Lunch at The Plain, Craig Rd

It was just my second visit to the Plain, since my first trip several years ago, before I moved to this area for work. In fact, it is strange that with my office so nearby, I haven’t actually thought of re-visiting, maybe because in my mind, I wanted to try out other cafes in the neighbourhood that I have yet to check out… or there was just a period of time where I considered it extravagant to lunch at cafes on a regular basis. Well, I still subscribe to that school of thought somewhat, but then another school of thought has entered the picture, that life is fairly short and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, scrimping and saving… to what end, I’d think. Sure, saving is important, whether it is for the proverbial rainy day, or towards building a nest egg for retirement, however much that kind of money will contribute to.

So, recently I have given myself more liberty where lunch options are concerned. It is supposed to be healthier too to step out of the office during lunch, instead of cooping myself up with packed lunches.

On one such lunches, at the Plain, I ordered a serving of plain toast (sourdough) with earl grey and fig jam (this piqued my interest), and a cup of bircher muesli.Instead of a slice, perhaps they had an extra tiny slice that they decided to give it to me anyhow, I got 1.5 slices. I really love the bread! In itself, sourdough is a type of bread that I enjoy and prefer over white (and usually soft and limp) bread, but the fact that this bread is very well-toasted made it all the better! I wonder if I can re-create the same effect using the oven, since I do not have an oven toaster at home which would make it so much easier and convenient to toast something (I blame it on the gross lack of space in the kitchen, no counter-top space to spare at all). But then it would seem like an overkill to switch on the oven just to toast a couple slices of bread, don’t you think? The earl grey and fig preserve didn’t really stand out as having much of the earl grey flavour. I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t focusing, or maybe the sweetness of the fig somehow overwhelmed any inkling of tea flavour?

The bircher muesli was made up of organic oats soaked with apple juice, sliced apples, flaked almonds and topped with honey-infused yogurt. The small serving that I ordered, with the 1.5 slices of toast, was just nice to fill me up at lunch without causing me to feel too bloated, or again as usual the stomach is not communicating to the brain what it’s feeling. Such simple breakfast food makes for an enjoyable lunch, even if it was without coffee.

Interestingly, as I was Googling for the menu online so that I could provide a better description of the stuff I ordered, as well as to confirm the names, I saw that in the menu that was dated 2011, the price of Plain Toasts was S$3.50 for a slice, which as of 2014’s menu, had been revised to S$4.00 for the same. Ok, that is pretty reasonable even though it’s a 15% inflation over 3 years. The same quantum of increase was also noted for the small-sized bircher muesli, from S$5.50 to S$6 (10%). So it would seem that it has been around for a pretty long time, at least 5 years in the running! I hope they would stick around for some time more, and perhaps one of these days I will return again for their simple yet amazing toast!

Selfish Gene Café, Craig Rd

Recently, I have had more opportunities to check out cafes around the office because I have been heading out for lunch more often (yay…). Other than Drury Lane, which is a favourite because of their (imo) awesome-mosome sandwiches, there are still many others around that are good too that I have not tried out or revisited.

One of those that I had gone to, several years ago, was Selfish Gene Cafe, located along Craig Road. I had only been there once, and it’s great that they are still around, what with the fickle cafe scene in Singapore that has seen many new cafes opening on a weekly basis, but at the same time we also see a dearth of cafes on an equally regular basis perhaps. The last time I went to Selfish Gene, I think I had a salad, if I remembered correctly. This time since we were in a slighter larger group, or should I say trio, we had more options. But then again, I still have not tried their coffee, because I try to limit my caffeine to one per day and I already had my regular kopi-o that day.

So first up, dessert! Weird but that’s what females are more interested in, the sweets, and I recalled reading about their banana cake, which is supposed to be quite a crowd favourite and popular item. And this is it! A warm banana cake with real banana slices, drizzled with a little peanut butter, yummy…
There isn’t any further pictures of the cake as we just dove into it when it was served after the mains, but this cake isn’t too dense or light, and it did have a rather distinctive banana taste, whether it is due to the bananas used or simply some essence that was put into the batter. Nevertheless, it receives a thumbs-up from me, especially since I’m a fan of banana cakes/breads.

