Dining amid lush greenery without the unwelcome buzz of insects has become easier with a new crop of garden- themed eateries. Over the past six months, at least six such restaurants and cafes have opened here.
Last month, Picnic, a 10,000 sq ft, 270-seat international food hall, opened in Wisma Atria and Sichuan- Western cafe Birds of a Feather opened in Amoy Street.
Other newcomers include Epiphyte in Neil Road and cafe cum- furniture shop Knots Cafe and Living in Paya Lebar Road.
Even themed character cafes are jumping in on the act. Hello Kitty Orchid Garden, which opened in May in Changi Airport Terminal 3, is fashioned after a greenhouse.
Gudetama Cafe, which started operations in Suntec City earlier this month, has a section that is decked with plants.
Mr Ivan Tan, 28, co-owner of Epiphyte cafe, which has an indoor garden filled with terrariums and potted orchids, says: “Diners feel calm surrounded by greenery, which allows them to take a breather from the concrete jungle that is the city.”
Some eatery owners extend the nature theme to their menus.
Mr Edwin Lim, 34, owner of five-month-old gelato boutique Birds of Paradise in East Coast Road, did up his eatery in a botanical theme, inspired by his gelatos, which come in South-east Asian flavours such as lemongrass and basil.
Mr Cheng Hsin Yao, 31, director of Picnic, says its garden theme can be modified to suit different seasons and festivals. For example, the vines on the trellises have Christmas ornaments on them during this period.
The dynamic space also hosts flea markets, workshops, events and music performances.
Mr Cheng says: “Parks are the world’s original community centres where people gather for markets and concerts.”
Most diners whom The Sunday Times spoke to do not mind paying extra for a greenery-filled ambience. Marketing manager Carrie Choong, 32, who has visited Knots Cafe and Living 10 times, says: “The plants at the cafe make this a green sanctuary.”
However,financial consultant Sharon Tay, 39, who finds prices at Picnic higher than those at regular food courts, says: “Though it is beautiful, I’d rather visit a restaurant that offers better food for the same price.”
Birds of a Feather
Where: 113 Amoy Street
Open: 10am to 11pm (Mondays to Wednesdays),10am to midnight (Thursdays to Saturdays), 11.30am to 11pm (Sundays)
Info: Call 6221-7449 or go to www.facebook.com/birdsofafeathersg
When Mr Liu Bin saw the two air wells in a merged shophouse unit in Amoy Street, he decided he would open his cafe, Birds of a Feather, there.
His month-old cafe serves Sichuan food with a Western twist.
The 46-year-old, a Sichuan native who also owns the Good Wood Cafe chain in Chengdu, China, says in Mandarin: “I immediately visualised an indoor garden in the cafe as soon as I saw the two air wells.”
The air wells also allow natural light to pour into the 90-seat cafe.
A mini nursery lies under one of the air wells, with staghorn ferns and orchids growing on two tree trunks.
There are also hanging pots of orchids and lace ferns.
It is no surprise that the seats next to this green zone are the most popular in the cafe.
There is also a dramatic dracaena reflexa, commonly known as the Song of India plant, growing from a huge planter placed near a communal table.
Mr Liu was determined to have plants indoors, even if that meant reducing the cafe’s seating capacity by almost a third.
He says: “Having greenery indoors makes diners feel like they have been transported into another world.
“The plants also help to purify the air and, in a way, breathe life into the cafe.”
Other nature-themed elements include wooden tables, earth-coloured ceramic plates and a lighting feature decorated with dried leaves brought in from Chengdu.
The decor may be soothing, but its dishes, such as Find The Chicken In The Chillies ($16), may set your mouth on fire. A Sichuan dish of deep-fried diced chicken, it is topped with heaps of dried red chillies.
But if you prefer something milder, go for the Oriental Bolognaise ($20) of angel hair pasta in pork ragout with onsen tamago, mizuna and sakura ebi.
Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique
Where: 01-05, 63 East Coast Road
Open: 4.30 to 10pm(Tuesdays to Thursdays), noon to 10.30pm (Fridays and Saturdays), noon to 10pm(Sundays). Closed today
Info: Call 9678-6092 or go to www.facebook.com/bopgelato
A whimsical feature wall plastered with leaf- and fruit-shaped cutouts greets customers at this gelato parlour. And customers sit at a leaf-shaped counter table, on which are placed bouquets of dried flowers.
The botanical decor of this five-month-old gelato shop echoes the flavours of the sweet treats sold here.
Owner Edwin Lim says his 600 sq ft cafe uses natural ingredients such as flowers, herbs and spices to concoct flavours such as white chrysanthemum, pandan and lemongrass ginger (from $4.70 a scoop).
Mr Lim, a 34-year-old former engineer, makes fresh batches of gelato three times a week.
He says: “These flavours make the shop different from other gelato chains that offer traditional flavours such as hazelnut.”
The ice-cream cones, which are also made in-house, are flavoured with thyme.
Knots Cafe and Living
Where: 01-07, Orion@Paya Lebar, 160 Paya Lebar Road
Open: 9am to 9pm (Mondays to Thursdays and Sundays), 9am to 10pm (Fridays and Saturdays)
Info: Call 6817-0383 or go to www.facebook.com/knotscafeandliving
What would a cafe opened by a florist look like?
