If the bus is your vehicle of choice for skipping over to Johor Bahru (and why wouldn’t it be? The Causeway Express is superb, despite the recent fare hike… SGD 3.30!), then chances are you will have eyeballed Lavender before. It’s on the same floor as the other big bakery in City Square (the mall connected to the Malaysian checkpoint) – Season’s. In fact, they’re pretty much back to back. But whereas Season’s comes across as a little run-of-the-mill, the sort of place that appeals to the hoi polloi that look for the biggest return on their ringgit, the connoisseur gravitates naturally towards Lavender. With it’s rather sophisticated branding and design aesthetic, and (relatively) inspiring selection of baked stuff, it’s an obvious choice. Especially if you convert the prices into Singapore dollars, which makes pretty much everything a bar-gain anyway.
Just look at it! All that mood lighting, wooden surfaces, black and white veneers – talk about investing in atmospherics. This place could easily have been a jewellery boutique, if only it wasn’t colonised by confectionery. But was the grub any good? Well let’s see…
The “Hong Kong Style Rocky Bun” (MYR 2.10) was strangely named (talk about beating around the bonsai! Oops, wrong bun…), but they certainly looked the part. Very large, with a top like the surface of the moon. Biting into it was, however, a disappointment. Light and fluffy – I always think that bo lo bao’s that collapse so obsequiously at the altar of one’s mouth are a little, well, wimpy. I prefer these things to stand up to you, to stare you in the face and roar as they’re thrust down your throat. Not so this time.
The moon-like crust had a slight crunch to it, but was essentially tasteless. It seemed to be more interested in teasing me than pleasing me. Annoying.
The Bamboo Charcoal Mochi (MYR 3.40) was another strangely named little piece of snackery. They didn’t look (or taste) anything like the sort of mochi that I am used to, but I suppose this can be put down to “creative licence”. Or something like that.
Semantics aside, these things had a strong and unique visual appeal. They were dark and brooding, and looked like they had been dug straight out of the earth’s crust. Tasted a bit like it too, especially when I first had to bite through the rock-hard exterior, only to then have to spend about five minutes chewing the filling before I could empty my mouth. They tasted mostly of black sesame – a little bit savoury, a little bit sweet. Again, another tease.
The Soft Black Sesame Cream Bun (MYR 2.50) was one of the easier things to choose. It looks great, doesn’t it? It smelt good too – a subtle milky nuttiness wafted up from the bag, imploring me to take a bite. As it turned out, my nose was more satisfied than my stomach. The cream was too foamy to give this thing much credibility, and the sesame seeds added more in terms of texture than they did taste. Overall I would have preferred to have paid double in return for something that met my expectations. Vanilla in the cream, butter in the bun, salt with the seeds. This thing could have been legendary.
Last but certainly not least was the Custard Danish Roll (MYR 4.00). And what a danish it was. It was wrapped separately in a brown paper bag (the others came in cellophane), and was even housed separately in a glass container behind the counter (along with all the other Danishes – talk about bakery apartheid). That’s right, not any old Wong, Tong, or Cheong could reach in and grab one – you had to request for one of these things. Very exclusive, I know.
Such stringent security measures are understandable, as this thing was superb. Buttery and flakey outer casing housed a thick and creamy custard filling, which itself was peppered with vanilla seeds. Whilst I thought the dusting of sugar on top was a little unnecessary, it’s a more than forgivable offence. I ate it far too quickly, but learnt my lesson for next time: stick to the Danishes. They’re worth every sen.
Lavender Confectionery & Bakery
Unit J2-36, level 2, City Square, 108 Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Bahru