My CafeHopping Stint

O.M.G! I have not been blogging for such a long time! Nope, I have not forsaken this space.  Let me just consolidate and share my reviews of 8 cafes I have recently visited here – all at one go! (NB: In random order, in case u read too much in between the lines)

The Assembly Ground Cafe
This cafe is located just next to its Assembly Store that’s a multi-label store selling a wide range of clothes, bags, accessories, etc.  I visited the cafe when K was there for another reason…to buy the bag he was eyeing for awhile at the Assembly Store, his latest favourite.

Back on track:  The cafe has nice and cosy ambience. Though it’s a lil dim for my standard.  I like the Green Tea Latte! The mushroom panini was nice too.  As for the crowd, it is located at The Cathay, so what do u think? *wink*  I would recommend to those who want to spend time with a couple of friends on a lazy weekend afternoon.  Check it out 🙂

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  3.5/5
Beverage & Food:  4/5
Cost:  3.5/5 (1- not worth; 5 – value-for-money…according to Tottz’ spending power) 

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Carpenter & Cook
This cafe serves quiches!! I was instantly excited and ordered 2 for sharing; the cheese and bacon as well as the cherry tomato. Though my number 1 is still the one at TWG, this is not too bad.  The highlight is actually the choc sea salt caramel and lemon tart.  Heavenly! I like it so much that I packed them home for K.  We’ve been there previously but don’t think we tried the tarts then.  The latte is normal.  For selfie and we-fie guys, this cafe offers a very nice ambience with pretty ‘props’ and background for photo taking.  My gal friends were all busy taking photos of almost everything in the cafe even when the food were served.  If you have time for a cuppa and pastries, come here for happy food & fun shots with your buddies!

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  4/5
Beverage & Pastries:  4/5
Cost:  3/5

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Coast and Company
I’m often confused over the name of this place – Coastliner or Coast Cycles or Coast and Company?? This is a two-in-one kind of cafe where part of the cafe is a bicycle shop (Coast Cycles) and the other part is the actual dining area (Coast and Company). Since Siglap is near our place, we swing by on a weekend morning to have brunch.  I like the ‘clean’, simplistic and spacious feel of this cafe.  But I find there’s not many choices for me in terms of food. So I ordered the Almond Peanut Butter Toast while K had the Beef Rendang Hotdog.  Yummy!  The latte was nice too.  Maybe I’m biased cos it’s affiliated to Papa Pahelta 🙂  I’ll certainly be back soon!

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  4/5
Beverage & Food:  4/5
Cost:  3.5/5

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Brawn & Brains
Another cafe that’s nearby our place. We’re really in for treats 🙂  Just next to the former Badminton Association at MacPherson, B&B is small and inconspicuous.  Apart from two long tables, there are only small chairs and side tables.  But that didn’t stop a family of 3 from sitting outside the entrance for an alfresco feel. Hmmm….

Seems like they roast different coffee beans everyday.  We got to choose between 2 different types of coffee beans and K loved the coffee so much that he ordered a 2nd helping.  It was a pity that we were too early and were told that sandwiches would only be served after 10am. So we ordered the croissants to go with our latte. I’m sure their panini would be yummy as well, on my next comeback!

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  3/5
Beverage & Pastries:  4/5
Cost:  4/5

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Jones The Grocer
Saw this cafe at ION Orchard but didn’t visit it then.  I eventually got the chance to go to the other outlet at Dempsey Hill. Well, not as up market as the former outlet, if you ask me. But I like the feel here better.  Perhaps, it’s due to its colonial setting and high ceilings, it is very spacious.  Apart from the food, the merchandise displayed at the place also took some waiting time off us as we walked around the cafe checking out what it has to offer.  Very tempted by the cutesy candies, chocs and stuff but I managed to stop myself, haha.

We did not order the food.  We only went there for drinks and desserts.  The lemon meringue tart was delicious!

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  3.5/5
Beverage & Pastries:  4/5
Cost:  3.5/5

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Brew Maison
A friend wanted to give me a bday treat and threw a popular food blog to me so that I can choose which newly opened cafe I wanted to go.  Most of the cafes listed in the blog only serve drinks and desserts; no proper food.  While scrolling the photos, my attention was locked at a cutesy 3D latte art of a cat (though yours truly is not really a cat-lover).  And, this cafe serves fusion Jap-Korean food and beverages.  Cool!

