119 @ Bukit Merah is no doubt one of the hippest and most happening neighbourhood joints where we can go eat, drink and socialise. But the unique thing is, it is actually a kopitiam in our local terms and it’s probably the only coffee shop in Singapore that requires a reservation to be made beforehand.
Located just a stone’s throw away from Queensway Shopping Centre and Ikea Alexandra, this ‘gentrified’ kopitiam on the ground level of a low-rise HDB block is a fresh concept totally different from the traditional kopitiams that we are all so familiar with. It houses several tenants made up of mostly young & trendy hawkers who dish up a good selection of Swiss-German, Italian, American, French and Fusion cuisines all under one roof. Not forgetting seafood, desserts and bubble tea style drinks too. This is not the place for char kway teow or tze char because you can’t find them here but it’s an ideal al fresco space to unwind in with a wide variety of inexpensive imported beers and hey we’re talking about restaurant-standard food here minus the taxes of course.
The husband and I were at Queensway last weekend hunting for his new pair of trainers and he suggested that we go 119 for dinner even though it would be his 3rd visit in two weeks. We called to make a reservation and arrived just before 6pm but the coffee shop wasn’t busy at all.
Barely halfway into our meal, the whole place was already full-house. In fact, there were several groups of walk-in customers standing around in the middle just waiting for tables. So you can see why reservations are absolutely necessary especially for weekends!
The list of tenants in this coffee shop includes:
Stew Küche – Swiss-German, Italian, Steakhouse, Beers
Two Wings – Fried Chicken, Western [CLOSED]
Brown Sugar by Eskimo – Beverages [CLOSED]
Jolly Bell – Tarts, Pastries, Ice Cream [CLOSED]
Seasalt – Seafood
Mian by Travelling C.O.W – Fusion [CLOSED]
Immanuel French Kitchen [CLOSED]
Before we came here, we already had an idea on what we wanted to eat so we placed our orders rather quickly. Basically, once you get a table, just head to whichever stall you want to order food from, make payment and wait for the food to be served to you or self collect them.
Stew Küche (say ‘koo-shay’, it means Stew Kitchen in German) is the anchor tenant and owner of the coffee shop so for reservations, we’d call them to assist though you can do the same through the rest too.
Their pork knuckle was drop dead gorgeous. Think tender and succulent meat with crispy crackling and chewy collagen, absolutely delicious! And for half a pork knuckle, I thought this portion was really generous because its really huge and meaty, definitely a value for money dish. The brown sauce was very rich and savoury but not overly salty and went really well with the meat. The mashed potato tasted ordinary and while the achar was good on its own, somehow I didn’t think its flavour was a good pairing with the knuckle. I’d still prefer good old sauerkraut.
It was my first time having this German wheat beer on tap. My favourite had always been Hoegaarden but I thought this was even better as it tasted sweeter. Best of all, it went so well with all the food we ordered. At just $10 a pint, it was a steal!
(Update: The husband visited again last Friday and realised this beer had gone up by a dollar per pint. Some of the other beers on tap had also increased by 50 cents.)
Moving on to seafood next…
This was what the husband had been wanting to order as he had seen several people eating this and thought the presentation was pretty neat. A pot of mussels cooked in white wine and served with thickly sliced baguette. There were more than 20 mussels in the pot with only 1 unopened which was again quite a good portion for sharing at just $14. However taste wise, I couldn’t detect any aroma of white wine. There wasn’t much sauce at the bottom of the pot and it just wasn’t robust enough to do any justice to the bland mussels, needless to say, mop them up with bread which was too crispy and brittle. The mussels were overcooked too hence they looked really shrunken and tasted a little tough. We probably wouldn’t order this again.
As for me, I have a penchant for French food and I can’t resist duck confit and duck rillette if I see them.
[Update: This stall has ceased operation.]
I loved this rustic way of presenting the duck rillette. While the duck rillette was flavoursome, tasty and oily just like how any good rillette should be, somehow the texture wasn’t very consistent as some parts were rather lumpy. It definitely didn’t taste as creamy as the one I had at L’Entrecôte but it was still worth getting as it was so affordable and decent for that price. It’d be nice if the bread slices could be sliced thinner and be crisped up like crostinis or at least be warmed up. I liked the cornichons too as its tart and mildly sweet flavour helped balance up that greasiness of duck fat in the rillette.
And finally after waiting for at least half hour or so, our last dish arrived. One mouthful of this was enough to justify the waiting time. The duck leg was so tender and moist, the meat just fell off the bone easily. There wasn’t a need to even use a knife, I could just eat this with a fork. The meat was flavoursome with no gamey smell and the skin was nicely crisped up to a deep golden brown. What I really liked was the potato puree below that was ultra smooth, creamy and very well seasoned. This was the champion dish of the entire meal! And hey, imagine having a duck leg confit for just $14.90? What a deal!
Our meal costed us $72 including 2 beers. And that was a lot of food for 2 persons!
A very expensive ‘coffee shop meal’ indeed but looking at the food we had, it was all worth it. Best of all, there wasn’t a need to dress up to dine here. We came in sports wear and flip flops as we did a hike earlier in the day and didn’t feel out of place at all. For the casual and friendly atmosphere, al fresco ambience, unpretentious facade, tasty food and awesome beers, this is one place we’d keep coming back. Highly recommended to all!
Contact details are on the business cards above.
Block 119 Bukit Merah Lane