London Fat Duck
Our team goes undercover to suss out the latest and most talked about restaurants in town
Don’t be thrown by its name – the new tenant at Scotts Square’s basement is neither from London nor related to the city’s critically acclaimed The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal. But it’s a smart, if a little tacky, move by owners, the Fei Siong and Akashi groups, to get tongues wagging and foodies piqued. The restaurant is immediately identifiable as a Hong Kong-style joint – roast meats hung in plain sight, classic red oriental motifs, and all your favourite dim sum plates.
Skip the snow skins and order instead the Black Pepper London Duck Buns ($4.80 for three) with luscious chunks of the fatty fowl punctuated with bursts of black pepper’s piquancy and encased in a sweet, crumbly crust, which give Tim Ho Wan’s sweet crusted barbecue pork buns a run for their money.
Unfortunately, the joint’s other dishes don’t seem to have as much thought put into them. The xiao long bao ($5.20) were steamed too close together in their basket and thus the skins tore and precious soup was wasted as we attempted to pry them apart. The shrimp dumplings, or ‘ha kao’, were tasty and stuffed full with two prawns, but strangely there was a teaspoonful of water in each package. The noodles ($6.80 to 7.80, or $2.50 for plain), while pleasantly springy, had a miserly lashing of sauce. You’re best off with the Braised Beef Brisket Noodle ($7.80), where the meat’s jus and tender flesh work well with the egg noodles.
Thankfully, the highlight of the restaurant lives up to expectations. Touted as the ‘Wagyu of Duck’, London Fat Duck delivers as promised with their impressively bronzed bird ($12.80 for a portion, $26 for half duck, $48.80 for whole), which are specially bred in Ireland for the perfect fat to flesh ratio. Though the glossy skin can be a hit or miss with its consistency in crispness, the succulent meat is nevertheless is packed full of flavour and moist with a savoury sweet sauce, without any accompanying gamey odour. The Hong Kong Crackling Pork Belly ($14.80) is similarly impressive with its rich, five-spice nuances, though there was strangely very little fat sandwiched between the crackling and meat – we suspect it was shaved off prior to cooking.
Reservations are not allowed; be prepared to queue for up to 40 minutes. You’re only seated when your entire party is present – late on a Monday night, the crowd had dwindled and there were plenty of empty tables, but I wasn’t allowed in until all four of my fellow diners had arrived. From there it went downhill – the servers left us stranded in the middle of the restaurant, all the while arguing among themselves about where to seat us. To make matters worse, once seated they approached us three times to inform us that different dishes we ordered 10 minutes ago were no longer available. We upped and left when the waitstaff confessed that they burnt our black pepper buns and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make another batch.
Though redolent of a dim sum café, the restaurant’s servers were nothing like Hong Kong’s no-nonsense waiters who bristled with efficiency and were instead more of the absentminded sort, frequently delivering wrong orders and misunderstanding requests. Teething problems with a new restaurant are to be expected, but such was my dismay with London Fat Duck’s service standard that I might not return, even for the moreish black pepper buns and excellently executed roast duck. Until things improve, takeaway your buns and meats. #B1-16/17 Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road. Tel: 6443 7866
Average dinner bill for two: $60
Must-tries: the black pepper-infused duck-filled bun with a crumbly crust, and impossibly moist roast duck