Tapas, Sangria and Beer Adventures in TST

Tapas is everything but a light meal especially when downed with a jug of good Sangria. Despite how often I convince myself that this meal is or could be a light affair, I often succumb to the temptation of ordering more than I should. And that’s exactly what happened at this new go-to that I recently discovered in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong or as the locals call it ‘TST.’

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Playa De Papagayo is my latest find, in terms of Tapas outlets. Located at Observatory Road just down from the Mira Hotel, next to the Empire Hotel and across from the Audi Showroom, you can’t miss this cute place with its patio setting, bright blue exterior and distinct beach hut hangout feel.

The enterprising owners apparently also own another smaller tapas restaurant of the same name, at Hanoi Road nearby and they also own the fantastic Japanese yakitori restaurant right next door.

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Papagayos, as it is called short-form beckons with a fun vibe. It’s not your typical Spanish joint but has a nice laid back feel and if the weather is nice, you can sit outside on the patio where there is casual seating.

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Wandering inside, the surprisingly spacious interior has a mix of sofa seats, lounge chairs, high tables with stools and bench seating, amidst the usual tables and chairs.

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A neon sign or two, a large open bar and the quirky menu with its beach theme feel add to the chill-out vibe.

The drinks are creative, portions good and not the nasty watered down version you get at most places. In terms of food, the menu is extensive from Spanish Tapas to Soups and Salads, Pastas and Mains, things from their Fire Grill oven and a small selection of dessert. The tapas portions are over-all ‘smallish’. I was not overly impressed with the usual tapas favourites like the Garlic Shrimp and the Octopus. Don’t get me wrong, they are definitely tasty but you would need two portions if you are more than 3 people sharing.

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However, with a menu this extensive, normal should not be what you order at a restaurant like this. We decided to be adventurous and that spirit landed us some amazing eats like this list of top things to order that we are recommending. We are quite sure that you won’t get tapas like these anywhere else.

1.  Foie Gras Terrine, Fig and Rice Crispy Treat – HK$88

This bite-sized gourmet looking morsel looks like its ready to be served at a high end cocktail party. It is the perfect size to daintily pick up with your fingers and pop into your mouth. You get more than a generous bite and an explosion of tastes out of this very decent bite-sized piece of medium-rare foie gras, topped with delicious fig jam, a slice of fig with a delicious popcorn morsel perched on the top. Wash this down with a glass of fruity red and you are immediately ready for another piece.  I would definitely order two portions of these as one of these beauties as one plate is simply not enough.

2. Crab Meat and Avocado Roll with Salmon Caviar – HK$88

I am clueless as to how they make the gold coloured gel-like skin that looks like a wonton wrap and envelopes the tasty crab meat and avocado filling inside this almost beautiful h’or oeuvre.  Garnished with a dash of mayonnaise and Japanese caviar, this is delicious to the boot.

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3. Iberico Ham in Raw Tuna Roll with Half Boiled Egg – HK$78 

Not quite a main course, but this is a good sharing portion that you want to order a side of garlic bread for, just to mop up the runny egg. The tuna is just lightly seared, the way you would see it at a Japanese restaurant and really goes well with the egg.

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4. Kurabata Pork Chop with Apple Paste – HK$298

This pork dish makes an excellent main course if you are dining alone or slice it up and you have a decent main course to share along with the other tapas treats that you have picked.

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5.  Spanish Style Beef Ribs – HK$368

The beef on the bone that was served was literally huge. More than adequate for sharing and way too much for one person to finish alone. Beautifully coated and grilled in black sesame seeds, this gave the meat a juicy and tender texture. Definitely, a new favourite meat dish for those with carnivorous leanings, like me.

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6. Must-Order Paella – HK$288

We saw many people order this dish which comes served in an impressive Moroccan style tagine instead of the usual paella pan. I was intrigued and ordered the Squid Ink version (not shown in picture – as squid ink does not photograph well) which truly turned out to be one of the best paellas I have ever eaten. Moist, full of exquisite flavour – each bite leaves you abandoning all courtesy so that you can dig your spoon in for another bite.  At the end, all I could see was the satisfied smacking of everyone’s slightly-stained black lips.

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7.  Excellent Sangria, Beer and Creative Cocktails 

This restaurant gets my vote for good Sangria. The bartender serves an excellent mix – not too sweet, just the right amount of fruit and definitely enough vino to give it a good ‘kick’ start to a fun evening.  My 12 year old swears by the Mango non-alcoholic cocktail.

