Gorging in Germany (Berlin)

Now that Rach’s opinion of the phrase ‘fat pig’ has been taken to a whole new level, to preempt my swinish laziness from redefining it even further, I have decided to emerge from my hibernation.  While Rach traveled to French Riviera and all its glory, I visited their best friends – the Germans –  in their capital, Berlin. Now I know that it is a common mindset that if you visit a place, you should strive to try local food as it would be an experience unique to the land. However, I disagree – I mean, why would you deprive yourself of objectively good food in general just for the sake of having an arbitrarily local experience – especially if the locals themselves have been receptive to outside influences and cuisines? That doesn’t necessarily mean that certain local foods are less delectable than others (to each his own, I guess) but so long as good food is available does its provenance really matter??? It’s like choosing 100 Zimbabwean Dollars over 100 USD just because you’re physically in Zimbabwe? (FYI the Zimbabwean Dollar has been indefinitely suspended since 2009, but you get what I mean)

OK. Enough of Zimbabwe; back to Germany. I was there over my Easter break – yes,  it was eons ago – and wasn’t expecting much gastronomically. After all, Berlin isn’t well known for her culinary identity, unlike say Naples in Italy, among others. Heading into Berlin, the most uniquely-Berlin dish I could think of having heard of was currywurst – even then it turned out to be more a street snack than a wholesome meal. More on that later though, let’s zoom in on the heartier highlights first.

As I mentioned, coming to Berlin one does not necessarily have to only try authentic Berliner food. After all, not all geographical or social bodies have cuisines that are unique to them and them alone. More often than not, their culinary development would have had been influenced by outside cultures and hence diluted into something more universal. The same applies to Berlin I guess – a city with a rich cultural  history but also one whose past was intertwined with many external incursions, bringing along with them new influences.

Hofbräu Berlin 

Most culinary cultures have comfort foods of their very own. For instance, as a Singaporean, I’d hazard a guess that most of my countrymen would pick Hainanese chicken rice as their go-to fare. Likewise, in London, it is never surprising to see Londoners going for their fish & chips or fisherman’s pie as their fail-safe option. For German cuisine schnitzel and roasted pork knuckle are two that immediately comes to mind. Despite not being dishes native to Berlin, they have become standard fare for Germans in general. Hence that was what I looked for immediately upon my arrival. We found this beer garden near Alexanderplatz called Hofbräu München, Berlin – a beer garden chain from Munich. The restaurant was styled after traditional Bavarian beer gardens with its long wooden tables and benches.Image We ordered a schnitzel each with a pork knuckle to share plus a beer…….little did we expect the beer to be more filling than the actual food.

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The glass of beer was HUGE. Just compare it with my head. And the serving of food was pretty hearty as well. Image

The schnitzel was fried to perfection, crispy on the outside with just enough batter used and the meat inside was soft and juicy. What I loved most about it, however, was the mushroom sauce that it was coated with. Not that the schnitzel would have been too dry without it but the sauce – which I must add was extremely buttery – brought a mellowness to the savoury fried fillet.ImageThe pork knuckle was another delight – the skin was so crispy and and flavourful;  it was as though all the essence of the meat had been sucked out into the skin. It wasn’t a trapping of oil, just like many mediocre pork knuckles are, and the meat was soft and rather juicy.The only pity was that the meat wasn’t as tasty as the skin itself (which was to be expected) and that there was too little skin for the meat underneath (maybe they should roast me instead since my skin is so thick). Thus once the skin had been devoured, there was nothing much to complement the meat with. Bavarian delights in Berlin – so far a good start.

