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

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St John Bakery, London

there are some places i know i will love writing about once i step in, and that was exactly what happened when my friends and i ventured to st john bakery in the (okay fine, not so) wee hours of the Saturday morning that just went by. despite the excitement over this gem of a find, there is an inescapable reluctance to write about it as i begin this post. some things are better kept as secrets, away from crowds and droves of tourists because that is precisely where their charm lies. but sharing is caring, yes? just promise me you won’t tell too many people. here goes..

st john bakery is located just behind the main maltby market stretch of stalls (more on this in another post to come!). walk through a dank and dodgy-looking tunnel and you’ll find yourself along a street with blue-shuttered warehouses. at this point you’ll probably be thinking you’re at the wrong place because it really doesn’t look like there’s going to be any food there, but fear not and go forth beyond the graffitied walls! tucked under a railway arch at number 72 druid street, you will find quite possibly the best doughnuts in all of london.

we had heard of the legendary doughnuts they sold on weekends there, and were told that they would sell out if we didn’t get there early enough. after a quick cost-benefit analysis, it was decided that the cost of getting up early after a late night the night before was less than the benefit of sinking my teeth into one of those decadent delights (their decadence was confirmed by pictures i had googled). so, it was at 830am in the morning on the second day of chinese new year that we ventured towards the river and past the more “mainstream” borough market for maltby, located in bermondsey and not as accessible by the underground as we would have liked. nothing stands in the way of us and good food though, so we found our way there in good time and arrived to watch the shutters of st john going up for the day.
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st john bakery is part of the st john restaurant group, and on regular days when they don’t open their doors to sell their goods, their bakery just serves as a place for them to bake the bread supplies for their restaurant and shops. pretty randomly located amidst a stretch of warehouses, you’d probably happily go right past it if not for the steady stream of customers that leave with brown paper bags filled with doughnuts and cakes and breads. there is no seating within the shop; it is literally just a few makeshift tables set up at the front of functional bakery space for their saturday morning sales:
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20140201_091021the queue just slightly past 9am

nothing fancy about the set-up at all, but it certainly does the job of facilitating brisk business! we were (very proudly) their first customers of the day, and were greeted with this spread:
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freshly-baked custard doughnuts – £2 each20140201_091856 freshly-baked breads20140201_091919

but really, its ALL about the doughnuts. and this is why:
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they had vanilla, chocolate and apple jam (not on display, had to ask for them!) doughnuts available on the day we visited. i started with the vanilla custard doughnut, which is always available (the rest change) and what they are most well-known for. it really set the standard rather high for the rest – it was one pretty damn good doughnut.

the doughnut itself is incredibly light and fluffy – it has a brioche-inspired consistency, and is dusted with just the right amount of sugar that makes it sweet as a doughnut should be, but not overly so. as for the custard cream, can i just say, best doughnut filling ever?! the pregnant doughnut literally explodes in your mouth when you bite into it; the vanilla custard oozes out and the vanilla-bean cream is so fresh and light you feel like you could have an entire tubful of it without feeling ill. it is creamy, smooth, and of an amazing consistency that results in it being dense but not heavy. the whole dough ball of goodness is so pillowy, light, and relatively grease-free that you almost forget its deep-fried! this is definitely dangerous – it makes you have one after another without sparing a thought for the calorie party going on in the depths of your very satisfied tummies.

we were too busy stuffing our faces (promptly rejoined the queue for a second round after a short break) to get a picture of the chocolate cream one, but it was very very good as well. i am not a fan of chocolate, but enjoyed this nevertheless because like the vanilla custard cream, the chocolate cream was dense and satisfying yet light. also, the chocolate used was definitely of a good quality.

finally, we tried the apple jam doughnut:
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apple jam doughnut

for those who fancy something fruity, this will undeniably be your cup of tea – a dreamily pillowy doughnut pumped full of tantalisingly fresh apple jam. the jam packed a real punch; it was super apple-y and sweet (hopefully more naturally than artificially) and was thick and very delicious. i really enjoyed this, more than the chocolate cream doughnut! but i do still think the star was still the vanilla cream custard…

warning: it is almost impossible to eat these glamorously. be prepared for a sticky face, but they are definitely worth the momentary lack of elegance.
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we also had a madeleine each.
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madeleine – 60p each

like the doughnuts, they were very impressive. my friend promptly declared them to be “kueh baulus on steroids” (for those who don’t know what kueh baulus are, they are malay traditional sponge cakes) and for those who don’t know what to make of that statement, don’t worry, it’s a very good thing! they were freshly-baked and warm, crusty on the outside but so soft and fluffy inside. at 60p each, i would have definitely gotten more if i wasn’t already stuffed from our other maltby eats (stay tuned for another post!).

st john bakery is worth getting up early on a saturday morning for – leave your lie-in for sunday morning, and start your weekend right by getting your hands on some of these decadent to-die-for doughnuts!

