We have neglected this space for too long! One of our best friends asked us why we have not been updating the blog, and I replied to say that it was hard to beat the number of views we got for our last gastrographic post! Since then, we have had crossed some major milestones. For one, I (Gloria) moved to London last year and we also got married in January this year! In the last year we have been trying out new places to eat in London and will try to post more as we go along. For a (new) start, here’s a little gem of a place that our friend, Bel, brought us to.

Xi’an Impressions
117 Benwell Rd, London N7 7BW
+44 020 3441 0191
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 11.30 am – 10.00 pm

Xi’an Impressions is a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant close to Highbury & Islington train station, directly across the road from the Emirates Stadium, which specialises in traditional Chinese street style cooking. It looks a little dodgy from the outside and you wouldn’t expect any difficulty getting a seat. We were so wrong! We have visited twice, and everything we ordered did not disappoint. I recommend going early because some of the most popular dishes get sold out really quickly. The hand pulled noodles, cold noodles, and Chinese burgers are the restaurant’s top selling dishes. Our two favourite dishes have got to be their Ginger Chicken and Xinjiang stir-fried chicken dish.

Boneless Chicken in Ginger SauceFullSizeRender-5

Please let us know what you think if you do ever have a chance to visit this place. See you all soon!

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Now it is my turn to tell the story of how Glen asked me to marry him. It is also the story of how we got together. I decided to document everything on Gastrographic since this is a special space we share. The 8th of November started like any other normal day, just that it ended with me feeling out of this world. Well I knew Glen was up to something since he was being all sneaky the day before, but I did not expect that it was going to be this big a surprise. Glen was on leave that day as we had some errands to run. We went to Atariya in the day, and there was where he passed me my first brown envelope. I was really happy because he hadn’t written to me in awhile and I went ‘Oh hey! you had time to write me a letter!’. Anyway, when I was reading the letter it didn’t really cross my mind why the word “Will” was bolded until I read the second letter.

ONE: The Girl With The Happy Eyes

Atariya_

GirlwiththeHappyeyes

We went to Islington for a stroll after we had our tummies filled with some really awesome sushi. It was outside a home decor shop where Glen handed me my second letter.  He saw me again 3 years later at the Newton Circus bus stop wearing an orange dress. This was after RJC. We went through junior college not really knowing each other since he was one year my senior. I just knew him as Chu’s SLC muscleman canoe captain friend.

TWO: The Orange Dress Incident

_DSC2911_DSC2912It started to rain and Glen insisted that we had to go home. I did not understand why because it was still so early in the day and it was rare that we had an afternoon to spend together! We went home anyway, I went to the toilet to wash up, and when I got back into the room, there was an open luggage and he told me to pack in 5 mins because we had a train to catch at Paddington in an hour. (I’m not sure why he had risked doing so because he always gets annoyed at how long I take to pack and how much I have to pack :p)  I was asking a million questions but he refused to say anything! When we got to Paddington, Glen told me to look at the train schedule board to find out the details of the train which was leaving for Maidenhead. We almost missed our train but thankfully there were some delays and we hopped on just in time. I still did not know where we were going but this was when he passed me my third envelope. We met at the Costume Party Chu organised in 2008, and that was when we spoke to each other for the first time.

THREE: Funny How Things Happen

_DSC3215 Funnyhowthingshappen

When we were on the train, I asked Glen if we were going to The Fat Duck. He told me to stop guessing so I knew I was close, heh! There was a cab already waiting for us at Maidenhead. In 10 mins, we arrived at Bray and checked into The Waterside Inn. The place was absolutely pretty and I was blown away. I didn’t know they had little cottages and rooms on top of the restaurant, and was really surprised when I found out we were staying there for the night!

Glen passed me my fourth envelope. We met again 9 months after the costume party at Denise’s yearly NYE house party. This was when we exchanged numbers and this was the start of our friendship.

FOUR: Funny How Things Happen #2 and Happy New Year 

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happynewyear

Dinner started and the waiters were hilarious! They started congratulating us after serving each dish. I gave Glen a funny look, to which he said “I really don’t know what they’re talking about”. I laughed because I already knew what was going on.

Glen handed me the fifth envelope. He told me he liked me after two months of hanging out and I didn’t know quite what to say, which explains the title of the letter. He was leaving for Beijing for 6 months, and then London after for 3 years. (well, I guess it turned out to be a lot longer)

FIVE: But You’re Leaving Soon 

_DSC3003During his 6 months in Beijing, we kept in touch via MSN Messenger. His msn nickname was (glen.) and I would look forward to speaking to him at the end of each day after school. He sent me a postcard which read “Wo Hen Xiang Ni” (I miss you in Mandarin) and came back to Singapore with a huge bag of Mao related goodies for me.

