Sip and surf to your heart's content

Pies & Coffee at Rochester Mall can seat up to 100 people and there are power sockets in and outside the cafe.

Republic Polytechnic student Nicholas Wong, 21, has avoided going to fast-food chains such as McDonald's and coffee chains such as Starbucks for the past six months.

His reason? He feels that most of the outlets do not offer enough power sockets for customers.

He prefers visiting his favourite haunt, The Book Cafe, in Martin Road, off River Valley Road.

It offers plenty of power sockets on top of free Wi-Fi.

He explained: "I like it when I can charge my phone and laptop and use the free Wi-Fi. It proves that the cafe is not stingy and is worth patronising."

Businesses do have to make a profit, so it is understandable that some cafes lack or limit Internet access and power sockets in an attempt to discourage patrons from lingering, as well as to keep customer turnover healthy.

But many cafes here buck the trend.

Pies & Coffee in Rochester Mall, near Buona Vista MRT station, has chosen to court students and office workers with free Wi-Fi and plenty of power sockets - and it seems to be paying off.

Its training and marketing executive, Mr Firdaus Wahab, said 30 per cent of Pies & Coffee's customers were students.

He explains how Pies & Coffee stays profitable: "Students tend to spend between $10 and $15 and hang around a few hours. If they like the cafe, they often become regular customers, and their friends too, for years."

Free Wi-Fi and power is a big draw for students.

Nanyang Polytechnic student Lee Wei Lynn, 19, admits she weighs the value of cafes before visiting to get her money's worth.

She said: "Having ample power outlets is a plus, while Wi-Fi matters as well."

Another Nanyang Polytechnic student, Mr Farihin Joehari, 21, prefers to study at home, but said he would not mind going to cafes which provide free Wi-Fi and power sockets.

D'good Cafe in Holland Avenue also offers free Wi-Fi and use of its power sockets.

The cafe is consistently packed with students, many of whom can be seen typing away on laptops.

D'good Cafe's marketing manager, Ms Jasmin Loh, said: "We offer free Wi-Fi and use of our power outlets to all our customers as a value-added service."

Some cafes go the extra mile. L'etoile Cafe in Owen Road offers its customers a variety of books and magazines.

The Loft Cafe in South Bridge Road even provides wireless charging pads for smartphones.

Digital Life visited about 15 cafes around Singapore and picked five of the most student-friendly cafes.

The most welcoming offer free Wi-Fi, ample power outlets, comfy seats and a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy one's cake and coffee.

If you need a good spot to read your books or use the laptop, check out these places.

And if we left out your favourites, do let us know.


d'Good Cafe
273 Holland Avenue, 02-01/02
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm (Sun to Thurs), 10am to 11pm (Fri to Sat)
Tel: 6219-9807

It is easy to miss d'Good cafe, even though it is in Holland Village - a popular area for dining - because the cafe is not at street level.

It occupies the second and third levels of a shophouse, which you reach through a narrow staircase sandwiched between a clinic and a restaurant. Only a blackboard sign marks its presence.

Although it is relatively new, having opened in 2012, the cafe seems popular with students.

Along with free Wi-Fi, it has more than 10 power sockets distributed throughout its four sections.

At the bar, customers can sit and chat with the baristas. The dining area on the second floor has a cosy ambience with rocking chairs, an artificial grass patch and an indoor garden swing which overlooks the neighbourhood.

The roof top on the third floor is a child-friendly space with high chairs, rocking horses, bean bags and even a giant teddy bear. It offers alfresco dining with a great view of the neighbourhood.

On the menu are Eggs Benedict, a full English breakfast (with bacon, sausages and eggs), pies, pasta, as well as Asian dishes. Main courses cost $13 to $16, while drinks cost $5 to $7.

However, what customers come here for are the coffee and cakes, which include a cheesecake trifecta (oreo/chocolate/cheese), as well as its signature maple seasalt cheesecake, which its founder, Mr Mike Chin, 45, makes himself. A slice of smooth crumbly yumminess costs about $8.

