Le Baratin, Paris

Imagine this – it’s cold, wintry, wet and you’re roaming round the streets of Paris.

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Paris looking a little gloomy

It’s supposed to be romantic and charming, as what people say about Paris. But you’re not really getting into the mood when your fingers and toes are freezing and you are feeling kind of lost in a foreign place.

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Lady Eiffel shrouded in a cloud of mystery

Then the hunger pangs strike and there’s nothing worse than feeling cold and hungry. So where can you find some food before hangry-ness creep in?

Thankfully, we found Le Baratin.

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Le Baratin, 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020 Paris, France

This cosy restaurant was sort of off the beaten track, being located away from central Paris. But I managed to source out this gem after reading some local blogs.

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The neighbourhood where Le Baratin is situated. Spot the Eiffel Tower in the distance?

There was a buzz as we entered the restaurant and it was filled with locals (which is a good sign!). The first thing we were asked was if we made a reservation and we said no. Fortunately, they had a table to accommodate the 4 of us. But we did get a sense of the bistro’s popularity so I guess it would have been better to make a reservation!

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The super Frenchy menu

There is no fixed menu and lunch is always served as a 3-course meal – the French really know how to dine!

As you can guess from the above picture, we had a little problem deciphering the menu. The restaurant staff didn’t speak much English as well but they tried their best to explain to us, without a hint of impatience or the infamous French snobbery. Phew!

So finally, after a long morning, we could sit back and relax in this cosy warm bistro :)

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I of course, being a fan of French cuisine, was happy to come to this really authentic looking bistro. But I was also feeling excited for my family; this was the first time that they were going to be exposed to a full-on French meal… how would this work out for them?

Ok, let’s see how we went with the entrees…

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Shredded Duck Salad

The duck was tender and the salad was fresh (no wilting leaves please!). It was a good balance of soft and crunchy textures, and the seasoning of the duck didn’t make the salad dry. My brother enjoyed this, which is something as he is not big on salads!

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Veal Tongues

But this, my friends, is a winner of a dish. Those tongues were so soft, totally melting in the mouth. The accompanying sauce was also buttery without it being heavy. My family was impressed with this dish, and I was glad that they fully appreciated this!

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Soup with a dollop of cream

My mum went for the soup as she wanted something warm. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what soup this is but she did slurp up every bit ;)

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Dad & Mum enjoying the meal

So, the entrees have set the bar already… what about the mains?

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Braised Venison

Again, the meat was tender on the inside and it went well with the red wine jus. No complaints there!

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Pan-seared Duck Breast with braised wings & lentils

But this just edged out the venison. I always enjoyed duck done the French way but this one by Le Baratin just beats all my previous experiences hands down.

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Happy with our mains!

Where do I begin? The skin was seared to a good crisp, the meat was oh-so-tender and you are guaranteed enough meat with the wings thrown into the dish. And of course, the creamy lentils and sweet onions just go hand-in-hand with the meat.

I guess my only complaint would be that the duck breast came out a little bloody (as you can tell from the above pic) so it probably didn’t rest enough.

And finally, to end it off with something sweet…

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Creme Caramel

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Some yoghurt dessert with orange

The desserts were decent but not as exciting as the entrees and mains that we had. Oh well, I guess you can’t have it all!

And guess how much this 3-course meal cost us? 19 euros per person – what a steal!

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And that was Le Baratin in a nutshell – no Michelin stars but unpretentious and homely food, where you get to dine just like one of the locals. With that, I’m happy to report that the family enjoyed their very first French meal – yay!

So we may not have gotten the greatest weather in Paris, but we did get the best meal on our Europe trip, getting a taste of the local Parisian life. That, I guess, counts for a memorable experience ;)

Eating Around London

As mentioned before, London is quite a food haven. From fine dining to casual bistros and the neighbourhood restaurants, London has it all!

So let’s see where we ate around in this city…

Chinatown 

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This was where we had our first meal. We felt quite relieved stepping into Chinatown, after all the pastas and pizzas in Italy. Finally, some rice!

Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant
23 Wardour Street, Chinatown

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Now, I’ve heard a lot about the duck rice at Four Seasons, about how crisp the skin was and the succulent duck meat. So expectations were running high.

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Starting off with some wanton soup

Mum wanted something soupy so we ordered this. It totally hit the spot for her – hot soup to cure the winter blues and juicy wantons with generous-sized prawns inside.

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The main deal served shortly after

Hmmm from the first look, it didn’t look anything special. The skin didn’t look crisp at all.

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Does it look better from another angle?

And yup as we tucked in, we couldn’t find that ‘X’ factor. Mum found that the dish was served cold which wasn’t to her liking. I found the duck meat seasoning a little on the sweet side and didn’t think the skin was roasted enough.

So to us, it was just an okay plate of duck rice – it didn’t quite meet our expectations after all!

Anyway, we came back to Chinatown on another day for a quick meal.

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This was the day that all of us caught musicals, except Dad (he preferred spending the time resting in the apartment – it had been a pretty packed trip after all!).

Mum and Bro had rushed off to catch Wicked and as there was still some time before The Lion King (which I was watching), Dad and I had some time together :)

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Beef brisket with egg noodles

This was just some random restaurant we picked but that piping hot bowl of noodles was such a good fix. The portion was generous and filled our tummies well.

So despite the dampener at Four Seasons, I’ve decided that Chinatown can still be counted on for a good and reasonably-priced (nothing is cheap in London!) meal.

Masters Super Fish
191 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UX

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This was recommended to us by our AirBnB host. And we got an idea of how good it was when we saw this…

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Wow check out their list of accolades!

