The crown jewel of Jason Atherton’s imperium in Singapore is without doubt his tapas bar Esquina. Not to be written off as a simple tapas bar, however, this is much more than it says on the packaging.
The first thing that will strike is that number of staff working at Esquina. There are very few tapas bars, where there are more staff than customers. At Esquina, that is the case, with a good 15 cooks and waiters looking after the dozen or so guests at the counter. Led by Andrew Walsh, the kitchen brigade produces some the most exciting Spanish-influenced cuisine in Singapore. Less classically influenced than the food at Catalunya, this is daring cooking that constantly pushes the boundaries. Whilst it is difficult to characterise the cooking at Esquina, Walsh relies on classical flavour combinations, but rethinks and alters the components of dishes, so as to make them his own.
This results in creations such as scallop ceviche, which is characterised by brisk acidity. It lifts the flavours, rather than kills them, never overpowering the delicate sweetness of the shellfish.
Much richer is grilled bone marrow with snails, garlic and parsley. This flavour combination could hardly be more classical, and the version presented here is remarkable for its intensity. The flavours literally explode, and have unusual complexity for such a rustic dish. To make such simple products taste so refined is exciting and rare.
Eating at Esquina is an energy-driven experience. The vibe and tempo of the place really are electric. This is not the place for a casual, relaxed evening. On the contrary, come here if you want an experience that is unique to Singapore.