December 29, 2016
Hell-bent on change and progress, restaurants and cafes buck to trends — or attempt to set them. Heap Seng Leong coffeeshop, however, has done nothing. Yet its lack of change for what has probably been decades, is what makes it stand out. Sticking true to what traditional coffee would taste like.
Tucked away in an ageing neighbourhood, a short walk from Lavander MRT station, you’ll find this regular haunt for uncles and office workers in the area. As for us, we’re just a couple of millennials keeping the balance between old and new.
While the uncles have cigarettes, kopi in all its varieties, beer and stout to lounge the afternoon away, office workers pop by for afternoon pick-me-ups. The dimly lit coffeeshop has strange way of luring you in.
Heap Seng Leong didn’t invent kopi gu you (butter coffee $1.10). All you’d need is a good sized slab of butter into a piping hot cup of kopi and you’ve got yourself kopi gu you. As the butter melts it forms a yellow marble-like layer that’s the cheapest and most effortless “latte art” you’ll lay your eyes on.
Kopi gu you is smooth and silky. Like a good cup of kopi but a notch creamier. However, kopi o kosong ($0.90) here is just good and it’s probably one of the better cups you’ll get in town. The congregation of weathered-looking regulars are testament to that. Simply because I couldn’t imagine spending hours at a coffeeshop with a weak brew, not if you’ve lived as long as one of these tough guys.
We didn’t get the inside scoop on some special brewing method or blend that’s used here. However, glowing in the corner of Heap Seng Leong is a charcoal stove, its embers keep the coffee toasty and in my opinion makes it better.
The aroma of slightly burnt toast fills the air at Heap Seng Leong. It’s almost tranquil within the dark interior, while the occasional exchange of words for orders are accompanied by the sound of scraping burnt bits off toast.
Kaya toast ($1.20) is simplicity at its best, slices of soft white cotton-like bread from local bakers are toasted to imperfection. Slathered with kaya before laying down pieces of butter in-between two slices of perfectly imperfect toast, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Accompanied by two soft boiled eggs ($1), it’s nostalgia you can eat.
Popping by in the afternoon, we didn’t have the chance to order from the Malay food stall within Heap Seng Leong, but, for the early birds, you can look forward to curry puff ($1) and nasi lemak ($3).
Heap Seng Leong coffeeshop is shelter from the storm of change and modernity. It’s a step back in time, where you can come to sip on coffee, enjoy simple flavours, and talk for hours over all that and the odd bottle of stout.
Expected damage: $2 – $10