By the end of the meal and a few more jugs of sangria later, we were too full to try dessert which definitely gives us a reason to return.

Where: 

Playa De Papagayo is at

Shop N3, G/F, Podium Plaza, 5 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 – 2739 1808

and

Shop 2 , 5 Observatory Rd Tsim Sha Tsui                                                                                                     Tel: +852 – 2323 1379

 

Visiting The Three Gorges Dam

If you have a thing for world’s first and engineering marvels then this is one trip that you would want to make this Summer, and have it ticked off the bucket list.

Architectural Model – Photo taken at the Three Gorges Dam Museum showing the 5 ship locks bringing a boat downstream into the main river

The Three Gorges Dam or the Sanxia Da Ba (三峡大坝) is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam created to both produce electricity and increase the Yangtze River’s shipping capacity as well as reduce downstream floods. A project that started construction in 1994, it was fully functioning from 2012 complete with five ship locks and fully completed with a ship lift in December 2015. See TEN interesting facts that you may want to note about the Dam project here before you book those tickets.

As for us, we were curious to see what a project that saw China relocating 1.24 million people in 2008 to achieve, costing them US$27.6 billion or RMB180 billion to construct-looked like in reality.

Getting there was easier than expected, there is a 3 hour train ride option from Shenzhen but we decided to fly domestic. So we took the train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen via Lo Wu. From there, boarded a 2 hour flight from Shenzhen’s Airport into Yichang.

A map of the tribal villages living along the Dam – at least 360 million people live here in the stretch from Yichang to Chongqing

Seeing the entire Dam and the expanse of land that is home to almost 360 million people is no mean feat and the most common way to fully appreciate it is to take a 4 to 6 day cruise and there are many cruise companies that arrange tours with English-speaking agents and guides.

With limited off days from school and work, we opted for the shortest way to see the Dam – via a Day Tour and got it arranged via the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Yichang (where we were staying). They recommended an English speaking tour guide, Christine who turned out to be a real gem. With a good command of English, knowledgeable, friendly and passionate about her job, she arranged a 2 day itinerary which included a day out on a tour boat down the Yangtze river and a second day out to see explore the Ba tribal village, one of the many small ancient villages that snake around the Yangtze.

Day 1

Saw us getting on to a tour boat that would take us on a leisurely cruise down part of the Yangtze to cross the ship lock of the Gezhouba Dam, go inside the Dam area, view the museum, have lunch, and then take a bus back to Yichang.

The Boat Tour – TIP: For better all around views – pay the extra 40RMB per person and sit on the top deck which is shaded with a canopy
Scenic views along the way

Entering a SHIP LOCK – think of it as an elevator of sorts but this SHIP LOCK allows the vessel to sail in and brings you 22 metres down stream in 20 mins (about the rate of 1 metre per minute). The ship is literally “locked” into the contained area that you see ahead to prevent the water from rushing in and then carried down stream.

CLOSE sesame! We are inside and the doors lock shut once the vessel is in. Water tight – our 20 minute journey via the ship lock brings us another 22m further downstream the Dam

You can’t fly over the Dam because of security issues and you need special military permission to do that – so a bird’s eye view of how the Dam operates and comes together is pretty much out of the question. Thus, a visit to the Dam museum to look at the model of it and how it all works and comes together is mandatory.

Day 2

We headed by bus to the catch another boat that would bring us to see the Ba Village, a  tribe of people who have lived in the region for centuries and in a village built by the banks of the Yangtze River. After which we would catch a bus to eat at the famous cliff side Weng Restaurant, one of the only 8 cliff restaurants in the world.

The boat moors at the Ba Village dock. We have travelled up stream to  visit the BA tribe to see how they live, explore local customs and experience the geography in the area.
The BA Tribe – a breathtaking ancient Kingdom built alongside the banks of the Yangtze
A river runs through the village ending in a stream and a waterfall at the heart of the village
The Coffin Caves were where the Ba Tribe buried their dead – Do you see two coffins in this shot?
Inside the village

Leaving the serenity of the Yangtze behind, we hopped on a tour bus back into Yichang city but not before stopping for dinner at the world-famous hanging Fang Weng Restaurant.

This restaurant is built into the side of a cliff – one of only 8 cliff restaurants in the world
The inside is a cavern that has been converted into a spacious dining room

The most famous dish there is a fish dish in milky soup where the fish has a distinct gelatinous texture. Look out for our detailed review later.