To our disappointment, we didn’t get the latte art even though we ordered its popular Taro latte.  We accepted the fact that perhaps the artist was not there till later cos we saw another group of gals had theirs (awww!).  The food is mediocre, I would say. Just like the food blogger has recommended, only the Tori Bite (aka self-made chic nuggets -> middle pic of the left column below) can make it. Oh well, I may not want to revisit this place that is residing within the Alocassia Apartments, Bukit Timah Road.  I would think its largest clientele would be the SCGS gals as it offers spacious and a pretty haven for homework and assignments 🙂

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  4/5
Beverage & Food:  2.5/5
Cost:  3.5/5

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<photo above from danielfooddiary>

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Craftsmen Specialty Coffee
“This place got class!” was my 1st impression as we approached its main entrance. I like its simplistic Scandinavian setting, furnishing; everything!  It is also spacious and neat – exactly for an OCD like yours truly.  I was instantly satisfied.  It is located within the new Siglap V condominium, so most of its customers are the residents living nearby.  As we were early, there was only simple food such as pastries and bread. So we ordered Hazelnut Latte, Almond Croissant and Sausage Bun. Noticed that they have no kitchen, so we presumed they must have sourced the food and Gryphon tea from vendors. Only the coffee is in-house. But we were not impressed by its coffee nor latte art, sorry.  Our heart still go fondly back to B&B and we liked the idea of being able to choose the freshly roasted coffee nut 🙂

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  4/5
Beverage & Pastries:  3.5/5
Cost:  3.5/5

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I like the 2-in-1 concept of decorating the pipe this way

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Residents streaming in continuously for takeaway coffee

Bluespoon
Lately we received a flyer introducing a new cafe along Joo Chiat Road, called Bluespoon. I checked the website and interestingly, found that it provides an “online kitchen – express gourmet” segment.  Formerly known as Ulu Ulu Cafe Lounge at Loyang Crescent, it has just been rebranded as Bluespoon.  Went there for a light brunch and ordered fried jap breaded shrimps with fries. I liked it.  K ordered nan with lamb shank. Not bad, he said.  The seats on level 2 offer a warm, cosy and homely feel.  Bluespoon is nestled along the famous Joo Chiat strip of old yet characteristic shophouses.  Spend your lazy weekend afternoon here if you are in search of peace and tranquillity!

Tottz’ review
Ambience:  4/5
Beverage & Food:  3.5/5
Cost:  4/5

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MIAM MIAM (repeat after me) MIAM MIAM

When my friend told me she would like to try out this new dining place that’s being publicised on the radio by KISS 92, I scratched my head. “It’s next to the newly renovated BHG!”  I was like “Where??”  Ok, I confess I am usually like a robot, who mechanically go to the same place for the same food for lunch. So it is not surprising that I have not noticed a new makan place budding in the area.

I have another confession:  I can hardly pronounce the name of the restaurant without repeating it at least twice 😦

MIAM MIAM….repeat after me….MIAM MIAM

The decoration is simple and it is in the open area at level 2 of Bugis Junction. The food they serve are typical French, Japanese cuisine.  I was attracted to the desserts at my first glance of the menu. Are you?

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The wait staff told us that if we exceeded $30, we will have a pancake FOC.  Much as we would like to order a choc soufflé, we decided to be prudent.  Everything on the menu looks good to me, not that I was hungry. I ordered the Miam Miam spaghetti and my friend ordered the lobster bisque pasta.  The staff told us we had to wait 15-20 mins for our food. My friend said the lobster was a bit tough. I was glad mine tasted to my liking. Not too heavy.  I’m not really a pancake fan. But I love this pancake. Fluffy and soft.

Overall, the place reminded me of Ambush and Platypus. All serve good food and have great atmosphere for gatherings. I would deem the price at Miam Miam is cheaper than Ambush and Platypus. Thumbs up!

burpZ!

