F.A.T by Freddie, London

a while ago, a friend sent me a facebook message: “You’re a foodie right? www.hot-dinners.com/Gastroblog/Latest-news/f-a-t-by-freddie-brings-gourmet-sandwiches-and-ice-cream-to-fitzrovia“. thank goodness for it and major props to him for chancing upon the online article, because it led me to this lovely little gem of a pop-up sandwich, pickles and ice-cream store just off charlotte street!

F.A.T shares a shop space with a hairdresser (sharps) and a coffee shop (Dunne Frankowski), and has a menu of gourmet sandwiches and desserts available at lunchtime that changes once in a while.
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coffee at the first counter, sandwiches at the next, and a hairdresser in the back

when we visited on a wednesday afternoon, here is what freddie (the very nice girl who single-handedly runs her sandwich shop and very recently made the career switch from being a creative director to this) had to offer:20131023_130639

my friend and i couldn’t decide between the kimchi cheese sandwich and the duck pate sandwich so we decided to order one of each to share (indeed, sharing is caring)! service was rather slow despite it not being very crowded, but its because freddie lovingly prepares everything by herself. so go if you’re not in a rush, and i suppose the upside is that you’re guaranteed quality? 🙂

2013-10-23-14-00-21_decowe were beyond excited when the food arrived; we couldn’t wait to see if the sandwiches tasted as good as they looked and sounded!!! and *drumroll please*… we all thought both sandwiches did! after much deliberation, half of us decided that we preferred the kimchi to the pate one while the other half preferred the pate to the kimchi so i suppose it can be concluded that both of them are equally good, it just depends what you’re looking for? 

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kimchi and stilton grilled cheese sandwich – £4.50

i LOVED this sandwich; its something i am definitely going back for and will miss when its gone 😦 it wasn’t just the filling of the sandwich that i adored, i also thought the big slabs of white sourdough were amazing! served wonderfully warm, they were toasted to perfection and i was in food heaven with all that melty stilton cheese and kimchi sandwiched between it.
20131023_134311some might say the combination of stilton cheese and kimchi sounds odd but trust me, if you are a kimchi and a cheese fan you will probably LOVE this. when i took my first bite, i was surprised at how well it went together but now that i think about it, i wonder why i didn’t think of the combination earlier! hahaha. definitely one of the most satisfying sandwiches i have had in a while; i would say this is a must-try if you visit if not because you love kimchi or cheese or good bread then just to give this novel combination a chance!

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duck pate sandwich with parsley salad, pickled beets, and chillies – £4.50

if you prefer having something light for lunch, then this would definitely be the choice for you instead of the kimchi sandwich. the pate was extremely fragrant, smooth, and creamy and topped with pickled beets (which they sell in jars at the counter), parsley, and shallots. everything came together and resulted in a very refreshing open sandwich, full of light flavours! 20131023_133410if you’re someone that needs something more substantial for lunch though, then this might not be the perfect choice for you since the serving isn’t very big or filling. very yummy though!!! maybe have this AND something else? 😉

and of course we couldn’t leave without sampling some of freddie’s desserts after those delightful sandwiches, so we ordered 2 slices of pie to share:20131023_140648
pumpkin pie with stout ice cream & gingersnap crunch – £3.50

20131023_140659chocolate and pretzel pie with black pepper szechuan ice cream – £3.50

the “safer” choice of pumpkin pie was the more popular of the 2 among us. the 3 components really complemented each other – the pumpkin pie and ginger crust together were really very yummy, and the combination was made even better with the stout ice cream that topped it! the pumpkin filling was light and not overly sweet, with the natural taste of pumpkin really shining through.

as for the more “adventurous” choice of the chocolate and pretzel pie, i enjoyed it but the rest were not quite fans of the szechuan ice cream! the dark chocolate pie filling was rich and yummy, but without the black pepper ice cream, the pie would actually have been pretty normal in my opinion. the black pepper szechuan ice cream though, is definitely something to write about. what i thought was most interesting about it was how strongly it tasted of szechuan spices! there was barely a hint of any sweetness in the ice cream; it was purely savoury which explains why it is just not some people’s cup of tea, but i thought that was what made it really special! the fact that i was having in ice cream something i am so used to having as seasoning for chicken and other chinese dishes was rather exciting hahaha. another thing to note about the ice cream at F.A.T is that it is unusually thick and sticky (freddie told us she uses a lot of cream to give it this texture & consistency) so i guess not everybody will like it (though we did!).

