Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Sunday Times : Two Face kopitiam

The Sunday Times
Lifestyle Section
Posh Nosh
23 December 2012
By Tan Hsueh Yun 

When a friend sends me photos of a new eatery in Tiong Bahru, I just have to laugh out loud.

Two Face, it is called. And when I visit, I realise how apt the name is.

By day, 01-46 at Block 56 Eng Hoon Street is a kopitiam with stalls selling yong tau foo and vegetarian food, among other things. These close at about 3pm. In the evening, the place transforms into Two Face Pizza & Taproom, a chill-out place with a simple menu and craft beers.

Residents walk in to get takeout pizza, yuppies and arty types hang out, sip beer and talk over food.

The 70-seat eatery, which opened on Dec 7, is co-owned by three people. One of them, Mr Tan Choon, 49, moved into the neighbourhood three months ago.

He says: "I was going around and noticed that the stalls are closed in the afternoon. I approached the owner and asked if he'd let us have it in the evening. He was reluctant at first, then he agreed."

It takes just 10 minutes to transform the space, with its retro green-and-white mosaic floor, into Two Face. Hoardings covered in blackboard paint hide the stalls completely.

Diners order at a counter, and the food is cooked in the coffeeshop's shared kitchen.

Pizzas are the stars on the menu and will appeal to people who like their crusts thin and crackly.

An unusual Kiam He Pizza ($14), is topped with bits of salted fish, olives, oregano, capers and basil. The fish is a great topping for pizza, and goes especially well with the mozzarella cheese.

Smoked Duck Pizza ($14), with slices of the meat, truffle flavoured mayonnaise and a handful of rocket leaves on top, is also popular with diners.

A couple of dishes I will go back for.

The Aglio Olio Mushroom + Bacon ($12) has al dente pasta spiked with slices of chilli padi. That bit of heat really lifts the olive oil and garlic pasta dish, which can sometimes be too rich.

Ha Chong Gai ($8), or prawn paste chicken, comes with crisp batter and juicy meat underneath. It is better than some versions I have had at zi char stalls although I am beginning to think there can never be too much prawn paste in the crispy chicken pieces.

It comes with a kicking, although not overly spicy, chilli dip. The bright red sauce comes in handy for two other dishes.

One is Oyster Mushroom ($6), battered and deep-fried chunks of the fungi. It comes with nothing to dip it in, alas, so thank goodness for the chilli. A blue cheese dip would work well too, come to think of it.

I keep getting tempted to dip the crisp pieces of deep fried pork in Maple Mayo Pork Belly ($8) into the chilli too, and it works beautifully. The meat sits on a nest of thin cut fries and are drizzled with mayonnaise mixed with maple syrup. Great idea, but it needs a little more zip.

Beefy Ballz ($10) look good but have far too much gristle. They are being tweaked, and I will go back to try the new, improved version.

When I do, I will order the Two Face Signature Drink ($4), a delicious blend of sour plum, caixin and pineapple. The bright green drinks looks way too healthy but I love how refreshing it is; a little sour, a little sweet and with no trace of bitterness from the leafy greens.

On Sundays, the place is open all day, with brunch served between 10am and 3pm. On the menu are dishes such as Eggs Benedict ($14), Fluffy French Toast ($8) with strawberries and banana and Juicy Steak Sandwich ($16).

Mr Tan is working to add more pizzazz to the place. There might soon be poetry written on those black hoardings, and an artist is keen to display his work there.

With friendly prices - there is no service charge or GST, and more than decent food, Two Face is shaping up to be a cool neighbourhood hangout.

Is this the start of a new trend, with other two-face places opening up? Now that would be an interesting addition to the food scene.


Two Face Pizza & Taproom has a simple menu that includes Kiam He Pizza and Two Face Signature Drink (above), which is made with sour plum, caixin and pineapple. -- PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Two Face, Block 56, Eng Hoon Street, 01-46, tel: 6536-0024, open: 5 to 11pm (Tuesdays to Thursdays), 5pm to midnight (Fridays and Saturdays), 10am to 10pm (Sundays), closed on Mondays except for tomorrow and Dec 30, when it is open from 5pm to midnight

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sunday Times : Weigh the pros and cons of shorter leasehold homes

The Sunday Times
16 December 2012
Invest Section
By lee su shyan money editor
Such units may be priced lower but buyers should consider life expectancy, value when cashing out

BUYING leasehold is one thing but what about a property with just a 60-year lease? That surely is stretching things. Well, maybe.

