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Archive for the ‘European’ Category

About a month ago, shortly after our return from Yangon, I voiced out to Flo that I felt like travelling again, only this time, on my own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling with Flo. I LOVE travelling with Flo. It’s just that I’ve always wondered whether I’d be able to hack it on my own out in a country that isn’t home to me. And turning 30(!) later this month, I figured now would be a good time, like crossing of a ‘Things To Do Before I Turn 30’ list just that I don’t actually have a list but still. And to be honest, I don’t think I was 100% certain of daring to go away alone. It was simply a desire that I’d had for a few years now and never had to guts to act on.

Flo was so encouraging – I swear, he’s just the best guy ever in supporting my decisions whatever they may be! So two days after that conversation, I sat in front of the computer and booked two Two-Michelin Starred Restaurants and one Cafe I wanted to dine at. Yeah, I booked places to eat before I even booked anything else because I figured that if I backed out, cancelling my reservations way in advance wouldn’t be too big a problem – this was a month before the dates I planned to travel.

Flo came home that evening and I told him what I did. He then egged me on to book my flights and accommodation while he went for his run. Without trying to overthink things, that’s exactly what I did. It felt so surreal and in the days leading up to my departure, I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. In fact, a small part of me was wondering if perhaps I didn’t want to go.

But I did.

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4am. 29th Jul 2017. Saturday.

I woke up, and got myself ready to leave promptly at 4.30am for my flight which was supposed to depart at 6.05am. I reached the airport only to find that my flight had been rescheduled to 7.35am instead because apparently, Scoot and Tigerair have merged and so, I believe they put two flights together onto one of their big 787 planes. I was bummed because it meant that I would likely be late for my 12.45pm reservation for Grassroots Pantry, so I quickly shot them an email informing them of my delay and did some research on how to go there from Hong Kong Airport.

Now, let me tell you that I think I actually have a slight fear of flying. I’m all ladidah when the plane’s gliding across the skies but the minute there’s a bump, I’ll be hanging onto the armrests for dear life, with my feet against the legs of the chair in front in a bid to feel some form of stability.

Of course, I had to be flying alone when we hit bad turbulence in the second half of our flight. I mean bad like shaking, rumbling and dipping kind of bad.
So bad that I flung my arm up the first time and scared the lady next to me.
So bad I yelped the next time the plane dipped, screwed my eyes closed and tried to breathe while my heart palpitated as though I’d overdosed on caffeine.
So bad that the guy across the aisle patted my left hand gripping the arm rest to give me some reassurance.
I swear I actually thought at one point that… y’know… the plane might not make it. Then it was over and I thanked God, praying that the rest of the trip would go smoothly. And it kind of did. Just a little shock towards the end while landing. Never felt so glad to be back on solid ground apart from the fact that I knew I’d be back up in the air just over 48 hours later. Boo!

So from the airport, I topped up the Octopus Card Flo had passed to me from his last visit to Hong Kong and got onto the Airport Express which took me to Hong Kong Station within 24min. There, I hopped onto a shuttle bus taking me to the Sheung Wan area where I got off at the Holiday Inn Express Soho stop which was supposedly the closest stop to Grassroots Pantry according to my research.

It would have been very close but me being me, I took plenty of wrong turns, asked a couple of people along the way, kind of followed their directions while wondering why GoogleMaps was pointing me in all sorts of directions. And finally, FINALLY!, after a good 20min of walking under the blazing midday sun and crazy high humidity (and we all thought Singapore was bad), I found it!

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I went in, luggage and all, sweat and all, only to find that it was a full house and my reservation wasn’t held. They were sweet enough to inform me that a table was clearing and placed me at the bar counter to browse through their Spring/Summer Menu. In the end, I decided to place my order and let them utilise the table for two since I was perfectly happy at the counter.

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On my plate: Spring Chard RollsHeirloom Carrot, Zucchini Spirals, Pickled Chard Stems, Cashew Lime Mayo. Avocado, Tamarind Dressing which they placed on the side, and Walnut Parmesan.

To drink: Jamu!Raspberry Leaf, Nettles, Linden Flower, Cinnamon, Stevia.

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I loved the drink although it was a little on the small side so I had to act all sophisticated gently sipping away while gulping down water on the side so that the Jamu! would last longer.

The Chard Rolls were refreshing in that they were filled with a lot of veggie flavours and textures. It was interesting how they used cashews to create a kind of cream although I hesitate to call it mayo. Still, I definitely preferred this form of ‘mayo’ to traditional gooey, overly creamy, cloying mayo.

I was telling Flo upon my return that they took away my fork and knife, leaving me with a pair of chopsticks to eat this with. I tried to be as dainty as possible, nibbling away at the rolls, also in part to make lunch last longer after taking ages to find it. Alas! My efforts were futile when a thick vein in my first roll refused to give in to my vigour of a bite, eventually leaving me with no option but to use my fingers to assist me in making a clean tear away. Talk about ladylike! 

Although I quite enjoyed the overall ambiance and food at Grassroots Pantry, it’s not exactly cheap. In total, I spent HKD165 on my lunch, one that I know probably won’t fill the stomachs of bigger eaters.