SIX: Little Bubble

_DSC3038We continued to hang out whenever we could for the few months he had in Singapore before he had to leave for London. We went to Victoria Concert Hall for a concert one weekend and he told me after that he still liked me.

SEVEN: So Tell Me Honestly 

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Towards the end of the meal, I received the eighth envelope. Glen came over to my place one evening and spoke to my mum about us. We went through weeks of praying and consulting Chu to decide if we should give this relationship a shot. It wasn’t easy at all. We are complete opposites, have totally different hobbies, and we were gonna be half the world apart.

EIGHT: Yes, No, Maybe? 

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yesnomaybe

Glen wrote me a green letter and only gave it to me a month after, with only one week left before he had to leave for London. So with some luck, lots of praying, and a leap of faith, we decided to get together. In his words “And the rest, as you might say, is history. At the basement fountain of Raffles City Shopping Centre, I asked her in the clearest terms whether she would be my girlfriend. And in the clearest terms, she said yes.” I did so by agreeing to hold his hand, haha.

NINE: And She Said Yes 

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I was expecting a tenth brown paper envelope but that did not come. Instead, Glen took out a dark purple Ted Baker watch box. I gave him a Ted Baker watch four years ago on our first Valentines Day and that was the box which the watch came in. It is shaped as a book and the tenth letter, together with a little brown box, was inside.

TEN: The Ted Baker Watch Box 

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The last letter made me really emotional. I don’t know how to describe how I felt because I was feeling and thinking so many things at the same time! When I was done reading the letter, Glen was in front of me on one bended knee, and he asked me in the sweetest most serious way ‘Gloria Ong, will you marry me?’. I couldn’t wait to say ‘Yes!’ and I must have said it too soon because I remember my brain telling my heart to slow down because it hasn’t registered the moment and I said “Can you do it again please? It happened too quickly and I really want to remember this forever…”  and there he was again, on one bended knee, and the whole thing did a very slow replay. The rest of it was a blur, I just know I was dizzy with happiness (jetlag, and a very full food tummy).

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So, that’s the story! I hope you enjoyed reading it. A big thank you to our family and friends for sharing this journey with us and most importantly, thank you God for bringing us together and seeing us thus far.

32 Rivington Street,
London EC2A 3LX
020 7749 0478
http://www.chickenandsteak.co.uk/menus/66/

There is a certain type of person that works at Shoreditch – mostly the creative types, with talent and musicality spilling out of their ears, and in recent months, a preponderence of facial hair. Our waiter at Tramshed certainly fit the facial hair criterion, and our theory about the rest of him was that he was a massively talented musician/programmer/designer who was making ends meet by working a night shift at a cool Shoreditch restaurant. Tramshed is one of those cool places. It marries Mark Hix’s (of St. John Restaurant fame) culinary ethos with cutting-edge art. On the latter, one must query whether anything from Damien Hirst or a painting of the Cartoon’s Network’s Cow and Chicken would count as art.

The entire dining premise of Tramshed can be summed up by the artwork which is the centrepiece of industrial-chic converted warehouse the restaurant is in; in Damien Hirst’s inimitable style, a black rooster is perched on the back of a full-sized cow in a tank of blue preserving solution, serving as a macabre introduction to the things one can expect on the menu. Perhaps it is also a silent commentary of what the food and meat-processing industries represent – that in spite of the uneasy feeling we have in supporting an industry whose parlous treatment of animals is enough to make grown men cry, we choose nevertheless to ignore the elephant (or, in this case, cow and chicken) in the room because we simply can’t imagine life without meat. See also Banksy’s moving, squeaking expository in New York’s meatpacking district earlier this month.

Cow and Chicken, get it?Tramshed_Cow and Chicken

But I digress. We go to restaurants to be fed and make merry, and the more likely reason for the Damien Hirst installation is simply because it looked cool. Back to the food – the menu is simple enough to navigate. There are two chicken options, a Barn-Reared Indian Rock for two to three to share, or a spring chicken for one. The chicken is served vertically in a bowl which has an 8-inch stake in the middle that is thrusted through the bird’s cavity, legs facing upwards. The meat fell off the bone easily and the skin well crusted with brine. I was surprised at how big the chicken was – between the four of us there was plenty to go around.

