Five by Five Cafe and Bar, Thomson V One, Sin Ming Road and Gwee Li Sui’s “Myth of the Stone”

Five by FIve Cafe and Bar, Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road, Singapore“Where you want to go?” asked the security guard at Thomson V Two as he emerged from a room probably full of surveillance screens, having interrupted his lunch to deal with this loiterer. No he hadn’t heard of “5 by 5”. Massage place? (Nooo…how…?) Chicken shop? (That’s probably Chicken Clinic, where chickens are cured of the disease of…er…life.) French food? (Nope, that’s The Black Sheep Cafe.) Bakery? (Nope, #1 Baker Street.)

Five by Five Cafe & Bar (facebook. #01-03, Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road) was eventually discovered without assistance on the canal / lokang side of the building. A clean space decked with white tiles, equipped with a brew bar. There was a Synesso for shots and Cafe de Tiamo coffee drippers for brews.

Five by FIve Cafe and Bar, Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road, Singapore

Five by FIve Cafe and Bar, Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road, SingaporeCafe de Tiamo stainless steel coffee drippers

Five by FIve Cafe and Bar, Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road, Singaporecake!

Five by FIve Cafe and Bar, Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road, SingaporeThis flat white was courtesy of, I think, Common Man Roasters’ 22 Martin blend – Brazilian and Indian. Good mouthfeel, thorough incorporation of milk. Chocolate with a hint of cinnamon. Given my preference for strong bold flavours, I wished I’d persuaded the barista to have given me a double ristretto instead. (She’d explained that a single shot was best for the blend. I forgot to counter that I was quite abnormal, and would never have made as good a barista so far be it for me to tell you how to do your job, but pretty please could I have it more gao.)

Five by Five Flat White x Gwee Li Sui's Myth of the StoneStill, it was an enjoyable cup to accompany the reading of Gwee Li Sui’s Myth of the Stone (facebook) – “Singapore’s first graphic novel”. This appeared to be a bildungsromans of sorts with Li-Hsu, our protagonist, learning that decisions come with consequences and the necessity of making responsible choices. Like the hodge-podge cast of international mythical characters that populated the book, the decision-making plotline was one of many that criss-crossed the comic. Working through this piece of re-worked juvenilia, you followed the author on a journey of catharsis, picking his way through the accumulation of tropes and motifs of fantasy narratives, biblical allegories, deus ex machina interventions, etc, reaching some sort of denouement. Perhaps the journey was picking the author instead.

The amateur artwork, I thought, was terribly appropriate for this atmosphere of juvenile dissatisfaction and confusion.

Five by FIve Cafe and Bar, Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road, SingaporeMJ and I had been continuing our way through Genesis that morning, seeing how, in Genesis 12-17, God promised to start to deal with the problem of sin (and therefore, man’s broken relationship with God) and the consequences of sin (man’s broken relationship with the world). If Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman epic is meta, then the Bible’s one story of mankind is much more magnificently so.

The Sharing Economy, Collaborative Economy, “Gig” Employment

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road
Cafe-hopping, I was told, by various people and oft, when I arrived in Singapore, was totally the thing right now. It leveraged on synergies:

  • people wanting some content for Instagram
  • cafes ensuring their food was instagrammable, but at a cost
  • people banding together and pooling resources to ensure a much lower overhead cost for each enviable instagram-shot

The sharing economy or collaborative economy goes further than the mere cobbling together of resources. And the companies that have made the greatest gains don’t even start with much:

Uber – the world’s largest taxi company, yet owns no vehicles

Airbnb – the world’s largest accommodation-provider, yet owns no property

Alibaba – the world’s most valuable retailer, yet owns no inventory

Facebook – the world’s most popular media owner, yet creates no content

These sharing platforms have been hailed by many as representative of the new dawn of socialism. The idea isn’t new of course – Napster was nabbed for that a few years ago. And before that, the people in Acts “held everything in common”.

So this is libraries and hitchhikers, on steroids, built on the necessary foundation of “the internets”.

flat white coffee, Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadWhat are the benefits of such peer-to-peer transactions?

