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Poulèt (say poo-lay) which means chicken in French, is a casual French restaurant chain in Singapore renowned for its “amazing French roasted chicken” with nine outlets currently: Bedok Mall, Bugis+, Chinatown Point, Great World City, Jurong Point, Raffles City Shopping Centre, Vivocity, Westgate and Changi Airport Terminal 3.
That’s quite a few stores for a restaurant concept that only opened in mid 2012. Poulèt first opened to critical acclaim with its offering of pocket-friendly French cuisine targeted at the masses, and true enough, hordes of people started queueing to get in for a taste of their signature chicken. My colleague and I decided to try this place out for lunch because we were intrigued and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. We visited the Vivocity outlet.
Poulèt boasts an open-kitchen concept set up to exude the overall casual setting of a bistro, and most of its menu options are priced under $20. Upon entering, you will be welcomed by a contemporary kitchen that sits center-stage in the restaurant’s modern minimalistic décor.
We arrived at 11.20am as we were around the area and decided to have an early lunch given how our next appointment was at 12.30pm. We were turned away by the wait staff and told to return at 11.30am, which is when they open for lunch. We did just that, were seated at a booth seat and happy to peruse the menu in the quiet restaurant at 11.40am.
Since there were only two of us and we were pressed for time, we decided to order the mushroom soup, half dozen escargots, half chicken and the oxtail to share. Unfortunately, when asked to serve water, we were told that we would be charged S$0.50 for water. I was rather put off by the fact that restaurants like Poulèt charge for water especially when we are intending to have a full meal, and will be charged for service and the usual consumption tax.
Anyway, here is a look at what we had that day.
The Wild Mushroom soup was a welcome taste. It was creamy and contained finely puréed mushrooms bits, which both my colleague and I enjoyed thoroughly.
Next, came the Escargot de Bourgogne which is basically half dozen escargots served with tomato fondue and almond garlic butter. Unfortunately, this was quite a miss with both of us. We both felt that although this dish had the fragrance of garlic butter, it was lacking in seasoning and we had to ask the server for salt and pepper to add more flavour to this dish. While it was nothing impressive as both of us couldn’t taste any almond in the garlic butter, and only the tomato and butter combination, I did like that it was served sizzling hot and the aroma was more than inviting.
The Oxtail de Bourguignon is a pressure-cooked Oxtail in red wine sauce with carrot and onion. I was so excited when we were served this dish because it looked so appetising! I dived into the dish with my fork and was delighted to discover that the meat fell off the bone easily. We quickly tucked into this dish but were disappointed that the carrot and onions were tasteless. The kitchen must have cooked the veges separate from the meat to prevent the veges from breaking up in the constant stirring but in that process, the veges were tasteless although the meat was well cooked and flavourful. This dish somehow failed to impress. Plus, the serving was a tad too small to be shared.
Next came Poulèt’s star dish: Poulèt Rôti – which is the Rotisserie Chicken which is chicken roasted to perfection and served with the signature Mushroom Chardonnay sauce. The dish was well presented and looked very, very appetising. The half chicken portion was small, to say the least. The meat seemed tender enough when we attempted to slice the chicken but found parts of the chicken still a pinkish red which suggested that it was not quite cooked. Upon tasting it, we realised the chicken was well cooked and the marinate had soaked through into the meat. The chicken was so overdone, it had lost its gritty and fibrous texture.
So what about the signature Mushroom Chardonnay sauce? Both my colleague and I did not like the sweet taste of the cream sauce. While it was luscious: thick and creamy, we found the sauce too sweet for this dish. It would have worked better if the sauce was reduced more so the flavour intensity from the mushroom would be more concentrated to better complement the roasted chicken taste. I did love how the mushrooms were done to perfection. So while the chicken wasn’t bad, it too, failed to impress.
So far, the meal started off well but as it progressed, it got more and more mediocre. Overall, Poulèt serves affordable and decent French fare and while the food is acceptable at those prices, I found its signature chicken disappointing (as with some of the other dishes we tried). I guess this place is worthy of one try but maybe not for a return visit.
The service was also spotty with our first server who seemed unhappy to serve. Anyway, I have a policy where I don’t return to restaurants that insist on charging for a glass of water because it just seems ridiculous when we are already paying for service and a full meal. Is asking for a glass of water too much given that context? I would like to think not.
Have you tried Poulèt? Do share your thoughts in the comments below! Also, have you been charged for water in a restaurant before? What are your thoughts about that?