Dining enclave CHIJMES has all but fallen off our radar in the past few years, despite being home to stalwarts such as Whitegrass and Lei Garden. Before you write off the former convent as another white elephant on the wane, you may want to consider the clutch of accessible Spanish and Mexican eateries now tucked into its cloisters.
Among them is newly opened Spanish grill restaurant Lumbre, conceived by the same group behind popular meat-driven concepts such as Kulto and Kilo.
The 50-seater eatery is split into an antechamber and a more intimate dining room with glass walls that’s better suited for a tête-à-tête — let the conversation percolate over a boozy brunch here. Taking its cue from Kilo, the food in Lumbre is seared over open fire and Josper charcoal grills, though prime, hulking bovine cuts do not occupy centre stage here.
Instead, the restaurant — whose name means ‘fire’ in Spanish — lights up the room with its sharing plates glistening with big, bold flavours. Unfussy finger food such as the grilled iberico chorizo with Mexican cheese and grilled dry aged beef sliders, while not particularly revelatory, were familiar and comforting flavours with an apposite amount of salt and fat to coat the palate.
But the team really flexes their creative bent with the velvety homemade foie terrine with cheese, apple purée and pistachio that — when folded into foie gras — breathes a lightness into a typically unctuous dish and gives it a wonderful luscious texture. Slathered on toasted bread, it’s a sparkling accompaniment to a minerally white wine.
Another standout was the charcoal octopus & iberico pork belly with chorizo foam — subtly smoky, baby-soft octopus and crackly pork belly cradled in a glossy blanket of umami in puree form. Here, octopus is slow-cooked in sea water before being charcoal grilled in olive oil. When we think of fun communal dining experiences, it’s the artfully rendered juxtapositions of flavours and textures such as these that we typically turn to.
You can’t fault a restaurant for attempting to be irreverent and unpredictable, but Lumbre triggers a slight cognitive dissonance with the seafood wet fideua arroz caldoso — featuring calamari and smoked eel served with seafood noodles steeped in a tomato-based seafood stock. While the rice noodles were a dead-ringer for prawn mee — and probably would have been more enjoyable on their own — its flavours were discordant with that of the sweet, sticky eel.
Other mains including the duck breast with confit endives and apple purée were slightly underwhelming and felt more like afterthoughts. While the first part of the meal unfolded with a flourish, it felt like the experience had petered out towards the end.
So, come for the robust, well-rounded sharing plates and skip the meaty mains.