The Beast, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Beast
17 Jalan Klapa
Singapore 199329 

Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters, Singapore

the newest kid on the upper thomson cafe block is pacamara boutique coffee roasters – a joint which recently relocated from somewhere in the vicinity and renamed and revamped itself along with its location change. i never visited them previously but from what i’ve read online, it used to be oz speciality coffee at thomson v two.

pacamara occupies a spacious corner unit at the row of shops right after the now-defunct longhouse food centre ( 😦 oh how i miss my prawn mee, duck rice and goreng pisang 😦 #jcmemories) along upper thomson road. it has huge glass windows that let in plenty of natural light, giving the cafe a very uplifting vibe (but also as my mother would say, potentially resulting in pigmentation if you plan to sit there the entire afternoon lol) and providing the perfect set-up for the perfect instagram picture (not to mention the adorable little pots of succulents on the tables that serve as good props to fill awkward gaps – hello good photos!). clean lines, a largely white colour palette and simple wooden furniture make for a simple and fuss-free but stylish minimalist space.
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as you can see from the picture, tables are communal so this might not be the best spot for a cosy and romantic first date or an intense pour-your-heart-out conversation with the bffl, but it is great for all other purposes, especially those of the chill hangout sort. this picture was taken at 1030am when we first arrived – the cafe was rather empty and we were clearly spoilt for choice as to where to sit; by the time noon came around however, it was full and buzzing with a healthy lunch crowd.

they do all-day dining, and offer a decent selection from morning right through till evening:
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we were there for brunch and i was rather pleased with the good mix of sweet and savoury offerings they had despite there not being that many things on the menu. eventually decided to order a truffle benedict and french toast to share between the 2 of us. orders are placed and payment is made at the counter, followed by the food being served to you when ready.

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truffle benedict – brioche, smoked ham, wilted spinach, free range poached eggs served with truffle hollandaise sauce ($18)
our noses were excited by the tantalising whiff of truffles as the dish was served to our table. i’ve read other reviews where people complained that there was barely any hint of truffle in this dish and although i agree that it wasn’t particularly strong, it was definitely there (perhaps there is some inconsistency in the amount added? or they’ve improved since the reviews i read were written?) and we definitely smelt it!

because no eggs benny review is complete without a picture of the eggs and their yolk post eruption, here is one for you:20141231_105944
needless to say, the eggs were poached perfectly, all oozy and runny and pregnant with liquid gold. the ham was of good quality, smoked well and sliced relatively thickly. as for the spinach, it was lightly-seasoned and cooked to just the right point – soft but not overdone such that it became mushy or overly wet. the hollandaise sauce brought everything together wonderfully and the truffle complemented it very well, adding that extra oomph to it that allowed it to remain light despite its creaminess. as for the brioche, it was buttery, fluffy and soft but crusty at its edges from a light toasting. i thought this was a very good rendition of the brunch essential eggs benny.

thankfully our sweet item of choice was as satisfying as our savoury dish.20141231_105249salted caramel banana french toast – brioche french toast, caramelised bananas drizzled with salted caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream ($16)
the french toast looked great and luckily we were not disappointed with how it tasted at all! i look forward to having this again just looking at the picture above and recalling how it tastes – i remember the thick salted caramel sauce that reminded me of hot fudge on a sundae, the generously-added and lovely slices of lightly caramelised bananas and the perfectly soft/eggy/fluffy/warm slices of thick brioche toast. it was surprisingly not too sweet, and the granola bits were a nice touch – they added additional texture and a nice crunch to the dish. as for the whipped cream, i don’t think we touched it at all because the toast by itself was so enjoyable!

needless to say, we left belly happy and very happy; it was a suitably satisfying last brunch of the year 2014 (food-wise and company-wise) 🙂 indeed, not only is pacamara’s food good, the environment is nice, parking is free (if you’re lucky enough to get a space in the parallel parking lots that line the row of shopfronts), coffee is great (apparently, will definitely try next time!), and prices are nett. i’d certainly recommend this as somewhere to add to your cafe-hopping list!

