Sentosa’s found in this direction, but that’s not the only place to head for fine food.
Try these Southern SG nabes — Telok Blangah, Buona Vista, Pasir Panjang, Bukit Merah, and more — you will be surprised how many forward and interesting cafes you can hop to for tea-time or even a full meal.
*COVID Update: Remember to check ahead if they’re taking reservations! Also, let’s keep group gatherings to a maximum of 8 people, shall we? Mask up, practice social distancing, and embrace the new normal.
1. Creamier Handcrafted Ice Cream & Coffee
Nothing beats having a cool, ice treat in the middle of yet another hot day in SG, and you probably won’t have it any better than at Creamier. As one of the pioneering independent heartland-based ice cream cafes — it started in 2011 in Toa Payoh — the brand certainly knows its dessert, having since expanded to 3 outlets.
If you take a trip down to Gillman Barracks to view the many art galleries there, you would be glad that this cafe has sited its second outlet here (its third is at “hipster-ville” Tiong Bahru), since it provides a resting spot within this former army barracks. And it bustles with both activity — families have been known to trek across the Southern Ridges walking trail just to get here — and flavours. Choose from a rotating small batch selection of hand-crafted 18 flavours or just pick their flavour of the month; July’s is Summer Strawberries, made in collaboration with a make-up brand. Or, just settle for its Plain Ole Chocolate and a custom blend expresso. And do order a scoop of this flavour with thick stacked waffles — it’s safe but you won’t be sorry.
Creamier Handcrafted Ice Cream & Coffee, Gillman Barracks, 5a Lock Rd, 108927
2. Jimmy Monkey Cafe & Bar
Opened by Melburnian Michael Ryan in 2011, this Aussie-styled cafe is nestled within the 200-hectare One North Residences condominium, and serves up coffee with beans hand-picked from independent and Rainforest Alliance farms and ground through SG’s first Slayer Expresso machine. Casual and approachable is the vibe here — it’s kind of expected, since Michael did name the cafe after his childhood toy monkey — so the food served here is unpretentious but hearty.
This “Third Wave” coffee spot serves up a rustic menu that includes toasted focaccias, home-made dips, pastas, bangers and mash — all comforting, all yummy for the tum-tum. A highlight: its signature alcholic milkshakes (just don’t let kiddo have too much of a taste).
Jimmy Monkey Cafe & Bar, 9 One-North Gateway, One-North Residence, #01-51, 138643
3. Long Black Cafe
If you are one of the lucky ones who can afford to cafe-hop on a weekday, you can try going Long Black Cafe — it only opens Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you do, its the brews that is purported as a must-try for caffeine connoisseurs, as they are crafted by a custom-made Kees van der Westen Spirit coffee maker from Holland. While you are a-sipping a-cuppa here, you can also tuck into Western fare such as Truffle Cream Chicken Pasta, Salmon Baked Rice or The LB Special Bee Burger made with grilled homemade beef patties.
Long Black Cafe, 20 Biopolis Way, Centros Block, #01-02, 138668
4. Old Habits
Expect a little traipse if you want to visit this cafe, hidden away in an old 4-storey Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat in Telok Blangah Rise. Which does give it a nostalgic charm (as though you are visiting someone’s abode) one further enhanced by its decor that features vinyl records, gramophones, clocks, typewriters and vintage toys (just you try not to play with them).
The food is just as homey — think sandwiches, spaghettis and grilled meats. The surprise? There are specials such as Honey Mustard Lamb Rack and Wagyu Steak so it does pay to hunt for this cafe. Just remember to take note of private events held there, which the cafe updates on its Facebook page.
Old Habits, Telok Blangah Rise, Blk 38, #01-315, 090038
5. The Lawn
Eating healthy is your thing? Then The Lawn is right up your alley. It’s known for customisable salad bowls — meaning that you can choose what kinds of greens to go with your meats to go with your dressing — which means your choice is king here.
