The Beast, Singapore

i still don’t know how i should feel about me being someone that comes to mind when my male friend decides he wants to head out for some legit “man food” and needs an eating companion… to put it nicely i would say that i guess people around me recognise my extremely healthy and large appetite, to put it less nicely i would simply say i’m known to be a greedy pig who is ready to eat everything and anything all day every day.

the aforementioned legit man food was to be found at the beast, so off for their sunday brunch we rather excitedly headed. what i feel sets the beast apart from the myriad of other eateries and cafes in the haji lane area is its very strong identity as a southern eating spot evidenced in not just its food – think fried chicken, biscuits with gravy, bacon, maple syrup – and drink – mimosas (they have an all-you-can-drink option at $20/h), cocktails and bourbon, lots of bourbon – , but also its decor – large wooden counter tops, bar stools and refurbished oil drums.
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they open for dinner every day of the week and on sundays, brunch is served till the dinner menu takes over at 5pm. here’s the brunch menu:
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with so many tantalising and, more importantly, interesting (you won’t find such a quintessentially southern menu anywhere else in singapore, i believe) options on the menu, we were spoilt for choice but eventually decided on the fried chicken with waffles and pulled pork hash, along with a serving of cornbread.

the cornbread was served first, sitting happily on a wooden slab and accompanied by a side dish of maple syrup. we very excitedly poured the syrup all over (the more the merrier) and sat back to admire it glistening in and surrounded by a pool of golden goodness before tucking in.
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freshly-baked cornbread ($6)
i really love cornbread so this was my dream come true. but even if you’re not as much of a cornbread fan as i am, i’m sure you’ll still thoroughly enjoy it because it was delicious; i would suggest you give this a try if you’re ever at the beast! the cornbread was served wonderfully warm, and had the perfect texture – light, moist and fluffy while still retaining just the right amount of density to be slightly crumbly around its edges. drizzled (or should i say drenched) in maple syrup, it was the perfect mix of sweet and savoury. simple, but very yummy.

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chicken & waffles – southern fried chicken, waffle, bourbon maple butter sauce ($20)
this was a must-order for us because its probably their most highly publicised brunch offering on social media and was what lured my friend here in the first place. the slab of chicken (you can choose between breast and thigh) was huge; definitely more than enough to have your fried fill with every bite of waffle. it was well-seasoned, the skin oh-so-crispy, and despite it being a really thick slab, the meat within was not overcooked and remained moist. paired with bourbon maple butter sauce, this was quite addictive. the waffle however, paled in comparison to the chicken that sat proudly atop it. it wasn’t bad, but it was certainly not a standout, not a waffle i would eat if it was not accompanied by the chicken. it was crispy at its edges but i felt it was lacking in density (too light and airy) and taste (batter could definitely have been quite a bit more flavourful). i’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt – perhaps it was intended to be this way so that it wouldn’t be too heavy when taken with the fried chicken?

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pulled pork hash – 10h pulled pork, home fries, poached egg, bbq sauce ($18)
i am a huge fan of pulled pork so this was my choice and we were quite pleased with it! there’s nothing for scale in the picture so i’m not sure if you can see how generous the serving was, quite beastly indeed (sorry, i just had to, the pun was going to come up eventually anyway 😛 ). this was a really hearty dish packed with really strong flavours from the barbeque sauce and egg yolk! the ten hours expended on the pork shone through in how tasty, moist and tender the shredded meat was, and the fried potatoes were addictive and perfect for soaking up the sauce and sweet juice from the pork. each component played a part in the interesting mix of textures offered, and i really liked how the bbq sauce wasn’t overpowering. this was rather heavy though so i’d definitely recommend this to be shared, especially given the portion size. i think a slice of toast on the side would have been a perfect accompaniment to the pork and would have helped lift the dish from being the very heavy-going manly meal that it was.

was tempted to end the meal with a bacon maple glazed donut or bourbon pecan pie, but we were wary of the portion sizes and felt like we needed a lighter dessert to wash down all that heavy food (ended up adjourning to artistry for really yummy speculoos cake) so we passed. the beast is yet another exciting option for sunday brunch in the haji lane area; you now know where to head to should the queues at maison ikkoku or symmetry be too long to handle!

