SO. It’s been, what, a year since I’ve visited Toby’s? I just love how I say Toby’s like that. So casual and upfront. My little brother, my coffee maker, my Robertson Quay pit stop. My luscious wooden enclave. My, my, my. This place was what I should like to term ‘unavailable’ for a while, due to renovations the past few weeks. So once they opened, I’ve been meaning to come back. For a comparing of standards and perhaps another trip to crema heaven. The last time I went, it was my virgin experience. I had their cappuccino and ‘Toby’s Big Breakfast’ set, which made me drool and gape, all lolled-jaw and star-spangled. I fell in love with the pale, sleek wooden decor, the high brick ceilings, the stone walls, how I could sit at the wooden study desk-like table right by the window and people watch, whilst doing work or journalling. This, I remember saying to myself, is the high life. Literally, too, because I was on a high chair. And thank God it wasn’t the sort which made me feel the creases of my skirt attacking an inappropriate crack.
Second visit. More chairs, I observed, and sophisticated still lifes and photo captures on the familiar brick. They even display their coffee goods and machinery along the walls for any caffeine nerd to check out. Once I earn my own money, I told myself. The smell of good business? Check. A white-people majority with either an iPad in hand or young child feeding? Check. Gorgeous, soft light streaming through the large rectangular window by my favourite study desk? Check, check, check. I was waiting for café buddy (or should I say, bunny) Liz, so I ordered first. All ready.
And may I admit– I came here specially for this french toast. Because I’ve seen too many darn pictures of it and it looked too good to pass up this opportunity. And so I patiently waited (no induced anger this time, because the cooking time was surprisingly fast and I don’t remember tapping or humming as I sat waiting with a growling, breakfast-deprived tummy). The iced coffee was outstanding, because, well, the coffee here is always impressive. There’s nothing I could fault about the aftertaste. Refreshing, light, singing, not too acidic. An easy pass down the good ol’ oesophagus.
But the french toast. Oh, no. The waiting time may have been impressive, but the actual dish, not so much. Yes, there was the extravagant and marvellous addition of ‘espresso’ maple bacon, though there wasn’t so much a hint of espresso, let alone full-bodied flavour. It was well-cooked, crispy and beautifully maple-glazed, but I expected more from the given title. Wouldn’t have minded a little acidity or perhaps even a smidgen of coffee aroma. Perhaps the stuff evaporated completely during the lavish fry-up. The actual french toast was severely disappointing, and not even the thick, sticky maple syrup could do much to salvage it. The brioche they used was too dense to allow for complete egg saturation; the poor slices couldn’t enjoy an aristocrat’s bath long enough to have the golden goo penetrate their pores properly. The outside was nice and golden, but the inside was virgin-white, almost as if completely untouched. Normal, placid, mildly sweet white toast, without so much as a one-time dunk. Left in the cold. I might be behaving a little dramatically right now, but I really expected so much more out of this. I also think they should’ve tried making a fruit purée or compote, mixed with chunks of fresh fruit, instead of straightforward fruit. I appreciate the freshness and all, but it would’ve done more to enhance the flavour of both sweet and salty on the plate and on the palate. I picked at the outer eggy, fried bits, my heart dimly lit. Oh, Toby.
This was Liz’s, and she was kind enough to give me some of her mushrooms, because if you ask me, mushrooms are one of the most genius things to survive on this planet. I could live on them fried, sautéed, pickled. Squished or raw, even. That’s how far I’ll go to proclaim my love for the stuff. But at restaurants or cafés, if they say ‘sautéed’, it damn well be just that. These were a little mediocre; they could’ve used a little more butter and a longer cooking time to yield a more moreish, juicy result. Though well seasoned, it lacked the slight indulgent factor. It would have paired even better with the flowy yolk. Yum. their poached eggs looked very well done, and must’ve fared much better than my own dish. The side salad with balsamic reduction was a good pucker-up accompaniment, and the sourdough was good and hearty.
Should like to conclude by saying that if you’re trying to find a rather conducive, slightly isolated but sophisticated hideout and a good cup, this is it. Ponder life and the universe while you’re at it, as you stare out into the Singapore River. It’s cool on the inside, so you could pretend you’re isolated from the gnawing heat. Just, well, skip the french toast. Perhaps it was a one-off thing. If not, long live One Man Coffee’s version.
8 Rodyk Street, Singapore 238216