We ordered two mains to try. The first was salmon that was served on a small bed of mash and veggies. From the picture you can see that there is a little alfafa sprouts, and probably the rest a mixture of … cabbage, tomatoes and… ? It’s not a huge portion, especially when three of us were sharing it but the salmon was nicely-done, of course much better than my own maiden attempt haha.The other main we ordered was a breakfast/brunch item, still available at that time. This was kind of like the full works kind of breakfast platter, that came with a slice of sourdough cut into half, a sausage, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, hash brown, a generous portion of creamy smooth scrambled eggs and some greens. I can imagine that this would be too much for a person, especially if I were to think that the person is me, since there are too many elements on this plate that I do not even eat! But it balanced out the salmon main well, and at the end of the meal, with 2 mains and a dessert shared among three of us, my 2 colleagues actually commented that they were really full. But as for me… as usual, I don’t know how the feeling of full is like maybe? Somehow, it seems like my brain and stomach aren’t linked very well, I seldom know when I feel full, and usually I don’t feel it, unless I drink a lot of water at meal-times, which would make me feel bloated and not so much of full. I don’t know, maybe I am just not consciously thinking if I am full. 

Anyway, Selfish Gene is a great cafe to chill out at, and I think they do private functions as well. But their opening hours are little unfriendly. Of course, with me working around the area, I could definitely make it for lunch, but then they are usually open from 10am to 5pm, sometimes closing earlier at 3pm on certain days. That’s like even shorter than office working hours! But I guess it’s all about work-life balance for the owner and his staff and as long as the operating hours are sufficient to keep them afloat, it’s all good!

The Clueless Goat, Novena

It had been a while since I discovered The Clueless Goat in the Novena area, one day while I was traipsing towards United Square from Novena Square / Velocity. It is located in the row of shop-houses next to the exit from the tunnel that leads from Novena MRT station, or rather behind it. The official address is 189, Thomson Road, but to me, Thomson sounds like somewhere far away, or maybe it’s just an impression.

Nevertheless, it is really within walking distance of Novena station! It is a fairly small and cosy cafe, probably seats 20-odd to 30 persons max, with a few small tables and one large communal table that can take about 8. I finally got myself to pop in one late Saturday morning for brunch, but I think it isn’t the best time to visit. It was quite packed with the brunch crowd, although I managed to find a seat, at a corner of the communal table no less. However, turnover was also brisk as some of the brunch crowd were really there for brunch and after eating, they promptly cleared off, mostly Caucasians living in the vicinity I suspect. With these brunch peeps, it also means families and young kids or toddlers. I actually do not have an issue with kids, even though I am not exactly fond of them. But if they are adorable and quiet, ok, as long as they are quiet, I don’t have a problem with them. But these kids were all screaming and crying, and that got me really annoyed as I was looking for a place where I could comfortably have brunch while reading a book or something. That was not to be, unfortunately, so I didn’t stay long too.

Anyway, this was what I ordered. The Granola (S$6) – Honey Nut Almond Granola with vanilla infused yogurt & fresh berries, and an add-on of Toast (S$1.50). If you would like to have some spreads, you could order Toast with Butter and Jam (S$4) but of course, for that you could choose Sourdough or Multi-grain bread although I am not sure if it’s also just a slice of toast cut in half like this. I don’t use spreads much so I opted for just plain Toast, and as it could get a little dry, I just plopped some yogurt on top. 🙂

The cashier suggested that the Granola was a rather small portion that wouldn’t be sufficient when I asked about its size, which was also why I ordered the add-on. Looking at its price, I also considered that which was why I asked in the first place. But I think it would have been enough for a small brunch, and for someone like me who feels peckish all the time, it might have been better for me to just order the Granola and have something else later on for tea-break!

Recently, I have been into ordering Yogurts with granola or muesli when I visit cafes, because I really like eating these, and I would like to think that they are a healthy option to have as compared to my usual muffin or cake. But granola or muesli are supposedly sugar-laden too, so I’m really a little unsure. I guess as long as we enjoy what we eat, that should be good enough, after all life is too short to worry so much! The fresh berries were actually one strawberry and perhaps 5 blueberries, haha.
Their coffee is supposed to be good, and I would say that it fits the criteria of gourmet coffee, from its acidity that is reminiscent of all the places that serve good coffee. Again, I would say that I have cheap taste buds because such good coffee to me is bitter, without any sugar or milk. It leaves a really bitter, sour after-taste at the back of my throat, so sometimes I don’t enjoy it as much. I probably have to really make myself go attend some coffee appreciation workshop to learn how to savour good coffee!  And the book that I was trying to read, recommended by a friend recently. I think I would roughly know the gist of the book from its synopsis, but I wonder if there’s any plot twists in it. Let’s find out as I read on when I make some spare time by detaching or disconnecting myself from the digital devices!

