Monday, January 29, 2007

London Weekend Gastronomy

Saturday Breakfast

I wandered around Picadilly Circus / Park Lane / Mayfair in the chilly morning, looking for some hearty English breakfast.

Actually English breakfasts aren't that exciting, they are mostly eggs and bacon and sausages. Even then, not many places serve breakfast on weekends. Apart from ubiquituous Pret a Manger, Starbucks, Caffe Nero places, I found it quite hard to locate an interesting English cafe.

Anyway, on the edge of Shepherd's Market, there was a little cafe called Ye Olde Tavern where I finally decided to stop for breakfast.

I had a cup of hot chocolate, thick and rich and not too sweet.

Then decided to have the grilled kippers with brown toast. It's very English isn't it? I used to read Enid Blyton's books as a child and remember that there would always be a cat who would steal the breakfast kippers.

Kippers, as it appears, are a type of dried salty fish, very much like mackerel back home. It did taste a bit like the saba fish that I've eaten in Japanese restaurants. Not too bad. Quite a lot of fiddly bones though, which I had to remove as I ate.

Here are all the fish bones, after I was done.

Saturday Brunch

I wandered around Covent Garden for a while. It was very vibrant, with buskers and street stalls. Quite a few Asian stalls selling paintings and other things like massages and palm reading.

I tried a traditional Cornwall Pasty - from the West Cornwall Pasty Company, a chain in London - which is very much like our curry puff, except that it wasn't spicy. It contained potatoes, onions and mystery meat. It was very hot and freshly made, so it was quite welcome on a cold morning.

Saturday Lunch

After walking from Covent Garden to Leicester to Trafalgar Square, I decided to take a tube to Knightsbridge and walked around Harvey Nichols and Harrods.

I ended up having lunch at the 5th Floor Bar and Restaurant of Harvey Nichols, which I had read about in a book (where the female protagonist met the goodlooking male lead on their first date). Harrods was just way too crowded on a weekend.

It turned out to be very popular, and I had to wait 20 minutes for my table. I ordered the 2 course set lunch for 23 pounds. My chosen starter of pork rillette with toast was not too bad. Rillette is coarsely chopped seasoned pork with vegetables. It had carrots in it, which I don't like that much, but this is a personal preference of mine. Otherwise it was quite nice.

The main, pan-fried calf's liver with mash and bacon was perfect. I would think that calf's liver is an English thing, as I've seen in on menus of other restaurants around here. The liver was tender and tasty and not overcooked. The mash was smooth and lovely. And the bacon was wow, fantastic. It was light and crisp and tasted like a tapioca chip, not at all like the dry hard meat thing that you would eat at hotel buffets in Singapore.

Saturday Dinner

Met a lovely schoolmate, who is now working here. She brought me to La Pont De La Tour a French restaurant next to Tower bridge, so we had a lovely view of the bridge and the water.

The set meal was very affordable (19 pounds with wine and 15 pounds without).

I started with the mushroom soup with truffle oil, hearty and satisfying. There was a lovely mushroomy fragrance and bite in the soup.

My main of duck confit with red cabbage was very good. A lot of fat with the duck, as it should be, rendered this duck a tasty treat. The tart red cabbage provided a good contrast to this fatty duck, and allowed me to gobble up much more than I should have.

My dessert of rice pudding with apricots was quite rich and sweet. I think it's rice boiled with condensed milk and sprinkled with apricots. My friend said it reminded her of the thai dessert, mango with sticky rice, which is cooked in coconut milk. I would agree, but I would prefer mango and sticky rice somehow.

And, I will post about my Sunday gastronomic adventures tomorrow.

London Gastronomy

Business luncheons and catered buffet lunches in London were very good, but it wasn't convenient to take photos of my meals, seeing as I was surrounded by very important people that I was trying to impress.

I did manage to meet up with some old friends for meals, and do some fun things on my own over the weekend, so here is a summary of the things that I ate in London this past week:


arrived in London at 8pm and had dinner at Harry's brasserie off Picadilly Circus. Quite a rowdy place. The penne carbonara I had was too salty, with a lot of bacon bits. Too hungry, no photos.


Conference. Breakfast was good, and so was lunch.

Dinner with a friend at a Moroccan restaurant - Cous Cous - at South Kensington. I tried quite a few interesting typical mediterranean dishes that my friend recommended:

We had turkish bread with 2 dips - chickpea hummous, very creamy and delicious, and labne made of capsicum and tomatoes, which was mouthwateringly tart and also very delicious.

Then cous cous, with lamb sausages for me, and I also tried some of his lamb and chicken stew. The sausages were rather salty but the rest of the dishes were very nice. The cous cous was served with a steaming bowl of gravy filled with vegetables (but it seemed more like soup to me).

