I quite like discovering offbeat eating places that are somewhat removed from the usual offering of Italian, French and Chinese fine dining. Consequently, a restaurant/bar named "Giraffe" serving unclassifiable cuisine (filed under "Chill Out" for convenience, since a bar isn't really "Casual") surely merits a visit, on the basis of the imaginative name alone.
Giraffe is certainly an attractive-looking place, with its two-storey facade illuminating the otherwise dark Istana Park.
The restaurant makes very effective use of lighting to add ambience, the luminous green bottles that greet your entry are certainly eye-catching.
Both indoor and outdoor seating are provided; organised around a central stairway lit by a collection of hanging lights, sitting indoors affords you the comfort of air-conditioning. However, for some unknown reason, all the air-conditioning vents have been directed downwards, and all air-conditioning units have a table situated directly beneath them. This results in a very cold dining experience should you linger over your meal.
Outdoor seating provides you aerial views of Istana Park and the Istana itself, as well as the bustle of Orchard Road nightlife, and can be pleasant on a cool night.
I'd heard the food was not as great as the ambience, and certainly the prices are comparable to most new-generation "laid-back eateries" like Blood Cafe or Marmalade Pantry. A particular sticking point is that Giraffe is one of those benighted places that doesn't serve water. Drinks range from $4 - $8, depending on what you opt for.
A roast beef and camembert crostini ($13) served with caramelised onions was actually quite nice, the beef juicy and paired well with the sweet onions. The crostini could have been thinner, which is particularly important to all appetisers of this nature, as a thick slice of toasted bread is difficult (and painful) to bite into.
The beef burger ($16.90) was a thick beef patty served with a mound of mushrooms and vegetables, sandwiched by a toasted foccacia bun. While the patty was very tasty and juicy, a few things made the burger rather challenging to eat. First, the patty didn't hold together well, causing bits of minced beef to fall off along the way. Second, the whole burger was rather squat, and the thick, toasted bun couldn't be compressed into bite-manageable size. Still, I enjoyed it, though not the accompanying fries, which were soft, limp and starchy. The strong air-conditioning became a problem here, causing my meal to cool at a rapid rate.
After dinner we adjourned to the bar for drinks. Again, the bar area employs some funky light features, with the glowing red lighting creating a suitably understated ambience for enjoying drinks.
The bar overlooks a body of water directly opposite the Istana, and is evidently a romantic pit-stop, judging from the couples enjoying each other's company. In fact the whole restaurant and bar make a good date joint, a little island of greenery and peaceful solitude amidst the bright lights and thrum of the city.
I'm not much of a drinks connoisseur, but I didn't really enjoy my Blue Hawaiian, which tasted a little too strongly of Malibu for my liking. Drinks go from $12 - $20, but they give you fairly generously-sized cocktails.
Giraffe is located opposite the Istana, smack in the middle of the ERP, which makes it convenient to get to via MRT, but a hassle to drive to. Service is generally adequate, except for the bar area where it took us ages to order two drinks, but charging for water counts against them. Ambience is fine, but they should really do something about that air-conditioning.
Giraffe Restaurant and Bar (Chill Out)
31 Orchard Road
Tel: 6334 4653
Location: 4/5 (-2 if driving)
Overall: Good date spot for couples, or for relaxing over drinks after a movie at Plaza Singapura