Where to go for sustainable eats, nostalgia or just some peace and quiet
Where to go for sustainable eats, nostalgia or just some peace and quiet
- By Aileen Liang
- | Jan 28, 2019
Good vibes, food plated with that little extra effort, a slight pinch of the wallet; all made worth it when you angle your iPhone just the right way to capture that perfect shot. Ever since cafe hopping became the hipster-claimed in-thing to hit our shores years ago, cafe culture has since expanded, creeping into heartland neighbourhoods and trailing all around wherever we go. Not that that’s something to complain about, though; we love them for their distinct personalities, the energy of their well-designed interiors and the feel-good dishes we’ll gladly stomach and pay for. If you’re ready to hashtag #treatyourself and hang out with a small horde of fellow pretentious individuals, here’s a selection for whatever mood you’re in.
Clean and Green Eats
Self-deprecatory jokes aside, self-care is always important, and besides eating good, you’ll want to eat clean and green too. In bright, airy spaces where there’s ample room to breathe, recline in your organic wicker garden chairs and tuck into delectable dishes sourced sustainably; think tea time bites and the quintessential brunch fare, with an extra helping of greens and social conscience.
Amidst the clusters of industrial buildings in Paya Lebar you’ll find this unexpected hideout, flourishing with artfully arranged blooms and potted plants cheerily strewn about. Lovers of design and style, they marry the harsh industrial-inspired black hardware with the warmth of wood and wicker, creating a chic modern space that is both catalogue-worthy and homely. Here you can get your fix of Western mains, with an ample selection of pastas and pizzas; give their Truffle Parma and Carbonara a try if you’re craving creamy indulgence. For rule-breakers and firm believers in breakfast food, take heart that you don’t have to rise early for the all-day breakfast offerings—their Knots Waffle Brekkie gives you the best of savoury and sweet. Wash it all down with a hot cup of artisanal tea, as you pick out sustainable, hand-crafted furniture pieces for your own home; alongside a few stalks of your favourite blooms from XpressFlower. #01-07, 160 Paya Lebar Rd
Sitting on a sprawling 35,000 square feet of green-land, this earthy dining space by the Spa Esprit Group is the epitome of healthy living and clean eating. Be it alfresco seating under white tents out on the wooden deck or a seat right next to the floor-to-ceiling glass window panels, you’ll feel right at home with the lush greenery. All that green isn't just a therapeutic sight on overworked eyes, though, for you get a taste of the goodness too—based around a farm-to-table concept, everything you pick up on your fork originates from a local source, be it their own garden out back or local farms. They prove that eating green isn’t just confined to skimpy salads, and instead infuse familiar Singaporean flavours into innovative dishes. Snack on Jurong Organic Frog Legs with pickled jicama and herb salad, or Two-Tone Potato Fries with house curry spice mix and salted yolk. For an explosion of flavour on your tongue, dig into the Spice Braised Beef Cheek with house rendang paste and taro mash and chips. For an elevated twist on traditional Singaporean sweet treats, Lime in the Coconut features kaffir lime granita, young coconut jam and pandan meringue, drizzled over with calamansi syrup. Go for the Singa’Smore for glamping feels without the campfire, with tamarind fudge and banana mousse you can wedge between ginger biscuits. 130E Minden Rd
Take one look at the robin’s egg blue tiles and brown wicker accents, and you’ll feel right at ease in this mellow, multi-conceptual lifestyle space. Appropriately named The Social Space, it’s the place to be for the socially conscious; pick up a fair trade hand-poured soy wax candle or a pair of bamboo sunglasses, bring your own container to stock up on Liquid Sunshine Castile Soap, or get yourself a non-toxic, cruelty-free manicure in support of underprivileged women. If you’re not into shopping, pop by the Tea Bar and Cafe for a Berry Berry Good smoothie bowl, and a bottle of Basil and Mint Cold Brew Tea from homegrown coffee and tea designer 1°C for a pick-me-up. Not only are they pretty enough for the ‘gram, they’re ethically sourced from eco-friendly producers too, and will nourish both your soul and the planet. #01-14, 333 Kreta Ayer Road
Escape from the City
Ditch the throngs of people and the ceaseless dinner crowds, and head out to these dining spaces that’s removed from the peak-hour hordes instead. Think fairy lights and serene views, with enough cosy corners for you and that special someone to huddle up in. Or, you know, if you’re just in serious need of an hour-long vacay from the stresses of urban living.
