I’m pretty sure that with this post I am going to upset a pretty big group of Singaporeans who have been keeping a collective secret for the past two years. That secret is Mary’s Kafe, one of the best places for Eurasian food on the island.
For readers unfamiliar with Singapore’s history, here in the Little Red Dot, Eurasians are considered a race. And while in most parts of the world, the term can refer to any person of mixed European and Asian heritage, here, historically, we mean the descendents of 19th century marriages between Straits Chinese women and predominantly Portuguese or Dutch men. Eurasian food, as you might already have guessed, is early fusion fare — the result of the mingling of these different cultures. Some of the most famous and popular Eurasian dishes include Devil’s Curry (a super hot chicken curry), Feng (a minced pork curry), Smore (a beef stew), and Shepherd’s Pie. A lot of the dishes are traditional European or Straits Chinese dishes that have been tweaked significantly over time.
Today in Singapore, it is pretty hard to find good Eurasian food. Even restaurants that friends have told us are the best they have been to in recent times are, sadly, nothing to shout about. Mary’s Kafe (and I can hear the knives of angry patrons being sharpened), however, is one of the few exceptions. That said, let me make it very clear that Mary’s is by no means a chi-chi restaurant. It is, as indicated in its moniker, a simple cafe. It is open Monday through Friday and for lunch only. It is also tucked away in the Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations headquarters on Waterloo Street — a building I, for one, would probably never have set foot in if not for the lure of awesome pineapple tarts and good ayam assam.
The Mary who runs Mary’s Kafe is a bit of a celebrity. Mary Gomes is the author of two excellent cookbooks, one on Eurasian food and the other on Singaporean fare. Before opening Mary’s Kafe in the SCWO building, she used to rather famously run the canteen at St Joseph’s Church on Victoria Street. Suffice it to say she has a cult following and does not really need my help to make her tiny cafe any more popular than it already is.
The cafe itself is tiny. Just two tables (and one of these is really a couch with a coffee table in front of it) in the air-conditioned room which also houses Mary, her team, and her kitchen. All other tables, that line a narrow hallway, are outdoors. Every day, Mary offers around a half dozen different items. The set lunch, which includes one of these items, a drink and dessert, is S$7. The last time I visited (as pictured above… again, apologies for the resolution, all pix shot on S’s iPhone), S had the chicken assam while I had the beef rendang. These were served with rice, omelette and some veggies. While the portions look small, for lunch, they were perfect, especially given the rich bowl of pulut hitam we were served for dessert.
In addition to the set lunches, Mary also offers a range of cakes and pastries that can be taken away. S and I couldn’t resist trying some of her pineapple tarts. They were so good — seriously, the best I have had in years — we could not resist buying back a pretty large box for our colleagues.
So, the next time you’re craving some good, home-cooked Eurasian food (or if you’ve never had it before and are now curious), be sure to think of Mary’s Kafe.
#01-07, SCWO Centre
96 Waterloo Street
Open 1030am – 5pm Monday – Friday
Posted using the new Mini HP 1000.