With its original coffee shop at One Shenton Way going strong, Jewel Coffee has expanded its operations with this addition of a new, upsized location on sleepy Rangoon Road (the other side of Little India, away from busy Jalan Besar). Dubbed Jewel Café and Bar, the new digs was initially slated as a space for Jewel to expand its coffee roasting operations (peekaboo roasters Liberty Coffee do the same just two doors down), but has since grown in scope to include dining and drink options. Says owner Adrian Khong: ‘The space is huge at 2,800 square feet, including the al fresco seating [at the entrance], so we decided to go for a café and bar.’
Décor-wise, Jewel Café & Bar plays on the industrial aesthetic that’s currently all the rage in third-wave cafés – there are pops of browns, blacks and whites interspersed with raw wood, copper piping and glossy tiles, which gives the space a look that’s slightly upmarket, yet somehow cosy. The cavernous front room’s main points of interest is a handsome 16-seat wooden communal table that ends close to the tall glittery bar with a variety of coffee drips, including a few of the steampunkesque two-channel Oji WD-300 that makes cold drip coffee (more on that later).
A mezzanine that’s otherwise used for private events and small parties holds an additional 30 people. A visit to the café (and bar) makes it clear that Jewel is making an effort to shift the perception of the brand to go beyond just being known as a coffee shop (a role they’ve executed pretty well so far). The addition of barman Lawrence Ng – previously of St James and Europa Group – sees the creation of five signature cocktails: highlights include the white peach sangria ($16), which tones down the dryness of a chardonnay in favour of a natural sweetness from fresh Australian white peaches, making it the perfect drink for a hot day.
Khong’s foodie heart also manifests itself in the food options on the menu – with bites like the moreish Scotch egg ($9), it’s clear that Jewel Café & Bar is aspiring to go beyond your basic pub grub standards. Featuring a Kurobuta pork sausage encasing a Japanese-style lava egg that oozes out when you bite into it, it’s an excellent mix of textures and flavours. The burgers are also a must-try. Created and perfected with Khong’s taste buds leading the way, we particularly loved the port and blue cheese ($20), a juicy US beef patty paired in perfect proportion with port wine-reduced onions, Stilton blue cheese and a cryptic ‘magic powder mix’, held together between two brioche buns.
The other mains items we look forward to trying in the future are the Miso Presca Iberico ($34) – a grilled Spanish black pig with miso marinade – and prawn tossed in crustacean oil and capellini ($22), though the slightly higher pricing can be a bit of a turn off. Of course, there still is coffee, and on the java front, Khong makes full use of his larger play space by offering two more signature coffee drinks cold brewed with Jewel’s lineup of single origin beans.
The aforementioned Oji WD-300 – a towering contraption that’s a standard sight in any coffee shop worth its bean – is used to make the Portland ($7) and the San Francisco ($7). Named sentimentally after the cities where Khong got his coffee roasting education, the former is a refreshing 12-hour cold dripped coffee served black, and the latter a creamier option with the addition of the café’s own version of the halfand- half. For a brand that has spent almost three years working at serving coffee dutifully and efficiently to its regulars at Shenton Way, one might question why they’d change their winning formula and diversify into food and cocktails. It’s certainly not just a throwaway idea: with well-crafted drinks and gourmet food options, it’s a move that’s clearly been well thought out and impressively executed from the start. Natasha Hong
Cost: From $4.50 coffee, $15 cocktails, $15 burgers, from $18 main courses
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