The ribeye steak that we had was decent, but there was something missing from it. Based on what we had it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to Hawksmoor, as the steak here wasn’t grilled on the bone and I can only attest to the bone-in cuts at Hawksmoor. However Hawksmoor does use British Yorkshire Longhorn beef from the Ginger Pig butchery in London, which Heston Blumenthal has remarked is the best beef he’s had. I suspect even Tramshed’s bone-in cuts will find that quite difficult to beat.

Tramshed_FriendsThe meal ended with us celebrating Manav’s birthday. The idea initially was to get our bearded waiter to bring us a small chocolate cake with a candle in it and make it a surprise. Our poor man forgot to ask exactly whose birthday we were celebrating and fluffed it up. He thought it was Carmen’s birthday and completely missing Belinda’s glances in Manav’s direction as he spoke to her. What ensued was a charade of furtive pointing, uneasy glaring (from Belinda), and a futile attempt on his part to cover his mouth with a dessert menu when he discovered, belatedly, that the birthday boy was sitting at the table looking on in confused amusement. I thought it particularly funny that as he walked away stewing in embarrassment, he stopped and smacked himself on the forehead with his menu before slouching off to get the cake. 

Tramshed_Salted Caramel FondueThe birthday cake-slice that did come was a strong and dense dark chocolate cake, good but quite conventional. The salted caramel fondue with marshmallows and donuts was a lot more interesting. If one thinks about it, caramel and marshmallows are basically sugar served in different ways, but there’s something particularly decadent about coating one with the other and having them together.

Friends.
Tramshed_Manav

Shoreditch, Rivington Street, just outside Tramshed.Tramshed_Shoreditch exterior

The Cartmel Village Shop for Sticky Toffee Pudding

From the M6 junction 36 follow signs for Barrow-in-Furness (A590). On the big Meathop roundabout take the right exit and follow the brown signs for Cartmel Priory. Continue through the village to the Market Square.

The Carmel Village Shop does sticky toffee pudding. Extremely good sticky toffee pudding. And the best part of it is that it’s all take-awayable. There’s an entire chiller full of it. Aluminum foil packs for two, for four and for six, and they come in different shapes as well. I half considered packing one into a care package back to Singapore for Gloria; she likes the stuff at The Marmalade Pantry but Cartmel’s puds just blow them out of the water. Unfortunately because the stuff is freshly baked and packaged every day there wasn’t a chance it was going to survive a 7 day rough and tumble through the international mail network without spilling sweet sticky goodness all over other peoples’ mail.

Cartmel Shop
The story behind sticky toffee pudding was that it was pioneered by Lake District chefs between 20 to 30 years ago. As with any good thing, there are a number of hotel kitchens and shops like Cartmel who claim and market themselves to have done it first. History is fine but quibbling over what happened in the past is just missing the point; legacies are based on who does something best, not who does something first.

UK Lake District_Cartmel Shop_Sticky Toffee Pudding Upon entering the shop one is greeted by a shop floor filled with condiments, cordials, cheeses and wines. Sticky toffee pudding is the signature obviously, but there is an effort to make the shop more than just that. The cafe on the upstairs is well lit and clean. The food preparation area is not confined in a separate room and one has a sense of being a guest in someone’s house when eating there. The pudding is served fresh from the morning’s batch, spongey, porous and utterly saturated in a saccharine toffee sauce. The vanilla ice cream supplement is a must-have. Wash it all down with a pot of tea and all will feel right in the world again.

UK Lake District_Cartmel Shop 2 The shop floor is lined with shop shelves packed full of tasty things.UK Lake District_Cartmel Shop 1The pub right across the market squareCartmel

Pictures from the Land of a Thousand Smiles.

Siam Square Night Market. On the weekends hundreds of stalls throng the covered spaces underneath the Siam Square BTS stationBangkok_Siam Square Night Market 1 Some people aren’t here for the shopping. They just want to get home.
Bangkok_Siam Square Night Market 2The King is always watching. And what a fetching hat.Bangkok_Siam Square Backalley 1Some of the small shopping streets off Siam SquareBangkok_Siam Square Backalley 2On a boat ride down the Chao Phraya river. Recommended mode of transport to get to all the main attractions.Bangkok_FerryFerry point serving some of the city’s most notable tourist destinationsBangkok_Ferry 23 Baht, one way, Wat ArunBangkok_Ferry 3Bangkok_Ferry 4_BoyOn our way to the Royal Palace and surrounding temples, doing our real life temple run.Bangkok_MonksBangkok_TempleBangkok_Temple 2Playing around with posed action shots. Gloria’s pants matching the architecture quite well.
Bangkok_Temple 3Bangkok_Phrang 1Bangkok_Phrang 2Bangkok_Phrang 3Across the river from the Royal Palace, and the view from the highest Phrang of this temple complex we were in.Bangkok_SceneryBangkok_Phrang 4Bangkok Chinatown 
Bangkok_Yaowaraj_Chinatown 1Bangkok_Yaowaraj_Chinatown 2Bangkok_Yaowaraj_Chinatown 3Bangkok_Yaowaraj_Chinatown 4Bangkok_Yaowaraj_Chinatown 5Bangkok_Yaowaraj_Chinatown 6