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Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters
185 Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 574333

Sacha & Sons, Singapore

happy new year everyone!!! you may or may not have noticed that we now officially have our own domain (ie we’ve dropped the wordpress from our url), hurrah! it was one of nic’s new years resolutions to get over his self-proclaimed tech noobness and sort that out, and he very adeptly did so thank you nic (you are now forgiven for leaving me to do most of the writing 😛 )! 😉 i am ashamed to admit that i haven’t been religiously updating about the new places back home that i’ve managed to check out this holiday, but today i woke up and decided i had better get cracking on that given that there are a mere 2 days left to christmas break, so here i am, appropriately kickstarting the new year with a post on the newly-opened sacha & sons.

while in nyc over summer, i had the honour of having what was probably the best (and also most expensive) bagel in my life thus far – a classic smoked salmon cream cheese bagel from traditional new york deli russ & daughters. i occasionally think of it and wonder when i will get to taste a bagel that comes close again, and am delighted to say that judging by the food i had in this little corner of mandarin gallery that day, i think i might have found just the place!

located right next to its sister restaurant wild honey (the two are owned by the same couple) in a corner of mandarin gallery’s third floor, this delightful delicatessen occupies a bright, tastefully-decorated and spacious unit that is perfect for a casual hangout over some unique nosh.
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(i have concluded after looking at this picture that the space looks much better and more inviting in person; this photo unfortunately does not do it any justice)

besides the classic new york smoked salmon bagel (which i did not actually try but definitely plan on returning to do so), sacha & sons serves an exciting range of food that one would expect to find in a traditional jewish deli in the big apple, filling what used to be a gap in the singapore dining scene, and very successfully might i add. here’s what they have to offer:
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their pastrami came highly recommended and i really wanted to try their bagels, so ordering was a surprisingly stress-free affair despite the myriad of choices available on the menu. we decided on a grilled reuben with pastrami and scrambled eggs with sturgeon and smoked salmon, placed our orders and paid at the counter, and returned to our table to eagerly await the arrival of the food.

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scrambled eggs with sturgeon, smoked salmon and caramelised onions served with a toasted bagel and cream cheese with herbs – $18

i am a huge fan of bagels and this was without a doubt one of the best bagels i’ve had in singapore. hand-rolled, it was served freshly-toasted and warm with a crisp exterior encasing a soft and fluffy (while retaining just the right amount of bite) interior, basically the perfect texture of a quality bagel. i am also a huge fan of seeds and nuts (who isn’t?) so the generous sprinkling of sesame seeds that topped the bagel was truly my cup of tea and added additional texture and crunch to the bread. a generous slathering of some thick and creamy cream cheese and a heap of scrambled eggs to top it all off made for the perfect combination of flavours. the addition of herbs in just the right amount to the cream cheese also lifted its taste and prevented it from getting too heavy.

as for the scrambled eggs, they were well-executed – fluffy, smooth and neither too dry nor too wet. very well-sized slivers of fish were generously added to the mix (every spoonful of eggs contained a decent dose of fish pieces) and gave the eggs texture and a savouriness, while the caramelised onions added sweetness. i feel like the latter was overpowered by the strong flavours of the fish though. and i think i’ll probably opt for the purely salmon and onion and sturgeon-free option the next time i order this – if you aren’t a fan of strong fishy flavours, you might want to do the same because i felt that the sturgeon added quite a distinct fishiness.

indeed, the scrambled eggs were rather scrumptious but what truly stole the show for me was the glorious grilled reuben sandwich:20150108_123348grilled reuben with pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and russian dressing – $18

the only other place in singapore where i’ve had a grilled reuben is nassim hill bakery. it might be a case of personal preference, but my friend and i both agreed that sacha and sons’ rendition is far better. we were so impressed and satisfied by this humble-looking sandwich that there were already discussions of returning for more as we savoured our respective halves.

the pastrami is house-cured and smoked, and is so fragrant and perfectly-flavoured that my mouth waters thinking of sinking my teeth into it again. for the grilled reuben, they have achieved the perfect ratio of meat to cheese to sauerkraut, resulting in satisfaction guaranteed in every bite. i was initially worried that it would be a tad dry, but my worries were unfounded because everything sandwiched in between the two slices of delicious toasted rye bread came together amazingly well and there was an immensely satisfying burst of flavour in each mouthful. the pastrami was tender and so flavourful, oh and did i mention its beautiful pink hue?
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what stands out about this sandwich for me is that despite being so tasty and sounding so heavy, it remains light and i believe i’d have no problems finishing an entire one. perhaps it is because the flavour of the pastrami is delicately fragrant, the cheese is added in just the right amount to complement and not overpower the other components, and the sauerkraut brings a lovely and refreshing slight zest and tang to the mix. they are also generous in providing two whole pickles along with the sandwich. i am seriously looking forward to returning for this when i’m next back in singapore.