Hofbrau Berlin

Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 30, 10178 Berlin, Germany

Monsieur Vuong

As we had to see the Brandenburg Gate in its lit-up best at night, we were left scrambling for a place to have dinner after. No worries though for there was a highly recommended Vietnamese restaurant called Monsieur Vuong which we heard is open till late. As we made our way there, we were excited about how we managed to find an eatery whose opening times suited our itinerary and that we’d arrive post-peak hour, hence avoiding the dinner crowd. We were wrong, however, as off-peak does not seem to exist in Monsieur Vuong’s vocabulary. It was 9:45pm and it was still packed. Thankfully the turnover was pretty fast and we only waited 10 minutes to be seated. ImageImageThe dumplings were heartwarming, literally – in the coldness of Berlin’s pre-spring and the minced meat was soft and well-seasoned. Even the dumpling skin was tasty. ImageWe also ordered a cold dish – glass noodle salad with chicken shreds. I felt it was a good contrast to the warmth provided by the soup – it was light and refreshing. What I absolutely adored about the salad was the fried shallot. Image It was simply divine and added a whole new dimension to the taste of the dish – crunchy and flawlessly-fried, with the shallot oil shamelessly oozing out as I sank my teeth into each piece. It was like having whipped cream with your frappuccino (Rach – remember Starbucks happy hour craze before Panama??) – not necessary but a wonderfully decadent addition. However all my praise is reserved for the main course – the pho. For the uninitiated, pho is a form of Vietnamese noodle soup, a form of street food served with a topping of chicken or beef. The reason why Vietnamese restaurants are aplenty in Berlin was due to the city’s Cold War legacy where the East Berlin, under communist control, hired workers from Vietnam – who were also communist then. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, these Vietnamese settled for good in Berlin, contributing to its strong Vietnamese community and  hence a propagation of its mouth-watering cuisine. Image Here we decided to go for the chicken pho. It doesn’t look much but, as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. Indeed, despite its plain Jane look, the pho tastes anything but. Its broth was sweet, blending the taste of the chicken and other spices which I couldn’t distinguish – and I think that’s the beauty of the broth: to me the fact that one cannot identify the constituent components despite its rich flavour is testament to a perfect balance of ingredients. ImageImageLots of beansprouts and a fair dosage of small chilies – perfection! It was wonderful and, having been to Vietnam before, I still feel that this was the best pho I’ve ever eaten. ImageJust look the smile of obvious satisfaction on my friend, Anish’s, face after slurping every drop of soup and every strand of noodles from his bowl. If the bowls could be eaten we would probably have done so. Simply put, it was phontastic.

Monsieur Vuong

Alte Schönhauser Straße 46, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Burgermeister

Burgermeister is a burger joint converted from a public toilet underneath a bridged motorway. ImageIts provenance alone was worth the visit but the food too was thoroughly deserving of a trip down as well. If my memory serves me well we got a Meisterburger and a Hausmeister. ImageHere is the menu and just look at the pricing – I felt we got a really good deal, especially when you look at the burgers themselves.Image I mean, a hearty, juicy patty with such a generous serving of caramelised fried onions to perfection with a strip of bacon for less than 4 Euros? ImageNot to mention the Hausmeister which has cheese, jalapenos and roasted mushrooms for slightly more than 4 Euros? The patties were juicy and well seasoned, the meat finely minced and fried just right, not overcooked unlike many other burger joints. It was a pity I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of the open kitchen to show you how the chefs worked but, hey, that just means that you gotta head down to check it out yourselves!

Burgermeister

Oberbaumstraße 8, 10997 Berlin, Germany

Gambrinus

This was a restaurant we stumbled upon whilst checking out an old abandoned building which used to house independent artists. It purports to serve authentic Berlin food and had a historical feel to its layout with many photographs of old Berlin as well as artifacts representing Berlin across her history. ImageThe service was really friendly and as my dining partner and I enquired about the portions, they were really upfront about the serving sizes and even recommended that we downsize our order (swinish behaviour, no doubt). ImageThis is bratwurst in beer sauce with sauerkraut and potatoes and the portion was really hearty for only 7.50 Euros. The bratwurst was well seasoned and you could taste of herbs and spices was really strong.ImageWe also ordered this smoked pork served with bacon and potato omelette and if the bratwurst was hearty this was lungy. The mixed veggies were nicely buttered which made them even more delicious and the omelette was crisp and light, not too much oil used. The bacon and potatoes in the omelette complimented each other very well, the former giving a savoury taste and the latter providing a smooth fluffy texture. The pork unfortunately was a tad tough and dry, but the gravy was thick and flavourful and it added moisture and taste to the otherwise pretty disappointing portion of meat. ImageImageGiven the charming historical ambience of the restaurant we decided to stay for a bit more and each got a desert – a cherry and raspberry compote with cream and vanilla sauce which was refreshing after the onslaught of meat and carbs. However whilst the serving of fruits was generous, the vanilla taste was sorely lacking. Image If ambience is a big factor in your choice of a dining location then this is the place for you; otherwise the food, whilst more than decent, may not be worth a trip down specially for.

