Anthesis

New weekend, new cafe. Sunday brunch continues at yet another cafe near town. Situated on the Robertson Quay stretch of the Singapore River, Anthesis is not the most public transport friendly cafe; but looking at the Sunday crowd, its location sure has not deterred brunch goers.

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We started off with the usual suspects – truffle fries and lattes while we waited for our mains. I am so glad we did because our food took ridiculously long to arrive at our table. You know what they say, a hungry man is an angry man.

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Truffle Fries ($12) : Thick cut fries tossed in truffle oil and topped with sprouts – seriously?? Totally random and the grassy taste did not go well with the truffle flavour at all. Serving size was small for the price and truffle flavour was barely there. We could definitely do with more fries and truffle oil. With such disappointing fries, brunch was definitely off to a shaky start.

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Eggs Duet ($14) : Eggs done two ways and sandwiched between two mini burger buns. The frittata was dry and bland; and while the scrambled egg fared slightly better, it was not creamy enough too. Additionally, we found the bacon and sausages too salty for our liking as well.

P.S: The default set comes with smoked salmon, but you can opt to change it to bacon at no extra cost.

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Sizzling Beef Pot Pie ($16): We waited for almost an hour for this dish, despite constant checks with the waiting staff. Each time we were brushed off and told it will be coming to us in 5 minutes. Not cool. Adding to our disappointment was the fact that the pot pie did not have a top crust. While I am aware that some variations do not have it, but hey, crust is always welcome. The cartilage and fats to meat ratio was off the charts, and to make things worse, it was poorly seasoned too. The only saving grace of this dish was the gooey melted cheese top.

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My Breakfast, My Way ($18):  This is great for those who prefer to customise their breakfast/ brunch. Choose your preferred style of eggs and two other sides to go with it. I have to say the selection was pretty decent, and it includes prosciutto, smoked salmon and avocado. This dish comes with a side serve of greens too. Not only was the dressing lacklustre, the greens were old and wilted too.

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Milkshake ($8) : Both avocado and mixes berries milkshakes were overly milky with a severe lack of fruit element. Also, for some unknown reason, mine came in a plastic cup. I found it really odd, considering that there was no mention of a takeaway or lack of proper serving bottles.

Iced latte ($5.50): Just when we thought we could seek comfort in coffee, the latte was yet another disappointment. Weak and bitter in taste, it was an unsatisfying caffeine fix. Tea might have been a better choice.

Overall, brunch was a let down and the food was definitely not value-for-money given the portion; not to mention the dismal service. I do not know if the service (or lack of it) was because the cafe does not levy service charge, but it certainly left a negative impression on us. Sorry to say this, but this is one cafe which I will not return. That said (and like what I always say), ours could have been a one of those ‘bad days’ incident.

Ronin

Cafe spotting is one of my favourite weekend activities, and nothing rejuvenates me more than a good brunch and a caffeine fix. With the spike in cafes all over Singapore, I am sure my weekends will be kept busy with brunch appointments for a long time (not forgetting repeat visits at my favourites).

Located opposite Clarke Quay station, Ronin is one of the few cafes that is easily accessible by train. Opened by the same guys behind the popular The Plain and The Bravery cafe, you know you’re in good hands. Seating is rather limited and most are communal tables, so be prepared to wait and share table space. Reservations are not possible since there is no number to call. There isn’t a formal menu, but the waiting staff will come by to tell you what’s available for the day. On the weekend that we were at the cafe, there were three main categories of food available – sandwiches, eggs and toast.

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Wicked Mocha ($5.50): Admittedly, the first thing that got me attracted to Ronin was not the food, but the mint mocha. A refreshing twist from the usual mocha, this is perfect for After Eight chocolate fans who do not want to give up their coffee. I particularly liked it that the mint did not overpower the aromatic coffee. Another plus was that while the drink was chocolatey, it was not overly sweet. Definitely my new favourite drink.

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Matchatone ($5.50): This is essentially steamed milk served over matcha paste. If you are big on matcha like me, I suggest that you do not stir in all the matcha paste with the milk; leave a quarter of the paste and eat it on its own. The intense matcha paste is is the best part of the drink.

