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

i opted for the roast beef:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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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White Mulberries, London

“we really shouldn’t be going out but that’s why we’re heading out early and coming home right after seeing the poppies to do work.” prime example of #wishfulthinking because after paying the tower of london and its beautiful sea of ceramic red flowers a visit bright and early at 9am earlier this week, the call of brunch was too strong to resist and we found ourselves checking out this wonderful little hidden gem tucked away at st katharine docks, just a stone’s throw away from the tower. we had to eat anyway… (#excuses)

even though we all had essays to go home and work on, nobody regretted this sidetrack (or sidetrek? bahaha) to brunch because the coffee was great, the food was good, the atmosphere lovely and the company even better. i have to say that my expectations were exceeded, and we all thought it was quite deserving of its well-earned accolade of being london’s best coffee shop in 2014.

white mulberries occupies a cosy shop space facing a charming waterway that’s like an oasis of calm in the heart of bustling london. they serve a range of food throughout the day (but are closed for dinner) and everything is all laid out at the counter, sitting pretty and begging to be eaten. some of what they have: banana bread, muffins, croissants etc for breakfast, sandwiches and burgers for lunch, and cakes, tarts and cronuts (!!!) throughout the day mmm…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we were hungry and excited so may or may not have ended up ordering a tad too much for three people – OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
brunch for 3 – filled croissant (£4.50), burger sandwich (£~5), yoghurt granola with fruits and seeds (£4.50), cronut with lemon zest (£3), banana bread (£2.80), mocha (£2.80), latte (£2.50), chai latte (£~3) (note: additional charge of 50p for eat-in)
it was certainly quite a spread for a trio who hadn’t even intended on having brunch out before going home, but i suppose we knew it was unlikely we’d be back soon since it is a bit further out from where we normally hang around, so all out we sure went!

starting with the drinks, i had the chai latte and i absolutely loved it! definitely one of the best chai lattes i’ve had in london (the only other one i remember as fondly being from bea’s of bloomsbury if i’m not wrong) – robust yet lightly fragrant, perfectly spiced and not too sweet, this big cuppa warmed me up from inside on this bright and chilly morning. the others were very pleased with their coffees too!

as for the food, i cannot emphasise how much i enjoyed my big bowl of granola:
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i normally avoid ordering granola in cafes because its something that can be rather easily replicated at home as long as you have the right combination of ingredients and everything is added in the right quantities. i spied this at other tables when we arrived though, and just could not resist ordering it! absolutely no regrets – it was super delicious: refreshing, light, tasty, and made with the perfect mix of the different components in perfect quantities. i particularly enjoyed the addition of plum and white mulberries, and loved the yoghurt so much that i was tempted to ask them what brand they were using (but i didn’t). quite a sizable portion too, so i was really pleased with my choice!

as for the other food we ordered, the savoury croissant was equally delicious. stuffed generously with some greens, cheddar, tomatoes and ham, this croissant was full of strong flavours and was highly satisfying. would recommend trying this if you’re looking for a savoury and hot breakfast option (they toast the sandwiches).

we also tried a burger sandwich with german sausage, rocket, cheese of some sort etc (sorry for the etc – i just cannot remember what exactly was encased between the wonderfully soft bread!!!) and it was yet another great combination which offered very strong and satisfying flavours. particularly enjoyed the sausages because they had bite and were clearly not the highly processed mass-manufactured type.

finally on to the sweets, we ordered banana bread and a cronut to share! didn’t manage to finish these two but took them home in a little box to share the love with the other housemates heehee. we all felt the banana bread was a little dry, especially towards the edges. i also thought it would have been nicer if accompanied by some sort of cream/sauce/drizzle/custard/yogurt/fruits/whatever it is people have with banana bread, just to give it that added kick. as for the cronut, we took it home and heated it up in the oven later that day and it was pretty good, though nothing i’d really rave about.

at the end of our little brunch date, i declared white mulberries officially one of my favourite cafes in london. such a pity that its far from our usual stomping ground though, or i’m sure i’d be there a lot more often, whether it be for a warm chai latte on a cold day or for a quick hearty sandwich lunch. if you’re in the vicinity, i highly recommend giving this cafe a try and hopefully you’ll be as pleased with your discovery as we were. see you there! 🙂
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White Mulberries
D3 Ivory House
St Katharine Docks
London E1W 1AT

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PS. sorry for being mia for a bit – was off in marseille for reading week (had an amazing time) and now that school has resumed, reading which was meant to be done during reading week has been keeping me busy/the biannual essay season is here 😦 promise to update whenever i get the chance to!