Gambrinus

Linienstraße 133, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Fassbender and Rausch 

Everyone has a sweet tooth so when we discovered this chocolatier in the heart of Berlin’s business area, it blew me away (it was so good, however, that it blew me back again the very next day). It was raining and cold so what better beverage to have than a hot chocolate? Fassbender and Rausch have an entire catalogue of beverages for one to choose from, but being traditionalists, we each went for a conventional hot chocolate with cream topping – one dark, one milk. ImageNo surprises when our drinks were served that a small piece of chocolate, containing the actual chocolate blend used to make the hot chocolate, came together. What I found interesting was the serving of water that came with the beverage. It was meant to cleanse one’s palette after each sip so that, I believe, the purity of each taste is preserved. However, after trying a sip of the hot chocolate, I would never have wished to clear my palette as it tasted heavenly. Now Belinda Carlisle’s song finally made sense; and for that moment it resided in the cup in front of me.

It was thick, creamy, smooth and the taste of the chocolate distinct and fragrant . I preferred the dark chocolate over the milk as the latter was a little too sweet (but I concede this is nitpicking as I would have found the milk chocolate faultless had I not tried the dark one). As it was lunch time and the rain was still pouring, we ordered lunch dishes which use chocolate as their main seasoning. This was fascinating to us for never had we expected chocolate to be used in savoury food. ImageThis was venison sprinkled with a dark chocolate coating – the meat was tender and juicy and the potatoes had a nice roasted taste to it. However, I felt the taste of the dark chocolate was too overpowering and the taste of the meat was lost in the strength of the chocolate.Image It was a shame as the venison was really cooked immaculately as the edges were crisp and the inside supple; and the meat was, by itself, very tasty.ImageThe chicken with milk chocolate was far better as the chicken itself was saltier hence offsetting the sweetness of the chocolate. Also, the use milk chocolate instead of the darker variant gave a sweetness that was not too intense, in fact it blended in nicely with the saltiness of the chicken to give a rather rounded taste. Yet all things considered, we felt that the chocolate infused lunch dishes were a tad indulgent by Fassbender and that chocolate is meant to be a sweet treat and probably, in our eyes, will remain that way. With all the chocolate on show, we had to go for a course of dessert. Again, there was a plethora of tarts, pastries and cakes available – ah, the agony of choice. ImageAfter much consideration  we settled on a dome dessert with dark chocolate and walnut mousse, another dome dessert with white chocolate mousse and raspberries, and lastly a marzipan pouch with raspberry jam – the latter specifically chosen because we saw tables around us ordering it. ImageImageThe mousse on both deserts were creamy and smooth, the sponge biscuits blending in nicely with the walnut mousse and white chocolate respectively. My pick of the bunch however was the walnut dome, with its rich dark chocolate outer complementing the thick yet light walnut mousse inside. ImageJust look at mousse oozing out! ImageThe marzipan pouch was a real disappointment – the only thing we gained from it was a lesson learnt in not following others blindly. The marzipan layer was so thick and chewy and its sweetness did not mix well with the raspberry jam. Despite a mixed experience with the deserts, the hot chocolate was enough to bring us back the very next day; and again we tried our luck with some sweet treats. ImageThis tiramisu-based confection was so good – it had a rich tiramisu taste and the sponge cake was really smooth. It also contained some coffee and rum which added another dimension to its taste, without overpowering the tastebuds. ImageThis is a cream-based dessert topped with cherries and kirsch mixed with a dark chocolate coating. The kirsch and dark chocolate went well together as the chocolate’s aftertaste blended in with the mildness of  liqueur the cherry. It wasn’t too sweet and the cream gave the desert a nice silky texture. Fassbender and Rausch is definitely a place that I will return to, if only for its chocolate desserts and its hot chocolate – which is to die for. Even if you don’t have time to eat-in, check out their amazing chocolate shop – I mean just look at the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag!ImageImage And compare it to the vehicles and people walking outside. They are HUGE. ImageAnd their selection of chocolates for sale can possibly rival the Rolling Stones for number of smash hits. You have to see it to believe it, taste it to savour it. Best (hot) chocolate in the world? Very possibly.

Fassbender and Rausch

Charlottenstraße 60, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Café Nö!

