Paddy Hills

I have my personal favourites when it comes to cafés, places I am willing to visit time and time again because they’ve proven themselves to be worthy of sustained customer support. Places which make you feel like you bloody well deserve that pocket of time to yourself, do most of their stuff from scratch, and leave you feeling that much better about yourself. Good food, service, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you get the feel. These days, I find there is a serious influx of new cafés, all hidden in some back alleys, all seemingly rushed, not that I know any of what goes on behind the scenes of course, but nothing truly stood out, beckoning me with come hither vibes. But that’s exactly what Paddy Hills, the newest, half-pretentious, corner-of-the-block little café, did. When I walked in, a kind young lad with a grey beanie I desperately wanted for myself greeted me. I looked around and soaked in the delicious atmosphere– no arse-challenging seats, perfect for actually sitting, would you believe it? There was a large communal table where people chatted and worked on laptops. The air was cool, and indie folk was blaring audibly from above, but nothing intrusive. So far, so good. I was scared of thronging crowds, being packed sardine-style in between customers. It was a blistering hot Thursday at precisely 12pm, and I was waiting for pain. Thankfully, pain was something I didn’t experience. Lucky shot? I should think so. I haven’t written a review in ages, and only find it fitting to revive a well-missed habit with this one. I don’t remember being this excited about visiting a new f&b startup. Look, I do my fair share of stalking. I’ve recently cut down on my gross Instagram usage, but when it comes to that occasional hour of scrolling freedom, that mindless but glorious activity which is supposed to suppress boredom, I make full use of it. How could I not visit a place that sells the most photogenic food I’ve seen in a long time? I’m quite a stickler for tradition, but the dishes, which, although looked modern (obviously well-filtered) and had components which were separated for a contemporary effect, still seemed to speak volumes about flavour. It is this wordless, throbbing excitement which enticed me to hop over to the other side of the country, something I deem a fair feat in light of my usual reluctance to travel far distances for the sake of a good cuppa joe, and especially thanks to all the bird’s eye view shots of this berry ricotta hotcake. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Berry Ricotta Hotcake with blueberry sugar, berries, pine nuts, mascarpone and maple syrup–$19

Now isn’t that a beauty. I marvelled for a while, too scared to touch the forest of berries let alone tuck in. The best part was definitely those perfectly crisp, mildly caramelised edges, a golden-brown ring of sweet, rigid bite. The best bite comprised these three components: a nip off the crisp edge, a poke of fruit, and a generous lathering of mascarpone from the ball of the stuff sitting on top. If one is lucky, you may get a bit of warm blueberry nestled like a crumble surprise in the middle of the cake, or a sweet little bit of mascarpone, pockets of which are also found dotted on the surface of the cake. You work your way in. Alas, it gets a bit stodgy a bit too fast, too soon. It’s indeed one of the lightest and fluffiest cakes I’ve ever come across, but at that, the fluff notch was turned up a bit too high near the middle, right at the thickest part of the hotcake. I know I know– what? How can anything be too fluffy? And prior to my experience here, I would have to agree. However, this maximal fluff generated clouds of uncontrollable, pale crumbs, which refused to cooperate with each other to produce a more solid, manageable mass. I was expecting a glorified Mickey Dees hotcake, but it’s entirely different. I was grateful for the carpet of colourful berries on top, for not only did they make the whole thing like a fairy forest, they were also necessary to balance the cake, which has maple syrup infused in the batter. The crumb, though light and pale, had a consistency moist enough so I could still smush bits together with the cheese and fruit to enjoy each and every bite. If anything, they should attempt reducing the thickness of the hotcake, retaining those divine edges and increasing the density, for maximum brunch pleasure. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset The Asian Brick: bruleed brioche french toast, goreng pisang (fried banana fritters), butternut squash puree, purple sweet potato, yam ice cream, gula melaka and marcona almonds– $18

Though I didn’t have the chance to actually try this french toast, I was highly impressed by the presentation and complementary components of the dish. I had a nip of the yam ice cream, and it was creamy, light and flavourful. The fact that it’s homemade and everything so intricately presented made the steep price a tad more understandable. The next time I’m here, I’m definitely ordering this. They also offer things like orange ricotta pillows, which have orange caramel and a citrus salad. All very posh, like they’re on their tippy-toes and reaching for the fine lights of modern gourmet fare. And you know what? They’re almost there. On the brink of something truly impressive, if it weren’t for two things: the coffee and the waiting time. I ordered a 2-ounce flat white ($4), but it tasted subdued, sub-par. I expected a little more because I read many a review on how spectacular the coffee is. Perhaps I was simply unlucky. I wanted a nick on the palate, a bite of caffeine, something.. more. Thankfully for them, I’m willing to return to try the other enticing menu options. Yes, some time in the future, before I break the bank. Rating: 3.8/5 Paddy Hills 38 South Buona Vista Road 6479 0800

Kilo at Pact

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This one’s specially for Felix(:

I had been meaning to come here, though to me, Orchard Central isn’t the most particularly ideal destination. All these escalators, all these random jutting corners, as if the designers only thought properly about the layout after it was all set up and built. But fusion food? I was up for the stuff. And so was he.

