Have you ever been to or heard about THE LAB located at the borders of the the busy Bugis area – right at Jalan Pisang? This week, we will be featuring THE LAB for you to know more about this crazy scientist lab-themed halal cafe!
The crazy scientist(s) behind The Lab SG
It was an idea by the ladyboss Ejan and her partner (now husband) many years ago. Together with their dream to open a cafe with a minimalistic concept and being a huge fan of ‘Heisenberg’ in one of the most-watched American crime drama series “Breaking Bad”, The Lab was created. “Breaking Bad” made its way into the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS 2014 for being the “highest rated TV series“.
Still on track with its initial direction, The Lab did not differ from it’s original idea of being a lab full of experiments – shaping into the ladyboss’ ideal kind of lab. Ejan revealed that the whole cafe came out “unplanned” – why is that so? The real planning started in September 2014 and The Lab was revealed to the public in late November last year – that would be just about 2 months from planning to executing and even had all their furnitures DIY. That’s pretty impressive! Having the plan to find a central kitchen and run pop-up events, the scientists settled down to open a cafe at Jalan Pisang instead.
Gaining popularity tremendously as a Halal cafe loved by all races, would you believe that there wasn’t any marketing strategy? Ejan told us that the whole preparation kept them busy enough that they didn’t manage to do an intended soft launch of The Lab. The scientists thanked the social networks like Instagram for the amazing word-of-mouth effect as the contributing factor to their success today. Apart from the social networks, the cafe concept and their one-time specialities are contributing factors to keep the customers coming back to The Lab. The team was amazed by the crowd turning up to the once ghost-town-like The Lab during their starting days.
We asked the scientists if they were ever worried that their scientisty lab concept wouldn’t interest people and they answered “To be honest, the idea of the lab came before the name of the cafe itself. What’s important is the idea of the process we go in the long run – like the lab, constantly experimenting. From DIY-ing the furnitures to coming up with new creative dishes and integrating the lab apparatus such as the syringes, breakers and test tubes.”
“Hey, why not we do this?” was a common question among the brainstorming and discussion sessions among the scientists. They find the idea of incorporating the apparatus spontaneous. Abiding to the norm was never their type of thing, rather, bringing the cafe environment to a whole different level.
At the initial stage, they were challenged by the small kitchen and the customer turnover given that their location is a tad off the radar for the busy Arab Street and Haji Lane where all the cafes were gathered at. Right now, they are greatly challenged by the space constraint which inevitably formed the frequent queue outside The Lab and having difficulties with the ‘demand over supply’ problem in the kitchen. The scientists semi-solved the problem by renting another space to carry out the food preparation in order to speed up the efficiency of their cafe kitchen.
Unfortunately, Ejan revealed that there will not be any plans to expand the cafe. She told us that she’s happy with the size of the cafe keeping it cozy enough. Sad to also know that the quota for cafes in the area has reached its limits, you won’t be seeing a bigger The Lab anytime soon. You won’t be surprised to know that there isn’t any off-peak hours for The Lab, the crowd just keeps coming in even on weekdays. Fret not, The Lab takes in reservations for 6 pax and above – ring them up!
No, you won’t be seeing The Lab appearing on the deals website. Ejan told us that she would often receive feedbacks that The Lab’s menu is reasonably-priced for their fine-dining quality dishes. She also believes in the daily and weekly food and beverages specialities to keep the customers excited to return every time.
The specialities were created by the head chef (who is a close friend of the bosses) who is a huge food lover and experienced in many different types of cuisines. It is their passion to research and find out and experiment what they can do with different ingredients. Ejan ranked the “Russian Roulette” the most creative dish they have ever came up with – having chicken braised and steamed with stuffing and adding a gravy made with sweet potato. Be welcomed with UK and Russian specialities in the coming months!
Given the fact that the halal ingredients have limited availability in Singapore, Ejan felt that the muslim community does not always get to try authentic foreign cuisines that are yet halal. Despite knowing that the muslim community is more used to spicy food and these cuisines offered would not suit the taste pallets of the elder generations, Ejan will always ‘chew’ on the feedbacks without forgetting their initial aim to introduce foreign cuisines to the muslims. Even if that meant receiving feedbacks such as the food is terribly horrible, Ejan is confident in the direction of The Lab.
“How do you see The Lab in 5 years time?”
Ejan hopes to maintain the current followers and attract new customers, The Lab will not be expanding (sadly). She hopes that the muslim community will find foreign cuisines more acceptable by then. Ejan also wishes to see more cafes following their footsteps in bringing more variety of food to the muslim community.
1. A Bucket of Mussels Marinare – SGD10
“A classic french dish of fresh mussels, celery and leek with white cream marinare”
2. Heisenberger – SGD15
” 6oz of homemade patty with turkey bacon, caramelized onion, tomato coulis, mesclun salad topped with melted blue cheese”
3. De La Huerta – SGD 13
” Baked bell peppers with wild mushroom gratin stuffing, mixed cheese on a pesto sauce and capers – The Lab’s vegetarian signature”
” Zesty yet refreshing of orange, blue curacao, lime and mint”
One-of-a-kind The Lab retail store will be coming up in a few months time where you can get your hands on a wide range of halal ingredients. Ejan hopes to bring experimenting food to the next level by having the customers trying it out themselves at home! Do keep a lookout for the updates on The Lab’s Instagram and Facebook page.
If you are interested to have your cafe featured on KAvenyou, do drop us an email at email@example.com!
Photography and Article by Xuan Lin @ KAvenyou.com.