Located at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, The Spread is a beautiful food bar that prides itself on serving diverse, good quality food at great value. At the same time, the eatery offers a fashionable hangout for cafe enthusiasts, working adults and families in the Pasir Panjang and West Coast areas of Singapore, thanks to its trendy loft-inspired decor and panoramic glass facade that sees plenty of natural light filtering through.
And since opening its doors to little fanfare about six months ago, The Spread has enjoyed brisk business, bringing its wholesome dishes to countless students during the university term.
Sam Foo, 25, Manager at The Spread, stresses that The Spread does not wish to cater purely to the NUS student population though. He said, “We target not only the students and staff at NUS but also the people in the vicinity. Apart from us, there is a canteen that they need to climb four flights of stairs to reach, but this is the main eating area for students and staff here within a 1km radius. But we still hope to continue to reach out to even more people living around the area who may not yet know about our cafe.”
A vast menu
True to its word, The Spread’s vast menu can be broken down into two main sections and these are the Grab & Go options and the a la carte dishes from the kitchen.
Why have the large spread of dishes? Said Sam, “I guess this is because our customers tend to be regulars. That is why the menu is relatively wide, to cater to their tastes and preferences. Some people can come in and dine for both lunch and dinner; The Spread is like a cafeteria to them, so it is important for us to have variety or they will get sick of the food quickly.”
Grab & Go options
Those who want a quick bite can take their pick from the grab & go options, that is, the array of sandwiches, viennoiseries, pastries and cakes, or build their own wholesome salads.
Said Sam, “There is a misconception that salads just consist of vegetables. But in the Central Business District (CBD) you can make a salad that is just proteins. We are exactly like that. We wanted a healthy and fast option in this area. You have plenty of such salad bars in the CBD but none in this part of Singapore. We wanted to bring that here.”
In fact the highlights from the healthy salad bar include Japanese soba noodles, roasted sweet potatoes and sliced beef rump steak.
Sam added, “We sell a lot of salads and sandwiches here every day and we make the sandwiches fresh every morning. We prepare about four to five selections for customers to choose from.”
On the other hand, the kitchen menu features an eclectic mix of homely Italian pastas, hearty Asian rice dishes and Western mains.
The Asian themed dishes are inspired by The Spread’s consultant Thai chef. Said Sam, “We have a Thai chef who acts as a consultant and that is how we came up with the Thai style dishes.”
And in terms of the Western dishes, having sharpened their knives under Italian celebrity chef Omar Bernardin at Hilton’s il Cielo and Mandarin Oriental’s Dove Vita, the chefs at The Spread have introduced lesser known Italian classics in a bid to expand the palates of the local masses.
Said Sam, “Our kitchen serves home-cooked food at very affordable prices. The Italian cuisine is the same type that you would get in an Italian restaurant but considerably cheaper.”
I had been recently invited to a food tasting session at The Spread and I had a good mixture of both their Thai and Western style dishes. Here are my comments about the food.
Thai Basil Chicken ($5.50)
A typical Thai style rice dish, this item comes with a sunny side up egg as a form of decoration which made it quite pretty.
On trying this, I could detect a strong basil taste in the minced chicken. The taste had been mildly spicy and yet slightly sweet at the same time. The combination was interesting and pleasant enough and the flavours had balanced out well with the white rice that the dish was served together with.
But in spite of the delicious flavours which I admit that I had rather enjoyed, this dish however, lacked some texture and bite; perhaps it could have helped if the minced chicken had been cooked more firm.
Thai Green Curry Chicken ($6.80)
This rice dish comes with sautéed eggplant on the side, and a sunny side up egg.
When I tried this, I could detect a mild curry note from the green curry. It was slightly spicy hot, but at the same time the amount of spiciness was not overpowering.
However in terms of the texture of the chicken, this had been bit on the soft and mushy side though, and the soft eggplant that was served on the side didn’t really add much texture to the dish. The chicken could have been cooked more firm to give it some bite.
At the same time, it may have helped to add a bit of bite to the chicken if some of the eggplant could have been more lightly cooked to provide texture to the dish.
Most popular Asian dishes on the menu
These two Thai dishes above, that I had tasted, according to Sam, are the most popular Asian dishes on the menu.
Added Sam, “I gave you the two most popular Asian dishes. The Chicken Katsudon is the third one in terms of popularity.”
Italian and Western Dishes
For the Italian and Western style dishes, we tried some of these as well, as the chefs do come from an Italian background after all. The dishes that we had tasted, are as follows.
Spaghetti Pomodoro and Burrata with additional beef ($6.80)
One of the lesser known Italian dishes, Spaghetti Pomodoro is typically prepared with pasta, olive oil, fresh tomatoes and basil. It is intended to be a quick and light vegetarian dish. However to add more flavour to the dish, beef slices had been added.
I could detect a cheesy tomato flavour in this dish when I ate a forkful of the pasta, but this taste is rather mild. When the burrata cheese was mixed into the tomato sauce, it had been a little bit creamier than previously and sensitive taste buds may detect the change, but then again, I felt that the amount of difference in the creaminess of the sauce is not substantial. Perhaps it would have helped, if the tomato flavour had been stronger and more cheese could be added to this dish.
The beef however, had been quite a nice addition to the dish and I liked the chewy texture and meaty flavours coming from the beef.
In terms of the texture of the spaghetti, it was pretty firm, which is what the Italian style al-dente pasta is supposed to be like. So at least this was good.
