Clinton Street Baking Company – Bugis, Singapore

I’m not usually one to want to be the first to queue for newly opened food outlets so that I can let the hype (and queues) die down, but Clinton Street Baking Company with its accolades as the best pancakes in NY from New York Magazine (twice) seriously piqued my interest. The secret is to separate the eggs and gently fold in whipped egg whites (if you have the time and mixer, there’s a recipe here). Chef-husband and wife duo Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman, opened Clinton Street Baking Company in New York City in 2011 to make the best baked goods in the city, hand-mixed in small batches.

Having brought its splendour to outlets in Dubai and Tokyo, Singapore is the lucky second in Asia. It’s within walking distance to City Hall/Bugis MRT. Having just opened yesterday (without much fanfare either), the queue when I arrived on a Sunday morning at ~10.30pm required a 45 minute wait. Luckily their efficient system allowed us to walk around the nearby Bugis malls before they called us when our table was ready. The menu is pricier than standard cafe fare being a world-famous restaurant.

In classic Southwestern American style, Clinton Street uses buttermilk in many of their dishes, like the pancakes, Southern biscuits, and chicken and waffles. It makes the floured foods taste rich, well-aerated and fluffy.

You can’t go to Clinton St. and not order their Warm Maple Butter Pancakes ($18). They have blueberry, banana walnut and chocolate chunk. I got the blueberry rendition as per the waiter’s recommendation; bouncy, thick and fluffy to the core, yet with a firm and crunchy exterior and specks of blueberry embedded within; with a rich buttery fragrance, I can understand what all the hype was about and devoured it happily.

 I reckon the pancake itself was slightly too sweet for my tastebuds though, especially with the pot of the divine warm maple butter (comfort grub at its finest) and blueberry topping. The maple butter was not really enough for me, and each extra pot is $2 more (I suppose it’s a good thing for my waistline!). The blueberry topping was luscious and chock full of tiny blueberries (I believe they are dried blueberries) with in a rich sauce that soaked through the pancakes to create ultimate blueberry goodness. True to its American style, the portion is very large, and I think that this is too filling to share between two people (if you’re ordering another item to share between the two of you) so it’s probably best to gather a few friends to share.

We also tried a not so popular item Smoked Salmon Scramble ($23). I thought this was relatively average and pricey. The scrambled eggs were generous with the house-smoked salmon, but slightly rubbery and not creamy enough (although there were sparse chunks of the scallion cream cheese). The salmon was cooked with the egg so it was not soft, but the eggs were doused nicely with its salmony oil and chopped chives. The salad was fresh and had a mild vinegary taste (luckily not dressed with oil as the meal was already quite heavy!), and the seven-grain toast was wholesome and crunchy. My partner in crime liked this dish more than the pancakes (although expectedly, as he does not have a sweet tooth at all!), as it was a light reprieve from the richness of the pancakes.

We had a Ginger ale ($5) as it was quite hot sitting at the very front of the shop next to the window (they do have an awning but the morning sun was still shining straight at the shop and it got quite warm). This tasted like a canned drink, not particularly gingery, and nothing to shout home about.

The ambience overall is relatively fast-paced and busy with a lot of hustle and bustle/noise, but comfortable seating. Service was overall quite friendly and efficient (although the waiter wanted to clear my plate when I still had a fair bit of food on it and just stopped for a bit of a rest; I suppose there is a long queue?). Going to the toilet may be a bit of an issue though as there’s only one unisex restroom available.

The unbelievably phenomenal pancakes here gives Singaporean cafes a run for their money. I spotted a cute slogan on the staff’s t-shirt “Made with Love and Butter” very apt. I definitely want to return (probably when the crowds die down 😛 if they ever do…) to try out some of the other brunch items. The eggs benny on Southern biscuits and the crispy potato pancakes look very promising. I’m glad that Singapore seems to be getting quite a lot of worldwide famous restaurants into the ever-changing food scene here (seems more so than Australia too… probably because there are so many homegrown talents in Australia though).

Prices are not inclusive of GST and service charge.

Clinton Street Baking Company 
31 Purvis Street, Singapore 188608
Nearest MRT: Bugis/City Hall
Tel: +65 6684 4845
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clintonstsingapore
Opening Hours: Daily, 8am to 6pm

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The Cupping Room – Canberra

I’m going to introduce to you my favourite cafe in Canberra, and probably one of my favourite cafes in Australia. The standards here are on par with those in the cafe capital of Melbourne, and I loved The Cupping Room so much I went there twice in the short 3 days that I was in Canberra visiting my brother, sister-in-law and baby nephew. Of course it helped that we stayed just a stone’s throw away in the ANU University House.

