Most people don’t go to Singapore thinking ‘coffee,’ but that’s exactly one of the things I look forward to the most when I visit my sister there. For such a small country, Singapore’s got a really happening third-wave coffee scene. During my recent trip, I made it my mission to sample as much of it as I could. Unfortunately, due to limited time, funds, and my hyper-acidic stomach, I didn’t get to go all out. I did visit 7 coffee shops in 13 days, which isn’t too bad. And this is where I share my thoughts on each of them!
Since I’m no coffee connoisseur—in fact, I regularly violate the ultimate no-no of taking my cuppa joe with sugar—I’m not going to compare the nitty-gritty of the beans and brewing and whatnot. Instead, I’m just going to talk about what I liked about each of the places I visited. As before, my pursuit of coffee led me to areas of Singapore I hadn’t yet discovered, which I think is a cool side benny. Some people follow the food; I follow the coffee. So without further ado, here’s the first half of my coffee wanderings (amateur photos c/o my iPhone 4S included!):
1. Group Therapy (Tanjong Pagar area)
Love it for: the laid-back ambiance, free wi-fi, and yummy roasted almond latte
Because Group Therapy is located on the second floor of one of the many shophouses lining Duxton Road, it’s easy to accidentally walk past it, which was what I did the first time around. When I located its sign, it pointed me to a narrow staircase leading to the most satisfying of rewards:
Who wouldn’t climb up for that, right?
The first thing that came to my mind when I entered the cafe was just how cool the place was. The white walls, dark ceiling and floors, and quirky decor made for a relaxing vibe that beckoned me to unwind and stay a while. And with its free wi-fi and provisions for outlets, it’s a great place to work or study—provided that you’re there during off-peak hours. I’m sure it gets pretty full during weekends.
I tried one of their bestsellers, the roasted almond latte, and paired it with scrambled eggs and croissant. Their latte did not disappoint; it was smooth with just the right amount of nutty sweetness—and on a side note, I have to give them props for having sugar available at each table (not that I had to add any, but it’s nice to have that option). I also enjoyed the eggs, which were fluffy, creamy, and filling. The croissant was just okay, but I was surprised by how much I liked the salad. The greens were fresh and the dressing tasty. You can bet I enjoyed my afternoon snack here!
2. La Ristrettos (Novena area)
Love it for: its unexpected location and beautiful outdoor seating area
I actually discovered this place because of my sister. She had been there before, and since it was close to her apartment and even closer to her hospital, she brought me there after her check-up. Funnily enough, it’s located inside a medical center—and a swanky one at that!
While the rest of the building is modern and bright, La Ristrettos has a very cozy, warm atmosphere going on with all the wood and brick finishes and plants. It’s like an escape from the confines of the hospital within the hospital, which, as a hospital-phobe, I love. And it looks out onto a pretty garden too, which makes for a scenic place to dine out.
They serve a variety of food, from all-day breakfast to sandwiches to pastas and desserts, so if you’re looking to splurge as a reward for going to your doctor’s appointment, here’s the perfect place to do so. My sister and I both went for brunch fare—she ordered the croissant al cotto (basically a ham and cheese croissant), while I got the Florentine croissant, which was packed with spinach, scrambled eggs, and cheese. It was a substantial meal, though it would’ve been more satisfying if it had some meat like roasted chicken or turkey. Obviously, I’m a carnivore all the way.
As for the coffee, I tried their barista’s recommendation, the cafe latte. Isn’t that just gorgeous? From our table, we could see the barista make our coffee using their schmexy Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine. The latte was pleasant, not too strong nor bitter, but it was a bit too milky for my preference. Ever the cold coffee drinker, my sister went for her usual, the iced mocha, which was interesting in that it actually makes use of ice cream—chocolate ice cream, if I remember right. For non-coffee drinkers, they offer fruit juices, gelati smoothies, and tea, so you’re sure to find something to suit your taste.3. Common Man Coffee Roasters (Robertson Quay area)
Love it for: the ultra-cool interiors and lovely tableware
This was a spur-of-the-moment visit for me. I was planning to visit Ronin after reading so much about it, but it turned out to be closed for the entire week. So, I checked for the nearest coffee shop on my list, which didn’t turn out to be so near after all. It took a bus ride and a pretty long walk (made longer by the incessant heat and my gurgling stomach), but I made it to Common Man Coffee Roasters. And really, the sight that greeted me made the hassle worth it. I’m such a sucker for beautiful interiors—not to mention the abundance of seats and the cold blast of air-conditioning!
Doesn’t it look all hip and swank? I can imagining enjoying a nightcap with friends here. I love the lighting fixtures and the exposed ceiling. Compared to the other third-wave coffee shops I’d visited, CMCR was huge. I had my pick of tables, and the Filipino waiters were really accommodating.
I hadn’t planned on ordering food, but as hungry as I was, I got a croissant croque monsieur to go with my cappuccino (no photo of the food though, ’cause it turned out blurry). I read this somewhere, and I’ll borrow it here—despite its name, Common Man’s prices aren’t quite that common man-friendly. That being said, the croissant was substantial enough that I had part of it wrapped to take home. (As a side note, CMCR is owned by the folks behind 40 Hands and Tiong Bahru Bakery, so you can expect delicious breads and pastries.)
On to the coffee. First, check out that gorgeous cup and saucer (not to mention the table!). I’m in love with how unique they are, and how wonderfully solid and textured they felt. Nice latte art’s a standard in most hipster coffee shops, but notice that dark brown line along the bottom right of my cup? It tasted like cocoa-cinnamon powder, and it added amazing dimension to my first few sips of my capp. It made my coffee experience much more memorable. I remember enjoying my capp at 40 Hands, and I enjoyed this one, too. It was bold and rich and perked me up for the rest of my day.
Here’s another view of the cup—and what little you can see of my food! My only question is, if coffee and doughnuts are supposed to be free for the unemployed, why didn’t I get any? LOL. #freelanceproblems
CMCR is located at 22 Martin Road #01-00, and is open daily, 8A-7P.
For part II of my cafe-hopping chronicles, I’ll be covering Nylon Coffee Roasters, Chye Seng Huat Hardware, and more. Check back for that soon!