Segafredo Zanetti Espresso Cafe Bar

I hadn’t been in the Tanjong Pagar area since the I-S office moved away a year ago, but recently I was contacted by this café out of the blue which was a cool surprise.I arrived at the café at about 12:30pm, while it was still comfortably occupied. It definitely gave me a pleasant surprise—with a very spiffy décor made up of hip hues of red and black, a shiny counter and an eye-catching, yet non-intimidating feel. But man, by 1pm, the rather cozy café was swamped with Italian yuppies (no prizes there), locals and all manner of working folks hungry for some good chow and a cuppa. The friendly owner sat me down for a chat, and in a nutshell, this café-bar is a cafe-bar (cool hybrid, trust me) franchise from Italy. Make no mistake—this is the first and only Italian café-bar on the island (although there are counterparts in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand etc.)—which means you get super authentic, Italian-approved espresso (everything has to be given the stamp of approval by these Godfather guys) and espresso based drinks instead of insipid, whittled-down, adapted-for-coffee-idiots versions. Now, by all means I do not consider myself a coffee expert (I can’t even try too much of the stuff—blame it on my too-used-to-good-food-and-hence-spoiled-rotten stomach), but of course I was game to try (I’m not that noble—it’s just my job). I tried the mezzo mezzo—a warm, comforting concoction of espresso, milk and chocolate which I liked, mainly because of the pleasing mix of milk and chocolate. The cappuccino, namely espresso with creamy milk froth, was decidedly more bitter, though I didn’t quite mind the bitterness; and I must say, these guys do know how to whip up a good cuppa as evidenced by the strong flavors and just the right amount of froth cresting each cuppa. If you’re as indulgent as I am, you’ll dig the marocchino ($4.20)—which is pure chocolate melted into espresso—pure bliss! You might think such coffee authenticity would set you back but the prices are surprisingly reasonable. As for the grub, there’re loads of stuff to choose from—like a gorgeous almond meringue (must-try!), paninis, lasagne, sandwiches and tons more. Look out for more than 10 varieties of wines, Italian Peroni beer and even (get this) Cuban/non-Cuban cigars. For those who like their muzak, there’s even a DJ playing on Wednesday or Thursday night. So is this place worth popping in to? You betcha! Belinda Wan

For the coolest places to get a hot cup of coffee, check out the best spots for specialty coffee in Singapore