In a city that never sleeps and is always on the move, sometimes all one needs is a mute button to sit in a cocoon of silence and contemplation. Just for context: Last year, there was a reported fivefold increase in noise-related complaints – prompting the government to form a new unit to deal with all the ruckus. Perhaps that’s why the recent rise in the number of cafes opting for a pared-down and almost monastic approach is a much-welcome escape for some. Scroll on for your guide to a quiet place.
When locating Ceres, you’ll need some sharp vision. Located on Circular Road, in the Boat Quay area, its inconspicuous entry staircase is demarcated by just a coffee cup and an empty wine bottle hanging on a string on the wall outside its door. The starkness of the room feels like it could double up as an underground art exhibition space, while the menu and drinks and wine list mirror the spatial simplicity with a standard roster of coffee options such as Espresso, Black, White or Mocha. Meanwhile, the nosh comes in the form of Avo (a plate of sourdough served with half an avocado toast and a dollop of butter), madeleines and tempeh chips, to name a few. Tables are lit by candlelight, adding to the hushed appeal.
Founders Sarah Kee and Aloysius Yong share that the idea for the cafe started last year and took them about seven months to take it from the drawing board to become a reality. “We love drinking both coffees and wines but at that time we couldn’t find a place which offers both so we thought why not just create one ourselves,” Kee says. “If we have to describe our aesthetic in words, it’s like visiting a friend’s house. We wanted to have different seating in the space to provide different perspectives every time someone visits, and our furniture is easily movable so that we have different configurations to play with.”
Address: 18A Circular Road
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10:30am to 5pm; Friday & Saturday, 10:30am to 10.30pm; closed on Tuesdays
While this isn’t exactly a cafe in the most conventional sense, experiential retail studio Asaru is still worth a visit if you’re looking for another space that provides a zen-like shelter from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Situated in Singapore’s bohemian central, a.k.a. the buzzy creative hub of Pearl’s Hill Terrace, the main use of the brand is to be a retail space, where the brand is able to host tea sessions, known as uchi. These hour-long sessions let you discover handcrafted pieces within the studio’s quiet walls, as you savour tea and seasonal wagashi. Though Asaru has momentarily paused hosting these tea sessions, you can still drop them an e-mail to ask to be kept in the loop when they start up their tea sessions again.
Address: 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace, #01-07
Opening Hours: Thursday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm (last appointment is at 5pm)
Another occupant in the Pearl’s Hill Terrace enclave that is getting our attention for its stripped-down aesthetic is the newly-opened, Japanese-inspired cafe Paaru, whose exterior is reminiscent of wooden guesthouses in the Japanese countryside. Not surprisingly, though, the people behind this calm oasis in the city are the same folks behind Asaru – the experiential retail studio that is located a few doors down (see snippet in Gallery 2). Co-founder Laura Phay explains that “Paaru allows a more accessible & casual avenue to experience the Asaru way of living” without having to worry about not being able to book an available slot that Asaru requires.
Phay adds that the cafe was envisioned to be like a “home that reveals itself” to wandering visitors. She adds: “The raw space was first visualised as a house before each zone was assigned its function – such as the open kitchen, living, and dining rooms. It is inspired by century-old Japanese guest houses with their Machiya-style entrances.” Within the dark and muted space, visitors will get large window-framed viewings of the stone wall outside the building.
Freshly-baked bread is a heavy feature on the menu, and crowd favourites include Eggs on Shokupan (Japanese milk bread) or the very Instagrammable Fresh Toast Shokupan (pictured, on top right). “Customers have been loving our French Toast Shokupan with Kuromitsu (a type of Japanese syrup). Imminently we will be opening up our tearoom and also offering rotating lunch sets,” Phay says.
Address: 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace, #01-61
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm; Saturday & Sunday, 8am to 6pm; closed on Wednesday
Cloud is the new kid on the Duxton block and boasts a spacious room that comes outfitted with raw industrial interiors – think corrugated steel shelves, concrete tables and walls. At the entrance, the ceiling is decorated with an explosion of fluffy white paper mache that cleverly nods to the cafe’s name. Bakes are made fresh each morning and artfully arranged on the counter like some kind of installation. Those expecting variety in their cafe experience would be glad to know that the folks here constantly change up the menu.
Address: 1A Duxton Hill
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm; closed on Monday
One of the buzzy names to emerge recently among the cafes in the Jalan Besar enclave is Lucid, which is known for serving up great java, tipples and nibbles. House within a stark Brutalist-themed space, the spot is a must-visit for coffee fiends as it boasts an extensive list of black, white and chocolate coffee options. There are also plenty of filtered coffee, espressos and coffee-based cocktails on the menu. On the munch front, sandwiches such as the Smoked Salmon and Truffle Ham and the selection of daily bakes are the perfect accompaniment to your cuppa.
Address: 38 Hamilton Road
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 11am to 6pm; Saturday and Sunday: 10am to 6pm; closed on Tuesday and Wednesday
This article was originally published in Female.