Two years after the third-wave cafe boom in Singapore, entrepreneurs here are now reevaluating their choices about jumping on the bandwagon. Others, like Daniel Yeow and Cheryl Ou, use the platform to push for agendas such as eco-conscious living and social responsibility. And about time, too.
The Social Space, which opened along Kreta Ayer Road in April this year, comes after two years living in Bali, where the couple, needless to say, fell in love with the sustainable lifestyle and culture there. There is a hand-painted mural by Indonesian artist Budi Agung Kuswara on the wall as you walk in, and a retail space that stocks quality ceramics and accessories from social enterprises around the region, as well as metal straws and zero-packaging soaps. Basically, it’s everything you need to take that first step towards better living. Its name, the ‘Refillery’, is plenty apt.
The menu here is medium-sized at best, but there’s a reason for that. Daniel and Cheryl makes it a point to hire marginalised individuals who face a higher barrier to finding jobs due to circumstances beyond their control. The turnover rate means that recipes need to be simple enough and few in number – not that I’m complaining. Despite its culinary brevity, the food offerings (mostly open-face toasts and smoothie bowls) are delicious and hearty, not to mention fair trade and sustainably-sourced. Karma points, perhaps?
The toasts, like the Toasted Banana with Peanut Butter, comes in either a half (from $7) or full portion ($12). Served on a chunky slice of sourdough, the slightly-charred sweet banana and salty peanut butter is a classic combination that’s creamy and full of healthy fats. Coconut shavings are sprinkled on top for a bit of milky nuttiness. Try the comforting Roasted Mushrooms and Creme Fraiche ($8 or $14) toast, a plate of sautéed common brown mushrooms topped with melted mozzarella cheese and sour cream that come out of the oven buttery soft and earthy.
Fancy a Pink Flamingo? It’s one of the more popular smoothie bowls in the cafe, which start from $10 and come in a charming coconut bowl that somehow makes things more tasty. This colourful bowl is hot pink all over, thanks to the juicy pink dragon fruits you’ll find inside alongside papaya, banana, and soy milk. It’s a well balanced mix that’s full of flavour, with some housemade granola and coconut flakes added for texture. Acai who?
A little more bizarrely, The Hulk is a mixture of matcha, banana, spinach, avocado, mint, coconut milk and honey. Admittedly, it’s not the most appetising-sounding flavour and is a bit of an acquired taste, but I found myself liking this more after a few spoonfuls: a herby, fresh taste with natural saccharine from coconut milk and honey.
Can it be a cafe without drinks? The tea selection here is surprisingly lengthy, with more than 15 blends available. The Social Space sources its teas from Amba Estate in Sri Lanka and Art of Tea, a Californian company renowned for its fine organic teas.
Think artisanal blends like the Earl Grey Creme ($6, mixed with fragrant oil of bergamot and a touch of French vanilla) and Thieves Tea ($5), made with tea leaves that are grounded in a stone mortar before fermenting and drying. You might also like the Jun Kombucha ($8), which is prepared with green tea and raw honey.
When your stomach is full, check out The Nail Social right next door. This social enterprise was first launched by Sheryl in 2015 and now sees its second outlet on site. From a signature mani-pedi service that uses only non-toxic eco-friendly products to a 30-minute foot massage, the technicians (who are more often than not marginalised) I observed appear to be spectacular at what they do. There’s even a tablet loaded with Netflix for your enjoyment as you get your nails shiny.
The Social Space is located at 333 Kreta Ayer Rd #01-14, Singapore 080333. Open Mon-Fri 9am – 7pm, Sat 9am – 7pm, Sun 9am – 6pm. Closed Tue.