It all began about 10 years ago when student Vincent Teng left Singapore to embark on a Civil Engineering degree at RMIT. At the time, his partner (now his wife) Laura was living in Sydney and whenever she came to Melbourne to visit, they would spend their weekends cafe hopping, losing hours sipping lattes and reading the paper over breakfast and into lunch.
So it wasn’t long before Teng began working with Bill and Faye Colls, who previously owned Postal Hall, before going onto Cafe Racer, Federal Coffee Palace and Coffee Darling in South Yarra (which the Colls also own). “Bill and Faye taught me everything there is to know about operating a café,” says Teng. “'Customer recognition' and 'making everything as if it is for the beloved' is what they firmly implanted in me.
“Their son Danny (now operating Liasion) has also always been my role model. They were like family to me and Laura.”
In 2009, Teng completed his degree and returned to Singapore with Laura, only to find that something was missing from his routine: a good cafe. So after the perfect space – on Craig Road, Tanjong Pagar – became available, the couple knew what they had to do.
“The Plain is inspired by what Laura and myself fondly remember of the time spent in numerous cafes in Melbourne and Sydney,” explains Teng. “It's all about that cafe experience.”
At The Plain, it's like walking into a friend's place; the green couch, the open concept kitchen, the Smeg fridges, the communal table and the warm service, all of which is supposed to make you feel at home. “The name came about because we wanted to keep things really 'plain and simple and good' and we are next to a park called Duxton Plain Park, hence the name,” he explains.
The Plain has been open nearly a year now and is serving all-day breakfast and simple daytime dining with sandwiches and eggs on toast, much like your own local in Melbourne. They even have Humpty Dumpty & Vegemite soldiers on the menu. On top of that, they bake sweets, tarts and cakes in house and serve Genovese Coffee, signature summer blue iced tea and Little Creatures ale and Pipsqueak cider. A few nice touches from down under.
They’ve also recently started opening until 10pm on Wednesday evenings and have called it the Hump Night. “Midweek, over the hump, chill with a beer and some snacks. It’s suppose to be that simple,” suggests Teng proudly of his Singapore cafe.