What does French food bring to mind? Teeny tiny or as they say in Hokkien “Jiak buay ba” portions? I’m conjuring up images of classy fine dining situations, the kind where you’re in a tux for the men and gown for the ladies sort of setting. How about you? I bet you were thinking of French food along those lines too.

Well, so how does no GST, no service tax, affordable (and by affordable I mean like regular cafe/restaurant type prices) French food sound? I was pretty confused when I got the invite from The French Ladle to have dinner there. What was I going to wear? What were we going to eat? Would I be hungry? Would I be a monster at the table gobbling up the tiny portions of French cuisine?

Que Sera Sera, I shouldn’t have worried!

The French Ladle may be a family restaurant selling French food but it comes with none of the misconceptions of French cuisine.

The three adventurous owners of The French Ladle wanted to deliver a good honest meal with delicious home-cooked flavours that could be understood and enjoyed easily by their customers. This means, you can unbutton that collar and relax at this almost cafe-isque family restaurant. No need for stuffy table manners if you’ve not had training in etiquette yet!

French cuisine is really about meticulous preparation, delicate presentation and great flavour. Hours and hours go into the preparation of each dish. It’s tedious heart-and-soul sort of work that goes on behind the scenes.

Most French restaurants in Singapore serve Haute Cuisine which is why the price point is so high. Not many of us have come into contact with a more down-to-earth French Bistro concept in Singapore and that is exactly what The French Ladle is all about.

The French Ladle is tucked away in Pandan Valley. Just a short bus ride (or taxi ride for the impatient) from Holland Village and Clementi. It’s really a hidden gem if you think of it!

The restaurant was only founded in September 2012 but has already grown a fan base of regulars and curious foodies. The restaurant may be quiet on weekdays (for now) but it is rock and rollin’ packed on weekends! And no wonder when you take a look at the prices they are serving up for their exquisite French dishes.

You’ll be amazed by the great atmosphere. It’s laid back, almost country cottage-like. It reminded us of our time in Adelaide. The owners have taken a great deal of effort to create a cosy homey feel. In fact, all the decorations are sourced by them.

Can you believe that even the curtains are created from scratch from carefully chosen fabric and the beautiful shelves are actually put together by them personally? I was completely amazed!

To make you feel even more at home, you are encouraged to help yourself to the iced water. Pick a glass that you like – high ball glasses or wine glasses, just take your pick.

Before we could order, we were given a basket of warm bread to get us eased in. The butter that came with the bread basket was utterly delicious. I didn’t check the brand but it was so creamy and fragrant! Yum! Scoring points even before dinner has officially begun. How clever!

Salad de Provence ($10.90)

Young salad with haricot verts, cherry tomatoes, olives, red onions and homemade anchovy dressing

First whiff and bite and I knew the dressing had a good delicious dose of anchovies. Indeed I was right. I enjoyed the fresh crisp greens and the very tasty homemade anchovy dressing. I’ve had salads which cost more than this and I wouldn’t even consider it better in taste compared to this. Even green-hating non-salad eaters will love this appetizer.

Truffle Frites ($9.90)

Truffle fries served with Chef’s special sauce

Goodness, what’s to hate when it comes to truffle fries. Fries are tossed well in the truffle oil and while they are generous with making sure there’s a hint of truffle on each piece of fries, it is not overwhelming and does not smell like a gas explosion. Just the subtle fragrance of truffle and golden brown shoestring fries. It’s not too greasy which was a relief. French fries drenched in truffle is a nightmare! The French Ladle has got the equation just right.

The Chef’s special sauce is sort of like a coleslaw-mayonnaise hybrid. Rich and creamy like mayonnaise but with yummy bits in it like coleslaw.

Soup Du Jour – Cream of Celeraic Soup ($7.90)

Creamy wholesome soup made with seasonal vegetables and potatoes

The soup of the day (Soup Du Jour) was Celeraic Soup. We were promised a hearty fulfilling mini-pot of super creamy, indulgent potato soup unlike any potato soup we’ve tasted. I’ve personally only had Campbell’s rendition of potato soup, so I’m not really the best judge but let’s just say this was really rich and had a likeable earthy flavour.

Super smooth and creamy, it really appeals to your senses from just looking at how it is quaintly presented in these colourful mini-pots, down to the colour and texture of the soup itself. There is just a drop (or two) of truffle oil for that little bit of added flavour.

Confit de Porc ($21.90)

Slow-cooked pork belly wrapped in potato, with lentils and baby potatoes, cherry tomatoes and homemade sherry sauce

Incredibly succulent fatty pork belly is cooked for 6 hours till it becomes so tender it basically just melts in your mouth. It is wrapped delicately in potato which is so flavoursome and adds such interesting dimension to this dish – it’s a bit crunchy like the pork’s second skin! The vegetables and sauce really complemented the dish and it was just clearly the favourite from the lot!

