I’m a huge champion of our country’s beloved hawker food and culture. However, sometimes I crave for something a little more upscale and in a more atas environment.
With aesthetic interiors and food for the soul, neighbourhood cafes are the perfect places for that. They present a good alternative to the usual hawker centres and coffeeshops while still remaining accessible.
That said, we’ve gone around the heartlands, seeking out cafe spots which may have been hiding in those areas. So here’re 10 cafes to check out in neighbourhood areas of Singapore!
1. Pobo Gelato
An ice-cold scoop of gelato always hits the spot, especially in this humid Singapore weather. Fortunately, you can get your gelato fix at Pobo Gelato, an artisanal gelato shop in West Coast Community Centre.
Damian, the owner, travelled all the way to Italy to master the art of making gelatos. In 2018, he returned and opened a shop in West Coast so he could share his passion with residents around.
My personal favourite flavour is hands down the Genmaicha (S$4/single scoop, S$7.50/double scoop, +S$1/cone). Freshly-churned, the gelato had a strong bitterness from the matcha and roasted brown rice, making it absolutely addictive.
To complement the gelatos, I always pair them with a freshly-made Waffle (S$9 with single scoop, S$12.50 with double scoop). Perfectly dense, eggy and aromatic, the waffles here at Pobo Gelato are exactly the way I like my waffles.
Those of you who live in the North, specifically Yishun, may have heard of Wild Wood Cafe. The cafe, in Wisteria Mall, is well-known for serving up extraordinarily large portions of food.
Their Wild Chief Breakfast Set (S$18.80) starred a massive piece of boneless chicken.
With a plethora of other ingredients, the dish was more than fit for a king, let alone a chief!
If you love chicken and waffles, Wild Wood Cafe also serves up a decent W.W.W (S$14.80), or Wild West Waffles.
The dish featured their signature crispy fried chicken, but accompanying it this time were waffles. Firm on the outside yet chewy inside, the waffles certainly made for an indomitable pairing with the fried chicken.
Located along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Obsessive Chocolate Desire (OCD) Cafe serves up a wide variety of ice cream flavours (S$3.60/single scoop, S$7/double scoop).
Run by two chocolate aficionados, they pride themselves particularly on their exclusive range of chocolate flavours.
If you’re a big dark chocolate fan like me, their Signature Africa 85% Dark is a must-try. The cafe’s strongest dark chocolate ice cream had a relatively sticky texture which made it satisfyingly chewy.
OCD Cafe offers a variety of waffles too, with their Truffle Waffle (S$8) being one of the more interesting ones. It possessed a hint of truffle which, interestingly, only became more noticeable when consumed with ice cream.
Obsessive Chocolat Desire (OCD) Cafe: 529 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, #01-2353, Singapore 560529 | Tel: +65 9623 3336 | Opening Hours: 12pm – 10pm (Mon – Thu), 12pm – 1am (Fri & Sat), 2pm – 10pm (Sun) | Facebook | Instagram
4. Sir Stamford Waffles [CLOSED]
Also within the Ang Mo Kio neighbourhood is Sir Stamford Waffles. The tiny cafe serves up local delights, but with a modern twist.
Their Slipper Lobster Roll (S$12.90) featured huge chunks of glistening slipper lobster meat in a hot dog-style bun.
There was also an overflowing amount of buttery egg mayo inside, making it absolutely value for money.
The cafe also serves up a variety of Instagrammable desserts, such as the Choochi Monster (S$14). It featured their housemade waffle, as well as Cookies & Cream and Blue Peppermint Chocolate Chip ice cream.
Yet another cafe spot in the heartlands of Ang Mo Kio is Estation Cafe.
Opened in early 2019, the relatively new cafe offers primarily Western dishes. However, to spice things up, they’ve given some of their dishes a local twist.
Their Chilli Crab Crayfish Spaghetti (S$17.90) might not be the cheapest item on the menu, but it’s certainly worth the money.
Succulent and fresh, the crayfish was a showstopper. It was simply a bonus that the dish came with such a restaurant-quality presentation.
Meanwhile, the ES Café Otak with Pearl Rice (S$11.90) is EStation Cafe’s modern take of a nasi lemak.
It came with a generous portion of thick fish otak which they make in-house from scratch. The tender fish and complex chilli spice blend formed an excellent flavour pair which left a deep impression in us.
