Revisiting Flock Café, Moh Guan Terrace

I thought I read somewhere, maybe on Facebook, that Flock at Moh Guan Terrace was closing. That was after my first visit, and I had actually wrote an email to the address listed on their website but I didn’t receive any response. Yesterday, since I was on leave and was free in the early evening, I decided to go for a coffee break, even though I felt that I already had consumed sufficient food to last me to dinner. So anyhow, it has been a while since I took a walk around the “neighbourhood”, so despite that it was humid balmy day, I took the risk anyhow. There are always back-up options in the vicinity anyway, if Flock had really closed, but I was quite happy when I rounded the corner of the block where they are located, to see that they are still in business. Woohoo!

If my stomach had allowed, I would have liked to order their scrambled eggs with sourdough, something I had on the first visit that I enjoyed thoroughly. They had other all-day breakfast options too, and various other food options; in fact, I think they have quite an extensive menu considering that typically these cafes don’t offer much in terms of food. But I resisted. And ordered for myself a muffin and coffee. There were some cakes available, both the moist and creamy-looking type as well as the simpler tea-cake kind. But somehow they didn’t really appeal to me yesterday. The only muffin available was something called “Ondeh Ondeh muffin”; oh my, that sounds interesting enough! So here goes (and any diet or wellness-eating plans).

Initially, I didn’t know what to expect of the muffin because I was imagining that it would perhaps have a soft, molten core that contains some gula melaka syrup that would ooze out when I cut into the muffin. But instead, my fork met with some resistance when I attempted to pierce the top of the muffin. It’s pretty firm and hard, even though I think they did warm it up a little (this I couldn’t be sure). The top of the muffin was just how I liked my muffins to be, firm and crunchy and best of all, not too crumbly. It didn’t just fall apart into bits despite that it’s a little tough to cut into.
Taste-wise, it did have quite a distinct flavour of pandan or coconut, whichever I can’t really tell apart because to me, they are pretty similar. There wasn’t anything oozing out, but instead the ondeh ondeh flavour is just infused into the whole muffin itself. Biting into it, you won’t mistakenly think that you are eating an ondeh ondeh because the texture is totally different, but it’s just the similarity of the taste and flavour, except that in this case, it probably isn’t as strong as when you are eating the real thing, covered with shredded coconut shavings and of course, the colour is entirely different.

I spent a nice, quiet hour in the late afternoon there, and it being a weekday, it’s pretty quiet even though there were a few sets of other patrons there, mainly just solo customers or in twos. It contrasted with the Saturday when I was first there, where we had trouble finding seats and customers were mainly in twos or larger groups, with a much more elevated noise level. It’s a nice time to have, just indulging in some sinful goodness and aromatic coffee, with a good read too. Ok, I won’t exactly call it a good read since it’s just the newspapers that I was reading, but yesterday’s free daily contained many articles aside from news stories, it being the anniversary of the passing of our founding father.There have been many opinions about him before, whether they are right or wrong, fair or not. But I think arising from his death last year and the various TV programmes that talked about his life and work, many people have began to see him in a different light and better appreciate what was being done by him, albeit in an authoritarian style and with an iron-clad manner. That worked for the generation then, where the country was mostly directionless and in need of a strong leadership voice. For the current generation that is more well-educated that has also spawned lots of opinions (some informed, others just plainly emotional and irrational), a different kind of leadership style is needed, which I think the current people are striving to achieve through continuous change and improvements.

Enough said about that, politics are never an easy thing to discuss and that’s not the main point of this post. As I read some of the articles, not without distraction though because I just cannot seem to be able to focus on reading with good concentration… this quote kind of spoke out to me:
Recalled an undergrad, “create the life we want to live, and make the most of what we’ve been blessed with”. It is not something I haven’t heard of before, but really, it’s an apt reminder that I should bear in mind – to always be thankful for what we get in life, and for what we have, make the best of it. Comparisons are inevitable because we don’t live in a vacuum, but letting comparisons get the better of us do not serve us any purpose, especially if they only lead to us envying others and lamenting.

Coffee Assembly, Hong Kong

Took us a while to locate this quaint and cosy little cafe situated somewhere in the mid-levels, or actually I don’t really know which area of Central that is considered. Its address said Elgin Street, but we were not able to find it despite walking to the end of Elgin Street and seeing a unit number that was larger than what the cafe is. Turns out the street continued further down, not directly across from an intersecting point but a little off the main Elgin Street that we were walking on. Talk about being confused by the myriad of criss-crossing streets in the SOHO area!

