Tiong Bahru Bakery, Singapore (Raffles City)

After the first visit to the outlet at Eng Hoon Street where I actually queued to get in, for more than 30 minutes no less I think, I was luckier when I visited their second outlet in the basement of Raffles City shopping centre, the space that previously housed Aerin’s. Gone was the quiet of what used to be there, because with this new bakery opened in that part of the basement, its crowd and queues can probably rival Ding Tai Fung nearby, although turnover would be much faster so the people don’t need to linger/wait too long outside. At least that was what I would expect since I didn’t have to wait for a seat. When I got there, I joined a queue where someone asked us if we needed a table and for how many, and we were given a table number as we moved along the queue that formed in front of the display counters/cases. It is the same queue, regardless of whether you are choosing to takeaway or dine-in, but it’s really a quick way to move the people along I suppose.

It was a weekday lunch, but we were significantly later than the usual lunch crowd since it was already past 1pm, and most people were either already eating or preparing to leave, or the rest were just there to pack. The cafe was still crowded, but the point was that we didn’t spend time waiting. This time, I couldn’t resist my love for bread once more, and ordered two pastry items instead of their sandwiches.

I don’t remember the name of this bread, but it’s just a simple bun with chocolate chips and it costs S$2.50, or was it S$2. I think I am really like what my friend once said, that I am really “cheap” when it comes to eating because I love eating all the cheap stuff and I do not know to appreciate fine cuisine. I wonder if that was meant to be a compliment or an insult, but I’ll admit as much that I am not that fond of certain foods, and those happen to be in the category of expensive food. As plain as this chocolate bun was, I really liked it; it’s like eating a plain piece of baked item is the best way to know how good the bakery’s bread is. Ya right, you’d think, like I’d know any better. Haha. And ok, I am no baker, but that’s how I would describe how much I enjoyed this.

Remember in my previous post I mentioned that we ordered a Pear Almond Tart that was so disappointing because we found it too sweet? Well, I wanted to give the tarts a second chance and I thought the bun wouldn’t be enough to count as lunch, so I opted for the Lemon Tart.

And I was disappointed once more. I think I should have known from how it looked already but I went against my gut instinct and ordered it anyway. The tart crust was really hard so that I had to saw through it with a knife and even then I had to use a lot of effort. The lemon strips that decorated the top of the tart were rather hard too and a little difficult to bite and chew, and the lemon curd on the inside was of a thick paste texture, which reminded me of moon cake, and it tasted somewhat sweet to me. I always imagined lemon tarts to have a sour tinge to it and I am more fond of sour stuff than things that are overtly sweet. I do have a sweet tooth on some occasions but after I thought about some of the things I enjoy eating, I think I like a fair bit of sour stuff too. I ate less than a quarter of the tart, and my friend with me tried some too and took just a bite, so I guess that sort of sums up how the tart must have been.

My friend ordered a ham sandwich, which unfortunately I do not have a picture of. He thought it was just ok, a sufficient portion for lunch especially coupled with a coffee, even though it looked initially to be too little. He commented though that it would have been better if the sandwich had been heated to melt the cheese inside. Perhaps the tart would have tasted better too if it was heated, I don’t know. And for S$6, I think I would have been happier to have 2 of the plain chocolate buns.

The floor area at the Raffles City outlet is pretty big, so it can seat quite a number of people. But I guess for commercial reasons, also similar to the Eng Hoon Street outlet, tables are arranged uncomfortably close to each other so it makes getting to your seat (on the inside against a wall) difficult because you have to kind of slide yourself in, where most of the times your posterior will be skimming dangerously close to someone else’s table top. And perhaps we were seated at a ‘bad’ table, because we were directly beneath a speaker that was airing some really annoying music that was also too loud, so above the chatter of the lunch crowd, we had to contend with the music that had a very repetitive beat to it. I know that eateries play a certain kind of music to influence the pace of eating of patrons, but then again, this was really annoying and whether or not it made me eat faster I don’t know, but it did annoy me so much that I just wanted to get out of there quickly, so maybe it served its purpose well.

Finally, one of the reasons for having lunch there was because of the famed 40 Hands coffee that we had tried at 40 Hands are really loved. I tried the coffee at Tiong Bahru Bakery in Tiong Bahru and thought it was very good too. But on this unfortunate occasion, both me and my friend agreed that it tasted diluted and didn’t have that quality that had us recommending 40 Hands to the rest of our colleagues.

My my… it does seem that I wasn’t too happy on this visit. I won’t write them off, but maybe I just caught them at a bad time. Tiong Bahru Bakery still churns out good bread and I believe in their coffee too. For convenience sake, I will still head to the Raffles City outlet, but if their coffee doesn’t improve, then maybe I will have to reconsider this decision.