Total cost for the 2 day itinerary – 500 RMB per person (inclusive the boat and bus transport and minus a tip for the guide, the meals, an Uber or what China calls a “didi” back to the hotel). Definitely a great way to spend a long weekend.

(This trip was my own personal holiday, paid fully by myself. Recommendations here are not paid for, simply that we want to share the great finds.)

Meet Mr S.Y Punti – A Small Cafe With Big Personality

The next time you are find yourself in the increasingly trendy Sai Ying Pun enclave, drop by and say hello to a new resident there, the honourable Mr. S.Y. Punti!

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Who is he? He or rather IT is a small cafe with undeniable personality.  There are no short forms when it comes to formal introductions with this cafe. On contrary, this elusive little place is tucked behind a temporary public toilet at the end of David Lane – next to the Sai Ying Pun wet market. It took a little bit of investigative work to track Mr. Punti down but when we eventually did, my girlfriend and I were both pleased and pleasantly surprised by this little gem of an eatery which also serves coffee and alcohol.

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Cafe Manager, Bibiana greeted us warmly at the door when we arrived for lunch to try some of the traditional cha chaan teng fare that seems to have been given a nice twist in terms of preparation, presentation and the use of healthy and fresh produce instead of the usual canned fare that cha chaan tengs are so fond of using.

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The first thing we inquired with Bibiana was about was the inspiration behind the Cafe’s name. The “Mr” is just a fun formality and the Cafe’s initials. “S.Y.”, she explained, stood for Sai Ying Pun which turns out was one of Hong Kong’s oldest neighbourhoods and one of the first formally settled places in Hong Kong as it was close to where the British first landed.  It’s surname “Punti” hails from the ‘pun’ in Sai Ying Pun and also the word “punti’ which is the slang word for local dialect – a word that it’s Barrister Founder and Owner picked up in court when asking clients that he was representing whether they wanted legal proceedings to be conducted in English or Cantonese.

That done, we got down to admiring the nitty gritty – from the very retro and interesting decor to the simple but tasty menu.

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I have to say, I really liked the use of space in the venue. The eatery is essentially tiny and is housed in a small narrow shop house. Outside there is an alfresco area with seats for 2 just before you enter the premises. Inside, is a small living space that has been converted into a dining area with booths that seat 8 and  a bar area with seats for 6, whilst the back of house area hosts a rest room, an open-air air-well and the Cafe’s main kitchen.

There is a distinct retro 1960s vibe which adds to the charm of the venue. A very eclectic and quirky Hong Kong sense of style prevails here. Different elements from East and West come together almost seamlessly and effortlessly and at Mr. S.Y. Punti, it is a case of 1960s style American Diner meets 1960s Chinese vintage.

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Just open the secret drawer built into one of the eatery’s standard American diner booth tables and help yourself to the eclectic mix of Chinese vintage style cutlery. Whilst you chat and eat, Faye Wong’s sultry tunes add to the relaxing ambience in the distant background. It is an unusual mix, but yet nothing feels odd or misplaced.

The menu and fare is simple with items that one would expect at a local Hong Kong eatery but decently priced, well-presented, hearty and minus that greasy after-taste that brings on the food coma you usually suffer from, after leaving a Hong Kong cha chaan teng.

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We started with what the locals call Cheong Fun, an order of Panfried Rice Rolls with Eggs and Bean Sprouts (HK$32).

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After that came the Panfried Lotus Root Cake made from mushrooms and minced pork served with Mini Greens (HK$36).

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This was followed by my favourite – Dumplings, a combination of three different types of dumplings – one with Minced Pork, one with Shitake and the last variety with Chicken and Celery (all for HK$38) served in a lovely homemade Chicken broth.

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All three items went well with the Cafe’s signature Yu Kwen Yick chilli sauce. It turns out that the Cafe was previously the actual ‘factory’ venue where this iconic made-in-Hong Kong chilli sauce was actually manufactured – fermented in wooden barrels.

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Dessert was a French Toast with Peanut Butter (HK$35) and Sesame Balls or Tong Yuen served in Iron Buddha Tea (HK$35). I really liked this unusual combination where the tea had a delicious roasted flavour and was gingerly poured over the sesame balls. Again an unusual combination that somehow, mysteriously worked.

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We ended our meal with two cups of Olympia Graeco-Egyptian coffee which barista-trained – Bibiana, personally prepared.

