Occupying the premises of a former army barracks, House is a lifestyle concept that houses (sorry, I couldn’t resist) a spa, cafe, and bar. This is how the cafe’s name comes about. But this is also where any association with an army camp ends, for Barracks resembles nothing like a military mess hall. From chic, quirky decor down to stunning food presentations, our experience at Barracks was a total revelation. This is one canteen that soldiers would happily dine at everyday!
This lunch was a food-tasting session organized for four other food bloggers and yours truly. Helmed by Resident Head Chef Ho, Barracks’ recently updated menu is full of refreshing, unique ideas, and the trio of non-alcoholic cocktails that kick-started our meal reflected just that.
Inspired by the paper prata, Barracks’ Skinny Pizza crust must be the thinnest and crispiest ever! Forget about thick, bread-like pizza dough. You can throw melted cheese and tomato paste out of the pizza equation too. Barracks wants to completely revolutionize the pizza, hence their “thinnovation” – the Skinny Pizza. There’s also a Skinny Pizza outlet at Suntec City serving just pizza and soup.
There are 12 kinds of pizza combinations available. Essentially, each 12″ Skinny Pizza is a super thin and crispy cracker, first baked, then topped with cooked ingredients and fresh arugula (rocket) leaves. We got to sample 4 pizzas. The Chorizo Almond was a clear winner – everyone loved the combination of smoky chorizo, crunchy toasted almonds, roasted garlic, grilled bell pepper, olives, and fresh grated parmesan.
While I love the Chorizo Almond, the pizza I went absolutely ga-ga over was the Ahi Taki! First, the crust is lightly smeared with mashed avocado, then generously topped with seared fresh tuna, port-wine soaked raisins, plump pistachios, avocado slices, and roasted tomatoes. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant! Most definitely a thought-I’d-died-and-gone-to-heaven moment, which I haven’t had in a while!
If you don’t fancy pizza, it’s also available as a salad. Currently, the Ahi Taki is available only at Barracks and not at Skinny Pizza, Suntec City.
For something spicy and exotic, we had a Middle Eastern-inspired creation. A dip made primarily of mashed grilled eggplant, baba ganoush is spread over the crust, then topped with mildly-spiced curry chicken, chopped hard-boiled eggs, onion and fresh coriander. Very exotic and very nice indeed!
Truffle lovers will love this! Roasted portobello and truffle oil generously adorn this Skinny Pizza, but alas, it failed to entice me, because I’m not a big fan of truffle (the mushroom, not the chocolate kind).
We were told that the recipe for the pizza crust has been improved upon since it was first launched. Indeed, we were very much impressed with the taste and texture, and especially how it managed to stay crispy till the end.
Bigger and more luxe than White Castle sliders, there’s a choice of 5 toppings for each pair of mini burgers. Pictured above is the Bleu cheese (brie) and bacon, which I didn’t get to try.
But I did get to try and enjoy the Cheddar cheese and bacon sliders! Pretty ordinary burgers, but although medium well done, the beefy patties were juicy and the lightly toasted buns soft and chewy.
Accompanying the sliders were these golden beauties. Those are no ordinary shoestring fries; they’ve been tossed in luxurious truffle oil! But I could only detect a faint truffle taste, and both the sweet potato and truffle fries went limp pretty quickly.
One of the “House Proud” dishes, the capellini is accompanied by some very plump and crunchy prawns! I thought the sauce was lovely – a light prawn bolognese with braised baby leeks and a hint of chilli. But I’d have preferred if the noodles had been more “wet”, ie. more sauce, please!
The lamb is gorgeous! Well, that’s what the others said anyway, because I was slow and only managed to grab a teeny bite-sized piece and it turned out to be gristle. 🙁
I didn’t detect much Moroccan spice, but the half portion of baby chicken had lovely crisp skin. Even the breast meat was super juicy and tender! Those crispy strips are yam, and underneath the chicken are baby bok choy and tomato-berry chutney.
That’s one loooooooooong sausage, one meter long, to be precise. Available as chicken, beef, or pork, this is fun for sharing and will certainly make for great conversation!
Finally, it’s time for desserts! Under the direction of pastry chef Sarah Tham, the desserts at Barracks are a medley of hearty American-style cakes and East-West fusion creations. Some of them are even served in mess tins to reflect the location’s military heritage. How quaint!
Not quite your old-fashioned version of sponge cake sandwiched with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, this is a slightly different interpretation of strawberry shortcake. That’s vanilla bean cream to pour over the cake. Yes, there’s really specks of vanilla bean in the cream. So much nicer than whipped cream, IMHO.
Why is this guiltless? Well, for those who want to stay off carbs but still wanna indulge, this dense cake is flourless and gluten-free. Hmm, really? What about the sugar and milk chocolate?
Call me looney, but if I’m gonna indulge, I’d rather go the whole nine yards for The BBC, which is da bomb! I went bananas (again, I couldn’t resist) over the crispy banana strudel liberally sprinkled with freshly grated cheese, and the gooey, dark chocolatey brownie hidden underneath.
But my top pick is the MMM! Maybe cos it has my favorite fruit – mango! MMM is a delicious concoction of chunky fresh mango, mini crunchy pavlova, honey, yoghurt, whipped cream and marshmallow. Do I hear you going mmmmm……?
Normally I’m dubious of fusion dishes. If badly executed, things could go really wrong. And tofu with green tea and tiramisu? Alarm bells started ringing in my head.
Thankfully, they managed to pull it off. The firm, custard-like tofu – freshly made in-house – worked well with the light mascarpone and mild green tea flavor. In all, it’s a pleasant, airy creation that’s not excessively sweet.
Inspired by the Nyonya 9-layer rainbow kueh, this stunning dessert is actually alternate layers of creamy panna cotta and colorful agar agar. The refreshing agar and creamy panna cotta complement each other really well!
If you’re here in a large group, you’re in for a treat. Order the “Godzilla Box”, which is your choice of any 6 desserts, and you get 15% off! Isn’t that sweet?
By now, you’d have noticed that besides taste, Barracks puts a great deal of effort into presentation. Like the Tiffin Punch, which is served in mini tiffin containers. Served on the side is sparkling champagne, which you add just before drinking for a zesty experience.
What goes into the Tiffin Punch? Bombay Sapphire gin, lychee liquer, ruby red grapefruit, ginger slices, lychees, and of course, Mumm champagne. Sweet and refreshing, much like a lychee martini!
This ain’t any ordinary tea. You have to be at least 18 to drink it!
This “tea” set is actually what they call Prohibition Long Island Iced Tea Party (S$55). In the teapot is gin, vodka, rum, tequila, cointreau, and lemon juice; in the jug is Coca-Cola. This innocuous-looking drink packed quite a punch!
Dining at Barracks, one can’t help but appreciate the details that go into every aspect of the experience – industrial chic interior, cosy vintage furnishings, whimsical antique plates, and visually stunning food presentation. But more importantly, we really enjoyed the food. For me, that is the most important factor, because without good food, ambience and presentation wouldn’t pull me back.
If it’s always this good, I’d most certainly return soon. I’m already starting to have recurring dreams of the Ahi Taki and MMM!
Many thanks to our sweet and gracious host, Janet Lim of Spa Esprit Group, for the invitation and wonderful hospitality.
Prices stated are exclusive of 10% service charge and 7% GST.
Barracks @ House
8D Dempsey Road
Tel: (65) 6475 778