And if we needed any other assurance, there was this group of policemen huddled at the entrance. For awhile, we were wondering if we were entering a crime scene! We must have looked really puzzled, as one of the bobbies opened the door for us and told us that they were just grabbing their dinner for takeaway – haha!

Well, I guess if this is a favourite among the local policemen, there’s gotta be something about this place!

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Complimentary prawns, with bread & butter

And yup, there was really something about the fish & chippies here.

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The full works. How big are the portions?!

Don’t let the looks deceive you. Beyond the ordinary looking fish, the meal certainly packs a punch!

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This grilled fish was absolutely meaty and skin was crisped up nicely. With the squeeze of lemon over, it was really appetising.

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But nothing could quite beat the good ol’ fish & chips. This was hands down the best fish & chips I’ve ever had (sorry Australia!), with its crispy battered coating and succulent fish inside. The fish meat actually tasted fresh despite being deep-fried!

So if you’re looking for a mean plate of fish & chips in London, you know where to go!

Borough Market 

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I was actually really excited about visiting Borough Market, because I’m a fan of food markets. It is no secret that I adore the Queen Victoria Market and South Melbourne Market, and I had good memories of La Boqueria Market in Barcelona too!

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This is where we found out that brussel sprouts grew on stalks! :O

However, to my slight disappointment, the offerings at Borough didn’t seem as wide as the food markets back Down Under. Perhaps it was the Christmas period and many stalls were closed, which made the market less lively.

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One of the few stalls opened on Boxing Day

However, there was still one stall that caught our eye…

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Mmm don’t the bread look good?

So we all decided to give the breads a go, as well as THIS:

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How good do those flavours sound!

While the bread was good, let me tell you, the doughnuts were quite something else. We picked the hazelnut & almond praline one and the cream was divine; you taste exactly what is described. Lipsmackingly delicious!

Well at least we found something pretty special and good at Borough Market – hurray!

Burger & Lobster
5th Floor, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ

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Getting to this place was abit of an adventure.

It was a brother-sister date as my parents were feeling lazy and wanted to grab dinner somewhere near the apartment. So we tube-ed to the Soho outlet which was the nearest to where we were.

But lo and behold, when we got there, they were closing early for the day :( The staff member apologetically told us that we could try the next nearest outlet at Knightsbridge.

Now, we didn’t feel like spending on another tube trip so after walking around the whole day in the cold, we did the next sensible thing – we WALKED all the way to Knightsbridge (go us!).

And can you believe it, when we got to the Harvey Nichols departmental store, the main doors were well bolted and locked!! Hungry and tired, we pushed on and looked around. Finally, we found an open door that led us to a lift lobby which got us up to the 5th floor.

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SO RELIEVED to see this sign!

Haha we were kinda glad that our parents were not with us; they would have made us turn around and go back!

And that’s not all… when we got there, we were told it was going to be a 45min wait!!!

But since we were so deep into our quest, we just decided to wait. Hohum.

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No turning back now :P

Thankfully, the wait turned out to be about 25minutes only – phew!

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And our food was served up pretty quickly too – yay!

I found the lobster to be a little on the dry side and it didn’t quite match up to that juicy lobster I had at La Paradeta.

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Lookie here, a whole claw intact!

But overall, it was a good meal. We certainly felt rewarded after such an exhausting hunt! The portion size is definitely filling and I think it’s pretty good value for a lobster meal in London!

So that was our foodie journey around London. For the short time that we spent there, we got quite a few good finds so I can imagine how much more this city can offer!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Since I started watching Masterchef Australia, I got introduced to the world of celebrity chefs.

And from there, I got hooked onto other cooking shows by these chefs, like Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals, Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feasts and Heston’s Feasts

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Haha only 1 place to find them all!

Yes if you notice, all the celebrity chefs that I’m a fan of happen to be British. That could possibly be a reason why we stopped by London… ahem.

But due to time constraint, we could only dine at 1 of these chefs’ restaurants (was actually hoping we could squeeze in Ottolenghi’s delis but we didn’t have enough time :( )

So after much consideration and persuading of the family, I booked a lunch slot at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

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Yusss… Sense my excitement after booking it 2 months in advance!

Why Dinner? Because for a 2 Michelin stars-restaurant, the price looked pretty reasonable…

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The posh setting of Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental

AND it’s by Heston Blumenthal, who I consider the Wizard of Oz in the culinary world (watch this Youtube vid and you’ll see what I mean!).

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We got a glimpse of the kitchen. But sadly, Heston was nowhere to be seen.

So we all went for the Set Lunch menu, and we were given 2 choices for each course. Since there were 4 of us, naturally, we did a 2-persons-to-1-dish-selection thing!

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Some bread to start off with

Our starters:

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Lemon Salad – Smoked artichoke, goats curd & pickled lemon

As the name suggests, the salad was sour! The artichoke did bring in some neutrality to the acidity but overall, the salad was really tangy, especially with the sharp taste of the goats curd. I guess this was going for a Mediterranean slant and that didn’t really suit my family’s Asian palates.

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Salt Cod – Dressed cod’s head, onion, parsley & lovage broth

On the other hand, this dish bowled us over…

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The cod sitting nicely in the pool of broth

We adored the freshness of the fish and the uniqueness of the broth. The broth had a good balance of herby flavours and went really well with fish. I also liked the addition of the crispy fish skin to give that crunch factor!

A most essential side:

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The one and only MEAT FRUIT

How can you go past this at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant?? I first saw this on an episode on Masterchef and have been wondering ever since how it tasted like.