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Definitely, a cute spot to retreat to in the day, for a quiet girlfriend chat – over Almond Tea (HK$35) and a Cappuccino (HK$35), away from the hustle and bustle of busy Sai Ying Pun. Or this venue would also make a lovely spot to host a private party for about 20 people, after hours. Also, an ultra-nice nice venue to pop into for an evening, after work drink where Blue Girl Beer is on tap and a glass of wine starts at only HK$48.

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Nice to make your acquaintance S.Y, we hope you don’t mind us dropping the ‘Mister’ and now that we have been formally introduced, we would love to come back and say hello and get re-quainted. This time, perhaps on a first name basis!

Mr. S.Y Punti is at G/F No. 4 David Lane, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong – Tel: +852 29158885 

 

Kazahana in Wanchai – Glass Grill Teppanyaki, Sushi and Sashimi

Here’s a lovely new Japanese restaurant that I recently discovered in Hong Kong’s Queen’s Road area in Wan Chai.

Kazahana is essentially a  Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurant that combines a casual ground floor eatery (seats 35) with private VIP rooms for 6 to 12, a more intimate Teppanyaki salon (seats 22) on the second floor and an impressive Sushi and Sashimi restaurant (seats 35) on the third floor.

The concept seamlessly brings together the skills and combined experience of two pedigree Chefs – Sushi Head Chef Milton Lau, previously from the michelin-starred Ginza Kyubey restaurant in Tokyo, reputed to be the best sushi restaurant in Japan and Teppanyaki Head Chef Choco Chan, previously from the one michelin-starred, I M Teppanyaki and Wine in Hong Kong, known for their use of top notch ingredients and grill specialties.

I headed there with a few friends for Teppanyaki and ended up sharing the Abalone, Boston Lobster Teppanyaki Course (HK$1,480 for 2 persons) which proved good value for money considering how fresh the live catch was.

What arrived was a hearty Appetiser followed by South African Abalone, Boston Lobster, Sliced US Sirloin Beef, Fried Rice and Dessert – a substantial meal indeed with a nice amount of flair and drama in terms of food theatre as everything was prepared, laid out and cooked ala minute on a state of the art glass grill rather than on the usual Teppanyaki metal hot stove tops that one expects to see in a traditional Teppanyaki place.

For Teppanyaki connoisseurs or those out for a more lavish treat, there is a more elaborate shared menu for 2 that goes up to HK$2,680 and includes 3 kinds of Sashimi, a King Crab Salad, Japanese Snapper, Abalone and Wagyu Beef and ends with a King Crab Congee and dessert.

You can also order add ons like the  Jumbo King Prawn which feature grilled king prawns drizzled with a sauce made with Japanese Sea Urchin and Truffle oil that give this dish an amazingly rich flavour.

The Salon itself is small, cosy and intimate and a good choice if you are hosting a fairly private dinner party and there are four private stations that seat groups of up to 4 to 7 that you can reserve.

A lunch set is also available daily at HK$188 per person featuring a Cod Fish Teppanyaki Set Lunch. Teppanyaki Set Dinners per person are available starting at HK$980 per person.

If its sushi you are hankering for then third floor eatery serves sushi and sashimi. Must tries we hear, are the Sushi Omakase Set at HK$1,200 per person where the selection of fish is seasonal and sliced in a unique style to maximize freshness.

KAZAHANA is at 83 Queen’s Road East, Portwealth Centre, Wan Chai.

Open daily Lunch from 12 to 1430 pm Dinner from 1800 to 2230 pm.                                     Reservations at +852 2865 7177.                                                                                                                                         Email: kazahanainfo@kazahanahk.com                                                                                                     Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kazahanahk

Edible Flowers And Afternoon Tea At The Langham

Everything is coming up floral and pretty at The Langham, Hong Kong this Spring. If you have an occasion to celebrate, be it a girly catch up, a girlfriend’s birthday or Mothers’ Day, then we recommend that you make a booking for their specially themed, ‘Blooming Afternoon Tea’ at The Langham Hotel’s Palm Court.

Here’s a tip to book for the 25th and 26th of March when British illustrator, Tanya Bennet will be there to design guest portraits for you to take back. If you are wondering why her ultra-cute illustrations look so familiar, its because you’ve seen these water colour sketches and fashion vignettes commissioned for use by brands like Christian Louboutin, Cartier, and Lane Crawford, all of whom have engaged Tanya for various campaigns.

