Cafe Melba – Of Green Meadows and Blow-up Castles

4 11 2012

Easterners have been lamenting over the lack of brunch places in the East for the longest time, at least I have. Recently however, I chanced upon this laid back Australian brunch place at Goodman Arts Centre near Mountbatten MRT. I’m surprised there’s not much online coverage about it yet, especially since it gets pretty packed with expats during the weekends. I guess word of mouth travels fast.

Facing a field of green, it makes for a perfect setting for a weekend brunch. The cafe seems to be both pet and children friendly, as I saw dogs playing in the field which I assume to be pets of the customers, and a blow up castle entertains the kids as they bounce up and down on it.

The menu features brunch items, appetizers, mains, sides and a variety of pizzas.

Considering that this is an Australian eatery, some items on the menu seem out of place, such as the Melba Beef Rendang ($18++). Cooked in Coconut Milk, Ginger and Spices, I found the Rendang to be very ordinary and a little too spicy. Instead of rice, you get pizza bread to complement the rendang, a little bit of east meets west. As rendangs of such quality can easily be sought after in most nasi padang stalls, I wouldn’t recommend it here. The best thing was probably the shoestring fries which comes freshly fried alongside the dish.

The Full Melba Cooked Breakfast ($24++) comes with a choice of Eggs (Scrambled, Poached or Sunny Side Up), Pork Sausages, Cured Bacon, Roasted Cherry Vine Tomatoes, Baked Beans, Mushrooms and Home-made Toast. It sounds heavier than it really is and personally, an extra side of sauteed potatoes would have completed this breakfast platter.

The Free-range Eggs Benedict ($18++) arrived with 2 puny kampong chicken eggs that had been slightly overpoached. The Hollandaise sauce wasn’t as creamy nor flavourful as I would have liked either.

If you are really hungry, the Melba Burger ($23++) is something to consider. The burger is made with home-made Relish, Cured Bacon, Cheese and a choice of Shoe-string fries, Salad or Wedges. I thought this was done competently but the beef patty could have done with a little more flavour. Wedges were really awesome though.

I enjoyed the thin-crusted Smoked Salmon Pizza ($18++ for 9 inches), which comes topped with Capers, Dill and Creme Fraiche aka sour cream. I would recommend the Truffle Fries ($13++) as it was good enough to warrant getting it again on my second visit here. I usually shun the truffle flavour by the 20th fry as truffle oil can get a bit overwhelming but the ones here are just unbelievably addictive. By the way, I hope you don’t feel cheated discovering that most truffle oils are not made using real truffles but simply a synthesis of a chemical compound (that smells like truffle) with olive oil.

Overall, the food at Cafe Melba is nothing to shout about and slightly overpriced, given the small serving portions. The main draw therefore, would be the laid back vibes that can make your weekend a truly lazy one.

PS: There’s one other restaurant housed within Goodman Arts Centre called La Barca, which does Tuscan cuisine and is helmed by an ex-Michelin Starred chef. Been wanting to visit but online reviews have been giving me second thoughts.

Cafe Melba

90 Goodman Road, #01-56 Goodman Arts Centre Block N

Tel: +65 6440 6068

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Swensen’s – A Weekend Breakfast Alternative

8 09 2012

I haven’t been back to Swensen’s since my Junior College days more than half a decade ago. I guess just like with all the cafe cartels, seoul gardens and sakae sushis that we students used to frequent, these joints no longer seem as cool as compared to chilling out at those hipster standalone cafes that serve gourmet coffees. However believe it or not, on my recent trip to Swensen’s, I actually found the new breakfast menu promising enough to warrant future return visits, especially when the breakfast sets are priced so reasonably. Their breakfast menu is only available during weekends and public holidays between 8am to 11am for all outlets except the outlet at Changi Airport Terminal 2, where the breakfast menu is available everyday from 3am to 11am to cater to travelers.

One of my favourite breakfast sets is the All American Buttermilk Pancakes ($9.90++), which comprises of pancakes served with a side of maple syrup, honey butter cream, chicken sausages, hash brown and sauteed mushrooms. Every aspect was done competently and the pancakes were thick but light. Mushrooms were delicious as well as I suspect it was sauteed in butter. In addition, all breakfast sets come with a cup of coffee and tea to wash down the hearty fare.

You can opt to do away with the peripherals and just get the Simply Pancakes ($6.90++).

The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich ($9.90++) is essentially a ham and egg sandwich. What I love most about this sandwich is that a sweet airy Japanese Bread is used, whose texture is in between that of bread and spongecake. The set also comes with a side of BBQ Baked Beans, similar to what you can get at Astons. My only gripe was that the egg was slightly bland and dry.

The same Japanese bread is also used to make the Classic French Toast with Honey Butter Cream ($10.90++), so the toast turns out really fluffy as well.

