Remote working is a rising trend in Singapore, which is currently one of the world’s greatest startup cities. So we’re just going to say it — there are many free WiFi café lists out there, but none of them are useful if what you really want to do is sit down and check your email on your laptop, sign in to a Google Hangout or type up invoices.
Our list is made up of cafés in with free WiFi, power outlets, pleasant service, free-flow water and impressive food and drink menus — everything you need for a quiet and productive day. Don’t try and turn up on weekends though, everyone in town will be hankering for a spot of brunch. Lunchtime can be an iffy period, too, so take off some place from noon-1:30pm for food, then come back when the crowd has cleared up.
1. Blu Jaz Café
12 Bali Lane, 6292-3800, www.blujaz.net. Open Mon-Thu noon-midnight, Fri noon-2am, Sat 4pm-2am.
Wait a minute, Blu Jaz is a café? Well, yes it is, though no one actually chooses coffee over beer here. Take an early lunch then park yourself at the quaint alfresco area close to the windows, where the indoor power outlets are. When it rains or the sun’s beating down mercilessly, the staff can roll out the tarp shelter for you. What we like best about Blu Jaz Café is its amazing location. It’s in the heart of one of Singapore’s richest cultural neighbourhoods, Kampong Glam, plus the Musa 24-hour printing shop and 7-Eleven are only about a two-minute walk away. If you need to let your hair down after work, stay on for their live jazz performances and comedy nights or better yet, attend one of Gina Romero’s Business Rocks! nights for a spot of casual networking.
#01-02 Seng Kee Bldg., 20 Martin Rd., www.thebookcafe.com.sg. Mon-Thu, Sun 8am-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 8am-midnight.
We can’t rave about this one enough. It’s at least an 80-seater with plenty of space to mill about and browse newspapers and magazines, plus a comfortable (and sheltered) alfresco area. There are about eight power outlets altogether, extension cords for loan and — get this — a photocopier and a diaper-changing station. The service staff jumps affably at any request and checks on you every once in awhile, sadly not an everyday sight in the city’s “no tipping” service industry, plus their patron demographic is inspiring—expect to see all sorts of remote working professionals here. The Book Café offers a great variety of comfort grub like Caesar salad ($13.95-15.95), cheese burger ($15.95), chicken curry ($13.95), pasta ($14.95-19.75) and cakes ($6.50-6.95), but there’s also an all-day breakfast menu, with items like chipolatas & bacon ($14.95), eggs Benedict ($15.95) and French toast ($11.95). It boasts a fantastic location — about a five-minute walk from the colourful (though bit raucous to us) Clarke Quay nightlife and right in the heart of Singapore’s top dining scene.
49 Duxton Rd., 6222-2554, www.gtcoffee.com. Open Tue-Thu 11am-6pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 10am-6pm. (pictured above)
If looks are important to you (or if you search “cute” and “hipster” often on Google), pack your work things and head out to this second-floor Tanjong Pagar shophouse café. The 70-seater is pretty, houses some of the friendliest café staff we’ve met on our research and stocks dope craft beers like the Japanese Coedo Beniaka ($16) and Australia’s Feral Smoked Porter ($13). Another must-try is the roasted almond latte ($6.50) — it’s coffee heaven. There are at least six power outlets here, but considering the size of the space you still might have to share.
4. Kith Café
#01-01E Park Mall, 9 Penang Rd., 6338-8611, kith.com.sg. Daily 8am-10pm.
There are three Kith cafes in Singapore, but the one most comfortable for working is probably the Park Mall outlet. As we’ve mentioned before, don’t come during the peak period — especially not during Sunday brunch — but anytime else means you get to work in a relaxed atmosphere that’s not easy to find in the Orchard Road district. The alfresco seating area, while airy, has no power outlets — you’ll need to go indoors for those. There’s a breakfast menu (available till 3pm), as well as all-day salad, pasta and sandwich items that can cost anything from $8-18.
160 Owen Rd., 9004-0160, letoile.com.sg. Open Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat-Sun 9am-10pm.
There’s a bit of walk to reach this café, but it’s worth it. Every bit as whimsical as its name, the two-storey gem inspired by Japanese francophilia is decked in mismatched furniture and furnishings, white lace curtains, a brick coffee counter and whimsical wallpaper. The diverse — and in terms of typography, adorable — menu consists of all-day breakfast, soups, pastas and sandwiches, plus they sell knick knacks like stationery and postcards, all presumably imported. If you need to power up they have a few electrical points available to patrons — four at our last count.
