Toby’s Estate

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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.

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Iced Black– $5 Hot Latte– $5
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Toby’s French Toast: Brioche, espresso maple bacon, berries, diced apple and maple syrup– $14.90

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.

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Poached eggs on sourdough with a side of sautéed mushrooms– $8.50+$5

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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.

 

Toby’s Estate

8 Rodyk Street, Singapore 238216
6636 7629

Oz Specialty Coffee

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I sincerely enjoy  and relish the sight of empty coffee canisters and roasters and pressers and whatnot greeting me after a draining day at school. Liz and I tirelessly searched high and low for the place, and were immensely grateful at the first sight of a gleaming black sign plastered on a glass window, the outside neatly littered with a couple of quaint, white, wooden chairs and tables. They had the pseudo-Alice-in-Wonderland thing going on. Extraordinarily tiny area, though.

Iced Mocha– $4.50
Iced Mocha– $4.50

I guess you could say there is a reason why this iced mocha is cheaper than those other crazy $8 ones you would get at the more pretentious titles around town. This one was around the length of that between my wrist and knuckles. It came with glorious streaks, a pool of rich chocolate stuck to the bottom. What I enjoyed about this iced mocha in particular is firstly, the quality of the coffee beans used. The aroma is simple; not nutty or exotic but perfect for this sort of milk-based, sweet and whimsical drink. Secondly, it was not overly sweet, drenched excessively in cheap chocolate syrup and then quickly covered up with cold whole milk to make visually appealing to the masses. No, this one is a delicate, miniature mocha. I would have perhaps preferred it a little colder, and with espresso cubes instead of the normal ones, though of course I now sound like a spoilt little coffee brat, don’t I. Keep it up, Oz. I like you already.

Salted caramel belgian Liege waffles– $7.50
Salted caramel Belgian Liege waffles– $7.50

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And I promise you it’s worth every cent. I guess you could go somewhere such as Assembly Coffee or Stranger’s Reunion for your waffle fix, though it’s most likely frustratingly crowded and you might have to force open the door to get a little fresh air amongst the clatter and chatter. This was an utterly, outrageously delectable change. They have a whole darn Belgian Liege series, for goodness’ sake, and you get two beautiful little Belgian babies in less than 15 minutes with a appropriately-sized scoop of above-average vanilla ice cream. Belgian Liege waffles are essentially the brioche of waffles– thick and sensual, thicker and chewier. You can’t not have these. Can’t. I mean, you can see the vanilla speckles, right? I wouldn’t say it’s as devilish and heat-tolerant as the ice cream at Habitat’s, which really was an unexpected dream. The ice cream here melted in heart-stopping time, and we were sitting indoors. They also offer options such as waffles with summer berries or with scrambled eggs and bacon, if you’re more of a savoury soul. The next time I pop by, I’m going to give their affogato version a try. Drizzle of espresso over thick, moist, slightly sweet and chewy 4-inch waffles. I saw pictures, ok. The dream is alive, just a few bus stops away.

Each bite was satisfying and yet not overly indulgent. The portion size is perfect, the flavours meld together beautifully. But watch out. They said salted caramel, but sadly that wasn’t what I got. One may detect traces of salt in the thick sauce, however it’s not as prominent or outstanding as what you would probably get at say, Assembly Coffee. They need to turn up the salt notch and use more authentic salted caramel, for although this was thick and lovingly true to my childhood idea of the BEST caramel sauce ever, it rendered a less sophisticated vibe with its gloopy sweetness.

Best bit: Crisp exterior and dense, mildly sweet, true-to-brioche interior.

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Raspberry cheesecake– $6

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We gave in. Ordered this.

This expensive slice has a moist and dark base, with a creamy, lightly aerated interior, though I still prefer a more buttery, tangy and coronary heart disease-inducing white filling. It’s on the sweeter side, which made it enjoyable but nothing special. That being said, I liked how it wasn’t too muggy whilst still retaining a good level of indulgence within that whipped and cheesy body. The top is raspberry jam, which yielded a sweet and tart finish.

