No more "hidden gem". I've seen this phrase thrown around so much of late, it's getting really dry. Besides Singapore's just so damn big, how "hidden" can any place be?
I've described places as such before so...guilty as charged (with my hands held high in disgrace), but word of The Glasshouse's been spreading before they've even opened their doors, so one thing's for sure: hidden they're not. Smack in the middle of CHIJMES, surrounded by the gothic structures and greenery in its open courtyard, The Glasshouse's not too hard to spot once you know what you're looking for.
I must admit the space itself is pretty gorgeous. Ceiling to floor glass windows, greens — real ones, and not rubbery fakes — specking the entire space, and a mix of white and plywood that yells Kinfolk. A clear example of #whywhiteworks, but just like the phrase used to describe the café this trend's been making waves around and isn't any breath of fresh air.
Goes without saying I didn't think much about their food either when I started seeing these hippie toasts and artisanal coffee popping up all over Instagram. Smoked salmon on toast? So last decade. Avocado toasts? Can it get anymore repetitive and overdone?
Iced Black (S$4.50) & Hot Mocha (S$5)
I walked right up ahead to ask for my usual black, threw in a mocha while I was at it, and was surprised when a jovial voice chipped in to explain the beans they're carrying for the day, and what to expect from it.
"Filter or espresso-based?"
Many coffee joints carry a variety of beans now so it's not clear how serious they are about their javas just from this. With 2 different blends from Common Man Coffee for each method of brewing, the Lucky Basterd blend's used for the espresso-based beverages, supposedly lending a "vibrant fruity" profile. More than a little dubious, nose jabbed 45 degrees towards the sky, I took a sip; and for once, I could actually taste what they promised. My black was light, fragrant, a nice balance of fruitiness without hitting an acidic note, while the mocha was neutral enough to have the earthy cocoa walk hand in hand with the other flavours. Very very pleasant indeed!
And to sweeten up the deal, there's a small but satisfactory range of tea cakes and pastries on the counter. It ain't much, but the portion and variety's just enough for you to enjoy a laid back afternoon with a book and coffee in hand.
Then of course you've got their hippie toasts if you need something heavier. Using bread from the humble folks of Woodlands Sourdough, The Glasshouse offers 3 seasonal toasts, which as of now are their Avocado & Dukkah, Classic Salmon, Banana & Nut Butter.
Avocado & Dukkah (S$7) — Fresh avocado slices, hummus, feta cheese, house dukkah spice
It's clear from the start I'm no fan of avocado toasts; in fact my dislike for avocados is no secret: aside from guacamole, I shun from anything with that veggie/fruit/what’s-that-green-thing. I've always thought they tasted like grassy unsalted butter, without even the fragrance of natural dairy to keep it palatable.
So trust that I'm not being over-dramatic when I say this is the first avocado anything I’ve managed to stomach — and down completely on my own. I’m not gonna say it’s way superior than others or some game-changing avo toast; perhaps it’s the simplicity of ingredients, the perfectly riped avos (to me at least, not too mushy or buttery, with a little bite and resistance), and how it all just holds together without making me think of solid tasteless butter. A very satisfying — and surprisingly filling — meal on its own.
Classic Salmon (S$8) — Smoked salmon, herbed cream cheese, zucchini, radish, dill
I'm expecting calls of "Blasphemy!" (and a potential witch hunt) in saying I’m also not a fan of smoked salmon, cause really it's so so ubiquitous and repetitive everywhere. But a simple lunch at The Glasshouse and they’ve oddly managed to get me questioning myself. A smear of herbed cream cheese; some thick, crunchy, and very lightly pickled zucchini slices; meaty slices of smoked salmon; refreshing plain baby radish; and a glug of olive oil to pull it all together. Again I figure it’s not that their smoked salmon’s anything revolutionary, but the components and (most importantly) their proportions work together to bring a dish so similar yet unique from its peers.
Suffice to say the food and drinks had me and my tummy blown right outta the galaxy, as the first coffee and toast concept I'd be pleased to revisit over and over again. And as cliché as their minimalistic decor is, it works to create a really calm and restful atmosphere that's a lovely breath of fresh air in the bustling city.
So a gem, I'd surely concede this is. But it ain't hidden, let's put it out right there. And at the rate they're going, you can expect The Glasshouse to be packed at every hour — with no one wanting to give up their seats.
30 Victoria Street