Like Knots Cafe and Living, which is decked out with pots of money plants, anthuriums and – the cafe’s centrepiece – a towering pachira aquatica plant, or braided money tree, right in the centre of the spacious premises.
Terrariums as well as bunches of roses, orchids and sunflowers are placed on the tables.
This 80-seat cafe is opened by florist chain Xpressflower.com, in its first foray into the food and beverage business.
It opened in July.
Its owner, Mr Soh Yee How, 52, was inspired by garden-themed cafes he saw in Japan and Hong Kong last year, such as Aoyama Flower Market Tea House in Tokyo, and decided to replicate the “nursery in a cafe” concept here.
The plants in the 2,600 sq ft cafe are changed every two days, tapping the ready supply from Xpressflower.com’s warehouse in the same building.
“As we constantly change our range of plants, it is difficult for other cafes to replicate our decor,” Mr Soh says.
“Plants help to soften the interiors and create a relaxing environment. This makes us stand out from run-of-the-mill cafes.”
The plants are not for sale.
The cafe serves Western food, such as eggs Benedict ($12.90) and Parma ham pizza (from $10) and desserts such as matcha waffles ($10.90).
New dishes such as salmon sandwich, onion soup and borscht will be added next month.
The cafe is staffed by people with disabilities and special needs.
But more than just being a cafe in a nursery, it also doubles as a furniture shop – diners can buy the tables and upholstered chairs that they sit on. Shelves and console tables brought in from the Philippines are also for sale.
Where: 03-15 Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Road
Open: 10am to 10pm daily
Info: Call 6734 -8352 or go to www.picnic.sg
A 10,000 sq ft oasis has sprouted in Orchard Road. At Picnic, a 270-seat food hall, vines twine around galvanised mesh sprawled across the pillars and ceiling, while pots of live flowers and ferns hang under canopies of artificial creepers.
Ms Felicia Toh, 29, an architect from Quarters Design Studio who designed the restaurant, says: “We wanted to re-create a vibrant outdoor space.”
The food hall is divided into three zones: Flower Garden, Picnic Park and Beer Garden.
The Flower Garden is modelled after a conservatory, with orchids hanging from vine-covered trellises and pots of roses and gerberas placed below glass-top tables.
The main chill-out Picnic Park area, which has a stage for music performances, is carpeted with artificial grass while the Beer Garden sports plants in more muted colours such as pale green succulents.
This is to complement its edgy vibe of steel tables and concrete flooring.
Quarters worked with florist Harijanto Setiawan to design the intricate landscaping, which cost about half of the more than $3-million set-up budget.
Decorations and plants will be refreshed regularly to mark the four seasons as well as major festivals. The space is currently decked out with Christmas decorations.
The food at the 13 stalls, eight of which are fashioned as food trucks, will also feature seasonal ingredients and new dishes to “cater to food trends”, says Mr Cheng Hsin Yao, 31, director of Picnic. He is also the founder of Omakase Burger, in the same building.
Current dishes that reflect the winter season include truffle pasta ($18), crab meat rosti ($13), and foie gras and beef rice bowl ($18). A Christmas dish is a Turkey- style French Roast Chicken (from $24) that is seasoned with a traditional turkey rub of spices such as paprika, oregano and bay leaves.
Picnic also offers an international array of cuisines. Popular dishes include beef rib noodles ($13) from Taiwan Treasures; pork belly tacos served in roti prata ($12) from Tikka Taco; and butadon ($14), grilled pork rice bowl with tare sauce, from Ezo.
Where: 47 Neil Road
Open: 4pm to midnight (Mondays to Thursdays),4pm to 1am (Fridays), 11am to 1am (Saturdays), closed on Sundays. It is open today from 8pm to 1am
Info: Call 9451-8873 or go to www.facebook.com/Epiphyte.sg
Two-month-old cafe Epiphyte serves a dessert that looks like it should belong in a garden, not the dining table – it resembles a terrarium.
The Instagram-worthy dessert ($12) is constructed with chocolate sponge cake sculpted to look like a piece of rock. It lies on a bed of chocolate soil, edible flowers, apple compote and mint custard.
It is served with a shot of rum (an additional $3), which diners can pour into the “terrarium”.
Cafe owners Ivan Tan, 28, and Stan Ng, 32, hit on the idea of serving a dessert that looked like a terrarium while they were discussing their cafe plans at a table that had an actual terrarium.
It also helps that Mr Tan, a former architect, has been building terrariums since he was 16 years old.
The 80-seat cafe in a two-storey shophouse sports an airy indoor garden under a large air well, which showcases pots of ferns, pennywort plants and orchids grown by Mr Ng, who was an auditor. Mr Tan’s personal terrarium collection is on display as well.
He says: “We realised that most cafes look generic, so we decided to bring in a part of our personalities to our cafe.”
Popular dishes there include pork belly with five-spice powder and fish sauce garlic chilli dip ($13), pink risotto with roasted beetroot, scallops and cheese ($22) and foie gras sliders with mantou and onion cranberry marmalade ($22).
The cafe recently added a bar, which serves cocktails such as a floral- inspired one made with gin, elderflower liqueur, cucumbers and edible flowers.