The cafe boasts a unique service. A customer can create his own blend by noting his preferences in a questionnaire, which the barista uses to prepare three types of coffee beans for "cupping", or tasting. The customer then ranks the beans and the barista decides on the ratio to use in the custom blend which a customer can name.

If this seems like too much bother, just order a latte and enjoy the beautiful latte art.

There is space to seat 95 people, so getting a seat is easy even during weekends.

The staff were friendly and courteous, but rather slow to clear dishes on the upper floor. There is no service charge or GST.

Pies & Coffee
Rochester Mall, 35 Rochester Drive, 01-02
Opening hours: 9am to 11pm (Mon to Sun)
Tel: 6570-0080

Pies & Coffee offers a hearty selection of savoury pies.

Its training and marketing executive, Mr Firdaus Wahab, said: "We wanted to do something different from the usual cakes. We wanted to get people excited about pies."

The first of its four outlets opened in 2012. The flagship in Rochester Mall can seat up to 100, so finding a seat is easy, even when the cafe is at its busiest.

It is common to see students and office workers using their laptops here, as the cafe provides free Wi-Fi and has several power outlets inside and outside.

Mr Firdaus said: "We encourage students to study and work on their projects here. We could be providing for the next Bill Gates or future leader. We aim to grow our business with these young adults and also have them grow with us."

The cafe at Rochester Mall has a pleasant study environment. Indoors, it has seating for only about 15, but the atmosphere is cheerful, bright and a local radio station provides background music.

It is more relaxed outside, with many seats and several sofas to relax on, complete with outdoor power sockets. The area is shaded from the sun, with lots of greenery and a fountain close by.

While it serves waffles, pancakes and a big breakfast, the stars of the show are its wide selection of pies - chicken and mushroom, minced beef, as well as more intriguing variations, such as wagyu beef cheek, duck confit, lamb shank and even laksa seafood.

The Guinness beef pie tasted good, with a buttery, flaky crust and tender chunks of beef.

However, for $11, the pie, just 11cm in diameter and with a serving of salad and mashed potato, could have been more generous in size.

Drinks cost about $7 each and there is a decent selection of coffee, frappes and fruit juices. For dessert, try the lime and basil meringue, baked chocolate tart, coffee hazelnut muffin and carrot cake. Each slice costs from $7.

It is a self-service cafe. Upon placing your order, you get a restaurant pager which buzzes when your items are ready.

L'etoile Cafe
160 Owen Road
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm (weekdays), 9am to 10pm (weekends and public holidays)
Tel: 6298-2872

It is hard to miss this cafe in Owen Road. L'etoile Cafe occupies a refurbished shophouse where its clean whitewashed exterior stands out from the others.

Its owner, Ms Yvonne Low, 37, who worked in property management, wanted to open a cafe which recreates the cafe culture overseas - one with a French-Japanese flavour.

She said of her eatery which opened in 2011: "Free Wi-Fi and power outlets were available from the beginning, as we considered those features to be an integral part of cafe culture."

In total, it can seat 105 people indoors on two floors, as well as outdoors at street level. The ground floor is relatively sparse, with a few sofas. There are books and magazines scattered about.

Natural light spills through the long glass panels, creating a bright atmosphere.

The tables next to the panels are great for studying during the day.

The second floor has an eclectic mix of sofas, tables fashioned from old sewing machines, vases, lampshades and paintings, creating a light, breezy atmosphere.

All-day breakfast and brunch dishes, such as poached eggs, big breakfast and french toast, are on the menu. Other dishes include sandwiches, pasta, salads, soups and noodles.

Main courses cost $8 to $19.

Overall, the dishes were good and portions were ample. The hearty big breakfast came with a large helping of bacon, eggs, toast, sausages, mushrooms, salad and roasted potatoes.

The drinks menu is standard, offering a variety of coffee and tea priced $2 to $6. Alcoholic drinks cost $9 to $13.

