I first heard about the revamped and newly managed Boathouse (previously the Bacchus Boathouse) from a good friend of mine, who was understandably impressed by the rooftop view at its more casual counterpart Prelude. Coincidentally, after I made my dinner reservations at Boathouse, I came upon a few glowing reviews about it from a handful of bloggers who had just been on an invited food-related Fullerton Heritage Tour. Just looking at the amazing, drool-worthy pictures by Camemberu (a very talented photographer indeed) was enough to make me hungry for two whole nights before my actual dinner at Boathouse.
Of course, I've always taken any and every food review (even more so if it was an invited session) with a pinch of salt, and I was cautious about having too high expectations for Boathouse. I say this in my humble, personal capacity as a food blogger as well, because as we all know tastes are always subjective and experiences can always differ. I've never had the audacity to think that my own "Recommended Eats" page is all about me and I actually like to hear alternative perspectives from you readers, rather than take things personally and be offended that my words are being objected to. Pinch of salt, pinch of salt, as honest and as accurate as I would like to be all the time, you know there's the tendency I could be on a post-gastronomic high... sometimes.
So when I hear people going, "Don't believe everything that forums and food blogs say, they can be quite biased", or "I think people should not take your raving review word for word because I had a completely different experience" (trust me, I have close foodie friends who disagree with a couple of my reviews), I feel very proud in fact, because it shows that there are mature and discerning fellow foodies out there and I respect them a great deal. You should know me well enough that I don't get offended over such trivial matters, because in the end it's all for our shared love for food and the delights it brings :)
I've rambled on long enough so let's make our way back to the Boathouse. There is no doubt that there's a certain antiquity and charm about Boathouse right from the start, as you make your way up a flight of (almost) rustic-looking stairs to your dining destination. As history goes, this small building "once supplied water to ships anchored offshore" [*], a long time ago I'm sure, and thus perhaps explains for the historic feel surrounding this place. For city children like us, we'd be more than willing to buy up such stories as a getaway from the much cloned after mega shopping malls that adorn the walkways of Orchard Road.
The view from Boathouse and Prelude, at sunset and at night, is good. While currently unrivalled, I can imagine that an even more spectacular view of the Marina Bay can be enjoyed from One Fullerton once Marina Bay Sands is up and completed. Till then, this is one of the best views that you can take in whilst having a good chill-out drink with your peers.
Of course, it gets even better when there's pretty fireworks lighting up the night sky. Add quality company to that, with Glenn, Angeline and Kaelyn, and the night holds much promise.
The magic of the Boathouse however dwindled as the night wore on. The (tiny) pieces of homemade tomato bread weren't served warm and tasted quite bland. And no, it was not those minutes of photo-taking that left the bread cold, I touched it from the start because I was wondering if the bread had been toasted. Interestingly too, while the ladies at our table were served two slices each, me and Glenn only got one!
The fish chowder is one of Boathouse's signatures, but as Kaelyn mentioned it was the "interesting presentation" that appealed more than the chowder itself. The thin slices of sea bass carpaccio were served prettily on their own before the waitress went on to gently pour in the creamy chowder. I thought the soup was just alright, but it did taste quite "powdery" on some parts.
I couldn't say "no" to something like a Wagyu Burger, and I politely asked if I could order the burger from the Prelude kitchen. I was very pleased when they served it to me minutes later, but sadly the burger couldn't satisfy me at all. A tiny beef patty hidden by a burnt fried egg (on the underside), with lightly burnt burger buns and salty fries. The manager explained later that it's only because it's of wagyu quality that's why it's this small, but I thought that's a weak excuse seeing how I could get a decent wagyu burger at a cheaper price at Brewerkz, or an awesome one at almost the same price at Dallas Restaurant & Bar.
Tagliatelle Wild Mushroom
While raved by some of the bloggers who went on the invited session, Glenn felt strongly otherwise. I actually asked him a couple of minutes ago on Windows Live Messenger about his pasta and this is the reply I got:
"ehh TOTALLY OVERDONE!
I guess the caps on the words "totally overdone" tells us a lot. I also understand that the truffle flavour was not very discernible, so that was a pity too.
