When historians decades from now catalogue the food culture of the 21st century, Symmetry will be their definitive example of a ‘hipster café’. Pop art posters, pre-loved trinkets, an indie music soundtrack, metal fixtures, and lots and lots of wood hang around the space, bordered on one end by a built-as-vintage brick wall. Thankfully, there’s substance beneath all this style. While its brunch is popular, Symmetry’s lunch and dinner menus – which deviate from the standard café fare – are its real triumphs. Its signature saikyo miso cod and mentaiko carbonara ($24) is an umami bomb on the palate, while the crab claw hazelnut basil pesto ($22) hides chunks of crabmeat. The truffle fries are on the higher end of the price spectrum at $15, but the crispy shoestrings, salted just so and piled high in a bucket, are one of the better examples on this list. Cap off your meal with a cold-brewed coffee ($7) – dripped over 9 to 12 hours – using single-origin beans from Papua New Guinea and served with a slice of orange. If you visit at night, Symmetry’s bar comes to life, shaking up original cocktails and pouring a well-stocked catalogue of cider, beer, sake, champagne and wine.
Yes, it’s all about the beans at Dutch Colony Coffee Co. But you’ll want to balance out the caffeine with this quaint Siglap café’s breakfast and brunch menu. There are hearty platters with scrambled eggs, sausages and turkey bacon ($16), and a Colonial Beef Burger ($19), which slathers mango chilli aioli and melted Emmenthal over a juicy patty. Take note that the kitchen closes at 3pm, so if you’re planning to have a meal with your espresso, you best head down before the chef hangs up his apron for the day.
If the breakfast is enough to get you out of bed nice and early, the coffee will do an even better job. Dutch Colony expertly pours its brews (from $6) – you can choose either manual pour-over or by machine – into glassware more befitting of a science lab than a coffee shop (fortunately, the drink is served on a wooden tray with a normal cup). And you aficionados better not miss out on its espresso flights (from $6).
Upper Thomson is no stranger to the hipster café – and Pacamara fits right in the ’hood. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow sunlight to drape over the minimal (if a little sterile) interiors of white walls paired with white tabletops, but it’s still a cosy-enough spot for catch-up sessions with friends over brunch.Highlights include French toast with caramelised apple chutney ($16.90) and crab rump eggs Benedict topped with bonito flakes ($19.90). And that’s not to mention the many pasta dishes available all day – dive right in and order our favourite plate of the lot: the duck pappardelle ($18.90). A selection of cakes such as the yuzu tart ($6) will tempt you at the till, but order it beforehand to enjoy with a cold-brewed coffee ($6) or a bold, nutty Roadster blend ($4.50-$6). But if you end up missing the boat and visit at dinnertime instead, the tenderloin with foie gras and truffle mash ($32) will exorcise those #fomo demons.
At first glance, Kith Café's menu comes across as Café 101 – pancakes, eggs Benny, choose-your-own-breakfast and the like – but it’s precisely those dishes Kith executes so well. The signature Kith breakfast ($19) has everything you’d expect to be on your bigger-than-your-face plate: crispy bacon, roasted tomatoes, smoked bratwurst, rosemary garlic mushroom, mixed greens as well as eggs and toast done to your preference. Every element is well seasoned and, crucially, familiar. Other noteworthy dishes include the crab linguine crab pasta ($22) and black chicken curry ($19), the latter of which reminds us of nasi briyani with its baked banana leaf rice – except this one comes with a poached egg. The piccolo latte ($4.50), made with Kith’s house blend, leans on the acidic side with underlying tones of dark fruits and cocoa.
Just when you thought there was no room left in Singapore for another coffee joint, The Coffee Academïcs pops up – with an umlaut, no less. Tucked away on the second floor of Scotts Square where it is almost lost in the dazzlingly expensive and colourful shoe shops of fellow Hong Konger, On Pedder, the café is an Instagram-ready offshoot of, the press release breathlessly tells us, Hong Kong's ‘award-winning and most dynamic specialty coffee concept’. That may be so, but you can’t help but think there must be a tipping point where only that rare breed of supertasters can tell the difference between a ‘balanced and complex’ brew and one with ‘a delightfully sweet finish’, never mind one that is 'handcrafted’ or made with heirloom beans. The paraphernalia of a high-tech coffee laboratory are displayed in all their brewing glory. For an additional $5, you’ll get to observe the barista prepare your coffee using one of four methods – Clever Cup, Chemex, Ice Drip, and AeroPress – the idea being that different methods unleash different depths of acidity and flavours for the same coffee. (At most other coffee-serious spots around town, these brew 'demonstrations' are usually done in the name of education and are included in the drink's price.) Except, the server says sweetly on our visit, the café is understaffed, so the barista has no time for the show-and-tell. Which is a pity since the regular caffeine offerings are already so intriguing, not least a lively café latte ($6.50)