Woobar @ W Hotel – High Tea, or more accurately “Low Tea”

10 05 2014

Whenever I hear the term “high tea”, I get an impression of luxury and indulgence. After all, it does sound like a step up from just “tea” right? So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many eateries and cafes use the term “high tea” loosely, not knowing that it is in fact, a misnomer.

The story goes that in the past, the Brits used to get by with just 2 meals a day, breakfast and dinner. However, it became fashionable for dinners to be served as late as 9pm (my guess is that most Brits hit the tavern after a day’s work first…and it seems like little has changed since then). Unable to stomach the long interval between breakfast and dinner, the Duchess of Belford at that time, a lady named Anna, made it a habit to have bread, cakes, butter and tea be served to her room in the afternoon, giving rise to what we now know as afternoon tea, or “low tea” as this meal was often eaten on low parlour chairs.

“High tea” on the other hand, used to refer to the hot dinner with strong tea served to rejuvenate industrial workers after a hard day’s work. The term “high” was used because these dinners were served to workers sitting on high back dining chairs.

Definitions aside, I would say that my experience with Woobar’s High Tea Set ($58/$68++ per set serving 2 pax on weekday/weekends) was in general, a positive one. I personally felt that the pricing was really reasonable, given the location premium, free-flow of tea/coffee, the amount and quality of the food. What’s more, diners can request for complimentary parking as well 😀

The key downside however was the seats, low sofas that were not at all conducive for eating.

One of the salient features of this tea set is the “bird cage” presentation, which is more novel than functional. The teeny bite-sized nibbles do add up to quite a bit of food so my advice would be to have a light lunch before embarking on this journey.

The bird cage comprises of 3 tiers. At the top most tier, served in what looked like a fishbowl, was the Chocolate Crackle and Pop which reminded me of coco pops.

The second tier comprised of savoury items. I especially liked the Tikka Inspired Salmon with Mint on Spiced Pappadum, which was like an aburi salmon marinated with curry powder among other Indian spices. The Torched Double Brie Pickled Cucumber Nigiri was nice as well, especially since I’m a fervent cheese lover.

I’m still on the fence about the Chocolate Foie Gras Ganache with Port Wine & Gold Leaf. It’s a creative idea but the flavours weren’t very compatible in my view. The liberal use of port wine also resulted in a slightly overwhelming alcoholic flavor.

On the other spectrum, the Twice Cooked Hen’s egg Mantou Chili Crab was really forgettable, mainly due to the egg that hardened up somewhat from being twice cooked. Furthermore, I could hardly make out the chili crab sauce and felt it tasted like sweet Thai chili instead.

The bottom tier comprised of the sweet items. Of the lot, I had a penchant for the Assorted Macarons and the Almond Whoopie Cookie Sandwich. Items I felt were so so were the Bambolini Ball (Lemon Infused Lemon Curd Ball) and the Fresh Berry Trifle Shots.

What I didn’t like were the Chocolate Cupcakes that I found dry and overly dense, not exactly the best attribute to have after numerous rich and heavy desserts.

As part of the tea set, we were also served Crones (a light filo pastry) of varying flavours such as Passion Fruit Butter, Marmalade, Strawberry and Blackberry. This was my favourite item of the afternoon and what I liked best about it was that it was not overly sweet or cloying, while retaining a mild buttery tone and flaky texture.

We also ordered a side of Truffle Fries ($15++), which was rather pricey given the petite portion.

Woobar @ W Hotel

21 Ocean Way, Sentosa Cove, W Hotel Singapore

Tel: +65 6808 7258

Website: http://www.wsingaporesentosacove.com/en/woobar

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Cotton Restaurant @ ECP – Grilled items done right

1 04 2014

A new restaurant called Cotton has recently taken root in East Coast Park, taking over the premises from 1-TwentySix. Interestingly, the name Cotton was given because of the resident cotton tree that grows at the entrance of the restaurant. The facade of the new establishment looks similar to 1-TwentySix and boosts a similar laidback vibe as well, with an al fresco dining area, a stage for the live band and an outdoor bar area but one of the key changes is that the indoor dining area will be converted into a cocktail bar after the ongoing renovations is completed.

Cotton serves European cuisine with a hint of Asian influence, with its char grilled items being a distinctive strength. While it is known more as a dinner and post-dinner drinks place, the restaurant has also started offering a weekend brunch menu as well.

