Of good friends and good food

“I will be at your place by 11am,” said Florence because I had offered to drive us even though she initiated the invite for a makan-jalan to celebrate my birthday.

With Florence [Right] and Wei Leng [Left]
When I accepted her invite, she asked if I preferred to drive and I immediately said, “Yes.” I also added, “No blindfolds allowed!”

This was because she celebrates my birthday with me every year and in one unforgettable year when Florence came to pick me, she also blindfolded me to drive me to an unknown destination for a surprise birthday celebration.

Even though I had deep reservations about that blindfold, I did not spoil her fun but just went along with her gimmick.

Amusing ourselves in R& F Mall by taking
we-fies with, of all things, toilet bowls!
She drove on and on, and when we finally arrived at the destination – her home – I was so ill with motion sickness that I was unable to fully appreciate the taste of the homemade Chicken Pie her mother had specially made for us!

So now, there were no more blindfolds for me, and Florence even let me drive because she had learnt her lesson well.

Yet she was keeping mum about where were going until after we had picked up Wei Leng.

As I was doing the driving, she had to tell me where to go. When she said, “R&F Mall,” I still had no idea where we were going to dine because there were many restaurants and eateries there.

At Routine by Soon in R&F Mall
When we reached the mall, she proposed that we browsed around the shops to work up an appetite and that was what we did.

After we had shopped for about an hour, she asked, “Are you ready to eat now?”

Then she led Wei Leng and I down the escalator, back to the concourse and commented that by the time we reached the restaurant, we should be ready to eat.

Up to that point, I still had no idea which restaurant or café we were going to, but I just went along with her mysterious plan.

Another we-fie at Routine by Soon
We were literally steps away from the restaurant when I finally realized that we were heading to Routine by Soon because Florence and I had long planned to go but failed to do it, so this was an excellent opportunity to dine here for the very first time.

In fact, it was also Florence who invited me to dine at People and Places, the other restaurant by Soon.

Although it was situated in the city suburbs, People and Places became a popular destination for their menu of Australian-style dishes.

Ready to tuck into familiar favourites,
Quesadilla Brekkie [Left] and Avocado Toast
However, during the Movement Control Order, People and Places was compelled to close in mid-2020 but its menu was consolidated into the fare offered at Routine.

A quick scan of the menu confirmed that popular items like Barramundi with Kale Salad, Quesadilla Brekkie and Avocado Toast, were all available here.

While waiting for our orders to be served, I observed how the serving staff were on hand to top up our drinking water, and they kept an eagle eye on diners to ensure that the glasses were continually filled.

A serving of Barramundi with Kale Salad
It did not take long for our orders to arrive and as the staff were familiar with how diners liked to share their food, they did not hesitate to provide us with individual side plates.

As the portions were shared among us, Florence politely asked if I would like anything else. Before I could reply, she quickly added that there was a Plan B to the celebration where we would head to another café for cake and coffee.

Wei Leng and I were delighted with her plan and joked that we were also ready to consider Plan C, D and E, if any.

After a spot of shopping, we ordered 
takeaway food for dinner; photo while waiting
We continued with our leisurely meal, chit-chatting, and thoroughly enjoying the taste of an Australian brunch in Johor Baru.

A good meal marked the start of an awesome outing that continued with cake and coffee*, a spot of shopping and in the evening, we ended with buying takeaway food for dinner.

I am so blessed and ever grateful for the thoughtful gestures and generosity of my dear friends who never let a year go by without celebrating my birthday with me. Thank you very much!

Routine by Soon is located at Lot G-025 and G-026 on the concourse level of R&F Mall at Tanjung Puteri, 80300 Johor Baru, Johor. Open from 10am to 10pm.

. . .

*In stark contrast to the pleasant experience at Routine, Florence was deeply disappointed (and embarrassed!) by the bad experience at this café where she brought me to try their cake and tarts.

There were no other diners in the large dining hall except us. After the staff gave us the menus, she indicated the call-bell on the table for us to summon her when we were ready to place the orders.

She responded to the call-bell and came to take our orders: Two coffees – one latte and one hazelnut latte – and one mocha with three cheese tarts. The three tarts were served to the table first and it was followed by one latte and one mocha.

The two staff were standing by the cake counter, talking and laughing. Nothing wrong with this except that they did not respond to the call-bell which we pressed at intervals – three times!

Florence had no alternative but to discard the call-bell and called out to them before one staff responded and came to our table. We had ordered three drinks for the three people at the table but only two drinks were served. The question simply was, “Where is one more hazelnut latte coffee?”

We asked the staff why they did not respond to the call-bell when we pressed three times and her vague reply was because it was not functioning.

Eh? Remember, it was she who told us to use the call-bell to summon her to place our orders. If it was malfunctioning, then why tell us to use the call-bell?

I asked to look at the order list and the printout clearly listed the two types of coffee, one mocha and three tarts. Not too many items or too complicated and yet they did not bother to check that of the three drinks, only two were served.

When the hazelnut latte was finally served, it was put on the table and the staff walked away. She was probably nervous and ashamed, so I went to ask her to confirm what was served before the drink was touched lest it turned out to be (another!) mistake. She then confirmed it was hazelnut latte.

I also asked to meet with the store manager or supervisor, but the staff mumbled an excuse and disappeared behind a door… and just left me standing there!

Throughout the time we took to finish our coffee and tart, no store manager or supervisor showed up to meet us.

When she paid the bill, Florence noted that the staff had compensated by waiving the cost for the hazelnut latte and apologized by saying, “Sorry.”

Florence graciously accepted it but deeply regretted the experience, especially as she wanted me to try out this café for my birthday celebration.

I too much regretted it because such an awkward situation arose from the lack of basic training, poor customer service and a bad attitude, which reflected badly on the café brand.

By sharing this experience, I wish to remind owners that service standards in cafes and restaurants must be continually improved and maintained because the diners’ appreciation of a meal is not only about the good food or drinks but the entire experience from the moment they stepped in until they paid the bill and left.

Thankfully, this was the only hiccup in our very pleasant outing together!

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