I haven’t been up to Mount Faber for over a decade. Most of us think of it as a tourist spot with nothing much to see. But I was invited up there recently and out of sheer curiosity and little expectations, I went. As a journalist, I always keep an open mind. And as it turned out, I’m glad I did.
Driving up the narrow, winding lane to Mount Faber, I realise I had forgotten how pleasant it actually was. The higher up I wound, the more I felt I was on holiday. The rainy weather even added to the sense of chill, no pun intended.
It had changed a lot from the last time I saw it. The building was the same, the cable cars were ….well, the same but the restaurant up on the second floor was different. Spuds & Aprons had a welcoming, casual feel that made you feel totally relaxed. Built sympathetically around two massive rain trees, and open on the sides, the restaurant offered a really spectacular view of the harbourfront and Sentosa, while it let all the cool breeze in.
Now, I’ll be honest….you have to forgive the name of the restaurant. The name Spuds & Aprons sounds corny and doesn’t fit with the holiday feel of the setting. But once you get beyond that — a rose by any other name, etc…. — you’ll find a charming, laid back restaurant. One one side is the view, on the other, a pretty little garden for the kids to run around or to have a drink fully alfresco. If you want to get away from the crowds, this must be on your list.
The food makes for easy eating. We started with sweet potato fries with curry mayo, and potato skins filled with a rather mild chilli crab. The two potato dishes were both crispy on the outside, fluffy and hot in the middle, and the potato skins still bore a generous margin of flesh. Nice.
Mains was all right. The signature roast pork belly ($27) sounded extremely promising, but the meat turned out dry, and the crackling a bit hard, even if it was actually pretty crisp. The flavour was good though. The chef was away that afternoon, so perhaps it was one of those days….The mixed rice served on the side was very good though — absolutely flavourful and moist. I could eat that as a main course. The duck confit ($26) looked dry outside but the meat was moist and nicely done, but a little under-seasoned.
Best of the lot was the oven roasted cod topped with tobiko with green tea soba ($32). The presentation was a little messy, and there was a bit too much sauce, but the large portion of fish was nicely done, flaked moistly and the tobiko topping gave a lovely counterpoint to it.
Our lunch ended with two positively divine desserts. The cempadak bread and butter pudding a la mode ($12) was aromatic, just sweet enough, soft and warm, made with croissants rather than bread, topped with shaved almonds and dusted with icing sugar. The fruit was particularly fragrant in this dessert and whiffs of its aroma just whaffed out as you sank your spoon into it.
The other was the Jar of Happiness ($11). The name may be just too corny, but the contents of the jar was a fantastic, gooey combination of vanilla ice cream, berries, shortbread cookies at the bottom and salted caramel. Simple but wicked. Yes, it did make me rather happy.
What caught my eye on the menu was the very extensive variety of drinks, including a truck load of non-alcoholic concoctions, from smoothies and shakes to mocktails and even a pop-corn centred range of lattes. All were very attractively priced. Here’s a list to give you an idea: Chunky munchies soda with nata d’coco bomb ($8) which I tried — a refreshing combi of soda, passionfruit syrup, nata de coco, jellied pearls, and other nice stuff. Chocolate popcorn latte ($6) comprising chocolate ganache, popcorn syrup, milk, expresso and popcorn (I have yet to try this); match azuki latte. Cocktails by the glass (mostly between $14-$16) or jug ($50-$56) are abundant, alcoholic shakes ($14) included, martini bomb-jellos ($15), and even Singapore Sling in three flavours of original, lychee and yuzu for the sweet-toothed alky-head. The menu is also high on spirits, and good range of beers and ciders, and lots of wines (mostly $12-$13 per glass).
Prices here are very good value. Apart from the a la carte menu, I noticed on close inspection of the menu that they offer ‘combos’. For two people, you pay $70 and get one starter, two mains and 1 dessert, all chosen from a smaller menu which offers a decent choice for each course. For four people, you can opt for one starter, four mains and two desserts at $120. If you were a small family dining, this is very good value.
All in all, Spuds & Aprons (please forgive the name) is a destination restaurant well worth making the trip for. It is not arduous at all if you have a car. If not, take the cable car from harbourfront as a pre-meal treat. This place is perfect for the family on weekends, for a drink with friends in the evening after work and the tourists have faded away, and a great place to bring grandparents for an airing and a touch of nostalgia. (The restaurant is wheelchair-friendly as the floor is all on one plane. Take the lift from the main entrance at road level if stairs are a problem). Also with the extensive park around, this is nice for a jog followed by much deserved food and drink afterwards.
For me, I took a cable car joyride after that. It’s been ages since I last got on one of these and forgot how enjoyable and peaceful it was up there – especially when I had the whole cable car to myself.
Good to know: Valet service is available at the entrance of Faber Peak, the building where this restaurant is located. It’s free if you spend over $50, and that’s pretty easy to do. Also, their toilet, aptly called Peek-a-Loo, probably has the best view for any toilet in Singapore. Don’t miss seeing it.