Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ahoy! All onboard!

Alan's sister, Doris, has chartered a yacht from Lifestyle Adventures Asia and invited us to spend a leisurely Sunday morning basking in the scorching sun.

We woke up in the ungodly hours to make our way to the shores at Keppel Bay.

We walked towards the rows of spanking new, sparkling white yachts parked neatly at the Marina.

Yello, all!

Alas, our yacht didn't look that impressive. Still, it served us well with adequate amenities and nice interior decoration.

The Hidden Treasure II

It has a great sundeck fronting the yacht, suitable for the skewers-wannabes to roast themselves mercilessly.

We aren't skewers though!

On the top deck, there is an alfresco dining area and a comfortable sheltered lounge area beside the captain of the yacht.

We were the cowardly sun-fearers who hid under the shelter, lounging near the captain with cans of coke, sprite and mineral water. The rest of the sun-worshippers could be seen at the sundeck, or at the alfresco dining area.

We passed by several islands - Kusu Island, St John's and Sisters Island...

Are people who live on Kusu Island called Kusuians?

We finally stopped at a quiet beach where there were two other private yachts. We anchored about 10 meters away from the island and lunch was served.

Apparently, lunch was served by Garibaldi - one of the top Italian restaurants in Singapore. However, being on a yacht does mean you can get quite nauseous, despite how delicious the food may be. I had very little portions, just in case I might get seasick.

Feeling a little green in the face.

The humidity in Singapore is just incredible. Sitting under the sun doing NOTHING could make me perspire tonnes. The only way to cool down is to leap into the waters, or dip your legs into the water from a quaint little platform at the back of the boat.

Doris and her posse proceeded to swim and do a little exploration of the little island.

We remained onboard, dipping our little toes into the cool sea, occasionally trying to spot swarms of little fishies.

Alan pedalled around in the kayak, others frolicked in the waters with beer in their hands.

It was definitely an enjoyable way to while away a Sunday morning.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Singapore Airline

I have been travelling via a number of airline companies in my life. Of course, my favorite is the Singapore Airlines, and very proudly so. A number of foreigners I have met have also mentioned their preferences for Singapore Airlines since the service offered is usually helpful and friendly (and pleasing to the eyes too!). Further, SQ has one of the best in-flight entertainment systems with the widest range of games and movies. In my experience, the stewards and stewardesses for European and American airline companies behave as if they were the lords and the ladies, bossing you around on the planes.

Nevertheless, being typically Singaporean, I still have one thing to gripe about SQ.

You see, I like Qantas or British Airways seats because they have foldable headrest.

Something that looks like this...

(Picture taken from here)

This very simple ergonomic property is extremely important, especially on long flights. It prevents my head from lolling over to a fellow passenger who might be (unfortunately) sitting next to me while I am snoozing. It supports my head, as opposed to my neck pillow which supports my neck. To get a good snooze on the flight, the best combination is to have the foldable headrest and the neck pillow.

For some reason, SQ has neglected this aspect.

So, I'm saying 'Hello, Singapore!' with a very sore neck and dazed eyes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union have walked out from their usual work tasks at the London Underground from 7pm yesterday to 7pm on Thursday, bringing the network to a standstill.

Yep, and the Tube breaks down again!

According to the Daily Mail,

Defiant Tube union boss Bob Crow vowed today to strike for "as long as it takes".
He refused to bow to pressure from the Prime Minister and the Mayor to order his members back to work - despite bringing misery to millions of commuters. The leader of the RMT union said he would keep industrial action going this week and next, regardless of the cost to London. Crisis talks had been due to resume today - but industry sources revealed Mr Crow would not be attending.

Wow. No worries about the inconveniences to 3.5 million London commuters, no worries about crippling London's already-injured economy. The Tube strike is set to be the costliest ever - with London businesses set to lose more than £50 million a day.

You know, Mr Crow, I don't see how the transport authorities or the Mayor can offer you any better terms, if the London's economy is to go on in this disrupted manner.

Now, Singaporeans, are you starting to love the Singapore's ever-stable SMRT?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Selfridges is a popular chain of high end department stores in the United Kingdom, founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge. The flagship store is located in London's Oxford Street and recently celebrated its first hundred years in business with a Centenary Exhibition of amazing events, stunning art installations and fabulous celebrities.

