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March 2017

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Update: Teepee is currently closed while the owners look for a new location. Check out their facebook page for further updates!

 

I’m a Happy Camper

Working, or just simply hanging around the Clarke Quay area is a great thing actually; you get spoilt for choice from budget noodles to atas noodles (ramen) or even atas satay bars depending on your mood and budget. Speaking about bars though…

Teepee Bar & Restaurant

Opened in December 2016 amongst the budding local boutique bar scene, Teepee Bar & Restaurant sets out to be a hidden abode for tired souls by day and by night, after an in tents day at work, geddit? It feels like a slight twist to the Melbourne cafe scene where it’s also a fully functional bar, and a more than decent one at that!

The setup and fare is what you’d expect from a boutique restaurant/bar: Slim outfit but cosy, simple food but not lacking substance. To even reach the entrance of the bar, you have to first locate the nondescript address and walk down an equally nondescript corridor before you finally see their signboard, which is still further past another doorway. Comfortable wooden stools and leather couch seats pepper the dining floor, and you also see their namesake (a teepee) hung up behind the bar counter.

It was a hot afternoon (surprise surprise) so the first thought was to get a drink, like their signature Earl Grey infused Gin & Tonic. Feeling you need a perk me up instead? There’s a good menu of coffee, like the lychee affogato up and ready for you too!

At their recommendation, I got myself the buttermilk fried chicken burger, and a side of their signature pork belly buns (kong4 ba4 bao1; 扣肉包), while my lunch partner got the wagyu beef bowl, another signature menu item. I got to say, the small outfit does not stop them from dishing out scrumptious and generous meals like these. The beef bowl for example has a copious amount of beef done just perfect medium rare, and topped with a marvelously prepared onsen egg. Did I also mention that their fries are done just right?

Teepee Bar & Restaurant

 

Verdict

hole-in-the-wall-ness:
Like when their more well-known neighbour bar and another signboard-less cafe along Hongkong Street started out, you probably will not be able to locate them at first glance.

Price:
It’s definitely not the cheapest option in Clarke Quay, but i definitely felt full after!

Quality:
Food is made with fresh ingredients and meats are well-seasoned (and battered). Did I already say that their fries are good?

Overall:
It’s perfect as a hideout regardless of the time of day, be it from the office hustle or the after-work party bustle. I am told it gets pretty crowded at night though so be prepared!

More Information

Teepee Bar & Restaurant
31 Hong Kong Street
#01-02 Singapore 059670
(just walk through the doorway and down the corridor at the first floor)
Phone: 6225 0025
Email: hola@teepee.com.sg
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Roti Prata is, admittedly, a guilty pleasure of mine as a Singaporean. In fact, this dish is so entrenched into our food culture that we become defensive when being told otherwise what is “Singaporean food”. It transcends ethnic and socioeconomic boundaries as well; public figures have also been known to host distinguished foreign guests with these staple foods to impress on them not to mess with us when it comes to food.

Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food

Started more than 35 years ago right in Maxwell Food Centre (then called Maxwell Road Hawker Centre), Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food dutifully dishes out stacks (yes!) after stacks of roti prata even before first light comes, as the early birds of office workers queue up to fuel up for the day ahead.

Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food Roti PrataHajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food Roti Prata

Likewise, nothing much really beats a fluffy double-egg prata in the morning, with some tangy curry at the side, and a cup of teh tarik to wash it down after. Mr Kumar, the owner affectionately known just as ‘uncle’ by just about everyone, remembers his regulars so well that all it takes is just a mutual nod to get the order taken! After pledging my first child patronising them for close to 5 years now, sometimes ‘uncle’ does the flipping and folding personally just for me, something pretty rare as his head cook does most of the work *Aww*

Apart from roti prata, they also sell some really good bryani (not pictured) in the afternoon, but for them it also means that they stop the roti prata orders until late night so that they are not overwhelmed by demand.

Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food Roti Prata Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food Roti Prata

Verdict

hole-in-the-wall-ness:
It’s a hawker stall in a popular food centre; so the vibe isn’t that strong of what you will expect.

Price:
With my double egg prata at $2 being near the top of the prices, it’s sure affordable!

Quality:
I can attest that although there’s no prominent blog review (I tried) to recommend this, it’s definitely a delightful experience (come on, it’s prata leh) even if you don’t eat the roti prata here.

Overall:
Bored of your tasteless sandwiches from Tanjong Pagar MRT Station, or just done with clubbing nearby at Neil Road? Come get your prata fix right in the heart of the CBD!

More Information

Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food (Halal)
1 Kadayanallur Street
#01-103 Maxwell Food Centre
Singapore 069184
Opens 24/7, but roti prata is not available in the later morning till night.
p.s. It’s the corner-most stall nearest to the zebra crossing along the street


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A balanced diet is having a cupcake in each hand – Anon.

I happened to be in the Tiong Bahru Estate, as I had an apartment for the night before for my other photography works. I know that there was already a bookstore and even a yoga school along Yong Siak Street (one of the more happening enclaves in the area), but Plain Vanilla Bakery and their cupcakes has never exactly caught my eye previously.

Plain Vanilla Bakery

Since 2013, Plain Vanilla has been producing fresh cupcakes, and other cakes and pastries daily. Highlighting their commitment to top quality food, their products are only baked and served on the same day.

The bakery itself has very minimal cottagey, wooden furnishings, with a bright full length window at the entrance for you to peer into rows upon rows of enticing cupcakes. Outside, the seating area is sparse with a few big tables and surrounding long benches. What I liked was that it also designated as a reading area with an eclectic selection of reading materials; something that not many cafes do these days. The wooden swing at their entrance is also something very Instagrammable!


Plain Vanilla Plain Vanilla Plain VanillaPlain VanillaPlain VanillaPlain VanillaPlain Vanilla

I was there for a quick breakfast, so while I couldn’t resist getting at least one of their cupcakes I also got myself one of their breakfast items, a Brioche bun with baked eggs. Paired with coffee, it’s a pretty good perk me up for the weekend ahead. I just wished I could have more time (and stomach) for their other breakfast items and cakes!

One thing to highlight: they have a lot of cupcake flavours. From the rich chocolatey ones to the fruity, zesty variety, you’ll be really tempted to take a dozen of goodness home to savour!

Plain Vanilla Plain Vanilla Plain Vanilla

Verdict

hole-in-the-wall-ness:
Despite having 2 other outlets in relatively convenient places, their flagship store in Tiong Bahru catches on the rustic charm of the entire estate.

Price:
A little premium to be made, but still pretty affordable (cupcakes start at $3.90 with better discounts by the dozen, my brioche bun took my at $7).

Quality:
The freshness can be tasted, trust me.

Overall:
Whether you like your cafes and other things in life vanilla or not, you’ll find something (usually a cupcake) for you here at Plain Vanilla!

More Information

Plain Vanilla Bakery
Tiong Bahru Flagship
1D Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168641
Tel: 8363 7614
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 8am – 7pm, Sunday: 9am – 6pm
Cupcakes & bakes available from 10am; earliest order collection starts from 10am.
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Cluny Court
01-03A, 501 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259760
Tel: 8363 7615
Opening Hours: 8am – 7pm daily
Breakfast bakes available from 8am, and cupcakes & other bakes from 11am; earliest order collection starts from 11am.

ION Orchard
Closed for refurbishment – March 2017 EDIT: They have opened!
B1-06 within IN GOOD COMPANY Concept Store, 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801
Tel: 8299 9422
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11am – 7pm, Friday – Sunday & Public Holidays: 10am – 7.30pm
Cupcakes & bakes available from 11.30am; earliest order collection starts from 12pm.