After cooling down and fuelling up, I found my way back to Sheung Wan Station which took all of 7 minutes. Then I went upwards towards Tsim Sha Tsui where my hotel was located.

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The above stall was just at the corner of the street to my hotel. It’s so typical of Hong Kong in that they serve sticks of fish balls all cooked in different broths ranging in spiciness. I think they have other things too like pig’s head meat, beef balls, and some other stuff I can’t really read.

Anyway, I got myself checked into GD Hotel which wasn’t anything fancy. It was a little old in interior but very clean and nice enough to go back to for sleeps and a hot shower. I chilled there a short while and freshened up before deciding to pop by a nearby mall, K11.

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I was actually looking for either a nice pair of shoes to go with a dress I bought for my fancy schmancy lunch the next day, or get a smart casual dress to go with shoes I already had. Turns out, K11 is quite fancy schmancy itself with lots of shops housing up and coming designers so their clothes were a little out-there for me and even if they suited my taste, they were sold in the range of HKD1000-2000 which was quuuiiiite a bit out of my budget.

Seriously though, one of my favourite favourite things to do when I visit a new country is to prowl through their supermarkets. I love looking at the kinds of goods and products they sell.

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I would have definitely picked up some things from here but the queues were outrageously long!! So I scrapped the idea and hopped on.

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And yes, I did find a pair of shoes I liked in the end – More expensive than I would usually pay but I guess it’s ok to treat myself to a pair of comfy, pretty shoes once in a while.

New shoes in hand, I headed back towards Central where I wanted to pick up some dinner…

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People attached to their phones. Kind of like back home. 

The Sheung Wan/Central area make up Soho in Hong Kong. Wellington Street is just a 2min walk from Central Station Exit D2 and that’s where famous restaurants such as Yak Lok and Mak’s Noodles are housed. There are a lot of coffee and brunch cafes, as well as international casual bistros around the area too so choices for where to eat is far from lacking in this area.

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I decided to make it Vegan Day even though I’m not vegan. It’s just nice to have a day where you go meat-free sometimes. It makes me feel good, especially my digestive system. Haha. And it kind of feels as though I’ve giving my body a break from all the meat.

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So Mana! Fast Slow Food it was.

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I opted for a Takeaway Salad Box consisting of Kale, Roasted Vegetables, Spinach, Pumpkin and Halloumi, with the addition of Portobello Mushrooms because MUSHROOMS!

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For HKD93, it wasn’t super cheap but it was a very hefty, generously filled box of wholesome goodness. I was slightly upset that there wasn’t as much pumpkin as I would have liked, and I only found one small cube of halloumi.

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Still, all the lovely, roasted eggplant, zucchini and juicy mushrooms, along with the textured kale that had been tossed in some kind of cashew parmesan (?) ALL went into my tummy ensuring that I got myself a nice, round, food baby to go to sleep with.

Yup! So this sums up my first day in Hong Kong venturing out and about all by my lonesome. I was so tired out by my early start that I fell asleep very soon after my head hit the pillow.

I’ll share with you more about my second and third day in Hong Kong in my next couple of posts. See you in a bit! X

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#throwback to last weekend.

I had my fill of poke!

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Prior to this bowl from Aloha Poke at City Link Mall, I’d only had it once before at Alter Ego. And before that I made my own although my flavours skewed more towards Japanese rather than Hawaiian. Anyway, I found myself hankering after a bowl and this certainly hit the spot.

As requested by Flo, I did go for a base of brown rice (I ED would have definitely gone for salad greens) for my Lil Swell, which they topped with lots of greens and complimentary chunks of sweet pineapple as well as finely chopped chives. I opted for jalapeños cos a girl’s gotta have some fireeeee, cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds for my superfood topping. The best part of course, was my 75g of beautifully marinated original Salmon Poke.

It was $12.90 for this so… maybe just once in a while although I have big plans to replicate this at home. This time with a more tropical theme.

With my 3rd Aunt still in town since we had the memorial Thursday before for Aunty Judy, we met up with a few other uncles and aunties for lunch at this Vegetarian restaurant called Elemen.

I’d heard rave reviews about it but I know my man needs his meat. Also, after our disappointing experience at Green Dot, we weren’t sure how Elemen would fare. But guess what? It was pretty bloody awesome!

For starters, Mum and I shared this Double-boiled Burdock Root Soup with Monk Fruit. It was delicate and light on the palate, but still so comforting. I’ve been deprived of hot, steaming herbal soups so this tasted especially good!

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We also ordered this Spicy Shiitake with Purple Rice Roll which we happily shared with the rest of our table before ordering yet another.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the crunch of fresh cucumbers and carrots, and the crispiness of tempura within the vinegar-ed purple rice which had more bite than regular sushi rice, and carried a pleasant nuttiness to it. Each piece was topped with chopped shiitake mushrooms marinated in a teriyaki-esque sauce, almost mimicking unagi. Sadly, we couldn’t taste much of the spiciness which we expected from its name. More chilli please!!! 

We also had a couple of other appetisers to share: The Mushroom Salad, and the Watermelon Feta Salad.

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Both were dainty in presentation and while I enjoyed the mushroom salad (I love mushrooms!!), Flo didn’t take to it being served cold. That was quite unexpected I have to admit but served hot or cold, they’re still mushrooms so you can see just how much my love for mushrooms extends to.

