With now-defunct The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough starting the trend way back when they had first opened its doors in 2017, it seems that house-made sourdough bakeries are the trend now, with names such as Firebake, Micro Bakery & Kitchen, Mr. Kneady’s, Fine Dining Bakery and many others being pretty established bakeries in Singapore.
Hailing from Bali, Starter Lab had recently opened its doors in Singapore, bringing along their famed sourdough bread into Singapore. Being their second outpost and their very first outside of Bali, Indonesia, the outlet is situated in a rather obscure spot in Singapore; being located at Havelock Road, the shop is tucked in between local eateries, with Pullman Bakery x Tachihara Coffee being the only modern bakery along the entire stretch of shophouses where Starter Lab is being housed at. Decked in a minimalist design theme, Starter Lab makes use of a white colour theme and wooden accents in its furnishings and fittings; some of which providing a slight touch of industrialism whilst also making use of plants to help to bring the cafe closer to nature. Bright and well-lit, the cafe exudes a pretty clean feel; the counter with the espresso machine occupying the front of the shop while a sealed, open-concept kitchen fitted with glass windows is situated at the back. Patrons can choose to sit in at various spaces throughout the cafe for dine-in; the main dining hall features booth seats facing the counter, fitted against the wall; very much like that of Amber Ember where tables are hanging off the wall to maximize the use of space which is great to fit single diners. Apart from the booth seats, larger groups of patrons can choose to sit around the large communal table situated in the middle of the shop space, or even at the dining tables situated beside the counter which can be joined together. Otherwise, small groups can also choose to sit by the glass windows of the open-concept kitchen to catch a glimpse of all the action happening in the kitchen or dine at the counter seating located outside where staff can serve through all small window by the side. Being known for their sourdough and other bread, patrons can go for open-faced toasts or sandwiches as listed on the menu, whilst seasonal bakes are available as and when they are ready; those being pretty popular considering how they are often wiped out as soon as they are carried out of the kitchen. Patrons may also pick up loaves of sourdough as well for takeaway.
Going for one of the items off the “Posh Toasts” menu which lists the various open-faced toast options available at Starter Lab, we went for the Honeyed Mascarpone; the toast featuring House-made Mascarpone, Honey, Crushed Walnuts, Bee Pollen and Black Sea Salt. Digging straight into the toast, the Sourdough is everything to die for; the crust being so crisp and crunchy, whilst the bread carrying just the right level of tension that gives it so much bite; the fibers not being too dense, but provides for just enough chew while also carrying a slight hint of sourness from the fermentation process which was utterly flavourful and even enjoyable very much on its own. Being the star of its own show, the Sourdough is well paired with the toppings listed; the House-made Mascarpone being smooth and creamy with a slight tartness from the cheese without being particularly heavy, with the honey helping to add some sweetness for some flavour contrast. Adding on to the textural aspect of the toast, the crushed walnuts helped to introduce a crunch, while the bee pollen further enhances the sweet, floral notes of the honey drizzled onto the toast. Sprinkling the black sea salt as a final touch, the black sea salt helps to add a hint of umami to the toast, further adding to the complexity of the flavour profile of the open face toast. While the bread is really much of the focus here, it is amazing how the toppings went so well with the toast without stealing the limelight of the true star here, yet working so harmoniously to provide a wholesome experience.
(Starter Lab 3 Cheese)
Also trying out one of the various sandwiches they have to offer, it was pretty much a no-brainer to settle for the Starter Lab 3 Cheese, Using the very same sourdough that came with the Honeyed Mascarpone Posh Toast, it is without a doubt that the bread was already good on its own. Coming with a mix of three kinds of cheese in between, the Starter Lab 3 Cheese is an item that requires some time to prepare in order for the cheese to melt to its ideal consistency. Sinking our teeth into the sandwich, we really liked how the cheese is so immensely stretchy; utterly sinful considering how dense and chewy it was, but oh-so-satisfying with all that cheese which is a flavour bomb by itself. Whilst some may argue that grilled cheese sandwiches are somewhat created for the ‘gram, the variant at Starter Lab is not only just pretty to look at and great to take photos of that instagrammable cheese pull, but also an item which would certainly much be a crowd favourite considering how it is comfort food at its very best. Coming with pickles on the side, the pickled jalapenos were a nice addition; something not quite necessary to pair with the sandwich, but its sweet-yet-spicy note with its fiery kick certainly helps to refresh the tastebuds a little for those who might feel that the Starter Lab 3 Cheese is a little too heavy for their liking.
Ordering our usual cuppa here, Starter Lab brews their cuppas using beans roasted by Anther by Glasshouse (yes, we meant The Glasshouse Specialty Coffee and Toast Bar for their specialty coffee here. Sipping through the White, the White carried a medium body with an earthy and roasty flavour profile that works well as a leisurely cuppa; pretty well-executed being smooth and creamy with a clean finish as well.
Just by looking at the crowds at Starter Lab, Starter Lab had pretty much nailed it with their offerings; pretty much bustling throughout the entire day, the crowd never seems to end at Starter Lab during our visit on a weekend brunch service, with the entire cafe packed at full capacity as early as through late morning to noon. It is little wonder why though; the bread here is of high quality; very much one of the best that we have had in terms of consistency and flavour. Whilst only trying out only a small selection of the toasts and sandwiches that they have to offer, we were truly impressed by what we have had; wonderful toppings that just adds on to the experience without stealing the show away from the stellar bread. Indeed, Starter Lab is one of the places that seems to serve up food with passion and pride, perfecting their craft to serve their very best creations to their patrons. Whilst service was largely decent with the most of the wait staff, we did catch a glimpse of a particular wait staff clearing tables off and disposing of tissue papers looking fairly disgusted despite it the table and the tissue papers looking fairly neat; something which we were not too fond of. Payment methods are also rather restrictive here; whilst cashless payment methods to allow better accountability, the strict usage of cashless payments via contactless cards, VISA or Mastercard can be a little inconvenient for some. That being said, with the minor hiccups here and there, Starter Lab is a place worthy to make that special visit down; especially so for those who really enjoy quality bread even despite its location being a little off the beaten path. Being pretty much an up-and-coming place in the foodie radar, it is certainly a place to watch and add on to the list of must-visit places before the queues really start to form.
721 Havelock Road