Category Archives: Eating out

Makansutra Food Safari

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Hello folks. I have decided to take a little break from work on job applications to write a long overdue blog post! I am still job hunting but I have a couple of opportunities on the go which, fingers crossed, may lead to my being gainfully employed again. I will keep you posted…

Anyway, back to the important stuff – the Makansutra Food Safari. Thanks to my pals over at notatourist I got invited to go along on their latest food safari with KF Seetoh. I was lucky enough to meet KF Seetoh back in December last year when I went on a cooking masterclass, but this time, it was all about discovering local food. I really enjoy a lot of Asian food, but sometimes I can get a little bit overwhelmed by all the choice on offer at hawker centres, and also not really knowing what some things are, so I was really looking forward to having my eyes opened and trying some unusual things. I invited along my friend Anna, who will try anything once!

Our first stop was the Lucky Valley Food Court, up near the East Coast road. We tried the Muah Chee, which are tiny rice flour dumpling cooked in palm oil and then rolled in different types of chopped nuts. The stand is tiny, tucked away and looks like nothing on first appearance. I suppose I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover! The owner here takes pride in that each dumpling is hand pulled. He starts with a bowl of dough and then uses a ‘plucking’ motion to create the dumplings. We tried the peanut and black sesame versions.

Peanut

Black Sesame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dumplings were delicious and moreish. They were warm, sweet, nutty and crunchy. Each mouthful is bite-sized, meaning that it is really easy to eat lots in a short space of time. While we were there, we also got to sample some Cheng Tng. I’d never heard of this before, but its a light refreshing soup, made with a list of ingredients as long as my arm! All of the ingredients are said to have cooling qualities, and it is served cold. The soup is sweet with rock sugar, and then ginko nuts, wintermelon, sago balls, longons, persimmons and sweet potato is added. There were other ingredients but I can’t remember them all! I enjoyed the soup – it was something really different and unusual. It is odd to a Western palate to have a cold, sweet soup, but it was  very refreshing, and Anna & I agreed that it did a great job of cooling us down, on a muggy evening.

Sweet, cooling Cheng Tng

You can try both of these dishes at Bedok Avenue 3, Block 69

After enjoying some sweet treats, we headed off towards Geylang, to visit Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant. This restaurant is dedicated to serving authentic Peranakan cuisine, and has been doing so since 1953. First up, we tried some otak otak, which is a kind of fish cake, which is made by mixing fish paste with things like garlic, chillies, lemongrass and coconut milk. It is then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed until its cooked. It was soft, fishy and spicy – a great starter – although I would’ve liked it with something fresh and crunchy to add a little contrasting texture.

Otak otak

After that, we tried a really special dish – Ayam Buah Keluak. This is a chicken dish that is served with the Buah Keluak nut. This nut is actually poisonous and needs to be soaked at least overnight before being served. It has a black shell and to make the dish, the nut is soaked for 24 hours, then cracked open. The contents is then mixed with minced chicken and spices, before being stuffed back into the nut shell. It is then cooked with the chicken in a stew. The nut has a very distinctive earthy flavour – KF Seetoh described it as tasting like eating mud! It’s definitely earthy, but I actually found it very tasty and I’d like to try it again.

Ayam Buah Keluak

You can try both these dishes at Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant, 38-40 Joo Chiat Place. 

Our final stop was the East Coast Lagoon Food Village. I’d not ever been up to East Coast park for food before, except to eat chilli crab at the Jumbo’s up there with Will’s sister. I had no idea there were so many eateries to be found there. When KF Seetoh had said we would be eating chilli crab, I think we all rolled our eyes slightly. Despite being one of Singapore’s famous dishes, I’ve not been overwhelmed with chilli crab. I enjoy it, but I don’t think I’d eat it all the time as I find the sauce a bit sweet and lacking in kick. Boy, was I about to be proved wrong.

We went to another innocuous looking stall – Leng Heng BBQ Seafood & Claypot Deluxe. We tried the chilli crab and … OMG. The sauce was full of chilli! It was super spicy and even two Singaporean guys that ended up on our table said it was spicy for them! The sauce tasted completely different to any chilli crab I had tried before. Apparently this is because they are one of the few places that still make their sauce from scratch, and don’t buy it bottled. I know understand why chilli crab has such a legendary reputation – the sweet crab with that super punchy sauce gives a massive taste explosion in the mouth.

Chilli crab, with actual chilli!