besides the delicious food, service at sacha & sons is also worth mentioning. staff are friendly, welcoming, attentive and ever ready to help. they also have a range of samples of their different offerings for you to try before placing your order – i managed to try the smoked trout dip, smoked salmon dip and chopped liver. all were good, and special mention goes out to the chopped liver which is a liver lover’s dream come true – thick, creamy and oh-so-liver-y (for lack of a better description). my advice is for anyone who has even a slight dislike of liver to stay away though, because even for someone like me who quite enjoys liver, i found the taste quite overwhelming. on second thoughts though, it could have been due to the fact that they were so generous with the chopped liver sample that the ratio of liver to cracker was about 3:1…

i was very impressed with the entire set-up and will certainly return. hopefully they maintain both the high standards of food and service even as they grow in popularity (which i am sure they will). another plus point is that they take reservations, yay! definitely go check it out!

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Sacha & Sons
333A Orchard Road
#03-02 Mandarin Gallery
Singapore 238897

Boopshi’s, London

pictures of boopshi’s succulent schnitzels accompanied by good reviews were popping up too frequently to ignore on various social media platforms throughout last term and so sometime in the middle of it, i decided that a meal there was most definitely in order.

specialising in austrian schnitzel and spritz, boopshi’s is a relatively new addition to the buzzing fitzrovia restaurant scene. with large glass windows letting plenty of natural light in and simple wooden furniture, this corner shop is simple and nothing fancy at all, but certainly a great space for a casual meal. we had an early lunch on a friday afternoon and the place was empty when we first arrived at about 1230, but soon filled up with the lunch crowd.

they serve a range of dishes, but look around and you’ll see that what 99% of the hungry diners have before them is a schnitzel – it is after all what they pride themselves on. besides those sumptuous slabs of breaded meats that they offer, they also have various sides and other plates on the menu:
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the schnitzels in buns sounded like a really good deal but we were there for the meat and didn’t want any distractions from bread, so all of us got whole schnitzels, along with 3 sides to share – spatzle n cheese, fries and sauerkraut. i can never resist the promise of a glistening egg yolk, so ordering a duck egg to top my schnitzel was an absolute necessity:
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rare breed pork schnitzel with duck egg – £10.50 + £1.25
five pairs of eyes sparkled as our schnitzels were placed before us – to hungry souls, there are few things better than being presented with huge slabs of delicious breadcrumbed and freshly-fried goodies! what you see in the picture above doesn’t do justice to the generous serving sizes, for some reason my schnitzel was a little smaller than the rest… one of my friends was served a pork schnitzel so big that the plate beneath was nowhere to be seen, i kid you not.

i’m glad the gravy took a while to get to the table because it allowed me to try some of the schnitzel as it was, and to fully appreciate the fine breading and naturally sweet pork. the juicy and tender meat was moist and coated in just the right amount of breadcrumbs such that the dish remained light despite it being so meaty. i also liked the fact that it was not drenched in excessive amounts of oil and i didn’t feel like i was eating anything that was exceptionally greasy (wishful thinking? denial?). the lemon definitely helped; a healthy dose of some lemon juice added a lovely refreshing zest and helped to lift the taste of the schnitzel. taken with the gravy that was very tasty, this was a suitably hearty and satisfying treat.

as for the duck egg, it was an egg lover’s dream come true. cooked to absolute sunny side up perfection, the egg was slightly browned on its underside and had a yolk so large that it was enough to slather all over the schnitzel upon the all-important popping of yolk, and so creamy that it left me craving duck eggs for a few days after (subsequently scored half a dozen from fortnum & mason and was super eggcited).

given how big the slab of pork was however, i can imagine it getting a bit monotonous to eat without any sides or toppings, so good thing we ordered sides for the table:20141114_124134L to R: frites (£3.50), large spatzle ‘n’ cheese (£6.50), sauerkraut (£3.50)
they did not disappoint and were a great accompaniment to the main event. starting with the fries, they were thin-cut shoestring-types which though appeared a little undercooked for fries because of their very yellow hue, were actually cooked very well! crisp on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. as for the spatzle n cheese, it was essentially austria’s take on mac and cheese – firm and chewy pasta (texture reminded me of gnocchi) generously enveloped in creamy but light cheese. i thought it could have been a little more flavourful but all was good otherwise; it was like a warm homecooked hug 🙂 last but not least, the sauerkraut was probably my favourite side. it was a great rendition of this traditional dish, wonderfully seasoned and cooked just as sauerkraut should be, soft but still retaining a slight crunch. i could have had a whole serving of this to myself!