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The Beast
17 Jalan Klapa
Singapore 199329 

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Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, London

sunday roast is always a good idea, and birthday sunday roast for the last to turn 21 in our house was one of our best ideas yet. the birthday girl actually wanted to have her birthday party at paradise (it was fairytale-themed so it would have been 200% appropriate), but the room size wasn’t suitable for the number of guests so she had to pass… it just made her even happier when we removed her blindfold upon reaching paradise and she realised where she was though!

paradise by way of kensal green is located in a building that looks like any regular neighbourhood pub from the outside and in no way at all betrays the eclectic charm and beauty of the place within. step inside though, and you’ll very soon realise that this is far from your average watering hole:
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe were seated here in the bar area because the dining room was fully booked, and found that our initial worries that it would be lacking in the atmosphere that the main dining area had were completely unfounded. with huge flower vases, an interesting mix of furniture and one of the prettiest bar counters i’ve seen, it was perfect for our casual sunday girls lunch. 

we opted for a mix of roasts from the menu and after quite a wait (we were less than impressed with the service; more on that later), were presented with huge plates of gloriously hearty fare.
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with my fave five – four fab friends and food

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Roast rib eye of beef with all the trimmings – £17.50
the servings at paradise are clearly big; look at the size of those plates! two generous slices of thick and juicy roast beef were served with a warm and fluffy yorkshire pudding and a super delicious mix of roasted parsnips, carrots, kale, red cabbage and potatoes. the picture above was taken pre-sauce (because the sauce took forever to come… it took at least a good 10 minutes and a reminder after the food was first served) and i felt the beef was a tad dry at the edges, but nothing at all that the sauce couldn’t solve when it finally arrived. the meat was wonderfully tender, naturally sweet and very tasty. the yorkshire pudding was warm, light and crispy at the edges but soft and pillowy within. as for the roast vegetables, they were a huge hit at the table. i remember the carrots to be amazingly sweet, and the potatoes to be some of the best i’ve had – they were done to perfection with wonderfully crisp exteriors (we still have no idea how they managed to achieve that). so good was the skin that when we were too stuffed to eat anymore heavy carbo, we found ourselves slicing the potatoes open and digging out some of the actual potato, just leaving the thin crispy edges for our very happy consumption…

the other roasts at the table were the herb crust roast chicken (£14.50) and pork belly with bramley apple puree (£15.50). all the servings were extremely generous and just as delicious – the chicken was roasted to perfection, juicy and moist meat encased by a light crispy skin, while the pork belly was tender and not too fatty with an ultra crispy skin. needless to say, we were all belly happy after (nearly) wiping our plates clean.

there’s always room for dessert though, and especially after the yummy food we just had, we had high hopes for some mouth-watering sweet treats. we ordered 3 desserts to share, and were once again not disappointed with the food at all:
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top to bottom: baileys & caramel cream cake, sticky toffee pudding, lemon tart
my favourites were the lemon tart and the sticky toffee pudding. the lemon tart was a refreshing end to the meal as it always is, the lemon filling tangy but not too sour and of a great consistency. the tart base was crisp and light, and the almonds were a nice addition of texture. as for the sticky toffee pudding, it was dense but not too heavy, and the toffee flavour though strong was not cloyingly sweet or overpowering in any way. the baileys cake had an interesting texture that was a cross between a light cheesecake and a cream cake, but reminded me more of the latter. it was very light and its base was very enjoyable though i would have preferred it to be crunchier – instead of the typical kind of base usually made of digestive biscuits, the biscuits used here were lighter and had a subtle chocolatey hint to them.

all in all, we were extremely satisfied with our meal at paradise. the food was great and luckily it was, because the service was rather frustrating at times. don’t get me wrong – the staff were all friendly, accommodating and lovely, but it was the pace of service that left much to be desired. we had a lot of trouble getting the attention of the staff, and whenever we asked for something, it often took several reminders before our requests (which were simple ones for things like sauce, the bill, water refills etc) were acceded to. perhaps it was because it was a busy sunday afternoon for them, but given the popularity of their sunday roast, one would imagine they’d be used to and good at dealing with such crowds.

nevertheless, i would still recommend this beautiful place for a wonderful sunday roast experience and hopefully we have better luck with the service next time!