The watermelon and feta salad was refreshing and light. I especially liked the watermelon eaten with some fresh mint. The food here in general are a bit on the pricey side so a more generous sprinkle of feta would have been very much welcomed.

Dad zeroed in on the Milano Pizza which ended up being the crowd’s favourite.

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Wafer-thin, crispy base topped with monkeyhead mushroom, sliced red radish, baby cress and of course, cheeeeeese!

Flo had the Edamame Tofu with Black Truffle Wild Rice.

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I managed to try some of his tofu and rice. The rice was lovely – chewy and nutty and still moist. I shall look to make some once I get my hands on wild rice. The tofu was yielding, so smooth and silky, tasty even without the luscious savoury sauce on top. Having it together simply gave it an extra oomph.

I think the entire family enjoyed lunch at Elemen. I especially liked that they highlighted the beauty and versatility of vegetables in all their dishes, using them in various way to create a myriad of textures and flavours. None of that mock meat/konnyaku seafood jibber-jabber that I deplore.

We had a great time surrounded by family and listening to stories from way back in the day. We reminisced about Aunty Judy, and we laughed about the silly antics Ah Gong (my paternal grandpa) used to get up to while driving everybody up the wall. I’m glad Flo was there with me, getting to know my 3rd Aunt, whom I am very close to, a bit better, as well as some of my other uncles. I know that they also appreciated his company very much.

And because…

I cannot leave this post without sharing about some of my kitchen antics, this is what I whipped up for last Monday’s dinner for Flo. He requested Prawns for protein and while I seriously considered making prawn ceviche, I decided I would stick to the traditional fish ceviche and save it to make for another day.

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Instead, I baked up some uber-sweet Japanese Beni Haruka Sweet Potatoes, and made Cauliflower-Rice stuffed Red Peppers. I quickly stir-fried the ‘rice’ with some finely chopped haricot beans, king oyster mushrooms, and onions, splashed in a bit of fish sauce and soy – should have added some oyster sauce but I didn’t have any, and seasoned it with some sea salt and black pepper. I didn’t want to overcook the ‘rice’ so I roasted the red pepper halves in the oven beforehand, then filled them after.

For the prawns, I used a simple Gochujang Marinade:
1 Tbs Gochujang
3/4 Tbs Soy Sauce
1/2 Tbs Minced Garlic
1/2 Tbs Minced Ginger
1/4 Tbs Sesame Oil

  1. Mix everything together. Massage prawns gently into the mix and let sit together at least 10-15min. 
  2. Heat pan and sear away!

You can also use this versatile recipe for any other meats although you should probably marinate them for longer in the fridge, about 2 hours or more. You can even use this for vegetables!

Oh funny story before I sign off. After Sunday’s veggie-filled lunch, Mum and Dad headed off to church before coming over to have dinner with Flo and I. Mum had been having a craving for Vietnamese and wanted to go back to Long Phung. Due to the lack of animal meat in their bodies, the two men made sure to have their fill at dinner, Dad especially. Flo had a bowl of Chicken Pho and Dad, Vietnamese Beef Stew with Rice. Then they both shared a plate of Rare Beef cooked in Lemon Juice that Flo loves but haven’t been able to have for quite a while now.

So right at the end, Mum saw that Dad had left a single chunk of tender beef sitting in its bowl while he focused on eating the rare sliced beef, and asked whether he was going to finish it. Before he could answer, I quipped “Of course! He just likes it so much he’s saving it for last! Riiiiiiight?”. To which Dad smiled until his eyes turned into two horizontal lines, gleefully nodding his head in agreement. I know. Because I’m my father’s daughter and can totally read his mind. And because that’s exactly what I do too!

Are you a ‘Save the Best for Last’ kind of person or ‘Have the Best First’ kind of person? Let me know!! I used to think that EVERYONE should save the best for last but I know a few people who like to have the best first so it’d be interesting to know which train of thought you subscribe to. Don’t be shy!!! =P

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The way the Chinese know how to show love best is through food. Go to any Chinese grandma and know that when she piles your plate up with food she has put a lot of time and care into preparing, it’s because she loves you. When a Chinese grandpa stands by the fruit section tapping on watermelons and sniffing the ‘butts’ of mangoes, it’s because he wants to bring home the sweetest fruits for his nearest and dearest.

Chinese people aren’t big on affection, especially those born and bred in Asia. Ask them to say “I love you” and you might as well be asking them to pull their tooth out without anaesthetic. My family is a little bit of an anomaly in that we do give hugs and say I love you to each other. Even so, we still enjoy using food to convey just how much we love each other.

And so, after the wonderful weekend to Yangon that Flo treated me to, I couldn’t help but want to say thank you in a way that spoke louder than words. I was quite torn as to where I wanted to take him to for a nice meal and spent quite a lot of time reading up to find the right place.

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After going through countless top, fine-dining restaurants in Singapore, I suddenly recalled that while we were in London, Flo expressed that he would have liked to try a good ol’ Sunday Roast – at a good ol’ English pub. Unfortunately, not being able to spend a Sunday there meant that we had to give the Sunday Roast a miss.

