Spruce and Bedrock

Posted on March 25, 2009 by Aun

It’s always nice to see, in these tough economic times, people you admire taking risks. In the cases of Chef Travis Masiero and Keith Loh, that would be opening two of Singapore’s newest and coolest restaurants.

I’m a big fan of Travis’ food. Have been ever since my first visit to Wine Garage, where he used to be both Exec Chef and GM. I especially like Travis’ unwavering commitment to using the very best produce — even if that means convincing his suppliers to grow things just for him. The Wine Garage burger is, in my opinion, one of the best found in Singapore; I was also a regular customer for the brunch — again, one of the best (a la carte options) in town.

A couple of weeks ago, Travis opened his own restaurant, an ambitious restaurant cum bar cum barkery that is open 7 days a week from morning til night (yup, they actually serve breakfast, lunch and dinner). My always hungry wife S, an even hungrier friend M, and I went to check Spruce out for lunch last week. It’s very centrally located on Tanglin Road, near the Embassy of Brunei (near Margaret Drive). Travis has taken over some old run-down buildings and created a lovely, rustic-chic hideaway akin to the PS Cafe at Dempsey Road. The mid-Century furnishings work well with the wood floors, the barn-like ceilings, and modern light fixtures.

The food, as you would expect from Travis, is simple, solid and satisfying. It’s a mix of New American standards, simple pastas and some lovely dishes designed to be shared. During our meal, we tried a variety of yummy items, including Travis’ kurobuta pork ravioli, his signature burger, a fantastic grilled squid and rocket salad, the fish and chips, and onion confit rolled in a crepe, among other items (yes, we over-ordered as usual). The food was really nice. I especially liked that you could taste the fresh ingredients in the food. We also really enjoyed the homemade mint lemonade and the ice teas.

Right now, Spruce is a nice alternative to the overcrowded Dempsey Road area. But that’s also because not that many people know about it yet (although during our lunch we saw at least 4 other local restaurateurs). And hopefully, even when it does get packed, Travis will be able to maintain his already very high standards.

I was looking forward to going to Bedrock, Keith Loh’s new restaurant, for several reasons. First, I was excited to try the food. Over the years, Keith, who owns Aerin’s at Raffles City and started Whitebait & Kale at Camden, has become a stronger and stronger player in the F&B scene here. Secondly, he hired one of my favourite NY-based design firms, AvroKo, to design the restaurant. Within days of its opening, friends had already been emailing me that it was the cool, sexy, dark and intimate New York-style restaurant we’ve always complained that Singapore was lacking.

S and I, with two friends, decided to check it out for dinner. Upon arrival, Keith stopped us and wouldn’t seat us in the main dining room until we had sampled a few of his signature cocktails. One of my colleagues had raved to me about his Bloody Marys, but I’m not a tomato juice person. I opted for a Whiskey Sour instead, which was excellent. S had a Moscow Mule, which was even better. The secret? Keith makes his own ginger beer for this deliciously spicy and somewhat naughty classic cocktail. While sipping our drinks, we also noticed that Keith was stopping every customer that entered, making them “pay toll” by ordering a drink. And here we had thought we were special (totally kidding).

Bedrock is a steak house. Its design is somewhere between a mafia-den and an ultra-swanky Dan Ryan’s. Now, that might not sound like a compliment, but truly, I really liked the look and I can’t think of another way to describe it (I guess y’all just need to go). It had that dark sexiness that makes some restaurants perfect places to take her royal hotness and ply her with martinis and bloody meats.

The food is good. I think it has the potential to be great, and some dishes were (the truffled mac & cheese was sensational), but right now, I’d have to say it serves well-conceived, good food. I started my meal with a seared scallop and chorizo salad. The combination of flavours worked very well — salty and sweet with the greens giving just the right amount of bitterness. I then had a pepper steak, at the recommendation of Keith. Unfortunately, while the steak was very good, I didn’t like the sauce at all. It was way too peppery for me — which I know is kind of silly too say considering it was a pepper steak, but the sauce was closer to a pepper crab sauce than it was to other pepper steak sauces I’ve had in steakhouses overseas. The fries also could have been better. I suspect they were refried right before service. But the creamed spinach was delicious and (as I said) the truffled mac & cheese will have me returning over and over again.

In all, we were very impressed and had a great time. Bedrock is definitely the kind of restaurant we needed in Singapore and I take my hat off to Keith for having the cajones to open in today’s economic climate. Please support him and Travis as well. In times like these, we need to rally around the guys who are doing the right thing, and doing it well.

Spruce restaurant bar bakery
320 Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park
t: 6836 5528

Bedrock Bar & Grill
#01-05 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
96 Somerset Road
t: 6238 0054

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. The Duo Dishes March 26, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Love the sleek, interior design. Your pictures look great.

  2. brenda March 26, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Thanks CH, I’m a fan of Travis as well and was wondering where he’d gone since Wine Garage. I’m looking forward to trying his new venture when I’m back home.

  3. inadobo March 27, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Nice photos! The portray this as a good place to spend an evening with friends.

