Kaarla Restaurant & Bar at 1-Arden by 1-Group is a contemporary Australian culinary showcase of native bush ingredients, quality Australian products, and locally grown produce.
It is patently ambitious to offer Australian bush tucker in Singapore. However elevated and elegantly done, even in a modern, smart dining setting.
But that’s exactly what contemporary Australian restaurant Kaarla is doing. Opened earlier this year, the signature restaurant of a multi-concept lifestyle and dining destination 1-Arden – which also houses sibling concepts modern Japanese Kappo eatery Oumi and casual Latin-European bistro Sol & Luna – puts native bush ingredients up front and centre in what it calls ‘coastal Australian cuisine’.
Some of these ingredients would certainly befuddle our Singapore Food Authority regulators, much less your usual diner.
Quandong? Bunya nut? Muntry berries?
Yet Kaarla Executive Chef John-Paul Fiechtner and his team employ these exotic produce in their dishes with almost-nonchalant aplomb. And like its sister restaurants, Kaarla also taps the seasonal largesse grown in 1-Arden’s verdant Food Forest – herbs, fruits, and more. And not to forget, some of the best Australian meats and seafood that money can buy.
All these are transformed into beautiful and refined plates, some of which are familiar, others less so.
Start with the Damper. A far swankier take on the traditional soda bread stockmen would make and eat as they drove cattle across Australia’s vast pastures, Fiechtner’s version is fluffier, topped with a delicious macadamia nut butter, lardo, and tangy quandong powder.
We melted in pleasure, like that lardo.
The Kaarla Closed Loop Salad is a literal taste of what’s possible to be grown in Singapore. The garden on a plate combines what produce is in season currently at the Food Forest, and can include roselle leaves, marigold, wild watercress and more. Tossed with pickled daikon, calamansi juice, and a curd made from tiger nut, this is a herbivore’s dream.
Those not quite so inclined to greens and prefer their seafood may want to try the Australian Market Oyster – we got freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters that came drizzled in a vinegar of fig leaf and oyster plant – as well as the Australian Blue Mussels. The latter featured juicy plump mussels that’s been lightly cured in a seasoned stock. But the star here for us were the accompanying zucchini flowers that burst with flavour as you bite into them.
Curious for a taste of the bush? Look no further than the Salt Cured Kangaroo. Here lean kangaroo loin is first brined and then smoked for three days, imbuing each thinly-sliced piece with a most delectable flavour that a little chewing will reward. This comes with an array condiments, a literal showcase of bush ingredients such as Australian black barley, bunya nut, finger lime, as well as native berries such as muntries and riberries.
That, of course, might be too exotic for some. A safer – and far more decadent – option is Aged King Island Beef. This is premium OP rib from the Victoria producer, aged for 35 days and then simply grilled over a wood fire into delicious perfection. What makes the succulent beef stand out even more is the accompanying salsa verde, the herbal condiment rendered from herbs and greens from the Food Forest.
The ubiquitous-sounding Free Range Pork is even better. This is Australian free-range pork sourced from the Riverina in northern New South Wales (wine lovers will know this region as wine country), a shortrib cut that’s slow-cooked into loving tenderness. It’s juicier than the best gossip in town.
All said and done, Kaarla is more than bush tucker. It offers a gastronomic highlight of some of the best produce the Australian continent has to offer. Truth is you can have a flawless dining experience at Kaarla without needing to understand the provenance that go into each dish. That’s how seamless its ‘coastal Australian cuisine’ is.
Kaarla Restaurant & Bar
Address 88 Market St, #51-01, CapitaSpring, Singapore 048948 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 12pm to 2.30pm and 6pm to 12am on Mondays to Fridays; 6pm to 12am on Saturdays; closed on Sundays
Tel (65) 8518 3763