Lost in Translation Afternoon Tea @ The Park Hyatt Tokyo

Courtesy of the “Lost in Translation” movie The Park Hyatt in Tokyo has become a stomping ground for tourists to stop by for a cocktail @ The New York bar on the 52nd floor. The bar hosted the famous scenes between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen and has admiring skyline views of Tokyo City – worthy for a tipple pit stop. 

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The New York Bar opens for the evening and gives an opportunity to see the sun set over the city. The food and drink is suitably New York inspired with great american cocktail options, I opted for a Pisco Sour which was fresh and frothy!

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We took the opportunity to dine at the Park Hyatt’s Peak Lounge for Afternoon Tea in their Skylit Bamboo Garden so that we could indulge in great natural light views of the city. In our time in Tokyo the Park Hyatt’s views were the best we had seen – due to its location being a bit afar from the action it gave a wide city view.

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The atrium had a wonderful spaccey feel due to its large glassed windsows and high covex ceilings. The decor was a little underwelming but the views made up for it.

The Afternoon Tea menu provided a vast tea selection, ranging from the traditional to herbal and japanese varieties. There was also an option to have a completely “Sweet Afternoon Tea” however I have chose the Traditonal “Afternoon Tea” to sample their savoury bites. Both menus were priced the same at 3800Yen.

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After selecting our teas the finger sandwiches soon followed. The Japanese have a way of making things very cute and precise, and this tea was no different! The sandwiches were some of the smallest and cutest I have ever seen…..who knew you could make white sliced bread thumb size?!

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The tea settings were pretty and the cutlery – simple and white elegant.

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Scones came out warm with a variety of Praline & Plain. This was the first Praline scone i have ever tasted and I loved the caramelised flavour it added to the crumbly scone. The condiments were good but portions of the clotted cream required me to request for an encore.

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Just when I thought it was time to start on the sweet pastries we were surprised with a variety of savoury canapés….

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Once we had tasted all the little additions we started devouring our sweets. Favourites were the chocolate & cassis mousse and macaroons. Alike to the savoury round, additional sweet treats were presented and the sweet square jellies were moorish!

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All in all the Park Hyatt tea was a well executed afternoon tea service with fantastic views of the city. The wide variety of treats and extensive brew menu should find something to your fancy. A little refurb on the sofa and a few more flower displays would notch up the deco.

I would highly recommend a cocktail at the New York bar….its famous after afterall!

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#NewNordic Brunch with Noma’s Mads Reflunds

Michelin Starred Chefs congregate for 4xFOURa high end Pop-Up Dining experience in Singapore. “4xFOUR is an exciting concept that brings together the art of gastronomy with the world of visual art. 4 distinctive cuisines by 4 internationally acclaimed chefs, all showcased in a purpose-built Pop-Up Restaurant.”

4XFOUR is showcasing for a 4 week period from 13 November – 7 December 2014. The 22-day event features both brunch and dinner sessions, with brunch sessions featuring a four-course menu with champagne, and dinner sessions offering a more extensive eight-course menu. Tickets are priced from S$168 and are available from 4XFOUR website.

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When I heard Mads Reflunds, co-founder of Noma (which ranks 1st in The World’s 50 best restaurant list by S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna),  would be cooking in Singapore for the first time I booked my brunch immediately!

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The Pop-up is hosted at the tables of Singapore’s exclusive Temasek Suite at the F1 Pit Building. Specially built as the Prime Minister’s hospitality suite during the Singapore Grand Prix, this private dining room has only been visited by a select few.

The history of Singapore’ s F1 is enamoured over the entrance walls and a real treat to be seen for a first time visitor.

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A novice experience was the pairing of Michelin Star Art Gastronomy and Visual Art. The Visual Art really does add a je ne sais quoi to the dining, its clean, quirky and imaginative in true Northern European style and a truely similar description of the gastromony.

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Brunch was elegantly served on imperial style tables with your personal name place cards awaiting you. The dine-wear was very Scandinavian matching well the chef and ambience. The menu sounded refreshing and fitting for a Sunday Brunch.
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After a little welcoming speech from Mads enlightening his guests with his concept of #NewNordic cuisine and his love for digging up ingredients in forests, we were served up with his clean plates like clockwork. Mads clearly runs an organised kitchen with high standards, each course came out perfectly and exact to one another.

First round was Scallops with Cucumber & Buttermilk Horseradish. Visually bright and artistic and tastefully balanced. A perfect palate cleanser that set the pace for the following fine courses.

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Second course was very fruits of the forest like – Broth of Mushrooms with Egg Yolk & Seaweed, a suitable soothing dish for autumnal season.