  4. kenneth wong March 27, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Hi Aun, like you I loved the sleek, dark NY inspired interiors at Bedrock. Had dinner there last week & enjoyed a sensational beef tenderloin with truffled butter. The creamed spinach was comfort food as well as the freshly baked bread. Can’t say the same for the fries which smacked of something out of the freezer rather than the handcut fries a restaurant of this calibre should be serving. Also a bit stingy to charge for additional bread when my friend & I had consumed the small loaf we were given. Ouch! Desserts were ok but nothing to write home about – had a dark chocolate cake with sour cream that didn’t quite blow my socks off. Still, this is the place to go to if it’s meat you’re after.
    Look forward to checking Spruce out, thanks for the tip!

  5. Daffy March 28, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Hi A! Did you have time to try the coffee at the cafe just next to Bedrock? Have been hanging out there the past couple of weekends! Yum!

  6. kenneth wong March 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    After reading your blog on Spruce I was tempted to give it a try as Wine Garage was one of my favourite hangouts. My experience on a Saturday morning was mixed but I am inclined to attribute a large degree of this to the “newly opened” jitters.

    I arrived during the changeover between breakfast & lunch service but was content to read my paper, sip a latte & wait. Have to say it took a long while: was seated at 10.30 am, told that lunch orders would only commence around 11.30 am but the order was only taken closer to noon!

    I was pertubed when both my starter & main were served at the same time!! My waitperson was perplexed & didn’t seem to understand that it would be desirable to eat one before the other.

    Also it would seem that a request for freshly milled pepper resulted in a hectic search for the pepper mill. Seems there was only one available for use of diners in the entire restaurant!!

    A word of caution – if you want to conduct any form of meaningful conversation where audibility is key, my recommendation is not to sit anywhere near the bar counter as there was a constant cacophony of sounds throughout my visit, including the clattering & smashing of china/glassware. Yikes! Also a lot of issues when it came time to pay as there were many customers who had to repeatedly ask for their bill!

    Lest anyone should think my visit was all a series of minuses. I have to say that Chef Travis’ yummy food would ensure I paid a return visit – highly recommend the kurobota pork bolognese ravioli (simply outstanding!) Would also recommend at least a small selection of desserts to choose from for lunch rather than the 2 or 3 cakes at the bar counter.

    My kudos are reserved for an outstanding member of their team named Merry. She made my visit memorable & was a goodwill ambassador for the restaurant. I cannot commend her highly enough. Hope there is some way this feedback can be channeled back to the chef & managers. I would definitely go back once this restaurant has ironed out its kinks.

  7. Travis Masiero March 29, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Kenneth:
    Let me first thank you for taking the time to write about your experience. I must admit it was not our best showing. We take great pride in our service and products and our aim is to exceed the expectations of every guest. We failed on your visit and to that I apologize. Your kind words about Merry are indicative of the type of person we try and hire. She certainly is a valuable asset and helped make a rather dire situation a little brighter. On that note I would like to invite you back to experience Spruce again on us. I really appreciate your continuing support and for taking the time to express your experience. Please contact me at travismasiero@spruce.com.sg. Alll the best.

  8. Cheryl Ng April 1, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for the review about Spruce. My partner and I found the spot by accident and decided to have brunch there. The home-made bacon was heavenly however the scrambled eggs were concrete-like to the eye and chewy on the palate. Kudos to the staff who offered to bring me a fresh serving – who let the rubbery eggs out of the kitchen? My companion’s Eggs Benedict were fine but the corn waffles didn’t seem to go. Undaunted I decided to give it another chance and returned for lunch. The Truffled Mushroom Risotto was a disappointment – nary a whiff of truffle nor mushroom although the latter were plentiful in the dish. We asked for salt and when that didn’t work in flavouring the dish, requested for Parmesan (which also didn’t work). The risotto was too mushy for my liking.

    The service is sincere and prompt. The venue is a feast for the senses – go before it becomes another PS Cafe!

    If I decide to revisit I’ll certainly be more selective about what I order.

  9. Lyndsey Cronk April 30, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Finally made it to Spruce last night – loved the ambiance – feels like finding a little hidden secret. The food was yummy – had the duck pappardelle – huge serving but cleaned my bowl. The cheese room is glorious!

  10. Zina January 8, 2010 at 1:16 am

    I’ve been reading your blog greedily all evening, for the first time ever. But I stopped short at this post. Your descriptions of Spruce disappoint me. “The food was really nice.”? Seriously? Did these guys make you review their not-that-impressive restaurant or something? The reason why I even noticed your tone is because I’ve been to Spruce, and was severely unimpressed. Nope, it certainly isn’t Dempsey, and it isn’t any good compared to alot of places in Dempsey either.

    Nevertheless, i am your biggest fan after hours of reading. My favourite line so far? “because I love watching her discover great things, be they wonderful cities we can get lost in together, books that I love, seminal music by great bands, or movies that have changed the world.” To me, that’s true love.

    Peace.

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