Crepes, ice cream and cakes are on the dessert menu. The Mud-oozzz, a warm molten chocolate cake with a scoop of sugar-free vanilla ice cream, stood out.

The staff were friendly, but the service is not for those in a hurry.

The cafe's large seating capacity mean you can easily find a good spot on the first floor or get a table outside.

However, seating is limited on the second floor, especially during the weekend.

Group Therapy Cafe
49 Duxton Road
Opening hours: 11am to 6pm (Tue to Thurs), 11am to 11pm (Fri to Sat), 10am to 6pm (Sun), closed on Mon
Tel: 6222-2554

Founded in 2011, Group Therapy Cafe began as a space for hosting corporate events, media launches and birthday parties. It then expanded into a cafe when it became popular by word of mouth.

The cafe occupies the second floor of a refurbished shophouse on the fringe of the Central Business District (CBD). At the top of a narrow flight of stairs is a section with comfortable sofas and colourful abstract paintings. An assortment of knick-knacks adds to the charm.

It welcomes students and those with laptops. There are multiple power sockets, as well as free Wi-Fi.

Group Therapy Cafe was opened in the CBD to offer a relaxed atmosphere for office workers and a respite from stress, which explains its name.

It serves an excellent all-day breakfast/brunch menu, which includes poached eggs, waffles, pancakes, sandwiches, salads, burgers, pasta, pies, stews and soup.

Main dishes cost $9 to $19. The menu is updated regularly, depending on the availability of ingredients.

On the beverage menu is a wide selection of drinks, ranging from coffee and fruit juices to soft drinks and alcohol. Fruit juices and soft drinks cost $3 to $7, while alcoholic beverages are priced $13 to $65.

Desserts include ice cream waffles, caramel apple pie and chocolate cake.

The waffles were delicious, thick and fluffy and came with a generous serving of ice cream and toppings. Desserts cost $4 to $12.

Customers place their orders at the counter. The staff are friendly, attentive and clear dishes promptly. There is no service charge.

Weekdays are the best time to go, as the cafe fills up quickly during the weekend. It seats about 70 people.

The Loft Cafe
268A South Bridge Road
Opening hours: 11am to 9pm (Mon), 9am to 10pm (Tue to Thurs), 9am to 11pm (Fri to Sat), 9am to 9pm (Sun)
Tel: 6221-2103

When housewife Shirley Soh opened this cafe in Chinatown in 2011, she intended to make it a place where customers would feel at home.

Mr Ananias Sim, who manages The Loft Cafe, said: "We wanted to recreate the living room, to provide a place where people can chill out and hang around for a while."

The cafe, which occupies the second and third floors of a shophouse, offers plenty of comfortable sofas to lounge on. Once derelict, the place now looks inviting.

White walls and matching furniture give it an airy and clean feel, with natural light streaming in through the windows.

The mood feels relaxed and quiet, perfect for spending a long afternoon studying or writing the great Singapore novel. If you are in the mood to read, there is a shelf of magazines and books.

There is free Wi-Fi, as well as power sockets to keep your laptop or smartphone juiced up. It even offers wireless charging pads, but you must have a compatible phone. They are a value-added service for customers, said Mr Sim.

Even during the weekend, it is easy to find a comfortable spot. The third floor is open to customers when the second floor is full. The cafe seats about 100 people.

Plates were cleared quickly and water glasses refilled often, but the staff forgot my order and service was slow that day.

The menu lists all-day breakfast staples, such as Eggs Benedict and full breakfasts, but the real treat was the light fluffy pancakes.

Portions were generous. Main courses are priced $6 to $17.

The beverage menu offers coffee, tea, fruit juices and soft drinks, which cost $4 to $7.

Dessert offerings, which cost $5 and $10, include waffles and ice-cream sundaes.

The crispy waffles were delicious and a good complement to various sweet toppings.

All reviews by Colin Tan


This article was first published on August 20, 2014.
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