I can see how the Confit de Porc would appeal to locals. Afterall, it IS pork belly and the taste, texture and aroma cannot be beaten!

May I remind you that this is nett priced. How affordable a main is at only $21.90, let alone an exquisite main dish such as this! These days it’s hard pressed to get generously sized pork belly main at less than $30 if you’re not dining at the Kopitiam or neighbourhood coffee shop… from the Western stall which is hardly of this standard!

Confit de Canard ($21.90)

Crispy duck leg with fries and salad, cherry tomatoes and homemade sherry sauce

Duck dishes can be a challenge. After all duck tends to have a stronger taste than say chicken, pork or even beef. While not as gamey as lamb, it has a distinct smell and taste that not everyone may take to.

The Confit de Canard is really a successful duck dish. As with the Confit de Porc, the duck is also left to cook in the oven for a good 6 hours. It is kudos to the great skill of the chef that it can turn out succulent, not dry at all and with a deliciously crisp skin. This is such a distinctive French dish which I feel is a must try when you visit The French Ladle.

Risotto aux Champignon ($19.90)

Wild mushroom risotto, truffle scent with petite salad

Let me just declare that I have eaten one of the most delicious risottos in Adelaide and it has set the bar really high. I felt that the Risotto aux Champignon was no doubt a great dish but I’ve been spoilt badly by the version I had in Adelaide which had a delightful serving of goat’s cheese.

If you’re a fan of risottos, you should give this a try because it really is pretty good when you compare it to the risottos you’ll get in Singapore for that price!

Pureé de Pomme de Terre ($7.90)

Chef’s signature creamy mash potato

You can tell that the mash potato is one of the pride and joys of the owners (and Chef) of The French Ladle. One of the owners, Wyman, was beaming with pride when brought this little pot over to us.

As with the Cream of Celeraic Soup, the mash potato is very smooth and creamy with an enjoyable buttery taste. This is not your typical mash potato because they’ve made it so fine. It’s a joy to eat. I’d recommend this over the risotto if you need a serving of carbs.

Catch of the Day (Market Price – $25.90)

Pan-fried red snapper with artichoke barigoule and sauce vierge

My personal true mark of a good restaurant is how well the fish dishes are done. To be frank, it’s tough ensuring that the fish isn’t dried out and flaky or has too much of a fishy smell. I salute chefs who are able to create fish dishes that get you digging into it so quickly that before you know it, you’re left with nothing.

The fish was indeed fresh and the flesh was nice and moist. The skin was pan-fried enough to have it slightly crisp and the cherry on the cake has to be the modern classic French sauce, sauce vierge, which lent great flavour to the mildly flavoured red snapper.

The fish of the day is not always the pan-fried red snapper and the price varies depending on what the fish of the day is. This one was $25.90. Do check with The French Label on what the Fish of the Day is and confirm the price with them when you dine there.

Escargot beurre à l’ail ($10.90)

Half dozen gratinated escargots in garlic butter

Not a bad deal for escargots. How French can your meal get if you don’t have half a dozen of escargots, really? These snails are crunchy and taste like prawns or shellfish. It has a chewy texture and really doesn’t have much of taste. That’s where the buttery garlic sauce comes in. I absolutely love escargots. I just have the stomach for these things.

Most places serve the escargots still in the shell. At The French Ladle, they have removed the shell to make it easier to eat.

Fondant au Chocolat ($8.90)

Warm chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream

This looks good and it tastes pretty rad. Skip the ice cream because it does taste a little run-of-the-mill. I dug into the fondant first before having a taste of the ice cream and was wowed by the richness of the oozing chocolate lava. The cake is really ooh-la-la! Probably only rivaled by the one from Chilli’s. Perhaps how good the fondant tasted showed how lacking in oomph the vanilla ice cream was. Overall it is a pleasant dessert to end my meal with.

Without a doubt, The French Ladle is one place you should add in your To-Eat List. Quality of food is really beyond what I expected and the price is really as affordable as it can get. Eating at TCC or Manhattan Fish Market would probably set you back as much as eating here and the food is not necessarily as wholesome and delicious.

Please do visit The French Ladle, it is worth every cent. I’m looking forward to trying out the brunch menu as well on my next visit.

The French Ladle
2 Pandan Valley Road, #01-206, Block 2
Pandan Valley Condominium

Tel: +65 6467 7505
Email: enquiry@thefrenchladle.com

Website: www.thefrenchladle.com

Check out updates, menu prices, opening hours and more at their Facebook Page.