Hiking up Mount Takao (高尾山, Takaosan) will literally take your breath away

Takaosan, Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan Takaosan, Hachiōji, Tokyo, JapanTakaosan, Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan

If you’re in the mega-city of Tokyo for a week and need to get away from the concrete and crowds for a moment, there’s no better place to go than on a nature-filled hike up picturesque Takaosan 高尾山 (“Mount Takao”). Only 50 minutes by train from Shinjuku, it makes for a convenient and memorable day trip for anyone with a penchant for the outdoors. In fact, plenty of Tokyoites make the journey to Takaosan because of its accessibility (yes, believe it or not, the mountain is still actually considered part of metropolitan Tokyo), and because it’s just really, really pretty up there.

Takaosan, Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan Takaosan, Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan Takaosan, Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan

So, what exactly are the highlights of Takaosan? Well, apart from the stunning scenery (made especially glorious in autumn), there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from, as well as a super snazzy cable car tram thingy (the steepest one in all of Japan, no less – slanting up to 31 degrees up the hillside) that brings you halfway to the top, to make your journey to the summit that much easier. Also, as a sort of bonus, you can see the glorious Mount Fuji from the top on a clear day (it has to be a very clear day because it’s still pretty far off). That said, James and I did actually manage to catch a glimpse of the hulking natural landmark in the distance, with the setting sun going down behind it. Pretty amazing.

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Oh, and if you’re ever up on Takaosan, make sure you try some of the famous cheese tarts, sold at the Tenguya Shop. They’re not overly sweet – in fact, they’ve got a hint of savouriness that washes down well with a cup of hot coffee or tea. Seriously, don’t leave the mountain without some! We bought a box of 6 and brought it back to the apartment to have for breakfast the next morning. SO WORTH THE CALORIES.

Takaosan Cheese Tarts Takaosan Cheese Tarts

Common Man Coffee Roasters @ Martin Road, Singapore // Hipsters of Robertson Quay

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore

Overpriced perhaps, but home to a unique enough menu that stands out from the typical Eggs Bennys of today’s saturated cafe scene in Singapore. And really, those steep prices are probably to cover the cost of the cafe being in such an upmarket location. That said, Robertson Quay offers a handful of other decent cafes – Toby’s Estate and The Book Cafe come to mind. But I think Common Man has been on everyone’s radar for a while. Anyway, I chanced upon the cafe during a work thing, and because it looked so gosh darn pretty, I decided to go back to try the coffee and food that very same week with James.

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore

I like the warmth and the buzzing atmosphere in the cafe, though it can get a little overwhelming at times. The tables aren’t really spaced too far apart, so it can get a little bit impersonal when you’re squished between two packed tables, but other than that, the establishment makes for a good breakfast and brunch spot. Plenty of natural light filters in through the large glass windows, making photography a real breeze. Service is efficient, and their baristas do up a mean brew. I can say with certainty that I enjoyed one of the best flat whites I’ve ever tasted here.

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore

The Organic Eggs Benedict (S$24) was pretty much rocket leaves galore, with a sneaky bed of braised ox cheek hidden under two poached eggs, all sitting atop some sourdough. I couldn’t quite taste the “chive hollandaise”, which seemed to have been blow-torched, interestingly enough. But the lovely, tender, flavourful ox cheek more than made up for that. The plating is unique and would probably intrigue your Instagram followers, if you’re into posting your #foodporn.

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore

Slightly less hearty than the Eggs Benny is the simple Croissant Croque Monsieur (S$16), which will probably still be enough to fill the bellies of anyone looking for a savoury breakfast. Served with provolone cheese, ham, and a rather penny-pinching amount of béchamel sauce, it might not be the most competitive item on the menu. They were obviously more heavy-handed with the rocket leaves, but that’s the least interesting thing on the plate. You can always just add a few sides to top up your tummy if you’re still hungry. An extra pork sausage will set you back S$5, and so will half an avocado, or some sautéed spinach. Not the most value-for-money cafe in the universe, but like I said, Common Man’s located in a rather upmarket district, so expect the exorbitant prices! The coffee’s worth every bit of moolah, though.

