Tuesday, December 26, 2006

No More Please, Really!

When I woke up this morning, all I wanted to eat was a piece of fruit. After all that rich food the day before, I couldn't bear the thought of eating anything. That was until Cuz called to tell me she wanted to take me to Prime for lunch. Damn! I think I head my stomach scream "Blue murder!" but then again, my hearing is a bit off lately. So I threw caution to the wind, how could I pass on such a sumptuous opportunity?

I have to agree with Boolicious over at Masak-Masak that the bread and assorted butters are fab-u-lust! Todays bread were corn and pinenut and a tomato and chilli powder bread. We had truffle butter, plain butter and herb butter to spread on the lovely warm bread before us. There was some confusion over the truffle butter earlier as the waitress had told us that it was anchovy butter. I was thinking to myself, wow my taste buds are really overstimulated as this anchovy thing plus the corn bread makes it all taste like mushroom. Duh... Anyway I really liked the butter but limited myself to a slice each as Cuz had ordered so much food. We shared the pacific clam chowder and Australian blue crab cakes with aioli and mango salsa. The clam chowder was delicate in flavour and I liked that it was not thickened with potatoes. At the same time, its a little too creamy for my taste. The crab cakes reminded me of woo kok except that this was potato and crab. I think its that slightly sweet and deep fried taste that made me think of that particular dim sum. Anyway, it didn't blow me away but I was impressed by the generous portion of crab. Its a nice starter for those who like fried food.
We had three sauces to go with our steaks; bernaise (a must!), port wine reduction and caramalised shallot and balsamic. I have to say, I was not impressed by the sauces. The bernaise was disappointing and tasted floury while the other two tasted so similar, I couldn't tell them apart. Just as well because the steaks! Wow, the steaks... They definitely did not need any sauce. Infact, the sauces merely detracts from the robust meaty flavour of the steaks. We shared the 200 day Australian Black Angus fillet mignon and Argentinian Cabana Las Lilas (grass fed). I thought the Australian was juicier and tastier but that could've been due to the fact that the Argentinian was over done. I asked for medium and it was practically well done. I mean, they were both excellent but the Australian was just that much better for me.
We also had truffle mash potato, creamed spinach with garlic and onion rings on the side. The mash potato is evil! My god, its so rich, creamy and addictive. I'm so glad I only tried it at the end, so I only had a little bit because there was hardly any left! I did not like the spinach. It didn't taste anything like spinach. As for the onion rings, I could've sworn they came from Burger King! Nothing to shout about, Awesome Blossom at Chilli's still rocks!

The two piglets that I was with insisted on having dessert. My motto is "there is always room for dessert" but this rabbit was about to burst! They went ahead and ordered the baked alaska and sticky date pudding anyway. The baked alaska was bad. It was rock hard on the inside. I couldn't get to really taste it as it was frozen solid. The sticky date pudding was not as sweet as I expected which was nice. And the straciatella gelato with red currants was a nice touch. Oh, the butterscotch sauce was very dreamy. I coul've just had the gelato and butterscotch sauce. And since we were already passed the point of no return, I had a coffee that came with a giant slab of what looked like biscotti and amaretti marriage. It had the texture of amaretti which was nice but it was flavoured with chocolate instead. To top it all off, they even piped chocolate ganache on top. So, here I am, its dinner time and I am still full. No more! My stomach cannot take it!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Feast Pt.2

On Saturday night, Camp 5 had a Christmas party for their staff and members. I was fortunate enough to be invited, to feast on the array of goodies and be entertained by the Camp 5 band. I loved the pretty ginger-spiced cookies, poached pears and cauliflower bake. There were poached chicken, salad, cupcakes, satay and many more that I didn't get round to eat because I was so full from dinner. I can't believe they went to all that effort. Everything was so pretty and picture perfect. It was also nice to see the marshalls, bosses and staff looking so relaxed and enjoying themselves.