 

Oz Specialty Coffee

#01-13, Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road

Artistry

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Gibraltar– $4

Oh baby. We made it. Rejoice and let the angels sing in the background. All hail the world of coffee and waffles.

Seriously, it’s almost a job. By the way, did you know that cafés actually make for extremely conducive work spaces? I used to avoid them like the plague, and now look what’s bitten me. Can’t help it, I just can’t. I’m living the dream, and studying becomes so much more exciting and worthwhile beside the perfect cup of coffee. I learnt this fact today. Most glad I did, at that. Furthermore, it’s the most satisfying thing in the whole world to be able to tick a café’s name of my to-go list. Akin to having a bright, cold shower after being stuck in the heat. Almost like tasting sweet water after having none of the stuff for 12 hours straight. That’s how empowering that tick is.

Popped by this GEM of a place near Arab Street, heart on my sleeve, coffee stomach empty (and hair a little messy). After having the french toast at One Man Coffee, my friend and I decided to share just a couple of things, just so we didn’t feel like exploding halfway, a la Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. If any of you have watched it, please tell me what you think of that absurd fat suit in the comments. Moving on. Ordered a Gibraltar and the Belgian waffles at the counter, from a most charismatic and knowledgeable young man. The fancy espresso machines were smirking at us, and the kindly service was so becoming that afternoon. I couldn’t wait to sit down and enjoy something good. Look, it was my first time. Sole virgin experiences don’t deserve pretentious expectations. But I tell you, oh, I tell you, I wa sseverly underestimating the quality of this space. The coffee, for one, was a dream in a cup. Not very acidic, but the beautiful roast was aromatic and kindly, bringing forth the right degree of caffeinated strength, sweetness and bitterness.

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Belgian waffles with berry compote, maple syrup (served in the sweetest 10ml laboratory beaker) and fig and honey ice cream– $7+$3+$4 ($7 for just the waffles, and each additional scoop is $3)

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You’re officially in denial if you say this isn’t a work of art.

Alright, everyone has had waffles before. Probably from a next best café, or a box mix, or something. One thing’s for sure, and that it probably doesn’t come close to the divinity my friend and I experienced that afternoon, as we sat there in the weak sun for the sake of catching this babe in the best possible light. I mean, look at that. Of course, there’s beautiful food, and then there’s beautiful and delicious food. I’m so excited to gush about how crisp, light and fluffy these were that my hands are practically flying across the keyboard and I’m constantly attacking the backspace button because I just can’t type properly with these sentiments and memories of that one waffle.

Crisp, I said. Oh, so crisp! They beat the ones I had at Assembly Coffee, and probably the ones at Strangers’ Reunion. The crunch was magnificent, angelic, but most of all, completely and utterly unexpected. Of the perfect thickness and doneness. I didn’t think they were going to be anything which surpassed mediocre. Waffles are so easy to be described as good. Shove the batter in the creviced pan and bam, you’ll probably get something nice. Decent, almost. Alright. But these are so wonderfully aerated and full of character, as if destined to be ravaged with the most extravagant of toppings, such as this gorgeous berry compote, which offered a sharp tinge of ruby citrus for our sweetened buds. The ice cream was a refreshing twist, though I can’t sing praise for that alone. The fig and honey was not evident at first bite, and offered little depth in flavour. I was surprised at how long the ball stayed in tact after spending quite a while in the heat, though, and after we went on a guilty photo-taking spree.

I’m going to try their famed cakes and PB&J french toast (goodness gracious?!) the next time, and my heart is pounding at the mere thought of such undeserved extravagance.

Tune in to your senses at Artistry. Read a book. Soak in some jazz. Pretty magic.

Rating: 4.8/5.0

Artistry Café

17 Jalan Pinang

6298 2420
Singapore 199149
Tuesday-Sunday 10am-7pm

One Man Coffee

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Where do I even begin.

I kind of wish to keep this place a secret. Is that ok? Ever since I first heard about it and saw some rather moreish pictures on Instagram, I was ready to make a short visit, a hasty pop-by, and now I find myself there at least once or twice a week after school. Yeah. Just because it’s become an absurd necessity to be part of that coffee situation when my head’s reduced to mud after the constant clashing of school happenings, and this place is like my quantum of solace, a place where I can simply sit down, enjoy great coffee and some bloody good pastry, collect my thoughts, and study. And a special address to Sarah, the lovely, bubbly, and if I say so myself, supremely talented barista who works here!