We love the ambience at Palm Court. The setting is just intimate, classy and sublime. The plush armchair lounge creates an inviting and relaxed atmosphere where you just want to sit back and sink in, take genteel sips of your favourite tea (pinkies pointed up) and chat to your hearts content against the melodic tinkling tunes from the pianist, playing live in the background. Definitely a nice place to feel magically transported from the crowds, stress and humdrum of the everyday.

Executive Pastry Chef Matthieu Godard and his culinary team have designed a selection of five exquisite pastries decorated as a bouquet of blossoms and the tea has an overall floral theme from the exquisite wedgewood platters on which he serves his creation to the fact that he uses real flowers as decorations, all edible.

Jasmine is a pistachio and white chocolate macaron filled with a dash of jasmine tea flavoured cream. Rose is a decadent vanilla panna cotta with luscious rose and strawberry mousse served in a glass, topped with a thin chocolate rose petal.

Viola is a playful arrangement as a bite-sized chocolate flower pot planted with Gianduja cream rich in hazelnut, and viola flowers. Marigold is a fruity dome incorporating yuzu mousse, apricot jam and lemon biscuit, while Daisy offers a buttery base of sablé breton with raspberry mousse and Chantilly cream.

Savoury accompaniments include the “pseudo” tomato patch with fillings of smoked salmon and cream cheese, chicken with Dijon mustard, and green pea hummus with sesame paste. There are also scones and cheese sticks if you want to fill up after.

And if tea lingers on to Happy Hour, we suggest you try their Garden Globe Cocktail at the adjoining Artesian Bar. 100% instagram-worthy, this create cocktail features an ice sphere with live edible flowers (almost like a mini terrarium) delicately balanced on top of the glass with a creative cocktail concoction below made with  elderflower, violet flower and black currant liqueur, as well as fresh lime juice and egg white. This cocktail is priced at HK$130 per glass and is available from 1 March to 30 April 2017.

The Blooming Art Afternoon Tea is available at Palm Court, at The Langham Hong Kong from 21 March to 31 May 2017  at HK$348 for one person and HK$598 for two persons, subject to 10 per cent service charge. The guest portrait experience is offered on 25 March 2017 at 2:15 – 4:15 p.m., 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., and on 26 March 2017 at 2:15 – 4:15 p.m. Reservations at +852 2132 7898

 

10 Noteworthy Cookie Stores To Check Out In Hong Kong

I’ve lived in Hong Kong for the last 10 years but I’m still a true blue Singaporean at heart especially when the Lunar New Year comes around each year. Each year, I faithfully head home to stock up on my favourite pineapple tarts – both open-face and closed, love letters, kueh bang-kit, cashew cookies and those incredibly addictive spicy shrimp rolls that I just can’t say no too! And then I sit back after the season, 2 kgs heavier and ask myself regretfully why I don’t possess greater self control!

It’s not that Hong Kong lacks it’s fair share of new year nibbles, because quite honestly .. Hong Kongers love their desserts and sweets! The fragrant harbour, most certainly has it’s very own cookie culture, which is not just limited to the New Year season but instead, available all year round. So, if you are a cookie-monster or a buddy to a lot of friends who appreciate food gifts then here’s my list of notable cookie stores that you should look out for the next time you pop by to visit the 852!.

Just a tip that if you don’t want to go on a wild goose chase, the cookie stores that I have listed below, can mainly be found in Kowloon, particularly in Tsim Sha Tsui along Peking Road, Lock Road, Carnavon Road, the K11 mall and around this general vicinity where I have noticed several cookie companies, recently setting up shops.

1. Jenny Bakery

Jenny’s is probably Hong Kong’s most famous cookie brand. It opened to incredibly enthusiastic and long queues in Singapore last year in the heartlands of Ang Mo Kio.  In Hong Kong, there were two stores, but at the moment only one store seems to be operating from the slightly seedy Mirador Mansion area along Peking Road in Tsim Sha Tsui.  Jenny’s has no shortage of devotees in Hong Kong and has emerged as the most sought-after, queue-worthy cookie company with multiple resellers and counterfeit retailers touting their wares to unsuspecting tourists and mainlanders, all sealed in seasonally different but the familiar signature Teddy bear-themed tins.

In Hong Kong there sometimes is a 4 box quota per person, especially during peak seasons like the Lunar New Year or Christmas period. But still the queues are there – probably because the cookies are butter and cornstarch-rich, melt-in-your mouth good and the price tag for a 4-mix of their famous Butter Flower, Shortbread, Raisin Oat and Coffee Flower cookies starts at only HK$70 per 320g tin. In Singapore the same tin size and mix, starts at double the price of its Hong Kong flagship at $25 (HK$125). Just saying, that if I was visiting Hong Kong from Singapore, that fact alone, would inspire me to stock up and cart them back.

