the populus coffee & food co., bukit pasoh

very hipster, very young clientele, similarly young baristas – decent food on a rather impressively-large menu for a coffee-focused place, but rather too-cool-for-you service that could be a little off-putting if you’re an old, plodding person soul as I am.

but these places sure know how to use design to create ambiance – I loved the wood, cork and black metal used all over here, and look at these lovely vintagey amber glasses.

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the new black, (now at) republic plaza

ok, it’s been long enough that this place has moved since I went there – but I thought it worth letting you know that there’s a slick, modern coffee place that is more yuppie than hipster (it’s a nice change), done up in chrome and bright colours.

I’m not big on coffee – starbucks and sugar being the order of the day – but tea is my thing, and this place has some interesting brews. with bombastic names like FREAK OF NATURE OOLONG (their editing, not mine), and long vino-style descriptions, it’s quite a lot of hype for what is really water flavored with leaves.

I did like that oolong though – so I give it to them, and the blood orange pu-erh is nicely drinkable, as well.

and also, and this is a big ALSO, they serve drinks in beautiful semi-disposable cups (semi, because it really depends on whether you get the plastic or stiff cardboard cups) that really prove how important packaging is.

so pricey, but hey – if you’re coming to these places, surely you didn’t expect anything else? and it’s almost quite worth it, given the drinks are intriguing and the cups takeawayable (that is to say, that they are recyclable and also pretty enough for you to want to use it – which is not often the case).

The New Black
Republic Plaza
9 Raffles Place
Singapore 048619
(also Centennial Tower)
$$: 10ish per person

the plain, craig road

good, homely little cafe along craig road, nearish the chinatown area.

this place has been around for ages, and might be called an institution: it’s small and cramped, it’s barely furnished, and the menu is small – all characteristics that fulfill the requirements of what it is to be a cafe in our modern age. but while some places go off the mark and irritate you with their too-cool-for-school ‘tude, this one maintains a pretty relaxed, chilled vibe that doesn’t annoy.

there doesn’t really seem to be much to say about this place – it’s a cafe, and it fulfills its functions well. the coffee is decent (or at least the brew that went into my affogato was strong but not tannic), and if you can find seats, it makes for a decent place for a chat with friends (except that if you’re sitting at the back, the lack of air-conditioning makes for sweltering conversation).

there is a tiny menu that includes eggs and soldiers (if you’re the sort that knows this as set A, this place is going to be overpriced for you) as well as cute little bowls of bircher muesli (such a rarity in this country – done here a little on the small and sweet side, but otherwise inoffensive).

communal sitting is the name of the game – unless you’re in a big enough crowd that you can edge strangers out – which I feel is optimistic in asia, where we whip out our phones to avoid eye contact and speak softly and impersonally when amongst strangers.

but, cute cafe and really rather cosy, and there’s bircher muesli. I’ll probably be back.

The Plain
#01-01, 50 Craig Road
Singapore 089688
tel +65 6423 9918
$$: 50-15 per person (depends on whether you’re eating)

coq & balls, tiong bahru

so-so brunch at this small cafe-bar-bistro in tiong bahru. this place is kind of meh – the food is just about alright – in that I would visit if I were living just a block away – but otherwise, it’s not entirely worth the trip.

and, such a deliberately provocative, scandal-inciting sort of name. almost definitely thought up by men – if the joy had by my male dining companions were anything to go by.

n.b. that is a photo of literal twiddling thumbs because I had confiscated the coffee to photograph. the camera eats first!

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group therapy coffee cafe, chinatown

we stopped here after a utterly brill dinner at etna (just downstairs from this place), just to grab a bit more dessert and coffee – really, just to give in to the greed.

it had high standards to live up to, as the cap to a great meal – but fell a tad short. our pecan tart – always a delight to order and anticipate in light of the gluttony that ought arrive – was definitely packed tight with nuts, but those lovely things were bound with a strange sort of caramel. not sticky, or fragrant with the flavours of burnt sugar, this seemed rather like a slightly gummy type of uhm, gum. not quite worth the calories, and I gave up just a bite in.

the drinks were pedestrian, but it was enough that night for us to sit down and chat. we’d had a good time with the italian meal downstairs – and this felt rather like a rather calming bit of something to tide us over till bedtime. objectively speaking, it wasn’t sparkling, and the queues are outrageous for something so.. normal. but it’s a bit of hideaway (though a crowded one), prices aren’t mad and the stuff isn’t terrible – so it might just work if you were in the area.

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pies & coffee, buona vista

quiet stop for coffee and cake at the rochester mall – unassuming, but they make a mean chocolate cake. there’s not really much to say about this place: it’s not quite a hipster joint, and more akin to starbucks in feel, prices average, space average.

we had an array of desserts from their rather appealing cold counter – lots of options available (savory food too, if you’re in mind for some):

  • a slice of chocolate cake, which was dark and chocolatey and rich like ganache – this went down quickly, so watch that you don’t lift your fork away from the plate too much (especially if dining with fellow chocolate people);
  • a bit of a lemon meringue pie, which I was less enamoured with – the white fluff was slightly too-stiff and piled way-higher than it needed to be, and the filling didn’t have enough tartness to cut through the rather one-dimensional sweetness;
  • and a chocolate tart, for which our expectations were raised after the girl behind the counter described it as “oozey like a lava cake”. it’s a fantastic idea, and would have been absolutely phenomenal if executed properly – but we had to return it twice so it could be adequately warmed (it came back cold to the finger-test, which I think ridiculous), and the filling was definitely not oozey. it tasted like an average double-crusted (pretty thick pastry too, though at least pleasantly buttery) chocolate tart.

    I like the iced cappuccino – but I’m in no way an expert or a fanatic so I suspect relevant javaholics will need to chim in here. it’s a decent sort of place – good for holding those tea-break meetings or meeting some friends, but it certainly hasn’t the soul (or the supposed elitism) one expects with coffee joints these days.

    p.s. I hear something curious from friends about how drury lane was set up from renegades of this very place – and I have to say I prefer that establishment for its quality. but again, it’s also a bit of a kitschy hipster versus truly-commercial sort of comparison, which likely doesn’t make it fair for the latter.

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  • batterworks + nylon coffee roasters, outram park

    back with a singapore post, and this time we’re in the hipster neighborhood of everton park. it’s a quaint, quiet, old neighborhood that’s recently seen the entrance of young hipster establishments full of their concrete naturalness, too-cool-for-school carelessness, and questionable gastronomy.

    most people come here for the coffee – but I came lured by the offer of cake.

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    shots cafĂ©, tanjong pagar

    decent place to rest in the hipster part of chinatown. I’m no coffee drinker, much less a connoisseur – so the judgment I pass on this place is it’s a good spot of air-conditioning on a sweltering afternoon.

    I got a hazelnut latte, settled down to the appetite magazines (gotta love their photos) strewn on the table, and let the afternoon melt away.

    I hope you’re having a fine one this blistering weekend!


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