So anyway, it is on a second level, and there is a small signage that you could easily miss if you are not keeping a lookout for it. Turns out, this cafe opens at fairly weird timings. The day that we decided to pop by, which was a Thursday, it supposedly only opens its doors for business at 1pm. It was just about 1pm when we knocked and a lady, presumably the boss, opened the door to greet us and welcomed us in, but informed us that there was no food available.

We were fine with that since we thought about getting food later on, post-coffee that is, and since we were all still quite full (except me perhaps) from the morning’s food.

These were our drinks. Flat white, soy latte and cappuccino? Or perhaps there was a mocha instead of the cap. The latte art showed the painstaking effort put in by the lady boss to make it good. But our only gripe was that it took a little too long. The interval between two beverages could be 10 minutes, or perhaps more. And we were the only customers. At least when we arrived it was just us, then another two pop in and one lady got really frustrated waiting for her coffee.IMG_1468

I suppose maybe the main intent of this cafe wasn’t for the sake of profiteering but probably it grew out of a passion for coffee and managing a cafe? Although it was stated that they open at 1pm, it was pretty evident that nothing was really ready at 1pm. It took a long while to set things up, to prepare the coffee and froth the milk for the latte art. For holiday-makers like us without an itinerary and a rush for time, we were quite alright with waiting as we chatted and caught up with each other. But for people who are there for a post-lunch cuppa, I think the pace here would take a toll on the customer who may be strapped for time in needing to get the coffee and head back to the office.IMG_1469Nevertheless, we still enjoyed ourselves, basking in the enjoyment and idyllic wait of people on vacation, so this would be a good spot to visit if you have time to spare and wouldn’t mind just sitting and waiting as you tuck into the selection of magazines available.

Wheeler’s Yard, Singapore

Finally, I got to visit another of those out-of-the-way cafes that I’d heard about and scribbled onto the mental notebook somewhere in my mind.

When I googled “Wheeler’s Yard”, the pictures I saw of the place reminded me of a warehouse, an aircraft hangar, but nothing like a cafe. Literally from the outside you can’t tell that there is a cafe inside, perhaps much like the kind of vibes Chye Seng Huat Hardware Store gives people. These cafes and their industrial chic decor is no longer unique but I think they still cut a fairly interesting visit that is different from what we are used to seeing nestled in the many shopping malls along Orchard Road.

Wheeler’s Yard is located at Jalan Ampas, in the vicinity of Balestier and Whampoa, and I think without wheels, it might be a little challenging to get here. Not impossible but requires a fair bit of effort.20140211-113619.jpgBeing located in such places away from town perhaps gives them the advantage of space, for I can’t imagine how much they’d have to pay in terms of rental if this was the real estate they were occupying, especially with how space-inefficient they were in arranging the seats, meaning you can be seated comfortably away from other patrons, not the elbow-to-elbow kind of proximity that we often have to put up with at Starbucks, or even Tiong Bahru Bakery (either outlets). Sometimes we really don’t need to hear what gossip the next table is trading.

There was another thing that struck me when I was researching on this place, because a lot of people complained about how slow the service was, and maybe with a hint of rudeness along with it. But I think they probably visited during busy times because when I popped by, it wasn’t that bad. We could get a seat easily, and a comfortable spacious one at that, and since we didn’t order food that requires cooking, we didn’t have to endure the long wait; apparently someone left a comment on their Facebook page that they had to wait 2.5 hours!? That’s just crazy. I don’t think I even waited that long at the-then Tin Ho Wan dim sum eatery in Yau Ma Tei in Hong Kong.

20140211-113626.jpgThe name Wheeler’s Yard was born out of the origins of the place I guess, this I didn’t really research but it was based on hearsay, or whatever I remembered from conversations. Nevertheless, you see a lot of bicycle-related stuff there so it isn’t hard to guess as well. The entire place sends you back a couple of decades, with nostalgic elements scattered around the cafe, like the mismatched furniture, some other ornaments as well as some old school biscuits like those round ones with coloured icing sugar on top. I don’t know why our coffee didn’t come with any of those, or if you needed to pay for them, but I was actually hoping I’d get a couple next to my drink. Oh well. Maybe I’d just get myself a pack from the marketplace near my office one of these days.

