Following on the heels of my last food tasting experience at Raffles Singapore, the island country’s storied 19th century hotel, this November’s Deepavali celebrations brought me back to the legendary establishment for another unforgettable culinary experience.
Specially prepared by award-winning Chef Kuldeep Negi, Tiffin Room offers diners an exclusive Diwali Experience set menu that pays homage to its roots. With tantalizing creations as colorful and eclectic as the pomp and circumstance that surround the Festival of Lights, guests will get to treat their tastebuds to an epicurean journey through North India.
From 1892, five years after the hotel’s founding, Tiffin Room has been serving up authentic North Indian cuisine for lunch and dinner to its esteemed guests and city gastronomes. Helmed as one of Singapore’s integral dining concepts for almost 130 years, the ingredients and flavors that adorn the plates at the restaurant traverse Rajasthan to Punjab to Lucknow in eponymous tiffin boxes. For those not familiar, these tiffin carriers, or dabbas, are a kind of tiered lunch box used widely in Asia to transport meals. Since the restaurant gets its name from them, naturally, the Tiffin Room’s version was specially made and features custom copper finishing.
Dining at Tiffin Room is a quintessential delight in line with the famed Raffles Experience. When the hotel went through an extensive two-year renovation and opened again in 2019, the restaurant itself underwent a refurbishment but kept its original charm; thanks to research done by heritage consultants. Sumptuous décor including reinstated wooden floorboards intricately patterned wood and mirror wall paneling, and colorful displays of tiffin boxes were unveiled. Right down to the smallest of details, I learned that the silverware we were using dated back to pre-World War II, when hotel staff buried them to keep them out of Japanese hands, only to be unearthed after the war.
The Food and Drinks
Headlining our three-course meal were two appetizers: Dahi Puri and Achari Mahi Tikka. The former was a deep-fried stuffed crispy bread with tamarind, raisin chutney, and sweet yogurt that arrived in a red, white, brown, and green combination of vibrant shades; with just as many textures. Savory, sweet, and spicy all-in-one, it was a mouthful of crisp delight. The latter was a tandoor-grilled pomfret fillet with pickled spices — probably my favorite of all the dishes. The fish meat was warm, soft, and silky, boasting a perfect balance of spices that left me wanting more.
Next was the main event. Presented in the aforementioned copper tiffin cases, there were three dishes accompanied by Indian basmati rice with saffron, namely Murgh Khumani (a tender chicken breast with apricot and mixed nuts), Dill Palak Ka Gosht (boneless lamb shank with dill and spinach curry), and Nawabi Hari Gobhi (broccoli, cauliflower, and cream cheese).
Since we were tucking in to North Indian cuisine, there wasn’t that much heat in the curries, which worked out just fine for me (I politely declined the help of a lassi). The meats were tender and juicy, the gravies thick. Spices always feature heavily in Indian food and I’ve found it to be overwhelming sometimes, with the mashup of flavours sometimes too many to distinguish. But this was fine food. The spices and ingredients intermingled beautifully and complemented one another, as each dish stood out on its own.
If the rice and protein weren’t enough to get us to the finish line, there was also an endless supply of warm garlic naan and cheese and pepper kulcha. These weren’t your average afterthought sides but just as flavorsome and delicious as the mains. I ate as much as I could, leaving just enough room for dessert.
Topped off with a scoop of mango kulfi, we were served Mango Ghevar, a traditional Rajasthani sweet cake. Taste-wise, the dish wasn’t cloying but just sweet enough to balance out the savoury foods we had prior. Decorated with strawberries, blueberries, and pistachio nibs, the cake reminded me of a quiche but it wasn’t as crumbly. With our masala chai and teas, it was the perfect end to our meal.
Not forgetting the mithai. Known as Kaju Burfi, Khajar Biscuit, and Anjeer Burfi, these fine specialty sweets of cashew nut, date, and fig were favored by the sweet-toothed among us.
The waitstaff were always in our line of sight, brisk and eager to grant our every request. They were well spoken and knowledgeable about the dishes — something that was very helpful for me because I’m generally unfamiliar with Indian food.
I especially took a liking to their uniforms — pearlescent white vests featuring stitched embroidery in the same color, paired with matching fitted shirts with sleeve tabs and pants.
On the first floor of the hotel’s Main Building, diagonally across BBR by Alain Ducasse, the hotel’s European tapas and a grill restaurant. If you have a window table, you’ll get a gorgeous view of the sparkling sky blue cast-iron fountain situated in the Palm Garden.
For Your Consideration
The cushion seats that line the walls of the restaurant sink a little lower than ideal, demanding one to sit upright in perfect posture throughout the meal.
Tableside service is a signature feature at Tiffin Room, where plates for each course are brought to your table on wonderfully huge trays and placed in front of you in unison. The tiffin boxes, in particular, are unstacked with deliberation, building up the anticipation for what each tier will surprise you with.
This was my first time dining at Tiffin Room and I couldn’t have asked for a more evocative experience. From the food to the service and ambience, it was a multi-sensorial affair — and I learned so much about North Indian fare. All in all, a memorable evening in good company. Shubh Diwali!
The Diwali Experience menu will be available for lunch and dinner from 5 to 15 November 2020 at $88++ per guest. A vegetarian option at $68++ per guest will also be offered. During this period, a limited selection of the regular Tiffin Room à la carte menu will be made available too.
Mithai, handmade Diwali specialty sweets, are also available for takeaway via RafflesGrabandGo.com from 7 to 15 November 2020 at $38+ for a box of 15 pieces comprising of 5 lovely flavors.
Anticipatory and obliging
Food & Drinks
Where – The Tiffin Room,
1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673