ORCHID FARM CONVERTS GREENHOUSE INTO RESTAURANT
By Maureen Koh
October 15, 2007 Print Ready Email Article
HE wanted the perfect venue to pop the question.
Click to see larger image
Bookings: It's been open for only four months but is already getting bookings for solemnisations, corporate events and the like. - Pictures: Mohd Ishak, Jonathan Choo
Accountancy undergrad Nicholas Ong, 25, knew he had found it when he stepped into the Forrest @ Orchidville, a greenhouse-cum-restaurant at Mandai, to propose to his sweetheart Jacklyn Yong, 25.
The rainforest-themed restaurant is the first eatery here to be situated in a greenhouse.
It is part of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) policy allowing some farms to have other activities on site.
And the restaurant's interesting backdrop was what Mr Ong was looking for.
He told The New Paper on Sunday: 'I wanted something really special, with just the right touch of intimacy.'
The two have been dating since they were in Sec 3.
He had heard about the restaurant through friends, who had raved about the romantic ambience and the food.
Of the wedding proposal which took a month to plan, Mr Ong said: 'From the beautifully-decorated gazebo that was specially set up in a secluded corner of the restaurant, to the luscious bouquet of 19 red roses, with a set dinner menu - everything was perfectly executed.'
The total cost came up to $888.
Mr Joseph Phua, managing director of Orchidville which runs the restaurant, came up with the concept for the occasion.
He said: 'Everyone loves a fairy-tale ending.'
Click to see larger image
Romantic: Mr Nicholas Ong spent $888 on his proposal to sweetheart Jacklyn Yong at the Forrest.
The restaurant is unique as it has towering trees and a landscape of exotic orchids and hanging tailor bird's nests, enclosed in a dining hall of about 4,000 sq ft (about the size of three 5-room flats).
Mr Phua, 54, spent about $150,000 modifying one of its two existing greenhouses into the aptly-named Forrest restaurant.
It was carved out of the 43haarea (about the size of 60 soccer pitches) where Orchidville operates Singapore's largest orchid farm at the Mandai Agrotechnology Park.
The farm has a collection of about two million orchid plants producing some two million sprays a year. They are now mostly exported to Australia and the US.
Mr Phua said: 'The whole concept is devised from our experience in landscaping some of the major hotels in Singapore.'
He always wanted to provide a restaurant for his customers, so that they could relax after shopping for orchids.
When the new rule kicked in, Orchidville experimented with the alfresco dining concept, but it closed down sometime last year.
Mr Phua said: 'Diners complained of the heat and humidity, especially in the afternoons.'
It was then that Mr Phua hit upon the idea of trying to bring nature indoors.
'I believe in bringing ambience to the people, rather than bringing people to the ambience,' he said.
Opened about four months ago, Forrest has already netted bookings for wedding solemnisations, birthday parties and company events.
Some of their specialities include its homemade tofu treasure, which costs $5.80 for a small serving and $12.80 for a large one.
Another favourite is the special pork knuckles ($23.80, serves two), which is braised in spices and sauces, and deep-fried.
Set menus range from $118 for four to five persons, to about $268 for eight to 10 persons.
Mr Phua said business has been good, especially on weekends when it is packed.
Corporate customers working in nearby areas such as Woodlands, Yishun and Ang Mo Kio make up the lunch crowd.
Madam Annie Goh, 33, loved the 'fresh and cool concept'.
The sales manager added that 'the dishes are good and the prices rather reasonable'.
Mr Dennis Fong, 40, managing director of a trading company, said he liked the food and ambience so much that he intends to hold his mother's 65th birthday party in December there.
AVA's deputy director of food supply Chin Yew Neng told The New Paper on Sunday that since 2005, farms in the six Agrotechnology Parks in Singapore are allowed to use up to 30 per cent of their land for other agriculture and agriculture-related activities, as well as visitor amenities.
He said: 'AVA hopes that these activities will make the Agrotechnology Parks more vibrant, and also help to generate interest in Singapore's urban farms.
'This also allows public agencies to focus more on their strategic functions.'