Who says the heartlands aren't as cool as the bustling city? Tucked into cosy corners of charming residential areas, these spots provide good brews and hearty meals – all at the comfort of your doorstep.
RECOMMENDED: The best cafés in Singapore
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. 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).
The folks behind the defunct Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar, and Henry Congressional partner to provide the Toh Tuck area a triple threat that is a coffee shop, restaurant and bar. Getting here is tricky if you don’t live in the neighbourhood. But it’s worth a try, if not for its laid-back atmosphere and floor-to-ceiling glass panels that let you steal a peek into the kitchen, then for the café’s popular ragu pasta ($17). Ribbons of homemade tagliatelle are cooked al dente then thinly coated in a minced beef and pork tomato sauce before shavings of Parmigiana on top give the dish a sharp punch. It’s easy to see why this one’s a crowd-pleaser. The coffee beans here are roasted on-site, and the brew experiments plenty. Necessary Provisions was probably the first in the city to pioneer iced coffee cubes for its chilled drinks (from $5.50), and we've heard of the team barrel-ageing brews to taste wood's effect on coffee. And the café's exquisitely poured, crema-topped espresso-based drinks (from $5) are no swill either.
You’ll find no shortage of rustic French fare and freshly baked breads at this boulangerie helmed by pastry wizard Frederic Deshayes. Once you’re done admiring the glass cases flour-ished with quiches, croissants, Danishes, cookies, tarts and other pastries of all shapes and sizes, get your jaws around the tartiflette ($17). It’s got potatoes baked with Reblochon cheese, onions and bacon, served with a basket of toasted cereal bread soldiers so you can mop up every bit of that gently pungent dairy. Also try the duck confit parmentier ($17.20), the French answer to shepherd’s pie. Pulled duck meat is concealed under a blanket of mashed potato gratin that’s smooth, creamy and kissed by a golden crust. If you’ve an inclination for sweets, the pear and almond Tart Bourdaloue ($5.40) works up a light treat. Finely sliced pears are poached and glazed then layered on an almond cream-coated pâte brisée: a sweet, flaky and buttery shortcrust pastry.
Something’s churning deep in the Toa Payoh heartland that’s making local residents scream… for ice cream. Creamier has made a name for itself whipping up some of the best ice cream on the island. But we’re not only talking about its strangely comforting flavours like sea salt gula Melaka, Thai milk tea and roasted pistachio ($3.30/single scoop, $5.60/double scoop). The dessert itself is flawless: not too dense and not too light, its texture delicately coats the tongue without leaving behind a cloying finish. That the ice cream isn’t too sweet is yet another plus point. The Belgian waffles ($6) are worth a return trip. They’re served in stacked pairs, and while you can easily crush them alone, do yourself a favour by adding a scoop ($8.80). The fluffy waffles soak in the richness of the ice cream, yet their edges stay crispy and crunchy. This café tends to be too crowded on weekends, but there are communal tables and benches outside you can use – there are lots of chill community cats lazing around the area, too, which only makes this café one of our faves.
Assembly Coffee gets a sibling café in the Coronation neigbourhood. Atlas Coffeehouse is owners Daphne Goh and Lionel Ang realisation of a goal to serve more hot food than Assembly's tiny kitchen can handle. Atlas only opened its doors in mid-January, but dishes like creamy mushrooms on sourdough ($12) with the option to add a sunny side ($2) or scrambled eggs ($3), and glazed salmon and a fried egg with crisped edges on soba noodles ($17) are their early stars. Assembly's ever-popular waffles ($12-$14) are also on the menu here, and Atlas has also introduced pancakes topped with caramelised bananas or honeycomb ice cream ($18) to its desserts menu – more sweets are on the way, including a pavlova topped with lemon curd and berry compote. If you plan on being productive after a meal like that, the coffee programme's ($3.50-$4.50) worth buying into. Two Degrees South has designed different blends for them with Land's chocolate and nutty flavours coming in as a safe bet, and Air a lighter Ethiopian roast with welcome acidity. Sea is a rotational assortment of seasonal single-origins.
Gone may be the '60s-inspired interiors, but remnants of it do remain – particularly in the signage and the 'kopitiam floor tiles'. Though its old-school coffeeshop bar stools have been replaced with polished wooden tables and seats that came straight out of IKEA's catalogues. You’re given a small paper menu with a short selection of hot savoury dishes, drinks, hot and cold desserts and ice-cream; tick off your choices and pay at the cashier. Part of the fun while waiting for your food to arrive is in checking out the retro features, painstakingly curated, and overhearing the older folk reminisce about days long past. A good place to start if you want a square meal is the sambal fishball ($6), a common hawker snack sliced in half and smothered in Sinpopo’s own blend of sharp and fiery sambal chilli. Then there are the requisite classics with a modern spin, like the Rojak Slaw ($10), a traditional Malay favourite of vegetables and fruits slathered in sweet brown sauce that is still common in some hawker centres.
Located along Bedok Road is Badoque Café, a restaurant that serves up Asian fusion, Greek and Mediterranean fare. To try on its menu is the beef ribs ($36) that come in generous portions and are served with homemade barbecue sauce. Other dish highlights include the pan-fried salmon with mashed potatoes ($24) and spaghetti with chunks of salmon belly ($22). A second outlet is located at 246 Upper Thomson Rd.
Located in the outskirts of Changi, this not-so-hidden-gem surrounded by lush greenery is a blast to the past with a great variety of collectors’ treasures and vintage items on display. And we mean brightly-coloured Vespas, antique bicycles and vinyl players that sit on shelves, immersing diners in nostalgia. Despite its ulu location, it’s worth a trip down if you’re in a big group as the café seats a whooping 300 people both in-house and at the outdoor al-fresco dining area.
Taking its name from the 18th century term for coffeehouses in London – noisy, men-only affairs which cost a penny to enter and where coffee was served up along with the latest news and gossip – this new East Coast coffee joint (two blocks away from 112 Katong mall) is owned by 35-year-old F&B greenhorn Mustafah Kamal (who goes by Mouss and previously worked in the energy sector) and offers a 21st century update to the formula (both men and women are welcome). The space is a charming mashup of the rustic and the eclectic: a nondescript shopfront set further back allows space for a bike stand by the door and a cute take-out counter, but the interior channels industrial chic, with bare designer lightbulbs, cosy booth seats, a bar counter made from recycled railroad ties and a communal table (a la indie joints like The Plain in Tanjong Pagar and Carpenter & Cook in Bukit Timah).
With the Upper Thomson area experiencing a café rush, One Man Coffee comes along to add some serious cred to the java scene brewing there. Mostly fronted by spunky Sarah Jane Lin (formerly in the kitchen of Peranakan gastrobar Immigrants) and Melbourne- based barista Soh E-gene, the cosy nook shares the same shophouse space with gourmet pizza bar Crust, so you’ll have the option for a full meal paired with coffee ($3-$9) from famed Melbourne outfit Axil Coffee Roasters. Lin fronts her personalised corner counter in the day, teaming a variety of pastries (sourced from artisanal bakery B.A.O) with light brunch bites like the chilled soba ($10), featuring charred corn, sakura ebi and spicy sesame dressing, and its nutty brioche French toast ($10) served with homemade berry compote and fresh cream. For an additonal $3, you'd get to add a scoop of ice cream atop your toast.