Tucked at Jalan Wangi Road, the little red cafe is not easy to find. But the food was decent. And the uniqueness of this humble cafe is the service staff – most of them are young adults with special needs.

The cafe has a simple but cosy interior decor. I sat beside the kitchen, so I could see the kitchen staff busy at work.

Joan Bowen Cafe was set up by the parents of a girl with special need and the cafe was named after her. The cafe hires and trains young adults with special needs to equip them with life skills, and provides a secure and conducive environment for them to discover their strengths and interact with others.

The cafe offers a pretty basic menu that offers appetisers, salads, soups, mains and pasta, as well as desserts.

While the Pan-fried Dory (S$10.90) was quite standard, the Calamari (S$8.90) was nicely battered and well-fried without feeling greasy. The escargot, which were oven-baked with French herbs, were succulent and fragrant. I recalled that most French escargot that I have tried tasted garlicky, but Joan Bowen’s version did not have the overwhelming garlic taste at all!

The Oreo Cheesecake (S$5) deserves a special mention. The cream cheese was light and silky with generous Oreo cake bits. It tasted like Cookies and Cream ice-cream with a light cheese taste cum texture, and was strangely addictive.

Verdict:

Simply put, we were happy with our food and were in fact quite impressed by some of the dishes given their humble appearance. The service was not too bad and the pricing was reasonable too.

I think it’s a good idea to provide a place for adults with special needs to work and develop themselves. Based on my interaction with some charitable organisations that care for people with special needs or disabilities, the challenge for younger beneficiaries is the lack of direction after they graduate from special schools. Some of these organisations have work programmes at their premises for their beneficiaries to do some light work duties.

What I observed at Joan Bowen Cafe was that the staff were eager and happy to work in there. And many of them were confident and proficient at what they were doing.  I think it would be great to have more social enterprises here.

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