I scoured the internet for a venue in Singapore that serves a mean roast. There weren’t many to be honest and the one gastropub I had my eye on initially I found to have a trail of bad reviews quite recently which turned me off. I happened to be flicking through Instagram one day though and came across Lawry’s the Prime Rib. I always thought of Lawry’s as more a steak place but further reading informed me that they specialised in the art of roasting aged USDA prime ribs of beef. And to go alongside, were the usual suspects that formed what the English would call, a Sunday Roast – yorkshire pudding, peas, creamed spinach, corn, and lashings of gravy.

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But first, we were treated to their famous spinning bowl salad. A blend of romaine lettuce, julienned beetroot, chopped eggs and croutons were tossed in a metal bowl that spun as it sat on a bed of ice. As the bowl spinned, the server added Lawry’s vintage dressing into the greens and gave everything a good mix before portioning them out and adding exactly two cherry tomatoes on top!

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When you have a spinning bowl like that, you’re bound to have a well tossed salad!

After a short wait, the chef rolled out this large silver cart where the meats all sat warm and snug. To the right of the meats were small pots containing creamed corn, buttered peas, and creamed spinach, and to the left were the mashed potatoes and gravy.

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Flo requested for his Californian cut (160g) of prime rib to be medium rare, upon which the chef picked out the medium rare slab, and carved the beef right by our table.

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Not more than 3 minutes later was Flo’s Yorkshire Pudding served sizzling hot to our table.

As for me, I couldn’t help but treat myself to the main of Atlantic Lobster Duo. Two broiled lobster tails were served with sautéed vegetables and drawn butter. Not too sure what the thick, yellow sauce was. Usually this is also served with a side of mash but I asked for more vegetables instead.

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The lobster tails were sweet and very fresh. The wedge of lemon was more than enough to season it with and perk up its natural oceanic flavour.

It was nice being able to treat Flo to a good meal, especially one that he has been curious to try for a while now. I’m also glad that I picked Lawry’s to go to because the service was attentive and warm, and the food was heartfelt and homely.

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Part of Lawry’s charm is in the little glimpses of theatrics that they put into their service although the performances of spinning salad bowls, flambé-ing crêpe suzettes and serving food table side may not appeal to some. It’s a bit like being transported back into the 1970’s. I think this gives Lawry’s more character and sets it apart from restaurants we find these days.

While the food at Lawry’s doesn’t come cheap, I quite enjoyed its quirkiness and they definitely do make a mean prime rib – I tried some of Flo’s beef and it was so tender and succulent. More than that, I relished the time I spent with Flo and seeing the contented look on his face after our meal made it all the more worthwhile!

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Friday was our last full day in London. The few days we had there just whizzed by too quickly and the evening before, I was lamenting about how sad I was the be leaving Europe this time around. Usually I’m ever the eager beaver to return back to the warmth of Singapore, but I guess the weather had treated me so well that it made me fall that little bit in love with Europe – especially Hamburg. And already I can’t wait to return again to that side of the world next year, hopefully to Italy or Switzerland or another city in Germany.

Friday morning Flo and I made our way back into London but more to the CBD where we met Leena during her lunch hour. It was really sweet of her to sacrifice her precious hour off work just to see us.

We met at To A Tea near Farringdon station, which is this cute little bistro that specialises in teas and they also do healthy lunches – think full salads with lean proteins or veggie options.

I chose a Flowering Tea just because it looked so pretty in the picture. A glass of hot water came and I was like “Whuuuuut?!” before the server dropped a blob of something into it. It took about a minute to slowly unfurl and open up.


Green Tea with Lily and Osmanthus.

Definitely rather girly to look at and perfect for Instagramming. The tea carried a lovely aroma of osmanthus but towards the bottom, it got quite bitter, naturally, as the tea has steeped quite a while by then so it was a little difficult to drink.

It was great catching up with Leena and learning about how the year ahead is going to be quite an exciting one for her, and especially Brian who’s taken over his parents’ restaurant down in Southampton. Lots of things are starting to come together but at the same time, there’re lots of issues to iron out. I hope that all goes well for them!

After tea, Flo and I walked along the River Thames to get to Borough Market.

I love love love Borough Market! Yes yes, it’s full of tourists and food prices aren’t exceptionally cheap but the buzz in the air as you walk through the market is amazing. The delicious smells of food sizzling on the grill, the wide array of pastries, the sweet scent of fresh bread. It’s a feast for the senses!

First thing Flo and I had was an oyster each from this man here.

£2.50 per oyster, with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of tabasco, downed in a mere 2.5 seconds. Faster than that in fact!

There were two girls next to us who appeared never to have seen or eaten oysters before and were both keen yet hesitant to try them. After Flo and I had swallowed our delightfully fresh oysters that tasted of the sea, they asked if they were good. I said that they were and Mr. Oyster Man complained that I wasn’t loud enough for him to hear. So I sportingly exclaimed that they were AWESOME!

Paella…

Which we skipped. 

Now Flo and I enjoy good food but we’re not the types to go around and stuff our faces with every appetising thing in sight. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that we both realise that sometimes overeating not only makes you feel sick, it also taints your memory of the food and the place. Instead, we tend to zero in on something we think we’d like and savour it. If we are still hungry after, we might get a small snack or dessert. And the next time we return, we can always try something else. In this case, it might be a while but still…

I more or less zeroed in on Big V.