 

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I am (hehe) pretty sure most of the cafe-hopping crowd in Singapore would be familiar with I am… Cafe (yes, the name includes the ellipsis) and their signature red letter blocks at the corner of Haji Lane:

A post shared by I am… (@iamathajilane) on

Living on the better side of the island and don’t want to join the throngs of poor west-siders in queuing for ages? Now you can just stay in paradise!

I am… Cafe (Our Tampines Hub)

Just opened on 28 February 2017, I am… Cafe now brings all that burger and fries (with some pizza) goodness right to our doorstep in the East. Situated on the third floor of Our Tampines Hub right next to the HomeTeamNS clubhouse,  where there are already plenty of fun things to do, it takes a little bit of eyeballing but you won’t miss their trademark signage even from level 1.

Interior wise, it does remind you of Haji Lane, and I very much prefer an air-conditioned experience, although it does contain the noise of the hustle and bustle going on (it is a family casual restaurant after all so don’t expect classical music and hush-hush conversations).

I am Cafe Tampines I am Cafe Tampines I am Cafe Tampines I am Cafe Tampines

Likewise, the menu still consists of old favourites such as their side of truffle fries, which is topped off with thick and creamy truffle mayo. Burgers, pizzas, and their fish & chips are also available, along with their signature mocktails (they’re halal certified). Don’t forget their desserts like the RAINBOW CAKE! Call me nitpicky, but while my ‘the boss’ burger is definitely scrumptious, I’d wish for the patty to be at least the same diameter as the buns so that I can pick it up to chomp down on it (hehe) without risking it popping out of the buns mid-bite.

I am Cafe Tampines I am Cafe Tampines I am Cafe Tampines I am Cafe Tampines

A post shared by I am… (@iamathajilane) on

A post shared by I am… (@iamathajilane) on

Waitrr Pls

One new addition since I last ate at I am… Cafe is the use of a mobile app called “Waitrr“. From browsing the menu, all the way to ordering and paying for your meal, it’s a seamless process that’s quite frankly a well-designed user experience. No more hems and haws when your service staff probes whether you are ready to order, or yelling through to them during busy weekend dinners and hoping he/she read your order right. Just scan the QR code, pass the phone down the table and pick your food and drinks! What’s also good I realised, is that you don’t have to make one person pick up the tab or get service to split your tabs (a horrible experience for large groups, please don’t do this to wait staff…). Just use your own phone(s) to order separately and pay immediately after! EZPZ!

Verdict

hole-in-the-wall-ness:
This is in (what’s becoming) a very popular hangout in Tampines, so it’s not something too out of the way. Also the brand is already a staple in halal Cafes.

Price:
Prices are still pretty fair, nothing out of the ordinary for cafes (I spent about 20 per pax).

Quality:
You probably need to order dessert if you’re really hungry, but portions are not scrimped on here.

Overall: I
Joining the fray with other cafes showing up in Tampines, like one I previously visited, I am… Cafe banks on its already solid reputation in dishing out relatively affordable premium western cuisine that’s halal-certified, right in the heartlands! Surely, a #newbeastfromtheeast!

More Information

I am… Cafe (Our Tampines Hub)
51 Tampines Ave 4
#03-04
Our Tampines Hub
Singapore 529684
​Tel: 6295 5509
Email: enquiry@iam.com.sg
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“I am a coffee fanatic. Once you go to proper coffee, you can’t go back. You cannot go back.”

Hugh Laurie

As recent as 2010, Singapore was hit by a wave of artisan coffee houses, stemming from the Melbourne café scene that has pretty much took over the whole world. It’s no doubt that Singaporeans will always crave for better quality, and will jump on the first available choice AND be more than willing to shell out a premium. However it still remains a cut-throat arena; out of the 391 cafes that opened in 2014, at least a quarter of them didn’t make the cut since. That’s a lot of coffee going both ways!

Also, I personally observe that a lot of these cafés popping up like rabbits aren’t really that serious about the literal meaning of a café; well, the coffee.