Obscured by foliage and lush greenery all around its perimeter, you’ll truly feel like you’re stepping into a secret portal that’ll transport you to the pas, complete with vespas, typewriters, and rotary telephones. A glass-panelled haven in a sequestered part of the East, what used to be Block 20, Changi Camp in colonial times is now a casual dining spot that pays homage to all things retro and vintage. On their menu you’ll find your usual brunch fare, interspersed with dishes you might order at the food court near home— Smashed Avocado and Eggs alongside TCS Nasi Lemak, Portobello Cheese Burger and Hokkien Mee. To round out your hearty mains you might want to give the Spam Fries a go, luncheon meat made even more of a savoury guilty pleasure. Time really slows down here, and we don’t just mean that after the booze kicks in; watch the fairy lights twinkle, let yourself soak in the good vibes—and you’ll see. Did we mention that your furry companion is also welcome here? 200 Netheravon Rd.
Picture a regal black-and-white colonial building; strings of fairy lights dancing overtop the alfresco seating; a soft glow emanating from within, come dusk—straight out of fairytales and the mellowest of romantic films. Formerly a British military airbase, Wheeler’s Estate now commands two acres of the Seletar Aerospace, and serves up platters of good food all within a dreamy setting. Head on up to the Verandah for some old-world charm, where you’ll find modern European dishes like grilled steak, beef short ribs and an assortment of risottos and pastas. Clink wine glasses in a cosy glass-facade seating alcove, or head downstairs to the open terrace if you’re not ready to break out the fancy dress. For a laidback night, park yourself near the glasshouse and chill with the rotation of live bands playing there Tuesdays through Sundays. 2 Park Ln, Seletar Aerospace Park
If it’s ripples of water you’d rather gaze out upon and lull your heart to, this riverside cafe in Punggol is perfect for that. No matter what time of day, they’ll satiate your cravings for brunch and breakfast food; classic Eggs Benedict on a half waffle, or the weekends-only Whisk Breakfast Pan with eggs done the way you like it. With views of Punggol Waterway leaving you hungry for seafood, the Soft Shell Crab Burger or Prawns and Bonito Thin Crust Pizza might just hit the spot. For a waffle treat that doesn’t stray far from local tastes, Pandan Melaka features classic pandan waffles with butter cake cubes, drizzled over with gula melaka sauce. At night, watch out for the stars, and bring an ice-cold beer with you to the verandah. #01-01, 10 Tebing Ln
Heart-to-hearts and quiet conversations
What better to nourish the soul with, than a heartfelt conversation with a dear friend over steaming cups of coffee? Not much, so here are comfy, well-decorated spots that make the perfect backdrop for intimate exchanges and baring of souls.
Along the rows of shops near United Square, follow the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans straight into this rustic-looking coffee joint. Walk right in to the low rumble of private conversations, and let the bitterness of the day fade away into the warmth emanating from the wood accents and vintage pendant lamps swaying overhead. From the menu, dig into classic brunch comfort food like Smoked Salmon Brioche. If you’re going to be there a while, better make that coffee a good one, and pick from their various brews depending on your taste preference—opt for the bittersweet brazilian roast for a strong aftertaste in your mouth. Various outlets, including 173 Thomson Rd.
You may or may not already recognise this Instagrammable mainstay; spanning two floors of a shophouse in Holland Village, D’Good Cafe is a charming little nook you’ll want to sip coffee at with a treasured companion. Conceptualised into four different spaces, the cafe invites you to seat yourself according to your mood—The Bar if you want to be in reach of alcohol, The Lawn for a picnic vibe without the bugs and humidity, The Attic for a bright, cosy spot to instantly lift spirits, and The Balcony for a breezy hideout from the bustling streets below. Egg lovers can rejoice, for here you’ll get breakfast any time of day; featuring classics like Portobello Eggs Benedict and Croque Madame. Pastas and pizzas aside though, if you just want good ol’ rice, the Rice in a Tiffin comes in pastel tiers you’ll fawn over. A few swings on the in-house swing set and a swig of well-brewed coffee will surely induce emotional outpourings and contemplative questions. #02-01/02, 273 Holland Ave
All white-tiled walls and marbled tables, this cafe will make all monochrome lovers swoon. An airy, clean space, with natural light filtering in through the window panels, it’s just the place for cleansing the soul and the mind. Food is always great therapy, so tuck into hearty mains like the Porto Burger with juicy Portobello mushrooms, or Signature Chicken Bleu nestled in a bed of fragrant orzo rice pasta. Grab yourself a warm cup of coffee too, roasted from Common Man Coffee Roasters’ Lucky Basterd, or a creamy cup of Japan-imported Matcha Latte. Should your rendezvous extend till dark, grab a pint or two of draft beers ($9 a pint), or hold out till Sunday for all-day Happy Hour. If you’d prefer to drown your sorrows in dairy though, the waffles with ice cream is your delectable refuge. #01-03, 9 Sin Ming Rd, Thomson V One
No need for squeezing in tiny tables and getting tutted at by aunties anymore; these places are bustling and lively, and there’s plenty of room for bouncing energy off of each other freely. Bring your growling stomachs and banter to this table.
