Cafe-hopping is here to stay. In fact, there are so many cafes in Singapore now that it’s getting impossible to pick just one to spend the afternoon in. It needs to have all the right ingredients: bangin’ coffee, craft beer if possible, maybe even an all-day brunch menu, but most importantly, it needs to look good on Instagram. And what looks better than retro fittings and furniture, amirite? With that in mind, here’s a list of cafes in Singapore that make the cut.
79 Carpmael Rd., 6336-8122.
A family business run by Mr. Frederick Phua, this novel find harks back to the days of the British Occupation, when our sleepy fishing village first got a taste of fish and chips. British Hainan is bent on bringing those moments back, with stacks of records, vintage wall clocks and Brit-inspired dishes that don’t break the bank.
#01-06, 19 Lorong Kilat, 6463-3648.
A cafe, bakery and retail store, Carpenter & Cook is already a hot favourite with folks living in western Singapore. It’s pretty busy decor-wise — the colour scheme is cheerful to say the least, and there are intricate (read: fragile) ornaments like tea pots and sometimes even a vintage kitchen scale, on every surface. But it’s gorgeous, like having tea at your century-old, but stylish aunt’s home.
Chin Mee Chin Confectionery
204 East Coast Rd., 6345-0419.
There have been multiple debates over the best kaya toast in Singapore. But for us, Chin Mee Chin Confectionery’s open-faced toasted buns ($1 each) wins hands down. The food itself is nostalgia-inducing, but the furniture, five footway and overall vibe convey a ’90s kopitiam rather convincingly.
150 Tyrwhitt Rd., 6396-0609.
Once a bona fide hardware store, this Jalan Besar spot is one of the pioneers of the ‘hipster cafe’ scene in Singapore. Their signage and back alley patio filled with fuss-free metal furniture have already made their rounds on Instagram, and their cold brews are to die for, if you can take the buzz.
200 Netheravon Rd., 6475-0200.
This was a pretty amazing find. It’s so secluded and distinctly different from the common sights in Singapore that there are some East siders still clueless about the space. From its green kampong style surrounds to bona fide vintage collectibles (automobiles, crockery, furniture, music players — you name it, it’s there), everything about TCS screams old school. The menu’s a hodgepodge, but definitely than satisfactory — they’ve got cheesecake bread and chicken curry, nasi lemak, waffles, mushroom fritters and more, so you really don’t need to go elsewhere to fill up. Drive out if you can — there’s a pay-as-you-wish valet service.
56 Kandahar St., 6298-1318.
From the traditional signboard hanging at the entrance to the vintage postcards encased in their dining wooden tabletops, everything here just screams old-school. Even the cakes (long cup butter cakes; $1.50 each) here come stripped down the way Westerners used to make them in the olden days, and they still taste amazing when dipped in a hot cup of kopi-o.
66 Yio Chu Kang Rd., 6288-1206.
The magic begins the moment you arrive. On a lucky day (when they’ve not been rented out for special events), five vintage Volkswagen Kombis can be found parked outside the diner, which houses car miniatures, autographed The Beatles posters and quirky (but functional) ’60s refrigerators.
202 Telok Ayer, 6222-2007.
What used to be the Chung Hwa Free Clinic is now an eating place that can get really busy at dinner. Come for the uber cool shophouse vibe, as well as wallet-friendly coffee and booze. If you’re feeling peckish, we like the My Awesome Salad ($15).
Similar cafe: The Dispensary
124 Tanjong Pagar Rd., 6222-3510.
The concept behind this café is to breathe new life and meaning to items of yesteryears. Store owners Meg Wettstein and Liew Hwee Min have taken tattered vintage chairs and upholstered them with quirky-patterned fabric, the results of which are always on display, though not necessarily as furniture you can sit on. Regular customers love their latte ($4.50).
Sinpopo Brand (top photo)
458 Joo Chiat Rd., 6345-5034.
Gen Y peeps — here’s one specially for you. Get transported to the early days of your childhood at Sinpopo Brand, which serves fun throwback treats like Ais Bor (the traditional ice kachang) and Sng Muay Pop (lime-plum drink).
12 Dakota Crescent.
Like Chye Seng Huat, Tian Kee’s name and signage are derived from the space’s old tenant, a long-standing — almost legendary — neighbourhood convenience store. It’s refreshing not to see the standard ‘hipster’ ceiling fixtures and colourful furnishings at this cafe, which stays true to its original retro roots. Perfect for a super casual Sunday brunch and probably a better option for Stefanie Sun than McDonald’s.