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!

Mariner’s Corner, Singapore

One of my colleagues was thinking of going for lunch at Everton Park, or one of the nice little cafes around that area, but as there was a couple of guys in our group we eventually decided on somewhere that serves food more substantial than sandwiches and pastries. Some guys can survive on such food but then if it’s a working day and we’re talking about guys who are not in their 20s, then it’s a different story altogether.

Anyway, we ended up walking into Mariner’s Corner at Cantonment Road, and boy, the moment we opened the heavy wooden door, behind it seemed like a totally different world far removed from 2014. It was reminiscent of how I felt when I step into The Ship Restaurant at its previous location at Shaw… well, the building that is connected to Lido and is in the midst of undergoing a major overhaul that saw all its tenants vacate over the last year or before. It is so old school and past century if I might venture. The wooden interior decor really brought us back to those days of the 80s or 90s, but the lunch crowd was definitely in full force there at that time. Fortunately for us, we were still able to get a table, also because the place is fairly large.

20140309-223201.jpgApparently, my colleague said that this is a Hakka restaurant, and the Hakkas were a people who started restaurants when they came to settle in Singapore because all the other trades were already being practised by the other dialect groups who had made landing here earlier. There was then this term “cookie” that referred to these cooks from the past, and I was amused by it somewhat because I love cookies but have never associated it with being an affectionate term or maybe just some nickname for the cooks.

Their set meals are really quite value for money, but it also depends on what you order. There are lunch specials starting as low as S$11 (thereabouts, I can’t remember if it’s $11 or $11.90) and the interesting bit about it was that there are various sets and on different days of the week, the same thing comes with different sauces.

20140309-223211.jpgThis is my order of grilled salmon with mashed potato drizzled with a tangy mango sauce or something like that. The salmon costs a little more at S$13.90 (before GST and service charge) I think. But overall, it’s pretty worth it because this comes with a soup and garlic bread for starters, and after the main, you get coffee/tea and dessert! They have a small selection of cakes in the display but those were whole cakes I saw, so I wasn’t sure if they were part of the dessert deal, but then what we were served were different from what some other customers got, so I guess it depends on what is available when it’s your turn to be served dessert.

20140309-223220.jpgOurs was a variant of a butter sponge cake that also fitted in perfectly with the setting. This cake seemed so yesteryear, and the others I saw on some table were similar types of simple cakes but maybe with some added ingredients like walnuts. I would love to try their other cakes even if these are just ordinary-looking sponge cakes but the niceness sometimes lie in the simplicity of the item and not some fanciful cake oozing with cream and whatever else.

The menu boasts a generous selection of options that you could have a la carte or as part of a set meal, but they could cost more, such as the rib eye steak and cod fish, that after taxes, would cost more than S$20 but then it’s rib-eye steak and cod, the premium stuff. One of these days when I want to give myself a treat I think it’s quite a good idea to take a walk to Cantonment Road and have a nice meal there. And if time permits, perhaps check out one of the many cafes there and their caffeine offerings. One of the perks of working in that area, even if it means my food expenses have gone up exponentially…

oh silent night

I was gonna blog about my recent Hong Kong holiday, some of the places that I went to, i.e. coffee places, but I have just been too lazy during this festive season to do any proper posting. Somehow, even though the work week was made shorter by the holidays, I have been feeling even more tired!

Anyway, let’s see if I can get in a last burst of energy before 2013 runs out on us! This has been quite a quick year that just went by like that, and before I even knew it, we are now left with only 2 days of the year. Christmas has come and gone too, and I can almost already feel the difference that will be so evident the moment January comes, a fresh beginning that I know I should look forward to rather than dwell on December that has gone by. There will always be a next December, but it means too that another year would have passed…

This year’s Christmas eve was spent peacefully and quietly with two of my good friends who invited me over to their place for a Christmas dinner! Maybe I am past that age of wanting to be out about jostling with crowds and other party-goers, well I think I was past that years ago, but recently I just kind of feel that my circle is getting smaller and smaller and people just drift further and further away.

So it was a really nice dinner that I had on Christmas eve! For starters we had vegetable soup that was packed with lots of ingredients and super yummy.

20131229-212821.jpgThis is my main, which comprised an egg, baked salmon coated with some crumbly thingy that my friend told me was by Jamie Oliver. Well, actually I’m not really sure or it could be a recipe from him, but anyways I really love the fish and the batter that it was coated in, without any additional seasoning.

20131229-212827.jpgThe fish that came out of the oven was still moist and it left me inspired to pick up cooking for future times when I get my own place with a kitchen! And because my friend knew how I can get overly concerned about healthy-eating (albeit selectively haha), she also cooked quinoa for us! I saw on her instagram that she cooked this for dinner recently and was gushing over how delicious it looked so she suggested that she’d prepare this for the Christmas dinner! :DThe quinoa was cooked in chicken stock so it tasted very good!

I’d wanted to buy a log cake for the occasion since it was Christmas and I’m so into this season but there wasn’t any suitable-sized log cake for just the 3 of us which I thought we might be able to finish. So I brought along a blueberry-flavoured apple strudel that I got from Isetan and also this cake from BreadTalk.