Good music is meant to be shared, and that’s what this lifestyle concept shop-cafe-bar on Joo Chiat Road promotes actively on their Facebook page. Peruse rows of wooden shelves stocked with eclectic records in their graphic jackets, all to the sweet smell of coffee beans wafting through the air. Grab some light bites like the Smashed Avocado on multiseed toast, but don’t just stay groovin’ in your seat; dance right over to the bar for their rotational selection of craft brews on showcase that month. Forget the generic Spotify playlists—on Friday evenings’ ‘Pre-Game Sessions’ and Sunday’s Afternoon Jams, you can head-bop and vibe to a curated selection of vinyl records by Choice Cuts. If you’re taking it old-school and want to fill your own shelves with vinyl, gather your funkiest friends and sit down together for a private listening session. But if you’re just out and about to mingle with the coolest folks, watch out for their regularly held groove events too. #01-07, 451 Joo Chiat Rd, Katong Point
What does one do after a taxing day of hustling in CBD? Clearly the folks at Group Therapy have got that covered, with their intimate loft-like space along the shophouses of Tanjong Pagar. Climb up the stairs to this charming, well-lit coffeehouse, where their steel-backed chairs and suspended exposed bulbs will remind you of business; but the sunlight just filtering through the windows washes over everything with a warm and sunny glow. Here they believe in the power of spending quality time connecting with people, nourishing the heart and mind with the warmth of interaction and good hospitality, hence the name. Feast on brunch favourites with a nifty twist—like the cleverly-named Skinny Eggs Ben with a saffron yoghurt sauce, or Pumpkin Pancakes with smoked salmon and poached eggs and a spoon of orange tobiko roe. It wouldn’t be real therapy without dessert though, so take your pick from fluffy waffles and ice cream sundaes; or a slice of their well-loved carrot cake. It’s a great place to spend a super chill Friday night with the gang. #02-01, 49 Duxton Rd
Walk right past it and you’d easily mistake it for a traditional Chinese medicine hall, but the effervescent buzz of chatter and crowds brunching might just make you do a double take. Repurposing the space that used to be Chung Hwa Free Clinic, it that marries the old with the new in a vibrant space that’s tingling with culinary possibilities you and your crew can try out. Go ahead and get a platter to share—the Cold Cut Platter with an assortment of cheeses and sliced cuts you can arrange yourself into light bites, or the Vegetarian option so no one gets left out. If you’re all set on becoming healthier, My Awesome Salad lives up to its name with smoked salmon, chicken and ha, under a pile of greens. You can even get your super trendy acai bowls right here, alongside protein shakes and the usual offerings of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages—talk about being a really awesome cafe. 202 Telok Ayer St.
New and Inventive
If you tire of typical brunch fare and seek out a refresher for your palate, all while satisfying those cravings for familiarity, these places have got your back; they bring you brunch, redefined.