Also worth picking up (as it’s not sold in Singapore) is a ton of their lesser known rectangle-shaped 8-mix nut cookies (great crunch and good flavour) And their 7 piece tin of Macadamia Cranberry Nougat Candy.

Where:

Jenny’s Bakery Hong Kong is at G24, Ground floor and Shop 42, 1st floor at Mirador Mansion, Tsim Sha Tsui,

Jenny’s Bakery Singapore is at 422 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, #01-2534, Singapore 560422

 

2. Glory Bakery

My latest cookie craving is definitely for a tin of these lovelies from Glory Bakery. I am a new convert to this brand and I plan to take a few tins home to family this year! True, that they are not half as buttery as Jenny’s but they are most definitely unique.

For starters, I really like the yellow tin design which looks premium and the cookies come beautifully packaged inside with a lovely catalogue and there are 15 different and unusual flavour combinations from Horlicks Macadamia Nut, Lemon Tea, Ovaltine, Linseed to Coffee Chocolate, Charcoal Sunflower Seed and Cranberry.

There are several themed cookie combos. If you like a Hong Kong flavour to the cookie mix in the box, pick the Cha Chaan Teng combo or else, there is the Tea Time selection or the Nuts and Seeds box. Slightly more expensive than Jenny’s, they start at HK$98 (S$18) for a small tin (320g).

Also selling, are their delicious Jams with flavours like Papaya Passion Fruit, Mango, Apple and Pineapple, a selection of Roasted Nuts, Brown Sugar Walnuts, Seaweed Walnuts, Dried Fruits, Raisins and Cranberries.

WHERE: 

Glory Bakery is at: 161 Sai Yee St, Mong Kok and Shop C, Ground Floor, Carnavon Mansion, 10 Carnavon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.

3. Conte De Cookie

One other brand that I have seen in Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai but have yet to try is Conte De Cookie.

Set up by pedigreed Pastry Chefs who come from the Peninsula, Sheraton and Mandarin Oriental, one tin of these bite-sized beauties will set you back HK$178 (for about 36 cookies) but they look tempting and are apparently are made with the finest imported ingredients including organic eggs and wheat from the US, butter from France and Australia, Valrhona chocolate cocoa powder and Cacao Berry Chocolate including Fleur de sel de Guerande sea salt, organic cane sugar, natural nuts and dried fruits. The cookies are apparently made fresh daily and have no preservatives or chemicals

There are about 16 different cookie flavours at HK$82 per packet of single flavoured cookies including unusual ones like Osmanthus and Longan, Mango Cookies, Pineapple, Fleur de Sel, Rose and Raspberry and these are combined in about 5 different tin mixes that start at HK$178.

They sell Palmiers too, which Hong Kongers seem to like a lot but don’t do much for my personal sweet tooth. In terms of Palmier flavours, there are about 7 flavours from Maple Syrup to Mixed Grains, Lemon and Almond sticks that start at HK$158 per mixed tin or a single flavoured packet of Palmiers goes for HK$68.

Where:

Conte Cookie is at G/F, 8D Humphreys Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui

 

4. Cookies Quartet

This cookie brand definitely has been around for some time as they have at least five outlets in Hong Kong.

There are about 25 different cookie varieties from Blue Berry and Cornflake to Devil’s Chocolate Cookies, which I really liked because of the fact that they were not too sweet and you could really taste the chocolate and they were also crunchy.

Interesting were flavours like their Sea Salt Cookies, Rose Cookies, Orange Chocolate Cookies and Cinnamon Twists. There are about 5 different types of Palmiers from Shredded Coconut and Sesame to Golden Flaxseed and about 8 assorted box sets starting at HK$158 to select from.  A box of 9 different cookie flavours starts at HK$178 whilst 11 flavours is at HK$208. A box of single flavoured cookies starts at HK$82.

Where: 

Cookie Quartet is here (branch locations).

5. Cookie Galerie

This cookie store also has about 7 stores in Hong Kong. The flagship store at K11, has nice counters, a large shop space and looks a little intimidating especially when you want to go in for some free samples.

But the staff are generally helpful and friendly and will tell you if they are selling out on a particular cookie. For instance, I was looking for sugar free cookies which they sell for diabetics and there was but one box left as apparently they are quite popular.