Like many people, I have always leaned towards freehold but I may well be proved wrong by a small site at Jalan Jurong Kechil that has such a lease.

The tender was awarded to Aspial Corp's unit World Class Developments (North) for $73.8 million recently. Yes, Aspial is a jewellery company but it has a property development arm.

The site is about 152,848 sq ft and it was specified that it could be developed for residential or retirement housing.

It was remarkable that it attracted 23 bids, an unusually large number of developers getting in on the game, especially given the lease is much shorter than the usual 99 years.

World Class has yet to reveal its design plans but already there is much interest online in what the development will be like.

Now that shoebox flats are passe, it seems developers think that shorter-lease projects will be the next big thing.

Consultants and property agents say that many people are coming to the market with a budget of $1 million to $1.2 million.

A 60-year leasehold unit can be priced at perhaps a 20 per cent discount to one with a 99-year tenure.

This means - if you adopt a back-of-the envelope calculation - spending $800,000 for the same apartment that would have cost $1 million.

For a buyer, especially for retirement housing, this makes sense as it means an extra $200,000 for expenses and other investments.

However, it is not entirely a no-brainer as it would partly depend on how long you live and how much spare cash you have.

The value of a 60-year apartment runs down quicker than for the 99-year property.

Assume you bought it when you were 40. By the time you are 70 and need the money, you may have lost the option of cashing out of your main asset since it may not be worth that much.

Conversely, if you were able to afford the $1 million on a 99-year lease, after 30 years there will be more value for you to realise if you do need to sell and downgrade.

It is a similar decision for an investor weighing up between the 60-year and a 99-year leasehold apartment.

As the yield is based on the $800,000 capital sum, a 60-year leasehold flat will offer better returns. After all the tenant is not going to value the apartment based on the tenure of the land.

However, if you look at the financing aspect, an investor may also end up having to pay a higher interest rate and being able to borrow less simply because banks are unwilling to finance this relatively shorter lease.

A good response when the Jalan Jurong Kechil site is launched may mean buyers are becoming more open to different lease terms.

It may also encourage more such sites with shorter lease terms to come onto the market, giving home owners more options.

This will bring the Singapore system closer to Hong Kong, where homes are often sold with 50- or 60-year leases.

However, to my mind, apart from the drawbacks of shorter leases, there are also risks from how the developers go about pricing the project. Although prices for a 60-year lease may be lower than for a 99-year lease, the question is how large is the gap and how fast it may close.

Looking at the enthusiastic response from developers, in future they may aim to price it lower than a 99-year leasehold property, but not as much as 20 per cent cheaper, as long as they think there will be demand.

While a shorter lease will make sense at the start for the buyer because it is cheaper, there are drawbacks that arise 30 or 40 years down the road.

Think through this buying decision carefully. Given that life expectancy is getting longer, this may well be a problem that will come home to roost sooner than one thinks.

The Sunday Times : Indie outlets get help via social media to stay afloat

The Sunday Times
16 December 2012

Mr Kenny Leck, 34, owner of BooksActually in Tiong Bahru, launched an appeal on Facebook and successfully raised $16,000 last month. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Pressured by escalating business costs, the owners of two indie ventures here have taken to social media to mobilise their customers for funding.

Tiong Bahru bookshop BooksActually launched an appeal on Facebook and successfully raised $16,000 last month.

This was followed by The Pigeonhole, a cafe and arts space in Duxton Road, which hopes to raise $15,800 by Dec 27.

The Pigeonhole opened in March last year and is owned by Ms Ave Chan and Mr Rayner Lim.Both declined to comment when contacted by The Sunday Times, but they posted on crowdfunding portal Indiegogo that they were raising funds to pay for rental arrears and relocation costs.

"This fund-raising campaign started because we - and many of our friends and customers - really don't want us to close down for good," they wrote.

As of yesterday afternoon, a week into the campaign, more than $7,300 has been raised online. Donations are also accepted in-store.

They also plan to hold a free benefit concert on its premises at 52 Duxton Road this Friday, to help raise funds.

BooksActually, located at 9 Yong Siak Street, hit its target of $16,000, which it used to pay for a two-month security deposit for the rental of its 1,800 sq ft shop.

