Pollen Singapore’s new executive chef Michael Wilson brings diners on a whimsical culinary exploration of old-world Mediterranean.
It’s difficult to break into Singapore’s notoriously competitive food landscape at any time, but the task gets infinitely more challenging during a health pandemic when dining out is not an option. That’s essentially the experience of Michelin-starred Chef Michael Wilson, who joined Pollen earlier this year. Chef Michael – who earned his Michelin star at Shanghai’s Phénix in The Puli – joined Unlisted Collection’s modern European restaurant Pollen at Gardens by the Bay a mere handful of months before Singapore entered its circuit breaker period to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those enforced measures was a ban on dining in at restaurants, which put paid to the Executive Chef’s new menu. That menu – a wistful exploration of old-world Mediterranean cuisines through modern lens – was set aside in favour of one that’s more practical for takeout and delivery; instead of his signature duck neck – which involves table-side carving – for example, there were family-friendly beef wellington sets instead.
Things are likely to change with dining restrictions now lifted. Chef Michael’s original menu is back. And for gastrophiles, it’s worth the long trek through the Gardens by the Bay to the Flower Dome.
Pollen now calls its cuisine “a contemporary interpretation of old-world Mediterranean”, which essentially gives Chef Michael carte blanche to draw inspiration from across the Mediterranean, combined with classic cooking techniques and Australian culinary sensibilities. It’s a lateral move away from previous executive chef Steve Allen’s more modern French leanings. What we do like about Pollen’s new menu? Its razor-sharp emphasis on bringing out the best in ingredients.
You can taste every single ingredient in his Lettuce Gazpacho, for example; sweet salinity of spanner crab, freshness of cucumber and lettuce, and even the floral bite of Espelette pepper. Even the King Carabinero Shrimp oozed a delicate ocean sweetness despite being smothered in a spice rub.
Similarly with the Wanderer Free Range Tasmanian Beef, a dish that sees with short rib and loin done two ways. The loin has been seared just enough to seal in all the juicy goodness, while the short rib remained tender and retained all its flavours despite having spent some time braising.
But if there’s a reason to visit Pollen it’s for the Chef Michael’s aforementioned signature, the Duck Neck and Foie Gras Sausage. This time-consuming dish is a work of culinary art that sees shredded duck meat and foie gras stuffed into a duck neck and roasted to perfection. It’s then sliced up and served alongside a piece of gloriously seared aged duck breast. The sausage, we think, is Chef Michael’s tacitly clever tribute to how foie gras is made.
Be sure to avail yourself to dessert. Our favourite of the lot is Ancient Grains, which sees spelt served with roasted barley ice cream, chocolate and figs. While we’ve had roasted barley multiple times – it is, the key ingredient in the making of beer and whisky, after all – we’ve never had it in ice cream form. And it’s glorious.
Wine lovers will be glad to know there’s wine pairing to go with your meal. Our Nielson Pinot Noir, as recommended by the restaurant’s sommelier, went swimmingly well with the duck. Likewise, the Niepoort Ruby port worked a treat with the roasted barley ice cream dessert, bringing out flavours that remind you of a rich Speyside-style whisky.
The contemporary Mediterranean or modern European tag tend to be overused – or rather, abused in some cases – in cooking circles these days; thankfully Pollen’s new menu delivers where it counts the most – creativity and flavour.
Address 18 Marina Gardens Dr, #01-09, Flower Dome, Singapore 018953 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 10.30pm Wednesdays to Mondays; closed on Tuesdays
Tel (65) 6604 9988