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Situated in the heart of the Canberra CBD, The Cupping Room’s name is inspired from the cupping of coffee (not as suss as it sounds!), which is is the process coffee roasters and growers use to judge different coffees’ quality against each other without bias, and they have cupping sessions held free of charge every Wednesday and Sunday from 2.30pm (bookings essential). I didn’t get to go, but another blogger wrote about it in quite a lot of detail.

The space is a breezy little shack with foldable windows and plenty of good lighting, and the patrons are mostly uni students but there’s a fair share of Lycra-clad joggers / older adults / business people looking for good nosh. There’s a row of comfy fabric cushion sofas lined across the edge of the walls, and adequate breathing space between each table. There may be a short queue if you’re here during rush hour in the morning or lunch.

The clever thing about the menu is how they seem to more or less feature their same favourites in the menu but rotating with different ingredients on a seasonal basis (we were there in March and it was their Summer menu; it has now rotated to the Autumn menu) which takes advantage of fresh seasonal produce and reflect the overall mood of the seasons. There’s also a specials menu stapled onto the normal menu everyday which usually runs out of stock quite quickly.

On the lunch menu, my savoury-philic boyfriend got the Market fish burger ($21) – Oven baked sword fish steak, piled high with Mauritian pickle, aioli & zucchini ribbons in a brioche bun and fries on the side. The swordfish is too tough for RX’s liking, but I thought it was nicely seasoned, and taken with the zesty Mauritian relish, creamy aioli and the raw zucchini thins, it was a very satisfying brunch indeed.

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Me on the other hand as a sweet-philic, was craving something lighter… so I got their amazingly good Bircher muesli ($13) with coconut milk soaked oats, chia seeds, grated pink lady apple, almonds, and passionfruit pulp. The flavours were such a great combination and the juicy crisp of the pink lady apple (my absolute favourite apple cultivar), almonds and tangy passionfruit made something as monotonous as muesli into a sensationally delightful breakfast. Surprisingly the coconut milk was not too heavy; perhaps it is a mixture of almond and coconut milk? I’ve never tasted such a delicious bircher muesli before. They were really generous with the chia seeds too; it was proportionally more than the oats!

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Escabeche ($19) – one of the specials on the menu (they seem to rotate weekly with seasonal produce, so while it’s still on the autumn menu, it may not be kingfish anymore). Cured kingfish with heirloom beets, baby carrots, radish, jalapeños, boiled egg & anchovy aioli  and gluten free bread (just wanted to try Deeks quinoa bread… it’s originally supposed to be sourdough toast. By the way they do charge extra for the GF bread; I think $1?) – RX’s favourite meal in Australia. Not to be confused with ceviche (raw fish), escabeche is a Meditarranena/Latin American dish of poached fish marinated in an acidic mixture served cold. The dish really piqued the palate with generous blocks of mellow and oh-so-soft poached kingfish, which had only a very mild vinegar taste. I don’t like cured food but this was really well done. The fresh heirloom veggies were piled in a beautiful fresh stack, and the jalapenos provided the hot kick to oomph the dish up. The soft boiled egg was seasoned with salt and pepper and provided a yolky creamy goodness to dip the nicely toasted bread.

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Beautiful food…Hotcakes ($18) – Figs, strawberries, pomegranate, housemade honeycomb, crème fraîche, citrus syrup and berry gel ricotta hotcakes (I saw on their Facebook they have it with agave syrup; as I have read some people say it’s not sweet enough for them!). This is THE BOMB. Yep. Beats any other hotcake I’ve had in my life. I loved the generous heaping of fruits and despite its looks, it wasn’t too sweet. The creme fraiche, berries and pomegranate had a refreshing and sour touch while the crunchy honeycomb provided the sweetness needed to balance it off. The ricotta hotcakes were thick, fluffy and substantial; it’s really the good homemade stuff.

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Real chai – infused with bonsoy ($5). The chai tea leaves came in a strainer and I could pour the honey-infused soymilk through. I asked for less sweet, but they advised me it was already pre-prepared; but luckily it wasn’t too sweet at all. Chai tea tastes so much more gingery and fragrant when it comes from the real thing and not syrup.

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If you’re looking for wholesome, beautiful, and good food, I think you’ll know where to head if you’re in the capital of Australia.

The Cupping Room
1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra City 2601 Australia
Tel: +61 (02) 6257 6412
Website: http://www.thecuppingroom.com.au
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/canberracuppingroom
Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 7am-4pm ; Saturday-Sunday: 8am-3pm

Chez Dré – South Melbourne

I went back home for a short trip and for RX to finally experience Australia. It was a long 2 year wait before I went back; partly because my parents are no longer there, but also because there are so many other new holiday destinations near Singapore that I wanted to save my limited annual leave and hard-earned moolah for.

We went on a whirlwind trip around the east coast; from Sydney to Canberra to Melbourne to Brisbane; and other towns in-transit. This wasn’t an easy feat to achieve in just 2.5 weeks without a car to adequately cover everywhere I wanted to go!