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So even though this was an addition to the set menu, I knew I had to order this!

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It was priceless seeing my family’s jaws drop when they saw the inside – they really thought it was a mandarin! Hahaha.

My friends, the first bite was incredible. I find it impressive that chicken liver (which is the inside) can be made to taste good. The liver parfait was smooth, creamy without the overpowering taste of liver. And it went really well with the mandarin gelatine covering.

The portion was also a good size, to not let the liver overwhelm you. We were supposed to spread the meat fruit over the buttered toast provided – I thought that was a good combination!

For the theatrics and unique flavours, I found this side order absolutely worth it!

The mains:

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Roast Cured Salmon – smoked beetroot puree, pickled candy beetroot, parsley & sea vegetables

After all the oohh-ing and aahh-ing over the Meat Fruit, I must admit that the excitement sort of died down when the mains were served up.

I mean the dishes were decent and you can tell a variety of techniques have gone into the dish. But I guess they sort of lacked the surprise element, especially if you know the dishes that Heston is famous for!

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Slow Cooked Pork Belly – pease pudding, bacon & mint oil

Between the 2 mains, I preferred this one as I found it more in tune to the theme of Dinner – classic British cuisine (with more finesse of course duh!). It just seems so English to have peas with roasted meats, together with pudding!

I also found the aerated crackling bits on top quite special – they tasted like porky popcorn!

Finally, desserts:

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Complimentary dessert before the main ones – it was a really thick dark choc-hazelnut mousse with shortbread at the side. Really filling!

At this stage, we were getting really full. And my heart just sank when I saw the waiters pull out a trolley with some equipment and were going around asking diners if they would like a cone. It was none other than the famous liquid nitrogen ice cream!

Of course, we were asked as well but at that time, I knew I couldn’t fit in anymore. And yea, I was thinking about the cost in pounds too (in case you’re wondering, this meal was my treat to my family – that was the only reason they agreed to go with me! haha).

So yes, I gave it a miss. Oh well, I guess you just can’t have everything!

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Prune & Tamarind Tart

To add to the disappointment, we were not particularly blown away by the desserts. We found this tart pretty sour and the combination of flavours just didn’t work for us.

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Millionaire Tart – Crystallised chocolate & vanilla ice cream

As for this, the flavours were alot more conventional and it was overall a pleasant dessert. I was a fan of the ice cream, with the rich taste of the vanilla bean coming through.

But again, when compared to the liquid nitrogen ice cream, I didn’t think the desserts had that much of a ‘wow’ factor.

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Our first experience at a 2-Michelin Stars restaurant!

So I guess you can tell our lunch at Dinner wasn’t exactly a 10/10 experience. The food was of high quality but when you consider what Heston Blumenthal is famous for – the theatrics, the crazy food techniques, the out-of-this-world combinations etc. – I didn’t think that Dinner fully showcased his trademarks.

Anyway, for the price I paid for, I’m not really complaining – I mean it still gave me quite a hole in my pocket but to be able to give my family 2 Michelin Stars dining experience, I’m fine with that!

And I guess to get the full-on Heston experience, one would need to dine at The Fat Duck (Ahhh Melburnians, you’ve got it good!). Will I make it there someday? Haha we’ll see, we’ll see…

5 Reasons to Love London

It is said before about London – it is dreary, expensive and can be one lonely city.

Yet, people remain fascinated with London. All around the world, people flock over to London to work, study or live there.

So there are 2 camps about London as a city – liveable or not?

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London on a fine day

Well, having lived in the most liveable city (as up to 2014) previously, I must say that London was pretty dear for our pockets.

But upon stepping into London after a week in Italy, it felt like home again for me.

To hear English being spoken again, seeing cars on the ‘right’ side of the road, and experiencing the cosmopolitan scene that so resembled Melbourne’s, it did bring me much warmth in the cold wintry weather.

So yes, I did grow fond of the city. But whether I can envision myself living there, that would be something to think about next time – I’m quite happy where I am now :)

Anyway, here are my 5 reasons to warm up to this city!

1. The Tube

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Taking the tube to our accom

It’s soooo expensive (2.20pounds for a single trip!) but oh-so-reliable.

We never had to wait more than 2minutes for a tube and that made our short trip to London so much more efficient.

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Haha love the character of the station sign! (pun intended)

And it was so refreshing to ride the tube that felt safe (as opposed to taking the metro in Rome or Barcelona)!

2. The vibrant city life

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Piccadilly Circus still bustling with activity past 9pm

London is definitely not a snooze city and there are things to do after the sun sets. I was surprised to see the city as lively at night in winter, even in the freezing cold weather!

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Was trying to capture the street performers at Tralfagar Square but ended up with this instead. Looks cool right??

And yes, if your wallet can afford it, I must say the shopping scene is quite tempting in London.

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Harrod’s anyone?

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Yay was already happy to find the chain in London, and even happier to find that it was the sales period!

For me personally, I only splurged at the Cath Kidston sales and saved all my other pounds for Marks & Spencer’s!

And finding something else to do in London? How about a musical at the West End?

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Yesh finally managed to watch this!

And let’s not forget that the New Year’s Eve celebrations in London are pretty special…

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We were fortunate to have this view from our accom! Can you spot the London Eye?

Yup, London is one happening city.

3. It is a mishmash of cultures.

I love how cosmopolitan this city is.

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Basically, we were staying at a Swedish couple’s apartment and were welcomed by their Italian friend and their homemade Swedish gingerbread. You getting the cosmopolitan vibe yet??

