Where to go for coffee near Singapore’s River Valley

Child-friendly coffeeshops in a central neighborhood where you’ll want to sit and stay a while

Shortly after my morning coffee exploration of Tanjong Pagar, Cathlin and I checked in to a hotel along Singapore’s Robertson Quay so I had to sneak away for another little coffee tour—this time of the nearby River Valley.

Primarily a residential neighborhood, it still sees its share of visitors thanks to quite a few Airbnb listings, several hotels just across the Singapore River, and the popular draw of Clarke Quay only a short walk away. The pickings are fewer here, but my favorite finds reminded me how welcoming spaces can feel when designed for you to sit and stay a while—with a bonus of not needing to worry much about entertaining your children.

Usually I enjoy my coffee walks with Eliza accompanying the exploration, but this time I squeezed a quick solo trip in between loads of laundry at one of those hotels below the river:

Walking over the Singapore River in pursuit of good coffee

Common Man Coffee Roasters
22 Martin Road, #01-00
(Google Maps / Burpple / Facebook / Foursquare)

You would be forgiven if you mistook Common Man’s concrete steps, marble swirl of a facade, and life-size eagle icons abutting the front door as the entrance to a Las Vegas club. But the interior and exterior have a magnitude that makes the cafe’s busyness feel all the more manageable.

While the unclaimed outdoor tables looked as if they were designed carefully enough to be art installations, every seat inside the air-conditioned main floor was taken for brunch. A few families dined with infants in high chairs, which made me miss my coffee buddy as she napped back at the hotel.

This may seem like too bustling of an environment for sitting and staying a while, but you can easily order a takeaway cup at the espresso bar and sit outside indefinitely. Or, as I learned too late to take full advantage, there’s a second cafe that feels like an escape retreat at the top of the spiral staircase with pillowed benches and an open balcony that easily conjured a vacation mindset.

My coffee took a while but was well-made, and the photos of the space tell their own story:

Don’t let the massive eagles dissuade you from the flat white inside
Open outdoor seating, if you don’t mind the humidity
Much to choose from behind the coffee bar
Wind your way upwards to a second cafe
Don’t you just need to find a book to lose track of time up here?

Toby’s Estate
8 Rodyk Street, #01-03/04
(Google Maps / Burpple / Facebook / Foursquare / Instagram)

On the north bank of the Singapore River, along Robertson Quay, the Sydney-started international coffee chain Toby’s Estate has its sole presence in Singapore.

It’s a beautiful space, with breakfast served all day and plenty for lunch too. The coffee choices are ample and roasted on-site, and there’s an extensive wine and beer list too. For your little ones: a kids’ menu features a short stack of pancakes and mac and cheese and a selection of toys stacked on a refrigerator in the corner will entertain your baby.

Most strikingly though, this was also the first time I’d seen featured beans grown in Myanmar. If you pull up a chair with your coffee, you’d do well to read The Irrawaddy’s local reporting on the country’s coffee business and Sprudge’s Q&A on today’s agricultural practices in Shan State and USAID-funded efforts to support a stronger and skilled community of coffee farmers.

Open space for a multi-color chalkboard menu at Toby’s Estate in Singapore
You might feel an urge to order a meal as well as a coffee to fill this long table
Did your little one forget to bring Sophie la Girafe? A toy collection for entertainment
A water cooler waits outside the front door if you’re happy in the heat

My only regret was that I didn’t hear about, or stumble upon, the Book Cafe (Google Maps / Burpple), which likewise appears to be designed entirely to encourage guests to sit and read. Anywhere else not to be missed in the area?

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