given the lovely environment in the shop, the affordable pricing and the yummy food, F.A.T is certainly not your run-of-the-mill pop up shop and is definitely worth a visit before it moves on at christmas. freddie also has a selection of baked goods at the counter and i wouldn’t mind heading back to try some of them as an accompaniment to a good cup of coffee. am already looking forward to the next time i get to sink my teeth into the kimchi + stilton cheese sourdough sandwich 😛

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F.A.T by Freddie (pop-up)

Sharps, 9 Windmill Street
London W1T 2JF

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Marylebone Hotel Afternoon Tea, London

no london experience is ever complete without some traditional afternoon tea, and the fact that i study and live here doesn’t stop me from doing “tourist-y” things like this once in a while 😉

having gotten a good afternoon tea deal at kingsway hall hotel via afternoontea.co.uk last year, it was that trusty website that i headed back to when a friend and i decided we were going to treat ourselves to an indulgent afternoon before the madness that school can become sets in.

this time, we got an amazing deal at the marylebone hotel – traditional afternoon tea at just £12.50 per person!!! considering how plush the hotel was, the impeccable service, and the quality of the food we were served, i would say this is the perfect deal if you’re looking for an affordable tea-time treat.

we arrived to a beautifully laid out table, and i loved the fact that we were seated on a huge cushy sofa in a lounge rather than stiff chairs around a table in a coffee house:
20131011_184803afternoon tea is served both in the lounge and the drawing room, and despite the very nice set-up, the staff are informal and unfussy, making you feel comfortable and right at home!

tea began with the waitress bringing us a selection of teas on a tray, explaining each one and letting us sniff them all before making our decision on what to get. they serve a selection of wonderfully fragrant “jing” tea there (which i found random packets of in my kitchen at home over summer and proceeded to make earl grey chiffon cake with – it tasted amazing and even better than when made with twinings tea!), and you’re allowed to have as much and as many kinds as you want throughout the afternoon. the selection of teas isn’t oustandingly extensive (i think we had 6 choices if i remember correctly), but is definitely enough to satisfy your tea desires, from black teas to fruit teas!

here’s the menu for afternoon tea:
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the sandwiches and scones were served first, and everything was plated really prettily (as it should be at afternoon tea!):
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these were the sandwiches we had:
20131011_160542though simple, they were a case of classic afternoon tea sandwiches being done really nicely. the proportion of ingredients to bread was just right, and fillings for the sandwiches were fresh and tasty while the bread was nice and soft. fortunately, they didn’t really fill me up as much as i had expected – they remained light despite all that butter, cream cheese and mayo in them – , because more good things were to come! 😉

next, on to the quintessential part of afternoon tea – freshly-baked scones with clotted cream and jam!20131011_160551i love scones. and when they are really good ones which are freshly toasted and warm, that’s just icing on the cake (what an apt expression to use :P)! the clotted cream was good stuff – thick, smooth and not too sweet, while the homemade jam was very nice too, with whole bits of strawberries! we had a raisin scone and a plain scone each, both of which were delicious – they had risen very nicely and the slight crunch on the outside (which i love) gave way to a perfect airy, soft and moist inside. such a plain-looking thing in comparison to the other fancy tea-time offerings, but so yummy.

and finally for the sweet end to the tea, we got to choose cakes and pastries from a wide range on display which was rather exciting:
20131011_165702they had macaroons, tarts, cakes and biscuits – more than enough to keep that sweet tooth in you happy and satisfied!

our selections were later served to our table:2013-10-11-18-14-25_decowe were actually pretty full by the time we moved on to dessert, but still soldiered on anyway because they all looked too good to resist!

my favourites were the carrot cake and the dark chocolate + caramel tart!20131011_171146
the carrot cake was really dense, moist and had a good amount of nuts, raisins and carrot strips in it. the icing on top was also very light, nice and not overly sweet at all – it went super well with the cinnamon-y cake. yummm.

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(sorry for all these pictures of half-eaten food; we were clearly too excited to tuck in)

my other favourite was the dark chocolate & caramel tart (seen at the front of this picture) – the dark chocolate was so amazingly rich and lovely and the caramel and hint of sea salt prevented it from becoming overly chocolate-y. the tart base was nice and crisp and wasn’t too thick!

the macaroons however, were quite a let-down – they were quite dry and didn’t quite crumble in the way i like them to; we didn’t touch any of the other 3 after having the first one :/ they weren’t exceedingly terrible, but we’ve certainly had better and wanted to save our stomach space for the other treats! (pierre herme macaroons forever!!!)

we also tried a slice of the traditional victoria sponge cake!
20131011_171630the sponge was nice, airy and fluffy while the cream was super fresh and light! we did find the jam a tad too sweet, but all was good otherwise. i wouldn’t exactly rave or shout about this cake, but it was definitely another simple classic done well!