Al fresco dining area

Outdoor bar area

I was here on invitation with XL from the4moose and WS from cafehoppingSG. We kicked off the tasting with some of the restaurant’s signature cocktails and mocktails.

XL had a cocktail named Jar of Heart ($18++), made from a combination of Whisky Sour (Whisky, Lemon juice and Sugar and Egg white), Amaretto (a type of Almond-based Italian liqueur) and Mixed Berries. Suffering from a bad ulcer, I opted for a mocktail instead. This uncharacteristic move was a blessing in disguise as I managed to sample the Superstar ($16++), made from a mix of Watermelon, Apple, Cranberry Juices with a dash of Melon syrup. It’s an awesome drink for a warm summer evening, especially with the refreshing taste of watermelon juice. If you have a preference for mango, try the Anita ($16++), a mocktail made from fruit punch, mango juice, grenadine (a pomegranate flavored syrup) and lychee.

Jar of Heart

While I’m not a fan of tuna in general, the Maguro Tuna Nicoise ($22++), which is a mix of French Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Quail Eggs, Potatoes & seared Tuna, left XL with a positive impression. It did however, come across as slightly pricey compared to the other items on the menu.

Taste-wise and value-wise, I much preferred the Vongole ($20++), a hearty bowl of clams with a dash of white wine and basil served with  a Toasted Baguette & Tomato Salsa. Definitely one of the better renditions around, the bittersweet gravy was rich and robust with the clams not overcooked, retaining a nice gelatinous texture.

For mains, the New Zealand Rack of Lamb ($38++) was strongly recommended by the staff and it wasn’t difficult to see why. It was one of the most succulent lamb racks I have had and I was surprised to find no areas being dried out from the grilling. Diners can choose from 4 different sauces (Wild Mushroom, Bordelaise, Lemon Garlic Butter or Pink Peppercorn) to accompany the grilled meats and I would highly suggest the Pink Peppercorn, which is milder than the usual Black Pepper Sauce and allows for greater appreciation of the natural flavours from the lamb. Incidentally, pink peppercorn is not technically a peppercorn but dried berries that come from a different plant.

What I really liked about the Whole Market Fresh Red Snapper ($32++) was that despite being served whole, the meat peeled off the bone easily and cleanly. We were told that the fish is sourced daily from the markets, providing greater assurance of its freshness, which came evident with the taste and texture. At this price point for a roughly 600g fish by my estimates, this is really quite a steal.

The Angel Hair Pasta with King Tiger Prawns, Smoked Sea Urchin Butter, Ebi Sakura & Vine Tomatoes ($38++) on the other hand, was less impressive. The pasta was a tad dry and lacking any hints of Sea Urchin. On the bright side, the king tiger prawns were quite sizable with a nice char.

For desserts, we had the Mango Panna Cotta, the Warm Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream and the Profiteroles ($14++ each). They weren’t bad but neither were they great, each falling short in a certain aspect. For example, I liked the ice cream in the profiterole but the choux pastry wasn’t airy and crisp enough, I liked the balanced sweet and tangy flavours from the mango panna cotta but the biscuit base lacked butteriness, while the chocolate fondant was spongy throughout instead of having a crisp outer layer.

Overall, I found the experience at Cotton to be a step up from its predecessor 1-TwentySix, mainly due to the adept execution of the char grilled dishes. The restaurant is still in the midst of fine-tuning their menu offerings and I’m looking forward to drop by again once the dust has settled.

Special thanks to Cotton for the invitation.

Cotton Restaurant

902 East Coast Parkway, #01-26 Big Splash

Tel: +65 6348 2126

Website: http://www.cottonsg.com/





Spathe Public House – Weekend Brunch at Robertson Quay

26 02 2014

Spathe Public House is best known for its communal dining concept, featuring items such as a metre long currywurst on their menu. On weekends however, the communal menu is replaced by a separate weekend brunch menu during the earlier part of the day (before 5pm).

While diners are left spoilt for choice in the number of brunch places around Robertson Quay, with the likes of Kith Cafe, Hummerstons, Toby’s Estate, Five & Dime and Epicurious all within walking distance, Spathe is my top pick. There just aren’t that many places that consistently serves up perfectly poached eggs with a decent Hollandaise sauce to boot. The spacious interior makes for perfect catch up sessions too!