The Clueless Goat has quite an alright menu in terms of variety, but many of their brunch items feature eggs, though I suppose if you don’t fancy eggs you could always order their sandwiches, which actually look pretty good when I eyed what other customers were having. I’ll be back next time, but probably at a different timing so that I can have some respite in the cafe and stay a little longer. But take note that they are closed on Mondays and on Tuesdays to Thursdays and Sundays they open only until 6pm.

Wild Honey, Scotts Square

It may sound really incredible but I have never once visited Wild Honey, whether it is the branch at Mandarin Gallery or the newer outlet at Scotts Square. I have heard good reviews about the food served up but also of the off-putting queues, especially since the outlet at Mandarin Gallery does not take reservations, meaning if you want to dine there you will need to brave whatever crowds who share similar thoughts as you on the same day at the same time. Besides, I don’t think I am really a brunch person. I can eat any time of the day, and I love breakfast foods like grains, breads, yogurts and the likes, but the likes of bacon, sausages and eggs are not exactly within the repertoire of foods that enter my list of indulgences. Eggs maybe but depends on how they are done.

Anyway, Wild Honey at Scotts Square provides online reservation through Chope, and I made a 1:30pm reservation for two. The reservation was promptly confirmed via the system and on the day itself, there is actually an automatic call to you to confirm the booking. Good first impressions! Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. When we reached at slightly before our reserved time-slot, I saw a whole bunch of people waiting outside, and I tried to tell myself that these could be the walk-ins who are waiting for free tables beyond those who have made reservations. It was kind of a weak reassurance but nevertheless I wanted to stay positive. We asked about our booking and was told that they are preparing the table for us and clearing up. Ok.

15 minutes passed and still the host did not come out for us. We kept going to check with them and they kept telling us the table will be ready soon, until at one point I think they told us that the guests are paying and leaving soon. Well, by the time these guests finally left and the table was cleared, we got seated at 2pm. To be honest, I find it ridiculous if for restaurant bookings, we have to endure the same kind of wait like when we visit the doctors, where appointments are futile because you never get to fulifll your objective at the designated time. To add on to this, it was stated in the reservation that we have a maximum of 1.5 hours so that the next reservation can be kept to, something along those lines. Quite obviously, this wasn’t adhered to and if there wasn’t an intention to adhere to it, then it shouldn’t even be mentioned.

Done with the rants. We were at least given a decent seat, a table that although was near to the entrance/exit, was by the side so that we were not really in the midst of thoroughfare of wait staff rushing to and fro with the orders. Ordering was a little questionable as well, even for just the 2 of us, they got the order of our drinks mixed up when I asked for a coffee to be served after the meal but was instead presented with it while my friend’s tea didn’t come until we asked for it.

This was my order of the Californian, an egg-white scramble with tofu, fresh herbs, peppers, mushrooms and scallions char-grilled ciabatta. I really enjoyed this despite that the taste of the scallions was pretty strong and overwhelming, but the egg white scramble was quite a nice change for me from usual scrambled eggs (that I wouldn’t have ordered if it was regular eggs) and it was really very filling! Imagine all that protein goodness. However, the char-grilled bread that was used as the base for the eggs was too soggy for my liking. My friend commented that I should have eaten them together but I had wanted to keep them for last and also because there was really a lot of egg-white!IMG_0073.JPGA closer look at the dish.

IMG_0076.JPGMy friend’s order of the Boulevard St. Michel, which is savoury French toast with double baked cheese & spinach souffle, parmesan crumbed poached egg, slow-roasted tomatoes, grilled back bacon and spicy tomato chutney. The souffle sounded really interesting to me and I would have liked to order it too but felt iffy about French toast and I am so not a bacon person. The egg didn’t turn out that good though, as the yolk was already cooked by the time my friend sliced through it, half-hoping and wondering if the yolk would be oozing or squirting out when the knife went into it.

IMG_0074.JPGBut it was probably good because the entire plate was gone quickly! Although I guess it could also be because we were hungry from all that waiting.

IMG_0075.JPGBy the time we were done, it was just about 3-ish and then asking for the bill took a bit of effort because nobody seemed interested in generating our bill. It took about 15-20 minutes for the bill to be presented and we left at 3:30pm. So food is good, and by where we sat, I guess ambience is pretty ok. Service of food is fairly prompt but aside from that, I would not say service is good, in fact, it borders on poor. Maybe it’s the timing, that 1:30pm is just a bad timing when most would still be in the thick of action devouring their brunch. Around 3:30pm when we left, the restaurant was not as busy even though it was still full but at least there wasn’t that daunting crowd of people waiting outside.

