Gudetama Cafe opens in Singapore

Gudetama v Hello Kitty v Pompompurin v Pokémon: Which of these cutesy cafes are most worth the queue? 

Oh, how adorable
Oh, how adorable
30 Nov 2016

Oh, how adorable

Amidst all our whining about Singapore being the last to get nice things (it took us ages to finally get a Hello Kitty café, for instance), it’s finally happened: not only have we gotten a permanent Gudetama Café, but ours is the first in Southeast Asia. Together with award-winning bento artist Shirley Wong, the owners of Joe & Dough and The Soup Spoon worked tirelessly with Sanrio to build a café that feels true to the character, and yet feels distinctly Singaporean. How they managed to achieve this in just four months is a feat in itself.

The adorably lazy egg joins Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and Pompompurin in having his very own themed eatery, which opens to the public today. With four adorable character cafes in town, we couldn’t help doing a little research to see which of them gives the best bang for your buck – after all, nachos stamped with copyrighted logos ain’t cheap. Which café has the most palatable food? Which has the best backdrops for taking selfies? Which is the most worth the terrible queue?

Keep reading to see how the Gudetama Café, the Pompompurin Café, the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden, and the Pokémon pop-up compare in terms of design, cuisine, and more.

Interior Design: Gudetama Café
Interior Design: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

Interior Design: Gudetama Café

The Gudetama Café has the broadest appeal out of all the cutesy character cafes that we’ve visited, thanks to its gender-neutral design. Like its namesake, the Gudetama Café caters to all ages – the egg-shaped chairs and booths will elicit excited squees, but there is nothing that will make you feel horribly overage. Heck, the exposed white brick and Japanese screen panes make the main dining area feel almost hipster,while the “garden” area, located next door – which has a GUDETAMA WATER FOUNTAIN – pays homage to Singapore’s tropical climate. And true to Sanrio’s rule that every character café mascot needs to be unique, our Gudetama mascot clutches a mint leaf – again, as a homage to Singapore’s reputation as a “city in a garden”.

More than anything, we appreciated the work that went into designing the café’s aesthetic. Damien Koh, Director of Joe & Dough, told us that Sanrio vetted every single egg design for correct body movements, facial expressions, and even droopiness (Gudetama might be lazy, but even his droopiness must conform to certain angles).

Interior Design: Pompompurin Café
Interior Design: Pompompurin Café
31 May 2016

Interior Design: Pompompurin Café

Out of the three cafes, Pompompurin, which can seat 78, looks the most kid-friendly. Prepare to be greeted (or perhaps overwhelmed) by an abundance of all things Purin, including the Pompompurin & Friends entryway, pudding-shaped lamps, Purin-shaped sofas, and semi-private booths featuring Purin’s BFFs – Bagel the Squirrel, Coconut the Monkey, Mint the Frog and Macaroon the Golden Retriever.

The café also provides Purin plushies to hug while eating. (Ed note: No sooner had the words “table for one” escaped my lips when the server plopped a fat, slightly greying Purin across me so that I would have company while dining. Uh, thanks?

Photo courtesy of Pompompurin Cafe

Interior Design: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
Interior Design: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
31 May 2016

Interior Design: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden

Believe it or not, Hello Kitty Orchid Garden, which can seat 84, was the least cutesy café. The café is about twenty per cent Hello Kitty, and 80 per cent orchid garden, wisely showcasing Singapore’s natural flora and fauna rather than the overexposed girl-cat. Non-Sanrio fans will be relieved to know that it’s possible to take group photos here without revealing that you are in a Hello Kitty cafe; meanwhile, the Kitty addicts have plenty of backdrops to choose from, including two 3D life-sized figurines of the adorable feline. (Fun fact: In addition to being the world’s first 24-hour Hello Kitty café, this café features the only Hello Kitty figurine in the world to wear two hair bows.) 

Interior Design: Pokémon Café
Interior Design: Pokémon Café
31 May 2016

Interior Design: Pokémon Café

After seeing the extent to which Hello Kitty Orchid Garden and the Pompompurin Cafe designed their interiors, the Pokemon café felt a little anticlimactic. You won’t find Pikachu-shaped chairs here, nor will you be able to snap photos with any figurines. To be fair, it is just a pop-up (and can only seat 60), so manage your expectations when going in – at most, you will be able to pose alongside temporary wall décor and uh, Pokemon-themed placemats and coasters.


INTERIOR WINNER: Gudetama Café
INTERIOR WINNER: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

INTERIOR WINNER: Gudetama Café

Sorry, Hello Kitty, but you’ve been dethroned, as the Gudetama’s Café’s lack of overt cutesiness makes it easier for us to drag our kawaii-phobic friends there for a meal.


