you have the broth with some baguette.
The mussels come at $36++, $48++ and 58++ for 500g, 750g and 1kg respectively; that sounds expensive, but BTM uses bouchot mussels from Brittany, which are smaller but a lot sweeter than local or even New Zealand varieties. Bendel shares that they’ll look to source other mussels across continental Europe as well, to ensure they use the best mussels in season. “We work only with producers whom we have personal relationships with, so guests can be assured of the best harvest every time,” says Bendel.
Belgian traditionalists, however, are likely to pour scorn on the shoestring fries served alongside the moules, which are far skinnier than the chunky thick-cut ones more commonly seen in Belgium. There’s no aioli or mayonnaise to dip those fries into, either.
If mussels are not your thing, there’s a little of Sabio retained in BTM with a range of Spanish-style tapas offerings. The croquettes here are generally on point – $9++ to $12++ for cheese, shrimp, jamon or truffled porcini varieties – while the Le Croq-Truffle ($18++) is a deliciously indulgent take on the French croque monsieur.
There are a number of charcuterie boards too, including the “KETOman” Platter ($48++) that is a spread of different sausages for those looking for ketogenic-friendly options. Otherwise there’s Bitterballen ($8++), that Dutch snack of deepfried meatballs perfect to go along with a pint.
Speaking of beer, you know you’re in a French moules-frites establishment rather than a Belgian one when the beer selection at BTM is on the skimpier side. It’s just Stella Artois on tap ($10++ for a half pint and 14++ for a pint), and a tiny selection of international beers here. So don’t expect to be able to order the likes of a Belgian saison or Belgian dubbel to go with your moules.
BTM does have some beer cocktails here with what they call “Summer Fruit Infused Beer”, which essentially is beer mixed with fruit and fruit syrup. The Raspberry and Lychee will appeal to those who prefer a sweeter tipple, while the Pomelo Grapefruit is a little more complex.
But you can trust a French-ier establishment to have a good wine list. We highly recommend the Domain Regis Jouan Sancerre, the crisp Sauvignon Blanc a perfect accompaniment to mussels.
If you’re looking for dessert, the Waffle “BTM” ($18++) is a Liege-style waffle – a more robust, heartier version – that should please your sweet tooth.
BTM Mussels & Bar is a welcome addition to the Singapore dining landscape, and comes at a time when it’s starving for moule-frites establishment after the exit of a number of players over the past few years. Its Franco-Benelux fare is certainly going to appeal to expatriates hankering for a taste of home.
We’d happily come back here for the mussels, but it does need to stock up on some proper Belgian beers – we think Saison Dupont or a good Belgian Trappist like a Chimay or Duvel – to ensure more of us are willing to continue to shell out for an experience here.
BTM Mussels & Bar
Address 5 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089591 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 5pm to 11pm on Mondays and Tuesdays; 12pm to 11pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays; 12pm to 12am on Fridays and Saturdays; closed on Sundays
Tel (65) 6690 7562