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Living the Scandinavian way in the heart of London

As opposed to really sticking out in Italy, we blended into the crowd seamlessly in London. And it was an added bonus that we spoke the same language!

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Was quite impressed by the size and liveliness of Chinatown

4. Its British Character

Despite its globalised nature, London still has its British side, which gives the city much charm.

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Hello Parliament House and Big Ben!

It was really cool to spot things around the city that were distinctly British.

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Doubt anyone uses these telephone booths anymore but who cares!

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It’s Paddington Bear!

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Buckingham Palace! Didn’t spot any royalty though :(

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On a sunny winter’s day, we did a walk around the Tower of London. It was a really pleasant walk :)

As you can tell, there are lots of landmarks to see in London. Would have loved to do the free walking tours if we had more time.

5. The Food

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Nothing like good ol’ British fish & chippies. But I must say that the quality surpassed my expectations.

And of course, how can you miss out on the food scene in London??

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Can’t go past Burger & Lobster!

I have to say, we enjoyed nearly all (I say nearly, ahem) of our meals in London, from the neighbourhood Fish & Chips to our lunch at a 2-Michelin star restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

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AHHHH the famous Meat Fruit by Heston Blumenthal

With such exciting foodie episodes we had in London, it won’t do much justice to squeeze them all in 1 post. So wait up for more posts on those experiences!

There you have it – 5 reasons to fall for this city. Whether it is liveable or not, it’s really up for debate. But to live it up as a Londoner for awhile, I reckon it’s worth the experience!

Roaming in Rome

So we had a pretty rough start to Rome. But we got through our first day and pushed through our travel fatigue, dragging ourselves out of bed at 6am the next day.

Why?

To join in this queue… on a cold wet day… zzzz…

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I’ve no idea when these people starting queuing!

Yes, it was a day trip to the Vatican City (which is really, as I see it, just an extension of Rome!). 

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The queue to get into the Vatican Museum

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Spotted the Swiss Guards while queuing

We knew that it was going to be a long drawn-out day heading to this country but I was personally stoked; I have been looking forward to this pitstop since we planned this trip.

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After queuing for 2hrs, we finally made it in!

It wasn’t so much of the religious significance of the place (as I’m a Protestant Christian). But believe it or not, I’ve been reading on Italian Renaissance Art since I was a child.

Nono, I’m not some arty-farty prodigal kid; that book just happened to be lying in my toybox and I picked it up to read.

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Lots of artwork inside the Vatican Museum…

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…lots of people too

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Round and round we go…

That book was entitled ‘Great Artists’ (haha can’t believe I can still source it online!). And as a child, I was fascinated by the lives and artwork of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael chronicled in this children’s book.

And little did I know that 20+ years later, I would see these artworks in the flesh in Italy (some of them I saw in the Uffizi Gallery, like the first angel that Leonardo painted and Raphael’s self-portrait).

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A reallyyyy long walk to see the Sistine Chapel

Of course the highlight was the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo. I read about it in books and watched documentaries on it but still, nothing could beat the actual sight of it.

There were elements on the ceiling that I didn’t find biblically accurate (as according to the Bible I read) and I cannot say that it is a true representation of the Bible. So I just took it in as a magnificent artwork; the artistry of it was exquisite and I cannot imagine how much work went into it.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the ceiling but I might have sneaked in a shot for memories’ keepsake. (I posted it on my Instagram).

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Taking a break in the gardens outside the musuem

It was quite a tiring affair walking in all the way to view the Sistine Chapel. But there was more to see in Vatican City!

So we did a quick lunch and pressed on.

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The crowd gathering to hear the Pope give an address.. Couldn’t really see him or understand what he was saying but pretty sure he mentioned the word ‘Singapore’ hurhur

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The inside of St. Peter’s Basilica… Yes, it was another long queue to get in.

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Finally got to see the Pieta, another famous sculpture by Michelangelo

And you would think that after viewing all these artwork, it would be the end of our day at the Vatican City. But noooo…

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Yes, call us crazy but we decided to climb some stairs! This is the view from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica

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320 steps later, we are finally at the top!

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Ahhh the reward at the top

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The iconic view of Vatican City

After climbing that crazy amount of steps, we finally left Vatican City.

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The statues of the Apostles looking on

And off we went for a final whirlwind tour around Rome, to take in as many sights as possible before the day’s end.

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Doing a 5minute stop at Piazza Del Popolo

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Checking out Piazza di Spagna. You’ve no idea how hard it was to get this shot without any photobombers!

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Spanish Steps. Sigh I had romantic notions of this place since watching Roman Holiday but all notions were wiped out as soon as we experienced the crowd haha.

And that was our Rome experience in a nutshell: crazily unnerving, crazily tiring, crazily packed… just crazy. Haha.

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Finally having a little breather at the top of the Steps, above the crowds, as we watched the sun set on Rome 1 last time…

So that’s how it was, roaming those crazy streets of Rome, taking in all those ancient sights (sites? haha) and making it out in one piece. Ah Rome, you definitely gave us a trip to remember by!

HK Hotspots in SG

HongKong cuisine may not be as spicy or have such diverse dishes as other Asian cuisines. But you have to admit, there are some things that simply stand out in the world of HK food. After all, where else can you find a good yum cha meal, tang yuan dessert or a cup of milk tea?

Well, it’s a good thing that Singapore’s restaurant scene is getting more globalised. With that, a 4hr flight to HK can be condensed to a 30min travel to any part of our island-country for a decent HK food fix!

