Strangers’ Reunion, Singapore

this cafe has already gained such a following since its opening that before reading this, you’ve probably already decided that you’re going to give it a try no matter what reviews say about it! well, i’m going to be joining the majority with a relatively positive review (about their famous buttermilk waffles at least!), so this will probably serve to egg you on and reaffirm your decision to go forth and pay it a visit 🙂

it having been around and being talked about (especially their buttermilk waffles) for quite some time now (if i’m not wrong, it was one of the pioneers in the latest wave of new cafes popping up all over the island; its been around long enough to warrant a refurbishment of the cafe recently), i cannot believe it was only this christmas break that i managed to check this super popular place out!

visited on a thursday around noon, and it was already nearly full when we arrived. we were lucky to snag a seat! the cafe has quite a large seating capacity compared to some other places though, and service is quite efficient so even if you need to queue, it shouldn’t be too bad!
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here’s the menu:
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gotta love all-day breakfast places

the menu is pretty large, but not so extensive that you have a hard time picking what to eat – very optimal for those like me who love having a range of things to choose from but are promptly wracked indecision and fail miserably at picking something, the kind of person who has a panicked expression on their face when they realise the waiter has taken everyone else’s orders and is now just waiting on yours; also the kind of person known to regret his order right after placing it. but i digress… back to the point now; we opted for the corn & zucchini fritters and a serving of their famous buttermilk waffles (how could we not) to share between the two of us.

20131219_130237 corn and zucchini fritters with avocado, poached egg and spicy tomato relish – $18

not sure if you’re thinking what we thought when this dish was placed before us –  we both agreed that it looked rather messy, unappetising and very homemade! like somebody just heaped everything onto a plate just before it was served, with little finesse or care. i was quite disappointed when i saw it but luckily it tasted pretty good, so that kind of made up for the poor presentation. the fritters were very light, not oily at all, and had bits of yummy corn and zucchini in them. the avocado was very fresh and perfectly ripe, while the egg was poached to perfection. the spicy tomato relish was important in bringing all the different components of the dish together, but i wish they had dished it out more generously. the serving was small – 2 corn & zucchini fritters topped with a few slices of avocado and just 1 poached egg.

i didn’t really think this was worth the $18 we paid, especially because $18 (and maybe a little bit more) can get you something much better presented, bigger and possibly even tastier elsewhere (at most of the other brunch places i’ve reviewed – maison ikkoku, nassim hill bakery, artichoke etc)

they had a waffle special (so exciting – i love specials!!!) that day, and that’s what we had:20131219_130247
buttermilk waffles with passionfruit, white chocolate, coconut zest & vanilla ice cream – $14.90

now this, unlike the fritters, was something worth writing home about. being ever present on the list of contenders for the best waffle in singapore, i ordered these with high expectations and am happy to say that they did indeed live up to them! the waffles were perfectly crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy inside. they remained this way for quite some time, and did not turn soggy rapidly like many others tend to, especially when served with ice cream! i loved the combination for this waffle special – the passionfruit added a nice zesty twist while the white chocolate balanced that out with its sweetness. the vanilla ice cream with coconut zest was also rather delicious! it was a very nice and light change from the usual chocolate-doused waffles with bananas (a good combination no doubt, but this was a good change!).

it was overall a pretty good experience at strangers’ reunion in a nice environment with good service. i would return to strangers’ reunion for their buttermilk waffles (though there are other amazing waffle options at creamier (belgian waffles) or DOC, but probably not for any proper food (though they do serve some more substantial lunch/dinner options) – i thought the food wasn’t anything to shout about at all (besides the waffle) though; even the eggs that several other diners were ordering didn’t look great but i’m not sure how they tasted – i do think they need to work on their presentation! we weren’t particularly full after what we had since the servings were rather small, but nothing was calling out to us from the desserts menu or cake display so we passed on that too (shocking, i know :O hahaha).  i’m happy that i finally checked this place out, but it was all a little overrated, i feel! 20131219_125627

