In our imagination, vegetarian/vegan cafes have a 60s hippies air-fairy new-age reputation, but when we came to The Living Cafe, just beside 6th Avenue MRT station, it changed our minds.
The Living Cafe advocates a raw food concept, which is a vegan diet on uncooked food, free from animal products. No eggs, no dairy. The idea is that cooking destroys nutrients in food. But that was when they first started the cafe. Now, there is cooked food, and even meat on the menu!
After we ordered at the counter from a young white girl, we took a table with our backs to the empty restaurant. Gradually, the restaurant filled up. But we waited patiently for the food because we were nursing the chef’s dessert ($11).
After 45 minutes, the young girl collected our empty plate and asked if we would like to settle the bill. WHAT?! We ordered from you, and our food hadn’t even arrived.
We turned around to look at other customers who arrived later. They all had gotten their food. Mr Fitness was f***ing incensed, compounded by our ravenous, crying stomachs; the wasting of our time; the lousy service; and the unfairness that others were served before us.
I pacified him that the girl was probably new; help is hard to get. We spoke to a more experienced server, who brushed us aside. “Yes, yes, the food is coming soon.” They didn’t apologize or offer any amends. They were not hurried at all. Even when we told them they misplaced our orders, other tables still got their food before ours; they did not bother to inform the kitchen to cook our food first. Our orders went to the back of the queue.
We still had to wait another 15 minutes; we were the first at the cafe but the last to be served.
I understand that the new girl might not know how to handle the situation, given that her rich family probably stays nearby and she was just doing this for fun. But the senior server should have handled the situation better.
She shouldn’t brush off a frustrated customer. She could have gone to the kitchen to tell them to whip up our food first, instead of other tables’. She could have apologized and offered a discount, or waived off the dessert.
The service here is unacceptable.
But when the food came, Mr Fitness was appeased as his hunger eased. The food is delicious and clean and healthy. The apricot pistachio quinoa salad ($18) has a good mix of crunch from nuts; bitterness from arugula; sweetness from carrot. And the light balsamic orange dressing acts just to moisturize the flavorful salad, not as a dominant flavor. I don’t know how anyone can hanker after salads, but Mr Fitness keeps talking about this salad that I made a similar salad at home for him. That’s why he’s Mr Fitness.
Breakfast buritto ($15) has a terrible raw eggplant bacon that is unbreakable like Wolverine’s adamantium, but as a whole, the spinach, scrambled eggs, mushroom ragout with a raw cashew mayo give a robust but not heavy feeling.
The previous two dishes are enough for two persons, but we ordered a very satisfying wild barramundi brown rice bowl ($16). The fillet is firm and fresh at a very good price.
The only thing we didn’t like is the chef’s dessert ($11). It is supposed to be a peaches-and-cream cake, but it turns out to be a sloppy mash of undistinguishable flavors.
Although the structureless dessert doesn’t work because there are too many things going at once, most of the time the many flavors from many ingredients in the savory dishes complement and offset one another. There is a craft in mixing so many ingredients, and making sure they work together.
The food is good, and although we spent $71 for two persons, we ate enough for three. I estimate that the average spending of a person is around $20-$25, a reasonable price for the delicious food. But the service needs to be polished.
The Living Cafe
779 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 269758
T: +65 6468 4482
M-Th 11am-7pm, F 11am-10pm, Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 9am-8pm
Overal rating: 2.781/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.