As Cynthia did her last minute shopping at Selfridges, we chanced upon a newly opened Yellow Café.

Since Cynthia's favorite color is yellow and my favorite kind of food is dessert, it is no wonder both of us got suddenly distracted and drawn to the colorful eatery.

We decided to have the Original English Cream Tea set as an appetizer to our lunch.

Cynthia says yay.

The very yellow store guide

There were scones, clotted cream, jam and of course, tea.

Sleepy Cynthia needs her tea.. I get unimpressed by the scones.

There was some deejay on a nearby stage blasting loud music, hence providing a less-than-relaxing atmosphere for me to rest my weary feet. Overall, despite the spiffy decor, I found the food rather mediocre and boring. I could produce the same scones and tea at home too. All I need is some reaaaally yellow cardboard as a background, I guess.

Monday, June 08, 2009

One O One

Felix finally completed his CFA Level 3 examination on Saturday, after countless weekends of revision. Woohoo! Well done, honey, on your discipine and hard work!

Weeks before the revered date, Felix was already planning his "Operation Action Hero" - a list of tasks and activities he wants to execute after he regains his freedom. One of them includes going for a nice dinner date.

For excellent dining locations in London, Toptable is the site one should utilize. It has a huge variety of great restaurants listed, sometimes offering many worthy discounts and special offers. The sample menus with prices and reviews are a great help too. After skimming through the seemingly-endless list, we randomly decided on the One O One Restaurant at Knightsbridge.

The One O One Restaurant is an apparently highly acclaimed fish & seafood restaurant located within the Sheraton Hotel, in Knightsbridge. The menu has been designed by a talented Head Chef, Pascal Proyart who specialises in the fish recipes from his native Brittany. A little cautious about the hype created by media, we visited the restaurant with some amount of skeptism.

However, the cloud of uncertainty gradually lifted as we arrived at the restaurant a good half hour before it opened. The waiter was friendly and helpful, offering us drinks and impeccable service, even before we were seated at our table.

The Les Pains included plain and brown bread - light, airy with a wholesome crust and suitably warmed. Felix was a huge fan of the Focaccia which was spongy and fluffy with black olive bits. The bread were accompanied by a duet of butter - one unsalted and the other mixed with salty seaweed. The latter did taste quite heavenly and not much was left after Felix devoured his fourth piece of Focaccia.

Amuse Bouche

The amuse bouche, literally translated as "mouth amuser" in French, is complimentary from the chef and consists of raw tuna bedded in a shot glass with couscous and coiffed with some kind of lemon mousse. (I didn't really remember every word of what the waiter was saying.)


For starters, I had Red Tuna Tartar with Crispy Soft Shell Crab Tempura, Sushi Rice and Wasabi Sorbet while Felix decisively chose Scottish Smoked Salmon with Parsley Crushed Potato & Capers, Horseradish Cream Mouillette, Balsamic Jelly. Being a fan of sashimi, I love the fresh tasting red tuna pieces that have been cleverly mixed with a tangy, zesty sauce. The tempura was fragrant and crispy, with the crabmeat melting at your mouth as you chew. The most interesting part of this dish is actually the wasabi sorbet. It was cold, pungent and sweet - a unique blend of tastes I have not quite experienced before.

Plat Principal

Although the restaurant is famed for its fish recipes, I was feeling carnivorous last evening and opted for Roasted Spring Lamb Fillet with Olive and Rosemary Jus Garlic Confit Persillé, Ratatouille and Gnocchi. The lamb was one of the best-cooked lamb I have ever eaten - tender, moist and juicy. Felix had (after much great difficulty) chosen to indulge in Oven Baked Fillet of Wild Seabass with Niçoise Tapenade, Basil Crushed Potato, Mozzarella, Artichokes and Olive Oil Barigoule Sauce According to him, the fish has been cooked to perfection - light, extremely flavourful with the flesh dissolving at the tip of his tongue.


For dessert, we shared the Cinnamon Poached Pear with Warm Chocolate Sauce, Meringue Stick, Almond Sorbet. The almond sorbet was heavenly and wonderfully paired with the poached pears drenched in generous amounts of chocolate sauce. It was so delectable, I swore we finished the dessert in less than 5 minutes. I even attempted to savour every drip of the chocolate sauce, with Felix trying to tilt that plate such that any remaining chocolate sauce can be easily ladled from the plate.

