This is the third instalment of a five-part series on hole-in-the-wall cafes in Singapore.
Third-wave coffee places and cafes in central Singapore might be more common than in the outskirts in the north, but things are slowly changing.
From void decks of Housing and Development Board flats to the vicinity of an airfield, these five hidden cafes in Singapore’s north have their unique charms that set them apart from the rest.
1. Aroma Coffee
Northpoint City (South Wing), B2-151, 1 Northpoint Drive
Nearest MRT station: Yishun
Open: Monday to Sunday (10am to 9pm)
Founders Kayson Chan and Andrew Tjoa, the same people who brought you Aroma Truffle chips, opened this coffee joint in May 2021 during the pandemic. With no experience with coffee or F&B, the pair sourced single-origin beans grown by small-time farmers throughout the world.
We like that the cafe isn’t just for coffee addicts. You can still get your caffeine hit with options such as Uji matcha latte and Kagoshima houjicha. Or get the best of both worlds with the spreeze, its take on the local yuanyang drink. An infusion of tea and coffee, it comes in flavours such as dirty earl, perky peppermint and vineyard peach.
What to order: Dirty earl spreeze (S$5.90), Kagoshima houjicha (S$4.90)
2. Foreword Coffee Roasters
Canberra Plaza, 03-08, 133 Canberra View
Nearest MRT station: Canberra
Open: Monday to Sunday (9am to 5pm)
Starting out at the National University of Singapore, this five-year-old social enterprise now has eight stores and pop-ups in unexpected places: It can be found within a music conservatory, hospital and historic building, for example.
Led by a team of young adults, it’s achieved B Corp status for hiring people with disabilities and special needs as well as sourcing from sustainable coffee producers.
Its outlet on the top floor of Canberra Plaza comes with a spacious seating area for the kids to play at while parents caffeinate. We hear there’s even a kid-friendly menu.
What to order: Timeless Yuanyang (S$7), turkey ham & cheese croissant (S$6)
813 Yishun Ring Road, 01-01
Nearest MRT station: Khatib
Open: Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday to Saturday (12pm to 7pm); Wednesday (12pm to 8pm)
This cafe run by seniors is a hidden gem in Khatib. At a void deck behind the MRT station, Sasco@Khatib is staffed by seniors from the Sasco@Khatib Senior Activity Centre in an effort to keep them alert and active.
On the menu are sweet treats from Japanese bakery Asanoya and ice cream from plant-based cafe Smoocht. Most of the items are priced reasonably and uniformly (individual items at S$3.50 and sets at S$6.50) to make it easier for elderly staff to remember. Make sure you’ve spare change, as the cafe accepts only cash or Nets.
What to order: Smoocht ice cream (S$3.50 for a single scoop), melon pan bread (S$3.50)
4. Lowe’f Artisanal Bakery Cafe
1230 Upper Thomson Road, Springleaf Nature Park
Nearest MRT station: Springleaf
Open: Tuesday to Sunday (8am to 6pm)
Originally set up as an oasis in the city, Lowe’f Artisanal recently moved from Queen Street to Springleaf Nature Park. Now surrounded by greenery, it continues to be one of the rare cafes in Singapore’s north that serves as a place of respite with fresh cups of joe and sourdough straight from the oven.
It might be a little hard to get to, but you’ll avoid the Botanic Gardens or Bishan Park crowds completely. The good news is that the cafe is only a six-minute walk from the Springleaf MRT stop along the Thomson-East Coast Line.
What to order: Good Morning burger (S$10), sourdough loaf (S$18.20)
5. Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe
Maj Aviation Building, 01-01, 80 Seletar Aerospace View
Nearest MRT station: Yio Chu Kang
Open: Tuesday to Thursday (10am to 10pm); Friday to Sunday (10am to 11pm)
Cyclists from this part of the island don’t have to travel to Wheeler’s Yard for a cyclist-friendly cafe. Mostly known to folks in the area, Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe is situated at Seletar Aerospace View.
True to its name, you’ll find plenty of vintage two-wheelers and some four-wheelers here.
And if you’re seated outside, feel the roar of aircraft flying overhead. Coupled with its secluded location, this is one of the cafes in Singapore’s north that will truly make you feel as though you’re out of the bustling city.
What to order: Unatamadon — eel-and-egg donburi (S$9.80), rainbow cheesecake (S$8)