as you can see from the pictures, the servings here are big and we were really full after (even though we arrived at lunch feeling ravenous and ready for attack) all that intense savouriness, but all felt like we needed something sweet to end off the meal so we ordered a serving of apple strudel to share:
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oma’s apple strudel – £5.50
given the apple strudels i’m accustomed to (think ritz apple strudel – super flaky, crisp pastry and chunky apple slices), this was not quite what i expected. i loved the apple filling which consisted of plump raising and thin, moist and juicy slices of apples which were heavily spiced with cinnamon (one of my friends actually found it too cinnamon-y), but was not a huge fan of the pastry that encased it. although it was light and thin, i would have preferred it to be flakier, airier and crispier; here it almost seemed dense because the many layers were stuck together. the fragrant vanilla ice cream brought everything together rather nicely and was a good complement to the very cinnamon-y apple filling. perhaps it is a matter of personal preference of how one likes their apple strudels to be (catering to commercialised tastebuds vs very traditional as boopshi’s does it), but i was a little disappointed because this came highly recommended as one of their specialties. would probably skip dessert and focus on the mains when i next return! oh and on the topic of desserts, i was also disappointed that the waitress seemed completely unfamiliar with the menu and didn’t know any better than us what a “kaiserschmarrn” was; she had to check with the other restaurant staff.

neverthelesss, boopshi’s is a great spot for a hearty meal that adds to the wonderful mix of dining options along charlotte street. definitely worth a try if you’re up for some schnitzel!20141114_135609

Boopshi’s
31 Windmill Street
London W1T 2JN

La Crêperie de Hampstead, London

ever since they were forced to reduce their opening hours (see end of post for current hours of operation) due to a dispute with the pub it is located right outside of and used to share facilities with, the legendary crepes from la creperie de hampstead have become somewhat elusive. our first attempt to get our hands on them was unsuccessful – we were innocent victims who fell prey to the opening hours stated on google (didn’t find anything online that said otherwise) and trooped to hampstead on a week day, only to find the shutters down and not even a hint of the heavenly smell of fresh crepes in the air. no words can appropriately describe the looks on our crestfallen faces… special shoutout to good weather x hampstead heath x delicious gastropub food that we stumbled upon which saved the day though! thankfully it didn’t require a third time for us to get lucky with these crepes, we were successful at getting our hands on these parcels of goodness on our next attempt!!! #2ndtimelucky #yay

this little street stall has been parked by this pavement for more than 30 years. recent threats of closure caused uproar among loyal fans and despite now being forced to have no fridge or supplies stored on site, they have managed to keep open, albeit with greatly reduced opening hours. thank goodness they’ve managed this feat, because it has kept many a tummy very very happy, including harry styles’. yes. i kid you not – all 1D fans out there please listen up: harry styles has been spotted in the queue for crepes!20141213_132419

we visited for a late lunch (about 2pm) on a saturday afternoon, and i could smell the wonderfully tantalising aroma of fresh crepes as i approached this hampstead institution. there was a surprisingly short line of about 8 people ahead of us, and it varied in length throughout the time we were there, but at no point did it become unmanageable. the menu is so extensive that (if you’re as indecisive/greedy as i am) you’ll probably spend half (or more) of the waiting time just considering what crepe to get anyway:20141213_132151

after much consideration, i opted for the classic crepe complete with an addition of mushrooms; the full works in the world of crepes, basically. (don’t judge – i was finally there and it was a matter of going all out or going home… choosing the former was not a difficult choice at all 😛 ). i can safely say that i was not at all disappointed despite having high expectations from the great anticipation surrounding the whole affair. it was pretty much love at first bite…
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crêpe complete: ham and cheese, with an egg broken over the ham, plus mushrooms – £5.20 + cost of mushrooms (i can’t remember how much they charged but it wasn’t more than 50p)
the crepe itself is cooked to perfection – check out the gorgeous golden brown and slightly charred crispy edges. the crepes are served piping hot and they are thin and crisp but still thick enough to act as the perfect envelope for the generous ingredients that it contains. they are buttery with a subtle salty flavour, a perfect complement to whatever ingredients you choose to be wrapped within. the ham slices were thick, melty stringy cheese was plentiful, mushrooms were juicy and the soft egg (you get a choice of hard or soft eggs) was the icing on the cake (or should i say crepe 😉 ). every bite i took was packed with flavour and quality ingredients, it was seriously YUM. we settled ourselves on a bench by the high street watching the world go by as serious parties went on in our mouths…