On our last night in Berlin we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal (not that all our meals hadn’t been nice) and we came across this quaint cafe on a street off the main business district. It was highly welcoming with its warm yellow lights and compact cozy layout. ImageImageDespite having to wait for our table, we were still attracted by the restaurant’s decor. In fact it’s the kind of place to go out on a dinner date to – not that it would detract 2 maleswines from checking it out.ImagePretzel to accompany the sausage!ImageMy favourite: boiled sausages – which was so juicy and silky.I was so excited to try it when tragedy struck………ImageUnfortunately, our clumsiness with our utensils left us with only one of the two sausages and the sense of loss probably augmented my opinion of it. *SOBS*ImageHere is venison with potatoes and asparagus. It was really herb-y and rich in the taste of thyme and lemongrass. I mean just look at the whole stalks of thyme served with the dish! ImageWell cooked meat with a generous serving  of spices – and how fresh and fragrant they were; I sucked the thyme stalks dry! – what more can one ask?

I guess the fallen wiener was forgotten, for a while at least. What I liked about this cafe was its ambience fused with the close attention of the service staff, who constantly check up on how we were finding our meal; had they offered to replace our sausage, I’d have given them a 10/10 for dining environment. Nonetheless the food was extremely fine, very polished – unlike our handling of utensils – and the meal definitely well worth the money.Image

Café Nö!

Glinkastraße 23, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Some more pictures of the rest of the food we ate!

ImageVietnamese coconut cream soup!ImageFried dumplingsImageStir-fried glass noodles with mixed veggies and chicken. The chicken was so succulent; according to the restaurant owner, it was possible because of no MSG used!!!ImageSchnitzel with Spezi, an orange flavoured cola drink popular in Germany. It was super refreshing and nice – this coming from a non-soft drink fan…….

No one can say that they have been to Berlin without at least trying the iconic dish of the city: currywurst. Here are some pictures:ImageThis version was rather sweet, the tomato taste still very distinct and strong.ImageThis was saltier – just look at the curry powder sprinkled on top! I reckon it’s more than the amount of gravy?Image

Sausages being cooked.

As I mentioned, currywurst, is to me at least, more a snack than a meal – which is good because of its portion size, many portions can be had a day without guilt! The sausages tend to be very smooth – in Germany one can’t really go wrong with sausages anyway. The yardstick to measure if the currywust is good or not is, for me, the gravy – usually a tomato based base with curry powder. Some are sweeter whilst some are a bit more savoury. I guess in this regard it’s a personal preference. I personally prefer a slightly savoury incarnation, as it tends to complement the saltines of the sausage. However, since the servings tend to be small, I guess the onus is on you to try as many to suss out your personal choice!

Berlin is an amazing city: her nightlife, arts scene and history are possibly amongst the greatest in Europe. Indeed one event Berlin will always be remembered for is the tearing down of the Berlin Wall; I, for one, will forever look back at Berlin and recall how my stomach walls almost tore, bursting with such diverse gastronomical goodness. Looks like Panamanian pigs aren’t the biggest after all; a Singaporean swine in Berlin can now lay claim to that crown .

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The French Riviera & its glorious food

one million apologies for the updates drought!!!

life has been one mad rush since exams ended (and I posted about my celebratory end-of-exams meal) – 2 of my bestest friends were in town, and not only did we explore London together, we also had a short escapade in the French Riviera!!! when we got back, 1) housing woes struck (#2ndyearproblems) 2) I had less than a week to pack my entire first year life into boxes/luggages and move out of hall 3) I went to Panama on an 11 day volunteering trip!

met my family in london after panama, and am now typing this post from a hotel room in beautiful Rome. true story. like I said, life has been a mad mad rush since exams ended, but I suppose its a (largely) happy problem.

its been so long; where so I begin?! guess i’ll start with foodie adventures with some of my favourite people in the world in beautiful South of France 🙂
IMG_20130522_161843unfortunately i don’t think I remember all of the names of the restaurants we ate at; i really should have noted them down somewhere 😦 next time I will!!!

my favourites out of all the food we ate in france:

1. smoked salmon cream cheese pizza: we had this for our first lunch of the trip, which was at beautiful eze village. it turned out way better than any of us expected i think! its been a while but i still remember how it was one amazing, gooey mass(/mess hahaha) of cheese-y goodness. on top of the regular cheese that goes on the tomato base on the pizza, the thin crust was loaded with cream cheese and finally topped with salmon. SO. GOOD. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. seafood risotto: i LOVED the meal we had at this restaurant near our hotel. unfortunately i can’t remember its name but if any of you really want to go if you happen to be travelling to nice, its along the main shopping/restaurant stretch near place massena and it’s the only restaurant there with a tripadvisor sticker in its window!!! (which is why we chose it) (i am truly a believer in tripadvisor stickers when i travel– i think they’re normally the sign of something at least average to above average!!!)

the servings were huge and service was really friendly! we had seafood risotto, spinach & cream cheese ravioli and a beef pasta thing. they were ALL good, but if i had to pick a favourite, i’d probably pick the seafood risotto! it was of the perfect consistency – neither too dry nor too wet, and there was a delicious prawn-y taste in every bite. the rice was also done perfectly for risotto, not too hard or too soft, and the seafood was sweet, juicy & fresh.

