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

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Cocotte, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saveur, Singapore

i first patronised Saveur about a year ago at their bugis branch and remember being quite satisfied with the lunch i had there, so i was quite excited when they opened another outlet at far east plaza a few months ago!

the crowd at far east plaza seems to be a bit more manageable; i remember having to go to the bugis branch right at opening time so that we were guaranteed a seat at their first seating. once the restaurant filled up, you’d be sent away and told to come back later. i’m not sure if thats still the case there, or if the crowd was merely due to the initial hype that came with an ex-coffee shop stall serving up affordable french cuisine moving to their own restaurant-style premises. whatever the case, i was pleasantly surprised when we did not have to queue at all when i visited the far east plaza branch at 1230pm on a wednesday afternoon. the restaurant gradually filled up though, and a queue soon formed outside the door. service is rather efficient and quick however, and so the queue moves relatively quickly.

the decor at both branches is modern (albeit simple), and very pleasant for a good meal. i think i prefer the ambience at the bugis branch to that in the far east branch though! if my memory serves me well, the bugis outlet has a white colour scheme, making the restaurant appear quite nice and bright. but food-wise, i think they are pretty much the same – as good as each other!

we ordered Saveur’s signature pasta to share as a starter. at an extremely affordable price of $4.90 for a regular-sized portion (we paid an extra $2 for a bigger sharing portion), its hard to go wrong with this order.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASaveur’s pasta tossed with chilli oil, japanese konbu & sakura ebi with minced pork sauce – $4.90

i thought this was a very well-presented dish (given the price – equivalent or even less than a bowl of bak chor mee!). the angel hair pasta was cooked just right; it was moist and retained a bite while not being too hard. i liked how each strand of noodle was infused with subtle tastiness and this was achieved without having them swimming in a dish full of sauce (in fact as you can see from the picture, there is no excess sauce on the plate at all), keeping the dish light, as a starter should be! the ebi contributed to the texture of the dish, adding a nice crunch to the pasta.

for mains, the first thing we ordered was the duck confit:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
duck confit – $10.90

i don’t think there’s anywhere else in singapore where you can get duck confit of this quality at $10.90! of course its not the quality of duck you’d get at a fancy french fine-dining restaurant, but for the price you are paying, there is really nothing at all to complain about. the duck was well-cooked as duck confit should be – the skin was crispy while the meat within was tender and moist. the mashed potato was smooth and creamy, and the mushrooms were juicy and well-cooked (if only they gave a few more!), this is definitely an extremely popular item on their menu; nearly every table in the restaurant had at least one serving of this main.

the second main we ordered was the beef:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
beef short ribs braised in red wine – $14.90

being beef, it is one of the more expensive mains on the menu (along with the fish) at $14.90. the beef was very tender and juicy and the sauce it was braised in was nice. however i think if we hadn’t shared all our mains and i had ordered this dish just for myself, it might have bordered on being “jelat” towards the end, because the sauce tends towards being heavy. the potatoes (potato au gratin) that accompanied it were delicious! despite the creamy sauce, they were not heavy at all and were a nice balance to the beef’s sauce.

our final main was the pork:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
pork belly with lentils and soft-boiled egg – $10.90

i love pork, i would say its probably my favourite meat along with duck! the skin of this pork belly slab was divine – it was crispy and very much like the skin of the best chinese roast porks. the meat was also very good – it was tender, juicy and moist. my only qualm is that the serving size was really small. 2 mouthfuls each and it was gone! i like lentils, and am also the hugest fan ever of soft boiled eggs (the one here was cooked to perfection) so this dish was really just my cup of tea 🙂

we skipped dessert as they were not that cheap (unlike the rest of their dishes) and we figured we’d probably be more satisfied with a huge cup of bubble tea or froyo each 😛

i would say my expectations for my visit to the far east plaza branch of Saveur were definitely met. the quality of the food was as good as i remembered it to be, though the serving sizes were also as small as i remembered them to be hahaha. ordering a main each is definitely insufficient (unless you have a tiny appetite). ordering starters thus becomes quite necessary and i suppose this might make you spend more than you initially planned on. but then again, for the price you are paying, i think its a very decent meal that you get.

saveur is known for providing quality french food inexpensively to the masses, and i think they are doing a pretty good job at living up to this reputation.

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Saveur

14 Scotts Road
Far East Plaza #01-07B
Singapore 228213