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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.

20 James Street,
London W1U 1EH
Tel: 02074911178
1 minute walk from Bond Street tube station (Central Line, Jubilee Line)

We’re a little reluctant to divulge our tasty little secret close to the Selfridges departmental store along Oxford Street, but in the spirit of sharing, we shall. Atari-ya is a hole-in-the-wall sushi takeaway bar that serves quality sushi at affordable prices. To put things in perspective, 3 slices of otoro sashimi goes for £5, chu-toro at £3.80 and sake at £2.20. The place is perfect for a quick bite after a hard day’s shopping, or if you’re male, waiting on your girlfriend to finish up in the H&M changing room.

These were the rolls we had along with the sashimi – California Roll (£4.80), Prawn Tempura Roll (£4.90), Spider Roll (£4.90) and Rainbow Roll (£6.90).

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