Another hotel revamp another reopening. This time it’s Marina Mandarin Meritus, catching up with its recently renovated Pan Pacific and Oriental bedfellows. The lobby looks “cookie cutter” modern, and to find Aquamarine you need to zip up to the fourth floor.
Gone are Tatler Brasserie and the Cricketeer Pub. The space previously reserved for the Filipino singers now has a “fish bar,” a bizarre concept of wet market meets upscale dining, with fresh bream, cod and oysters on display, overlooking a Captain’s Table of 16.
The rest of the sprawling Aquamarine buffet restaurant flows quite well, with nautical cues matched with shiny surfaces and IKEA-like tables and chairs. The menu has an à la carte section, and a sushi bar option. This little trick means that the real deal, the buffet doesn’t come with any sashimi or sushi—which left us feeling somewhat shortchanged.
The appetizer selection was not bad, with plenty of fish choices, along with some meats. Mains included a roast and some soggy local and Western choices. In general, the food was mediocre, lacking in taste and left to languish on warmers. When the highlights are fried rice (unusually tasty) and fresh rocket, you know it’s not the most memorable dinner of the month.
We did sample some of the buffet, but quickly moved on to dessert. The spread was respectable, with the obligatory chocolate fountain, a generous array of cakes and two hot puddings. A fine cheese board was put out too, but was unfortunately accompanied by flaky crackers instead of firm biscuits.
What saved the experience was good service from our prompt and attentive servers, including a sommelier who recommended a suitable bottle of wine. At the end of our meal, we felt that while this restaurant is trying hard, and has succeeded with the décor, ambiance and service, it falls short on food quality. If it hopes to compete with the bigger, better buffet restaurants, it needs to work on substance in addition to the style it already has.
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