So many cafes have been sprouting up lately that one can’t help but wonder how many can retain their slice of the café boom pie amidst all the competition. Good coffee isn’t just the requisite anymore to impress – food and ambience are equally important in the equation. Yet amazingly enough, it isn’t easy to find one that isn’t chock-full of patrons Instagramming their all-day breakfast or has service that makes you feel truly welcome. Sometimes, all you want is a place where quality time, good conversation and coffee all marry in a cosy corner – this unassuming and genuine warmth is exactly what Artistry offers.
Entering Artistry is like finding a second home. You know, that place that holds a special place in your heart, where you can escape to for a few quiet hours away from the world. Or where you head to when you’re so unproductive at home and everything from the neighbour’s radio to the crows on your windowsill is a distraction.
Nestled in a quiet corner at the edge of the Kampong Glam area, Artistry is situated right by the road and easily walkable from Bugis MRT. The building that houses the café used to be rather cold-looking, but now rustic wooden tables line the outdoor patio, brightened by sunny flowerpots on each table. It’s a pretty uncommon and thoughtful detail to invest in fresh flowers due to its quick turnover rate – sometimes it’s hard to stop and smell the roses and Artistry offers you that experience quite literally. I also love that you can order or receive your coffee through the window that opens right into the bar counter, notching up the quirky romanticism of the café.
The interior is minimalist and simple, with a small bar counter and a long communal table flanked by smaller stools and a sofa. It gets pretty full around lunchtime, but becomes quieter in the later afternoon – perfect for a good catch up session with your friends or some quality me-time.
Liberty Coffee beans are used for the coffee here. I found the Caffe Latte ($5) a little watered down although still satisfactorily smooth on my first visit. The Hot Chocolate ($5) was unfortunately thin and rather tasteless, the chocolate seemingly not fully dissolved and instead congregating in small sandy clumps at the bottom of the glass.
The Cappuccino ($5) on my next visit was far better, balanced and smooth, strong but not bitter – one of the better ones I’ve had so far in Singapore (there definitely needs to be some work on consistency).
The Roast Beef ‘n’ Cheery Sandwich ($10) however, was one of the best I’ve had – succulent beef sirloin jazzed up by sweet tomato relish, mustard mayo, and the tanginess of sundried tomatoes sandwiched with baby spinach between warm crispy toast. The portion is generous enough for its price, though a small accompanying salad would add the perfect touch.
The Caesar Salad ($8) with Shredded Duck Confit ($4) – fresh romaine lettuce, buttered garlicky toast chunks, shaved parmesan slices and juicy tender duck is extremely satisfying albeit not exactly healthy.
The sweets offered include a good selection of the increasingly ubiquitous Windowsill Pies in addition to home bakes such as Lemon Poppyseed Cake slices, Carrot Cake and a mean-looking Apple Walnut Loaf (all cakes from $6-7) I hear the loaf is amazingly moist! The menu, both savoury and sweet, is still evolving to include more options.
In developing an ‘intimate space for art and creative endeavour’, Artistry also holds exhibitions, talks and regular events and performances in the evenings. The current exhibition, ‘Twigs, Tops and a Cup of Coffee’ by Yolande Law, has beautiful organic looking abstract works using coffee and natural tools adorning their walls.
Their regular programming includes several editions of Speakeasy, a spoken word initiative that has brought Burmese poets to their stage; Stagefright, a regular local music showcase; and performances by artists like Bani Hykal and members of The Observatory. There’s also a monthly mixology night with the creative team from Barsmiths for wicked cocktail concoctions and mayhem – an alternative and less intimidating way to enjoy the speakeasy bar culture.
And so this is Artistry: huge stacks of magazines ranging from Home&Décor to Monocle sit waiting to be browsed as you sip at your coffee or tea – or wine. Fresh flowers dab the tables with bursts of colour. Music in the background interweaves with the hisses and taps from the coffee machine and barista. The cheery people from Artistry pour you water. It’s too easy to feel at home here. And that’s where a café should shine in – to be a space of special comfort where one feels good returning to again and again.