Strangers’ Reunion

37 Kampong Bahru Rd
Singapore 16935620131219_145300
hi lou!
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Brownice, Singapore

i was skeptical when i heard about the vegan ice cream that brownice serves – what could ice cream possibly be without any cream/milk/eggs?!?! but i’m glad i gave this shop along sin ming road (they have another branch in balestier) a chance and paid it a visit, because the ice cream they serve is a great alternative that’s healthier and more guilt-free than regular ice cream.

you’re probably wondering how exactly vegan ice cream works. i was equally baffled because i just could not imagine how ice cream could be made without any dairy products! at brownice though, they prove that it can not just be done, but be done well. they do not use any animal products in their ice cream at all – they pride themselves on making all-natural foods without any artificial flavours or colouring, and use organic brown rice milk, fruits and nuts instead. this makes the ice cream perfect for the lactose-intolerant or the super health-conscious!20131220_172430

i visited on a friday afternoon, and it was really quiet which made it a great spot for great conversation with great friends 🙂 service was very good and i loved how they are so willing to let you try as many flavours as you want. (this is despite the fact that they don’t use disposal spoons, and have to wash each spoon that you use to sample the different flavours!) there were 12 flavours available when i went, but they have many more flavours than that. the full range of flavours can be found on their website: http://www.brownice.com/flavour.html . the shop is spacious and bright, giving off a nice casual vibe with simple furniture and cute little handwritten signs like these:
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here’s the menu with what you can order:20131220_145824a single scoop costs $3.80, but it gets much cheaper if you order more (the more the merrier!). toppings can be added at $1 each, while brownies and waffles are available at $4 and $3.50 respectively. there are options for specials such as the sundae (2 scoops + 1 topping served sundae-style) and the ice cream bowl (4 scoops + 4 toppings).

since the ice-cream was less unhealthy/calorific/fattening, we decided that we could have heaps more than we normally would, and that is how 2 girls ended up with an ice cream bowl to share between us:
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ice cream bowl (clockwise from white scoop: banana oats, cranberry hazelnut, black sesame, green tea with caramelised almonds x2, roasted walnuts, roasted almonds) – $12.50

my favourite out of the 4 flavours was without a doubt, the black sesame. the green tea and cranberry hazelnut were both also really good, and my least favourite was the banana oats. the black sesame was so wonderfully fragrant and thick and smooth and bursting with amazing black sesame flavour!!! i am a complete black sesame fan so this was heaven for me. the texture of the ice cream is a little different from regular ice cream – i would say its a bit less creamy and more sorbet-like almost? – but its not very noticeable, especially with the black sesame and green tea flavours, i felt! the green tea was equally fragrant and smooth, while i thought the cranberry hazelnut was an interesting combination that actually worked. as for the banana oats, i didn’t quite enjoy it as i thought the oats made the texture of the ice cream rather odd and kind of icy/rough? but its one of their most popular flavours, so don’t let this deter you from ordering it; it might just be a case of personal taste that i didn’t really enjoy it. the caramelised almonds were amazing and came highly recommended by our server, hence the double portion 😀

we enjoyed the black sesame and hazelnut so much that this is what happened next:
20131220_1549262 scoops (black sesame, cranberry hazelnut) – $5.90

some other flavours that were available that day and i think are worth mentioning are chendol and coffee hazelnut. i really felt like i was having chendol when i sampled the chendol-flavoured ice cream – its texture was very sorbet-like but i think it works well that way because it really resembles the dessert! as for coffee hazelnut, i have to say that i’m not a fan. it sounded really enticing so i very excitedly gave it a try, but was very disappointed to find that it tasted like the snow skin of mooncake?! to me, at least! but once again, its a popular flavour, so to each his own!

the great part about brownice is that they understand that their ice creams might taste a little different from the equivalent flavour of regular ice cream and are therefore extremely willing to let you sample all the flavours before ordering. and i really think this is important to make sure that you really love what you are getting! because in my case for example, i didn’t like banana oats or coffee hazelnut as much as i thought i would! oh and interestingly, i thought the ice cream tasted better in scoops than in the little bits i sampled of the flavours. i thought its texture resembled that of regular ice cream more when it was had in scoops.

besides ice cream, they also serve some hot vegan food:
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oh and i heard the mudpie is worth trying too! and they also do ice cream cakes, and ice cream tub deliveries.

healthy low(er)-fat ice cream that tastes just as good as regular ice cream? what’s there not to love? 🙂

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Brownice 

8 Sin Ming Road
Sin Ming Centre #01-03
Singapore 575628

F.A.T by Freddie, London

a while ago, a friend sent me a facebook message: “You’re a foodie right? www.hot-dinners.com/Gastroblog/Latest-news/f-a-t-by-freddie-brings-gourmet-sandwiches-and-ice-cream-to-fitzrovia“. thank goodness for it and major props to him for chancing upon the online article, because it led me to this lovely little gem of a pop-up sandwich, pickles and ice-cream store just off charlotte street!