Owner Kenny Leck, 34, said he had a week to raise that amount after his landlord raised his rental from $3,800 to $8,000. His deadline was Nov 20.

"We've shifted so many times, and it is crazy to shift again when we're trying to build the business and are on track to stabilise it," said Mr Leck, on why he decided to stay put instead of finding a new location for his business.

The independent bookstore opened in 2005 in Telok Ayer, before moving to Ann Siang Road and Club Street.

Mr Leck went on Facebook to announce a 30 per cent storewide sale on Nov 15 and a book launch on Nov 16.

"I don't believe in just taking people's money," he said. "I wanted people to come and buy something, even if it's only a voucher, or if it's something they don't want, they can give it to someone else."

Lawyer Choo Zheng Xi said police permits are required for collections "made by means of visits from house to house or of soliciting in streets or other public places".

"It is conceivable that a strict interpretation of 'other public places' could be read as including the Internet," said Mr Choo. "But I know of private companies who have raised money through PayPal and have not got into trouble with the police."

Customers were happy to chip in for The Pigeonhole's campaign. Eight donors The Sunday Times spoke to gave between $50 and $200.

Student Leow Yi En, 16, who donated $50, said: "The Pigeonhole helps to promote the local arts scene and I hope that it would be able to continue with its work."

He also spent $30 at BooksActually the weekend the appeal was made.

Dr Kevin Lim, 35, who donated $200 to The Pigeonhole, said: "People are helping one another to make their community a better place."

The assistant director of the National Art Gallery, which will open in 2015, added: "There is co-dependency, something that harks back to the idea of the kampung spirit, which we as modern Singaporeans hardly experience today."

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Straits Times : Hipster hooray for two.o.ri

Located in Tiong Bahru, two.o.ri (above) sells items such as clothes and lifestyle items by local and international brands. -- PHOTO: MARK CHEONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

What: two.o.ri

Where: 61 Seng Poh Lane, 01-05

When: 5 to 10pm (Wednesdays to Fridays), 11am to 9pm (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays), closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Who: The co-owners of fashion boutique nana & bird in Tiong Bahru, Ms Georgina Koh (below right), 32, and Ms Tan Chiew Ling (below left), 32. The duo have collaborated with distribution company Darts, which focuses on international designer brands, to open this eclectic apparel and lifestyle store.
two.o.ri (say "two-ooh-ray") is tucked away in an unlikely location: in a one-storey building in an open-air carpark, with a zi char restaurant and a seafood distributor for neighbours.


Ms Tan, who works in a creative agency, says: "There are a lot of old-school food and beverage outlets here, and a lot of people are surprised to see our shop."

Still, given the hipster enclave that Tiong Bahru has turned into, the shop is well placed.

"We see the potential that traffic will stream down from the busy Yong Siak Street," explains Ms Koh.

Yong Siak Street is where independent bookstore BooksActually and popular coffee joint 40 Hands are located.

The "two" in the shop's name refers to different groups of people interacting with one another, while "ri" is slang for laughter in French.

Having opened their first boutique, nana & bird, in Tiong Bahru last year, the partners decided to open a second, larger one in the same area to stock a wider range of products - from lifestyle items to menswear. nana & bird, which sells women's clothes and accessories, occupies 430 sq ft in a former residential unit on a HDB block's ground floor.

two.o.ri, which officially opened at the end of last month, is twice that size.

The 800 sq ft shop is curved on one side, with squarish cut-outs over clear glass windows that let in light. Black-and-white blinds adorn the shop's full-length glass entrance.

Goods, such as watches, sunglasses and bags, are tastefully arranged on custom-made varnished plywood shelves and tables.

Ms Tan and Ms Koh designed the interior themselves and wanted to create a raw yet welcoming feel. They spent around $10,000 doing up the space.

The shop carries local and international labels for men and women from places such as New Zealand, South Korea and Britain. These include Canadian label Oliberte and home-grown womenswear label aijek.

Clothing costs between $100 and $500. Prices range from $3 for a pen to $1,280 for a leather bag.

The owners are also hoping to make full use of their ample new space to host events - from pop- up stores-within-a-store to collection launches.

Ms Koh says: "We could even get a DJ in to spin or have an artisanal coffee pushcart. Just seeing this as a retail space would be under-utilising it."