The last time I stepped into the former Supreme Court was when it housed the Singapore mediation and arbitration centres. It's now the National Gallery, and whereas the building was swarmed with lawyers a-plenty, it's now a thriving arts facility teeming with family-units and tourists galore.
And where there previously was just the one legal guild for food, there's today a slew of dining options. As per new opening S.O.P., we waited a year before visiting any of the restaurants. First off the to-eat list was Aura, yet another Italian concept under the ilLido group.
What I particularly like about the Beppe de Vito-founded group of restaurants is their consistency. The Italian cuisine may not be the most exciting or mind-blowing, but their offerings tend to be a safe-reliable. Service was, as expected, well above average, attentive without being intrusive, and sufficiently knowledgeable to recommend winning options. And for a fine-dining restaurant, the vibe was relaxed and casual.
Apparently a popular order, the Grilled Octopus ($28), perfectly soft and chewy, sided by a breadcrumbed soft-boiled egg, roasted tomato, corn, and frisee, was stellar. The masses were correct, this is a must-try.
The Foie Gras ($28) was commendable, its livery taste set off against the sweetness of the caramelised apples and savoury notes of the duck jus.
While delicate, the Chicken Consomme ($28), spiked with marsala and a smattering of truffle raviolini, needed a few grains of salt to really hit the comfort button.
The Artisanal Burrata ($28), milky and chewy, was enlivened with truffle and lent crunch with asparagus and frisee.
The complimentary in-house baked bread was delicious, fluffy and redolent of olive oil.
Aura's pastas were fantastic, and you'll do well to stick to them. The Scampi Tagliolini ($38) robust with shrimp jus, was sprinkled with smoked paprika for a subtle heat.
The Wild Mushroom Tortelli ($33), blended with pumpkin mash and candied ginger, was earthy, juicy and well-rounded.
I love fish, and the pan-fried Italian Seabass ($39), strewn with roasted asparagus, parsnip and carrots, fresh frisee, daikon rings, and dotted with saffron sauce. This was brimming with light, clean, clear flavours.
The Smoked Duck ($42), a lovely shade of medium pink, was paired with a pan-seared foie gras for a sumptuous melty lusciousness. Fresh frisee and wilted baby spinach provided a bitter contrast, while a rich jus lent heft.
The desserts were a hit-and-miss. The Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart ($18) topped with whisky cream tended to the saccharine, but the boozy amarena cherries gave balance.
The Toffee & Coffee Parfait ($18) was sweet and heady yet nuanced; but we thought that white chocolate ring was a tad redundant. A must-try.
The Baked Cheesecake ($18) was middling, it was a smidge dry, and the lemon espuma and strawberries were way too sour.
1 St Andrews Road
#05-02 National Gallery
Tel: 6866 1977
Open daily from 12noon to 2pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10pm for dinner