I am never one to resist a French carb, so when one of my friends suggested going to Tiong Bahru Bakery during my Singapore trip last week, I was definitely up for it.
Officially named Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier, TBB is named after the relatively quiet neighborhood where its first branch opened early last year. I honestly have never heard of Gontran Cherrier before this, but according to my research he’s a third generation boulanger with a few bakeries in Paris. Apparently he is the “Brad Pitt of the Paris bakery scene” known for spicing up his breads with miso and other flavors. However, I put more stock in the fact that Dorie Greenspan called his chocolate tartlet “lovely“.
The smaller of the two branches, the original branch, was packed on Saturday lunch, but my friend and I only had to wait a short time for a table to clear up. We needed the time to decide what to have for lunch anyway:
My friend and I decided to split a Specialty Bun with Bacon (right) and a baguette with Arugula, Prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes:
The baguette for the prosciutto sandwich was lightly spiced with curry, providing another layer of flavor after the saltiness of the prosciutto and the peppery kick of the arugula. If I had known beforehand that the bread was curry-flavored, I might not have gotten the sandwich, since I would have thought that there would be too many clashing flavors already. But surprisingly, it works. And even more surprising: a light smudge of apricot jam (made available by TBB in little dishes, along with strawberry jam and French butter) just ties everything together. The bright sweetness of the jam is just a great counterpoint for all the savory flavors the sandwich has going on.
The bacon is, in a lot of ways, similar to the prosciutto sandwich, just with varying degrees of flavors. The watercress is less peppery than the arugula, but the bacon is saltier than the prosciutto. The bun is less savory than the baguette, but it compensates for that with the sprinkling of curry powder on the the top bun. It all works together though, and, as with the previous sandwich, it’s even better with apricot jam. I just might start putting apricot jam on everything.
Jam aside, though, the real reason I agreed to go all the way to Tiong Bahru was for, of course, the desserts.
My friend decided on an Almond and Chocolate Croissant (bottom right corner). I chose the Lemon Tart, a vanilla choux pastry and a Kouign Amann for the road (not pictured).
The vanilla choux pastry (i.e. cream puff for the rest of us) filling was delicious and tastes just as you expect cream puff filling to taste: creamy, velvety and lush. The choux, though, is slightly different from what I expected: slightly heavier, denser and drier than your average cream puff. It also came with a strange crust on top, like the ones you would usually have on a coffee bun. Not a dealbreaker for me, but still strange.
Also slightly non-traditional would be the crust for the Lemon Tart. TBB uses a crust that is more like shortbread, versus a tart shell. No biggie for me, really, because I care more about the filling. I would have preferred the lemon filling to be a little silkier, smoother, to be honest. But what it lacks in the texture department, it more than makes up for in taste. If you like your citrus flavors subtle and mild, then I would not recommend this tart to you. Gontran Cherrier meant business when he made the filling for this: bold, strong, tart… almost too tart, and that’s something, coming from me, a lover of all things lemon-y and lime-y. But he just takes the lemon flavor up to line of “too much” without crossing it and the result is citrus-y heaven.
My favorite thing from the Tiong Bahru Bakery, though, is the one thing I don’t have a proper photo of: the Kouign Amman. Crisp, flaky, sweet, salty awesomeness. Traditionally a cake made with layers of salted butter, sugar and dough (don’t you just LOVE the French for thinking up things like this?), Monsieur Cherrier’s version is of the rolled type, like a cinnamon roll. I’ve never had the traditional version of this Breton dessert (something that will change on my next trip to Paris, obvs), so he won’t get any complaints from me. TBB’s Kouign Amman is wonderful: with the inside sometimes doughy and sometimes flaky, and a crispy outer shell topped with clear, buttery caramel. Le sigh. I’m getting depressed by the fact that I’m just writing about it and not actually eating it.
On the merits of the Kouign Amman alone, I highly recommend Tiong Bahru Bakery. But if caramelly, buttery French carbs are not your thing
are you human?!?! there are still other things from TBB that would make it well worth the trip to the neighborhood (or Raffles City).
Tiong Bahru Bakery
56 Eng Hoon st. #01-70
Daily: 8am to 8pm
252 North Bridge Road
#B1-11/12 Raffles City Shopping Centre
Daily: 9am to 10pm