We were later entertained by the Camp 5 band that were made up by the younger marshalls. I like young boys but these ones are really young and so talented. Listening to them and reclining in the shadow, all I could think of was "highschool dance"! My god that was a long time ago!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Feast

Merry Merry Christmas! What a scorcher of a day! We had a mini feast at the family home. Turkey, roast pork, ham, pavlova, bread and butter pudding, crab salad, red cabbage, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes and vegetables. And Raffles was worried there wouldn’t enough food! Not in this house baby! We bought the turkey from Larisata and Gazza bought ham from Carre Four which disappeared very quickly. Mum made her famous roast pork with mushroom sauce and pineapple sauce. Sis made pavlova with redcurrants and blackberries. She also made crab salad with wasabi mayonnaise after being inspired by Nigella. I didn’t get round to making the chocolate cherry trifle but I made a sinfully rich bread and butter pudding with brandy cream instead. Slurp! It was nice having all my friends over. Even when their kids tear up and down the house terrorising the dogs and setting bad examples for the toddlers! Oh well, it was definitely some sort of festive cheer. We ploughed through the food only stopping to ingest alcohol in the form of white port which I brought with me from Porto. It was so hot and we were so full, we were like fat geckos plastered to the chairs on the veranda. We managed to pick ourselves up and watched the kids (big ones and small ones) tear open presents. There were tears as the small kids fought over presents and whoops of laughter from the big kids as we popped cheap crackers that didn’t go pop. What a lovely day, a perfect Christmas!
Below, my niece enjoying her Christmas meal before all the vultures arrived.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Colour My Palate

I’m so pleased that there are more restaurants that are opening up around the area. Palate Palette is the first to open with two more restaurants to open before the year is over. Palate Palette is on Jalan Mesui, next to Sticky Fingers (which I am yet to visit). Just over a week old, it’s Californian cuisine revisited. Not like the fusion mumbo jumbo back in the late 90’s, this one serves up clean and healthy options to clean up our tainted palates. They are stressing on low carbs, low salt, low oil, low taste? They are not kidding too, I noticed the “ultimate burger” was bun-less. Eeep! Sis and I are corn freaks so we both ordered a snack size cup of corn soup each. They also have it in a larger portion that comes in a bowl. The soup was made of homemade chicken stock, chopped fresh sweet corn and a hint of ginger. It was alarmingly sweet but we were assured that it was the natural sweetness from the corn and not sugar. Even though it was sweet, I still enjoyed it. The tiny piece of puff pastry was appreciated like biscotti with coffee.
I ordered a crab and avocado salad that comes with butterhead lettuce and endive. It was a very generous portion of avocado and I liked hint of lime and onion that cuts through the richness of the avocado. I struggled to finish it as I was already quite full from the soup. We ordered some fried calamari to share which was a bit contradictory to their healthy cuisine but I suspect it was probably to appease those with “heartier” appetites. It came with two sauce options and I chose the one that peanut and honey one. Funnily enough, it tasted like sweet miso sauce to me. I liked the taste but I’m not sure that it went well together with the calamari. Sis had ordered the lamb and onions with yoghurt sauce. It was very tasty and with just the barest hint of salt.
We were not too keen on dessert as they only have two choices at the moment. Ginger crème brulee or green tea millefeuille. I only like to drink green tea but not eat it. The owners were really nice and let us try mini versions of both for free. They were both equally good. The brulee had the perfect consistency and the ginger was very subtle. The green tea cream on tuille pastry were nice and light. This is my kind of restaurant. Well, maybe not the decor because it reminds me somewhat of nursery school but I like that the natural food flavours speak for itself. Where tasty doesn’t mean swimming in oil, drowned in sauce and overwhelmed with chillies. A word of caution if you are heading over there. Its a bit of a mess on that road during the day as there is a service apartment being built but at night its back to normal. They are also closed on Mondays.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Seems like you can’t go anywhere in London without being reminded how the Americans have taken over. The last time I was in London, everyone had gone crazy over Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I remember going to the one in Harrods and the queue went around the food hall. The smell is really enticing and the plain glazed ones are still warm. My favourite is the chocolate glazed sprinkles. This trip, I made a stop at Harrods for one. Still good but not as warm. After stuffing ourselves with duck rice in Bayswater, we wandered over to Westbourne Grove in search of something coffee and dessert. We ended up in Ottolenghi - a small, pretentious looking café that obviously caters to the yummy mummies in the area. The front area is piled with pretty looking tarts, cakes and savoury treats and the counter is manned by good looking staff. Go down the stairs and there is a big white table that fills up the room. It only sits 10 people so I wonder how they make money. Hunky ordered a potent chocolate cake for us to share but my hot chocolate was so damn rich, I was on the verge of being nauseous. I did have a bite of the cake and it was seriously intense. The texture was velvety but on the tongue it would melt and your mouth would then be enveloped by a wave of potent chocolate. Bloody hell!
In my last week, we managed to get to Hummingbird. I wanted to give the red velvet cake another chance. My sister is completely head-over-heels for this cake. It’s an American concoction that hails from the South apparently. The thrill of eating this cake comes from the visual impact when you first see it. First of all, it’s a three-tiered sponge. Secondly, it is deep, blood red with white frosting. The colour is quite shocking but beautiful at the same time. It’s even brighter than it looks in the photograph. The taste is like a vanilla sponge with a very subtle hint of cocoa. I’m still not converted. It took me four sittings to finish it. Hunky refused to eat it on principle because he thought Hummingbird was a complete bollocks of a bakery that survives on rich people with no taste. Er… Well, I do think the cupcakes are freaking ridiculous at £1.25 each. And they really are no big deal. It’s the whole packaging of the place I suppose. It’s in Portobello, the shop is charming and the trays and trays of cupcakes are so preeeetty. Hey, kudos to them for finding their niche right?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Made With Love

