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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

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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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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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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.

8 Pollen Street
London W1S 1NQ
United Kingdom
Nearest Tube Station: Oxford Circus

While we were in London last month, we visited Pollen Street Social to celebrate our anniversary. Pollen Street Social is owned by Jason Atherton, a pupil of El Bulli’s Ferran Adria and an ex-Ramsay protege. Pollen Street Social has been making the rounds since opening its doors in 2011. It was awarded its first Michelin star in the 2012 Michelin Guide and was also named London’s best new fine dining restaurant in the Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards 2011. Outside of the UK, Jason has also had a busy year, opening up Pollen, Esquina Tapas Bar and Keong Saik Snacks in Singapore.

We visited for lunch, and as first impressions go, it made a pretty good one. Despite its proximity to bustling busy Regents Street, Pollen Street exudes an unhurried, laid-back vibe quite uncommon to central London. The restaurant shares this oasis of urban serenity with several independent, franchise-eschewing cafes.

Like its esoteric neighbours, Pollen Street Social’s philosophy to food is an inclusive one. As with any Michelin-starred outlet, strict standards are observed, but the restaurant stays close to its social ethos by striving to keeping prices sensible. Jason Atherton’s new cookbook: Gourmet Food for a Fiver is an extension of this philosophy, and is chock-full of recipes for people living on a shoestring budget.

The restaurant interior is relatively large and was awash with natural lunch-time light. There was space enough for two bars:  a reception-cum-cocktail bar up front and its signature dessert bar at the back of the main dining area and overlooking the kitchen. Service was warm and attentive, and we liked how staff had room to show off their personalities. The sommelier noticed us toting cameras and asked if we wanted to take some shots in the kitchen, which was really nice of her!

Truffled hen’s egg, London cured salmon, smoked salmon & watercress soup

The dining experience at Pollen Street Social was an enjoyable one, but the food was a mixed bag. We had the set lunch (£24/2 courses, £27/3 courses) and the main of lamb from the ala-carte. The meal started with a truffled hen’s egg and cured salmon in a watercress soup, topped off with a dollop of creme fraiche. It wasn’t an attractive plate of food. Salmon-pink and water-cress green have never been the best companions in terms of colour. The dish tasted like the way it looked – an unappetising salty-creamy-slimy mulch that didn’t go anywhere.

18-hour braised Angus feather blade, baked celeriac, marrow crumbs

The Angus feather-blade tasted woefully normal. The 18 hours of braising gave the meat a good texture but the flavour in the beef was simply lacking. The dish also looked like it had been hurriedly put together, consisting of a formless piece of celeriac, and a glop of fast-separating jus that pooled around unceremoniously on the plate, and garnished with a sad-looking unidentified green object.

Rack of salt marsh lamb, braised shoulder, creamed spiced aubergine, savoury & black olive reduction

Our visit wasn’t a complete gastronomic disaster. In dramatic contrast to our tragically off-target set lunch was the salt marsh lamb rack ala-carte (£27.50), served with a subtly balanced black olive reduction and a gorgeous cumin paste, a reminder of Beijing’s ubiquitous lamb skewers (chuanr) that we once nursed as our artery-choking guilty pleasure. The black olive and cumin blended with the natural fattiness of the lamb chop to deliver savoury redemption upon our taste-buds.

Selection of sorbets & ice-creams

We then adjourned to the dessert bar for our final course. We were attended to by a trio of dessert chefs, working with manifest purpose but with wits enough to welcome and have a short chat with us. Pre-desserts included a scoop of passionfruit and blackberry sorbets (pictured above), and nitrogen-frozen strawberry panna cotta with matcha powder.

Nitrogen Frozen Strawberry panna cotta with matcha powder.

The panna cotta was was an interesting and not unpleasant marriage of sweet-and-sour-and-bitter, with the frozen strawberry and matcha playing games on our taste buds. So far, so promising.

Autumn Kent apples slow cooked in London stout beer caramel, stout sabayon, vanilla ice cream

The set lunch’s slow-cooked Kent apple in beer stout packed a good boozy punch, and the vanilla ice cream and sugared pastry crisps prevented the beer from becoming altogether overwhelming. The ala-carte mango dessert presents mango done three ways, in different textures and in a variety of chemical states: solid, liquid and gas via aeration. We found the freeze-dried mango powder quite fun to eat. The trick is to coat it around the yoghurt and the pudding, let the powder stick to the roof of your mouth and then lick the fast-melting remnants off for added kick. It’s like having fun fair candyfloss, just cooler and mango-flavoured.

