Meals to wake up to

Meals to wake up to

What could make your day better than a hearty brunch on a lazy weekend morning? Here are some of those breakfasts that you might want to wake up to!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Have passed by the new Luvall Coffee when they were still finishing up their renovations before their soft launch — Luvall Coffee is the latest addition to the Kampong Bahru neighbourhood, which had seen quite a fair bit of movements in the F&B establishments operating there in recent years. Luvall Coffee takes over the space previously occupied by Nuage Patisserie & Boulangerie; an establishment that is best known for their bakes and French danishes which we had also loved when we made our visit there. There isn’t too much of a visual difference in the interior decor of Luvall Coffee against what Nuage Patisserie & Boulangerie was when they had occupied the space previously — much of the layout of the space has been kept the same, with the counter space displaying the various breads, danishes, mini pound cakes being on the left side of the store upon entry just right before the display chiller where items like the choux pastries and tarts are kept. That being said, it seems that the folks at Luvall Coffee did extend the counter further to include an espresso bar fitted with a Tempesta Gara espresso machine, as well as a photowall with the Luvall Coffee branding just right beside. Another noticeable change will be the switch-up of furniture which includes larger seating for the comfort of the patrons. Luvall Coffee does seem like an establishment that is heavily focused on their specialty coffee offerings based on namesake; that being said, it does seem that the establishment is big on their in-house handmade breads and pastries — for savouries and more substantially-sized food items, there are sourdough sandwiches featuring various combination of ingredients, while they also do offer French boulangerie, pound cakes, tarts and choux puffs; one can also pick up loaves of sourdough bread for takeaway as well. For beverages, Luvall Coffee offers patrons with the espresso-based specialty coffee, fruity coffee (think combinations like Black Lemon, Lychee White, Melon White etc.), drinking chocolate and Matcha.

Since we had pretty much just recovered when we made our visit to Luvall Coffee, we were actually more intrigued by their Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sourdough Sandwich which sounded a little lighter on the palate against the other two options that were available on the menu during the day that we had made our visit there — the two other options for the sourdough sandwich was the Avocado and Smoked Salmon, as well as the Cold-Cut Pastrami Beef. As items that are all listed under the “Signature Menu” section of the menu, all of the three options comes with their in-house Handmade Sourdough Bread by default; that being said, patrons do get the option to upgrade to a sourdough waffle at an extra cost of $1.50 on top of the original price of each item. We went for the default option of the in-house Handmade Sourdough Bread for our order. The menu describes the Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil to come with elements such as fire-roasted tomato, basil, cottage cheese drizzled with chef’s made honey drizzle.

Summing everything up, the Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil is pretty much like a sourdough sandwich that features burrata as a filling in-between; we liked how the cottage cheese wasn’t too heavy, though we weren’t too sure about the chef’s made honey drizzle either — if there is any sweetness that it has added to the dish, it does seem a little faint to register with our tastebuds. That being said, they do seem to be really generous with the fire-roasted tomatoes; these were bursting of zingy and tangy notes as much as they were refreshing when one chews upon them, while the basil basically adds a herb-y aroma that lingers at the back of the tongue that resets the tastebuds. During our visit, we had also given their Apple Pie Choux a try; there were a few different flavours of choux pastries which Luvall Coffee offers but the Apple Pie Choux was something which stood out to us considering the slightly different aesthetic that it bears as compared to their other choux pastry offerings — specifically, the Apple Pie Choux is styled just like an apple with a red pastry shell and stick of chocolate stuck in the middle that resembles a stem. Inside, the Apple Pie Choux is filled with cream that is seemingly infused with cinnamon, and also featured small cubes of caramalised apple in between — gives a bit of a crunch to the pastry cream without being particularly sweet at the same time. Prices of the food at Luvall Coffee is decent, with the sourdough sandwiches priced between $11.90 to $15.90 and the choux puffs priced around $3.80. Not a spot that we will make an out-of-the-way visit for, but not a bad spot to consider dining at in the area — though the competition does seem tight around the ‘hood for sure …

Surrey Hills Grocer is one of the brands that doesn’t seem to rest on their laurels — while they had just launched their new outlet at Raffles City Shopping Centre just a short while ago, their lease agreement at their original location at d’Arena in Joo Koon had also ended fairly recently. With that, Surrey Hills Grocer had since took the opportunity to open yet another outlet — this time round in The Woodleigh Mall within the property’s Heritage Walk area; this would also be the same area where one can find other F&B tenants such as that of the outlet of Pepper Lunch, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Olla Specialty Coffee at the mall. True to their roots, the Surrey Hills Grocer outlet at The Woodleigh Mall location consists of both the grocer and the bistro concept — something that has pretty much been a fixture since their days at d’Arena. One would also note that the space dedicated for the bistro is bigger at their The Woodleigh Mall outlet as compared to that of their d’Arena space when they had first started out. Whilst carrying a rustic vibe with the use of wooden elements amidst an interior that also employs the use of a Royal Green colour scheme, one can also find a handcrafted Mornington train making its way around the dine-in area with the tracks that are suspended from the ceiling. Surrey Hills Grocer has been known to bring patrons a different experience with the opening of every new outlet that they have — the highlight at their The Woodleigh Mall outlet would be the collaboration with The Pancake Parlour; a pancake house that hails from Melbourne, Australia, though there are also other dishes spread across menu categories such as Soup, For Sharing, All Day Brunch, Mains, Salad, Pasta, Desserts and Ice-Cream (sourced from Van Diemens Land Creamery in Tasmania, Australia). For beverages, one can opt for specialty coffee that is brewed using beans sourced from ONA Coffee, as well as tea, smoothies and fresh-pressed juices.

