Cafe Hopper Review: Flee Away Cafe @ Dunlop Street ( Exclusive interview with the Boss)

We arranged for the interview via social media and got the time and date fixed via emails. Cool indeed! Flee Away Cafe was in the pipeline of my blog entry and I was just waiting for the right moment to request for an interview with the boss. Thanks to the boss’ great hospitality, I was able to arrange for an interview quite smoothly. I wanted to go down by public transport but seeing the heat outside, I decided to go there by cab to avoid getting drenched by my own perspiration.

I was very scared of a disappointment when I arrived at the doorstep of the cafe. I prayed to Almighty God that this better be something good. I stepped into the cafe and for a short moment I thought that I was going to do a quick interview and hop on to the next cafe. Thank God that Ling had another guest before me and while waiting for her to round up with her guest, I sat down for a while and surveyed the cafe surrounding. The first thought that came to my mind was that a lot of hearts and souls have been put into making this cafe real. The very little items they put up and even the chairs and especially the service table….I could imagine all the dialogues and all the discussions the partners had before seeing them there in the cafe.

Let’s hear from Ling, one of the founding partners of Flee Away Cafe…and understand the thoughts behind the cafe. Please note that this is not a word-for-word transcript of the interview and I certainly hope that I am covering the gist of it here.

Interview with Ling:

1. How did the cafe all started?
[The cafe is a partnership of a few friends, who decided to come together to do something crazy and venture into new arena. It’s our crazy idea. We are all from the F&B industry but mainly of restaurants and background management. One day, we just decided to buy this crazy idea of setting a cafe!]

2. Why “Flee Away” Cafe?
[We wanted to give our customers a feeling of getting away from work, family and social stresses and all the different demands of life. Basically, we want Flee Away Cafe to be a place where people can chill out. So a ‘fleepee’ is an escapee, a person who flees away from the hum drums of life, even if monentarily. We hope that this place can give our customers a homely feel.]

3. What do you think people want to flee away from?
[I think people mainly want to flee away from the mundane of work. There is this secret wish in everyone of us to escape to somewhere. I have that secret wish too.]

4. In your opinion, based on your F&B experience, what makes a good cafe?
[Passion in the things you are selling is very important. I am very proud of Le Char Kuey and I want to get as many people as possible to try this new innovation by our chef and team of staff. As mentioned, we want Flee Away to be a chillax place for people. That’s the fundamental function of a cafe. We want to give them a homely feel and not commercial. I love vintage stuff. I believe that for many, childhood experience is happy and thinking back about our childhood makes us happy as well. Thus in Flee Away, every item that we put in we hope to evoke that kind of nostalgic feeling, happy feeling among our customers. At least that’s what I think happiness is.]

5. What are some of the challenges you are facing as a cafe owner?
[The first challenge is staffing. It’s not easy to get good and reliable staff. I am thankful that I have a team of very good staff to help me up. I appreciate their effort. The second challenge I think is getting our customers to try our food and accept our food. For instant, Le Char Kuey. I want people to give it a try. I believe it is good and so I want them to try. Even if they don’t think it’s good, try it and give us feedbacks and we will improve on it. So I think these are the greatest challenges I face for now.]

6. How do you want Flee Away to move on from here?
[We are working on take away counter for the working people here. We hope to be able to have customers taking Le Char Kuey home. We also wish to set up a second cafe. Don’t think we will want it to have the same concept or same name. We want to develop different personality and characters for each cafe.]

7. What stands out for Flee Away?
[It has to be Le Char Kuey!]

Cafe Hopper: Thanks for your time. Really appreciate you accepting the interview. Thanks for your treat to Le Char Kuey!

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Cafe Hopper Review: Common Man Coffee Roaster @ Martin Road

A good friend has requested me to write about lousy cafe in Singapore! I told him that as much as every school is a good school, every cafe is a good cafe! I guess it’s about who you are with at the cafe and the total experience you had at a particular space and time! So, it is not my intention as a cafe hopper to pin down any cafe …. Every cafe has it’s uniqueness and every cafe is the heart and sweat of the cafe owner or owners. With that in mind, let me share my experience at Common Man Coffee Roaster.