  • transparent utility
  • transparent allocation of benefits
  • lowers inefficiencies in the market – through capital-sharing (Airbnb, Relayrides, Zilok), labour-matchmaking (Uber, Lyft, DogVacay, Taskrabbit,) person-to-person marketplace platforms (Alibaba)
  • better for community? more emphasis on social capital – the return to pre-industrial relationship (albeit in a very artificial superficial way) and the creation of trust relationships
  • more personal interest in behaving well, providing good service?
  • participation x choice x social justice? because the cost of use falls
  • if “sharing is the new buying“, there will be less demand for new products, and less strain on the world’s resources (as the environmentalist spiel goes)

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road
What are some concerns?

  • easy for these large corporates to flout laws much like the traditional big companies of old, except this time, they bypass the usual democratic process by appealing to their consumer-following to pressurise regulators into capitulating on laws, effectively nullifying the electoral/legislative process.
  • making business out of not being responsible – the companies running these platforms don’t bother with legislation meant to protect employees (from overwork, from discrimination, from exploitation, to ensure they are properly insured, etc); they don’t bother with consumer rights;
  • while marketing solidarity and saving liberal consumers a few pennies, what allegedly happens is that the rich get richer by shirking taxes (that are a mechanism, amongst other things, for the re-distribution of wealth).

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadIt is with some amusement that one realises how similar the dangers of a (neo)liberals’ dream economy is to criticisms of liberalism in the political arena. This fetishised dream of freedom from “burdensome” laws! and “oppressive” authorities! and “overbearing” commitments! forgets that laws and authorities are meant to protect the weak, and commitments ensure job security (hence the protests against zero-hours contracts).

And if so for human laws and authorities which are inevitably flawed on many levels, what about God’s laws and the lordship of Christ?

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadBut…I myself work for a gig employment type company that enables me to earn some bread to feed myself, while also part-time unpaid full-time ministry. It distinguishes itself by actually employing people and then seconding them, and it accords them with the usual benefits of healthcare and insurance.

This is a mere thought-in-gestation…I wonder about the efficacy of a collaborative economy or gig employment for Bible teachers. In a city where there are many churches and few good teachers of the Word, would it be possible to have some sort of platform for desperate churches or parachurch organisations to get the services of (be served by) someone well-trained but, as is usual in any monopoly, hasn’t been given the opportunity to make use of that training (because, eg. the pastors-in-power are wary of their better skills in bible-handling, because they don’t show enough loyalty to the pastor to be given a higher profile)? Most preaching/teaching gigs happen now along the lines of old boys’ networks, strengthening existing monopolies, widening inefficiencies that could be used better for the kingdom.

Of course, sovereignty of God…to which one says, ah but human responsibility.

Still, this might be useful in a limited sense: one-off talks or a short training season; it can’t quite replace a long-term pastor/teacher who is committed to loving and caring for his flock, and who is responsible under God for them.

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road

*the cafe in this post is Paddy Hills (38 South Buona Vista Road). They use Tiong Hoe coffee. This flat white was very dark – it tasted like ash on the roof of my mouth. Perhaps an off-day? The berry hotcakes idea was decent (crispy on the edges, fluffy inside), though the original Kettle Black one in Melbourne had the advantage of cream, which, everyone knows, makes everything better.

**update: see also Robert J. Shiller’s article, Faith in an Unregulated Free Market? Don’t Fall For It.

In Search of the Best Flat White in Bristol. Or Prayer and Coffee, and the Promise of Mark 10:29-30.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

It is only when cast upon the hospitality/mercy/generosity of others that one begins to understand the promise in these verses…

For the first pop-in to Oxford this summer, the Ls kindly let me have their spare bedroom in Headington. I was impressed how calm everything was in the house, despite the run-up to Keswick. If I was in-charge of a major national convention, I would more likely be in a mad tizzy than offering lifts to and from town to guests during the day and sitting with them calmly drinking tea and eating cake in the evenings.

One morning, while I was working on 2 Peter in the kitchen over a very slow and late breakfast, JL popped in to grab a drink – “all you need is prayer and coffee”, he grinned.

A week later, with friends in Bristol, JB was making delicious pour-overs on his V60 with Pact Coffee‘s Jammy Dodger (a Brazilian from Fazenda Santa Ines).

