I might have found the perfect restaurant to get away from the crowds in Singapore. No, really. It isn’t exactly affordable to dine there, and its rustic decor might deter some diners. But Wine Bonanza, located in a nostalgic, pre-war colonial heritage building at Albert Court, fits the bill perfectly if you are looking for a convenient but quiet place for an after-work or weekend hangout.
Once you look past this and its regrettably generic name (it is quite similarly named to a competitor, after all), this wine and gourmet restaurant is a hidden gem with its good food, extensive wine list and curated muzak (one of of its part-time wait staff is a bona fide DJ who spins at a well-known club).
The restaurant’s location is superb—I was tickled by how strategically the restaurant is located. It is in the city’s bustling heart, but just out of range of any ERP gantries. If you are taking public transport, Rochor MRT Station is barely a 5-minute walk away.
I’m not a fan of the restaurant’s interiors, which is a mix of the rustic and the modern. But this really is secondary in the larger scheme of things—more importantly, is the environment pleasant enough to dine comfortably in? On this score, Wine Bonanza passes with flying colours. The restaurant is cosy and quiet…for now. Probably because it is new and undiscovered, there are barely a handful of patrons on an average weekday evening. This is a perfect spot to cut business deals, have a romantic date at, or to host a celebration.
For absolute privacy, the restaurant even has a basement VIP private room which seats up to 10. With a private entrance to the adjacent car park, you don’t even have to come into contact with other diners if you don’t wish to. There is no minimum spend—for now—to book the room. Just call ahead to reserve.
Food and Drinks
Wine Bonanza’s calling card is really its menu, which focuses on food and wine pairings. With an extensive menu of wines and cocktails spanning all price points (its most expensive bottle of wine retails for several thousand dollars), there is something for everyone.
You don’t have to be intimidated if you don’t know your Riesling from your Rioja. The friendly sommelier is delighted to recommend drinks, answer questions, and share his experiences.
Aged Italian Bean Puree Beignet
Wine Bonanza’s modern fusion cuisine is very good, for the most part. There is a focus on freshness, quality ingredients and good-to-honest cooking.
Truffle Mushroom Cream Pasta
The restaurant’s truffle dishes are top-notch. Take the Aged Italian Bean Puree Beignet with Truffle Mayo ($15++) and the Truffle Mushroom Cream Pasta ($24++). The truffle taste is extremely distinctive and mouth-watering in the former, while actual truffle shavings are visible in the latter. I usually judge a restaurant’s skills in cooking pasta based on how it handles the deceptively simple task of cooking a cream pasta. Wine Bonanza’s chef passes with flying colours.
The restaurant is proud of its Lobster Bisque ($18++), and rightfully so. There are no shortcuts in preparing this dish, which is simmered and stirred for three hours. Topped with lobster meat, my only complaint is its dainty serving size.
Pan Seared Halibut
The other seafood dishes are equally good, if not more so. The Octopus Carpaccio ($28++) is fantastic with its thin but flavourful slices, while the Pan Seared Halibut ($26++) is firm, moist and seared to the perfect doneness. Accompanied with asparagus, potatoes and spicy arrabiata sauce, this is a very moreish dish.
The restaurant stumbles slightly on its Beef Stew ($26++). The baby carrots are fresh and the garlic mash is wonderfully fragrant. But there is simply too little stew for the price, while the accompanying slices of garlic toast are hard and uninspiring.
Some Cabernet Sauvignon?
My dining companion and I are more enamoured with the Lamb Rack ($37++). The meat comes apart easily from the bone; the marinade is a perfect complement to the tender meat; the mashed potato is creamy and fragrant; and the roasted vegetables have just the right amount of char. Notwithstanding the vegetables, meat lovers should definitely order this.
Sadly, the Lava Cake ($11++) with vanilla ice cream is disappointing. There is not enough chocolate lava, and what little there is does not ooze out the way a great lava cake should. But I am willing to look past this, as other diners have complimented the restaurant’s other desserts. Consider instead the Moscato Strawberries with Water Melon Cream Cheese ($19++), Bread & Butter Pudding ($9++) or Crepe with Chocolate Mousse and Berries ($13++).
Maximise your visit
You must try the Irish Gallagher Premium Oysters, with Hendricks Gin Cucumber ($21++ for half a dozen). They are ice-cold, luscious, and go perfectly with a refreshing glass of white. These oysters are not huge, but more than make up for it with their incredible taste. For a limited time, the restaurant is having a $1 oyster promotion for a limited time, between 5-8 pm with any happy hour order. Seafood lovers, take note.
Worthy of a second visit
Wine Bonanza is an undiscovered gem, but it might not be this way for long. Going there is a little like visiting an exclusive club that only people in the know are aware about. The prices are a little prohibitive for this to become my favourite haunt, but I know where to go in future if I need a cosy and private place to knock back a couple of drinks. The good food, peaceful ambience, and central location combine to make this an obvious choice.
Thank you Wine Bonanza, for the invitation.