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20130522210242160 2013052221224591920130522_210015(photobombing waiters are always welcome hahahaha)

3. azzuro gelato: read that it’s the best gelato in nice on tripadvisor and though we didn’t try many others, i’m still inclined to believe so after trying it!!! its by a nice little square in the old town and they have a HUGE range of flavours but don’t worry – you can get cones with up to 10 scoops if you can’t decide 😉 i had the tiramisu and something with berries (something like raspberry ripple but i can’t remember exactly what it was anymore L) and they were both really good. very creamy and smooth! i found some of the flavours (candy-bar inspired ones) which I tried before deciding on the 2 I chose were too sweet though! j and l got nutella, pistachio, chocolate etc and we were all happy kids. so happy that we returned the next day to get more heehee20130524_13270920130524_132937OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4. pastries from random boulangeries: france was croissant heaven and we had amazing croissants, brioches and other similar pastries for breakfast every day!!! they were so. good. and so cheap too. most of the legitimately local bakeries you find in the old town/along random streets sell them for between 1-2 euros and we didn’t have any bad ones over the few days we were there. who needs fancy & overpriced stuff like paul in singapore/london??? J was particularly pleased with her plain butter croissants – going back to basics is always best (Y)20130523091801725OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsuper yummy chocolate brioche ahhh take me back now please!!!

L giving legit local bakeries her stamp of approval:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchocolate croissant in all its amazing buttery & flaky glory

5. crepes: we had amazing crepes for lunch on the day we were in st paul de vence! we sat in this little cave-like opening off a quaint little alley and enjoyed an apple cinnamon crepe and another savoury buckwheat one with goat cheese, fig stew, ham, and pine cone kernels (??). the apple cinnamon one was good, but I didn’t find it particularly special or unique since you can get that at creperies worldwide. i REALLY liked the savoury one though. i know it looks pretty ordinary in the picture but it was really delicious. loved how the crepe batter was buckwheat and the yummy goats cheese that went well with the ham, while the pine nuts added bite and the figs just made it perfect!!! j and l found the taste of the goat cheese a little too strong for their liking though.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6. Jean Luc Pele, Antibes: stumbled into this shop while roaming the streets of antibes. we were taken in by their fancy, hunger pang-inducing shop display – check it out!!! j tried their macaroons, l had a giant macaroon, and I decided to go for something chocolate-y since chocolate seemed to be their specialty. they were all good! the macaroons were above average (though my ultimate favourite macaroon maker is still pierre herme (more on that later)!!!) and what was really cool was the CHOCOLATE CAVE in their shop. we didn’t even realise it was chocolate on the walls and ceiling (too busy stuffing our faces with sweet treats) until we started scrutinising the writings that were carved into the walls. worth a visit if you’re in antibes!
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CHOCOLATE CAVE!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgorgeous treatsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7. beef carpaccio at café bianco in nice: we read about this restaurant run by a french man and his Japanese wife in easyjet’s travel magazine on the flight to nice, and were so pleased when we discovered that the restaurant was right round the corner from our hotel. it’s a simple and quaint little place where the daily menu is written on a little blackboard that the wife takes to your table for you to check out. we had an amazing cheese toast as appetiser, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
and the beef carpaccio as main:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit was a huge plate for each of us but we finished every bit of it – sliced and lightly seasoned to perfection! L isn’t a fan of beef (especially raw beef!) so she opted for a fish + zucchini spaghetti thing from their a la carte menu. what was interesting about it was that there wasn’t actually any noodle in it at all… after a few bites we realised that the “spaghetti” was actually all shredded zucchini/cucumber/similar veggies. it was reallynicely presented but besides how fresh the fish was, i personally felt that it didn’t taste exceptional! in fact, it kind of tasted like an asian stir fry (japanese influence?) with quite a heavy sauce that I thought didn’t go that well with the lightness of the fresh fish! but we enjoyed the meal thoroughly nonetheless!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
oh yes and the wedges were to die for:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(at this point I must interject and just mention a tiny detail – I never got to finish this post in rome; I am now on a cruise ship on the Aegean sea! we left Istanbul this afternoon and will be in kusadasi tomorrow morning! really exciting times, and LOTS of good food on board. a post for another day!!!)