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Pork Neck with Mushrooms & Black Garlic arrived as the pleasing meaty main.

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Ending sweetly we did with the fashionable Beetroot. Their doesn’t seem to be a Michelin Star chef who doesn’t love his beets! Mads served Frozen Beets with Yogurt & Rye and we devoured the lot of it.

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I know for sure now that #NewNordic is a cuisine that deserves its international recognition. Its series of raw flavours and ability to remain light yet satisfying gives it a unique place in the top notch global cuisines.

Check out http://www.4xfour.sg you won’t be disappointed.

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A Gastro Safari in Japan’s Foodie City – Osaka

Osaka is known as the foodie capital of Japan so do not miss the opportunity to sample its local street foods, most popular ones being Okonomiyaki (frittata) and the famous Takoyaki which literally translates into Octopus (Tako) Fried (Yaki). Takoyaki is basically little round dashi flavoured pancake balls stuffed with pieces of octopus, tempura, green onions and pickled red ginger, they are smothered with mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce (similar to worcester sauce) and sprinkled with fried seaweed & dried bonito flakes. You can expect the texture to be crispy on the outside and gooey in the inside, if you like seafood and have an adventurous tongue then you must try these! Best ones can be found at street vendors, we stumbled upon one under a bridge opposite the Umeda train station for a quick lunch snack. I was comforted when I saw later that evening a long queue of locals in line for a portion Takoyaki – hopefully a sign that is was aunthetic place!

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That said if you are unsure on where to haunt down some good octopus balls I would recommend going to Dottonbori and having a browse around its fluorescent lively streets for some canal side delights. Yes its touristy but if you have limited time and want to get a feeling of Osaka’s love affair with food then Dottonbori will give you a great gastronomic introduction.

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Now for my favourite local find in Osaka. A 7 hour flight. First night in Japan. 11pm. Heizo Chicken. gem.  Forget the questionable exterior, non english speaking staff and limited Japanese menu – my golly this place was so up my alley. Quirky, tasty and above all super friendly. I got a feeling within about 5 mins that we had stumbled upon a local hidden gem that is very popular with mid night cool folks.

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The pictorial menu was kind of helpful –  as in what you saw you got, but what you got was still unclear (in a good way).

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All items ordered were presented in cute disposable banana shaped bamboo ships. I guess this was Japanese Tapas?! Mi gusta! From what I could make out we had; a brie type cheese croquette, japanese keema, a yummy potato salad and a cheese/potato/bacon ball in a creamy tomato salsa. All were delicious and perfect for late munchies!

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The only item we could not eat as we were “dining in” was the Heizo Fried Chicken! Apparently its only for “take-away” – all quite bizarre but I like the odd bit of obscurity! Take-Away diners seemed very chuffed with their big boxes of fried goodness. I reckon its worth coming back for.

The Hunt for Gyoza Morsels

Who doesn’t like sizzling meaty dumplings!? We tried gyoza all over Japan and honestly we didn’t have one bad dumpling, but if I was to rank those dumplings I would in-doubtly give the number one spot to a little corner cafe on the 5th floor of the Umetika dining building.

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The cafe specialised in gyoza with beer – one could say a rather limited menu but I say genius!

We had encore portions and would again and again.

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Digital Lunch

Lunch hosted by an efficient digital member of staff who only spoke in Japanese scripture.

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Again I was very unsure on the ingredients of my order but the digitised diagrams really helped make a decision on what to order. Once I paid the machine and received my token order slip I took a seat at the communal dining table. It had large green furry balls as an interesting centrepiece…..first time for everything….it actually looked quite cool!

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Now what did I order?! I think it was cold soba noodles in a white milky broth with a heaping of some kind of mince meat (maybe pork?) and a sprinkle of sprouts. Light, refreshing and oh so tasty! It came with a pourer of chilli oil which brought out the flavours of the milkly broth. Yum!

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I left Osaka with very flavourful memories. Not enough time to try all its delights but a great insight into its vibrant and fun eating scene. Sweetoothers look out for my dessert safari in Japan coming soon!

The Afternoon Tea Room @ Grand Front Osaka

Now for something quite different – afternoon tea in the centre of Osaka, Japan’s foodie capital – for those more interested in the local delicacies watch out for my next blog on our own Nippon food safari in Osaka.

Located in the new and vast Grand Front Osaka complex in the Umeda area which housed several great dining areas (Umekita cellar and Umekita dining) as well as some off-beat stores and cafes. There is one shop that immediately grabbed my attention, fittingly named Afternoon Tea. This store has both a retail and a cafe side to indulge in some high tea –  eating your cake and shopping concurrently – quite my dream day!