Thailand is a wonderful place. The people are mostly friendly, the food absolutely gorgeous and the country’s signature Iced Tea is one heckuva thirst quencher. We popped into Bangkok for a city trip from Singapore with not much of a plan and just a vague idea of what we wanted to accomplish. Glen wanted Thai food (principally mango glutinous rice), I wanted the Tom Yum Goong and shopping, and collectively we were in it for the foot massages. The shopping was a disappointment, but the foot massages and the food more than made up for it.

Most meals consisted of the same principal dishes – Tom Yum Goong (spicy and sour seafood soup), green curry and basil leaf minced meat. As and when they were available, we augmented them with egg omelette, papaya salad and fish cakes. In signature Thai fashion, most dishes start sweet and end with a spicy and savoury kick – a combination which is the darling of fusion cuisine the world over.  The food was all excellent, but Glen and I disagreed about which restaurant we liked the most. I liked the Tom Yum Goong at Ban Khun Mae, a thinner soup with a spicier end note, but the best Thai I’ve had so far still has to be Yhingthai Palace at Purvis Street in Singapore. Glen liked the offerings at Lemongrass, a thirty year old stalwart just off Sukhumvit Road which served up a meatier and less spicy seafood broth. Lemongrass also does a wicked egg omelette, slightly crispy on the outside with a generous packet of pork belly tucked within like a porcine love letter.

Lemongrass Restaurant
Sukhumvit Rd, Khlong Toei
Bangkok 10110, Thailand
+66 2 258 8637
11:00 am – 2:00 pm, 6:00–11:30 pm

A meatier Tom Yum Goong – chockful of herbs and gritty prawn stock
Lemongrass_Tom Yum Goong

Egg omelette and pork bellyLemongrass_Fried Egg and Pork Omelette

I suppose you can’t go wrong with a bowl of Thai green curryLemongrass_Thai Green Curry

Basil leaves fried with minced meat – as classic as it getsLemongrass_Basil Fried Minced Pork

Thai fish cakesLemon Grass_Fish Cake

Baan Khun Mae
458/6-9 Siam Square Soi 8, Rama 1 Road,
Patumwan District, Bangkok 10330
Tel. (662)250-1952-3, (662)658-4112-3

Banana leaf fried chicken slicesBan Khun Mae_Banana Leaf ChickenTom Yum, again. Can’t get enough of that sweet and spicy elixir.Ban Khun Mae_Tom Yum GoongPapaya Salad: Som TumBan Khun Mae_Glass noodle saladGreen CurryBan Khun Mae_Green Curry

T&K Seafood Restaurant
49-51 Soi Phadung Dao
Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Chinatown is special sort of place, with restaurants and shops open till late. We wouldn’t recommend T&K Restaurant solely on the food, but we found sitting around a floppy aluminium table along the side of the road a rather enjoyable experience. Chinatown’s well worth a walk around, if only just to peer into the sundry shops and browse the collection of weird, wonderful, and oft-unrecognisable things packed into ubiquitous plastic bottles sealed with red caps.

T&K restaurant, with green chairs, opposite the street from their rabid competitors, Lek & RutBangkok Yaowaraj_T&K Seafood Sit by the road and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Chinatown at nightBangkok Yaowaraj_T&K Seafood Can’t say the food blew us awayBangkok Yaowaraj_T&K Seafood Fried Glass Noodles with Basil and CrabBangkok Yaowaraj_T&K Seafood

Greyhound Cafe
Emporium Mall

For the faint-hearted and spice-intolerant, one can always retreat into the air-conditioned safety of central Bangkok’s many malls. The Greyhound chain is widely credited to be a pioneer of fusion cuisine, and serves up generally acceptable food. The Phad Thai was decent, but somehow lacked some of the punch and authenticity from more traditional outlets.

Greyhound Cafe_Phad ThaiThai Iced Tea slushie.Greyhound_Thai Iced Tea

9 Duke Street
London W1U 3EG

It’s been busy times the last couple of weeks for us so this shall be a short photo-entry! I visited Zoilo with friends nearly a year back for some Argentinian food. Steak featured prominently in their selection of small plate choices, but the Provoleta (grilled “pulled-curd Provolone cheese“) topped with almonds and honey (first picture below) was the best dish that night.