As with most of the breakfast sets here, you can opt to have the Simply French Toast ($7.50++) without the accompanying hash brown, sausages and sauteed mushroom.

What I find spectacular from the Swensen’s Sunrise Omelette ($10.90++) is not the omelette per se but the Ciabatta rolls. They are included in some of the breakfast sets and they are awesome! Not only were they served crisp and piping hot, but honey butter is also pumped into them for a sweet finish. Instead of having the eggs in an omelette style, you can also opt to have your eggs scrambled or sunny side up. My advice is to go for the scrambled.

Good Morning Sunnies ($11.90++)

Ciabatta Rolls pumped with Honey Butter

For those on a heavy protein diet, there’s also the Hearty Steak & Eggs ($14.90++). You get what you pay for so don’t go expecting top quality beef but I would say its good enough for a casual meal. Plus you get yummy caramelized onions…

No western breakfast place is complete without the ubiquitous Eggs Ben and the ones here are served with Smoked Salmon ($12.90++). While a little too sour for my liking, the density of the Hollandaise was about right and my eggs weren’t overpoached.

There’s also the Eggy Delight ($6.90++) for the kids, where you get sunny side ups, grilled chicken sausages and potato smiles. All the kids breakfast sets come with a glass of fruit juice too!

Apart from the western breakfast sets, there’s also 2 sets that cater to local palates; the Fish & Century Egg Congee ($9.90++) and Prawn Bee Hoon Soup ($11.90++). The congee wasn’t available so I only had the Bee Hoon Soup which I found very forgettable as the bee hoon hadn’t infused the flavours from the soup and hence tasted bland. Anyhow, the chicken soup base wasn’t fantastic to start with.

Overall, I would say that Swensen’s really exceeded my expectations this time. The food is in general above average for cafe breakfast standards, prices are really competitive and the seating capacity is ample to avoid the long weekend queues. If only the breakfast menu hours are extended past 11am on lazy weekends…

Special thanks to Swensen’s for hosting this tasting!





Kith Cafe @ Park Mall – More Offerings, Better Location

29 08 2012

My previous visit to Kith Cafe at Robertson Quay didn’t leave much of an impression and the cafe felt rather cramped. This has all changed with the opening of a new branch at Park Mall, whose menu offers a wider range compared to their Robertson Quay outlet, with the inclusion of more types of pastas, salads and sandwiches. There’s even interesting chioces like Foie Gras with Fruit Brioche ($18++)!

I don’t think of Kith Cafe as a pasta place but from what I read on Chubby Hubby, the chef here is ex-Da Paolo, which should put minds at ease as to the quality of the pastas.

The Smoke Duck Breast Sandwich ($12++), made from Green Apple, Japanese Cucumber, Spring Onion and Balsamic Reduction in Sourdough was pretty good. I swear the balsamic reduction tastes more like hoisin sauce though, making this taste like a peking duck sandwich, sans the crisp duck skin.

The Big Breakfast ($15++) was awesome as well, in fact it’s one of the better ones I have had. It came with 2 Eggs, Bacon, Smoked Bratwurst, Sauteed Mushroom, a couple slices of Toast with a side of jam. The scrambled eggs was done exceptionally well here, though I wouldn’t say it beats the affordable ones at Australian Dairy Company in Hong Kong. Love the sausage too, it’s the type I like, the kind that provides quite a bit of bite. The bacon wasn’t too salty as well, which was much appreciated.

Had an affordable cup of Cappuccino ($4++), though it was nothing spectacular. To sidetrack a bit, I guess all the hype about Chye Seng Huat Hardware is well founded. Coffee and food there were delish on my recent trip there last weekend!

I used to make Toasties at home too! It’s not difficult at all once you dump everything in the toastie maker. Kith Cafe does it decently too, the Ham, Pineapple & Cheddar Toastie ($6.50++) proved to be a simple but delightful combination.

Overall, I’m rather fond of this new outlet. It’s location is convenient and the food is very decent. If not for the never ending line of cafes on my to-go list, I would definitely be back at Kith in a jiffy.

Kith Cafe

9 Penang Road, #01-01E Park Mall

Tel: +65 6338 8611





Toby’s Estate – Assessing Food, Assessing Life

15 02 2012

Summer internships applications are finally in full swing and with that, university students eagerly await their interview call ups at the various hiring firms. One of the typical questions interviewers love to ask is “what are your strengths?” and my usual response is that “I have good time management and motivation towards activities that interest me, and that has allowed me to juggle school work, cca commitments, competitions and writing a food blog all at one go, sustaining a well balanced lifestyle that most students nowadays fail to achieve.”. But actually when I think about it, I find myself working a bit too hard over the past year in building up my resume, that I’ve been neglecting getting a life. So I have embarked on a mission this semester, dedicating my lesson-free Sundays/Mondays chilling at cafes, perhaps sitting at the communal tables or bar counters, chatting up random strangers as I have brunch, you know doing the whole indie thing you’d only normally do while overseas alone. Then after a satisfying meal, I would then sip a cappuccino, whip out some readings and let my imagination drift randomly. That’s what a pretty well-balanced life would sound like don’t you think?

