Singapore, August 2016 – Being a Hong Kong native, I am always on the lookout for authentic Hong Kong-style French toast, milk tea and egg tarts. When I heard about Hong Kong cha chaan teng (café restaurant) – Honolulu Café’s opening in Singapore, I was excited.
I heard about the long queues and sold-out egg tarts during its first month of business in Singapore. So I waited till late June to try it out, and I have been back a few times. Since a good restaurant should demonstrate consistency, I usually go there more than once, especially if I am going to write about it in my blog.
The famous Hong Kong Milk Tea ($3) was smooth and aromatic. Patrons can sweeten the tea to their liking. I learned that the tea master – the chef making the Hong Kong-style milk tea – was a Winner in the International Hong Kong Milk Tea Competition. So it was impressive that the Hong Kong legendary café installed their award-winning tea master to replicate their successful blend here in Singapore.
Which Hong Kong Cha Chaan Teng (café restaurant) would be complete without Hong Kong-style French Toast?! Honolulu’s French toast ($3.20++) didn’t disappoint. It is one of the best I have tasted and a great value. The sumptuous portion – 4 jumbo-size “sandwiches” – was topped with melting butter and syrup. The crust was crispy and the center was soft. I prefer to indulge with lots of syrup! (Just ask for more syrup if it runs out.)
Honolulu egg tarts are the café’s signature creation – boasting 192 layers of flaky pastry. So far, I have tried 4 tarts on various occasions, and the egg custard was soft, smooth and creamy. The flaky pastry is the main difference, and egg custard is not too sweet.
According to an article in Straits Times, “The recipe has 70 years of history. All other egg tarts evolved from it and it is a household name.” When I was working in Hong Kong, I recalled that our boss would treat us to a special afternoon tea and send the messenger boy to Honolulu Café to buy French toast, egg tarts and of course, milk tea. This café brought back some fond memories for me. Honolulu’s egg tarts are truly bites of Hong Kong nostalgia!
At $1.70++ per tart, the price was quite reasonable, except that the restaurant limited the quantity that patrons can purchase. Each patron was limited to 4 pieces of egg tarts. The prices of takeaway and dine-in were the same. For the takeaway, Honolulu Café also charged $0.50++ per paper container.
The other signature pastry is a Hong Kong favourite – the Pineapple Bun or also known as Bo Lo Bao ($1.50). Honolulu’s pineapple buns were bigger and thicker in size than the average, but the bun was very soft with a thick crispy crust at the top. Although I enjoyed the Pineapple Bun, I prefer the smaller versions with a thicker “pineapple” topping. Honolulu also sells other baked goods such as Chicken Pie and Ham & Egg Buns.
Cha chaan teng is an integral part of Hong Kong’s culture since the colonial times. The British colonization had a strong influence on the Hong Kong people, and the cake-eating & tea-drinking culture was adopted by the Hong Kong Chinese. Such restaurants tend to be very casual and extremely affordable. With this in mind, I personally tend not to be too critical on the aesthetics of their pastries (such as if the crust is chipped or if the presentation is perfect etc.). I think the taste is the most important element of cha chaan teng food.
All in all, this Hong Kong native gives Honolulu Cafe two thumbs up. It is a piece of Hong Kong nostalgia in the Lion City.
You may also enjoy Lady Iron Chef’s review.
Honolulu Cafe – The Centerpoint Mall, #01-33 F/G, 176 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238843
All photos were taken by Mrs. King.