Old-school flavour

In The New Paper on Sunday (June 29), we visited a coffee shop that seemed to be trapped in time. Heap Seng Leong, just off North Bridge Road has not changed since it opened in the 1970s.

Everything about it is old-school, from the orange public pay phone to the cabinets to the charcoal grill used to heat the coffee and toast. The speciality of this place is Kopi Gu You, or butter coffee.

Currently it is all the rage in the hip enclaves of Australia, but here, the drink is almost extinct.


Price: $1.10

It looks like a normal piping hot cup of fresh coffee. Well, it would but for the square slice of butter slowly melting into a layer of oil on the top. I was hesitant to drink it, but since it is the "almost extinct" butter coffee, how many more opportunities would I get to try?

The first gulp was shocking, as I reeled from the oily sensation lingered in my throat. Not my cup of coffee.

But then I hit upon the idea of stirring. I mixed it into an emulsion. This gave my coffee a very rich, sweet taste.

Enough flavour to turn me - a resolute tea-drinker - into an instant convert.

Some of the regular customers told me that the butter helps to soothe the throat.

That may be possible, but I doubt a doctor would recommend it.


Price: $2.30 for 2 slices

The difference here is that it is made by toasting thick slabs of soft, white bread on a grill over charcoal.

This scorches the toast, so the burnt bits are scraped off using the metal lid of a condensed milk can - I guess that you could call that old-school up-cycling.

A slab of chilled butter is placed and kaya is spread liberally on two thick slices of white toast, streaked with brown from the grilling.

When I sank my teeth into the thick crisp-then-soft toast. This is very crumbly bread.

As I swept away the bread crumbs, I then bit into the cold, thick butter slab of butter.

A combination of hot and cold sweetened by fragrant kaya in one yummy bite? It may be simple food, but that was perfection.


Price: $0.90

Hands down, one of the best teas I have ever had in a coffee shop.

Definitely better than some of those franchise "old-school" outlets.

Neither overly sweet or milky, yet with a distinct sweet fragrance, I could drink multiple cups and still want more.

The perfect drink for a to help pass a quiet afternoon away from the crowds.

This article was first published on June 29, 2014.
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