Aside from servicing the local hipsterdom during peak hours and weekends, Singapore’s cafes can be oases of calm in the midst of the hectic office-bound day, and the perfect setting for a laid-back meeting with a familiar client or partner. The coffee’s gotten darn good, too.
The Peak cold brews the well-organised A Cafe Lovers Guide To Singapore, and picks out 7 establishments that not only have ample off-peak seating, but throw in a free shot of wi-fi and power sockets should the rendezvous stretch past the appointed timing.
Text adapted from the Guide, with additional comments appended. The guide contains much more detail and information such as the beans used and even the coffee machines in each cafe.
1. Cups and Canvas
This quaint little hideout near Wilkie Edge Mall serves up art jamming sessions along with its brews. The feel’s rustic and conducive for heartfelt chats. The setup feels like a spacious living room thanks to three partitioned wings – the main cafe area, the painting studio and a backyard. These seat up to 80 people in all.
The menu is adventurous, with options such as chilli crab pasta, a decaf sweet potato latte and sticky date shake. Noteworthy, too – the boldly flavoured lattes (roast almond, coconut, hazelnut, caramel, etc). The crowd swells during lunch on weekdays, and breakfast and tea on the weekends.
Mon-Thurs: 10.30am – 10pm | Fri: 10.30am – 11pm
Sat: 9am – 11pm | Sun: 9am – 10pm
2. Dapper Coffee
This dark cosy joint on the second floor of an Amoy Street shophouse is a cafe by day and a gastrobar by night, although a barista hints that boozy options are available any hour of the day. It’s an old-school drinking den hiding in an eclectic attic. Cold coffees here are served on the rocks in lowball whisky glasses.
Curious cake options such as salted egg earl grey and chocolate black sesame are on hand to keep you satiated. Ask for the secret menu, too, to see what the staff have in store that day.
After 5pm, turns into the Spiffy Dapper.
The Peak: “The fastest wi-fi in Amoy Street!” chirps the voice on the line. And a power socket at every table. That’s gusto for you.
3. Strangers’ Reunion
Strangers’ Reunion is a pillar of the local cafe scene for a reason: it offers the quintessential hipster experience without feeling generic. The airy 80-seater serves up coffee that’s on point – as you’d expect when the cafe’s co-founder is a three-time national barista champion. If you aren’t up for coffee, there’s a wide range of teas, cold drinks, hot chocolate and a range of craft beers and ciders.
The cafe’s extensive all-day breakfast (which lasts till 5pm) includes the standard benedict options, but also has surprises such as beetroot corn fritters. Weekends bring further brunch specials to the table. After 6pm each day, pastas and meaty mains become available for a hearty meal.
Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sun: 9am – 10pm | Fri-Sat: 9am-12mn
Closed on Tuesdays
The Peak: Building on the success of Strangers’ Reunion, the same folks opened Curious Palette at Dhoby Ghaut neighbourhood – slightly brighter, with some dish recipes carried over, but home to a much younger and dressier crowd.
4. Common Man Coffee Roasters
CMCR is owned by the Spa Espirit Group, the brains behind other popular outlets like Skinny Pizza, House at Dempsey and Tiong Bahru Bakery, so you know you’re in good hands. The 90-seater places patrons rather closely together, which makes it a great place for a casual chat between larger groups. These guys take their coffee very seriously – they roast their own beans and have some hand-built Synesso machines all the way from Seattle.
For food, go for the sweet potato carrot cake and top it with ice cream. Also try the Turkish Common Man Breakfast, and pancakes with caramelised banana.
The Peak: Sadly, the only power sockets available for use are behind the bar. Costumers are welcome to juice up their devices here.
5. Group Therapy
This cafe occupies the second floor of a former Duxton Road shophouse, up a inconspicous flight of stairs. Push past the thick wooden door at the top to be greeted by warm chatter and the comforting aroma of coffee.
The 55-seater can sometimes get crowded, so avoid peak periods. Food recommended: the croque madame, and the cafe’s the full-bodied lattes. Weekends tend to pull a late brunch crowd until 4pm, giving the impression that time slows down while within.
Tues-Sun, PHs: 10am-6pm
Closed on Mondays.
The Peak: Group Therapy takes home the power socket crown with no fewer than 10 electrical outlets available to patrons.
6. Jewel Cafe & Bar
TThis gem may face stiff competition along Rangoon Road, but it is more than holding its own. A floor-to-ceiling shopfront window lights up the wood-heavy interior during the day. Opt for the communal table on the first floor if you’re open to socialising. Otherwise, move upsters for a cosier environment, or stay in the al fresco area if it’s too chilly within.
Highly recommended is the affogato – aside from espresso that’s robust and full-bodied, the ice cream sits on a bed of delectable biscuit crumbs. Other great options in the 80-seater are the Shio-Koji Octopoke starters, and their surprisingly good burgers.
Tues – Thurs, Sun: 9am-10pm
Fri-Sat, PH Eve: 9am-11pm
7. L’etoile Cafe
The Peak: This one isn’t from the book, but we had to sneak it in. Off Owen Road, this cafe is schizophrenic in all the right ways. The ground floor formerly housed an al fresco bar and seating area with beers on tap, while the upper floor was a cross between a library and a hipster’s living room, with ample comfy couches suitable for casual sessions, and stately oak tables for when the laptops and spreadsheets have to be laid out.
Relics such as typewriters, a dusty bookcase with yellowing (but perfectly readable) tomes and even a sewing machine lend rustic charm to the quirky space. As recently as a month ago, both concepts were merged into a single floor, but the same aesthetic applies.
There aren’t too many standout items on the menu (the mushroom soup is gold), but the fare is adequately well-done, plus the portions are generous by cafe standards. What’s worth paying for is quiet time, as the regular clientele respect the unspoken understanding that everyone’s there to get some work (or reading) done. Even groups of four keep their voices to tops excited whispers, before settling into a work rhythm again. Return the favour by keeping conversation civil (and the boozing downstairs), and you’ll have found yourself a new go-to for when a peaceful afternoon seems desirable.
Sat, Sun: 9am-12mn