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Tiong Bahru is not just a place for brunch

A closer look at the bustling and upcoming café hub.

Megan Low


Published: 3 February 2016, 8:16 PM

Like any other person in Singapore, I have become accustomed to the constantly growing café culture here. If nothing else, my brunches at Tiong Bahru on late Sunday mornings have made me more aware of the culinary world.

I only realised that I was just scratching the surface after I participated in Our House Downstairs: Sharing Spaces, a trail organised by *SCAPEnodes, where we took a closer look at the businesses thriving in Tiong Bahru.

During the trail we visited the owners of Nicher Bakery, a small, modest bakery selling pound cakes and muffins, and PoTeaTo, a quaint and comfortable café specialising in tea.

Nicher Bakery is tucked away in an unassuming corner of a small kopitiam on Seng Poh Road. With increasing competition within the café and restaurant industry in Tiong Bahru, where cafes are getting increasingly extravagant in their menus and interior designs, Nicher Bakery’s simplicity is extremely refreshing.

Upon entering the coffee shop, we are greeted by a glass case and a hanging wooden sign. When I saw this, my first thought was: “That’s it?” Despite its minimalist concept, the bakery has a lot to offer. Its pound cakes, packaged in simple rectangular boxes, are moist and freshly baked.

 

A SMALL WOODEN SIGN IS ALL THE BAKERY NEEDS TO SHOW WHERE IT IS LOCATED.

 

In the day, the owner Melvin runs his shop alongside other vendors including a popular stall selling curry rice.

Melvin says that they like to take care of him, the youngest out of all of them. They often recommend his baked goods to their own regulars, or buy him tea and drinks.

After 3pm, the entire coffee shop is transformed into a steamboat restaurant. In this way, that small kopitiam on Seng Poh Road becomes its own self-sustaining community, with both old and new businesses co-existing in one shared space.

 

MELVIN PREPARING ORDERS FOR HIS POUND CAKES.

 

PoTeaTo, on the other hand, is situated in the bustling and hip Yiong Siak Street, where the big players in the restaurant and café industry such as 40 Hands are stationed. With a concrete and red brick interior, PoTeaTo emanates a rustic and homely atmosphere.

Formerly a provision shop, PoTeaTo has since been converted into a café, while still retaining the shop façade. The owner, Debra, chose a more “neighbourhood” environment because it allows a more personal touch.

 

THE STOREFRONT OF POTEATO GIVES OFF AN OLD-SCHOOL AURA
WITH A PROTRUDING SIGN AND RED BRICK COLUMN.

 

Since the opening of PoTeaTo four years ago, more cafes and restaurants have opened up on Yiong Siak Street. Debra believes that more joints will bring in more crowds to the area and hence is not opposed to it.

Despite being the only business on the street that is independently run, Debra believes there will not be much competition, because she sells different goods with different price points. While 40 Hands specialises in coffee, PoTeaTo promotes more of their tea.

On the surface, Tiong Bahru seems like a shiny, new and trendy place for fashion-forward young people to enjoy contemporary food. However, there is much more to this place than what meets the eye.

The community thrives as a symbiosis: a vibrant melting pot of people with different personalities and from all sorts of backgrounds.

Find out more about the next Our House Downstairs event here.


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