Eggs Royale ($18++)

Eggs Mushroom ($16++)

Spathe Public House

8 Mohamed Sultan Road #01-01, Singapore 238958

Tel: +65 6735 1035 

Website: http://www.spathepublichouse.com/





[Berlin, Germany] Roaring Burger Culture, Burgermeister vs Bird Restaurant

8 01 2014

I was in Berlin for the New Year and I gotta say that that’s a terrible time to be there as a foodie, mainly because:

  1. many restaurants close for the year end holidays.
  2. tourists flock to such capital cities for New Year celebrations and parties and increase demand for the already reduced supply of dining options
  3. restaurants take the opportunity to up their prices for New Year Menus

Luckily for me, I was there for a good 7 nights, so I could wait it out till New Year was over before indulging in the more extravagant restaurants but in the meantime, I found cheaper (but not necessarily less enjoyable) alternatives to tide me over. Thus, I embarked on an adventure to discover the best burgers in town. Unfortunately, it was short-lived as I soon developed a sore throat.

It’s clear that Berlin’s burger culture is alive and thriving. Within Tripadvisor’s top 20 most highly rated restaurants, two are actually burger joints, Burgermeister and Bird Restaurant, both of which will be the topic of discussion for today.

You know how the saying goes that the dirtier a food stall, the nicer the food from there tastes. The same can be said of Burgermeister. The eatery is located under train tracks with a grungy dark interior. Yet, you still see queues forming everyday of the week. I was here on a Monday evening and I still had to wait an hour just to get a simple burger and fries.

Queue from outside Burgermeister

Queue inside Burgermeister

The key draw about Burgermeister is the value aspect. An average burger here costs about 4 Euros and a bottle of beer a mere 1.50 Euros. Many claim that it serves the best burger in town but I choose to disagree. No doubt, the burgers here are very decent but something still seemed to be lacking, perhaps it was the over-greasiness that got to me, or the fact that the beef patty could have been more succulent.

Meisterburger (4.30 Euros)

Sides can also be ordered separately. The cheese fries here was of average quality, nothing to rave about.

Cheese Fries (2.20 Euros)

Burgermeister

Oberbaumstrasse 8, 10997 Berlin

Tel: +49 30 2388 3840

While not a direct competitor due to the price differential, I found the burgers at the Bird Restaurant far superior in quality and taste.

Bar seats at Bird Restaurant

I had the house burger called Da Birdhouse (11.50 Euros). It’s a double burger with bacon, grilled onions, ketchup, mustard, sour cucumber and if Google has translated it’s German description from the menu correctly, it’s also “bold enough to kill a donkey”. I’m 50% confident that that’s really what is written on the menu because the restaurant (and it’s menu) evidently attempts to portray a stance of anti-establishment, eg loose use of words and signs on the wall that writes stuff like “if it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?”.

What I liked best about the burger is that it delivered exactly what was promised on the menu, a heaping 250g slab of beef patties which, to put in perspective, is more beef than the sum of 2 McDonald’s Quarter-pounders. As an added bonus, the restaurant also gives the choice of how cooked you want your meat to be. Personally, I’m a huge fan of caramelized onions and the generous use of it in this burger was also a treat. The chips on the side were also unbelievably tasty, one of the best I have had in fact.

Da Birdhouse (11.50 Euros)

There are only two ways to secure a seat here. First is of course, make a reservation! Second would be to arrive here before 5.30pm and hope that there are seats at the bar available for walk in customers. This joint is insanely popular so expect long waiting times of between 30mins to an hour for your burgers. There are days (which I experienced first-hand) where the restaurant even refused to take down takeaway orders due to the long list of orders from within the restaurant!

Bird Restaurant

Am Falkplatz 5, 10437 Berlin

Tel: +49 30 5105 3283





[Berlin, Germany] Tim Raue – Asian Fusion Confusion

5 01 2014

Food aside, Tim Raue has the unlikely makings of a Michelin 2-Star restaurant. First off, the entrance of the restaurant does not face the main street but is hidden in a nondescript courtyard (or parking lot, euphemisms aside). I initially wondered if I had accidentally stumbled into a residential premise as I navigated my way in. Secondly, the staff while friendly and professional, are all given standard issue sneakers (think White Converses) to match their formal blazers. Well, hot pink blazers for the gals doesn’t scream formal. Lastly, the ambiance of the restaurant doesn’t scream fine-dining with its rather minimalistic oak decor. That said, I gladly embraced the obvious attempts to downplay the fine-dining aspect of the restaurant and immediately felt more at home.

I was first given a set of complimentary appetizers (Curried Cashews, Pickles in Wasabi Sauce, Japanese Cucumbers, Seaweed wrapped in Daikon) to nibble on while deciding on my courses.