Also, I have since decided that flank and skirt are my favourite cuts of beef. It’s cheap, flavoursome, and gorgeously tender when done medium rare – or rare even, if one is feeling French.

Provoleta, Almonds and HoneyZoilo_Provoleta Almonds and Honey Classic EmpanadaZoilo_Empanadas “Asado” Flank Steak – with Celeriac and Bone Marrow
Zoilo_Asada Flank Steak
Prawns “Al Ajo” with Pork BellyZoilo_Prawns Al Ajo with Pork Belly Skirt Steak and Parsnip Chips (i think)Zoilo_Skirt Steak OctopusZoilo_OctopusDessert TrioZoilo_Dessert Trio

Dalston Yard
Hartwell Street
London E8 3DU
Dalston Junction Overground Station

Dalston Yard_Street Feast_EntranceIn any borough councillor’s mind, the combination of dilapidated warehouse, cargo containers, charcoal barbecues, 6 foot Argentinian grills and a surfeit of alcohol reads like a fireman’s worst nightmare. To your East London hipster or City/Canary Wharf office monkey (read: yours truly), however, all this just sounds like a good party. Given the United Kingdom’s obsession with Health and Safety and a somewhat overzealous application of the rules, it really isn’t a wonder that London’s casual night dining scene has taken so long to develop. But now that it has, this city is finally ready to have some nocturnal fun.

It was on a whim on a Friday afternoon that we decided to pay a visit to Dalston Yard. Work had ended early and there was energy yet in the tank to expend. You don’t really get to make those kinds of dining decisions in London very much – On most occasions a Friday night out needs to be planned as precisely a North Korean military parade, for fear of not being able to secure bookings at the right restaurant for the right time such-as-to-dovetail-into-the-follow-on-table-booking-at-the-right-wine-bar-or-club-and-so-on-and-so-forth. You-get-the-idea.

Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Sitting Area

Arriving at the Yard was easy. There are plenty of bus links that will drop you within a 5 minute walk of Hartwell Street, and the Overground (Dalston Junction) is just across the road. Dalston Yard itself is a disused and semi-demolished warehouse space that seems to have been earmarked for development. Across the road are shiny new brick-and-steel buildings that stand in stark contrast to the squat and dinghy shophouses nearby. Gentrification, it seems, has finally made its way to London E8.

The Rib Man, one of three or four vendors serving ribs that night. The man on the left offered me a chilli which he indicated that I should try. I popped the entire thing into my mouth for a half second only for him to wave frantically for me to take it out. About ten seconds later I found out why – apparently that little red devil is the hottest chilli known to man and my entire mouth stung for a good 30 minutes after.   Dalston Yard_Street Feast_The Rib Man

We navigate around a couple of alleys and enter the first of 3 spaces in the Yard. Vendors line the side and a happy, bubbling throng fill the centre. Based on a quick survey we quickly decide that pork ribs should be first on the menu, and as savvy Singaporeans do, we promptly choose the longest queue and join in.

The Smoke Stak – some very well groomed butchersDalston Yard_Street Feast_SmokeStak 2

The Smoke Stak, at the very back of the Yard, comes across as a fairly professional pig and cow killing operation. A massive, lorry-towed, industrial grill with a half-dozen pressure dials sputters away at the back of the stall, and a man with arms the size of crane pistons toils with his cleaver under the yellow light of an electric hand lamp.

Dalston Yard_Street Feast_SmokeStakAn affectionate woman with an affable Cockney accent takes our order. Yes luv, what can I do for you? One pork and one beef? That’s twelve pounds, luv. Thaaanks luv. The meats are smoked to perfection, with plenty of fat between the bone to keep it moist. The beef separates from the bone in pink, sinewy chunks, and the marbling on the pork is marvellous. Both are slathered in a bright, sweet barbecue sauce.

Thumbs up all around!Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Thumbs Up

We move on next to buttermilk deep fried chicken wings from the Rotary stand. A good choice, judging from the round of happy nodding and the emphatic thumbs ups from my companions. I’ve never had buttermilk as an ingredient outside of pancakes and waffles before, but the slight sourish aftertaste in the chicken wings certainly complemented the saltish primary flavours well.

Healthy Yummies – heckuva lot of butter so I’m not sure about the healthy part
Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Healthy Yummies

Finally, we complete our savoury course with plump hand-dived West Bay scallops served with celeriac puree, cured Old Spot bacon and sea shore vegetables (including samphire) from the Healthy Yummies van. The name was rather ironic, considering the massive dollop of butter our server had dumped into the pan with the scallops. Not that I was watching my weight anyway. In any case, they were the best thing we had that evening, with plenty of lemon zest to balance out the butter and bacon.

Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Healthy Yummies Scallops

Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Friends Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Healthy Yummies 2

The evening was complemented with a marbled cheesecake from the Sweet Tooth Factory, which I seem to have neglected taking a photo of, and on Carmen’s part a pint of a very boozy margarita, which I believe is a good thing, since the alcohol is really what you’re paying for, right? Some marshmallows magically appeared on a table next to a charcoal fire, which we took to roast, just like these happy campers pictured below.

Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Marshmallows Dalston Yard_Street Feast_Sweet Tooth Factory From Taiwan’s Shih Lin market to Vietnam’s legendary street barbecues to Singapore’s ubiquitous hawker centres, the night food market is a culinary tour-de-force. In London it will most certainly fill a gaping hole in Londoners’ dining options. Whereas cheap late night dining has ever been the purview of hard-working, late-cooking Chinese restaurants at Chinatown before, night markets like Street Feast could possibly encourage people to look further afield in search for an affordable night out. The next step then is convincing the other boroughs that yes, of course the risk of a catastrophic fire disaster and outbreak of norovirus can be kept to an acceptable minimum.

Dalston Yard_Street Feast_BandW Dalston Yard_Street Feast_BandW

I made a second trip to the Lake District in June, on a trip organised by a dear friend, Wai Lam, who is also a local of the area. There is much to be said about revisiting places. To borrow the words of Steve McCurry, “I’m a firm believer in going back to the same places multiple times… You’re there during different seasons and … in different kinds of light. You go back when you’re in a different frame of mind. … You get different kinds of pictures. I think a lot of it takes time.” I think it also serves as a comparator of a person’s skills and of the different influences he may have assimilated from the last time he shot at the location.

Lake District weather is notoriously temperamental. On most days the skies are overcast and dreary. However overcast skies do produce a very even quality of light that lend themselves to a very mellow sort of photograph.

Kinda sorta my dream homeUK Lake District_Manor and Lake

UK Lake District_HikeUK Lake District_Oak TreeUK Lake District_Farm

This was a fun photographic trip for me. For us the District wasn’t so much about seeing the lakes but about climbing the peaks. Wai Lam planned the trip around us scaling Helvellyn, the third highest peak in England, walking along the misleadingly named Striding Edge to get there. It was really more a SCRAMBLE than a STRIDE – which was at times terrifying (for the sheer drops on either side of the ledge we were walking on) and exhilarating.

Just lunching in a small shale wall next to the Red Tarn before the final climb up to Striding EdgeUK Lake District_Red Tarn 2Striding Edge from a distance. As sharp as a dragon’s tooth along the ridge.UK Lake District_Strider's Edge 2
Guides with tourists in tow. One of them was scaling with his dog, which was pretty amazing.UK Lake District_Helvellyn
UK Lake District_Red Tarn
Some times the best views aren’t seen from the top, but halfway up and looking back.UK Lake District_Helvellyn and Strider's EdgeDressed like we were going for war. This was at the top of Helvellyn. Ruddy windy that day. UK Lake District_Helvellyn PeakUK Lake District_Grass and MossUK Lake District_Lady and her DogUK Lake District_Windermere

I suspect we’ll be back again to the Lake District some time soon. Maybe make it a sort of yearly or bi-yearly pilgrimmage to the country from now on.

438 King’s Rd
London SW10 0LJ
Opening Hours: All days 12:00 – 10:30pm

Happy Diners_DSC8844

We went to Medlar Restaurant on my trip to London in February, on the back of some very strong recommendations by friends and family. Like any careful diner, I googled the restaurant just to be sure. Now, most of the time I use Jay Rayner of the Guardian as my touchstone for all things food related. This is not even to mention that I am insanely envious of what he does for a living, that I covet his job, and I aspire to write as well as he does. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had his tongue insured for its weight in platinum – the man has a palate as finely tuned as his wit is sharp.

Crab Raviolo, Samphire, Dry Shrimp, Bisque_DSC8831

Jay is normally a rather morose sort of person (watch this wonderful video of him introducing his new audiobook The Man Who Ate the World), but for Medlar he breaks with his usual dourness and has said some uncharacteristically bubbly things about the place.