Its not very often that Hunky cooks for me. I remember the first time he "cooked" me dinner, it was from an El Paso tortilla pack. I appreciated the thought but it was definitely not what I was expecting from a romantic evening. Since he has been away, Hunky has honed his cooking skills much to my admiration. The last trip I was here, he blew me away with his perfect little scones. So crumbly and light. This time it was his risotto. I had heard about his risotto so many times over the phone, I just couldn't wait to try it. I had been cooking quite a bit so one night he just shoved me out of the kitchen, made sure I had nothing to snack on and 45 minutes later we were having risotto with organic (only the best for me!) smoked bacon, mushroom and pea (I insisted, I love peas). I was so impressed! Risotto is one thing I never cook for myself so I was well chuffed that Hunky cooked it for me. So delicious! The rice was cooked to perfection and it was a nice balance of savoury and sweet from the peas and onions. I liked it so much, I ate two big bowls.

We also had his little scones several times. We discovered the premium clotted cream from Asda was still nowhere as nice as the one in Sainsbury's. However, our favourite is from M&S. I could just eat it on its own! In between the risotto and scones, I'd whip up quick pastas for lunch. I must say I really enjoyed my cooking! I think its more like the comfort of holding a big bowl of hot pasta while its cold and dreary outside. I also cooked lots of curries and Chinese during the cold autumn nights. I didn't even have a cleaver to chop the chicken. Years of watching my mum skillfully butcher a chicken have made me more than competent. The only part I'm still squeamish about are the organs that are still attached. Shudder.

Staying near Asda is pretty cool. The produce are the cheap and ethnic friendly. They had a special deal in Asda for frying steak once. It was bloody tough when I made a black bean stir-fry with it. So with the remaining steak, I pounded the hell out of it using my fist (ah, good to get eh aggression out!) and made us a steak sandwich with caramelised onions and melted mature cheddar. I was surprised at how good it tasted! Well, frying it in butter (something I only do when I am on holiday) and good quality mature cheddar really makes a difference. It was freaking delicious if I so say so myself! Mmm, think I will make myself a steak sandwich this weekend...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Little Gorgeous

This charming little cafe belongs to my dear friend Dickie. Its called Gorgeous and its along Chetwynd Road in Dartmouth Park, north London. I worked for him a little bit couple of years back when he had a small deli next door. I'd help make sandwiches, salads and coffee to go. There were also ready meals all prepared by him. He'd be upstairs slaving over the stove while I manned the shop below. The joy of working for Dickie then, apart from his easy-going nature, was being able to taste all his wonderful cooking. I was really happy for him when he opened Gorgeous. If you are ever in the neighbourhood, do pop in.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Port-O, last stop

It took us over 5 hours to get from Lisbon to Porto on the "fast train". I wonder how long it would've taken on the regular train. Porto by the way is pronounced as Port. I was buying the tickets to Port-o and the guy said "Port". And I was worried that Port might've been a different town so I said Porto again. He gave me this look that suggested that I was thick and said once more, very clearly, "Port!" So that was our last stop, Port.

