Monthly Archives: June 2012

1 Bonham Street
#01-20, UOB Plaza 2

It was Gloria’s idea to bring me to the Salad Shop in town yesterday. I’m not a rabid carnivore but I did have some reservations about having salad for lunch. Turns out my scepticism was misplaced. The funky serviettes at the restaurant sums up the Salad Shop’s philosophy aptly – it is a veritable oasis for the health-conscious office worker and offers an alternative to the typical hawker fare ubiquitous to the CBD.

The Salad Shop has a very impressive selection of feeds available. For the recalcitrant carnivore, the Prime Feeds provide a respite with a variety of meats and fish to go with the salads. Lest you feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety available, you could try what we had.

Glen (Elephant Size:  6 mains + 2 supplementary feeds + 1 prime feed S$12)
Base – Mixed Lettuce
Main feeds – Roasted Pumpkin, Croutons, Sunflower Seeds, Tomato, Feta Cheese, Mushroom
Supplementary feeds – Grilled eggplant, Avocado
Prime feeds – Smoked Salmon
Home made dressing – Mint Yoghurt

Gloria (Zebra Size:  6 mains + 2 supplementary feeds S$10)
Base – Mixed Lettuce
Main feeds – Carrot, Mushroom, Raisins, Mixed Peppers, Pasta, Baby Potatoes
Supplementary feeds – Poached Chicken, Bacon Bits
Home made dressing – Caesar

Atlantic Road, London SW9.
Open Mon-Weds 10am to 6pm; Thurs-Sat 10am to 10pm; Sun 12pm to 5pm

Brixton Village is in a rather pleasant state of change right now. The covered market pictured above has been around since 1937, and has for a large part of its history been a fresh produce and butchery market catering to the African and Carribean communities in the vicinity. Most of that is still there, but the market has more recently been the stage of a quiet food revolution. It is now a happy hunting ground for coffee addicts, foodies out for a cheap eat and avid people-watchers. More importantly, it’s not been colonised by tourists yet, and here’s hoping it stays that way.

Getting there is not difficult. Simply take the Victoria line all the way south to Brixton and then walk down Electric Avenue, taking in the smells of freshly killed meat and fish displayed in the Middle-Eastern butcheries along the way.

Honest Burgers
Brixton Village Unit #12

Honest Burgers at Honest Prices (Beware the queue!)

Places like Honest Burgers are a god-send to the burger scene in London. With prices from £6.50 for its basic offering, it represents possibly the best value-for-money burger in town. The patties are 35-day aged beef from the Ginger Pig butchery, which in turn gets its meat from British Longhorn cattle, which in turn was described by Heston Blumenthal as the most fragrant and succulent meat available in the UK currently (see this video for a ten minute instructional on how to make the perfect steak).

The patty is complemented by a slightly sweet, glazed brioche-like bun. Nice and crusty on the outside, meltingly pliant when bitten into. The basic burger with red-onion relish is £6.50. The Honest Burger, with crisp smoked bacon, mature cheddar and crunchy pickled cucumber, tops out at £8. Not listed on the menu is the Federation Burger (£12), which is the same as an Honest Burger, but with two patties. You might only want to have this if your family does not have a history of heart disease. Chips are triple cooked, skin on, dusted with salt and rosemary. Like any good burger joint, mayonnaise is available on request.

A word of advice: Come early to avoid the queues. The sitting area is probably big enough to fit only 15 customers, baby prams and all. We arrived at the stall at around half past 11 and were lucky to have only waited half an hour. Not that the wait was an unpleasant one, really. Between my friends and I we took turns to wander the market whilst one of us stayed in.

Federation Coffee (#77-78) just down the block. Family Friendly, too.

The market has a wide variety of cafes to sit and chill out at as well. The proprietors all seem to know each other pretty well: the Federation Burger at Honest Burgers was named after the Kiwis at Federation Coffee just down the avenue.

Space enough to sit outside

Alfresco dining at the Village is actually a viable idea. The covered nature of the market keeps the worst of the weather away but allows enough light to come through. Makes for lovely photography too!

