Singapore’s Hello Kitty café: Yay or nay?

Hello Kitty Orchid Garden’s mascot winks at you as you enter the cafe. — TODAY pic
Hello Kitty Orchid Garden’s mascot winks at you as you enter the cafe. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, May 12 — I am not a fan of Hello Kitty.

In fact, I am positively scared of the mouthless cat (or “little girl”, as Sanrio insists), whose unyielding, expressionless gaze always seems to follow my every move. And, like some non-Hello Kitty fans, one of my favourite things to do when I am free is point and laugh at those who spend hours queuing up to buy limited-edition Hello Kitty plush toys, only to have them collect dust and stare some more from a display cabinet.

So when my editor assigned me to attend the media preview of the first Hello Kitty-themed café in Singapore, which also happens to be the first 24-hour Hello Kitty café in the world — perhaps as retribution for trash-talking her favourite My Melody character so much — I prepared myself for a full-on assault of all things pink, frilly and bone-chillingly kawaii. No one said journalism was for the weak.

The exterior of the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden cafe. — TODAY pic
The exterior of the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden cafe. — TODAY pic

But when I arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 3, where Hello Kitty Orchid Garden is situated, yesterday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the café was more “Orchid Garden” than “Hello Kitty”. Naturally, the eatery was set up to please fans of the beloved Sanrio character, with Hello Kitty-shaped backrests on the chairs, life-sized Hello Kitty models to take selfies with, as well as a special retail corner featuring Kitty-inspired merchandise such as postcards (S$16/RM47 for four), tea and coffee gift sets retailing at S$38.90 and S$27.50, respectively, and custom-made plush toys costing S$49.90 apiece.

Otherwise, the café was fairly understated in its decor and furnishings, perhaps to avoid alienating grumpy husbands and boyfriends. The eatery was decorated with fresh orchids and large tables that were spaced comfortably apart, making it a relaxing spot to people-watch with a friend. There were even two cocoon hanging chairs for those who want to pretend they are really sipping tea in a garden, albeit an air-conditioned one.

Into the Woods, one of the dishes on the menu. — TODAY pic
Into the Woods, one of the dishes on the menu. — TODAY pic

Unfortunately, the café’s food offerings were decidedly less impressive. Into The Woods (S$12), a baked pastry and sausage dish, tasted exactly like it sounds: Sausage wrapped in pastry. A tad dry and akin to a sausage bun, it felt like something I could grab off the shelf at a neighbourhood bakery. The Let’s Do The Salsa (S$16.50), a piquant shredded chicken sandwich with focaccia bread shaped like — you guessed it — Hello Kitty, was really just a mildly spicy chicken sandwich. An accompanying beverage, Kitty Blush — which was essentially soda with watermelon and basil, was refreshing, but tasted too sweet and artificial.

My favourite of the few dishes we were allowed to try was the Hide & Seek, a fragrant pandan panna cotta dessert with Gula Melaka, passionfruit and strawberry marshmallow sauce. But at S$16.90, the panna cotta would have to contain edible gold flakes before I’d recommend it to anyone.

Merchandise on sale at the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden cafe. — TODAY pic
Merchandise on sale at the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden cafe. — TODAY pic

Granted, we were given only canape-sized portions of a select few dishes to try and the full dining experience might be more rewarding. After all, there are many who wouldn’t mind paying to have Hello Kitty-shaped waffles stare at them from their plates.

Even if I am not one of them. — TODAY

*Hello Kitty Orchid Garden opens its doors for business on May 12 at 11.30am, at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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