Innovative Modern Spanish tapas cuisine from Michelin starred UK chef Jason Atherton- served in restored colonial shophouse setting
April 20th, 2013
ESQUINA is a zesty, modern tapas bar and restaurant in Singapore that takes its inspiration from the neighborhood tapas bars found throughout Spain- typically small establishments serving simple dishes for sharing in a convivial, social atmosphere. Launched in late 2011, the well-credentialed Esquina is the result of a serendipitous collaboration between acclaimed local Singaporean hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng’s Unlisted Collections group, and Michelin starred UK chef- Jason Atherton (a protégé of Ferran Adrià and Gordon Ramsay)- whose London flagship restaurant- Pollen Street Social– garnered a Michelin star within its first year of operation. At Esquina, Culinary Director Jason Atherton, has created a modern version of traditional Spanish tapas cuisine- combining classic tapas dishes with his own signature dishes that embrace elements of cross-cultural influences. Esquina represents the cutting-edge of a refreshing, accessible concept of fine dining- where “Michelin” quality cuisine is served at approachable prices in a vibrant, casual setting.
An intimately proportioned space, strong on character, with seating for only 19 diners (plus some standing room inside and outside), and a No Reservations and No Service charge, Esquina (Spanish for “the corner”) deftly channels the charming neighborhood / social dining style of a typical Spanish tapas bar. Located within a restored colonial era shophouse in a newly fashionable area of the Chinatown precinct of Singapore, Esquina has attained a considerable popularity within the Singaporean restaurant scene, and has been the recipient of local and international critical acclaim. The relaxed and engaging attitude of both the serving staff and culinary team encourages a vibrant interaction with diners, and offers an enticingly sociable format of dining, where people just drop in for a quick meal and drink before moving on elsewhere. Just as in Spain.
The culinary team at Esquina is led by Executive Chef Andrew Walsh and Sous Chef John Robert Cardwell- executing the compact menu (printed onto the paper place mats- a hallmark at other Atherton restaurants in Asia) with an exquisite attention to detail and presentation, and soundly grounded in contemporary cooking techniques. The sharply focused a la carte menu is structured around several categories- “Para Picar”– literally “for the table”- feature a selection of small plates of traditional appetisers such Ham Croquettes; Marinated Olives; and Roasted Padron Pepper, chilli, garlic, salt. Other categories comprise selections under- “Meat”; “Seafood”; “Eggs”; “Vegetables” and “Desserts”. Standout signature dishes include Scallop Ceviche, radish salsa, soya & yuzu ponzu; Iberico Pork & foie gras burger; Baked Bone Marrow & Lobster, lemon olive oil puree, parsley salad; and Miso Grilled Mackerel, wasabi avocado, lime & cucumber relish. The prices for dishes range from S$7 to S$30+, with most Meat and Seafood dishes priced in the mid-high S$20’s.
Highlights from the Dessert selections include interpretations of both Asian and Western comfort dishes- such as the Cookies & Cream, condensed milk ice cream, air chocolate, choc chip cookie; Japanese Green Tea cake, calamansi curd, fennel seed ice cream, sake blueberries; and Chocolate Tea Ice Cream, sponge sacher, pickled blackberries, hazelnut praline.
Esquina has recently introduced a three course Set Lunch Menu (weekdays only) based on weekly fresh produce, with a choice from starters, main course and dessert- attractively priced at S$39. A Chef’s Tasting Menu is a good way to sample the full repertoire of the culinary team- consisting of 10-courses showcasing Esquina’s signature dishes (priced at S$95).
The beverage selection includes Spanish beers and sherries, plus an expertly curated wine list compiled by the sommelier of Pollen Street Social in London. The signature Sangria is topped with a sangria foam- showcasing an element of molecular culinary technique.
Esquina is open daily- except Sundays- serving lunch from 12:00 pm on weekdays only, and dinner from 6:00 pm. With a No reservations policy, and seating limited to 19 guests, some waiting can be anticipated, particularly in the evenings. But with drinks served to waiting patrons, a social buzz ensues, and waiting blends comfortably into the overall experience.
The compact and narrow interior space of ESQUINA features an open kitchen and counter-top dining. The decor includes an eclectic collection of antique lamps and light fittings, vintage metal advertising signs, and seating on metal bar stools specially designed by a group of UK artists, crafted from recycled tractor seats.
The communal bar counter and kitchen exudes a contemporary industrial-chic style.
The culinary team at work behind the counter. Chalkboards list the Set Lunch Menu and specials.
A long stainless steel-topped counter seats 12 diners- seated facing across the counter to the open kitchen area. Behind glass is the seafood counter displaying the fresh fish of the day on a bed of ice.
Additional small tables are placed on the covered five foot walkways outside- good either just for drinks while waiting for a seat at the counter inside, or for casual outdoor dining.
Selections from the ESQUINA menu
Sea Urchin & Crab Bisque- with sea grapes and herring roe.
Spanish Breakfast- Slow-cooked egg, bravas sauce, potato & crispy iberico. Signature dish.
Scallop Ceviche- radish salsa, soya & yuzu ponzu. Signature dish.
Marinated Beetroot Salad- honeycomb burrata, pine nut crumble.
ESQUINA signature sangria- topped with a sangria foam.
Wine by the glass selections include house wines from Jason Atherton’s London flagship restaurant- the Michelin starred Pollen Street Social.
ESQUINA – modern tapas bar, Singapore
Monday to Friday Lunch 12:00 pm ~ 2:30 pm / Dinner 6:00 pm ~ 10:30 pm
Saturday Dinner only 6:00 pm ~ 10:30 pm
See also review of Jason Atherton’s 22 Ships modern tapas bar in Hong Kong.