all in all, we had a great experience at the marylebone hotel at a truly unbeatable price. good conversation with a great friend was made even better with such nice surroundings and yummy food, and at no point in time did we feel obliged to leave (in fact they kept asking us if we wanted fresh pots of tea) at all – we sat there from 330pm to close to 7pm without realising how much time had passed! will definitely be booking this offer again if its still available the next time i’m looking to pamper myself by indulging in some traditional british luxury 😉

The Marylebone Hotel

47 Welbeck St
London W1G 8DN

Shake Shack, London

shake shack has finally made it across the pond! the once elusive only-in-US burger joint has made its highly anticipated appearance in the middle of london’s happening covent garden. it opened sometime over summer and having heard so much about their burgers for so long, it was one of the first few places i checked out upon my return to school (hello year 2!!!).

we had our burger fix on a rainy thursday afternoon and were pleased to find that there was no snaking queue in sight at all! we attributed our luck with the lack of fellow burger-hunters (some of my friends who have been have had to queue) to the wet weather plus the fact that we were there close to 2pm when the lunch crowd had thinned out. there were only about 5 people ahead of us in the queue, and given the number of people taking orders and working in the kitchen, it moved very swiftly:
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the system they have going at shake shack is that you queue to place your order, then proceed to the seating area where you queue again to be seated. you will only be allowed to take a seat if you have the buzzer they give you after ordering, so you can’t go with a bunch of friends and have someone reserve a table while the rest go and order. i think this makes for a pretty efficient system that helps them make the most of the tables they have. it didn’t take long for our buzzer to vibrate and our food to be ready for collection, yay!20131003_135322 shack burger: cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and shacksauce – £5

more of the famed shack burger in all its half-eaten glory:20131003_135522i was actually a little disappointed by the burger! but maybe it was because i went with extremely high expectations given how much i had heard about it from people who had tried the burgers in US. it wasn’t bad at all; it was certainly above average, but just not a case of love at first bite for me hahaha. as a very typically american-style burger, it was compact and relatively small (big eaters should opt for the double option).

the burger bun was soft, warm and tasty, while the lettuce and tomato were fresh (as you can see from the pic; i hate it when veggie that has started browning is put in a burger!). as for the burger patty, it was juicy (but i wish it was even more juicy – the juice-dripping-down-my-hands kind of juicy) and everything together tasted very yummy although i would also have preferred the cheese to be a little more melty! given its price though, i really shouldn’t be complaining AT ALL – we all thought it was good stuff for the £5 we paid 🙂

one of my friends who is a vegetarian opted for the ‘shroom burger:
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‘shroom burger: crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and shack sauce – £5.25

it looked REALLY good (just look at that cheese oozing out!!!) and my friend could not stop raving about the mushroom and cheese combi, so this is definitely what i am going to get the next time i visit shake shack! YUM.

i must also mention the fries – we ordered 3 portions of fries to share among the 5 of us, 2 plain and 1 with cheese!
20131003_135238we were originally rather skeptical about the fries because we saw when peering into the open kitchen while queuing that they were frozen and not freshly made! we later discovered that our worries were unfounded though, because they were goooood fries. we could tell that they were fried with fresh oil and they weren’t overly greasy at all; it almost made me feel guilt-free while eating them. remotely healthy-tasting but still very yummy fries… strange huh!

we also ordered dessert to share because we thought what they call “concretes” sounded too good to resist:
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union shack concrete: double – £6.50

this was like a dense frozen custard ice cream blended with a bunch of mix-ins. we got the union shack, which was made up of chocolate custard, st john bakery chocolate hazelnut brownies, fudge sauce, paul. a. young chocolate chunks and sea salt. i actually think it sounded better than it tasted, because it sounds amazingly amazing, doesn’t it? and it just tasted… not bad, pretty good! hahaha. i thought there was nothing fantastic about the ice cream itself – it was smooth and creamy, but nothing exceptionally extraordinary. the mix-ins were yummy though! especially the hazelnut brownie, despite the fact that it was very sweet. i’d probably have been more satisfied with gelupo gelato or something, though.

it was definitely a much-needed visit to a much-raved about place, and despite the fact that it fell below my expectations, i wouldn’t mind going back if i’m in the area and looking for a cheap (by london standards) and satisfying meal.

