The coffee at this cool new venture by Australian Harry Grover and the Spa Esprit Group has always been the main attraction. Moderately-priced and an advocate for the greater good, the coffee menu itself is worth the search for this place. But they’ve just introduced their dinner menu and we were keen to give it a shot. Nestled in Tiong Bahru, 40 Hands is one of those hole-in-the-wall establishments you need a map (or an informed taxi driver) to get to, with an industrialist chic décor bathed in warm light.
Concocted by Chef Ryan Clift of the Tippling Club, the tapas menu has 10 options in all. We liked the Thai beef salad, a good toss of cold glass noodles, thin slices of beef, coriander, mint, onions and a spicy and sour fish sauce dressing—predictable but refreshing. We have to say, we’ve had better takeaway calamari than their tender chili squid, about a handful of squid pieces served with charred lime and a sprinkle of chili powder. Ditto the truffle cheesy fries, which thankfully came in a more substantial size. The fat polenta fingers were soft on the inside, with a crisp battered exterior, and accompanied by a creamy truffle mayonnaise that was bursting with flavor. Presentation is obviously key here. The fried stuff came on a multi-tiered tray and our Premium Fantasy cocktail was served Japanese style in a miniature tea set. We liked our drink a lot; if anything, it was tastier than the squid, with its brave infusion of shochu, yuzu, green tea and Angostura bitters. It had an interesting bite and spicy aftertaste, thanks to the addition of green Tabasco sauce.
We stand by our case: 40 Hands is indeed a hidden gem—just don’t go if you’re really famished.
Eat this: Kong ba bao. It's one of I-S Magazine's 50 things to eat in Singapore before you die (2012).