SAFRA Choa Chu Kang’s CAMO Cafe & Bar: Wittily-named Dishes & Military Nostalgia

Mr Andrew Tjioe, President and CEO of TungLok Group tells us more about the inspiration and ideas behind SAFRA's latest military-themed bistro.

By Sean Yee      19 September 2023

Over the years, there has been an abundance of concept cafes that has come and gone, with once novel ideas now excessively reused and recycled. And even then, it is unlikely you have ever encountered a military-style cafe. Until today!

SAFRA has gone all in with Singapore’s leading restaurant group, TungLok to design its very own concept cafe inspired by your military experiences. The man himself, Mr Andrew Tjioe, President and CEO of TungLok Group, sat with us to chat about his latest venture with SAFRA, and the goodies that await us in this museum-like cafe.

A powerhouse partnership

While the details were fuzzy then, one thing was clear. For its seventh clubhouse at Choa Chu Kang, SAFRA knew they wanted a venture that was novel, commemorative, and immediately relatable to our nation’s military guardians. But SAFRA needed a partner that was equally intrepid, innovative, and most importantly, invested in the welfare of our National Servicemen and women. 

TungLok Group fitted this bill, and more. 

“As the construction work for their clubhouse at Choa Chu Kang was underway, our friends at SAFRA approached us with an offer to collaborate on a casual restaurant,” Mr Tjioe shared. However, he had a different, albeit well-timed, idea in mind. “ ‘How about an army-themed cafe instead’, I asked. When it comes to the cafe’s military aesthetics, SAFRA is undoubtedly the best partner to have. And we have years of culinary success. Together, we could possibly produce something incredible,” he said. 

“Thankfully, they agreed!” he concluded resoundingly, as he sipped his cup of the cafe’s signature Bullet-Proof Coffee. 

And thus, CAMO Cafe & Bar was born. 

Uplifted with a pinch of nostalgia

At CAMO Cafe, patrons are greeted with a trove of warfare artefacts as they enter the establishment, chronologically displayed to underscore the progress of our military force since its inception in 1965. Older patrons especially will appreciate the display of military uniforms, having evolved from the original ‘Temasek Green’ variant to the pixelated and camo-washed modern archetypes, while younger customers might learn something new.

Using the concept of an urban jungle, CAMO Cafe has accentuated the adventurous side of National Service with easily recognisable icons and subtle adornments. From vintage steel cabinets to the long pendant lights that were prevalent in every old army barracks, the establishment brings you back to the past in a way that is elegant and contemporary, as you would expect of a culinary conglomerate like TungLok. After all, the cafe is intended to emulate an environment that is “characteristic of Singapore’s natural and urban military infrastructures,” said Mr Tjioe. 

In fact, if you look closely enough, you’ll notice the many fine details that SAFRA and TungLok have meticulously incorporated, including the use of ropes from the military’s obstacle challenges as ceiling pendant cords, and an entire 3D wall mural of an armoured fighting vehicle at the front. 

The food you wished your cookhouse had

With food being TungLok’s forte, expectations were high for this novel concept cafe. And naturally, the food does not disappoint. 

Its Angel Hair Seafood Laksa is the quintessential modern fusion dish that combines delicate pasta with the spicy coconut-infused broth that is a Singaporean staple. It is comfort food through and through. And you have to try its signature CAMO Bullet-Proof Coffee, a level-up variant of your traditional ‘kopi peng’ as it is topped with butter and coconut oil. To the local coffee enthusiast, the drink is also better known as ‘Kopi Gu You’. 

As you would expect, the entire menu pays homage to the Singaporean military experience, with food items playing on the NS vernacular. It’s difficult not to smile when you see Otah Own Target on the menu, let alone laugh (or cry) at its Don’t Smoke Me breakfast platter. 

Not sure what to get? Let Mr Tjioe decide for you! “I love our amazing CAMO Burger! The patties are made with quality beef. It is elevated comfort food,” he assured before proceeding to tuck into a burger himself. 

It’s more than wordplay and caricatures

Beneath the military-centred aesthetics and food offerings lies an implicit desire to empower our youths. 

When asked about the cafe’s conceptualisation, Mr Tjioe said, “If you ask me as a father of two sons, one who has completed NS and another currently serving, National Service is all about that sense of responsibility and ownership. However, it is also a great training ground for young people to grow beyond their comfort zones. This cafe, which is an extension of SAFRA and TungLok, embodies what it means to innovate, to create, and to explore.” 

True to his words, the cafe is run by a young and motivated team brimming with fresh and positively disruptive ideas. Just like National Service, this cafe wants to provide young people with a platform to unleash their creative visions without outdated boundaries. Mr Tjioe gushed with pride as he went into detail about how his young team conceptualised everything about the cafe, from its decor and interior designs to the entire menu. 

Perhaps that’s why CAMO Cafe & Bar might be the perfect name for this establishment, for the open-concept dining area and military-inspired furnishings camouflages an incredibly talented team of people. 

SAFRA members enjoy 10% off and 2% rebate at CAMO Cafe & Bar. Find out more here.

Save more with SAFRA! Enjoy special deals and discounts on dining, shopping, entertainment, travel, fitness and more from over 1,500 merchant outlets islandwide. Sign up or renew your SAFRA membership for three years at the price of 1 year ($43.20 inclusive of GST)! Plus, get your spouse and children on board to enjoy the same privileges too – 1st dependent pays $5.40/year, and it’s free for the 2nd dependent onwards. Visit safra.sg/savemore for more details. 

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