They offer about 23 different cookie flavours including Belgian Dark Chocolate 75% with sliced white almonds, Rose, Lavender, Green Tea, Pistachio and Blueberry and 16 different types of Palmiers including the Spicy Hot Pork Floss, Almond and Sakura Sticks and a variety of chocolates, macarons and crispy cakes. Buy these as individual packets per flavour or you can buy them as mixed tin sets. There are 4 cookie tin sets that start from HK$128 a box – the choices: Tea Box, Nuts Talk, Suite de Chocolat and Momordica Fruit Cookies and also 2 mixed Pamier Tin Sets.

Where:

Cookie Calerie is at several locations with its flagship at K11 Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

6. Sweet Boutique de Tony Wong

A veteran pastry chef, Tony Wong hails from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Royal Garden Bakery and set up Cookies Quartet, Pâtisserie Tony Wong and Smile Yogurt. His Sweet Boutique aims to create low-sugar and healthy sweets using organic flour, French butter and puree, French fruit, trehalose without using added preservatives.

The cookie selection is made up of a selection of Egg Rolls starts at HK$168 a box with flavours like the Chocolate Explosive Cigar, Raspberry and Earl Grey, Crispy Cookies in Rose and Sesame combinations, Sable and Tulle Cookies,  a selection of Meringues and Wafers, Pineapple cake, Assorted Dragees and Raspberry Almonds. Detailed price list HERE. There is also a special Lunar New Year pack that starts at HK$268 a box.

Their signature is undoubtedly their Bonbons which come in flavours like Rum and Raisin, Venezuela Dark Chocolate, Kalamansi and Strawberry with Balsamic Vinegar.

Where :
Sweet Boutique has 3 branch locations HERE.

 

7. Patisserie Jeffery Koo

Known as PJK, Jeffery Koo also hails from the Mandarin Oriental having worked at their Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur properties. He then trained under Michelin star patisserie Chef Pierre Gagnaier and he now is the host of a TVB TV show “Sweet Corner”, teaching celebrities how to make desserts. With a baking supplies store online as well as at Chai Wan and a patisserie in K11, this up and coming Pastry Chef is well known for his French style chocolate cakes.

Popping by the K11 store, we ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at his range of Chinese New Year cookies seasonal products that he has brought out for Chinese New Year including his HK$628 (early bird price of HK$566) for his Salted Chocolate Kum Quat Trees. Cookies in sealed jars start at HK$128 for 240g.

Where: 
Shop Locations HERE

8. Blesscuit Bakery

Also in K11 Mall, is this bakery owned by Pastry Chef Kim Leung has about 5 other outlets throughout Hong Kong and 3 in Macau. It’s name ‘Blesscuit’ is the combination of the words ‘blessings’ and ‘biscuits’.

The brand’s belief is that blessings are what their customers gift through their prettily wrapped and boxed creations. We liked their colourful tins which start at a promotional price of HK$228 for 28 pieces with 6 flavours of individually wrapped cookies. The flavours are unusual with about 18 different flavours to choose from ranging from Pear Butter to Black Pepper and Parmesan Cheese, Truffle and Smoked Ham cookies. There are also limited edition flavours available each season from Morels and Wild Mushrooms to Blue Lobster which make great gifts for adventurous tastebuds.

Where: 

Blesscuit Bakery Outlets HERE

 

9. Lucullus

My experience with this brand is the fact that you will find it usually near a supermarket or in an MTR shop location. They are no newbies and have been around for the last 30 years. There are about 13 outlets, 2 festive counters and 2 Chocolate Cafes that the brand operates in Hong Kong. They are essentially famous for their chocolates and candies but they also sell cookies throughout the year and especially at the Lunar New Year where there are very attractive box sets and hampers galore.

Typically a box set of 9 flavours of butter cookies including purple sweet potato, chocolate ginger, green tea, honey yuzu, chocolate almond, blueberry and flax seed and about 54 cookies in a box starts at HK$185.

At the Lunar New Year, they have Rooster themed hampers and cookie tins like this with 45 cookies in 10 flavours starting at HK$259 a tin. They too sell a variety of Palmiers and just for the New Year there is a cute Tangerine Gift Box with an assortment of Gold Tael Butter cookies and chocolates including Hannovers, Orange Chocolates and Hazelnut Crunches at HK$88.

Where: 

Lucullus locations HERE

10. Little Bear Bakery

These cookies come in cookie tins that could easily be mistaken for counterfeit Jenny cookies. Take a second look at their Teddy Bear themed tins and you will realise that are not Jenny Bakery cookies but have the same flower shaped cookies that also come in 4 mix tin of Butter, Matcha, Coffee and Chocolate starting at HK$130.