But you know, evidently, I love this place, and it does deserve some publicity. I always give out an inner squeal whenever I approach its humble sign, like a little elf beckoning me to come in, pay for something, anything.

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Pear Crumble Danish– $4.50
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Salted Caramel Danish– $4.50
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Piccolo–$5

These were the first things I ever got from this baby hole-in-the-wall. Before I ramble, I should just like to say that this is a completely honest review, and in all honesty, I should like for this to be less of a typical review, because it’s so much more than a flurry of descriptive words and images. It’s utterly won me over and I daresay a ‘review’ just won’t cut it.

The piccolo was a little more on the milky side, though the beans shone through beautifully nonetheless. I took home that gorgeous salted caramel danish, and hurriedly toasted it. Unsurprisingly, and I should’ve seen it coming, the ooey belly of the danish, that rich, dripping salty, caramelly goodness started seeping out like blood from someone’s side. Oops. But messy was good, and good it was. No, spectacular. It was a little limp, with the flakes and layers not yielding a good enough crust, but only because it was not as fresh as it probably was when first baked (they get their goods from local French bakery B.A.O.). The fluffy and genuine salty character of that caramel is laudable. That is exactly what salted caramel should taste like; not the half-assed salt you usually get.

The pear crumble danish is a beauty, and was magnificent after being toasted for a minute. The pastry in both danishes is lovely and buttery, complementing the filling of either salt or sweet. The pear was soft, almost like the chunks you might find in a fruit compote.Pale, tender, with a little give. A slightly more robust texture would be more befitting, but it did my soul good. The crumble topping crisped up nicely when toasted, and went nicely with that dusting of icing sugar (which, surprisingly, held together even after my half-hour rocky trudge home).

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Iced Mocha– $6.50

The glug of rich chocolate syrup. It hit my throat before the cool milk, and then everything else fell into place. Did I mention it’s worth the price. Pretty tall glass, if you ask me. I planned on getting it when I saw it at someone else’s table the first time I went and was struggling to contain the green-eyed monster. The syrup is drizzled all round the sides of the glass, and slowly starts to integrate with the frigid milk to form a refreshing chocolate drink. So it’s chocolate+milky caffeine, then an enhancement of those two separate flavours as they meld into one another. After this, I came to the ecstatic, enlightening conclusion that this is my new favourite café.

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Brioche french toast with cream, berry compote and candied walnuts– $10

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You ALL know. How much my love for french toast consumes all darned sense and sensibility on my part. I admit, I wrote a whole journal entry on how much I loved this. Guys, I’ve tried a LOT of french toast. And this is probably one of, if not the, best. I say it myself, right here, right now. All hail the glory of this one, thick slice of sweet brioche french toast. Dripping in sweet whipped cream, apple compote, sugar on sugar, and then you get the lightly burnt aroma of candied walnuts on top- toasted, petite, delightful little things. Ashy rainfall on this snowy bed of cream. My hands were shaking because every bite was just so exciting and mesmerising. It was hard to contain myself in public, ok. I wanted to shout the wonders of this small piece of toast, saturated, jaw-aching in the best possible way. The outside glistened with the gentle sear of a hot pan, the inside beckoned with its bouncy, foamy, eggy intensity, whilst being perfectly aerated at the same time. The butter caressed every crevice of the light-as-air brioche, enhancing the gorgeous craters locked on its surface.

The sweet cream and jam does get a tad overwhelming at times, so a few bites later the brioche goes from a light snowflake to a dense-bellied, cream-stuffed ball. I’m not complaining, though. I quite like it that way, though a slightly staler loaf or lesser cream would’ve sufficed. Those without my sweet tooth better take it easy. The amount of jam was perfect, thick and interspersed with large chunks of sweet apple. I could go on and on. Love of my life.

