Le Bon Vivant, Bukit Merah Central

My colleague was very excited to check out this place, so after lunch, we came here.

Listed in TimeOut Singapore as one of the “5 cafes to check out”, Le Bon Vivant is described as a charming little place “serving comfort food” like “sandwiches with soft foccacia, quiches and cakes”, and to pop the cherry, “hard-shelled caramel macarons” which are said to “pack a candy punch”. The reality is a lot more grim – empty-looking with barely anything on sale, and whatever that’s available look like they’ve been through a drought. In all, not a very good first impression. The dearth, we’re informed, is because the deserts and pastries are quickly sold out in part because only small quantities are made in order to avoid wastage. This does however, have the undesired effect of making the spartan atmosphere look bereft of life and therefore, not very inviting.

In terms of taste, there was something sorely lacking in the two deserts we shared. Despite a crusty, and well-cooked pastry, the chocolate tart overall lacked any complexity of flavor – it was one-note, flat and generally had little sophistication. Some might argue that it’s simple, but for the price they were charging, I was expecting a little more excitement. The carrot cake on the other hand, was more or less a train-wreck – sapless, arid, desiccated, parched, unmoistened – even Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s carrot cake isn’t that dry. You know what it reminded me off? My mom’s first attempt at baking carrot cake. The thing about carrot cake is that there’s only two ways around it – it’s either excellent or it’s horrible – there’s no in between or so-so or average, and Le Bon Vivant’s carrot cake was horrible. It had the consistency of a Kenny Rogers’ baked chicken so overcooked that the insides taste a little like sawdust. Even the icing, the only thing good about the cake, couldn’t save this disaster.

There’s a huge army of Singaporeans who’ve graduated with illustrious and overpriced degrees, and they come out into the workforce and realize that they can’t take hardship or any kind of responsibility. At first, they think it’s the company, but as they hop from one to another, they realize it’s too difficult. Then they recall they kind-of loved baking those few months on overseas exchange, and decide to strike out on their own, thinking it’s their calling. and thinking they were born to do this. Well, Le Bon Vivant reeks of that. There’s generally a sense of amateurism that permeates within the desserts. Everyone can bake, but not everyone should bake. I mean, why settle for mediocrity, especially when the good stuff is just a dollar or two more.

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