They specialise in vegan burgers and I opted for the Salad Box that came with two salads and a choice of burger patty. I chose the Spicy Chickpea Sweet Potato Patty. Cost me £7. And it was quite a hefty box which left me very full after.

I loved the Spinach and Broccoli Salad but the Shredded Beetroot Carrot Salad that’s hidden below was a bit too dry and rabbit-food like. Then again, I tend to prefer my veggies on the softer side so yeah… I’m like an old woman in that respect.

I had the salads drizzled with Ume Dressing and they also scooped a generous amount of Beetroot Hummus and Tahini dressing on top as well. Those last two were really yummy. I added Sriracha for the extra kick on my burger. I enjoyed the patty so much I actually returned home and made some for myself! In fact, I made two kinds of veggie burgers so stay tuned for those recipes in a few blog posts’ time!

Flo on the other hand, stayed away from the greens since I had enough for the both of us, and went for the good ol’ British Classic – Fish&Chips from Fish!.

It was ironic because Flo was always drawing flak about how England’s doesn’t have much good food to speak of, and that Fish & Chips are often drowned in oil so why would anyone want to eat them?! I only found out the day that we were at Borough Market that he’d never actually had proper fish and chips before! Tsk! Anyway, he finally decided to give it a go to see if there was some redemption in the English food scene to be found.

And it looks like Fish!, with their £9.95 Cod Fish and Chips managed to impress him after all!

The batter of the piping hot fresh, flakey fish was thin and crisp, while the chips were fat and so very lightly salted. Great with the ketchup although salt and vinegar would have been the more traditional way to go.

Flo said that he was very pleasantly surprised that the fish was fried well and not at all oily. Same with the chips. I’m glad he enjoyed this typical English pub grub especially since this is something the English have definitely got a deft hand in cooking this speciality of theirs. It’s not easy to find Fish & Chips of that same standard in Singapore so having it in London was definitely the right choice.

Happy bellies! We did take a lot of pictures of the food and the food with ourselves. Funny because I think it was in my last post that I was laughing at people taking wefies with the swans at Hyde Park. I guess we all have our little fetishes. Flo’s, and mine, just happens to be food.

So after we filled our bellies, we walked a little more around Borough Market, soaking in the gorgeous sights of beautifully made pastries and desserts.

Giant cookies, German cakes, Dessert slices…

Tarts, Sliced cakes, Chocolate fondants…

Fudge! I’m not really a fudge fan but they’re really popular in the UK.

We skipped the cheeses and breads because we knew that we’d be tempted to buy some but there wouldn’t have been much point since we were leaving the next day – me back to Singapore, and Flo to Zurich for a week at head office.

I wanted to take him over to Bermondsey Street to this place called Fuckoffee. It’s this super quirky, hipster, coffee cafe place where the youngsters go to. It’s like an ‘alternative’ cafe that’s a little rough round the edges.

We were a mere few hundred metres off when it began to pour, so Flo and I quickly found shelter at Bermondsey Street Cafe instead which looked a world away from Fuckoffee. It took quite a big space and looked upmarket-industrial. There was a group of hot mamas with their babies there and two Japanese girls who looked to be having a late brunch of delectable looking fluffy pancakes.

Flo had his Cappuccino. I had my Piccolo.

We didn’t make it to Fuckoffee in the end and I think it was kind of a good thing because the more I think about it, the more the place seems a little dank and grungy. That’s just my opinion. 

When the rain finally cleared, the temperature dropped quite a bit and the winds turned a touch icy. Just a touch.

Flo and I continued on towards the Thames…

Where we then wefied with Tower Bridge

And The Shard

Awesome huh? We took pictures with some of the most iconic, world famous buildings in the world!!!

Then we crossed Tower Bridge, which is one of the prettiest bridges ever. I used to think it was the London Bridge just because. But one day, I found out which one was the real London Bridge and felt rather disappointed that it didn’t look as impressive as it sounded. Also, I guess because there was the song about London bridge falling down, I simply assumed it had to be an amazeballs looking bridge.

Flo and I had quite a journey home because we went to Tower Hill station where we had to make a few switches before we got onto the Met line home. Thought we’d be late for family dinner but nope! We had about a good half hour before most of the family started to pile in.

Grandma cooked the perfect amount for 16 of us – there was a bit more food kept aside in the kitchen for the latecomers.

Sambal Squid with Lady’s Fingers, Roast Pork Belly, Curry Prawns, Stir-fried Asparagus with Runner Beans and Pork Ribs. She later took out some of that Spinach Curry from the night before that I love.

T’was a great final dinner in London and it was wonderful being able to catch up with Rachael especially and find out how her wedding plans are coming along. First cousin on Mum’s side to get married!! 

And seeing Suk Gong, as well as Uncle Peter and Aunty Betty. It’s been a while and sometimes, it’s only after not seeing them for a while that I realise just how much they, and my parents too, are getting on. I’m happy though, that they are all blessed with good health and are looking lively and happy.

Saturday morning, I finished packing everything. By packing I actually mean stuffing everything into my check-in bag. I was a little worried that it might burst open while transiting from London to Singapore. Thank God it didn’t.

Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma left quite early to Southampton to catch their two-week cruise around the Baltic. Flo and I managed to say goodbye to them before catching a bit more zees. At 11am, just an hour before their ship was due to depart, Uncle David got a call to say that they’d left their tickets at home! So there was a bit of a panic where Uncle David had to drive fast and furiously to get the tickets to them, while Kor had to dash Sophie to her tuition class in Harrow.

So lunch with Kor at this Japanese place we enjoy was scrapped and Flo and I made a simple lunch at home before Kor dropped us off at the airport.

Flo’s flight to Zurich was at 4.55pm so I managed to send him all the way to his gate before I somehow managed to burn the other 3 hours until my flight was due to leave.

And so, our two week Eurotrip came to a close. Eurotrip isn’t really the right term because we were really only in two places. Hamdon trip? Lonburg? It was a great one though, one that far exceeded my expectations especially spending it with Flo. In fact, I daresay it was my favourite holiday ever. So far. Especially because it was with Flo.

 

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We managed another road trip with my parents on Thursday but this time, we weren’t as ambitious as before. It was a straightforward 40-ish minute drive to Cliveden, an estate now owned by the National Trust.

Cliveden actually means “valley among cliffs” and has been home to dukes, countesses and a Prince of Wales! Amongst others, of course. Its grounds are huge and its gardens are gorgeous. The day we went was another amazingly beautiful day, perfect for all the families who came with their little ones for a picnic and to run around.

The vastness of Cliveden made me wonder just how its past inhabitants used to get around. By horse? Carriage? Walking? And what if they needed to find each other? 

There was also an area where The Dollhouse was situated. They had these little tree stumps together with a big stump that doubled as chairs and a table. Dad got quite excited being able to sit on one of the stumps.

We continued further in to a large fountain also known as The Fountain of Love where the shell supports three females who are being seen to by Cupid. Yes, I actually try to do some kind of research on these things especially for those who are interested.

I’m sure there were a lot more to Cliveden that we missed out on simply because it was so big and we didn’t have enough time to explore every nook and cranny.

From this shell fountain, we walked up the long driveway leading to the mansion that now operates as a 5-star hotel.

We didn’t enter the hotel but we did walk round its terrace which gave us a bird’s eye view of the parterre. At 4 acres, this is possibly one of Europe’s largest formal gardens.

How cool is that?!

After reaching the parterre, we decided to try and loop back to the car as tummies were beginning to growl. We kind of overshot one of the turns but in doing so, we managed to get a nice shot of Flo and I amongst the tall trees with not a person in sight (behind us). We were all wondering actually, why the crowds had thinned out.

Mum, I think, was getting tired, so was a little annoyed that we had to walk the extra way to get onto the right path back to the car where lunch was waiting for us.

Olive Bread with Serrano Ham. 

Hopping back into the car, we continued on in search for what is allegedly the oldest freehouse in England. Mum and Dad were brought there by a good friend of theirs before and it wasn’t far off from Cliveden. Only… it’s located in a rather remote area so finding its exact location required some trial and error, before resorting to some old-fashioned help, before getting confirmation from Googlemaps which decided to come through for us only after we’d already asked for directions.

Rickety, uneven floors and a low ceiling greeted us at their entrance.

And the interior did feel quite dated with all the random paraphernalia seemingly gathered over the years, decades, centuries?

The place did look old, but whether or not its as old as the over 900 years that they claim to be, I’m not so sure.

Age aside, it still looked sturdy as a rock and while the boys had their pints in hand to cool them down in the afternoon sun, Mum and I settled for coffee.

We decided to have our drinks out in the warm sunshine even though the inside looked very cosy and intimate.

We managed to make it home much earlier this time around which was nice. Our day felt quite relaxed and it was great being able to spend more time out in the fresh air. Being home early also meant that dinner was served hot and fresh out of their pots and pans.

Grandma made my favourite Spinach Curry!! And Mum’s favourite Braised Chicken with Lily Bulbs and Shitake Mushrooms.

I know, I keep saying that Grandma made my favourite this and favourite that. That’s because they’re all my favourite and just as the flavour of Mum’s cooking is unique to herself, so is Grandma’s. Replicating the taste of her cooking would be a near impossible feat!

Also, on many previous trips, owing to my ED, I refrained from eating Grandma’s food what with the oil and salt and blah blah blah. I would buy my own food and cook them to my liking. So I think that being back this time around and allowing myself to enjoy grandma’s food also made her so much the happier. And there were times after dinner where I’d feel as though I’d overindulged but at the end of the day, it was a real treat being able to eat her familiar cooking so f*ck ED because it was worth it.

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One of the meals we most anticipated was exactly where every Asian visits whenever they visit London. I’m not kidding. Burger & Lobster probably makes most of its profits off of us because the place is filled with Asian tourists! Not just this one time, but also last year when I went to another of their outlets, and the time before then at another different outlet.

So you know, being Asian, I had to keep up with my flock. And also… LOBSTERRRRR!

Flo wondering if we were actually, really still in London.

While I had to engage in some selfies before the food arrived.

Lobsters in Singapore are not cheap. So when I first went to Burger & Lobster and found that they were selling lobsters along with chips and a side salad for £20, it was like lobster heaven to me!