PPS. the poppies were a stunning sight:
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#remembrance

Caravan Kings Cross, London

i am ever thankful for the weekly long weekends i have the pleasure of indulging in; its amazing what a difference an extra day (or two #terrifictimetabling heehee :P) off school can make! indeed, monday blues this week were even more non-existent than normal because the weather was amazing and we celebrated a very dear friend’s birthday with good food (both at brunch and dinner mmm…) and even better company ❤

after successfully surprising aforementioned birthday girl bright and early at 9am in the morning by sneaking into her room and hiding behind her bed before jumping out screaming “surprise” as the best birthday song ever started playing, we set off for caravan at kings cross for birthday brunch.

perhaps it was the beautiful weather that day which made all the difference, but i loved the look and feel of granary square where caravan is located. housing the central st martins school, the former goods yard is made up of tall imposing buildings surrounding a large bustling square with a carpet of little dancing fountains. there’s also a little canal running by the side of the square with lots of activity going on. the inside of the building was equally impressive – a large trendy space with high ceilings, plenty of seating area and a palpable buzz from a healthy and extremely trendy crowd.
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one of the best things about caravan is that they open early (8am on weekdays) and close late (midnight on fridays and saturdays); it really is a great place for all-day dining. they have a different menu for different mealtimes throughout the day, and they are the kind of menus which make you want to order everything on them because everything sounds yummy 😛 check out the menus here.

we started off our meal with a pick from their list of daily bakes – a spiced apple crumble slice which was a very delicious start to our brunch:
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spiced apple crumble slice – £3 (if i’m not wrong), £3.50 at the most
we were actually expecting more of a cakeslice-type slice of tart but this was good all the same. it was moist and dense and the crumble on top was yummy, lending the slice a nice addition of texture, crunch and just the right amount of sweetness coming from the fresh, juicy and subtly-spiced apples. needless to say, it was gone in no time, long before our other orders arrived…

as for the mains, i opted for the jalapeno cornbread. i had wanted to try their aubergine puree dish but they had run out! 😦 nevertheless, the cornbread was satisfying:
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jalapeno cornbread, fried eggs, black beans, guindilla pepper – £8.50
it isn’t quite clear in the picture but the dish consisted of 2 pieces of cornbread and 2 fried eggs. i love cornbread and this was no exception. the jalapenos added an exciting twist and upped the spicy game of the bread, while bits of corn embedded in the bread balanced it out with sweetness. the bread was dense and moist as it should be, but i found it a tad oily – perhaps from the fried eggs rather than the bread itself? (not quite sure about the oil source) i also loved the beans that added further texture and bite, and the fried eggs that had wonderfully crispy edges and perfectly runny yolks. they were the perfect accompaniment to the bread!

the other popular choice at the table was the baked eggs:
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baked eggs, tomato pepper ragout, greek yoghurt, toast, with chorizo sausage – £9.50
i only had a few bites of this so can’t say much about it, but it was enough for me to appreciate the ultra tastiness of the tomato ragout – it was hearty, tangy (but not acidic) and extremely flavourful. the yoghurt and runny yolks topping the ragout perfected the mix of flavours. the chorizo was also one of the yummier ones i’ve had included in a brunch dish – iit was moist and tender, a far cry from the tough and dry chorizo one is sometimes unfortunate enough to encounter in life.

last but certainly not least, we got a serving of coconut bread to share:
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coconut bread, lemon curd cream cheese, poached rhubarb – £7.50
given the serving size, i thought this dish was on the pricey side. no regrets getting it though, because it was a refreshing accompaniment to our savoury mains. my favourite part of this dish was definitely the lemon curd – smooth, thick, creamy and a perfect balance between sweet and sour. i loved it and found myself using every but of rhubarb and coconut bread left to soak it all up! the coconut bread on its own left less of an impression; there was only a very faint hint of coconut and if not for the odd bit of coconut that i chanced upon in the process of enjoying this dish, i would have completely forgotten that it was meant to be coconut bread. maybe if i had had it without the lemon curd, the coconut flavour would have shone through more. texture-wise the bread was dense and moist like banana bread which i really enjoyed. the rhubarb added a good juicy crunch to round the dish up.

all in all, we were really satisfied with the food and ambience of the place but the one thing which we all found lacking was the service. it wasn’t particularly personal or warm; in fact, it was rather abrupt and cold at times. perhaps it has to do with the restaurant’s location and it catering to lots of hip and cool arty farty types? that said, it doesn’t detract too much from the fact that good food is served in a nice ambience, so it is definitely worth checking out if you have some spare time before or after catching a train. i didn’t try any, but i heard the coffee is good too! and did i mention that they take reservations?

