[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人]
The weather in late March was like four seasons in a day, as we made our leisurely drive towards Eco Spring by pristine lakes and streams entered through a majestic bridge, but this did not dampen anyone’s spirit or spoil any fun. As we turned right at the round-about with the Eco World Gallery in sight, we spotted a cluster of quaint buildings under a prominent sign that reads Spring Labs.
Conceived as a pop-up lifestyle hub and retail concept park created with refurbished containers for the residents of Eco Spring and the surrounding community, Spring Labs is now home to many young upstart co-working, lifestyle and F&B space, including a green building which stood prominently along Jalan Ekoflora 1 called Tropique Cafe & Restaurant. Decked out with full-length windows, wooden communal counters and bright, elaborate centrepieces, the green-walled and the tropical forest deco already give hints to the theme of this café. When we enter, it feels like we had just stepped into a spring-inspired “greenhouse”, with a couple of floras in the corner, rattan furniture everywhere and even a unique “kitchen island” concept smack right in the middle of each floor.
As we chose to arrive two hours ahead of schedule (which fortunately beats the rain) to soak in the inviting atmosphere, what perfect way for lounging in their couch than to make ourselves welcome by going for their signature liquid?
It seems to us that the folks at Tropique pride themselves with their tropical theme that by combining iced tea with some tropical fruits, the fruit teas are all about the exotic fruit and vegetable game of the tropics that can be enjoyed even on a hot day. Indeed, both the Tropical Vibe and Berries Punch deliver the right punch (no pun intended) as their names suggest!
Oh Hello there. Edward. With great names like Faculty of Caffeine, The Replacement – Lodge & Kitchen and Shakespeare Milkshakes as “family” members, we know for sure that Tropique will deliver. For those of us who are no stranger to the good people at Merk Management Group that brought alive three of our favourite downtown cafes, the latest offspring is a freshly-squeezed venture working with EcoWorld as part of the Spring Labs project. With no shortage of new cafes and restaurants springing up these days, locals (and Singaporeans) are spoilt for choice when it comes to good food and ambience. But rather than same copy and paste concept being repeated over and over again, Edward aspires to bring a more curated experience into the heartlands by offering an exquisite wine-and-dine spot from farm to feast, as well as a versatile and multipurpose event space for every kind of celebration. Serving up a treat for every meal, Tropique’s menu includes brunch, high tea and dinner, fit for every taste palette.
PRE-EVENT Cocktail Reception
As if we need a second invitation, we were immediately attracted by the party vibes downstairs, where ground floor with a seating capacity of 30 pax was instantly turned into a welcome reception that comfortably hosts up to 60 guests both indoors and outdoors. A delectable spread of free-flow canapes, bubbly, beer and wines then served to set the mood for the evening!
High Tea for Two
For the tea aficionados or stylish and uber chic, afternoon tea at Tropique will be right up your street to indulge in this most glorious of afternoon rituals. Expect the traditional classics such as macarons, creme brulee tarts, chocolate profiteroles and butterscotch popcorn from the choice of sweets, while the savoury options tend to channel a more fusion vibe with the bruleed deviled eggs, maki rolls with special housemade toppings, open-faced chicken sandwich and mini crab cake with housemade tartar sauce. Choose to sip away with your favourite hot tea (classic breakfast, Moroccan mint, earl grey lavender, peach green or raspberry tea), fruit tea or coffee. The triple-tiered bird-cage display also makes for an impressive arrival at the table.
If you’re looking for something that’s a little different to the usual hotel-style afternoon tea’s, Tropique is really worth a visit even though this is on the pricier end of the scale.
Tropique is definitely our idea of an ideal venue for another great afternoon, but don’t let the fun stop there. Why not hang around for dinner upstairs or some cocktail at the bar as day turns into night?
Ceasar Salad, Chicken Wings Penang Style & Tomato Soup
A welcoming mix of sweet, savoury and sour from the baby romaine, fried chicken and homemade caesar sauce, together with crunchy flavour bombs from the muesli croutons and ikan bilis, and in particular the brûlée egg with its charred caramelised top making this appetiser more than just an ordinary Caesar Salad. Thank goodness, despite the deep-frying, the Chicken Wings Penang Style are not that oily because the meat is not battered up before frying but rather marinated and served with healthy yoghurt sauce, hence we can forget about that sickening sensation after ingesting too much oily batter; while the homemade Tomato Soup tastes equally satisfying with the accompanying cheese toast.
