It’s a farm! No, it’s a restaurant! No, it’s a farm and a chichi restaurant! Open Farm Community at Minden Road, just off Dempsey, occupies a huge space, with crops growing around a hut for a restaurant, in hopes to reconnect with nature and to encourage local farming. (Free parking!) They source ingredients within 400km from Singapore. Although the meats are imported from Australia, most produce are from local Singapore farms and what they grow in their garden. The hipster farm-to-table, return-to-nature concept has been floating around for years overseas, but in the land-scarce Singapore, the idea is unfeasible unless the project is backed by a rich investor.
Ryan Cliff, whose restaurant Tippling Club debuted at #23 of the 50 Best Asia’s Restaurants list, created an easy and familiar menu, with both English and Australian influences. Nothing too complicated, and nothing too special. The savory dishes I had that day were overly salty.
The charred lamb rump ($32) had a texture that wasn’t as much charred as braised, but I’m not complaining because even the tendons melted. Very smart of them to use mint leaves, instead of the usual mint jelly, to give a crunch, contrasting with the soft lamb, and to showcase their produce. Because there were much greens, the herbs and veg came across as part of the dish, not garnish, like a salad–I liked the notion since the lamb was still substantially more than the greens. Garden peas, to me, is England’s national vegetable, and here, they were sandwiched between the lamb and mashed, going well with both.
But both the lamb and the tortelli ($24, above) were way too salty. While the saltiness was venial for the lamb, it overwhelmed the housemade pasta. (All pastas are made inhouse.) Pesto is supposed to be breezy and refreshing; yabby (sourced in Singapore) is supposed to be delicate and sweet, like a small lobster; but both pesto and yabby were subsumed under the sea of salt. The golden brown balls of deep-fried mashed pumpkin were a beautiful visual foil to the green, and provided a textural variation, but ultimately I was confused how they fitted into the gestalt flavors of the dish. Was its sweetness supposed to offset the intense saltiness when the dish shouldn’t even be this salty in the first place?
The deconstructed lemon tart with basil ice cream ($17), done in Ritz’s Apple Strudel style, was nice. Good textural contrasts, good contrasts in tastes, just nice.
In general, the ambience of the place–like a lazy Sunday–outshines the food. This is not to say the food was bad; the food was pleasant, easy, and bountiful, but it would take a wealthy farmer to dine here; I paid $86. At this price, I desired more than just their garden herbs littering the dishes; I wanted some surprises. It may be more worth the money going for their weekend brunch.
130E Minden Road, Singapore 248819
T: +65 6471 0306
M-F 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm; Weekends and PH 11am-10pm
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.