Can’t see anything that’s Symmetrical

Symmetry is another typical “hole in the wall” cafe that recently popped out, according to K’s theory.  Indeed, it is inconspicuously located at Jalan Kubor.  An easier way of locating the cafe is to tell your friends that it is just next to the prominent landmark – Santa Grand Hotel at Bugis.

The moment I stepped into the cafe, I thought it was a lil too dark for my liking.  Unlike the name of the cafe, I couldn’t find anything that is symmetrical…hmmm…am I being dense to try associating the name with anything in the cafe? The crowd was mainly made up of youths (yes, I felt very out of place).  A quick observation – the staff here are not only young, the girls are also in super tight shorts* (Have all the guy readers woken up at this juncture? Haha)

*when i posted this on my FB, my guy friends immediately became interested about the (err…) place 

Back to the decoration, I was seated next to the window ledge and conveniently turned into a ‘photo whore’ 🙂

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What a happy coincidence, I have the same bicycle at home!

We ordered a scallop dish for starter and 2 main courses – steak and chicken. Frankly, I was very lost going thru’ the menu as the names of the dishes did not come out distinctly. Some of them have further descriptions and others, you just have to rely on your own imagination.  To play safe, I ordered the chicken.

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To our disappointment, we started with a WOW but that’s about it. The mains were not impressive. In fact, the chicken was a lil tough.

As one who seldom remembers price tags, this was one very memorable dinner for me. Friends whom I have shared this gastronomical experience with will hear the same from me – “1 starter, 2 mains, 2 drinks – $135!”  AND “The food is not fantastic!”

That left me wondering what else could be the omph factor for the survival of this cafe.  Maybe I shall ask my guy friends 🙂

Definitely not your usual ‘humble pies’!

I like the name of the cafe: Windowsill Pies – In the Woods.

I was first attracted to a pretty photo of the cafe posted in a friend’s FB. I didn’t know it is actually located near my work place, to my pleasant surprise.  Friends have told me the place is usually packed to the max on weekends. By virtue of convenience, I decided to try it out on a weekday, lunch time. Yes, pies accompanied with latte and nothing else for my lunch 🙂

I was happy to find that my colleagues and I were the 2nd batch of customers and we had many choices as to where we wanted to sit.  The not-so-big cafe gave me a comfy feel though there were no elaborate decoration. I think they changed the decoration regularly according to the seasons. I’ve got the christmas-y bear and trees.  Noticed the yellow vintage fridge?  You may think it was just part of the decoration. Nope!  FYI, it’s still working well and used to keep bottles of ice water for customers!

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At Windowsill Pies, there are only SWEET pies. And the pies are “full of robust flavours and exciting textures…to dispel the notion of humble pie.”, according to its website.

We were wow-ed by the varied selections of pies at the counter.  We decided to share and ordered 4 pies – the S’mores, Strawberry Lemon, Funny Apples and Banana Almond Brittle.  And, how could we miss ordering latte to go with the pies?

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We only had one word to describe the pies – YUMMY!  They were all tasty and we were happy!

By 1pm, we noticed more customers, mainly the young ones, streaming in to dine in or takeaway.  Coincidentally, I bumped into 2 friends who specially drove here from the Novena area to try the pies upon hearing about it from peers. Then, my colleague saw a Grasshopper Pie that had a chocolate flourless cake base topped with a crazy fresh mint cream. Even though we were already done with our pies and latte, she said she would want to try that next time.

The pies here are really attractive, tasty and most importantly, not ‘gelat’. You’ll just want to try them all!  Before we stepped out of the cafe, we were still loitering around the counter, admiring the pies. The S’mores pie was just left with 2 slices!

I’ll definitely be back soon to try the remaining Pecan, Grasshopper, Morello Cherry & Coconut Lime Vodka!

*BURPs!

Lovely latte art @ Chocks Full of Beans

A coffee lover friend has previously recommended this place to me. It’s one place where you get to see lovely latte art, she told me.  Though it’s not very far away from my place, I’ve not had the chance to visit Chocks Full of Beans at 4 Changi Village Road till recently.