Wanting to go for at least one savoury food item during our visit to Surrey Hills Grocer at their The Woodleigh Mall outlet, it does seem like the Wagyu Eggs Shibuya was the dish that stood out particularly whilst we were skimming through the food menu. The online menu actually describes the Wagyu Eggs Shibuya to be an item that comes with elements such as Braised Shoyu Wagyu beef cheeks, folded eggs, Furikake, steamed
Japanese rice and Edamame. Truth to be told, this does feel like an item that seems to be inspired by that of Japanese Omu Rice and also with a bit of influence from the scrambled egg rice bowls from Dan Lao 蛋佬 that has captured a fair bit of attention on social media for a while.

Digging straight into the folded eggs and the steamed Japanese rice with Edamame, we really liked the consistency of the folded eggs here — they are done just nicely runny whilst being creamy with an evident eggy note that was particularly fragrant especially on the very first spoonful. On parts where it is being drenched with the braised Shoyu sauce from the beef cheeks, the braised Shoyu sauce acted like a Japanese Demi-Glace sauce that is all savoury, rich and a little briny for an additional punch of flavours; otherwise, there is a bit of that Furikake that has been sprinkled in the middle of the mound of rice which provides an umami touch to the dish. As one munches on the Edamame, it gives a contrast of texture against the short-grain rice. The Braised Shoyu Wagyu beef cheeks were pretty delightful; having absorbed all of the flavours from the braised Shoyu sauce, the meat can also be described as really tender with a melt-in-the-mouth texture, though we would think that some might feel that the dish is slightly heavy-handed as thus a bit jelat to finish. We had also tried the Pancake Parlour Classic Stack during our visit to Surrey Hill Grocer’s outlet at The Woodleigh Mall — while we have heard of some ravings about their pancake offerings that are created in collaboration with The Pancake Parlour, we found the pancake stack in our Pancake Parlour Classic Stack to be a little on the dry side. No doubt it does seem to work better if we do mix in all the vanilla crème Chantilly, whipped butter and maple syrup to have alongside the pancake stack, it did also ultimately proved to be on the heavy side of things for us as well. As with all other locations of Surrey Hills Grocer (with the exception of Surrey Hills Deli at 6 Battery Road), the price point of the mains are in the range of $18++ (being the price of the Pancake Parlour Classic Stack) to $42++ (being the price of the Steak & Eggs) — definitely on the higher side which is pretty much the norm here. That being said, Surrey Hills Grocer does have its own following; and this also means that we would be seeing fans of the brand flock to this latest outlet to try what they have to offer — a opening that is likely exciting especially for those staying around Woodleigh at least!

There has been quite a fair bit of new F&B establishments that are in the midst of moving in to the area around Cross Street Exchange, Far East Square as well as Nankin Row — we had visited especially such as YUAN at Cross Street Exchange and the newly-moved Ollella that had just opened its doors at Far East Square not too long ago. Some folks might have heard about the new Breath Cafe — Breath Cafe had taken over another cafe that had previously operated in the same unit along Nankin Row; neighbours of Breath Cafe includes establishments such as Zhang Liang Mala Tang 张亮麻辣烫 and Koji Sushi Bar. For those whom have heard of Le’Tart — Breath Cafe is actually run by the very same folks whom are behind the Le’Tart brand, which is an online-based business focusing on the sale of dessert tarts with a physical location at MacPherson that is only open for self-collection or orders. One may find the naming of the cafe being a little odd; that being said, the decor pretty much answers for itself at Breath Cafe — the cafe is being filled with baby breaths from the Bimini vases on the tables to the ceilings even which provides for a patio-vibe that gives office workers around the ‘hood a bit of a respite from the stone cold workplace. Whilst Le’Tart specialises in desserts tarts, Breath Cafe is an extension of what Le’Tart is — Breath Cafe offers not only desserts such as entremets and other cakes alongside a selection of dessert tarts; it also aims to be a location that is fit for lunch / brunch with the menu featuring dishes ranging from croissant sandwiches to pasta, Spanish eggs and quiches. Beverages available at Breath Cafe includes espresso-based specialty coffee, a variety of tea, as well as sparkling and still water.

Skimming through what Breath Cafe offers for somewhat of a proper lunch, we found ourselves going for one of the quiches that is being listed on the menu since we were not quite in a mood for a cold pasta (the only pasta dish which they offer is a Truffle Capellini) — we also reckon that going for quiche is probably the closest to giving their tart offerings a go since they were sold out of their tarts with only one type of entremet being on display in their display fridge when we made our visit there on a weekday lunch service. It does seem that the folks at Breath Cafe do make their quiches from scratch upon order — or at least so since we made our visit for lunch on Monday (they are closed on Sundays). This also meant that there is some waiting time involved for us just to get the order served up at the table. The menu at Breath Cafe describes the Caramalised Onion Quiche to come with elements such as caramelised onions, wild mushroom and pastry — it also comes paired with a parsley and rocket salad that is being served on the side. Simple as it looks, we did feel that the Caramelised Onion Quiche was an item that we quite liked. Not only was it served completely piping hot since it was made only upon order for us, but the flavours hit the spot even though this was one dish that does not include any meat.

