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Cafe Culture

Cafe Culture

Featuring One Man Coffee (Upper Thomson), Oriole Coffee + Bar (Somerset), The Lokal, The Refinery, The Bravery Cafe, Chock Full Of Beans, Forty Hands (Tiong Bahru), Toby's Estate, Two Bakers (Jalan Besar), Craftsmen Specialty Coffee (Siglap)
Melissa Chee
Melissa Chee

I thought BAC had a lean mains menu, but they actually serve a decent number of appetising sandwiches, pastas, salads and French toasts.

We ordered the tonkatsu sando out of the three sandwich choices available. Food was served really quick, and everything was toasty and crisp! The pork cutlet is really crunchy, plus it’s got not too much fatty meat in it which I really appreciated. I think the meat to bread ratio is great, plus they weren’t stingy with the tonkatsu sauce and shredded cabbage either. My only gripe is that the pork cutlet coating was quite oily, but that’s fried food right?

This sandwich comes with gherkins (not a fan), and French fries. The fries here are good too! Crispy enough and well-seasoned. While I would probably want to order something else to try (pasta!) the next time I’m here, I definitely wouldn’t mind stealing some bites off a dining partner (once social distancing and non-sharing of food items is safely behind us).

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What’s a trip to Baristart Coffee without ordering their famed ultra-kawaii shaved ice? We ordered the matcha version, and almost couldn’t bear to pour it over the ice bear’s puffy cloud-like head. But pour we did, and we watched its head stain green under the watchful eyes of our smartphone video recorders.

While I would’ve preferred the matcha (and probably all the pour overs too) to be less sweet, I guess it would suit an average person’s sweet tooth. The shaved ice wasn’t ultra fine like bingsu. It was more reminiscent of kopitiam ice kacang. Overall, this dessert is something you’d probably order for the gram as it’s nothing spectacular tastewise. It’s made a simple ingredients like an assortment of canned fruits, vanilla ice cream (nose), chocolate (eyes, nose), mini Marie biscuit (ears) and shaved ice. You can choose which flavour you want for the pour over, with the classic choice being Hokkaido milk.

I wouldn’t order this again unless I wanted to post something nice on Instagram, but I’d try to visit again soon to try their mini kuma parfait in a glass!

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I now know why the cream puffs at Baristart Coffee keep receiving good reviews. They are indeed very good. I’m not a fan of cream puffs as they tend to be too sweet for my liking, but the version at BAC won me over. It’s got a crisp, layered exterior that crackles satisfyingly when you slice it, and there’s a generous filling of thick luscious cream that isn’t overwhelmingly sweet.

Despite how good it tastes, it does get jelak after a while. I can’t imagine finishing the whole puff by myself, so this is good for sharing with a dining partner or two.

I’ve visited a number of Coffeesmith branches but this is the first time I’ve patronised the Suntec City branch. They’re located very close to the overhead bridge entrance connecting South Beach Residences to Suntec (where Watsons is).

The seating here is more open and casual as compared to the Jurong East or Somerset branches. Menu is the same as other outlets too. However, I found the service here slightly lacking as the cashier made a number of mistakes in the order and we had to repeat it 4-5 times.

On to the food itself, we ordered the Chocolate Pistachio cake and liked it. It’s got a good ratio of moist chocolate cake to chocolate and pistachio cream ratio as well as a crunchy layer of pistachio crumble near the base. I’d order this again on another visit, or try the various other cakes on offer as well.

Note that this outlet is not open 24 hours everyday. They operate past midnight from Sundays to Thursdays but are open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

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Enter Our Secret Garden, a true hidden gem in Bukit Timah Plaza.

They have a good menu and beverage selection, and the iced cappuccino I ordered was pretty good! They have a soy milk option for an additional $1 too.

The cafe also provides free wifi (password at the cashier counter), so we settled ourselves there for almost 3 hours to do work. They were really nice not to chase us out, hurry us to leave, or ask us to order more even after we finished our food and drinks. In my opinion, it’s a good place to “work from home” or for a change in environment considering the current situation.

Taking over from Rise and Grind, the place looks almost identical, but with a completely different menu. I very much appreciate the new menu, but things that still have to be improved would be the ventilation and exhaust system. When there’s frying some in the open kitchen, the smell of oil and frying tends to linger a fair bit. Also, it was really warm at some points, but the air conditioning did kick in to cool things down. These issues have been around ever since the previous cafe occupant, but hasn’t seemed to be solved yet. However, with delicious and reasonably priced food, Our Secret Garden is still a great choice if you’re looking for a quiet place to spend your day, meet up with a gal pal, or do work!

Visited the new cafe Our Secret Garden Cafe in Bukit Timah Plaza and realised it had actually taken over the previous cafe unit Rise and Grind. The unit is located outside the mall, with a short distance that’s unsheltered so it may be troublesome to walk over if it’s raining. Overall the layout of Our Secret Garden, and even the decor, is almost identical to the previous cafe, so I’m not sure if it’s a change in ownership or just a rebranded eatery.

That said, they have quite an extensive breakfast and brunch menu, which is available till 3pm. Thereafter, the mains and dessert selection take centre stage. Even if it’s just a change in name from Rise and Grind, the whole menu has been revamped and looks way better in my opinion. I was really torn on what to order especially because the pancakes and French toasts looked so delicious, but I ended up ordering the Morning Glory for a healthier brunch. Haha!

