Was reluctant to visit The Populus Cafe at Neil Road. Don’t want to chase another hipster cafe. But Pinky Piggu wanted to go. Ok lor. When we were there, half of the popular cafe was packed with gay boys and butches; that’s always an auspicious sign. Gay people are purveyors of good taste, right? (Positive stereotypes are ok for minority groups, right?)
You can tell from the decor that Populus is different. Not those commonplace industrial cement stuff, but a chic contemporary look.
The menu too reflects a difference in outlook from other cafes. Strangely, half of the food we had that day have Indian spices. The spring pancake and fried chicken ($21, above) has a yogurt-like and delectable housemade ranch dressing, and the chicken itself seemed to be seasoned with a hint of Indian spice (clove?). A dish well received by us trio.
The other dish we liked is the beef ragu pappardelle ($18). Although the pasta is brittle, the spiced tomato sauce (curry?) gives an excitement to the dish.
Buckwheat pancake ($18.50) is not something I’d order but it is nice, I suppose. Nice is a 4-letter word. It is too much carb for a person. And for a dish without meat, the pricing isn’t worth it. If you want to order the pretty skillet regardless, make sure this is something extra (not your main) that you share it with other friends.
We were, however, ambivalent about the pork belly sandwich ($16), which is similar to the Vietnamese banh mi. The pork belly is too thinly sliced, and the garlic mayo does nothing to the pork. The ciabatta bread is very crusty and diamond-hard, which I like because it polishes the teeth, but I can see how others may not share my enthusiasm for polished teeth by rock-hard bread.
The popularity of the cafe is deserving, and it certainly lives up to the hype surrounding it. Definitely on my best 10 cafes of the year, possibly even top 3. We paid $85 for 3 persons.
The Populus Coffee & Food Co
146 Neil Road, Singapore 088875
T: +65 6635 8420
Overall rating: 3.438/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.