While one could definitely taste the mild notes of cream and eggs at the back of their tongue, the main star of the Caramalised Onion Quiche was undoubtedly the caramelised onions; these were cooked till soft and absolutely sweet — very delicious on their own. To introduce a bit of flavour contrast, sautéed mushrooms are added to not only give the quiche a bit of an earthy note but also a bit of a bouncy texture. We usually aren’t a fan of the greens that accompany such dishes (and especially so if they came with rocket), but the greens are drizzled with a dressing infused with yuzu that is zesty and refreshing at the same time — cuts through the inherent bitterness of the arugula. We had also managed to give the Breath’s Tiramisu a try during our visit to Breath Cafe; also the only item that was sitting in their display cabinet when we made our visit. Comprising of elements such as mascarpone, Bailey’s and coffee sponge, this carried notes that are reminiscent to the Italian classic dessert that features coffee elements — one that is undeniably smooth especially with the rich and luscious chocolate ganache on the exterior and mascarpone that didn’t feel too thick or jelat; we also liked how we did not have to deal with an overly wet sponge cake layer since Breath Cafe seemed to have taken the approach of serving it with a coffee-flavoured sponge than a coffee-infused sponge here. The savoury food does seem to be priced a bit on the high side with portion sizes veering towards the smaller side — the Caramelised Onion Quiche being the cheapest item at $10 while the most expensive would be the Lobster & Truffle Croissant Sandwich at $25; a spot more suited for weekend brunches rather than a filling work lunch. Looking forward to give their dessert tarts a go some other time though; something which we missed out on during this visit to Breath Cafe that also seems to be what they are all about!

Came across the newly-opened outlet of The Breakfast Club whilst going around Tiong Bahru Plaza recently — for those whom are wondering; yes, this is the same The Breakfast Club which is also located within The Coffee Shop By Yaowarat Thai Kway Chap just a short walk away from Kovan MRT Station; while the brand is also known to be the same one that has brought to us the Joji’s Diner brand that operates out of a shophouse unit at Upper Serangoon Road, they had also closed down a number of locations previously such as the outlet of The Breakfast Club that used to be located in Holland Village, as well as the Joji Diner’s location at Stanley Street. The outlet of The Breakfast Club at Tiong Bahru Plaza takes over the former premises of the now-defunct Yaowarat Thai Kway Chap that was in the basement of the mall. While the remaining concept of The Breakfast Club is a concept situated in a coffeeshop, the very first standalone location of The Breakfast Club is the now-defunct Holland Village location — despite the Tiong Bahru Plaza outlet being its only standalone location now, there is lesser of an emphasis in its decor to recreate vibes of an American diner; much of the shop space looks like a typical shopping mall kiosk-style eatery with dine-in tables and stools featuring wooden accents. The Breakfast Club has always been known for being a location big on all-day breakfast dishes and the Tiong Bahru Plaza location is no exception to this — the menu having segmented into categories such as All Day Breakfast, Club Mains and Sides. Beverage options at The Breakfast Club’s location at Tiong Bahru Plaza can be described as a little bit limited; the only drinks available here being lemonade, orange juice, iced lemon tea and canned drinks.

If there is one dish out there that best represents what The Breakfast Club is all about, it probably will be the Breakfast Plate — we usually detest ordering breakfast platters whenever we visit a cafe, but the Breakfast Plate is probably that item that best defines comfort American brunch fare that The Breakfast Club has their core focus in. The menu describes the Breakfast Plate to come with elements such as pork sausage, hashbrown, cherry tomatoes, baked beans, scrambled eggs, sautéed mushroom and bacon strip — patrons are able to opt for their choice of carbs here, with the default choice of carbs for the Breakfast Plate being the French Toast; the Pancake and Sourdough options are listed as an upgrade from the French Toast that is charged at $1 above the original price tag of the dish at $12.50. Patrons can also exercise the option to add other elements to the Breakfast Plate such as that of the Grilled Chicken, Mixed Greens, Pasta, Sunny Side-Up and Smoked Salmon — each element listed here carrying their own price tag. Digging into the Breakfast Plate, we were most excited to give the Pancakes a go first — the Pancakes served up at The Breakfast Club are essentially American diner-style Pancakes that look considerably hefty, though we were surprised by how light it is with a cake-like texture within; we were actually anticipating this to be rather jelat but it did turn out pretty manageable at the end. It is also noted that the pancake does seemingly come with a slight butteriness and also a hint of sweetness that came with a cinnamon-y touch; probably explains why it doesn’t come with maple syrup and butter accompanied on the side though one can still help themselves to the maple syrup at the self-service area.

The streak of bacon that accompanies the Breakfast Plate is done to a texture that is slightly chewy here — came with a saltishness that one would associate with cured meat. The flavours for the pork sausage could also be described in a similar tune, though we did enjoy the snappy skin of the sausage that we felt was a good texture. Other elements such as the hashbrown were a little bit more generic; we also found it a little bit on the greasy side, though it is worth commending that they did put in some effort to make the baked beans a little different by adding small cubes of luncheon meat to give it a varied texture. Personally, we felt that the sautéed mushrooms could definitely do more time in the pan to bring out its naturally earthy notes, though they have added garlic into the mix that gave it more flavoural contrast apart from the herbs that they have also added. The scrambled eggs did come with a decent texture — sufficiently runny, though we did find it a little bland and lacks of the eggy fragrance that we yearn for in egg dishes. Whilst the other elements of the Breakfast Plate aren’t what we will call outstanding, we do feel that their American diner-style pancakes being something that hits the spot — their fare has always been considerably affordable for how the All Day Breakfast are priced between $7.50 to $12.50; lower than that of what specialty cafes would have charged. Whilst missing of much of the glitzy vibes that Joji Diner has, The Breakfast Club at Tiong Bahru Plaza does provide residents around the area a relatively wallet-friendly option to go to for some decent brunch fare to satisfy those cravings.

