When Holqa Cafe contacted me for a tasting session, I was pleasantly surprised because they were just the cafe which I intended to visit previously, but didn’t because I was afraid of missing my bus! They are located right behind a bus stop, that’s why.
Holqa is owned and ran by the pair of friendly and earnest young couple, Welson and Simple, who are currently still pursuing their undergraudate studies. Even though the name of their cafe is derived from the Maltese language, do not expect any maltese fare in this homely little cafe.
Curious, I probed about the origin of the name of the cafe, and I was treated to a fairy tale. Holqa, is actually the name of a camp where Welson and Simple met. They eventually decided on running a cafe together because it has always been Simple’s dream to have her own cafe, while for Welson, he has always wanted to be an entrepreneur — Holqa is very much like their baby right now, making both their dreams come true at the same time. Littered with cameras, clocks and photo frames around the cafe, the couple wishes that this cafe, like the camp, Holqa (link), would be able to bring people together; with the clocks reminding people to cherish the time they have with each other, and cameras to symbolize the making of memories. A pretty good concept, I would say.
Holqa is located along East Coast Road, a few units away 328 Katong Laksa, and Carvers & Co., just opposite Roxy Square. The cafe give off the cosy and homely vibes with its white walls, and wooden furniture. An unassuming interior, which in my opinion, may not be able to catch the attention of people to the cafe, if they are not specially looking for it.
We were offered:
Braised Asian Pulled Pork with 3 Cheeses Sandwich ($15.90): Brioche toast (replacing the above mentioned bagels), braised pork with asian spices, topped with 3 cheeses: gruyere, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, drizzled with gingered mayo, and served with fresh mesclun salad. We were told that the recipe for this pulled pork was stolen from Welson’s mum because he loved the pulled pork his mum makes so much! This gives an oriental twist to the usual pulled pork sandwiches we have in the other cafes, which I thought was a refreshing change. This was also intended to make the dish more suitable for the older patrons, who prefer more oriental flavors to the “Westernized” flavors. The thick and fluffy brioche toast was smothered with a generous layer of pulled pork (which by the way tasted amazingly moist and addictive), and topped with a layer of 3 cheeses. The cheese, in my opinion, added the savory kick to this sandwich, and elevated the taste of the pulled pork. What an ingenious combination! Almost Carbonara ($14.90): Creamy spaghetti with sliced shiitake mushroom and bacon. I knew something was up when I saw Almost Carbonara, instead of Carbonara, yet we couldn’t quite point a finger to it. When this dish was served, I found it extremely difficult to share it with the boy because the cream sauce of this pasta dish was unusually soupy. I left a trail of carbonara sauce on the table leading up to my mouth. It was only after we talked to Welson, when we finally got the rationale to why the dish was named Almost Carbonara. The soupy sauce was intentionally done so because carbonara dishes tend to make people feel “gelat” really quickly after a few mouthfuls. To prevent that from happening, they decided to make a wetter version of it, hence ALMOST carbonara. A carbonara but, not quite. I thought this was clever because I personally love cream based pasta, and now I finally get to slurp up my pasta sauce without being judged and feeling too disgusted with the overwhelming creaminess. I definitely do not recommend sharing this dish because 1) it’s too soupy to share, 2) it’s too darn good, you got to have everything to yourself. SNS-JI ($9.90): Crunchy mid joints coated with secret homemade sweet and spicy sauce. The name of this dish was badly judged by me because, it is a word play on SNSD. As the wings are inspired by the Korean chicken, and they are Sweet N Spicy, Welson thought it was a cool (not) idea to name it SNS-Ji. You could see how much fun I had interacting with them, because this pair was just so sincere and funny!
I initially thought that the wings I had at On The Table, were the best I’ve had. But these displaced them on my first bite. The wings tasted just like the childhood tapioca snack in the red packaging that we used to have. In addition to the sweet and sour sauce, they also coated their wings with a sticky caramel like sauce, which may very well stick to your teeth, but you would be surprised to find yourself reaching for more, despite the discomfort, because these wings are so good. Fried to perfection, with the fragrant crisp on its exterior, and juicy interior, a must-order when you’re at Holqa!
For desserts, we had their signature Monkey Funkey Toast ($9.90).
Thick fluffy buttered brioche toast, served with vanilla ice cream, banana and homemade peanut butter cream. This was like everything I love put in a single dish. This dish was not only photogenic, it tasted quite good as well. It’s actually pretty difficult to go wrong with the peanut butter and banana combination. However, I thought this meal had too many brioche in them. Brioche for mains and brioche for dessert. The ice cream served atop the toast were initially mistaken for whipped cream because it was weirdly not cold, and tasted really light. We hence avoided it because we thought it was grossly unhealthy to be shoving mouthfuls of whipped cream into our mouths. However, Simple later clarified that it was actually a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which showed minimal signs of melting even after 15 minutes. Hmm.. I could only suggest that maybe it’s time to get a new ice cream supplier, because this dish would be much better with a scoop of quality ice cream.
We also got a glass of iced chocolate and Watermelon Lime Freeze. I thought that the drinks were the only things that were lacking in Holqa though. The Iced chocolate tasted mild, like diluted chocolate milk; while the Watermelon Lime Freeze, despite the exciting sounding name, was merely diluted watermelon juice with crushed ice. Holqa gets their coffee beans from Geisha Specialty Coffee though, my boy’s favorite coffee joint, so I thought it was a pity for us to not have tried their coffee or milk tea! And, they are currently running a promotion for all Westies as well, just thought that you guys would be interested!
I had a whale of a time visiting Holqa. Good food, sincere service and great ambience, there is nothing more I could possibly ask for from this humble little cafe. Being located in such a competitive area, with the entire stretch populated with food establishments, Holqa probably has to find a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. However, what drew me towards their cafe, were the homely vibes the cafe exudes, simply because the other areas along the stretch seemed too happening for me. I was indeed pleasantly surprised to also discover that they serve up a mean menu, with pretty affordable prices too!
WIth more publicity and an identity, I believe that Holqa has the potential to be one of the front runners in the cafe scene in this area. The quality of food and service are impeccable, and I would definitely pay them a return visit for their other mains, and of course, my favorite SNS-ji.
How to get there?
37 East Coast Road
Monday – Friday: 12.00pm to 9.00pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
Saturday & Sunday: 9.00am to 9.00pm