Coffee Libre – The (Really) Hidden Gem among Hongdae Cafes

Coffee Libre (커피 리브레)

English Address (Google Map) : 227-15 Yeonnam, Mapo, Seoul

Korean Address: 서울시 마포구 연남동 227-15a

Operating hours: 12.00 pm – 9.00 pm, closed every Monday

I recommend you to use Naver Map for direction to Libre Coffee as it’s more accurate.

Click here for full list of Seoul Food Itinerary

Introduction

Coffee Libre is situated far from the happening part of Hongdae (홍대) and is tucked at a quiet corner at an old warehouse area. At a glance, no one would have guessed that such a inconspicuous cafe is far more popular than expected among the locals.

They don’t serve any food, not even puff or pastry. There are only two tables in the cafe, and the sitting capacity of the cafe is less than 10. And yet long queues were formed during working day’s meal hours. The reason? Quality coffee beans.

The Coffee Machine almost took up half of the space in the cafe. And from this angle, you can see both tables, one on the left, and one on the right.

Background of Coffee Libre

Coffee Libre is actually a side venture from their main line of coffee bean roasting (and they had won numerous awards). The team behind the roaster travels around the world in search of the best coffee beans and is involved in multiple coffee-related events in Seoul. Champion Barista Sang Ho Park has been using their beans in the UK Barista Championship. Sang Ho took the 2013 UK Brewers Cup title at The London Coffee Festival.

I’m sitting at one of the two tables

Their Coffee

On menu, Coffee Libre only serves 3 kinds of coffee – Espresso, Caffè Latte (espresso with milk) and Americano (espresso with water), at W$4000 each. Each cup of coffee is prepared by using their one of three kinds of espresso beans of the day.

Their menu with three kinds of beverages

You may also purchase their freshly roasted coffee bean and upon request, they will make a cuppa aeropress coffee for you right on the spot.

Generally, the espresso beans used in Singapore has quite a standard taste so that it’s widely accepted by the public. I tried Libre’s “Bad Blood” espresso bean and was blown away. The taste totally differs from the typical espresso taste. The coffee taste of bright acidity with a complex fruit blend.  I can’t really handle the taste as it totally deviates from Singapore’s traditional espresso bean. I had never tasted such a sour coffee in my life.

Initially i ordered their caffe latte (right) and notice the out-of-the-ordinary tinge of sour in their coffee and so i ordered the espresso (left) to confirm it.

The Caffe Latte at W$4000

I sat at the table and observed how did the Barista made an aeropress coffee for one of the customers who purchased coffee beans from the shelf. Perhaps he noticed how interested and captivated I were, he actually served the extra portion to me, free of charge. This roast is much easier to accept and I love it – Just a tinge of acidity, strong flavor and absolutely aromatic. The only problem is, I forgot to ask about the bean used. Zzz.

Here are some of the interesting roasts that Coffee Libre has to offer. Note that these roasts are seasonal:

Farenda Sertaozinho (Yellow Bourbon / Pulped Natural)

Jasmine, Peach, Grape, Milk Chocolate

Verde Alto (Caturra / Washed)

Orange, Lime, Pineapple, Caramel

The old school rustic feel is certainly amplified by the presence of herbal medicine shelf

Conclusion

This little coffee place is definitely not easy to locate and may require some effort. Apart from visiting the usual cafe that serves mediocre coffee, if you are interested to visit a cafe that is a little out of the ordinary and to widen your palate for handcrafted coffee, Coffee Libre may be the place for you.

Click here for full list of Seoul Food Itinerary

Maps and Directions

I use the Naver Map for Coffee Libre because i think it is much more accurate with more accurate details.

1. If i remember correctly, i came out from Hongdae Exit 4. I had to walk along the main road to the right to cross the road using traffic light. These are some really wide roads.

2. Then, there’s another traffic light to cross over to the Coffee Libre side. I can’t recall why i didn’t come out from Exit 3 already.

3. Anyway, after you crossed to the Coffee Libre side, walk straight and you need to turn to your left into a small alley. This is the crucial part. See my photos below.

Click to enlarge

This is the crucial turning point. I miss this turn as it’s relatively easy to miss

This is how the small alley looks like after you turn in. Walk straight and you should be able to see Coffee Libra.

You should be able to see Coffee Libre on your right. You can easily identify it by the head of the Wrestler.

