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

Koshari Street, London

would never have discovered this place if not for the groupon trawling that took place while boredom struck a while back. yes, i am an #aunty and proud of it heh 😉
(for the non-singaporeans: “aunty” when used on a young lady -cough- like myself -cough- usually means she is behaving more like a middle-aged to old female, hence the activity of online bargain hunting being labelled “aunty” behaviour) saw what seemed like a really good deal – £9 for a large koshari and drink for 2, did a quick online search to check out what exactly this “egyptian street food” entailed, and with my curiosity piqued and impressed by the rave reviews, promptly made the groupon purchase. am still very pleased that i made that decision because i was far from disappointed!

occupying a small but comfortable shop space along st martin’s lane at the fringe of covent garden, koshari street serves just one main dish, a type of egyptian street food known as koshari. you’re probably staring at your computer screen with raised eyebrows wondering what on earth koshari is; i can totally relate because i was once in that position. but i am proud to say that i now not only know what koshari is but have also had the great pleasure of trying some, and it is absolutely delicious!

koshari is a vegetarian dish consisting of lentils, rice, vermicelli, topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas, and caramelised onions. does that not sound like a wonderfully wholesome and warming combination of ingredients? well, even if you think it doesn’t, i assure you now that it most definitely is 😀

koshari street prides itself on everything being freshly-made with the best ingredients and bringing naturally healthy egyptian meals to londontown. upon entering the shop, you are greeted by a long stainless steel counter with the koshari condiments all very neatly and systematically laid out. service was extremely friendly and the server took the time to explain to us what exactly goes into a koshari, even letting us try the different tomato sauces with varying spice levels (mild/hot/mad – despite my penchant for spicy food because its a taste of home, i got the hot because i thought a cupful of mad sauce might really be quite mad) before we decided on the ones we wanted for our kosharis.20141007_132809
the koshari was then assembled before us and served piping hot in a huge cup (perfect for takeaways).

the groupon deal was for a large koshari and a drink, so that’s what we got:20141007_133229
large koshari – £6.50 / fresh juice – £2 (regular non-groupon prices)
not sure if you can see how big this cup really was because of the lack of proper scale, but it was really a very generous serving. (almost the size of an ice cream tub if i’m not wrong?) they also do small and medium sizes and as we were devouring our large cups, we noticed that almost nobody (there was a steady stream of customers coming in throughout our meal) except the odd large and famished-looking man ordered the large.

you’re probably wondering what lies beneath the glorious bed of glistening golden-brown shallots, so here are more pictures that reveal the amazing goodness contained in a cup:20141007_133419
and now with everything mixed in:20141007_133933
my midnight hunger pangs are getting stronger by the second as i type this post (will need to promptly get into bed after this so morning will come quick and i can demolish some breakfast :P)… just looking at the pictures, i can remember the great satisfaction i got from this extremely flavourful concoction that really packed a punch. what struck and impressed my friend and i most about the koshari was how fresh and well-done every single component of the dish was – everything was cooked to perfection and served piping hot. the lentils, macaroni and rice retained a delicious bite, while the crispy vermicelli bits, chickpeas and shallots on top added layers of crunch. the tomato sauce was extremely fresh, tasty and flavourful. it tied everything together wonderfully and as we were making our way through our mega cups, we were already imagining how happy we’d be on the cold winters day when we’d return to warm our souls with this yummy comfort food 🙂 the ingredients were added so generously and in such perfect proportions that every mouthful was a burst of flavours and textures in our mouths! i did mention earlier that the cup was huge but what i failed to mention was that i finished it anyway; i enjoyed it that much 😛 left the shop feeling extremely full, but a healthy full, having loaded up on a cup full of wholesome goodness.

besides koshari, koshari street also offers some simple salads, a soup option that changes daily and a handful of puddings for dessert. order a mix of things to make for a really satisfying meal or alternatively, they do combo meals where you can get a koshari, side and drink for a reasonable price. given the quality of the ingredients and how filling and wholesome the dish is, i would highly recommend this little cafe if you’re looking for a quick bite around the covent garden area. the space the shop occupies is small so its ideal for takeaways, but they do have some counter-type seating within the shop so there’s always the option of dining in as well.

if you’ve never had egyptian food, now’s the time to change that! you have even more reason to because the groupon deal doesn’t seem to have ended yet: check it out here!

