Tippling Club's Ryan Clift goes rustic with his new dining concept.
IF your mental image of Ryan Clift is that of science geek working the dials of his fermentation contraption and creating mind-bending edible fantasies at his flagship restaurant Tippling Club, it's time to change the channel. Come June-July, you're going to find the fast-talking, speed-thinking tattoo-ed chef pottering in the garden, plucking fresh greens and fruit and making home-made pasta in his new dining concept in Minden Road, called Open Farm Community. The 6,000 sq metre space is the culmination of Clift's 7.5 years (the length of his time in Singapore) of being told he could not grow any of the special herbs and vegetables that he wanted, and finally finding someone who could. Last year, he teamed up with Edible Gardens' founder Bjorn Low to turn part of Wheelock Place's rooftop into a vegetable patch that grows everything from zucchini and carrots to exotic borage and nasturtium flowers for Tippling Club's use. The success of that ongoing garden - which sees Clift doing twice weekly harvests - proved that his dream of "sitting in the dining room and looking out into a beautiful garden" could finally be a reality in Singapore. Hence Open Farm Community - which takes pride of place in a former golf driving range behind the Jim Thompson Thai restaurant on Minden Road. As the name suggests, it will be a place for people to gather, hang around in a beautiful garden where everything is edible, playing lawn bowls and learning how to grow their own food at home. "We'll have two lawn bowling lanes - that will be a first in Singapore - it'll be fun," laughs Clift. "The restaurant itself will seat 50 to 60 people, with a little cafe in front for takeaway coffee. There'll be a beautiful indoor terrace garden. Bjorn's putting in a fruit orchard - rambutan, jackfruit and even a 150-year old mango tree all on the property." The menu will be tailored according to what's grown in the garden and in season, says Clift. And it will not even remotely resemble what he does at Tippling Club. "The food is going to be very simple - we're not trying to re-invent the wheel. It'll be very natural, focusing on simple pasta dishes. We brought in this crazy pasta machine from Italy which can make any type of pasta we want. So every day the chef is going into the garden to take some herbs and make sauces, vinaigrettes, pesto and do a simple pasta for the day." Another first will be a "crazy" custom-built charcoal oven by eccentric Italian artisan Paolo Parisi that "instead of just one unit where you put the charcoal like those Josper grills, you've got 10 decks so you can be cooking 10 different things at 10 different temperatures but from one charcoal pit." Yes, it's huge, Clift concedes and he will be the first in Asia to have one. "We'll do simple grilled meats and fish, roast vegetables - very rustic food, not trying to be avant garde in any way. It's simple, tasty, with everything handmade and using as much produce from the garden as possible."