Brawn & Brains Coffee had been a spot we had been visiting for quite a while ever since its inception at 100 Guillemard Road; we were naturally excited when the folks behind the cafe opened up a second outpost situated at East Coast Road.
Situated at East Coast Road right beside 328 Katong Laksa and just a short distance away from Chin Mee Chin Confectionary, Brawn & Brains Coffee is the newest cafe to have moved into the neighbourhood which is also home to Forty Hands, and Firebake. Having occupied a pretty large unit, the decor theme of the new branch seemingly follows that of the original hole-in-the-wall establishment that was tucked away in the corner of the old Singapore Badminton Hall. The design cues are pretty prominent; the use of familiar metallic furnishing and fittings such as the lamp shades, tables, and chairs all gives off a vibe that is distinctively Brawn & Brains Coffee; the very same look and theme that is carried over from the original space at Guillemard Road, to the newer, larger location and eventually to the now-defunct Brawn & Brains Coffee Run. That being said, the slight splash of yellow for contrast is seemingly ditched to replicate the look of the original store; albeit more industrial, yet homely with the use of more wood elements and tiled flooring with the coffee machine being coloured turquoise like how it was in the very original space at Guillemard Road. Having been in soft launch phase for quite a while, Brawn & Brains Coffee East Coast Road has been serving up pastries and coffee up to the launch of their hot food menu. We made a visit on their very first weekend dinner service, where they were serving up a variety of pasta dishes as well as tacos alongside a small selection of baked and pastries with specialty coffee.
(Karaage Chicken with B&B Curry Sauce)
Being the only side available on the day of our visit, the Karaage Chicken with B&B Curry Sauce is probably one of our favourite dishes that we have had here. Deep-fried till golden brown with Quinoa included in its batter, the chunks of chicken were juicy whilst crisp on the outside — the quinoa adding a nice crunch that was simply addictive. Whilst the Curried Chicken Wrap itself is an icon on Brawn & Brains Coffee’s menu at Guillemard Road, the B&B Curry Sauce is something different from the tangy and spicy yogurt-based sauce used in the Curried Chicken Wrap; the B&B Curry Sauce is thicker, carrying a slight tingle of sweetness that is somewhat similar to a refined version of McDonald’s curry sauce — not a bad thing considering we were endlessly dipping the chunks of chicken into the curry sauce.
(Hand Rolled Beef Meatballs Spaghetti in a Rich & Hearty Tomato Sauce)
We also had the Hand Rolled Beef Meatballs Spaghetti in a Rich & Hearty Tomato Sauce; a very simple, comforting pasta dish that is decently done. Coming with a generous portion of pasta and meatballs, the hand rolled beef meatballs were absolutely tender; all soft without much of a need to chew, without carrying any distinct gamey flavours which makes it pretty easy to eat. That being said, we did feel that it could have done with a bit more seasoning; perhaps more herbs for better flavour, while the meatballs could come with a slightly crusted exterior for more texture as well. The pasta was done slight softer than al-dente; perhaps intentionally done so to suit the local palates better, whilst being tossed in a bright and tangy tomato-based that provided most of its flavour. Whilst being a rather predictable item, it is hearty and easy to understand; no doubt there is some room for improvement in its execution, but it is a decent item that is no-frills and unpretentious to have.
(Stir-Fried Pork Udon with Tofu Cream)
Also going for the Stir-Fried Pork Udon with Tofu Cream, the dish was an interesting item but felt a tad jelak to finish. No doubt the dish was a creative take on the Japanese Udon with a slight Korean spin; that being said, the use of Gochujang with Udon made the entire dish felt unusually rich and heavy, thus a little difficult to finish especially with its sweetness and punchy spiciness along with the chewy noodles. The stir-fried minced pork helps to add a meaty, savoury note in between, while the tofu cream helps to cut through the heaviness a little with its largely neutral and slightly beany flavour. That being said, we felt that expectations of the dish could be managed better if it was more appropriately named; the lack of mention of Gochujang in the description was probably one of the main factors why this dish came as a surprise; an immensely rich and spicy version of Udon which is usually served light and savoury, whilst the stir-fried pork seemed to suggest that pork slices would be served with the Udon rather than being stir-fried minced pork.
(Earl Grey Croissant)
Just like at the Guillemard branch, Brawn & Brains Coffee also serve the same variety of cakes and pastries at East Coast Road, such as their selection of sliced loaf cakes, croissants and breads. Going for the Earl Grey Croissant, the croissant comes buttery and topped with a sugary glaze that carries a light aroma of lavender and the tea that perfumes through the croissant.
(Cold Brew – White)
While we would have went for the usual Flat White on days where we are visiting Brawn & Brains Coffee for a tea-time break, we went for the Cold Brew (White) to pair accompany the items that we had for dinner. Having the Cold Brew (White) a couple of times, it is rich, nutty and creamy without being overly sweet — bottled coffee that fits well as a beverage on the side.
Having been, and following Brawn & Brains Coffee for an extensive period of time, it is definitely exciting to see how they have expanded from the small shop space at the corner of the old Singapore Badminton Hall to a brand with two spaces operating under its name. The East Coast Road branch carries a sort of nostalgia from its most original space; a familiar and intimate vibe that was somewhat lost during the transition from the original space to the newer, bigger space at Guillemard. Whilst the pastries and other bakes, as well as coffee, at East Coast Road are largely consistent with the Guillemard branch, we felt that the new menu was a little disconnected with the original space; no doubt it sees interesting forms of fusion come together as one, but the items carried in the menu feels pretty foreign from what was established throughout the years. Perhaps it may be themselves trying to stray away from their usual style to go for a new direction, but the execution could have been done a little better, and a little more personal touch that exudes their unique character since the Guillemard days. No doubt the offerings are rather decent, but they do definitely have some room for improvement; perhaps just like the days when they were experimenting out what works for the menu back at Guillemard in that small space that they had before the curated menu that they are serving now. That being said, it is certainly heartening to have followed their journey and see how far they have come over the past 5 years; congratulations to the folks of Brawn & Brains Coffee with the opening of their second branch, and here’s wishing them all the best in what that has to come!
Brawn & Brains Coffee
218 East Coast Road
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/brawnandbrainscoffee/