Artichoke Cafe http://www.artichoke.com.sg/index.html was one of the first places I read about in Singapore when I moved here as it was in the copy of Time Out left in my hotel room. Unbelievably I only got around to visiting it for the first time last week, after almost one full year in Singapore, but it is somewhere I know I will visit over and over again now that I have.
Situated in a pretty cobbled square next to a little church just off Middle road near Dhoby Ghaut, Artichoke Cafe is a funky, relaxed and casual restaurant serving all day brunches and an eclectic evening menu based on cuisine from Lebanon, Morocco and Turkey amongst others. When I visited for Sunday brunch, it was bustling and lively and I was lucky to manage to grab a seat at the small bar near the kitchen.
The menu at brunch comprises everything from scrambled eggs with your choice of garnishes ( from soujok sausages to bacon chop or halloumi) to lamb shakshouka (eggs and lamb shoulder cooked in a rich, spiced tomato sauce) Smoked salmon and beetroot tzatziki on toast and a mixed mezze platter which I ended up choosing as it seemed the perfect dish to enjoy with a mimosa ($9 only during brunch.)
The chef at artichoke obviously has a great skill for plating dishes beautifully, the mezzes were all artfully arranged with little pools of olive oil nestling in their centre, pomegranate seeds and zaatar sprinkled delicately across the top. The labneh was delicious, slightly tangy and creamy – so much so I ended up ordering another small bowl of it, along with some more of their outstanding freshly baked bread (their new bakery opened this week across the square called Overdoughs)
Hummus was also another success, better than anywhere else I’ve tried in Singapore so far (although Urbanbites is definitely up there too) Fava bean puree with fried capers and rosemary and a Moroccan Carrot dip with cumin and rosewater finished off the dip section. Theses were also very good although after seeing the evening menu (where individual mezze are priced at $7)
I was craving muhammara and the beetroot tzatziki but understandably for somewhere so busy, substitutions are not allowed at Brunch. The boquerones were also beautifully sourced and of great quality, tasting more like small mackerel than the standard anchovy one usually finds. A small scattering of olives and pickled vegetables and fresh toasted bread finished off the platter that cost a very reasonable $24.
The prosecco that they were using for the mimosas ran out so I moved on to a glass of cheap and cheerful rose at $10.50 and a double espresso to finish which saw my bill come to $90 in total but I was so full I didn’t manage to eat anything else for the rest of the day which is always a sign of a good meal in my book!
Along with the mezze on the evening menu, they offered a selection of vegetarian dishes such as roasted cauliflower with raisins, almonds and preserved lemon yoghurt and dishes like Lebanese salmon tartare with baharat spices, lime and crisp bread and Angus rib eye with pickled garlic and anchovy butter and I think my next trip will definitely be in the evening to try some of these out.
The staff were also a real joy to watch work, friendly, smiling – I had sat at the bar as there wasn’t a table available but when one did become available a waiter asked if I would like to move…I really cannot tell you how much I enjoyed Artichoke. Whether you go for brunch on a Saturday or a Sunday (they are closed during the day Monday- Friday) or in the evening the courtayrd is a lovely spot to sit and unwind with a glass of wine and the concept of sharing dishes whilst also having them available in small portions means that you could go on your own like me or with a group of friends and enjoy it just as much. Don’t leave it a year like me to visit!