Then a platter of very sweet pastries, one of which was baclava, a sweet mediterranean dessert which is made of layers of filo pastry filled with nuts and soaked on honey. It was very good.
We ended the meal with sweet mint tea, a typical moroccan drink.

I really enjoyed meeting with this old friend of mine. He is tremedously smart and nice. I am glad that we managed to meet.


Conference. Breakfast and lunch were again catered, and also very good.

Dinner was a party at a well-known restaurant called Bentley's on Swallow Street, off Picadilly Circus. There were many important people there, top management and leadership bigwigs and my conference teammates.

The food was, needless to say, excellent. I will post separately on this meal.


Business Meeting. Lunch at the Plateau Brasserie at Canary Wharves. It is a pretty well-reviewed restaurant, popular with the corporate types around here. I saw many well-dressed people lunching here.

I had the French onion soup and the grilled salmon. Very nice, but no photos obviously.

Dinner and drinks with my colleagues at a bar in the area, where I met another lot of people. Very informal setting, so it was quite nice to chat.


Business Meeting. This time, I decided to use the lunch hour to wander around the mall here. I tried some Krispy Kreme donuts, and then had a steak and mushroom pie from Pie Square, a shop which had a long queue of people.

Dinner at the hotel restaurant alone. I need some respite from meeting all these people.

French onion soup, very hearty. I love the floating crusty croutons with melted gruyere cheese on it. This soup is traditionally made with beef stock and lots of onions, which makes it so sweet.

Then grilled scallops, with mash and black pudding. Yes, black pudding. It's a very british thing to eat, isn't it? It tasted of mince meat with spices (not the hot type, more like the cinammon type of spices). I asked the waiter what exactly was in black pudding, and he said minced pork, minced innards and blood. At which point, I stopped eating it, since I am not a huge fan of blood (the rest of the ingredients are fine with me).

Alright, and then more eating during the weekend. I will blog more about the weekend when I have the chance.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

pyramid tea bags and breakfast

This just really amused me. Pyramid shaped tea bags, with flavours such as ginger with lemon (no caffeine) and light green tea with flowers (little caffeine). How very very lovely! I read in a recent edition of the Economist that this product took millions of dollars and 4 years to develop, and yet did very little to benefit mankind or to increase human happiness quotient.

Oh, and here's my breakfast, a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese. I tried making this at home before!

Lunch on Singapore Airlines

They served a starter of satay first, which was covered with a pretty tasty peanut sauce. The sticks of satay were probably the frozen type, but it was decently tender.

The lobster salad with balsamic vinegar dressing was light and refreshing. I have my doubts about the lobster though, as it was too perfectly cylindrical. However it had the right bite and texture of lobster. Not quite sure, but it was quite good.

I was torn between ordering the roast salmon and the mushroom ravioli for my main. In the end I went for the roast salmon with potatos and leek, as it was "specially created for Singapore Airlines by Gordon Ramsey". Wow, the celebrity chef! If I don't get to dine at his restaurants here, at least I can say I tried one of his creations. It was very good. The salmon was tender and not overcooked, which is something since it is easy to overcook salmon even the comfort of one's familiar kitchen. The leek was tender and the potatos were well roasted, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

Never thought I would say something like this... but I liked this airplane meal.

breakfast on Singapore Airlines

I wasn't hungry at all, and to be honest I was slightly miffed because of an incident which happened just before I boarded the plane.

Nevertheless, I accepted the offer of breakfast and selected a the dimsum trio main (the other 2 choices were kway teo soup and omelette).

There was fruit salad, then muesli in a bowl. The dim sum was alright, what you would come to expect of airline food, a little dry and the filling was not that fresh and tasted powdery.

Lunch would be better though, the selections all looked very enticing.

Cedele @ Vivocity

This soup and sandwich place (with outlets at Raffles City, Suntec City and Vivocity... hmmm I detect a link here!) is pretty good.

The turkey ham and brie sandwich was lightly toasted and very tasty. I got the soup and sandwich set for SGD14.90, and what peeved me was that the soup came in this little rice bowl serving. Then later, I saw others with a huger bowl, and when I questioned the server, he insisted that the soup in the set came in this little bowl. If I got it individually however, I would have got the bigger bowl. It didn't make sense to me, since the sandwich and soup cost 7.90 and 6.90 individually so I only saved like 90 cents in the set, and the trade off was a large amount of soup so the set didn't seem worth it to me at all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

132 Mee Pok @ east coast road

Now, this stall is pretty famous, and one has to queue for at least 40 minutes to get a bowl of this delicious mee pok.

I sometimes wonder if one finds the food so delicious only because of the inordinate wait, which causes one to be ravenous by the time the food arrives. And as we all know, when one is hungry, everything tastes good.

