Three- and five-course menus in Australian chef Clayton Wells' Singaporean venture
The hype: Blackwattle is award-winning Australian chef Clayton Wells’ first restaurant outside his home country, bringing to Amoy Street contemporary Australian-influenced fare in three- and five-course menus. Fans of Wells’ original venture Automata in Sydney will be pleased to know the same bold style of cooking features here, executed by a team of chefs trained by Wells himself.
The vibe: In a cozy 60-seater shophouse at the end of Amoy Street, Blackwattle stands out for its modern presentation of fine dining in a casual setting. Local firm Akira Kita Architecture was brought in to design the space, which boasts a raw industrial aesthetic made comfortable with mood lighting, cushy seats and deep, earthy tones. The second floor is a casual bar that’s a little better lit, thanks to glass doors leading out to a green veranda, making for a great spot for a midday cocktail.
The food: The menu styling parallels Automata’s, with course set menus for lunch (a complimentary snack, entree, main and dessert for $48) and dinner (five courses for $115), as well as a la carte options.
Bread and butter is more than just a starter here. Served on the house, both are handmade in-house, and alone worth the trip down to Blackwattle. The butter has a consistency closer to cream cheese—thinner and almost watery when spread over the warm roll, but packed with flavor and which melts in your mouth with a delicious milky taste.
For a proper taste of Wells’ bold flavors though, try the fried cheese & tapioca with espelette pepper ($10), a crunchy snack with a surprisingly tart kick. The stormshell clam with rosemary dashi and aerated cream ($14) is another appetizer worth a shot; even those averse to shellfish will appreciate the refreshing zest of the clam, which Wells personally sourced from our local wet markets, along with other seafood and ingredients incorporated into Blackwattle’s dishes.
Because Wells sources so many of his ingredients locally, many of the dishes betray a unique Asian twist to his otherwise classic Australian treatment. The grilled octopus in fennel & ink (available in the set menu) is one such dish—firm and chewy, and doused in an XO and red vinegar sauce that’s thick, creamy and with a distinctly Asian tang. Weirdly, the blackened sauce was the highlight of the dish (we ate it by the spoonful).
Of the mains, another standout was the steamed greenbone (available in the set menu), a New Zealand fish served here with roasted lettuce, green sauce, lardo and herbs. It’s unbelievable how tasty the roasted lettuce is, soaked in juices and garnished to a satisfying crunch—it even outshines the soft white flesh of the greenbone, which fell cleanly away when cut into.
For the meat-lovers, there’s the grilled beef tri-tip with burnt carrot, wood ear mushrooms and tamari sauce (available in the set menu). The steak itself isn’t the most tender; but skilfully charred on the sides for an aromatic smoky flavor. Dip it into the carrot puree or have it alone.
Don’t leave without dessert—especially when it’s the pumpkin seed sorbet with bitters meringue and dried plum ($16). Possibly the most original item on the menu, it’s more savory than sweet, the sorbet and meringue coming together like a gourmet take on s’mores. Plus it tastes extremely healthy to boot, so you can indulge without feeling the pinch in your jeans.
The drinks: The beverage menu is extensive, with a full list of wines (available by the bottle or glass), cider, beers, cocktails and even mocktails. For something light and refreshing to pair with your elegant meal, the Japanese Whispers ($20) is ideal, the lime and agave toning down the gin and sake infusion. Or take your day-drinking a step further with the Late Night Rum n’ Plum ($22)—a smooth mix of rum, umesbu, lemon, orget and soda, made extra frothy by beaten egg white.
Why you’ll be back: If anything, the fact that often overlooked elements like the sides and garnishing outshine the main dishes is telling of Blackwattle’s attention to detail. The restaurant’s calling card isn’t Wells’ name—it’s the strong flavors that intrigue but don’t overpower, and the unique union of ingredients that tastes almost like a Japanese-Australian fusion. And in all honesty, we were sold from the bread.