8. our dinner in cannes. one of my favourite dinners of the trip, besides the fact that the waitress was completely racist and unprofessional, making faces behind our backs (which she thought we did not notice) and exchanging snooty glances with her colleagues. it was totally uncalled for and we were so mad and super close to just walking out but thankfully we didn’t because the food was great! the olives we started with were really sweet and juicy, followed by this mysterious bread + cheese + dip combo which they brought to our table though we didn’t order it and didn’t see any other table having it (we decided that they must have noticed how disgusted we were with their service and the free food was a peace offering HAHA) which was so. good.
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for starters we had an amazing salad (with huge pear slices, walnuts, parma ham, cheese, really fresh salad leaves & tomatoes)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand an interesting fish soup! It was surprisingly not too fishy, and we could actually taste bits of fish in it.. quite interesting and reminded me of the fish soup i’ve had in norway! the mains were not particularly exceptional, though the fries that came with the beef were quite interesting! really thinly sliced potato strips that were perfectly fried. the oil used was definitely fresh and the fries weren’t dripping with oil – legit FRENCH fries (Y).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdessert was unsurprisingly, amazing – profiteroles and a yummy panna cotta in all its wobbly goodness heehee.
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(are you drooling yet???)

9. last but certainly not least, the one thing nobody should ever leave france without having – PIERRE HERME MACARONS. 20130525_140622i know of people who prefer laduree (I beg to differ!!!), but my family has always thought pierre herme does them BEST since having them in paris a few years back and being completely taken in by their interesting flavours like mandarin + olive oil, truffle & coing + rose! i now have to make treks to Selfridges before heading home over school breaks to get my hands on these sweet treats so my sister and mum can get their fix. we inhaled 7 macarons right after lunch (and before stopping for tea in a cookie café) and i had what is probably my favourite macaron flavour ever – green tea & black sesame. 20130525_140201OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IT WAS SO GOOD – the ultimate combination in my eyes (i can never resist having those 2 flavours of ice cream in Japanese restaurants heehee)! they even had white sesame seeds on the top and ahhh it was so so good, though i know the pictures don’t exactly make it look particularly mouth-watering! the other flavours were also yummy, and i think on a whole pierre herme in france is even better than pierre herme in london – seriously good stuff.
just casually snapping pictures of food in place massena (typical asians and proud of it wahahaha):
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okay i think this post has gone on long enough but before i go, i shall leave you with some of my favourite snapshots of our amazing little escapade – good food and great company, what more could you ask for? 🙂

view from the top of eze village – 20130522112833091

antibes beach –
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in nice – 20130524122307367

sunset in cannes – 20130524201346886

till next time 🙂 bisous!!!

ps. back in london after the cruise with the family and will be heading home to singapore really soon! more travel posts to come; watch this space 😉

Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant, Singapore

(a long overdue post that i started writing during easter break but only got round to finishing after exams :/)

killing many birds with one stone is key with every meal given the limited time i have back home over easter. this time, the birds i had in mind were roti prata and butter chicken and this search took me to al-azhar, the stone of the day, which if i may say, rocked 😉 wahahahaha.

al-azhar is located along the stretch of eating houses in upper bukit timah, opposite beauty world and the whole series of similar-looking malls which i remember as the go-to places for huan zhu ge ge collector’s cards when my sister and i were little:i202415487_86414_3
LOL.

okay, enough random digression, back to the food. (but i have to say, that picture of the hzgg cast really cracks me up and i’m sure it brings back memories for all of us who grew up watching it in primary school at 7pm as we ate our dinner. ah, those were the days~)

that upper bukit timah stretch (aka 7 mile) is known to have a few 24 hour eating places serving up a whole range of supper foods, and 2 joints – al-ameen and al-azhar (the one i went to)- are particularly well-known for their roti prata, roti john, mee goreng, murtabak etc offerings; basically everything greasy, good and guilt-inducing when eaten at 3am in the wee hours of the morning.

headed there on a friday night, and walked past al-ameen while making our way to al-azhar. i had always thought the 2 were pretty similar in standard but realised i was wrong after checking out other online reviews – seems like al-azhar is the more popular one while al-ameen had a noticeably thinner crowd and smaller shop space.

the menu at al-azhar is probably one of the most extensive ones you will ever find in singapore, ranging from thai food to prata to fried ice cream to red velvet cupcakes (yes i’m completely serious; we were thoroughly amused)?!

we had butter chicken, prata, roti john and murtabak!

