Toss & Turn (takeout)

Back from the weekend and it sure was a good break even though it’s just physical absence from the office, being on a course that shortened the work-week of sorts and then led me straight into the weekend. I know it can be just a state of mind, how we feel about the office, the environment, the people, the work, and so on and so forth, but extravaneous factors can contribute to the overall feeling despite of what we personally feel inside.

Anyway, the last time I visited Toss & Turn, I said it was highly likely that I will return, and indeed I did! I was googling around for it online and did read some not-so-good reviews about it because of the price and choice, but it works pretty well for me where a salad is concerned. In Orchard, I think the options can be fairly limited if I am looking for a salad for takeout. Well, cafes nearby do sell salads too but those are generally crafted versions that do not offer me the choice to mix-and-match with only items that I am keen to have.

Last Monday night, I decided to drop in for a takeout to bring to class. It can be a bit messier to have a salad as compared to just buying a bread/sandwich because it does require some effort to concentrate on slicing the greens and chewing them, making sure that I don’t spill the contents of the plastic container onto the table or my materials, so this option will be only for when I have the luxury of time before class to eat. 20130918-132747.jpg

Again I ordered the small portion at S$7.80 and made my own concoction. For the base this time, I chose the greens instead of the noodles because honestly just the noodles alone are enough for dinner already! For the protein/deli, I picked roast chicken again and then kumara (a type of sweet potatoes), which I really liked! Topped it off with edamame beans and dried cranberries. I also decided to drizzle some sesame plum dressing onto the salad because I was wondering if it will be too dry with just the greens. It was ok but only because I didn’t put too much otherwise it might make the whole thing a bit too sweet/sticky. The cranberries already gave the salad the sweetness to balance out other tastes, so perhaps olive oil would suffice for the greens for the next time!

Toss & Turn, ION Orchard

Urgh, lousy unclear shot. But yes, at long last I finally walked into Toss & Turn in basement 4 of ION Orchard, something I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time!20130828-100520.jpg

I didn’t know before that they were part of Cedele, but it wasn’t hard to know because once I passed by and peeked at the menu offerings and spied the Cedele logo. I wished I had a Cedele near my office because I can’t rave enough about how much I enjoy their food, despite some occasions of lousy service. Anyways, Toss & Turn is a great idea, but it’s like a sub-branch of the usual Cedele shops because I recalled seeing the same salad bar at the Cedele outlet at Novena Square. They offer some sandwiches too, and also have the usual daily soup selections, so I’m guessing they don’t have the full range of sandwiches that Cedele bakery cafes carry?

But. That’s where my disclaimer comes in before everything else; the salads are pretty pricey. Ok, I know salads aren’t really meant to be cheap considering that it really isn’t just a bowl of greens like how some people may imagine when it comes to their idea of what a salad is. But most of the ready-to-order salads cost more than S$10 per serving, although to be fair to them, the serving is enormous, from what I could see on the tables of other patrons. If not, you could always choose to make-your-own and mix items per your wish. You have a choice of two sizes, with the smaller costing S$7.80 and the bigger one at S$9.80, including a salad base (greens, rice salad, noodle salad or pasta), 2 deli or protein items and 2 others (e.g. beans and stuff). I chose to mix my own and I was so spoilt for choice at the deli/protein part because I felt like ordering everything there. Technically you could, by adding a cost to each item. I can’t remember how much each additional item cost, but then you’ll be having an extremely costly salad.

So the result of my selection for a small portion was the noodle salad which I kind of liked (I think it’s tossed in an aglio olio way), grilled chicken which wasn’t too bad but felt a tad dry, grilled beet root, edamame beans and almond flakes:  20130828-100532.jpg

I couldn’t finish all the noodles even though it was a small size so you can imagine how much there must be if it was the regular (or is it called large) size. I’m quite sure this will only be the start of my visits to Toss & Turn, and I can definitely consider taking away their salads home in future! Oh, and I ordered a coffee too, which seemed like an odd choice with a salad, but I wanted to have coffee and didn’t want to have the usual cake/muffin/scone so I popped into Toss & Turn. Their coffee isn’t fantastic but it will do, especially when it’s just S$3 compared to the usual brews elsewhere that are about at least S$4.

soupy goodness

The skyline in Singapore seems to have taken on a slight gloomy, hazy look once more. Starting from a few days ago, our clear blue skies are now shrouded by a grey that I don’t know if it is due to the haze or just clouds. Nonetheless, there has been some rain, which is always good to a certain extent in clearing the haze and lowering the ground temperatures. As long as it doesn’t bring too much inconvenience. The weekend saw a mixture of warm and cold. Saturday was a relatively warm day, when you on the outside, whereas on Sunday I think I felt cold for most parts of the day. Cold, not in the kind of cold that we think of in comparison to other cities, but cold as in I’d need to wear a cardigan inside the chilled interiors of malls and even our metro.