20140211-113632.jpgLatte and cappuccino. Again, I decided to opt for a milk-based coffee instead of just a long black because I suspected that its taste wouldn’t sit well with me. Since I thought I’d be there for a while, such a choice makes better sense as well in keeping warm for a slightly longer time, and I get to take pictures showing-off latte art. Haha. The coffee reminds me of those cafes I visited in Hong Kong like Fuel and the Cupping Room. I think here in Singapore, places like TBB and Forty Hands (they serve the same coffee), etc., also provide a similar experience but then in Singapore I don’t go to these places on a regular basis. Starbucks and Spinelli are my usual go-to places and their lattes are not really what you’d usually find me ordering.

20140211-113637.jpgThe obligatory top-down shot of the coffee and the indulgence. It’s some chocolate granola bar or something, the chocolate tasted great as it was not the overly-sweet type neither was it so dark and bitter. The only problem with it was that it’s very crumbly or maybe it wasn’t meant to be eaten with a fork; as I drove the prongs of the fork into it, it just started crumbling and falling apart that I had to scoop the bits up to eat them. Otherwise, it’s quite a nice dessert that we didn’t have to wait too long for since no cooking was involved!

But the coffees did take quite a considerable amount of time, when there weren’t that many customers waiting for their orders to be filled. At least you get to sit and wait, until the beeper device went off which is the cue to head to the counter to collect your drinks.

Department of Caffeine, Singapore

Finally went to D.O.C. and when I was nearing it, I was wondering if it was even open because of how nondescript it looks from the outside. Just a door and a small glass panel, with the facade of the cafe occupying a really tiny space.

20140122-083406.jpgLuckily it was open, and beyond that door, it was really quite a world of difference. Well, the place inside is still rather cosy in terms of the space and seating, but from the outside where I thought the cafe might not be open, to the buzz of activity and chatter within, it kind of feels like I’d stepped into a different realm altogether.

This is how the menu of the place looks like. Many cafes these days adopt such a style of having the menu printed on a sheet of paper like an advert of a newspaper, and then clip it onto a cardboard.

20140122-083419.jpgTheir food items are fairly pricey, although depending on what you order, it could be considered value-for-money in terms of the portion. Besides coffee and tea and some other selection of drinks like juices, they have cakes & pastries too, and quite a good selection of lunch items. I was eyeing the carrot cake that the next table was having but it was lunchtime, so I ordered something more substantial. I had a mixed salad, the roasted cauliflower and roasted butternut squash, in a regular serving that costs S$13. You could mix all three types if you need some carbohydrates, but I wasn’t really keen on the soba noodles so I just picked two. The large portion costs S$15.

20140122-083425.jpgAlthough cauliflowers aren’t my most favourite of vegetables its crunchiness was something I enjoyed, and butternut squash! Oh my, I really love this, and together the portion was still enough for me.

Smoked salmon scramble at S$15. The scrambled eggs were very buttery so if you are not so keen on the strong butter taste in it then maybe this isn’t the choice for you. But the butter in it was what made it so fragrant and of course, decadent.

20140122-083430.jpgAnd the 8hr Pulled Pork, a burger. The bun actually looks rather nice but the pulled pork was veering towards the dry side. Priced at S$14.50

20140122-083435.jpgAnd this is their cappuccino, with a latte art that had us thinking if it’s meant to be a plant or flower, and someone even suggested it gave her the impression it’s like Buddha. Hmm.

20140122-083440.jpgAnd the americano. I think perhaps I should just stick to more common coffee joints were americano is concerned, i.e. from Starbucks and the likes, because I have ordered this drink from cafes that boast of great coffees, only to find the drink too acidic for my liking. Maybe my palate is just such that I am not meant to drink and appreciate good coffee, or where such coffees are concerned, I should just go for the flat white or lattes.

20140122-083445.jpgAs I was googling for images of Department of Caffeine, I saw so many nice pictures of the place and also the cakes! I really need to make a repeat visit some day to try out the cake(s), also probably after I have managed to visit the other places that I have been thinking of going to. Oh, and their food menu changes, because from what I have seen of others’ posts, the salad and kitchen menus are different from when I went!

The staff are prompt and polite but there is quite a lot of self-service here. They bring you a glass of water each and subsequently, you can help yourself to complimentary water at a designated place in the cafe. Also, you have to order and pay at the counter after which the food and drinks will be served to you at your table. Condiments are also pretty much on a self-service basis. Some people don’t like such a concept because the tables and chairs are arranged in a tight fashion, which makes moving in and out difficult if you are seated on the inside next to the wall because there is hardly any space between back-facing chairs of other patrons.

