Travel back in time with these quaint and quirky cafés. Step in and be instantly taken over by nostalgia with décor, trinkets and items that ooze retro charm. It's café-hopping with an old school twist. After all, old is gold.
British Hainan (79 Carpmael Road)
Over in the historic Joo Chiat district is this quaint cafe run by Mr Frederick Puah and his family. This place is retro at its finest: Come here for a museum-restaurant where you can find vintage collections, old furniture and homestyled British Hainanese fusion food (hence the name) like Fish & Chips ($12.90), Banger and Mash ($12.90), IPA Chicken ($12.90), Oxtail Stew ($24.90) and Lamb Shank ($26.90).
Dong Po Colonial Cafe (56 Kandahar Street)
This old school cafe in Kampong Glam is a real blast from the past. Housed in a colonial shophouse ventilated by fans hanging from tall ceilings, it serves coffee as well as cream cakes and pastries using only authentic recipes dating back to the '50s and '60s. Here, customers savour the taste of yesteryear while being surrounded by toys and knick knacks from days forgotten. A perfect place to lounge in the afternoons, in other words.
My Awesome Café (202 Telok Ayer Street)
Located near Chinatown, what used to be the Chung Hwa Free Clinic is now a cafe that can get really busy at dinner. Come for the cool shophouse vibe, as well as wallet-friendly coffee and beers.
More goodies in the city
Chye Seng Huat Hardware (150 Tyrwhitt Road) is one of the most popular cafes here, housed in a 1950s hardware store and oozing hipster vibe. Besides a great selection of coffees and desserts they also serves “tummy-fillers” like Salami Sandwich ($10), the French Toast with banana and strawberry ($7.50) or Pancake Stack ($10) – all of which is perfect with your cup of coffee.
The area is also rich in history: Jalan Besar is a gazetted conservation zone in the northeastern Kallang region, with hip new cafes and eateries such as Parisian-style tea salon Antoinette and restaurant-bar-café Suprette (a hipster bar housed in the super retro Kam Leng Hotel) alongside long-time stalwarts like Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant which are still around.
In fact, the historically rich locales are probably where you’ll find some of the more exciting cafes here.
For example, Tiong Bahru has a charming mix of public housing flats and shophouses from the '30s and '40s. It is now filled with youthful energy, thanks to hipster-approved cafes such as 40 Hands and Tiong Bahru Bakery as well as modern establishments like hip cocktail gastrobar Bincho. You can also find sterling examples of local street food (and coffee) at Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre.
While on the topic of local themed cafes, coffee lovers who’d prefer more traditional coffee can try Nanyang Old Coffee at South Bridge Road while Mei Heong Yuen at Temple Street has good traditional Chinese desserts and a range of shaved ice sweet treats to cool down.