Coffee Connoisseur

Library Cafe @ Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok, Thailand

IMG02147-20130919-1433Recently, a certain idea popped into my head: visiting a foreign country would not be complete without visiting one of its cafes. I could not pass on the chance to visit one of the several cafes there when I hit the streets of the City of Angels. In my opinion, there is a chance that cafes may display certain aspects of the city in which it is located through its architecture and the clientèle it attracts. Good food and coffee is a plus, of course, but given how countless cafes now have the typical brunch/western fare, I decide to give it a miss here at the Library Cafe. Afterall, Bangkok’s street food has so much more to offer at much lower prices.IMG02128-20130919-1333Library Cafe is located along one of the small, quiet sois, or streets in Thai, in the Phrom Phong locale. It wasn’t quite that easy to find, but that didn’t come as a surprise, given how even the cafes back home can be a pain to locate sometimes.IMG02125-20130919-1330Full length vertical window panels front the cafe, letting sunlight stream in, illuminating the cafe with natural light. Both its interior and exterior is kept simple with a combination of white walls and light wood furniture, shelves and decorative pieces. The layout isn’t cluttered and the place doesn’t try too hard, which makes it a great place to take a break from the dusty and crowded city streets.IMG02126-20130919-1331

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Cafe Latte

The coffee wasn’t too bad. Although not perfect, it was good enough to rejuvenate the weary traveller in me. The little savoury biscuits didn’t quite match the coffee but it was still a nice thought!IMG02135-20130919-1340

IMG02136-20130919-1346The guests at the table beside mine were a group of Japanese ladies doing some sort of embroidery or cross-stitch. It seemed like they had spent a good part of their day there, just chatting and doing what ladies were made to do back in the past – afternoon tea, scones and a spot of thread-work come to mind, anybody? The leisurely way they spent their time perfectly reflects the vibes the Library Cafe exudes: calm and peaceful, drawing you away from the city and almost seeming too reluctant to release you back into the clutches of the whirlwind of shopping and eating. IMG02145-20130919-1430

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IMG02142-20130919-1419The best part? Free wi-fi. Spoken like a true member of this overly-wired generation. But, hey, what’s wrong with using it to plan the fastest route to the next shopping destination while kicking back with a coffee? Nothing, I say.

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Coffee Connoisseur

Cups and Canvas @ Selegie Road

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Although I really wanted to order the Sweet Potato Latte, I resisted because I knew I needed the caffeine for the overnight prayer I was about to attend. Oh my. Where are my manners. Welcome to Cups and Canvas.

The cafe consists of an art studio and a cafe area thus it boasts new artwork almost every other day! Beyond that, the cafe’s ambience is really quite cosy with a wide array of seating options. It’s even laptop-friendly! Wifi and plugs and all. Cups and Canvas also offer set menus, which is totally awesome since you buy into the illusion that you are spending lesser since you are getting a set. They even host art classes there.

Everything in the cafe is baked by the people behind the cafe so that’s really impressive. However that being said,  I was pretty disappointed at the Banana Walnut Muffin they served. The texture was too dry and far too dense. It wasn’t the moist, slightly dense and tender consistency I was looking for. Sadly, it was also lacking in flavor. Maybe I am just being harsh as my baker myself. Maybe. Just maybe. The coffee is fairly good though.

They aren’t known for their Banana Walnut Muffins so just don’t order them if you go there! Haha I only ordered it since I am just a sucker for everything Banana and Nut.  Well! Cups and Canvas is definitely worth visiting, whether if it’s with a group of friends or  you are there to mug. Who knows? I might bump into you there.

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Coffee Connoisseur

Loysel’s Toy @ Kampong Bugis

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Singapore’s weather has been terribly temperamental of late. Remember the day Sam and Chonghao got caught in a flash flood? The day one of my kids and I decided to check out Loysel’s Toy was the exact opposite. It was scorching hot and it did not help that the cafe was located right at the end of Kampong Bugis. It was a good 10minute walk from Lavender MRT station and Google Maps never gives the most convenient route. We ended up walking along a dusty, deserted street, past a worn Hindu Temple, various construction sites and industrial buildings before finally spotting the warmly lit cafe at the end of the road. For the longest time, we thought Google Maps had us on, but as with all good cafes hidden in lesser-known parts of Singapore, I knew better than to give up when roads get quiet.

