You can find a bit of Down Under in the far, far west of Singapore.
Surrey Hills Grocer is an up-and-coming Australian-style cafe and grocery store in D'Arena.
It is co-founded by former banker Pang Gek Teng, who used to live in Melbourne, Australia for five years, where she ran her own F&B business.
The cafe-grocery store is named after the suburb in Melbourne.
As she enjoyed the times she spent there, Pang wanted to bring the experience to Singapore.
"It's always been a destination that I like, [the service] is always very warm and quaint. So that's what we want to bring back here."
You're forgiven if you don't know where D'Arena is, because it's somewhere in Joo Koon, which is quite a distance even for this west-dwelling writer.
On the plus side, the location doesn't really feel like Singapore, with no tall buildings and nothing but trees just across the road.
It's difficult to miss the place because of the lighted archway leading towards Surrey Hills Grocer.
According to Pang, the lighted archway is supposed to represent the sunrise and mimic the look of a farmhouse.
Boasting a 3,000 sq ft space, Surrey Hills Grocer has an al fresco-style cafe and an indoor air-conditioned grocery store.
Simply furnished with wooden furniture and some plants here and there, the quaint pet-friendly cafe can comfortably seat 38 persons.
The farm-to-table concept cafe serves brunch, dinner, and an all-day menu.
My tastebuds were expecting a good meal since the menu was designed in consultation with a Singapore-based Australian Michelin chef, athough they refused to divulge who this mystery chef is.
That's short for avocado toast.
The buttery avocado mash paired well with the sweet and creamy ricotta cheese.
And while the thought of marmite sounds intimidating, the droplets of marmite emulsion provided just the right amount of saltiness and creaminess to go with the other toppings.
The toast is also garnished with almost spiced dukkah, which gave it a nutty taste that helped to cut the heaviness of the dish.
Tip: Each serving comes with two toasts, so just get it and share it with your plus one because one toast is more than enough for regular appetites.
Crayfish Benny (S$24++)
Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of any type of eggs benedict no thanks to the typically surfeiting pairing of creamy hollandaise sauce and runny yolks.
Surrey Hills' Crayfish Benny, however, was surprisingly lighter than the usual eggs benedict.
The hollandaise sauce is made with crayfish reduction, lending that seafood umami flavour to the sauce.
The addition of lime creme also added a zing to an otherwise heavy meal.
Tasmanian Salmon (S$26++)
The salmon had an ideal crisp skin and was slightly pink on the inside. Nice.
Points for the marinated roe too.
While I also enjoyed the mushroom-infused barley risotto which was the right amount of earthy and salty alongside the fatty salmon, some diners might not be able to get past the slightly slimy texture of barley.
Those who don't like barley, however, can request to swap it with pasta instead.
Be prepared to wait
TL;DR: My tastebuds were pleasantly pleased.
But here's a fair warning, though. The food did take about 15 to 20 minutes upon ordering to arrive, which isn't ideal if you come here with an empty stomach.
Hopefully, this will improve as the relatively-new business gets used to its operations.
If you don't mind waiting, then there's the option of killing time at the grocery store.
Farmer's market-like ambience
The grocery store part of Surrey Hills feels a lot like an Australian farmer's market.
Fun fact: You can find most of the ingredients on the cafe's menu in the grocery store.
The produce here are directly sourced from family businesses and farms in Australia, which is hard to find elsewhere in Singapore.
Because of her past experience working in Australia, Pang has good relations with the farms and directly imports the produce to Singapore, making it more affordable for her customers.
Most items found here cannot be found in supermarkets like FairPrice or Cold Storage, which makes the journey to the west worthwhile.
You can find fresh produce like avocadoes and dragonfruit, a variety of infused olive oils, Australian snacks and more.
Surrey Hills also carries a few exclusive brands like Rich Glen Olive Estate, which has food items like infused olive oil and salad dressing, as well as skincare products.
You can also find a wide variety of specially prepared herbs and spices.
And some Aussie beverages.
To support local businesses, Surrey Hills also carries some local brands, including Creamery Singapore, The Flower Factory and Aunty Esther's.
If Joo Koon is too far of a trip, the grocery store also has plans to do online islandwide deliveries in the near future. But you'll have to stay tuned for that.
Surrey Hills Grocer
Address: 511 Upper Jurong Road #01-01, Singapore 638366
- Coffee and grocery store: 9am to 9pm
- Cafe: 11am to 3pm, 6pm to 9pm
- Closed on Mondays
All images by Fasiha Nazren.