Grab a cuppa on your way to work or swap your regular cafeteria lunch meals with atas ones at these joints that not only serve a great change of environment from your bleak office walls, but also menus that'll satisfy any empty bellies.
RECOMMENDED: The best cafés in Singapore
The Populus Coffee and Food Co
Perhaps a signal of flagging café food standards of late, this hot Neil Road joint appoints itself a 'gastro-café' to highlight its flavour-forward leanings. And The Populus definitely lives up to its tag. The rice and grain bowls ($18.50-$24) – they’re topped with all manner of vegetables and meats like pulled pork, teriyaki salmon and truffle-scented seared wagyu – are Instagram favourites that taste as hearty as they photograph. As is the server-recommended seafood linguine ($24), with al dente spools of bisque-coated pasta next to nubs of crabmeat and scallops. Fork out another ten bucks to add a tail of butter-poached lobster. Given that co-owners Andrew Lek and Kang Yi Yang borrow references from Down Under, smashed avocado shows up smeared on robust multi-grain bread along with vinaigrette-slicked musses of kale, broccoli, spinach and other greens on the Superfood Platter ($20). One tip to getting a balanced meal here is to have a tall swirl of ice cream on waffles – like the raspberry- and passionfruit-soured Dark Chocolate Sundae ($14) – with a cup of coffee to kill the sugar. Because the other part of the owner equation here, local roasting outfit 2Degrees North Coffee Co, trains its barista team well enough to offer suggestions on the ideal milk-to-espresso ratio for the three signature blends of coffee ($4.50-$5.50) and single-origins ($6-$6.50). At times, the café’s house rules can come across as churlish: it discourages doggie bags by implementing a $2 surcha
No office towers throw shadows on The LoKal's shophouse unit in Bukit Pasoh, yet you'll struggle to find a seat among white-collared types deep into lunchtime on a weekday. Modelled after Melbourne’s brunch institution, Pope Joan, The Lokal is staffed by a team headed by Aussie chef Darren Farr, who brings experience from the original Tetsuya in Sydney. With blue Peranakan-style tiled walls contrasting against dark timber floors, the rustic, hipster-pleasing interior features quirks like upside-down potted herb plants that teeter precariously from the ceiling, while natural light floods in from the window over the kitchen to put their chefs in the spotlight. Most dishes sport familiar-to-locals ingredients, but with restaurant-level finesse and more forgiving prices. The blackboards detailing the day's specials are always worth considering before you pick from the menu. For a light lunch, go for options like The LoKal Lobster Roll ($22). Gherkin, coleslaw and lemon mayonnaise elevate curls of slipper lobster, packed in between a hotdog bun. But if it's eggs you're after, the Pimp Your Breakfast beats any morning-after brunch: you have the freedom to assemble your very own plate. And what an assortment The LoKal puts out. Cram your breakfast with eggs done three ways ($5-$6), goopy cauliflower and cheese ($6), as well as your pick of protein – we recommend the salmon ($6) and mackerel ($6),both smoked in-house over cherry and apple wood chips. The chef-y leanings of this mo
Like its sister cafés Ronin and The Plain, PUNCH appeals to your senses even before the food arrives. Its interiors of mostly white furniture with dashes of marble and wood are built for Instagram, while the open courtyard at the back of house offers a boost of Vitamin D, wooden benches, greenery and a glimpse into the kitchen. That is, if you can even find the opaque glass door of this signboard-less café. Skip the café-standard breakfast offerings of poached eggs with avocado ($13) or mushrooms ($14) and pick from the lunch menu, which boasts a – dare we say it – punchier line-up. The café does a mean braised pork belly bowl ($13), fork-tender enough to rival any grandma’s rendition. The crown jewel, however, is the spicy tuna poké ($15): marinated maguro, shredded nori and cubes of avocado tumble atop furikake-seasoned sushi rice. And a bowl of maple-roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut pumpkin, drizzled with a lemon tahini sauce ($14), brings the vegans into the yard, too.