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Loysel’s Toy is a riverside gem surrounded by lush trees. Quiet and peaceful on a weekday with both indoor and outdoor seating, it was the perfect place for a catchup session. Located just along the Kallang Park Connector, the cafe offers bike rentals with the option of fold-able bikes as well as ones with baby seats for the more adventurous looking to work off the teatime calories.

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Hot and thirsty from the long walk, the kid chose a Pineapple Passion Popsicle from Popaganda sold at the cafe. They carry a good range of refreshing flavoured ice popsicles that are indulgent and healthy at the same time. The Pineapple Passion one we had had a good balance of both pineapple and passion fruit flavours. Tangy and not artificially sweet, it made for a terrific thirst-quencher after the long walk.

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Pineapple Passion | Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow

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Meanwhile, my choice of a teatime snack came in the form of the Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow. Being a fan of salted caramel, and since Loysel’s Toy is known for great coffee, I expected the dessert to feature some great coffee flavours balanced with the salty-sweet caramel. However, what I had instead was abit of a let down. In the dish was a layer or salted caramel crumbs, followed by coffee marshmallow and topped with chocolate and peanuts. The crumbs were rightfully salty-sweet, but the taste of burnt sugar didn’t come through as much as I would have expected it to. Instead, it tasted more buttery and had a peanut butter flavour more than it had caramel. The coffee marshmallow did not live up to expectations as well. It felt more like a spongy layer than melt-in-you-mouth sticky marshmallow. Also, I could barely taste the coffee that presumably flavoured the marshmallow. Although not a bad dessert in itself, I felt that it did not live up to its name. My expectations could have been set a tad too high though!

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Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow | Iced Mocha (using 1000 Cups blend) | Cafe Latte (using Terra Firma blend)

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Loysel’s Toy uses Papa Palheta beans and offered a choice of 1000 Cups and Terra Firma blends when we were there. I chose the Terra Firma blend for the cafe latte, which had a description of being nutty and citrusy with a chocolatey bitter-sweet finish. The coffee had a medium body and was mildly acidic and well-rounded – quite easy on the palate and not too heavy. The milk was also well-steamed – creamy and rich at just the right temperature.

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Meanwhile the kid chose to have an iced mocha. She drinks coffee like water, I’m not even kidding. The problem is, she’s only been drinking Starbucks coffee and mostly frappes (ridiculous amounts of sugar and little else heh). So this being her first cafe hopping experience, she decided to go easy on the coffee. The 1000 Cups blend used in her coffee has taste notes of baker’s chocolate and hazelnuts with a mildly fruity acidity that cuts through every sip. But honestly, with all that chocolate in the iced mocha, I could barely discern any specific flavours. She enjoyed every bit of her drink though!

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Loysel’s Toy also offers the options of hand brew and cold brew coffees in a multitude of funky looking apparatus.

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Loysel’s is ultimately a coffee place serving up good, well brewed coffee. We might have had better luck with their other cakes and they do offer a menu of simple brunch food, but I feel that coffee is still their strong point. It is a great place for a laid back teatime with friends or a good book. Its location strikes it out of my daily java dose list since it would be way too inconvenient, but it hunting down the cafe on occasion makes for a good adventure. It helps that the popsicles on offer are ready thirst quenchers once we complete the hunt!IMG02530-20131023-2219_edited

Happy Monday everyone! Remember to spend some time with your family this week – maybe get out there for a coffee and rent a bike at Loysel’s if you find the time to!

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Coffee Connoisseur, Food Hunter

Symmetry @ Jalan Kubor

IMG02299-20131005-1212_editedI’ve realised how many of the cafes we’ve reviewed recently are located in the Kampong Glam area. There’s something about the area that’s quaint. Small surprises lie in every corner – be it in the form of good food or an interesting piece of heritage. And if you’re lucky, these two come hand in hand. Located just beside the old Singapore Metal and Machinery Association, Symmetry is a case in point.

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It sits quietly in a corner shop house, its entrance of dark wood and old school style louvre windows almost makes it nondescript. I remember passing by once but giving it a miss as it looked too dark and unremarkable. However, I decided to give it a try after my friend recommended the place for quality food.