Looking at the scary (or beautiful depending on your taste) thing above, you would be forgiven for mistaking that Kim Gary has arrived in Portugal. No, no, this Kraft singles-covered monstrosity is called a francesinha which translates to "little French thing". Its a dish that can only be found in Porto. I don't know the story behind it but I can tell you that its not something you should eat regularly. Grilled white bread sandwich stuffed with cheese, spicy pork sausage, bacon, ham AND steak, covered with more cheese and doused in hot pepper sauce. Phwahliao! It was something my brother would' ve really enjoyed. He loves his meat and the junkier the better. For me, it was just...TOO MUCH! It was actually quite interesting but the high salt level was way past my threshold! The flavours were all so intense. Anyway, I'm glad I got to try a slice of Porto.

The dusted brown turd-looking thing below was delicious! It has the taste and texture of lebkuchen, which I love. Its a little spicy from the ginger, not too sweet and has a good strong cocoa taste. Hunky and I paid €0.30 for this giant "biscuit". It was a beautiful day and we had just finished our sightseeing for the day. On the way back to the hotel, I just couldn't resist buying something to snack on. So we bought one of these and nibbled at it sitting in a park watching old men play cards and dogs being walked.

It was Hunky's birthday and I asked the guy at the front desk to recommend a nice restaurant we could go to. He suggested D.Tonho which in by the river and has spectacular views. There are actually two D.Tonhos on opposite sides of the river. We crossed the river to Gaia where all the port wine makers are and got the view of the houses and historical ruins of Porto. It was a small modern-looking restaurant but the food was Portugese fare. Hunky ordered his last bacalhau for the trip while I had a plain grilled fish. What was interesting were the starters. He ordered some random thing that suggested ham or bacon and abacaxi. He figured that it can't go wrong as long as there was pork in it. As for abacaxi, we were excited to find out what it was. It turned out to be pineapple! Grilled bacon with grilled pineapple. Yum!! Salty and sweet. Smoked and grilled. Nice combo. For my started I ordered the mini pica pau. I thought it sounded cute. Yes, my rationale was completely lame compared to Hunky's. It was a very heavy dish that consisted of stewed sausages, pork and olives with slices of dense bread made out of chestnut flour. It was a big portion for a "mini" and I think it would've tasted fantastic with beer and wine, neither of which I was drinking that night.

Our best meal since Cascais happened on our last night in Porto. We had spent the day wandering through the charming streets of Porto, taking a gentle boat ride and visiting Calem port wine makers. We were too lazy to head back to the hotel and come out for dinner again. So we had more drinks in a cafe by the river and by fluke we ended up at Presuntaria Antiga. I'm not even sure if that was the actual name. We were walking past and it was bustling with locals so we went in. I had kid leg and Hunky had wild boar. Again, the portions were just massive. Obviously we don't learn, and also we are both quite greedy. I had kid coming out of my ears! I wasn't sure what I was eating. I don't think it was kid because the chunks were quite big and not all that tender. I suppose it could've been mountain kid? Anyway, it was very tasty. It was full of flavour. And I just love that green olive oil taste, chestnuts and potatoes. Mmmm. We were a bit confused when the bill arrived because it said 1/2 portion on both of our dishes. I like to think that maybe it was a special anniversary thing because if that was half portion, I'd hate to see the whole one!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sintra, halfway!

Sintra must be where the rich have their weekend homes. Located about 20km from Lisbon, Sintra is a scenic town set in hilly landscapes. We were staying at a family-run pensão that was a bargain at €90 for 3 nights. This is off peak price of course. I imagine summer must be quite expensive and really popular because this beautiful house has a pool, games room and massive garden. Perfect for families. We also had a fantastic view of the Moorish castle from the terrace.