PS. i hear they have salted caramel custard doughnuts sometimes. need. to. get. some. need.

St John Bakery

72 Druid St
London SE1 2HQ

Open Saturdays, 9am – 2pm
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Artichoke, Singapore

located in sculpture square (a place i think not many people even know exists), artichoke is like an oasis of calm amidst the usually bustling bugis area. my friend and i had a great time there when we met for brunch on a saturday morning – we ended up staying for 3 whole hours having great conversation over amazing food in a nice setting.

we knew how popular artichoke is, especially on weekends, so we made a reservation and managed to get a lovely raised table meant for 4, by a big window that looked out into the artichoke courtyard. yay!Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

the cafe exudes a laidback yet sophisticated vibe; it is casual but not sloppy and spacious but still cosy. it is also bright and airy, and i love how the tables are well spread-out so that it doesn’t get too noisy and you don’t have to worry about other diners hearing your entire conversation.20131221_11305920131221_113150

they serve dinner tuesday-saturday, and brunch on saturdays and sundays. here’s the brunch menu for the saturday we visited (i heard it changes):
20131221_113329i was really excited by the menu – everything was different from the usual brunch fare available elsewhere, and had nice middle eastern/turkish/arabic touches to them. artichoke prides itself on serving moorish cuisine. not quite sure myself what exactly moorish cuisine entails, but that might be because that is exactly what it is – a cuisine that comes from a huge variety of sources and has all kinds of influences (african/spanish/middle eastern etc), with no true definition that encompasses everything under it.

we opted for the scrambled eggs and mushrooms and the lamb shakshouka, and boy am i glad we did, because they were both amazing.

first, the scrambled eggs:
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scrambled eggs and mushrooms: local farm mushrooms/grilled halloumi cheese/za’atar toast – $22

this was super yummy! being an egg and mushroom lover, this was heaven on a plate. the mushrooms were fresh and juicy, and were cooked to finger-lickin’ perfection 😉 love how they’re local farm mushrooms too! nothing gourmet or fancy, but tasted just as delicious. as for the scrambled eggs, they were also pretty much perfect – not too wet nor dry, wonderfully creamy but not mushy at all! the eggs & mushrooms were topped with some fresh greens and these unidentifiable crispy bits (still don’t really know what they are) that were glazed in something (couldn’t really place what the glaze was either… oh dear) that were extremely delicious and added texture to the dish. the za’atar toast was also delicious, making for a super satisfying plate of goodness. our only (tiny) complaint was that we found the grilled halloumi a tad too salty. but other than that, it was grilled well and yummy like everything else! not sure if you can see in the picture because of the lack of scale, but the serving was pretty big! definitely filling, yet light.

instead of the mushrooms, an alternative is to have to have the scrambled eggs with “thick cut maple bacon chop”. when they say thick, they really do mean thick – the slice slab of bacon was about half an inch to an inch thick, and we spotted it glistening away in all its smoked glory at many tables. looked incredibly delicious but also very very sinful. best to eat in moderation! hahaha.

20131221_121628lamb shakshouka: stewed eggs/tomato sauce/roast lamb/cheese/pistachio dukka/toast – $26

i was really impressed with this. it was a pan full of bold flavours and hearty goodness. it was something like baked eggs, but even better. a giant serving of tomatoes, two runny eggs (hidden somewhere in there), amazing braised lamb shanks, cheese, topped with dukka, pistachios and some yoghurt – my idea of moorish food heaven! it was very filling, but so delicious that i just couldn’t bear to not finish it! though it sounds like a huge mess of flavours and things piled together in a pan, i must say it was a pretty organised/beautiful one 😛 the flavours and different components combined wonderfully and the lamb (which they were very generous with) was braised to perfection – it was moist, tender and extremely tasty, with none of the “smell” that people sometimes complain of when eating lamb. dunking the toast in all this was really, one of the best things ever.

case in point:Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetdespite the slightly heftier price tag, i would highly recommend this to anyone dining at artichoke! the serving is big and its definitely something different from the typical brunch fare of eggs benny etc, and in my opinion, in a really good way. its pretty heavy and and can get jelat though, so best to share this and some other lighter dishes with your dining companions if you want a greater range of things to eat.