F.A.T shares a shop space with a hairdresser (sharps) and a coffee shop (Dunne Frankowski), and has a menu of gourmet sandwiches and desserts available at lunchtime that changes once in a while.
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coffee at the first counter, sandwiches at the next, and a hairdresser in the back

when we visited on a wednesday afternoon, here is what freddie (the very nice girl who single-handedly runs her sandwich shop and very recently made the career switch from being a creative director to this) had to offer:20131023_130639

my friend and i couldn’t decide between the kimchi cheese sandwich and the duck pate sandwich so we decided to order one of each to share (indeed, sharing is caring)! service was rather slow despite it not being very crowded, but its because freddie lovingly prepares everything by herself. so go if you’re not in a rush, and i suppose the upside is that you’re guaranteed quality? 🙂

2013-10-23-14-00-21_decowe were beyond excited when the food arrived; we couldn’t wait to see if the sandwiches tasted as good as they looked and sounded!!! and *drumroll please*… we all thought both sandwiches did! after much deliberation, half of us decided that we preferred the kimchi to the pate one while the other half preferred the pate to the kimchi so i suppose it can be concluded that both of them are equally good, it just depends what you’re looking for? 

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kimchi and stilton grilled cheese sandwich – £4.50

i LOVED this sandwich; its something i am definitely going back for and will miss when its gone 😦 it wasn’t just the filling of the sandwich that i adored, i also thought the big slabs of white sourdough were amazing! served wonderfully warm, they were toasted to perfection and i was in food heaven with all that melty stilton cheese and kimchi sandwiched between it.
20131023_134311some might say the combination of stilton cheese and kimchi sounds odd but trust me, if you are a kimchi and a cheese fan you will probably LOVE this. when i took my first bite, i was surprised at how well it went together but now that i think about it, i wonder why i didn’t think of the combination earlier! hahaha. definitely one of the most satisfying sandwiches i have had in a while; i would say this is a must-try if you visit if not because you love kimchi or cheese or good bread then just to give this novel combination a chance!

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duck pate sandwich with parsley salad, pickled beets, and chillies – £4.50

if you prefer having something light for lunch, then this would definitely be the choice for you instead of the kimchi sandwich. the pate was extremely fragrant, smooth, and creamy and topped with pickled beets (which they sell in jars at the counter), parsley, and shallots. everything came together and resulted in a very refreshing open sandwich, full of light flavours! 20131023_133410if you’re someone that needs something more substantial for lunch though, then this might not be the perfect choice for you since the serving isn’t very big or filling. very yummy though!!! maybe have this AND something else? 😉

and of course we couldn’t leave without sampling some of freddie’s desserts after those delightful sandwiches, so we ordered 2 slices of pie to share:20131023_140648
pumpkin pie with stout ice cream & gingersnap crunch – £3.50

20131023_140659chocolate and pretzel pie with black pepper szechuan ice cream – £3.50

the “safer” choice of pumpkin pie was the more popular of the 2 among us. the 3 components really complemented each other – the pumpkin pie and ginger crust together were really very yummy, and the combination was made even better with the stout ice cream that topped it! the pumpkin filling was light and not overly sweet, with the natural taste of pumpkin really shining through.