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Donburi salmon rice bowl (all rice bowls come with sweet corn, radishes, sugar peas, wasabi sprouts, shimeji mushrooms and cherry tomatoes) – $17
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salmon avocado ‘sushiro’– $17

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They are currently having a set lunch promotion, whereby you can get either a salad, sushiro (I love how they do a nice play on our grotesque accents here) or rice bowl, together with a citrus iced tea and a choice between two desserts– basil panna cotta or a lemon tart with fresh cream. All for around $20++. Since we were in a rush for a movie (I teared up an embarrassing amount during The Fault in Our Stars, though I might have enjoyed it more if it weren’t for the mediocre book), we just ordered two mains, but each was satisfying enough!

I thoroughly enjoyed my donburi salmon rice bowl, a relatively new addition to the menu. They also offer pork belly, beef short-rib and roasted vegetables with tofu options. The salmon could have been more tender and with a little teriyaki marination, for otherwise it was a little dry and bland. You know, it’s always easy to put ‘sweet corn’ in the menu, and I could almost imagine them pouring the bright yellow stuff out from a can, but these kernels were as crunchy as the almost-burnt crusts of toast and as sweet as can be. The avocado was a nice touch, but it was a little lonely green sliver amongst the mounds of superior vegetables, and should have been accompanied by some sauce or other– I’d say a sweet soya or shabu-shabu variety. Anything, really. The highlight of the whole thing was most certainly those sweet, marinated shimeji mushrooms. Tender, sweet and fresh, and paired perfectly with the more hardy stance of brown rice. I chose brown because I enjoy its chewy wholesomeness and frankly I get enough sushi rice in my life already. Everything was dandy, but a little overpriced. 17 bucks demands serious business for a bowl of rice, fish and vegetables. Let’s be real.

That being said, the portions were perfectly satisfying, and I think I shall return for the set lunch option. The sushiro Lix ordered was proper huge, served with nacho-style chips (which I thought needed more seasoning, whatever brand they’re sourced from), and wasabi and soy. The ambience here is lovely; there was gorgeous, soft light streaming through the wide top-to-toe windows that early afternoon, but they could do with more tables to accommodate more people.

One thing is for sure though– lunches with this guy are the best.

 

 

Rating: 4.4/5.0

Kilo at Pact

#02-16/18
Orchard Central
Singapore

 

 

 

Bistro du Vin (feat. the best salted caramel dessert)

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Good food is magical. Surreal, almost, if the ambience and company is right. This is a long, long, long overdue post, but it took me a ridiculously long time as well to think of the perfect way to showcase it. Yes, it is my fault. Felix’s birthday was in the beginning of May, and this lunch was meant to celebrate that special date, his special 17th, and look, it’s already mid-June. He suggested this place and I just couldn’t say no, considering it was one of those quaint little corners I just always passed, always beckoning for a visit, and I just chant, ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’. Cue the quaintest little red corner and vintage French comic strips lining the low walls of this adorable hideout. The man you see above was quietly nibbling away at something or another, occasionally looking out the window, reminding me of the pleasures of dining on quality food alone. I wasn’t alone, but I was with the best ever company in the world.  Those fresh, coarse locks and brown seafoam eyes are my vice. Second to none. No, there was no better company.

I’ll be frank– he’s more francophile than anglophile. I’m the opposite, or so I claim, but one cannot deny the gracious experience some spectacular French fare can provide. Honestly, guys, look at those beautiful diamond-rectangle slabs of fatty beauty below. Is that not one of the most gorgeous sights ever to exist? Bistro du Vin provides set lunches of superb quality and such decent prices. By the end of it all, and that was, what, a good 2 hours later, I was more than satisfied. And my wallet, for once, wasn’t crying out in pain.

pan fried foie gras (extra $8 with pickled onion and eggplant)
pan fried foie gras (extra $8 with pickled onion and eggplant)

Alex sees onions, Alex sees nothing else.

