Spent my afternoon off at a new cafe in the Kampong Glam/Arab Street area. It takes a whole lot of inspiration from Japanese culture, by which I mean they had a Japanese barista champion instruct their team; the second-floor menswear boutique is 80% independent Japanese labels; the decor is minimalist, eclectic, intimate, and well-worn all at the same time, just like any self-respecting Japanese hideyhole’s should — it only lacks the sonic environment of one, substituting a bordering-on-hip soundtrack of singer-songwriter tunes and Bristolian trip-hop for what would normally be a mix of guileless cool jazz cuts and barely-audible breakbeats. From vinyl.
The coffee, anyway, was fantastic, and alongside cupcakes, savory pork buns, and other snacks, they offer a variation of the Spam musubi. No seaweed wrapped around the body, no soy sauce and rice wine seasoning fried into the Spam (only a small sachet of Japanese soy sauce accompanying the clingfilm-wrapped slab on a plate… don’t use it), but the use of furikake in the shortgrain rice is a nice touch. Like I said, it’s a variation, and one I’m happy to have in the absence of Spam musubi anywhere else on this island.
I was told they get really busy on the weekends, so I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to be back again. Opening hours on weekdays are 9am to 7pm. Fridays and Saturdays, they’re good till 10pm. In about a month or so, they expect to open a cocktail bar on the third floor, and it’s my guess they’ll revise the opening hours of the cafe to suit demand as things progress. If I can’t make it in for a cup of coffee after work, there’s always alcohol (as one review mentioned, pork and alcohol on the menu are cause for a bit of a double take; it’s practically in the shadow of a giant mosque, and right in the middle of an Islamic cultural district).
It’s the kind of place I fully expect to find started by a handful of hardened advertising and design veterans who’ve finally had enough of the slog and now want to live out their cafe dreams, but this article says it’s run by two married couples, and I heard today that their backgrounds couldn’t be further from the theory. One of them worked in freighting, it seems. With any luck, my retirement job will be in fund management.