I like how, in Singapore's urban jungle, there are still so many verdant spots just a skip from the concrete-covered areas.
The old Turf Club is one of them. And nestled among the greenery in Bukit Timah is Tin Hill Social, a two-month-old eatery serving hay-smoked meat and grills in a casual setting.
It takes over a huge space that was previously occupied by Roundhouse Pizza, Bar & Grill in an area called Horse City, which also has stables and fitness schools.
Tin Hill, which is Bukit Timah in English, has lots of charm. There are seats outdoors, on the verandah and in an air-conditioned dining room, but wherever you are, the ambience is so relaxing that you just want to linger.
The food is nothing fancy, just nosh that you want to share with friends - salads, pizzas, ribs and steaks.
What makes the menu stand out from the crowd, however, are a couple of dishes flavoured with hay - which is no doubt inspired by its location in Horse City.
Hay may not sound very appetising but it is actually a lovely food flavour, bring with it a smoky sensation that evokes sunny, lazy days.
Tin Hill's Hay-smoked Pork Ribs ($26) are exactly that. They are so much better than the usual barbecued ribs, which are always too sweet with an overpowering sauce that drowns out most of the meat flavours.
Here, you get to savour the pork with just a touch of smokiness to enhance the aroma, allowing the tender meat itself to shine. If you must have sauce with it, there is some spicy chimichurri on the side. But, for me, I see no reason to drown the taste of a good piece of meat. So I use the sauce as a dip for the accompanying fries instead.
A dessert called Hay-infused Panna Cotta ($10) is more intriguing. The pudding, which has a very light hay flavour, is served with a honey syrup that has a touch of spices such as cinnamon. But in the mouth, the combination blossoms into strong floral notes that I find hard to explain. The dessert is garnished with edible flowers but they are not steeped in the honey, so that does not explain it. Whatever it is, the bouquet is a pleasant one.
Other dishes not cooked with hay range from decent to good.
Among the starters, the Duck Croquettes ($16.50), deep fried, breadcrumb-coated duck rillettes, are tasty but also rather dry. But the Crab Salad ($17) is easy to like, with a sweet blue swimmer crab remoulade that you spread on crisp brioche Melba toast. Providing some variation to the dish is a deep-fried tiger prawn and some frisse salad leaves.
The other main courses are good too. The Beef T-Bone ($70 for 600g, enough for two people) may not come from any celebrated livestock but the meat is tender and flavourful, especially along the edges, where the fat is. And this is despite the meat being cooked medium well when I requested medium rare.
And the restaurant's Seafood Stew ($30) is a delicious brew of black cod, prawns, calamari, clams and mussels. I find the crunchy texture of the prawns a little too plasticky but, otherwise, it is a good dish.
There is also an interesting dessert called Mango Chilli Pie ($15). The combination is strange but not unpleasant and it is something that grows on me. The pie is served in a pool of sago and coconut milk, and with rice pudding ice cream, all of which balance the sting from the chilli very well.
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SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here
Tin Hill’s Hay-smoked Pork Ribs ($26) You can taste the meat so much better this way than the overly sweet barbecue pork ribs many restaurants serve.