Tiong Bahru Bakery (Raffles City)
This three-outlet boulangerie by the Spa Esprit group is known for its coffee, tarts and French artisanal breads including the ever-popular croissant ($2.70) and the sinful Kouign-Amann ($3.50). The Raffles City outlet, however, also rolls out a full menu – just don’t expect to see the café-standard eggs Benedict on it. Instead, you’ll find pancake burger ($18) with a house-made breakfast sausage, crispy bacon and organic New Zealand egg served with tater tots on the side, ebiko crab and prawn toastie ($19), and cheesy crusted polenta with prawns on red pepper sauce ($16). On the healthier side of the menu is the Rainbow Rice Bowl ($16) with spicy pineapple kimchi, mixed sprouts, salsa verde and purple potato crisps, and kale salad ($14) with both crispy and chewy farro grains.
‘Do you know the Muffin Man that lives in Drury Lane?’ With this café on Tanjong Pagar, we can’t help but hum the lyrics to the nursery rhyme that inspired it. Incidentally, it’s also what the owners – three keen home baristas and two chefs – had in mind when they decided to start this café. They've since moved on from selling muffins to specialising in all-day breakfasts, salads and sandwiches. Pair your dishes with a coffees, smoothies or a cup of tea. In addition to its range of baked goods (including cakes and tarts), some simple food items are available as well, such as baked eggs (from $12) served with homemade baked beans, cheese, toast and a choice of protein, or the steak sandwich ($8) with caramelised onions, which works well as a quick lunch option.
Common Man Coffee Roasters
Near-unbeatable coffee and an all-day breakfast menu unlike any other elevate this 1920s Art Deco-inspired Five Senses/40 Hands/Spa Esprit Group mash-up to greatness. The frenetic eight-metre-long bar crawls with all creeds of coffee devotees rhapsodising about the rotating range of single origin brews, but it’s the uncommonly good brunch classics done with a twist that we can’t get enough of – the Common Man Full Breakfast ($27) sees back bacon, tomatoes, sausages, rosti and scrambled eggs on toast topped with housemade chorizo baked beans, portobello mushrooms and sour cream laced with mint. It sums up this café: hearty, honest and hella hefty. And those qualities extend well beyond the all-day breakfasts into the lunch menu (available from 11am-5.30pm). For something less meaty, we say dive right into the seared salmon salad ($26), forks at the ready. We know what you’re thinking: ‘What?! A salad?’ But bite into a creamy chunk of fish – still rare in the middle – and chase that with a wasabi vinaigrette-coated Japanese cucumber roll or a crumb of fish crackling and you’ll be humming a different tune. That the whole plate is bigger than your face helps justify its admittedly steep price.Elsewhere on the menu, you have your wagyu burgers ($29), squid bolognese orichiette ($28) and, for the vegans, a cold soba salad with green papaya, toasted seeds and asparagus ($19).
The Daily Roundup
This pastel-hued café – it’s a part of co-working space The Working Capitol – does only one thing, but does it well: the French pancake. Sweet options range from your basic butter sugar crêpes ($10) to one crowned with berries, whipped cream, caramelised almonds, fruit coulis and ice cream ($18). They’re made with butter imported from the maison of French artisan Jean-Yves Bordier, so you know The Daily Roundup’s pretty serious about its stuff. The savoury galettes – unlike crêpes, they’ve got buckwheat flour in them – are better. You’ll want to stick to the basic Complète ($16), with ham, Comté cheese and a sunny-side up, blanketed in a toothsome, slightly crispy thosai lookalike (no, they don’t taste remotely alike).
Cake Spade has moved to a bigger space down the row of shophouses in Tanjong Pagar, decked with retro, quirky interiors and a pink neon sign that screams, ‘I want it all’. And it’s hard not to when faced with a phalanx of cake slices from strawberry tofu cheesecakes to Speculoos cookie butter cheesecakes ($6.90/slice). The giant cake shakes ($16.90) will make you weak at the knees, too: think milkshakes stacked with wafers, cake bits, sprinkles and so much treacly stuff it’s amazing these mason jars don’t topple over. Order the unicorn cake shake, with a towering swirl of cotton candy on a rainbow-sprinkled cone, and you’ll understand. There are also sugar rush-inducing desserts like an Oreo cookie brownie ($3.80), apple cinnamon crumble ($5.50) and passion fruit meringue tart ($7.50). And if a special occasion calls for it, order a customised cake (from $60) and make it every bit as decadent and voluptuous as Cake Spade’s flamingo decor.