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green
19 Kilburn Lane
London W10 4AE

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Herman ze German, London

charlotte street is home to a few new eateries, and the newest branch of german sausage shop herman ze german is one which i was very pleased to welcome into the hood. having heard about their top quality sausage offerings, i was intending to pay the soho branch a visit sometime soon, but was saved the trip to soho by the appearance of a new branch of theirs just a stone’s throw away from home in my fave fitzrovia; hurrah!

herman ze german occupies a nice little shop space next to yog along charlotte street. it is simply decorated but very warm and inviting – wooden floors, chairs, and little knick knacks and pictures adorning the walls with punny catchphrases and unabashed use of the word “ze” that make you giggle. there are a few tables on the ground floor and more in the basement which make for plenty of seats to go around.20141022_121601
this picture was taken just slightly past twelve before the lunch crowd came in, but soon after that a steady stream of customers were coming and going, many doing takeaway while others sat down for a quick and casual bite.

they pride themselves on their wursts – “our wurst is ze best” is plastered on many surfaces throughout the shop -, and after sampling them i can see why. their gluten-free and lactose-free homemade sausages are all imported from a family butcher all the way in the black forest in germany, and to accompany these treats, they have a range of german beers and non-alcoholic beverages. here’s the menu:
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i opted for just a bratwurst in a roll, while my friend went for the same but as part of the wurst deal – for £4.10 more, you get fries and a drink.
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bratwurst in a roll with ketchup, mustard and crispy onions – £4.45
the bratwurst roll looks (and actually is) very simple, almost like something i could put together myself as long as i have the right ingredients, so i was very pleased when i discovered that it tastes more special than it looks! my favourite part of the roll was definitely the bratwurst – a finely minced pork and veal sausage. it was grilled to perfection and gave a loud satisfying crunch sound each time i bit into it; the outsides were crisp while the inside was succulent, juicy and very tasty. the crispy onions were the next best part – they added a super satisfying crunch and tastiness to the roll; i’m definitely going to ask for plenty of this when i return. golden brown goodies sitting atop the super sausage drizzled with ketchup and mustard and enveloped by a warm, soft and fluffy white baguette, this made for a really satisfying hot dog meal.

as for the fries which you see in the background of the picture above, they were pretty good! freshly fried, warm, crisp on the outside, tasty, and yummy when had with a healthy dose of ketchup, mayo and mustard. the best part about them is that they’re healthier than regular fries because they are air-fried which means very little oil is involved and this was evident in the lack of grease on our fingers even after greedily attacking them pommes frites with our bare hands.

we were so pleased with our wursts that after polishing off both our rolls, we decided to order an additional currywurst to share. for the currywurst, you can choose from 4 levels of spiciness for the sauce, and any wurst to go with it.
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currywurst (bockwurst) with sauerkraut – £3.95
since we’d both had bratwursts in our rolls earlier, we opted for the bockwurst here. the bockwurst was a smooth and slightly salty smoked pork sausage. compared to the bratwurst, the bockwurst sausage itself definitely had a stronger flavour to it. it also seemed to differ in texture – the bratwurst seemed a little crunchier and chunkier (but it could also have been because this was doused in curry sauce?). we had the third highest level of spiciness for our curry sauce, and it was yummy and packed a sufficient punch. it was more sour-ish than spicy though, so i might go for the spiciest one in future. the curry sauce was thick and tangy, a perfect complement to the sauerkraut on the side as well as the remaining fries we had, which we used to mop up every last drop of the sauce. again, a generous serving of crispy onions was icing on the cake.