Well, this fish ball mee pok dry was excellent, with the right amount of chili, sauce and lard (with the crunchy lard bits too). Generous portions of fish ball, prawns, pork slices all tossed together with the al dente noodles (SGD3, 4 or 5). It tasted good even though it was tar pow (ie brought back home in a takeaway bag, rather than eaten fresh at the stall). Mee Pok, a type of flat noodle, is best eaten dry methinks, as it goes well with the sauce that is ladled on it.

It is pretty good, but I don't think I would like to queue for it myself.

You know, I still think that the best fish ball mee pok (dry with little bit of chili) is at the hawker stall downstairs from my Por Por (maternal grandmother)'s flat at Commonwealth Crescent. I can't even remember what it tastes like now, but I sure remember enjoying every moment of eating it with my Por Por. She would give me extra fish balls from her own bowl, and blow on my mee pok to make sure it wasn't too hot for me. I can't eat fish ball mee pok dry without thinking of Por Por.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wild Rocket @ Hangout Hotel (Yes again!)

Well, I admit we haven't been adventurous.

So off we trotted, to Wild Rocket, to pay homage to Chef Willin Low's amazing culinary skills.

We shared a crabmeat linguine with tomato chilli cream (SGD 18) as a starter. The linguine was al dente, delicious, hearty and a little spicy, as chili padi is used. This is a half-portion, as the waitstaff had discreetly split the serving into 2 for us. It was an inspired move to add chili padi to the cream, as it cut the cloying heaviness of the cream, and introduced a unique local twist to this dish.

Then DH ordered the duck confit with yam cake (SGD28) which we shared by swopping plates halfway through the meal. The duck was again, excellent. The layers of crispy skin, fragrant fat and tender meat all melting in the mouth to create an interplay of taste and texture. Sheer epicurean delight.

I had the rack of lamb with garam masala (SGD32), which was a generous portion of 3 pieces of tender, delicious and very meaty lamb ribs. The hint of local spices and smokiness on the lamb was just right, and not overbearingly so. I enjoyed this one the last time, and knew DH would like it. Both mains were so good, DH and I had no problems polishing them off. We couldn't decide which main we preferred.

DH's dessert of affogato (SGD8) was a scoop of ice cream with hot expresso poured over it. I didn't try it, but I think DH sure liked it.

My dessert of kueh boloh tiramisu (SGD8.80) was also very good, the liquer-tinged cheese was delicious. Kueh boloh, as most of you know, is the round shaped cake that one eats typically during Chinese New Year. It has the same fluffy texture as the ladyfinger cakes that one uses for tiramisu, so it is quite a good idea to substitute kueh boloh, for a more local flavour.

Once again, excellent.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Nanjya Monjya (Yes, again!)

Well, DH and I know that we haven't been very adventurous. This time, we truly intended to try a new restaurant called Aburiya at Robertson Quay. However, we lost our way, and ended up at our dependable favourite Nanjya Monjya.

We tried to be adventurous in what we ordered.

The maguro avocado salad (SGD10) was very pricey for such a small portion, but it was very good. The tuna was fresh, and the avocado was sweet, and it went very well.

The marinated squid (SGD8) was too salty and slimy for me, but DH enjoyed it a lot.

The konnyaku Dengaku (SGD8) was something that I saw on Japan Hour and wanted to try. Konnyaku is a type of japanese yam, ground into flour. It's kinda chewy and crunchy. I've eaten sweet konnyaku as a dessert, and wanted to try it as a savoury starter. This one is eaten with miso paste on top. I liked it, but DH wasn't very impressed.

Then, the tofu mentaiko cheese (SGD14), which arrived sizzling in a hotplate. Also pricy, considering the small portion, but again very very good. We ordered this one the first time we came, and we liked it then. It is so fragrant and tasty. DH says that he would love to just keep eating the cheese alone.

We chose a tororo dama okonomiyaki (SGD19) which means that it contains pure yam paste and squid. The other types of okonomiyaki on the menu contain flour, so I am told. Pretty good, but not as fun, since we were not allowed to cook this one ourselves.

We decided to upgrade our beef from jyo karubi to wagyu ribeye (SGD35). Mmmm. well worth it. It was more tender, and more fragrant. I don't think it was more fatty though.

We ordered a negishio jyo karubi (SGD25) for comparison. It was quite marbled and fatty, but a little less tender.

We cooked the meats side by side for a better comparison. And did a taste test. Yep, the wagyu was more tender.

Beef tongue (SGD16) and beef intestines (SGD8) rounded off a lovely meal.

It's not cheap, but it's really very delicious.

Bak Kut Teh @ Tiong Bahru

It's been a wet, rainy, cold week, so DH and I fancied some tummy-warming sustenance.

Bak kut teh is soup made with pork ribs. There are 2 traditional styles, the Hokkien style which is dark and herbal and the Teochew style which is lighter in colour and peppery in taste. This place at Seng Poh Lane #01-31, off Tiong Bahru, does a pretty decent Teochew style bak kut teh, with tender ribs and a peppery tasty broth.