Hougang isn’t a neighbourhood that is particularly synonymous with cafe culture; that being said, there is one location of which that we have been pretty aware of within the Kovan area that we had wanted to visit for quite some time. Unity Coffee had opened their doors at The Promenade @ Pelikat for quite a while; located at a corner unit of the shopping mall at the ground level, Unity Coffee isn’t too difficult a find —the cafe can be found closer towards the side of the shopping mall facing the private housing estate located along Jalan Samarinda. Unity Coffee had opened its doors officially for more than a year at the point of time where we had made our visit; there hasn’t been much of a change to the interior though the interior does evoke some form of a hipster vibe — think a monochromatic interior design scheme where there is a large use of black and white elements in an interior that is decked much like a living room. The dine-in furnishings mainly comprises of sofas and stools with small side tables that doubles up as dining tables — this is considering the compact space that the cafe is operating out of. Despite the lack of an actual hot kitchen, the menu does look pretty extensive — apart from just some bakes and pastries that are being stocked up in the display shelf located at the counter, Unity Coffee also serves up other more substantial dishes such as bagel sandwiches and pasta as well. For its specialty coffee offerings, Unity Coffee offers various forms of espresso-based specialty coffee, hand brews, cold brews as well as some non-caffeinated offerings such as the Babyccino, Honey Yuzu, Kyoto Uji Matcha Latte and drinking chocolate.

Since we headed to Unity Coffee for lunch, it is needles to say that we were looking for an item that is deemed to be a little bit more substantial to have. Considering how bagel sandwiches are still a little bit of a tougher find than pasta all around the island, we decided to settle for the S.E.C. Bagel. The S.E.C. Bagel is described to be an item that comes with elements such as Homemade Bagel, Chicken Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese based on what is being listed on the menu. With all that being said, it is interesting to note that our S.E.C. Bagel seems to have come with an actual chicken patty instead of chicken sausage that was being mentioned in the description of the item on the menu — something which we were not informed of when we made our order. We could understand the entire composition of how they had intended the S.E.C. Bagel to be — one that comes with elements that would probably make for a comforting breakfast item to have. We note that the folks have apparently even toasted the bagels on a panini grill; the result of this was the crispness of the bagel as one chews into it — quite a multi-dimensional affair considering there is also some chew from the slightly dense texture of the bagel. One thing we did note about this bagel was how the elements seem to fell apart fairly easily; there isn’t one element that could effectively bind them together. That being said, the melted cheese were gooey and stretchy, while the slab of chicken gave the dish a good meaty bite that it needs; the scrambled eggs being soft and fluffy without being too heavy on cream or milk. It does seem that the folks here also added a bit of sriracha just to bring a little bit of a flavour contrast and some hint of spiciness to further bring out the flavours the scrambled eggs and the meat — a detail that was well-appreciated.

Unity Coffee had been a spot that we long wanted to give a visit for quite some time now, and we are glad that we did so. One thing which we made us wait out in visiting the location was the small size of the cafe itself — given how there are only two tables that seats five pax in total, it does seem that it would be a challenge for those whom intend to dine-in at the location itself. With all that being said, Unity Coffee does seem to have gone beyond what one would usually expect out of such hole-in-the-wall cafes; they do serve up quite a considerable number of hot food items on their menu — we also noticed that they do seem to have a decently-sized following with a constant stream of patrons streaming in either to have a cuppa within its premises, or to do a quick takeaway. Most would be pretty familiar with the Spanish Latte in recent times — an item that is popularised with the opening of the multiple outlets of %Arabica all over the island. Whilst %Arabica’s rendition of the Spanish Latte would be what most would consider the most definitive form of Spanish Latte around, the rendition which is served at Unity Coffee is one that we found to be quite close to that. If anything, the Spanish Latte at Unity Coffee is only a touch sweeter than what we would have expected — a variant which we found to be pretty commendable on its own. The Promenade @ Pelikat may not be a location that is easy to get to or even to navigate around; that being said, Unity Coffee is definitely an establishment that is worth checking out if one is around the area.

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It seems that there is really a lot happening around the pre-war SIT flats at the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood — while the neighbourhood is already best known for its hipster nature featuring fancy bookstores and a wide variety of F&B establishments ranging from cafes to bistros and Omakase restaurants, the accessibility to the area with the opening of Havelock MRT Station along the Thomson-East Coast Line also saw the opening of more F&B establishments in the ‘hood; Seng Poh Lane being the centre of all of that of the late. For those unfamiliar with Seng Poh Lane, this is also the same area where one can find the small, single-storey shops where Glass Roasters and gelatolabo had recently opened their doors. Also new to the neighbourhood is Tartines by San Farçon; Tartines by San Farçon being located in the block just right in front of Glass Roasters and gelatolabo at 61 Seng Poh Lane. For those whom find the San Farçon name familiar; they are also the same folks behind 5 by Sans Façon at Seletar Aerospace Park which we made several visits to especially during the days when they had first opened their doors. Tartines by San Façon is styled with the same European-style interior decor theme as 5 by San Façon, though the space is way more compact and intimate with a counter seating that sits six pax and a single dining table that fits a pair. Unlike 5 by San Façon that serves up entrees, mains and brunch items, Tartines by San Façon focuses on purely Tartines (i.e. open-faced sandwiches), whilst also offering a full line-up of bakes and pastries that are baked by them at a separate location — most of which can also be found at 5 by San Façon. Beverages available at Tartines by San Façon includes espresso-based specialty coffee brewed using beans sourced from Puro Fairtrade Coffee, as well as a small selection of iced teas as well.

