It struck me the other day that I was doing so much walking around out of my home country Singapore that it never quite occurred to me that I trot around quite a bit here too. There are hidden gems lurking in the corner just out of sight waiting to be spotted. So I spot them and that’s that. I never thought very much about the local and easily accessible because, well, they are always there and I guess I take them for granted.
That, I think, should change.
The thing is SJ and I cafe hop every Saturday. All-day brekkies are our thing, and we somehow find immense joy in sleeping in and waking up for breakfast past noon. The Saturday just past is no different.
We ended up in Haji Lane in the Muslim quarter – to check out a new shop that sold flourless cookies, Al’Frank (its owner is a Chinese chap btw, and the cookies are quite amazing). I didn’t expect to see an indie community with an eclectic mix of thriving shops that, surprisingly, had quite the attitude. They were housed in decorated (or artfully vandalised) rows of pre-war shophouses that added to the eclecticism. Artisanal. Whimsical. Totally uncharacteristic of the Singapore I know. Think London Court in Perth, Getreidegasse in Salzburg or shopping alleys leading off from La Rambla in Barcelona.
There was a good mix of western and asian tourists, locals behaving like tourists (i.e. me) and shopowners people-watching from the comfort of their little alcoves at filming crews and photographers/models milling about doing their jobs.
Food choices there are varied too ranging from the gamut of middle-eastern of lebanese and egyptian, to western and some fusion. If you’ve been to Amsterdam, you’d know the giant I AMSTERDAM outside the Rijksmuseum. There is a cafe in Haji Lane that is clearly Dutch-influenced that bears the name I AM. In red too but lowercase letters. Fascinating. Their beef ball pasta is out of this world. We dropped by a pretty little shop that has Wonderland in its name serving cakes, tea and coffee. It had a distinctively English feel and had beautiful lemon tarts.
All these, in my own backyard.