Marylebone Hotel Afternoon Tea, London

no london experience is ever complete without some traditional afternoon tea, and the fact that i study and live here doesn’t stop me from doing “tourist-y” things like this once in a while 😉

having gotten a good afternoon tea deal at kingsway hall hotel via afternoontea.co.uk last year, it was that trusty website that i headed back to when a friend and i decided we were going to treat ourselves to an indulgent afternoon before the madness that school can become sets in.

this time, we got an amazing deal at the marylebone hotel – traditional afternoon tea at just £12.50 per person!!! considering how plush the hotel was, the impeccable service, and the quality of the food we were served, i would say this is the perfect deal if you’re looking for an affordable tea-time treat.

we arrived to a beautifully laid out table, and i loved the fact that we were seated on a huge cushy sofa in a lounge rather than stiff chairs around a table in a coffee house:
20131011_184803afternoon tea is served both in the lounge and the drawing room, and despite the very nice set-up, the staff are informal and unfussy, making you feel comfortable and right at home!

tea began with the waitress bringing us a selection of teas on a tray, explaining each one and letting us sniff them all before making our decision on what to get. they serve a selection of wonderfully fragrant “jing” tea there (which i found random packets of in my kitchen at home over summer and proceeded to make earl grey chiffon cake with – it tasted amazing and even better than when made with twinings tea!), and you’re allowed to have as much and as many kinds as you want throughout the afternoon. the selection of teas isn’t oustandingly extensive (i think we had 6 choices if i remember correctly), but is definitely enough to satisfy your tea desires, from black teas to fruit teas!

here’s the menu for afternoon tea:
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the sandwiches and scones were served first, and everything was plated really prettily (as it should be at afternoon tea!):
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these were the sandwiches we had:
20131011_160542though simple, they were a case of classic afternoon tea sandwiches being done really nicely. the proportion of ingredients to bread was just right, and fillings for the sandwiches were fresh and tasty while the bread was nice and soft. fortunately, they didn’t really fill me up as much as i had expected – they remained light despite all that butter, cream cheese and mayo in them – , because more good things were to come! 😉

next, on to the quintessential part of afternoon tea – freshly-baked scones with clotted cream and jam!20131011_160551i love scones. and when they are really good ones which are freshly toasted and warm, that’s just icing on the cake (what an apt expression to use :P)! the clotted cream was good stuff – thick, smooth and not too sweet, while the homemade jam was very nice too, with whole bits of strawberries! we had a raisin scone and a plain scone each, both of which were delicious – they had risen very nicely and the slight crunch on the outside (which i love) gave way to a perfect airy, soft and moist inside. such a plain-looking thing in comparison to the other fancy tea-time offerings, but so yummy.

and finally for the sweet end to the tea, we got to choose cakes and pastries from a wide range on display which was rather exciting:
20131011_165702they had macaroons, tarts, cakes and biscuits – more than enough to keep that sweet tooth in you happy and satisfied!

our selections were later served to our table:2013-10-11-18-14-25_decowe were actually pretty full by the time we moved on to dessert, but still soldiered on anyway because they all looked too good to resist!

my favourites were the carrot cake and the dark chocolate + caramel tart!20131011_171146
the carrot cake was really dense, moist and had a good amount of nuts, raisins and carrot strips in it. the icing on top was also very light, nice and not overly sweet at all – it went super well with the cinnamon-y cake. yummm.

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(sorry for all these pictures of half-eaten food; we were clearly too excited to tuck in)

my other favourite was the dark chocolate & caramel tart (seen at the front of this picture) – the dark chocolate was so amazingly rich and lovely and the caramel and hint of sea salt prevented it from becoming overly chocolate-y. the tart base was nice and crisp and wasn’t too thick!

the macaroons however, were quite a let-down – they were quite dry and didn’t quite crumble in the way i like them to; we didn’t touch any of the other 3 after having the first one :/ they weren’t exceedingly terrible, but we’ve certainly had better and wanted to save our stomach space for the other treats! (pierre herme macaroons forever!!!)

we also tried a slice of the traditional victoria sponge cake!
20131011_171630the sponge was nice, airy and fluffy while the cream was super fresh and light! we did find the jam a tad too sweet, but all was good otherwise. i wouldn’t exactly rave or shout about this cake, but it was definitely another simple classic done well!

