Tiong Bahru is in no shortage of work-friendly cafes but Plain Vanilla takes it one step higher with a secret extension beyond its main space. There, you'll find students and working professionals alike typing away on their laptops while sipping on PV's affordably priced coffees as well as those hard-to-resist cupcakes. Choose from a dozen flavours ($3.90 each): chocolate hazelnut’s a bold, Nutella-fuelled prize crowned with more nuts; red velvet’s made with Valrhona chocolate and capped with a thick cream cheese frosting; and cookies and cream’s a chocolatey affair with smashed Oreos weaved into its frosting. You’ll want to collect ’em all, we promise.
While a café should at the very least be furnished with proper tables and chairs, we can always appreciate the seating options of settees or pillowy armchairs to sink into with a book in hand. The Coffee Shot indulges its patrons with this comfort, alongside sufficient power points and complementary wifi for your systems. Nosh is also heartening, with a wide variety of breakfast food such as cheese focaccia and salmon on toast, alongside coffee variations of cappuccino and an interesting iced tiramisu latte.
What the heck is a jaffle? Well, ask the Australians – after all, it was conceived from Down Under. A jaffle, named after the jaffle iron invented in 1949, is basically a toasted sandwich. And Amber Ember, a café located right smack in the middle of Serangoon and Kovan MRT stations, may be the first to bring this slice of Australian gastronomy to our sunny shores. Splashed out in shades of dusty pink and warm neutrals, the Instagrammable café offers six jaffle options with its signature purple sweet potato mash. From the lot, we spy with our little eye Chessus Take The Wheel ($14), featuring a pulled pork-mac and cheese stuffing, and the vegetarian Miso Hungry ($10) stuffed with miso pumpkin puree, fried cauliflower and scrambled eggs. There are also other food items such as Fried Oyster Mushroom ($9) for sharing and a range of pastas. Amber Ember also takes the coffee culture seriously, where cuppas (from $2.50 for an espresso to $6 for a mocha) are brewed from single origin Guatemala. And yes, the café is extremely work-friendly with power points and free wifi; what’s more, its relatively ulu location means lesser crowds, so you’ll get a spot there for sure.
This might be a wine bar by night but during the day, Wine & Chef welcomes freelancers and hot deskers with free Wi-Fi and $3 coffees. If you prefer to write drunk and edit sober, it has an exclusive range of over 250 wines including Cavalier Bartolomeo Altenasso Barolo DOCG ($59) and Tenuta Uccellina Rambela Bianca Ravenna IGT Famoso ($32), while house pour wines start from $6 per glass and $25 per bottle.
Located on the ground floor of what used to be the Telok Ayer Chung Hwa Free Clinic, My Awesome Cafe takes the old-school aesthetic and knocks it out of the ballpark with equal parts knack for sourcing and creative ingenuity. You can’t help but be motivated in this space full of quirks and history that buzzes with energy.
Although the lunch crowd is a busy one, get there early to find yourself an upcycled vintage school desk to work on. Coffees range from $4 to $6, and you’ll be distracted from your work with the breadth of food and beverage choices on offer. Try the açai menu for some superfood brain power ($6.50-$18.50), or, for a more substantial dish, the protein-packed My Awesome Salad ($16).
The regular crowd Creatives and CBD types popping in for meetings.
This Duxton resident provides a space where diners can set up ‘therapy’ sessions, so grab your colleagues and keep your spirits high by jumping on the Earl Grey trend with tea-flavoured ice cream, a supplement to the waffles that come with maple syrup or salted caramel sauce ($13). The espresso bar uses Costa Rican beans and coffees range from $4 to $4.40, paninis $11 to $15 and all-day breakfast $3.50 to $11.
If you’re looking for something savoury, there’s a 'guilt-free' version of eggs Benedict, made with avocado, salmon on a tortilla, and yogurt saffron sauce. It's lighter in calories, so no excuses not to work because you’ve got a food coma.
The regular crowd Students, mostly.
Eclectic decor and mismatched furniture dominate this casual chill-out spot along Arab Street. It does a mean double beef burger that’s topped with caramelised onions and veg ($22). Have it with a side of truffle tater tots ($5), seasoned with truffle oil and grated Parmesan. For a more localised spin, try the beef dendeng version of a burger, its patty dripping with satay sauce ($18). For drinks, sip on coffees from $3.50 or try the café’s bandung latte ($5) and for dessert, order a plate of its fancy goreng pisang ($11).
Snug like a living room, Book Cafe has long been the go-to for a quiet catch up with a book or a comfy spot to bang out a bit of work. There's also a printer that's free to use. For sustenance, look to its extensive menu, with all-day breakfast options like pancakes ($5.95-$9.95) and eggs Benedict ($15.95), as well as a slice of its signature apple pie ($5.95). Premium teas are from Tea Forte ($8/pot), which is worth swapping your usual coffee for ($4-$5.50).
The regular crowd Bookworms and the literati.
‘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.
You know what to expect: high ceilings, exposed beams and bulbs, wood-topped tables, and an open coffee bar. Use this as quiet place to buckle down and get some work done – and pick from the impressive array of coffee choices while you're at it.
The Slayer Espresso that drips from beans roasted on-site will have caffeine-heads wired. Apart from single-origin espresso, pour-over, French press and siphon coffees, there's also a full menu of bread-heavy items and a more substantial night menu. The food ranges from $12 to $16; coffees from $4.30 to $5.70.
The regular crowd Scientists and techies.
Nothing like pizza to calm a growling stomach. One Man Coffee is a cosy nook that shares a shophouse space with gourmet pizza bar Crust. Which means that on weekdays, you'll have the option for a full pie paired with coffee ($3-$5.50) from famed Melbourne outfit Axil Coffee Roasters.
Artisanal bakery BAO ($3-$4.50) supplies the pastries and light brunch options are available ($7-$10), such as nutty brioche French toast served with homemade berry compote or caramelised banana (both $10).
The regular crowd Students and post-work types.
Paddy Hills manually brews its coffee using the V60 and Aeropress, and also uses a Slayer to jet out Iyego Gatuba AA beans ($7). Inspired by Australian café culture, offerings here include the squid ink tagliatelle ($23) for daytime eating. By night, it serves up to Asian tapas dishes. The lobster somen ($28) is an individual portion while the TFC, or ‘Taiwanese Fried Chicken’ ($15), is its version of san bei ji, served in sharing portions.
At this hotel café that never sleeps, the dilemma is in deciding which drinks to have. Do you go for a cup of coffee ($3.50-$7) brewed with beans roasted by local travelling baristas Nomad the Gallant, a Prana chai masala blend ($6) with spices from India, Sri Lanka or Guatemala, or max out your daily calorie count with a messy, dessert-topped milkshake ($11)?
Whatever you end up with, you’re in good company as you tick off that to-do list of yours. There's also a selection of sandwiches ($8) and salads ($8-$10) to power a quick bit of work.
The regular crowd Business trippers in Singapore.
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 to create a bright and cheery workspace. Most dishes sport familiar-to-locals ingredients, but with restaurant-level finesse and more forgiving prices.
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For all you café-hoppers
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
You can't walk two steps without passing by a café or coffeeshop in Tiong Bahru – but which ones are worth dropping in on for a cuppa or two? Here are our top picks.