Here are 3 HK hotspots I’ve found in Singapore so far…

Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant
191 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208882

Swee Choon has been around for quite some time and is an established name for HK yum cha in Singapore. I only got to know about this place last year but yes, that first experience was impressive.

Our epic meal at Swee Choon

As you can tell, we ordered quite a few dishes so I think that gave us a well-rounded experience at Swee Choon. I liked how the dishes were not overly oily or salty. I was a particular fan of the carrot cake and egg tarts. Xiaolongbao is also a signature dish at Swee Choon – not exactly a HK dish but who cares if it’s done well!

From memory, that meal didn’t break our wallets and we were all quite happy with a good-quality meal at a reasonable price. With it being opened to the wee hours of the night, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this place for a supper spot too!

Ah Chew Desserts
1 Liang Seah Street, #01-10/11, Singapore 189032

Ah Chew is another well-known name for Chinese/HK desserts. The first time I tried to go with my friends, it was a weekday night after dinner and that place was packed. So we had to settle for some other dessert place :(

The next time I went with Ms CC, it was a weekday afternoon and we managed to snag a table during this off-peak hour. The menu is extensive but because we weren’t that hungry, we decided to share 1 dessert only.

Zhi Ma Hu with Peanut & Black Sesame tangyuan

Zhi Ma Hu with Peanut & Black Sesame tangyuan

It’s a simple dessert but we were happy with the quality. Now, I’m not an expert on what makes good zhi ma hu (black sesame paste) but I’ve had ones that were gluggy or diluted. Ah Chew’s wasn’t like that at all – that bowl of zhi ma hu we had was smooth and of good thick consistency.

The skins of the tangyuan were also smooth and I liked how we could combine both peanut and black sesame tangyuans – I can never decide which filling I prefer!

So going by the popularity of the place and the quality of dessert we had that day, I reckon this is a pretty reliable place for a good HK dessert!

Legendary Hong Kong
#03-80, Jurong Point 2 Shopping Center, Singapore 64833

Now, this place is about the closest dining experience you’ll get to the real thing. Why? Just check out where this place is located…

Are we in HK? No, it's just Little HK inside Jurong Point Shopping Centre!

Are we in HK? No, it’s just Little HK inside Jurong Point Shopping Centre!

Haha you just have to give our country props for always being able to recreate the outside world within our humble borders.

Step inside for a culinary trip to HK

Step inside for a culinary trip to HK

The layout of the restaurant is also like a typical 茶餐厅 in Hong Kong. When my family and I stepped in, we felt like we were transported to Hong Kong!

Iced & Hot Milk Teas

Iced & Hot Milk Teas

I actually liked how the hot milk tea came sugarless. The tea was thick enough and the fact that it was unsweetened allowed me to better appreciate the taste of the tea.

And in true HK-style, the food came out pretty fast

And in true HK-style, the food came out pretty fast

My brother and dad had the noodles dishes. As simple as they look, they both commented that the noodles had a good texture (i.e. not clumpy) and they enjoyed them very much.

As for me and my mum, this is what we went for…

Roast duck rice, the HK way

Roast duck rice, the HK way

My friends, this is the real deal. Haha my mum kept going on about how this roast duck was soooo much better than the one we had in London (and at the famous Four Seasons too! Will blog about that experience sometime). She was definitely much happier with this plate that we had!

I personally found the meat a little leaner than the ones that I had in Melbourne (maybe the ducks in Australia are fatter?). But I cannot fault the skin of the roast duck – tasty and crisp with the right amount of fat. It went downright well with the chilli provided!

I saw the tables around us enjoying baskets of tim sum and I asked if we could order 1 too. My family agreed – yay!

What dimsum did we order?

What dimsum did we order?

Liu sha bao!!

None other than Liu sha bao!!

How can you say no to Liu Sha Bao (Salted Egg Yolk Custard Bun)?? Haha so glad my family agreed to order this!

I didn’t find the custard as smooth – it was a little coarse at the sides. But hey, the buns came out piping hot, the custard had adequate ‘ooze’ factor when we broke them open and we could taste the rich yolky flavour. That was enough to end our meal satisfactorily!

So there – 3 HK Hotspots in Singapore. Whether you’re thinking of a good yum cha, Chinese dessert or cha can ting (茶餐厅) meal, you really don’t have to look far to feed that craving!

When in Rome

….Do as the Romans do, so the saying goes. We are not quite sure what the Romans would have done in our shoes, but we did our best, given the circumstances thrown at us.

It wasn’t the most delightful of beginnings. We got into Rome, tired from our train ride from Florence. And upon our first step into the metro, we nearly got pickpocketed.

Prior to that, we already heard many pickpocketing stories in Rome and were on alert. That is why Dad could spot them and yelled at them, before they escaped through the closing doors of the metro tube. But allora, we didn’t expect it to happen so soon!

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Roaming the (cobbled) streets of Rome

We then walked a fair distance to our accommodation from the metro station. We were expecting the distance, but we didn’t account for our travel fatigue, or the whole stretch of cobbled streets which placed our luggage wheels at risk.

But we made it all in one piece, by God’s grace.

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Making it to our cosy abode

And upon settling down and rushing down to the Colosseum 1hour before closing time, it poured after we finished touring.

That called for a dash through the rain back to our accommodation from the metro stop, along the streets of Rome.

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Making it into the Colosseum, despite the long queue! Yay!

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Museum inside the Colosseum. It was out in the open and the strong winds made it really cold touring the place.