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Shake Shack

24, Market Building, The Piazza Covent Garden
London WC2E 8RD

Aoki, Singapore

i could visit aoki every day (okay fine maybe not every day but every week) to have their chirashi. i love it that much and it is seriously that good!!! i’d probably go as far to say that aoki serves one of the best (if not the best) chirashis on our sunny island.

i had always thought aoki was extremely pricey and so never really considered visiting it until i read about their amazing chirashi in the papers and found out that they had a very reasonably-priced set lunch menu! the first time i visited was with the mother, and we enjoyed it so much that even before finishing the contents of our bowls before us, i think we already decided that we needed to go back at least once more before i left for london.

aoki offers their set lunch menu from mondays to saturdays, and it comes with a complimentary starter, a salad, miso soup, pickles and a dessert trio (my favourite part after the chirashi heehee). at $35++ for the chirashi (and i think they charge an additional nominal sum for cover charge), i think its extremely reasonably priced given the ambience and quality of food served.

on the first occasion we visited, the complimentary starter was some kind of pickled lotus root dish which was yummy, and not only because i love lotus root:
20130909_134933two of my favourite things in one – lotus roots and sesame seeds! yum. it was a tasty yet light appetiser that cleansed the palette, readying us for the meal ahead.

when the mother and i returned with the sister and father in tow, we had some sort of smoked fish-tasting thing instead:
20130921_133249my dad found it a little too fishy for his liking but my dad is someone who is exceedingly sensitive to “fishy” tastes, so don’t let what he thinks mar your impression of this dish! the rest of us really enjoyed it; it was very flavourful and reminded me of meat that has been slow-cooked and braised for hours – soft and yummy when you bite into it!

the actual set lunch (sans the complementary appetiser) started with a salad:
20130909_135704the salad was nothing extraordinary – the greens were fresh (wouldn’t expect anything less from such a reputable restaurant) and the dressing was the standard japanese salad dressing. on both occasions however, i felt that it could have been better chilled before serving (but maybe that’s just me – i like my salads cold).

and finally, on to what makes me want to return again and again and again (and again and again):
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mazechirashi

a standing ovation please, for the best chirashi i’ve had in singapore. i swear this is amazingly good stuff – if you are a chirashi lover, you will die and proceed promptly into food heaven. they are extremely (and i cannot say this enough, EXTREMELY) generous with the sashimi toppings. it doesn’t bother me at all that the sashimi used for chirashi are normally odd chopped-up pieces that aren’t good enough to star in a sashimi platter, not when the odd chopped-up pieces of leftover sashimi taste this good.

i think it is the combination of the right mix of condiments and textures and the fact that they are all in abundance in the bowl placed before you that make this a winning dish. i am normally not a fan of tamago at all, but what they serve here is super delish (of just the right sweetness) and perfectly done. the sashimi is extremely fresh, and they even have uni added to the mouth-watering mix!

also, to exemplify just how generous they are with the amount of condiments they add to your rice, these are pictures at various points of the demolishment of my bowl:
20130921_14115620130909_143326always more condiments than rice left at any point in time!!! which is amazing, because the annoying thing about chirashi is that you sometimes get left with a pile of rice and nothing exciting to eat it with. like i said earlier and am going to keep saying until you believe me, best. chirashi. ever!!! (i salivate thinking about it while back in london)

what better way to end off the meal than with dessert? at aoki, they really ensure that you get a sweet end to make a satisfying meal even more so by serving a platter of 3 desserts with the set lunch, instead of just one dessert. the 3 desserts they serve change daily, and on my first visit there, this is what we got:
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L to R: grape sorbet, plum wine jelly, mochi

i was expecting the grape sorbet to be too sweet like grape flavoured things tend to be, but it was surprisingly not at all! it was pleasantly sweet and certainly not overly so, leaving a very refreshing aftertaste on the tongue. as for the plum wine jelly, my mum really loved it for how daintily flavoured it was, while i thought it was good but wouldn’t rave about it. maybe it was because i had it after the sorbet, but i thought the flavours were not strong and distinct enough. the mochi coated in soya bean was yummy though; perfect texture and consistency!

on my second visit there, this is what we had for dessert:
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red bean ice cream, sesame pudding, plum wine jelly

i have never had red bean ice cream that tasted like this (potong is normally my trusty source of red bean ice cream); it was really yummy – creamy and just lightly flavoured with red bean. the sesame pudding was also delicious especially because i love all things sesame (white or black i’ll have it all)! its consistency was a bit like a dense tau huay (traditional kind, not lao ban pudding kind!) and i loved the taste of it though i felt it was a bit heavy and really filled you up. comments about the plum wine jelly are same as above!

i wish i had discovered this place in the earlier part of summer so i could have visited a few more times before coming back to london! but its okay, my consolation is that i’m sure its not going anywhere any time soon so i can go as much as i want when i’m next home. the chirashi is definitely going to be one of the first few things i need to eat; i am already missing my good and reasonably-priced (comparatively) japanese food!

be sure to make a reservation when you visit though, as the restaurant is small and fills up really quickly, especially with the recent raised awareness about their affordable set lunches (that are also served on saturdays yay)!