Said Sam, “Most Singaporeans actually order the Aglio Olio or the Bolognese because this is what they know. But I feel that we have a lot of items that are maybe lesser known but are equally good so I had wanted to introduce them to you and your readers. This is one of them. We think that they are just as delicious but because of the unfamiliarity of the name, it is less commonly ordered.”
Beef Lasagne ($6.80)
The Spread’s version of the beef lasagne was quite pleasant and the moment I took a mouthful of this, I could detect a rather strong cheesy note. I love my cheese, so this had agreed with me. On eating more, there was the taste of beef as well as a mild tomato flavour, which any good serving of beef lasagna should contain.
The good thing is that for this lasagne, the top bit was quite soft; sometimes the outer layer can be hard and overcooked so it was nice to know that the lasagne at The Spread did not have this problem.
However this dish had lacked bite though. It had seemed to be a bit on the mushy side in the mouth, and there wasn’t much texture in the beef or the lasagne layers too. Perhaps it could have been because of a lack of beef used in the recipe, or else the beef had been ground up too fine.
Twister Fries ($4.20)
I must say that I enjoyed this side dish. These twister fries are extremely crispy and are quite fragrant. There had seemed to be a layer of batter that have been used to coat the fries in the cooking process, and this had probably really helped with the crunchiness of the twister fries.
At the same time, I must admit that they had been quite addictive and as a result, I could not stop eating them. But probably this was because quite a lot of salt had been used in the recipe though.
I was also impressed that the fries still stayed crispy and retained a fair amount of its crunch even after an hour of sitting on the table. Most fries would probably have gotten soggy already especially after this length of time. So this is good for those who want to use The Spread as a meeting place to simply sit and chat, whilst munching on sides at the same time.
Said Sam, “The Twister fries are a popular item amongst the students because apart from The Spread, you can only get them at McDonald’s during the Chinese New Year.”
Other Western foods
From the Italian menu, Sam admits that his personal favourite is the Penne Arrabbiata, which is pasta cooked in a spicy sauce made of garlic, tomatoes and red chili peppers in olive oil. He said, “I would have given you that to taste, but the two Thai dishes are already spicy and I wanted to have a variety of items on the tasting menu.”
The Spread also has items such as the Fish & Chips, Pan Seared Chicken Chop or the Fish/Chicken Burger for customers who prefer to tuck into more hearty American fare too. So they definitely cater to a wide range of customers.
As well, The Spread also has some ready-made cakes and muffins, for those who want something sweet together with their meals. We tasted two of their more popular cakes and these are as follows.
Salted Caramel Cheese Cake ($5.90)
This was basically a cheesecake coated with a topping of salted caramel on the surface. I quite enjoyed the salted caramel layer on this cake. It was sweet with a slightly salty tang and this had helped to add to the sweetness of the cheese.
As for the cheese, the texture was smooth enough, but not the smoothest that I have seen in a cheesecake. The flavour was quite nice though; I could feel the cheesiness almost immediately, yet it did not completely overpower the taste buds. So this gave me a chance to taste the other aspects of the cake as well, when I put everything into my mouth together.
The biscuit base though, could have been more crunchy. Perhaps it had been due to the fact that the cake had been sitting around in the refrigerator. The taste had been pleasant enough however, and I feel that could have been either Marie or Digestive biscuits that were used. Nevertheless, the plain-ness of the biscuit base probably balanced out well with the richness of the cheese cake and the caramel topping.
But still, I couldn’t help feeling that it may have added to the caramel theme of the cake, if some caramelised biscuits was used for the base.
Triple Chocolate Muffin ($3.50)
I have to state that I had requested for this muffin to be warmed up for the food tasting session because I like my cakes hot. When it was served, I could see the chocolate oozing out of the cake. On first glance, I immediately knew that it is definitely a chocolate-y dessert and certainly suits chocolate lovers like me.
On eating it warm, the texture of the muffin is very fine. At the same time it is quite moist and soft and the melting chocolate flowing down the sides adds to the soft texture of the cake. It had reminded me of a “budget” version of the popular dessert, the chocolate lava cake. The chocolate-y flavour also hits the taste buds immediately. But as there seems to be a fair amount of dark chocolate used, the flavour can get a little rich after some time, though.
I must say that it is best to eat this muffin after heating it up though; I had tried a bit after it had cooled down substantially and the cooled-down muffin had seemed to taste more doughy in my opinion. But then again if you like your chocolate to be more solid in texture rather than molten, then perhaps it might be best to eat this muffin straight out of the fridge.
We also had a couple of the more popular drinks from The Spread’s beverage menu and these area as follows.
Thai Milk Tea ($2.80)
This version of the Thai Milk iced tea consists of a rather mild tea note. It is pretty sweet and creamy though, and will probably suit those who prefer the sweet milky taste to the tea flavour.
Thai Green Tea ($2.80)
This drink has a very distinctive green tea note and at the same time, has a very pleasant and slightly sweet flavour. It is very refreshing and thus, great way to wash down a meal at The Spread.
An escape from university or working life
Indeed, in its quest to provide an escape from the ennui that can be university or working life, The Spread goes above and beyond to deliver good quality and exciting variety in terms of their food offerings – all whilst keeping the prices affordable at the same time.
Location and Opening Hours
The Spread is located at:
Mochtar Riady Building #01-03
NUS Business School BIZ 1
15 Kent Ridge Drive, Singapore 119245
+65 6908 5955
Weekdays: 7:45am – 8.45pm
Saturdays: 7.45am – 2.45pm