given the big servings for the mains, we were stuffed by the time we were done with our mains, but were so pleased with the food that we decided we just could not pass on dessert. besides the desserts on the menu, they have a little bakery next door that sells an impressive range of tarts/muffins/baklava (traditional middle eastern/turkish dessert) etc where you can order some sweet treats to be eaten at artichoke:
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the tarts and their really interesting flavours were highly enticing, but we eventually decided on the sticky date pudding from artichoke. once again, no regrets at all because it was very very delicious! check it out:
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date pudding: burnt milk custard, coffee jelly, peanut caramel, smoked salt – $14

it appeared at our table completely different from what we expected, and looked good enough to warrant some oohs and aahs from us and envious glances from neighbouring tables. serving was like everything else big, and the pudding itself was sitting in this deep dish of burnt milk sauce, which to me sounded very interesting but to others might sound odd, i realise. if you belong to the latter category, do not let that deter you from ordering this, because trust me, it came highly recommended and with good reason! the date pudding was not cloyingly sweet like many sticky date puddings tend to be. neither was it very sticky actually! but it was moist and dense and was heavenly when eaten with the sauce surrounding it, the coffee jelly and the caramelised peanuts that topped it. the salt also added a very nice salted caramel-ish twist to the dessert. its priced rather steeply but the serving is definitely huge enough for sharing. so very satisfying! need to try the turkish apple crumble next! and some overdoughs delights.

as you can tell from my pretty much rave review of artichoke, i thoroughly enjoyed it and will be back for more. i loved the ambience, the food, and the service (they give each dinner a pack of sour gummies as you leave the cafe – a nice little touch and really helps in cleansing the palette after all that delicious food!). it was quite pricey but i thought it was nevertheless pretty worth the money. be sure to make a reservation on weekends or you might have to queue or be relegated to an outside seat (which is fine on a breezy day, but rather unoptimal on a sweltering one). i think they allow dogs in the courtyard too! saw some people dining with their furry friends so that’s something worth noting for dog owners out there.

i’d like to return for dinner one day, to see what they have to offer! they do communal dining for dinner, and i’m sure the great food and excited passing around of large sharing plates will make for a lovely experience 🙂

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outside seating area

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my habibi & i 😉

Artichoke Cafe & Bar

161 Middle Road, Sculpture Square
Singapore 188978 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Lady M, Singapore

lady m and its amazing sweet treats have finally come to singapore!!! once we read in the papers that they were opening today, the sister and i marked it down in our calendars and headed to marina square as planned this afternoon!

the sister fell in love with their cakes when she tried them in new york last year, and very kindly carried a whole cake across the pond from new york to london so the cousins and i could get a taste of their super yummy handmade signature mille crepe. we were really impressed that the cake survived the flight just fine and still tasted as good as ever!

which explains the immense excitement that we can now get our hands on such goodness in our home sweet home:
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lady m at marina square 

besides their signature mille crepe cakes, lady m also serves a range of other cakes, tarts and pastries that are laid out at the counter for you to take your pick! they adopt a minimalist look/approach to the cake display which is very much like that of the outlets in new york, according to the sister.
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they also have a range of drinks on the menu, all of which my family thought were really reasonably priced, making this a great place to relax with a slice of cake and a coffee. they even have champagne if you’re in an exceptionally celebratory mood 😉20130908_141150

we ordered a slice of their signature mille crepe as well as a slice of their green tea mille crepe at the counter, and they were served to our table rather promptly. considering it was their first day in operation, their service was pretty good and efficient!

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mille crepe – $7

this is lady m’s signature cake which consists of 20 layers of crepe stacked on top of each other, with layers of cream in between. the crepes are handmade and the layers are very thin, which i feel is what sets lady m’s version of the crepe cake apart from others who have tried to make the same thing. the cream is light and layered in just the right amount such that they do not overwhelm the taste and texture of the crepe layers. the top layer is caramelised which gives it a melt-in-your-mouth effect – super yummm. the sister and i agreed that the cream tasted a little different from the new york version though! it seemed to have a cheesecake-type taste while the one we had from the big apple had a more ‘neutral’ taste if you get what i mean – over in the US, it was more like just very light fresh pastry cream.

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green tea mille crepe – $7

the green tea version of the mille crepe cake – i actually enjoyed this more than the original mille crepe! loved the generous serving of green tea powder that topped the slice and the infusion of green tea into every bit of the cake  – the taste of matcha was strong yet not overpowering, and the cake was light yet very satisfying. highly recommended to all green tea lovers out there!

one problem with the cakes today was that they became very soft and melty within a few minutes of being served to our table. check that out:20130908_141844
it being their first day in operation, i suppose unforeseen problems like these are bound to arise. we gave some feedback to the (very friendly and approachable) owner about this, and he told us that they would work on getting the cakes to remain firm for a longer time by leaving them refrigerated overnight and keeping the temperature in the cake display lower.

its good to know that they are working on this and hopefully this helps to “acclimatise” the cakes because the sister and i are definitely going to be back for more! the cakes still tasted great and this more than made up for the fact that they lost their shape very quickly. we also like the fact that the cakes and drinks aren’t priced exhorbitantly at all, and the service was good.

thumbs up for a first day and here’s hoping that they stick around for a long time to come!

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Lady M

Marina Square Shopping Mall, 6 Raffles Boulevard #02-103
Singapore 039594