Fresh Produce.According to wikipedia, some stalls are still selling live African snails. We didn’t see any that day.

All in all, a pretty good day out of Central London. Brixton Village is a place that is ripe for repeat visits. KaoSarn (Thai) and Mamalan (Beijing Dumplings) are a couple of places we walked by but were too stuffed to try. Will come back soon. Watch this space!

Amoy Street Food Centre

The people working in Singapore’s Central Business District will probably be familiar with Hock Lam Street beef noodles. They might think the forementioned beef noodles are actually quite tasty. We’ve got news for you. Set aside all preconceived notions of what makes a good bowl of beef kwayteow and make your way to this humble stall at Amoy Street Food Centre.

Here at Number One-Twenty Three, they serve the stuff like they should – the dry gravy is distilled from proper stock and saturated with marrow-filled goodness. Hardly any corn flour is necessary to thicken the mixture. The beef slices are cooked to perfection (slightly pink and chewy), and the beef balls actually put up a hearty, meaty resistance when bitten into, quite unlike the starch-filled pretenders ubiquitous to air-conditioned food courts all around the island. (Alas!)

For the best bowl of beef noodles you’ll taste in your life, this is all priced very attractively – $3 for a bowl with beef slices and meatballs in it. It works up to $5 if you add tendons and all the truly yummy offal-ish stuff. Food in Singapore has been getting expensive, but several stalwarts to traditional hawker cooking still remain, if you care to look for them.

34A Lorong Mambong
Holland Village

Very pretty cupcakes.

Now, we realise we’ve been going on and on about about cupcakes, tea and coffee recently. That’s mostly been a coincidence so far, but perhaps it’s also been because of the veritable explosion in the artisan eating and baking scene in Singapore recently.

The Plain Vanilla Bakery at Holland Village is an outpost dedicated to the fine and delicate art of cupcakery. It’s run by a friend of my brother, Vanessa Tan, recently returned from a career in law in London to try her hand in the business of baking. Part of the fun of eating cupcakes is the aesthetic aspect of it, and PV has gotten that down pat, with a range of very pretty and delicate choices available. They have a mainstay of classic flavours like the red velvet and carrot cupcakes, but there are also seasonal options available depending on the availability of special ingredients.

(from top, clockwise) Oreo Chocolate, Strawberry White Chocolate, Carrot, Red VelvetThey come at $3.20 a pop, or $18 for half a dozen. From the four I selected, I most enjoyed the red velvet and the strawberry white chocolate cupcakes. The latter had a moist strawberry jam core that added a nice fruity tang to the cake. The cupcakes are substantial, with a lovely and (un)healthily large dollop of icing crowning each of them. Best enjoyed with a pot of tea.

What I appreciated about Plain Vanilla is the fact that this is not mass-production BreadTalk baking – the little helpers in the kitchen were fresh young faces who had just completed their A levels and waiting for university to begin. All of them were amateurs but possessed a grasp of baking fundamentals to put some seasoned bakers to shame. It’s nice to be able to eat stuff made by people who care for the food they hand to you from over the counter.

32 Maxwell Road
#01-08 Maxwell Chambers
Singapore, 069115

Once Upon a Milkshake was a chance find – We just visited the Red Dot Design Museum along Maxwell Road (just next to the traffic crossing where Sticker Lady displayed her now-removed ‘My Grandfather Road’ road graffiti) when we saw a sign directing us to a funky milkshake place around the corner at Maxwell House.

A&W Ice Cream Float with Cookie and Cream

The place serves a wide variety of snazzily named milkshakes and A&W ice cream floats. There was even a red-velvet cupcake option, but we weren’t sure how a combination of cheese and chocolate in a float would taste exactly. In any case, the ice cream float brought us back to the day when ice creams in creamy soda drinks were every child’s weekend guilty pleasure. Quaffing from double glazed frosted mugs made the drink infinitely more pleasurable. Now that’s a level of dedication we can get behind.

Glen being glen 🙂

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that taste the best. Root beer’s gotta be one of them!

