We still remember when The Alkaff Mansion was one of the most sought-after venue for the milestones in life. You know, like the first time we scored a date in university. All that came to an end in 2016 when their Italian restaurant closed, and the Tudor-style building was largely forgotten. That is, until the 1-Group, the folks behind The Summerhouse and Monti, decided to revive the place.
The photogenic facade, with two flanking turrets, white stone arches, and European-style fountains, is mostly the same, but it’s a different story inside. The mansion today is a multi-concept F&B destination housing the Basque-centred TXA Pintxo Bar and UNA, which you might remember from its days at Rochester Park. In a way, the whole “house on the hill” spiel bears similarities to the colourful Basque Country, a rugged land with mountains, endless greenery, and a population with a consuming passion for food. Fun fact: San Sebastián, their third city, boasts the greatest number of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita in the world.
TXA Pintxo Bar
We start our evening with TXA (pronounced “cha”, which incidentally sounds like the Hokkien word for “noisy”) on the ground floor, which is only joint in town dedicated to the vibrant pintxos experience. If you’re wondering what that means, think hedonistic drinking and uninhibited revelry.
The pintxos are made under the expertise of Basque chefs Marta Elvira Segalés and Silvana Pascual Romero, both of whom are graduates of the prestigious Basque Culinary Centre. Served al momento (the Spanish equivalent of “a la minute”), they prepare dishes like Crudiente de Jamon (S$5) — thin crispy Iberico crackers sandwiching a taramasalata-inspired sauce made with mascarpone, lemon zest, and mentaiko.
It’s a great snack, but you’ll need the Boquerones con Piperrada (S$3.90) to fill up. Sweet and fragrant piquillo cream is emulsified with onions and slathered on a pile of pickled anchovies with caramelised red and green peppers — the balance is impeccable.
Other pintxos we taste include Pintxo Igeldo (S$6.90) — confit tomatoes with vinegary piparra peppers and Basque Country tuna, and Crema de Roquefort Con Manzana Y Nueces (S$4.90), a particularly seductive trifecta of roquefort cream, apple jam, and walnuts. The latter goes particularly well with some txakoli, a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine from northern Burgos.
There are also a number of cocktails that use Spanish wine as a base, like the Tinto de Pintxos (S$18), created with red wine, pisco, and sweet vermouth, and The Mansion (S$18), with brandy, Grand Marnier, and cherry liqueur. We don’t know if they taste like the vibrant soul of the Basques, but they’re delicious anyhow.
UNA finds a new home on the second floor, and now they’re marrying their Spanish roots to the dynamic individualism of Basque cooking. As always, a lot of the produce are sourced from the Basque and Spanish regions. Octopus is grilled over a charcoal-fired parrilla grill in the Pulpo A La Parrilla Con Papas Arrugadas Y Mojo (S$32), and whole suckling pig is roasted whole with the evergreen Cochinillo Asado (S$42).
You must try the rich Paella de Marisco (S$52), a comforting callback from the restaurant’s old days and one of our favourites for the night. The classic paella is replete with prawns, clams, mussels, and generous touches of saffron. The firm bomba rice absorbs all the cooking liquid, so it’s loaded with seafood goodness.
If you have enough diners at your table and still have space to go, the Txuleta is a grilled prime rib wagyu served with piquillo sauce (the same one from TXA). It’s a lot to stomach at S$180 per kilo, but true beef lovers will get over it. Then, an order of Spanish sweets await: the Chocolate & Olives (S$18) is an artsy plate of toasted sourdough chips, dark chocolate ganache, Chantilly cream, green olives, and fennel leaves — get a bit of everything in one scoop for maximum effect.
Otherwise, the aromatic slow-cooked Spanish rice pudding (S$16, Arroz con Leche de la Abuela) drizzled with tangy-sweet sherry grapes and sherry reduction is what you want.