To incorporate more relatable yet classic-french items, the Beef Marrow, which reminds us of the local soup gearbox was contained and served straight from the large piece of bone. Slow roasted to perfection, the bone was accompanied with hummus, chimichurri, yoghurt sauce and a slice of muesli bread which simply oozes French simplicity. Using our hands to tear off a hunk of muesli bread, we spread a dollop of hummus and top it with a spoonful of beef marrow before we slowly savour it. The marrow may be of a mushy but light texture, but somehow gives a mellow, ripened umami feel to the palate along with the gelatinous texture that surprisingly didn’t put us off! Nice…
ALL DAY MAINS
Miso Salmon & Barramundi
The Miso Salmon is a take on the idea of fusion, where fresh Nordic Salmon is medium cooked until giving a wonderfully pink centre and flavourful crispy skin. And to top it off, the dish is served with crushed potatoes, crispy pak choy, fried capers bathed in a special broth made from salmon stock and Japanese miso paste.
On the other hand, the pan-seared Barramundi is reasonably thick cut, and the skin was delightfully crispy. We especially loved how the meat was moist and flaky, which has slightly sweet hints that match the exciting flavours, brought out by the symphony of charred kailan and seasonal vegetables served with flavourful garlic and parsley broth.
ALL DAY MAINS
Cassoulet & Shepherd’s Pie Deconstructed
Drawing inspiration from his time back in a Melbourne-French cafe, the Cassoulet is yet another classic French bean stew served with chicken confit (also available with duck confit) that’s cooked for over 6 hours to create the fall off the bone texture, We really liked how the skin was seared after the confit giving rise to a crisp skin in contrast with the soft meat, and the sauce was sweet and savoury, a nice contrast to the rest of the dish which also comes with chicken sausages, hash brown and muesli toast.
However, the next dish is something we were kind of thrown off by, considering we’ve never seen a Shepherd’s Pie Deconstructed. Even though this one was starkly different from its usual classic presentation, the slow-braised lamb shank with rich lamb jus drizzled over it was tender and combined well with the bed of buttery mashed potatoes, gremolata, honey charred veggies that definitely contributed to our already-satiated belly. But with such exceptional flavours, it was hard to say “no more”.
ALL DAY MAINS
Tortelinni & Duck Confit Carbonara
Pretty much like French “wanton”, the Tortelinni offers yet another adaptation to this familiar classic dim sum dish served with pea shoot, parmesan chips, radish, where their house-made pasta are stuffed with meat and cheese as well as rich chicken broth and wrapped beautifully. We simply popped the whole tortellini in my mouth, then realised I should’ve savoured it because one wasn’t enough….
While we are also a fan of Carbonara pasta ourselves, but we must admit the creamy and rich classic linguine with a touch of shredded duck confit and duck fats, garnish with sun-dried tomatoes and a raw quail’s egg proved to be too much for us to savour.
Madam Lim’s Brownie & Crème Brûlée Tarts
Finally, we got to have a glimpse and taste of the legendary Madam Lim’s Brownie, which was actually made by Edward’s mum when he opened his very first cafe, Faculty of Caffeine 4 years back. As a fitting tribute, the guys at Tropique have named it after her. While we won’t find any oozy chocolate lava inside, each bite of the cake is filled with the flavour of quality dark chocolate. Better still, it comes drenched in a pool of popcorn, housemade granola and vanilla ice cream!
There is nothing more satisfying than cracking through the sugar atop a crème brûlée, and the caramelisation on this dessert was just enough to create that pleasing shatter. Beneath the golden crust was a delicious caramel egg custard. With just the right amount of sweetness and finished off with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and yuzu cream, these Crème Brûlée Tarts are another hit on the dessert front.
So there you have it, the team at Tropique loves their food and drinks, that’s why they will only serve what they deem as their best. So come on down and spend a cosy afternoon here. Plus, we can also have multiple-course dinner with wine-pairing from their growing menu, so that’s really an evening sorted as well. Cheers!
Tropique Café & Restaurant
📍 Lot D, Jalan Ekoflora 1, Taman Ekoflora, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor
📞 +6012-547 7886
🕙 10am – 10pm (daily), dinner menu starts at 7pm
📱 Tropique Café & Restaurant
🍽️ NO PORK, NO LARD