The mood for festive feasting has not been dampened by the sluggish economic outlook this year.
With slightly more than a month to Christmas, most restaurants and hotels that The Sunday Times spoke to say that reservations for their festive feasts have kept up with or gone up from last year's numbers.
Reservations streamed in from as early as August and most of the establishments expect a surge by early next month as the mood for Yuletide feasting thickens.
Grand Hyatt Singapore has seen bookings for the festive buffets at its five restaurants increase by about 30 per cent from last year.
The Christmas Day Brunch at buffet restaurant Mezza9 has been fully booked since earlier this month and slots for its Christmas Eve dinner buffet are filling up fast.
Mr Jerome Pagnier, 33, the hotel's food and beverage operations director, says: "Diners are more prudent on regular days and are choosing to splurge during special occasions such as Christmas.
"With Christmas Eve and Christmas Day falling on a weekend, it has greatly helped the pick-up in reservations as diners feel more comfortable indulging, knowing that they have another day to recover from the celebrations."
Boxing Day, the day after Christmas Day, is a public holiday this year.
At The Carvery restaurant in Park Hotel Alexandra, reservations for its Christmas buffet are 10 per cent more than last year's. Its dinner session on Dec 16, a Friday, is fully booked, while more than half of the restaurant has been reserved on Christmas Eve and Day.
At Pan Pacific Singapore's buffet line, Edge, bookings are streaming in earlier and picking up at a faster rate, with more companies hosting festive gatherings.
The restaurant is almost fully booked for its Christmas Day brunch and is more than 50 per cent booked on Christmas Eve and Day for dinner.
At modern European restaurant The White Rabbit in Harding Road, reservation numbers for its Christmas menus, which culminate in a Christmas Day brunch, have remained the same. It is up to 20 per cent booked on Christmas Eve and Day, which have two seatings each.
A spokesman for The Lo & Behold Group, which runs the restaurant, says: "Reservations are coming in slowly but steadily, as we are depending on our following of regulars who usually go for festive menus."
However, some restaurants have seen a dip in reservations.
British-inspired gastro-pub Oxwell & Co in Ann Siang Hill has seen a drop of 20 per cent this year, though it expects bookings to pick up later this month. Owner Jacques Dejardin, 39, says: "Reservations have been slower this year, as budgets have been compromised and diners are looking for better deals."
Mindful of the current economic climate, many restaurants are retaining last year's prices to remain competitive in a saturated scene.
However, some restaurants such as Basilico in Regent Singapore have raised prices slightly due to "higher food costs". Edge has also upped the price of its Christmas brunch slightly due to the addition of premium items such as wagyu beef striploin and festive charcuterie meats.
At least one restaurant is going against the tide with lower prices for its festive menus. Jamie's Italian, which has outlets at Forum The Shopping Mall and VivoCity, has slashed prices of its festive set menus by 17 to 37 per cent. Last year, its three- course Christmas lunch and dinner was $79.50++ each. This year, a three-course lunch costs $49.90++ and a three-course dinner, $65.90++.
Country general manager Emma Sebrof, 47, says: "For lunch, we selected dishes that are quicker for the kitchen to prepare and are less elaborate as we are aware that a long, lazy lunch is a luxury here. We want to make these sets more affordable instead of a once- a-year feast."
Some diners say they are watching their pockets this festive season.
Undergraduate Kelly Chua, 28, says: "With the uncertain state of the economy, I am more careful with how I spend money. I plan to cut down on the number of Christmas meals, but I will still go for at least one quality feast in a hotel to have a proper year-end celebration."
What: Hearty Italian Christmas fare takes centre stage in the three- course festive menus. For lunch ($49.90++ a person), mains include seabass with steamed mussels in a chilli, fennel and garlic broth and wild mushroom pappardelle. For dinner ($65.90++), tuck into mains such as Gennaro's porchetta, pork belly with a blend of chilli, fennel, orange zest, apricot, apple and herbs.
Where: 01-01 Forum The Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road; and 01-165 VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk
When: Nov 28 to Dec 31, noon to 4pm (festive set lunch), from 5pm (festive set dinner)
Open: Forum - 11.30am to 10pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 11.30am to 11pm (Fridays and Saturdays); VivoCity - noon to 10pm (Mondays to Thursdays), noon to 11pm (Fridays), 11am to 11pm (Saturdays), 11am to 10pm (Sundays)
What: Celebrate Christmas British gastro-pub style with the Christmas set menu ($85++ a person) for both lunch and dinner. Highlights include roast turkey with chestnut stuffing and cranberry; and stuffed belly of Dingley Dell pork with braised savoy cabbage and custard sauce.
Where: 5 Ann Siang Road
When: Until mid-January
Open: Noon to 3pm, 4pm to midnight (Tuesdays to Fridays), noon to midnight (weekends), closed on Mondays except on Dec 26. Fully booked for Dec 25 lunch
THE WHITE RABBIT
What: Hearty modern European classics are served in the three- course Festive Set Lunch ($46++), with mains such as quail with braised chestnuts and chestnut espuma. For Christmas Eve Dinner (from $108++ a person), dig into Magret duck breast perfumed with lavender-scented glaze, and sauteed brill with braised Tuscan kale and spiced red wine. Ring in Christmas Day with a brunch (from $98++) which has more than 30 dishes.
Where: 39C Harding Road
When: Nov 29 to Dec 30, Christmas Eve Dinner: two seatings with three time slots each from 6 to 9pm, Christmas Day Brunch: two seatings with three and four time slots from 10am to 1.15pm
What: The Christmas Table d'hote set dinner menu (from $88++ a person), which has three or four courses with dishes such as 150-day grain-fed Black Angus beef tenderloin paired with celery root puree and glazed mushrooms. The Christmas champagne brunch ($128++) has antipasti, pizza and pasta, and a carving station with turkey and black truffle stuffing.