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Koshari Street
56 St Martin’s Lane
London WC2N 4EA

Spices Cafe, Singapore

since i only had 4 full weekdays in sunny singapore after my last internship ended and before i was off to new york, food consumed for each meal was a very deliberate and purposeful choice. the mother insisted on taking me to this lunch buffet before being packed off to the uk (where good nonya food is far from aplenty) and though initially hesitant about departing from my firm favourites (ie bak chor mee/roti prata/chirashi round 2/3/4), i’m really glad spices cafe made the final cut because i left extremely satisfied and all ready to return to the land of roast chicken and grilled salmon.

located in the oft-overlooked concorde hotel that is at the less happening part of orchard road just before the istana, spices cafe serves up a yummy peranakan buffet lunch in a nice setting that far exceeded my expectations. they offer almost any nonya dish you can imagine, and i would say that almost everything i tried was above average which is no mean feat given the huge array of food available.
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managed to snap some pics of the glorious food sitting all nice and pretty before the hungry patrons attacked:
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rojak & gado-gado station
okay faithful followers of this blog (thank you guys!!!) will know that i am a fan of rojak (my all-time favourite being silver stream rojak) but few people know that i am also a fan of gado-gado so a rojak AND gado-gado station was like… a dream come true hahaha. started off with this but went back many many many more times. the rojak is completely DIY – you make the sauce yourself based on the recipe displayed there which makes for quite a fun experience, and its always nice to personalise your rojak with just the ingredients you want. for me, its always lots of peanuts and pineapple 😀 the recipe was not bad i have to say; the final product tasted pretty good every time i mixed a plate!

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kway chap & laksa

20140917_120553popiah / kueh pie tee / satay
the popiah & kueh pie tee are made on-the-spot by the chef manning the station, and they have both chicken and pork satay that come accompanied by ketupat, cucumber, the all-important peanut sauce, and some pineapple sauce too! yum…

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cooked main dishes
they had a huge array of cooked dishes including the quintessential nonya dishes like chap chye, buah keluak (was really disappointed by this though!!! rather sad because i adore buah keluak so much that my maid sometimes cooks and freezes it for me to take back to ldn with me 😛 ), prawns with petai etc. they even have a daily crab dish – it was black pepper on the day we went, and i was pleasantly surprised by how the black pepper seasoning was spot-on and the crab meat was firm, naturally sweet and juicy. bibs are provided so that serious crab eaters can leave without evidence of their crustacean feast; a nice touch!

20140917_120513dessert spread
i would have dubbed this the best part of the buffet, except everything else was really rather yummy too so the amazing dessert spread will just have to be deemed another great part of the buffet 🙂

on to some close-ups of the food i had the great pleasure of savouring:
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one of the many rounds i went for – here i sampled the (going in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom) petai with prawn, chap chye, pork, squid, egg fu yong and oyster omelette. all of them were good, but the stand-out for me was definitely the squid. it was wonderfully tasty and the squid was cooked to perfection (neither rubbery nor mushy), something not easy to achieve when mass-cooking for hungry buffet-goers. i also liked the chap chye, a classic nonya dish done well.

also had several rolls of freshly-made popiah throughout the meal:20140917_122220
i’ve definitely had better popiah elsewhere, but this was not a bad rendition at all. the popiah skin was thin, filling was tasty, and chilli added just the right kick to it. i would have liked the addition of more crispy garlic bits to add some texture though. i loved how the rolls were smaller than the regular popiah rolls you get at other places – big enough to satisfy popiah cravings but small enough so that there’s still space in one’s stomach for other food. also note the kueh pie tee in the background – yummy! but i feel they would have been made even more optimal with the addition of some prawns or peanuts on top.

besides the “soupy” laksa and kway chap dishes they had, there was also a big pot of pig organ soup. i’m not a fan but my mother had a bowl and seemed to quite enjoy it:20140917_123441
speaking of the laksa and kway chap, i don’t have a picture of the laksa but i very fondly recall it to be a very good bowl of laksa – deliciously lemak but not too rich, creamy or heavy. i daresay it was better than bowls of laksa i’ve had from katong laksa and the like. didn’t try the kway chap, but it looked pretty good with a whole range of condiments (tau pok, egg, tau kwa, innards etc) to pick to go with the kway chap.

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another of the many rounds of food – you can see i took more squid. in fact, i took it every single time i paid a visit to the buffet spread 😛 yes, i liked it that much! on this plate there’s better scale to see the aforementioned fun-sized popiah, each roll was cut into just also had some glutinous rice and fried carrot cake this round, along with satay. the fried carrot cake was very average, i remember thinking it could be tastier (but then again, its hard to please with anything other than ghim moh carrot cake heh). as for the satay, i was impressed! both the chicken and pork satays were tasty, tender and moist. super yummy when generously drizzled with both peanut and pineapple sauce. YUM.