Caravan Kings Cross
Granary Building, 1 Granary Square
London N1C 4AA20141027_101909 20141027_101041

The Daily Cut, Singapore

amidst the myriad of salad shops in the cbd catering to the increasingly health-conscious office crowd looking to fight post-lunch food comas, the daily cut stands out from the crowd with its different take on the regular green salad.

eagerly counted down the minutes till lunch when i could go check this exciting new place out (#internlife), and arrived in the newly-renovated basement of one raffles place at about 1245pm on tuesday afternoon, greeted by a queue at the counter and a bunch of people waiting for their numbers to be called for collection of their food.
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as you can see from the pictures, the daily cut is an ultra fuss-free set-up, so simply “decorated” (in inverted commas because its not really decorated at all hahaha) that it almost looks like a temporary store that’s waiting to move into proper premises! there are no walls properly demarcating the shop space, and the sign is rather inconspicuous unless you look up and crane your neck purposefully. i like the fact that they have a small seating area with way more seats than many other salad establishments in the cbd. their ordering system is also rather efficient – you fill in a form like the one in the picture below, bring it to the counter to place your order and pay, and finally wait for your little salad (though i’m not sure if its still considered a salad given that the focus is on the protein/meats) box to be prepared.

here’s the order form which also serves as the menu:
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at the counter, you can see the staff at work putting together each box according to the orders received:
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meats to satisfy the carnivores out there
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veg mmm…

we had to wait pretty long (10-15 minutes) for our numbers to be called; we were actually starting to wonder if our orders had been somehow lost in the mix! but soon our yummy boxes were ready for our collection, calling out to us to tuck in.
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sirloin steak + romaine lettuce + edamame + sous vide egg + mushrooms (ginger ponzu dressing)

this was my box – i was super pleased with how everything tasted together (though it doesn’t look all that appetising i know)! we were all quite impressed with the ingredients that were used; they were clearly of a good quality and very fresh. the sirloin steak was excellent – perfectly medium rare, juicy, moist and very tender; most definitely worth the $1 extra to order this! the romaine lettuce was fresh, the mushrooms (hidden but you can just about make them out in the bottom right corner) were sauteed very deliciously and the sous vide egg was poached to absolute perfection (amazing egg yolk waiting to explode also hidden here, unfortunately). i also really enjoyed the ginger ponzu dressing which was refreshing and light.

my friend for a large-sized one that came with 2 proteins:
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chicken thigh + tofu + brown rice + parmesan + sous vide egg + avocado (ginger ponzu dressing)

i didn’t try the chicken thigh but my friend mentioned that it was a little dry. i did try the tofu though, and it was more like tau kwa rather than soft/silky/smooth tofu. it would have been pretty tasteless if not for the subtle chargrilled taste that made it much better (you can see the grill marks on the tofu pieces in the picture above). note that this is the only protein option available for vegetarians.

think this was the most appetising-looking/prettiest salad of our party of 3 that day:
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sirloin steak + sweet potato + sweet corn + almonds + sous vide egg (thai dressing)

the sweet potato was grilled very nicely and the subtle chargrilled taste lingered and really complemented the natural sweetness of the huge chunks. this was another great combi of toppings – a good mix of textures and flavours.

we all left with our boxes wiped clean, feeling satisfied and surprisingly quite full! the portions are quite generous (especially the proteins) yet don’t leave you feeling like you’re on the brink of entering a food coma. i really enjoyed what i had and the best part is that its pretty healthy eating! lots of protein (perfect post-gym meal) and a great alternative to the regular salad bowls which are full of greens with no meat in sight (this is definitely a draw for males; i noticed significantly more males here compared to other salad places around raffles place). another great thing is that you can mix and match the proteins/toppings/carbs such that you can eat here all day every day and never get bored…

that said, i think it is actually slightly pricey even for the generous servings and good quality ingredients that you get. but that doesn’t seem to be stopping people from making a beeline for them at lunch hour, including myself – might just have to make another trip down for lunch before my current internship ends in a mere two days! already getting excited about what to pick this time 😛