As you approach the cafe you will notice that it has a very club like door! Well, I didn’t really quite like the door, cos it doesn’t give me the feel of a cafe at all! In fact I was rather disappointed! When you enter into the space, well, you feel an energy that automatically liven you up! The music…the lighting…the staff and etc! However I just feel that the overall decor and the cafe theme do not match well! I like the long table right at the center of the cafe and a big round table! There is a lot of counter bar seats available…. And certainly more style to be seen there! However, the brightly lighted counter … I just find it quite a miss match! Perhaps it’s just me!

I ordered the carrot cake and a glass of orange ginger juice! The concoction is refreshing and the carrot cake is nice and pretty unique in shape and size! My overall experience in this cafe is rather average …. And I certainly won’t travel all the way to visit this cafe! Directly on top of the cafe is an Argentina restaurant… That sort of interests me… But I didn’t walk in this round!

The Gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: The Book Cafe @ Martin Road

I wanted to hit another cafe at Martin Road initially, however the cab brought me to another along the same road. I arrived at The Book Cafe along Martin Road and it wasn’t quite what I was expected. I was hoping to find a cafe more classical and woody in nature. When I stepped into the cafe, it has a very modern outlook and I was straightaway taken by a big blackboard of items they are selling in the cafe. There was also quite a crowd in the cafe. Thank God that I was able to find one cosy corner to quietly read and quietly do my blogging. The beauty of this place is that there’s like so many cosy corners that you can territorized!

I ordered my usual latte and grilled chicken salad. The grilled chicken was juicy and tender. I really love the taste. Well, the greens were pretty normal to me cos I am really not a big fan of greens. Latte is smooth and with very minimal after taste. So, generally a place with pretty nice menu at hands. This cafe is also pretty religious in a nature. They run the Alpha Course here, catering for the people working around the area. A midst the many books, you will probably find a number of Christian books and Bibles.

I love it here because you can really chillax here. Just right in front of my are two girls making themselves feel so at home and chatting the world away. Good thing they are not much of a distraction to me. I would love to come here again if not because it’s rather far and inaccessible. Love it here.

The Gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Habitat Coffee @ Upper Thomson

This is the probably third time I am writing about Habitat Coffee at Upper Thomson! I have been following the development and the evolution of this cafe since 2012 when I first visited the cafe during my sabbatical! It wasn’t too much of an attraction other then it being cosy and homely! I remember writing in one of my commentaries that the cafe gives me a very warmth and homely feel however it wasn’t serving too good food and coffee. In addition, being very new, the cafe wasn’t that well-known then!

That was like my first few visits to the cafe! Subsequently, as I visited the cafe, I often see significant changes and improvements made by the team of dedicated coffee makers! For instant, the menu was significantly improved and the quality of food definitely up by a few levels. The quality of cuppa also went up and certainly more fragrant and the after taste of the coffee is smoother now! I believe that I mentioned the owner insist on doing latte arts on all his coffee! Take a moment to see him make coffee and you will see that there is a large spoon of sincerity in every cuppa coffee. This is very important!

This afternoon I had a chat with the owner and was telling him that I am so encouraged by the growth and evolution of Habitat! Things have changed so much for the better and business is rolling good! I like what he said to me…that making coffee is really a tough job and he experienced a lot of setbacks as well! I think this is so real! I would like to say that, the owner has done very well in trying to upkeep the standard and making every customer a happy customer! What I like about him is that he is also a Christian! Good to see and know that a fellow Christian brother is doing well in his business and also giving back to His Kingdom! Well done!

If you have not been to Habitat, make a trip down to this cafe a long upper Thomson and get a homely experience there! I will be keeping track of the evolution of this cafe and will certainly update you of anything here in my blog!

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Caffe Hopper @ Carpenter and Cook Cafe again!!

My recent visit to C&C has been a little disappointment. Sad to say that the standard of their pastries has gone down a little and I no longer could smell the aroma of warm and baking pastries from the oven. Smell has a unique way of alluring people to a place and that lost of aroma is certainly something missing. It seems to me that C&C has been reduced to just another ordinary cafe at some corner of Singapore. However I must say that the latte texture and after taste is still within reach there! The after taste is smooth and it certainly still pleases me after all.