The starter of crab raviolo, brown shrimps and samphire in bisque sauce was pure culinary brilliance. I think my brain went into a gustatory meltdown on first bite and I find myself at a loss to describe that wondrous glop of flavour that I vaguely remember sliding down my throat. A few words come to mind which I shall struggle to wrangle into a sentence: fishy; smokey; smooth; creamy; rich. Now, imagine a combination of those flavours and textures being conveyed to every corner and cavity of the inside of one’s mouth, and then picture yourself chewing happily on a nice fat Italian dumpling, with every bite releasing a gurgling gush of crab utterly saturated in that really agreeable seafood cream. That’s a happy thought, isn’t it?

Scallop Sashimi, Oyster Tempura, Ponzu Dressing_DSC8834

The other starter of scallop sashimi was a more zen-like affair, dipped in a ponzu dressing and topped with delicate oyster tempuras. It wasn’t so much explosions of rich seafood bliss as it was lullaby of soft supple sensations.

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The mains were classic French – generous servings of venison and cod complemented with plenty of carbo and greens, an approach that Joe Merce Nairne, part-owner of the restaurant, took with him from his days at Chez Bruce, another favourite eating place of ours (review to follow shortly!) All the meats were done to perfection, but here there was an indication that Medlar still has some way to go to match the innovation coming out from more bemedalled competitors like the Ledbury, which has become our gold standard to British fine-dining.

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Desserts were enjoyable. A soft passionfruit cheesecake with a pineapple slice on the side was a safe way to end, but which lacked the oomph to close the meal in as brilliant a fashion as it had started. But hey, I like my cheesecakes, so I was happy enough to snarf it all down. The passionfruit ice-cream topped with a blackberry compote and mini meringues was largely the same sort of thing.

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Medlar does not have a full degustation menu, which has allowed the kitchen to focus on churning out a rockingly consistent a la carte at an affordable price. The restaurant hasn’t gotten its Michelin star yet, but we suspect that if it follows the same sort of trajectory as Chez Bruce, that will just be a matter of time. The 3 course menu stays the same but the price changes depending on when you visit (from £26 for weekday lunches to £45 for dinners), so based on what we have had, this would easily be one of the most value-for-money set lunches in London at the moment.

77 Hampstead High Street
London NW3
Hampstead Tube Station, Northern Line

Took a gander down to Hampstead Heath at the start of a rather late spring. For tourists looking for some sight-seeing and who tire from shopping, Hampstead Heath is easily accessible by the Northern Line (exit at Hampstead), and is a pleasant 15 minute walk away from the station. Particularly worthwhile if the weather is pleasant that day.

After a long winter, the light coming through the trees in the Heath were particularly bewitching that day. Made me forget for a moment that I was living in one of the busiest cities on Earth  Hampstead Heath_Shadows Signs of Spring peeking out from amidst the branches Hampstead Heath_SpringGolders Hill Park, with plenty of parents with hyperactive children and strollers in tow. Golders Hill Park

I’ve heard plenty about the famous Hampstead Creperie (or La Crêperie de Hampstead for all you francophiles) from friends before, so this trip to Hampstead was pretty much a pretext for me and my housemate to go try it out for ourselves. The creperie was difficult to find. We had thought that because the creperie had a number assigned to it that we were looking for a visible brick-and-mortar shopfront along Hampstead High Street. On my part I take pride in my navigational skills and try not to ask for directions when I’m in tourist mode. Gloria, on the other hand, would attest to the view that I am one stubborn son of a gun, which in this particular case worked adversely against me. I must’ve walked past the shop at least three times before I realised, to my mortification, that what we were looking for all along was not a shop but a tiny, white, plastic-pre-fabricated booth situated in the afternoon shadow of a pub.

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The shop is manned (or womanned, if you will) by a pair of hustling-bustling French ladies. Service runs like clockwork amidst a latticework of crisscrossing arms, tupperware and batter. Orders are taken in a fashion that would have made my parade sergeant major proud. Manners were immaculate though, replete with “pleases” and “thank yous” as you would expect from the French. I have never been barked at by a service worker but walked away feeling so good about it before.

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The food, you ask? Brilliant. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart like a toasty crepe stuffed full of melted chocolate bits and banana slices. The batter is seared perfectly and leaves the heating plate nice and crispy. It is best to share the sweet crepes – portions are generous and one can only eat that much chocolate before feeling saturated.

No such problems with the savoury crepes though. The cheese, spinach, garlic and mushroom combination was a gorgeous mix of salty and tangy. All crepes are served in a specially designed paper card holder, which proved remarkably effective in keeping the mess to a minimal. The Hampstead Creperie is well worth making the trip for, and we can think of worse combinations than a nature walk and crepes to spend your day.