So I thought it would be a great idea to have soup for dinner last evening, and popped into Cedele. I thought they used to have sizes when it comes to soup, but there was only one price on the menu for a soup + bread bar set, at S$8, which I ordered. The bowl was quite big, though shallow, but I think most would think it might be a bit much. For S$8, I think it was ok for the size, plus there was a good selection of bread available that you could help yourself to! At least the outlet I went to yesterday had a good stock of bread, unlike some past visits elsewhere where the choice was pathetic, though I guess you could always ask the staff to replenish the stock. 20130715-095022.jpg

Decided on a pumpkin soup because part of me was craving for pumpkin, and I certainly helped myself to the bread! I would have taken even more if I didn’t consider that all that bread was going to make me so full and I might end up wasting some of what I’d taken.

The soup was good! Not too lumpy or watery, and it goes very well with the bread that contained bits of walnuts in them. A simple way to make the evening good and round up a nice weekend of doing only what I wanted to.20130715-095034.jpg

I think the soup in Cedele, and I guess Soup Spoon too, should be of the healthy variety without addition of MSG, but somehow I always seem to feel a little parched after a couple of hours of consuming the soup. It isn’t the parched due to saltiness kind of dry throat, but there is a slightly not-so-pleasant after-effect of taking the soups that mars the enjoyment. I can’t really describe it and each time I’d think of not taking their soups again, but yet there are days when I don’t feel like having a sandwich or salad.

Cedele, Novena Square (re-opened!)

The Cedele branch at Novena Square, which is not easily missed since it is right in front (albeit a little towards the left) of the exit from Novena MRT station when you take the escalator up to Novena Square, is the one I usually visit on weekends. It used to be a really tiny outlet with limited seating but on those days that I pop in, it isn’t hard to find a seat because I go at times that are perhaps not so popular. I love the food at Cedele, and although this branch isn’t a full-service restaurant, it is still a bakery cafe where I can get my fill of tasty and healthy sandwiches. If you want cakes and pastries, they have it here too. So I was a little dismayed when they closed sometime in early April (or maybe even earlier) for renovation, and from the boarding, it seemed like they were expanding to take over the next unit, which I think was a jewellery store before.

I got an email (since I have the Cedele loyalty card) from them that this outlet would be reopening on May 9, last Thursday, and was fairly elated that I can again enjoy these great sandwiches nearer to me, without having to trek all the way from the MRT station to United Square (which I am not so fond of anyway) or go to other Cedele outlets further away.

Well, renovating a place is supposed to be for the better, but I think in this outlet’s case, it isn’t really all that good a thing, at least not for me. Many Cedele outlets seem to suffer from the same problem of understaffing, or that could be the case for most F&B outlets (or other businesses for that matter), so their premises tend to appear a little unkempt and messy, with food debris from patrons left uncleared on the tables occasionally. I can live with that actually, since with sandwiches and pastries, these aren’t that gross to the sight. After the renovation, indeed the Novena Square branch looked much better. I don’t have a picture to show, but the store front looks much more prominent than before, especially now that it has taken over the unit next door too, the entire shopfront has become wider and therefore, more open. I suppose having such open concept seating is meant to lure more customers in, and at the same timer perhaps discourage people from staying too long by getting cosy in a more enclosed space? At least that was how I felt, I wouldn’t want to sit there for long periods of time, because now that they have instituted this open-ness, there are actually people who stand hovering around your tables waiting for you to vacate it. Isn’t this supposed to be a cafe, and not a food court? I find this unacceptable, but maybe that is the aim of the business owner, to improve customer turnover. As I was just starting on my sandwich, a family of four was standing near my table, and the mother allowed her two young kids to prance around in front of me, playing with the chairs at my table. How blatant can you get to ask me to hurry up, eat and leave? But surely, she can see that my sandwich is 10% consumed and I’m not going to wolf it down like a cheeseburger in MacDonald’s because you need a table right? I paid for the food, which is not cheap by the way, and I get the privilege to sit for as long as I want to enjoy my food.

With this renovation, they have also put in place the same “self-service” concept that I talked about at Millenia Walk, where you place your order at the cashier and pay up, get this electronic disc that you wait for it to beep, then collect your order at the counter. I really hope they will improve on their use of this method, because currently it is plain stupid. You get beeped, and I weave my way around the tables to get to the counter at last, to be greeted with my drink, and was asked to return again later (when the disc beeps again) for the sandwich. Have they considered to prepare all of the customer’s order and have it ready first on a tray before beeping so that the customer only needs to come by once? It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you are not going to serve the food and drink to the customer’s table, at least minimise the need for the paying customer to walk to and fro. And they don’t bother to offer a tray, cutlery or serviettes, all these you need to ask from the counter, which is also sharing space with the cashier, that makes the whole service of food/drinks cluttered and messy. If Cedele had wanted to push this idea of self-service, they should have thought about having a segregated service area for order pick-up, not unlike those of Starbucks or Coffee Bean, rather than having everything at the cashier.