I still like their overall ambience! Perhaps being a history major, I love the vintage style and I do think that the flair is still very much there! It is definitely still worth your trip to come to C&C and savour the cakes, pastries and coffee!

I must admit that I was rather sad when I visited C&C that day! I sent Toffee for boarding! Yes, I am heading back to Bangkok and Korat again! This time round I will be taking some time to discover some of the cafes in Bangkok and hopefully I can bring some good news back to all my ardent fan! So hand on there for more cafes and food!

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Marchie @ JEM

For some strange reason, I am enjoying time alone more and more. I am enjoying those moments when I don’t talk to people. Of course, being a social animal, sometimes I crave for company as well. But not as much recently I guess. I decided to journey down my recent haunt, JEM, to just take walk down the mall to see what kind of encounter I would get. Nah…not the love at first sight kind of encounter lah…encounter with food … Encounter with good coffee. I wanted to try my luck at Starbucks…but then as usual, it is flooded with people who keep studying there. Just never able to understand why they have so much to study. Anyway, nowadays going to Starbucks is like going to the casino to try your luck. If you are lucky you will hit the jackpot…if not you will walk away disappointed. Well, I had that feeling when I went to Starbucks at JEM. So I decided to try my luck somewhere else.

I was so tempted by the one-for-one beer and I really had the inclination to drink. I hopped to Marchie by Movenpick. I really like the decor of the restaurant. I love the various quotes to remind you to relax and chill out. I ordered a German beer and I portion of crispy ravioli. The ravioli tasted nice when it is hot…however when it gets cold, well…it turns soft and tasted a bit rubbery. The beer is cool and I really enjoyed drinking alone and all by myself. That’s why I had the time to out in this entry. The decor is a good blend of greens, woods and modernity. I like the all open concept of the place. You can just chill out and see the people walking pass you at the mall. Talking about mall reminds me if Christmas now….yeah!

The staff here are very polite and they make you feel very at ease over here. I could read my book peacefully and indeed, felt very relaxed over here. Who needs to their luck when you have Marchie around the corner. Ok, coming back to food, they are quite good with pizzas…so please try their pizzas if you happen to hop here.

My overall experience in this place is cool and chill. I love it here and will certainly come here another day.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Select Books @ Armenian Street

I was rather tired by the time I bum into this very interesting place. From the outside you wouldn’t think too much of it as a cafe. As a matter of fact, the place is more of a bookshop than a cafe. Once you entered the place, you are brought to a world of literary works. They sell mainly asian collection of books. Thus, if you are into any kind of Asian studies or what…this is a good place to get your resources. It has a good collection of all kinds of books on Asia and Singapore, both Mandarin and English books.

When we arrived at the shop, there was a group of people just sitting down there and exchanging ideas and sharing. I am not too sure what exactly they were talking about…well it’s not nice to eavesdrop right…but they were certainly very relax and chill in a hot Tuesday afternoon. I conclude that this is really a cool place for you to rest your legs and slow down your fast pace life and be surrounded by books.

If you walk all the way in, it has a simple counter selling drinks and some cakes and snacks. I seriously think that the main thing about this place is not the drinks or coffee or snacks…it is really first a bookshop follow by a cafe. I decided to out this down in my blog because I think this is a cool place to just chill out after work or if you need a quiet place just to do your work. The cafe section is pretty retro and it does bring you back to the 60s or even 50s…with the comfort of air-conditioning of course. Just remember that you can’t expect too much from them as a cafe….

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper: Reflect…Reflect… And Reflect

In a fast pace Singapore society, I am finding it harder to think and reflect about things. Everybody wants it fast and quick but the fact is reflection takes times and sometime very long. Started last year, I wanted to slow down my life and give myself a little more room and space to reflect and think. I decided to quit my job and started travelling quite a fair bit. Before you start to envy my decision to do that, it really comes with a price. I know…I know… You must be thinking that I am so into Eat, Pray, Love kind of a thing…I guess so but I beg to differ. Eat, Pray, Love is such a fantasy but mine was so real. It was scary to see your bank account going down the slope everyday. I only had expenditures in my account and no income at all. Trust me, slowing down demand a high price. Of course I am thankful that I have a family that really supported me and I am grateful to them. Anyway, that is not the point today. The point is we have so little time to spend thinking and allowing matters to settle down in our hearts. Perhaps this is not allowed in a complex society like Singapore.