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My brunch buddy and I headed down on a Saturday for brunch. At 11am, it was already packed to the brim with hungry diners, which is always a good sign. A nifty device placed outside the door reduced the manpower required to seat people – all we had to do was press a couple of buttons on the touch screen indicating the number of seats required, the location of our seats (indoors/outdoors/bar) and to enter a contact number and we would receive a call when our seats were available. It was thoughtful of them to add an extra option for parties requiring a baby seat as this would save parents and wait staff the last minute hassle of creating space in the already packed restaurant upon the arrival of the guests. It took a mere ten minutes before we received a call notifying us that our seats were ready. Efficient!

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Latte with Gingerbread Snap

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The latte was pretty well done, considering how Symmetry seems to be more well-known for food than its coffee. The gingerbread snap was a very nice touch.

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Chocolate Banana Milkshake

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Flan | Pork cheek confit, sauteed mushrooms, onions, poached egg, cream, parmesan, pommery mustard

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The Flan came as a surprise, given the description left most of it to imagination. It came encased in a thin, crispy pastry, layered with creamy sauce below and topped with sauteed mushrooms, a poached egg, the pork cheek confit and a rocket salad with generous amounts of parmesan cheese. The combination of flavours: the rich creamy taste of the sauce, the bitter, nutty flavour of the rocket and the sharpness of the cheese, along with the runny yolk and sweet-savoury marinade of the pork cheek made this a dish replete of flavours. The pork cheek confit was delightfully melt in the mouth and special mention goes to their poached eggs.

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Eggs Benedict | Poached Eggs, aged cheddar, smoked bacon, onion hollandaise

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As with both the Flan and the Eggs Benedict, the poached eggs were done to an almost soft boiled state. Not your usual poached egg with leathery whites (yikes), these eggs were the epitome of poached eggs with soft feathery whites and runny yolks. All other components of the Eggs Benedict were pretty decent, apart from the stellar eggs and the fact that the (tiny bit of) hollandaise sauce was glazed on top of the eggs. My brunch buddy was left wishing that there was more hollandaise sauce atop the eggs though.

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An eclectic mix of art pieces, little trinkets and wall paper amongst other things adorn the small space within the shop, making it a joy to explore each dark corner of the shop space. Speaking of dark, the cafe was poorly lit in some areas. The sunlight streaming through a couple of small windows did little to shed light on the seats not in direct line with the windows. We had been allocated a table at the back of the cafe that was dimly lit, and requested that the spotlights above us be switched on. However, we were told that they would heat up too much – explains why the photos to this review are of a terrible quality (for which I apologise) since dim lighting does nothing for the already finnicky blackberry camera.IMG02342-20131005-1336

Prices at Symmetry are abit on the high side, with the Eggs Benedict going at $20. It is, however, a decent price to pay for quality ingredients and good food. I wouldn’t mind returning to try the dishes off their lunch and dinner menu, but that would take a tad of saving up before I do so. Until then, Symmetry has impressed me with their brunch items and quirky interior. I’ll just be sure to get a brightly-lit seat the next time around!

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Coffee Connoisseur

Commune Cafe @ Millennia Walk

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Commune Cafe and Bistro No.50 is yet another coffee place that takes pride in perfecting that aromatic cup of coffee. Their coffee literally brightens your day with its citrusy tones – definitely a great way to perk up your morning.

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Their speciality here is the Gibraltar Latte. It is a latte with less milk, thus making it more intense. We tried the Gibraltar Latte here and it packs a punch – strong coffee and creamy steamed milk. Every hot coffee drink at Commune Cafe is made with two espresso shots, so a latte with less milk is definitely not to be trifled with. With its milk to coffee ratio lying between the macchiato and the regular latte offered at this cafe, it is definitely a great choice for those who are looking for stronger coffee, yet are not quite that bold. We found the illustration on the blackboard wall of this small cafe especially helpful!  

