Simply The Best
Grace Lim 
A vast selection of wine
Good things are meant to be shared, and you can do a whole lot of sharing at this unique shop in an up-and-coming neighbourhood in Tropicana. Opened in March this year, Cellar Eighteen is already known for its premium offerings.

Located in Tropicana Avenue, Cellar Eighteen can be found along a bustling commercial street and is distinguished by a simple wooden façade with wide glass windows that reveal rows upon rows of wine bottles. Past its sturdy doors and you are greeted by two distinctive but complementing sections sitting side-by-side.

On one side is Ingrained by Ironwoods, the F&B arm of Borneo Harvest founded by brothers Charles Devan and Patrick Devendran. Borneo Harvest imports premium foods from Europe, especially smoked seafood and teas.

Cellar Eighteen’s partners Loh, Patrick and Charles

Right opposite is a wine and spirits section operated by Loh Teck Wei, son of the founder of Tong Woh Enterprise, a famous wine retailer in Petaling Jaya which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. A certified wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators USA, Sebastian Chen, is present to offer his recommendations on the selection of wine and spirits. Chen is also a certified whisky ambassador from the UK.

Cellar Eighteen is the umbrella name for both outlets. Its establishment is due to the perfect timing of the partners’ meeting. Loh was looking to expand Tong Woh’s business while Charles was toying with the idea of opening his own café. They decided to combine forces and open Cellar Eighteen.

At Ingrained by Ironwoods, one can savour freshly brewed coffee with pastries from the famous Kenny Hills Bakery in Bukit Tunku. Customers can also order smoked seafood and meats to go with a bottle of wine here. “Since we’re not a full-fledged bar or restaurant, we do not observe the regular opening hours. That created a bit of confusion with customers at first,” says Charles.

Temptations in form of artisanal products hold sway here as the brothers are ardent followers of the Guild of Fine Foods in the UK. “These artisanal products are commonly found in the UK,” explains Charles. “Every day there is a new brand selling great products; some of them have even won awards. We want to introduce them to the consumers here.”

Then there is the amazing spread of seafood which includes premium smoked mackerel, cold or hot smoked salmon, tea-infused smoked salmon, smoked trout, and prime cuts of salmon. All the seafood is imported from Scotland while the smoked fishes are from Inverawe, an artisanal smokehouse that also supplies to the British royal family.

Charles adds that a lot of the products here have won the Great Taste Awards, which is indicated by the stickers on the packaging. “This recognition means an assurance in quality,” he says. Look out also for a variety of caviars, aged balsamic vinegars, truffles and shortbreads. There is also a fine selection of tea. Customers often purchase the tea and then get the café to brew it on the spot.

At Tong Woh, the wines retail from as low as RM40 to a princely RM12,000 as the partners want to target all budget levels. As for the name Cellar Eighteen, it is a nod to the ideal temperature for serving wines, which is 18°C.

“The wines are directly imported, which is how we manage to keep the prices reasonable,” Loh elaborates. “My father and I attend the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair regularly to source for new premium wine, especially brands you don’t normally see unless you dine at a fancy restaurant.”

Highlights here include La Tache from Burgundy and Fuligni from Italy, which Loh points out go very well with the omakase platter of smoked seafood.

Charles reiterates that it is the level of service here that sets them apart from other players in town. “You can get the best seafood, the best specialty coffee, and the best wine all under one roof. Plus, a lot of the brands here are not available anywhere else in Malaysia – or at least they are hard to find anywhere else.”

“In addition, we have a staff who has in-depth knowledge about our products and is able to help you with any queries. We’re able to talk you through each and every product, right down to the type of sauce that goes with a particular type of seafood. Our sommelier can advise you on the best wine for a certain occasion. We want to make sure that you only get the best here, whether it is the product or the service.”

Business has been amazing and the location may have been a big factor. Tropicana Avenue is a popular meeting point for expatriates as there is an international school nearby. The surrounding neighbourhood is also affluent. “We have teachers from the school who are from the UK. When they walk in and see the Scottish salmon, they get really excited. Many of our customers also love our wine selection; sometimes they come in just to test our sommelier’s knowledge! We don’t mind that at all,” says Charles confidently.

He continues: “Since we deal in fine foods, our target market is people who appreciate the finer things in life. They know quality and want to spend their hard earned money on things of great value. I think it’s important to enjoy life and that is what we are doing here.”

The partners don’t rule out the possibility of an online store but recognises that it could be a challenge since “it’s hard to replicate the same type of service that we can offer in a brick-and-mortar store.”

A second physical outlet is more likely as Loh thinks that there is still a lot of room to grow. “We’re now looking for a new location. But for now, we’re still doing some fine-tuning at this store, whether in terms of customer service, operations or even the layout of the store,” says Loh. “This is to make sure that by the time we open a second store, we would be as close to perfection as possible. Ultimately, we want to offer only the best.”

Cellar Eighteen
P-G-12, Tropicana Avenue
No.12, Jalan Persiaran Tropicana
Petaling Jaya
Tel: +603 7890 0637

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 244.