Update 12 Oct 2015: The Mama Shop is closed till further notice.
It doesn’t get any more old school than this; a 10-seater, retro-style cafe at the Old Police Operational Headquarters, a heritage building off the beaten track from Chinatown. Named after the ubiquitous neighbourhood snacks and trinkets shop, Felicia Chin and Sora Ma’s foray into the cafe business, The Mama Shop, is gaining attention for its blend of local-infused snacks and drinks, as well as a nostalgic array of knick-knacks displayed on its shopfront.
Leaving behind the hustle and bustle at Chinatown one afternoon, we made our way to its humble premises and felt like we’d stepped into another world – the world of our parents before the invasion of smartphones and fast-paced living. The cafe was pleasantly quiet, save for the quiet click of someone’s camera and tablefuls of customers chatting away despite the relentless heat (no air conditioning here, just a couple of standing fans). And yes, that record player on the table is no mere table decoration – feel free to play around and relish the novelty of picking a track with the tone arm instead of mindlessly jabbing away at a button or a touchscreen!
True to its name, The Mama Shop offers up a sizeable selection of trinkets and snacks from yesteryears – perfect if you’re a visiting tourist and have no idea what to get for friends and family back home. Picked up a Snakes and Ladder set for $0.80 which proved to be quite handy later on (you’ll see why):
There are no menus here, but you can check out the cafe’s food and drinks complete with prices on the shopfront. Eager for a bite and a drink, we made our orders with a pleasant-looking staff and headed back to our table, where we waited. And waited. And waited. Almost a full hour passed and there was no sign of our food even though we were given a wait time of half an hour. You would think that our drinks would have been out (since they’re arguably the easier things to make on the menu), but it was an agonisingly long wait with only our rumbling tummies and a mini board game for company. Understandably, there was only one staff around but it’s telling that they need to up their game in crowd management (the other staff were running late at the time).
No complaints about the food when it came, though! Freshly made, the Okaasan Waffle is an interesting amalgamation of Western and Asian flavours: crisp, savoury waffle housing three halves of seaweed chicken and takoyaki style toppings. Biting into it brought back memories of recess time in secondary school, as the flavours were reminiscent of my favourite childhood snacks. 😉 Though it was only half a waffle, it was surprisingly filling, what with the generous chunks of chicken and toppings. The meat was sufficiently succulent and not the shrivelled up type we’re so used to in school canteens. The waffle itself is extremely light and provided an added texture of crispiness to an already wonderful combination. At under $5, it’s extremely value for money and it’s hard not to see why these are one of The Mama Shop’s must-try offerings.
To beat the heat, I had a Red Bean Slush. The strong flavour of coconut milk made it seem like a drinkable dessert (and a very thick milkshake that took some stirring before anything made its way up the straw!)
You know how KOI bubble tea always comes with an abundance of tapioca pearls? Here’s my treasure trove of red beans; hardly mushy at all and almost like a post-drink dessert.
Snuck a bite of my friend’s Mama Quiche, whose ham and cream cheese filling gave it a homely taste. It’s the sort of comfort food I’d remember tucking into on a lazy morning, though my friend’s verdict is that it doesn’t quite live up to the Okaasan Waffles. 😛 Still, I wouldn’t mind grabbing this for a quick and light bite.
Quiches and burgers come with a side of crackers or fries; the Truffle Fries here had a strong aroma of truffle oil, but otherwise, it’s pretty ordinary. Tasted a little soggy and starchy, so get this only if you’re really hungry. The jury is still out on The Mama Shop. It certainly enjoys a lot of leverage thanks to its celebrity owners and its nostalgia-infused concept. I wouldn’t say that the outrageous waiting time is fully justified by it still being in its early stages of operation, but it was partly ameliorated by the excellent food and drinks. If the menu and service are executed perfectly, it could well turn into something of a cafe gem and live up to its initial hype instead of being a mere novelty in the months to come.
Website/ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mama-Shop/1499558526956124
Menu: View menu here
Address: 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace, Old Police Operational Headquarters Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday to Thursday and Sunday: 12pm – 10pm
Friday and Saturday: 12pm – 11pm
Directions: For a short cut to The Mama Shop from Chinatown MRT, take the escalator up from Exit C and walk through the hawker centre at People’s Park Complex.
Look to the left of the dumpster and you will find a flight of stairs. At the top is the entrance to Pearl’s Hill Terrace.
Enter via the main foyer and you will see a sign indicating the direction of the cafe. Follow the sign and –
Viola! You are now at The Mama Shop. Enjoy. 😀