Rule Britannia: the dread and envy of them all

British food is enjoying its time as the current favoured child of western cookery. In no small part driven by what seems like a never-ending parade of celebrity chefs/cooks of English origin.

Daniel James

British food is enjoying its time as the current favoured child of western cookery. In no small part driven by what seems like a never-ending parade of celebrity chefs/cooks of English origin. We know them all by their surnames - Oliver, Lawson, Ramsay and Blumenthal and they’re all serving up new and highly individualistic takes on classic British dishes.

This is a good thing: for a long time the very term British food conjured images of fish & chips (nothing wrong there if done well) and soggy pork or beef pies with over boiled pea purée de petits pois.

This focus on the best of British has stirred a sense of culinary pride among the Brits where before there was none. As a consequence, this newfound pride has stimulated cottage industries across the UK and beyond to supply ever-increasing demand. So it is with some surprise I find myself enjoying the best traditional English Sunday roast I've ever consumed only three degrees north of the equator in steamy, hazy Singapore.

Situated among the refurbished shop houses and polite cacophony along Singapore's East Coast is the relaxed and polished homage to all things British: The Trenchard Arms and Rabbit Carrot Gun.

The paired culinary vision of Richard Huggins and Tricia Goh, the two venues sit side by side with a shared kitchen and convey the sense they belong together. Lording over both is Richard (or Lord Trenchard as he's known to the extended network of regulars inhabiting the tables surrounding me) who makes occasional forays between venues, passing his eye over the food, service and expressions of diners.

Harkening to Orwellian quotes on how to take the measure of a public house, the Trenchard Arms manages to place both the beer and the atmosphere first.

The décor is accessible without flippancy and I gain the sense of being able to while away an afternoon over a quiet pint of blessedly cold Guinness or the range of British ales no doubt imported from the old country.

It is however the food that affects this visitant most.

This is British fare without embellishment. The food philosophy is accurately understood on the plate as singularly British: a stiff upper lip with a refusal to compromise on quality and taste.

Back to the roast, on the Sunday I call by, a diner's choice of either a rolled pork belly stuffed with minced pork, apricot and sage or traditional toad-in-the-hole featuring handmade Cumberland sausage.

The handmade theme continues with all the trimmings, including pickled red cabbage, stewed apple, sultana and cinnamon sauce with a wisp of lemon, crisp duck fat roast potatoes and roasted carrot and parsnip, with traditional onion gravy and Yorkshire pudding to mop up. It’s a meal celebrating tradition at a time when too many of us tend to admire innovation for its own sake.

Rabbit Carrot Gun, Singapore
The ploughman's lunch with pork pie, a favoured staple. Photograph: Dan Ong

 

And it doesn’t end there, on any day of the week try other British staples such as the ploughman's lunch with Melton Mowbray pork pie (so in that respect much more the hunter's lunch than the ploughman's) with English cheddar and the Scotch Egg, which to be frank is the best example of this staple I have yet tried.

The Scotch Egg at The Trenchard Arms, Singapore
Fresh and crispy, the Scotch Egg is worth the trip.
Photograph: Dan Ong

Another heavy nod to tradition are the gastropub’s signature cocktails. A particular favourite (and continuing with the savoury theme) was the smoky bloody mary with horseradish crème and celery bitters, completing a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience.

The Trenchard Arms and Rabbit Carrot Gun. 49-47 East Coast Rd, Singapore, ­428767

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