Saturday, February 17, 2007

Singapore: Sreuth! The Beaufort

My good buddy Sid has been living in Singapore for the past year or so, and he has been relaying tales of lavish banquets, fresh king crabs and fish-head curry. The stories eventually got the better of my curiosity and before I knew it I was on a plane to Changi Airport, dreaming of seafood, spices, the Orient, equatorial sunshine. Our friend Guy was to turn up in Singapore too, he'd been in NZ for a wedding and he was 'in the area'.

I arrived 14 hours after leaving London (where I had stuffed myself silly with pies, pastries and good British cheeses) and walked out of the terminal into searing heat. It was like climbing into a tumble dryer. My throat was dry and my appetite unabated by the time I arrived in a cab at Sid's place in Clementi, and I was in luck as I had arrived on a Saturday morning. The weekend brunch buffets at Singapore's decent and historic hotels are notorious and I was keen not to be outbrunched by anybody on the island. I had butterflies when we rocked up to The Beaufort Hotel at noon exactly. Lovely place it is too, all tropical green and lush, with mirror marble floors and dead posh waiters in starched cuffs. We were escorted through to the brunch salon, where other early birds like us were hovering around chef's trolleys in anticipation.

In all my years, I have never seen a spread anything quite like it. Tables creaking under the weight of halved lobsters, clams, scallops, whole and split crabs, little dishes of sliced duck, foie gras, lamb chops, smoky bacon, poached eggs, cured salmon, continental cheeses of all kinds, chocolates and tropical desserts. Every waitress had in her grasp chilled bottles of champagne and they were frantically dashing from table to table topping up crystal flutes. The deal is $50 US dollars for as much as you can keep down. The brunch lasts for 3 hours, 12-3. Champagne, wine and Bloody Maries flow freely for those 3 hours to accompany the food. You can understand why I was so excited. Sid and I made a beeline for the seafood cradle where we loaded gold-rimmed plates with crab, lobster, jumbo shrimp and scallops which we ate messily with lemon wedges and dollops of thousand island dressing.

Purists might suggest that TI dressing is the best way to mask the subtle taste of fresh seafood. I say bollocks to that, and what the hell, if I want it plain I can just go back and get some more, right? Remember, decadence is the key here. I followed this with a mini English muffin layered with smoked ham and chorizo, a perfectly poached egg, spicy sauce and chives. Then a few slices of duck with foie gras and cherry marmalade, a juicy pink lamb chop with pistachio crust.

I switched from champoo to a red Merlot and I was about to assault the cheese table.

I think I had maybe 5 different cheeses with grapes, all French, all marvellous. Another glass of red got me through the next course of Belgian chocolates and cheesecakes. By that time, there was only about an hour of brunch time left, and in the interests of caning it and getting my money's worth I switched back to champoo. It was at this point that Sid announced that he had been to change his shorts as he'd had a small accident while trying to rid himself of some painful gas. His excesses of the night before were taking their toll. After much sniggering about his predicament we had a pair of coffees, a couple of smokes in the sun and one final glass of bubbly.

At 3, Beaufort brunchers are invited to take a dip in their black glass swimming pool to complete a wonderful afternoon. The have a very handy pool bar next to it too, and it was from here that I was able to coax a delicious white Russian from the barman who beamed with delight while he mixed it for me. Clearly, he enjoys his work and I had to applaude him after I'd taken my first sip. "Good work, Son."

Guy joined us for drinks shortly afterward. He'd been been taken ill the night before so he stayed home for the food part as he didn't want to overload his system. A 'dodgy prawn' was blamed. I had been rendered incapable of anything after all that eating and drinking, and it was all a real effort to get my shit together to climb into a cab. We headed for Sid's place, but we took a diversion and ended up in a 'traditional Irish pub' where we played a few frames and had a couple of Guinni. I slept like a baby that night, all stuffed and drunk and happy. Another day of food followed, and then we were off to Vietnam to eat our way around Ho Chi Minh.

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