6. Starter Lab
Joining the bevvy of cafés in Tiong Bahru is Balinese cafe Starter Lab.
Interestingly, they make their signature sourdough bread with the mother starter hailing all the way from Bali.
Their Avocado Bawang (S$12) is worth your curiosity, especially if you’re an avocado lover. It came with smashed avocado, tangy sriracha, and fried shallots atop crunchy sourdough bread.
Their Starter Lab 3 Cheese (S$19) is essentially a grilled cheese sandwich. It may be a tad pricey, but the trio of oozy cheese and spicy jalapeños will definitely leave you wanting more.
I’m a firm believer that no distance should ever stop one from getting to good food. And if you share the same sentiments, Lee’s Confectionery in Chinese Garden is definitely a place to bookmark.
Nestled amongst your typical neighbourhood provisional shops, the patisserie offers a lean but mean selection of French pastries.
The local-inspired Puff (S$7) featured two perfect rounds of puff pastry sandwiching a decadent layer of Earl Grey kaya.
We appreciated that the puff pastry was absolutely crisp, yet it was the Earl Grey kaya that sealed the deal. Smooth and sweet, it carried distinct floral notes of Earl Grey, as well as fragrant notes of coconut.
Every dish we had at Lee’s Confectionery never failed to impress us with their Instagrammable plating. The Puck (S$8) chocolate dessert, in particular, was a showstopper, boasting a shiny coat of chocolate ganache.
Apparently, Lee Yin Quan, the owner and head baker, trained for two years in two-Michelin-star restaurant Jean-François Piège in Paris. This definitely explained the refined surgical precision with which she plates her dishes.
With floor-to-ceiling bay windows and rustic wood accents, Tenderbest Makcik Market certainly exudes chic cafe vibes. The Tenderbest Group’s latest concept in Bedok Point serves up affordable unique local fusion dishes in a premium setting.
They prepare their Indomie Loaded Fries (S$5.90) with the addictive seasoning mix that Indomie noodle packets come with.
And as though that isn’t sinful enough already, they even topped it with a sunny-side-up and their housemade sweet sauce.
Likewise, the Roasted Boomerang (S$10.90) was a dish of bold flavours. The sambal fried rice won over our hearts instantly with its punchy notes of spiciness.
With a generous portion of tender and succulent chicken meat, it was a simply hearty and satisfying dish.
This next place certainly needs no introduction unless you’ve been living under a rock.
Earlier this year, Creamier shocked their loyal fans when they announced their closure. However, they reopened shortly after in a different location that’s still within the Toa Payoh heartlands.
Many regular customers have raved about Creamier’s Earl Grey Lavender (S$3.60/scoop, S$3.10/scoop with waffle order) ice cream and for good reason. Refreshingly light with an alluring floral aroma, it was one of the strongest Earl Grey-flavoured things I ever tasted.
Their freshly-made Waffle (S$6) also made for a perfect combo with the ice cream. A single portion came with two thick and dense slabs of waffles which they finish with maple syrup and chocolate sauce.
10. Ms Durian
Last but not least, for all you durian fanatics is Ms Durian in Potong Pasir.
True to its name, the cafe specialises none other than in durian desserts. Yet, they only have a small selection of seven items on their menu.
Their Durian Mousse Cake (S$8.50/slice, S$65/whole cake) consists of rich Mao Shan Wang durian mousse and decadent gula melaka. Lightly salted macadamia nuts, as well as light cream, then completed the dessert.
Despite having ingredients with such strong flavours, the cake was surprisingly light in its taste.
That said, if you’re a hardcore durian lover, the MSW Durian Cake (S$12/slice, S$90/whole cake) may appeal to you more. It had a stronger durian taste which made us feel like we were eating an actual piece of durian.
Ms Durian: 51 Upper Serangoon Road, Poiz Centre, #01-70, Singapore 347697 | Tel: +65 6962 0057 | Opening Hours: 2pm – 10pm (Mon), 12pm – 10pm (Tue – Sun) | Facebook
Nothing brings me more joy than knowing that there are easily-accessible cafes in the heartlands serving up comfort food. I only hope that more cafes will open up within our populous heartlands in time to come.
That said, there are bound to be plenty more neighbourhood cafes we’ve yet to uncover. So do share with us if there’s one hiding in yours!