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The Daily Cut
1 Raffles Place, #B1-31, One Raffles Place
Singapore 048616

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PS. matt’s chocolate shop is just round the corner and we couldn’t resist getting some chocolate fudge cake for dessert:
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small fudge cake – $4
having heard so much about it, i had very high expectations and though i wouldn’t say i was disappointed, the cake didn’t quite blow my mind either. they heated it up in the microwave for us (check out the glistening dark chocolate layer on top mmm…) – made it look yummier than ever eh? the cake itself was extremely moist and rich, without being overly dense or sickly sweet and chocolate-y. in fact, i would say despite being so chocolate-y, it managed to remain rather light! pretty good stuff (Y)

Lolla, Singapore

lolla was the sister’s choice for her birthday dinner this year, so its where we headed for some celebratory feasting on thursday night (her birthday was actually on friday but we were under the giant white tents at marina bay watching the spectacular Cavalia that night, so dinner on thursday it was!). 

located at the hiving-by-night ann siang hill, lolla is a mediterranean-inspired tapas-style restaurant that serves a range of what struck me as fusion-type small plates meant for sharing in a group. it occupies the ground and basement levels of a shophouse – the ground floor houses a long counter where guests can watch the chefs at work while the basement is home to a communal table. would have loved to be in on the action at the counter but we were told when we called to make a reservation that the counter was for walk-in customers only (i wasn’t particularly pleased to hear that, to be honest… shouldn’t those who make reservations get first pick of where they sit?). the place is trendily decorated to exude a casual and fun yet stylish vibe, and the restaurant was already buzzing when we arrived slightly past 7.
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ground floor counter seatingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
communal dining one floor down

indeed, testament to the casual and unpretentious nature of the restaurant is the fact that the menu is so simply printed on a piece of paper that doubles up as your place mat.i hear the menu changes according to what seasonal produce is available, and besides whats listed on the menu they also have a few specials written on the mirrored walls for you to choose from. this is what was available on the menu the night we visited:
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[NB: as you can probably tell from the picture of the menu above, the lighting where we were seated at the communal table was terrible for photo-taking and the pictures hence don’t quite do the food justice… 😦 probably explains why i am still sore about not getting to sit at the counter despite making an advanced booking; the lighting at the counter is highly optimal]

the service staff were friendly and willing to recommend the specialities of the restaurant, so it didn’t take us long to decide on what we wanted to have. 

we started our meal with a full portion of their famous sea urchin pudding:
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sea urchin pudding (full portion) – $40

served chilled, this. was. delicious! and we all agreed that it did live up to the hype surrounding it. a generous chunk of fresh uni sat proudly atop squid ink pudding and the two came together wonderfully to make for highly tasty, rich and satisfying mouthfuls; it was truly the epitome of umami. the squid ink pudding (with tomato, cream and egg yolk thrown into the mix) was smooth and creamy, with a strong taste of seafood. this was the first dish to be served and promptly raised our expectations for the rest of the meal. note that its so savoury that it can get quite heavy and jelat, so ordering a portion (or two, depending on group size) to share is ideal.

next, we were served one of the specials of the day:
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pan roasted padron peppers – $15

this was a special available for the night and we chose it for our dose of greens for the night. the peppers were very well done – very lightly coated in some kind of batter/crispy bits that added texture to the dish. the peppers themselves were cooked to perfection and were extremely juicy and naturally sweet. not quite sure what else went into them but it was quite an interesting and tasty dish. not exceptionally memorable and wouldn’t rave about it or think of having it again though!

we also had some scallops mmm:
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hokkaido scallop carpaccio – $38

my first thought when this arrived at our table was that it appeared similar to the mentaiko scallop carpaccio at the sushi bar! felt a little bad for / realised i was wrong in making that comparison after though, because i daresay this was much better (also much pricier) / the two are actually quite different. i’m not exactly sure what sauce was drizzled on top of the scallops here (this happened a lot that night – not quite knowing what went into the creation of the amazing flavour explosions in our mouths, if only we could see what the chefs behind the counter got up to while preparing the dishes; this is me feeling sore again about not getting to sit at the counter… hahaha #life), but there was definitely some kind of salt sprinkled on top i think? everything came together wonderfully and the scallops were of just the right thickness – not too thin such that the natural sweetness could not be appreciated, but also not too thick – just as carpaccio should be. very delicious!

