May 19, 2016
First, she raised eyebrows when it was announced, after all these years, that her real name was “Kitty White”. Then, she shocked the world when she revealed that she wasn’t a cat – instead, holy havoc, she is a British schoolgirl. OH MY GOD, we screamed, IT KIND OF MAKES SENSE. White is a Western surname! It took some getting used to, but we finally wrapped our head around the fact that, born to George and Mary White, she was just another angmoh celebrity living the idyllic life in London. But what we’re really trying to say is; time and again, Hello Kitty has proved her indelible impact on us all – not just as Sanrio’s favourite feline, but the entire world’s as well. So it only makes sense that she’s got dozens of cafes all over the world dedicated to celebrating her celeb status – and finally one in Singapore.
The Hello Kitty Orchid Garden Cafe is the first of its kind, right here at Changi Airport Terminal 3 – and rightly so, given that 1) orchids are no doubt our thing, and 2) it’s mandatory that every Hello Kitty cafe in the world feature a different theme. Even when you’re queuing relentlessly outside, you’ll definitely notice Singapore’s national flower draped over every inch of the cafe. It’s a garden city right outside the Arrival Hall that’s bound to be a welcome sight to anyone coming home from a redeye flight; especially since the cafe is the world’s first 24-hour Hello Kitty cafe.
We loved the decor and all – Kitty-bow chairs and silhouetted wrought-iron gates – but obviously we came for the food. If you’re one of those fans who look forward to everything Hello Kitty on your Sanrio dining experience, you might be surprised to find that the excessiveness is toned down here. The double hairbow-ed Singapore Kitty is all about subtlety and mature finesse; kind of like you when you outgrew your cutesy Secondary school days. But of course, that didn’t make it any less exciting.
So naturally, the bestsellers at the cafe are the cuter plates: Let’s Do The Salsa ($16.50), a focaccia chicken and cheese sandwich; the Cowabunga! Wagyu! ($24) beef rendang; and the Instagram-famous Big Breakfast Surprise ($18.50) – basically anything that comes in the shape of Hello Kitty’s head, really. While we were expecting big things from the Big Breakfast Surprise (waffles! smoked duck!), it was surprisingly the beef rendang dish that stole the show. Think generous cuts of wagyu slow-cooked till tender, and sweetened with a unique pineapple spice mix – we kept sneakily going back for more. Hands down the best dish in the whole cafe; we’re calling it. Of course, didn’t hurt that the Japanese rice came neatly packed in our favourite kitty’s likeness.
Enchanted Forest ($17.90) was an impressive blend between presentation and taste – prawns, avocado, and gooey cheddar held snugly by toasted tortillas that exploded in a burst of flavour in your mouth; and all plated neatly on a slab of faux tree trunk, for that real forest-y vibe. (It’s fake wood, we checked.) Not the most photogenic though definitely one of the tastier dishes on the menu.
But nothing says kawaii like a well-plated assortment of sweet treats. For dessert, it was a toss-up between The Cat In Paradise ($18.50) – fluffy mango mousse pudding on a bed of almond crumble, with hazelnut gelato on the side – and Hide & Seek ($16.90), a wobbly pandan pana cotta with gula melaka and vanilla gelato. It doesn’t take a sweet tooth to fall hard for the sweets on offer; we even made room for post-dessert dessert: smooth, creamy soft serve frozen yoghurt made in-house and able to rival any dedicated fro-yo brand.
If you’re looking to bring home a souvenir, the Kitty shelf at the front of the shop offers custom Hello Kitty-inspired tea blends, plush toys (currently OOS), and even grow-it-yourself plant kits – for anyone inspired by the orchid-growing Singapore Kitty’s green thumb. That or you could save the adorable coasters and mini cards that come with your food as keepsakes; because hey! we’re pretty sure recycling’s something Hello Kitty would approve of.
Bottom line: it’s worth a visit, especially to check out how smoothly the Singapore cafe was able to infuse elements of our little island into the story world of Sanrio’s most beloved character. We’ll be honest – you might arrive and be disappointed that it isn’t more in-your-face Hello Kitty; but you’ll find yourself staying for the calming decor, the subtle touches in the food, and the good vibes in the air from a common love and appreciation for a certain Kitty White.
And even if you don’t; the two Hello kitty mascots at the front and end of the cafe are always up for came-and-conquered selfies.
Hello Kitty Orchid Garden Cafe, Arrival Hall Central #01-22, Terminal 3, Singapore Changi Airport, open 24hrs daily. hellokittyorchidgarden.com.
Featured image: Camping Under The Stars ($19.50)