Brunches Cafe, The Prettiest Cafe in Singapore

Brunches Cafe, The Prettiest Cafe in Singapore?

Address: 96 Rangoon Road

Opening hours: Weekday 10.30am to 9.00pm, Sat & Sun 9.30am to 9.00pm, Closed on Tuesday

Introduction

In Singapore, we have many cafes that can be described as old-school, rustic, industrial look, but none can pull off the theme “Vintage” as good as Brunches Cafe. It is actually a furniture store cum cafe located near the Farrer Park area. This cafe, which started their operation only in Feb 2015, is extensively decorated with old school / vintage items at all corners of the cafe. If you set your eye on any pieces in the cafe, including the dining furniture and lighting, it is almost certain that you can bring it home at a price.

Brunches Cafe Menu – Click to enlarge

The Exterior

The exterior of the cafe is framed in a black metal window frame, employed from ceiling to floor and corner to corner. These frames, that were deployed in some great factories and warehouses in the 19th century, imparted an industrial aesthetic and also offers a glimpse of what to expect upon stepping into it.

The Interior

The ambiance of the cafe is set in an old factory workshop with each and every corner of the cafe decorated with vintage furnitures and a combination of old school artifacts and an actual antique collection. The lighting are mounted on black wooden beam which is contrasted by the striking orange pipes and metal cable casing against the white-wash ceiling.

The most eye catching, as well as probably the most sort after seat of the cafe is the mini-cooper converted dining table. The car body is cut into two halves and cushioned seats are padded on both sides of the body and complete by a matching table slipped between the seats.

On the left wall of the cafe, modern vintage art pieces are presented over the once-popular Metal Grilled Sliding Gate that was widely used by provision shops in the early 1980s.

My favourite among all the lighting structures in the cafe – the Birdhouse Light Fixture. It hangs over a 10-seater color-stained reclaimed wood top table and it’s a creation by one of Brunches Cafe’s bosses. In my opinion, apart from the mini-cooper seats, this is another one of the vitalities of the cafe which brought it to life.

On the other side of the cafe, it lies a glass-top table made from an old Bullock Cart Wheel and also the once popular item for all grandmothers – the Singer Treadle Sewing Machine, which is ran by a manual foot pedal which connects to the sewing mechanism with a leather belt. The NEC black and white standalone TV is another interesting item in the cafe. Not to mention black and white TV, i’m sure some of us have never seen a non-remote TV before.

On the far right hand corner, there is a good collection of antique players like the Phonograph, Gramophone and the Turntable Record Player and other more familiar items like the Rotary Dial Phone and Vintage Radio, that are all in good working condition.

Their Food

I was like really full after having my meal at a nearby cafe, Jewel Cafe, so I only ordered their dessert and a drink. The waffle is reasonably priced at $12.50 that includes cubes of brownies, a whole banana and a scoop of Chocolate Ice Cream. I like the texture of the waffle, which is crisp and fluffy. However, I feel that it is lacking in taste in term of fragrance from egg and butter.

i have no complain for their caffe latte, which comes with a cute latte art and accompanied by this exquisite tea spoon. Also do try out the pastries in the cafe as they were personally baked and prepared by the lady boss.

Conclusion

From Brunches Cafe’s menu, it seems like they have a good food selections except for their dessert range. Do share with us if there’s any food recommendation. I can’t review much on their food but I’m pawned by the interior design. I have been to many fascinating theme cafe at overseas before and i’m proud to now have Brunches Cafe in Singapore.

No matter which part of the cafe you are seated at, i would say there is none with a boring view. Since i like the dining ambiance so much, I’m gonna be a little bias here and recommend this cafe to my readers and please be my white mice for review of their food. And lastly, pre-wedding photo shoot at this cafe anyone?

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Canteen 398 at Seletar, the disappearing piece of history of Singapore

Canteen 398 at Seletar, the disappearing piece of history of Singapore

Address: 398 Piccadilly

Opening hour: Mon to Fri 6.00am to 4.00pm, Sat 6.00am to 12.00pm, Closed on Sun

Food stall only opens till lunch time

Introduction

An army friend brought me to this canteen in Seletar Camp during my reservist period. It does not has a proper name and signboard, and people known this place as Canteen 398. I was very captivated by it’s ambience and atmosphere so I decided to write about it.