The cafe is inconspicuously tucked at a corner of Blk 4, next to the bus terminal.  On a Friday evening, I would have expected it to be full house, as with many other similar joints in Singapore.  Well, this is the trend currently, where lotsa cafes and bistros are sprouting everywhere.  To my surprise, Chocks is not Full of Beans(lovers) when we arrived at about 8pm.  Strange!?  Then again, it means we didn’t need to queue and wait long for our table and food.  Happy 🙂  There are limited seats indoor, so we sat at a corner table outside.

We ordered latte (for me, it’s more to see the much-hyped latte art), pastas, chix wings and a choc cake.  Even though I was hungry, I wasn’t impressed with the food.  I would also rank the cake to be of ‘normal’ standard.  But yes, I’m impressed with the latte art  \^_^/

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I was pretty attracted to the visuals on this giant chalkboard

As the cafe closes at 10pm, we left at about 9.30pm.  Customers began to stream in much later at about 9pm.  I concluded that the food may not be as important as the atmosphere the cafe brings to its customers.  Perhaps it’s also the nostalgia and laid-back feel of Changi V. This could be their selling point?

More discoveries @ Down Under

We said it too early that we would not return to Perth any time soon. We were wrong!  About 4 months after our visit in May, we were back again. The last trip was rather a let-down as we fell ill soon after we arrived [check out “Unwinding in Down Under” in this blog!] So we were back this time with a “vengeance”; and we had another family on the same road trip that promised fun for a 6D5N relaxing and fruitful journey 🙂

We decided to self drive and got an X-Trail. Hertz did not have the RAV 4 that we wanted. Never mind. Equipped with the GPS and 150MB-a-day WIFI, we headed to Margaret River immediately after I touched down from a midnight flight.

1st pit stop: Mandurah.  We decided to stop for a break at the peaceful town, watching the seagulls as we sipped our soup and coffee. Not bad at all – the clear blue sky, the sea and the cooling weather under 20deg.

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A friend told me Margaret River (MR) is the gem of Perth, and I agree with him. Though we were not particularly knowledgeable in the art of wine tasting, we appreciated the tranquillity of the wineries.  I also loved the lush greeneries that laid all over South Perth.

Thanks to L who did research and booked our stay for this trip, we got a cosy room at Yelverton Brooks Eco Spa for 2 nights. My very 1st time being so up close and personal with lively kangaroos, parrots, woollies and possums. The animals must have felt so loved by L’s family cos they kept going to her cottage for carrots, bananas and apples. Yeah, L bought 5kg worth of carrots just to feed them! They were obviously happy with their food, so did we! We had BBQ chix wings, beef fillets, broccoli and sausages for dinner 🙂

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Day 2 was another fulfilling day. The owner recommended that we visit the Farmers’ Market for fresh produce, and so we did. But after checking it out, we only bought oranges, hee. We then proceeded to the Berry Farm, Chocolate factory, Betteney’s wine and nougat for more shopping before heading to the Voyager Estate for high tea. The sales at Berry Farm was amused we bought 18 jars of jam, lol. The Voyager Estate is ranked 3rd in MR and we were indeed impressed by its vast vineyard, classy settings and certainly, the food. Yummy!  Dinner was L’s specialty – spaghetti. We also had the oranges from Farmers’ Market and sparkling strawberry wine from Berry Farm to wrap our 2nd night in MR.

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Farmers’ Market

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(from left) Berry Farm; Chocolate Factory

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High Tea @ Voyager Estate

On our 3rd morning, we were pleasantly greeted by the Roos family who waited patiently for us to cut the carrots and apples before feeding them. After a breakfast of toasts, we bided goodbye to MR.  En route to Pemberton, we dropped by beautiful Knotting Hill winery for photo op and bought a bottle of white wine.  We loved the ambience at Voyager so much that we decided to return for lunch 🙂 Thereafter, our long road trip began…into and through the woods.

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By evening after 2+hrs of continuous driving, we finally checked into Forest Lodge. Yeah, Pemberton is full of National Parks and forests. L & Y made dinner for us again…spaghetti, veg, pan fried chicken fillets, corn and minestrone soup. As usual, we capped the night with the award-winning Semillon Sauvignon Blanc – cheers!

