El Bulli-veterans in Singapore

Catalunya might not look like much from the outside, but there is an awful lot more to it than meets the eye

When you approach Catalunya in Singapore, it doesn’t really look like a noteworthy restaurant. The website gives the impression of it being a place that is more focused on style rather than substance. How wrong first impressions can be…

A closer look reveals that this is a remarkable restaurant. The team alone is worth introducing. Manager Pol Perello spent more than a decade at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, and chef Alain Devahive Tolosa did his time there too. With that backdrop, you suddenly have a very different idea of what this restaurant can do.

The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and casual. Catalunya is located right next to the Fullerton Bay Hotel, and offers remarkable views of the Marina Bay Sands. The beautiful views and warm atmosphere make it a restaurant suitable for any occasion, whether you’re here on business, or coming with your family on a weekend.

The food feels equally straightforward, even if there is a lot of work that goes into it. Very much focused on Catalonian tapas, Catalunya reinterprets them without loosing the essence of each dish. Therefore, this is neither traditional tapas restaurant, nor as modern as El Bulli was.

That the team here has not forgotten the tricks learnt in Roses is evidenced by tartar made of tomatoes instead of beef, which is a little clin d’oeil to Ferran, as are the spherical olives that start your meal. There is also a wonderfully rich interpretation of a Galician Octopus. Braised octopus is served with a foamy potato puree, bacon and chilli. The result is a remarkably rich, unctuous and heart-warming dish that you can hardly get enough of. Another classic, this time served traditionally, are the croquetas. Made with cuttings of Iberico ham, these are the perfect comfort food.

The real star of the show however is the Segovian suckling pig. The young pig is roasted whole and then cut tableside in the most traditional manner possible: using a plate. This can only be done with extremely young pigs, and thus served as a sign of quality. Once this is on your plate, you are faced with one of the most astonishing pork dishes we have ever had. The texture of the skin is akin to that of the finest suckling pig in Hong Kong. It is crispy, but melts in your mouth. The meat underneath is equally tender, and full of juices. You often get suckling pig that has either crunchy skin or juicy meat. Finding one that is so well prepared that it has both is not common.

Coming to Singapore to find some of the most impressive Spanish food around seems odd. And yet, the team led by the charming Pol Perello, is nearly fully made up of Spaniards who have worked in some of the best restaurants around. Perhaps the economic problems of Spain help them here in attracting talent, but what is sure is that this is one of the slickest restaurants of its kind that we have seen.

Having approached Catalunya with a lot of scepticism, the relaxed atmosphere, beautiful food and warm welcome are impressive. This is a restaurant that uses the experience of a highly capable team, to serve some of the most compelling Spanish food in Asia and make it look effortless.


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