Went back to Canteen 398 in the morning to capture it’s morning glory

At a glance, you won’t be able to guess that it’s actually a functioning canteen

This canteen consist of three stalls – the drink stall, and a stall selling mixed vegetable rice and the third selling Malay food. I was there nearing to their closing time at about 4pm and only the drink stall is open so i didn’t have a chance to try out the food.

History of Canteen 398

Canteen 398 is a piece of vanishing history of Singapore. This place is situated in the vicinity of an army camp, Seletar Camp, but is open to public and is accessible by car without subjecting to any security check.

The history of this building goes all the way back to our post world war two era when Singapore is still under the colonisation of Britain. This building was used by the British army as their Corporal Mess. This building was subsequently converted to a Canteen in Year 1969 and the structure and interior of the canteen has been retained till now.

The Canteen

The interior design of Canteen 398 brings you back in time to a typical coffee shop in the early 1990s when solid wooden top table and red stackable chairs are still widely used. The old school mosaic tiles flooring and the unpolished wall and ceiling look are widely mimicked by our cafes nowadays. While exposed cable trunking and dangling cable is a big taboo for interior design nowadays, Canteen 398 serves us a reminder that such minor details do not matter back in those simpler days.

Even at a warm afternoon at 4pm, i felt a sense of serenity while I was seeping my Teh-C at the outdoor stone table. Sitting at the “al-fresco” area under a hundred years old tree, and away from the city and crowd gives an entire different meaning to the term “chilling”. I don’t think such a place like Canteen 398 can be found at anywhere else in Singapore.

Conclusion

The progress of Singapore is scarily fast and there is almost nothing to identify our childhood with. Yes, we do preserve the old, but only if it makes any commercial sense. Like our Kampong Buangkok, the last kampong in Singapore, eventually still has to make way for future development.

Coming here to Canteen 398 gives me a sense of closeness to this place although it’s only my first visit. It offers a glimpse of Singapore’s humble past when things are not as perfect and not as comfortable as today. However during then, everyone learnt to enjoy life’s simple pleasure.

If you are there, do have a chat with the drink stall owner Mr Toh. He’s really a friendly chap and i love his enthusiasm in introducing the Canteen’s history to us.

Given the current cafe hopping culture in a clean, air-conditioned environment, i like to highlight that Canteen 398 is definitely not the place for everyone. There is no fancy food menu to rave about and also no squeaky clean environment to talk about. However the experience at Canteen 398 is one of a kind in Singapore. You either hate it or you love it, and it’s definitely the later for me.

PS: I hope I don’t sound like an old man. I have readers who thought that I am in my late 40s. *faint* 

Direction 1 (by public transport)

Take bus 103 at Serangoon interchange and alight at After Baker Street, Seletar Aerospace Drive, 22 stops later.

Direction 2 (by public transport)

Take a train to Sengkang MRT and transfer to LRT and alight at Thanggam LRT. Take a short 5 minutes walk to Jalan Kayu shop house and board bus 103.  Alight at After Baker Street, Seletar Aerospace Drive, 4 stops later.

Sing Heung Yuen, the surviving Da Pai Dang and it’s Tomato Noodle

Sing Heung Yuen (胜香园/勝香園)

English Address (Google Map): Mee Lun Street, 2, Central, Hong Kong

Chinese Address: 中環美輪街2號排檔

Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 8.00 am to 5.30pm Sun, closed

Click here to view my full Hong Kong Food Itinerary and the 8 must-know about Hong Kong Cafe Culture

Introduction

Introducing another of my favourite eatery in Hong Kong – Sing Heung Yuen (胜香园/勝香園). This place is not exactly a cafe but a Dai Pai Dong (大排档). Dai Pai Dong is a kind of open-air food stall that was once very popular in Hong Kong in the older days. It’s directly opposite another famous eatery Kau Kee Beef Brisket Noodle (九记牛腩).

Sing Heung Yuen has a proper kitchen though, but the dining area is a make-shift area built with temporary structure and canvas with no air conditioning.  I read from somewhere that such Da Pai Dang is very rare nowadays and there’s only less than 30 such stalls in Hong Kong.

