Hidden Singapore: Cosy cafes in Singapore's Siglap neighbourhood that only residents know about
Relatively low-key Siglap is more or less known as a hangout spot for the school-going set. It's not regarded as a particularly exciting dining destination, or a hip hood, for that matter. I should know, for I once whiled away many an evening with friends over bottles of local lager at the LTN kopitiam there, before we graduated to the nearby Katong area. Our reason for abandoning idyllic, tree-lined Siglap? Well, there were just more food options mushrooming further up along East Coast Road. With old favourites - like Jamal Restaurant, an Indian Muslim eatery selling delicious murtabak from an old cluster of flats from the 60s (currently being demolished) - leaving the area, we felt the pangs and followed suit. But enough of that nostalgia.
On a recent trip to the nondescript Siglap Centre to visit the tailor, I found a few reasons to revisit the area. Just out of curiosity, while waiting to collect my pants, I took the escalator down to the seemingly empty basement to check out whether the space vacated by a supermarket had been filled. It was as bare as the shelves that were once brimming with groceries. I did however, notice that the flooring was new, and followed the pretty mosaic tiles, around the barbershop, and past the optometrist and Watsons store. There, I discovered Comestivel Desserts (55 Siglap Road, #B1-11-12) a tiny cafe so inconspicuous that I nearly walked right past, if not for the tantalising, chocolate-y smell emanating from it.
This simply decorated, halal cafe has an exciting variety of desserts, including a selection of cheesecakes, with flavours like salted caramel, cookie dough, chocolate malt, nutella (a crowd favourite) and lemon meringue. I tried the banoffee tart (above) instead, which is their version of a banana cream pie - a rare treat in Singapore. It was creamy, luscious and fluffy, without being cloying, and its tart had a satisfying crunch.
Other tea cakes (above) to indulge your sweet tooth here include the Thai Milk Tea and Pandan Gula Melaka - the menu rotates, so things are kept interesting. You can also pick up macarons and quiches here. I love that the space is small and intimate - perfect for a proper conversation with friends on a quiet afternoon, sans the disdainful barista, or coffee connoisseur (whatever they call them these days). Just a couple of shops down, I noticed another hole-in-the-wall, mom n' pop establishment serving traditional local desserts like ice kacang, and made a mental note to drop by another time.
I still had some time to spare before collecting my pants, so I hopped over to the nearby supermarket, tucked under the condominium development nearby. Next to it was a cafe with a completely different vibe. Filled with people and the robust aroma of roasted coffee being ground, Craftsmen Specialty Coffee (above) is all about the beans. Yes, the owners have sourced them from places like Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and Sumatra, then roast them onsite.
For me, you rate a cafe by its most basic beverages. My companion's simple latte was full-bodied and topped with a velvety layer of warm froth, while my iced chocolate was prepared properly - cold milk with thick chocolate settled at the bottom. I would have preferred a little more chocolate, but overall, their drinks had made the mark.
The interior of this cafe is decidedly hip, with distressed wood and exposed light bulbs, yet there is a real cosiness to it that makes you want to hole up inside on a rainy afternoon with a novel. They also serve brunch items like waffles dusted with sugar crowned with scoops of ice cream, pancakes beautifully topped with fruit, wraps and sandwiches, in hearty portions. For us, Siglap had been forgotten, but for a while. We'll be back one fine afternoon, and will probably pop by our beloved kopitiam for a beer too.
This article was first published in Singapore Airlines’ travel magazine, SilverKris. Go to silverkris.com for more travel stories.