Tai Cheong Bakery @ Holland Village, 31 Lorong Liput
If you have not heard of “Tai Cheong Bakery”, then you, my friend, might just be missing out on what was deemed as ‘the best egg tarts in the world’ by Chris Patten. That said, some probably might not even have a slightest inkling as to who Chris Patten is, except for the fact that he was the last governor of Hong Kong. Notwithstanding, let’s just say that these custard-filled tarts are popular and charming enough to form hour-long queues at both the Takashimaya and Holland Village outlets.
The Holland Village outlet is the brand’s first dine-in-concept in Singapore which opened its doors in mid-November 2016 to allow customers to enjoy an authentic cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style teahouse) experience. This 42-seat restaurant comprises two sections – an air-conditioned indoor space for guests to relax amidst an open-concept kitchen and an outdoor area for those who prefer a warmer, windier environment. Dine-in customers would also be pleased to know that the restaurant does not impose service charge and prices stated on the menu are already inclusive of GST.
Putting the hype to the test, we dropped by the restaurant twice. Once on a Friday evening and another on a public holiday to assess if the pastries and mains were truly worth the wait, fame and value.
Note: We queued for approximately 1.5 hours.
The Three-Egg Macaroni Soup with Luncheon Meat $8.50 is one of the restaurant’s signature dine-in items. Soft elbow macaroni is used to form the base of the dish before being enveloped in a rich pool of tomato broth, garnished with three sunny-side up eggs, as well as crispy strips of fried luncheon meat. This piquant comfort bowl may be simple-looking, but the flavours are complex and delicious altogether; a harmonious balance of sweet, sour and savoury notes.
To savour the best flavours, break open the yolk sacs and allow the golden fluid to diffuse through the broth. Mix well and enjoy!
For something more substantial, the Three Coloured Silky Eggs with Rice $9.90 would be sure to satiate even the hungriest of stomachs. Bearing similarities with both mui fan (rice with thick, flavourful gravy) and omurice (Japanese omelette rice), this classic Hong Kong dish features a blanket of smooth, barely set three egg omelette overlying a warm bed of steamed rice before being topped with 2 protein choices, blanched kai-lan and luscious gravy. Choices for the protein include: roasted pork and prawns, roasted pork and beef, or roasted pork and crispy pork belly.
Curry fanatics, especially those who prefer a milder spice level, would certainly find Tai Cheong’s Beef Brisket Curry Rice $9.90 every bit as appealing. The recipe for this nostalgic delight had been adjusted to suit Singaporeans’ taste buds without compromising on both quality and quantity. Although the curry was a tad salty, the Rempah (spice paste) was well-fried and super fragrant! Likewise, the generous chunks of beef brisket and potatoes had been cooked till soft and fork-tender; simply delicious when eaten with the accompanying white rice and extra drizzles of fragrant curry!
If you are not craving for rice or macaroni, the Scrambled Egg Toast Stack with Chicken Chop $9.50 may just be your answer! This Canto-Western delight features silky-smooth scrambled eggs sitting atop a thick slice of the restaurant’s homemade white bread with a pan-grilled chicken chop and creamy mushroom sauce forming the base. Aside from the scrambled eggs with that gorgeous melt-in-the-mouth texture however, we felt that the white bread could do with more toasting and a touch of crisp.
Delicious treats are often sinful in nature, and this includes the restaurant’s ever popular French Toast $6.50. Tossed and coated in a secret ratio of eggs and milk, the dairy-doused white bread is pan-fried till golden brown and drizzled with liberal amounts of maple syrup (diners can also opt for dulce de leche). Its slightly crisp surface bellied a soft, pillowy interior that was absolutely delectable!
Having said that, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or an extra serving of French toast would have better justified the steep price tag.
Moving on to pastries, we decided to sample all three tarts – Egg Tart , Coconut Tart $2.50 and of course, the Durian & Cheese Tart $3.60 which is exclusive to Singapore only – before casting our verdict as to which we were most fond of.
The Egg Tart $1.90 is undeniably the all-time crowd favourite. Served fresh from the oven, this delicate pastry comprises a smooth, wobbly egg custard encased within a well-baked tart shell. Although some of us preferred a flakier crust, we still agreed that Tai Cheong’s version deserved high praise!
To win the hearts of durian lovers, the Durian & Cheese Tart $3.60 was created with the intention of incorporating the king of fruits – durians – in pastries. After a long period of brainstorming, the tart was finally born by combining durian pulp (from premium D24 durians) with cream cheese before being piped in the famed shortcrust pastry and baked in oven. There were mixed reviews for this tart but, personally, we did enjoy it but would have preferred a lesser amount of cheese to be used in the filling.
The Coconut Tart $2.50 was perhaps the least impressive among the other two as the shredded coconut filling was a little dry for our liking. That said, we were not fans of shredded coconut to begin with so those who love them might find this tart enjoyable.
Note: Dine-in customers are only entitled to order 2 egg tarts per person, whereas those who wish to takeaway may order up to 16 tarts (any flavour) in total.
In our most humble opinion, we do think that the whole cha chaan teng experience here at Tai Cheong was certainly worth the hype as the food was enjoyable and value-for-money. Long queues are definitely to be expected, but do seize the opportunity to try the mains/light bites on weekday mornings if possible.
As to on whether or not these egg tarts are truly the best in the world, we would have to say that it still boils down to individual preferences. After all, any tart can be a good tart as long as we wholeheartedly enjoy them and we did truly enjoy the egg tarts at Tai Cheong!
31 Lorong Liput
Monday to Friday: 10am to 10pm
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: 9am to 10pm
Mains available from: 11am to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 9.30pm
Pastries and drinks will be available all day
Words and Photography by Kenneth Lim (@exasperatedmilk)
The writer is an avid tea drinker who enjoys slicing cakes with his golden fork.