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French Toast ($14): Eggy brioche topped with caramelised crunchy apple slices and smoky bacon, finished with a good amount of maple syrup. Pork and apple is a time tested pairing, so it was no surprise that this sweet and savoury combination worked perfectly. The fluffy brioche was not only a delight to eat, it was great for mopping up the lovely juices and syrup as well.

In addition to the above, we ordered a roast beef sandwich as well. No photo of it though. Warm crusty bread with thinly sliced roast beef dressed in a tangy dressing and Japanese pickles. It was tasty no doubt, and the picked daikon radish was a nice twist, but we would have preferred it better if they were more generous with the roast beef.

Overall, this cafe is highly recommended for its food and drinks. I am not a big fan of the dim lighting and hipster vibe of the cafe, but that’s just me. Having said that, because I rank quality of food and drink above ambience, I will still be back for more of the awesome mint mocha. In fact, I am craving for it as I type.

Ronin is located at 17 Hong Kong Street and is open daily from 08:00 to 20:00.

Long Phung Vietnamese Restaurant

Having spent a few years in Melbourne where authentic and delicious Vietnamese food are aplenty, I am no stranger to the cuisine. Some even go as far as to claim that the best Vietnamese food is not found in Vietnam, but in Melbourne.

.Situated in messy vibrant Joo Chiat – also known as Little Vietnam, Long Phung is easily identified by its green signage and snaking queue. You know you’re in good hands when you see throngs of Vietnamese in the eatery. There are two main things that I come here for – pho and coffee.

Note: Prices indicated here have been revised to reflect the prices shown on the menu as of 30 March 2014.

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Fish sauce chicken wings ($9): Crispy and tasty, these finger-licking goodness are the perfect beer food. Just don’t forget to save space for pho!

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Pho Tai ($6.50): Served pipping hot with rare beef slices and rice noodles in a flavourful broth. Not only was the soup a winner, the noodles were soft and silky, and the beef delightfully tender. Hands down the best pho in Singapore. Fussy eaters will be pleased to know that the rice noodles doesn’t have the icky flour taste also. For that extra oomph, don’t forget to add a squeeze of lime and some cut chilies.

For those who do not take beef, chicken version of the pho is available too. The broth is different (obviously) but tasty in its own way – well seasoned and a little on the sweet side.

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Com suon + op la ($6.50): Vietnamese pork chop rice with a side of fried egg. Tender and well marinated, this is one tasty pork chop you do not want to pass on. I love my rice dishes with fried egg, so I do appreciate that I do not have to pay extra for the egg. Also, the fact that the egg yolk is still gooey in the centre is a major plus point.

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Cafe Sua Da ($3.50): Vietnamese drip coffee with condensed milk. Strong (and by strong I mean double espresso shots equivalent or more) and aromatic with a smooth chocolatey finish. This mocha tasting cuppa takes me back to the streets of HCM and it’s easily one of the best Vietnamese coffee that I’ve had in Singapore.DSCN2582-001Tamarind juice ($3): I have had tamarind in many ways but tamarind juice is a first for me. Sweet and sour at the same time, this is a good alternative for those who prefer a non-caffeinated drink. Also, I love that the peanuts add a nutty touch to the drink. Those with peanut allergy should avoid this drink at all cost.

Overall, this place is highly recommended for its unpretentious and amazingly delish food. It has been my go-to place to get my Vietnamese food fix and will continue to be. Well, at least until I find somewhere better.

Long Phung Vietnamese Restaurant is located on 159 Joo Chiat Road and is open from 11:00 to 23:00 daily

Drury Lane

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Relaxing with a good cup of coffee is a luxury on weekdays; more so if you work in the CBD area. Drury Lane cafe is one of the few cafes that is within reasonable walking distance in CBD, but yet far enough to get away from the hustle and bustle of the the fast paced CBD life. In fact, I go so frequently it’s fast becoming a weekly lunchtime ritual.
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Located on busy Tanjong Pagar Road, this cafe can be easily identified by its red door frame. Bar seats are available on the ground floor but I prefer the window seats on the second floor.

