Pollen's been on my to-eat list forever...its location at Gardens by the Bay being the main deterrent for my procrastination. I think, I've only ever been to the Gardens one other time, for some event at its Flower Dome, and even then, wasn't particularly enthused about it overflowing with tourists galore. 

So I finally got around to hitting up Pollen, at the behest of a girlfriend, for a husbands-free dinner. Service was faultless, and our wait-staff were jovial, attentive and efficient. But the awesome service was let down by the food, which was a hit-and-miss. I expected better, in view of the fact that Pollen, part of Loh Lik Peng's Unlisted Collection group of restaurants, is helmed by an alumni of Gordon Ramsey's 1-Michelin starred Claridge's. I can only presume that the departure of 1-Michelin-starred English chef Jason Atherton from his collaborative ventures with the Unlisted Collection affected Pollen, adversely. The highs were just-so, and the lows were pretty pedestrian, in spite of the lovely plating. I think, the food came across as superficial and pretentious; we walked away with a distinct feeling of discontent, and missing that soulfulness of a great meal.

We ordered from two set dinners, the 5-Course Early Dinner Menu ($118) which accompanied a glass of prosecco.

Both set dinners were kicked off on a high with a trio of snacks, starting with the warm and foamy Celeraic Sabayon spiked with horseradish and walnut muesli.

Next up was the Charcoal Cracker layered with smoked salmon, pickled gherkins and taramasalata. This was beautifully balanced.

The cherry-like snack was really a Chicken Liver Parfait coated in beetroot jelly, sitting on a brioche disc. Excellent stuff, and one of the best chicken liver parfaits I've ever had.

Complimentary bread, a Multigrain paired with an onion butter and leek oil.

The sweet-salty notes of the Salted Egg & Sweet Potato Sabayon, was tempered with hazelnut dukkah and pickled apricot. Nice, but forgettable.

The Cured Mackerel, was sided by a saffron brandade, pickled cucumber, ikura, and dill oil. This tried too hard, and ended up being a hot mess. I thought there was too much going on in this dish, and it would have been better served less a couple of ingredients.

I liked the Braised Pork Belly, luscious and meltingly tender, and countered with fresh watercress, julienned green apple, a savoury crab bisque, and soft-boiled quail egg.

Ditto for the Red Bass, poached in buttermilk and then fried with skin delightfully crisp. Pickled shallots, crispy kale, roasted cauliflower, and pickled lemon lent levity.

We swopped both sets' desserts, and got the Tarte Tartin, a signature off the ala carte menu, to share instead. This was sumptuous, with a shortcrust pastry perfectly flaky and buttery, and apples wonderfully honeyed and soft.

It was just too bad Pollen opted to pair it with a Salted Almond Ice-Cream, which was far too saccharine a companion to the already sweet Tarte Tatin.

We finished with petit fours, a gold-burnished fennel chocolate, and calamansi chocolate. Gorgeous truffles, but lacking in substance.

We also shared the 7-Course Dinner Tasting Menu ($168), which comprised the aforementioned trio of snacks and bread, and supplemented with a Jamon Joselito ($50) with pan con tomate. This was perhaps my favourite dish, which makes me wonder if the ala carte dishes would have resulted in a more favourable assessment of Pollen.

I didn't like the Red Prawn Tartare, which marinated cherry tomatoes, ricotta ice, and romesco failed to mask that fishy slime off the shrimp.

I liked the Swimmer Crab, which sweetness complemented the butternut squash, pancetta nubbins, crispy sage, and ricotta, but was ruined by the sloppy deshelling. We found 5 crabshells, 1 of which was quite large, and had to spit them out.

The rich creaminess of the Foie Gras Torchon was yoked with a brioche toast topped with pear, capers, and witch finger grapes.

I liked the Grilled Salmon, scrumptious and enlivened with ikura, green apple, and piquant radish.

The robust heft of the Poached & Roasted French Duck, was softened with fresh pear slivers, celeriac, anise jus, and stewed onions.

I didn't like the grassy notes of the Rhubarb Sorbet, topped with fresh tarragon and rhubarb dice. I didn't like the earl grey ice-cream either; it was like eating a bottle of bergamot oil.

18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
Tel: 6604 9988
Open Wednesdays to Mondays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.pollen.com.sg

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