You can try this yummy chilli crab at Leng Heng BBQ Seafood & Claypot Deluxe, 1220 East Coast Parkway, Stall 6, East Coast Lagoon Food Village

Before trying this dish, I’d never really understood the Singaporean thing of travelling all the way across the island to enjoy what they think is the ‘best’, but I have to say I’d definitely make the journey out east to try this again.Whilst we were eating our dinner, Anna & I made a new friend of the granddaughter of the stall owner. A budding photographer from the looks of this shot!

The next David Bailey and Anna

Thanks to notatourist and SingTel for the kind invitation, and for the lovely Anna accompanying me and sharing some of her photos. She has actually just launched her own styling company, Polished Presence, complete with its own gorgeous blog which you can check out here.

Lunching at Five and Dime

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My little beloved ‘point and shoot’ camera has suffered a little mishap at Beerfest (there was a flying Jaegermeister foam hand involved – I shall say no more) so it has been recuperating at the camera hospital (aka the Sony service centre). So, I thought I would take this opportunity to post some things that I’ve been capturing with my iPhone recently.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Fiona and I decided to make the most of a free lunchtime and pay a visit to Five and Dime. Five and Dime is a cute, quirky little spot tucked away on River Valley Road. It’s only been open since the start of the year, but has already gathered a big following amongst Singapore foodies for its laid back vibe, friendly staff and good food.

Lunch at Five and Dime

We both ordered the Eggs Benedict, as it was a bit of a wet and windy day outside and we were in the mood for something comforting. The lunch menu comprises a varied selection of dishes, including other breakfasts, fish and chips, burgers and pasta. The Eggs Benedict came served on brioche toast, with some pan-fried potatoes and fruit salad served on the side. For someone who can’t turn down eggs benny when I see it on a menu, it was nice to have one that at least gave the impression of being healthy (yes, I am well aware Hollandaise is basically just melted butter…).

Our Eggs Benedict

This is quite a heart dish, with the potatoes and the toast, but it was a satisfying if slightly indulgent lunch. It was nice to finish on the freshness of the fruit salad. After our eggs, we ordered lattes to wash everything down. They came out small but perfectly formed, and I loved the coffee art!

Love the coffee art

Five and Dime is a great spot for lunch, and I think it would be fantastic for brunch as well. It’s not a big place so if you were a large group you might struggle. It is also open for dinner and I can imagine that it would be a lovely spot for a laid-back evening. Don’t go expecting culinary fireworks but you certainly will get decent, well-cooked food, served with a smile.

Inside – there are lots of quirky details that I loved

You can find Five and Dime at 297 River Valley Road, 238338. For reservations call (+65) 9236 5002 or check out their website.  

Eat for a Cause and Bak Kut Teh

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If you know me you’ll know I have a bit of a thing for food. I love eating food, whether at home or out and about, and I love cooking it as well. Living in Singapore has given me the chance to massively indulge my inner food geek. Although there are certain ingredients which I find hard to get hold of (and the lack of any information about animal welfare or origin – free range eggs? Cannot lah!) Singapore is a great place to be a foodie. There are some things which I am not sure I will ever try – pig organ soup is one that springs to mind – I am pretty open-minded when it comes to sampling new dishes and ingredients. I think I am one of the few people who goes into raptures at the sight of the Mustafa’s produce section! I love that I can easily pick up things that were tricky to get hold of, such as Kaffir lime leaves (which are also great in a G&T if you are that way inclined!).

I got invited by notatourist.sg to attend an event organised by NCompass Mobility called ‘Eat for a Cause’  in support of the yellow ribbon initiative, which helps rehabilitating ex-prisoners and drug addicts. To support the cause we ate at two restaurants that only employ ex-prisoners and drug addicts to help them reintegrate into society. One of the things that has surprised me about living in Singapore has been the lack of (or certainly the low-profile) of charities or social enterprises that exist to help the more disadvantaged. Having worked in this sector in the UK, it’s something I feel passionate about supporting, so I was really looking forward to going along and finding out more.

We headed up to Jalan Kayu to visit New Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh. The story behind this place is great. The owner was in and out of prison as a young man, and in his most recent stint he worked as the prison’s chef. On being released, he set up New Soon, serving Bak Kut  Teh which is his favourite dish. He now employs other ex-inmates, giving them a chance of gainful employment and an opportunity to rehabilitate. You can read more about his story here.

So what is Bak Kut Teh? It is essentially a soup with pork ribs. There are several different versions, and the broth can vary between herbal and peppery. We tried the herbal version which was delicious. The pork ribs were deliciously tender and the meat fell off the bone. I was able to get it off with my chopsticks and I’m not the most skilled at using them! The soup was served up with some steamed rice, salted vegetables and the ubiquitous chilli sauce. It was one of things that having tried, I think I would definitely eat again as its such a flavoursome dish.