all in all, we had a great experience at the marylebone hotel at a truly unbeatable price. good conversation with a great friend was made even better with such nice surroundings and yummy food, and at no point in time did we feel obliged to leave (in fact they kept asking us if we wanted fresh pots of tea) at all – we sat there from 330pm to close to 7pm without realising how much time had passed! will definitely be booking this offer again if its still available the next time i’m looking to pamper myself by indulging in some traditional british luxury 😉

The Marylebone Hotel

47 Welbeck St
London W1G 8DN

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Tsujiri Tea House, Singapore

just a quick post to share another exciting green tea find i stumbled upon last weekend – Tsujiri Tea House, yet another place to get a matcha fix on our sunny island!

occupying a small shop space on the first floor of 100AM mall (never knew this place existed) in tanjong pagar (had some problems finding this rather nondescript mall but do persevere if you face the same problem; tsujiri will make it worth the search!!! heehee), Tsujiri is a 150-year-old tea house originating from kyoto that serves a range of yummy matcha drinks and desserts.20130810_194024

here’s the menu:20130810_193602its a simple shop with a small seating area, but the matcha goodies they serve are really rather yummy. having just come from a really filling dinner in the vicinity, myfamily and i only had enough stomach space to order one drink and one dessert to share:20130810_194145shiratama parfait (o-maccha) – $7.80 / o-maccha latte – $5.2

i would say they were definitely some of the best green tea goodies i’ve had in singapore. we could really taste the quality of the green tea powder used, and though slightly pricey for the serving size, i thought it was worth every penny!

the o-maccha latte had a distinct but very natural green tea flavour. it was fragrant and light – a really nice way to wash down dinner!

as for the shiratama parfait, i initially thought it was a little expensive for the serving size but once i took a bite of it, i decided that it was definitely worth its price!!! 😉 unlike the parfait at Nana’s Green Tea, this one does not have any vanilla ice cream/whipped cream/corn flakes, just green tea soft serve ice cream, mochis with crushed peanuts, red bean, and jelly. the green tea soft serve ice cream is quite possibly the BEST green tea soft serve ice cream i’ve had in singapore. it is unbelievably smooth, thick and creamy, and is the green tea flavour is just amazinggg. the next time i’m here i’m definitely going to get just the green tea soft serve ice cream in a cone, on top of whatever else i’m having 😛 it really is very very good; its been a week and i still remember just how impressed i was by it!!! the mochis were nice and so was the jelly; even the non-maccha lovers in the group (how is that even possible i do not understand…) thought it was good! though since they’re not huge fans of maccha, they also said they probably wouldn’t fork out that sum just for a not-particularly-large dessert, but i feel that the ingredients they use are of a good quality that warrants the pricing.

i was so sad when i finished the last bit of the parfait (even though i was super duper full; definitely a sign of good stuff) and promptly decided that i really needed to go back when my stomach wasn’t already 99% stuffed, so that i could try more of what they have to offer!!!20130810_193856

Tsujiri Tea House

100AM Mall
100 Tras Street, #01-14
Singapore 079027

Platypus Kitchen, Singapore

previously catering to mainly the working crowd at their first branch in the heart of the cbd at clifford centre, Platypus Kitchen is now catering to a more diverse clientele at 2 other locations – bugis junction and bukit timah plaza.

i first heard about it when i was interning at raffles place last year but unfortunately never got the chance to try it during my short working stint. so i was really excited to hear about their new branches that are a lot more accessible to people who don’t fancy heading into the business district to jostle with the working crowd!

occupying a spacious area on the third floor of bugis junction, Platypus Kitchen prides itself on offering not only the widest selection of handmade pastas in singapore, but also as mediterannean bistro serving quality food at affordable prices. i paid the bugis junction outlet a visit last tuesday night, and thought they did pretty well at living up to the reputation they have created for themselves!20130806_200241
platypus kitchen at bugis junction

it was definitely affordable, with a set menu (for both lunch & dinner!) starting from $16.90 that included a choice of starter (pumpkin soup, mushroom soup or salad), a pasta (an additional $1-$2+ was added for certain more “gourmet” pastas) and a drink (a whole range of exciting-sounding but not so exciting-tasting options):20130806_185750

the selection available in the set menu was surprisingly extensive and gave indecisive me quite a headache deciding what to get – everything looked/sounded so good! luckily we had decided that the set menu was too good to pass on, so that limited our choices to the (not so) few you see above; the main menu takes being spoilt for choice to a whole new level and is a real nightmare for the indecisive like me, though i suppose that is a happy problem? and a very good way of getting people to keep returning to try more of what they have to offer!