Food: Gudetama Café
Food: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

Food: Gudetama Café

The Gudetama Café menu offers 10 mains, two kids’ meals, and four desserts, which were all co-created and designed by award-winning bento artist Shirley Wong (a.k.a. Instagram’s @littlemissbento). The presentation is gorgeous, of course, but we’re happy to report that the food is far tastier than what you would expect at a typical character café, which is notorious for focusing more on visuals than on flavour. Since the Gudetama Café is a collaboration between Joe & Dough and The Soup Spoon, you can expect the quality of dining to be at that level – it’s satisfying, but nothing to shout from the rooftops about – but if there is one thing that truly impressed us, it is the creativity of the desserts. What appears as a Shoyu Ramen is actually a chocolate mousse cake with Feuilletine, while tiny cheesecakes shaped like Tamago sushi confused, and then charmed us, with their artistry.

Food: Pompompurin Café
Food: Pompompurin Café
31 May 2016

Food: Pompompurin Café

At the moment, the Pompompurin Café’s menu offers six mains, four desserts, four special drinks, and a few regular drinks like tea and coffee. But what the menu lacks in volume, it offers in food design and portion size – we were positively bursting after eating just half of our Taco Rice in a Cup of Friendship and a third of Bagel’s Special Pancake Tower. Not to mention the intensely sweet Love Love Hot Marshmallow Latte, which, at $12.99, costs almost as much as the least expensive main (Pompompurin’s Coconut Milk Chicken Curry, $17.99).

Flavour-wise, we were pleasantly surprised – the food has an uncannily nostalgic taste, recalling the Western-Japanese fare we used to order during secondary school because hipster cafes became a thing. And the pain of paying $26.99 for a standard Mushroom & Bacon Carbonara is eased by the fact that it comes with a free Pompompurin souvenir mug. 

Food: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
Food: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
31 May 2016

Food: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden

Unlike the Pompompurin Café, where the quality of the food was more or less consistent, the Hello Kitty Café fare was hit or miss. The Hola Nachos! ($15.90) – stamped with Hello Kitty’s face, naturally – were akin to stale soda crackers. And the all-day Big Breakfast Surprise ($18.50) was far from big, with the shrunken Hello Kitty-shaped waffle sagging pitifully beneath a slice of melted cheddar. (Eh, we’re pretty sure we could make the same thing at home with a knockoff Hello Kitty waffle iron from Taobao and a square of sliced cheese.)

That being said, we were quite impressed with the localised dishes, such as the Cowabunga! Wagyu! ($24), the café’s version of beef rendang. The Enchanted Forest ($17.90), a seafood tortilla-like creation, is at least edible, as long as you eat it before the tortilla gets soggy. And the Hide & Seek pandan panna cotta with strawberry marshmallow sauce and vanilla gelato ($16.90) was a hot favorite, thanks to the syringe of gula melaka pierced atop the wobbly dessert.

Hello Kitty Orchid Garden’s menu is by far the most extensive of the three, as it also includes a frozen yogurt bar and an assortment of gelato. Just be mindful that the menu is limited between 12 am to 6 am, and that aside from a couple of dishes, you are probably better off eating the desserts rather than the mains (along with the drinks, which have entirely too much sugar). 

Food: Pokémon Café
Food: Pokémon Café
31 May 2016

Food: Pokémon Café

Disclaimer: We did not get to try much of the Pokémon Café's offerings, as most of the items were unavailable at the time of our visit. The menu, which mildly resembles that of the Pompompurin café, offers three mains, truffle fries, four desserts, five special drinks, and a takeaway Pokéball cream puff – we tried it, it’s not terrible, but not anything to write home about – and all of the items carry HEAVY Pokémon branding (sorry, Jigglypuff and Bulbasaur fans – the items are pretty Pikachu-heavy). Like the food itself, the dish names are quite a mouthful. Check out the Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette with Magma Sauce! ($25, comes with a Pokéball mug), Special Move "Fire Blast"! Primal Gourdon's Bolognese, ($20), and Battle on Pikachu! Level-up with Rare Candy! ($20). 

We were told that the stencils and designs were brought in from Japan, and that the staff at Everything With Fries also travelled to Japan to train for the pop-up, so while we can’t speak for the taste of the food, we can at least appreciate the effort that went into it.  

FOOD WINNER: Gudetama Café
FOOD WINNER: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

FOOD WINNER: Gudetama Café

You would think that the Gudetama Café’s menu would basically be Hatched 2.0, eggs galore, but aside from the obligatory Eggs Benedict, the offerings are rather carnivorous, with the Gudetama branding taking a backseat to the actual cuisine. This was no accident: according to Sanrio’s instructions, nothing could be too “eggy” - you don’t eat Gudetama, you merely watch him interact with the food around him. For its ingenuity, generous portions, and yes, its superior flavours, the Gudetama Café’s menu is a cut above the rest.