I LOVEEE BUTTER CHICKEN. LOVE IT. could eat it all day every day, and so i was extremely pleased when the butter chicken here turned out to be some really good stuff. even my friend whose mum makes a mean butter chicken agreed!!! it was tasty and extremely satisfying – the gravy was of just the right creaminess and consistency and the chicken pieces were tender. i was eating spoonfuls of the gravy after i ran out of stuff to have the remaining gravy with!!!

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the cheese & mushroom prata was not bad. it was fluffy, not too greasy, and was of a good size. comparable to the one at prata house along upper thomson road, i would say!20130412_204019

my friends had the mutton murtabak and chicken & cheese roti john, which they were both happy with as well! the servings are pretty big and really fill you up (even for ravenous, growing boys):20130412_20395020130412_203958

for dessert, we shared a chocolate tissue prata (though we were tempted to try the red velvet cupcakes just to see how they tasted HAHA) and it was good stuff!!! thin and crispy – perfectly done tissue prata with a good dose of chocolate and sugar heehee.20130412_214657
we attacked it very happily and it was gone in no time, but not before taking a picture with it as a prata party hat first 😉
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so unhealthy, but so good. really reasonably priced too! will definitely come back here to satisfy random midnight cravings in future. and for the butter chicken! shall try it with the naan next time – i hear the naan is good, and it did look good! i was eyeing the naan that the people at the next table ordered throughout dinner 😛

oh yes, and we had drinks:
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this is really belated since i only just got round to completing this post (an entire month late) but to deep and curlz: thanks for taking me out that night and saving me from drowning in case law, guys 🙂 will see you again for more exciting times really soon!!! 🙂2013041222110956020130412221417112
bahahahahaahahahhahah.

good 24h supper spot discovered!!! (y)

Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant
11 Cheong Chin Nam Rd
Singapore 59973620130412_22113220130412_220900

Bea’s of Bloomsbury, London

finally got to try the much talked about Bea’s of Bloomsbury today! a friend was visiting from dublin, and we had a great catch-up over some cake and tea at this little shop just off the busy holborn stretch. it was a lovely afternoon spent in a warm and cosy cafe, seeking shelter from the freezing cold outside. when is spring coming???Imageyou won’t miss it as you make your way down theobalds road; the shop window is filled with sweet treats and according to a friend who had been before, it was even more decked out the last time she visited!

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they have a full afternoon tea that goes for £19 per head, but we opted to order individual items as we weren’t quite up to a full-blown feast (and the exercise that we would be obliged to do/guilt-tripped into doing after!!!). Image

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after some serious deliberation and inspection (life-changing decision right here) of the whole range of cupcakes, muffins, brownies, and cakes on display, we settled for a guinness chocolate slice (recommended by the waiter) and a slice of lemon meringue cheesecake.

Imagemy first thoughts on the guinness slice were that it was a bit dry, the kind of dryness that results from being left out in the open for too long. but luckily it turned out that it was only that way around the edges; after having more of it, i realised it was rich & dense but not heavy, and had the perfect amount of chocolate in it! i’m not normally a fan of chocolate cake since i dislike the feeling of “chocolate phlegm” (sorry for the gross description – i really can’t think of any other way to put it!!!) at the back of my throat but that did not happen at all with this slice – it was GOOD STUFF. as for the guinness, i couldn’t really taste much of it but perhaps that’s what makes the slice so appealing – a subtle hint of guinness combined with the perfect amount of chocolate-y goodness. YUM. oh and the icing went perfectly with the cake as well; i thought it wasn’t too sweet and topped the slice in just the right amount.

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LEMON MERINGUE CHEESECAKE: i enjoyed this cake so much that i felt the need to type its name in caps!!! the three of us at tea all agreed that it was divine!!! the meringue on top wasn’t too sweet or sour, and it was the perfect texture. the cheesecake middle was amazing – it was moist and rich but yet light such that you wouldn’t get sick of eating it, and the proportion of meringue top to cheesecake to digestive base was just right! LITTLE (okay not really little; the slice was pretty big!!!) SLICE OF HEAVEN RIGHT HERE. my two friends can attest to the fact that our conversation kept getting interrupted with my random interjections of “omg, this is SO. GOOD.” after every mouthful… oops!