there is a section of the menu dedicated to eggs, and we were torn between the tortilla with smoked eel (which was recommended by the waiter) and the scrambled eggs. eventually settled on the latter:Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset
scrambled with bottarga di muggine- $22

did not regret choosing this over the tortilla one bit! topped generously with bottarga di muggine which is fish roe from grey mullet, these were some of the best scrambled eggs i have ever had. if only the lighting at the table was better, you’d be able to see the glorious yellow of the egg and the wonderfully creamy texture of the eggs. the texture was really spot-on – it was creamy and slightly runny (but far from being too wet), and the fish roe added a nice saltiness to the eggs. once i took my first bite of this dish, i lamented to the mother that “i wish i knew someone who could make scrambled eggs as good as these”. true story.

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braised beef tripe – $23

these pieces of beef tripe were cooked to absolute perfection – slightly crispy on the outside but tender, moist and having just the right amount of chewiness that tripe should have within. not quite sure what they were seasoned in but they were extremely tasty! the tripe pieces also came accompanied by some kind of tomato/carrot/celery mix, and the two went wonderfully together – the tastiness of the tripe was very well-balanced by the sweetness of the veggies which were soft and wonderfully sweet. there was also a subtle smoky taste, possibly from being grilled? a great meat dish to order if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to try something different from the usual lamb cutlets or steak.

the other meat we ordered was the pork collar which came recommended by our waiter:
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iberico pork collar – $26

pork is my all-time favourite meat so i was immensely excited to try this! we requested for it to be medium rare and that is exactly what we got – thick slices of meat cooked precisely to medium-rare as evidenced by its pinkness. the thickness of the pork made for a great bite that proceeded into close-to-melt-in-your-mouth goodness. the meat was so tender and naturally sweet that the sauce drizzled on top of it wasn’t really needed. i wouldn’t say we were disappointed by this dish but i think i was expecting more in terms of flavour, especially because of how good everything else we had tasted was up till this point. the pork was amazingly cooked, but taste-wise it was pretty much just like chinese cha siu (very expensive chinese cha siu…).

back to seafood, we also ordered the grilled octopus:
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grilled octopus – $26

this was a hit with us – the octopus was very fresh, and was speckled with charred bits that added to the taste and texture of each piece. drizzled with a sauce that was subtly spicy and accompanied by lime, this was like grilled sotong on steroids. each piece was crunchy and sweet, with none of the mushiness/sliminess/stringiness that non-fresh or poorly-cooked octopus tends to have. needless to say, our tummies were happy. very happy.

the last item we ordered for the night was the tuna tartare:
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tuna belly “chutoro” tartare – $39

they had forgotten about this item we had ordered but thankfully we remembered it was missing and had them serve it promptly! (one of the) best of the night was certainly saved for last. chunks of tuna are seasoned in something (once again) mysterious and magical and all our eyes lit up as we took our first bites of this super yummy dish. the pieces were very well-chilled (which certainly upped the delicious factor; nobody likes warm sashimi) and had just about enough fattiness to have a hint of a melt-in-your-mouth effect. my only qualm was that some pieces had strings of fats which were hard to bite through in them, but the exquisite flavour of them more than made up for it. this is definitely something i will not pass on when i return to lolla!

finally, we ended the meal with dessert:
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steamed dark chocolate pudding – $15

this was the only dessert on the menu (they also have doughnuts, crema catalana and a selection of creamier ice creams) that really called out to us, and we were not one bit disappointed with our choice. we all agreed that this was one of the best chocolate puddings (or even desserts, for that matter) we have ever had!!! it was so so so good. the dark chocolate was extremely rich and delicious, and the pudding actually resembled the inside of a molten lava cake (only the best part of it), only better 😉 the addition of chocolate and coffee chips sprinkled on top added texture and taste to the decadent and ultra creamy and smooth pudding and paired with the vanilla ice cream (which i really have limited recollection of; it was all about the chocolate, really), this is really a chocolate lover’s absolute dream, and we were so tempted to order another serving!