We ordered, for 2 persons: 2 bowls of bak kut teh, braised preserved veg, beancurd skin (tau kee), small intestines in soup and braised large intestines (SGD 26). I had mian xian (thin rice vermicelli) with soup and DH had rice.

The small intestines were DH's idea. I don't quite like it, seeing as there were bits of fine meaty substances inside the intestines. DH says that's the undigested food of the pig. Ugh, really? Is he pulling my leg?

I preferred the braised large intestines, cos they were chewier and tastier and were hollow in the middle. Funny bits? No Thanks.

Honjin @ Robinson Road

Came to town to have lunch with lovely DS, and also to run an errand.

I've heard that this place serves a pretty good a la carte buffet, and therefore suggested this place for lunch.

They have an extensive range of bento / lunch sets, ranging from SGD 15 to SGD32. I chose the namesake Honjin set (SGD28) and we shared a tori karaage (fried chicken, SGD 8).

My set was very comprehensive, containing almost everything that the restaurant serves, and I verily believe it can easily be shared by 2 persons. Fortunately, as my appetite rivals that of a hungry horse, I inhaled my lunch set with little difficulty.

Clockwise from left, there was agemono (fried course) of one prawn and one chicken and potato salad, then the grilled mackerel (saba), then the generous tempura portion of prawn, sweet potato, eggplant and a green thing, and sashimi of salmon and maguro.
I liked the exquisite lunch, but I enjoyed the company even more!

Seaweed Crisps

Hey, these are pretty good!

I received them from DS, who went overseas for a short trip.

I kept the box aside for a while, seeing as I had many other Christmassy treats to indulge in. This weekend however, I was in a mood for titbits and therefore managed to eat up most of the leftover munchies in the house - crackers, cookies, chocolates. I scavaged around for more. And, with little choice left, took this one out.

Woah, what a pleasant surprise. It was very crispy and not at all salty. A bit like fried wonton skins that one might get at Chinese restaurants, these seaweed flakes (from Japan no less!) were very tasty little treats. And quite healthy too, since seaweed is a very good source of minerals like potassium.

Lao You Ji @ 245 Outram Road


This is the 2nd time I am typing out this post.

In trying to shift my posts around, I accidentally erased this one. Which caused me to stop blogging for a few days as I sulked about the inadequacies of technology. I didn't realise that I couldn't cut and copy older posts by using the shortcut keys of ctrl-x and ctrl-c.

We went to this restaurant, Lao You Ji (245 Outram Road) that specialises in live seafood, steamboat and tze-char. All very fresh and very good.

We ordered the steamed fish head with tau jeo (preserved black beans) (SGD12). It was meaty, and yet had enough gelatinous bits to satisfy the 3 fish head eaters at the table. The gravy was delicious and very good eaten with steamed rice.

We then had the seafood claypot (SGD18). It's really good value for money, see how it is brimming over with fresh and juicy seafood - sea cucumber, clams, prawns, cuttlefish, squid, fish. They sure don't stinge on the ingredients here. It came bubbling over, and the thick gravy was very yummy.

We actually wanted to order the steamed bamboo clams with garlic next, at a very affordable SGD6.80 each, but they were unfortunately not available this time. So we were recommended the live geoduck which we had stirfried with ginger and spring onions (SGD58). Given that it was so very fresh, it would have been good to eat it sashimi style, but one of us didn't eat sashimi. We therefore decided on ginger and spring onions. It was very good too, as the chef wisely didn't overcook the geoduck, resulting a sweet and crunchy shellfish.

We keep going back again and again.

Out of the Pan @ Raffles City Shopping Centre

DH and I are not that fond of crepes as a meal, DH thinks of it as ang mo popiah. However, our decision to eat at Out of the Pan (Raffles City Shopping Centre #B1-01) was determined by Baby, whose current obsession with fountains takes precedence over our dining preferences.

Out of the Pan is next to a large water fountain display, which ensures that Baby will be entertained throughout the meal.

We shared a starter of salad with mozzarrella cheese balls (SGD7.10). The cheese balls were not bad, all 4 of them. What a miserly portion. Nothing very fantastic about this salad.

We each ordered a Festive Set - which came with your choice of soft drink, main and a dessert (SGD23). DH chose the Roast Lamb and I chose the Turkey, thinking that it was a lighter option.

The Roast Lamb was far better, as it was tasty and tender.

The Turkey was drenched with a very salty dark gravy, not what I was expecting at all.

The dessert of the set was waffles with orange ice cream and citrine jelly. This was excellent - beautifully presented and wonderful. The waffles was crisp and fragrant and the jelly was just right. Very good.

This just confirms what I had always thought, this place is better for its desserts than mains.