Upon entrance the store is full of tea time goodies which immediately gets you in the mood for a cup of brew and some teatime fancies.

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There is a great diversity of tea-related items including tea towels, mugs, other kitchen related bits and bobs and of course many many different types of teas! After browsing for quite a while I was no longer able to resist and filled my basket with a number of goodies from this wonderful shop.

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One of the highlights of the shopping spree was the superb precision gift wrapping   (which is fantastic in most Japanese stores). They have  seriously nailed all things art, craft and gift wrapping in Japan!

Shopping done. Now time for Tea & Cake!

We went for the traditional afternoon tea set priced at 1,400 yen. For this you get a pot of tea and a choice of 3 types of sweets presented in a beautifully weaved Japanese basket. I went for the traditional scone, an apple strudel and a berry mousse short cake that was the special of the week.

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For those looking for a sweet little tea snack (post lunch) thats not going to stop you from your shopping spree – this is a perfect teatime pit stop!

The scones were a real highlight, warm, crunchy and with a great texture they were wonderful with the jam and the very whipped japanese cream which was to die for! The Apple Pie Cake was buttery and scrummy, the short cake was amazingly light and tasty, I would eat it all again.

We had the Earl Grey tea which was nothing to write home about, I would suggest trying something different, perhaps the matcha green tea next time, and maybe save space for a savoury main course too. Definitely pop in if you love your kitchen home ware!

Also check out their website for more info (in Japanese) or to ogle at the homeware goodies!

http://www.afternoon-tea.net

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Meatless Monday @ Muriel’s Kitchen

My Meatless Monday’s usually involve an attempt at some healthy home-cooking but when in London I use Monday’s to eat my vegetables in the form of sticky desserts! One dessert in particular –  Muriel’s Kitchen’s Famous Carrot & Walnut Cake. Muriel’s Kitchen is an English “no-nonsense” inspired cafe meets restaurant serving healthy plates with locally sourced British ingredients at a reasonable price. The Chef’s change up the menus monthly at their 3 Kitchens (South Kensington, Soho & Leicester Square).  As you walk by their pretty window displays lined up with delectable cakes, salads and savouries you know you have to stop and enter to try some of their mouth-watering “healthy” treats.

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Having dropped into the South Kensington Kitchen several times in the past I took an opportunity when in Soho to give Muriel a visit. The Soho Kitchen is a wonderful large space with a gorgeous shabby chic interior; mosaic tiles, old leather sofas, velvet stools, bird-cage lamps and fun swinging garden chairs.

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We took a cosy seat at the back of the restaurant against the bric-a-brac adorned shed area – see if you can spot me!

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Now for the menu, breakfast is popular as is the all day dining menu which enables you to graze on some sharing plates and those yummy house bakes! We kicked off with an aperitif of British Bubbles and Rose Lemonade….they went down a treat!

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After deciding on our dessert choice we adjourned back to our selection of savoury plates, Gooey Baked Camembert served with Dipping Crostini’s & Cranberry & Cashew Crunch, Butternut Squash, Feta & Spinach Quiche and Super Greens Salad. When I next pop in I will definitely indulge in the Baked Camembert again!

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Now for the Piece de Resistance – The Famous Carrot and Walnut cake! If you are a Carrot Cake Fan then you should try this and stack it up against your favourites. I found it to be light and fluffy as well indulgent and nutty –  I would eat it on most Meatless Mondays should my waistline prohibit! As this was a special Monday I also indulged in their very generously sized Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding with Custard.

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If I was poping into Muriel’s Kitchen tomorrow I would want to try their Chocolate & Guiness Mini Pint Cake and their Passion Fruit Cake Stack. The Dulche de Leche Brownie and Red Velvet Cupcake sound like the perfect Take-Away too! My advice – go with a large group and  try as much as you can from their dessert menu, its large and catered for all sweet tooth palates!

When in Doubt Eat Cake!

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Marrakesh Madness @ Sandro, Helsinki

Finland is famous for many fun things – Santa Claus, Angry Birds, Finlandia Vodka to name a few….but who knew Helsinki houses several Michelin *** restaurants and many local quaint cafe’s and bars that could keep a Foodie Traveller inspired for a summer break.

Trying the local cuisine is an obvious must and there are many restaurants to choose from but for travellers with limited time I would suggest a couple of laps around the local market in central Helsinki (“Kauppatori”). All things berries are worth a bag, and a snag of a sizzling sausage or Reindeer meatball is a Scandinavian must.

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A personal favourite was the “Lihapiirakka” (or ‘lihis’ for short), sort of a doughnut meets cornish pasty……I had two!!