The Book Café
Snug like a living room, Book Café's long been the local go-to for a quiet catch up on a book you've been wanting to complete, or a comfy spot to bang out a quick bit of work. The free wifi and printer accessible to customers certainly helps. And if you're not looking to go far for sustenence, look to their extensive menu, with all-day breakfast options like pancakes ($11.95) and eggs Benedicts ($15.95) to pick from. And for those beauty concious patrons, choose from its Skin-Smart drinks menu for a pot of good-for-your-skin tea, which includes flavours like honey yuzu, lychee coconut and Swiss apple ($8/pot).
Tucked away in the nest of the CBD and through the doors of Club Meatballs is Club House, an airy, design-savvy workspace. The tables are large enough to sprawl your day's worth of work across, and there's the all-important WiFi available. And for those who seek privacy, a small glass room in a nook at the back can be booked. For fuel, Sarnies is the coffee ($4.50-$6) and cold-pressed juice ($6.50) supplier, so whatever your preference for a boost is, this hang-out spot has you covered. Get there early and you can start your morning right with breakfast from Club Meatballs ($4-10). Throughout the day, Club House snacks include Jaffles, which are Australian toasties with fillings like bacon and egg or ham and mozarella ($6.50). The focus on aesthetics doesn't come as a surprise – Club House also doubles up as a showroom for BW Furniture, where an art installation of white chairs dangle from the ceiling.
My Awesome Cafe
It’s hard to get particularly excited for yet another vintage café to hit the city, but we make exceptions for My Awesome Café on Telok Ayer. Located on the ground floor of what used to be the Telok Ayer Chung Hwa Free Clinic, My Awesome Café takes the retrospective-looking trend aesthetic and knocks it out of the ballpark with equal parts knack for sourcing and creative ingenuity. The man responsible for the high-ceilinged ground floor café – once the clinic’s consultation room – is hotel and F&B industry veteran, Franck Hardy, who was introduced to the space by his design agency friends occupying the two levels above the café. Asked to present a proposal for the URA-conserved space to the building’s landlord, Hardy took an aimless drive around town and found inspiration in a cache of old school tables and scrap fire house pipes. ‘It wasn’t a part of my concept at all,’ says Hardy, ‘But I fell in love with them instantly.’ Subsequently inspired by his find, Hardy settled on the café’s theme of giving items, and people, a second chance at life, Hardy worked with the uncles who owned the pipes and school desks he found, and the subsequent uncles he befriended who sold reclaimed wood and vintage fans all worked with him to pull the furnishings for the café together. Working with input from his creative agency friends at Mangham Gaxiola upstairs, My Awesome Café successfully recreates the feel of a really cool friend’s cosy living room with its motley collection of fire pipe
Nylon Coffee Roasters
Dennis Tang and Lee Jia Min's tiny coffee outpost single-handedly turned Everton Park into hip neighbourhood. At this baristas' hangout, coffees are simple black or white affairs, in 3-, 5- and 7-ounce measures. And its staple Four Chairs Seasonal Blend is a common sight across cafés around town. Nylon's roasts also made it on The New Black's curation of top-notch coffees from around the world, and the pair takes yearly trips to bean-growing regions like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia and Costa Rica to get up-close with the product – that's dedication right there.
The New Black
Coffee appreciation in the city reaches a zenith as The New Black charts a plan for office-crowd domination with its java-to-go concept. Currently located on the corner of Upper Circular and South Bridge Roads – with a master plan to deploy five office lobby bars by March next year – this recently launched Singaporean company is all about exposing the local drinker to new expressions of the roasted bean. While the idea of having guest roasts on rotation in a café’s hopper isn’t exactly fresh in Singapore – you’d need only to look at Drury Lane’s wall of empty coffee bags from the likes of Denmark’s Coffee Collective and Melbourne’s Proud Mary for evidence – The New Black rejects the idea of pushing its own house label on its masses. ‘Our concept is strictly a celebration of the roasting that’s being done today,’ says director of coffee, Will Firth. Firth teams up with 28HKS head honcho, Spencer Forhart – he’s the advisor and curator of the project – to design a seasonal menu that pulls together a broad range of single-origin and blended roasts. It includes big names like Norway’s Tim Wendelboe, Sydney’s Single Origin Roasters, London’s Workshop and Olympia Coffee Roasting Co from the US. Firth also researched the appropriate brewing methods for each roast, so you’ll be getting a cuppa as its makers meant it. The coffee ($6.50-$20) isn’t all chocolatey and sultry like we prefer to slurp here in the office; some brews, such as Wendelboe’s Kapsokisio from western Kenya, even