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Good Food at Hainanese Village Food Centre

Hainanese Village Food Centre

Address: Blk 105, Hougang Ave 1

Hainanese Village Food Centre is a very popular makan place in the Hougang area, especially during the weekend. Like any other hawker centre in Singapore (except for the Kopitiam Square in Sengkang), there are lots of good hawker stalls. My mission is to try out these reputable stalls and let’s see why are these stall so popular, or not.

Hup Huat White Carrot Cake  (合发白萝卜糕)

Opening hours: 6.30am to 12.30pm (Closed Mon & Thu)

Hup Huat hawker stall is one of the few that serves only white carrot cake. The most distinct taste about this carrot cake is for it’s very crispy exterior. I can see that the hawker actually prepares each plate of carrot cake with care as he skillfully splits the big pan of carrot cake into smaller rectangular portion and to be pan fried to crisp.

From my observation, unlike some crispy fried oyster egg that is soaked and fried in oil, the oil that this hawker used is significantly lesser, and it does not taste too greasy as well.

I like this stall for their generous serving of eggs that holds the carrot cake together and this may be one of reasons why this carrot cake is so crispy. The unique thing about Hup Huat White Carrot Cake is their chilli is not stir-fried with the carrot cake but is spread onto the top surface of the carrot cake like how butter is spread on a toast.

If there is one area that can be better, i think they can consider sprinkling more Chye Poh (preserved radish) into the carrot cake. There is a $2.00 and $3.00 option and mine was the $3.00 portion.

Da Zhong Cafe (大衆茶室) – Coffee & Traditional Toast

Operating hours: 5:00am – 2:00pm

Very well know for their great tasting coffee at economical price. Their coffee gives off a very strong coffee aroma that is not usually found in ordinary food court coffee and it’s not because they purposely made the coffee “gao” (thick). Da Zhong prepares their own coffee mixture and sent them for grinding to powder form.

Generous serving of salted butter in their toast is one of my reasons to patronize this stall. This stall started their business in the 1970s before relocating to Hougang in 1983 with more than 30 years of coffee making experience.

Yi Liu Xiang Nasi Lemak (一流香) – Nasi Lemak

Operating hours: 6.30 am to 12pm. Closed on Mon and Thu.

The most prominent hawker stall with the longest queue in the morning. Unlike many Nasi Lemak stall, the main attraction for this Nasi Lemak stall is not chicken wing (in fact they don’t even offer chicken wing) but for their well flavoured Kuning fish. The fish is fresh, well-fried and yet the meat remains moist and tender. Ikan bilis is the non-sugar-coated version and chilli is less sweet than a typical Nasi Lemak Sambal Chilli.

Price for a plate of Nasi Lemak cost me $2.50 for Omelette, Kuning Fish, Ikan Bilis and Chilli Sambal. Not exactly cheap for the kind of ingredient offered but I like their Nasi Lemak for it’s distinct taste of coconut milk fragrance.

Lorong Ah Soo Lor Mee

Opening hours: Tue to Sun, Closed on Monday

This is the stall that always has a constant queue at Hainanese Village Food Centre. The best thing i like about this Lor Mee is they replaced the braised pork belly to a healthier shredded braised duck meat. It comes with a $2.50 or $3.00 option and a bowl of $3.00 noodle comes with plenty of condiments like braised egg, dish cakes and two kinds of Gnor Hiong (bean curd skin meat roll) and of course the shredded duck.

The gravy is not starchy and very flavorful to an extend of some people may find it a little salty. But it works fine for me. Queuing up for 30 minutes on weekends is a norm to be able to enjoy a bowl of Lorong Ah Soo Noodle. This stall has some mixed reviews online for it’s taste. I personally like it but probably will not queue up for half an hour for this Lor Mee as there are many other good options in Hainanese Village Hawker Centre. If the wait is only 15 minutes, then this works for me.

Dong Jin Yuan Dian Xin (东津园点心) – Fried Carrot Cake Stick

This stall offers fresh piping hot Carrot cake Sticks at $2 for 16 pieces. I ordered this a couple of time and the carrot cake sticks are warm at a minimum while retaining it’s crispness.

Best when the carrot cake Sticks are served right from the frying wok! Super crispy exterior and the inside is still soft and chewy. Fried Carrot Cake Sticks is one of many people’s favourite hawker food that is slowly disappearing from Singapore. There is a “Stall for Rent” sign pasted on the front of the stall. Better eat this while you can!