37 Kampong Bahru Road
Singapore 169356
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Closed Mondays

Mocha and Cupcake

So, over the weekend, we finally made our way to Strangers’ Reunion to visit Andrew! The name says it all, really. Strangers stumble upon a cafe and bond over their shared love for good coffee. The cafe follows an interesting philosophy on socialisation, eschewing flashy publicity for a simple understated approach. Tucked away in a nondescript row of shophouses near Outram Road, the cafe is recognisable from the outside only by a set of brown, distressed wooden doors. Most of the patrons had heard of the place from someone else or had done a little research before coming in. Regardless,  simple word of mouth is as potent a tool as a good cup of coffee, and the cafe does a brisk business within its cosy confines.

Andrew at the counterAndrew is a wizard in the kitchen. He was Glen’s housemate in London and was nice enough to cook us dinner whenever we were all home. (psst, what would we do without you? :))

Waffles, Ice Cream, Fresh Fruit

Glen and I are big, big, big fans of waffles and ice cream. It was with a connoisseur’s eye that we approached Strangers’ Reunion’s current offering. The batter was tweaked from a traditional Belgian waffles recipe and uses yoghurt as a substitute to milk. the result was a lighter, fluffier dough that crumbles beautifully in the mouth. It also helped that the waffle mold was a thick one, which gives the waffle more volume to wrap one’s voracious tongues around.

Ciabatta, Chicken Tandoori, Apple and Red Cabbage Slaw, Mint and Dill Greek YoghurtWe didn’t try the sandwiches, but Andrew was happy to let us take some photos of the preparation.

Baguette, Roasted Pork, Hoisin Sauce, Sliced Chilli, Spring OnionAny Singaporean worth his salt (and unrestrained by dietary requirements) knows the value and taste of mouth-wateringly good siobak.  The roast pork here is hand-sourced every morning from the owner’s special contacts. We’re dying to have a go at this the next time. (24/07/12 edit: Came back, tried it. Every bit as succulent and melt-in-your-mouth tender as we imagined it to be.)

Cafe Latte in pretty cups and plattersThe owner of the cafe is Ryan Tan, a two-time Singapore Barista Championships winner. When we visited he was off in Austria to better his previous year’s rankings at the World Barista Championships, where he clocked in at 28th position before. (24/06/12 edit: He was 2nd runner-up in the Latte Art Category.) We’re not experts on coffee, but Glen liked the latte enough to declare he was ‘never going to look at a cup of Starbucks in the same way again’. If anything, you can admire the fine latte art, which makes for excellent pictures.

Whiskey Cake

And then there was the dessert. The whiskey cake came well reviewed, and our personal taste test revealed a cake that was generous on chocolate and packed a good boozy punch. The chocolate layer on the top is similar in taste and texture to champagne Royce chocolates, with a fine, even consistency.

Red Velvet CupcakesAccording to Andrew, the cupcakes follow the same recipe as the Hummingbird Bakery’s signature dessert, but some changes in the icing were made. The original uses a diabetes-inducing amount of icing sugar for a hard-tip icing finish whereas the ones above use more cream cheese, for a creamier and less sweet taste. Although no changes were made to the cake base, they tasted lighter and drier than the originals. It’s a matter of preference on how one likes their cupcakes, but we enjoyed these immensely.

& the picture I took of Andrew and Glen!

Goodman Steak Restaurant
11 Old Jewry
London EC2R 8DU

Some friends and I had a bit of a steak eating craze earlier in the year. Belinda’s birthday was coming up in February so this was as good a reason to expend our meagre student budgets on a meal out.

The restaurant floor was spacious and boisterous, as expected of a roomful of large Yankee men. The wooden panelling and red leather seats contributed to the feel that this was a place where people of upstanding character got together for a feast of roast cow, good booze and congratulatory back thumping. The staff were all smiles, replete with rehabilitated southern drawls. All in all, a very nice atmosphere for a friendly get-together.