Breakfast at The Coffee Bean

I love breakfasts, and the morning is perhaps my favourite time of the day, although it isn’t as though I am looking forward to work on each workday. In fact, I never do. But breakfast makes getting up worth it. I don’t have issues waking up in the mornings, generally, though I think it isn’t so much because of the lure of breakfast than the inability to have proper slumber.

20140311-102124.jpgAnyway, breakfast food is enjoyed by many, judging by the growing popularity of all-day-breakfasts being served at many places these days. To be very honest, I have never been to Wild Honey, which many have raved about, because I have heard about the queues, and their enormous portions. Ok, I am not someone who dines out much at such places because cafes are more my kind of thing.

Too much rambling. Let’s get to the point. Breakfast at Coffee Bean, which is one cafe that serves all-day-breakfast too! I have tried some of their items before and one day I though I’d give their real breakfast sets a go, since I am usually happy to order a muffin and nibble on it along with a coffee.

20140311-102135.jpgThis is called “Food for Thought”, which comes with a pair of coddled eggs, a loaf of lightly toasted white bread and a small serving of lettuce with plum sauce, dried cranberries and almond slices. Well, my verdict was that I should just have stuck to a muffin which would have made me happier. I kind of enjoyed the eggs, though just the whites, since I am not a yolk person. The bread was not bad with butter smeared on it, but other than that, it’s white bread. Perhaps I should have, if it’s possible, asked for brown or some other variants of bread. I ended up having one of four pieces of the bread and gave up. With a muffin I think I could have finished the entire portion. Or they have this other Cheese Club Sandwich or something, which is rather nice except that there is just too much cheese that I always have to scrap some of it off and dig out the egg yolks between the bread.

breakfast is all day long

These days, more cafes are offering the options of All-Day Breakfast, which simply put means their breakfast menu is available throughout the day, despite if it is supposed to be time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is wonderful news for most people, actually I wonder if anyone would not be pleased with it because it means a greater number of meal choices, unless of course you belong to the type who hates having more choices because it leads to more headache mulling over which to pick.

Breakfast food is popular among Singaporeans, and as well, many of my friends. I frequently see friends posting pictures of breakfast fare on Facebook, Instagram or the likes, and they always look so yummylicious. But for me, even though I love breakfast food and its variants (think oats, yogurt, etc.) rank among my most-loved food items at this time, I seldom go to a cafe and order an all-day breakfast set because they are always too much for me. It isn’t that I can’t finish them, of course I can, but thereafter I just feel so bloated and uncomfortable from finishing the food, which makes me extremely sluggish and lethargic. But anyhow, we all know how my usual choice is so unhealthy even if portion-wise it isn’t that overwhelming (the muffin or cake, what else), so one day I thought I would try something different. The Brek-O-Day was what I ordered:

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It comes with toast with jam and butter on the side, a pair of sausages, scrambled eggs and a serving of salad tosssed with almond flakes and dried cranberries. To be honest, this isn’t a lot, and I would definitely be able to finish it, but eventually I didn’t.

The scrambled eggs were not too bad, and I wanted some eggs that day, for the protein and also to give me a sense of satiety not from carbohydrates, so I think I gobbled up all the eggs. The toast was actually probably a slice of panini white bread that is usually used for their sandwiches, lightly toasted, but still extremely soft in my opinion, which I had a few bites of and deserted them. I tried the sausage, and I think it is chicken sausage, processed meat, yes, unhealthy, but that wasn’t what made me consume only one. It tastes a little sweet and artificial, not like some nice sausages that I have had tried before. And don’t you think the colour just looks off? From the picture, they kind of resembled a pair of fat fingers. But I still did manage to finish one, and the salad was ok. That was probably the part that I enjoyed the most, despite that I should make a mental note to myself to request for less dressing in future. The salads at Coffee Bean, whether ordered as a main dish on its own or as a complement to its sandwiches, are always drowning in the dressing, which makes the lettuce soggy and unpalatable. A little sauce to add a bit of zest in the taste of the crunchy veggies is fine, but when it is so much that they are swimming in pools of the sauce, it just doesn’t taste good anymore.

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And coffee was ok that day. I know now that I don’t enjoy too much acidity in my coffee, whether they are meant to be acidic or just burnt, but this cup I had, which I think was Sumatra, was fairly smooth. Maybe I should stop procrastinating and start learning a little bit more about the coffee that I drink, which could enhance enjoyment further!  20131008-131804.jpg

Maybe the next time, if my choice is to skip my usual Cranberry muffin at CBTL, I will order something different; definitely not the Brek-O-Day, or anything that contains the dubious-looking sausages.