Somehow, in a span of a year, they’ve rolled out a new menu that’s more expansive than their initial three choices – Lobster, Lobster Roll, and Burger. 

I’m not sure I like their bigger menu. More choices mean more decisions. And I guess Flo and I being at the Harvey Nichols branch meant that they’d kind of omitted some of the smaller sized lobster choices (i.e. cheaper items) so we had to settle for the 1.5lb lobster at £31 each. 

This is how I eat mah lobster!

I love pulling the chunks out of their shell and then, after piling them up, I dig in. The Garlic and Herb Butter that came with it upped the oomph factor and I enjoyed their simple, flavourful salad too.

I’m still a little bitter over the extra £11 we had to spent on the lobsters as compared to before. Gargghhh! I might actually boycott Burger & Lobster next visit to London onwards.

But onto chocolates…

I think this was the part of Harrods Food Hall that captured Flo’s attention the most. We went through the fresh foods section, and the cooked foods section, and the chocolate section, and the patisserie section, then back to the chocolates.

Where Flo suggested we choose a few artisanal chocolates to have for dessert/tea.

From William Curley‘s array of handmade chocolates, we chose two each.

Japanese Black Vinegar and Raspberry & Toscano for Flo. Walnut Feuilletine and Shiso Sudachi for yours truly.

From Harrods, we walked across to Hyde Park to savour our chocolate while bird-watching.

Beautiful skies and my favourite swans! Have you read The Ugly Duckling? Still my favourite story after all these years.

When we entered this area of Hyde Park, Flo and I got quite excited seeing deck chairs parked all along the grass. Until we noticed some men going around collecting money. So we sat ourselves on the grass instead before we spotted an unoccupied bench.

Flo pretty much popped his piece of Japanese Black Vinegar Chocolate into his mouth and declared that it was raspberry. We only figured out later, when he was eating his second piece of chocolate that that was in fact the Raspberry Toscano one.

I had the Walnut Feuilletine Milk Chocolate first but wasn’t really impressed. I expected more crunch and crispness from the nuts and the wafers but it tasted like it may have been out a while so were a little stale.

We spent a while just gazing at the lake and watching people get up close to the swans, ducks and geese to take wefies with them. It was quite entertaining considering that some of them were taking I swear, a few hundred pictures from different angles with the same swan. I laugh, but it’s not like I don’t take wefies or selfies, only usually I take them with people.

Next stop was Attendant at Fitzrovia. It took us a good 40min to walk from Hyde Park but it allowed us to walk through Mayfair and admire the pretty (expensive) shops along their High Street. Also, the old Victorian buildings, many housing embassies, stood proud and tall for us – they had every reason to as well!

It’s a little obscure but if you look out for the fancy black grills, there’s an entrance leading you underground. This used to be an underground public loo that has since been converted, and hopefully sanitised, into the cafe that it now is.

It’s not very big but it was very cosy. At 4.45pm, it was closer to being empty than full. Their menu isn’t exceptionally wide, but they had some baked offerings that looked quite delicious.

And of course, you will notice some of the remnants of the old lavatories, which definitely add character to the place.

I didn’t try but perhaps the hand dryer still works.

There you go! A wefie with the boyfie!

We ordered a cup of coffee each. Cappuccino for him, and a Piccolo for me.

With a side of Shiso and Sudachi Dark Chocolate. I had to check up what a ‘sudachi’ is and it looks very much like our Calamansi, which is essentially like a small lime with a lot more zing.

The Shiso was a little muted but I could definitely taste the refreshing tartness of the citrus fruit. It was good against the slightly bitter chocolate but I would have liked the shiso to have been a bit stronger.

And the Piccolo was nice as well with the chocolate. Again, I’m really no coffee expert so as long as I can down it, it’s good coffee to me!

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Our first morning in London – Northwood to be exact, the town where my family resides when we’re there. It was a soggy day, quite typical of the UK, and it was a bit of a bummer because I felt like Hamburg had totally impressed me with its weather and while I was hoping that London would do the same, it felt like a lame effort on her part.

I guess London being London, it just had to keep to its ‘usual’ default, predictable self. And that, I suppose, can be quite endearing.

After a nice breakfast at home, Flo and I went for a walk around the area. I just showed him our small little high street, and Waitrose – because we love supermarkets!! And just around the corner, was my old school where I did my A level’s.

Northwood College. 

The sign’s been changed and looks rather stiff and boring now. I mean, it didn’t look that much fancier before but it used to state the headmistress’s name as well and somehow it looked prettier.

Flo and I had a rough idea how we were going to plan our days in London so since we didn’t have much time there, we decided to take the family out for lunch first thing. Grandma and Grandpa chose to go for dim sum and I have to admit, I’ve had dim sum at their ‘usual’ before and wasn’t too impressed. We went there anyway, and whaddya know? Looks like they’ve upped their game. The dim sums were more refined and the only dish that disappointed us badly was the pork and century egg congee. That was just mehhh…

I kind of over-ordered not realising that grandma was adding on quite a few noodle dishes but all of us managed to polish everything off in the end. I helped quite a bit too although I did feel quite bad after. And even then, I hankered after a bit of dessert but decided to wait till later…

Because the fam-bam decided we would go visit Windsor Castle while grandma and grandpa went shopping at the Chinese Supermarket.