There’s a queue even at 4pm on a Friday

Sing Heung Yuen’s specialties are tomato noodles and their unique crispy toast (condensed milk / pork chop). During meal hours (or even non meal hours on weekend), long queue is formed outside this no frill eatery. Like a typical Hong Kong cafe, the turnover rate is amazing and therefore the waiting time is not as painful.

If you plan to visit Sing Heung Yuen, there is a need to do some leg warming up exercise because there are some steps and slopes to climb. If comfort and tidiness of surrounding is an utmost consideration for an eatery, I think you also can give this place a miss.

Menu 1: Click to enlarge. As of 25 Apr 14

Menu 2: Click to enlarge. As of 25 Apr 14

Tomato Noodle Soup

Sing Heung Yuen’s tomato noodle is actually a very simple dish with simple ingredient. It’s instant noodle, cooked in tomato-base stock while there are 101 combinations of ingredients to choose from. There are choices like sausage, ham, fried egg, canned pork cube, pork chop, luncheon meat, chicken wings, beef etc.

On my first visit, i thought that it’s just instant noodle soup cooked in tomatoes but i think i was wrong. Back in Singapore, i tried combinations of instant noodle with fresh tomatoes, canned tomato, tomato puree but i can never get their kind of taste. This made me realised that their soup stock is more than meets the eye.

To be honest, i think the soup broth has a tinge of instant noodle seasoning taste, but also cooked in other ingredients that i can’t figure out. It’s really rich in flavour while it’s scattered with tomato pieces cooked so soft that it almost melts in your month. Unlike some tomato noodles, the tomato taste is not overpowering and i’m still able to taste the sweetness of the broth. I would finish the soup to the last drop on every visit.

My favourite combination is the pork cube and luncheon meat tomato noodle (HK$28) as i thought the pork cube gravy compliment the broth pretty perfectly.

Condensed Milk / Pork Chop Crispy Bun (脆脆)

Their Crispy Toast is also my must-order whenever i visit Sing Heung Yuen. Some people said that this is even more worthwhile than the noodle itself. Piglet Bun (猪仔包) is commonly found in Hong Kong cafe and Sing Heung Yuen’s Crispy Toast is similar to a Piglet Bun for it’s outlook, but with an almost completely different texture.

Sing Heung Yuen call their toast as Cui Cui (脆脆) that literally means “crispy crispy”. As the name suggest, the bun is really “crispy crispy”. The bread literally crumbles and crackles when you sink your teeth into the bread. Remember to lean towards the table or it will cause a mess with the bread crumbs falling all over you. No joking. It really does. While the exterior is so crispy, the interior yet remains fluffy and soft.

My favourite is their Crispy Bun with Pork Chop and Egg (HK$19). The pork chop is really tender and well-flavoured while it’s paired with fresh tomato slices, fluffy eggs and mayonnaise. It’s easily one of the best pork chop buns that i had in Hong Kong.

Their Condensed Milk Cui Cui (HK$10) is a good option if I feel like having something sweet but not overly cloying (aka “gelat”). There’s actually only a thin layer of condensed milk applied onto the butter spreaded toast bread.

Conclusion

My friend (who don’t really like instant noodle) once told me that this Tomato Noodle “is just instant noodle” and i don’t think he is 100% wrong. One of the reasons why i visit this place whenever i can is i love the simplicity of the dishes and it feels very home-cooked. I love instant noodle, luncheon meat and pork cubes by the way.

I like how they manage to put such simple ingredients together and successfully made it as their signature dish which is well-loved especially by their locals. Set your expectation right before making your way down to the most popular eatery at Hong Kong island district to indulge in Hong Kong old school’s dining culture and  understand why their local folks love this eatery so much.

Click here to view my full Hong Kong Food Itinerary and the 8 must-know about Hong Kong Cafe Culture

Map and Direction

This place is not exactly easy to find. My way to this place is rather straight forward and remember to keep a look out for two rather famous eatery as landmark – 莲香楼 and Kau Kee Beef Brisket Noodle (九记牛腩).

