Think sunshine, sand, and brilliant blue seas. If you ignore the higher ambient temperatures, the Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort’s Tanjong Beach isn’t too different from the famous Amalfi Coast. At their newly revamped all-day dining concept The Cliff, perhaps all you’ll need is to close your eyes and lather on some extra sunscreen to be transported to that wonderful slice of Italy.
The Cliff is Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa’s latest iteration of their Italian dining establishment. Previously named Illido by the Cliff, the new concept features a more casual, all-day dining concept. Think sofa bed, drapes and poolside, rather than bow ties and suits. This fresh dining concept is based off the Italian adage “il dolce far niente”, or simply, the pleasure of doing nothing; to completely enjoy and savour the moment.
The 190-seater restaurant has kept some of its luxury: its indoor dining venue, lined with glorious towering glass panes and complete with that scenic view of the South China Sea, remains; but the imposing upright seats have given way to reclining sofas and coffee tables.
On the gastronomic side of things, The Cliff employs the all-Italian duo of chef de cuisine Simone Fraternali and operations manager and sommelier Valentina Benedetti, who pull no punches in getting authentic Italian cuisine to the table. The pasta is made in-house from flour flown in from Italy. It’s one thing to import all your ingredients, from their cheeses to charcuterie and even meats, from Italy. But it takes a special know-how to transform that into actual Italian flavours.
Fraternali says, “Growing up along the Adriatic coast with the freshest seafood and enjoying my favourite dishes lovingly prepared by my nonna (Italian for “grandmother”) have always been the bedrock of my inspiration as a chef. Through the dishes I have put together for the Cliff, I am looking to mirror the flavours that I relished growing up, and its my way of communicating these fond memories to our guests.”
When asked which dish was his favourite, Fraternali quipped, “It is like asking me to choose which child is my favourite.” From the size of the menu, this Italian definitely has many lovely children. However, after probing the staff who have worked with him, they let loose that he particularly favoured the Smoked Scamorza Cheese and Balsamic Kurobuta Pork Jowl Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms ($26).
This classic combination of pork, cheese, onions and mushrooms melded together in an umami-rich hit which crunched, chewed and oozed when I took a bite. Pork was the first flavour on the palate, along with the crunch of the thin-crust pizza. Then, the smokiness of the Scamorza came into play and melded nicely with the tartness of the balsamic. Perhaps Chef Simone’s favoritism wasn’t unfounded.
I was pleasantly surprised when sampling the Burrata Cheese with Cherry Tomato and Basil Pesto ($23). A fairly ubiquitous pairing of soft Burrata cheese, which has a richness that fades satisfyingly on the palate; and cherry tomatoes shipped over from Italy to ensure the authenticity of the dish. I was impressed because the starter would have tasted exactly fine with locally sourced cherry tomatoes (which can be of high quality as well). But using Italian ones brought a completely different profile of sweet and tart.
The Beef Cheek Tortelli with Grana Padano Cream and Red Wine Sauce ($30) is another dish steeped in Italian influence. There’s the mingling of the good old Italian combination – beef, parmigiano reggiano, and red wine with every mouthful. It is the simple things, like the al dente tortelli wrapping giving way to the right amount of succulent beef, or the beef melding with the creaminess of the sauce, that make this dish great. There is no razzmatazz – no sprinkling of gold flakes and no dusting of fairy dust; but that is probably the point.
The Spaghetti ‘Alla Chitarra’ with Smoky Lobster ($42) is one of The Cliff’s signatures – featuring sous vide lobster topped with smoked paprika, accompanied by a spaghetti made of durum wheat semolina typically found in Abruzzo South Italy, in a highly flavourful sauce. This dish almost screams of the ocean, from the tender morsels of lobster to the intense shellfish sauce that forms a comforting layer around each bite.
While Dark Chocolate Lava Cake with Mango Sorbet ($15) technically isn’t an Italian dessert, the crowd-pleaser fits right in with the relaxed setting of The Cliff. The lava cake is almost souffle-like in its softness, and cuts open to reveal that molten chocolate sauce. There is a mix of complementing flavours here, from the sumptuous chocolate confection to the sleek mango sorbet and the raspberries and dehydrated berries that provide acidity to cut through the richness.
The Cliff has several highlights to look out for:
A journey through Italy – in the last week of each month, Chef Simone introduces signature dishes indigenous to each region of Italy, starting in April with his home province of Emilia Romagna. Staying true to the promise of authentic Italian fare, each region will be presented through a degustation set menu.
An Italian Affair with Chef Simone – held every Thursday from April onwards, diners will forgo the menu and entrust themselves to the creative genius of Chef Simone, who will serve dishes inspired by seasonal ingredients and personal experiences.
The Cliff’s Prosecco Brunch – the Cliff will also present a family-style Prosecco Brunch on every first and third Saturday for each month. Diners can look forward to indulging in shared platters of homemade Italian staples alongside gourmet meats and seafood, complete with complimentary flow of premium prosecco.