- Jones The Grocer
Raise your hand if you knew Jones The Grocer existed right smack in Orchard Road.
Keep your hand raised if you know where Mandarin Gallery is.
Mmhmm…I’m keeping my hand down on both accounts.
Perhaps you’re like me too, or not since I have somehow managed to walk past Mandarin Gallery with my eyes closed, never knowing it existed and then where it was after hearing of it.
Recall passing by a gargantuan palatial silver building just after Takashimaya while walking towards the Somerset-Dhoby Ghaut direction? The one that makes you feel like an insignificant dust mite under the watchful and glamorous presence of Mont Blanc, D&G, Just Cavalli and Marc by Marc Jacobs that it flaunts? The one that looks far too atas, out of your league, and just so darn intimidating to even want to venture a step in?
Yea, that’s it.
But maybe that’s just me, who somehow never once saw the name of the building since it was always overshadowed and eclipsed by dear Marc.
Then again, you know, I know some people who would frolic and skip around inside the building like a playground, fully comfortable and right at home surrounded by all those designer labels.
That’s fine by me, really. They can graze and spree and party and bounce from one branded boutique to the next like a pachinko ball at the hands of a jaded Japanese salesman.
But me? I don’t care for that when there’s Jones (but that is not to say that I even could).
Jones has provided gourmet food products in a grocery store concept set alongside a casual cafe dining area since 1996, offering premium ingredients otherwise not found in ordinary supermarkets. Exotic teas, luxury chocolates, specialty spices and spice blends, gourmet pastas and sauces, ice cream and – the ultimate breathtaker – a walk-in cheese room for the one at Dempsey and a open display counter at Mandarin Gallery, humidity and temperature controlled, housing an unbelievable array of artisanal cheese. If only you could smell that amazing, amazing dense musk from all that old, mouldy cheese…
But, well, this is assuming you love smelly things (Durian). I’ve never had smelly tofu before but I think we’ll get along right away, like peas in a pod. Podded peas. Oh you don’t want that because it stinks? Let me at ’em.
Gushi and I were driven here because the queue for Ippudo ramen for dinner was obscenely long and because she was hungry. I wasn’t, because I was still stuffed (almost literally) from lunch at Tung Lok Seafood Restaurant by my relatives – most of whom have high cholesterol – because I apparently ‘can afford it since I’m young’. I needn’t explain the irony aye? Seafood restaurant? High cholesterol? Uh huh.
Sorry to say, I didn’t have a particularly memorable meal at Jones The Grocer at Dempsey a few months back, so I wasn’t keen on having yet another dinner that would blow a hole in my pocket. But then I looked at Gushi, whom after shopping with me and having seen the menu and desserts, started to have this starved, haunted look you see in lynch mobs and Thai Red Shirt rioters that I feared for my immediate safety if I didn’t let her eat then and there. We settled for ordering two of the four tapas style dishes they served, which I didn’t recall the Dempsey outlet having.
Smoked Salmon with Avocado, Creme Fraiche and Caperberries. ($12.50)
The smoked salmon with avocado, creme fraiche and caperberries was a unanimous decision because, well, there’s bread, and smoked salmon, and avocado and…you get the picture. That and the couple at the table next to us pretty much ordered all four tapas so we saw how they all looked like and knew in an instant what we wanted. This was pretty. I’m a sucker for pretty food. I’ll be very sad if my food isn’t in the least bit colourful. In fact, I think I’ll throw a tantrum till someone sprinkles Hundreds and Thousands onto my boring looking Pasta Marinara.
Well, what could go wrong with this tapas anyway? It was perfect from the thickness of each slice of grilled ciabatta, the briny smokiness of the salmon, the wedge of avocado to the slight sour note of the creme fraiche. And let’s not forget the cute little caperberry (That stalk above the creme fraiche in the picture. I completely left the poor thing out of the picture and made the entire crostini look like a Crostini Berry), of which I never knew existed and tasted like that sour plum in a Choya drink. Yummo.
Piquillo Peppers filled with Feta and wrapped in Parma Ham. ($12.50)
I found the presentation for the Piquillo Pepper tapas rather…interesting…for lack of a better description. I thought that the bowls themselves looked odd sprouting what tasted like a long slice of crouton each, but nitty gritties aside, this tapas still didn’t quite work for me. I loved the tangy roasted pepper and tomato sauce, very flavourful although on the sour side. What I couldn’t decide on was whether the parma ham encasing a sizable cube of feta was meant to be that dry and leathery. It wasn’t very tasty either. This was dull an uninspiring combination.
Lemon Meringue Tart ($5.50)
This was too cute, if not a little stingy. I have never seen meringue in such a fashion. And this was so soft and sticky and smooth, almost with the consistency of that melted, gooey heaven inside of a roasted marshmallow. The lemon filling, however, lacked that lemon punch and the pastry was terribly dry and stale. Again another lemon tart that has sat in the display counter for hours, if not days. But what a cute tart. I wonder how many more times I’m going to get disappointed by lemon tarts.
Lime, Yuzu and Raspberry Macarons. (3 for $5)
Dessert wasn’t my idea, really. I don’t need dessert to complete a meal. I’m fine with water. But Gushi wanted macarons, and she wanted that lemon tart. Maybe I should’ve hecked that she might very well choke me to death if I didn’t want to eat here because while the macaron shells were flawless (this is my unqualified, amateur macaron opinion), no visible cracks, a cute foot each, airy with no gaping air pockets, they were dry (displayyy counterrrr…) and their taste not distinctive. If we hadn’t waved a waitress over to inquire their flavours, we never would have been able to guess in a light year. Jones The Grocer really isn’t a place you’d want to go to for dessert. I think that, as a rule of thumb, if it looks like it has been sitting in the display counter for hours, it has been sitting in the display counter for hours.
Thank goodness the service was reasonable in contrast to what I experienced at Dempsey with my family that one time. We were tended to sufficiently, given recommendations and they seemed to know enough about the food they served. Then again, the place was relatively quiet, so perhaps they could give us more attention.
Would I return again?
Definitely – for that canister of Za’atar (!!) spice blend and Hungarian Paprika I saw on one of the shelves. And perhaps for a whiff of that wonderful cheese.
But definitely not for the pricey and disappointing food.
Jones The Grocer
333a Orchard Road
Level 4 #21-23 Mandarin Gallery
Tel: +65 6836 6372