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Singapore Coffee House, Edinburgh, restaurant review

This new cafe is on a corner in Canonmills

Published: January 14, 2023
Categories:
Food: 
9/10
Ambience: 
8/10

Eight people can fit in a rowing boat.

The same amount can squeeze into the average-sized office lift or a Land Rover. On its side, this symbol equals the infinity sign, while, in bingo, 88 is indicated by the caller shouting two fat ladies. It’s considered the luckiest number in China and, in tarot cards, the eight of wands indicates swift action. 

This is also the maximum number of covers that can visit the new Singapore Coffee House, in the former premises of The Bluebird Cafe in Edinburgh’s Canonmills. It is extremely bijoux, and that doesn’t just apply to the dining area. The half Singaporean chef patron, Dylan Qureshi-Smith, who has experience at restaurants including Six by Nico, does his thing in the tiny and horseshoe-shaped open kitchen, and also waits tables. 

He looks remarkably chilled out, considering. I would be a flustered mess, probably crying, maybe banging my head off a table and telling diners to get out and leave me alone.

I’ve eaten his food before as, during lockdown, this chef cleverly set up a takeaway and delivery business, FUZE, which showcased his love of fusion food.

It’s exciting to see him open a physical restaurant and we had high expectations, when it came to the kopitiam dishes that were inspired by his heritage and childhood trips to Singapore.

First, we had to wait for a seat, because it was at capacity on our impromptu visit. Two chilly laps of the block and we were in luck.

After midday, they offer lunch, with dishes including laksa, and there are traditional cakes, like brownies, in the window, as well as takeaway coffees and hot chocolates.

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However, breakfast, which showcases the Indian, Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian influences of this style of cuisine, seems to be their USP and focus. It’s available until noon, Thursday to Monday, and you definitely won’t see the usual full Scottish on the menu.

There are lots of drink options, and I went for teh tarik (£3.40) - a sweetened milk tea. As the menu explains, this is “poured between two vessels at a height great enough to create froth”. I’ve been known to do this at home, with my mug of builder’s brew, but it usually ends in tears and third degree burns. I didn’t see Qureshi-Smith doing his pouring trick, but this was a lovely sugary cuppa, with an aerated head that was fluffier than a newborn chick.

We were too scared to try the kopi gu yu (£3.40) - a traditional coffee that’s served with a knob of butter on top. We’re still dealing with our festive muffin tops, so it was probably best avoided.

The standard kopi (£3.40) is made with a brew of caffeine heavy robusta beans, which have been roasted in a pan with sugar, and then condensed milk is added to the liquid. It’s perfect for those, including me, who would choose to have ten sugars in their coffee, if it was socially acceptable to do so.

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We each ordered a breakfast dish, but also a ‘side’ of one of the irresistible looking curry puffs (£3.60) that are up on the counter. These rolled puff pastry parcels, with edges coiled like a silk scarf, are heavenly, thanks to a burly but mild veggie curry filling.

A bigger option of roti canai (£7.50) featured four pieces of flaky and crinkled flatbread alongside some crumbled peanut and sesame-seed-topped ‘acar pickled vegetables’ and a pot of spicy dipping sauce.

There was also kaya toast (£8.50), which consisted of four thick white and soft sandwich wedges. Each of these satisfyingly uniform-looking doorstoppers was filled with butter and a thick layer of the kaya jam that’s made from coconut milk, palm sugar, eggs and balmy scented pandan. You dip these chunky soldiers into a bowl of soft boiled eggs, and we were given a pot of white pepper and a bottle of soy sauce to season this dish, for a salty-sweet sensation.

This place is a gem, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a breakfast like this in the Capital before. The other diners seemed to be buzzing too, and it was just the breakfast you’d want on a cold day. It’s definitely worth getting out of bed for, and my daily muesli is going to seem depressingly dull in comparison.

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It seems that eight is a lucky number indeed.

5 Canonmills,

Edinburgh

www.singaporecoffeehouse.co.uk

kaya toast

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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