Singapore has often been called the Garden City, and for most part it is a well deserved accolade.
Still, it is more city than garden, more concrete than jungle. The everyday routine for many Singaporeans, ourselves included, involves jostling in crowded urban confines. Singaporean life cycles between seeking oases of calm and diving back into the hustle and bustle. Much like taking deep breaths in between plunges.
Once in a while, we get lucky and get to escape into a green oblivion- while simultaneously feeding the other Singaporean obsession: food and drinks.
Planting a seed
We were bathed in the rosy glow of the evening sun as we arrived at The Summerhouse.
The place is not inaccessible, but it is somewhat off the beaten track. It lies within The Oval at the Seletar Aerospace Park, a surprisingly quiet (and a little remote) region of Singapore. Like its name suggests, the area boasts a small airport that harks back to Singapore’s colonial era. The surroundings, therefore, are lush with greenery and devoid of skyscrapers.
The Summerhouse itself is an 80-year-old former colonial-style bungalow built for commanders in the Royal Air Force. Today, the two storey structure boasts a few different restaurants, including Wildseed.
Oh, and it happens to be gorgeous at sunset.
Farm to Table, Garden to Glass
Chef Florian Ridder, formerly of Piment and La Belle Epoque in Germany and Alma by Juan Amador in Singapore, runs Wildseed. He took a personal hand in creating a garden stocked with edible herbs and plants, cultivating many of his culinary ingredients and garnishes in-house (ha ha).
We were also told that in addition to growing its own ingredients, the establishment sources its ingredients locally as much as possible. Quite rare in Singapore, where much is imported and little is grown.
That’s all very well, but how was the food?
We started off with the Truffle Fries with Truffle Mayo and Parmesan ($12++). The curly fries were served with house-made truffle mayonnaise, chopped olives, grated parmesan and chives. While the truffle fry has become something of a fad, this particular rendition was anything but trite.
Instead of the suffocating odour emanating from the run-of-the-mill hipster fare, this had a more subtle earthy aroma. The texture of the fries themselves was crisp and firm. With the house-made mayonnaise providing just the right amount of cream, spice and zest, the dish proved to be a cut above the norm.
The Grilled Garlic and Cheese Bread ($8++) was an excellent light alternative to the fries. The cheese bread was neither flat, nor too chewy- hallmarks of a baker who knows what he’s doing. Grilled with garlic butter, and filled with bacon and cream cheese filling, there was just the right amount of flavour to be interesting, but not overwhelming.
If the Truffle Fries was inviting, the Grilled Mushroom ($8++) was a cut above even that. Local golden abalone mushrooms were grilled with sesame oil, soy sauce and kecap manis, then sprinkled with black and white sesame. A blend of sweet teriyaki soy and earthy sesame aromas wafted from the plate. As expected, the dish itself was sweet with the natural flavours of mushrooms and kecap manis. What was not expected was that the flavours were integrated so well that we were convinced for a moment that mushrooms come in soy flavours.
We moved on to our first drink, the Flora-Lola ($18++), a cocktail of Hendrick’s, hibiscus syrup, ginger ale and cucumber bitters. It was certainly refreshing with the fizzy carbonation and pleasant spiciness of the ginger beer. Yet, as the ice used was not of the dense, crystal clear variety, it tended to melt quickly in the outdoors. The drink started off sweet, but ended up overdiluted and flat at the end. There was a sweet spot in the middle, but that moment was achingly short.
A Second Act
We soon moved on to the Grilled Asparagus ($12++). The combination of white and green asparagus provided some visual and textural contrast which we found most interesting. The asparagus was done just right- meaning that they were crisp and light, not soggy and limp- and had a light buttery flavour.
Our second drink was the Oldest Fashion ($18++). While balanced to start, this take on the Old Fashioned suffered from much the same issues as the Flora Lola. The ice melted too quickly, tilting the scales at an uncomfortable pace. If one simply must have an Old Fashioned, this will slake the thirst, but we would not suggest lingering over it.
Yuzu Mac and Cheese with Sous Vide Egg ($12++). Yet again, chef Florian managed to elevate comfort food beyond the pedestrian. The macaroni was mixed with yuzu kosho and a trio of gruyere, mimolette and pecorino. It was then topped with bacon bits, sous vide egg and nori.
To wit, it actually had much in common with the traditional Roman carbornara, which omits milk and combines the richness of egg and cheese to creaminess. With the the addition of the irresistible flavour of charred bacon, and sharp yuzu to cut through the richness, this proved to be one of the best mac and cheeses that we’ve ever had.
Our first meat dish of the evening was the Harrisa Baby Back Ribs ($28++) and it proved to be quite the showstopper. The ribs were brined overnight, marinated with paprika and harrisa for 2 days, sous-vide for 1 day and smoked for 6 hours and then, grilled to perfection. Finally, they were drizzled with a house- made barbecue sauce of peppers, rosemary, onion, sugar and honey.
Perhaps due to the lengthy preparation, the succulent meat was slid off the bone effortlessly. It also had an interesting kind of rounded, mellow spiciness – a peppery midnote to follow the initial char. One could say that it was a little on the dry side, but only by a hair. Delicious.
The Main Event
Tajima Wagyu Burger ($28++, add blue cheese for $3++). A succulent grilled wagyu patty was coated with garlic butter and sambal tomato sauce. It was then sandwiched in a cheese bun with a hefty serving of cornichons. The green cornichons reminded us of fried “tau gay”, and they perk up the beef with both crunch and a sweet, clean flavour. The sambal mayo added a pleasurable spiciness that never felt overwhelming. The result is a burger that does not lack in gastronomic depth. Worth every cent of its (admittedly high) asking price.
If the burger was great, then the Whole Grilled Red Snapper ($59++) was manna from heaven. The fish was stuffed with dog’s fennel, garlic, lemons, thyme and rosemary and served with preserved lemon and orange butter. The snapper’s natural sweetness was accentuated with citrus freshness and balanced by the earthy herbs. The grilling was on point; the flesh was soft and succulent, but firm enough that we could actually peel apart the individual fish flakes. Short of nitpicking, there’s really nothing to criticise here.
To end the meal, the Sunkiss ($18++) would have worked well (we actually had it a bit earlier in the evening). A cocktail of Chambord, Cointreau, fresh orange, cream and rosella were served in a wine glass. The cocktail is best described as red velvet cake in alcoholic form.
A bouquet of flowers and cream greeted our noses as we raised the glasses to our lips. On sipping, a hint of berry sweetness first tantalised the tongue. It then melted slowly into fresh summer oranges, and finally ended with a satisfying creaminess. While rich, it maintained a delicate balance that prevented it from clogging the throat. Quite wonderful and definitely the most creative cocktail of the evening.
Summing it All Up
Wildseed offers some genuinely good comfort food at very reasonable prices. If the burger fails to impress, we would be very surprised. The snapper and the mac and cheese are also standouts in an already excellent array of dishes.
As for the drinks, we were not completely satisfied because of how quick they tended to change in the Singapore heat. While they all start off a little sweet, a little time in the glass balances them out and turn them into wonderful tipples. A pity that the perfect moment to enjoy them is so fleeting.
With its beautiful surroundings, Wildseed is a great place to spend a lazy weekend evening, and well worth the effort of travelling there. Just be sure to dress lightly.
Wildseed Bar at the Summerhouse