It’s easy to spot the new Hello Kitty Orchid Garden despite it being in the crowded Arrivals hall of Changi Airport Terminal 3. There’s the profusion of orchids (both live and fake) sprouting from the white trellis that wraps around the cafe, and the pastel-hued Hello Kitty pictures and Instagram-ready giant figurines inside. Then there are the queues, which we hear can stretch as long as four hours during mealtimes.
But surely that isn’t a surprise. After all, door-bashing fans aside, this is the world’s first 24-hour Hello Kitty café and the first to feature Kitty’s new double-bow look (Sanrio felt that adding a second bow would make the 42-year-old look more sophisticated).
It’s also Singapore’s first starring the iconic mouthless character, and since the Sanrio folks like to localise every Kitty offering, this month-old 84-seater is the only one in the world to have a “garden city” look and offer a gamut of dishes ranging from waffles to wagyu rendang.
If the hearty menu seems a shade familiar, that’s because it was developed by parent company ABR Holdings, which also manages other family-favourite eateries such as Swensen’s. “After the Hello Kitty dessert promotion at Swensen’s last year, we were sure the brand resonated and had a lot of strength in this market,” says Andrew Khoo, ABR’s chief operating officer.
The company then set about developing the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden concept with Sanrio – which was “very particular” about the way Hello Kitty would be incorporated into the food, recalls Khoo. For example, the proportions of her face had to be exactly right when stamped onto things like carrots and cookies, and each dish had to have more Kitty elements than, say, just a Hello Kitty paper flag stuck into it.
The result is a series of pretty dishes, each one served with a dusting of flower petals to reinforce the garden theme. Our faves: The Hola Nachos! ($15.90) with jalapenos, olives, onions, tomato salsa and a seriously addictive homemade cheese sauce, and the Cowabunga! Wagyu! ($24; pictured below). Despite the name and exclamation marks, the latter is actually a pretty legit version of rendang laced with a special pineapple rempah and served with Japanese rice.
Save room for dessert, because much of it is decent, if pricey. The Cat In Paradise ($18.50; below) is a cutesy take on Chinese mango pudding – delish mango mousse crowned with candied orange, almond crumble, marshmallow sauce and, rather oddly, a scoop of hazelnut gelato on the side. The wobbly, smooth pandan panna cotta with gula melaka in Hide & Seek ($16.90) is also worth the calories.
If eating and drinking all things Kitty hasn’t satiated your obsession, take home some souvenirs from the retail corner. The merchandise here is seasonal and can range from Kitty-themed coffee powder to limited edition plushies.
Hello Kitty Orchid Garden is at Changi Airport Terminal 3, Arrival Hall Central #01-22.
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