Friday, 7 June 2013

The Pomelo and Jeff's Cellar, The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat, Ipoh, Malaysia

The Pomelo, The Banjaran hot springs retreat, healthy restaurant, ipoh
The Pomelo

The Pomelo and Jeff’s Cellar, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Dramatic limestone jungle covered hills, steaming geothermal hot springs and cascading waterfalls set the backdrop to The Pomelo, The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat’s all day dining location. An open walled restaurant is cooled by natural breezes and ceiling fans, allowing guests to soak up the beautiful surrounds. Three gazebos extend over the hot springs for an al fresco dining experience.

Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
The Pomelo - indoor dining

In tune with the retreat’s wellness philosophy, The Pomelo focuses on healthy cuisine. French Chef Abdelhak Bourenane, makes organic, locally sourced fresh produce the core of the menu. Expect to see an abundance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout. Premium seafood and poultry are interwoven into the bill of fare and, for those who just can’t live without their red meat, fine cuts of beef are found too. Gentle cooking methods maintain maximum nutritional value and, you’ll find fresh herbs and spices as seasonings – certainly no chemicals and nothing artificial for flavouring.

Drinks follow the food philosophy of wholesomeness. The juice menu supports seasonal fruit and even lists the properties of each. Did you know that mango improves blood circulation and is a good source of vitamin A and iron? Or that, celery is a source of many vitamins and minerals and has a mild diuretic effect? Combine the powers of these individual plants and you have a wonderful array of mocktails oozing with nutrients. On top of this basket of wellness, organic coffee and wines and, a range of TWG teas bolster the options.

Breakfast is served a la carte during low occupancy periods for in-house guests and buffet style when the rooms are reaching capacity. (Remember there are only 25 villas though, so this is still a very relaxed pleasant affair.) Tropical fruit and, western and locally inspired salads dominate the cold items. Organic eggs done any style, cereals, pancakes, French toast, noodle soup and dim sum cover the hot dishes. I was pleased with my Egg White Omelette (RM35) filled with vegetables, low-fat cheese and herbs. Hubby enjoyed his Banana Soy Pancakes (RM26) with maple syrup. Breakfast is available from 7am – 10:30am.

Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Egg White Omelette
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Banana Soy Pancakes

It seems that menu items are merely suggestions. At first look, the selection appears small. When you realize however, that these are just recommendations and the chef will happily design meals to suit you, the options suddenly become endless. We however, were interested in the uniqueness of Pomelo and so opted for the mouthwatering and health-inspiring items we saw in front of us.

The highlight of our lunch was the overall impression of absolute freshness. Each dish seemed to have journeyed directly from the garden or sea to our plates. Blossoming with colours and, tickling the nostrils with gentle fragrances all of the dishes were eaten first with our eyes and noses, before hitting our palates.

Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
 Amuse Bouche - Salmon and Cauliflower
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
The Pomelo Citrus Salad (RM30) was bursting with juicy bean sprouts and enveloped in a thin rice paper package. Pink ginger flowers and a green tea matcha and cardamom oil dressing added both zing and smoothness.
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
A Delicate Sea Bream Fillet (RM60) with fresh coriander oil, grilled tomato and cardamom displayed three distinct layers of tone, texture and taste. Each eaten on its own proved a simple experience, but when all three were combined a magical amalgamation occurred. 
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
For dessert, hubby could not resist the Roasted Crispy Mini Banana and Sago (RM28) with fresh mint.
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
 I adored the Kaffir Lime Frozen Parfait (RM28) in a gazpacho of red dragon fruit.

Again the dinner menu comes across as limited. Do realize though, that there are special menus of the month, chefs Vegetal Domination menu and, the standing offer to cook a meal suited to your needs. We were fortunate to try a little across the options. It truly is rare to find a restaurant where we delight in every dish presented. When waiters cleared our plates however, they were all wiped clean. J

The first night we sampled the a la carte menu:

Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh
Amuse Bouche - Salmon and Cauliflower in Eggshell
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh
Tomato (RM33)– tomato gazpacho, whole grain mustard ice cream and fresh basil oil. Drops of raspberry vinaigrette added sweetness and tang to this deliciously rich soup.
The Pomelo, healthy restaurant, The Banajaran hotsprings, ipoh
Delicate Sea Bass (RM59)– fennel comfit, saffron, tomato and lime with cream roasted cardamom seed.  Hubby raved about the softness of the fish and savoured the accompaniments.
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh
Coconut (RM26) – ravioli praline with raspberry compote and cold coconut milk. Too tempting to leave a drop – spoons dived again and again trying to scoop up the last puddle.

