Those who frequently enjoy nature’s company at the verdant Singapore Botanic Gardens would probably be familiar with The Garage, a unique multi-concept foodie paradise that was established in 2017.
Housed in a beautifully restored 1920s art deco bungalow that’s snugged in the middle of the Gardens, The Garage has two diners under its wing: Bee’s Knees on level one which is well-loved by families, joggers, and friends looking for an easy, relaxing hangout spot, and Botanico on level two, known to be the destination of choice for gourmets in search of a culinary adventure.
Having been in the scene for three years, both spaces have undergone a much-needed menu overhaul to offer a new and richer set of offerings under the stewardship of Head Chef Sujatha Asokan – known affectionately as Chef Sue – who has recently been named Rising Chef of the Year (Female) at the 2019 World Gourmet Summit.
As her prize for winning the World Gourmet Summit award, the talented young Head Chef, who is best known for seamlessly weaving in nuances of history and heritage on her plates, got to work in the Michelin-starred Mugaritz (labelled by GQ as the most adventurous restaurant in the world) in Spain.
Helming the kitchens of Bee’s Knees and Botanico since 2018, she now guides both diners with a new focus on Southeast Asian flavours, inspired by her own and her team’s pride in their diverse Southeast Asian legacy.
The updated menu now features a celebration of regional produce and of the Southeast Asian love for piquant tastes and highly textural food.
Each of the new dishes are painstakingly built with layers that meld new facets of familiar flavours harmoniously – it’s all so familiar yet so new.
To mark this special menu makeover, The Garage invited AVENUE ONE for a special tasting session at Bee’s Knees and we were thrilled to taste what Chef Sue has in store for our palates.
Bee’s Knees, which draws inspiration from the highly social, evolved behaviour of bees, is a family-friendly café and bistro by day that transforms subtly to a casual hangout spot by night.
Apart from being a a fun and comfortable idyll to stop and relax in the Botanic Gardens, the restaurant also aims to pollinate the Gardens with its warm hospitality and sincere service.
Read on to find out what we dug into during the tasting session, and whether they are worth the calorie.
Bee’s Knees at The Garage: New tasty offerings you should order in your next visit
We first kickstarted our tasting session with an Oriental Salad (S$18). Served with your choice of smoked duck or chicken breast, the bowl of salad is first assembled with couscous, cherry tomatoes, wolfberry, scallions, mandarin orange, and spinach, finished with slices of your selected protein on top.
With garnishes of crushed peanuts and spicy plum dressing on the side, the cold salad makes a refreshing treat for hungry tummies and we reckon it’ll score points from those who genuinely enjoy a chilly bowl of salad – unfortunately, we prefer our proteins to be served warm (unless it’s cold cuts!) so this didn’t make our hearts flutter.
Our tasting might not have started on the right note but boy, did things flip around with a dish called Spicy Duck Loaded Fries (S$17).
With sautéed smoked duck sitting atop a bed of French fries that’s generously doused with sriracha cream, mozzarella, mayonnaise, and scallions, this moreish plate gave the word “loaded” a whole new meaning.
A bowl of deep-fried fries is our perennial favourite and we indulge a serving of chili cheese fries every now and then, but never in our wildest dreams would we have ever thought that diced smoked duck chunks and fries can be such a match made in heaven.
Combined with mozzarella that’s stirred into the rendered duck fat (obtained from the sautéed smoked duck) until it emulsifies, this dish instantly won our hearts (and taste buds) over with its sinful decadence and we didn’t hesitate for a second to add it into our list of food favourites.
After stuffing our faces with our favourite fast-food snack, we moved on to the Fiery Shrimp Pizza (S$30) which features an explosion of flavours from squid ink aioli, tiger prawns, mozzarella, parmesan, and spicy chilli dressing.
We’re generally fans of classic flavours such as Hawaiian Chicken or Pepperoni, so naturally we were skeptical about this fusion taste. Wouldn’t it taste funky with that mish-mash of ingredients, we secretly asked ourselves.
After our first bite, we were happy to be proven wrong. The pizza dough, which is made with Bee’s Knees’ very own pizza dough recipe, proofed in-house, and stretched to order, was crunchy but still had a good bite to it.
The house made squid ink garlic aioli base, made by slow-cooking minced garlic over medium heat before emulsifying it with egg yolk, olive oil, and squid ink, packed a punch of flavours and needed little effort to excite our taste buds.
Together with fresh tiger prawns, mozzarella, and parmesan, savouring the pizza was like having a party in our mouths as we gradually get the taste of the house made spicy chilli dressing that was made with palm sugar, chilli, garlic, lime juice, and coriander.
As we were cleaning up after chowing down on slices of pizza, our server sent out a plate of Heart Attack Burger (S$26).
Why the name, you may wonder? Well, it turns out that Chef Sue is a woman after our own hearts – she isn’t a big fan of having vegetables in her burger and decided not to include any in this rendition.