Pick from variety of grills (from char-grilled Cajun Chicken to Portobello Mushrooms to Aceto Balsamic Beef Cuts) and toppings (green apples, granola, baby potatoes, etc.), before perfecting your creation with a home-made dressing such as Me so Spicy (fresh chilli and mint) or Manly Mango (triple vinegars and mango puree).
You can choose to sit indoors or at its outdoor dining area (which faces an actual lawn and a water feature), but back in the pre-COVID days, patrons usually have to jostle for seats on the *weekdays.
*It serves the researchers and scientists in the Biopolis area (it’s the international research and development centre for biomedical sciences in Singapore FYI).
The Lawn, 31 Biopolis Way, Nanos, Biopolis, #01-07, 138669
Chiak (which is the Hokkien dialect word for “eat”) calls itself a “salad & noodle bar”; serves up resto-worthy Chinese-fusion dishes such as Spicy Chicken Basil Dry Noodle Bowl and Green Curry Chicken Grain Bowl; and tea-time fare such as black sesame butter and vanilla custard toasts with traditional coffee and tea. And it’s housed in a cafe-like spot, known only to the office workers in the SG HQ of the real estate, investment and capital management company Mapletree, in the Mapletree Business City.
What we really appreciate about this bar-resto-cafe, is its dedication to authenticity and willingness to experiment. It serves a local cup of kopi (local coffee) that’s crafted from a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, and roasted with trans-fat free pure butter instead of margarine to bring out a richer, more full-bodied taste. Local coffeeshop lovers would approve.
Chiak, 40 Pasir Panjang Rd, Mapletree Business City, #02-37, 117383
7. Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee
This specialty coffee house is kind of an open-secret amongst coffee aficionados making this a cafe to know. First founded as Tiong Hoe Gim Kee Trading Co by Mr. Tan Tiong Hoe in the 1960s and now managed by his son Jacob Tan, its current incarnation as a modern coffee store is more than just a caffeine hipster dream. It supplies its own house blends like an After Dark Blend and its The Secret Blend as well as global ones from Ethiopia and Rwanda and offers educational modules on brewing, cupping and latte art. While the cafe has a humble small bites menu, it does open on public holidays (check its Facebook for updates) so you can have your taste of heritage on any day!
Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee, Stirling Rd, Blk 170, #01-1133, 140170
8. Elyon KETO Cafe
Despite having undergone a slight name change from Elyon Cakes to Elyon KETO Cafe, it can be easy to wander past this neighbourhood cafe — it does look that unassuming.
They are now dedicated to creating lip-smacking nutritious, well-balanced and KETO-friendly meals. They were a popular favourite during the CB (circuit breaker, a.k.a lockdown) period — with tons of positive reviews from customers seeking to improve their diets — and even today! They also cook up local dishes like Nasi Lemak and Laksa, with a healthy twist so you can enjoy all the decadence without the guilt. Not to forget, they have plenty of vegetarian options as well.
Elyon KETO Cafe, Bukit Merah Lane 1, Blk 126, #01-202, 150126
9. Carrara Cafe
If you happen to be in the Jalan Bukit Merah nabe, head to this venture by the owners of Dandelion Cafe (also located near here, but in Bukit Merah Central). It occupies a small space like most typical neighbourhood cafes, but unlike the rest, is brightly-lit, white and subscribes to a more minimalist aesthetic — the faux-marble tables alone should be enough of a bait for you Instagram-folk.
As is the food. Two choices that will prick your interest: Marmite Fried Chicken & Waffle (yes, the crispy chicken is coated with Marmite), Salmon Swiss Rosti (the rostis are made in-house). Once you are done satisfying your curiosity, treat your LOs to its signature crispy waffles which you can top with ice cream — take your pick from flavours such as Earl Grey Lavender, Salted Caramel and Thai Tea.
Carrara Cafe, Jalan Bukit Merah, Blk 2, #01-5148, 150002
By Christopher Ong Ujine, 16 July 2018 / Last updated by Melodi Ghui, July 2019 and Willaine G. Tan, September 2020. Images: provided by restaurants or from their social media pages.
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