The foie gras was wonder on a plate. Moist, perhaps not as fatty as it could have been (I’m thinking Au Petit Salut’s moreish version right now). The caramelised, pickled onions were sweet and glazed, offering good contrast to the steamy, superabundance of I-cut-like-butter fat. Two slices was perhaps a bit much, considering there were still two full courses to go. The full effects were weighing down like stale jelly in my stomach by the time I was through with the first few bites. In a sort of pleasant way. How odd.

baked camembert with smoked bacon, apple and toasted sourdough
baked camembert with smoked bacon, apple and toasted sourdough

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His appetiser: soft, creamy, probably still mooing. The mild flavour of the cheese worked well with the hardy sourdough crust, the sourdough providing a pleasant, light sourness, and the cooked apple and salty hit of bacon. Once again, practically a meal in itself.

bouillabaise of fish, clams, mussels and prawns
bouillabaisse of fish, clams, mussels and prawns

This was my main, which was more filling than it looks. The broth was soft yet hearty, brimming with all flavours of the sea. The fish, and sadly I forgot to ask what sort it was, was overcooked and dry (which was probably why I didn’t bother to ask in the first place). Everything else was… Decent, I should say, with mediocre-tasting prawns, which were also a little too hard, and little clams and mussels. The hero was that sultry broth which managed to sufficiently flavour all the components. Thick and saturated, yum.

baked pear tart on puff pastry with salted caramel ice cream
baked pear tart on puff pastry with salted caramel ice cream

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In other words, the best part of the set lunch.

In other words, the best salted caramel ice cream I have ever tasted, beating the one at Wimbly Lu and Habitat Coffee, which I love but cower in the face of this divine beauty. It melted like a withering caramel crystal on top of a crusty disc of flaky puff pastry, lovingly studded with delicate slivers of sweet pear, all thick and almost reluctant to give in to the pressure of my fork. A dream. The sort of dish which, even right now as I type with shaky fingers due to the single memory of its perfection, makes me weak at the knees. The sort of dish which you delight in eating even after all the ice cream has melted and has deflated and saturated the pastry, because you are a child once again revelling in the silly joy that is soggy, sweet stodge.

crème brûlée
crème brûlée

His clever choice. Can you see the fine smatterings of vanilla bean evenly dispersed throughout its creamy, provocative belly? The top crackled, the brûlée a sharp crowning of a most luxurious wobble!

I can’t, won’t, shan’t ever forget this lunch. One of the best set meals I have ever had, quality surpassing expectations, with only a few mishaps here and there. All for only $30++ (I hate how they charge $8 for the additional onions though– that’s just a necessity and there’s no denying it).

I usually don’t say this, but I’m highly inclined to come again.

 

Rating: 4.8/5.0

Bistro du Vin

1 Scotts Road, #02-12, Shaw Centre / 56 Zion Rd

Singapore 228208 / 247781

 

Ronin

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Ronin. By the same people of The Plain, which I adore wholeheartedly and should definitely put up a review for, and The Bravery. These guys love to show off the well-done industrial chic thing. And I appreciate their efforts. I really do.

I heard a little too much of this place, situated right on Hong Kong Street. I had no idea this place even existed. Is there Hong Kong in Singapore? Will I find it here? That was probably expecting a little too much. In my previous review of The Bravery Café, I was intrigued by the staunch industrial chic feel, and this feeling was brought to a maximum at Ronin. Once I stepped inside, I knew I had found something quite special. No, it’s not the sort of place where you can take well-lit photos and upload them all shamelessly. It’s dim, warmly lit, and on that particularly rainy day whereby my socks were soaked through and through (ugh), it was hard to see past the first half of the café.  To be frank, all the photos I saw of the place on Instagram almost put me off visiting– I thought it all too surreptitious, dim and perhaps a tad too pretentious. But knowing me… I’d do anything to find a good cup of coffee.

Cappuccino and latte–$4.20
Cappuccino and latte–$4.20

The Genovese blends they use will always have me coming back for more. And now I only wished I also ordered their special ‘Wicked Mocha’, which apparently comes with fudge on the bottom and a lively sprig of mint. I’m determined to return just to try it. My cappuccino was thick and frothy; a tad better than the one I had at the Bravery. One cannot expect consistency all the time, but this really impressed me and my coffee buds were set alight.

French toast with cooked apple, candied bacon, hazelnut-flavoured butter and maple syrup–$14 Scrambled eggs with sourdough, rye, bacon and portobello mushroom– $9+$3+$3
French toast with cooked apple, candied bacon, hazelnut-flavoured butter and maple syrup–$14
Scrambled eggs with sourdough, rye, bacon and portobello mushroom– $9+$3+$3