Worthy Mention: Lai Xing Cooked Food (来兴熟食) – Kway Chap

Opening hours: 6.30am to 1.30pm closed on Mondays and alternate Tuesdays

I am aware that there are a few good Kway Chap still in Hainanese Village Food Centre. What actually attracted me to patronize this particular Kway Chap is actually the old lady who is preparing the Kway Chap. She looks like she is already in her 70s and yet looks so fighting fit and so resilient. Really hats off to her.

Best thing i like about Lai Xing’s Kway Chap? Lai Xing’s Kway is very soft and thin which absorbs the soup easily which makes the Kway really flavorful. I do hope that there was more soup though.

Their pig intestine is very well marinated. Though it’s not the best pig intestine around, but this intestine taste very clean. It’s not tough but yet retains it’s springiness. I was also quite surprised by their lean meat. Most lean meat should be rather dry and tough but Lai Xing’s is tender and full of flavor.

<Punggol Noodle – 7.00am to 2.00pm Closed on Sun>

To be completed

Conclusion

This is not exactly the conclusion cus i will be going back to try the Cripsy Carrot Cake, the so-call overrated Lorong Ah Soo Lor Mee and apparently there is another Kway Chap that is quite popular in Hainanese Village Food Centre.

I have always been proud of our Singapore’s hawker food culture so i think it is important to support our hawker food and as well as writing reviews on them to share these information instead of only cafes and restaurants.

If i can only have an option to choose between having hawker food or restaurant food for the rest of my life, i guess i am someone who will choose hawker food.

Feel free to suggest any stall at Hainanese Village Food Centre that you find it’s worth the eat!

Roast Coffee & Eatery (Bangkok – Thonglor)

Roast Coffee & Eatery

Address: SeenSpace Thonglor 13, Bangkok, Thailand 10110

Opening hours: Mon – Thu: 10am-11pm, Fri-Sat: 9am-12:30am, Sun: 9am-11pm

Click here to see my list of consolidated Bangkok Food Itinerary

Introduction

Recently, visiting a brunch cafe is one of the must-do things in Bangkok. Roast Coffee & Eatery, the one of the most popular cafes in Bangkok is situated in the area of Thonglor, just next door to Mr Jones’ Orphanage. Roast Coffee & Eatery offers a wide selections on their menu with more than 90 items to choose from, including all day breakfast, dinner menu, sides and drinks.

I made a reservation through their Facebook page but their Facebook admin replied me saying that there’s strictly no reservation during the weekend and i should be able to get a seat if i’m there at 9am, and i did. From my photo, you can see that it’s not that crowded yet.

Situated at level 2 with all it’s full height window, the cafe is very well lit with natural light, and this can almost guarantee that your food photos will look good. Having a meal here and chilling out with some friends definitely gave me a great way to start a day.

Menu 1: click to enlarge

Menu 2: click to enlarge

Menu 3: click to enlarge

The Roast Breakfast Set

The breakfast platter cost 350++ baht and comes with a compliment juice and a hand crafted coffee/tea.

The best item in the platter got to be their bacon! Super crispy! Not exaggerating to say that this is one of the best crispy bacon that i had. And they are quite generous with the portion of their bacon. The more interesting item got to be the sausage patty. It taste like our Chinese dish – steamed minced pork patty with preserved vegetables, but less moist and with additional tinge of herb taste.

For those who like runny scramble egg, you may want to request them to make it more runny cus Roast’s style is a little dryer. The portion is huge for a breakfast. Don’t forget it comes with a glass of orange juice and a coffee with this set. Definitely a hearty brunch!!

Pulled Pork Burger

Costing 320++ Baht, the well toasted burger bun is served with a generous serving of moist juicy pork that are well tossed and coated with barbeque sauce and a portion of fries. I am glad that their pulled pork taste as good as how it look! This dish was recommended by the staff of roast.

Crab Cake Benedict

The only problem is their crab cake benedict. The poached egg’s yolk was almost fully cooked, which i consider it as a failure. And the portion for the crab meat egg benedict is really small. At the same price (350++ baht) as the roast breakfast set, i will choose to order the platter anytime.

Conclusion

Having your meal at Roast Coffee & Eatery is a break-away from the heavy traffic and the crazy shopping routine.  Apart from Roast Coffee & Eatery, this area also has many other interesting restaurants worth visiting. if you have yet to visit this area of Bangkok, why not fork out some time in the morning to chill out at this place and continue with your crazy shopping in the noon!