Bak Kut Teh

After our Bak Kut Teh, we wandered up the road a little to get some Roti Prata which is essentially a fried flour-based pancake. I’d only had the savoury versions before, but here we ordered dessert prata. Some of the others went for chocolate but I ordered strawberry, seduced a bit by the idea of fresh strawberries nestling in a yummy pancake. Sadly the strawberry here was some kind of artificial syrup stuff (I should’ve guessed that!) so although it was enjoyable, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. We also got to try Teh Tarik, otherwise known as ‘pulled’ tea. It is a hot, milky tea drink and is usually made with condensed or evaporated milk giving it a sweet taste. The mixture is ‘pulled’ to give a frothy texture – this involves pouring the tea backwards and forwards between two containers to aerate it. Apparently this is quite a skill, with some teh tarik vendors putting on a show for their customers – I suppose similar to the showmanship that sometimes accompanies getting a cocktail in other countries!  

I really enjoyed my lunch; trying out new food, meeting new people, and supporting a great cause. I also really enjoyed meeting the people at NCompass, who did a fantastic job of arranging the lunch, but also do great work supporting expats in their moves to Singapore and lots of other countries.

Thanks to NCompass for organising the event and notatourist.sg for the invitation. 

Fantastic friends

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Yikes, I am very behind on my blogging! My lovely friend Liz and her boyfriend Andy came to visit nearly a month ago, and I’m only just getting around to blogging about it!

I’ve said before that one of the greatest joys when you are an expat, is having friends and family coming to visit you. Liz is one of those rare and lovely friends who was so excited and supportive about our moving here, that she’d booked her flights out here to visit before we even had ours booked! At the time, I remember sitting at the office during my last few days at work thinking about how far away March was, and how it felt like an eternity was stretching out in front of me before I would see her. But, time does funny things to you when you move abroad and all your usual routines and markers are up in the air. Suddenly, March was here and Liz & Andy were waving at me from the baggage collection belt in Changi Airport!

We did lots of stuff while they were here, including visiting the Zoo, Botanic Gardens, Arab Street, and Chinatown. It was great to show them both some my favourite places in Singapore, and to eat lots of delicious food!

Beautiful white tiger

The lovely Liz & I

Beautiful orchid

Drinks in the Raffles courtyard (with Fi too)

The view from the 70th floor at New Asia Bar

But best of all, was spending time with one of my best friends, catching up on all the news from home and sharing all those silly jokes that come so naturally when you have known someone for years. I love all the friends I have made since I arrived, but I also appreciate how wonderful it is to have people in your life who have shared even more with you. Friends are awesome and I count myself very fortunate to have so many that I truly treasure.

Eating Chili Crab

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We had a surprise flying visit from a friend of Will’s who came out to Singapore on a very last-minute business trip. Whilst he was here he wanted to do some ‘typical Singaporean’ things. This included sampling the famous Singapore Chili Crab. We ummed and ahhed about the different places we could take him to sample this classic Singaporean fare. In the end, we decided to play it safe and took him to Jumbos Seafood , by Clarke Quay. We munched our way through a starter of some prawns and tofu, before tucking into a huge chili crab and an equally huge black pepper crab.

Despite the name, chili crab is not generally that spicy. It is served in a thick sauce made with tomatoes. This sauce was slightly sweet, with a slight kick of chili.

Chili crab

Chili crab

The black pepper crab is dry, but with a big pepper kick. I’d say I definitely preferred the black pepper crab as you really got to taste the crab flavour; with the chili crab the flavour is masked and you may as well enjoy dunking bread into the sauce and gobbling that up instead!

Black pepper crab

Black pepper crab

Getting into the crab can be a messy business, so be prepared to get your fingers sticky. They helpfully provide you an apron/bib type thing to cover your top, so you don’t end up with sauce all over you. This is not true of the table unfortunately, which was covered with sauce by the time we left!

Will getting ready to crunch

Handy apron

Handy apron

Eating chili crab is a great fun thing to do in Singapore with friends. It is quite a sociable dish, with much hilarity as you try to dig out all that gorgeous crab meat. Whilst not a staple dish for us since we arrived, it definitely is a taste of Singapore.

Finger licking good

A tourist in Singapore: our first visitors to the Lion City

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Friends and family visiting from home. Can anything bring greater joy to the still-slightly-green expat?!

We had our first visitors to the Lion City at the end of January. Will’s brother (L) and his friend (N) came out to stay with us for 4 nights, before heading off to Australia for a friend’s wedding. One of the great things about Singapore for me, is that so many people have to fly via it when they are going visit Asia, Australia or New Zealand, meaning a lot of people are planning on passing through to see us – hooray!

