Monday, February 8, 2016

Loewen By Dempsey Hill

[Media Invite]

When I hear the name Dempsey Hill, the first image that came to my mind was one of me relaxing with a drink in hand in one of the bar and chatting with friends. It has been years since I last visited the area, with friends who drove in. I knew that public buses did not ply the area and it was really quite a long walk to the nearest bus stop.

I was re-acquainted with that area (specifically the newer Loewen Cluster), having gone on a media tour of the place together with my 2 daughters a while ago. The busy me, who always left things till the last minute, failed to research on how to get there beforehand and we ended up taking a taxi in. I should have done my work beforehand, for there is actually a FREE shuttle bus service from the following places from Botanic Gardens (Nassim Gate Visitor Centre and Tanglin Gate Botany Centre) as well as Thai Embassy and Four Seasons Hotel to the cluster. You can check the full bus schedule here. Before this trip, I only had hazy ideas of what is available there. I knew there were eateries and some furniture shops and that was about it. Only found out that the area housed quite a number of kids’ enrichment schools after that visit.

Alpha Gymnastics occupies unit #01-07 at blk 72, offering a wide range of classes, such as Rompers for little walkers to toddlers up to 3 and all the way for teens 13 and up in their Adults Recreational Gymnastics classes. Of course Stacci and Steffi went on a trial lesson, and they enjoyed the running around and testing of their balancing by walking on beams, all under the watchful eyes of the instructor. I tried walking on the gym’s raised platform where all the activities took place, and it felt a little bouncy. I was later told that it was meant to reduce the impact on the joints when they practice their moves.

Getting to know each other first.
And look how fast they got familiar with anyone!
We next moved on to SWISH! Swimming which boasts pools that are temperature controlled and salt-water chlorinated. There were quite a number of parents with their toddlers, taking some aquatic programmes in the indoor pool when we visited. I tested the water with my hands, and it was warm to touch. Starting the kiddos from young is the key to water confidence, and I can feel the difference between the siblings. Like Steffi who started really young and can swim without a care, and Stacci who is less confident in water because we took her to the pools later, and with lesser frequency too. I know that Louie would love the water here too, because he would shiver when in the water for too long whenever we go to the public pools. We also got to see another interesting class being conducted. It was the “Merfit” swimming lesson for aspiring mermaids, or merkids, using the Mahina Merfin.

The heated indoor pool. 
Some young girls learning how to swim like mermaids!
The Tanderra Club reminded me of my childhood days, where I will play in and around the colonial houses at the foot of Mount Faber because my grandmother was working for one of the tenants as a coffee lady. I had full access to the place then, much like the full access to the facilities that a Tanderra member enjoys at the vast premise. The whole idea of the club is to be an all-inclusive club for the entire family. Where parents can leave the kiddos (aged 6mths - 12 years old) at one of the four play ateliers suitable, and then go on to enjoy their free time doing Yoga, having a pampering spa treatment, learning how to cook or simply having a cuppa at the Officer's Mess. The club also offers numerous drama, music, dance and art classes, for both kids and adults.

One of the play ateliers.

The outdoor play area, where the kiddos can be free to get down and dirty!
A room in which yoga and other classes can take place.
The ladies would love this room where various beauty treatments can be done.
One would linger just a bit longer in this vintage washroom.
The officer's mess is shaded by this really old heritage tree.
I do send my kids to tuition classes and art classes at our community centre. These classes are really affordable, and manageable for me since I have so many kiddos. Cost aside, sometimes I do wonder if they are really effective, as the teacher to student ratio often exceeds 1:20. Anyway we were introduced to Little Mandarins, a place where 18mth old babies to adults can learn to how to communicate in Mandarin. What impressed me was the bright and colorful classrooms that are full of works from the students, and the fact that their class sizes are only kept to a maximum of 8. With their learning ethos of Play, Grow, Make, Care and Share, I am pretty sure that students get to learn much more than just the language at the centre.

The classroom is like a meeting room!
Bright and cheery rooms!
Full of students' artwork too!
I am a noob when it comes to chocolates, often only indulging in the relatively cheap mass produced bars on supermarket shelves. Of course there's the occasional pralines or branded chocolates that I get to try out too. It was an eye-opener for us at ANJALICHOCOLAT, an Artisan Chocolatier, a chocolate factory, shop and school. We were taught how to distinguish the really good chocolates from cheap bars that boasts little cocoa contents just by listening to the clean snap when breaking the bars. They do customized gifts for corporates, and organizes chocolate-making classes where one can create their own chocolate truffles too! Oh lest I forget, their chocolate don't last at all, simply because only fresh ingredients are used and no preservatives are added. Not that the delicious chocolates would escape the fate of being devoured fast anyway.

The retail shop is like a pop-up store!
Lots of pretty gift packs available!

We were treated to some great tasting chocolate and toffees!
We ended the media tour with a lunch over at Portico Prime located over at the Dempsey Cluster, and the kids were wowed by the beauty of the restaurant (or maybe also a little because they finally had air-con!). Truth be told, I had NEVER visited any fine-dining restaurants on my own and it was almost always for work. I often fumble on what utensils to use for which particular dish too! This restaurant however, is not exactly fine-dining, more of an in-between I would say. Slightly more casual, even though it felt grand, with its high ceiling and looks. I often joked that if I had to finish EVERYTHING (including garnishings) on the plate, it has got to be fine-dining. We had their signature menu, and polished everything off the plates and was definitely satisfied after the gastronomic experience. I loved the excellent Wagyu A4 Ribcap, which I still reminisce till now.

Very beautiful interior!
Collection of Heirloom Tomatoes : Tomatoes never tasted so good, and the melon dressing added the sweetness! 
Caramelized Leek and Potato Soup: The soup was poured in front of me. The soup was a little fishy with the smoked eel but it was ok!
Pan-Seared Pulau Ubin Barramundi: Great presentation of our humble seabass, but seemed like it was a little too charred  for my taste.

Tochigi Perfecture Wagyu A4 Ribcap: I am not going to pretend to be some food connoisseur, but this is the BOMB. Love the taste of the beef and the aroma of the fats too! Secretly wished that it would be a bigger piece!
Deconstructed Blackforest: I had this without reading into what I was having and I thought that I was having some ice-cream with lots of toppings and sides. It was a pretty dish, and tasted great too! 
The Loewen and Dempsey Clusters definitely housed more than the bars and restaurants I naively thought initially. After this tour of the place, I can see how this Loewen Cluster targeted families with young kids. It tried to be a place where families can spend the entire day at, where the kids can participate in enrichment classes such as swimming or language classes, while the parents can also pursue their passion in Yoga or indulge in a relaxing spa experience, all within close vicinity. And finally ending the day with a good dinner at one of the many restaurants available.

I am also not surprised that I saw more expatriates there than locals. That, I would assume, is due to their higher spending power and the sense of community, especially at the Tanderra. There are definitely quite a lot to explore at the two clusters if you have not been there before or if you happen to stay nearby. But in the case of my family, I guess it would still most likely be only the occasional visit to the restaurants, as a treat for the family.

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