Sintra is a place where it would be handy to have a car. It’s a nice walk during the day but the roads are quite hilly and it gets really dark at night. No light pollution here. Oh and the buses stop running after 7:30pm! On the hotel owner’s recommendation, we Tasca Mourisca for dinner. It was only 10 minutes walk, uphill! It’s a small restaurant that fits not more than 20 people. Its run by a really nice lady who is both cook and owner and she has a young woman helping on the floor. The menu only has a handful of items and changes frequently. For the couvert, they served a super nice dip with melba toasts and fresh bread. The dip is made from tuna and thousand island sauce that she makes herself. It sounds ordinary but it was really yummy! Hunky and I fought over the last spoonful. For my main course I had pan-fried pork chops with rice and salad. Hunky had fish pie which was really a quiche. Both dishes were light and tasty. I was full but he insisted on having dessert so he ordered a chocolate mousse and I had an almond and chocolate torte. Mine was really light and moist with the right amount of sweetness for me. Hunky’s mousse was not very moussey. He had several more during our trip and they were all similar in that they resembled thick custard rather than mousse. It was nice and chocolatey though.
We spent a good 2.5 hours walking around Quinta da Regaleira the next day. It is a lush and magical garden that was built during the very last years of the Portugese monarchy. I just love the names that were given to the sculptures and walkways. “Threshold of the Gods” and “Terrace of the celestial worlds” were my favourite. By this time in the trip, I was desperate for a salad. I’m not sure if it was because I was so hungry by then but it was the best salad that I’ve had in a long time (above)! €5 and I got a big bowl of chopped lettuce, grated carrots, walnuts, goats cheese, poached chicken, raisins and olives. All the flavours came together really well. On our last day, we caught a bus to Mafra to see the palace-convent. The drive there was really interesting because we finally got to see the real countryside. The palace-convent highlight was the Rococo library. It was stunningly beautiful. We were not allowed to take any pictures unfortunately. Our guide also showed us the dead corpse of a bat which lives in the library. Apparently they eat the insects that destroy the books in the library. The bats must be quite fat then because there were thousands of books. We grabbed a quick lunch at a café nearby. I ordered a crème caramel for dessert and it tasted exactly like the on in Ipoh! It was pockmarked and egg-y! It’s the same damn one!

Lisboa, Vasco Da Gama was here!

It was a walk down memory lane when we were strolling around Lisbon. Standard 5 sejarah lesson came flooding back and I struggled to remember some of names and events and I could only one come up with Afonso Albuquerque which was also the name of the road that leads to Belém. And of course, Vasco Da Gama, the main man himself. There was a big statue of him riding a horse with exotic creatures by his feet facing the vast unknown ocean before him. We spent a long time sitting there looking up at the statue of the man and I kept thinking that I wished I had paid more attention in sejarah.

Hunky and I set ourselves a budget of €40 a day which included food, transport and admissions to local sights. We managed to stick to the budget on most days because food really is quite cheap. Even after you convert euro to ringgit. Most mains are between €8 to €14 in your average restaurant. In the cafes at lunch, you can get away with a lunch special for about €5. When you sit down at a restaurant they bring you couvert which is usually pão, mentega (yay, I knew this word too!) and olives. Some bring more elaborate things like platters of ham, cheese and boiled prawns. None of these are free. You have to tell them that you don't want them. We had some once and realised we were getting too full for our mains. The servings are large but I don't see that many large people which bring me to conclude that dining out is done in groups. They also like to serve the meats with rice AND chips. Carb overload! Tell me, how to finish by my lonesome?

On our first night in Lisbon, we went to a restaurant located on one of the side lanes near our hotel. Sancho is old school dining. It was quaint and charming that all the waiters wore bow ties and wheeled an array of seafood to our table on a trolley. It reminded me of Castell steakhouse, well, without the chocolate velvet booths and cheeseboards as plates. It was that earnest dining room experience that is long gone in KL. Anyway, I had my first of many bacalhau which was baked with potatoes and olives (above). At first, all I could taste was salt. Once I moved past the outer layer of fish, it was very tasty. We were careful not to disturb the sea of olive oil on the bottom of our dishes. Yes, they are very generous with olive oil. Apart from that, it was delicious. Hunky had pork with chestnuts which was also very tasty.