Having the guys here was just brilliant. It was so lovely to see familiar faces, share stories and jokes, and catch up on all the news from back home. We had a lot of laughs and silliness – thank you both so much for coming to visit!

As the guys were out first set of visitors, we aren’t yet jaded by the ‘tourist/visitor trail’, although no doubt we will get there at some point. We were both so excited about showing them around and showing off our ‘new’ city.

First stop was Chinatown for a bit of food. It was N’s first time in Asia (can you believe that?!) so we wanted to show him all the sights, sounds and smells of Asia, and Chinatown seemed like the best place to do that. We went to one of our usual haunts and devoured satay, Singapore noodles and many beers. Great start to the trip! The guys were pretty jetlagged so we didn’t stay all that late in the end.

The next day, we took the MRT almost the whole way across the island to Jurong Bird Park to get a bit of wildlife action. We were planning on visiting the Night Zoo later, so it seemed like a good plan to get the double entry tickets, that give you a discount.  I actually enjoyed the bird park a lot more than I thought I would. As with the Singapore Zoo, everything is done very sympathetically, so I never felt bad about the birds being in aviaries, as they were so large and well thought out.

Penguins!

Lories - love their colours

Victoria crowned pigeon

One for Miss Jackson - me at the Bird Park!

Cooling off or drying their wings - what do you think?

I loved seeing all the colourful and unusual birds that were there. It was a great treat to see so many and it made me curious to learn more about Asian flora and fauna. I think I need to buy myself a little book on it.

That evening we went to the Night Zoo. As so many people have commented before, you can’t take flash photos at the Night Zoo so unfortunately I don’t have any to share with you lot. But I LOVED it there – such an exciting and magical experience. You arrive in the dark, and the way is lit with flaming torches, and people drumming. It all feels very tribal and you can’t help but feel a flicker of excitement and anticipation as you wait to board your little train thingy that takes you around the park. The train thingy is electric so you just glide along, and then suddenly round a corner and see animals looming out through the gloom.

I know some people just sit on the train and don’t get off an explore. I can’t help but think that’s such a huge mistake. We saw so much more stuff wandering around, and it was a much more interactive experience. We saw flying squirrels, bats (yuk), and our new favourite creature – the Binturong. The Binturong is a funny cat looking creature, that is related to civets (those that make the super expensive coffee). It looks quite cute, until it bares its teeth, but the best fact about it is that its supposed to smell of popcorn. A cat that smells of popcorn = best thing ever. Anyway, GO to the Night Zoo. Its super fun and very exciting!

The next day we explored around the Marina Bay area. We walked along by MBS, over the Helix Bridge and back again. We also took a bum boat along the river. I found the bum boat fun, as I like being on the water, but I think we gave the guys more information about the area and the buildings than the tour guide did. Maybe we just know a lot more about Singapore than we thought, or we just had a particularly rubbish guide, but I wasn’t overly impressed.

Hanging out by MBS

Walkway by MBS

Helix Bridge

The Esplanade, aka the durians

The Merlion

The evening rolled around quickly, and then it was time for bar crawl, Singapore style! We started off in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling – had to be done really, and it was the first Sling that Will & I have had since arriving. I enjoyed it; the Long Bar was fun, although I can’t imagine staying for more than one drink.

Enjoying our first Singapore Sling!

We then went on to Altitude at One Raffles Place, where we’d planned to show the L & N the brilliant view from the ‘world’s highest alfresco bar’. We’d been before on our look-see visit, and were captivated by the views of the city. It made us really excited about moving here. Unfortunately, when we got upstairs, we were told that the rooftop bar was shut for a function (turned out to be a wedding). They told us they were almost finished, so we ordered drinks, thinking we could finish them upstairs. However, it was a much longer wait than we’d hoped, so we ended up doing the briefest of circuits around the outside bar, before we had to leave for our next booking.

On to Lantern Bar, on top of the Fullerton Bay Hotel. Top marks for brilliant marina views, and gorgeous surroundings. We enjoyed delicious cocktails and lots of yummy snacky bar foods. The setting was just great, and the service was excellent – I have to mention it, as those of you who are Singapore residents know how rare that is!

The pool on top of the Fullerton Bay

Lanterns at Lantern!

After enjoying our drinks at Lantern, we headed back to MBS, and up to Ku De Ta for some more gorgeous views of the Singapore skyline. We didn’t actually go into the club, choosing instead to stand outside and enjoy the breezes and views. I felt strangely peaceful standing up there – I think I finally started to feel like Singapore was my home. There was a DJ playing some good tunes, so we ended up staying there late, drinking lots, and dancing our little socks off!

