Robertson Quay has no lack of watering holes. Spirits, wines and beers of almost all origins and manufacturing methods can easily be found, with a couple of restaurants having a slightly more exaggerated list of their choice beverage.
At 8 Mohamed Sultan Road, Nickeldime Alley stocks up 16 varietals of craft beers, which doesn’t sound as impressive as the offering at Brewerks, but considering that they are all on tap, you know that this place is serious about beer: a beverage that’s casual, easy to drink and often not taken seriously (you don’t see people playing wine pong, do you?).
Perhaps that’s the reason they chose to focus on beer. It’s just one element of the dissonance they deliberately chucked in as part of Nickeldime’s identity, just like their carefully unmethodical interior: raw, irregular brick walls with graffiti that are meticulously filled in; chairs of different designs that don’t match, yet arranged to alternate through the length of the table. Of course, this faux laissez-faire flair made its way into the food they offer as well.
It seems quite flippant of Nickeldime Alley to serve scotched eggs ($6 for two-halves) first. Furthermore, the anticipation of slicing into a whole egg that oozes golden egg yolk was taken away when the dish was presented already sliced, unveiling the yolk that’s short of runny (gasp!). Then again, scotched eggs are famous for being finicky.
Despite its lacklustre entrance, all was not lost. The bacon was just salty enough to cover for the bland egg, and the homemade sourdough breadcrumbs helped absorb the stout brown sauce for extra flavour. It’s amusing that the sauce is reminiscent of barbecue sauce though. Or maybe it is.
The tasting was accompanied by a flight of beer, and I’m not going to pretend that I know much about beer, much less about pairing beer with food. One thing’s for sure though: beer goes well with greasy comfort food, so that worked well for the scotched egg but not the next dish.
It was a novel yet disconcerting prospect to pair beer and a salad starring witlof. What can go wrong when you put bitter and bitter together? The monochromatic colour scheme of the pickled beetroot and witlof salad ($18) made it look like an avant-garde dessert, but the dish tasted like the life of Fantine: tiny hints of sweetness but full of bitterness. The freshness of the witlof revealed hints of sweetness, but the dominating bitterness had me looking for ways to quell it. Unfortunately, the feta cheese mousse seemed to have accentuated the bitterness, leaving me scavenging for other elements to mask the bitterness. Washing it down with beer turned out to be a bad idea. The candied hazelnut did a decent job, but with just about three or four bits of it, the dish left a bitter taste in my mouth, both literally and figuratively. It’s one of those divisive dishes that is an acquired taste – love witlof, and you’d appreciate the freshness and subtle sweetness; hate bitterness, and you’ll loathe the dish.
The party only got started at the third dish. Nickeldime Alley’s Croque Madame ($18) is an indulgent stack of sandwich. Unlike its usual counterparts that only has one layer of ham between two slices of bread, this rendition has TWO layers of thick slices of ham between THREE thin slices of bread. That translates to fewer carbs, more protein. It seemed intimidatingly rich at first, yet somehow each bite felt light. Even the IPA cheese and spiced béchamel failed to weigh the dish down. Despite all that, the portion is big, so it’s best to share the love if you don’t want to end up too bloated.
With the fried chicken swapped out, the confit duck waffle ($25) looked half as comforting. However, the ambitious plating still made an impression. The highlight was the thyme waffles: crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside, with lots of nooks and crannies to absorb all the thyme maple syrup (lots of thyme and effort went into this dish, apparently). Furthermore, it tasted so good that you can eat it on its own. Unfortunately, the co-star of the dish, the duck confit, seemed out of place. It wasn’t horrible, but it just didn’t tie in with the rest of the impressive elements delivered by the waffles (also, no crispy skin). Wrestling its spotlight were two big slices of smoked candied bacon. The smoke was discernible yet gentle, giving way to the sweetness of maple and the saltiness of the bacon. Not forgetting the cheddar crisps – the little treats that made the dish a wee bit more pleasurable to eat. I’ll eat this for breakfast every day, but with fried chicken, please?
The new menu at Nickeldime Alley has certainly elevated comfort food with their fancy plating and switch-ups, but my gut is telling me that this tasting lineup isn’t the best from the chef. Poring through the menu got me thinking about how well the fire-roasted jalapeño and dill poppers ($6), crunchy pork schnitzel ($19) and fish and chips ($18) would go down with anyone (or 16) of the 16 beers available.
Maybe I’ll find out on my own.
Thank you, Nickeldime Alley, for hosting the tasting!
8 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore 238958
Phone: +65 6735 1035