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!

Flock Café (relocated)

Since I moved, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking out the TB stretch of hipster cafes, which I had always wanted to do so ever since the first of those cafes started sprouting up there. It was always a tad out of the way though, and at some point I had started to deride TB as over-hyped, because to be really honest, some of these cafes (and many others around the island), aren’t up to scratch at all – they are just carbon copies of one another, which is ironic, because most pride themselves to be different in some way, not conforming to the usual cookie-cutter chain cafes like SB or CBTL. The funny thing is, with these cafes all adopting the industrial-chic look or whatever you want to call it, putting together non-matching pieces of furniture in a haphazard manner, they have become a cookie-cutter sort of template. But there are some that have withstood the test of time, and fickle consumer tastes, to last for years and are still standing today. Some of them have probably evolved into highly-commercialised entities that have lost their ‘unique’ lustre, whereas others have stuck to their original concept with perhaps a loyal fan-base.

Cafes in the TB stretch have also come and go, with some surviving the harsh and overpopulated cafe scene in Singapore. The Dispensary, a cafe along the main Tiong Bahru Road, has closed before I even had a chance to step beyond its doors. I was luckier with this other cafe, Flock, located along Moh Guan Terrace. I met my cousin one weekend and brought her there, having walked past it one day when I was exploring the area and made a mental note to return.

It was fairly crowded when we visited on Saturday afternoon (that was in January), but we were fortunate to get a table for the 2 of us on the inside, sort of on the ‘mezzanine’ deck, or the area beyond the counter. It’s a very small cafe with a narrow layout, but it could probably accommodate about 20-odd patrons inside. Maybe. Someone found us the table, and I’m not sure if he’s the owner since he didn’t seem like he was part of the crew or wearing what the other crew members wore.

So for brunch, we each ordered a coffee.We also picked the scrambled eggs with sourdough bread to share, priced at S$8 (I think). The egg was quite smooth and runny, fragrant, and also comes in quite an ok portion for us. I would have liked it more if it were egg whites, but then regular scrambled eggs for sharing is fine, otherwise all of it for me might have been too ‘eggy’. I really love the sourdough bread, which goes very well with the egg and butter! I think I could have just ordered this with a coffee and be a very happy camper. 2 large slices of bread were served in this dish.
The other item we got to share was the French Toast, which I thought my cousin would enjoy, since it seems like most people like French Toast? I don’t know, I am not a very big fan of it because it’s always heavily-drenched in syrup that makes the bread too moist and soft, which I DO NOT LIKE. I prefer my breads crunchy to a certain extent, rather it be hard than soft. The only French Toast that I liked were the ones that my mum used to make when I was young and there was leftover bread about to expire. Those were what we called Bombay Toast, or what the Home Economic textbooks called it, bread dipped in a mixture of egg and sugar, and then fried.

Flock’s version of the French Toast was similarly drenched in syrup, and served with a portion of curious-looking bacon that my cousin didn’t dare to eat. Somehow it looks like it’s overcooked or something. Anyway, we didn’t touch it at all because I don’t take bacon. This was also served with banana and some strawberries (maybe one, cut into small pieces), which I would definitely have liked more of. Overall, we both preferred the sourdough with scrambled eggs, which is a simpler (and cheaper) brunch option. The French Toast, if I recalled correctly, was S$15. But maybe French Toast lovers would still like it? Sometime after that, I thought I read somewhere that they were closing the TB outlet, or that they had ‘shifted’ to Ghim Moh (where their second outlet is). I haven’t really walked past the Moh Guan Terrace outlet since that visit, so I can’t confirm if it’s true that they have left the TB area. Sigh. I had hoped that they would still be around because I thought it was a pretty decent cafe that I wouldn’t mind revisiting to try other stuff, if not the sourdough again!