For the first few days, I kept forgetting that Bristol wasn’t Melbourne. The sunshine, the full-blown alternative culture that can’t quite be said to be alternative if it was so mainstream, the hipster cheerfulness of its inhabitants sitting out in said sunshine, and the high propensity for purchasing good coffee, almost had me fooled.

But first, the ones that didn’t quite make it:

Full Court Press (59 Broadmead Street, Bristol. facebook) didn’t quite do it for me, despite the high rating on Beanhunter. The Ethiopian Gedeb was completely overwhelmed by the milk.

Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol   Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol

Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol
Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol
Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol

Playground Coffee House (45 St. Nicholas Street, Bristol. facebook) was as per tin. It boasted swings and board games and fun little touches, and the staff, true to theme, were friendly and chatty – a marked contrast to the coffeeshop above. A place to sit with friends, though not a coffee destination.

The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)

Outstandingly good though, were:

Spicer + Cole (9 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4BX. facebook) – I had their flat white done with Extract Coffee’s Unkle Funka twice. Different baristas on different days, same amazing cherry kirsch chocolate bon-bon bomb. Well done.

The search for good coffee in Bristol: Spicer + Cole (Clifton Village, Bristol)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Spicer + Cole (Clifton Village, Bristol)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: flat white from Spicer + Cole (Clifton Village, Bristol)

Small Street Espresso (23 Small Street, Bristol. facebook) provided a flattie that was a dark chocolate Cointreau bon-bon. Absolutely beautiful.

The search for good coffee in Bristol
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Small Street Espresso, Bristol
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Small Street Espresso, Bristol

More wonderful and satisfying than even the best coffee in Bristol was to go “home” after, to people who loved God, whom God loved, whom I loved, and who loved me. The brothers and sisters and homes promised in Mark 10.

The search for good coffee in Bristol: Small Street Espresso, BristolLady, I felt that good sans a back massage.

But the Mark 10 list that promises houses and brothers and sisters in this lifetime also includes persecutions. And that is already increasing, as it must. Still, we can look forward to, in the very near future, the certain hope of eternal life.

The Cup of Truth

We passed the board indicating the shops that dwelt underground, in the subway to Flinders Street Station. One name jumped out – “Cup of Truth” it said, matter-of-factly. It was so incongruous it made me laugh – like finding the Holy Grail at the back of a dusty charity shop, labelled “Holy Grail – used. 99p”.

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St) Cup of Truth (facebook, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway, below Flinders Street) was infact a purveyor of coffee, and a rather famous one at that. The shop was named for the large red cup on the counter where customers were to pay and pick up change; the honesty cup.

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St) Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)In the hopper for espresso was a Cup of Truth blend from Axil Coffee Roasters. While waiting, had a little chat with the barista about how the Technivorm compared with a Wilfa, and how the consistency you get from an EK grinder made so much difference to the final drink.

We sat in the subway tunnel sipping our drinks. I very much enjoyed my flat white – almost as fragrant as an Ethiopian, even though the advertised blend on their FB page is 75% Brazil Ipanema, 25% Costa Rica El Pilon.

Then some of us wandered around – across from the coffee-in-the-wall, a singing Italian barber and a publisher of self-zines. Others of us went to get our Mykis topped up, not wanting to cheat the public transportation system.

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)  Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)

Ah, the cup of Truth.

I thought of the Bible study group I’d been visiting back in Singapore – full of philosophy postgrad students and Oxon graduates, yet even with their obvious ability to read and comprehend vast stacks of material, they did not seem able to understand the most important book of all – the Bible.

It bothers me greatly that though they have such a treasure in their hand, they have shown themselves unable to enjoy the richness it contains. On their bookshelves, on their mobiles and laptops, the fountain of truth, containing living water that endlessly refreshes awaits, yet they have barely had a little sip to sustain themselves on the journey.

And any attempt I make to get them to look more closely at God’s word is seen as disruptive. Sure, it does rather break up the pointless meandering, but perhaps that’s exactly what’s necessary.