Don’t forget to pop by Mr Jones’ Orphanage for a quick dessert just next door!

Directions

The nearest bts station is Thonglor station and takes a 15 minutes walk. Taking a cab may be much easier, especially if Roast is your first meal of the day. If you choose to walk, you just need to walk on one straight road on Sukhumvit 55 and turn left into Akkhara Phat when you see a building call “Home Place”.

L’Atelier Tiramisu (The Tiramisu Workshop)

L’Atelier Tiramisu

Address: The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #B1-09

Operating hours: 1:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Introduction

Happen to chance upon this cafe at Clarke Quay The Central. The first thing that caught my attention was their signage that reads “L’Atelier Tiramisu” and the small seating capacity of the cafe. My first thought was “If a cafe can survive just by selling Tiramisu, it must be really good”.  That’s when i decided to try it out, and i am not disappointed. This is my second visit to L’Atelier Tiramisu.

The Tiramisu comes in four flavors – Classico, Lychee, Dark Cherry and Matcha, or you can try the Sampler Set at $15.00 to try out all four flavors.

Tiramisu – Classico

Among the flavors, the Classico is my favourite. Their Tiramisu is briefly divided into five layers, with the top layer as the cocoa powder, the cheese cream, the coffee soaked biscuit (or the sponge cake), another layer of cheese cream and the bottom layer of biscuit. The biscuit at the bottom layer taste a little sweeter and is not as wet as the top layer.

The most distinguish taste of this Tiramisu is it’s really moist biscuit center that is soaking wet with coffee and i can taste the sweet coffee aroma from every bite.

I also like the moderately sweetened Mascarpone cheese cream very much. The proportion of the cheese spread over the two layers are just good enough to complement the bitter taste of the coffee. A piece of Tiramisu cost me $6.80 which i thought that it’s well worth it.

Tiramisu – Dark Cherry

I tried the Matcha flavor in my first visit and i am having the Dark Cherry this time round. The layering of the cake is similar to the Classico just that they swap the coffee to cherry juice with some very fine fruit pulp, i think.

L’Atelier also added a thin layer of icing sugar on the top of the cake before ending off with the layer of cocoa powder. I personally prefer something a little bitter than a tinge of sour taste so my vote goes to the Classico.

Pandan Tiramisu *Update as of 01 October 2013*

L’atelier had launched a new flavor today – The Pandan flavor. This time, it does not comes in slices but in a cup. The price is $7.80, a dollar more than their normal range.

To be honest, this cake surprised me. As always, their Tiramisu is really moist, with added coconut rum, and they are rather generous with the mascarpone cheese. For this new creation, there is an additional layer of crispy chocolate center well hidden within this cake and i was surprised by this. I thought i tasted Milo powder, though the lady boss said that this is a layer of Chocolate Biscuit. L’atelier then  finished the cake with a layer of coconut flakes.

The two cake layers is infused with the sweet aroma of Pandan which goes really well with the mascarpone cheese. The layer of coconut flakes add an extra crunch to the overall texture. I thought the best way to eat this cake is to eat all the layers in one mouthful to savor the flavors and different texture all at once. If you are someone who like Pandan Kway or coconut, i think this will be a hit for you.

I was asking the lady boss why was Pandan selected among all the available flavors and her reply was that she hoped to come up with a very localised flavor. She elaborated that she took three months to perfect this recipe and i think she did a pretty good job.

Lychee Tiramisu *Update as of 01 October 2013*

I also finally tried their Lychee Tiramisu and completed the full set of flavors! After having the Pandan Tiramisu, the Lychee Tiramisu appears as slightly less impressive, thought it’s still rather good. There are some lychee meat and juice mixed into the cream layers between the sweetened sponge layers and finish with chocolate sprinkle and cinnamon powder. If you ask me my order of preference, it will be – Classico, Pandan, Lychee, Dark Cherry, Green Tea (sorry!).

Conclusion

I am quite sure that this second visit will not be my last visit to L’Atelier cus i have yet to try out the Lychee Flavor. The portion of L’Atelier’s Tiramisu Cake is just nice, not too big, and not too small, which makes it the ideal dessert after a meal. No matter how full i am, i think i should be able to squeeze out a little stomach space for a L’Atelier Tiramisu.