as for the more “adventurous” choice of the chocolate and pretzel pie, i enjoyed it but the rest were not quite fans of the szechuan ice cream! the dark chocolate pie filling was rich and yummy, but without the black pepper ice cream, the pie would actually have been pretty normal in my opinion. the black pepper szechuan ice cream though, is definitely something to write about. what i thought was most interesting about it was how strongly it tasted of szechuan spices! there was barely a hint of any sweetness in the ice cream; it was purely savoury which explains why it is just not some people’s cup of tea, but i thought that was what made it really special! the fact that i was having in ice cream something i am so used to having as seasoning for chicken and other chinese dishes was rather exciting hahaha. another thing to note about the ice cream at F.A.T is that it is unusually thick and sticky (freddie told us she uses a lot of cream to give it this texture & consistency) so i guess not everybody will like it (though we did!).

given the lovely environment in the shop, the affordable pricing and the yummy food, F.A.T is certainly not your run-of-the-mill pop up shop and is definitely worth a visit before it moves on at christmas. freddie also has a selection of baked goods at the counter and i wouldn’t mind heading back to try some of them as an accompaniment to a good cup of coffee. am already looking forward to the next time i get to sink my teeth into the kimchi + stilton cheese sourdough sandwich 😛

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F.A.T by Freddie (pop-up)

Sharps, 9 Windmill Street
London W1T 2JF

Shake Shack, London

shake shack has finally made it across the pond! the once elusive only-in-US burger joint has made its highly anticipated appearance in the middle of london’s happening covent garden. it opened sometime over summer and having heard so much about their burgers for so long, it was one of the first few places i checked out upon my return to school (hello year 2!!!).

we had our burger fix on a rainy thursday afternoon and were pleased to find that there was no snaking queue in sight at all! we attributed our luck with the lack of fellow burger-hunters (some of my friends who have been have had to queue) to the wet weather plus the fact that we were there close to 2pm when the lunch crowd had thinned out. there were only about 5 people ahead of us in the queue, and given the number of people taking orders and working in the kitchen, it moved very swiftly:
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the system they have going at shake shack is that you queue to place your order, then proceed to the seating area where you queue again to be seated. you will only be allowed to take a seat if you have the buzzer they give you after ordering, so you can’t go with a bunch of friends and have someone reserve a table while the rest go and order. i think this makes for a pretty efficient system that helps them make the most of the tables they have. it didn’t take long for our buzzer to vibrate and our food to be ready for collection, yay!20131003_135322 shack burger: cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and shacksauce – £5

more of the famed shack burger in all its half-eaten glory:20131003_135522i was actually a little disappointed by the burger! but maybe it was because i went with extremely high expectations given how much i had heard about it from people who had tried the burgers in US. it wasn’t bad at all; it was certainly above average, but just not a case of love at first bite for me hahaha. as a very typically american-style burger, it was compact and relatively small (big eaters should opt for the double option).

the burger bun was soft, warm and tasty, while the lettuce and tomato were fresh (as you can see from the pic; i hate it when veggie that has started browning is put in a burger!). as for the burger patty, it was juicy (but i wish it was even more juicy – the juice-dripping-down-my-hands kind of juicy) and everything together tasted very yummy although i would also have preferred the cheese to be a little more melty! given its price though, i really shouldn’t be complaining AT ALL – we all thought it was good stuff for the £5 we paid 🙂

one of my friends who is a vegetarian opted for the ‘shroom burger:
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‘shroom burger: crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and shack sauce – £5.25

it looked REALLY good (just look at that cheese oozing out!!!) and my friend could not stop raving about the mushroom and cheese combi, so this is definitely what i am going to get the next time i visit shake shack! YUM.

i must also mention the fries – we ordered 3 portions of fries to share among the 5 of us, 2 plain and 1 with cheese!
20131003_135238we were originally rather skeptical about the fries because we saw when peering into the open kitchen while queuing that they were frozen and not freshly made! we later discovered that our worries were unfounded though, because they were goooood fries. we could tell that they were fried with fresh oil and they weren’t overly greasy at all; it almost made me feel guilt-free while eating them. remotely healthy-tasting but still very yummy fries… strange huh!

we also ordered dessert to share because we thought what they call “concretes” sounded too good to resist:
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union shack concrete: double – £6.50

this was like a dense frozen custard ice cream blended with a bunch of mix-ins. we got the union shack, which was made up of chocolate custard, st john bakery chocolate hazelnut brownies, fudge sauce, paul. a. young chocolate chunks and sea salt. i actually think it sounded better than it tasted, because it sounds amazingly amazing, doesn’t it? and it just tasted… not bad, pretty good! hahaha. i thought there was nothing fantastic about the ice cream itself – it was smooth and creamy, but nothing exceptionally extraordinary. the mix-ins were yummy though! especially the hazelnut brownie, despite the fact that it was very sweet. i’d probably have been more satisfied with gelupo gelato or something, though.

it was definitely a much-needed visit to a much-raved about place, and despite the fact that it fell below my expectations, i wouldn’t mind going back if i’m in the area and looking for a cheap (by london standards) and satisfying meal.

