Chicken leg bone-in tagine. Photo: White Marble

It’s been some weeks since the 158-seater White Marble, the newest eatery in Orchard Rendezvous Hotel, opened its doors in March. But luckily, the parade of recent openings – mainly bars, Japanese fare and Italian food – aren’t direct competition, which leaves us to label this one of the better spots to get your Greek and/or Turkish fix.

Listen, we didn’t plan to rave about this place. For one, it takes a typically groan-inducing jack-of-all-trades approach toward its menu (Middle East! Greece! Spain! Africa!) and we took off points for the fact that, despite the promotional song and dance about this being a concept by veteran chef Otto Weibel – who’s better known for steaks at sister concept Black Marble – he’s nowhere to be seen, leaving the show in the hands of protégé Kenneth Loke.

Kenneth Loke and Otto Weibel. Photos: White Marble

But as it turns out, it’s hard not to enjoy White Marble – and Loke, to his credit, churns out great food. Like the mezze platter, which in theory sounds like the sort of starter you’d order to share if you wanted to be disappointed at a mid-range Middle Eastern spot on Arab Street.

But no – this is the highlight of our lunch, a rare occasion where each of the components does its job, and well: fresh herbs, crunchy greens, tangy tabbouleh, creamy hummus, smoky eggplant moutabal, bouncy pita, warm grilled vegetables, and spiced chicken thigh skewers marinated in yoghurt and shawarma and then twice-grilled in a charcoal oven till they’re juicy beyond reproach. (Ok, the falafel could be less dry.) Make this your main and be done with it.

White Marble_Mezze Plate
Mezze Plate. Photo: White Marble

There are other home runs, like a faultless tagine featuring grilled chicken leg marinated in shawarma spices. When you open the pot the robust, tomatoey stew smells divine – all those herbs, plus some preserved lemon – and tastes complex and rich, jazzed up with punches of olive. It’s accompanied by butter-sauteed pilaf rice studded with pine nuts and curry leaves, making this the king of Middle Eastern rainy-day comfort nosh.

The clearly Greek-looking grilled skewers are photogenic, and hung up like prime beef cuts – dripping with juice, which collects in a bright plate of greens beneath. There are a range of proteins to pick from: the fish is sweet and buttery, while the gaminess of the Australian lamb is toned down using a thick stripe of basil dressing and more fresh herbs. The produce, we’re surprised to learn, isn’t imported from the Balkans, but largely sourced from Malaysia and Indonesia for freshness.

Skewers. Photo: White Marble

Even the supporting cast shines, like tender smoky Spanish octopus in the skewers and appetiser, and fragrant olive oil coating the al dente bucatini puttanesca and moistening the fig and almond cake. (A word of warning: if you’re a purist, skip the orange-infused Crèma Catalana, which can’t support its own weight and just resembles creme brûlée.)

Why were we so sceptical about this place again? Perhaps it’s because Weibel isn’t the most intuitive name that pops up when you think of Mediterranean food, given that his inspiration for the restaurant was, in so many words, his work and holiday trips to Greece et al.

The exterior. Photo: White Marble

But once you step through the doors you forget all this, swept along by the sleek bar, glass-walled kitchen, contemporary white-and-grey interiors, and parade of pleasant surprises the kitchen delivers, one after another, until at the end you are forced to admit that yes, the culinary mastery – and on-point recipes – of Weibel, one of Singapore’s grand doyennes of Western gastronomy, have provided enough propulsion for this spot to become of the rare places that both offers various cuisines and manages to pull them off. The chicken shines, as do the vegetables. Just stop before dessert, which is not its strong suit.

Ingredients are fresh and good quality, the food is light and tasty. It’s these Mediterranean basics that White Marble gets right – it doesn’t try too hard to reinvent, but delivers well-cooked dishes with elevated combinations. In short: it’s a restaurant serving food that’s easy to like. And that alone makes it a good one.

(Related: F&B veteran Otto Weibel discusses the issue of veganism)

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