herman ze german runs like a fast-food joint, so service is not only friendly but also really quick and efficient. it is perfect for a quick lunch, but also suitable for something more leisurely given the ample seating space and large and comfortable tables. the food is good and prices don’t burn too large a hole in your pocket, though i felt that £8.55 for the wurst meal was quite steep and there are several other good meal options around for that price. nevertheless, i’ll definitely be back when a wurst craving hits!

ze wurst is yet to come. prepare for ze wurst. zis wurst is ze best.
(sorry i just had to :P)

Herman ze German
43 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RS20141022_121444

The Exhibit, Balham

an invitation to check out the revamped menu of a happening joint in the heart of balham was too good to turn down, so it was on a rainy thursday night that the 2 of us made the trek into zone 3 to pay the exhibit a visit! we were afraid we would be unable to locate the restaurant but thankfully it was just a stone’s (more like a grain of sand, actually) throw away from the tube station – so not to fret; even in zone 3, the exhibit is extremely accessible!

we got out of the tube station, and 2 minutes later, we were here:
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rach was thrilled by the old-school diner sign and the classic movie timings display, so it was with high hopes that we stepped through the doors and into the exhibit. we headed right up to the 1st floor (making a mental note to check out the bar after) where the diner was. immediately we were struck by how american the layout of the diner was.
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as we were ushered to our seats we were informed that there was a thursday night deal where shakes went for £1 (for a soft shake) or £2 (for a hard, ie with alcohol) each. they have different deals every night which keeps things exciting and people coming back for more (and more). we were particularly taken in by the “movie nights” deal where you get 2 courses and a movie ticket (to catch a film in their boutique cinema on the 2nd floor) for just £15.90 – a real steal, in our opinion! check out the blackboard for the full range of offers:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

for a thursday night, the place was pretty crowded but service was still efficient which was great! here’s the all-american artery-clogging (but totally worth the reduction in lifespan) menu:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

while deliberating what to get (ordering is always a life-changing decision), we decided to start with 2 shakes – a cookie monster soft shake (on the left) and a tiramisu hard shake.
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cookie monster – £4 (£1 with a main on thursdays), tiramisu – £7 (£2 with a main on thursdays)

i (rach) had the cookie monster and loved every drop of it. it was thick, creamy and full of cookie goodness, though i think what could have made it even better would be the addition of some chunky cookie bits. it was also surprisingly not cloyingly sweet, which allowed me to make my way steadily through the entire glass instead of having to leave half of it, as milkshakes often make you do. very satisfying for this cookies and cream fan over here! nic ordered the tiramisu shake which was what jumped out at him from the menu once we were seated but he was, unfortunately, kept in his seat. we both found it a little too diluted and icy; we tasted more alcohol than anything else and even after mixing the cream in, it lacked the thick creaminess that one would expect from a shake.

and now on to the food, we decided to try as wide a variety of food from the menu and settled on the ribs and a burger. we were told the signature was a firm favourite with both the staff and customers. we were also keen on the wild boar and chorizo burger but popular opinion swayed us towards the purist’s beef burger. to accompany those 2 mains, we had a 5 inch stack of onion rings (and promptly regretted not going for a taller tower of that finger-lickin’ goodness) and the interesting-sounding skins with mushrooms.

food glorious food!
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the signature burger is a hand-made ground steak beef patty enclosed in a seeded brioche bun, topped with red lettuce, onion, relish, dill pickle and mustard mayo. we built on that by adding jalapeños, guacamole, cheddar and a fried egg (they have an impressively huge range of toppings to choose from, that can be added to any burger on the menu). when it arrived, nic had the chance to show off his superior photography skills (or so he thinks) by snapping this pic:
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signature burger – £7.25 + toppings (prices as stated on menu)

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the burger was very decently-sized and because of what we had packed into it, it was extremely hearty and satisfying! since most people are most concerned with the patties in their burgers, patties first – they were extremely meaty, chunky, and we could really taste the meat, though we would have preferred it to be a bit more medium-rare (though i’m sure you can make a request for that). it was clearly not factory-made and was quite a thick slab such that it wasn’t lost in all the other ingredients that we had added. together with everything else we had picked, it made for a delicious burger. especially the fried egg because, as rach always says, she is a complete sucker for wet egg yolks, and this was one such amazing egg. given how amazing the fillings were, the brioche bun was a bit of a let down. it wasn’t as buttered as we would have liked and was a tad too thick. nonetheless as a whole the burger was delectable.