Fuel Coffee, Hong Kong

There is an abundance of good coffee in Hong Kong that is within easy access of common folks. It isn’t like in Singapore whereby when you want nice coffee above that of the more widely-available not-as-nice stuff from the chains, you probably need to take a drive to some ulusamy place that isn’t somewhere that you will usually pass by on a daily basis during the commute to the office. Well, actually to be fair, I think there are more of these cafes sprouting up everywhere, but I am not sure if all of their coffees are good. Like I said, they are mostly in places that aren’t easy to get to if you do not own a set of wheels, so yours truly has shunned away from some of these places out of laziness.

Fuel is one place in Hong Kong that I have always heard friends talk about, and seen their Instagram posts, so of course when I was in Hong Kong last month, I had to try it, even if just once. There was one small outlet located within The Landmark, which is a mall/office building in downtown Central. This is where coffee places should be at! You don’t need to have a proper space even because all these office folks will give you enough business if your coffee is worth its salt, and they will just take the coffee back to their work desks. Problem solved with seating.

20140117-104254.jpgAnd yes, when I travel I have this tendency to order lattes or flat whites instead of a brew coffee or americano. It just makes my day to see some nice latte art adorning the cup of coffee ordered, and in a way I think these drinks last me a little longer, because the foam layer on top helps to insulate the heat a little better?

It has been a month.

Holly Brown, Hong Kong

The first coffee I had when I went to Hong Kong, where I took a break from the normal brew coffees that I usually order. I don’t know why my beverage choices are usually flat whites or lattes when I travel but I think it’s easier to order a milk-laced espresso drink and sit for a longer time at a cafe, rather than to order an americano or brew coffee that turns cold faster and after that becomes a tad too acidic.

20131230-215210.jpgThe latte art probably matters too, but then it’s just a distraction to whether the coffee is really good or not.

Coffee in these cafes like Holly Brown are generally more expensive than Starbucks, but after having them for a few days, Starbucks just doesn’t compare up. Then again, we have to settle because in Singapore, coffee that is of a better quality or standard are typically served in those hippie cafes that are located in far-flung places reachable by cars rather than dotting the malls in town.

Cakes at Joe & Dough, Millenia Walk

So in my last visit to J&D at Millenia Walk, I was raving about the tantalising cake display, or rather what I perceived as tantalising, it’s subjective. I did in fact make a second trip back over the long weekend (which I wished so hard was a perennial instalment in our lives!) and only had cakes and drinks. Well, that is the bane of my existence because over the long weekend I think I had too much of good food and I actually gained some weight that had me experiencing bouts of stress once more! Like I haven’t had enough stress to deal with in my life already…

So anyhow, back to the cakes! Yes, food shouldn’t be complicated, it’s just a relationship between the eater and the food. Or maybe not just, how about the preparer? 20130814-112914.jpg

This is the tea-time spread! Which also counted as a late(r) lunch for me. I still stand by my opinions that the cakes look darn good, don’t you think? And delicious-looking cakes go so well with latte art. Well, aesthetics matter a lot in our society today, too much maybe, so that these days all the niche cafes, or rather those interesting indie cafes (not those big chains that everyone turns their noses up at these days for having lousy coffee or whatever), everyone tries to outdo one another or offer a basic latte art for all milk-based drinks.20130814-112924.jpg

Let’s take a closer look at our choices. We had a little struggle which ones to pick, and finally settled for looks, which was the reason behind ordering this cranberry whole wheat cake.20130814-112930.jpg

The second pick wasn’t in the main cake display but rather displayed in a separate round, glass cake stand, the carrot cake topped with walnut. 20130814-112935.jpg

Hot chocolate with the latte art! No art on my drink of course, since it was just an americano, I would like to see how anyone can create any art on it.20130814-112943.jpg

So how did the cakes fare? To be honest, a little disappointing. They look much better than they taste, or maybe I had too high expectations based solely on how they appeared. The layer of frosting/cream on cranberry cake was a little too sweet for me despite that I had the cakes with coffee, although I did quite like the inside of the cake, i.e. the whole wheat crust that was also used as part of the cake itself.

As for the carrot cake, it was ok, just ok. The cream cheese frosting tasted alright but the cake itself was not moist enough so it didn’t have that omph factor when you have a really good carrot cake.

Like I said, maybe we expected too much, also because I was raving about it to my friend and insisted that we try their cakes and specially made a trip to Millenia Walk for them. They aren’t bad or not nice but just ordinary, so maybe in the next visit I will pick and try the other cake offerings, one at a time to share perhaps with their great sandwiches.