MALAYSIA – Jeff’s Cellar, the spectacular subterranean restaurant and lounge at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, promises a magical and memorable dining experience. Nestled in the softly-illuminated chamber of a limestone cave, amidst a 260 million year-old landscape of mountains and rainforest, it is little wonder that this enchanting venue has won multiple awards including being named as one of the “Top 20 Best Restaurants 2020” by Malaysia Tatler Dining.
Now, the talented culinary team at Jeff’s Cellar has unveiled their latest menu, which showcases select local and sustainable ingredients, including fruit, vegetables and herbs from the resort’s own organic gardens. In an ethereal ambience, surrounded by stalactites, stalagmites and rippling water features, food connoisseur will be able to savour the “Tanah” tasting menu, which features ten tantalising courses created by Lee Choon Boon, the resort’s highly-skilled head chef.
Tanah means “Our Land” in Bahasa, so this carefully crafted menu embraces the finest produce from across Malaysia, on land and at sea. The epicurean adventure starts with “Puyuh”, an elegant hors d’oeuvre of braised Perak quail with extra virgin soy sauce, rice cracker, spiced broth sphere and cured yolk, followed by “Pomelo”, an exquisite appetiser of locally-grown pomelo, sea urchin, Tanjung Malim Amur caviar (Malaysia’s first-ever caviar), raw Hokkaido scallop tartare, Assam lemon dashi and belimbing buluh. Diners are then treated to “The Kneading”, home-baked sourdough bread with mango & spiced butter and Bario salt from the highlands of Sarawak, and “Ayam Kampung”, a crystal-clear consommé of seaweed-fed free-range chicken served with bitter wild cress & flowers, and slow-braised fresh abalone.
Jeff’s Cellar works with Beacon Chicken, a responsible Malaysian company that pledges MYR3 for every chicken sold to the Beacon CSR Welfare Fund, which provides financial assistance to underprivileged patients.
Following “Pop Pop”, a refreshing guava and plum palate cleanser, the fish course showcases charred cod wrapped in the resort’s homegrown betel leaves, with ginger flower cream, tamarind purée and green pepper corn oil from The Banjaran Organic Garden. The mouth-watering main course of “Bentong Ginger” then presents perfectly tender lamb tenderloin, accompanied with wild oxalis from the resort’s garden, galangal essence, a compote of roasted buah ara figs foraged from the jungle, pearl onion confit and fermented buah kulim. This gastronomic journey concludes with “Taugeh”, a unique dessert of Kedah vanilla-infused beansprouts with soya bean foam, organic bee pollen from Perak and toasted Ipoh peanuts, followed by “Ipoh White Coffee”, using beans from Yee Kong, the area’s oldest coffee producer and served with tongkat ali, and “Koko”, a native cacao from Chemor.
This epicurean odyssey has been personally developed by Ipoh-born Chef Boon, who has a deep passion for the flavours of his native Malaysia. With over 15 years of experience, including spells with global hotel brands and award-winning restaurants, he has now returned to his physical and spiritual home, where he leads a team of talented chefs and farmers at three organic gardens.
He is partnered by Grace Chan Pui Fun, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat’s Food & Beverage Manager, who was born and raised in Ipoh and returned to her hometown in 2017 following spells with renowned luxury hotel brands such as The Regent, Four Season and The Ritz-Carlton. Together, Chef Boon and Grace have helped Jeff’s Cellar to achieve multiple honours, including “Most Unique Dining Experience 2018 – Malaysia” and “Wine Bar of the Year 2018 – Malaysia” by LUX life Food & Drink, “Top Five Most Magnificent Bars in the World 2019” by CNN Greece, and three honours from Malaysia Tatler Dining: finalist in the “Best Hotel Restaurant 2018”, “Top 20 Best Restaurants 2020”, and “Best Dine In Service 2021”.
Perfectly suited to couples, especially those celebrating a special occasion, this sublime subterrestrial venue takes guests on an immersive sensory journey. As their taste buds are enlivened by fresh flavours and unique culinary combinations, diners’ senses will be stimulated by shadowy illuminations and echoing acoustics, including trickling mountain streams, enveloping every guest in an otherworldly atmosphere.
Having emerged from this entrancing underground environment, couples can then reach for the heavens at the Sky Bar, a stunning natural platform that serves handcrafted drinks under a galaxy of twinkling stars. The bar’s signature cocktails and mocktails also embrace wild and sustainable ingredients; for example, the “Pomelo Mojito” uses Ipoh pomelos, which are famous for being the largest, juiciest and sweetest in Malaysia, while “Penang Lullaby” is infused with nutmeg from the island of Penang, to give it a distinctive aroma and flavour, and “Jamu” harnesses turmeric, galangal, ginger and mint from The Banjaran Organic Garden. Gazing up at the clear night sky in search of constellations, this is a wonderful way to end an unforgettable evening.
Named after Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah AO, Founder and Chairman of the Sunway Group, Jeff’s Cellar can host just 30-40 people at one time, across three separate areas: a lounge, dining cave and bar.