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Roman ruins that we spied from the Colosseum

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We planned to walk around these ruins after the Colosseum, but then the rain came…

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Just before the rain came pouring

So that how it was like when we first came to Rome – a little unnerving by the attempted pickpocketing, cold and wet.

The natural inclination was to stay in our accommodation, safe from the outside world. But our hunger directed us otherwise. So we braved the streets of Rome again, in search for the recommended dining spots by our AirBnB hosts.

And I guess, that’s when things started to pick up a little in Rome.

Al Forno della Soffitta
62/64 Via Piave, 00187 Rome, Italy

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Arrabiata with pretty unique looking pasta

Given such a dampening start (pun intended) to Rome and disappointing meals in our previous spots in Italy, we were not expecting much. Just a quick meal and an early night were all we wanted.

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Gnocchi with asparagus, bacon and mushrooms in a cream-based sauce

But I guess Rome wanted to give us a little treat to end a full-on day…

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Risotto with truffle, parmesan and chestnut

While the other pasta dishes were good (i.e. pasta done al-dente, sauce not gluggy, simple but good ingredient combination), that risotto, my friends, was the show-stealer.

The risotto was cooked perfectly, and my brother and I loved how the intense taste of the truffle and parmesan was made lighter by the chestnut, which lent a delicate nutty taste. Every bite was so appetising!

The restaurant had a wood-fired oven as well and the pizzas looked really good. But we had sandwiches for lunch that day so we didn’t feel like having more bread.

Anyway, the pasta dishes satisfied us sufficiently and the best part was, each dish was about 10euros. What a difference to the overpriced and low-quality food we had previously!

Seeing how promising our hosts’ recommendations were, we decided to try another recommended gelato place, despite the cold weather.

Gelateria La Romana
Via XX Settembre, 60, 00184 Roma, Italy

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Sooo many flavours to choose from!

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Do not disturb. Gelato lab experiments in progress.

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What we finally chose – Ricotta & Fig and Stracciatella

YES – we finally got a good gelato in Italy! The flavours all sounded really interesting and worth a go. We were quite happy with our scoops – the Ricotta & Fig had a caramelly taste going with some creamy cheesiness, and the Stracciatella didn’t disappoint.

And can you believe this cone only cost 2euros? Whoop!

So that was our first taste of Rome. Did we experience the best of what Rome could offer us?

I guess we missed out on quite a few things but at least, we ended our first night in Rome on a good note. With full tummies and contented hearts, we were just thankful that we survived all these as a family, with God in control.

And that I guess, gave us some travelling memories to tell of, of the time when we were in Rome.


 

Having ended our night with good spirits, that gave us enough energy to wake up the next day at 6am. Why did we bother crawling out of bed while the sky was still dark? That would be another post to share… stay tuned!

Cicheti – A Slice of Italy in Singapore

It really is a sign of how globalised a world we live in when you find a slice of Italy in your home country, in the least expected way.

So the story goes that I was a little disappointed by the underwhelming pizza and pasta we had at the touristy areas in Venice and Florence last December. However, 4 months later, after returning to Singapore, I found myself craving for Italian food again.

So I suggested that to Ade who promptly suggested Cicheti, which she cites as her ‘favourite Italian restaurant in Singapore.’ 

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much because I couldn’t imagine how authentic Italian food can be here, 6000 miles away from Italy. And to hear that this restaurant is located in Arab Street, a place more well-known for the Malay-Indian cuisine? That didn’t quite set the tone for an Italian night out for me!

However, my friend here is quite well-travelled and so I decided to trust her opinion on this.

And, we managed to score the last table for 2 at the restaurant, which is an indication of how popular it is…

Cicheti
52 Kandahar Street
Singapore 198901

We had to settle for al-fresco dining

We had to settle for al-fresco dining

And looking through the menu, everything looked really interesting. We had a hard time narrowing down, but we finally did…

Cicheti Burratina - Burratina cheese, parma ham, rocket, grilled peaches

Cicheti Burratina – Burratina cheese, parma ham, rocket, grilled peaches, buttered bread

So we started off with this antipasta, and WOW, that was a real surprise for the night.

Stack 'em up & you get an explosion of flavours with each bite!

Stack ’em up & you get an explosion of flavours with each bite!

I love how all the flavours are combined here, so subtly and all in harmony. The burratina was of course, the star of the dish, with its creamy cheesiness inside. The rocket was not as bitter and peppery as expected so that was a good balance. And of course, the parma ham lent the saltiness and grilled peaches, that caramelised sweetness.

We loved how everything tasted so fresh on this platter – was definitely a good starter for the night!

Our 2nd starter - Polpette Di Carne Grana

Our 2nd starter – Polpette Di Carne Grana

Ade was a fan of the homemade meatballs. This was comfort food indeed, warm and wholesome. Mmmm.

Now, the table next to us had a pasta dish that looked really delectable. But for the mains, we decided to go with pizza instead because of this:

With a wood-fired oven like this, you get a sense of how authentic their pizzas are

With a wood-fired oven in-house, you get a sense of how authentic their pizzas are

So it looks like wood-fired pizzas are a specialty of Cicheti and Ade said she was a fan of the pizzas.

So at the expense of having a bread overload for the night, that settled our choice!

Finally we moved on to the mains - Margherita Pizza

Our main for the night – Margherita Pizza

Digging into the pizza, I can understand what Ade was raving about. Besides the simple but fresh toppings, the pizza crust was outstanding. The crust had a nice chewy texture with a crisp edge, not overly dough or crispy, but just right.

Yes, to my surprise, this pizza tasted a lot more authentic than the ones I had in Italy! (No thanks to those touristy restaurants… humph!)