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Shake Shack

24, Market Building, The Piazza Covent Garden
London WC2E 8RD

Oriole Cafe & Bar, Singapore

had been hearing pretty positive things about this place since it started gaining popularity in recent years but never got the chance to try it, so i was more than happy to have lunch here when my friend suggested it.

oriole cafe is a nice spot to rest your tired legs after indulging in retail therapy along orchard road. its at somerset, so if you start your shopping at far east plaza and make your way up along orchard road, i think somerset is around the point where a good cup of coffee or waffles for tea will be a welcome break!

we went on a wednesday afternoon and it was easy to get a table. the restaurant is rather spacious and i felt that the tables were nicely spaced out so its a really nice and comfortable setting for lengthy conversations over a meal. the huge glass panels and high ceilings also add to the relaxed vibe of the place!

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they serve breakfast till 5pm daily, but we decided to go for the lunch menu as there wasn’t anything that seemed out of the ordinary among their breakfast offerings – they have standard brunch fare like eggs benny, french toast etc. we weren’t particularly ravenous (i had a breakfast feast at tiong bahru market that morning hahaha) so we settled on the spicy calamari and the beef cheek tagliatelle to share! here is nikki looking excited that the food has arrived heh:20130710_131935

spicy calamari: it was recommended by the waiter as one of their most popular starters. the chilli was very much like belachan and i thought it added a nice twist to regular calamari, with its spiciness and tinge of sourness. the batter of the calamari was very well done – it was light, crispy, and neither too oily nor thick. we could tell that the oil used was fresh and i loved the fact that it was delightfully fluffy which gave it a really nice bite. i think i would have been happy eating just the batter without the squid within (though the squid within was nice and fresh too)! i would have preferred thicker and crunchier squid slices though, so that the taste of the squid didn’t get lost in the batter.
not sure if it shows in the picture but the serving was big! there were probably 15-20 calamari rings there and given that they were rather big pieces individually, its a wonder we didn’t start sprouting tentacles after eating it all hahaha.

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spicy calamari, $15

as for the beef cheek tagliatelle: we enjoyed this very much! the beef cheek pieces were very nicely braised in red wine (according to the menu, though i didn’t taste a hint of it!), making them deliciously tender. the mushrooms were also very yummy, and the tagliatelle had a nice bite to it (it was very much like western mee pok). nikki and i agreed that we’d gladly come back to have this tagliatelle again!
the serving was very generous once again; we shared this and were both very satisfied when we were finished with it. needless to say, the sauce in this dish is heavier than tomato-based sauce for example, and so given its consistency, i think i might have found it hard to finish if i had ordered this alone. its quite a thick stew-like sauce, but i didn’t find it overly heavy – i’d take this over a creamy carbonara-type sauce any day!

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beef cheek tagliatelle, $22

oriole cafe and bar is well-known for its coffees but since we didn’t order any with our meal we decided to go with a coffee-based dessert! and luckily we did, because the honey crumble affogato (vanilla ice cream, espresso and crunchy honeycomb bits) was  really really good. the giant scoop of vanilla ice cream was thick and creamy, the espresso was very good and everything came together to give us a very enjoyable end to our meal! i can imagine myself coming back to oriole to have this as a mid-afternoon snack/break from shopping 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhoney crumble affogato, $9.50

i hadn’t seen this girl in the flesh for 9 months and so you can imagine how much we had to catch up on… we spent a good 3.5 hours at oriole and never felt like we were overstaying our welcome at any point in time. the staff were polite and friendly and i think if we had continued sitting there for another hour, they wouldn’t have minded at all! given the size of the portions, i feel the food is reasonably priced, and definitely above average as far as cafe/bistro-style food goes. a good place for all-day dining options!20130710153040919reunited in completely unintentionally & unplanned colour-coordinated outfits heehee. still telepathic even after 9 months apart 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOriole Cafe & Bar

