Last Updated: December 31, 2020
You’d think a place called Tea Villa Cafe would have nothing much else to offer after choosing such a specific name, but you couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, this cafe along East Coast Road deserves far more attention for their extensive menu, and even more for the faith that goes behind it.
We’ve been seeing so many cafes popping up around the island, and while that sends my inner cafe-lover into a tizzy like no other, it does get hard to differentiate the good ones from the average ones.
Successful cafes are becoming formulaic, with the accursed ‘IG-worthy’ praise and typical brunch selections. After all, what’s going to attract cafe-freaks like me more than a fancy avocado toast?
Even I bore myself with my tastes sometimes—I just can’t help it. So, Tea Villa Cafe was a pleasant jolt to my system when I found that they neither try to shove their aesthetically pleasing interior design down my throat nor claim to pander to a healthier lifestyle. I want my brunch to be as unashamedly indulgent as can be.
I get what I want with the Mac And Cheese Pizza (S$20) in a rarely found carb-on-carb combination. From the get-go, it’s clear that Tea Villa Cafe isn’t about to hold back on fun.
It’s a world of textures with the generous layer of thick mac and cheese laid upon thin crust pizza. It stays true to pizza form too, with a smear of tomato sauce that prevents it from becoming too one dimensional in flavour. In fact, the jalapenos scattered across the pie provide slashes of spice that keep me on my toes.
The only thing that keeps me a step back from crowing with glee is the fact that the pizza is conservatively thin-crusted. I understand the practical rationale of moderating the amount of carbs in a dish, but the thought of mac and cheese on a thick and fluffy dough sounds too compelling to resist.
But one has to resist at a place like Tea Villa Cafe. Their dishes are hot and heavy affairs, and the likes of the Risotto With Pesto Sauce (S$16) demands considerable stomach space.
A herd of school children walk past the cafe as I descend upon the Risotto With Pesto Sauce, and I hear audible exclamations of envy, greener than the pesto, as they peer through the glass.
While the Risotto With Pesto Sauce presents as deceptively homogenous, the hidden morsels of sundried tomatoes prove otherwise. It’s a welcome balance of creamy and tangy, though I would welcome a heavier hand with tomatoes and sauce. As it is, the contrast of flavours tastes delightfully homely.
What sets Tea Villa Cafe apart is the Indian Chinese section on their menu, which provides a challenge and pleasure in equal measure. In this lesser-known category of Indian cuisine, they offer an eye-opening glimpse at Schezwan dishes. Schezwan, not to be confused with Szechuan mala, is a sauce containing Indian red chillies and garlic.
In the heat of adventure, the Schezwan Noodles (S$15) proves to be the heaviest option on the table for its sheer abrasive spice. It’s almost painful, with such an aggressive kick that I’m nearly in tears by the second mouthful. Tea Villa Cafe does offer customers the option to customise their spice levels, so I’d advise against any gungho decisions on virgin tries.
To ease the mortification of crying over my noodles, it’s a relief to taste the smooth cubes of cottage cheese in the Chilli Paneer Dry (S$15). Ironically, this isn’t spicy at all, though it has its own flavourful kick. It comes across savoury with a potential for spice that hasn’t yet been let loose, which I’m thankful for as I’m not ready for a second onslaught without calling the SCDF.
There’s always a dish at the table that people keep going back to and want to end on, and at Tea Villa Cafe, it’s the Villa Special Hummus Platter (S$20). This artwork of a dish features an attractive selection of hummus dips that pair with falafels and pita bread. If I were to allow myself a repeat order on my next visit here, this will be it.
Of course, it’s not Tea Villa Cafe without the hundred-over tea options available, showcased in a menu of its own. Tea even becomes a performance art here as the barista pours hot water over a ball of green tea, chrysanthemum and seven jasmine flowers in the Peach Fairies (S$14). It rises with the water before it sinks, swelling as it blooms at the bottom of the glass.
Treat yourself and a friend to Tea Villa Cafe’s 1-for-1 promotion on their premium teas, valid with a la carte orders. Terms and conditions apply.
It’s a bit of a shame that in a row of trendy dining spots, people tend to miss this rather obscure gem of a cafe. Tea Villa Cafe brings a fresh change to the cafe scene with its unique range of Indian-Chinese dishes on top of the more conventional cafe picks.
Like the best kinds of cafes that keep customers’ dietary restrictions in mind, they can also prepare certain dishes without onion or garlic to cater to those who can’t consume them. Vegan options are also available here.
It’s natural to find several tried and tested items on a cafe menu, but Tea Villa Cafe goes beyond that to challenge palates with uncommon flavours and unique combinations.
Even through it all, they remain so down-to-earth and faithful to their brand that it’s heartening to dine with them.
Expected Damage: S$10 – S$20 per pax
*This post is brought to you in partnership with Tea Villa Cafe.
Our Rating: 4 / 5
Tea Villa Cafe
97 East Coast Road, Singapore 428794
97 East Coast Road, Singapore 428794