Considering the size of the operations at Tartines by San Façon, there is pretty much a small variety of Tartines that are available to choose from. Skimming through the menu, it did not take us long to decide on going with the Le Jambon Parfait. The Le Jambon Parfait is described ion the menu to come with elements such as Parma Ham, Camembert, Homemade Gherkin Mayo, Mixed Greens, Black Olives and Pickles. Unlike most Tartines that we are exposed to from other establishments in Singapore, the Tartines from Tartines by San Façon do come at quite a large portion size — definitely sufficiently portioned for one single diner with a little bit of stomach space to spare for their home baked pastries. The Tartines are sliced into three sections for easy eating — despite so, the folks behind the counter does provide cutlery to patrons anyway; we would reckon that the more fun way to consume the Tartine is to have them by hand however. As we went through a slice of the Tartine, the bread itself was already a winner — most of us are more used to Tartines featuring bread that comes slightly dense with a little bit of bite; the ones here comes with a nice crust while the bread comes fluffy and light, which seems to help highlight the elements that come above it. The Parma Ham and the Camembert pretty much set the centre stage of the Tartine; both of which giving the savoury note that provided much of the flavour profile of the dish. What binds all the other elements together with the toast at the bottom here would be the Homemade Gherkin Mayo; providing a creamy texture while at it. The black olives can be said to provide a slight contrast of flavours and aromatics that compliments the cured meat, while the inherent slight bitterness of the arugula cuts through that savouriness perfectly; the pickled adding a slight tang and a crunch for another dimension of textures and flavours to the Tartine.

Having been to 5 by San Façon previously, we were actually left pretty impressed by what they had to offer; apart from the food hitting the spot where flavours are of concern, they had always been consistent in serving up pretty large portions of food in general. That, coupled with the sincere and warm hospitality that we have gotten during our visits did leave us with the impression of 5 by San Façon being one of our favourite spots that we had dined at during that year. The same can be said about Tartines by San Façon, though we would probably go further to say that the experience is much more intimate — the small space at Tartines by San Façon does actually mean that there is much more interaction going on with the folks behind the counter and their patrons as well. Apart from the Le Jambon Parfait which we had went for, we also gave the Coffee Praline Tart a go during our visit to Tartine by San Façon. It is noted that we had these when they were freshly-baked; we made our order for these when the delivery had just arrived the establishment and that they were plating them up to be placed in the display fridge. We recalled not liking the dessert we have had on one occasion during our visit to 5 by San Façon but this was definitely leaps and bounds better — the tart base was crusty; holding up the wet elements above well without having become all soggy. It also crumbles neatly when sliced with the fork. Atop, there is a layer of sponge cake lined above the coffee-infused pastry cream that carries quite an evident caffeinated kick, while the nuts and dried fruits added a good bite and crunch with a flavour contrast. If anything — patience is probably needed for those who intend to dine at Tartines by San Façon; with only a single staff in its open concept kitchen, there is certainly some waiting time involved to take orders, prepare the food and collection of payment when it gets busy during peak hours. That being said, definitely a spot well worth the visit for its good food and vibes; a place that sets itself apart from the rest for sure.

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Yet another name that doesn’t need much of an introduction to those familiar with the local F&B scene, Joji’s Diner has recently opened a new outlet along Stanley Street — the same street is also home to other establishments such as the newly-opened Paris2Tokyo (which we visited not too long ago), Common Man Stan, Carrotsticks and Cravings and Miznon. Joji’s Diner was established by the same folks behind Breakfast Club — the very first Breakfast Club located at within Yaowarat Coffeeshop that is situated just a stone’s throw away from Kovan MRT Station. The brand had expanded its operations with the introduction of Joji’s Diner, which is their very first standalone concept located at Upper Serangoon Road, and had also opened yet another Breakfast Club in a standalone shophouse unit at Holland Village — this outlet has since ceased operations. Their latest concept at Stanley Road follows closely to the style of Joji’s Diner at Upper Serangoon Road — modelled after American diners in the 1950s to 1960s, expect a flashy and retro-themed interior featuring red and white booth seats with metallic walls around the entire shophouse. The ground level is pretty much dedicated to their usual dine-in operations; the second level is a space that is meant for their bar operations, which is yet to be ready during our visit — the space is also decked in a similar style to the ground level with the exception of the area dedicated to the bar counter. During the day of our visit, Joji’s Diner’s menu at Stanley Street featured a curated selection of items that are also available at their Upper Serangoon Road outpost — think items such as their Smash Burger, Poutine and the All Star Platter, while there are also list of side dishes listed in the Ala-Carte section. The Banana Split is the only Dessert item listed on the menu during our visit. Beverages include the signature Pink Lemonade, as well as coolers, sparkling beverages, juices, specialty coffee, tea and milkshakes — the list likely to expand as they kick into full operations with the bar open in due course.

