Monday, April 02, 2007

Chasing down a Sunset

Rolling large fields, tall grass waving in unison, large shady rain trees dotting the landscape, whitewashed row houses with chimneys. This is what we saw as we drove through one of our favourite Singaporean places - Seletar airbase. This is a slice of pretty old England in Singapore.

Once housing British, NZ and Aussie troops and airbase personnel, the old houses with their large verandas, cement floors, double doors and generous windows are now rental units housing largely expatriates and the odd musician and poet/ex-NMP! The airport is still in use - albeit only for smaller jets and single-engine planes. Commercially, flights to Redang and Tioman take off here, but otherwise it is a quiet place.

We love just driving through the roads with the quaint names - Birdcage Walk, Picadilly, etc. The place is quiet, broken only with the hum of cicadas. If there is ever a place in Singapore where one can live a resort lifestyle (and I am not talking about lifestyles of the rich and famous as in Sentosa Cove!) , this is it. Somehow, you just feel so far away from the city, and the pace feels conspicuously slower, lazier and more relaxed the minute you cross the old guard post into the airbase.

Bus services are few - I think there is only one that goes all the way in! And there are no modcons to speak of - no MRT station, no mall, no convenience store, no schools, no markets and the only food places there in easy reach are the Kingfisher Club and the Seletar Airbase Golf Club. Though I have to say, the food is not bad. KH and I used to go to the Golf Club for brekkie on Sat morning - we like the mee siam and mee rebus there.

When an old friend and her partner were living in one of the houses there, we would have occasional gatherings at the house or at the nearby clubs for dinner/barbecue. Nice ambience, good friends, decent grub - those were good days. Sometimes the kids would go for a swim at the nearby Kingfisher Club while we big girls hung out together. KH, the occasional golfer, would join in the golf game but er, have to say the man is not exactly a great golfer. He says it's due to lack of time and practice. With 5 kids, he has more or less given up golf.

So on Sunday, the Chongs took a turn down memory lane - literally - and went for a drive around the Seletar airbase estate. We were there for a purpose - we wanted to hunt down the Sunset Grill and Bar. According to the makansutra, this was a place in a ramshackle ex-officers flying club and served good american grub - buffalo wings, steak, pasta, burgers etc. Apparently, if you sit outdoors, you can see planes land and take off. We tried once before, to find this place, but were unsuccessful. So this would be our second attempt.

After twisting down this lane and that, and asking a few people (all of whom were clueless!) we finally spotted a small sign that said 'East Camp" and swung down that road. We cut through the golf course, flanked the runway of the airbase and finally came to a group of faded hangers and single-storey buildings. And right there, sitting next to the runway, under a huge leafy Angsana tree, was the Sunset Grill. Ah yes, indeed one can sit right there and watch the planes land and take off as entertainment during the meal. The place was closed when we arrived - open only from 4pm to 11pm.

It was not a posh place, and looked a bit scruffy with plastic chairs and wooden tables and "lots of red ants!" (reported Gillian and Isaac) but I like the location - I think it is unique and interesting and that's part of the battle won for an interesting dining experience in Singapore and all that remains is to try the food.

I think we'll be back for dinner some day soon. We all liked the adventure of looking for the place, liked the idea of dining right next to a runway (and yes, while we were there, a small jet did land right in front of us!). The very location and remoteness of the place spelled a certain sense of charm and romance. Even the kids were enthusiastic.

We drove off when someone came running out of an office next to the restaurant, flailing his arms and waving at us to "get off the runway!!" Yes, no parking on the runway - or rather, the taxiway - this was the road where the planes would taxi from the hangars to the runway and vice versa. There were no signs to indicate this was a taxiway though. The road was bumpy, potholed in areas.

That's what we enjoy - just driving around sometimes with no purpose or destination in mind but upon finding a certain road intriguing, would just go off and investigate. Thats when we find interesting places! And to my mind, that's really what life can be like - filled with unexpected detours, hidden corners and surprises - sometimes nice, sometimes nasty - but the journey, always worth it.


momto3 said...

I went to search for this Sunset Grill after reading this post. I managed to find a map from internet so getting there was not a problem. Some infor for you if you are planning to visit:
- if you are going on a Sat nite, better call to make reservations
- apply insect repellant for the kids cause there are lots of mozzies (esp if you are dining al fresco)
- try their buffalo wings (pple go for this dish according to the website, very spicy and yummy)
- look out for bird droppings if your table is under the tree (the table next to ours kana)
The food is good but quite pricey. For eg, 6 buffalo wings cost us about $16.
Thanks for blogging this. My kids enjoy watching the planes take off, though they complain about the ants and no air con...

Momto5 said...

Dear momto3

thanks for the tips. It sounds pricey though. For my brood, 6 chicken wings will disappear faster than houdini in a trunk!

And spending 30+ bucks on 12 chx wings when I get a 1kg midjoint pack from NTUC for $5 will certainly give KH a heart attack.