One of our best meals was in the seaside town of Cascais, about 40 minutes by train from Cais du Sodre station. It was a beautiful sunny day after 2 days of grey. We walked around the quiet town and away from all the restaurants dotted along the beaches into the residential area. That was when we found restaurante Apeadeiro. The menu at the window didn't have the usual German, French and English translations so we figured that it must be authentic. It was a busy restaurant with Portugese families tucking into big hearty meals. Our waiter didn't speak much English but pointed out some of the specials we should try. So I ordered the grilled pork tenderloin with baked potatoes (above) and Hunky had the grilled pork ribs (below). I love the simplicity of the dish. The fresh cut of meat is not tainted by any sauce or marinade. It’s plain grilled with some salt and pepper and drizzled liberally with extra virgin olive oil and thin slices of garlic. The olive oil here is superb. It has such an intense aroma.

A short tram ride from Lisbon is a place called Belém. There are a few historical monuments, a contemporary looking cultural centre, Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and more importantly, Pasteis de Belém. This was THE place to eat a pasteis de nata except that they are so famous its called a Belém pastry! The place was heaving despite it being almost 3pm and every single table had a plate of them. We were wondering why the waiter looked surprised when we just wanted two. If we knew we were at the famous pastry shop of Belém, we would’ve had half a dozen each. But we didn’t know and we figured there would be more delicious egg tarts to come during our trip. Unfortunately, we never got to taste any that was as good as those. So sad. Pictured above is the puff pastry that reminded me of murtabak I mentioned in my previous blog. It was so tasty! The pastry was so flakey and not oily. How did they do it? When we got back into Lisbon, I tried a “vanilla turd” as Hunky called it. I think it translates to egg croquette (below). It’s an intensely sweet ball of…I don’t know what. It had the texture of marzipan except I think it was just egg and sugar. It was very rich but I finished all of it anyway.

Portugese cuisine is best described as rustic and we really should've known better than to attempt sophisticated Ad Lib which is a trendy “international” restaurant attached to Sofitel Lisbon. It was our last night in Lisbon and we wanted to go somewhere nice. It started off well enough with our foie gras mousse as an amuse bouche. I tasted a hint of orange in the form of alcohol. Nice! My starter wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Turned out to be nothing more than a poor imitation of crispy aromatic duck wrapped in pancake. That was not what the description suggested! My main course was more “impressive”. I had ordered lobster ravioli (below) with grilled lobster tail. That was pretty good but no wow factor. We ended dinner with crème brulee which was done perfectly. Thank God!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Portugal, home of Nando's!

I really should’ve started when it was all fresh in my mind. Its hard to remember all the details after a month, even harder when battling with jet lag at the same time. I've been wanting to visit Portugal ever since I missed my college mate's wedding in the outskirts of Porto. The only other person I know who has been to Portugal is my cousin. However, neither of them could tell me very much except that "It's really pretty". So armed with an outdated guide to Portugal, Hunky and I went off on our holiday. When I was in Spain a few years back, I was able to navigate fairly quickly but Portugal was a little harder especially when the only word I knew was almari. The language was completely foreign to me. Nothing sounded even vaguely familiar. The entire trip, I only learnt food names, thank you and hello. We were bad tourists!

There are a few things that stood out for me about the Portugese. The very first would be their love for pastries. Happiness! You will find at least one pasteleria around every corner. And of course there are some that are better than others. Some are obviously out-sourced while others bake in-house. In these pastry shops, you’ll find lots of egg based sweets and puff pastry filled with custard or minced meats that reminded me of, oddly enough, murtabak. Of course the most famous pastry is the Portugese egg tart except in Portugal its called a pastiés de nata. It is just the most fabulous thing and I am in love with it. Perfect, crisp round cups of puff pastry filled with wobbly melt-in-the-mouth custard. Divine! Hunky and I had one everyday for breakfast with a galão which is a latte to you and me but sissy’s coffee to the Portugese. The only time acceptable to drink um galão is in the morning. Any other time, you must order um café. And coffee there really means espresso.

The next thing most popular thing would be bacalhau or salt cod. Every restaurant and café have it. You can buy it in supermarkets and corner stores. It is everywhere. And according to my guide book, there are over 365 ways of cooking bacalhau. We made a point of trying a few different styles throughout our trip. We also noticed that they are really into tiles and cobble stones. I love the houses with their colourful tiled facades. The funny thing is we didn’t find a single tile shop! Apart from the ones in tourist shops that had the Nando’s chicken on it. As for the cobblestones, I don’t know how the women manoeuvre their way around the bumpy pavements. Another thing you will find adorned on windows of many of these charming houses are roller shutters! The last time I saw roller shutters were in the suburbs of Perth.

