Sweet Garden Dining Cafe: No GST & service charge at ex-5-star hotel chef’s Western cafe

Apart from my grandma’s cooking, I don’t remember the last time I audibly gasped for a dish. Well, I sure did at Sweet Garden Dining Cafe.

This family-style cafe at Mountbatten was opened in 2016 by an ex-hotel chef, Barry Lok. But Barry isn’t any ordinary hotel chef. With a decade of expertise, he was a chef at several prominent 5-star hotels, including Singapore Marriott Hotel, Raffles Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel and Tanglin Club.

Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Storefront
Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Storefront

Lok and his wife, Carmen took a leap of faith when they left their comfortable fixed jobs and established Sweet Garden Dining Cafe. The restaurant serves a delectable array of Western dishes, which mostly cost less than S$20.

Despite its relative obscurity, their cafe quietly rose in popularity and won numerous accolades, most notably 2022 Winner of Best Cafe at WGA (World Gourmet Summit Singapore) and 2023 Best Cafe Award at RAS (Restaurant Association of Singapore) Epicurean Star Awards.

Is Sweet Garden Dining Cafe worthy of its “Best Cafe of the Year” title, though? I decided to find out.

What I tried at Sweet Garden Dining Cafe

Situated under an HDB block, the cafe is a quaint sight to see.

From carefree kids playing at the playground to a lone uncle lighting a cigarette, Sweet Garden Dining Cafe was juxtaposed with the sights and sounds of the local community. Who knew that this neighbourhood cafe was so highly rated?

Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Outdoor Seating
Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Outdoor Seating

Upon entering the humble eatery, we were greeted with a smile by Carmen and I immediately warmed up to the cosy atmosphere. The interior was dimly lighted and proudly adorned with previous article features as well as prize plaques.

From a few tables away, I espied Barry striking up a conversation with a customer that he seemed to know. It was then I had an epiphany: The cafe’s purpose was to provide more quality food options in the neighbourhood for families!

My apologies for getting sentimental, it’s time to get down to business.

After much deliberation, I ordered 2 Chef Recommendations: the Hawaiian Skinny Pizza (S$19.90) and the Ham & Cheese Baked Rice (S$20.90).

Controversial opinion, but I hate pineapples on pizza. Nevertheless, I still wanted to give it a try. Surprise surprise, I think this is the only Hawaiian Pizza I would ever get.

To my astonishment, this hit the spot. Coupled with a generous serving of shredded ham and stretchy cheese, the pineapples added a refreshing touch as they were fragrant and juicy. Till today, I wonder how they managed to lock in that moisture through the baking process.

Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Hawaiian Pizza
Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Hawaiian Pizza

The best way to determine a pizza’s quality is by its crust as a good slice starts with good dough. This Hawaiian Pizza is 9-10 inches wide with a crumbly thin crust that has amazing texture as it was literally like a flaky charred biscuit when I broke it apart.

Furthermore, the Skinny Pizza was skinny-ing as I didn’t feel jelat at all.

Moving on to the dish I was so excited about, the Ham & Cheese Baked Rice took quite a while to arrive and I could instantly see why. It was the epitome of a cheese pull.

Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Ham & Cheese Baked Rice
Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Ham & Cheese Baked Rice

The cheese was baked to perfection and I mean it as I’m very particular about my baked rice. I’ve had several scares from baked rice that simply has chunks of cheese on top.

Unlike those, the cheese from the Ham & Cheese Baked Rice was oozing through the crevices between every rice grain. Talking about the rice, this wasn’t just plain rice. As reflected in its reddish colour, the tomato-based rice was soft and bursting with flavour.

It was generously packed with savoury ham, shiitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and even full cherry tomatoes!

To complete the meal, we got desserts on a whim: a Scoop of Gelato (S$9) each in the Chef Recommended flavours of Toasted Marshmallow and Earl Grey.

Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Toasted Marshmallow & Earl Grey Gelato
Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Toasted Marshmallow & Earl Grey Gelato

Compared to ice cream, gelato has lower milk fat content which thus yields a softer consistency. Smooth and airy, Sweet Garden Dining Cafe’s version fully encapsulates gelato’s characteristic texture.

However, the flavours were not to my liking as I prefer something sweeter. The Toasted Marshmallow Gelato was bittersweet with small marshmallows for a fun texture, whereas the Earl Grey Gelato packed a punch of strong aromatic tea.

Final Thoughts 

Although it was on the pricier side, the food at Sweet Garden Dining Cafe was worth it.

Among the wide variety of Western dishes available, they do provide Set Meals at reasonable prices. The Delicious Lunch Box (S$9.90) is available only on weekdays while the Set Dinner (from S$21.90) comes with a choice of main and beverage.

What’s more? They are a “No GST, No Service Charge” eatery.

Sweet Garden Dining Cafe - Barry Lok & Carmen Lok

Testified by its stellar reviews and awards, Sweet Garden Dining Cafe is truly a hidden gem worth visiting.

Expected damage: S$10 to S$25 per pax

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