Last Updated: February 18, 2021
I like pretty things—grey terrazzo tables, sage-coloured ceramic plates, and millennial pink mosaic tiles. You get the idea. There isn’t an overpriced marble plant pot or artsy social commentary T-shirt that I didn’t add immediately to my online cart. So, when PRAIRIE by Craftsmen at the swanky Cluny Court appeared with its dramatic skylight and curved archways, my bougie-spidey senses let out a well-timed ohkurr and I knew I had to make my way down.
Prairie Cafe pulls out all the stops when it comes to the #aesthetic. Carefully hidden behind Cluny Court, you’ll have to walk down a long pathway filled with bamboo and pearly pebbles to get to the entrance. Yes, I’m obviously a little smitten, but honey, I don’t put out that easily.
I finally arrived at noon at the famed ‘glasshouse’ outdoor seating that the Internet has fawned and cooed over. Oh, it’s charming, indeed. Sunlight streaming in, cascading plants from the huge skylight, a fiddle fig there, a burst of fern here—it truly is an Instagrammer’s dream. With all these plants hanging everywhere you look, one would expect a slightly cooler temperature within this setting. It was, unfortunately, blisteringly warm which was to be expected since we are, after all, outdoor and in a makeshift glasshouse.
As the sweat pooled on my back and matted my brow, the 7 Spice Chai Latte (S$9) and the Caramel Ice Blended (S$8) did their best to cool me down a tad. Both are satisfactory drinks if one isn’t too picky and inexorably dying from the heat.
Since Prairie Cafe is helmed by the same people behind Craftsman Specialty Coffee, one of the kingpins in the local cafe scene, one naturally has somewhat high expectations, if not for the drinks, then perhaps the food offerings. An order of a Steak Sandwich (S$26) was a seemingly fail-proof option that I thought would surely win me over, but, oh how I was wrong.
As if squished between rotund passengers on an Economy class seat, the slab of steak sat slathered with honey mustard mayo and utterly overwhelmed by too-thick slices of sourdough. This sandwich required quite a bit of work with your fork and knife and even more work for your jaw—and not the good kind.
No doubt, sourdough is the ‘it’ bread of 2020 (thanks to’ Circuit Breaker’), but that hardly means you should use it for everything. Perhaps if it were sliced thinner and more thought put into how to serve the steak, I wouldn’t have left more than half the sandwich on the plate.
In 2021, we love all things thiccc, and the side of fries here held much promise. Then, like Justin Timberlake’s inadequate apology to Britney and Janet Jackson, these fries were just as disappointing. Golden, yes, but also a little undercooked and unpleasantly bland—potatoes deserve better. It’s a culinary faux pas that I reckon would be hard to recover from.
Seeing as many people were raving about Prairie Cafe’s Duck Confit (S$26), as an ardent fan, I thought it was kismet. On those same creamy teal plates, came a handsome frenched leg of duck perched on a bed of sautéed mushrooms and roasted baby potatoes.
Tender without needing much work from my knife, the meat fell apart with little resistance. While I applaud the texture of the duck, the taste, however, left much to be desired. It lacked that scrumptious silky, salty finish that Duck Confit was known for. Well, at least, the potatoes were better seasoned here.
To complete the trifecta of cafe food, a plate of paste seemed apropos. The Blue Mussel (S$24) pasta it shall be. You get a generous heap of blue mussels cooked in white wine tomato broth with, wait for it, angel hair pasta.
Look, I don’t want to launch into a tirade about the somewhat controversial angel hair pasta because even Lebron James had a problem with it. Angel hair pasta like its name suggests is a rather delicate pasta shape. It was never meant for al dente greatness, so it’s better paired with more delicate seafood flavours—think your scallops, uni, or more playing a useful second fiddle to the ever-potent truffles.
All that being said, angel hair pasta just doesn’t have the muscle to effectively pick up something as vivacious as tomato sauce.
After a disheartening lunch, I thought that maybe dessert might turn things around. Alas, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As trends go, nothing is as trendy as a slice of Basque Burnt Cheesecake (S$9). I’m sure we all know that the hallmark of these Basque confections is it’s toasty, flame-licked edges, and beautifully blackened top. This one, however, came a little wan and in desperate need of more time in the oven.
My dining partner had recently eaten a year’s supply of Basque burnt cheesecakes in our recent Livestream and was perplexed with the texture. This slice did not possess that thick, creamy quality that Basque burnt cheesecakes were thought to have.
“Are you sure you didn’t order just cheesecake?”, she interrogates, rifling through the cake searching for that distinct caramel-ly note.
I thrust the receipt in front of her, and she looks at me with a look that can only best described as a mixture of bewilderment and disbelief. Well, another one bites the dust.
Prairie Cafe has a lot going for them. The location, ambience, and even an existing fan base from Craftsmen Specialty Coffee. It behoves me that their dishes are of such average calibre.
It appears as if the folks of Prairie Cafe conveniently rode on the wave of ‘trendy’ food, and then haphazardly slapped all these new-fangled things together.
I’m certainly not writing Prairie Cafe off entirely because I know they can indeed do much better. I wouldn’t want to see another cafe that’s brimming with potential fall into the trap of constantly accommodating to the whims and fancies of the Singaporean diner’s capricious taste buds. After all, I do like pretty things but I love food that’s served with a clear vision and intention even more.
Expected damage: S$24 – S$30 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 2 / 5
PRAIRIE by Craftsmen
501 Bukit Timah Road, Cluny Court, #01-05C , Singapore 259760
501 Bukit Timah Road, Cluny Court, #01-05C , Singapore 259760