20130806_185850 happy val with the a-la-carte menu

we both chose the wild mushroom soup as a starter which i felt was passable but certainly nothing to shout about. it had bits of mushroom in it that added a slight chunkiness which i like, but i thought the soup could definitely have been thicker and creamier. it seemed slightly watered-down (probably ladled out from a giant ready-made pot), and definitely could do with a bit more of a really fragrant portobello mushroom type of kick! but that said, maybe that’s too much to expect from a mushroom soup that comes as part of a set menu or otherwise at a very reasonable price of $3.90 a bowl.20130806_190500
mushroom soup and lychee peach tea

the drinks on the other hand, were really rather terrible. my lychee peach tea tasted nothing even remotely like lychee or peach! if not for the fact that there was a lone lychee bobbing around in the drink, i would have thought they’d sent the wrong drink. my friend’s mango peach tea was just slightly better, but both were as diluted as each other and just tasted like iced tea without the sugar syrup. a big disappointment, especially when i got excited by the range of interesting flavoured teas they had that came with the set menu.

for our pastas, we ordered 2 of their most popular pastas – a truffle carbonara tagliatelle and a black & white scallop & crab. both were good, but the black & white was the one that really stood out for us!!! (note 3 !s to denote excitement and sheer delight :P)

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black & white, scallop & crab $17.50 / an additional $2.40 with the set menu

the black & white is something i will definitely go back to Platypus Kitchen for – a mixture of egg and squid-ink tagliolini with crab and scallops in a white wine consomme. i loved the mixture of noodle types, the white wine consomme which had a tinge of zestiness in it, and the generous servings of crabmeat and scallops. the ingredients were fresh and the consomme was light, its very subtle sourness giving the sauce a really refreshing lift. i absolutely loved this dish!

as for the truffle carbonara, i normally avoid creamy pastas like the plague (the closest thing i’ll have to anything creamy is a pink sauce) but decided to give this a shot since it is one of the most popular dishes on the menu. plus it had truffle (my fave) which totally egged me on in my foray into the land of creamy sauces.20130806_191230truffle carbonara tagliatelle $16.50 / an additional $1.90 with the set menu

the carbonara was much lighter than other carbonaras i’ve had (that have managed to leave me unable to finish the dish halfway through it – an extremely rare occurrence, i assure you); you can probably see that from the picture above! it wasn’t just the fact that the amount of sauce that the pasta was tossed in was less than normal, it was also the fact that the sauce itself (an egg yolk-based sauce, apparently) was quite light. i think the taste of truffle (that was rather strong) definitely helped to distract me from the usual creaminess in carbonaras that can sometimes be overpowering. i also really enjoyed the mushroom slices, cheese and double-smoked bacon that topped the pasta pile. it was definitely one of the better renditions of carbonara that i’ve tried, but i still preferred the black & white since it was something more unusual.

although we were super satisfied and rather full after our pastas, we couldn’t resist dessert, of which they have a sizeable number of options! we ordered a sea salt caramel to share and were pleasantly surprised by the portion which was quite generous for its price, quite unusual at such cafes that can typically serve desserts in rather meagre portions!20130806_201447sea salt caramel $6.90

the most interesting/amusing part of the dessert was the popping candy that topped it. we only realised it was popping candy after we each took our first bites and started hearing loud crackling sounds emerging from the depths of our mouths – definitely awkward first date food… or on the other end of the spectrum, a (quite literally) sizzlin’ one? hahahahaha! popping candy aside, the dessert wasn’t fantastic but it was a decent end to a good meal. there wasn’t a very strong sea salt caramel flavour at all – it seemed to have been lost in the chocolate sauce and peanuts that were rather distinct flavours in this seemingly confused cake. that said, it still succeeded in satisfying our craving for a sweet end to the meal.

