Closed. Spinelli, Wheelock Place

Besides the Marmalade Toast that I realised had closed its doors for good, it was probably on the same day that I came to know that Spinelli at the Wheelock Place had shuttered. 😦

Despite the apparent crowds that have driven me away countless times during the weekends, I think the turnover and business at the rather sprawling outlet on basement one of Wheelock Place wasn’t that great. Due to the availability of armchairs and the low number of seats arranged in the cafe, it couldn’t accommodate that many people at any one time. And due to the armchairs it also means that typically the occupants would linger for much longer nursing a single cup of beverage.

Customers like myself who can stay for an hour taking up 2 seats would probably have contributed to its demise. I guess I wouldn’t have said no if someone had asked to share the seat, despite that we would face each other (sort of) over a small coffee table. In fact, there was an occasion where a girl had asked if anyone was occupying the seat opposite me and I said no. It felt a little strange but then again, both of us are separately involved with what we were busy with individually so it didn’t really matter at all.

Spinelli has no more surviving outlets in the Orchard belt. There used to be an outlet at Orchard Central but again, the layout and the low patronage led to it eventually closing. Oh well…

Maison Kayser, Wheelock Place… What a shame

I really love the baked goods of Maison Kayser, and I have one particular favourite which I give myself a treat to on-and-off, the Pain aux Noix (walnut bread). I enjoy breads that are not too soft, and that contain nuts or grains because the added texture and chewiness makes eating more fun in a way, not to mention that they also give more dimension to the taste.

This evening, after my class was over, I thought I’d try my luck at the Wheelock Place outlet to check if they are still open, and if so I’d buy a Pain aux Noix, or maybe just something, for breakfast tomorrow. My class is supposed to end at 9:45pm but my teacher usually makes us stay a little longer because there’s just too much to cover. But it was still before 10pm when I got there, and was slightly dismayed that the lights in the display cases were already off, signalling that they were closed for the day. But I saw that there were still loaves being displayed in the darkened cases, and there was a staff milling behind them, so a shimmer of hope raised in me.

I approached the counter and tried with a few “Excuse Me”s that got ignored, until the female staff member looked up from what she was doing and saw me. She was in the midst of emptying the baskets of breads into a large trash bag, so I asked “Are you closed?” to which she responded “Yes” and continued with her action, despite that I was actually interested to buy something. Right in front of my eyes, with Pain aux Noix still available, she took them all and threw all the contents of the trays into the trash bag.

I was really disappointed and angry that they would rather throw away food items that are still edible and good and could be sold to me. I know they have already closed the till for the day, but they could always just make a sale and put it into the next day’s takings, couldn’t they? Or she could have offered a more polite decline instead a curt “Yes” before trashing the loaves. To look at this in a positive way, she was probably sticking to rules and procedures to not sell anything after the cashier has been closed, and that she did not take the chance to sell something and pocket the money since it isn’t recorded (but to these youngsters these days, $3.40 probably isn’t worth their effort to pilfer anyway), but it was just in extremely bad taste and poor customer service.

As much as I really enjoy Maison Kayser’s breads, I have only ever encountered very limited instances of good customer service from their staff manning the takeaway counters. In the service line, or F&B for that matter, it doesn’t matter if it is a $3.40 bun that someone is buying or a $10 sandwich, you still accord them the same service, don’t you? I don’t know if it’s attributable to the lack of proper training or the transient nature of such jobs that are usually staffed by part-timers who do not give a damn about building a good brand image to which customer service is a fundamental building block. But the sad state of customer service in Singapore is something that just never seem to change, although there are some places that do indeed serve up good customer experience, such as for instance, Starbucks.

