Review: Nowafter Cafe at Orchard serves mediocre bakes, but is saved by the ambience and drinks

By Gary Lim October 13, 2023
Review: Nowafter Cafe at Orchard serves mediocre bakes, but is saved by the ambience and drinks
Don’t these look pretty, though? Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere
  • Nowafter Cafe takes over the Design Orchard rooftop space previously occupied by Alchemist 
  • The monochrome concept and menu reminds us of Korea’s viral Nudake cafes
  • Our reviewer says give the charkey bun and uji matcha einspanner a try

Nowafter Cafe Review


Korean-style cafes are kind of a different beast from Western brunch places, and both have a place of their own in the brunch circuit. 

While the latter typically brings larger groups together to socialise over food such as avocado toast, eggs benedict and smoked salmon bagels, the Korean cafes tend to focus on unique and photogenic aesthetics.

Minimalist and industrial designs are the current trend, and the food and drinks must, if anything else, be Instagram-able.

One of the most popular names in Seoul is Nudake — a group of cafes run by the Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster — with its stunning interiors and photogenic pastries and desserts. 

Its flagship in Gangnam, in particular, is all decked out in a minimalist industrial grey with concrete walls, black metal tables, and yes, black and white-themed bakes.

So when I heard about a monochrome-themed cafe called Nowafter Cafe taking over the gorgeous rooftop space on top of Design Orchard (it was previously occupied by Alchemist for more than three years before it moved to The Heeren this May), my first thought was: “Y’know, that’s kind of familiar.”

Nowafter’s backstory

Nowafter Cafe
Seven drinks, two savouries and four desserts. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Despite the similarities, Nowafter Cafe doesn’t overtly describe itself as a Korean-style cafe, preferring to stand out on the merit of its food and drink offerings. 

Not much is known about the owners (though word on the street is that they used to run an Airbnb and cafe in Korea).

The venue hasn’t changed much from the Alchemist days, with the same concrete columns, walls, and grungy flooring, with the only noticeable changes being the seating, tables, and counter — now all in black, metal, and white.

The menu is intentionally kept small — it doesn’t have a proper kitchen here, anyway — to concentrate on a few bakes, desserts and coffee- and tea-based beverages. 

Apparently, the cafe team was absolutely floored during the first two months of opening since August, with many items running out well before closing time, though things seem to have mellowed out during my weekend visit in October.

Our verdict

Nowafter Cafe
The space has tall floor-to-ceiling windows, letting in plenty of natural sunlight during the day. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

In general, Nowafter Cafe does its drinks a tad better than its bakes, so if you’re looking for a place to read, work, or people-watch over an einspanner, it’s a good place for that. There’s, of course, also the possibility of better dishes that I hadn’t tried.

The cosy space and soothing music in the background (from lofi favourites to Laufey) combined with lush greenery outside, makes for an attractive atmosphere to soak in, and it’s one I’ve loved since its previous incarnation as Alchemist.

Having said that, the prices here are a tad steep.

What it’s good for

Nowafter Cafe
The charkey bun’s flower shape is reminiscent of Chinese fa gao (prosperity buns). Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The Charkey bun (S$13) is the best bake of the lot, even if a charcoal black bun with white cream oozing out isn’t the most appetising-looking thing ever. 

A take on the once-viral Korean garlic cheese bread, the middle is supposedly filled with truffle sour cream, though I can hardly taste any truffle. In true pull-apart bread style, it’s shaped like a flower so you can pluck out the ‘petals’ to eat each segment slowly. 

While soft and light, the crumb structure is surprisingly tight and chewy like a pau, rather than fluffy, with a strong butter and garlic taste. There are slightly tough bits of mozzarella cheese embedded inside for extra savouriness.

It’s a pleasant combination of tangy garlicky savouriness in an aesthetic package — no wonder it’s the most Instagram-ed dish here.

Nowafter Cafe
The einspanners here are a lot less sweet than their Korean counterparts. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The uji matcha einspanner (S$9.50) is deliciously earthy, bittersweet, and complex. For the uninitiated, uji matcha is the highest grade of matcha made from only the best tea leaves with none of the astringency. 

Nowafter Cafe adds virtually no sugar (I’ve never really liked the sugar-packed einspanners in Korea) so as not to disturb the rich matcha flavour, with the only sweetness coming from the velvety thick cream itself. 

One thing to note is that the einspanners here comprise whipped cream on top of a latte, rather than on an espresso or americano. For the espresso einspanner (S$9.50), we added oat milk (+S$1 for Oatside) hoping to balance out the milky taste that might otherwise bury the taste of the coffee. The result is a medium-bodied fruity and nutty coffee that goes great with the lightly sweet whipped cream.

What it could improve on

Nowafter Cafe
Cheesy but mushy. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Spinach strata (S$10) is an interesting choice to put on a cafe menu, because strata is essentially a bread and egg casserole that, while can be made ahead of time, takes a bit of reheating in the oven to get to a nice texture. 

Too short, and it tastes greasy and mushy, and too long, and it can get a bit dry. 

Mine was the former, which is a little disappointing because the fillings are quite decent: Spinach, caramelised onions and honey baked ham soaked in eggy goodness, with a cheddar crust on top that could have been crispier.

Nowafter Cafe
This brownie might taste better with a fluffy soft meringue. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The dark cocoa meringue brownie (S$8) looks pretty but tastes… okay. The meringue is crispy and light with a hint of vanilla, but lacks the delicate airiness and melt-on-the-tongue texture that you’d expect of a really good hard meringue. 

The dense brownie as well, is served barely warm and takes a bit of muscle to push the fork through the tough fudge. 

Taste wise, the black Dutch-process cocoa has a pronounced deep chocolate flavour that’s not really bitter, and there are what looks like small bits of milk chocolate scattered throughout the brownie, adding sweetness here and there.

Nowafter Cafe
Not really a tiramisu. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

I was also looking forward to the Blackmisu (S$13) but found it just average. It’s not so much a tiramisu (where’s the mascarpone?) as it is a mega crumbly cake layered with a soft coffee liqueur cream. 

I say crumbly, because the moment you remove the plastic covering, the whole thing collapses onto the plate, and if you’re not careful, the table.

The cake itself is moist and airy, and the use of alkalised cocoa powder again means a rich chocolate flavour that’s accentuated with a tinge of sweetness.

The lightly-whipped cream has a tiny hint of coffee-flavoured liqueur but it’s not much. It’s overall a very simple dessert that lacks complexity and depth for the price.

Our quick takes

Is it conducive to conversation? Only during less busy periods — otherwise, the echo makes the space rather loud.

Is a reservation necessary? First come, first served.

How to get there? Nowafter Cafe is on the third floor of Design Orchard, a three-minute walk away from Somerset MRT station.

HungryGoWhere paid for its meal at this restaurant for this review. Still hungry? Check out our reviews of Tambi and Cedric Grolet

Do explore the new GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals. 

You can book a ride to Nowafter Cafe in Orchard.

Nowafter Cafe

Design Orchard, 03-01, 250 Orchard Road
Open: Monday to Sunday (9am to 6pm)

Design Orchard, 03-01, 250 Orchard Road
Open: Monday to Sunday (9am to 6pm)

Gary Lim-HungryGoWhere

Gary Lim


Gary eats and knows things, which he attributes to over 30 years of eating and drinking — surely that must count for something, he surmises. He was previously the deputy editor at City Nomads and content lead at Burpple.

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