Platypus Kitchen is definitely a great place to go if you are looking for affordable gourmet pastas with quality ingredients. i’m already looking forward to the next time i get to return to try more of their exciting offerings!

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Platypus Kitchen

200 Victoria Street, Bugis Junction
#03-29/29A20130806_211309

Oriole Cafe & Bar, Singapore

had been hearing pretty positive things about this place since it started gaining popularity in recent years but never got the chance to try it, so i was more than happy to have lunch here when my friend suggested it.

oriole cafe is a nice spot to rest your tired legs after indulging in retail therapy along orchard road. its at somerset, so if you start your shopping at far east plaza and make your way up along orchard road, i think somerset is around the point where a good cup of coffee or waffles for tea will be a welcome break!

we went on a wednesday afternoon and it was easy to get a table. the restaurant is rather spacious and i felt that the tables were nicely spaced out so its a really nice and comfortable setting for lengthy conversations over a meal. the huge glass panels and high ceilings also add to the relaxed vibe of the place!

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they serve breakfast till 5pm daily, but we decided to go for the lunch menu as there wasn’t anything that seemed out of the ordinary among their breakfast offerings – they have standard brunch fare like eggs benny, french toast etc. we weren’t particularly ravenous (i had a breakfast feast at tiong bahru market that morning hahaha) so we settled on the spicy calamari and the beef cheek tagliatelle to share! here is nikki looking excited that the food has arrived heh:20130710_131935

spicy calamari: it was recommended by the waiter as one of their most popular starters. the chilli was very much like belachan and i thought it added a nice twist to regular calamari, with its spiciness and tinge of sourness. the batter of the calamari was very well done – it was light, crispy, and neither too oily nor thick. we could tell that the oil used was fresh and i loved the fact that it was delightfully fluffy which gave it a really nice bite. i think i would have been happy eating just the batter without the squid within (though the squid within was nice and fresh too)! i would have preferred thicker and crunchier squid slices though, so that the taste of the squid didn’t get lost in the batter.
not sure if it shows in the picture but the serving was big! there were probably 15-20 calamari rings there and given that they were rather big pieces individually, its a wonder we didn’t start sprouting tentacles after eating it all hahaha.

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spicy calamari, $15

as for the beef cheek tagliatelle: we enjoyed this very much! the beef cheek pieces were very nicely braised in red wine (according to the menu, though i didn’t taste a hint of it!), making them deliciously tender. the mushrooms were also very yummy, and the tagliatelle had a nice bite to it (it was very much like western mee pok). nikki and i agreed that we’d gladly come back to have this tagliatelle again!
the serving was very generous once again; we shared this and were both very satisfied when we were finished with it. needless to say, the sauce in this dish is heavier than tomato-based sauce for example, and so given its consistency, i think i might have found it hard to finish if i had ordered this alone. its quite a thick stew-like sauce, but i didn’t find it overly heavy – i’d take this over a creamy carbonara-type sauce any day!

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beef cheek tagliatelle, $22

oriole cafe and bar is well-known for its coffees but since we didn’t order any with our meal we decided to go with a coffee-based dessert! and luckily we did, because the honey crumble affogato (vanilla ice cream, espresso and crunchy honeycomb bits) was  really really good. the giant scoop of vanilla ice cream was thick and creamy, the espresso was very good and everything came together to give us a very enjoyable end to our meal! i can imagine myself coming back to oriole to have this as a mid-afternoon snack/break from shopping 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhoney crumble affogato, $9.50

i hadn’t seen this girl in the flesh for 9 months and so you can imagine how much we had to catch up on… we spent a good 3.5 hours at oriole and never felt like we were overstaying our welcome at any point in time. the staff were polite and friendly and i think if we had continued sitting there for another hour, they wouldn’t have minded at all! given the size of the portions, i feel the food is reasonably priced, and definitely above average as far as cafe/bistro-style food goes. a good place for all-day dining options!20130710153040919reunited in completely unintentionally & unplanned colour-coordinated outfits heehee. still telepathic even after 9 months apart 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOriole Cafe & Bar

#01-01, Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
96 Somerset Road
Singapore 238163

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