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Ex-Banker Opens Aussie-Style Jurong Cafe With Grocery Store Selling Australian Produce

Surrey Hills Grocer’s brunch-friendly menu features ingredients sold at its adjoining store.

There’s usually very little reason to trek to ulu Joo Koon, unless you’re into, say, go-karting at the Arena Country Club. The club is also recently home to new Aussie-style cafe and grocery store Surrey Hills Grocer, which opened two weeks ago.

 

    The look

    The look

    The 3,000 sq ft space, designed by the same folks who did up the Singapore outlets for Shake Shack and Eggslut, is meant to look like a rustic Australian farm. It offers a farm-to-boot service, where you can park your car right at the entrance of the store and have staff load your groceries in the car boot without having to grapple with heavy shopping bags. For those who don’t drive, the cafe and store is a five minutes’ walk from Joo Koon MRT station (don’t say we didn’t warn you about the, er, rural location).

    The young boss

    The young boss

    Surrey Hills Grocer is opened by young former banker Pang Gek Teng, 33, who moved to Melbourne in her mid-twenties after leaving her corporate banking job. While she originally intended to only take a short holiday break there, she ended up staying in Australia for five years and started her own grain bowl business called Surch. “It’s like ang moh economic rice,” she jokes. “I got my ingredients from the farms around me in Yarra Valley, and got to know the owners very well.”

    Her business did well enough for her to expand into a three-outlet chain, before she sold it to an Australian company. “They had the resources to expand it, which I didn’t,” she explains. The chain is now inactive as Covid-19 has disrupted its operations. “Melbourne was very affected by the pandemic,” recalls Gek, who was also forced to return to Singapore due to the coronavirus.

    As she had built up good relations with Australian farm producers, she decided to open her own Aussie-style cafe and grocer here selling produce that she directly imports, named after Melbourne’s Surrey Hills town that she stayed in. “We don’t have a distributor for most of the things here, so the prices are lower as there’s no middleman,” she says.

    The grocer

    The grocer

    The air-conditioned shop reminds us of a cross between Scoop Wholefoods and Culina’s upscale grocery store at Como Dempsey. Shelves are neatly stocked with colour-coordinated rows of organic soda, teas, packaged snacks, dried pasta and jars of condiments. There are also chillers filled with veggies, some from local urban farm Straits Agriculture.

    Exclusive Aussie brands

    Exclusive Aussie brands

    Surrey Hills Grocer stocks some Australian brands exclusively, like popular Melburnian chocolaterie Koko Black’s chocolate bars. If you’re into atas olive oil, there’s also premium olive oil producer Rich Glen, which makes a skincare range that’s available at the shop.

    Meat and dairy

    Meat and dairy

    The store also has fresh meat imported from Australia’s Surrey Hills and conveniently sliced for CNY hotpot, like the Wagyu Premium Shabu ($29.50 for 300g), which has a marbling score of MB4 (with 6 being the richest). Also offered: cage-free New Zealand and Australian eggs, and a range of Australian yogurts and cheeses that are expected to arrive next week.

    Cooking condiments

    Cooking condiments

    For avid home cooks, there are also herb and spice blends sold by the weight, like the Lawrence steak rub, which Gek tells us was created after a serendipitous chat with Lawrence L. Frank, the founder of Lawry’s Prime Rib.

    Australian wines

    Australian wines

    You can also get a selection of Australian wines here.

    The cafe

    The cafe

    The 38-seat pet-friendly cafe here is al-fresco in true Aussie style. While its ambience is not as chill or scenic as fellow Aussie cafe Flourish Bakehouse in Phoenix Park, it’s breezy enough for one to enjoy an afternoon cuppa in peace.

    Surrey Hills Grocer (4)

    The coffee

    The coffee

    The brews here are made with beans from famed Melburnian coffee roaster Proud Mary Coffee. Being new, the cafe’s service here is a little inconsistent — our colleague’s visit was marred by shaky communication between the kitchen and waitstaff, which resulted in a long wait for food orders.

    The food menu

    The food menu

    The brunch-friendly menu here is divided into brunch, dinner and all-day. It’s created by a Singapore-based Aussie chef (whom cafe owner Gek declines to reveal), and includes premium ingredients that are also sold at the adjoining grocery store. Be prepared to pay CBD cafe prices here, despite its Jurong industrial location.

    Crayfish Benny, $24

    Crayfish Benny, $24

    The eggs benedict here is done pretty well, gooey-yolked over springy marinated crayfish on toasted English muffins, all drenched in a hollandaise sauce infused with a crayfish reduction. The richness is cleverly cut with lime crema, though our dish could do with a less heavy-handed smear.

    Avo, $19 (8 Days Pick!)

    Avo, $19 (8 Days Pick!)

    We don’t usually order avocado toast at a cafe (why do that when you can make it at home yourself). But the avo toast here is surprisingly delish, making it somewhat worth its $19 price tag. It comes with two big pieces of sourdough toast cradling mashed Aussie avocados with bits of chopped onions, plus whipped ricotta and a smidgen of Vegemite emulsion that’s not pongy enough to ruin the whole dish if you’re not into it (though it’s too tame for Vegemite lovers like us).

    Tasmanian Salmon, $26

    Tasmanian Salmon, $26

    A slab of “sashimi grade” salmon is slow-cooked and served on barley ‘risotto’ simmered with mushrooms. The fish is unfortunately too dry, and the barley’s naturally slimy texture makes it a tenuous substitute for rice.

    Blue Pea Lychee Soda, $7

    Blue Pea Lychee Soda, $7

    The sodas here are pretty refreshing - go for the Blue Pea Lychee, but skip the overly sweet Strawberry, Watermelon and Rose Oolong (inspired by the iconic strawberry watermelon cake from Melbourne’s Black Star Pastry).

    Creamier ice cream

    Creamier ice cream

    For dessert, the cafe serves ice cream from homegrown brand Creamier ($4.50 to $5.50 a scoop, add $1 each for granola and almond brittle toppings), and cakes from its sister shop Sunday Folks. There’s also house-made Waffles ($18) with clotted cream, berries compote and fresh berries (add $5 for Creamier ice cream). If you’re bringing your pooch to the cafe, it will also soon offer dog-friendly ice cream.

    Address and opening hours

    Address and opening hours


    Address: D’Arena, 511 Upper Jurong Road, S638366

    Opening hours: Open daily except Mon, 8am-10pm

    Website: surreyhillsgrocer.sg

    Photos: Yip Jieying

Related topics

surrey hills grocer joo koon jurong cafe arena country club aussie cafe australian cafe singapore australian grocery store

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