Stephanie Phua (Duo Studio)

VXX Cooperative

Stephanie of Duo Studio sought out to disprove that by bringing me to a relatively new coffeehouse in the vicinity of her agency, in Jalan Besar. Speaking of the area, it’s a really under-the-radar and eclectic enclave of coffeehouses and small restaurants!

Creative & advertising agencies similarly have a tough life over here, and she’s glad that she can find such a place just round the corner that not only is a good place to tune out/do work in peace, but also has a satisfying dining experience.

VXX Cooperative

Started by coffee connoisseurs and professionals Joy and Aslam, VXX Cooperative takes pride in their coffee-centric nature, which is evident in the curation of available roasted brews. With a mix of local favourites Nylon Coffee Roasters, Cloud Catcher Roastery (Malaysia), Koppi (Sweden) and Tim Wendelboe (Norway), it’s a special kind of heaven for serious coffee enthusiasts. Coupled with the strong experience of both former baristas themselves, Joy and Aslam are able to bring out the best of what are already among the best roasts in town.

If you wanted to know, “VXX” is something of sentimental value to Aslam, as it is the area code (520) of the district.

I’m a relatively technical person myself, and I love it when being explained to the facts and technical aspects of just about anything, especially food. This was exactly the experience I got; Joy was really patient and enthusiastic to introduce the profiles of the special brews on sale that day and I made an informed choice to get the Nacimiento by Tim Wendelboe. Served in a metal flask, it’s meant to be enjoyed slowly to allow the aromatics time to vaporise and give you an olfactory treat.

If any, their logo is a good representation of their culture: sharp but multi-directional curation. Located at 20 Foch Road, the interior is nicely spaced, minimalistic yet comfortable. The flowery floor tiles were probably because it used to be a dispensary back in the days. It’s not somewhere you’d want to have a 50 seats birthday party at, but like Stephanie, it’s a pretty good place if you want some peace and quiet. When you enter the shop’s front hall you’ll be greeted with a really large flat wooden table, possible with some coffee drips running on it. Take your pick with the merchandise just next to it too, when I was there, I saw some really good chocolate!

In fact, she got so comfy with the place that her coffee choices are simply picked for her and she does not have to worry about not enjoying whatever is served! Joy does not disappoint.

VXX Cooperative VXX Cooperative VXX Cooperative VXX Cooperative

The food menu is something that constantly evolves, but keeps to their principle of serving simple food to a T. I do agree to not over-complicating your food as a café owner as it will rob the attention from the beverages, and turn you into one of those red-velvet-cake-eggs-benedict-please hipster cafés.

Opting for something balanced and light I’ve opted for the banana-walnut french toast, topped up with mascarpone cheese, berries and coffee custard. Stephanie (aka stooffi) got basically what she always orders: a beef chorizo bowl with shaved potatos and tomatoes, topped with a perfectly wobbly *jiggle* onsen egg. According to her this is the third iteration of the same dish, and it is rather different in terms of presentation and preparation style from the predecessors.

There are also several other interesting creations from breakfast items to full lunch menus. I heard the dessert is also to die for, so get them before they change the menu (yet again)!

VXX Cooperative VXX Cooperative VXX Cooperative

At the time of writing both Rudi and Joy are taking part in the Singapore National Brewers Cup 2017, happening at Cafe Asia 2017 over at MBS this weekend! All the best!

Verdict

hole-in-the-wall-ness:
Nondescript shopfront, minimalistic furniture, artisan food and beverages? Check!

Price:
While you have to be prepared for some premium in prices, care is taken to prepare the food and (especially) coffee. You won’t feel shortchanged at all!

Quality:
See above. Portions are just right regardless if you want a midday snack, or a hearty lunch.

Overall:
Definitely a good local effort to bring quality coffee to the scene (a refreshing change in my opinion). They change up every 3-4 months to keep things fresh too, so you won’t get bored.

More Information

VXX Cooperative
20 Foch Road
Singapore 209261
Tel: 8720 0093
Opens daily 9:00am to 6:00pm
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