Maggie Joan’s is no stranger to serendipity. The hole-in-the-wall restaurant, which opened more than five years ago, garnered fresh attention to the once-lonely Gemmill Lane in Telok Ayer. Just as British cuisine was taking off, Maggie Joan’s gradually steered away from its Mediterranean roots to its Modern European spirit.
In another fortuitous twist of events, the restaurant found its latest head chef, Zach Elliott-Crenn. He was previously at Maggie Joan’s for a four-hands collaboration with then-chef Seumas Smith. There, Elliott-Crenn shared a taste of his culinary creativity that had led his previous London-based restaurant Portland to one Michelin star.
Now, the Australian-born is moved to greener — and much hotter — pastures in Singapore. Under his helm, Maggie Joan’s continues on its Modern European cuisine but with considerable notice to local produce. If anything, it is a refreshing confidence that what can be found in the neighbourhood market is good enough for a contemporary take on classic British dishes.
Even with set course menus, Maggie Joan’s still keeps dining on the casual side with a la carte options. Depending on your appetite for the day, that’s a reason to indulge a little more with snacks. Elliott-Crenn’s takes the opportunity to get a little creative and show off his baking chops. A bright orange sponge (at $4 a pop) is his savoury take on a financier with local squash and macadamia nuts, topped with an airy cloud of Mimolette shavings that dissolves almost instantly. A chicken liver parfait, and a good measure of quince jam for tartness, is piped in a handy ‘cigar’ speckled all over with chopped pistachios. A moss-green granita of parsley juice and a kick of wasabi cream draw a refreshing contrast to briny Coffin Bay oysters.
Smoked Carrot Tartare
It would be almost blasphemous to switch out an all-meat affair for vegetables… a long time ago. Though not exactly riding on the waves of plant-based diets and Impossible Meats, Elliott-Crenn’s vegetarian tartare is certainly worth the attention. The smoked carrot tartare is a little nest of goodness. Ribbons of carrot cling on to a firm and tender texture, the result of a meticulous routine of bincho-grilling and steaming. It’s all tossed with pickled mustard seeds, confit egg yolk and mayonnaise, combined together to great punchy effect. So, it’s not quite a salad, neither is it tartare. But leave the nit-picking for later — this dish is best enjoyed fresh from the kitchen.
Baby school prawns, green apple
The theme continues on with another twist to the classic prawn cocktail. Forget cocktail glass and sad, wilted lettuce in this dish. Local prawns are simply poached, dressed in marie rose and dished out on a plate with cubes of green apple and salmon roe. A heap of finely shaved romaine lettuce, tangled with fresh dill, makes for a better conduit for the showers of dressing on the contemporary cocktail.
Red snapper and local greens
Elliott-Crenn’s wielding of local produce has been delightful so far. But it is with the mains where one can further see a more creative appreciation for them. Local red snapper takes on a beautifully crispy crust, paired up with the day’s selection of market greens. It would’ve been great on its own, but the dollops of black garlic jam and warm dashi throw in an addictive swathe of sweet, syrupy flavour.
Local papaya, olive oil cake & tarragon ice cream
For dessert, we go for local fruit and spices — this time with a study in papaya. Fresh slices of fruit are sprinkled with buckwheat and tarragon oil, topped with crème fraiche spiked with peppery papaya seeds and tarragon ice cream, all atop a light olive oil cake.
Mondays – Fridays: 12 pm – 2.30 pm, 6 pm – 11 pm
Saturdays: 6 pm – 11 pm
Recommended dishes: Snacks, Smoked Carrot Tartare, Red Snapper
Price: $75 ++
Noise Level: Medium