Dessert - Salted Chocolate

Dessert – Salted Chocolate

We chose this as I thought it was interesting to have chocolate lava cake with the salty dimension. Well, in the end, it was still quite sweet overall, especially with the ice cream and caramel sauce drizzled over. It was a decent dessert but inside, the chocolate wasn’t as gooey – would have loved more of that chocolate sauce oozing out!

Anyway, I thought overall, the food at Cicheti embodied the spirit of Italian cuisine – homely, comforting, simple but done well with fresh ingredients.

And you can guess that that definitely satisfied my Italian food craving. All thanks to our fast globalizing world that is able to bring a slice of Italy to our plates here in Singapore!

The Art of Discovering Florence

During our summer in Europe last year, we met an Italian guy and told him we were enroute to Cinque Terre.

He then spoke about his home country and said, You must visit Florence. Florence is an open gallery itself – beautiful! he exclaimed, in the usual excited Italian manner.

I got what that person meant when I stepped foot into Florence.

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What is to be discovered in Florence…

Florence is the centre of the Italian Renaissance and the city is still steeped in its history, with traces of that period trailing all over the place.

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What we saw when we turned round the corner from our accommodation… I must say, this first glimpse of the Duomo did stop us in our tracks momentarily.

So pardon my pun, but really, the art of discovering Florence is to appreciate the city itself as an artwork.

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Piazza della Signoria

And here’s how you can get the most out of Florence…

Be prepared to walk. To fully appreciate the beauty of Florence, you will have to walk through the city, and climb up the hill!

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Yes, after walking around the city, we may have walked to the bridge, crossed it, and climbed up THAT hill…

But take your time. Even when the sun sets early in winter, Florence is still as beautiful.

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But we were rewarded with this view at the top of the hill

Be ready for the crowds. Even during the off-peak season of winter, Florence is still teeming with tourists. So be prepared to jostle with the crowds, whether you are walking through the streets, queuing up for the famous Uffizi Gallery, admiring the view atop Piazzale Michelangelo or taking a day trip to Pisa. And remember that you’re in Italy – so be watchful for pickpockets!

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Christmas lights along the streets. See the crowd below?

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Managed to get a good shot of the family in the crowded streets

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Piazzale Michelangelo. We actually saw someone attempting to pickpocket here.

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Inside Uffizi Gallery, after queuing for an hour.

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The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is a 30-40minute bus ride away from Florence. See the hordes of people below the Tower?

Be careful of tourist traps. There are lots of restaurants/cafes/gelato shops in the touristy areas but be warned, the prices are usually jacked up. Unfortunately, we fell victim to those traps – exorbitant prices for low quality food. So do your research if you want a good Italian meal!

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Gelato that we had, which was unfortunately, overpriced and forgettable. Quite unlike the gelati I had in Milan and Cinque Terre!

Be like a local. I like rooming with AirBnB because that usually gives you a sense on how the locals live. And Florence was no exception. We got to live in a local’s apartment and while our trip was quite packed, we took the time to find the local supermarket and stock up for breakfast the next day. So we took some time to relax in the apartment the next morning and munch on those local delicacies for breakfast. That turned out to be a simple but memorable meal for us.

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Peach juice, fresh fruit, wholemeal bread, salami, belgian waffles, coffee (Italian, of course) and that. hazelnut. yogurt. Can’t seem to find that yogurt outside Italy!

Be an art lover. Like what I said before, you have to look at Florence as a work of art itself. So even if you don’t consider yourself an enthusiast of the arts, just be one for a day in Florence. Just soak in the Renaissance atmosphere, and you will find yourself walking in history for moment.

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Think 1 ‘David’ is enough in Florence?..

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..Think again!

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Don’t mind us, we’re just hanging out with a bunch of Renaissance statues

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My bro showing his appreciation for the arts. Hurhur

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View of Florence at dusk from the Uffizi Gallery. Guess the artwork is not just confined to the paintings and statues

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And the Duomo from the top of the Uffizi Gallery, with the sun setting for the day

And that, would be the art of uncovering the beauty of Florence. And along the way, if you haven’t realise it before, you are bound to discover the inner art-lover in you as well.

Waffling Around in SG

Wonder where to get a good waffle in Singapore?

Well, ever since I’ve returned, I’ve been introduced to 3 waffles places so it seems that waffles are the ‘in’ thing. The competition is hot like a waffle iron indeed! (hurhur)

So let’s not waffle around and get down to these 3 places that I’ve checked out!

Seriously Ice Cream
Blk 4 Everton Park #01-44, Singapore

How I got to this place was by accident. I was actually having coffee with 3 other friends at Nylon Coffee Roasters

It all started out with coffee...

It all started out with coffee at Nylon…

…when we stumbled upon Seriously Ice Cream. It looked interesting so we decided to give it a go for dessert!

Mmm the smell of fresh waffles cooking was so good!

Plus, they were having a special of half-priced waffles so why not?

As you can see, we added 2 scoops of ice cream to our waffle. To our delight, we were allowed to have free samples before choosing. Seriously Ice Cream has some really unique local flavours and at that time, there were pineapple tart, pulut hitam and even a mystery flavour!

We were told that if we could figure out the ingredients of the mystery flavour, we would get that scoop free. We were given 3 tries but alas, we couldn’t guess the last ingredient. It had a pleasant cheesy taste and we got that with our waffle!

Although I found the waffle a little too crunchy, it was a decent waffle and we all enjoyed it. And with 2 scoops of ice cream, it was definitely a good idea to share the dish between the 4 of us!