Spinelli

Amazingly, this week seemed to have passed by in a flash. Typically, I always find time crawling when I am in Singapore because of the slower pace of work as compared to the business trips when there is always so much to do within such a short period of time. Maybe it is because a long break is coming up. Yes, it’s Friday (tgif!) and also the eve of Chinese New Year’s eve. Even though I was initially in some CNY mood before, it kind of tapered off but then somewhere inside I am still feeling some bubbling of excitement over something which I don’t know what. Or it could also be just the high from all the exercise that I have been engaged it despite it leaving me all exhausted, or it is simply His grace. 🙂

Back to yak more about food, my favourite kinds of food. I am surprised that it seemed like a rather long time since I stepped into any Starbucks. Among my friends I am probably one of the biggest Starbucks fan, but due to the upcoming festive season and also because our little island is just getting too congested with people, finding a seat at Starbucks during the weekends is like prospecting for a seat in a foodcourt at Shenton Way at lunch peak hours. Wheelock Place seemed to have finally finished their renovation works for the basement area, as most shops have already opened for business. With that, there is now a Spinelli outlet on Basement one, with comfortably-spaced seating and also armchairs! Where seating capacity is concerned, it definitely is considerably limited, but generally during those times that I have visited on weekends, before the madness of the shopping crowds descend in town or at least this part of town, I was fortunate to find a plush seat.

So this was what I had recently.

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Frothy latte and a muesli scone. I know the scone looks humongous but I was ravenous, and I never really find such things to be too much. Maybe if it was a bowl of rice or noodles I’d whine about portions being big, but because of my love for pastries and breads, I always welcome large sizes. They are of course not the greatest ideas for diets because flour in large amounts means overloading on carbohydrates but oh well. This scone was a little too crumbly for my liking even though the taste sits well with me. With the muesli it seemed like I could tell myself it is healthy food, whether it really is or not, I don’t really need to know. Haha. Yesterday I found out that the Spinelli that I used to visit often at Orchard Central when I was working in that area is no longer there; in its place is another F&B outlet or cafe, I couldn’t be sure. Maybe it is time again for me to check out Orchard Central for what new shops they have (but it is just so out of the way for me now)!

Maison Kayser, Wheelock Place

 

After countless times of walking past Maison Kayser ever since it opened its doors in late December 2012 in Wheelock Place (since it is almost a daily route that I pass through despite that I do not work or live in Orchard Road), I finally popped into the cafe for a bite! I don’t have pictures of the place but one of my blogger friends do have some pictures on her blog, so you can check them out here, as well as many other food place that she has visited and provided pretty insightful reviews of.

I have never really seen its cafe at Wheelock’s basement being crowded to the point of queues forming, but perhaps I didn’t notice enough. As compared to its location at Scotts Square’s basement, I would agree with bookjunkie that this is indeed not as peaceful. When I asked for a table for two when I went, they offered me a table near the fountain but remarked it might be noisier, especially also since that was just next to the ever-popular Nam Nam, so I chose a table at the other corner closer to the carpark, which was really much quieter.

To be very honest, I was a little disappointed at the menu selections they have. I love their breads, there is no doubt about it, ever since I tried their brioche and pain aux raisin noix but I thought I would try something different for an eat-in experience, and as I browsed their menu whether it was for lunch or tea, it was pretty limited. The selections still look good of course, as I was very tempted to order a french toast set, but decided instead to go for a more manageable order of a salmon quiche. Maybe that isn’t that forte or niche, because there wasn’t anything spectacular about the quiche but I didn’t feel very “bread-y” that afternoon for some reason, so I haven’t ordered their famous breads or tarts.

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My friend ordered a super huge-looking thing that was supposed to be a garlic bread, but her take on it was that it was plain and bland without any garlic taste at all. I had a cappuccino, which priced at S$6.70, seemed a tad high, because it too did not wow me that much. My friend’s pot of lavender and rose tea at S$6.40 also skewed toward the pricey side to me, although I didn’t try it and don’t know if it belonged to some top-grade type of tea. I took a whiff of it and it reminded me of aromatherapy oils. Weird.

What we enjoyed was the little financier that was served with both our coffee and tea, which are for sale too. However they could be a little oily for some though. Service was courteous and polite, much better than the cold service I got at Scotts Square when I dropped in once to buy a bread. I would definitely continue to pay for their breads because they are just so good, even if eating them on a regular basis would be costlier than a weekly loaf of Gardenia for breakfast. That being said, I love bread so much that with such options available now I can’t help myself!