Asian mango pudding, mango sorbet aerated yoghurt, freeze dried mango

Fastest fingers first

Now, we have to say that the food at Pollen Street Social was not the best we’ve had. The ala-carte was fine but the set lunch was a let down. However, the restaurant deserves notable mention from us for its down-to-earth service and general lack of pretentiousness. We enjoyed our time there and we’re sure you would too. But if you’re going for lunch, please consider getting the ala-carte instead.

17 Bruton Street (Mayfair Branch)
London W1J 6QB
020 7907 1888

8 Hanway Place (Tottenham Court Road Branch)
London W1T 1HD
020 7927 7000

Welcome to the wonderful world of Hakkasan

When people think of dim sum in London, the places that immediately pop to mind are the restaurants along Gerrard Street in Chinatown; Shanghai Blues at High Holborn with their Sunday half-price offer; one-star Yauatcha at Soho; and (horror) Ping Pong on your neighbourhood high street. Admittedly, some of those places are decent for a budget-conscious diner, but pssst, we’ve got something better for you now.

Hakkasan is better known as the more expensive and up-scale cousin of its dim-sum dinky little brother Yauatcha. That’s true for its ala carte and dinner offerings, but with a little strategy you can get away with minimal damage on its very very tasty dim sum (from 11am – 3.30pm) menu. Hakkasan has a more limited selection compared to Yauatcha, but whatever they have, they do better. Their venison puffs are a case in point.

We were going to write you a list of all our favourite stuff that you had to order, but were a little sad to find out they overhauled their menu in August. Some dishes like the excellent King Crab Noodle Roll and the Fried Mango and Prawn Salad Roll had been taken off the menu, much to our dismay.

Thankfully, other stalwarts survived the cull. Before we give you a pictorial guide to our must-eat dimsum at Hakkasan, here’s a tip: visit as a trio/trinity/threesome, or in multiples thereof. Most of the items are served as such, so it’s easier to share that way. It should add up to around £20 a person for conservative eaters, and £25 for gluttons. Also consider ordering from their selection of fine teas. The Classical Beauty brew is our favourite.

The Scallop Shumai and Har Gau are excellent. The full-sized scallop topping the shumai is particularly indulgentChar Siu Cheung Fun is smooth, fragrant and the meat is tender. Also try the Three Mushrooms Cheung Fun if you have the chance (and stomach space for it)Chilean Sea Bass Mooli Roll – a triumph. The balance of flavour in its soya sauce base is near perfect, complementing the succulent seabass chunk and the mu-er’s crunch’s exceedingly well Venison Puffs – Sweet, salty, fluffy, lovely.Corn Fed Chicken Soup – Gloria’s favourite for good reason. Dense and fragrant. The result of many, many hours of boiling and distilling stock. We salute the many chickens that died to make this soup.

Went back to Dinner by Heston for lunch, and tried their relatively affordable £38 set menu. We shan’t go too much into the details, except to say it is an attractive price-point for people on a fine-dining budget. The mains of the Blackfoot Pork Collar and the Cured Salmon were conventional taste-wise, but excellently prepared.

We’ll just leave you with the photographs for now. For a fuller review of the ala-carte, you can find our previous entry here.

Salamagundy – basically raw tomatoes and vegetables. The tomatoes were fine, but we found the purple radishes a little weird…Ragoo of Pig Ears – sticky, stewed, with a bit of a cartilaginous crunch. Not for everyoneMeat Fruit, not on the set menu, but made for a really pretty picture under the lunch-time light.On to the mains – cured salmon with samphire and peas – delicate and moist, a result of 2 hours of slow cooking, as opposed to the more traditional and expedient pan-searing/frying methodBlackfoot Pork Collar with Meat “Ketchup”. Tastes the same as the Blackfoot Porkchop on the ala carte, with a lovely salty-sour tang to itRoasted white peaches with yoghurt, meringue and peach sorbet – didn’t find it exceptional.Tipsy Cake – not on menu, but definitely worth ordering to share round the table anyway. Might be too sweet for some.Waiter and the Heston’s Awesome Liquid Nitrogen Hand-Crank Vanilla Ice Cream Machine of Doom (our name)U-Jin and his cone of ice-cream

127 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill,
London W11 2AQ
Tel: 020 7792 9090

The Ledbury made its name this year when it stormed to 14th place on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, behind Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner and The Fat Duck in the UK. Whilst we still believe the list is essentially a contest of who has the biggest budget to drink reviewers under the table with, the top 25, maybe 30 restaurants are a good guide to some of the best up-and-coming dining venues right now, if not of all time.