20131229-212832.jpgThere were no pictures of the apple strudel because we just cut it up and gobbled it up fairly quickly. This slice of cake from BreadTalk had hazelnut notes in it and it wasn’t too sweet; overall I think it is ok but it wasn’t fantastic because it had a slight “plastic-ky” taste to it. At least that was what I felt. We were pretty stuffed by then so I guess it was good that I didn’t bring along a cake that was too big!

It was a really great evening spent talking non-stop and also touring my friend’s home, because the last time I visited was years ago! I enjoyed myself a lot even though it was just a small gathering, a quiet evening that we spent together away from the boisterous partying crowds thronging F&B establishments and also parts of town. Thank you for the delicious dinner and for having me over! 🙂

Green & Safe, Shanghai

Over that weekend when I was in Shanghai, I met up with one of my cousins who is currently working for an event management firm there. I guess with time, people are getting international, and are geographically mobile, so much so that these days I find a lot of people whom I know, whether close friends or not, relocating anywhere and everywhere in the world. It is interesting to know how the world is getting smaller each day and part of me always envy them for having such opportunities while I am left behind in the trail of dust from their moves. It isn’t that I have never explored this option, but things just didn’t happen in my case and maybe in my line it is a little bit harder in some way. Perhaps I should think that there is a greater reason why the overseas move just did not materialise in my life.

Anyway, on this trip, I decided to venture into the Shanghai subway once more, having only tried it once back in 2009 and deciding never to repeat the experience due to the massive congestion in the train that I totally abhor. However, this time it seemed better, maybe because it wasn’t exactly peak hours when I boarded the train, or I already got used to sardine-packed trains now. Taking cabs aren’t that expensive in Shanghai, even if I were cabbing from Pudong (where my hotel was) to Puxi, but by train, it is probably just 10% of the cab fare and it is probably quicker too. I was pretty amazed that from the station that I found to be near where I had wanted to go, Dong Ping Road, I managed to locate the place where my cousin told me to meet at, about 10 minutes’ walk from the subway.

Green & Safe, or the Green Kitchen, was where he had wanted to bring me to, some place that he frequents on weekends for brunch. Apparently, they serve organic stuff, and although I wasn’t able to find a dedicated home page online except for a Facebook page, you can find numerous reviews. Here’s a short write-up describing the place, from Smart Shanghai, and also some reviews on Trip Advisor.

My cousin was early and he ordered a fruit platter before I and 2 of his friends arrive. Based on their conversation about the order of fruit platter, it was easy to infer that prompt service isn’t a strong point of this deli, because on occasions when they had ordered the fruit platter together with the mains, the fruit platter didn’t turn up until much later, and at odd timings.

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But per my cousin, he said they always had interesting ways to display the fruits and you never really know what fruits you will get because it depends very much on what’s available and what is in season probably. This platter that day wasn’t the best that they had, in terms of presentation or the variety of fruits. But it was quite a good appetising start for the palate!

As I pored through the menu trying to decide on what to order (from his recommendations, most things seem to be good which proved a challenge to decide), I also thought that I wanted to try their carrot cake, which was one of the recommended items by some netizens. It is not a big slice so it won’t take up too much space away from your main. The cream cheese frosting on top of the cake was nice and rich but a little sweet for me, but it goes pretty well with the cake, which was still moist and if you can see from the pictures, contained pieces of carrot, which I really liked. 

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There were four of us there that day, and among us, we ordered three sets of the same brunch while the fourth had a chicken dish which looked really good too (pity I didn’t snap any photo of it because I felt it wasn’t so nice to photo someone else’s food if we are meeting for the first time!). I had the scrambled egg with salmon on ciabatta (I think), served with a salad of greens and potatoes. 20131205-090409.jpg

This was truly awesome. I am not a big fan of scrambled eggs because to me they always taste somewhat weird or bland, but together with the salmon in it, and eaten together with their self-baked bread, it was delicious! It also helped that the potatoes on the sides were something that I enjoy, being such a major potato junkie, and this is definitely healthier in many aspects as compared to french fries that I indulge in.

Besides the fruits, the cake and the main, there was also this order of a cinnamon roll, served warm and infused with some chocolate sauce thing. I don’t know its exact name since I didn’t photo the menu, but that was one sinful but extremely worthwhile item to indulge in if you love cinnamon rolls. Ok, actually I don’t think it has a strong cinnamon taste if that is what you are into, but warm chocolate sauce on a cinnamon roll, that to me is already part of dessert heaven. For all that food that we had, and together with a coffee each, we paid about 140 RMB each, which works out to be something short of S$30, which although isn’t of course the cheapest thing you can think of or perhaps what some may consider affordable in Shanghai (it is after all such a cosmopolitan city already flushed with many foreigners), but for the amount and quality of food, I thought it was pretty decent. I don’t usually have such big brunches in Singapore so I am not sure about the prices here, but I think S$30 here won’t get you as much.

Address: 6, Dong Ping Road (near Heng Shan Road), Shanghai 200062, China (东平路6号, 近衡山路); in between Chang Shu Rd and Heng Shan Rd subway stations on Line 1.