View of the City from the top of MBS

Sunday saw us doing what Sundays were invented for – working off a hangover by brunching with friends, and generally being lazy. Perfect. On Monday, L had to take an early flight on to Australia, but N was here until the evening so we decided to do an open top bus tour. Funniest thing ever. We learnt absolutely nothing about the history of Singapore or what certain landmarks were, but we did learn the about the best places to get chicken rice, buy Crocs, go the cinema, and exactly what roads bordered the Botanical Gardens. All this told to us by a lady with a voice that sounded like she did another job entirely in the evenings…Hilarious. I’d recommend it if you want a good laugh, not if you want to find out about Singapore! We finished up the day with a lovely steak in Club Street, before waving N off into a taxi to the airport.

Thanks guys for coming out and making me appreciate my new home town so much more. Being a tourist in Singapore really made me realise how much this place has to offer. Good times.

A little January update

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Sorry for the radio silence folks – we have been super busy since we got back from our Bali holiday.

First of all, we celebrated seeing in 2012 with some of our lovely new friends in Singapore. Pia threw a super fun ‘wigs & hats’ party over at her condo (which is walking distance from ours). So complete with dragon hat (Will) and crown (me), we saw 2012 in with much food, drink, laughter and silly dancing.

Does pink hair suit me?! 

We then had a lovely bank holiday spent with the same friends we were partying with. What started as a brunch at Epicurious at Robertson Quay, turned into a bit of a bar crawl and saw us sipping cocktails and eating cake at the PS Cafe on Ann Siang Hill, before moving on to the rooftop bar at Ying Yang. When we arrived they were playing atrocious club music at a stupidly early hour, so we got them to put on some reggae, and relaxed with some cold drinks and a cooling breeze. Great way to spend a bank holiday – thanks guys!

I also went with Laura back to the Asian Civilisations Museum, which continues to fascinate me. It’s such a great place to explore – I love reading all about the different areas and looking at the exhibits. In particular, we marvelled at some of the relics of language and how modern people had deciphered what was written, when no-one alive could speak the language. We had a great morning pottering around all the exhibits, before a yummy Italian lunch on Boat Quay, and a very long natter catching up on everything that we’d been up to and putting the world to rights!

Will & I finally went to Little India and had a delicious curry courtesy of Jaggis – brilliant Punjabi food in a no frills setting, exactly what we needed after the last few days of excess! I also met a fellow Claire, who is behind the gorgeous blog and company Fellow Fellow (beautiful handmade paper gorgeousness). We had a lovely evening with a cold glass of wine and surprisingly delicious calamari and truffle fries, at a bar on One Fullerton. This was followed up by eating ice cream by the Merlion and watching the laser show from Marina Bay Sands (still don’t understand the laser show, but its pretty!). Great evening, and great to meet another lovely person who calls this tiny island home.

On Friday, we went to the cinema to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I loved the books  (see my review here) but hadn’t seen any of the Swedish film adaptations. This was actually quite a good version, despite a bit of artistic licence with the plot somewhat! I would say that the rape scene and subsequent revenge scene is rather disturbing and not for the faint hearted! However, Rooney Mara was brilliant as Lisbeth Salander, and I did find it amusing how Daniel Craig has obviously made it enough to not have to put on a faux-Swedish accent!

Then on Saturday we hosted a birthday party for Nav at our condo – our first time BBQing in Singapore. Except although they are called ‘BBQ pits’, they are actually more of a hot plate – bit of a shock when we opened it up, but we managed to cook up a storm. Great fun, and great to find our ‘host & hostess’ mojo here in Singapore, as we were both missing having parties and BBQs like we used to in London. So we made some new friends, swam in the swimming pool after too much food, used every glass in our apartment when we had to move upstairs, and danced to Bollywood videos on You Tube. Awesome.

This is a bit of a sign of things to come as we have a busy January ahead:

  • a good friend of ours is coming over on his ‘look-see’ so we will be showing him the sights and sounds
  • we are going to Vietnam for Chinese New Year – flying to Ho Chi Minh, exploring the city, and then travelling down to the Mekong Delta. Can’t wait, as its my first time visiting Vietnam
  • hosting Will’s brother and a few of his friends as they stay for a few days, en route to a wedding in Australia

I am relishing the idea of being tour guide, as it’ll be nice to feel like a Singapore expert, rather than the ‘green’ newbie! Plus it will be great to see everyone and catch-up properly with all the news from home. I also think showing people around will make me appreciate Singapore a little bit more, as it’s always good to see your city through the eyes of someone else.