The restaurant has delivered outstanding quality and consistency on every occasion, with glowing reviews all around. Australian chef Brett Graham has brought his exquisite Sydney palate to the table, and we very much agree with the brightness and boldness of flavour in his dishes. Lobster with fennel and elderflower? Who would have thought, but yum. Venision of fallow deer with a massive dollop of bone marrow crowning each slice? Double yum.

Roast Scottish Scallops with Brassicas and Seaweed –  probably the best value starter on the menu that day. Juicy!

Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Saint-Nectaire, Truffle Toast and a Broth of Grilled Onions

Heritage Tomatoes with Fresh Goat Cheese, Green Tomato Juice and Herbs

Notably, Brett does vegetables really well. The heritage tomatoes with fresh goats cheese and herbs is the restaurant’s signature, deceptively simple but good enough to trick the taste-buds of our tomato-phobe friend Freida momentarily. We also admired his ability to wrangle goats cheese into a form palatable to non-cheese connossieurs, re: mostly everybody in the world.

Mille Feuille with Mango, Vanilla and Kaffir Lime

Blueberry Cheese Tartlet

Passionfruit Souffle with Sauternes Ice Cream

For desserts, we sampled everything, and everything was good, but the standout for the night was the passionfruit souffle topped with sauternes ice cream – soft, delicate and very very airy. Brett is touted as a mean maker of souffles, and ours tasted superb. The preceding season’s raspberry souffle was ranked by the Fortnum and Mason’s guide as the third best dessert in Londontown (1. Marcus Wareing’s custard tart; 2. Dinner’s tipsy cake).

We like the Ledbury. Its location away from the bustle of central London was really welcome. We appreciated their flexibility in letting us have the largest table on the main dining floor. Ordinarily a group of our size would have had to pay significantly more to use the private room. They were also nice enough to prepare a chocolate tart dessert with the words “Congratulations” written on it to celebrate my graduation that evening. Service was warm, if a bit forgetful (they neglected to clear the crumbs on our table after the bread appetisers), but on the whole that didn’t detract from what was after all a wonderful meal.

45 Brook Street
London W1K 4HR
Tel: 020 7499 0099

Lest one be confused from the glut of choices available within London’s fine-dining scene, a way of cutting to the chase is to choose a restaurant with the chef’s name in it. This might not necessarily guarantee he/she is cooking in the kitchen but it does serve as a stamp of quality of sorts. Lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at Claridge’s Hotel was pleasant, with front-of-house service well worthy of its two Michelin stars.

Smoked Haddock Tartlet and Poached Egg, Creme Fraiche and Caviar

We had the set-lunch (£30) that day. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong with the way things tasted, but the execution was slightly shaky. The haddock tartlet and poached egg starter came out with the egg “well-done”. Some of us had it sent back. It came back in a much better shape, with the richness of the cream and molten yolk blending superbly with the smoked fish.

Gloucestor Old Spot Pork Loin with Primavera Vegetables and Apple JusPan Fried Fillet of Bream with Mussels, Courgette and Saffron VelouteLeg of Cumbrian Lamb with Tomato Tart Tatin, Swiss Chard and Onion Jus

The rest of the lunch went on without a hitch. The pork loin and apple jus was a marriage of classic flavours and the fillet of bream in saffron veloute was rich and indulgent. The Cumbrian lamb spoke for itself in terms of freshness.

Lemon Tart with Creme FraicheDark Chocolate with a honeycomb sphere and milk chocolate sauceLavender and White Chcolate Creme Brulee with Lemon Madeleines

Dessert was more spectacle than food. The lemon tart was garnished with pretty summer flowers, and the dark chocolate sculpted into an orb, melted down by pouring hot milk chocolate sauce onto it. The creme brulee sported a rather nice touch with the lavender accent in it. Otherwise, the dessert tasted like you would expect them to taste, so don’t expect anything too innovative! Go to Dinner by Heston for that 😀

Strandgade 93, Copenhagen, 1401
Tel:+45 3296 3297
Nearest metro: Christianshavn
www.noma.dk

So, Noma restaurant in Copenhagen has been named the best restaurant for the third year running, and we thought this would be an appropriate time to share with you some of the pictures we took during our visit there. Glen’s brother Shaun managed to get a reservation after some reservations-hotline camping and we were immensely lucky to have gotten the booking when we did. Copenhagen was bright and sunny when we arrived, and the waterfront in Christianshavn where the restaurant is couldn’t have looked any cheerier. The food itself was an experience. Noma doesn’t really follow the traditional Michelin restaurant mould, which has always been partial towards the French-style dining and the hundred million cooking processes it subjects its food to. Contrarily, Noma subscribes to a forager’s philosophy, and head chef Rene Redzipi likes serving his food as fresh as it can get. The restaurant still has two Michelin stars, which is an ample testament of its service standards and quality.

