So I admit I may be very biased here but Chatterbox Café at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel has been one of my favorite restaurants in the world since I was a little girl. My family has been frequenting this restaurant from generations ago; to say that there’s a sentimental value here would be putting it mildly. All emotions aside though, there’s obviously a reason why families around the world have made this hotel café a Singaporean favorite for well over 30 years.
This is the restaurant that made Hainanese Chicken Rice (now called the Mandarin Chicken Rice) famous for being Singaporean, despite the fact that the dish’s name indicates otherwise. Perfectly steamed garlic ginger chicken is served with stock infused rice and a bevy of crisp cucumbers and spicy condiments. It’s all in the execution of flavors and moist, tender meat. While savvy travelers realize that most hotel restaurants typically serve barely passable slop at highly inflated prices, Chatterbox Café has been the rebel in the industry, withstanding the disappearance and emergence of countries, several generations of families, critics who have come and gone and worldwide recessions.
While the façade of this Singaporean favorite has been renovated through the years, the food has remained consistently authentic, consistently comforting and familiar. Every time I go back, it tastes as if it’s the same chef from decades ago, toiling in his steamy kitchen amongst bubbling cauldrons of freshly made chicken stock, sizzling garlic and fragrant rose syrup dripping over shaved ice. As a 24 hour restaurant that serves everybody from generational families to rowdy local teenagers to world travelers staying at the equally legendary Mandarin Hotel itself, Chatterbox has an eclectic and large menu to cater to a wide ranging palate. What has kept this place thriving though, is its perfectly crafted Singaporean favorites, the aforementioned Chicken Rice, Nyonya Laksa, Coconut Rice Platter and stunning variety of freshly made, in-house desserts.
If you have one restaurant to go to in Singapore to capture the very essence of what makes this island nation so perfect, this is it. Authenticity, comfort and the balance of old meets new.