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Big 94 ($14): Hearty serve of sausage, honey cured bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, toast and eggs of your choice. I particularly like the fragrant and slightly sweet bacon that’s fried till crispy (not a fan of chewy bacon) and the homemade baked beans in a tangy tomato sauce. This is one big breakfast that will hit all the right spot, plus it’s good value for $ 14.

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Bacon baked eggs ($12): There are a few variations of baked eggs available, but I prefer mine with bacon. This comes with mushrooms, tomato and homemade baked beans, finished with melted cheese. Love the cheesy half cooked egg yolk which broke gloriously. Everyone eats it differently and I like mine all mixed up into a messy cheese and tomato egg mix before dunking my butter toast in it.

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Chicken and avocado sandwich ($8): Tender pieces of chicken marinated in spices with chunks of creamy avocado, served between two thick crusty bread. Love the contrast of warm bread against the cool yogurt mint sauce which complemented the spiced chicken very well.

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Latte ($4.50): The coffee was strong and smooth with no lingering bitterness, complete with a velvety milk foam. While the coffee has been generally consistent, there have been one or two instances when the coffee was a tad too bitter.

Overall, this place is recommended for its all day breakfast and decent coffee. The fact that prices shown are nett is a major plus point.

Drury Lane cafe is open on weekdays (except Wednesday) from 09:00 to 20:30 and weekends from 10:00 to 18:00.

Park at Peck Seah Street or Tanjong Pagar Plaza.

Mad For Garlic (Clarke Quay)

The guys behind Mad for Garlic were definitely not kidding about their obsession with garlic. Hailing from Korea, this Italian cuisine inspired restaurant not only has a menu with a strong emphasis on garlic, even the lamps and decor resemble garlic bulbs.

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Located in the heart of the nightlife scene in Singapore – Clarke Quay, the modern looking restaurant looks like the perfect place for a date night. Well, that’s if neither is bothered by each other’s garlic breath. By the way, reservations are highly recommended on weekends. We ended up with bar counter seats because we didn’t have prior reservations, and it wasn’t till much later did we manage to move to a proper table.

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Garlic Bread Tower ($12.50): Warm crusty baguette topped with fresh garlic puree. It was served as a tower, but even before I could snap a photo, the waitress had already compressed and cut it up. Other than it’s initial presentation, this is no different from the usual garlic bread. It didn’t help that the garlic flavour was rather mild, and $12.50 for garlic bread is definitely way overpriced.

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Garlic Snowing Pizza ($22.50): Thin crust pizza topped with shrimp, pineapple, fried garlic and lots of cheese. I usually stay clear of pizza with pineapple, but this unique combination of flavours worked well together, and was surprisingly addictive too! My only gripe is that it is a little on the sweet side. Perhaps less pineapples and more garlic would balance things out.

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Shrimp and Garlic Sprout Pasta ($21.70): Don’t be deceived by the description on the menu that it is done in light olive oil sauce. This is one fiery pasta (even for someone who has a high threshold for spicy food)! I was expecting to see shrimps the the size of those on the pizza but was pleasantly surprised to find decent sized prawns. This chili pasta was tasty with the seafood but the garlic sprouts seem redundant.

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Chicken and Spinach Cream Pasta ($22.40): Though it was indicated on the menu that this pasta comes in a spicy cream sauce, the sauce was no way near spicy. The cream was a little too thick and it was already cloying barely halfway through the pasta. Would have preferred the chicken to be more tender also.

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Garlic Sizzling Rice ($21.40): My favourite dish of the night and by far the most garlicky one as well. This isn’t just any other garlic fried rice. Served on a hot iron pan, the fried rice is done with bacon, fish roe and garlic pickles, and topped with tons of fried garlic chips (can’t never get enough of it!). I particularly liked the play of textures with the addition of crunchy (or ‘QQ’ as some will call it) fish roe which added a burst of flavour with every bite. Not to mention the pickled garlic which intensified the flavour of the dish. Despite it’s hefty price tag for fried rice, it is definitely worth a try.

Overall, although there were some hits and misses, this place is still recommended for garlic lovers and for curious foodies. Unfortunately service was dismal and most of the service staff appeared lost. We got so tired of getting the attention of the service staff to refill our glasses that we helped ourselves with the water jug. Perhaps you will have better luck next time!