Monochromatic black storefront aside, don’t dismiss it as any regular run-of-the-mill cafe, for coffee-driven Black & Ink takes great pride in their inventive locally inspired offerings. Founded by entrepreneur and food blogger Big Roy, this place whips up classic dishes catered to the Singaporean palate—their well-loved Char Bowl packs succulent char siew pork from local Roast Paradise over fluffy rice and archar, and Fat Otah Toast stacks the spiced fishcake over toast with a side of greens. You can even get pasta here, but sprinkled with dried shrimps as in the Hae Bi Hiam Shrimp Pasta, or their T.K.G.S for a tomyum kick. Durian lovers can get their cravings satisfied at dessert too, with a scoop of glorious Durian King over crisp, house-made buttermilk waffles. You’ll want to get a good shot of these goodies against their aesthetic marble tables. 29 Swan Lake Ave
Along the shophouses of Duxton Hill, this cheekily named Asian fusion cafe-bar subverts all usual brunch expectations. Think traditional Chinese eatery in decor, but enlivened with hipster touches like a bright blue storefront and mismatched lamps; vintage framed pictures lining the walls. Here you’ll find rice and noodles in place of traditional Western dishes, with adaptations of local classics like their XYT Hokkien Mee with smoked pancetta, and XYT Lu Rou Fan with sliced wagyu tataki. On weekends you can still get your quintessential avocado fix, but now served with scrambled eggs on flower bun with crispy pork floss and sesame dressing. Ditch the plain old Eggs Ben and go for Unagi Benedict here instead, with charred eel drenched in yuzukosho hollandaise. You’ll still be able to get your caffeine fix as per brunch requirements; they use Australian Symmetry coffee beans for their brews, complete with latte art. #01-01, 6 Duxton Hill
Whoever said cafes had to be hip and new all the time? We love cafes for their warmth and buzz as a space for gatherings, and these cafes bring it up a notch by packing on the nostalgia factor; think unapologetic allusions to bygone eras and our distinctly Singaporean identity.
Old habits do die hard, and this rustic enclave proves just that. Paying homage to all things vintage, it’s decked out in all kinds of rare and unique finds, collected and lovingly displayed on the walls and on the shelves. Pull up a mismatched chair to the table, and dig into inventive dishes that fuse both the old and the new, marrying flavours of different cultures; think Wagyu Steak alongside Hakka Abacus, and an Italian twist on local favourites like the Fried Pesto Mushroom Wanton. Load up on the good food and the good vibes—and if that charming transistor radio on the shelf brings back fuzzy childhood memories, you can even buy it back home with you. #01-315, 38 Telok Blangah Rise
As if the hip neighbourhood needed any introduction; this heritage-style bistro and casual dining concept has already established itself as a laidback place to knock back a beer or two. Look out for the blue-green shutter doors and eclectic patio seating, and you’ll soon find yourself being drawn into an old-world type bar that serves a mean plate of Club Devil’s Curry—every bit as feisty and exciting on the palate as good ol’ Indian food should be. Don’t be intimidated by the dim lights and dark wood counter though, for it’s not just heavy spices and alcohol they serve; pick from different chai concoctions for a flavour kick that won’t hurt your liver. Grab a couple of friends, and let yourselves soak in the authentic heritage and character of Tiong Bahru. #01-08, 57 Eng Hoon St, Blk 57
Peace and Productivity
Bringing it back to what cafes are originally best known for—a steaming cuppa, some soft acoustic covers, and free wifi. You already know your nearest Coffee Bean and Starbucks outlets are jam-packed with early muggers and workaholics, so you’ll probably be better off trying your luck at these spots instead.
As per its name, this cosy but spacious two-storeyed coffeehouse is just the place for a mellow afternoon in. Hailing from Shanghai, they are based off the plantation-to-cup model, and serve up high-quality artisanal coffees that are sure to give you that caffeine boost to finish up that dreaded proposal. You can always grab yourself a cup of the classics, or treat yourself to an Ondeh Latte inspired from the glutinous rice ball treat; if you’re going to publicise your productivity on the ‘gram, Sweet Little Rain makes for a great Boomerang. Be sure to park yourself at the window seat on the upper floor, too, to feel the warmth of the sun and the bustle of passers-by below, reminding you that this too, shall pass. Two outlets, including one at #01-01, 108 Middle Rd
Right smack in bustling Little India, this cosy brick-walled coffeehouse is a lovely place to hide out in for an afternoon of productivity. Apart from the comforting smell of coffee beans roasting, this cafe is ultra cosy with its eclectic seating arrangements, where you can take your seat on an elevated platform—facing a mural while you sip on your coffee. With simple tables just perfect for a lone laptop, you won’t have to worry about unnecessary social interactions or distractions here. Accompanying you on your productivity grind, instead, is a good cup of coffee, brewed from The Wired Monkey’s own in-house customised blend from Tiong Hoe. Should the hunger pangs hit, treat yourself to their juicy Beef Burger, or pick from a selection of pastries that’s sure to make everything just that much sweeter. 5 Dunlop Street, #01-00