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Aoki Restaurant

1 Scotts Road, #02-17 Shaw Centre
Singapore 228208

Symmetry, Singapore

spent my last sunday morning of summer in singapore having brunch at symmetry with the dear sister! we had been planning on going for ages, but just never managed to find a good time to go till that day. am happy we finally got to check it out though, because it was a nice morning spent at a very nice cafe.

many people have been raving about symmetry since it opened, dubbing it one of the best brunch places in singapore, and news has certainly spread fast – when i called the day before we planned on going, they told me the only reservation time available was at 2pm and we’d have to queue as walk-in customers if we wanted to go any earlier. this did not deter the sisters tan who were determined to seize our last chance to try out this place before i headed back to school, so we decided to go early on sunday morning in a bid to get a table!

i knew i would love this place once i saw this outside the shop:
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“people who love to eat are always the best people.” hear, hear!!!

and this too:
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we arrived 15 minutes after opening time (it opens at 10am) and were very surprised to see the cafe already almost full! its popularity and the lengths singaporeans go to for good food (ie waking up early to get to a cafe once it opens) are insane. we were very nearly relegated to the outdoor seating section (that has no shade!!! :O), but thankfully they managed to find a table for us.

we loved the decor of the cafe – it is extremely tastefully designed, and is one of those places where a hodge-podge mix of items appears cool and funky instead of random and messy; the kind of place where a random biscuit tin or old dusty light bulb picked up from the trash (that would look gross and dirty in your bedroom) would appear super alternative and interesting.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

in celebration of their one year anniversary, symmetry has a menu that brings to customers all their best and most popular dishes. it opens up like a marauder’s map, so ordering food was a rather exciting affair hahaha (its the little things!).
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my sister had heard great things about the eggs benny so she decided to go for that, while i went for their baked eggs. we wanted to try a starter as well but after consulting the super friendly and helpful server, decided that it would very unfortunately probably be too much to stomach 😦

i didn’t have too much of the eggs benny (my baked eggs were way more than enough to fill me up and keep me happy) but from the few bites i had, it was definitely one of the better eggs bennys around in singapore. the hollandaise sauce was light but still packed a satisfying punch, while the eggs were perfectly poached, the bacon was tastily done (yummy charred edges), and the muffin was well toasted – crispy on the outside and fluffy within. the eggs came with a side salad, which was refreshing when taken with the creaminess of the eggs in sauce which could sometimes be a bit much for some people. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
anniversary benedict : 2 poached eggs, hollandaise, aged cheddar, onion, bacon – $23

as for the baked eggs, it came bubbling away in a huge pan and tasted as hearty as it looked! two perfectly poached eggs sat atop a huge pan of chorizo, spinach and cheddar in a super yummy tomato-based sauce. i am a huge chorizo fan and the chorizo here was really delicious and added in just the right amount so that the dish wasn’t too salty! i also loved the addition of cheddar, but was a little let down by the pork sausage though; i felt it tasted a bit processed and would have preferred something with a more bratwurst-like bite. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
symmetry eggs sur le plat: 2 poached eggs, pork sausage, chorizo, garlic confit, creamed spinach, cheddar – $26

piling spoonfuls of the generous amounts of chorizo/sausage/tomatoes/carrots onto the toast that accompanied it was a seriously delicious combination:
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the serving was rather big but that did nothing to deter me from finishing it all. needless to say, i was pretty extremely stuffed but very satisfied by the time i was done with it:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the great service, food and ambience make for a great experience in this quaint cafe tucked away along a little lane, and i will definitely be back for more. i would love to return to try out the rest of their offerings (they are a cafe by day and a restaurant-bar by night), especially the non-breakfast ones which i hear are just as good, and their waffles too! the only qualm i have is that its a little pricey, especially when compared to maison ikkoku (see review here) which is just a short distance away, and which i enjoyed just as much!

be sure to make a reservation if you’re planning on heading down though. they have an electronic queue number system in place outside their shop, which is proof of just how popular they are and how essential it is to make a booking at least a few days in advance if you don’t want to be disappointed!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
electronic queue system – insane stuff for a little cafe

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Symmetry Cafe
9 Jalan Kubor #01-01
Singapore 199206