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23-25 Leather Lane
London EC1N 7TE
Opening Hours: Weekdays 8:00am – 6:00pm, Weekends 8:00am – 5:00pm
http://www.prufrockcoffee.com/about-us/

Prufrock_Leather Lane_Premises
Just doing the London coffee round, which wouldn’t be complete without a nod in the general direction of Prufrock Coffee at Leather Lane. These guys are the real deal in the London coffee scene – heck, they not only make coffee, they train the people that make coffee. Plus their dessert table looks so pretty.

We also understand they do coffee-making workshops on top of their barista-training services, which could be a wonderful way to spend the weekend. More information can be found here.

134 Kingsland Rd
London E2 8DY
Open Weekdays12:00–3:00 pm, 5:30–11:00 pm
Open Saturday 12:00 – 11:00pm and Sundays to 10:30pm

… and it’s good to be back. We apologise to our readers for such a long lay-off from gastrographic. Life has been busy for us, and it has only been quite recently that we finally regained a measure of our time to get back into writing for fun!

Shoreditch Town Hall – walking up towards Kingsland Road from Old Street
Old Street_Shoreditch Town Hall

The first entry of gastrographic was of this little gem of a cafe we found on our trip to Thailand a year and a half ago. It seems only apt that we kick start this rebirth with an entry on food from around the South East Asian region again. Having lived along the edges of East London for the past 3 years, Song Que Cafe along Kingsland Road has always been my go-to place for Vietnamese comfort food when the flat larder runs low and I can’t be arsed to cook in the evening. It is a wonder that we’ve never properly reviewed this place earlier.

Old Street installation, just across from Cay Tre

In terms of taste, Song Que has a special place in my heart for its fresh and ping-pong-ball bouncy Vietnamese summer rolls, crispy deep fried spring rolls and for having a bad-ass barbecued meat selection – smelling like it was smoked over a ghetto charcoal pit and charred to perfection. If one is at a loss as to what to order (the menu has over a hundred items in it), a summer roll starter and a dry rice noodle main topped with spring rolls and barbecued pork should give you a sampler of the wonderful things coming out of the Song Que kitchen. The pho is decent, but we prefer the soup and meatballs at fellow Shoreditch rival Cay Tre.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls – with prawns so good they go boing in your mouthWhatever you do, just stay away from the chicken chow mein. It’s not even a Vietnamese dish!

Dry Rice Noodles with Spring Rolls and Barbecued Pork

Food portions at Song Que are plentiful and prices are affordable. For that reason queues outside the restaurant can be long on Friday and weekend evenings as revellers spill over from the Hoxton drinking holes to grab a bite to eat. Service can be rushed and brusque (as with most Asian restaurants), so we don’t recommend lingering over your drinks once your plates are cleared. Some establishments are brilliant for that, but Song Que is more a “please eat our lovely food and then leave as soon as you can” kind of place.

78,79 Boat Quay
Singapore
 049866
Tel: 6438-2482

Enotecca L’operetta is undoubted one of our favourite pizza places in Singapore. It is a  Vera Pizza Napoletana certified pizza restaurant where its pizzas are baked in a wood fired oven. Their service is excellent as well. The waiters are friendly, chatty and they never fail to refill our glasses.

Some tips:
1) Make reservations to sit outdoors – you’ll have a beautiful view of the Singapore river!
2) When ordering your pizzas, always top it up with their special Mozerella cheese, it makes a big difference to the pizza
3) Ask for recommendations.
4) Order to share

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Hup Lee Cafeteria
#01-35
Arcade Shopping Centre
Raffles Place 

Sliced fish soup is the food of corporate champions in Singapore: It is tasty, high in nutrients, and easy to take away on a busy desk-bound day. The sliced fish soup stall at the back of the Arcade Shopping Centre is popular with the white-collar crowd working around Raffles Place. The fish is prepared just before they open shop at 10:30am and turnover is incredibly fast, so there is hardly any time for it to sit around and grow soggy.

I visited early on a Monday morning to catch the food at its freshest. The soup was extremely good, fortified with chunks of salted vegetables and a slice of tomato for added tartness.

The fried fish slices ($4.50 for a basic bowl) simply stole the show. Whereas other hawkers may use the batter to cover up the mediocrity of their fish or to act as a bulking agent, the meat here was firm and fresh and the flour well-seasoned and surprisingly crunchy. We’ve travelled far and wide for good fish soup, and Arcade’s is heads and shoulders above what we’ve had before.

The notion that special food can only be found in out-of-the-way places is misguided and is wont for changing. Food in the CBD tends to be overlooked because of the location’s sheer prosaicness, but if one cares to look, there are dozens of hawker stalls tucked into the numerous food centres in town that are so deserving of being catalogued and re-discovered.

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