I am also on the job hunt, so if anyone knows of anyone who might like to give a great project manager/researcher/writer/events organiser/PA a job, then please get in touch! 🙂

Mozaic restaurant, Ubud, Bali

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Whilst we were enjoying our Christmas break in Bali, we went and ate at Mozaic restaurant in Ubud. Mozaic is set slightly out of Ubud, so it’s definitely a taxi ride to get there. Inside the decor is very modern, but with hints of Balinese. You can either sit indoors or outside in the gardens.

It’s supposed to be the best restaurant in Ubud, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. We had the special Christmas Chef’s Table menu, which was a 6 course tasting menu (and we also opted to do the wine pairing with each course). As we were having the chef’s table menu, we were led through the gardens to a private room at the back, with about 8 tables in it. The kitchen is here, as they often run cooking courses in this room. It’s all very sleek and slick looking, with enough beautiful kitchen gadgets to keep me fascinated, whilst we waited for our first course.

The chef cooking for us was a New Zealander called Blake Thornley. He was incredibly friendly and welcoming, saying from the outset that he wanted people to come up and see what he and his team were doing, as well as ask questions about each dish, and cooking techniques etc. It gave me free rein to ask all my geeky gastronomic questions! Ha!

We started off with a delicious amuse bouche of tuna, with a soy and ginger dressing. Delicious, and it really woke up your mouth, ready for all the other treats coming up.

The next course was ‘Fine de Claire’ oysters, with crushed raspberries and fresh black truffles. It’s here that I must confess that I don’t like oysters. I’ve tried them a couple of times and I just don’t enjoy the texture or taste. It seems a little pointless to gulp down something that you barely taste. My only concession to oysters is when they are cooked (reduces the chance of making you ill as well!). So Will enjoyed his oyster starter, but I had a beautiful alternative of lobster instead, which was perfectly sweet and soft,  complimented with salty vegetable crisps and sauce.

This indulgent fishy starter was followed by a fish course – confied coral trout with wild mushroom crumble, potato espuma and sticky Iberico jus.  I’d never heard of coral trout, nevermind eaten it before. Coral trout is actually a reef fish and found all around Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Blake explained how the coral trout had been confied – slowly oven cooked in a low heat oven in a pan filled with oil, flavoured with herbs, at a low heat, until the trout is perfect. The trout was beautiful – just the right side of cooked, and soft but with plenty of flavour. The potato espuma was potatoes aerated in the same way as whipped cream – a new way of having mashed potato – meaning that it was the perfect light accompaniment to the fish. The Iberico jus was made by boiling pigs heads and trotters to make a stock, which was then reduced down to a jus over 36 hours – that’s some commitment to creating this amazing nod to surf and turf! Gorgeous, and perfectly matched with a 2008 Australian Chardonnay.

Perhaps it is here that I should mention the sommelier. He took the time to come round and speak to all the diners, to talk to them about the meal and the wine pairings. He is Balinese, so becoming a sommelier is quite unusual, as most Balinese people don’t drink. However, he took tremendous pride in his work and was delighted that we were happy with his choices.

After the fish course, we had foie gras. I love foie gras; I know some people think its cruel but I think its delicious! Perhaps that comes of having a French mother, who knows?! We had foie gras two ways (hot & cold) served with a bitter cocoa sauce and poached cherries. I loved the hot foie gras, which was pan-fried. I think it’s the contrast of the crust that forms during the frying against the soft inside, that just melts in your mouth. The unusual combination with the bitterness of the cocoa and sweetly sharp cherries was just gorgeous. Paired with a 2008 Reisling (which I discovered I really, really like!).

After the foie gras, I was feeling rather full, and a little bit tipsy from the wine pairings! The meat course was up next: Australian lamb loin, served with pumpkin and lemon puree, sage, and spiced jus. The lamb was perfectly cooked – pink in the middle – and deliciously meaty next to the soft pumpkin and spicy sage jus. Unfortunately, much to Will’s amusement I was so enjoying the lamb and the Bordeaux that we had with it, that I completely forgot to take a photo …sorry about that folks, but take my word for it that it was divine!

Cheese course next: Vacherin Cheese with baked brioche, and warm mushroom and black truffle vierge. I have a photo of this one! The brioche was soft, sweet and buttery, next to the rich cheese. The mushroom and truffle vierge lifted the richness and stopped it becoming too cloying. I’m not a massive fan of strong cheeses, but this was good match with the sweetness of the brioche.