i love birthdays in the family because it means not just getting to enjoy good food, but enjoying good food in great company ❤ we had a great meal at lolla (though we weren’t quite as full as we had liked to be and proceeded to maxwell round the corner after dinner for some supper #familyofpigs) and though i thought it was quite pricey given the serving size, i anticipate that i will be back – the innovative dishes and bold and delicious flavours that really work are a huge draw. hopefully i’ll get a counter seat when i return so that i can take better pictures that do the very yummy food justice. i apologise again for the lousy photos; i did try my best to save them by editing but they’re still far from what i would have liked 😦

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happy birthday sis!!! ❤

Lolla
22 Ann Siang Rd
Singapore 069702

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Assembly Coffee, Singapore

evans lodge just got more exciting with this (relatively) new kid on the block. opened some time late last year/ at the start of this year, assembly prides itself on good coffee and is the perfect place to stop and get a cuppa if you’re in the dunearn road / bukit timah area. i’m not big on coffee but am still very pleased with this addition to the area’s offerings because the food is good too!

i visited on national day with three friends; we were looking for somewhere convenient to have a spot (or more) of tea, and assembly coffee fit the bill with its waffle and cake offerings, its location and ample parking right within evans lodge itself. it was packed when we arrived at 2.30pm but we were lucky enough to snag a table for four just as a couple was leaving. assembly occupies a rather small shop unit in evans lodge – when its not too packed i can imagine it making a really nice and cosy place to chill with a book and while the afternoon away, but when it was packed like how it was when we visited, it can get rather cramp and stuffy.
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where we were seated (by the window on the left, semi-hidden in the pic) was bordering on uncomfortably hot and i think it can probably be attributed to the lack of sufficient air-conditioning and the strong sunlight coming in through the windows that day.

besides the coffees they are known for, assembly offers simple breakfast/light brunch or lunch-type food items. here’s the food menu:
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and the drinks menu:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we were all really full having just come from respective lunches, so we passed on the mains and headed straight for the sweet dessert offerings. wasn’t difficult to agree on what we wanted – the four of us ordered a waffle and brick toast to share. i was so tempted by the cakes on display in the counter (i wonder if they’re outsourced?) which included exciting things like horlicks tarts and dark chocolate-pistachio-cranberry cake (mmmm…) but was reminded by my teatime companions to exercise some self-control and rein the omnipresent greediness in me in.
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cake display mmm…

considering the crowd, the food was served in a relatively decent amount of time. first up, the famous earl grey caramel waffle:
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earl grey caramel waffle – waffle with homemade earl grey caramel sauce topped with new zealand natural vanilla ice cream and strawberries ($11.50)

i wasn’t disappointed by this waffle! it was wonderfully crispy on the outside (which made eating the edges delightful) but moist and fluffy inside. the vanilla ice cream that topped it went very well with the caramel sauce. the first of my only 2 qualms is that the earl grey taste could have been a little stronger! till now, i can’t tell if the earl grey is just in the sauce or if it is infused in the waffle batter; i only tasted it fleetingly in some bites so can’t quite figure out where the subtle earl grey flavour was coming from. secondly, i thought that the waffles could have been lighter within as i felt that the inside of the waffle was a little on the dense side; you can tell from the picture below that they are very moist inside which is great but at the same time i think they could be a little lighter and airier (for lack of a better word).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
but of course i’m comparing the waffles here to my favourite waffles at creamier, so the benchmark is set pretty high 😛 this still made for a highly satisfying waffle mmm yes…

we also had the brick toast:
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assembly’s brick toast – “shibuya” inspired honey brick toast topped with vanilla ice cream, artisan honey greek yoghurt and fruits ($12)

back view:
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this plate of toast was a real show-stopper; its the kind of thing other patrons stare at curiously (aka enviously) when they see it being served to your table and wish they had ordered too. the centre of a super thick slice of toast is cut out and into little blocks, while a scoop of ice cream sits pretty within the now empty core of the thick toast. i quite liked this but the general consensus among the four of us was that it was bordering on being too sweet and we all preferred the waffle. its basically really thick toast that’s fried (i think?) till its nice and crunchy on the outside, but that remains soft inside. it was coated in sugar and honey which made it very sweet, but we realised that was probably what the greek yoghurt was for – to balance out the sweetness of the ice cream + sugar-coated toast combi. taken with the yoghurt and fruit, it became much more enjoyable and was actually quite addictive; crunchy outsides and fluffy insides paired with ice cream and finally dipped in yoghurt. sounds rather odd i know, but actually tasted quite interesting. the greek yoghurt was a refreshing addition. 