Throughout the dining experience, the service was timely, patient and warm. The waiters were friendly and rather knowledgeable, although their accents were sometimes difficult to understand.

What's more, the meal came with a 50% discount from toptable!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

ID, please.

In the United Kingdom, there are strict laws enforced on the sale of alcohol, particularly to young people under 18 years old. I think it is a great policy since I do observe that the youths here do not moderate their drinking or practise sensible drinking at all. It doesn't help when the wines and alcoholic spirits are extremely affordable here. I can get a bottle of wine for 3 pounds (~ SGD7+).

As such, I am glad to see cashiers at the supermarkets putting on their strictest expressions and demanding for IDs, each time someone of questionable age attempts to buy alcohol.

Although I am in my late twenties, I do think that the people here have a hard time discerning my exact age. It doesn't help if I usually all decked out in my hoodie and track pants on a typical trip to the supermarket. I guess Asians tend to look younger to them. Thus, the frequent requests for ID whenever there are purchases of wine.

Yesterday, I decided to buy sparkling juice for dinner instead.

Cashier: Hi, how are you doing?
Me: Great, and you?

The cashier frowned as she held my bottle of sparkling blackcurrant juice.

Cashier: Can I see your ID, please?

I did a double-take. This is an equivalent of being asked for ID when I am buying a bottle of sparkling Ribena in Singapore.

Buy Ribena, need ID!

I could have easily shown my ID, but then the whole concept of indignance and privacy fell over me.

Me: What?
Cashier: Your ID, please.
Me: I didn't know I need an ID to buy sparkling juice.
Cashier: What?!

The cashier obviously thought I was a teenybopper, trying to trick her into selling alcohol to an illegal consumer.

Me: This isn't wine. This is juice.

With a look of suspicion, she scanned the bottle and realised I wasn't lying. Suddenly, she was considerably friendlier.

Cashier: OH, I am so sorry! I thought it was wine.
Me: That's ok. You are just doing your job.
Cashier: I am so sorry!

She started offering me extra plastic bags to carry my groceries.

Me: It's ok if you want to check my ID anyway. I am almost 30.

She gave a small gasp of surprise.

So, anytime you guys are feeling crappy about this age thing, come here!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park must be one of the largest parks in London. Although I have been there a couple of times, I have never really finished walking it.

It is also the home to the Royal Observatory, where the modern Prime Meridian Line passes through. On a fine summer day, you will see throngs of tourists queuing up to have a picture taken with the famed structure.

We, on the other hand, prefer to loll on the meadows and bask in the sunshine. :P

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Raison d’être

Raison d’être literally meaning "reason to be", and is apparently the French word for a restaurant's signature dish. Since coming to London, I have somehow mastered the recipe for Thai Green Chicken Curry. By "mastering", I do mean I use Green Curry Paste bought from Tesco, and not pounding chili and spices from scratch. So yeah, I cheated.

Frothy Green Curry with Fragrant Basmati Rice

So, whenever there are some occasions or entertaining to be done, the signature dish gets prepared. For instance, during Cynthia's Farewell last Saturday...

Or during Felix's Birthday in April...

What's more, it's really simple to prepare! Look at me! Do I look like someone who can whip up something complicated?

Here is the simple recipe. All you need is:
1) Green Curry Paste

The one I buy from Tesco looks like this. And it served me for 5 Green Curry dinners. Pretty good value for money, I might say.

2) A can of coconut milk, I say - around 400ml

3) A can/pot of pineapples in syrup

4) Peppers, preferably red ones

5) Basil leaves (or spinach, if you can't find basil)

6) Brown sugar (3 tablespoons or more, depending on the level of preferred sweetness)

7) Soy/Fish sauce to taste

8) 6-7 Cup Mushrooms, sliced

9) 600-800g of diced Chicken Breasts (can be substituted with other chicken parts)

I usually marinate the chicken breasts in the green curry paste an hour or two before I start to cook them. Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the wok and stir fry the chicken breasts for a bit.

Pour the coconut milk, peppers, mushrooms and pineapples in.

The motto I usually maintain while cooking is - "Even if it doesn't taste good, make it look good." At least, people will be deceived into eating them. *Snigger* So, I usually make sure there are colours in my food to make them appealing - Yellow from the pineapples, Red from the peppers and Green from the Basil/Spinach. Ta dah!