Having tried their All Star Platter during my previous visit to their Upper Serangoon Road outlet, we decided to go for the Chicken & Waffles this time — one of the items which has attracted rave reviews since their time at Upper Serangoon Road. The menu describes the Chicken & Waffles as an item that comes with three elements; Chicken, Waffle and Sunny Side-Up — all that with some paprika powder sprinkled over the top. Those who need some maple syrup to go along with their Chicken & Waffles can help themselves to the bottle of Country Kitchen maple syrup that is being placed at every table. Digging into the waffles first, we felt that the waffles were above average — while these were made better than how some places would do them, there have been waffles that were texturally better than the ones we have had here at some ice-cream parlours that we have visited. Here, the waffles can’t really be described as crisp; that being said, they were definitely more on the denser side and felt a little more cake-y — not nasty, though we did feel that it adds on to the already-heavy dish on its own. Interestingly though, we did note that the the waffles did not only carry a buttermilk fragrance, but also carried a slight sweetness that lingers at the back of the tongue; provides some form of balance against the fried chicken on the top. The fried chicken comes boneless for the convenience of the diners — portioned in quite a huge slab, it features a crisp golden-brown batter with juicy and tender flesh within; didn’t really feel particularly greasy as well and seemed to have been seasoned in pepper for a slightly spicy note to cut through all the carbs and meat, which is pretty essential for the dish to keep thins more balanced here. The sunny side-up came in a neat circular shape; likely to be shaped with moulds considering how they are also missing of the crisp ends around the sides — the yolk being still somewhat molten which works for that eggporn shot if it is still needed. Overall, a Chicken & Waffle dish that seemed to have performed better than what we have expected for something that costs $12.90 — pretty value-for-money with decent execution, and at a portion size that would also work well as a dish to be shared with one other.

Joji’s Diner has always been a spot that is known to be one that serves American-style diner fare at rather wallet-friendly prices. No doubt there is no way one would likely make Joji’s Diner an everyday lunch option, but with prices of their mains ranging from $12.90 to $23.90 (most of the items falling below $20), it does work out well as an option to treat oneself to for something better during the work week; that is especially considering how most of the establishments located along the same stretch charges prices more steep than Joji’s Diner for brunch fare as well. We also felt that Joji’s Diner does seem to keep a rather consistent standard; the items we have had at their Upper Serangoon Road outlet might be different from what we have ordered at Stanley Street, but the quality of the food does feel expected for what we have experienced previously. What was rather impressive was their Hot Latte (Double Shot); perhaps one of the stronger lattes we have had even for specialty coffee shop standards, and was surprisingly well-pulled for an American diner that seems to place more emphasis on their milkshakes than coffee in the first place. Their locations have always been a little out of the way for those who do not reside within the neighbourhood that their outlets are situated at; we are definitely glad that they have opened an outlet in the Central Business District that makes it convenient for those whom have yet to visit them. Looking forward to what they would be up to once the bar opens though; likely something that would pique our interest to make a revisit in due course!

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Butler Koffee had came a long way — ever since their days being that mobile coffee cart that had found a permanent location at Kreta Ayer Road, all the way to sharing its space with Beng Who Cooks at Neil Road — Butler Koffee had finally found a home of its own at Havelock II pretty recently. Taking over the former premises of the now-defunct BREW’ Kopi & Beer, Butler Koffee is now a full-service cafe. The space has seen a different configuration in terms of its layout — the ordering counter is now located towards the right side toward the end of the shop space. Whilst trying to achieve somewhat of a minimalist approach, there are some bits of tasteful clutter all around — all that with chairs of various colours to help provide a bit of contrast that is pretty welcomed. Providing dine-in patrons with some form of simple food, Butler Koffee does serve up a small selection of toasties and croissant sandwiches to satisfy those whom are looking for hot food; pastries sourced from Keong Saik Bakery (as opposed to Nuage Patisseire & Boulangerie during their days at Beng Who Cooks) are also available. The range of beverages available at Butler Koffee is pretty much the same as what was being served previously; this includes the usual selection of specialty coffee, pour overs, as well as bottled cold brews and a small selection of tea as well.

There isn’t a particularly wide selection of food items served at Butler Koffee; having skimmed through the menu, we found ourselves leaning towards the Parma Ham & Cheese Toasties — also the priciest food item on the menu at Butler Koffee given its price of $10. The order also comes with cassava chips on the side. An interesting twist to the usual ham and cheese sandwich, the use of Parma Ham here instead of ordinary ham can be said as sprucing up the sandwich by using a premium ingredient — the Parma Ham gives the toastie a sort of savouriness that offers more dimension than the usual saltish notes of ham; a good pairing with the oozy melted cheese though we thought could have worked even better if paired with a mix of different cheeses for an extra oomph. The toastie itself on the outside was also pretty appealing; the exterior was sufficiently crisp as well. All in all, a pretty decent offering considering how it more or less qualifies as a light bite.

After sharing spaces with different tenants all these while, it is indeed heartwarming to see Butler Koffee having a space that is to their very own — they are still very much that humble coffee cart that they had started out from, but it is indeed interesting to see how they have expanded thus far. Whilst the food menu at Butler Koffee may seem a little limited at this current space, Butler Koffee is that little nook that certainly works best for that morning coffee run or that mid-day coffee break; a spot that works best to just have some peace away from all that hustle from work.

Launched over the Sunday which has just past, Sooner or Later is one of the latest additions to the Haji Lane neighbourhood — a little sad how that street seems to be no longer pedestrianised on Friday and weekend nights; certainly missing of that buzziness that it used to have in the past. Being one of the more anticipated openings in the cafe scene in recent times, Sooner or Later, occupies a pretty small shophouse unit along Haji Lane — the very same one which used to house the former premises of Windowsill Pies which have since vacated the unit. Decked in a rather minimalistic theme with a touch of geometrical elements at play, the design of the space at Sooner or Later does remind us of one where Brotherbird Coffeehouse meets Birds of Paradise / Bamboo Bowls — that sleek, nearly industrial vibe with lots of curves that makes the space seem less “sharp” than it actually is. Comprising of only three small dine-in tables of which two are two seaters while the remaining table is meant for a lone diner, larger groups may find better luck in dining at the al-fresco dining area outside of the cafe. Given the small space, the menu is kept relatively simple at Sooner or Later — savoury items include a range of croissant sandwiches, whilst they do serve ice-cream is in cups, or accompanied with brownies or waffles. They also do offer other bakes such as cakes and a banana bread; the list of beverages available at Sooner or Later includes specialty coffee, Matcha, Houjicha, as well as their signature Sesame Milk and Sesame Latte options.