I opted for a 3-Course Lunch, priced at 38 Euros, which was very much a steal and prompted my visit in the first place. Diners are allowed to choose from a list of appetizers, mains and desserts to make up the 3 courses regardless of the category, meaning that you can effectively order 3 mains. Do note that certain items on the menu do require additional supplements of between 8 to 12 Euros.

If 3-Courses isn’t enough or if you want to take the rare opportunity to try more things on the menu, additional courses can be added for 10 Euros each.

For starters, I had the Dim Sum “Partridge, Mache and Black Truffle” which I found pretty disappointing. The dumpling skin was much too thick and doughy in my view, while the black truffle sauce was excruciating savoury and overwhelmed the subtle partridge.

For main, I had the Peking Duck Interpretation (additional supplement of 12 Euros), a signature dish of the restaurant. It came as an ensemble of 3 items to be eaten in succession, starting with the Crispy Duck Breast over Bread Stuffed with Apples and Leek, followed by the Duck Liver Terrine with Leek & Ginger Mousse and ending off with the Duck Consomme with Duck Heart, Stomach and Tongue. In larger portions, this could have been a meal in itself which I would have gladly accepted.

Of the trio, I found the soup to be the most interesting, tasting like a blend of very rich turtle soup and braised duck sauce from Singapore hawker stalls. It was my first time having duck tongue and I thought it was pretty awesome, possessing a texture of smooth duck skin without the ensuing fattiness.

For dessert, I had the Mango, Vanilla & Kardamon. Kardamon is a type of plant similar to Ginger and I believe it was used to make the little meringue balls. Didn’t quite see how it fitted into the overall picture though. Overall, the dessert was pleasant but nothing to shout about. The aesthetics was probably the highlight of the dish.

I was also given a complimentary dessert of Iced Apple with Coriander Cream, which came together with the bill. Oddly, there also seemed to be Shredded Purple Cabbage inside, which I found to be superfluous and should be left at the doner kebap stands.

In one word, the whole experience here was interesting. Interesting is an interesting adjective because it hardly describes whether something had turned out great or bloody horrendous. For me, the food and staff outfits were interesting, with some courses bordering on unusual rather than tasty. Frankly for the price paid, I held greater expectations.

Tim Raue

Rudi-dutschke-str 26

Tel: +49 30 2593 7930





[Amsterdam, Holland] – Of Pancakes, English Breakfasts and Chinese Roast Meats

20 11 2013

While there are many coffeeshops in Amsterdam, not many actually sell coffee so it was great that we managed to find a decent cafe called Greenwoods that served a proper English Breakfast. I’d imagine it would be a great way to perk yourself up after a visit to the coffeeshop that does not sell coffee.

Ground Floor of Greenwoods

I had the Full English Breakfast (9.95 Euros), comprising two eggs with bacon, sausages, grilled mushrooms & tomato, baked beans and toast while friend JS had the Eggs Royale (8.95 Euros), comprising two poached eggs with smoked salmon on toasted English muffins topped with Hollandaise.

My toast was crisp but at the same time rather airy, the grilled mushrooms were flavourful, the eggs poached to perfection and the Hollandaise sauce rich and smooth. Nothing short of excellent.

Full English Breakfast

Eggs Royale

Another plus point was that while the cafe was pretty popular, the staff were uber friendly and I never once felt rushed during the meal.

Another cafe that’s hugely popular and also worth visiting is The Pancake Bakery, which has the widest selection of pancakes I have ever seen. Initially I was a little bummed, mainly because I perceive a restaurant with a wide menu selection as a jack of all trades but master of none. Thankfully, I was painfully mistaken this time around.

Question marks all around whenever someone asks about what foods are authentically Dutch. Well, something I learnt from this trip is that the Dutch invented a type of mini-pancake called Poffertjes. We had the Poffertjes with Honey, Nuts, Mandarins and Whipped Cream (7.10 Euros) and it was wonderful. Compared to the other pancakes we had here, this one was more on the fluffy side, with the texture of hotcakes but with a lighter body and less floury taste.

If you like Hawaiian Pizza, then you will surely love the Pineapple and Bacon Pancake (9.95 Euros). It was my favourite of the 3 pancakes we ordered. The bacon wasn’t overly salty and there was a pleasant smoky tinge (from the bacon) lingering within the batter.