20 Kandahar St., 6294-0078, www.maison-ikkoku.net. Open Mon-Thu 9am-9pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 9am-7pm.
It’s little wonder the specialty coffee bar here (there’s a sweet cocktail place upstairs plus a lifestyle store) gets brought up a lot in conversations about the Singapore café scene. They brew their coffee a whopping seven ways and serve anything a caffeine lover might need, save for ristretto shots. Trained by celeb barista Hiroshi Sawade, the guys here are masters of coffee and latte art, so you’re in good hands. Freshly squeezed juices and an array of gourmet teas are also available. Breakfast is available from 9-11am, but if you wake up late, they’ve got salads, sandwiches, as well as two signature snacks — the mi misubi seems to be quite a favourite. Need something sugary? They get their dessert from Fathi’s Cakes — take your pick from the likes of banana, red velvet and pumpkin cheese. Not many power outlets here — four at the most — but if you follow our remote working etiquette at the bottom of this story, you’ll survive.
402 East Coast Rd., 9008-9314, www.pennyuni.com. Open Tue-Thu 8:30am-6pm, Fri 8:30am-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 8:30am-10:30pm.
This café serving those seriously dreamy desserts from Windowsill Pies and Fluff Bakery is getting increasingly popular. It’s quite small if you compare it with everyone else on this list, but if you manage to snag one of the three booth seats you can pretty much get comfortable. There are some coffee-making knick knacks for sale and their service staff, all dressed to match Penny University’s indie appeal, are prompt and friendly.
8. Toby’s Estate
#01-03/04, 8 Rodyk St., 6636-7629, tobysestate.com.sg. Open Mon-Wed 7:30am-6pm, Thu-Sat 7:30am-noon, Sun 7:30am-6pm.
The city’s hot favourite for coffee right now is a vast, gorgeous space within a Robertson Quay go-down with state-of-the-art equipment and competent staff. You can start and end the day here — they open real early and are just a stone’s throw away from Blow+Bar, where you can sip a glass of wine and get a pretty blowout for evening drinks. If the huge table right up front feels too much like a an indie co-working space (fun, but lacks privacy), park at the high table by the wall. There are power outlets every few metres.
9. CAD Café
23 Haji Lane, www.cad.sg. Open Mon-Wed 8am-8pm, Thu-Fri 8am-midnight, Sat 10am-midnight, Sun 10am-8pm.
It’s tiny and has just sorted out its free WiFi service, so it’s perfect if you need some quiet time to memorise notes, mark exam papers, read your bookmarked pages or thrash out an opinion blog. Park yourself and your computer at the windowsill table, which has two power outlets below it. The café’s patrons mostly sit outside or buy to take away so you’re more or less undisturbed even when it gets busy. There’s free-flow water, too with a healthy amount of lemon and mint thrown in.
Remote working etiquette in cafés
It wasn’t easy sourcing the cafés on this list. Singapore residents are pretty much on the pulse when it comes to cafés — that’s how much we love pondering over a cup of coffee — but many of these, even those with free WiFi, don’t approve of you getting your work done there. If you’re dependent on this list like we are, do us a favour and follow these guidelines:
1. Be proactive. When the place fills up and you can see the staff desperately trying to seat an early lunch or dinner crowd, pick yourself up and move elsewhere.
2. Share. If it’s empty, go ahead and hog a table for four, but if there’s someone else or another couple without a seat, for goodness’ sake, offer to split up.
3. Bring an extension cord. Only Book Café has these for loan, so if you’re going elsewhere, bring your own. Not only will it let you stay even when all the sockets are taken up, it’ll make your temporary “office neighbours” love you too (and trust us, you’re going to need someone to watch your stuff when you have to take a piss).
4. Order stuff. You’ve just had five hours of glorious quiet in a nice space with free WiFi and power, but all you’ve done is drink out their tap water? Well, don’t blame the service staff if they roll their eyes the next time they see you. Come on, these places make great coffee and some of them even serve up awesome toasties (and salads and sandwiches and cake…). Do you know how much a table at The Co costs?!
This story was updated on 3 Mar 2015.