Posted on Fri, 1 Jul 2011
Restaurant In A School
Restaurants are aplenty in Singapore, but Joan Bowen@The Village is different in so many good ways. Just ‘soft launched’ last week, it is located in the boarding house of the St Andrew’s Village, where the St Andrew’s schools and junior college is housed. Talk about a unique setting!! The restaurant occupies one of the old buildings in this school, distinct with its salmon pink ‘scales’ on the exterior wall which you can see from the PIE expressway.
It’s amazing how this restaurant managed to open its doors for business within in a fully functioning school! What’s even more remarkable is that this restaurant is run almost completely by staff who are special needs, except for the owners and the executive chef.
When I went for dinner on their opening night (soft launch, so no fanfare), I was fully prepared for kinks in the system, perhaps a long wait for food, perhaps mistakes in the orders….typical of any new restaurant. But you know – it moved like clockwork! Considering they didn’t have time to do a dry run before, and that the staff is, after all, special needs, plus the fact that it was their first day running the restaurant, this restaurant put so many others to shame. Teething problems? If there were any in the back of house, the most important thing was, the guests didn’t know it. Plus, the restaurant was chockfull, and turned over two seatings by the time we left at 9.30pm. That’s saying a helluva lot for what owner Jean, is doing there.
The restaurant is named after Jean’s daughter, Joan Bowen who is special needs. This brave mum left her advertising career and set up, first a café in McPherson to provide training and employment not just for Joan, but for young adults with special needs. It became so successful in their quiet part of town, that they were invited to set up a second restaurant in the school. Flowers, nostalgic F&N crates, and old St Andrew’s trophies dating back to the early 20th century decorate the broad rectangular restaurant. It was a little warm – no air conditioning yet, but there were fans and good ventilation, so we were all comfy.
How’s the food? Pretty good! There are few concessions made – you can see that the menu is as respectable as any other contemporary bistro, and I enjoyed thoroughly my meal there, in the homely setting of the boarding house. We started off with a grilled eggplant salad with mixed greens, purple mustard balsamic vinaigrette, rock melons and croutons; and the tuna wakame, slices of slightly seared tuna topped with tobiko and wakame in a light soy dressing. Very refreshing. The soup of the day – mushroom if I recall – was thick and hearty. Portions were very generous, and we noted foie gras, tofu and escargots on the appetiser menu too.
For mains, I had a lovely duck confit, pretty moist and very tasty. But the ribeye steak was the best – a little too pink perhaps but very tender, and superbly flavourful, served with roasted tomatoes on the vine. The chilli crab pasta is owner Jean’s own recipe and that too was lovely, unctuous and al dente. Our orders for the next visit? Wagyu burgers, slow cooked pork belly and pizzas! Dessert was a shared apple crumble with ice cream – buttery, honest and decadent. I would have ordered the banana walnut cake too, but was watching the widening girth.
The drinks are a little limited – juices, and bottled fizzies. They have a small wine selection, but I doubt anything remarkable. Order beer instead or bring your own alcky, and pay the corkage. Prices ranged in the mid- to-high $20s for mains, teens to low $20s for pasta and pizzas. Generally, Joan Bowen @ The Village offered good value, and lovely homey setting and very enjoyable food indeed. I’d be going back for sure!
Good To Know: Joan Bowen@The Village will officially open only on 9 August, so until then, it’s best to call ahead before you go. How to get there? Make your way to St Andrew’s school and park in its premises. It is right in front of the swimming pool. Jean’s first restaurant is the Joan Bowen Café in 9 Jln Wangi at McPherson, which includes a private room on the 2nd floor for private functions. (Tel: 6281 3629)
Joan Bowen @ The Village
St Andrews Village,
15 Francis Thomas Drive