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another staple of the day – gado-gado!!! had several servings of this and took plenty of tempeh every single time. i love tempeh!!! (do you sense my excitement) the peanut sauce to go with the gado-gado was great, and i loved how the tau kwa and carrots were cut into big chunks and not measly pieces. could really do with some of that delicious tempeh now…

and finally, on to the glorious dessert:
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the dessert spread did not disappoint. besides the huge assortment of kuehs, there was an array of fresh fruit, a chendol machine, bubur cha cha, putu mayam, and potong ice cream in assorted flavours. this is one buffet you definitely want (and need) to save space for dessert at…
absolutely loved how there were 2 huge bowls of thick, creamy and super yummy durian and banana sauce at the side of the kuehs, to be generously slathered on all kuehs as desired. the durian penyet also deserves a special shout-out: creamy, smooth and thick – a durian lover’s dream come true! the bubur cha cha was good but i would have liked it with some jackfruit (in fact i think i stole some from the fresh fruits section and added it 😛 ), and all the kuehs were good. the more common ones (kueh lapis, 9 layer kueh etc) were done well, while there were some more novel ones added to the mix as well. i didn’t have much of the putu mayam, but my aunty is a fan and she had 2 servings of it (even after all that food) so it must have been good!!!

at a really affordable price of $32++ ($23++ for above 55s), there is really nothing much to complain about at this buffet. not only is the food delicious, the service is also great – the restaurant is staffed with several lovely ladies in traditional peranakan kebayas who make you feel as if you’ve stepped into their homes for some comfort food. also love that this is in a quieter part of orchard road, tucked away along a stretch few walk along because most would hop on the train from somerset to dhoby ghaut; its like one of orchard road’s hidden gems (but now you know about it 😉 ) definitely no regrets spending one of my treasured last meals in sg of the summer on this place, and i won’t be surprised if it actually gets added to my list of must-gos when home for the holidays. its truly the perfect one-stop spot to satisfy peranakan food cravings; i can’t wait to head back for more… till christmas!

Spices Cafe
Concorde Hotel
Singapore 238840

PS. ever thankful for the best family that is always always always willing to go all-out to satisfy my random food cravings with me, even if it means having double the number of meals we normally have 🙂 ❤

Gaest, Singapore

i’ve been wanting to write about gaest since i visited it for dinner at the start of summer, but told myself to wait till i re-visited it for lunch so that i could give a complete (or almost complete – there’s still their weekend brunch menu to conquer!) run-down of their mouth-watering offerings. its now the end of summer (mega sad face) and i’m super happy i managed to squeeze in a brunch date with some of my favourite people at this amazing little place amidst the madness that the last few days of being home always proves to be (packing and last-minute meet ups galore, and this time with training contract applications added to the mix. plus squeezing in one last holiday of the summer – am now eating my way through nyc for a week before school starts!!!)…

gaest occupies a small shop space across the street from amoy street hawker centre. they only have space for about 10 within the shop, so most patrons end up sitting outside where they have many more tables. its quite pleasant to dine there in the evening when its much cooler (as we did for dinner), but can get pretty unbearable during lunch.

the first time i visited gaest was when they just started opening for dinner. i was initially disappointed to learn that they didn’t serve their sandwiches and salads that they have at lunch at night, but ended up feeling pleased that we got to try something different from them – their sourdough pizzas! here’s the menu:
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the dinner selection (and their entire menu, for that matter) is pretty small, but everything on the menu (or at least everything i’ve tried thus far) is good so no complaints about the relatively limited offerings at all! we ordered 3 pizzas for the 3 of us to share – 2 savoury and 1 sweet. we realised belatedly that it was quite a bit for 3 girls to finish even with the big appetites we have, but once we took our first bites of the pizzas, we realised that our worries would probably be proven unfounded. they were super yum!

first up, the green kale and roasted pork pizza (sorry the pictures are not quite up-to-scratch; lighting was poor!) :20140714_194056
green kale and roasted pork pizza – mozzarella, white onion, roasted pork with crackling, honey marinated green kale, red apple and black pepper ($18)
this was definitely my favourite pizza of the lot; the combination of flavours and textures was amazing! it probably helped that my favourite meat (pork) was heaped on generously, and the saltiness of the meat was perfectly balanced by the natural sweetness of juicy red apple slices and the slight spice of black pepper. the pork was roasted to perfection – slightly crispy on the outside but moist and tender inside, while the crackling was sheer melt-in-your-mouth goodness! the honey marinated green kale was a really tasty addition and together with the apple slices, prevented the pizza from being too heavy. some very strong flavours going on here, but the entire affair was kept light with a wonderfully thin and fluffy crust (more on the crust later) and a great combination of tastes and textures. i would say this is a must-order and will definitely return for this one day!