This was my 2nd week doing something like this (Was at Prive Cafe for brunch last week which I have yet to post about). I wasn’t alone though, good friend R was with me. We didn’t bid for any modules together this semester so Sundays were now our catch up days. We decided to drop by Toby’s Estate, which came highly recommended from friend J and I have to say, I wasn’t left disappointed.

Originating from Australia where it has already established its brand name, Toby’s Estate founder Toby Smith continues his mission of educating the public on the diversity and complexity of coffee with the recent opening of his first Singapore branch located at Robertson Quay. Unlike 0ther western brunch places, Toby’s Estate really does well with the whole communal dining thing, where the interior seating area comprises just of bar seats and a central table, providing a great avenue for friendly strangers to strike up random conversations.

They weren’t kidding when they said they specialized in coffees. The Cuppaccino ($5+) I had carried with it a rich aroma and milky froth, just what I needed to get the day going. R had a Flat White ($4.50+) which she enjoyed as well.

Toby’s Breakfast ($16+), comprising Free Range Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Roasted Tomatoes, Sauteed Mushrooms and Brioche was hearty enough to be considered my lunch. Everything was pretty standard I suppose but I have to give extra credit to the scrambled eggs which were super creamy and evenly cooked.

We both preferred the Poached Eggs, Salmon with Brioche ($12+). The yolks were runny and the smoked salmon was extra tasty for some reason, probably because it tasted rather fresh (I find smoked salmon tends to get noticeably drier and less smooth when left in the fridge more than a couple of days) and had just the right amount of saltiness to go along with the egg and brioche. A side of sauteed baby potatoes with onions for accompaniment would have been good though!

Sometimes, we just have to take a step back and reassess our lives. Take the time to smell the roses and enjoy the greenery and not be too engrossed in meaningless work. Carefree and happy, can I be like those kids in 20 years time? I really hope so.

Toby’s Estate

8 Rodyk Street, #01-03/04

Tel: +65 6636 7629





The Plain – For that Simple Unpretentious Brunch

24 01 2012

A cafe’s name often speaks volumes about its history and concept. For The Plain, it seems that the owners named it as such after much thought. Location seems to be the main driver behind this decision, with The Plain’s location near Duxton Plain Park. Concept was the other driving factor, with the owner’s intention of setting up a cafe that is as plain as possible; simple and easily understood without the gimmicks. A minimalistic cafe where one could come in for a casual cuppa, coffee or sandwich.

There’s just so few brunch places around nowadays that eludes the super chillax uncommercialized feel like The Plain does. I’d be lying if I said cafes like Wild Honey, Epicurious and Spruce are like that too. Somehow, they come across as trendier, with a see and be seen vibe to it, where you actually end up dressing up for a simple brunch. On the other hand, I’d be entirely comfortable dropping by The Plain in my shorts and flip flops.

There’s nothing distinctly special about the food here. The food menu is quite limited and the items can be easily prepared at home. For example, the Darling’s Eggs ($12), “Poached Egg with Ham, Cheese and Roma Tomatoes on Sourdough Toast”, can be easily replicated. Seriously, poaching eggs isn’t that difficult! Normally, it’s the Hollandaise Sauce that comes along with it that’s the problem but The Plain keeps it simple by using melted cheese instead.

My personal preference veers to the Dean’s Breakfast ($11), “Poached Eggs with Melted Cheese & Vegemite on Sourdough Toast”. This is my first time eating vegemite, a yeast extract that is supposedly nutritious. I thought it went rather well with the toasted sourdough, intensifying the flavour of the melted cheese. My only quibble was that the eggs were noticeably over-poached so the yolk was solid instead of runny. That definitely can be worked on.

HH and JH shared an Iced Chocolate but I didn’t get to try it.

Iced Chocolate ($5.50)

The Plain does their coffees well. T got a Cappuccino (butter cookies on the side were made by T’s gf and meant for decorative purposes only and not served with the coffee) which he said was pretty good.

For myself, I got a Latte which was quite fragrant and smooth with the right thickness (“gao-ness”).

While I normally emphasize on the food, I think The Plain is just one of the few places where I can bear to leave critical food-related judgements behind (not that there are many) and soak in the ambience instead. It does help that the staff are super approachable and really treat their customers as they would their friends.

PS: Currently, I’m embarking on a pet project to identify Singapore’s best 5 brunch places so you’d probably see more brunch posts coming up shortly.

Bon Appetit!

The Plain

50 Craig Road

Tel: +65 6225 4387








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