Imagei also ordered a chai latte, and it was delicious; probably one of the best chai lattes i’ve tried! (i’m not a big coffee drinker so this is the drink i normally go for) perfect for a cold winter’s day. it had a generous dose of cinnamon and the perfect amount of spice to it, and i thought it was a rather generous serving despite me ordering a “small”. it was frothy and yummy and super drinkable; i will definitely be going back for more!

total bill: £10.80

ambience: cosy, casual, friendly, relaxed

service: good! patient and friendly service staff behind the counter.

who i would recommend this to: anyone with a sweet tooth looking for a nice cafe to have a little feast on sweet treats. the place is rather small though, and i can imagine it getting crowded on weekends so probably best to avoid going in large groups over the weekend.

will i return? YES! the cakes were delicious and there are sooo many more i didn’t get to try. i believe the menu and their offerings change pretty regularly as well, so that keeps things nice and exciting. might also head back to try their savouries that they serve at lunch time!

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Bea’s of Bloomsbury  (Bloomsbury branch)
44 Theobalds Road
London WC1X 8NW
0207 242 8330
– rach 🙂

Louis Patisserie, Hampstead

we heard that no trip to hampstead was complete without a visit to louis patisserie, a hungarian patisserie that has been around for close to 50 years.

we took a walk around hampstead to let our food from Jin Kichi settle:

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the air seemed fresher and people more carefree – the tranquility and feeling of being miles away from the hustle & bustle of central london was therapeutic, to say the least. however, what was more therapeutic was the sweet treat that greeted us at this cosy tea room.

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possibly the part that got us most excited about louis patisserie was the full range of cakes available being brought to us on a silver platter – literally. we were spoilt for choice and after 15 minutes of intense interrogation, we settled on 3 cakes of which unfortunately, we do not know the names of because there is NO MENU at this shop.

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we were highly recommended the chestnut cake by the waitress. we were served a sizable rectangular slice on a dainty plate and it was easily the best out of the 3 cakes we ordered. do not fear the seemingly (jo: SERIOUSLY, ITS OBSCENE.) overly thick layer of cream; it was  so light and fresh that nic felt like he could fly after just one bite! the chestnut cream on top merged with the sponge and cream seamlessly, and it was an explosion of light-tasting goodness with every mouthful. if its one cake we will be back at louis patisserie for, this would be it.

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next, we had a strawberry tart with a chocolate base. it was noticeably smaller than the other cakes, but priced similarly. we expected a firm and thicker crusty base, but lo and behold, it was filled with cream, cream and more cream, with a crumbly, biscuit-y layer. the thin chocolate crust was not such a bad thing after all – it did not overpower the sweetness of the strawberries, and allowed the distinct fruitiness to come through. however we would have preferred more texture as the thick cream filling made the tart too one-dimensional. the tart as a whole lacked depth of flavour and variety of tastes and textures. overall, it was very pretty to look at, but not as good as it looked/we had anticipated.

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our third cake was chocolate buttercream on sponge. again, the cream was the star of the show. the sponge was nice and tasty (reminded us of kueh bolu) but was dry at some points when eaten without the cream. the amount of chocolate coating the sponge was just nice: enough to be eaten with every mouthful, not stealing the cream’s limelight.

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coffee was nothing to shout about.

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overall, the cakes were nice and creamy. usually too much cream on cakes tends to put people off but here, due to the lightness of the cream, more was definitely not an issue. in fact, we’d say that the cream here is the cream de la cream.

our guess for the price: £25

total bill: £17.40 (£3.70 per cake for eat-in, £3 for takeaway)

ambience: artisan, boutique cafe, vintage, chic.

service: unimpressive. seemed to be rushing us and unwilling to entertain our queries (otherwise our interrogation might have gone on for another hour), not very customer-oriented. probably because it was a busy saturday afternoon.

who we would recommend this to: people looking for a unique, old-school tea experience at a comparatively reasonable price. friends looking for a catch up over cake & tea. small groups as the place is pretty cramp and tables are very close to each other.

will we return? 3 YES-ES!!! even though the cakes were nothing mind blowing, we will definitely return considering the ambience and the other cakes that we did not get to try today – on a weekday when it is probably less busy.

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Louis Patisserie

32 Heath St, London, Greater London NW3 6TE

020 7435 9908