Esquina Tapas Bar, Singapore

Seeing as I actually live in Singapore I suppose I should get around to making my first few posts on Singapore and its dining options. Esquina has got to be my favourite experience so far so what better introduction could there be? Operated by Michelin starred Chef Jason Atherton (behind Pollen Street Social and previously Maze in London) Esquina is based on Cal Pep, Barcelona’s ultimate Tapas bar and has similarities to Barrafina (in fairness also based on Cal Pep) in London, another of my favourite restaurants. The converted shop-house in China town, not far from the Maxwell road hawker centre is not perhaps the most likely of destinations for food of this quality but I for one am very grateful they are here – although next time could you open in Little India so its closer to me please?! I’ve visited Esquina on a few occasions – my pictures attached are an amalgamation of these. The no bookings policy means you can queue for a seat at the small bar (aproximately 20-25 seats) or be lucky enough to get one of the small tables dotted around the side/outside of the bar but lunchtimes or after 9pm you stand a much better chance of rolling up and sitting straight down. Pan con Tomate is a simple dish – essentially thick sourdough?) toast brushed with tomato & garlic but Esquinas shines, the rich tomato topping beats bruschetta any day of the week for me and i don’t know why its not more popular in main stream dining. BBQ’d mackerel with sweet romesco and aioili was an exemplary dish, it is through Spanish cuisine that Mackerel is one of my favourite fish and its oiliness lends it especially well to this sort of preparation. Bone marrow, snails and horseradish pesto was another outstanding dish, vying with Fergus Henderson’s preparation at St John for my favourite version of this classic dish. Sweetbread empanadas topped with a generous slab of juicy foie gras with sweet caramelised onions underneath was perhaps a bit too rich for me but my dining companion had no issues in polishing it off. The tomato salad I had on my first visit was perhaps a touch too warm for me to fully appreciate it – I know Chefs like tomatoes to be at room temperature for the full flavours to be released but I would have liked it a touch cooler, the baby gem and anchovy salad was a bigger success, the wilted leaves releasing a sweetness that was beautifully counteracted by the delicious salty anchovies. make sure you save room for dessert, both we tried from the grilled pineapple to the black olive sorbet and sweet gazpacho were outstanding, a rarity in tapas restaurants. To drink, for me it has to be sherry and Esquina has a short but well chosen and well priced selection as well as some interesting looking beers and wines. I cannot wait for Jason to open his newest outpost at Gardens by the Bay – Pollen is due to open next month and I am sure it will quickly become one of the hottest tables in town.

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