Sing Heung Yuen is actually in between Central and Sheung Wan but i always go from Sheung Wan.

1. Come out from Exit E2, cut through the square at Cosco Tower as shown in my maps. The square is easy to identify as it looks like a fountain with steps that lead up to a road.

2. Cross the road and walk towards the left narrow path as shown in my map. You will be going up a gentle slope. Walk straight until you see this restaurant 莲香楼.

3. This is where you should turn right and head up. There will be steeper slopes and stairs here.

4. While climbing up, don’t forget to look to your right for the signboard of another eatery 九记牛腩. This is where you should turn in.

5. Walk towards that direction and you will see Sing Heung Yuen on your left.

Frenzlink Cafeteria (S$2.00 Noodles at CBD Area)

Frenzlink Cafeteria

Address: 56 South Bridge Road S(058687)

Operating hours: Not exactly sure, but it was already opened at 7.15am on a weekday until lunch time. I will find out the exact timing and hope to share with everyone soon.

Introduction

I chance upon this small cosy Cafeteria while walking to work from Good Morning Nanyang Cafe. It looks very old school, and the thing that particularly caught my eye was the stall signage – $2.00 for all of their noodles. Frenzlink sells items like Wanton Noodle, Minced Pork Noodle, Mee Rebus, Mee Siam, Laksa, Fishball Noodle, Lor Mee and Prawn Noodle. There is already a good crowd early in the morning and instead of a typical breakfast food – Fried Bee Hoon (they sell fried bee hoon also), almost everyone are having noodles, particularly their Wanton Noodle dry.

So i made it a point to visit this place and try out their $2.00 noodle. I heard that Frenzlink had kept their price low at $2.00 for the past 18 years since. I miss the days where the stall helper will bring your food and drinks to your table instead of “self-service” and Frenzlink is still one of such places. This place is ran by apparent locals and were greeted with a “thank you” or “good bye” after my meal for all of my three visits.

Wanton Noodle ($2.00 or $3.00)

I had tried a couple of their noodles and Wanton Noodle is one of my favorites. Their Wanton Noodle is the sweet black sauce style with lean Char Siew and not the gravy or oil style. Not mentioning about the soup that is a little bland and the mini wanton, i think their noodle is actually quite good for it’s taste and texture. The portion is not very big so i will order the $3.00 noodle if i am feeling a little hungry.

Mee Rebus ($2.00 or $3.00)

Their Mee Rebus is one of the best items in Frenzlink. The gravy is smooth and flavorful and not too sweet and comes with a whole hard-boiled egg. Imagine the egg cost $0.50 so i am actually paying $1.50. for the noodle  The sauce don’t taste starchy and the smooth sauce coats the noodles without being too thick or watery.

Lor Mee ($2.00 or $3.00)

The Lor Mee is not bad. Gravy’s taste is acceptable, just that it’s slightly watery. It comes with two pieces of braised pork belly, half an egg, pieces of deep-fried wanton skin and two pieces of Ngor Hiang (five-spice roll). Quite OK for a $2.00 noodle. I prefer the other noodles compared to this Lor Mee.

Laksa ($2.00 or $3.00)

I think their Laska exceeded my expectation. I was not expecting a lot from a $2 Laksa but it is really decent. The gravy don’t taste “cheap”. It is rich, filled with coconut fragrance and the sweetness from the grinded dried prawn. There are 2-3 pieces of Tau Pok, half an egg and a few slices of fish cake. No cockles (hum) though.

Minced Pork Noodle ($2.00 or $3.00)

I didn’t have the photo of their minced pork noodle, but it’s not like our traditional minced pork noodle with lean meat, minced pork, pork ball and mushroom. Frenzlink version is rather unique with their own braised style of minced pork, and noodle. Not my favourite kind of minced pork noodle or at least not what i was expecting. Sorry, this minced pork noodle will be on my last-to-order list.

Conclusion

Frenzlink is not the kind of place that i will travel all the way from Jurong or from Woodlands to have a meal here. This place is more of a hidden gem within the vicinity and is more of an interesting eat rather than an amazing eat.

I am pleasantly surprised that such a place still exist in the CBD area and i thought i can still pop by in the future to support them whenever i can.