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.
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 steak spaghetti (S$22.90), crab cakes (S$15) and burgers (S$15.50-S$16.50), but the Allpress coffee (S$3.50-S$7) is the main draw here. If you want a cuppa that is out of the ordinary, go for the lavender latte (S$5.50), which is gently infused with the fragrant 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 (S$3-S$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 (S$4) or a cold-brewed black coffee (S$7). Chye Seng Huat Hardware also cranks out hand-brews (S$6) that are made with single-origin beans and brewed by the cup. On the food menu, you will find mixed berry ripple ice cream cheesecake (S$8), a soya-glazed chicken burger (S$20) and a pan-roasted pork rack (S$24).
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 (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs). 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 (ranging from S$7.50-S$34.50). If you can’t get enough of the cute mascots that deck the café, bring home a Tiramisu Hero tote bag (S$21) or Tshirt (S$29.90) from its retail corner.
The Tiramisu Hero. 121 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207548. +65 6292 5271.
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 (S$10.70), 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 (S$9.65): 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 (S$18), gnocchi (S$22.50) and mushroom risotto (S$24).
Antoinette. 30 Penhas Road, Singapore 208188. +65 6293 3121.
Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri 11am-11pm; Sat 10am-11pm; Sun 10am-10pm.
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 (S$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 (S$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 (S$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
Tolido’s Espresso Nook
Indulge in great Australian coffee, all-day breakfast and Singapore-inspired main dishes in this quaint café that overlooks idyllic Jalan Sultan. Some of the Jalan Besar neighbourhood’s best coffee is served here by its founder and barista Douglas Tan, whose café is decorated by a local illustrators and typographers.
Tolido’s Espresso Nook. 462 Crawford Lane #01-63, Singapore 190462. +65 6648 0178.
Tue-Fri 8am-6.30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6.30pm.
Run by two Le Cordon Bleu Paris trained chefs, the artisanal bakery whips up French and fusion pastries fresh daily. These two artisans are passionate about creating beautiful edible art—the eclairs, tarts and 3-D fondant cakes here are almost too gorgeous to eat. Japanese-styled hotcakes are served with a heap of desiccated coconut, top with gula melaka (palm sugar).
Two Bakers. 88 Horne Road, Singapore +65 6293 0329.
Mon, Wed-Thu and Sun 9am-6pm; Fri-Sat 10am-10pm.