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Tiong Bahru Bakery, Singapore

Finally I have made my way to this cafe! Yes, although a new outlet has opened in the basement of Raffles City, I decided to pay a visit to the first outlet, located where else but in Tiong Bahru? I first chanced upon this place when I went to Orange Thimble (just next to it) for lunch one afternoon, and noticed how different the two places seemed in terms of the crowd. The crowd or not at Orange Thimble was slow that day, but in contrast Tiong Bahru Bakery was abuzz with activity! Being such a bread-lover, I couldn’t resist popping in even if it was just to check the place out, and it was there and then that I told myself I would return one day, and so I did.

Check out these delicious-looking (to me at least) bread loaves that were decorating the front glass facade of the cafe. They are not for sale though, just display pieces. Haha.

Met up with my dear friend one Sunday and it probably wasn’t the best time to visit since the cafe opens at 8am in the morning, and I suppose it being Sunday, most people would opt to have brunch, so reaching Eng Hoon Road/Street at around noon meant we had to wait for a table, and in the heat that we all know associated with noon time in Singapore, or basically anytime, it could get unbearable, until we managed to squeeze inside to wait. There are a few tables outside and I honestly admire those people who would brave our brand of heat to sit outdoors.

This is how the inside looks like, which is already almost the whole of the cafe actually.

We were told that the waiting time would probably be 15 minutes but I think we waited much longer than that, the host at the door who was taking names of people waiting for tables seemed to be rather new on the job because she wasn’t really into her role of approaching people for names and such. There were maybe about 4 or 5 people on the wait list, but she couldn’t even remember who was who because she came to us a couple of times to ask and/or confirm our names despite us not moving from where we were waiting.

When we got a table at long last, we couldn’t wait to order because both of us were so hungry and the aromatic coffee was just luring us even more. It is a semi-self-serve kind of place where you join a queue to order your food and drinks, then you take your food to the table and get served the coffee afterward. I am the glutton here because I couldn’t decide what to have and ended up with three items on the tray.

Read from Anne’s blog about the almond croissant which looked really good, so this was the first item we chose. I think it’s really good, and both of us liked it, even though I found part of it, the inside filling, to be slightly sweet. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth although I can and do like certain sweet stuff, but croissants with almonds and baked to (almost) perfection, what more can you ask for? Totally worth the calories in my opinion.

The second thing that caught my eye was the raisin bun, or correctly, a roll. I have a thing for such rolls these days, because of how it is being eaten, or the way I eat it, i.e. to unravel the roll layer by layer. I know many people eat it this way too because it makes sense to eat it this way, but that is what makes it interesting for me! I think I finished this entirely on my own because it was deemed too sweet by my friend and maybe simply since it was right in front of me, or because the last thing we ordered spoilt her appetite completely. I liked the raisin roll, maybe even a little more than the almond croissant, because it is very simple and nice, it’s just a very unpretentious raisin roll, and I think the raisins make it sweet, plus it didn’t have an overtly overwhelming sensation of the items used to bake it, e.g. butter/milk, etc. The almond croissant has a strong taste to it, which makes it nice but it appears a little complicated. The roll on the other hand, is just straightforwardly nice. Ok, I know I am starting to sound really weird here, so maybe let’s just move on.

 

I love the display counters, but they tricked me into thinking they had just pastries and these sandwiches that come with really interesting colours which you may think inedible (check out the black buns). We didn’t order any sandwiches though since I have more of a thing for pastries at that moment, and sandwiches tend to fill one up more, not the best idea when my intention is to try more things. The next display showcases more products, which was when my friend picked the pear almond tart that was the cause of our downfall, i.e. her spoilt appetite, and my gluttony indulgence. The tart was fairly sweet, the sweetest among the lot we had, even the crust was not spared, and according to her there was this essence used which I guess she wasn’t too fond of. We, of course, did not finish this but I still had a good amount of it. See?

 

Besides the food, of course, what are pastries and breads without coffee as an accompaniment? We loved how the place was filled with the smells of coffee and bread, and when we tasted the coffee, they totally delivered the quality of the smell. It was only later that I recalled reading that this cafe serves coffee from Forty Hands. So… that’s why, and later that evening I found out that Tiong Bahru Bakery is owned by the same owner of Forty Hands (and many more). Ok now we know.

 

The thing I don’t really like is of course the crowd, which created a cacophony within the cafe. It isn’t so noisy that you can’t hear your friend sitting in front or that you have to shout, but at some points when everyone was just engaged in chatter and there are kids crying and screaming, it can be a bit of an overkill, particularly when the place is small and a little too cramped where you would think the people in the next table were part of your company. But I will want to try the other stuff I didn’t get a chance to, and skip the pear tart of course. Coffee is a must. Till the next time then!