Update June 2020: Artistry has closed.
Ever heard of those legendary hawker stalls that open to snaking queues and sell out before the day is halfway through? I feel like Artistry is on its way to setting that benchmark in the cafe world. Its hot favourites, namely Big Breakfast and Eggs on Toast, sell like hot cakes and, coupled with a kitchen that closes at 4pm everyday, means that a full course indulgence eludes customers who are none the wiser, i.e. me.
Nevertheless, a ten minute pilgrimage under Singapore’s unforgiving sun from Bugis Junction to its Kampong Glam based premises warrants a reward for the rumbling tummy, so I decided to give the good folks at Artistry a chance on both visits, and boy, am I glad I did. 😉
Part art gallery, part cafe, Artistry can perhaps be best described as a chameleon, constantly shape shifting in terms of its decor and menu. It lends its grounds to an ensemble of visual and performing acts that change with the season; good news if you’re not privy to hanging portraits off the wall for the sake of making the place feel Instagram worthy.
Its grey exterior, striped steps and rustic wooden furniture punctuated by little pots of vibrant hued flowers signal aesthetic taste. The cafe’s layout has its quirks, too, with an elongated table occupying the interior (as opposed to separate booths) and a smattering of high and low tables outside. There’s even a spot by the window to look in and receive your coffee – no, I’m not kidding.
An eye-catcher on both the plate and the menu, the Nasi Lemak Burger easily passes off as a gimmicky hybrid, but that impression is quickly broken down. This unique creation has all the trappings of a Singaporean staple with a Western twist: crispy chicken thigh topped with fried egg, roasted ikan billis, and peanuts served between two panda coconut buns instead of atop the ubiquitous green-tinted rice. And yes – it arrives just like that so you can appreciate it in its full, local-infused glory. 😉
The chicken thigh is tasty and packs a punch without verging on the oily side, which is miraculous considering most other nasi lemak dishes leave a greasy taste on your mouth – but hey! This isn’t some normal run-of-the-mill food court offering here; it’s Artistry. The buns were surprisingly light and fragrant to bite into, making it quite the snack on its own. If ever there was a dish that epitomised the phrase “playing with your food”, this would be it, as it constantly teases your tastebuds between processing it as local or Western fare.
Props to whoever dreamt this up for adding home-made sambal for that added kick, although I would gladly have the arugula swapped with cucumber. I mean, if you’re gonna localise the burger, you might as well go all the way with it, right? 😛
The local infusion of flavours doesn’t stop there, though, as Artistry reportedly brews concoctions from Liberty Coffee, a homegrown coffee bean roaster. I’m no expert on coffee, seeing how my consumption is limited to those few mornings when I desperately need a pick me up, but the Latte I had had a sufficiently smooth, velvety texture and wasn’t too overpowering in its bitterness.
Fret not if you’re too late for brunch, or too full from brunch, or both (for the cafe hopping types). There’s still a decent selection of cakes and desserts on the shelves long after Artistry’s kitchen closes. For something light yet flavourful, the Lychee Martini Cake is a unique rendition of sponge, cream and alcohol. I’m still tickled by how the slice slopes downward, as though there are way too many lychees on top! 😛 Perfect for a post-meal dessert if you don’t want something that induces an instant food coma.
All in all, Artistry strikes a perfect balance. The menu is innovative yet unpretentious, and service is impeccable; there was not one moment where diners were left unattended, as energetic staff were around to clear plates and more despite a full house. Being situated on the edge of a heritage district near Bugis MRT makes it sufficiently quaint yet easily accessible to those who balk at the words “remote” and “walk”.
I’ll be back for sure, and this time, I’ll make sure I get my Eggs on Toast. 😉
Address: 17 Jalan Pinang
Contact: 6298 2420 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday to Saturday: 10am – 11.30pm
Sunday: 10am – 7pm
Closed on Monday
(Kitchen closes at 4pm but come early to avoid disappointment)