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Gibraltar Latte

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Since the Cafe is part of the furniture shop, Commune Lifestyle, there is no seating area available within the shop space itself. What is unique is that seats are located along the two bridges connecting the two sides of Millennia Walk. Although this results in a glaring lack of ambience – given how some cafes use music to create a certain vibe in the cafe – it is also a terrific place to have a good chat with friends over coffee without any disruptive music (we all know how we sometimes disagree with the music choice of the cafes we visit and thus find it hard to focus on anything we try to accomplish). The peaceful environment of the less-frequented mall along with the flood of natural light through the glass sunroofs and high ceilings combined give Commune Cafe an identity of its own.

Food here is limited to simple bistro food such as paninis, cakes, and more recently, soups and waffles.

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How can we be any less thankful for a good cup of coffee and a tranquil place to engage in a great time of fellowship or to complete some work? TYFTFWE wishes all our Muslim friends a happy Hari Raya and do head down for your coffee fix this public holiday!

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Coffee Connoisseur

Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar @ The Quayside

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Latte | Cheesecake Crumble

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Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar is a cozy establishment in the Robertson Quay area that takes their coffee seriously. The sister cafe to Necessary Provisions and Homebodies, this is a must-visit for those on a coffee quest. So serious are they, that they even have coffee brewing apparatus on sale in the cafe. So together with my co-authors, we decided to make a trip to this place.

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Cheesecake Crumble

Smitten offers simple fare such as sandwiches and a couple of cakes. The great interplay of textures in the Cheesecake Crumble made it a joy to eat; the crunchy crumble acted as a foil to the smooth and creamy cheese. While the cake was not too rich, the taste was slightly one dimensional. It could have done with abit of lemon juice to cut through the creamy cake. Although it was not bad, it could have been better. Smitten is, after all, more focussed on coffee than anything else and that should be sufficient reason to visit the cafe.

The latte was brewed well and if you are quite the connoisseur, this place serves options to do a cold drip, v60 and more! They also have a wide selection of teas (more than most cafes I have been to) to chose from if you prefer other alternatives.

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 Small scale espresso machines on display in the shop.

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The cafe takes up a small rectangular shaped unit in the building and has a tiny seating area inside along the wall. Only a couple of round-table seats are available inside. However, choose the seats outside the shop as they allow you to face your coffee companion comfortably, making for better conversation. The outdoors seating is airy and well-sheltered, so there is no need to brave the elements for alfresco dining in Singapore. It also offers a view of Robertson Quay – what’s there not to love about riverside dining at an affordable price?

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Coffee Connoisseur

Artistry Cafe @ Jalan Pinang

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As Singaporeans, we often lament the lack of support for our local talent. Local artists, designers, singers, musicians, artistes – they never seem to garner enough hype or popularity. It is heartening that a cafe such as Artistry cafe has taken on the mission to provide a platform for the exhibition of the works of emerging artists, as well as a stage for performers. Not only that, the cafe also sources its beans from local roasters, Liberty Coffee, continuing the theme of #sgpride.

Artistry cafe prides itself in its coffee and I must say that this is one of the best places for coffee. Not only is the roast great, it also does a pretty good job with both the quality of the steamed milk and the latte art.

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Cafe Latte | Cappuccino

Instead of walking through a front entrance along Jalan Pinang, I was greeted by a wall. To enter the cafe, one has to enter by the side along Victoria Street which is converted with a deck and some benches. This cafe is housed in one of the many old shop houses in the Kampong Glam area. It has a charcoal grey façade, complete with monochromatic painted planks forming its deck, upping the chic factor of the place more than a couple of notches.

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Seats on the outside are just along the main road, which can get rather hot and dusty. Those seeking the cool comfort of air-conditioned air in hot and humid Singapore will have to share a long communal table inside the cafe. There is some charm in doing so as you get to observe your fellow diners and it is a slightly different experience for Singaporeans, given how many of us are used to simply keeping to ourselves.

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Old used furniture from a clan association adds a retro twist to the interior.

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Some tongue-in-cheek artwork at the doorway reminds us of just how blessed we are to have such an efficient transport system on this little island, yet we see the occasional breakdown as hell on earth. The cup is always half full I guess!

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Walking around the quaint shop houses in the area proves how youth culture has settled so well in a culturally rich area such as Kampong Glam. It has not diluted the cultural aspect one bit; in fact, the two come hand in hand, drawing a rich mix of people to the area, which makes it a brilliant place to people watch or a great place to while away a lazy afternoon.

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