Food

Farm to table concept in the stunning new space also known as the former airbase in Seletar

The Summerhouse, a Western restaurant at Seletar Aerospace Park, uses as much local produce as possible

If you think Singapore is all concrete jungle and pine for open spaces and fields of green, then you need to go to the Seletar Aerospace Park.

That is where a few colonial bungalows in the former airbase have been converted into eateries. One of them is The Summerhouse, a Western restaurant with a focus on farm-to-table cooking.

It is opened by the 1-Group, which also owns Una in Rochester Park and the new Botanico at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The Summerhouse occupies the second floor of a bungalow and opens only for dinner. The ground floor is the bar. During the day, its kitchen services a cafe, called Wildseed, located in an adjacent, smaller building.

Running the kitchen is German chef Florian Ridder, formerly the sous chef of the Michelin-starred Alma by Juan Amador at Goodwood Park Hotel. But unlike Alma, which serves Spanish food, The Summerhouse's menu is not focused on the cuisine of a particular country, but on using as much local produce as possible.

Because Singapore does not produce very much food, some ingredients - especially the meats - have to be imported. But otherwise, the chef sources locally, whether it is fish or prawns from Singapore farms or herbs grown in a garden behind the restaurant.

 

 

The delicious Buckwheat Porridge, sprinkled with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, bacon, herbs and flower petals and topped with crispy sheets of Parmesan cheese, and the flavourful Inka Grilled Mayura Beef (above). PHOTOS: THE SUMMERHOUSE, WONG AH YOKE

 

 

That edible garden, though not very big, is neatly laid out.

If you arrive early for dinner and the sun has not set, take a stroll to look at the plants, which include herbs such as basil and lemon balm.

Farm to table is a concept that sells well, with its promise of a low carbon footprint and freshness. And that is true, with seafood and vegetables delivered to The Summerhouse's kitchen from the farms within the day.

What it does not guarantee, however, is quality.

For example, I am not impressed with Grouper ($32), which features a piece of pan-fried fish fillet with orange blossom Hollandaise and a carrot pesto on the side. The fish is chewy, a quality I frequently find in the locally farmed variety.

In contrast, I enjoy the Inka Grilled Mayura Beef ($56) very much. Brought in from the award-winning Mayura Station in South Australia, the flavourful and tender meat is worth the high price.

It comes as two perfectly grilled strips of meat, with a slight char on the outside, but bursting with juices inside. It is served with slices of pickled pumpkin, Kranji mushrooms, Earl Grey jus and grapes, all thoughtfully selected to balance the fat in the beef.

Unfortunately, the Iberico Pork ($36) does not live up to the fame of the pigs from the Iberian Peninsula in southern Europe. But the blame lies in the cooking method.

The pork collar is cooked sous-vide for 72 hours, leaving it too soft for my liking. I would rather have it grilled and succulent.

But if, unlike me, you enjoy the melt-in-the-mouth feeling of very soft meat, you may like this dish. It comes with lemon creme fraiche and chervil sauce, and chopped bits of chamomile and onion.

My favourite dish is something I would never think of ordering if it had not been pointed out as something special.

Buckwheat Porridge ($16) sounds like something only Goldilocks might enjoy, but it turns out to be delicious.

With the porridge sprinkled with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, bits of bacon, cut-up Chinese spinach, sprigs of herbs and edible flower petals - and topped with crispy sheets of Parmesan cheese - every spoonful offers a different combination of flavours and textures.

The Panzanella ($18) is very satisfying too, comprising an eggplant mash, lumps of mild goat cheese and croutons, drizzled with coriander oil.

Tomato broth is poured in at the table, binding the ingredients as well as adding a welcome touch of acidity.

The a la carte selection is small and you can try most of them, in smaller servings, in the set menus - $90 a person for six courses and $128 for 10 courses. Those are good options if you are there for the first time.

The ambience is relaxed, with tables well-spaced out. On a long table in the centre of the room are small photo frames and potted herbs, a reminder of the garden outside.

Because of its distance from the city, The Summerhouse draws a casual crowd dressed for the countryside. So do not be surprised to see diners in businesswear sitting next to a table occupied by someone in shorts and flip-flops. That is fine, as this is not a formal restaurant. It makes the ambience even less starchy, in fact.

But what is not okay is the couple who come in to check out the restaurant and allow their young daughter to jump around the dining room, stomping hard on the wooden floor and causing it to tremble. The child may not know better, but the adults should.

This story first appeared on The Sunday Times 5th March 2017

 

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