The owners are a husband and wife team who apparently have as their mascots Teddy Bears and they tins feature their signature little bears going on journeys around the world.

Their solo shop in Tsim Sha Tsui offers cookies, chocolates and with seasonal Egg Rolls created for the Lunar New Year.

Where: 

Little Bear Bakery is HERE.

 

Not covered in this story (but in the plan for a future review) are Hong Kong traditional bakeries like Hang Heung, Wing Wah and Kee Wah, Macau’s Koi Kee, Taiwan’s Sunny Hills Pineapple Tarts Bakery and independent local family style bakeries along Mongkok, Shanghai and Temple Street and Wan Chai like Cherikoff and the established cookie brands that are not from Hong Kong but have stores here like Dutch cookie brand Aunt Stella, US cookie brand Mrs Fields and US Famous Amos, which are also in Hong Kong. 

Restaurant Review: Ash & Elm

Ash & Elm is the (relatively) new all-day dining restaurant at the Intercontinental Singapore. It took over the space that used to be Olive Tree, which had come to look rather dated and screaming for a new concept. So this is it, a dark, brooding, and very large restaurant that impresses with its chic, New York good looks. Modern chandeliers, mood lighting, timber, marble and mosaic surfaces, and dark colours set off the three serving stations to the left of the restaurant — a dedicated cheese and charcuterie room, pizza station with its wood fired oven & charcoal grill, and dessert station.

Helming the kitchen here is Executive Sous Chef Phillipe Duc, who has a fine pedigree, having lead the kitchen of SPOON by Alain Ducasse at the InterContinental Hong Kong, as well as having worked in highly respected temples of gastronomy as 3-Michelin star Alain Ducasse, 2-Michelin star Les Ambassadeurs in Paris’s Hotel de Crillon, and SPOON des Iles at One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius.

Assorted Flatbread (Proscuitto & Arugula, Pumpkin & Bacon, Vegetarian)

The pumpkin and bacon flat bread ($18) made in the wood-fired oven is a tasty starter perfect for sharing. Comfort food for one who loves pumpkin, this is a winning combination of savoury, sweet and puffy-chewy bread with again that slight crunch from the grill. The Ash & Elm Platter ($24 small/$42 large) of house-cured charcuterie is also a good choice for sharing. It features house cured beef pastrami, house smoked pork loin, roast beef, and foie gras with smoked duck. In fact, Ash & Elm offers another four platters themed around the charcuterie of France, Span and Italy. Of note, is the final platter, a seafood offering with smoked salmon and marlin, tataki, cured seabass and taramasalata. They all come in a choice of small and large sizes.

Chacuterie

But for me, the absolute highlight is its steaks, particularly the Beef Tasting Platter. At $108, it is a hefty serving of three steaks — 300g USDA New York striploin, 200g Australian rib-eye and 250g French bavette d’aloyau. It is good enough for three to share. The steaks are perfectly cooked, all nice and juicy, with low, deep rich flavours with slight charring, rounded caramelising and a hint of the grill. Served together, it’s a delicious exercise in exploring the variety of flavours and textures of the different cuts. Needless to say, it is incredible value too.

New York Striploin

Beyond that, the grill also offers a selection of very attractively priced meat dishes — a 300g rib-eye goes at $56, a 400g New York striploin enough for two is priced at $90, and a 900g tomahawk steak is $160 which feeds 2-3.

For desserts, have the chocolate hazelnut pizza ($24) which is good for sharing, and the apple tartin ($14) with calvados ice cream. If you prefer cheeses, Ash & Elm has a very respectable selection of European options. You can customise a platter of three to five cheese, starting from $24.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Pizza

Incidentally, the restaurant has just rolled out a good semi-buffet lunch menu where appetisers and desserts are on the buffet while main course is a la carte from a menu of five options. The appetiser and dessert buffet ($38++) is enough for most light eaters: load up on the charcuterie and cheeses, the flatbreads and plethora of salads, including a good pumpkin and beetroot salad. The soups, I’m afraid, were forgettable. Desserts are good. If you’re going for the three course option ($48++) which includes the main course, get the striploin with creamy polenta which turned out a pretty large and juicy serving. It makes for excellent value, too.

Level 1, InterContinental Singapore
80 Middle Road
Singapore 188966
Tel: (65) 6825 1008