Jones the Grocer – 333A Orchard Road, #04-21/23 Mandarin Gallery
Few things can get me out of bed on a Saturday morning but the gorgeous oven-fresh pastries from Jones count among them. Piled on a row of uncovered platters at 9am, their rich perfume amalgam of butter and yeast quickly and luxuriously permeates the chic cafe. Thereafter, it wafts out to fill much of the top floor of Mandarin Gallery, luring droves in with an aroma so exquisite it borders on inhalant abuse.
Fret not, breakfast here doesn't cost an arm and a leg despite the location, a full breakfast and comprehensive selection of pastries for 2 cost $60.50.
I will not keep you in cruel trepidation; the crowning glory of the selection would - without a doubt - be the Croissants ($2.50 ea). Flaky and crisp on the outside, the delicate crust yields in a shower of golden-brown petals to reveal the richly buttery, subtly sweet and fluffy-feathery interior. The combination of crunch and airy softness, soft chew and indescribable fragrance renders it absolutely to die for, even without the thick strawberry preserve and generous pat of smooth butter served alongside.
A hop, skip and jump away is the Pain Au Chocolat ($3.50) which is essentially all that croissant glory enrobing amedi toscano black chocolate. Rich and robust, the chocolate tastes halfway between dark and milk chocolate with sufficient depth and character for my dark chocolate desires while possessing enough creamy sweetness for my firmly milk-chocolate-loving dining buddy.
The Blueberry Muffin ($4) is another must-try for it puts the usual gummy, artificial-flavoured, phoney-coloured knock-offs to shame. With a rich and crunchy crumble topping, dense and moist cake as well as thick, sweet blueberry jam filling practically bursting with fruity flavour; your first bite will reveal what you've been missing all this while.
Be warned, the cute, dainty Cupcakes ($4.50 ea) here are for those with a sweet tooth! All three share the same light vanilla sponge base but have different frostings. For one, the Raspberry Cupcake had a generous mound of decadently sweet buttercream with berries actually blended in for a natural flavour and the odd crunchy seed adding textural intrigue. A tart raspberry filling would've added a great deal in my opinion as the sweetness began to overwhelm a few bites into my half; my dining buddy seconded that between bites of his.
The waves of vivid yellow frosting on the Lemon Cupcake accorded it a truly delightful lemony fragrance. It was almost as sweet as its pink predecessor but a smidgeon less frosting meant it wasn't quite as cloying. A touch of tangy, palate-refreshing lemon curd would not be lost on it either. The strongest showing of the trio came from the Chocolate Cupcake. Rich and generously chocolatey, the thick and fudgy frosting totally hit the spot.
All that sugariness called for a savoury main as balance so we zeroed in on the Spanish Eggs en Cocotte ($19.50) supplemented with a side of Grilled Pork Sausages ($4). The bacon-crowned eggs were baked to firmness in a clay dish and napped in a sweet, subtly-flavoured tomato sauce that my dining buddy gleefully mopped up with the thick slices of crusty bread it was served with.
With a satisfied sigh, he washed all that down with a Mocha Mudslide ($7). Sweet, milky and chocolatey with a relatively mild dose of caffeine, this creamy drink was his perfect fix.
Requiring some rocket fuel as usual, an Affogato ($6.50) was my obvious choice and I've been craving another since! Espresso and vanilla ice cream are really a match made in heaven, especially when the former is electric-shock strong and the latter a velvety caress for a true harmony of opposites. Not too sweet and wonderfully thick, this was a world of bliss in a tiny cup.