#01-01, Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
96 Somerset Road
Singapore 238163

Creamier, Singapore

checked this place out on a whim (had an ice cream craving that needed to be satisfied) and left feeling very pleased with myself and this hidden gem i had found heehee!

tucked away at the base of a sleepy block in toa payoh, Creamier is now top on my list of local ice cream shops, along with Daily Scoop (my other favourite). its nondescript location gives it a very laidback and homely vibe, and the staff are cheerful and friendly, perfect for the neighbourhood joint that it is. the decor is simple, but tasteful and quaint. i popped in on a friday night around 10pm, and it was packed! we waited about 10 minutes for a table; it is a pretty small shop, and many people ended up taking away their ice cream and having it at the tables at the playground which the shop faces.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchecked out their website (http://creamier.com.sg/) before heading down and got all excited as there were many interesting flavours that caught my eye – figs honey, lemon blueberry yoghurt, lime mojito, raspberry rose, chocolate cinnamon orange etc! unfortunately, many of them weren’t available and i was a little disappointed as the ones that were seemed to be more run-of-the-mill flavours (like horlicks, green tea, dark chocolate) that were available either commercially or at other ice cream shops.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit was probably just the day i went down though… there are so many other flavours that they make and its the perfect excuse for me to return again and again (and again)!!! 😉 

i knew i was going to have to order the waffles once i stepped into the shop and 1) i was greeted by the amazing smell of freshly-made belgian waffles 2) i spotted many waffle + ice cream towers being brought to tables.
smelt heavenly, looked heavenly, and after trying it, i can safely say: TASTED HEAVENLY TOO. we went with what we thought were the 2 most interesting flavours that were available that day – earl grey lavender and sea salt gula melaka, and they sat proudly atop 2 extremely delicious freshly-made belgian waffles. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
waffles with a single scoop of ice cream costs $7.50, and each additional scoop costs $2.50.

earl grey and lavender turned out to be a really light and refreshing combination. i loved how they really complemented each other, yet remained somewhat distinct such that you could taste the 2 components individually.
as for the sea salt gula melaka, it was the perfect mix of sweet and savoury, much like the more common sea salt caramel but with a local twist.
both flavours had not a hint of iciness, and compared to what i’ve had at some other locally-run homemade ice cream shops (i find that island creamery ice cream can sometimes be a little icy, especially their take-home tubs), they truly lived up to their name – creamier.

now on to the waffles – they were some of the best waffles i’ve ever had in an ice cream shop. #truestory. they were hearty and served fresh out of the waffle maker, warm, crisp and dark brown on the outside but soft and fluffy inside, surrounded by a generous serving of maple syrup and chocolate sauce. so good that finishing the serving (they come in pairs) was a breeze 😛

we enjoyed the waffles so much that the 2 of us decided to get an additional scoop of ice cream to round off our impromptu ice cream date. we had a single scoop of horlicks choc chip in a cone:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
a single scoop of ice cream is $3.

the taste of the horlicks was rather light and the ice cream was thus not too sweet. the chocolate chips were also very well-mixed in quite a generous quantity such that nearly every bite contained a few choc chip bits, which i liked.

creamier is a funky little neighbourhood hangout that i am definitely going to return to. they also serve coffee besides ice cream, and i’m looking forward to heading down one afternoon to try it! 

if you are worried about not being able to find the shop on foot since its quite a distance away (about a 12 minute walk) from the more bustling toa payoh central, fear not! i believe there are buses you can take from the central. otherwise, creamier is within walking distance from both caldecott and braddell mrt stations. the trek is worth it! and if you drive, you have even more reason to come since parking is plentiful.
the shop isn’t hard to find at all once you get to the right block, especially if you go at night. most of the shops are closed by then, and so the warm yellow lighting that spills out from the glass windows fronting the shop and customers milling around outside and at the playground it faces are hard to miss! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Creamier handcrafted ice cream & coffee
Blk 128 Toa Payoh Lorong 1
#01-835
Singapore 310128