Hubert Burda Media

We’re Off To Spain!

It's the “authentically Spanish” charm Serenity exudes that is impossible to resist.

We’re Off To Spain!

“Spanish food isn't just about tapas — it's a common misconception. There really is so much more to it!” That is what I am told by the restaurant's representative when I arrive at Serenity's newest outlet at Ngee Ann City.
If it wanted to debunk that myth, it's doing a good job of creating the right atmosphere.
Walking in, it feels as if I've landed in Spain. The waitstaff (donning red and black outfits that resemble Spanish dance costumes) greet me in a lilting language I assume is Spanish. The walls are decorated with a backdrop of Flamenco dancers, while the pink chandeliers and upholstered seats add to the romantic ambience.
If Serenity sounds familiar, that's because you may have heard of its first outlet at VivoCity that's catered for a casual bar and dining experience. It's second edition, which opened in June, offers a whole different atmosphere — it's a quieter, more formal setting compared to the boisterous scene on the south side of the island.
We take our seats at a private corner booth and wait with anticipation at what Spanish delights lie ahead. I order myself a glass of Sangria De Original Tinto, Serenity's version of the popular classic red Sangria cocktail, to get in the mood. It is, in a word, refreshing — a delicious balance of red wine, gin and brandy with a citrusy taste from a mix of orange liquor, tropical juices, lemonade and orange peel garnishing to top it off.
Now, I am ready to begin the feast.
The meal starts with two soups — a creamy, seafood one with mussels, prawns, dory and squid rings, and a consommé with pork, beef and chicken — which are satisfyingly delectable but not very unique.
Next up is a spread of tapas dishes, including the tender Pulpo a la Gallega or grilled octopus that's directly imported from Spain, the Barcelona-style Gambas al Ajillo (sautéed tiger prawns with garlic) and the Patatas Bravas, a roasted potato dish thinly sliced and served with spicy romesco and aioli sauce.
The Pan con Alioli (homemade herb bread with sun-dried tomato) with Spanish mayonnaise is a delight — crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy inside. Made with a range of Spanish spices, the aroma alone is enough to tempt my taste buds.
But it is the chargrilled beef tongue with Spanish sweet wine sauce that stands out. I have to admit, when told I'm about to eat the tongue of a cow, I felt a little squeamish and hesitant to try it at first. But there's nothing strange about it; in fact, it is as tender and fragrant as a good slab of steak, but richer in flavour having been simmered in Spanish red wine and herbs for over six hours.
Next on the menu is the paella, a traditional rice dish originating from Valencia. The seafood Paella de Marisco with tiger prawns, squid, mussels and dory is made with bomba rice from the same city. It is known to absorb more water to make the dish more flavourful; served with green peas and capsicum for a balanced diet, .
Finally, it's time for the highlight of the lunch — the piping-hot Spanish suckling pig or Cochinillo Asado. The restaurant's signature dish is served on a large wooden platter and instead of a knife, a small porcelain plate is used to portion the meat. The crackling sounds make my stomach rumble a little, despite already having so much to eat.
Unlike how the Chinese do it, the skin isn't first savoured before the meat is taken back to the kitchen to be re-cooked and served again. The Spanish serve the tender, juicy pork together with the very crispy skin. Mouth-watering? Indeed.
The meat is so soft and moist because the piglet, first marinated with sherry, white wine, vinegar and herbs, is roasted thrice. For the first, it is done very slowly for three hours so the meat retains its moisture. The second time takes one and a half hours before the final round, which lasts 30 to 45 minutes. The meat is then served with Serenity's tomato jam and brown sauce (made from beef bone).
If you think that's all to it, well, not quite. The next part literally gives me a shock — the waiter proceeds to hurl the portioning plate into a large wooden box and breaks it. Extremely strange as it looks, I am told the Spaniards believe that doing so symbolises the throwing away of bad luck and with that, an accumulation of good one.
It's a first in Singapore that breaking a plate, or any piece of a dining set, means good luck. After all, doing so during Lunar New Year isn't the most auspicious for us Chinese. But it definitely looks fun; an effective stress-buster in our bustling cosmopolitan city, if I might add.
As lunch draws to a close, I finish off with dessert, a sweet and creamy Flan de Leche, the traditional Spanish custard with vanilla ice cream, and homemade Churros with hot chocolate dip.
As I get up to leave, it's almost as if I'm leaving Spain — the culture, the ambience and the cuisine.
We all know where my next holiday destination is going to be.
Serenity Spanish Restaurant. #05-32 Ngee Ann City Takashimaya SC, 391 Orchard Road, Tel: 6235 9989, serenity.com.sg