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Singapore

COMMON MAN COFFEE ROASTERS
22 Martin Road
Singapore 239058
Opening hours: 7:30am – 6pm (Monday to Sunday)
commonmancoffeeroasters.com

The Coffee Daily @ Brighton Crescent, Singapore // Nostalgic neighbourhood fix

The Coffee Daily, Singapore The Coffee Daily, Singapore The Coffee Daily, Singapore

Just over a decade ago, I lived in a house just a stone’s throw away from Brighton Crescent. The Coffee Daily wasn’t around then (they launched in 2012, I believe). Today, the row of shophouses there have evolved somewhat. While the area is still a quiet and sleepy one, despite its close proximity to Serangoon Gardens, there’s definitely a reason to make a trip down, if only to see what the cafes here have to offer. Continue reading

Atlas Coffeehouse @ Duke’s Road, Singapore // It’s not just the coffee that’s good

Atlas Coffeehouse, Singapore Atlas Coffeehouse, Singapore Atlas Coffeehouse, Singapore

ATLAS COFFEEHOUSE draws large crowds on weekends, and because it is located very close to the sprawling Botanic Gardens, expect plenty of people decked out in activewear on their post-morning run high. There is often a slew of bicycles parked out the front belonging to expats who live in the Bukit Timah area. As a breakfast spot that opens at 8am, Atlas caters to the early birds. Most other cafes of similar calibre throw open their doors at around 10. By noon on a Saturday or Sunday, you might have to wait in line for a table – this is one foodie spot with a strong following. Continue reading

Brawn & Brains @ Guillemard Road, Singapore // Surprisingly busy brunch spot

Brawn and Brains, Singapore Brawn and Brains, Singapore Brawn and Brains, Singapore

Brawn & Brains – an interesting name for a cafe. Located along Guillemard Road (a few blocks from my workplace), I’d always wanted to have brunch here, and for the longest time it remained on my ever-growing list of foodie haunts to visit. It’s a bit of a walk from Mountbatten MRT, maybe 10 minutes or so. By the time we got there, it was brimming with brunch-goers. Seems like plenty of expats frequent this place, not sure if that’s because of its location or if this cafe is just really, really popular with the expat community. Continue reading

Curious Palette @ Prinsep Street, Singapore // A dream cafe with Instagram-worthy food

Curious Palette, Singapore Curious Palette, Singapore Curious Palette, Singapore

Curious Palette is one of those tucked-away-in-plain-sight sort of cafes, with a unique layout and a spacious interior that throws subtle Balinese vibes and contemporary Melbourne-esque hipster influences at you. That’s not to say it offers you the norm when it comes to its food options – on the contrary, the menu it presents is contemporary and unique, with dishes that arrive in a state that is wholly Instagram-worthy. Order the Berry Ricotta Hotcakes and you’ll have a panicky moment where you think to yourself “do I really want to destroy such a pretty work of art with my fork of doom?”. There’s really no need for such dramatic thoughts – take one bite of the sweet, fluffy creation and you’ll find yourself being okay with decimating the whole thing and shovelling it all in your mouth. Continue reading

Stunning Views from the Skypoint Observation Deck @ Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

Q1 Observation Deck, Surfers Paradise Q1 Observation Deck, Surfers Paradise

Here are some great shots from the Skypoint Observation Deck on top of the Q1, taken when my good friends Jeanette and Chen came over for a visit back in November ’15. I loved having visitors to look after! James and I had a blast taking them to our favourite spots, though this was my very first (and probably last) time to the top of the Q1. The view was spectacular that day, made all the better thanks to the passing rain clouds in the distance giving the whole landscape a very surreal, magical appearance. Continue reading

Kinfolk Café @ Bourke Street
, Melbourne // A Not-For-Profit Café with Heart and Soul

Kinfolk Cafe, Melbourne Kinfolk Cafe, MelbourneKinfolk Cafe, Melbourne

The concept at Kinfolk is an unusual one. The cafe calls itself a “social enterprise”, and while it does the usual things a typical city cafe would do (i.e. serve coffee and breakfast to the working class and the out-of-towners in the middle of a crowded CBD), Kinfolk also does things a little differently. It is a well-oiled business driven by a dedicated team of volunteers from all ages, races and genders. And here’s the thing: they give away 100% of their profits to their charity partners. In fact, they have raised more than $150,000 for various projects since opening in 2010! Continue reading

Thin-Crust Pancetta Pizza with Puréed Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Garlic & Basil

Thin-Crust Pancetta Pizza Thin-Crust Pancetta Pizza

It’s trivia that everybody already knows, but the history of pizza goes something like this: The Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians were eating bread topped with olive oil and native spices long before the Italians (we now call this focaccia). Eventually, Italy went one step further and evolved this dish into the one we are familiar with – with tomato, cheese, herbs, and other toppings. Continue reading