French Smoked Duck
Angeline's smoked duck was described in the menu to have been "braised with mint in orange-infused frangelico" but the actual dish fell short of her expectations. While an entirely different type of meat, I agree with Angeline that Cafe Oliv's rendition of a braised lamb shank far surpasses the taste and tenderness of the smoked duck.
Kaelyn's typical dish of fish (haha!), served with seasonal vegetables with a unique Japanese plum jus, was perhaps the only main course that was well-received. Here are the lady's views, in her own words: "...I was happy with the way my Black Cod turned out. Instead of a savoury sauce, the chef used a sweet Japanese plum jus to complement the oily fish. Very unique and different, and this is going on my list of favourite fish dishes (which is saying a lot since I eat lots of fish)!" Something for Boathouse to cheer about surely.
Desserts at Prelude
Seeing how dinner wasn't all too great, we decided to head up to Prelude at the rooftop for a round of desserts. The Signature Tiramisu, "hand-made with loads of whisky", was quite good because of its alcoholic kick, unlike some of its counterparts which are definitely much duller. It would have been better of course if there was better layering within the tiramisu with more soaked ladyfingers to it. I also thought the house-made Panna Cotta with wild berries compote was pretty alright, smooth and sweet, but Glenn felt he had better and didn't like it to be too soft. The Crème Brûlée meanwhile was very ordinary and came with a tasteless shot of licorice reduction, and at $15++ a serving you would probably expect a little more from this.
Well to quote from Kaelyn (again), "The shocker came when the Baked Apple Tart was served". It was because of this awesomely tiny tartlet that finally prompted us to give our personal feedback to the manager (in fact we actually mistook a lady to be the manager, and she turned out to be one of the co-owners!). Can you imagine paying $12++ for a tartlet (those teeny-weeny ones that you can daintily pick at a buffet line with your thumb and index finger) and a (soup-) spoonful of ice-cream??? I think that's terribly ridiculous, and even if you can conjure up an excuse that this is a "fine-dining portion" I would still be appalled. We were all expecting something larger, a slice from a whole apple tart actually, not a tartlet that would have trouble even satisfying a toddler.
If you've read this blog long enough, you know that I don't normally give scathing reviews but the tart(let) did it for me. I am satisfied that the manager Mr. Kannan took a very long time gathering our feedback and trying to explain why some things are the way they are as best as he possibly could. Understandably, Boathouse and Prelude are barely a month and a half old, and so teething problems are expected. Much more tweaking to the menu needs to be done, and the manager also promised to improve on the service here. I'd included a picture of this waitress above, an affable and polite Ms Linda, who is testament to the fact that good service can still alleviate a testing dining experience in some way or another. Not only was she friendly and helpful on the phone with the reservations (complicated too because I wanted to reserve a table at Prelude at the same time), but she was also very patient with our photo-taking and always tried not to get in the way. Thumbs up to good service :)
So the final question that is probably on your minds is, would I return? I would actually say yes, because the manager seemed determined to look into our feedback, and a month or so would give Boathouse more than enough time to (hopefully) resolve all of its teething problems. I must thank the manager too for waiving our desserts, it was never our intention to get anything for free, but it was a gracious gesture nonetheless and we appreciate that. All in all, we're really a group of food enthusiasts more than anything else, and I too wouldn't want to see Boathouse and Prelude put such a fantastic view to waste. It is still a promising restaurant but sharing our experience and alternative take on it may prove to be useful in moderating the otherwise skyhigh expectations that some of the other (invited) reviews have unintentionally generated, and which is something that may take a little more time before this place can deliver. Till then, we can only anticipate and wait in all sincere eagerness :)
$15 for the fish chowder
$25 for the wagyu burger
$19 for the tagliatelle wild mushroom
$26 for the french smoked duck
$31 for the black cod
$12 for the signature tiramisu
$11 for the panna cotta
$12 for the baked apple tart
$15 for the crème brûlée
* Prices subject to the usual 7% GST and 10% service charge.
Boathouse: The Waterboat House, 3 Fullerton Rd #03-01
Prelude: The Waterboat House Rooftop, 3 Fullerton Rd #04-01.
Pictures taken with the Canon EOS 500D.