Where: Level 43 Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay
When: Christmas Table d'hote menu: Dec 24 and 25, from 7.30pm, Christmas champagne brunch: Dec 25, noon to 3pm
What: The $88++ a person festive menu includes a steamed dim sum platter that has lobster har gow and chicken dumpling with shaved truffle. The $108++ a person menu has a festive platter with barbecued pork and soft shell crab wrapped with salted egg charcoal puff.
Where: Level 4 Grand Park Orchard, 270 Orchard Road
When: Dec 10 to 31 - noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm daily
What: The Carvery's Black Forest Christmas Feast (from $45 a person) features meat such as crown of roast pork loin glazed with herbs such as marjoram and thyme; and spit-roasted chicken scented by tarragon. The meal is named after Black Forest in Germany because the produce used in the dishes is inspired by the region. Round up the meal with sweets such as Black Forest trifle
Where: Level 7 Park Hotel Alexandra, 323 Alexandra Road
When: Dec 12 to Jan 1, noon to 3pm, 6 to 10pm daily. Noon to 3pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm (Christmas Eve), 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm (Christmas Day)
What: Newcomers to the Christmas-themed buffet line at Edge restaurant include a lime and coconut leaf-infused ham and crispy pork belly with sherry vinegar; and turkey sausages studded with ginger bread spices. There is also a raclette cheese station loaded with 30 artisan cheeses and sides such as baby potatoes.
Where: Level 3 Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard
When: Till Jan 1, noon to 2.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), noon to 4pm (Sunday Champagne brunch), 6.30 to 10.30pm daily
What: Standing out from this year's turkey collection is the roast turkey in salted egg yolk sauce. It is available in the four-course Festive Set menu (from $48++ a person) as Turkey Two Ways - with salted egg yolk sauce; and with herbed cranberry sauce and beetroot mash. The set includes a winter yuzu salad and chocolate lava cake. A highlight in its Christmas Day and Eve buffets is tom yum roast turkey.
Where: The Salon, Level 2 Hotel Fort Canning, 11 Canning Walk
When: Set menu: Dec 1 to 30, noon to 2.30pm (lunch), 6 to 10.30pm (dinner)
What: At Mezza9, the Christmas Eve dinner buffet (from $138++ a person) has an expanded Thai BBQ section that serves gai yang (grilled chicken thighs) and pork loin, and a Western grill section with items such as butterball turkey. There will also be an artisan charcuterie and cheese corner, with cheeses such as mortadella pistachio bologna. The hotel also has four other restaurants with festive buffets.
Where: Mezzanine Level, Grand Hyatt Singapore, 10 Scotts Road
What: At Basilico, the hotel's Italian restaurant, expect an epicurean line-up for the festive buffets, including 200-day dry-aged angus prime rib and slow-roasted Roman-style porchetta. There is also a burrata cheese station that has up to 10 flavours such as squid ink.
Where: Level 2 Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Road
When: Dec 1 to 30, noon to 2.30pm (lunch buffet), 6.30 to 10pm (dinner buffet), Dec 24, 7 to 10pm, Dec 25: two seatings at 11am and 1.45pm
What: The Christmas-themed a la carte menu has more than 10 starters, mains and desserts. A new addition to the starters is the Ratatouille Lasagne ($15), an inventive twist on the stewed vegetable dish. New mains are chicken stuffed with foie gras and chestnut ($26), served with sauteed baby spinach, roasted grenaille potatoes and cranberry relish; and slow braised pork collar ($26). The 12-hour slow-braised pork collar is jazzed up with prune puree, black trumpet mushrooms, chestnut and potato galette.
Where: 01-01, 9 Jalan Kubor
When: Dec 12 to 24, available only on weekdays: 11am to 2.30pm (lunch), 6 to 9.30pm (dinner )
What: Steer away from the usual Western fare with The CreatureS Unusual Christmas menu, which has 14 items. Innovative dishes include Hainanese Chicken Rice Roll ($20), which has chicken rice rolled with cucumber strips in rice paper; and Har Cheong Pork Collar ($20) that is lathered in fermented shrimp paste. Forget the classic beef stew and dig into the Imperial Creatures ($38), a stew of sea cucumber, fish maw, dried scallops and oysters and fried pork and prawn meatballs. There is also a four-course set menu at $75++ a person.
Where: 120 Desker Road When: From early next month till mid-January, noon to 10.30pm (Tuesdays to Thursdays and Sundays), noon to 11.30pm (Fridays and Saturdays), closed on Mondays
What: For a British Christmas, go for the three-course Christmas set menu ($45+ a person). Whet your appetite with a creamy chestnut soup before tucking into the Christmas meat platter that includes honey-baked ham, roast beef and roast turkey, pigs in a blanket served with crispy goose-fat roasted potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding. End the meal with a royal berry trifle.
Where: 393 Guillemard Road
When: Dec 1 to 25, 5 to 11pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 11am to 3pm, 6 to 11pm (weekends), closed on Mondays
What: Three items have been created for the festive season. The Christmas edition of the cafe's popular Deutsch skillet pancake ($12) is topped with mango compote, vanilla ice cream, cereal crumble, vanilla pod and fresh red currants. There is also a matcha soda ($8) and Turkey Pithivier ($18), which is a pie loaded with sous vide turkey breast, mushrooms and brussel sprouts.
Where: 02-01, 273 Holland Avenue; B1-56 Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road
When: Dec 24 to 31, Holland Village: 10am to 10pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 10am to 11pm (Fridays and Saturdays); Ngee Ann City: 10am to 10pm daily
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