Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
150 Tyrwhitt Rd. Tel: 6396-0609. Closed Mon
Since when did drinking coffee become an “underground” activity? Well, since edgy gourmet coffee purveyors Papa Palheta burst onto the scene a few years ago. Their latest venture is a three-in-one café, roaster and barista school that’s housed in a drab, disused hardware store within a gritty neighbourhood near the, gulp, Singapore Casket. Guess hipsters aren’t superstitious. They’ve also deliberately given it a so-unsexy-it’s-hip moniker to go with its environs. ‘Chye Seng Huat’ means “to flourish again” in Hokkien. (Their predecessor's name was equally sultry: Keat Seng Metals). We visited one Sunday afternoon and had to scuttle past a funeral home and through a plume of ashy smoke from a nearby temple to get there. Only to find Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar’s main entrance unceremoniously shuttered (how very 28 Hong Kong Street). Turns out you have to go through a forbidding grey side gate plastered with a “No Parking” sign. The idea is to make the place so inaccessible that… more people will want to rush there, we suppose? Apparently, it works. Inside, the painfully hip interior is thronged with too-cool-for-school types. You know who we’re talking about — the ones with carefully mismatched outfits and deliberately nerdy glasses. A U-shaped wooden bar dotted with fancy java-making apparatus and young baristas take centre stage. Choose from a rotating blend of brewed coffee and different ways to enjoy your espresso — single, double, neat, or with varying amounts of milk. Our Espresso with Milk ($4 for 3 oz), like a larger macchiato, featured Papa Palheta's deliciously robust, chocolatey-fruity house blend. Pity it was let down by somewhat overly frothed milk. We suspect the quality of a cuppa here varies according to the barista. So look for co-owner Leon — the guy knows what he’s doing. For nibbles, skip the dry, overpriced Lemon Madeleine ($8 for eight itty-bitty ones) and order the homely Pancake Stack ($10) instead. Also available: Coffee Beer on tap ($7.90 for 1/2 pint). Stylo, right?