Beyond the neon lights of bars and lounges, Jalan Besar is rife with hip cafés that are now calling the neighbourhood’s many shophouses home. You can easily spend an entire afternoon hopping from one spot to another, all while tucking into hearty brunch plates, classic French pastries and modern takes on local cuisine. The district is also making a name for itself as a haven for Third Wave coffee, so you will have plenty of fuel for your trip.

Café culture in Jalan Besar

For coffee

The Bravery Café

There are no signs or visible doors to mark the entrance of this joint, so look out for the glass-fronted façade to find The Bravery Café. “Minimalism” is the calling card of this café, whose space is littered with fairy lights, low-slung plastic crates and plywood boards for tables. A small kitchen dishes out main courses such as spinach pesto pasta (SGD 11), crab cakes (SGD 13.50) and burgers (SGD 15-18), but the Genovese coffee (SGD 3.50-5.50) is the main draw here. If you want a cuppa that is out of the ordinary, go for the lavender latte (SGD 5.50), which is gently infused with the flower.

The Bravery Café. 66 Horne Road, Singapore 209073. +65 9388 2973. Mon & Wed-Fri 9am-6pm; Sat-Sun 8am-7pm.


Chye Seng Huat Hardware

The former hardware store-turned-café is now an institution among caffeine-loving locals for its artisanal brews. Coffees (SGD 3-7.50) are rotated on a seasonal basis to highlight some of the best farms. Which means you are always guaranteed an excellent cup, whether you go for an espresso (SGD 4) or a cold-brewed black coffee (SGD 7). Chye Seng Huat Hardware also cranks out hand-brews (SGD 6) that are made with single-origin beans and brewed by the cup. On the food menu, you will find ice cream sandwiches (SGD 5.50), a soya-glazed chicken burger (SGD 20) and a pan-fried pork chop (SGD 22). 

Chye Seng Huat Hardware.150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207563. +65 6396 0609. Tue-Thu & Sun 9am-10pm; Fri-Sat 9am-midnight.


For sweet treats

The Tiramisu Hero

This whimsical café was birthed from owners Aileen Koh and Peggy Chang’s love for tiramisu. The pair is serious about the Italian dessert, letting customers adjust the alcohol content, sweetness and moistness to their liking, as well as add flavours such as Oreo and kaya (coconut jam). Layers of coffee-soaked sponge, mascarpone and cocoa dust are stacked in mason jars—all the better to admire the dessert—and served in three sizes (SGD 7.50-9.50, 17.50-22.50, 27-34.50). If you can’t get enough of the cute mascots that deck the café, bring home a Tiramisu Hero tote bag (SGD 21) or t-shirt (SGD 29.90) from its retail corner.

The Tiramisu Hero. 121 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207548. +65 6292 5271. Daily 11am-10pm.


Antoinette

If there is one thing you should know about Antoinette, it’s that the French-inspired patisserie and tea lounge is devoted to its sweets—they taste as good as they look. Go for the namesake dessert, the Antoinette (SGD 10), which incorporates Earl Grey-infused milk chocolate mousse with chocolate biscuit, tea cream, raspberry coulis and tea crumble. Or, for a lighter treat, dig your fork into the Chloe (SGD 9): it has yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) cream with white chocolate mousse and sponge on an almond sable. On the savoury side of the menu, Antoinette whips up hearty European dishes, such as eggs Florentine (SGD 16.50), pan-fried foie gras (SGD 28) and mushroom risotto (SGD 24).

Antoinette. 30 Penhas Road, Singapore 208188. +65 6293 3121. Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri 11am-11pm; Sat 10am-11pm; Sun 10am-10pm.


Photo by The Butter Studio

The Butter Studio 

In this homely Halal café, cakes and pastries are built from scratch using farm-fresh eggs, seasonal fruits and local produce. The stars here are the cupcakes (SGD 3.50), baked using recipes passed down from owner Shannon Lua’s grandmother, that are so perfectly crumbly they alone are worth the trip down to Jalan Besar. Flavours—they change every day—run the gamut from red velvet to Nutella to the bestselling salted gula melaka (palm sugar). Besides the cupcakes, there are also tarts (SGD 6.90) that come in a rainbow of flavours, such as Speculoos cookie butter and lemon meringue, as well as slices of honest-to-goodness cake (SGD 7.90). If you’ve got the little ones in tow, the family-friendly café also has baby chairs for your convenience. 

The Butter Studio. 147 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208865. +65 6294 7115. Mon & Wed-Sun 12.30-8.30pm.


For savoury dishes

The Bao Makers Café and Bakery 

You will find bao (steamed white bun) at hawker centres around the island, but they are slightly off-kilter here. The Bao Makers spins the Chinese snack on its head, loading the taco-shaped bao with local favourites like soya sauce-braised pork, chilli crab and salted egg yolk (SGD 12-16 for two). Some of the bao themselves are deep fried, resulting in a crisp exterior that gives way to fluffy insides. Your best bet is to order a platter of four bao (SGD 28) of your choosing, so you can sample as many flavours in one sitting. 

The Bao Makers Café and Bakery. 78 Horne Road, Singapore 209078. +65 6291 2330. Mon-Fri noon-10pm; Sat 11am-10pm; Sun 11am-6pm.


the.twenty.cavan

Here’s a spot that does fusion food right. Distressed brick walls and bare bulbs whose drooping wires stretch across the ceiling give the café an industrial-chic vibe. From its menu, pick bold options like the blueberry lamb chop (SGD 20), deep fried soft-shell crab with curry chicken floss (SGD 9), hoisin-infused mushroom tartlets (SGD 8) and Canton roast chicken with Thai chilli sauce (SGD 16). Round off your meal with some pumpkin and yam purée (SGD 8), which is the.twenty.cavan’s take on orh nee, a Teochew dessert of creamy yam paste topped with gingko nuts. 

the.twenty.cavan. 20 Cavan Road, Singapore 209851. +65 6612 6024. Tue-Sun 11am-11pm.