And maybe I was imagining things but the roast chicken avocado sandwich I ordered that day seemed to have shrank. From the aerial view it still looks the same since the bread loaf hasn’t changed, but inside it just feels like the ingredients have been reduced. Do businesses reduce the value by cutting back on ingredients whilst maintaining the prices to claw back the costs of renovation?

20130514-084417.jpg

It wasn’t a pleasant experience that evening, from the whole ordering, getting my orders piecemeal (and I’d only ordered two items, imagine if I had four), and then eating my food all the while having to tune out the distracting vultures circling around waiting to swoop in when I clean off the last morsel of food on my plate.

Oh, and lastly, I ordered a soy latte that felt like heated soy without the latte. I don’t think it’s my imagination from the already bad dining experience but I just didn’t feel the coffee at all, even though I hadn’t had a single ounce of caffeine at all the whole day and was looking forward to a nice cup of latte.

Maybe it is a great business idea because I can see that business seems more brisk but the human touch feels absent. In dollars and cents, I suppose it makes economic sense to have high turnover of customers and people coming and going, but then it feels just like another fast food outlet in the end.

Cedele, Millenia Walk

Most Cedele outlets are fairly small, based on experience of the ones that I generally frequent. Probably because they are bakery-cafes and as such it doesn’t make economic sense to run a large outlet because it’s costly. They aren’t big like the chain cafes around that can afford to have large premises to accommodate crowds especially those who tend to linger for a longer period of time. The only bigger Cedeles that I have visited are the all-day dining restaurants at Wheelock and Great World City and even then, they are not considered that big. But Cedele is one of my favourite bakery cafes, not because I think they serve great coffee (which again I reiterate I am not particular with coffee, or translate that to: “I don’t have very high standards where coffee is concerned”) but because I am such a big lover of bread, sandwiches and pastries.

I had chanced upon one of their outlets at Millenia Walk sometime ago because church service was in the vicinity then, and on Sunday evenings, the crowd in that area tends to be thin, so it was not difficult to get a seat despite that space is really limited in the cafe. Last weekend I thought I’d go there again after an appointment in the area, and although I was tempted to check out some other cafes that are in the same building, my craving for a nice sandwich drew me to Cedele. I should have already guessed as much when I looked around the cafe (empty at that time except for one group of patrons) and saw the tables in disarray and not cleaned; there were leftovers of cake on the table from patrons before, and water spilled on table tops were not wiped up.

After checking out the menu and seeing some of the available sets, I thought it would be good to order a half-sandwich set (that comes with coffee) so that I could have an additional order of a pastry or the likes. I didn’t really read the promotional words carefully so I asked the cashier, who told me, with an exaggerated look of disappointment on her face, that the set I asked about was only available in the mornings for breakfast (as are most of the other sets, by the way). She stopped there, without offering suggestions or basically to ask what I would like to have but instead stood behind the cash register with the same look on her face.

Decided to just go for my usual order of sandwich and coffee, and used the Cedele card that I had with me. I couldn’t really recall how the card works, but it’s a card that I paid S$25 for and came with a certain value (points) that I used back then to pay for my purchases. I kind of thought it worked like a store-value card where when I top it up, I get some additional bonus points or if I used it for payment I’d get a discount. Apparently not. It’s just a card where you earn rebate points on when you make purchases and present the card, and the rebate points can be used to redeem against your order in future. This was what the cashier explained to me, in a somewhat impatient and annoyed manner. At that point, I think I was feeling really hungry so I too got kind of annoyed.

After making payment, I was given an electronic disc that would need me to go back to the counter to collect my items when they are ready. It’s so weird that when the cafe was empty, they’d still bother with it, why not just go for the better customer experience and deliver the order? The cafe is not that big after all and I chose a seat that was just a few steps away from the counter. So my coffee was ready and I went to pick it up, without being given any serviette or teaspoon, and check this out: 20130508-094907.jpg

 

Was the cup not properly cleaned, or did they pour the coffee onto the handle and forgot to wipe it off? I got some napkins from them and tried to wipe the handle but the stains seemed to have been there for a while so it couldn’t have been the latter. As much as the other Cedeles I have been to thus far hadn’t really delivered in terms of customer experience, I think this was probably one of the worst, because of the dirty cup and the uncleaned tables. Of course, I’m still the sucker and whiner because I didn’t ask them to change a cup for me or something, probably also because I thought it wouldn’t make things better or make any difference.