given how generously stuffed that galette was, i was quite stuffed after polishing off the entire thing (it’s a tough life :P). but i desperately wanted to try their sweet offerings, so we joined the queue a second time and by the time we were at the front, i was ready to share dessert! it was once again a difficult decision but we settled on one of their trademarked (i know right… even fancy restaurants don’t have trademarked dishes on their menus, but this little unassuming stall has a few to boast about!!!) caribbean surprise:
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la surprise des caraibes: banana on butter and sugar with a sprinkling of coconut and dark belgian chocolate, finished with cream and rum – £5.50
okay the savoury crepe was delicious, but this, THIS is what i crave and am already dreaming of going back for. doesn’t look too great, but tastes out of this world. the combination of banana, coconut, dark chocolate and rum was magic in my mouth!!! i thought the crepe itself for this sweet crepe could have been a tad crispier (note how the savoury crepe is more brown) but the slight savouriness of the batter created a perfect sweet-salty combination with the sweet toppings. the high quality of the dark belgian chocolate shone through thanks to their generous addition of it (tendency to go everywhere if crepe is not eaten strategically), and went wonderfully with the dark chocolate and banana. the taste of rum was strong, and my friend did mention she would probably ask for a slight reduction in it the next time because she found it a little overpowering. i on the other hand, thought perfect proportions were achieved. already dreaming of going back to get some of this stuff back in ma belly after christmas break!!!

it was my last day in london of 2014, and it was perfectly spent finally having the best crepes in london ❤ i foresee pilgrimages to hampstead becoming a frequent affair next term (last official school term in ldn) – before i even made it 50m away from the stall as we left, i was texting various friends very excitedly telling them that i’d have to take them for crepes next term… best crepes in london? oh #YAS.

why did i not discover this place in first year 😥

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La Crêperie de Hampstead
77 Hampstead High Street
London NW3 1RE

opening hours as of december 2014: friday – sunday from 1145am – 11pm, and “hopefully on thursday too” from 230pm – 9pm

Lan Zhou Noodle Bar, London

i cannot believe i it took me 2.5 years to discover this hidden gem right in the heart of leicester square; if i had known of it earlier, i’m sure i’d have spent many a cold night there slurping up oodles of noodles, elbow to elbow with other hungry patrons of this hole-in-the-wall…

it was a cold and rainy day and having just ticked one off the london bucket list by ice skating at somerset house, my ravenous friends and i decided that a large bowl of piping hot noodles sounded really, really good. so off to lan zhou la mian we trooped!

lan zhou la mian is not a shop i would venture into if it wasn’t recommended to me by friends – their shop window is filled with trays of (if i may say) dubious-looking extremely brightly-coloured ready-to-eat hot food (think mr wu’s chinese restaurant eat-all-you-can-buffet-style food that always makes me upset because i hate that it would make some people who don’t know any better think that that is all chinese food is about – fried spring rolls, lemon chicken and “singapore noodles” (the most offensive thing ever!!!)) and given how it is so well-located just a stone’s throw away from leicester square tube station, it appeared to me to be the type of shop that serves sub-standard chinese fare at cheap prices. we couldn’t have been more wrong though, and hurrah for that!

venture into the little shop and you will find (1) an almost 100% chinese clientele (a sure sign of its legitimacy) and (2) a chef hard at work making noodles before your very eyes! needless to say, i was ultra excited – the last time i had fresh hand-pulled noodles was about 3 months ago in sunny singapore, its taste quickly becoming a fading memory in my mind…
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they have an extensive menu that includes a range of cooked dishes and cold and hot appetisers, but we were there for the noodles, and that alone left us spoilt for choice. besides all the different types of noodles they have, you can get them all soup/dry/fried, and you can choose how thick you want the noodles to be. there are countless permutations and combinations that will be made-to-order just for you:20141205_140946

the aforementioned friends who recommended this place highly recommended the beef noodles, so the stewed beef la mian soup is what every single one of the 4 of us opted for. the noodles took quite a while to arrive (one would expect faster service using all the other casual chinatown eating spots as benchmarks) and the waiting time was exacerbated by the fact that it was 2.30pm and we (or maybe just me) had just done the most exercise we’d done all year by skating for an hour.

