With so many details to attend to as a new hotel opens, on-site restaurants may sometimes fail to hit the mark. That isn’t the case with Song Garden at Mercure Singapore Bugis. It takes up most of the hotel’s second floor and features seven private rooms. The kitchen is run by executive chef Wong Shea Nung, formerly of the highly regarded Fook Lam Moon in his native Hong Kong, and dim sum chef Leung Chi Man, who previously worked at East Ocean Seafood Restaurant Hong Kong. Decked in sophisticated Chinese furnishings and artworks, the interiors of Song Garden set the tone for a refined Cantonese dining experience.
The restaurant was filled with executives when I visited during lunch on a weekday. But even with a relatively lean service team, Song Garden ran like a well-oiled machine. I started with the Wok-fried Carrot Cake with Signature Chilli Sauce ($8.80), which had wok hei and an appetising piquancy though the radish cubes could have been more crisp around the edges.
For lunch, there are 30 dim sum items such as Pan-Seared Otah Siew Mai on Skewers ($6/four pieces) to choose from. The crowd favourite was the Steamed Cheong-fun with Fresh Prawn ($6). The prawns were wrapped with a brittle and light flour layer akin to you tiao, then sheathed in paper-thin rice sheets and doused in a homemade soya sauce.
It’s never acceptable to find hair in your food, but I was mollified by how the waitstaff handled the situation when a strand was found in my Lobster with Pumpkin Purée in Hot Stone Pot ($28/person). The waitress apologised profusely before setting the dish aside and serving a replacement portion. The soup itself was a delicious concoction with succulent lobster morsels and infused with the crustacean’s sweetness.
The BBQ Pork with Honey Sauce ($18) and Crackling Pork Belly ($12.80) were also well-executed. On the other hand, the Signature Roast Chicken on Bed of Beancurd Skin ($25/half, $50/whole chicken) was forgettable. The Chinese-style pancake, chicken skin and minced chicken layers were too thin for any of the flavours to stand out.
I’d thought that the Crisp-fried Prawns with Laksa Sauce ($28) would be an uninspired riff on wasabi prawns, but was pleasantly surprised – the prawn batter kept its texture even when slathered in an aromatic sauce with laksa leaves. The springy Stir-fried Mashed Fish Noodles with Lobster in Signature Chilli Sauce ($30/person) was also a hit.
Forego the desserts, lest you end the meal on a mediocre note. That aside, there’s no question that Song Garden’s high standard of cuisine gives Singapore’s other stellar Cantonese restaurants a run for their money. #02-01, Mercure Singapore Bugis, 122 Middle Road. Tel: 6521 9299
Average dinner bill for two, with drinks: $120
Must-tries: Lobster and pumpkin soup, and Prawns with laksa sauce