Finally, we had the dessert course. I was super full by this point, but when I saw what it was, I knew I’d make room, no matter what! Baked hazelnut chocolate fondant, with goat milk ice cream and Armangnac reduction. Died and officially gone to heaven. I was intrigued to find out how they did the fondants, as I’ve watched enough episodes of Masterchef and Come Dine with Me to know the route to being an amateur chef is littered with the graves of failed fondants. Blake was confident in his method – all down to the timing apparently, and the texture of the top as you take it out of the oven (better to err on the undercooked, squidgy side to ensure a fondant centre). We all watched with bated breath as Blake eased the first fondant out of the mould – success! We were all rather in awe. But then, rather embarrassingly, it all started to go wrong – the fondants coming out of the mould started to collapse in on themselves, much to his embarrassment. He brushed it off as not having brought them to room temperature before cooking (they’d been prepped earlier in the day and stored in the fridge) but it made me smile that even a chef who has made thousands of fondants, still finds them tricky!

But luckily, there were enough perfect ones for us to sit down with a plateful, a glass of Sauternes, and start tucking in. Oh wow! Rich oozing chocolate combined with tangy goats milk ice cream – sharp and surprising at first, then deliciously salty and sweet – all with a hit of Armagnac finishing things off. I’d never have thought of such a combination, but it was delicious and unexpected. I could have happily eaten it all over again!

We left Mozaic feeling fully, tipsy but delighted at the wonderful evening we’d had – it really made Christmas special. Thanks must go to Blake Thornley and his team of sous-chefs for all the wonderfully delicious food they created, and for answering all my questions about dish composition and cooking techniques whilst trying to plate up! Also the sommelier – we didn’t catch his name, but he did a wonderful job with the wine pairings – even managing to get me to enjoy a dessert wine for the first time ever! Highly recommended if you find yourself in Ubud and want to eat somewhere special.

A very Bali Christmas

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Christmas 2011 was a series of firsts for Will & I. Despite having been together for more than 7 years, it was the first time we actually spent Christmas Day together. Usually, we spend it with our respective families, meeting up on Boxing Day. It was also the first time that either of us had spent Christmas anywhere other than in England, and the first time we’d ever had a ‘hot’ Christmas.

When we first arrived in Singapore, we decided almost instantly that we should go away for the festive season. We knew flying back to England wasn’t really an option – too far, not enough days holiday, expensive, and potentially rubbish timing as we would be trying to get settled in Singapore, and returning home so soon might have made us feel even more homesick. We did a little bit of Googling and looking on Skyscanner to find affordable flights, and Bali came up trumps. We’d been once before, back in 2009, and LOVED it, so we knew we’d have a great time. 4 nights booked in Ubud.

We left Singapore bright and early, and of course had a super easy time getting through Changi airport! Two hours later, we touched down in Denpasar to an absolutely torrential rainstorm! Not quite what we had expected, and we both looked at each other and wondered ‘is it going to be like this the whole time?’. Thankfully, as we made our way by car from the airport to Ubud, the skies clearer and soon the hot Bali sun had raised our spirits.

It was so wonderful being back in Ubud, just hanging out in the clear air by the paddy fields, and enjoying the sounds of all the wildlife, especially after being somewhere so urban like Singapore (and London of course!). Where we stayed is tucked away down the end of a long road, meaning it’s very peaceful.

We spent Christmas Eve walking around Ubud. We took the road that leads out of the main town, across the river. We walked past lots of interesting little shops selling arts and other craft works. Just as we were beginning to tire we found the Art Zoo run by an American artist called Symon. Its a huge studio on several levels, and we had a great time wandering around, cooling off in the breeze blowing through the big open windows. Symon is a bit of a character, and talked to us about his work, whilst reclining in a hammock, wearing little more than a sarong! But we liked him, and we liked some of his art (some of it is truly bizarre – like a naked man, with the head of a bird) so we ended up buying a painting off him. Hey, who comes to Ubud without buying art right?! After that, we walked back into Ubud, stopping to have a massage, before hiding on our balcony for the rest of the afternoon, due to a sudden tropical downpour.

That evening we had an amazing time, eating at Mozaic restaurant, which is claimed to be Ubud’s best restaurant. We ate a six course tasting menu, at the chef’s table, where you could watch the dishes being prepared, and ask the chef questions about each dish – its ingredients, cooking methods and composition. I think I can safely say its one of, if not the best, meal I’ve ever eaten (you can read my post all about it here). I had such a fabulous evening – fantastic food, delicious wine, and great company! We went to bed feeling sleepy, full and very content.