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Scone with butter (or cream, if you wish) and apple jam– $4.50
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Espresso– $3

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The scone is on the slightly denser side, but bore a good and heavy butter flavour, almost lightly salted, which made the additional butter (yeah, I can be a bit excessive) and the glorious apple jam perfect to spread on top. I think choosing the cream would have made it even better. Warm, English comfort. It almost brought me back to the time I first tried a scone when I was living in London and my mother gave me a chunk, which I reluctantly accepted. I think everyone can agree that carbs are quite beautiful..?

Their espresso is acidic, which is to my taste, but not so to quite a many other. Down a shot for a morning or late afternoon perk.

So um, secret’s out.

One Man Coffee

215R Upper Thomson Road

Open daily 9am-5pm (closed Tuesdays)

6456 1555

Gaest

Be my Gaest.

Nordic-inspired cuisine? Who would’ve thunk it.

So I went all the way to the Central Business District, walking along McCallum Street just to try out these guys’ sandwiches, and ended up totally going against that. Yes, I should’ve regretted it from the start. But I was just as satisfied. No really! Just listen, or better yet, go there yourself. Now. Tomorrow. Soon. Please.

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Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting it. I made my order, after a gruelling self-debate session. It’s the worst part every time I go on some solo adventure. Girl and Going Solo, with a large side of Indecision. I swear. But yes, my order: Iced cappuccino, and the poached eggs with goat’s cheese, eggplant, salad and their homemade rye bread. They had brunch specials, to my giddy surprise. And you heard that? Homemade. In house. Made from the heart. You can imagine how excited I was. Because you know bread and I go way back, and I adore the savoury twist of rye; its dense and wholesome flavour, packed with seeds, nuts and glory. I’ll try their sourdough another time, promise.

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Iced Cappuccino- $5.00
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Poached eggs on homemade rye bread with eggplant, goat’s cheese and a side salad– $15.00

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You just have to love time alone.

The drink came first, though the lady got my order wrong and gave me an iced latte at first. Didn’t take too long for them to rectify that, though. Perfect on that numbingly-hot late morning.

Ah, this dish. I poked at the egg’s belly, as per usual, and the flow of yolk almost made me sweat. It was quite beautiful, and I don’t exaggerate when it comes to poached eggs. I watch videos on them to make me feel better. Weird, I know. On top of savoury, moist eggplant and goat’s cheese. God, that cheese. I chose this brunch special in particular because of it. It’s rare that I get to eat something of the sort, you know. Or maybe it’s just because I haven’t chanced upon the right occasion to even try. The pictures above should say enough. I was initially worried that I made the wrong decision–ugh Alex, did you just pass up on the correct decision of sandwiches again??– but no, that right there was brunch-ful beauty, a coming-together of spectacular, simple flavours on a plate. And I kind of want to steal their plates, now that I think of it. My white home varieties are getting a tad boring, to be honest. Eggs and cheese aside, the rye was the best part, with its glorious brown crust, thin but dense texture and hearty flavour.

The salad it came with was all bright, lightly sweet, tangy and perky, with cherry tomatoes, carrots and barley grains. The light crunch of the latter complemented the bed of greens, all dusted with the kiss of a sweet and lemony vinaigrette. The fronds and tails and tendrils all clumped together, but all that did was make me eat it more politely. I’m still improving on the caveman streak. T’was good.

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Varlhona Chocolate Brownie–$4.50

As you can tell by its less-than-perfect corner, I couldn’t help myself by the time I got home, especially after walking all around Singapore (that’s another story). At first glance, I wasn’t expecting much. I bought this square of a dark beauty on total impulse. I was only telling myself that hey, I’m hardly around this part of town, so why the heck not. Can you see the moisture painting a soft glisten on the fudgy belly of that thing? Gorgeous, fudgy, but not too dense. Much more fudgy than chewy, and the chocolate is on the milkier side, despite yielding a mighty rich flavour. They took this brownie seriously, so I did too.

I really like it there, and I was actually able to get some work done. The fact that almost everything is homemade gives it an edge over the sprawling maze of other cafés and restaurants in the area. Highly impressed.

Rating: 4.8/5

Gaest

21 McCallum St. #01-01, The Clift
Singapore, Singapore 069047

Mon-Sat– 0730-1600 (closed Sundays)