black forest salami and pickled cherry tomatoes pizza:20140714_194107
black forest salami and pickled cherry tomatoes pizza – mozzarella, smoked black forest salami, sweet pickled red cherry tomatoes, parsley pesto and roasted hazelnut ($18)
another savoury pizza, but something completely different! a really interesting mix of ingredients made for slice after satisfying slice – i particularly loved the addition of pesto and roasted hazelnuts.the hazelnuts were fresh and added great texture and crunch to the pizza while the pesto brought everything together very nicely.the salami was rather salty (as it is meant to be), but the cherry tomatoes balanced out the flavours well with their sweetness and juiciness. the charred bits of mozzarella were also a perfect complement to everything else that sat happily atop it.

and now for the sweet, rhubarb and strawberries:20140714_194517
rhubarb and strawberries pizza – mascarpone, rhubarb compote, fresh strawberries, lemon zest & fresh mint ($12)
this was good, but if i had to pick my least favourite of the lot, this would be it. don’t get me wrong, it was quite yummy, but maybe dessert pizzas aren’t quite my thing… especially after having pizza for the main meal too! nevertheless, like the savoury pizzas, i thought the combination of flavours here was pretty genius – the sweet strawberries and rhubarb compote were very nicely balanced out by the lemon zest (loved how they had actual bits of lemon skin and not just lemon juice squeezed over the pizza) and fresh mint. the mascarpone was fresh and light, and slathered on in just the right quantity such that the pizza wasn’t overly sweet.

all the pizzas are made to order – the dough is kneaded and rolled and ingredients are added as each order is placed. indeed, besides the unique ingredients and creativity in combining them behind each pizza, credit must also be given to the pizza crust! when i first arrived at the shop that evening and noticed them preparing and kneading the dough in the shop window, i knew i’d be in for a treat 😉
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the texture of the crust is my favourite part of it – thin and crispy on the outside, but chewy and fluffy inside, with just the right amount of charred bits. perfection in a pizza crust! and topped with such wonderful/fresh/quality produce, its hard to imagine anything they make going very wrong…

the next visit i made to the great gaest was at lunchtime and i was super excited because i knew i’d finally get to try the much raved about sandwiches, in particular the roast pork one! i was most definitely not disappointed. arrived at 11am on a weekday, and successfully beat the lunch crowd to snag a table within the shop.
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we opted for 2 sandwiches and a salad which made for an extremely satisfying lunch; even the hungry boy at the table approved and gave it his two thumbs up & man food stamp of approval 😉
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salmon – locally cold smoked salmon, honey and apple pickled beetroot, rocket & horseradish cream ($15)
i wasn’t actually drawn to this at all when i looked at the menu because i felt that smoked salmon is something that’s rather common and can be found in lots of places, but i’m glad my friends went ahead and ordered it anyway, because i have to say this was one of the best (if not the best) smoked salmon i’ve had in singapore! the salmon was extremely fresh and sliced thickly, giving it a wonderful bite reminiscent of fresh salmon sashimi. the beetroot was a great touch which added some crunch, while the horseradish cream was delicious and brought everything together wonderfully. it was tasty but very light, and not at all jelat! the sourdough bread encasing these amazing ingredients was also very delicious – crusty (for lack of a better word) crust and soft fluffy centres… super yum!!! we lamented the fact that we couldn’t buy an entire loaf of sourdough to take home with us!!!

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salad of the day with homemade sourdough – watermelon/quinoa/feta salad ($14)
next, we had the salad of the day which was a mountain (#truestory) of watermelon and quinoa. as its name suggests, the salad of the day changes daily which is definitely going to keep me heading back for more. the salad was super refreshing, light and yummy, really perfect for a hot day! i especially loved the addition of watermelon which made the salad juicy and moist without having to add much dressing at all. also, i love feta and it was added really generously here so extra gold stars for that yay! the serving is really rather huge so i suggest it be shared, possibly as a side to the yummy sandwiches (though the sandwiches themselves are also rather big!).

