It was in 1971 that the Mandarin Hotel first opened an all day cafe on the ground floor behind its reception area, called Chatterbox. Little did they realise just how famous this place would be with all day queues waiting for a table.
The reason for its popularity was simple, they were the first place in Singapore to serve Chicken Rice, a dish that originated in Hainan on China's south-eastern coast.
Hainanese Chicken Rice is an unique dish, the chicken firm but so tender and juicy. At Chatterbox they ask you if you want meat from the leg or breast. We often get one of each and share, but struggle to really notice which is which?
The chicken is prepared in traditional Hainanese methods which involve the boiling of the entire chicken in a pork and chicken bone stock, re-using the broth over and over and only topping it up with water when needed, in accordance with the Chinese preferences for creating master stocks. This stock is not used for rice preparation, which instead involves chicken stock created specifically for that purpose, producing an oily, flavourful rice sometimes known as "oily rice".
Many other dishes are on the menu here incuding Mandarin Lobster, real Singaporean Laksa and other Cantonese and Malay dishes plus all the usual coffee shop hotel regulars but 99% of customers at the Chatterbox order Chicken Rice or Hainanese Chicken Rice to give it its original name.
Singaporean foodies will all tell you that Chatterbox is not the 'best' place for Chicken Rice, they all know a one special small place down a lane somewhere. It does not interest me as how can you beat perfection?