we also ordered an iced latte but i only had a sip of it so i can’t say much about it:
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iced latte: $5

they are extremely serious about their coffees here though (look at the number of people working hard behind the counter), so i’m sure it was very good, and much needed in the heat!!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

i’d definitely return to assembly coffee again if i’m looking for somewhere to have a light meal around the area; what we had that day satisfied me enough for me to want to try their savoury offerings as well as some of that yummy-looking cake! a (very) belated welcome to the ‘hood, you guys! 😉

Assembly Coffee
26 Evans Lodge
Singapore 259367

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my teatime companions – old and very dear friends :’)

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clearly i am the only / the most patriotic one among the 4 of us… (#happybelatedbirthdaysingapore #loveyoulongtime) all decked out in red & white to show my love for this amazing city that has given me so much, and has always kept the foodie in me 129843094829304% satisfied!!!

Cocotte, Singapore

an old and dear friend recently celebrated her 21st (we are all getting old) birthday at cocotte, a casual and unpretentious french restaurant on the ground floor of wanderlust hotel located along dickson road. the sunday crowd in little india left me a little frazzled but thankfully i found a lot and parked without much difficulty and more importantly, without knocking any random jaywalker over.

the wanderlust hotel exudes a quirky, eclectic and yuppy vibe, and cocotte is no different – it is country-style decor with modern touches at its very charming best. i’m not sure what the restaurant layout is like on a regular day, but this is how it looked for my friend’s very nice do 🙂
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we had the whole place to ourselves, and a special menu was put together for the event:
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cocotte believes in communal dining where large servings of yummy food are shared across the table, so that’s how the lunch that day rolled as well. before any of the proper food came, we were served a basket of warm bread – yum yum love me some carbs. the bread was crusty on the outside but soft inside, nothing to shout about but was a promising indicator of the good food that was to come 🙂
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the first dish to be served was the french onion sandwich!
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french onion “soup” sandwich – walnut rye bread, onion confit, veal jus, melted gruyere cheese

picture of its cross-section so you can see how its constructed:
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we all really liked this sandwich! i haven’t had anything like it before, and it was an interesting take on the classic french onion soup. taste-wise i have to say that it was really quite on point, tasting very nearly like a non-liquid form of french onion soup. and because my utmost favourite part of a piping hot bowl of french onion soup is the sinful layer of gooey cheese on the top, this was just my cup of tea. wonderfully-flavoured onions and a layer of melted gruyere cheese are generously layered onto a slice of (freshly-baked?) walnut rye bread and it makes for a really tasty open-faced sandwich with a range of textures. yum yum, though i can imagine it getting a bit heavy if you have too much of it. best to share, especially if you’re planning on trying lots of other food! i’d certainly order this again when i return.

the next starter that was served to the table was a salad:
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poached egg & lardon salad – frisee with french lardons, barn-raised poached egg & smoked bacon-infused sherry vinaigrette

this was a good second starter to follow the french onion sandwich as it was much lighter and cleansed our palettes for more food to come! the salad was alright, nothing to shout about although i did, as always, appreciate the very well-poached *barn-raised* (whatever that means hahaha) egg! the greens were quite fresh and the dressing was pleasant with a hint of bacon infusion. for the health-conscious, the addition of lardon (pork lard, basically) turned this into a not-so-healthy salad though.

now on to the mains, the first thing we had was the duck confit crepe:
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duck confit crepes – homemade duck confit wrapped in a warm crepe with roasted shallots, red cabbage, & fresh herbs with citrus jus

i was most excited for this wonderful-sounding dish but have to say i was a little let down! here’s a picture of the crepe cut up so you can see the inside a little better:
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i thought the crepe was too thick and for some reason the components of the filling didn’t come together as well as i imagined they would. the duck was moist but was unlike the usual duck confit-type meat i was expecting – maybe because my favourite part of a duck confit is the thin layer of crispy melt-in-your-mouth skin but that was nowhere to be found here; it tasted almost like braised duck..? so that was quite disappointing. the red cabbage was also a little too raw for my liking; i think the filling of the crepe might have been more harmonious if the cabbage was cooked a little softer but maybe its crunchiness was intended to be maintained to add some crunch to the crepe. i probably would give this a miss when i return.