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For those that want a go at Helsinki’s more alternative scene I would highly recommend a visit to the workers end of Helsinki – (Kallio) and hit up a popping Middle Eastern joint – Sandro! One look at the placemat and you know you want to come back again. The menu fusion is mouth-watering with ingredients sounding super fresh and authentic rich. Spoilt for choice we deliberated for 20 minutes on how much we could try to eat and then lent upon the friendly French waiter to assist upon portion size. Basically the portions are big, order a dish each! Humous and dips are accompanied with each meal so no need to order separates. Your challenge is whether to order from the “Bai Kan to Beirut Street Kitchen” end or ‘Garden of the God’s’.

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Here’s what we ordered… and… what we left.

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Garden of the Gods lost out this time. The Batbout Burgers from Marrakesh and Za’atar Man’Ouche from Beirut were winners. We chose the Confit Duck Batbout Burger and were not at all disappointed (as you can see) – served with Sweet Potato Crisps, Harissa Mayo, Tomato Pesto, Garden Red Onion Salad, Pomegranate & Carrot Yogurt & Hummus. The Za’atar Man’Ouche Merguez were equally as tasty, served with Tabbouleh, Grilled Aubergine, Goat Cheese & Pomegranate Yogurt.  Seriously refreshing and modern Middle Eastern grub at €18 per plate. I can’t wait to go back! We are in dire need in Singapore of creative Middle Eastern restaurants – Chef Enthusiasts please assist in our much required void!

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Sandro’s Sunday brunch has won awards and is considered to be the best in town at the moment so make your reservations in advance for this modern North African fusion feast. They have a wonderful indoor lounge and outdoor terrace for those hanging Scandinavian summer nights when only a tipple will do.

Book here – http://sandro.fi  

Making a trip to Helsinki soon? A couple of other worthy pit stops:

Marimekko homeware and clothing – https://www.marimekko.com

Fazer Cafe – Finnish Chocoholics & Moomin Cupcakes

Iittala – glasswear & tablewear – https://www.iittala.com/home

Cafe Kukko – Coffee & Cake with sea views

One Stop Shop – Stockmann’s Department Store and Helsinki Design District

Boulevard Social – sharing plates great for lunch or dinner

Helsinki Senate Square

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Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea

The recently re-vamped Clifford Pier @ The Fullerton Bay Hotel hosts a wonderful Singaporean Heritage Afternoon Tea. Full of novel tea time treats that are spun off favourite Singaporean local flavours this Tea Time does not disappoint.

Singaporean cookbook author, Shermay Lee, curates a selection of 8 savoury and 8 sweet items to reflect Singapore’s multifavoured culinary past and present. The little ‘creations are handcrafted with a nod to traditional skills and are based on heirloom recipes handed down to Shermay from her late grandmother, Mrs Lee Chin Koon, author of the famous Mrs Lee’s Cookbook and widely recognized as the doyenne of Peranakan cuisine in Singapore.’

Like all Afternoon Tea rituals we commenced ours with a selection of brew and were thrilled by the local options. The deliciously sweet Teh Tarik being the most popular on our table I opted for the strongly brewed Moroccan Mint Tea.

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In good stead we kicked off with the 8 Savoury items which were topped up galore! Firm favourites were the nostalgic Kueh Pie Tee, Bak Kwa Jam Sandwich and Chilli Crab Bao. (for novel Singaporean eaters check the menu pic for the delicious details). 

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Being a condiment connoisseur I was excited by the choice of asian dipping pots – sweet and savoury were both demolished. The fiery local red garlic chilli sauce was yumtastic when accompanied with the sweet and sticky Kurobuta Pork Kong Ba Bao and Nonya Chicken Curry Roti Jala Wrap.

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The Tropical scones were surprisingly crumbly and moist (not a norm in Singapore’s humidity), and the Pineapple-Vanilla Jam and Kaya spread were very well paired. I would say a really good scone job done by Clifford Pier!

For those who have room – 8 Sweet Singaporean treats await you! The Hainanese Roti with Kaya got my attention first as did the Sugee Financier and Bandung Macaroon. The bright green Pandan Swiss Roll unfortunately didn’t deliver for me – a bit dense which was a shame as I love Pandan!

This is the Ultimate Tea for those who love to savour the culinary delights of Singapore or for those that want an intro into Singapore’s long love affair of blended South East Asian cuisine. The Clifford Pier’s colonial feel is a well suited venue for the Heritage Tea with its oppulent deck and great views of the Singapore River.

For reservations, email cliffordpier@fullertonbayhotel.com

http://www.fullertonbayhotel.com/latest-specials/culinary/heritage-afternoon-tea