The french toast, the french toast. I asked for the maple syrup on the side, because I hate having my french toast drowned at first go. However, the server conveniently forgot and the toast was soaking in a too-generous pool of the stuff. Secondly, on behalf of both Liz’s and my later pleasure, I requested for an add-on of portobello, because I absolutely love a hulking mass of beefy, juicy portobello, and once again she forgot. Ah, one, two marks off. They were simple enough requests. This wasn’t off to a very good start. What I found slightly odd was how when my dish came, each slice seemed to have a ridge right along the edges, so that each could be split into half on the horizontal plane once again. My my, it was massive. The hazelnut-flavoured butter was a nice touch, though I feel they might as well have served it with real hazelnut butter, or almond butter, because now that I think of it, that would have paired quite wonderfully with the soaked brioche. The toast itself was lovely and squidgy on the inside, but didn’t undergo as much saturation of eggy batter as I would have liked. It was all a little too dense and just slightly above mediocre-good. I found myself reminiscing the time when I was sitting alone, having french toast at Stateland Café, which I thought had the most fluffy and bombastic interior. This was good french toast, but it failed to deliver the same outrageously fluffy and light consistency on the inside. The fat-marbled candied bacon and cooked apple were marvellous though, but somehow the maple syrup felt a little thick on the palate. More like a Grade A, I should hazard a guess.

The most impressive item, I must, must say, was the scrambled eggs. Because honest to God, I wasn’t expecting such a creamy, beautifully curdled, pale yellow mass such as this one. Each bite was wonderfully well-seasoned, and paired with the nicely toasted sourdough and rye, yielded a heavenly combination of hearty flavour. The portobello mushroom (which, yes, came later) was beautifully roasted and as juicy as a ripe tomato, bursting with beefy flavour on the inside. Best dish that morning.

I shall return for more, that is, if they actually remember specific orders next time round. This place is excellent if you’re looking to while away your time in a cosy and dimly-lit place, with a book in hand and creamy broth in the other. Come here for the heartiest of brunches, for sharing, for escape.

 

Rating: 4.5/5

Ronin

17 Hongkong Street

Tuesday – Sunday 8am-8pm

The Bravery

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Shabby chic.

I don’t know about you, but I’m quite liking the old industrial theme of some places. Including this one. There was massive self-conflict this morning, when I was debating between hopping off to a more convenient spot, or deliberately trudging along unknown sidewalks in the heat to arrive at this signless, but rather enticing spot in the Lavender Street area. Neon red and black, almost translucent windows, stark, straightforward pale wooden furniture, the exclusive hidden feel. It felt as if there was a children’s party right before I walked in and they forgot to take home some decorations. Child VS sophisticate. I liked it.

Lavender Latte–$5.50
Lavender Latte–$5.50

‘Weird’, I can already hear some of you say. Ok, no. If you’re planning to come for the coffee, you can’t, just can’t leave without trying this. Exquisitely smooth, creamy, mildly sweet and tickled with the fine infusion of lavender. Understated, milky elegance. This is a latte after all. Skip if you’re not a fan of floral-infused drinks. My mother would empathise.

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Crostini– $6.50 Aubergine, chickpeas, mint, feta and onion atop sourdough toast

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They are famous for their banana triple-stack pancakes, but for some ridiculous reason I was craving something a little more on the savoury side, and so I ordered this hulk of a brunch dish. Mushy, plump pieces of aubergine, translucent onions, fading mint. The chickpeas were tainted with the juices of the dark and stubborn vegetable they were cooked with. Looks quite a mess up there, but my fork told otherwise. There could have been more feta (sprinkles don’t cut it) to enliven the dish a little more, adding a better kick of flavour. Perhaps a bit more spice or pepper, but on the whole this was pretty darn delicious. I started to enjoy the dish even more as time went by, since the toppings melded so nicely with one another as they cooled down, allowing the flavours to emerge properly on my palate. The sourdough yielded a wonderful flavour and was properly oiled and toasted.

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Cappuccino– $4.50

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‘It’s on the house’, he said. Kind, kind barista!

Stumped and stunned. But hell, free coffee only makes one a better person, right? I’m really quite impressed by the service here; I got to talk to most of the staff at the counter, and the lady told me I was free to stay for as long as I wanted to, unless it got too crowded. So there I sat, working at my computer, and the hours went by in the best way possible. The tables are perfect for work, and the music isn’t too loud either. What immense pleasure.

Smooth, sophisticated, but a little too milky and not enough punch than what I’m used to. It was a dream to sip, but a more acidic edge would have been preferable. That being said, I wouldn’t mind ordering this again, for the sake of sentiment and that creamy consistency.

Other menu options include eggs poached or fried on artisan bread, the pancakes I mentioned earlier, Mediterranean-inspired eggs, avocado and bacon, smoked salmon sandwiches and a small selection of sweet treats at the display counter. They also serve iced coffee with shots of mocha, espresso or soy, as well as Gryphon (ooh, how aristocratic) tea. In all honesty, I didn’t feel too bad paying for the quality of what I got.

 

 

Rating: 4.5/5

The Bravery Cafe

66 Horne Road

8:00am – 8:00pm daily, closed on Tuesdays