thankfully things looked up for the mains after we were done with the confit crepe! the next main we were served was a whole fish:
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whole roasted seabass – tomatoes provencal, slow roasted garlic, fine beans, grilled eggplant, peppers and courgettes and saffron aioli

i really liked this dish! it was a big plate meant for sharing, and reminded me of home-style chinese cooking 🙂 hidden under the fish (sorry i didn’t take a picture of what lay beneath) and accompanied by the beans was a bed of wonderfully roasted aubergines, peppers and courgettes – i love my roasted veggies; so yummy! as for the fish itself, it was very lightly seasoned and perfectly roasted such that the skin outside was mildly crisp while the meat within was extremely fresh and moist. i really should have taken a picture of the inside.. we were all impressed by how it was extremely fresh and very tasty yet light and moist. it was also accompanied by a saffron aioli dipping sauce which was a great accompaniment for those who wanted a more flavourful fish. i thought the aioli was not particularly necessary because the fish itself was tasty enough and i didn’t want to overpower the freshness of the fish. i was much more willing to slather the yummy aioli over my roasted vegetables instead. a great dish for sharing!

last but certainly not least, we had cocotte’s signature roast chicken:
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signature poulet roti – whole roasted antibiotic and hormone-free chicken served with pan gravy, spring vegetables and creamy potato gratin

my dining companions and i thought this was the star dish of the lunch that day. we concluded that it is their signature dish with good reason! a whole chicken is roasted to perfection and served on a big wooden board to the table, accompanied by some yummy vegetables and potato gratin mmm. the chicken was definitely one of the better roast chickens i’ve tasted in singapore. the meat is tender, moist and juicy while the skin outside is crispy and super tasty. we hardly touched the gravy at all because we didn’t need it at all! the natural sweetness and juiciness of the fragrant and flavourful chicken was more than enough to make our tummies very happy. 
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the accompanying potato gratin and beans were also well-received and by the time we were done with the chicken, most of us were at the brink of falling into food comas.

so we took a break and headed to the quirky and super trendy hotel lobby to play some foosball in preparation for dessert…
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and also a spot of retail therapy:
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alas it turned out to be the most unoptimal decision of the afternoon because when we returned to our table, we found to our great horror that we had missed our chance to be served a dessert platter 😥 had to settle for taking a picture of a half-eaten platter that the people at the other end of our table were tucking into:
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our crestfallen faces were spotted a mile away by the birthday girl’s mother, and she very kindly arranged for some cherry chocolate cake for our dessert:
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its worth saving some space for cocotte’s chocolate cake. it is a chocolate lover’s dream – moist, dense and extremely chocolate-y, the non-chocolate fan in me was a little scared by how heavy and chocolatey it looked but i ended up really enjoying it! have it in small quantities and you won’t be overwhelmed by its richness. the dark chocolate ganache that topped the cake was really really good, and the little crunchy balls added a different texture to the cake. the cherries within made it into something like a blackforest cake without the cream, and everything came together very nicely in the little foil loaf tins to make a yummy little treat. the cake is definitely way too much for one person to finish alone; it’s perfect for sharing, and i can imagine how delicious it would be when accompanied by some ice cream!
as for the cupcake, it was a banana cupcake if i remember correctly, topped with the same oh-so-good dark chocolate ganache. i thought the cupcake was a tad dry though, and it definitely paled in comparison to the chocolate cake.

finally, we had their ice cream sandwiches! snagged a portion of the burnt caramel ice cream sandwich to try:20140720_151345
i thoroughly enjoyed this burnt caramel ice cream sandwich – burnt caramel ice cream sandwiched between two thin speculoos biscuits. i absolutely adore spiced speculoos (!!!) biscuits, so this was quite a hit with me. the taste of the burnt caramel was rather strong, but i thought the speculoos biscuits balanced the potency of the homemade ice cream out rather well.

all in all, it was a good meal at cocotte and if you are a fan of roast chicken, you should definitely check this place out. on weekends, they do brunch in a really cute way – apparently they bring around a trolley of food for you to pick things off, instead of the boring old ordering off a menu. sounds like fun!

Cocotte
2 Dickson Road, Wanderlust Hotel
Singapore 209494
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PS. happy birthday sarah ❤ (birthday girl in the centre)
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i’d like to think we’ve come a long way from our 12-year-old selves who were tyrants doing bridges at the back of the classroom during higher chinese lessons… from 12 to 21 :’)