I almost missed the narrow, worn double doors of this particular shophouse, but my eyes caught the small chalked sign just in time. Upon second glance I realized I’d arrived at my destination – Strangers’ Reunion, the home of Singapore National Barista Champion Ryan Tan.
These old doors do an excellent job of soundproofing and scent-proofing. Upon pulling them open a wave of chatter and coffee and maple syrup rolled out to the sweltering afternoon heat.
At first Strangers’ Reunion looks eccentric and messy to my neat-freak eyes, but the homey feel is what differentiates it from most other cafés. Its interior is furnished with a mismatched jumble of tables of varying styles, while carpets and paintings mutiny against the grey-and-beige space. I chose a low coffee table, feeling dwarfed and wondering how the staff manage to weave about without once bumping or tripping.
After a bit of eeny-meeny-miney-mo I ordered a Magic (double ristretto with milk). And of course, I must have waffles whenever a cafe serves them. It must have been my lucky day, because it turns out I’d ordered the best items on the menu.
I don’t know what beans were used, but my Magic was smooth and not too strong, washing down my waffle without overpowering its crispy, fluffy, buttery goodness. I know I’m supposed to be writing about the coffee, but after torturing myself with countless mediocre (sometimes downright unpalatable) offerings from ice cream parlors, these are simply the best waffles I’ve ever tasted in Singapore. Omnomnom.
Although the place easily fills up with noise on a busy day, Strangers’ Reunion has a cozy ambiance for catching up with friends and enjoying a well-made cuppa after a long day.
Getting Familiar with Strangers
Apart from the decor and delicious food, what makes Strangers’ Reunion unusual is the warm welcome from the staff, who drop by every table periodically to chat with customers about their order. On my second visit I was lucky enough to get to meet Ryan for a quick chat, and he explained why Strangers’ Reunion looks and acts the way it does.
“I want this place to be really about the coffee, where people can learn about specialty coffee – not just the taste, but the principles behind it. That it’s not mass-produced, it’s self-roasted, it’s directly sourced so that farmers get fair prices.” He adds that the staff are not only trained to make excellent brews, but also encouraged to chat with customers about what they’re drinking. So if you enjoy the food and coffee here, chat with the Strangers about it – you’ll leave feeling like you’ve made some friends.
Ryan says he has “a whole list of places you can visit”, but has recommended that I visit Chye Seng Huat Hardware next, as it’s opened by the pioneers of specialty coffee in Singapore. Off I go!