Everton Park is a bustling area of cafes and has become a go-to place to hang out with friends. So if you are in the area looking for something sweet after a caffeine boost, you can give Seriously Ice Cream a go!

Sunday Folks
Chip Bee Gardens #01-52
44 Jalan Merah Saga, Singapore

This was a place that got on my radar even when I was still in Melbourne, thanks to their Instagrammable waffles.

Photo credit: Ms JQ

Photo credit: Ms JQ

So upon my return, this was high on my go-to places!

And did it disappoint?

Single slice waffle with Earl Grey Lavender Ice Cream, and Nama Green Tea toppings

Single slice waffle with Earl Grey Lavender ice cream, & Nama Green Tea toppings

Well, aesthetically, it certainly didn’t! (Although I must say that the ice cream swirls look alot nicer for the double slice waffles, as shown on the Instagram shot).

Taste-wise, the waffle was good – sweet, crisp but still having some doughiness. There was also an oreo-like biscuit under the ice cream which was quite sweet.

But I thought the star of the dish was the Earl Grey Lavender Ice Cream – true to its name, I could taste the earl grey with subtle bitter notes and very delicate floral notes (which is good because if the lavender taste was any stronger, it might taste like soap! ala our N2 Extreme Gelato experience).

I added the Nama Green Tea toppings as an afterthought and I was glad I did. Basically they are cubes of matcha powder that melt in your mouth. The bitterness of the matcha certainly balanced out the sweetness of the dish!

And yes, I may have liked this place enough to come back a 2nd time… hehe.

Single slice waffle with Pistachio ice cream

Single slice waffle with Pistachio ice cream

The Pistachio ice cream was good but I was more impressed by the Earl Grey Lavender – I found that flavour more unique.

It is a small touch but I appreciated the scattering of fresh fruit round the plate. It not only added to the vibrancy of colours but also that fresh edge to an otherwise rich dessert.

I guess the only thing that didn’t win me over was the drizzling of honey around the plate. I thought the dish was sweet enough and the honey might be an overkill for some who don’t have a big sweet tooth.

So be warned, the ice cream waffles will get you on a sugar high so I highly recommend sharing. This place is also really popular so be prepared to wait!

Revelry
21 Lorong Kilat, Singapore

Revelry‘ was a buzzword on a few of my friends’ lips so finally, I managed to settle on a dinner date with a couple of them at this place.

The decor was impressive from the outlook; come to think of it, I’ve not come across a cafe with a circus theme before!

Love how the circus theme extends to the coffee art!

Love how the circus theme extends to the coffee art!

I didn’t order one myself but stole a sip of the coffees. I found the Flat White smooth and robust, decidedly one of the better coffees I’ve had in Singapore. The company I was with found the coffee comparable to Melbourne’s so that says something about the coffee quality!

Before arriving, I read up some reviews on Revelry and found their Chicken & Waffles dish was pretty popular so we ordered just that.

Chicken & Waffles, with lettuce n some maple syrup to drizzle over

Chicken & Waffles, with some fresh veggies n some maple syrup to drizzle over

Wow, those reviews got it right. The balance of flavours and textures were all there – the fried chicken had a good crisp and was tender on the inside, while the saltiness of the chicken went perfectly with the sweet maple syrup, with the fresh salad to finish off.

And. the. waffle. I have to admit that out of the 3 places, Revelry served up the best waffles. While the waffles at the other 2 places tended to be on the sweet side, Revelry’s waffles were really buttery, making them more savoury-like which suited me just fine. The waffles also had a wonderful fluffy texture inside with a crunchy edge. Mmm.

OK Waffle Pizza – Otah & chopped kailan greens covered in melted mozzarella

We got this as it was the next most popular savoury item on the menu. Overall, the OK waffle was okay (hurhur) but I wasn’t sure if I was a big fan of the combination. I found it a little too adventurous to pair up such Asian ingredients with waffles and cheese. I guess to my subconscious, Asian sides should always go with rice!

However, my friends enjoyed the uniqueness of this dish so no harm giving this a go. I just know which savoury waffle dish I prefer!

Now, you may think that I found Revelry’s waffles different because I got savoury items instead of sweets (as I’ve ordered at the previous 2 places). So let’s see the true result of the waffle tasting with this dessert…

Monkey King - with chunks of banana bread, banana, walnuts & the side of maple syrup

Monkey King – with chunks of banana bread, caramelised banana, walnuts, side of maple syrup & a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Well, I’m pleased to say that even as a dessert, that buttery taste and fluffiness of the waffles were not lost. So yes, Revelry’s waffles trumps it for me!

As for the dessert itself, one of my friends commented that it tasted like the Post Cereal Banana Nut Crunch and it certainly seemed like it!

Overall, I thought the dessert was fine but a little too sweet. The maple syrup didn’t seem necessary to me. It might have been better to drizzle some chocolate sauce because… Bananas. Chocolate. They simply go hand in hand. And the bitterness of chocolate could help counter the sweetness of the dish.

If only there could be the pairing of Revelry’s waffles with Sunday Folks’ ice cream… that would be the perfect dessert!

Now you know when is a good time to check out Revelry!

Now you know when is a good time to check out Revelry!

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And that settles the 3 waffles places I’ve visited so far. All 3 have given reason as to why the waffle competition in Singapore is so hot. But you can probably figure out by now where I thought housed the better savoury and sweet waffles…

…So if you’re craving for waffles and are still thinking of where to go, waffle around no more and check these places out! ;)