Yes, so right now, the stew of coconut milk, peppers, mushrooms, chicken and pineapples is boiling. Add 4-5 teaspoons of the curry paste. The spicier you want your curry to be, the more you should add.

I like my green curry sweet - so I tend to be quite generous with sugar. At this point, add brown sugar in and do constantly taste the stew to see if it suits your palate. If it is too sweet, add fish/soy sauce to offset.

Allow it to stew for a while, until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add spinach/basil only when you are about to serve, so that it maintains its bright green colour.

Wala - my Raison d’être

For Cynthia's Farewell, I prepared a British Platter as an appetizer as well. It consists of typical British fare such as pork pies, scotch eggs and steak & ale pudding.

Ah, and crêpes for dessert.

With that, my best mate in London is sent home to Singapore.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Moby Dick

The Docklands is an extremely picturesque and serene environment for a stroll, any time of the day. Sometimes, when I do not feel like getting squashed in the tube for an uncomfortable commute, it gives me great pleasure to visit Moby Dick - our neighbourhood pub in the docklands.

The pubs in Britain, a convenient acronym to "public houses", can be found on almost every street in London. Unlike Singapore, the pub culture here may sometimes even be somewhat family-oriented, with families bringing their little kiddoes and puppies along as they grab a beer.

On a sunny day, it is an utter bliss to just recline on a wooden bench outside the Moby Dick, nurse a glass of Pimm's and Lemonade and feel the sun rays on your skin.

Mmmm... Pimm's and Lemonade...

Pimm's is a brand of alcoholic beverages which is rather popular in London. Pimm's can be mixed with lemonade and fortified with citrusy fruit pieces to make the perfect summer drink.

Of course, who can miss the pub grub while having a beer or two? Pub grub is food that is typically found in a pub. A typical British pub menu tends to include items such as beef and ale pie, steak and kidney pie, shepherd's pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, hot pot, Sunday roast, ploughman's lunch, and pasties. My favorite meal at the Moby Dick is its deliciously crisp fish and melt-in-your-mouth potato croquettes.

Pub Grub! Niam niam niam.

We get a great view of the wildlife at the docks while tucking into a great meal, too. Moby Dick gets my vote as my favorite local pub. :)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Creepy Crepes

Cynthia and I were a fan of crêpes. Crêpes are thin French pancakes with savoury or sweet fillings. We were always mildly hysterical when we discovered stalls selling crêpes in markets we visited around London, be it Greenwich, Camden, etc.

In fact, Cynthia loves crêpes so much she decided she wanted to eat them on one of her last precious weekends in London. She found Crêpe Affaire online and we had a trek there to have some crepes on a particular weekend.

As usual, I prefer my crêpe sweet and dessert-ish, ideally with loads of nutella, nuts and banana.

Cynthia hasn't had her lunch, so she craved for some savoury fare.

After observing how crêpes are made (these guys usually make a show of it), I decided that crêpes are quite a easy-peasy fare to prepare.

...until I tried them out myself!

I randomly dug out some savoury crêpes recipe from the good ol' Internet. The recipe looked simple enough - and even came with a recipe on how to create a delicious savoury mushroom, bacon and spinach cream sauce for the crêpes.

The filling was made from scratch with flour, butter, milk, water and parmesan cheese and was indeed quite tasty.

Blip! Blip! A stew is boiling.

The problem came with the cooking of the crêpes. I guess, you really do need a flat pan for you to spread the crêpe mixture out to create the signature thin-ness of a crêpe. Otherwise, you just get really thick ones, like pancakes.

What a crêpe shouldn't look like

Nevertheless, I soldiered on. Instead of crêpes with mushroom, bacon and spinach cream sauce, we can have erm... malleable pancakes with mushroom, bacon and spinach cream sauce. Still can eat what.

But nooooooooo, Felix decided wet pancakes are nothing like crêpes and proceed to dump rice on top of my crêpes. "Your sauce goes better with rice, than the crêpes you have made...", he claimed.

I watched in horror as he destroyed my culinary creation.

So, if you want to be a smart aleck like me and try to make a crepe with a pan, instead of proper equipment, better not ah. Don't say I never warn you. But then again, maybe you guys may be more skillful.

Now I have something to scare Felix with - "Creepy crepes for dinner tonight, want a not?"