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pork – roasted pork with crackling, orange marinated red cabbage with parsley, red apple & mustard mayonnaise ($14)
last but certainly not least (in fact i would say i’m saving the best for last), we had the pork sandwich. this sandwich. is. SO. GOOD. a must-try when you’re at gaest!!! the pork is roasted to perfection – the skin is crispy and amazing while the meat remains juicy and tender, its close to melt-in-your-mouth goodness and its not overly seasoned at all and the addition of crackling adds plenty of crunch. the orange marinated red cabbage is also a great balance to the heavy flavours of the pork, and it is this and the red apple slices which keep the sandwich light (though certainly much heavier than the salmon sandwich) and make it interesting. i really really enjoyed this sandwich, and not just because pork is my favourite meat. really brilliant stuff and given the serving size, very reasonable too!

gaest is a wonderful break from the otherwise pretty greasy and unhealthy food options in the area (think amoy street hawker centre across the street/ coffee shops around the area). its the kind of place that makes me feel like singapore really needs more of these lovely little cafes that offer something different from the usual cafe/brunch fare! not only is the food unique, interesting and only made using the freshest of quality ingredients (i thought this really shone through both times i visited), service is friendly and warm, and the prices on the menu are nett – there’s really not much to complain about! now to try their weekend brunch when i next return to singapore over christmas. i already can’t wait mmm… 😉

Gaest
21 McCallum St
#01-01, The Clift
Singapore 069047
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PS. hopping across the street to amoy street hawker centre for a 2nd meal/ dessert isn’t a bad idea 😛 we had chinese dessert at zhen jie dessert stall on the 2nd floor of the hawker centre, and were very satisfied – the perfect sweet treats to round off an already great meal!
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my current chinese dessert obsession is black sesame/almond/peanut paste with tang yuan so that’s what i got and i was extremely pleased because it was one of the best i’ve had in singapore (the other great sesame paste shop i go to is the one in chinatown complex hawker centre)!!! the paste is very fragrant, light and smooth and the icing on the cake here is that the tang yuans are handmade and very good too! realised belatedly that they are famous for their ah balling – you can order tang yuans in a whole myriad of soup bases ranging from pastes to peanut soup to barley ginko nut soup. good stuff.20140915_121837

PPS. i apologise for the recent update drought! was busy at my last internship followed by a week of packing and last-minute meet-ups. and now, i’m eating my way through the great new york city – one last hurrah before final year begins!!! more posts to come soon 🙂 stay tuned!

Soi 55, Singapore

(sorry for the recent update dearth – spent the past week and a bit feasting in the land of the rising sun! there are few things better than the greatness that is eating japanese food in japan; more on that to come in following posts!)

quite possibly the coolest new shop in the golden shoe block, soi 55 is a thai iced tea stall in golden shoe hawker centre that’s been quenching the thirst of the cbd crowd since it opened not too long ago. located on the first floor of the golden shoe hawker centre (ie 2nd floor of the complex), you won’t miss the stall as long as you look out for its bright blue and white sign that’s really minimalist compared to the other colorful and cluttered signs that the rest of the stalls have. this was the queue we had to join when we were there at about 130pm on a thursday; cbd lunch crowd was out in full force!20140821_133802

decided to start with something basic and went for the thai milk tea! couldn’t resist adding some red ruby to it as well. 
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thai iced milk tea with red ruby – $3.20 ($2.50 + $0.70)

it was the perfect cold drink for a sweltering day. i really enjoyed the milk tea; i would say it was definitely one of the better thai milk teas i’ve had in singapore – it was fragrant, milk was added such that the tea had just the right thickness, and the thai tea flavour was sufficiently intense but not overpowering. my only qualm is that it was a little sweet (possibly due to the addition of the red rubies which probably inevitably added some syrup to the mix); maybe i’ll go for the “siew dai” (less sugar) next time.

oh and another qualm – i love red rubies but i think i might pass on adding them as a topping the next time i’m here. they were rather clumpy and too big to be sucked up with the straw we were provided with; i had a really hard time trying to suck them up without causing too much of a ruckus when i was back at work in my mentor’s office! this problem can probably be overcome with the provision of spoons though, and they red rubies were otherwise great taste-wise. the chestnuts were crunchy and i’m not sure if they make them from scratch but if they do, perhaps less tapioca can be added for the coating to reduce the clumpiness? something should also be done about how they all clump together!

my friend got the thai rose milk tea and she was pretty disappointed with it. i took a sip and could see why – we felt that the taste of rose was insufficiently strong (we saw while they were preparing the drink that its just a little bit of rose syrup added to the regular thai milk tea), worsened by the additional sweetness that the red ruby added to her drink.

all in all though, soi 55 drinks are still a great option to beat the heat. i wasn’t blown away by what i had, but my craving for thai iced milk tea was successfully satisfied and i wouldn’t mind returning for more if i’m in the vicinity. a decent substitute for bubble tea and a worthy competitor for my other cbd drink faves (fruit juice and teh halia from the arcade)! 

Soi 55
#02-19, 50 Market Street, Golden Shoe Food Centre
Singapore 048940
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 PS. they do discounts on their hot tea and coffee in the morning, so why not pop by for a pre-work perk-me-up?20140821_134058