I didn’t really like Melbourne when I went there 5 years ago; maybe it was something to do with the fact I went in the middle of the bitter winter temperatures?! And I didn’t really get to do much tourist/foodie exploring that time as I was only visiting family. So I was a bit of a Melbourne snob, dismissing it as just a pretentious hippy city… I had always liked Sydney more: the temperatures are nicer, there’s more of a metropolitan buzz, and my grandma is there so it’s always been like my home base in Australia (even before I migrated over).

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My second trip back to Melbourne and I have officially found my ideal foodie paradise. I am being serious, the food there is ah-ma-zing. I only had a few days there but I stuffed myself silly… and I came across my favourite brunch place in the whole world (no kidding). Chez Dré came as a recommendation from many of my Melbournite friends so I knew I had to try it, and boy am I glad I did. It’s a Francophile atmosphere with ingenious sweet and savouries inspired from France and made with local produce. Opened by patisserie chef Andrea Reiss, their pastries are excellent, with a huge variety of tarts, madeleines, gateaux and macarons. Come early if you don’t want to miss out on the best ones though as they may sell out quickly!

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After a short trip on the tram from the CBD, we reached the quaint area famous for the South Melbourne Markets. Chez Dré is immensely popular and we had to wait for about 15 minutes before we got a seat (it was a weekend morning…).

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The interior is grand and classy chic yet with a warm cosy feel and inviting breezy atmosphere. There is a curved design of the open kitchen for all of its patrons to stare in amazement, and beautiful window displays of the dainty desserts it is well-known for.

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My friends and I (all of them who were formerly Brisbanites; my old high school friends 🙂 ) decided to choose from the dizzying array of desserts staring at us as we were waiting for our friend to arrive. All the petits gateaux (small cakes in French) are priced at $9.50.

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Our first pick is the pretty strawberry & vanilla fraisier: orange financier, vanilla mousse, basil-olive oil biscuit, strawberry jelly. It was a great juxtaposition of textures and flavours, with the contrasting tang of strawberry and orange layers and sweet creamy goodness of the vanilla and crunchy biscuit.

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Sacher Torte is a chocolate mousse and apricot gelee on a chocolate sponge base, fresh apricot, gold leaf with a white chocolate curl on top. This was good quality chocolate mousse, light and airy yet creamy, with a pleasant apricot fragrance.

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GREEN TEA CHEESECAKE: RASPBERRY CRÉMEUX, ADZUKI BEANS, GREEN TEA MOUSSE, GIANDUJA SABLÉ

I have found my favourite dessert ever, it is the green tea cheesecake here. Absolutely amazeballs. The base is addictive, being extra crunchy and nutty compared to your typical buttery graham crackers. The cheesecake itself was not like any other cheesecake I had; it was not the firm cheesy type that I usually like, yet it was not the mediocre creamy mousse types that I don’t like; it was luscious and light with a rich matcha taste. The core embraced a cluster of the speciality hazelnut chocolate (gianduja) and adzuki red beans, and the dollops of raspberry cremeux just worked together so well to create a sublime dessert. I just can’t get over it!

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The pastries on the wooden board it was supposed to be presented on 🙂 My friend wanted it packed in the cardboard takeaway box for some reason haha. IMG_0484

Roasted eggplant and buckwheat salad ($18.50): Smoked eggplant puree, wild rocket, pomegranate molasses & rose water vinaigrette, dukkah and spelt flat bread. I loved this breakfast item I had. They may not have it anymore as it was seasonal special, but it tasted delightful, with the smokey undertones of the moreish eggplant contrasting against the clean cut and tangy pomegranate and vinegar. I loved their spelt flatbread too, being much thinner and airier than a typical pita and a more wholesome taste too (I love breads that use grains other than the typical wheat). It may have been vegetarian, but it was very satisfying.

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?Persian spiced tomato soup with fish – I honestly forgot what it was called haha and can’t find it on the menu. But it tasted like assam… trust the Singaporean to choose this! It was basically fresh fish fillets cooked in a hot stew with onions, garlic, parsley, turmeric, chilli, tamarind, coriander and tomato (similar to the ingredients of assam). Clean and fresh tasting with a twist of sourness from the tamarind/tomato, RX enjoyed this stew more than I did.

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The peach and mint house-made iced tea ($6.50) is also recommended, being refreshingly light, natural peach and minty fragrance and just the right amount of sweet. I got the last order as they had run out of ingredients to make anymore! And the ice cubes were cute big spheres. 

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Yep, I think Chez Dré is the best brunch I’ve ever had in my life.

Chez Dré
Rear of 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne, Australia
Tel: +61 3 9690 2688
Opening hours: Mon to Sun 7:30 am – 4:30 pm
Website: http://www.chezdre.com.au