By the time we’d dined our second evening at The Pomelo, we were feeling detoxed, invigorated and healthful. I eagerly looked forward to the chef’s promised Vegetal Menu, however hubby kept asking, “No meat? You mean, there’s no meat?” I’ve been trying to get a few meat-free days into our home for years. I was delighted that chef shared a similar passion and was just as keen for hubby to partake as I was. (Evil laughter, hee, hee, hee!)

Chef Abdelhak has a wonderful way with words and has such has named his vegetarian menu (RM140) Vegetal Domination, Natural Colour Expression:

Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Etr’acte – pomelo with chilli – naturally sweet and spicy, a mouthful of flavour.
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Tomato – tomato water jelly, tomato comfit sorbet, with sweet chilli, fresh herbs. The cherry tomato halves reminded me of real tomatoes that I used to eat growing up - full and rich, none of this supermarket overstayed in cold storage variety.
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Beetroot – pearl (sago) emulsion, sweet potato, grilled cumin and curry leaf – can’t go wrong with two of my favourite vegetables, beetroot and Japanese purple sweet potato. 
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Black Tofu – trumpet mushroom, Alba white truffle oil, dried Parmesan and sage. This was the dish that captured hubby’s interest and may have convinced him that a menu without meat can indeed be deliciously satisfying. (Thank you chef!)
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
Black Wild Rice Dessert– parfait rizotine, crispy white rice, blackberry and thyme syrup. This creamy log was donned texture with grains of wild rice and, sweetness with the fruit and herb syrup. Again, plates were scraped clean.
Pomelo, The Banjaran, Ipoh, Malaysia
From the fruit infusion menu, a treat simply named, Watermelon. Honey, thyme, black pepper and yuzu zest are dribbled on top of juicy watermelon rectangles, bringing out the subtle taste of this melon and elevated a seemingly simple fruit to new heights.

The Pomelo is certainly a treat for in-house guests, complementing the entire feel of wellness at the retreat. It is however open to outside guests too. You must make a reservation though to be let past the strict security gates. Now, The Pomelo merits a visit all on it’s own, but… there is another captivating benefit to dining at the restaurant – access to Jeff’s Cellar – one of the most unique wine bars in the world.

No words, or online research could have prepared for me for the enchantment of this space. The entrance to Jeffs’ Cellar is marked in medieval fashion with tall inky metal gates carrying double crests and coffee bean coloured wooden doors. Tilted oak barrels, an old horse-drawn buggy’s wheel and, timeworn wine bottles rest upon one another in a display of intrigue at the entryway.
Jeff's cellar, best wine cellar in the world
Entrance to Jeffs’ Cellar

Ascent of the stone steps, leads to a tunnel lined with wine bottles and soft lighting further takes you into the cave. The mouth opens up to a grand chamber furnished with leather lounges and low tables. Further in, a 12-seater dining table is dressed in grand adornment and marks a contrast to the natural stone enclosure. On another level a bar and various seating dots the rest of the enormous space. It seems futile to try to capture the enchantment of the cavern in words. Remarkable, entrancing… they don’t even come close.

The Pomelo, The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat, ipoh, best cellar in the world
 Jeff's Cellar interior 

Dinner at The Pomelo, followed by a nightcap in Jeff’s Cellar can only be described as an unforgettably mesmerizing evening.

Reason to visit: gorgeous setting with limestone hills and geothermal hot springs as the backdrop, a healthful menu with many vegetarian options, Chef’s special menus, access to the incredible Jeff’s Cellar.

The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
1 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3
31500 Ipoh
Perak Darul Ridsuan
+6 05 210 7777


  1. Ooooo...lovely place, lovely food. Must KIV this! Dunno if my Ipoh friends know of its existence or not - would love to drop by should I hop over...ever.

  2. Ooh we got to stay at Banjaran for a night recently but only had breakfast at the Pomelo. Agree that Jeff's cellar is really something indescribable! Could never imagine turning that bit of rock into a wine cellar =D

  3. wow, you are really good in finding all these hidden gems, thanks for sharing!

  4. oh my, that's ingenious use of ingredients like beetroot, fennel and even egg shells. and the way they're plated is fittingly lovely! but you saved the best for last ... that final photo of jeff's cellar is breathtaking :D

  5. Love how they present their elegant and tempting!