Coffee and Late Breakfast and Brunch in Melbourne

Brunch and coffee spots, said several Melburnians, were all the attractions we needed to pay attention to in this city. To aid our quest,

Broadsheet – Melbourne

The Urban List – Melbourne

Concrete Playground – Melbourne

City of Melbourne – Winter Guide 2015

Hidden Secrets Tours Melbourne

Smudge Eats

In Love With Brunch

Thus informed, our mornings became a week-long pilgrimage. This isn’t a buzzfeed list of Melbourne’s “top ten cafes you must visit before you die!”, but some favourites that we managed to get to. Of course, any casual review is profoundly subjective, affected by the weather that day, my mood, the interaction with the people I was with etc:

The Kettle Black

Instagram-worthy? Tick.

Design-savvy? Tick. Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road, facebook)’s classic but fresh interior design was courtesy of Studio You Me (Kestie Lane, Hana Hakim). A real delight to the eyes after all the faux-industrial cafes we get in Singapore. Cafe design is truly a thing in Melbs and the rest of the Antipodes – there’s even the Eat Drink Design Awards to highlight this.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - hotcake, crayfish burger, beef steak burger

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: hotcake with ricotta, blueberries, pure maple, double cream and seeds

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - fresh crayfish in an ash roll, with purslane and local leaves, lime and yuzu mayo

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - Cape Grim fully-traceable beef with house-made mustard, seasonal fruit relish and leaves on the Kettle black bun And even the plating of the food was excellent. Festooned with edible flowers, a riot of colours, you might be forgiven for expecting that brunch that looks this good must be without substance. But these (especially the hotcake and beef burger), like math-teacher-male-supermodel Pietro Boselli, exceeded expectations.

Above: the hotcake with ricotta, blueberries, pure maple, double cream and seeds; Cape Grim fully-traceable beef with house-made mustard, seasonal fruit relish and leaves on the Kettle black bun; fresh crayfish in an ash roll, with purslane and local leaves, lime and yuzu mayo.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) - flat white, latte, hot chocolateSquare One Coffee Roasters provided the house blend of 50% Ethiopian Wote and 50% Guatemala Santa Isabel. The chocolate-toffee notes were strong in my cup – interesting how un-citrusy it was, especially given the African-Latin American blend.

Manchester Press

On the other side of the Yarra River, down a little alley, there is Manchester Press (facebook, 8 Rankins Lane).

Flat whites and brunch in Melbourne: Rankins Lane, outside Manchester Press

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne It’s housed in one of those spaces off Little Bourke Street that was once an industry useful in the last millenium – a printing press. Some might call this gentrification, but that is perhaps too narrow a view; perhaps this changing use of space indicates the succession of generations, as observed by John Adams:

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane)We are of the cafe-hopping generation, with the luxury to indulge in whimsical fancies. But soon, as the circle of history turns, our children might have to study politics and war.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane) - chia seed and coconut pudding with passionfruit coulis, topped with toasted oats, dried cranberries, and fresh berriesFor now, we can indulge in chia seed and coconut pudding with passionfruit coulis, topped with toasted oats, dried cranberries, and fresh berries, and edible flowers;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Manchester Press (8 Rankins Lane) - Texas BBQ style pulled pork, slow roasted for 14 hours, soaked in BBQ sauce, and topped with homemade slaw and pickles in a bageland Texas BBQ style pulled pork, slow roasted for 14 hours, soaked in BBQ sauce, and topped with homemade slaw and pickles in a very good chewy bagel;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane) - toasted blueberry bagel with whipped raspberry mascarpone, fresh strawberries, and crushed pistachiosand toasted blueberry bagel with whipped raspberry mascarpone, fresh strawberries, and crushed pistachios;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Machester Press (Rankins Lane)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne:Manchester Press (Rankins Lane)and talk about how good the flat white is here – 8oz Coffee Co. providing the house blend that tasted so much like rich chocolate milk, I had to check that no one sneaked a cocoa dusting into my cup. Delicious.