We used to visit Windsor every year when my brother and I were little. And every year we’d take a photo on their wooden benches by the castle. We” as in my family, and/or just my brother and I, and/or my parents and my brother, and/or my parents and me. You get the idea.

This time, we managed to get one with all of us including Flo. This lovely lady, she sounded Welsh, who was with her young family, gamely offered to help us take a photo. And she did a great job of it too!

Then after a bit of wandering along the Windsor high street, Flo and I decided to have some ice-cream. Not just any ice-cream. A softee! 

Again, this is something from my childhood that I haven’t had in years!

And with a Flake no less!

I remember Kor and I running up to the Mr. Softee van to buy a cone each whenever we were there in summer.

This time though, there wasn’t a van. Just a quaint little shop by Windsor Castle. A quaint little shop that sold these softees for £2.50 each!! Well, 50p extra for the Flake.

That pretty much summed up our Monday. We went home in time for grandma’s dinner. Mind you, we had dinner at home every day while we were in London because grandma kept enticing me by cooking all the food that she knows are my favourites. Also, she was very flattered that Flo enjoyed her cooking and that spurred her on to make sure she cooked at her highest level each evening. That’s what Chinese families are like – we show our love through food. The more we feed you, the more we love you. 

Tuesday morning, we left home at 10am, and went all old-school with the map to go to Stratford-upon Avon.

It took us a while because we decided to go through Oxford. Bad idea. Oxford had really heavy traffic getting back onto the motorway and just before we reached Stratford, Flo and I were dying for a pee.

We stopped by this super cute little town just before Marlborough, and found a pub that generously allowed us to use their restrooms. I loved how they had their walls embellished with these words/phrases of affirmation.

Yes. “Shine bright like a diamond”. We all know that song, but how often do we remember to shine like a diamond?

Also, this town seemed very into crafts and even the little barricades(?) by the roadside were adorned with knitted ‘hats’.

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

When we finally reached Stratford, it was right about lunch time. So we quickly found a cafe where we could sit al fresco and order some hot drinks to go along with our homemade sandwiches.

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

With cream cheese and stuffed with salad greens and smoked salmon. Yummers!

Mum and Dad decided they wanted to continue with their sit-down so Flo and I took a walk around the street where Shakespeare used to trod on.

Right at the head of the street they have a statue of a Jester.

And to the side sits Shakespeare’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode.

A picture of me taking a picture of Mum and Dad.

And of course, a wefie!

We were contemplating going to the lake round the corner and were actually walking towards it when Mum informed us that if we wanted to visit Bath or Avebury, that it might be smarter to leave sooner rather than later. So we turned back towards the carpark where we set off towards Avebury since we ascertained that it’d be nicer to walk around the area than to visit a single site. Also, Flo had seen Roman baths in Italy before so we might as well go somewhere new.

And off we went.

Again, the journey took quite a while from Stratford and by the time we got there, it was already about 4pm.

We didn’t manage to spend too much time walking around the huge stones. The area actually consists of three stone circles, including the largest stone circle in Europe. They’re much like the ones set in Stonehenge only the nice thing about here is that you can still go up to the rocks and touch them.

Till today, when summer solstice arrives, so does a crowd of campers who might participate in meditation activities together or to simply enjoy the soundscape concert.

Perhaps some might be there for the sheep. Mum was a little reluctant to trod on the grass because of sheep poop pretty much everywhere. It’s not too bad as long as you watch where you’re stepping, or if you’re like Flo, you might not care at all and go chasing after the sheep.

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

We were off not long after we arrived. I think we were a bit too ambitious this time taking a road trip to two places that were not very close to each other. Stratford was a bit of a drive away and we would have probably done better spending the day there rather than try to stop over at Avebury. It felt as though we’d spent more time sitting in the car than enjoying the fresh cool air of England and as we’re all not getting younger, you can imagine a lot of backache and leg cramp action going on the longer we sat in the car.

Oh. I also tried this Vanilla Coke Zero. It ended up being the only one I had because I couldn’t find it any place else.

I thought I’d struck gold when I picked up another bottle at our Northwood Newsagents’, only for Flo to point out that it was Vanilla Coke, no Zero. Boo! This was an absolute gem of a drink. It taste incredibly creamy and luscious. ’tis a pity it’s not available as widely as it should be!

Also, at the very place I found my Vanilla Coke Zero, I picked up a packet of this popcorn.

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I wasn’t expecting much from it but it was so good! It really tasted like peanut butter even though they really just used peanut flour and ground almonds to flavour the popcorn. And a bit of sugar.

It blew my mind! On the way back I bought a packet of their Fiery Worcester Sauce & Sun-dried Tomato flavour but that was a bit of a let down. I’ll stick to the Peanut & Almond one.

Grandma cooked my favourites for dinner! I know it doesn’t look like much but Chinese home-cooking is a lot healthier and tastier than the salty, greasy stuff often found at Chinese takeaways.

Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms and Chestnuts. And Glass Noodles stir-fried with Sweet Cabbage and Dried Shrimp. Aaaaand my favourite, comforting bowl of Lotus Root Soup on the side, unpictured, brewed with lots of patience, and love!

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