Inspired by some of Melbourne's top cafes, co-owner Ryan Kieran Tan, who is also a three-time Singapore National Barista champion, decided to give his cafe – Strangers' Reunion – an overhaul. Following a two-week hiatus, the cafe, which is located along Kampong Bahru Road, recently reopened and now sports a refreshed interior and menu.
Commenting on the revamped space and menu, Ryan says, “Strangers’ Reunion began in 2012 and the revamp has been a long time coming. To constantly engage our customers, some who have been with us from the very beginning, we believe in innovating not only in the food but also the space. The trips to Melbourne were invigorating for the team. It was a return to my roots and helped to crystallise the concept and direction I wanted Strangers’ to take, especially after having spent years in Melbourne working in 12 different cafes. With our recent revamp of space, Strangers’ Reunion is also now brighter, more spacious and more family-friendly.
Furthermore, I underwent a lifestyle change in the past year, spurred on by the need to live better. I started paying attention to what I ate and have been feeling younger and more energetic. As such, I wanted to share this new belief with my customers at Strangers’ Reunion.”
While Ryan has designed a healthier menu made up of what is known to some as “superfoods” such as kale and chia seeds, he also made sure to balance the healthy options with a few indulgences. Diners can expect clean and light items such as Strangers Smoked Salmon (S$17.90) and Salmon & Kale (S$19.90), as well as heartier items such as buttermilk waffles and berry ricotta hotcake for brunch.
Strangers' Smoked Salmon (S$17.90)
In this feature, Ryan, who also co-owns Curious Palette and Strangers' at Work, shares with us the idea behind Strangers' Reunion, what sets them apart from other cafes in Singapore, and his plans for the future.
How it started
Strangers’ Reunion was where it all started in 2012. Known to many as one of the pioneer cafes in Singapore, Strangers’ Reunion offers quality specialty coffee at affordable prices. We source these coffees from all over the world and roast to bring out the best in each coffee. Food-wise, we reach out to the health-conscious folks who do not want to compromise on taste while sticking to a healthier diet.
Growing up in a family heavily involved in the café and coffee industry, I developed a strong passion towards the art of brewing the perfect coffee. Having worked at different cafes during my time in Melbourne, and having travelled extensively around the world while I was competing in coffee championships, I wanted Singaporeans to experience the Melbournian café culture and all that I learnt from other coffee professionals abroad. Hence, both Strangers’ Reunion and Curious Palette are modelled after that.
When I returned from Melbourne in 2012, the local café scene was still in its infancy but I felt that it was the perfect time to introduce Strangers’ Reunion and subsequently Curious Palette. Through these two cafes, I am also able to educate customers on the types of coffee, as well as host coffee brewing and latte art classes to the public.
What’s so unique about the offerings at Strangers'Reunion?
At Strangers’ Reunion, we specially source for organic ingredients and superfoods, incorporating them into our new dishes. In order to ensure that our dishes are always fresh and served the way we want them to be, all our dishes are made-to-order, like our Superfood Bowls, Buttermilk Waffles and Ricotta Hotcakes. We also smoke our salmon in-house, serving up a generous 120g slab.
And of course, the quality of our coffee is of utmost importance. We source sustainable farm direct coffees from all over the world and even visit some of the farms to learn more about the coffee from the farmers. Coffees are then roasted by us at our in-house roastery. Daily cupping or taste tests also ensure that the coffee quality is up to our high standards. We make an effort to regularly gather feedback from our customers, and our baristas will then ensure that the coffee is at its best, based on our customers’ taste preferences and expectations.
What or who inspired these creations?
The menu revamp was partly inspired by my desire to understand how food affects our health. I changed my lifestyle and choice of food and I have imparted some of my knowledge into our new menu. I also wanted my team to be able to experience Melbourne and brought them over to the city to learn from the best. We visited some of the top cafes and our baristas also worked in some of them.
What do you think makes customers come back for more?
Customers like going back to places where they feel a sense of familiarity - a place where they can seek respite over good food, company and ambience.
At Strangers’ Reunion and Curious Palette, we constantly connect with our customers to offer a personal touch. We tweak our coffees based on their feedback as we want to know what our customers are looking for and constantly improve.
We also make it a point to constantly bring in new, exciting coffees throughout the year as we are always looking for new coffees to introduce to our customers, since each coffee is unique and it is our passion to source for the best coffees and provide an avenue for them to shine through our roasting and brewing.
With so many cafes popping up all over Singapore, how do you guys differentiate yourselves from the rest?
We take our food and coffee seriously, and our customers even more so. Our customers are a part of our Strangers’ Reunion/Curious Palette family. This is why we go to great lengths such as travelling overseas to seek inspiration, to bring that authentic experience to our customers.
We are also very active in local and international coffee competitions, winning many championships that we have taken part in in the past few years. In addition to winning the World Siphon Championship 2015 and
ASEAN Barista Championship 2013, we are three-time Singapore National Barista and Latte Art Champions and have reached the finals in several World Latte Art Championships and World Siphon Championships.
Taking part in competitions gives us invaluable experiences that help us improve ourselves. It is also how we learn and grow, and give back to the industry when we share with others what we’ve learnt over the years.
We will be launching Coffee Flights as well as Coffee-Dessert Pairings at Curious Palette. With Coffee Flights, customers will be able to sample coffees with different brewing methods and origins to learn about the nuances between each and how the different brew methods can alter the flavour of each coffee.
Our baristas will also guide customers through the session to help them with the tasting notes.
For the Coffee-Dessert Pairings, customers will be guided through the pairings as they savour the perfect balance of coffee and dessert. The essence will be to educate diners on which coffee best matches their choice of dessert. The aim of both is to share our coffee knowledge with the public.
33-35 Kampong Bahru Road
64 Prinsep Street