Anyway, enough with words. We will let the pictures do the talking, with explanatory captions along the way just in case you don’t recognise certain things as being actually edible.

The meal started out with a series of about 7 or 8 appetisers, each of them more fantastical than the other, but all incredibly tasty. Noma pretty much is the cutting edge of fine dining today, and we think you’ll see why in a bit.

That’s my brother Shaun. The thing he’s putting in his mouth is an edible stem. There was a hummus dip that went together with it. Very fresh, very raw, somewhat refreshing.

We thought the leafy vase above was a tabletop decoration. The brown coloured “stem” nestled within the foliage is actually a bread stick. And it’s edible. Tasted wheaty in our opinion. Intriguing to look at nonetheless.

Remember our warning about how some things on the plate might not look edible at first sight? If the waiter hadn’t explained that the planting pot he had put on our table was raw radish in edible (avocado) soil, we would have been bewildered indeed.

Gloria eating the radish. We felt like herbivores, chomping down on raw leaves and organic dips. This is fine dining at its healthiest, not something you can say about Noma’s more traditional counterparts (Cream! Butter! Sugar!). The soil itself was a crunchy ground cookie, and it went really well with the avocado dip and the radish.

We’re not really sure what this was, but the waiter did mention something about ‘deer mold’. Can’t be certain if he was talking about what it was served on or the actual brown edible thing itself.

Like the preceding appetisers before it, it tasted organic and was neutral in flavour. The texture of the mold itself was quite nice though.


Small savoury tarts.

Pickled hawthorne served with pickled rose petals. Readers from Singapore might be familiar with those coin-sized hawthorne wafers that Chinatown grocery stores sell. This is exactly it. We didn’t think we’d find a childhood candy snack so far away from home!

Herbal tart with a deep fried chicken skin on top.

Smørrebrød, which is a danish open-faced sandwich. The ritual rugbrød base has been placed on top with chicken skin at the bottom and hay-smoked cheese blended with dill and lumpfish roe in between. It sounds as good as it tastes.

Smoked quails egg on a bed of hay. We recommend putting the entire thing in your mouth and chewing at it slowly. The scent of smoked hay has a lovely way of percolating through the nostrils and the back of the throat.

And that concludes the appetisers. You can imagine that by this time we were all well sated and waiting for the main courses to arrive.


Razor clam in parsley gel and dill sauce


The breakfast of Viking champions: Air-dried scallop and watercress, biodynamic cereals and beech nuts

Danish Beef Tartare and watercress leaves & pea puree

Juice pairings to go with the meal. This was a revelation, and really good for us because 3 of the 4 of us at the table that day don’t drink! (from left: Apple and Pin; Kiwi; and Lingonberry juice)

Langoustine Tail with purple Icelandic salt (söl) dust and mayo

This dish was creatively called the “Oyster in the Ocean”. It was served in a small cast iron pot with rocks and seashells, the point being to bring the scent of the ocean to you as you ate the oyster.

White asparagus smoked in pine leaves. As much as we would love to have tried what pine leaves taste like, we were politely advised against doing so. The asparagus was lovely though.


More juice (from the left: Celery and Hawthorne juice)

Onion done 3-ways – beer and honey, buttered, and blanched with tapioca pearls and cheese

Veal sweet meat in new shoots and peas.

Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs! Duck Eggs with herbs, put together at the table under the guidance of trained Noma staff. What could possibly go wrong?

Textured carrots and wild hawthorne parfait. As desserts go this was an innovative use of ingredients. We weren’t really expecting to see carrots and leaves in our ice cream at any point. However, we couldn’t really get ourselves fully behind this dis – it just tasted too raw to be a dessert.


Pine leaf ice cream and a rhubarb quencher –  a really refreshing palate cleanser. Now this was more like it!

Beetroot compote topped with air dried blackberries. This was so nice we were halfway through eating it before Glen realised he hadn’t taken a picture of it yet.

The meal ended off with the petit fours, including a caramelised gum served in the middle of a piece of bone. The chocolate cake and the wafer chip were nice ways to end off the meal as well.

Nice cup’o tea.

We hope you liked the pictures! Noma is a place we’d recommend to the discerning diner. It is not your typical fine dining establishment, in that some of the flavours and techniques used is not conventional to traditional cooking. Noma is an gastronomic experience, and it is possible that some people might not find it entirely to their fancy. Nevertheless, it is a place to go to explore your dining horizons and be treated to something truly special.

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