Was pretty intrigued by both the Thai Chicken Croissant and the Mentaiko Crab Meat Croissant which are listed together with the other croissant sandwiches on the menu here — we found ourselves going for the Mentaiko Crab Meat Croissant since that was what the guy at the counter was recommending to us. Being what it really was described to be, the Mentaiko Crab Meat Croissant is a croissant sandwich that features chunks of crab meat in between a croissant that has been sliced into half — all that with Mentaiko sauce that has been blowtorched before being served to the table, and topped with Ebiko. The Mentaiko Crab Meat Croissant also comes with a side of salted crisps as well. Whilst the Mentaiko Crab Meat Croissant offers no surprises, we were rather satisfied with how this one went — no doubt the croissant was pretty pedestrian; nothing too artisanal, but we liked how they did go with actual crab meat (even though it seemingly looked like came out of a can; there again, can’t expect much given its kitchen size) and came with a good amount of Mentaiko sauce over the top. The Mentaiko sauce carries the typical umami note that one would have expected; all that with a slight hint of smokiness from that char by the blowtorch — the Ebiko adding that slight popping sensation that gives it an interesting contrast of texture. The accompanying potato crisps were decent; well-salted, whilst still maintaining the crispness without being anywhere near limp or stale. Overall, a little steep in terms of pricing considering this is $18, though an item would gel well for those who are not particularly picky — nothing to fault about it here.

One thing we really liked about Sooner or Later is how well they seemed to vibe with the neighbourhood that it is being situated in — it’s that raw, indie and playful vibe that seemingly make them feel like they just simply belong here. No doubt the savoury food menu is restricted to just a selection of croissant sandwiches — it is, however, a great attempt to serve up something simple to avoid themselves to be yet “another ice-cream shop”. A spot with loads of character and a pretty interior to boast, Sooner or Later is likely to be one of those locations that cafehoppers would likely add to the list of places to check out; one that also has a character that is truly of its own.

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Dropped by the new Naga House at Lorong Telok — the establishment is a concept that can be said as a cafe in the day, and operates as a bar at night. Decked in a industrial-themed interior, Naga House features a pretty raw yet minimalist and fun vibe — think concrete walls and floors, neon lighting, metallic tables and transparent blue acrylic foldable chairs where its furnishing and fittings are of concern. Apart from the indoor dine-in space within the shophouse unit, there is also a small outdoor dining area situated outside the shop — this area features storage boxes that doubles up as tables, while camping chairs make up for the seating at the outdoor dining area. The menu at Naga House features mainly three different items — Sandos, Tamago Kake Gohan, and Pasta; there is also a sharing plate of Flank Steak and sides available on the menu. Beverages include a non-alcoholic menu that is served from 10am to 5pm each day includes specialty coffee, as well as non-coffee options such as Matcha Latte, Houjicha, Sencha and Kombucha. The alcoholic selection are available all-day — these include cocktails, shots, beer and wine.

Going for the Triple Tamago Sando, the Sando features elements such as Roasted Garlic Egg Mayo, Ramen Egg, Omelette, Roasted Garlic Butter & Brioche with Dijon Mayo — it also comes with a side of cassava chips as well. Sinking our teeth into the sandwich, the Triple Tamago Sando is a pretty wholesome affair — the brioche is toasted for a crisp exterior, all that whilst the bread was soft and fluffy within and carries a sweetness of its own. With eggs that are done three-ways, each egg element comes with its own texture that provided a good contrast for the Sando — the Garlic Egg Mayo giving it a creamy consistency, while the Ramen Egg provides a good bounciness. The Roasted Garlic Butter provides a savoury, garlicky note for the Sando that binds everything altogether, whilst the Dijon Mustard provides an earthy touch; the sprinkle of Furikake over the top giving a umami note to the sandwich that makes the Triple Tamago Sando a pretty tasty affair. The cassava chips on the side were crisp; came seasoned with just enough salt for flavour — a side which was decent enough to pair with the Sando itself.

Overall, Naga House does seem to do pretty well in its food — the food served here does seem to be a playful spin on Japanese fare that seems to incorporate their own unique touch; also pretty theme-appropriate considering how the items they serve up do seem good as an all-day brunch offering as well as that of a gastrobar. That being said, Naga House does need to sort out some of its teething issues — the establishment was at maximum capacity when we made our visit during a weekend lunch service; understandably the kitchen was slammed with orders though waiting times for food can be pretty long (our last item to arrive the table, the Triple Tamago Sando took nearly an hour to be served and after we were done with the House-Fried Chicken
with Tamago Kake Gohan). Items were also coming out on a random basis; the Shimichi Truffle Fries which we ordered as a sharing plate came before the Triple Tamago Sando — though also only made its appearance at the table with a considerable wait after the House-Fried Chicken with Tamago Kake Gohan was served. We also felt that the front-of-house staff were overwhelmed — there was a period of time which we were ignored despite standing around outside of, and inside the premises in hopes of having someone to attend to us so that we can take a seat at the outdoor tables; perhaps something which they can look into as they smoothen out their operations. Still, Naga House does seem like a place worthy to check out once they have got their stuff sorted — a spot that serves up pretty decently-priced food and drinks that looks to be a fun spot to spend with some friends or co-workers for a wind-down from a hectic work week!