The Morning Glory is grilled chicken with bbq sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and fries, but I requested for a side salad instead of fries and they readily obliged. Really enjoyed how tender and juicy the chicken meat was, plus it was very flavourful even without the bbq or cheese sauce. Those grill lines are super on point. Salad veggies are fresh, crisp and green, and they allowed me to change sides without batting a lid, so plus points for that! The cheese sauce was probably meant for fries, but I liked dipping my chicken inside anyway because who doesn’t like cheese? I think this is actually the lighter breakfast option or low-carb version of the Morning Glory Burger available in the mains menu. Would be happy to order this again, or try the other brunch items on the menu.

Of note, Our Secret Garden is currently running a ‘Buy 2 get 1 free main’ promotion at lunch and dinner times, so it’s very much worth dropping by during those times! To add on, they also provided us with a pack of two face masks. Very thoughtful initiative during this period :)

If you really like fruity teas, go for the Peach Tie Guan Yin, the peach fragrance was lovely and blended well with the Tie Guan Yin. The tea was pretty light, but I enjoyed this combination thoroughly. Personally would have enjoyed it more if it was slightly less sweet, but I still finished the drink in no time!

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Opened for approximately a week, Steeped Tea Bar serves a selection of creative tea mixes brewed with the same degree of passion as coffee aficionados would expect.

They have a fairly simple menu of less than 10 drink mixes, and some tiramisu slices on display. Most, if not all the teas, feature fruits. I went with the Pear High Mountajn Oolong, which was one of the two items that the barista recommended. It was a light, fragrant tea with a touch of sweetness from real pear. I thoroughly enjoyed this, it wasn’t too strong or thick, making it perfect for evening refreshment. I visited on Friday night at 7.30pm, and there wasn’t anyone else around although the other nearby eateries were brimming with customers. However, that’s probably going to change with time as they’re new to the scene.

The ambience of the place is lovely, and chill. This would be a beautiful place to spend the day reading. The baristas are welcoming and friendly, but perhaps they could expand on the light bites and confectionary spread so that people would have more of a reason to drop by especially since there’s seating provided.

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Farmers and Chefs truly took me by surprise - located right outside the SCO building directly opposite OUE Downtown is this quaint and chill outdoor cafe. It’s simplistic, with very natural wooden and floral decor pieces that are also for sale.

It’s a no frills sort of place, but it’s also arguably one of the cheapest cafes or food joints in the CBD. Where can you get a good sized breakfast in a cafe, much less in the CBD, for $10? The Farmers Breakfast, though priced cheaply, definitely doesn’t scrimp on ingredients or taste. You get scrambled eggs, rosti, Roasted chicken thigh, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, focaccia and a side salad all in one dish. The portions aren’t huge, but that’s fine by me as it’s a good size for a satisfying breakfast without breaking the bank. They even have a breakfast promo for dine-ins with this set and the Foccacia Sandwich where you get a free drink (choice of tea or coffee, unfortunately they don’t serve soy milk options here).

Service leaves a lot to be desired as it’s almost non-existent, almost to the point of being unfriendly. Considering that there wasn’t anyone else at the cafe at 8.30am on a Friday morning, I would’ve thought the staff could be nicer. However, with such lovely ambience, convenience, and impossible-to-beat pricing in the city, the service isn’t a deal breaker and I’ll be sure to visit again.

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Another chef recommended item on the appetisers menu at TRR, the portobello fries are basically strips of portobello mushroom fried in batter and served with garlic aioli. This was the first dish to arrive at our table and it was freshly prepared plus piping hot.

The batter here is a winner. It’s almost tempura-esque, but denser. I love the contrast in textures in the dry crispy batter and juicy portobello strips. Whatever herb blend they use, it imparts enough saltiness to the mix that you actually don’t need any dip. If you’re in the mood for dipping, the creamy garlic aioli provided complements the crisp batter well too. The fries are a little oily from deep frying, but they’re not dripping in oil and still bearable. The crispness of the batter still held up well even after the fries had cooled down, still super crunchy and satisfying!

So much yes with this.

One of two chef’s recommended appetisers on the menu, the spicy wings comes in 6 or 8pcs. Each drumlet or winglet counts as a piece, so the portion size isn’t super huge. I love the tanginess and slight spiciness of the red sauce, especially with the slices of garlic on top to amp up the heat. Each piece of chicken was crisp, even after being slathered in the thick sauce. The chicken was also tender and juicy.

My advice would be to get this and the Portobello Fries to share if you want to check out TRR’s library-dining concept but skip the mains and go elsewhere for a more satisfying meal.

Walked past TRR multiple times when around this area but it’s never stood out since there’s an abundance of truly exceptional cafes in the area. We finally visited on a weekday afternoon at 3pm and it was a quiet place to recharge, catch up on some reading (from the variety of books available at the place) or have a relaxing meal.

We tried one of the chef recommended pastas - one of two lobster pastas. The Lobster Pasta with white wine reduction was essentially spaghetti with lobster cooked in white wine, butter, tomato, garlic and arugula.

This was the last dish to be served since we’d ordered some appetisers, but it was the most underwhelming of all. The pasta was overcooked and too soft, plus the white wine reduction was pretty tasteless even though there was butter in there. There was a very very subtle hint of white wine, but not enough to shine through. The sauce was too watery overall. We only enjoyed the lobster bits, which weren’t the easiest to enjoy although they had been chopped. It still took a fair bit of manoeuvring to get the meat out. While the lobster wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t the best. Didn’t bother with the garlic bread after a bite. It was too dry and crispy, to the extent of being hard. Not much garlic flavour either.

Honestly felt this was not worth the hefty $28.80 price tag and I would’ve been pretty mad to pay full price for this. Thankfully we were using eatigo for 30% off so the bill wasn’t so painful but still not worth the quality of this dish. I would return for the appetisers, and maybe to try other food, but I’d steer clear away from this for sure.

Always biding my time to my next meal. Everything in between just serves to kill time.

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