Opened in the first half of 2013, Rokeby (roc-ker-bee) was contrived to induce a Western Australia vibe, all not without a reason. The power couple behind the establishment, Kelvin and Denyse, had their life journey started all the way back in Perth when they were in school. Dates then included food expeditions at Rokeby itself; a street in Western Australia.
Bringing concepts they’ve witnessed and experienced first hand back to Singapore, it was my pleasure to have set foot in the cafe bistro. After speaking to the owners, it was apparent that it was steered toward an honest-to-goodness eatery. Besides serving up Western Australian-inspired dishes, the humble people have decided against charging GST and service fees. But that comes with a price for diners, but a worthy, happy price – iced water is self-service. It was heartening to learn that the owners are like myself, who can’t stand restaurants that charge for iced water. Fret not though, the usual still happens, you get seated, order taken and food served to you.
Elmstock Tea ($5 – $5.50) & Latte ($5.50) :: Staying true to its roots, the coffee beans are freshly roasted from Western Australia. Elmstock Tea, on the other hand though, is specially imported from Melbourne. Latte was good in my opinion, not too acidic, and pretty full-bodied. Effort put into good latte art is always an added brownie point. So is the accompanying Italian biscotti.
Chili Mussels ($19.90) :: This dish is much more a common sighting in Perth than in Singapore. Shocking as it may be (because we know no Westerners can beat Asians when it comes to spicy food, though with a little bit of generalization here), the two main ingredients actually complement each other well. Of course, tweaked to suit the local palate (ie. heightened spiciness), I thought I wouldn’t have any problem with it as I can hold my spicy food reasonably well. But I thought wrong. The mussels themselves are fine, but when I ate a piece of the toasted multi-grain bread drenched with the gravy, my tongue stung. But I’m not complaining, since I always do when it’s not spicy enough. I’d rather it this way. Love the freshness of the seafood and the rendition. Quite a generous portion too (the bowl is deeper than what you see above), it’s about 300g worth of mussels.
Mushroom Fritters ($9.90) :: Definitely one of my favorite dishes at Rokeby. The batter that encompasses the sizable button mushroom was light but flavorful. It was adequately salted, very simply prepared. And when dipped with the accompanying Thai aioli sauce, it was surprisingly addictive. A good bite still retaining the distinctive flavors and bursting moisture of the mushroom.
Kurobuta Pork Belly ($25.90) :: I like how humorous and casual the cafe bistro is. On the menu, it’s actually stated ‘our ang-mo version of siew-yoke’. Succulent and fleshy are the words to describe this siew-yoke. Weighing at 200g on the chopping board, I thought it is very justifiable. It’s well marinated with sage, and comes with apple sauce and mash.
Freo’s Fish & Chips ($16.90) :: Beer battered (with the Australian Pure Blonde, low carb!) pacific dory, their interpretation is one of the best sellers at the restaurant. An additional difference you’ll see here is the availability of malt vinegar on top of the usual chips and tartare sauce. Apparently, this is how the Western Aussies have their Fish & Chips! I tried a little bit of it but stuck to not having it, since I’ve never been a fan of vinegar to begin with, but interesting I must say. The reason for having it done with beer batter is so that its bubbles will bring about some body and lightness to the course in its entirety. And hands down, this is one of the most successful ones created. Though well, it’s a little more expensive in comparison.
The Kangasaurus ($22.90) :: My favorite main course has to be this creature, hiding behind the moniker of Kangasaurus, comprising toasted sesame seed burger bun with evenly and lightly-spread butter, very lean, with minimal fats spotted, 120g of kangaroo loin done medium-rare, chopped up for easy consumption, and mounted with their special mix of spicy cranberry. It’s the best kangaroo meat I’ve had in Singapore thus far, nothing short of perfect tenderness. If you’ve yet to give your first to a kangaroo, here’s the place to be with your subsequent times hard to top.
The Big Fat Bloke ($53.90) :: You can either opt for the safe option of mixed herb butter, or the more daring route of curry butter. It pays, here, to take the risk. It gives a very local twist to this grilled Australian Ribeye Steak. It’s named an overweight fellow because it weighs at 500g. With some mash to go with, the cafe bistro has put up a challenge to diners. If you manage to complete the course by yourself (no time limit), you’ll be treated to half a pint of draught beer. While I’m a fan of the flambéed curry butter (and done at the dining table), I thought the meat itself wasn’t impressive. It was rather plain by itself and doesn’t hold the slight chewiness I’d like for my steak. The texture was also grainier than I’d liked.
Home-made Tiramisu with Bailey’s Irish Cream ($6.50) :: Dessert got under way with Tiramisu. Topped with an unsparing amount of chocolate chips and the recipe the same with Bailey’s Irish Cream, it was heavier on the bitter side than anything. It’s physically feeble. Tiramisu is one dessert that has extreme takes on preferences, and I’m more on the ‘this is acceptable’ side for their representation.
Molten Lava Cake ($6) :: The desserts are more than fairly priced that no one can walk out of here without one. If you’re less of a sweet-tooth, go for the Tiramisu. Otherwise, the Molten Lava Cake should do just fine. Get your Instavideo ready as the molten chocolate egresses the cake walls. The Belgium chocolate used is sweet, and would have been better if it had more bitterness to it, in my opinion. For $6 though, it’s not that bad a deal.
I was there at 7pm, the crowd was still thin. But as the clock ticks toward 8pm, it thickened and I was pleasantly surprised by how full the restaurant was on a weekday night, despite its relative inaccessibility. Even though we were informed by the owners that the numbers are really erratic in that area, it is still safer to make a reservation if you intend to drop by. This makes it to one of my favorite casual and down-to-earth restaurants.
What’s worth paying for:
Special gratitude to Kelvin, Denyse and the Rokeby team for the hospitality and hosting the media tasting session.
Photos by Kathleen.
Address: 15-9 Jalan Riang
Telephone: 9106 0437 (Takes Reservations)
Opening Hours: 9am – 10pm (Tue – Sun)