Tanjong Pagar is a cafe-hopper’s ideal destination, where small, Instagrammable cafes are scattered across the neighbourhood. Such inundation brings a backlash against cafes as it makes us wonder whether they are just run-of-the-mill eateries.
At Bearded Bella, you’ll surely think twice.
It all started with a pair of housemates, Regina Tay and Sarah Ling, from Melbourne who wanted to bring the vibrant and slow-paced food scene to Singapore. But why name a cafe, “Bearded Bella”?
These two ladies have strived to create an unpretentious environment where “Bearded” signifies adventure and “Bella” embodies warmth, depicting a quirky yet balanced persona for the cafe.
Pushing open the blue-framed front door, I was invited into a cosy, brightly-lit space where wooden tables and pink seats flanked one side, and a coffee counter the other. The aroma of coffee and freshly-baked goods wafted in the air, and I was soon aching for a cuppa.
And I wasn’t going to get any ordinary cuppa from a cafe – Regina was the winner of the Singapore National Barista Championship in 2016.
Normally, I’d get an iced black or a latte, but I tried the Espresso ($3.50 for single, $4 for double) for something different. One sip of the creamy and very acidic house-blend with gentle floral notes made me wide awake.
After the espresso, I had the Slushie ($6.90) to lighten up my palate. Blended with espresso, syrup and milk tea, the Slushie had just the right amount of ice crystals for a crunch. It was neither too sweet nor bitter, perfect for the humid day. Just be careful not to get a brain-freeze!
The coffee was delightful, but what about the food? For starters, I opted for Charred Brussels Sprouts ($12) as recommended. The green buds were doused in a well-balanced sweet and tart balsamic, sprinkled with strings of parmesan.
While this dish may seem rather plain, it surely was addictive as I reached for more throughout the meal. Haters gon’ hate brussels sprouts, but this just might change their mind.
The Devilled Eggs ($10) came on four spoons arranged in a row. Mixed with miso paste, the yolk was creamy and mildly sweet, with a surface that was lightly caramelised with a blowtorch. A thin crisp of parmesan gave each spoonful a touch of saltiness.
As an avid fan of the fruit packed with healthy fats, I’ve had my fair share of avocado dishes. But I haven’t seen anything like the Smashed Avocado ($17).
The presentation was idiosyncratic: sweet potato crisps poking out from the creamy smashed avocado adorned with pomegranate and Meredith feta. Underneath, there was a slice of grain toast accompanied by toasted nuts and seeds mixed with quinoa and added Bacon ($3).
Visually, the quinoa mix seemed dry and brittle but it wasn’t, and was even less so with the lime-infused avocado and juicy pomegranate. Plus, the sweet potato crisps were heavenly — perhaps add them to your sides menu, Bearded Bella?
Comprising beef cheeks marinated in red wine jus on a pool of celeriac puree and spring onion oil, the Braised Cheeks ($24) deserved a round of applause.
Having been braised overnight, the beef was extremely tender, juicy and melted in my mouth (I’m not exaggerating here). The spring onion oil introduced a little spice to the creamy puree, which paired well with the meat. The bottom line is, I’d definitely go back for this dish again.
Scrambled eggs for brunch is always a safe bet, but the Spiced Scrambled ($18) was served in an eccentric way yet again. On a good ol’ piece of sourdough was scrambled eggs with turmeric, mushroom medley, and crispy kale drizzled with black truffle oil.
While the truffle fragrance wasn’t as pungent, the eggs were fluffy and the crispy kale with sun-dried tomatoes gave the dish a slight sweetness and enough flavours to permeate the palate.
If you’re looking for a sweeter brunch, the Chia Pudding ($13) was elegantly designed with bright, seasonal fruits like kiwi, dragonfruit, mango and a torched lychee on soy yoghurt speckled with buckwheat praline, coconut flakes and chia.
Despite the rather bland chia, the sweet and tangy fruits stirred it up (and made for a very pretty dish).
It goes without saying that we had to get desserts. When the Sticky Date Pudding ($12) came, I was quite nonchalant about its simple plating of the pudding and vanilla bean ice cream on the side. But boy, was I wrong.
After pouring the butterscotch sauce over the pudding, I took a bite and the sweet-toothed me melted into a puddle. With crunchy walnuts inside, the butterscotch-soaked pudding wasn’t overly sweet but had pleasant caramelised flavours.
You’re supposed to have it with the ice cream, but honestly, the pudding shone on its own.
I went over to check out their selection of homemade treats over the counter to have one more dessert (because one is never enough).
It was a tough decision, but I ended up going for the glittery, galactic-like Mocha Cherry ($8.50) which was 70% mocha, with sour cherry and orange crunch.
Carefully carving out the cake, I could see the sour cherry filling within the dark chocolate mousse, creating an overall nice balance of bitter, sweet and sour.
As the cafe aims to nurture guests to have a nice conversation over the meticulously prepared dishes, they also have an eclectic range of wine pairings.
For desserts, there’s one selection of Chateau Piaut-Simon Sauternes 2014 ($17 for glass, $70 for bottle), which they believe goes with all the sweets. And yes, the honey-like wine was indeed pleasant and fun to drink.
Like I said at the start, cafes are a dime a dozen these days and it’s hard to find somewhere that ticks all the boxes. Bearded Bella stays true to its unique name and concept, and guarantees great food, homemade pastries and coffee in a warm and fun atmosphere.
Expected damage: $7 – $24 per pax