Merchandise: Gudetama Café
Merchandise: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

Merchandise: Gudetama Café

While the Gudetama Café will sell everything from mugs to T-shirts, we can’t reveal much about what is available, since most of it was not ready during the media preview. We will say this though: those souvenir Gudetama Café Singapore mugs will sell for a fortune online once the café inevitably runs out of stock.

Merchandise: Pompompurin café
Merchandise: Pompompurin café
31 May 2016

Merchandise: Pompompurin café

The merchandise here is pretty standard, featuring an assortment of items like a seat cushion ($29.99), a ceramic mug with a lid ($24.99) and a calculator ($22.99). 

Photos courtesy of Pompompurin Café 

Merchandise: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
Merchandise: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
31 May 2016

Merchandise: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden

Hello Kitty Orchid Garden’s merchandise is, of course, garden tea party themed, and includes Germination Kits ($34.50), Bespoke Tea Gift Sets ($38.90) and a collectible plush toy ($49.90), which was sold out when we visited. In fact most of the things were sold out when we visited...

Photo courtesy of Hello Kitty Orchid Garden

Merchandise: Pokémon café
Merchandise: Pokémon café
31 May 2016

Merchandise: Pokémon café

The items here are somewhat school-themed, and include a clear file (set of two) for $6.90, memo pads ($5.50), cotton tote bags ($18.90) and T-shirts for $26.90 to $29.90. 

MERCHANDISE WINNER: Pompompurin café
MERCHANDISE WINNER: Pompompurin café
31 May 2016

MERCHANDISE WINNER: Pompompurin café

While Hello Kitty Orchid Garden’s merchandise at least stuck to the theme, we’ll give this one to Pompompurin café for actually having a variety of items in stock. 

Photo courtesy of Pompompurin Café 

Atmosphere: Gudetama Café
Atmosphere: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

Atmosphere: Gudetama Café

Like the other cutesy character cafes, the Gudetama Café practically assaults you with cuteness at first sight. But we did appreciate that this one felt a little more grown-up compared to the others, thanks to its muted colours, but the café’s central location and the character’s popularity with multiple age groups will surely mean long queues and frenzied service, at least for the first few months. We recommend either going at an odd hour on a weekday, or waiting until the hype dies down.

Atmosphere: Pompompurin café
Atmosphere: Pompompurin café
31 May 2016

Atmosphere: Pompompurin café

The atmosphere here is almost overwhelmingly cheerful, thanks to the bright colours and the array of Purin characters – you’ll almost feel like you’re dining among Purin and his pals, if not an array of selfie-addicted couples and hyperactive children. 

Photo courtesy of Pompompurin Cafe

Atmosphere: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
Atmosphere: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden
31 May 2016

Atmosphere: Hello Kitty Orchid Garden

While you’ll run into the occasional traveller here, the vast majority of patrons were locals who were just trying out the café for fun. We didn’t spot as many kids here as we did at Pompompurin – perhaps Hello Kitty is more popular amongst nostalgic adults than actual children – but we loved how the interior design made this place feel more elegant than its predecessors elsewhere in Asia. 

Atmosphere: Pokemon café
Atmosphere: Pokemon café
31 May 2016

Atmosphere: Pokemon café

Well, it’s Bugis, so prepare yourself to be surrounded by students, especially now that school holidays are in session -- according to Hardwarezone forums, the queue on opening day last weekend was over 200 minutes. We also spotted far fewer embarrassed boyfriends here than we did at the previous two cafes, perhaps due to the franchise’s gender-neutral appeal.


ATMOSPHERE WINNER: Gudetama Café
ATMOSPHERE WINNER: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

ATMOSPHERE WINNER: Gudetama Café

Maybe it’s the abundance of yellow and exposed brick, but something about this café just feels warm and cozy compared to the others. Prepare to feel as lazy as the egg once you’re done spending the afternoon here.

OVERALL WINNER: Gudetama Café
OVERALL WINNER: Gudetama Café
30 Nov 2016

OVERALL WINNER: Gudetama Café

In terms of location, interior design, food, Instagrammability, and fine, novelty, it’s obvious who is the winner. Gudetama is simply a more relatable character than Hello Kitty, whose cutesiness borders on tackiness, and Pompompurin, whose flagging popularity never seemed to necessitate a permanent café. And while it might not be fair to compare the Pokemon Cafe’s pop-up space to the others’ dedicated setup, its middling cuisine is decidedly more social media-friendly than tummy-friendly.

The Gudetama Café is located in Suntec City Mall, #01-361

The Pokémon Café is located @ EwF at Bugis Junction, 4th Floor (24 November 2016 to 19 February 2017)

Hello Kitty Orchid Garden is located at Arrival Hall Central #01-22, Terminal 3 at Singapore Changi Airport

POMPOMPURIN Café is located at 181 Orchard Road #04-08, Orchard Central, Singapore 238896

 

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