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Pemberton has more colourful birds and Roos. A decent spread of flakes, fruits and hot breakfast, coupled with birds chirping really made a wonderful morning. We had a leisure walk after brekkie to check out the property and yes, more photo ops with the tranquil surroundings. We missed the timing for the tram ride and decided to visit the Gloucester National Park. For A$11 per car, we could visit ALL the parks in the area! Too bad, we only had time for one. Unanimously, we thought it wd be better if we could spend another night’s stay here. After attempting to climb up the tallest Gloucester Tree in the park, we took a leisure 800m trail around the park and got closer to Mother Nature.

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Leisure walk around Forest Lodge

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800m trail around Gloucester National Park

Busselton Jetty was our next pit stop for photo op, feeding seagulls and lunch before we parted ways with L n family. It was the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. I really loved the chilly breeze, clear blue sky, tall trees and the seagulls! We fed them one big loaf of bread (made by the Yelverton Eco Spa owner, hee). The seagulls enjoyed their food, so did we with the joy of feeding them.

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For our last 2 nights, we bunked in with J & N who are staying at Langford. It was nice seeing them, esp. Bb Al again 🙂 Gosh, she’s grown so much during the last 4 months! J had made popiah (akin to Vietnamese spring rolls) for dinner.  City was really different from the suburbs. So we did what most people would do in city – shopping at the huge Harbour Town Factory Outlet. Didn’t expect we stayed there for about 5hrs, with quite a few shopping bags 🙂  We treated J & N to the Chinese Restaurant at Chinatown. The snow crab was really fantastic, no wonder K & Y came here a few times for dinner and dim sum the week before L & I arrived. At Y’s suggestion, we met up for dim sum there on our last morning before departing to the airport.

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We loved the relaxing pace (including the vehicles on the road) in Perth. K was even contemplating returning next time, contrary to what he remarked during our last trip (his first) here in May, that there’s nothing much to do in Perth. I think we have grown to love to appreciate nature more and it’s always good to do that, seeking serenity away from the bustling and bursting Singapore.

Agree? :p

Hai Di Lao: One Pot, Endless Smiles

When J first brought it up to our attention that there’s this amazing steamboat place at Clarke Quay, we  thought it was more an amusement than anything.  We even questioned with some scepticism – “Free finger food and manicure services while waiting in the queue?”…”La Mian flying ard you?”…”Plastic bags to protect your mobile phones and wipes for your glasses?”…”Free apron to protect your clothes?”

When it was my turn to choose a venue to celebrate my bday ( a tradition amongst ourselves by now), I thought, why not just explore Hai Di Lao?  Making a reservation is quite challenging, according to other friends, due to its popularity.  Okies, we decided to go for the 5pm slot; else 8pm might be too late.

It is not difficult to associate HDL with JPot at Vivocity as both subscribe to the free-n-easy style of choosing and concocting your own sauce to go with the steamboat dishes.  But personally, I think they have different styles and JPot seems to be at a higher end in terms of ambience and cost.

HDL is easy to locate.  Once you crossed the Cavenagh Bridge, you will spot the signboard.  You need to take a lift to Level 2.  I’m amused by its decoration – mainly red….and MORE red.  The restaurant is big and immediately, we were led to a table that’s near to the side bar where you help yourselves to the generous spread of dressings and side dishes.  A wait staff, like our butler, passed us an iPad.  Since J has been there before, we looked up to him to place our order using the gadget.  According to J, the tomato soup is good. So we had that plus a laksa soup.  Indeed, we loved the tomato soup – thumbs up!!

Since we heard so much about the entertaining La Mian performance, how can we not order La Mian?  After quite a long wait, the Master of La Mian finally came to our table.  We rationalised that he is the one and only in the whole place and highly sought after.  That explained the long wait but for only less than 3 minutes of flour flying here and there, over and around our heads.  Yes, it’s quite entertaining but who should eat the flour after it went “over and around the heads”? We had a short debate on this.

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As we walked out of the restaurant, I then noticed the much-hyped manicure services and spread of finger food at the entrance of the restaurant. What a sight indeed!

HDL is value for money.  Next time you need a manicure, can consider doing it at HDL to save time :O

*BURPz!