Prime Rib and Porterhouse Cuts, with a side of Gruyere Cream SpinachAs this was after all an American steak diner, the meat was air-flown USDA beef. The beef was undoubtedly good, but it seemed to be quite an effort to fly it across the Atlantic when there were perfectly good cows to eat here. Aside from the rather large carbon hoofprint it left, there was no disputing the quality of the steak. It was well aged and hit most of the right spots. The Porterhouse had been done just right, but the prime rib was slightly overdone, which is a pretty grave mistake if you’re going to serve the steak as is.

Generally quite good.

Mac & Cheese and Chunky Fries – best sharedA steakhouse wouldn’t be complete without an accompaniment of mac & cheese, fries and cream spinach. The consensus at the table was that the sides were rather good. The cheese in the pasta and the spinach was all we expected it to be – full of rich, velvety, artery-clogging goodness. The fries were well salted, evenly fried and extremely good for soaking up any remaining gravy on the plates.

The Real Velvet McCoyI mentioned we were celebrating a birthday. The Hummingbird Bakery makes a stellar red velvet cupcake. They also make a stellar red velvet CAKE. It was all very Alice in Wonderland-like, stuffing our faces in what is normally a fist-sized dessert.

The lads in the kitchenThe place purportedly serves a kick-ass burger as well. In general, Goodman is a place for large gatherings. The bone-in cuts are served in chunks of about 1 kilogram (2.2oz) each, it would have been a tall order for any group smaller than 3 people to finish one cut. Individual cuts of fillet and ribeye etc. are available, but if one would like to order a decent selection of sides, it’s still better to go in a big enough group. There was a large American man next to us who had a substantial-looking steak with the mac & cheese and spinach, but I doubt his cardiologist would have been happy about that.

Regent’s Park
21 – 24 June 2012

Summer is a nice time to be in London. The sun is out most of the time and the weather warm enough to permit shorts-wearing and outdoor merrymaking. Taste is an in-the-park food festival in Regent’s Park, where some of the best restaurants in the city to get together for a massive food fiesta. For the goggle-eyed public, it’s also an opportunity to rub shoulders with celebrity chefs who run their favourite restaurants and learn a culinary thing or two from them under canopied Taste Theatres.

You buy an admission ticket and a coupon book with little slips of paper called Crowns to buy food with. One crown is equivalent to a pound. Each restaurant booth will give you a three-course menu – the appetiser, the main and a dessert. They can cost anything from 5 to 15 pounds.

Here’s just a selection of photographs to share with you during our time there last year!

Say hello to Alexis Gauthier.

He said hello to us too and even took our orders! At his restaurant in Soho, he’s famous/notorious for forbidding any measuring equipment in his kitchen, instructing his under-chefs to ‘taste’ and ‘feel’ the food they are cooking. Here’s a youtube clip of him telling Masterchef amateurs to do that, to hilarious effect.

Fizzy Pims (Gauthier Soho)Pims is a light, alcoholic fruity British summer drink. Goes well with sunny weather and tennis.

Foie Gras and Iberico Pork Burger (Neal’s Yard)This burger was delicious, and the patty was heart-achingly tender. The ducks and pigs that died in the making of this testament to burger nirvana did not do so in vain.

Taste of home – a reminder of our rice-eating roots
Chilli and Coriander, we’ve missed you! It’s a pity that the aforementioned spices aren’t well used in Western cooking.

MojitosLove the shirt.

“That’s £10 a picture, mate!” He was kidding, of course. One thing to note about Taste of London is that it isn’t a cheap day out. Admission tickets are about £20 and we estimated we spent another £40 on food each. Weather was a little bit of an issue that day. The idea of having an outdoor food fair in the park was all fine and dandy, but the drizzle in the morning was enough to turn parts of the fair into dour, muddy patches.

That said, if you have always been curious of the food you can get in London, Taste of London is an alternative way to get a culinary whirlwind tour of the city. It’s not cheap, but will probably work out to the same price as a 3 course lunch at a fine-dining place in Mayfair. For people watchers, it’s the perfect opportunity to spot celebrity faces in the crowd.

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