words cannot express my utter delight when a huge bowl of piping hot noodles was placed before me some 15-20 minutes later:
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mid-way through the monstrous bowl
we couldn’t have been happier with our huge bowls of noodles (#asiankidsforever). the broth was thick, tasty and flavourful, and the beef brisket was tender, well-seasoned and added in generous amounts. note the addictive chilli oil in the picture that was added in copious amounts for that extra spicy punch, making this bowl of soupy goodness even more satisfying than it already was on its own. as for the noodles, i was sold after taking my first bite. you could tell they were definitely freshly-made (the waiting time was warranted after all) – bouncy, springy and cooked for just the right amount of time to give it the perfect bite. i could not stop enthusing about the texture of the noodles as i made my way slowly but steadily through the huge bowl. soon it was all gone and i ain’t gonna lie, i was a little sad (as i tend to be when i have nothing left on my plate that previously contained a mountain of all things delicious).

at just £6.50, this bowl of goodness was like a warm, comforting hug on a cold winter’s day, and i will certainly jump at any chance to return. mega plus points for the fact that it opens till the wee hours of the morning (5am on saturdays?! truly a #rarespecimen in london), so this is certainly a place to visit when you’re in need of a late-night supper or desperately need to satisfy a sudden intense craving for oodles of noodles before bedtime. love me some la mian!!!

Lan Zhou La Mian (Noodle Bar)
33 Cranbourn Street
London WC2H 7AD

Lobster Kitchen, London

lobster kitchen is one of the newest kids on london’s restaurant block, having just opened its doors a few days ago on a glorious tuesday afternoon. as its name suggests, it is a seafood shack serving a multitude of lobster dishes, and is tucked away on the ground floor of the st giles london hotel, just a stone’s throw from tottenham court road station.

what brought me to this cosy little place at 1pm on the dot on opening day along with 299 (or more) others was the promise of free lobster rolls for the first 300 through their doors. the line was snaking and took us about an hour to get through, but hey, one never turns down free food right? and a free lobster roll at that! they were being made-to-order which explained the very slow-moving line, but we were greeted by the sight of a charming little place when we finally set foot within the shop. the shop space is rather small but there is ample seating and an open kitchen at one end where you can observe the chefs working their magic:20141028_140400

wooden buoys line the tables and hang from the ceilings while the walls are clad in wood. teamed with wooden tables and chairs and warm yellow lighting, the place exuded a laidback and quaint cosiness which made me feel like when i stepped back outside with my lobster roll in hand, i’d find myself right at a beach with seagulls circling overhead and the sound of waves crashing against the shore… (a girl can dream).20141028_140303

on to the food, besides the different kinds of lobster rolls one can choose from, they also have a range of lovely-sounding lobster dishes including lobster bisque, lobster salad, lobster tails, lobster mac and cheese etc (see menu here). i opted for the garlicky lobster roll:
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the garlicky one – toasted brioche bun stuffed with lobster, with chopped garlic sauteed in butter and fresh parsley (£15, or £19 with side and soft drink)
we were super excited when we opened our boxes to finally see them delicious-looking lobster rolls glistening under the light! but we didn’t tuck into them immediately – the weather was simply too good to not bask in, so off to russell square we headed to enjoy our rolls under the glorious sun. when i finally took my first bite though, i have to say i was a little disappointed. perhaps my high expectations were due to the long wait and my by-then-rather-immense hunger, but i couldn’t help myself comparing this lobster roll to the one that burger & lobster offers, and concluding that the latter still offers a better one. the brioche bun was not bad but a little on the dry side. as for the garlic, it was tasty and had the potential to be rather delicious, but i wish they had been more generous with it and spread it more evenly throughout the roll. as for the lobster itself, it was pretty decent but nothing to shout about – the meat just didn’t seem as juicy and naturally sweet as what burger and lobster offers. moreover, we all felt that there was certainly room to be more generous with the stuffing in the roll, especially when one pays full price of £15. but since we didn’t pay a single cent, we really didn’t have a right to complain about anything and were thus quite satisfied nevertheless.

i was definitely not bowled over, but because they’re offering 50% off food till 28th november if you join their “claw club”, i have been sufficiently tempted to return to try the other items they have on their menu. not gonna lie, have been thinking about having some lobster mac and cheese since i saw it on the menu 😉 will keep this space updated if i do return, so stay tuned!

The Lobster Kitchen
111 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3NQ

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

Herman ze German, London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herman ze German
43 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RS20141022_121444

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