However, Chef Sue also believes in some form of balance in life so she served a mix of arugula and spinach tossed in a classic vinaigrette of vinegar and extra virgin olive oil on the side to provide some refreshing respite to the hearty burger.
The burger, in essence, is made up of two slices of 100g beef patty made with 70:30 ratio of minced fatty and lean meat that are sandwiched between a honey oat bun.
These were no ordinary beef patties, mind you – instead, they were massaged with a flavoursome blend of paprika, shallots, and seasoning before getting pressed into thinner patty slices, pan-seared, and coated with emmental cheese.
Then, the patties were finished in the oven to ensure juiciness before getting assembled with house made garlic aioli (made by emulsifying slow-cooked minced garlic with egg yolk and olive oil), bacon, and house made confit onions (yellow onions were slow-cooked in olive oil and salt for two hours).
Served with chunky fries and a simple salad, the burger tantalised our taste buds with a well-rounded flavour profile – from the sweetness of the honey oat bun and confit onions to the slightly spicy paprika-laced beef patties.
Because of the generous portion of the dish, we have to admit that we created a mess trying to savour the burger but trust us when we say that this Heart Attack Burger is definitely worth the chaos (and calorie).
At this point, we were already quipping about how our tummies felt like exploding from all the yummy food that we’ve been feeding on but there was still one last dish waiting to make its appearance – and that was the Seafood Stew (S$28).
This soul-warming dish is made up of tiger prawns, snapper, squid, mussels, chilli plus braised baby corn and carrot resting on a bed of mashed potatoes (made in-house with boiled potatoes, butter, and cream) with a few slices of sourdough for dipping.
To make the broth, garlic is first sautéed in a pan with clams and white wine, then covered and simmered until the clams release their juices.
This liquid is then simmered with shallots, garlic, red chilli, Aix rosé (our favourite!), and cream. After that, tiger prawns, sliced snapper, and squid are added in and stirred until cooked.
One sip of the broth instantly reminded us of the Thai tomyum soup, as it packed a ton of mouth-watering flavours reminiscent of the popular Thai seafood soup where spices and fresh seafood come together to make beautiful music for the palate.
Dipping a slice of sourdough to catch a mouthful of mashed potatoes and seafood may be carb overload for some, but with this nourishing dish that meant to be enjoyed as it is, you really shouldn’t be bothered by that.
The abundant appetisers and mains sure filled us up after two hours of non-stop eating, but how could we possibly call it a night without desserts?
And to start, we sunk our teeth into the Macadamia Brown Butter Blondie (S$5), a classic brown butter blondie that’s glazed with white chocolate and topped with toasted macadamia.
It had just the right amount of sweetness without being sickly sweet, and the toasted macadamia nuts added a nice contrasting texture to the delicious blondie. For even more textural play, just top up S$4 to get a scoop of ice cream with your blondie!
Why stop at one when you can have two desserts to wrap up your dinner? Honestly, take our word for it and don’t leave without trying Fluffernutter In A Jar (S$9).
This exclusive Bee’s Knees creation is essentially a jar of charcoal cookie crumbs, chocolate sponge, hazelnut namelaka (a cross between crème pâtissière and ganache), hazelnut praline, and meringue marshmallow – all meticulously prepared in-house.
As we stuck our spoons in deep to get a layer of everything, we couldn’t help but notice the delicate richness of this unique dessert.
Sweet, creamy, and oh-so-satisfying, all the elements were put together harmoniously to satiate our sweet tooth without overwhelming the taste buds.
It was a dessert that we simply couldn’t have enough of, so much so that we decided to bring home a jar to continue the indulgence at home!
Throughout the night, we nursed a glass of original cocktail creation called Under The Sea.
Concocted with dark rum, passionfruit, fresh calamansi, and blue lagoon, this aesthetically pleasing drink was surprisingly easy on the throat – we like that the passionfruit was presented in house made spheres so that you get a burst of tanginess each time you imbibe.
Now priced at S$25 nett for two house cocktails, we definitely recommend you round up your friends (up to five pax, of course) to enjoy a myriad of special cocktail creations, including Jungle Bird (below), an infusion of dark rum, campari plus juices from fresh pineapple and lime.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the food sent out from Chef Sue’s kitchen. Each dish had a personal story to tell, and as we were sinking out teeth into the food, we couldn’t help but think of the effort that Chef Sue and her team have put in to elevate everyday café food that’s now dime and dozen.
Thoughtfully created with subtle touches of Southeast Asian flavours, we guarantee that you’ll leave Bee’s Knees feeling contented with such delectable plates satisfying your hunger pangs.
Bee’s Knees is located at 50 Cluny Park Road, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore 257488. The café opens daily from 8am to 10pm.
To book a table or make enquiries, contact Bee’s Knees at 9815 3213 or email [email protected]. You can also visit the website or follow Bee’s Knees on Facebook and Instagram for updates, deals, and promotions.