At least when my sandwich was ready they decided to bring it to me, and the food was still good. I love their sandwiches and the breads used in them, so I always return despite that customer experience is zilch.20130508-095001.jpg

Despite this, I would still commend them on one thing though, while I was munching on my sandwich, one of the waitresses actually brought me a cup of water, without me asking for it! The cup seemed to be leaking though because as it was set on the table, a pool of water started forming under it after a few minutes. Yet with that simple gesture and the great sandwich I had ingested in my stomach, they have still managed to keep me as a customer, and yes I will give them another chance in future.

Cedele Bakery Cafe, United Square

Since many months ago, I have become a huge fan of Cedele, in particular the bakery. They have really awesome cakes as well that I love and allow myself the occasional indulge when I am feeling in need of some sugary treats. But their breads are what I enjoy most about this place, and is my preferred choice of meal for dinner during the weekends. Aside from their sandwiches, I have also started trying their soups which come with a free-flow of a variety of breads that you could pick and choose to go with the order of soup.

Generally, as I have noticed, there are four soup options available at the bakery cafes that I visit, and on a previous occasion I have ordered the pumpkin soup which I thought was really nice. A small portion usually suffice for me because my main interest is of course the bread, and a couple of slices to go with the small bowl already makes for a rather hearty dinner. The usual outlet that I go to at Novena Square was unfortunately closed for renovation when I popped by the other day; even though that outlet is really small, it is not that hard to get a seat during the weekend evenings because somehow most people who go there throng the cafe during tea-time hours for their cake-and-coffee promotion, and probably they would have dinner elsewhere at the other restaurants within the mall. It is really conveniently-located right above Novena MRT, so the lazy me usually make a beeline for it upon exiting the station.

With it closed (and I forgot to check when it would re-open, most likely to occupy a larger space as it seemed to have taken over the unit next to it too), I had to either settle for something else in Novena Square/Velocity/Square 2, or take a slightly longer walk over to United Square where I recalled was another Cedele Bakery Cafe. I chose the latter. United Square on weekends is kind of like an amusement park, with its tenant mix catering to kids and their parents. But Cedele is situated in a corner so it is spared a little of that hustle-bustle, despite it being right opposite the exit of Cold Storage. Or maybe I didn’t notice the noise and buzz because I took a seat in the inner corner of the shop. It was pretty ill-timed for me, because it appeared like this part of United Square was also undergoing some sort of facelift since one part of the cafe was walled up with planks and I could hear some drilling on the other side.

Ok to the point, finally! I wanted to order soup and they had four choices, Beef Stew, Wild Mushroom, Moroccan Spiced Carrot and Clam Chowder. Amongst these, I only wanted the Wild Mushroom but it was sold out. The server was trying to sell me all the other options (except the Beef Stew, which according to her had no more beef and only contained vegetables e.g. potatoes, carrots, etc.) but I wasn’t really keen so I settled for the beef-less Beef Stew.   20130409-083921.jpg

It was actually still quite ok, because I didn’t particularly want to have beef stew, and a vegetable stew was fine except that of course I was still paying for a “vegetarian” beef stew. That day, the bread options available were rather limited and disappointing but at least it wasn’t all white bread.

To make myself feel better at the less-than-stellar soup/bread choice I had, since I was tired and didn’t want to head somewhere else, I ordered a dessert to go along with the soup; a blueberry/strawberry tart. I quite like the tart base and the fruits on top but then the custard part of the tart isn’t something I’m so fond of. It’s not that it is too sweet but I think I wasn’t in the mood for custard that day.20130409-083938.jpg

And I thought the whole experience in the cafe wasn’t very good. While I was waiting, there was a lady ahead of me placing a takeaway order, and the cashier was probably quite new and inexperienced because she was finding difficulty entering the various promotional orders that the lady made. Another staff was trying to help her at the register, and a third person, possibly the outlet manager, who was busy in the midst of preparing sandwiches, was shouting across at the top of her voice in a reprimanding tone. It was all in very bad taste for customers who could see everything in plain view since the counter was essentially open, and even passers-by could witness it all. After all the mayhem, they then look at the customer at the counter, offered a smile and apologised, which I thought was already pointless. I had a similar encounter at the Novena Square outlet once too, where the outlet manager, in her eagerness to clear the growing queue, was shouting orders to her staff. In that small space that they occupy, all this shouting that is meant to be “behind the counter” just mars any enjoyment for customers.

I love Cedele, and I really hope they would be able to do something about these kind of situations that I have encountered quite often. Even service at some other outlets I visited leaves much to be desired. It will be a pity if the establishment suffers not because of its F&B offerings but due to its lack of proper staffing.