When I came back from Thailand in March, I was very determined to never rush in my life. Since then I make it a point to come out from my house early so that I can slowly…indeed slowly, with the speed the train is going nowadays…take my time to reach my destination. I also make it a point not to run for buses if I obviously know that I am going to miss them. Let it go…cos another one will be coming soon from around the corner. I try to walk slowly as well. In the past I used to walk at a very pace because I am always rushing for time. Today, since I am not in a rush, I never have to walk fast.

This morning when I was sitting down at Starbucks and I was looking at the last mouth of cinnamon swirl on the plate, I began to think why do we always take a photo of the food we are about to eat at the beginning? How about the just before you finish it? I know this sounds weird but I decided to take a snapshot of this last mouth of swirl and post it as a graphic here. Ok, what is the connection? The point is that if we were to slow down and give yourself more time to digest and reflect, things will look very different most of the time.

I must say that it is not always easy to slow down, especially when others will be rushing you. They will be wondering why you are so slow. I am so glad nowadays when I bring students for nature appreciation walk, I am teaching them to slow down and to take time to see the world through a different lens. Keep calm and slow down….take time to appreciate the people next to you…the flowers in the garden…the trees along the side-walks and the skies above us.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper @ Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City

After our breakfast, my friend and I decided to drop by Tiong Bahru Bakery for dessert or just some pastries and coffee. Love coffee time with friends, especially when we have so much to talk about and share. Sometimes I see coffee as a connection between people. It helps to connect us with one another and adding flavour to conversations. I am so glad that this week I had two ‘coffee connections’. Was with another friend at Starbucks, JEM, on Saturday after a whole day of work. Really feel very great about that connection. Connections always result in some reactions. Once you start to connect something, there is always an effect. I certainly hope that all these connections will lead me to something wonderful and bliss.

Back to my friend at Tiong Bahru Bakery. We had a short but pretty deep conversation about being griped by our past. Like it or not we are some how affected by what happened before. Memories of our past can sometimes make us lose connection of the present. When we lost that connection to the present we may find it difficult to move on into the future. It’s so easy to just pretend that nothing happened before, but the reality is that they happened and will leave tattoo mark in our mind.

We didn’t have any conclusion to our conversation but at least it helps to sort of settle come thing in our hearts. Sometimes the taste of the food reflects the connection we have with one another. We ordered a lemon calamansi tart and trust me its pretty sour…and yes sometimes memories can be that sour and leave a strong after taste. But there is always a sting of sweetness somewhere. I guess that is what life is all about….flavouring…

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Oriole Cafe and Bar @ 313 Somerset

I entered a lot of cafe by mistakes and some of these cafes turned out to be pretty nice cafes. On Monday, I was on a date with an old time buddy and we were suppose to go to another cafe only to realise that it was closed down some time ago. I was rather disappointed to hear of good cafes having to close down due to exuberant high rental or even high costs of operation here in Singapore. If only our costs of operation is to that high, I am sure that cafe owners can be more creative and innovative in their cafe ideas. Unfortunately, this is not the case here in the Little Red Dot.

We decided to walk to 313 Somerset and settled down at Oriole Cafe and Bar. We didn’t really have high hope on this cafe, but still we were greeted with warm hospitality by the waitress who attended to us. In fact, she saw us and rushed out from within the cafe to attend to us. I personally like the ambience and setting of the cafe. It allows patrons to be able to look out and observe the people traveling to and fro. There was so much to observe while I was having brunch with my friend. It was certainly a very good chat and we certainly enjoyed the egg benedict that both of us ordered. My buddy ordered the salmon egg benedict and I thought that was pretty rare.

The latte was surprisingly nice and fragrant. I took a sip and I could sense the smoothness of the coffee and I didn’t have a bad after taste. They seem to pride themselves of their coffee and I certainly feel that they should do that. The cafe does serve beer and liquor as well. I believe that it is also a good chill out place if you just want to have a drink or two after a hectic day.

I certainly think that Oriole is worth a try for all coffee lovers and certainly for the rest who just need a good drinking place after work. Do drop by one day to experience the cafe.

The gatekeeper

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