Scrambled eggs on toast
That slab of bacon did me in. A whole smoked bacon chop sat on the plate.
I loved it, as I did the salted white anchovies (boquerones), the grilled haloumi cheese and the creamy scrambled eggs. If it sounded like breakfast, it was – a weekend brunch. Otherwise the café is open only at nights.
The place was buzzing the Sunday we went. There were tables outside and within, all filled. We were shown to a table in their private dining room, they called it, actually just a small courtyard, which they could close off. Great atmosphere, if a little noisy, because of the hard surfaces all round.
But this is Artichoke. A little Moorish type café right in the heart of the old city, Waterloo Street and its environs.
Casual, informal and with an attitude – the specials are scrawled on the wall, the wooden floor is bare. Aside from the air-conditioning, there was little concession to creature comforts, just wooden seats and tables with some cushions strewn around. The feel is grungy, but also warm and welcoming.
But back to the bacon chop.
It was part of their brunch offerings, not like brunch food anywhere else.
You see, the chef-owner Bjorn Shen has a love affair with Moorish cuisine, that is, the cooking inspired by the alleyways of Spain, Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and Morocco and so you will find spices such as sumac, dukha, zaatar, chermoula in his food.
Aside from that chop, the spices make all the difference to breakfast. Also the bread: no soft mealy-mouthed product, it comes light and airy with a hefty crust that is hard to find.
The bacon, candied with maple syrup, came with the best scrambled eggs in Singapore! Soft, creamy and rich, I saw tables ordering just the eggs. To offset it, the plate ($18) also had blistered grape tomatoes and a flurry of fresh rocket leaves.
Less opulent but no less tasty were their boquerones on toast ($16). This is more-ish Spanish white anchovies (which a friend once hauled back in her luggage to Singapore) piled over Spanish manchego cheese and grilled bread. Again, a mound of greens obviated the guilt.
Boquerones on toast
Another variation of cheese on toast was seen in their grilled haloumi ($18). This is Cypriot cheese made with goat or sheep milk and is often grilled or fried because of its high melting point. Delicious as melted cheese always is, it comes with olives, sliced avocado and yummy fried mushrooms and yes, more rocket leaves.
The piece de resistance must be the lamb shakshouka ($22). Eggs are cracked into a hot skillet of tomato and onions, spiced with cumin, I think. A breakfast dish of Algerian and Tunisian origins, here it comes with minced lamb and labneh or yoghurt cheese! Enough said.
While this was truly a BIG breakfast, we were urged to try at least their date pudding. It came in a puddle of smoked milk custard, stirred through with cocoa, peanut caramel and sea salt ($14). We finished it all up even if there was nothing faintly Moorish about it.
Ratings: Ambience: 4/5; Food: 4/5; Service: 3/5; Value for money: 3/5
161 Middle Road (Inside Sculpture Square)
Tel: +65 6336 6949
Opening hours: Tue - Thu: 6:00pm - 10:00pm (Tues-Thurs); 6:00pm - 11:00pm (Fri); 11:00am - 11:00pm (Sat); 11:00am - 4:00pm (Sun)