Mad for Garlic is located at Block 3B, River Valley Rd,#01-16, The Foundry; and is open from Sunday to Tuesday from 17:00 to 23:00 and Wednesday to Saturday from 17:00 to 01:00.

Car parking spaces are available at Block 3 of Clarke Quay. Alternatively, you may wish to park at Liang Court which is cheaper.

Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro Bar

If you’re looking for a brunch spot in town (and by town I mean Orchard) that isn’t too crowded, you’ve got to try Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro. It is approximately a ten minute stroll from Orchard station, perfect for working up an appetite or walking off your brunch.

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Located in the building (which also houses Tanglin post office) opposite Tanglin Mall, its entrance is not visible from the main road, and neither is there any signage or whatsoever. You’ve got to navigate your way up the stairs and pass the butchery to get to it. Alternatively, you can enter from Nassim Road, where the main entrance is.

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The first thing which struck me about this bakery/bistro was how bright and spacious it was. The food menu was comprehensive with a pretty good selection of egg dishes on the menu, but drinks are limited. I opted for my usual Eggs Benedict since nothing spells breakfast more than eggs.

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Eggs Benedict ($20): The Eggs Benedict came with a bread basket with three different warm and crusty toast. I’m not big on bread but I have to say the cranberry walnut was amazing. I loved it so much I bought a loaf back. The eggs were perfectly poached and lathered with creamy hollandaise sauce which had the right amount of acidity. The ciabiatta was soft and fluffy but personally I prefer the usual muffin which can soak up the sauce and flowy yolk without being too mushy.

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Hot Reuben ($18): Corned beef sandwich with melted emmental, saurkraut, onions and Russian dressing on the bakery’s signature Grimbergen Ambrée beer bread. Anything with melted cheese is a winner and this is no exception. The corned beef wasn’t too salty and the bread had a nice, rich taste of beer, finished with a kick from the saurkraut.

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Coffee ($5): The coffee however, was disappointing. Not only did the coffee taste watered down, my latte came with foam which had already collapsed into the coffee.

Overall, this place is recommended for brunch. Service was prompt and the prices are nett. Read: No service charge! Will definitely be back for the other egg dishes.

Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro Bar is located at 56 Tanglin Road #01-03 Tanglin Post Office and is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 08:00 to 00:00.

Not too sure about parking availability at the building though. Might be easier to park across the road at Tanglin Mall and walking over.

Fat Cow

Located in Camden Medical Centre, this Japanese steakhouse is every beef eater’s paradise. Wagyu takes main stage here but other non-beef options are available as well if your dining partner doesn’t take beef. Upon entering the zen looking restaurant, we were swiftly ushered to the U-shaped counter seats which had a good view of the chefs working their magic.

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We came for the wagyu donburi and that was what we ordered as well, despite suggestions from the waiter to try the sashimi. It is a meat atelier after all. Every set lunch starts with a salad, miso soup and chawanmushi, and ice cream to round up the meal.

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Fat Cow Donburi ($38): Charcoal grilled wagyu beef with onsen egg and shiro negi. Medium rare wagyu beef with a lovely char-grilled taste painstakingly grilled to perfection, paired with a soft runny yolk set on a bed of rice and finished with a touch of truffle oil. Perfection in a bowl. While it is extremely tempting to break the runny yolk and mix everything together, do yourself a favour and savour a piece of that meaty goodness on its own.

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Fat Foa-Gura Don ($42): Glazed foie gras and grilled wagyu beef over rice. Cubes of grilled beef and buttery foie gras covered in a sweet and savoury sauce on rice. The sauce isn’t sickly sweet but unfortunately, it overpowered the taste of the grilled wagyu. That said, it was still a decadent donburi, just not my preferred one.

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Overall, this place is recommended for beef lovers and service is attentive as well. While the pricing of the lunch menu is significantly cheaper than its ala carte menu, I won’t go as far as to say that it is cheap. That said, it is definitely worth a visit to try the food at the restaurant. I know for sure that I will be back to try the wagyu steaks.

Fat Cow is located at Camden Medical Centre #01-01 and is open for lunch from 1200 to 1500

Ample parking space is available at the medical centre itself.