Farine, Shanghai

The other place that my cousin brought me to was when we met up on Sunday, and he said he wanted to take me to this place to try “very nice French pastries”. I wouldn’t doubt his words because where gastronomic pleasures are concerned, he is definitely some sort of maestro. We met at a subway station and it was a really good, long walk from that subway station to Farine! I think there is a quicker way to get there, i.e. a nearer subway station, but he was having lunch earlier at some place and asked me to meet him there so that we could take a walk, because indulging in the pastries!

Sunday was a cold and windy day replete with ceaseless drizzling. There was some occasional respite, but somehow the entire atmosphere was still filled with the dense moisture of the rain and the winds were so strong! Despite that, as we walked and talked, under all those thick layers of clothing, I actually started sweating profusely. Eeks.

After a long time of walking where I lost track of the duration that we spent scurrying along the streets of old Shanghai, we finally reached our destination, Farine. You can read a short write-up about it here, where apprently nearby there is a French restaurant by the same chef, a Frenchman of course. Farine in itself is a small, cosy outfit with very limited room for dine-in, and since there were no available seats when we visited, we only ordered pastries and left caffeine for later.

Entering a bakery with the wonderful arresting aroma of breads and pastries baking is like nirvana to me, like unleashing a kid in a candy store. If I could, I would have bought up all the different types of breads and pastries and try them all. That is just a wild dream that will never materialise. 20131206-102400.jpg

Check out the displays of alluring pastries that look and smell so good, especially when a storm threatened outside, the indoor warmth of the bakery just makes me want to stay there for a long time. I didn’t try any of these since I was actually still fairly full from breakfast and a half-eaten not-so-nice slice of cake from Starbucks. But my cousin said they are pretty good, although he wasn’t a fan of the Kouing Amann, which he felt was too sweet for his liking. 20131206-102410.jpg

Next to the pastries were the sweets, which was his recommendation to me. I asked him which one was nice that I should try, and he said, “Just about everything”. Oh well, that’s really helpful. Don’t you think everything just looks so tempting and inviting? Their sizes also look like you could really afford to order more than one each, but then we being people with control, just ordered one per person.20131206-102416.jpg

He chose the chestnut tart, which resembled a Mont Blanc, but minus the cream. My cousin seems to really not like cream-based stuff because he said this is better than a Mont Blanc because of the cream, and there was this other puff-like pastry (somewhere on the left in the picture above) that he didn’t recommend because to him, there is just too much cream for him to like it. I took a little of the chestnut tart, which had a firm tart base and it’s really delicious! Of course it contained chestnuts and so bore its taste but what I liked about it was that it isn’t sweet like how we usually expect such tarts to be. 20131206-102424.jpg

My initial instinct was actually to order the lemon tart, because I imagined that I would enjoy the zestyness and sourness of the lemon tart, but remained undecided when I saw they had walnut tart too! I love walnuts, and to be very honest everything really did look damn good. In the end, when I laid my eyes on the pink grapefruit tart, I just had to give it a try. 20131206-102430.jpg

The grapefruit was probably added onto the tart after the baking was done, because it managed to retain its juiciness and suppleness. But the tart base here was a little different from the chestnut tart because it felt more flaky and soft, more croissant like than tart, and I had a bit of difficulty in the midst of eating this. Nevertheless, it was so good that as I was savouring this, I was quite sad that this would probably be the one and only time that I will get to enjoy it, since I would not have a chance to revisit during that business trip in Shanghai, and it will probably be some time until I next travel to Shanghai again.

We stood at a bar counter of sorts to enjoy our sweet treats, and after we were done, moved on out into the windy Sunday afternoon onwards to the next destination.

Address: Ferguson Lane, 1/F, 378 Wu Kang Road, near Tai’an Road (武康路378号1楼,
近泰安路); nearest subway station (Shanghai Library); closed on Mondays.

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.

Drips Bakery Cafe, Tiong Poh Road

Since a really long time ago, I had wanted to check out Drips Bakery Cafe at Tiong Poh Road, in that now-famous Tiong Bahru enclave of small, hips cafes that are attracting people island-wide to flock to that once-sleepy neighbourhood. At least to me, that was my impression, since I don’t live in that area, it is not exactly nearby the MRT station, and I don’t drive. Tiong Bahru market is quite popular with locals for hawker fare, but I haven’t really checked out the stalls much, because it is always hot here.

I like that the whole area, despite all these now-not-so-new shops and cafes, it still retains its general laid-back feel, characterised by the three-storeyed shophouses lining the narrow roads.

After 40 HandsOrange Thimble and Tiong Bahru Bakery, I finally had a chance to go to Drips!

Here’s our order for the day. Total cost: S$25.10. The drinks cost S$4.80 each, if I recall correctly, cafe latte and flat white, and the tarts are pricier, between S$7-S$8 each, thereabouts.

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The cafe interior seemed rather spacious, as the front part where the cashier and display case were wasn’t cluttered with tables and chairs. Maybe that is to cater to the waiting crowd, or for walk-in customers to have more space to browse the baked goods. On the inside, there is a slight raised area that is narrow and longish, with more comfortable seats, i.e. arm chairs and sofas, where bigger groups can be seated more comfortably. This was the part where the ceiling had a see-through part to allow natural light to filter in and makes the place look brighter. 20121226-091158.jpg

Now comes the food test. The cinnamon pear tart. 20121226-091245.jpg

It had generous servings of pear topping the tart, sprinkled with cinnamon powder, however, we both agreed that the taste of cinnamon wasn’t really that strong. In fact, although we could see the powder atop the pear slices, we couldn’t really taste it. Perhaps it is to make it such that it doesn’t come across as too overpowering for people who do not really like the strong cinnamon-y taste, but ordering a “pear cinnamon” tart, in the first place we would expect to taste cinnamon and if we don’t fancy cinnamon we wouldn’t even have thought to order it in the first place, yes? But on the whole, it was pretty good because despite what I suspected from the way it looks, it didn’t taste too sweet. Most tarts that I have tried elsewhere tend to overload on the sweetness level that borderlines on unbearable.

 And we also had the blackberry and raspberry tart. I don’t really know what it’s called, maybe Mixed Berry? There was another with blueberries but I thought this looked really nice, and indeed it was! I loved that the berries used were big and juicy, and it really is a fruit tart, i.e. more fruit than tart. The crust was a little crumbly but it wasn’t hard like concrete and it is possible to cut it with a dessert fork for eating.20121226-091318.jpg

When I was there, the selection available seemed quite limited, based on what I saw on the website, so the next time I visit, I will probably try something else, because everything in the display case already looked so tantalising! Even the sponge loaf cakes looked good, and the sandwiches that we saw on the tables of other patrons. Either that, or I was just very hungry when I stepped into the cafe. Even though the coffee was quite normal, it is worth visiting just for the tarts! 

The website showed its address at Tiong Poh Road, but I recalled when I was at Sunset Way sometime back for dinner, I actually saw a shop with the same name, but it was just a bakery, without the cafe, and it sells pretty much the same thing, so probably that is a branch, so people living in that part of the island can also get the same goodness without having to go all the way to Tiong Bahru!