Brother Baba Budan

Just out Rankins Lane, on the corner with Little Bourke Street, is Brother Baba Budan (twitter, 359 Little Bourke Street), named for the chappie who smuggled 7 coffee seeds out of the Middle East, thus breaking their hegemonic powers in the caffeine world, liberating the oppressed etc.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) - latte and flat whiteThis cosy cafe with its distressed walls and chairs hanging precariously overhead is a Seven Seeds Coffee Roasters outpost. I didn’t know if the blend was too light to come through the milk in the flat white or if it was a barista error – a decent cup, not a destination cup. The latte-drinker liked his milk drink much better than the one he got at Manchester Press though.

Captains of Industry

And then, just on the next alley off Little Bourke, Captains of Industry (facebook, Level 1, 2 Somerset Place) – describing themselves ironically (i think) as “The practitioners of Captains of Industry are Practical Men of Wide Experience offering the Good, the True and the Beautiful in traditional men’s outfitting and dining.”

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place)It was a nice experience, sitting in a darkened space with naked bulbs hanging from a high ceiling, sharing the old table with an old sewing machine, or perched on the chairs looking out at fat little balls of sparrows flitting over Elizabeth Street.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place) The flat white was what a reasonable gentleman might like on a cold blustery day after having given the morning’s sermon on Luke 10:25-37:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Axil Coffee Roasters

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in MelbourneFlat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne

A little further to the east, there was a long line for brunch at Axil Coffee Roasters (facebook, 322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) on the Queen’s Birthday (8 June). We sat outside braving the cold, warming in the winter sun.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters (322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters (322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) - Queen's birthday cake

The birthday boy bought me brunch and I bought him the Queen’s birthday cake. It was so lovely to catch up with the old boy over a seemingly-healthy (and paleo) breakky. Was encouraged by his singlemindedness and thankful for the great situation that God has put him in – to be working under a pastor who too loves the Word and trusts VK to do the job without needless overbearing oversight. We reminisced a little about MY and the people we met during our time together in London. Lurve-ly.

Dr. Jekyll Cafe

Near St. Kilda Beach with the scary clown mouth of Luna Park, is Dr. Jekyll Cafe (facebook, 107-113 Grey Road, St. Kilda).

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) - avocado and Meredith feta mash, with mint and lemon on rye toast, with a poached egg Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda)

Met an old friend there whom I hadn’t seen in decades (wow, I’ve always wanted to be old enough to say that without exaggeration!). I had the avocado and Meredith feta mash with mint and lemon on rye toast. Not being a great fan of that fatty fruit, I was under instructions to try it out on toast at least once in Melbs. Not bad actually!

HM quickly got to summarising the years that passed since our last meeting. She wanted to know how I became Christian, knowing that I was very much against it in school, and not being of the personality to follow trends. God’s grace, I said, worked out in:

  • how after investigating all the hypotheses found in philosophy, science, literature, politics, psychology etc., the Christian faith proved to have the best historical veracity of claimed facts, and the best internal consistency in the historical texts compiled in the Bible;
  • the Spirit working in my heart and mind so as to understand therefore, the dire state humanity is in because of our rebellion against God (by, fundamentally, not acknowledging him as God) and the gracious salvation offered by God’s son – if only we repented of our rebellion, turned, and acknowledged God as God, and Jesus as his son, who is able and will pay for the sins of the world.

She told me how she herself was getting on – wished I’d more words of assurance to offer, but those words would be empty ultimately. What she needed was God’s assurance – found, not in some whisper in the darkness, but in the comforting words of Scripture. God himself assures us about what reality really looks like, where this world is ultimately headed, and what the purpose in our life is. And so we do not despairingly “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. Rather, we enjoy God’s gifts of food and drink and laughter in this creation, with thanksgiving to the Creator, fuel for the work to be done on earth, looking forward the new creation to come.

Selfish Gene Cafe (40 Craig Road, Duxton) and Ronald Dworkin’s “Justice for Hedgehogs”

We were working at Selfish Gene Cafe the other day.

Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore
Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, SingaporeX joined us at lunchtime – she wanted to know more about Jesus so we looked at John 20:20-31, and John 1. Like the other Gospel writers, John had written his Gospel for the specific purpose that his readers would know who Jesus is/was – his claims, and the evidence that backed up his claims, and in so knowing, believe and have life in him.