And if you think customer service is non-existent in Malaysia, it’s the same over there. They are a pretty unfriendly bunch. I’m not talking about the people on the streets, these are people who are suppose to assist ie. shop assistants, hotel staff and people at the tourist information office! No kidding. You’d think they’d be eager to point out all the beautiful and historical sights but no, its one word answers and body language that suggests “Please stop bothering me now”. But hey, I’ve never been to a tourist information office here so who knows, we could be worse.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Eating Out in London, The Highlights

I’m back! I’ve eaten too much, am broke but relaxed after the long break. It has been interesting going back this time because I’m eating less with my eyes and more with my stomach. I love the ambience, design and concepts of all the restaurants but a lot of the food falls short of what is promised. With our money being so weak, I was even more picky than usual about restaurants. We spent a little more but ate out less. We lunched quite a bit because most restaurants have a set lunch menu that’s good value for money. So where do I begin documenting my culinary adventures? Its going to take me a while to sort out all my pictures and thoughts so I think I will my favourites in London.

The day after I arrived, we had lunch at GBK (above). Everyone ordered a burger each so I decided to have salad which I only had a bite off. It was delicious but there was just too much food! After eating a quarter of Hunky’s avocado and bacon burger and quarter of Mar’s blue cheese burger, I was full. As you can see from the pictures, the burgers are rather large. They were still good but I could taste that unmistakable meaty taste I associate with meat that has been sitting in the fridge for a while. I’m happy to say, I find something much better later on in my trip.

It was after watching The Prestige that we visited Randall & Aubin on Fulham Road for lunch. I ordered the organic beef burger with pancetta (£12.95) above left while Hunky had pork chop with apple sauce, onion gravy and mash (£8.95) above right. Bloody hell it was a fantastic burger! Moist, fresh and full of flavour, it is the best (and most expensive) burger I’ve ever had. I liked that there was nothing fancy apart from the single slice of crispy pancetta, just pure, clean flavours. Hunky’s pork chop was really delicious too. The mash was so-so but the pork was really juicy and tender. It was a massive chunk of meat!

Another memorable meal was at Chez Bruce. It was awarded a Michelin star recently so Hunky has been harping on about taking me there. Dinner was completely out of the question because they were fully booked the whole time I was there. We managed to get a booking for lunch on the coldest day I was there. Walking across Clapham Common, the cold wind was merciless. I was in such a foul mood by the time we got there because I was hungry and my ears hurt from the biting cold. It didn’t look like much. It was a small restaurant with clusters of tables but you know its fancy when you get served by “real” English wait staff and a sommelier. Hunky and I decided to go for the 2 courses for £19.95. He had foie gras & chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche to start and grilled plaice with Jerusalem artichoke puree, seared scallops and prosciutto. Do you know that Jerusalem artichoke is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke? Why can’t they call it what it is?! Anyway I digress, for starter I had paysanne salad with confit of duck, foie gras, pancetta and red wine jus (below left). The description left out the fried quails egg and that the duck was not a duck at all. More like duckling or pigeon. Either that or it was some new breed of dwarf duck! It was pretty good but I think my cholesterol meter went bust. My main course was okay, nothing to write home about. It was a rump of lamb with braised savoy cabbage, sarladaise potato and prunes (below right). I liked the hint of rosemary and prunes. Hunky’s fish however, now that was superb! The fish was just cooked and the scallops divine.
One Saturday, we went to meet some friends at Spitalfields. Unfortunately for me, the market was closed due to renovations. So sad! What does one do when shopping plans get thwarted? Eat of course! We went to have lunch at Canteen which is one of the new restaurants in the area. It was really busy which we took as a good sign. Three of us had roast pork with braised red cabbage, quince paste, roast potatoes and sautéed seasonal vegetable (below). I was surprised at how healthy it tasted. There was very little salt, surprise, surprise. At the same time, it was bland. It was just nice for lunch. Hunky’s venison pie was really yummy. Not gamey at all.
I'm getting hungry again looking at these pictures! Mmmmmm.....