Pancake with Apples, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Cinnamon Liquor and Whipped Cream (12.15 Euros)

Having had to skip lunch to make it for a bicycle tour of the city, we were pretty famished when it was over and couldn’t wait for our pancakes to arrive. So while waiting, we had some Taco Chips with Melted Cheese and Chili Sauce (4.65 Euros) to nibble on. Was appreciative that the cafe took the effort to toast the chips before serving.

For tourists, do remember to flash your Holland Pass to enjoy a drink on the house.

Zaanse Schans Windmill Village

PS: This advice is mainly for Asians in Europe hankering after a decent Roast Meat and Roast Duck Rice. Say goodbye to 4 Seasons in London, Amsterdam’s Nam Kee is the place to be for Roast Meats. It might just run some stalls out of business if it ever opened shop in Singapore.

Nam Kee

Zeedijk 113, 1012 AV Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 624 3470

The Pancake Bakery

Prinsengracht 191, 1015 DS Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 625 1333

Greenwoods English Tea Room & Restaurant

Keizersgracht 465, Amsterdam 1017 DK, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 420 4330





[Paris, France] L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile – A Slight Disappointment

16 10 2013

If you are on the streets using googlemaps, the entrance to Joel Robuchon Etoile couldn’t be harder to find. We were looking out for some indications of a posh looking restaurant but there was nothing that even vaguely hinted to where the restaurant was. We finally discovered it was inside a bookstore, very much like how there used to be a cafe inside the now-defunct Borders bookstore at Wheelock place. Truly an unexpected location for a restaurant holding two Michelin Stars.

Lounge area

Set lunches are priced fairly at 42 Euros / 62 Euros / 82 Euros for 3, 4 and 5 courses (exclusive of the amuse bouche course) respectively.

The kitchen operates on an open concept to allow patrons to better appreciate the efforts taken to prepare their food. It also allows for easier interaction with the friendly servers.

One of the few noteworthy dishes of the meal was our amuse bouche, a 3 layered shot of warm foie gras mousse topped with port wine sauce and parmesan foam. Definitely a winning combination with a well thought out layering sequence for a perfect transition of flavours. As the spoon entered my mouth, I first detected the rich fatty liver mousse, subsequently complemented by sweet port sauce, with the journey ending off with a savoury airy foam. One of the most blissful few seconds in recent years.

The Mackerel appetizer was one of our server’s recommendations and that’s what I got. My friends took quite a liking to it but personally, I was severely disappointed. While the flesh was rather tender, the skin lacked an adequate sear and turned out soggy. The belly portion wasn’t as fatty as I would have liked either and the fish was rather cold by the time I dug in (which could also be the reason why the skin was soggy). I guess the plus points for the dish was the delicious mustard sauce and visual vibrancy.

M got himself the Maine Lobster with Sugar Lettuce (11 Euros supplement). I preferred this to the fish but again, it didn’t stand out much.

I also had a side order of the Foie Gras with French Sourdough (29 Euros). I found the texture of the foie gras pretty smooth compared to the ones I have at more casual diners during my trip but I didn’t fancy the accompanying compote.

For main, I had the Chicken with Tuna Sauce. The chicken breast was sliced thinly and awfully tender. The tuna sauce was unexpectedly smooth as well. While the execution was flawless, it did seem a little simplistic for such a reputable French restaurant.

M had the Iberico Pork (11 Euros supplement) which was extremely tough. He feedbacked that the sauce was marvelous though.

Another well-executed but simplistic dish was the Deep-Fried Whiting Fish. It was the best “Fish without the Chips” that I have had with outstanding freshness of the fish and extraordinarily light batter.

All mains were served with a heavenly velvety mash.

Desserts as a whole was very meh, especially the Mango Mousse and Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis.

I made the correct choice picking the Coffee dessert, comprising of a Coffee Jelly base, Cocoa Crumble, Chantilly Coffee and Coffee Ice Cream. What I liked most was the playful integration of textures.

Mango Mousse

Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis

Frankly, I’m on the fence about this one. The food is by no means terrible but my elevated expectations were not met during this luncheon. In my humble opinion, for the same price paid, there are better alternatives in Paris. On the other hand, raising the pot and opting for their degustation menu might produce significantly better results.

PS: There is a small booth near the restaurant entrance selling Pierre Herme macarons which perhaps warrants dropping by if your desserts don’t turn out as well as planned. The Arc de Triomphe is a 3 minutes walk from the restaurant, so plan your itinerary accordingly if you are a visiting tourist.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile

133 Avenue des Champs-Elysees

Tel: +33 0147237575







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