No pressure of course, but it is important that everyone considers Jesus’ claims seriously since they aren’t frivolous – he claims to have created the entire universe, to be God, to give life to all, to give enlightenment (or light) to mankind. And since he’s the only one who has ever seen God, he alone knows the truth and speaks the truth. Very very bold and seemingly-arrogant claims!

In the coming weeks, we will see if the rest of John’s Gospel is able to demonstrate evidence that these claims are true.

Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore
Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore

This being a renovated shophouse, the high ceiling and hard cement walls meant lots of echoing and harsh sounds, so it was sometimes a struggle to hear each other over the lunch crowd. X was remarkably patient about that!

The coffee beans were from Highlander Coffee. My flat white (S$4 after 3p.m. for now) was well-executed.

Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore
Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, SingaporeThe pasta (spaghetti with sous vide egg, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan, smoked bacon bits, garlic & parsley) was tasty enough, just probably not quite value-for-money (S$13). But I did choose to order it, so no complaints there! S struggled a bit with her delicious-looking beef sandwich (low temperature roast angus beef, arugula, onion jam, dijion mustard, mayo in a sundried tomato bread) saying that her teeth was no match for it.

Spent the next happy few hours being amused by the development of Ronald Dworkin’s thought in Justice for Hedgehogs, which has the distinction of having the cutest cover animal in the history of legal theory and political philosophy.

I’m glad some big guy has articulated, not-so-succinctly, the need for coherence in political and ethical (and philosophical) thinking. Most philosophical discussions annoy me because their blinkered-ness results in much needless tail-chasing. But I fear that Mr. Dworkin himself has made far too many unwarranted assumptions. To be discussed another time.

banana cake, Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore

Hanging Out at Holland Village: La Nonna and Sunday Folks

Signature pizza, crab tomato cream linguine, La Nonna, 26 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, Singapore
La Nonna, 26 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, SingaporeThe 1-for-1 lunch promotion at La Nonna (Lorong Mambong, Holland Village) has drawn hungry students from the nearby National University of Singapore for some time. We had lunch with two of them this week, sharing the signature pizza (tomato, mozarella, asparagus, egg, parmesan, black truffle salsa), salmon e rucola pizza, and two crab linguine in tomato cream sauce.

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore
Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore
After the students headed back to school, two of us repaired to Sunday Folks (facebook, 44 Jalan Merah Saga) across the road for their weekday S$10 cake and coffee/tea set.

We were talking about how difficult it must be for pastors/ministers of churches not to show favouritism to the people who themselves treated these pastors/ministers well.

  1. Full-time Christian ministry is a tough job – long hours spent in the study understanding God’s word, more hours spent on your knees for the sheep, and then counselling many with relational/psychological/personal/godliness difficulties, and dealing with the line of people waiting after service to tell them what exactly they disagree with in the sermon or running of the church etc.
  2. So, spending all waking moments dealing with sinful humans could very well be immensely discouraging, and it isn’t surprising that many ministers suffer from depression.
  3. But, said the friend who had been diagnosed with clinical depression, the temptation is to then depend on other people, other humans, for love, support, approval. Sadly, because they too are sinful human beings living in this fallen world, they may betray you, disappoint you, or, even if they were a perfect companion for life, they might die on you (and here the friend cited the Lee Kuan Yew – Kwa Geok Choo partnership). Also: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)
  4. Unfortunately, positive thinking, or being thankful for the good things in one’s life falls flat as well – it feel stilted and artificial especially when you’re already very down, and sometimes, objectively, there just isn’t much good in one’s life!
  5. Much better to trust in One who is eternal (won’t die), and who is in control of all things (not impotent to help), and who loves us so much that he died for our sins (more than willing to help).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:4-8)

 

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, SingaporeThe Sticky Toffee Cake was, as the name suggested, more spongy than the usual heavy-in-the-tummy sticky toffee pudding, and a good foil to the slightly over-extracted coffee.

flat white. Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore

  • beans: Liberty Coffee‘s Speakeasy Blend
  • crema x microfoam: good
  • flavour x body: nutty and a little burnt
  • aftertaste: medium