Joy of the Non-Mainstream

Phillip* and I are walking down a narrow street a bit far away from the Singaporean city center. Well organised tables and chairs on the free-air sidewalk are inviting us to sit down. Tourists are sipping their coffee. The smell of breakfast is enticing. I hope to stop and order something.

He asks me whether I want to stay in this particular coffee shop, the first one we encounter during our Sunday morning walk. I say: “up to you”. Without hearing a response, we walk past this place, which seems obviously not to be his preferred coffee shop.

I look ahead and try to see whether there might be any other options nearby. Luckily just a few steps ahead I see another small coffee shop. If it had a capacity label, as certain elevators do, it must have read: max. 20 people. Perhaps it was this small size that made Phillip ignore this second option and continue walking. I would not have minded the small size of the place. What I am really into is the western feeling of a place and this neighbourhood definitely fit this criteria.

These streets feel like some part of London. With the exception of a few people such as myself, most look western. Phillip tells me that this place in town has lots of ex-pats and that explains the familiar western feeling I enjoy so much. Yet what I most admire is the feeling of artistry. The coffee shops’ design and offerings are not industrialised nor standardised, but have an artistic and “hand-made” nature.

We stop at the end of the road where a board is hanging. It reads “Now serving breakfast”. We step in and I see a large table, and on it some newspapers. No one with whom I could place my order with, rather only people enjoying coffee on this reading table and two people talking to each other.

A door separates this entry salon from the next one. Phillip opens the door and I see a hanging board as we step into this room. Oolong tea, green tea, cappuccino, latte macchiato are among the options I can read on the menu board. Small sweet cupcakes on display at the left side of the room distract me from reading the offerings of the day. Hence when the cashier asks me what I want to order, I ask Phillip to go first, so that I can read through the brunch options. I go for a salmon with egg bun and a hot drink.

We go back to the first room with the big table and sit down. The meal is delivered to us in brown boxes to the table. I open the paper box as if it were a birthday present, with excitement to discover what is inside. The bun smells good and I take a cut of the it. It tastes good. I am satisfied and happy that Phillip decided to come here for breakfast.

I did not only have a good time, but this experience also helped me discover the joy of opting for non-mainstream options. A non-Starbucks coffee and a western street in an Asian country can be a unique and memorable experience.

*Name has been changed to preserve anonymity.

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