This April, do some good with your food choices as we check out three cafés making a difference in Singapore. With inclusive hiring practices, a heart for the vulnerable and underprivileged, and most importantly, sumptuous offerings, these diners are must-adds to your April food jaunts!
1. The Social Space (Kreta Ayer)
As a part of the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE), The Social Space is an eco-friendly café space along Kreta Ayer that brings the charm of Bali to our sunny shores. Stepping into The Social Space feels like a quiet retreat into serenity, with rustic vibes from its rattan backed chairs and whimsical turquoise cushions.
Housed in the same premises is The Nail Social, a concept under the same group that provides training to marginalised women. The store also carries an extensive range of eco-friendly products such as castile soap. On second glance, it’s clear that The Social Space is thoughtful in the selection of products it carries, with unique items such as plantable birthday cards that grow into herbs after being placed into soil.
In the spirit of sustainability, the café takes care to source its food from fair-trade and environmentally friendly producers. The menu caters to a variety of tastes, with a selection of open-face toasts, smoothie bowls, baked goods and drinks.
For a classic brunch dish, look no further than the Avo + Egg, which features a bed of perfectly seasoned avocado laid atop a slice of French sourdough. Topped with a generous portion of sliced hard-boiled eggs, this palate pleaser looks as good as it tastes.
Millennial mockery aside, the star of this dish lies in the clever addition of a layer of torched cheese, adding a smoky finish to the otherwise clean flavours – one that’s reminiscent of aburi-style sushi. Cherry tomatoes give both tang and a pop of colour, which complements the crusty sourdough.
Veggie lovers will also take a shine to the Roasted Mushrooms + Crème Fraîche, which features sautéed mushrooms on sourdough with torched cheese and a sprinkle of parsley. While the sourdough acts as a good accompaniment to the salty richness of the mushrooms, we feel that there could have been more crème fraîche, as this dish was a tad dry.
Looking for a sweet start to the day? Try the Tough Nut, a smoothie bowl featuring a comforting blend of housemade peanut butter, banana, soy milk and honey. Well-balanced and rich, this is served in a coconut bowl, a nod to the Bali-themed café. This dish is reminiscent of a sinful chocolate banana milkshake, albeit a healthier one – the perfect indulgence. Coconut flakes and almonds give this dish a mix of textures, while a generous drizzle of honey pairs well with the liberal serving of crunchy chocolate granola.
Sadly, the selection of housemade nut milks was not available on the day of our visit, but the Homemade Lemonade does not disappoint. An unpretentious concoction of freshly squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup, it’s a great refresher to beat the heat, with no added preservatives, to boot.
For those looking for a taste of Christmas, the Spiced Chai Tea has got you covered. The Social Space’s rendition of the classic chai staple is one of the most aromatic ones we’ve tried, and provides a pleasantly warming heat. A sip of this piquant brew takes you right back to the festive season with its generous topping of cinnamon. The milk to tea ratio is just right too, allowing the spices to take centrestage.
333 Kreta Ayer Rd, #01-14, Singapore 080333
Wednesday to Monday: 8am-5pm
Closed on Tuesdays
2. Professor Brawn Bistro
At first glance, Professor Brawn Bistro seems to be a standard Western-style diner, serving up hearty meals at reasonable prices. And really, that is a fairly accurate description of what it is, with only its location within Enabling Village hinting at its true purpose.
For while Professor Brawn Bistro is a bistro like any other, the team behind it is undoubtedly special – more than half of its staff is made up of adults with autism, a hearing impairment, or who are intellectually differently abled.
The bistro is the second outlet in the Professor Brawn chain, a social enterprise under the Autism Resource Centre (Singapore) (ARC(S)) which aims to provide jobs and social integration opportunities to individuals with special needs. With support from job coaches from ARC(S)’s Employability and Employment Centre, Professor Brawn outlets train and employ these individuals, giving them the opportunity to earn their keep in an inclusive and welcoming environment.
Professor Brawn’s menu is a simple one, sticking to Western classics done right. We start our meal with Crunchy Calamari, which our waiter highly recommended.
It definitely lives up to its namesake, with the flavourful spiced batter providing a delightful crunch. Encased within, the squid rings are tender and cooked to perfection, a tall task for such a fickle protein. Accompanying the dish is a punchy tomato sauce, its acidity balancing well with the starter.
Keeping with the seafood theme, we also order the Battered Fish & Chips. Professor Brawn’s take on the dish comprises a bed of thick cut fries, battered white fish, and a salad. No frills, but the dish certainly delivers. Much like the calamari, the fish is coated in a light and airy batter. Interestingly, the salad proves to be the star; its tangy dressing a much-needed refresher to uplift the palette.
After two fried dishes, the Lemon Posset is a welcome end to the meal. Topped with fresh fruits, the lemon-flavoured pudding is most definitely our favourite of the day! The citrusy dessert manages to please on all levels; it is sweet, but with a nice tang, rich without being cloying, and velvety smooth. If we are to be nit-picky, a small gripe we have is the presence of candied lemon peels, which unfortunately came with a lemon seed embedded within.
Despite that, we wipe the jar clean and agree that of the three dishes we tried, this is the one we will be willing to make a special journey for.
Enabling Village, 20 Lengkok Bahru, Academy #01-17, 159053
Monday to Friday: 11am-9pm,
Closed on Sundays
3. Five &2
Escape the bustle of the city at Five &2, where good food meets a great view. Established with two missions in mind, Five &2 believes in employing people from marginalised groups of society and in creating an inclusive environment. It also provides meals for underprivileged households through partnerships with welfare organisations.
Feast with your friends in this tranquil space, while taking in the lush greenery surrounding the café with al fresco dining. To encourage diners to return their dishes, the café has also adopted a return-your-own-tray policy, where one receives a dollar after returning one’s tray.
Five &2’s menu comprises a broad range of dishes, ranging from Western to Asian-fusion. We decide to try the Sarawak Curry Chicken Shepherd’s Pie, intrigued by the Asian spin on a typically English dish.
They say you feast with your eyes first, and that is definitely the case for this dish, which is still sizzling when it is served to us. Before we dig in, the fragrant aroma of the curry wafting in the air is enough to make our mouths water.
Be warned, though. This pie is not for the faint of heart. The curry packs a punch that left our tongues tingling, even as we marvelled at the robust flavours. The spice pairs surprisingly well with the dish, cutting through the richness of the mashed potatoes and cheese atop the curry to make for a well-rounded flavour profile.
Besides the pie, we also order a side of Spam Fries. Crisp on the outside without being greasy, and tender and moist on the inside – the fries don’t leave much more to be desired. Simple though the dish may be, Five &2 still adds a new dimension to it with their dipping sauce, a kaffir lime mayonnaise, lifting the dish and leaving us wanting more.
One more thing: Dog paw-rents rejoice! Your canine companions are welcome to join you at this café, and they even offer delicious dog-friendly grub to ensure your furry friend’s stomachs are filled after a day of play at the park.
Punggol Park, 97 Hougang Avenue 8, Singapore 538792
Monday to Sunday: 4pm-11pm
Last order at 9.45pm