SINGAPORE — The Dempsey Project at Dempsey Hill tries to do a lot when it comes to offering a menu selection that encapsulates as many culinary influences and socially-sanctioned food schedules an A3 paper can hold. While the trend elsewhere seems to be curation and leanness, The Dempsey Project seems intent to throw that firmly out the window, focusing instead on espousing the belief that there’s something for everyone and anyone here in this charming space perched at the highest point of Dempsey Hill.
Frequent visitors to this part of town may remember TDP as Jones the Grocer—the mega supermarket-slash-restaurant superstore that peddles exotic produce from around the world in one convenient location. It’s similar to what TDP is doing, serving up quality gourmet produce, food for the sweet tooth, spirits, and much sought-after South Indian spices.
One would think a menu as diverse and cosmopolitan as this would be a rampant opportunity to cut corners at places. After all, can you really satisfy everyone’s whim and fancy? I’m happy to report that The Dempsey Project can, and, surprisingly, with aplomb. Their paean to food inclusivity extends beyond cuisine type and schedules; TDP also caters to most dietary conditions, offering gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan plates. I am, understandably, giddy with excitement.
From the breakfast menu available until 12-noon on weekdays and 3 pm on weekends, there’s the classic Smashed Avo on Woodlands sourdough (S$23++) that comes with onions, cilantro, lemon, and feta. It tastes overwhelmingly like a garden in which you skip along en route to brunch, setting itself apart from the common iterations with the light sprinkling of house-made dukkah that adds a tinge of the Middle East to something quite Western.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the Gluten-Free Banana Oat Pancakes (S$24++) made with whole oats from The Whole Kitchen, topped with fresh berries, banana, and maple syrup. You get a choice of Greek or coconut yoghurt—I recommend the latter simply because it’s a whole lot lighter than its Greek cousin without sacrificing texture or taste. The entire thing is so light and fresh, and most crucially, guilt-free. I feel like I lost 10 kg just eating this.
If you’re looking for something slightly more protein-packed, go for the Huevos Rancheros (S$25++), which, in a perfect world, is what all wholesome breakfasts should aim to be. There are baked eggs in this, joined by sharp cheddar, spicy Japanese, crunchy bell pepper, and savoury tomato relish that reminds me of an overachieving Shakshuka.
I have a good friend, Ian, who cannot fathom a meal without any carbs. I reckon something like TDP’s Crab Angel Hair Pasta (S$29++) would be right up his alley. It’s served with chunks of boldly briny blue swimmer crab, baby spinach, chilli (but not too much), garlic, and grated grana Padano. There’s a saltiness to this that’s quite forward and, dare I say, incredibly addictive. If you’re going to have carbs at lunch, you can’t go wrong with this.
The Street Style Dahi Papdi Chaat (S$15++) is a flavourful thing to share and is easily my favourite dish of today’s brunch. It’s made with boiled potatoes, chickpea, whole wheat crackers and yoghurt—a combination that is at once sweet, spicy, and tangy. The pomegranate lends textural balance that deserves much praise. Get two plates of this if you can; it’s just so effortless to eat.
Nowhere does The Dempsey Project’s tribute and penchant for sharing platters shine more brightly than with their selection of platters which they say is good for two, though, with the portions they’re giving, it might as well feed a small village of moderately hungry people.
The Lebanese Feast for 2 (S$63++), for instance, comes with so much Middle-Eastern goodness—Lamb shawarma on a bed of hummus, batata harra, borani-e-bademjan (eggplant yoghurt dip), zhug (hot sauce), tahini (sesame paste), muhammara (walnut & red pepper dip), pickled cucumber, pickled turnip, cauliflower salad, pita, and manakeesh (zaatar flatbread). Throw in some of TDP’s toothsome dips, and you get yourself a balanced tray of flavours, textures, and variety. I particularly appreciated the attention paid to ensuring a touch of acidity on this tray to play off a lot of the richness here. Indeed, it’s a party, and I’ll cry if I want to.
Desserts come by way of a Caramel Tres Leches Flan with a dense but luxuriously creamy custard and a heavy caramel topping with slightly butter undertones from burnt sugar. There’s also a Sticky Toffee Pudding (S$16++) that will give PS.Cafe’s version a serious run for its money. There’s a saltiness here that makes me really happy. For what it is, it’s simple, it’s basic, but it works. And sometimes, that’s all you ever really need.
I do worry, though, with places like The Dempsey Project with their gargantuan culinary ambitions and a menu that fits into that aspiration. I wonder about things like how big the kitchen is? How big is their kitchen staff? What about quality control? Can you really ensure quality and consistency with close to sixty menu options? It’s a grand ambition which, I reckon with their recent appointment of chef Jeremy Nguee as Strategic Partner, goes to show they’re serious about variety and will do all it takes to get there. I’ll be keeping one eye out.
Block 9 Dempsey Rd, #01-12, S247697
Sun to Thu: 8am – 9pm
Fri to Sat: 8am – 9.30pm