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Was meant to check out Upshot Specialty Coffee for a while but hadn’t really made that trip down until really recently. Being one of the few spots that serve up specialty coffee in One Raffles Place, Upshot Specialty Coffee is perhaps one of the most hidden ones as well — decked in a minimalistic theme that features plenty of white elements, the cafe is hidden up at level 4. For those looking for hot food options here, Upshot Specialty Coffee only serves up a Ham & Cheese Toast, Cheese Toast, Corndog and Croffles for its hot food menu. Apart from those, patrons also can pick between the various pastries that they have to offer in the display shelf; beverages are largely centred around both espresso-based coffee and filtered coffee, with non-coffee options including the Matcha Latte, Chai Latte, Chocolate and Passion Fruit Soda.

Between the small selection of toasts that they have to offer, it was obvious that the Cheese Toast was going to be our choice. Served in a rather simplistic fashion, we initially thought that we would be disappointed with this one; but boy were we so wrong about that. Whilst the toast looks fairly thin as compared to that of the sourdough toast that some other establishments may choose to use for similar items (which also carries a more premium vibe to it), the toast here was especially crisp, yet easy to chew. In between the slices of toast would be the melted cheese — whilst it seemed pretty pedestrian and could have easily lacked the cheese pull that most people would be looking for in an item like this, that cannot be further than the truth; the melted cheese in between is everything stretchy as one chews the Cheese Toast apart. If anything, we did like how the Cheese Toast was a fine balance between bread and cheese here — there wasn’t one element that seemed to be stronger than the other; a beautiful combination of both which did not actually feel anywhere near being jelak.

One thing particularly concerning during our visit to Upshot Specialty Coffee that we have found is how empty the place seemingly is even despite our visit made during lunch hour on a weekday at The Central Business District. Can’t be really certain if it was the location (the basement level of One Raffles Place is where most would be at with the most food options — level 4 would definitely take some effort to get to), or if it was a lack of hot food options in its menu. Whilst we do understand that there might have been challenges with serving certain types of hot food due to the space it is located in, we do wish that there were more choices available considering how limited the offerings are here. Nonetheless, the Cheese Toast is a fairly decent eat; overall a spot worth considering for a quiet cuppa and a light eat in the heart of the Central Business District.

Boyutei is probably one of the most anticipated openings in the cafe scene of the late — taking over the former premises of The Coconut Club at Ann Siang House before its eventual move to Beach Road, Boyutei is a contemporary French-Japanese cafe concept by the folks behind Whitegrass at CHIJMES and matcha specialists, Hvala, which runs various outlets including one at CHIJMES, 111Somerset and Beach Road. The space is pretty much left in the same format as when The Coconut Club moved out the premises; the kitchen at Boyutei is that of an open-concept style, while the dining area features two wings that adopts different decor styles — one that features a brighter design with white walls and wooden elements, while the other featuring black walls that carry a slightly raw look. Serving up their very own interpretations of French-Japanese fusion brunch fare, the menu is being split into several sections — this includes sections dedicated to salad & soup, rice & noodles, Sando and crepes. Plated desserts are being featured in their dessert section of the menu here, while Boyutei also offers a tea set that features savoury items, pastries / sweets and a choice of tea in a single platter at $69 for two pax. Being a concept that Hvala is involved in, expect a wide variety of Japanese green tea and black tea available at Boyutei; other tea options include straight Matcha, tea lattes, cold brew teas and Chinese teas. Coffee lovers can also opt for either the Gaiwan Coffee, as well as the Cold Brew Coffee on the menu here.

Perhaps one of the items that really showcases the French-Japanese influence on brunch fare at Boyutei will be their crepe lineup — the Prawn & Chicken Okonomiyaki being just one of the few items with a strong French-Japanese fusion amongst the crepes that they serve up here. Featuring elements such as dashi poached chicken, prawn, cabbage, pickled red cabbage, spring onion, mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce and bonito flakes, this is essentially an item where the Japanese Okonomiyaki meets the French crepe — using the crepe as a base, the crepe is done pretty thin here; despite its thinness, it does carry a sort of Prata-like consistency when one pulls it apart, all that whilst being still somewhat lightly eggy yet not being especially jelak. The mix of ingredients within the crepe is what one would usually find in a Japanese Okonomiyaki; the prawns here are especially fresh, while the dashi poached chicken is considerably tender and comes with a light hint of sweetness from the dashi used in its preparation — the red cabbage being especially fresh and gives the Prawn & Chicken Okonomiyaki Crepe a crunch factor that is also refreshing against all that meat and sauce going on in here. Given how this is an Okonomiyaki, it cannot do without the classic combination of the mayonnaise and Tonkatsu drizzle, and the sprinkle of bonito flakes for that slightly creamy, savoury and umami flavour combination. All in all, a well-made fusion dish that is made delicious especially with the use of fresh ingredients.

Having also tried the Matcha Goma Garden plated dessert, it seems that Boyutei is a spot with plenty of potential — hearty French-Japanese cuisine that is done with slight touch of finesse; a little less formal than what one would call fine dining, but certainly something that is a competitive offering to that of casual dining establishments around. Prices are reasonable here considering the quality of food and the sort of produce that they seem to be using — the rice & noodles, Sandy’s and savoury crepes being priced in the range of $18 to $26. Sure, Boyutei might not be the spot that would make for a weekly hangout, but it does certainly seem like a spot to visit for a once-in-a-while splurge, as well as a decent spot for dates that calls for slightly more upscale brunch fare.

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