July 14, 2014

The Assembly Ground @ The Cathay ~ A Café In The Heart Of Orchard

When I first walked passed The Assembly Ground café at The Cathay after an evening of shopping at Orchard Road, I thought it to be a new branch of the popular Assembly Coffee at Evans Road. The confusion was cleared when it was later explained to me that the café is actually an extension of the adjoining The Assembly Store - a men lifestyle store carrying labels such as Benjamin Barker. I've since went back to the café a couple of times, drawn by its great ambience and good coffee. Definitely a place that is worth return visits.

Started by founders, Damien Tan and Nelson Yap (whom you see in the picture above), the idea of adding a café arm to the business was conceptualized after they took over the space vacated by Gramophone (a CD store). They considered the area too enormous to solely house a retail outfit, hence The Assembly Ground café was established as a place for customers, friends and loved ones to gather over good coffee and food.

However, the food & beverage industry is not entirely new to both of them. Nelson has previously managed a café in Melbourne, and I was told that Damien had culinary training in Europe and can make a mean kick-ass pizza.

They wanted to bring a piece of their student days in Melbourne back to Singapore, which pretty much explains the laid-back Aussie vibes you feel when you step into the café. And mind you, those bicycles hanging on the walls are not just decorative items you repetitively see in a lot of hipster-wannabe-cafés. It's a throwback to memorable times when they would cycle in their Melbourne neighbourhood for groceries shopping. (Oh, if you happen to wanna buy a bicycle, The Assembly Store sells them too)

Tables are well-spaced apart for decent conversations, but I really can't appreciate the designer Grafunkt steel chairs which left undesirable 'holey' designs on the back of my thighs (I was wearing shorts), though guy friends did find it rather ergonomically comfortable.

Having a team of experienced kitchen staff has assured the food at Assembly Ground to be of certain quality standards. The menu did not surprise much with its usual offerings of breakfast, all-day brunch, salads and sandwiches alongside a small selection of pizzas and pastas, including the very enjoyable Beef Chili Fettucine ($16). Al-dente strands of pasta coated with lip-smacking braised beef and topped with shavings of parmesan. Totally hearty and satisfying.

Even though the dishes which I've tried did not excel in terms of creativity, it undoubtedly surpassed many run-of-mills versions out there. For instance, The Assembly Brunch ($19.50) may looked like an ordinary combination, but almost every item was faultlessly executed.

I especially love the premium wiener sausage - delightfully juicy with a firm bite. The creaminess of scrambled eggs, earthy flavors of sautéed mushrooms, aromatic streaky bacon, grilled cherry tomatoes that burst with sweetness, it all came together so beautifully. Most of all, I appreciate the potato gratin which the kitchen took laborious and time-consuming efforts to make from scratch. So lovely in its buttery softness! The only thing I didn't like was the paltry looking thin toast, otherwise, this is my idea of a perfect brunch platter.

I wish the same 'homemade' efforts can be considered for their baked goods which are sourced from various suppliers. Though the selection of cakes, tarts and cupcakes is considered varied, the quality is really a hit or miss. The overwhelming hard, dry and sweetness of the Earl Grey Citrus Pound Cake ($4.50) had my friend receding in disappointment after one bite, but the Green Tea Matcha Tart ($6.50) and Raspberry Chocolate Tart ($6.50) we tried on another occasion wasn't too bad.

The Assembly Ground uses beans from two popular roasters, the more heavy bodied & nutty flavoured 22 Martin blend from Common Man Coffee and the slightly acidic & fruity Four Chairs blend by Nylon Coffee, for their brew. Nelson and his barista will actually take a thoughtful effort to pair our coffee with the food we've ordered, unless our preference is requested during ordering.

Prices starts at $3.50 for a single shot of Espresso and $5 for a Latte, Flat White & Capuccino. The iced milk drinks all comes with a scoop of ice cream! What a lovely touch especially in this sweltering hot weather, my friend kept throwing envious glances at my Iced Mocha ($6.50) lol.

Service was efficient and friendly. What I love most about The Assembly Ground is the relaxed, unpretentious vibes it exudes. Even though it's located within a shopping mall, it effortlessly brought us away from the bustling feel of the city. Definitely my choice of café when I need a cuppa in town!

The Assembly Ground
Address: The Cathay, 2 Handy Road #01-21, Singapore 229233
Contact: +65 6733 3375
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Assembly-Ground/746424518712396
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-10pm / Closed on Mon / Kitchen opens from 12pm-3pm & 6pm-9pm

Prices stated are inclusive of GST. No service charge.

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