I have this thing: before writing about the spaces I've been to, I'll do a quick Google to see what others think and have written about the space — y'know to make sure I don't get my facts all wrong and that. Top headliners of Five Oars all had the words "Aussie", "Melbourne-inspired" and the likes in them, which was kind of tell-tale yet annoying at the same time? Anyone who frequents Melbourne knows their spaces are a lot more diverse, and it's not all wide spaces, huge windows, and a mix of whites and woods.
If anything I'd say their decor is practically a ctrl-c + ctrl-v + slight tweaks of their sister establishments Pacamara and Botanist. Not that it's terrible, but definitely old-news and nothing really Melbourne-esque to scream about.
With that impression already laid down in concrete I'd be frank in saying I wasn't expecting the world from their grub either. Clearly I'm the "judge you by your cover" kinda Mean Girl. But yes, you can sit with me.
Iced Black (S$5+)
Coming by in the afternoon to find it almost packed out with the CBD lunch crowd was comforting, but not entirely redeeming cause, well, it IS the CBD. Everywhere'd be full. So I thought I'd just sit down for a cuppa first, wait for the lunch crowd to die down so maybe I'll get to taste the best of what they've got and not get caught in the whole mad-rush-bad-food trap.
The iced black was a very decent and balanced brew, using a mix of Brazilian and Ethiopian beans so you get a nice hit of acidity with just enough lingering bitterness at the back. Not a shocker since I've always enjoyed the joes over at Pacamara, and very well-priced for the area!
Crab Benedict (S$21.00+) — English muffin, free-range poached eggs, crab meat, soft shell crab, mentaiko, ebiko, hollandaise
Then things took a little dip when the first dish arrived. If you've been around this space awhile at least, you'd know I'm not a fan of truffle oil. Not even the tiniest bit. So I was quite turned off when I took a lick of the hollandaise and found it to be laced with truffle oil. All's good with the world if they put that on the table right away and listed it on the menu (which they didn't) so people like me who don't fancy truffle oil would steer clear of it.
To top that off, I didn't really enjoy the bed of (mayo-laced, I believe) cold crab meat it was laid above. While the meat was sweet enough, it had that canned crab meat taste which I'm not the biggest fan of. It was ok the first couple of bites, but having cold crab on toast as a meal isn't really my thing; would've much preferred the soft shell crab to be the star of the dish, with perhaps just a slight smear of the cold crab meat for some textural and flavour contrast.
Croque Madame (S$21.00+) — Duck confit, brioche toast, tomato, free-range egg, gruyere, baby spinach, lemon vinaigrette
Glancing through their menu I have to be entirely frank that the "duck confit" sold me on this. When ever have you heard of a croque madame with duck confit? It's innovative at the very least, and taste aside that in itself is a major thumbs up.
Visually there's nothing really outstanding: it looks like a regular toast, but when you slice right in...man, trust me this one's gonna fill you up pretty damn well. It's a stack of three brioche slices, layered with chunks of shredded duck confit, then topped with a slice of gruyere and a fried egg — i.e. pretty darn massive in portion, as well as on the flavours. Duck was tender and juicy, brioche buttery and moist, and crowned with that perfectly fried egg on top. Plus point for using baby spinach too, it's not often you find cafés using this versatile veggie in their salads simply cause it's expensive. At it's pricetag though I'd have liked more cheese slotted in somewhere for an extra ping, given that there isn't any bechamel in this.
Honestly if you've had as much as I did by now and managed to down them all, I'd say damn you and your high metabolism. But in the teeniest chance you're still up for desserts, the Crème Brûlée French Toast is the only way to end your meal.
Crème Brûlée French Toast (S$18.50+) — Brioche toast, mixed berries, passionfruit, popcorn, pistachio ice cream
Actually it'd prolly make your meal.
First thing you do to a crème brûlée: put it through the crack test. Grab a spoon and crack! give the layer of burnt sugar a hard smack, cause more often than not the spoon'll just sink in and you'll not get any of that yummy smokey crunchy topping. Totally not an exaggeration when I say I literally went "HOLY SH*T" when this French toast passed the test. The surprises don't stop there. You've got a layer of light custard right below, then super duper I-kid-you-not moist brioche brick, paired with a medley of complimenting garnishes. Tangy berries, crunchy roasted nuts, citrusy passionfruit, and a fantastically creamy scoop of pistachio ice cream. I'd go as far to say this is among the best French toasts I've had this year, so if you're coming by and for God knows what reason decide not to order this: shame on you.
So scratch the initial impression. While Five Oars may not have the most inspiring or original interior, the food I've tried certainly has a tinge of Melbourne's aesthetics and creativity. There's definitely still room for improvement, but this Mean Girl will admit to being proven wrong and finding her new fave CBD hangout.
Five Oars Coffee Roasters
39 Tanjong Pagar Road
Open daily from 8AM-10PM