Christmas Day! It was wonderful to wake up with Will on Christmas morning, and sit in bed opening our stockings that we’d brought with us. Lots of little treats and tasty things, as well as a Singaporean cookbook for me, and a Paul Frank T-shirt for Will, amongst other things. We ate our breakfast in the sunshine, and read on the terrace for a bit. We then went walking around Ubud again, exploring some of the shops along Jalan Dewi Sita, and Jalan Hanoman. We stopped in a cafe for a long lunch, before walking back towards our hotel. We stopped at a spa across the road from where we were staying and then indulged in a massage and beauty treatment, where you get an hour-long massage, before a green tea scrub, being covered in yoghurt, and then soaking in a bath in a garden bathroom, overlooking the paddy fields. Bliss.

In the evening, we Skyped our families (which left me a big teary afterwards) and then walked down to a restaurant where we had ordered babi gulung, or roast suckling pig, to have as our Christmas dinner. Unfortunately, it was at this point that I started to feel rather unwell, and had to leave Will to eat everything on his own, whilst I succumbed to the food poisoning curse. I haven’t felt that ill in quite some time, and needless to say it was an early and then rather sleepless night! However, Will reports that the babi gulung was delicious!

We spent Boxing Day just taking it easy, as I was finding it hard to eat much! Lots of sitting by the pool, reading, and relaxing. Later on in the afternoon, we took a trip to the village of Lodtundah, to visit the Semar Kuning artists co-operative that operates there. It’s basically a huge gallery, with every style of Balinese painting you can think of. The co-operative arrangement means that each artist benefits from any sales of art there, so you can invest in the whole community with your purchase. The artists show you around, and are happy to talk to you about each style and the artist who painted each piece. We had actually visited the co-operative before, when we came in 2009 but didn’t remember where it was or what it was called, so we were delighted that we had ended up there. Prices are very negotiable, so don’t be afraid to ask for a discount (we managed to pay a third of the price we were originally quoted!). We bought a beautiful painting of a pair of parrots, which I’ll put up here once we have had it re-stretched and framed.

Before too long, it was time to go home. It’s here that I must mention the only bad thing about our trip: the traffic in Ubud has become crazy. The roads are so congested with big tourist cars and motorbikes, that it took us over an hour to get out of Ubud centre! We just crawled along the streets. Despite the beauty and tranquility of Ubud, that has put me off returning somewhat, and I do think the Balinese need to take some serious steps to address it, as it won’t get any better on its own. Our driver drove like a demon to get us to the airport in time – we arrived 10 minutes before check-in closed! And then before too long we were up in the air again, saying goodbye to Bali, and on our way back home to Singapore.

Brunch at Food for Thought

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This morning I woke up with a craving for pancakes. Sometimes, once you get an idea for food in your head, you have to satisfy it, or nothing else will taste quite as good, no matter how delicious.

A few minutes on Google later and I discovered LadyIronChef and a post on where to get the best pancakes in Singapore (the rest of this site is awesome as well). A quick read later and I decided we should go to Food for Thought, as it’s round the corner from our temporary apartment, and the menu made me drool!

Food for Thought is on Queen Street, just around the corner from the Singapore Art Museum. It’s set back off the street slightly, and you can either indulge in air-con comfort inside, or opt to do what we did, and sit outside in the sunshine with a gentle waft of a fan to keep you cool. The seating area feels shady and cool and is surrounded by plants. Very relaxing and you can watch the world go by.

So, the pancakes. You get two and pick a topping to go with them – I ordered them with walnut and banana. They came out enormous – drizzled with maple syrup and a big scoop of cream. As I tucked in, I also came across the odd little chocolate chunk as well. Absolute heaven, with the soft pancake, crunchy walnuts and smooth banana.

Will got the Full House – complete with bacon, scrambled egg, garlicky mushrooms, little fondant type potatoes, and brioche toast. There was also a nice bit of salad to freshen things up. He declined the dubious sounding chicken sausage in favour of extra bacon, and was thoroughly happy about it. Seems tough to find good pork sausages here so if anyone has any tips, let us know!We had giant milkshakes to go with our food. Mine was a giant mixed berry one; Will’s was a malt Malteaser, with actual Malteasers crumbled up over the top (cue a very happy face!). Big hits with both of us, but we were pretty full after we’d consumed everything! They had a good selection of tea and coffee as well, although we didn’t try any this time.Food for Thought also does tasty looking mains – we saw a couple of people tucking into pasta and risotto. Portions are big, so go hungry! They also have a social good message (they do lots of charitable stuff), so you can stuff your face but still feel virtuous at the end of it!