Set lunch and dinner offers may not be new, but given the competitive dining scene here, restaurants are rolling out fixed-price menus at friendly prices to woo customers.
These are not the mid-priced family restaurants in shopping malls, but fairly posh restaurants with elegant settings - sans the fine-dining prices - which is an indication of the rise in casual dining taking over the food scene.
At these eateries, three- or four-course set lunches start from under $50++ and dinner at no more than $80++, a better deal than ordering from the a la carte menu. The changing menus encourage diners to return.
At celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen in Marina Bay Sands, a three-course meal costs $48++.
On the a la carte menu, an appetiser of flat bread, caramelised onion, Taleggio cheese, semi-dry tomatoes and pesto costs $20, while a dessert of blueberry bakewell tart with creme fraiche ice cream costs $17. These dishes are found in the set menus. The cheapest main course on the la carte menu costs $26. The restaurant's general manager John Quetier, 36, says: "We use quality ingredients such as hamachi and salmon in our set lunch dishes and the portions are the same as the regular menu."
He adds that sometimes, new dishes not available in the a la carte menu are added to broaden the selection.
For seasoned restaurateur Beppe De Vito, 43, his month-old restaurant Aura at the National Gallery Singapore uses the same formula that has worked at his other restaurants - &Sons at 20 Cross Street and Osteria Art at 55 Market Street - which offer set meals as well.
The set lunches encourage first- timers to try his restaurants "without worrying about the bill".
He adds that he is able to manage costs as he orders bigger quantities of ingredients for his restaurants.
Chef-owner Lino Sauro, 44, of Gattopardo at 34 Tras Street changes his set menu ($32++ for a three-course lunch) every month.
This month's dishes include spinach salad, busiate with olive and tomato pesto, and baked limoncello cake.
He says: "With the market so saturated, there's no point opening a million-dollar outlet and struggling to survive. The solution is to offer good set meals with the best ingredients to keep customers."
He also tries to sell extra dishes or wine and persuades diners to return for dinner.
Other restaurants offering set meals include Corner House (three-course lunch at $48++ from Tuesday to Saturday) at the Botanic Gardens; The Black Swan (two- course lunch at $38++, three- course lunch at $44++, weekdays only) at 19 Cecil Street; The White Rabbit (two-course lunch at $38++, three-course lunch at $42++, weekdays only) at 39C Harding Road; and Forlino (three-course weekday lunch at $38++) at One Fullerton.
The affordable prices attract diners such as corporate sales director Samuel Leong, 38, who is always looking out for set lunches when he meets clients.
He says: "My budget is about $50 a person, so restaurants such as Aura and Bar-A-Thym fit perfectly. I'm happy to return because of the reasonable prices and good food. I won't get bored of the dishes since the menu changes frequently."
Senior marketing manager Carlyn Lim, 36, says she had expected Bread Street Kitchen to be more expensive, "but I was pleasantly surprised by the price of the set lunch. It was a good way for my friends and me to try the food without burning a hole in my wallet. We would definitely return to try the dinner menu".
Where to go
What: Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen features lunch sets at $40++ (two courses) and $48++ (three courses).
Starter options include hamachi tartare, cucumber mouli, ginger dressing; flat bread, caramelised onion, Taleggio cheese, semi-dry tomatoes, pesto; ham hock terrine with piccalilli (pickle relish), and grilled sourdough. Main course choices include veal and mushroom pie with whole grain mustard and tarragon sauce; ricotta cannelloni, baked eggplant and black olive; and smoked haddock and salmon fish cake, herb mayonnaise and mixed leaves salad. For dessert, choose from a pistachio creme brulee and dark chocolate sorbet; blueberry bakewell tart with creme fraiche ice cream; or a selection of British cheese with apple chutney.
Where: The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Bay Level, L1-81
Open: 11.30am to 4pm (weekdays only)
Info: Call 6688-5665
What: The month-old restaurant at the National Gallery Singapore offers lunch at $32++ for three courses and dinner at $80++ for four courses. The lunch menu changes daily, while the set dinner showcases the restaurant's signature dishes.
The set lunch includes a choice of salad or soup, followed by a main course (pasta, fish or meat) and a dessert. Their scallops crudo with truffle and smoked quail eggs is one of the more commonly featured starters.
A la carte menus are also available.
Where: 05-03 & 06-02 National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew's Road
Open: Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm daily
Info: Call 6866-1977
What: The mod-Sin restaurant, which relocated from Neil Road to Esplanade Mall in August, still serves Asian cuisine with a contemporary twist. Get a taste of chef Han Li Guang's creations with his lunch sets at $38++ (three courses) and $48++ (four courses). A pre-theatre three-course set dinner is $48++. Appetisers include oyster foam, sous vide kampung egg "orh luak"; and John Dory and pea brandade, mayonnaise ice cream "fishand chips". For mains, try chef Han's "sambal fish", with local barramundi and kangkong chips.
Where: 02-23 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue
Open: Noon to 2.30pm (Tuesday to Friday), 6 to 7pm (Thursday to Saturday, pre-theatre)
Info: Call 6223-4098 or go to labyrinth.com.sg
What: At the two-month-old restaurant, chef-owner Francois Mermilliod serves a three-course lunch at $32++. The current menu features filet of red drumfish, fregola sarda (a type of Sardinian pasta), baby spinach and olive tapenade; confit of Iberico pork belly, pommery mash, romanesco and onion confit; and wagyu beef cheeks braised in red wine,mash and beans. Previous dishes included beetroot-cured toothfish, preserved lemon, anchovies and beetroot chips; and bacalao accras (salt cod fritters) with Thainahm jhim dressing.The menu changes every fortnight.
Where: 18 Gemmill Lane
Open: Noon to 3pm (weekdays only)
Info: Call 6557-2224 or go to www.bar-a-thym.sg
What: The low-key restaurant by three-Michelin-starred German chef Juan Amador serves Spanish-European cuisine with an Asian influence.
The kitchen in Singapore is helmed by chef Christophe Lerouy. To get a taste of his dishes, prices start at $68 for a surprise four-course dinner menu with sampling portions of the signatures, from meats to seafood.
Where: Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road
Open: 6 to 10.30pm (Monday to Saturday)
Info: Call 6735-9937 or go to alma.sg
This article was first published on November 1, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.