we also ordered a full rack of ribs to share:
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full rack of ribs (original flavour) – £11

the ribs were generously slathered with a thick gooey layer of barbeque sauce. nic appreciated that the ribs were slightly charred and rach liked that they were meaty. the meat was soft and tender, though we felt they could have been even better if the sauce soaked right through the meat and the insides were more thoroughly marinated. they were good enough to leave us licking the bones though; that’s always a positive sign of good food!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and now for the sides, the onion rings exceeded our expectations, not just in terms of serving size (aka height) but also in taste.
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5-inch onion ring stack – £3.50

we absolutely loved the batter which was crisp and left no aftertaste of stale oil but what nic loved even more was the juiciness of the fresh onions which is clearly evidenced here:
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evidently pleased. which is longer – his hair or the onion???!!

and finally, what was probably our favourite dish of the night that left us yearning for a second serving after we had finished the first one:
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skins with mushrooms – £4.20

this amazingly simple dish was simply amazing – it consisted of a fried potato skin filled and baked with mushrooms and cheddar. rach’s favourite part of the dish was the skin which remained crispy even after we had left it for a while – who knows why we did as it should have been gulped down immediately. nic felt that the pureness of the taste was so good that the sour cream (pictured in the middle) was rendered redundant. the sweetness of the fresh mushrooms complemented superbly with the saltiness provided by the melted cheese. it’s a wonder why this dish hasn’t been propagated on to some other american diners’ menus yet. as mentioned earlier, we liked it so much that we had a second serving.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
the star of the night

despite all that we had eaten, there was space for dessert (there always is)!!! we went for the sundae:
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the exhibit sundae – £3.90 ft. nic and his tongue

a typical american diner dessert, the exhibit sundae consists of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, peanut butter, toffee sauce, crushed brownies and whipped cream. our favourite part of the sundae was the addition of chunky peanut butter, it added a very nice and welcome bite to the otherwise slushiness (not in a bad way) of a sundae. the brownies also added texture to the dessert which we enjoyed.

after dinner, we were kindly shown around by luke. we checked out the top floor which has a big room with a bar and a balcony that can be used for private gatherings or parties. the top floor is also where the boutique 28-seater cinema is located, and they show films twice a week (check out the movie schedule on their website and advance booking is recommended). for popular films, additional screenings may be added, as happened on the day we were there, when about time was being screened for the third time. unfortunately, we were oblivious to this fact 😦 if we had known that they were showing it that night, we would have made haste with our food and headed up to one of the cushy sofas to enjoy the movie.

besides the diner, the first floor has another function room that plays host to a range of events, including a speed-dating one that was going on that night.

and finally on the ground floor, there is a lovely bar which charmed us with its stylishly modern yet cosy interior. it also helped that they have live acoustic music on thursday nights and there was a healthy crowd that had the place buzzing and alive.
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overall we were thankful to have been invited to the exhibit as it would not have otherwise crossed our minds to venture out this far. the trip, however, was thoroughly worth it and it would be a waste to let the (slight) distance deter you from paying the exhibit a visit. the concept of having a diner together with a cinema and a bar is fresh and unique; in our humble opinion, this hangout has all the makings of a great venue for an all-in-one night out. be it a night for a nice meal before a movie or just a night for drinks after work the exhibit is a perfect place to get together with mates for a jolly good (and food) time.

thanks for having us, greg; and luke too for showing us around. we’d love to return to check out the brunch menu soon!

The Exhibit

12 Balham Station Rd
London SW12 9SG
http://www.theexhibit.co.uk/

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PS. finally writing together again!!!
(excuse the unimpressive attire – this is us on a school night in rach’s kitchen)
Photo on 19-1-14 at 8.46 PM Photo on 19-1-14 at 8.46 PM #2 Photo on 19-1-14 at 8.46 PM #3