#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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Ham Yard Hotel – To Tea or Not to Tea?

My London Afternoon Tea Safari broke a new record,  4 afternoon teas in 6 days. The last Tea Date took me to the newest Firmdale group opening – The Ham Yard Hotel in Soho.  The Ham Yard is defiantly one of their most flamboyant, owned by Tim and Kit Kemp with their beautiful british interiors designed by Kit. The Ham Yard describes itself as a boutique village with the hotel revolving around a tree-filled garden square. Guests are are not only spoilt in their beautifully designed bedrooms (91 rooms) but also by the array of communal areas, shops and skyline views of London from their unique rooftop bar.

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Floors of colourful glittery art and luxe aesthetics make you want to explore every room, and rooms of interest are a plenty. A quick whizz around the hotel is definitely worth it before you cosy up to your scones. The Library is a particular British beauty as was the quirky basement private bar and dining rooms. I couldn’t help myself from continually taking snaps of trinkets of art dispersed all over the hotel. Her Majesty also had her special place!

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The route to the gorgeous basement bar was guided by walls of vibrant colour, eclectic fabrics and strokes of fun pop art. It was an enjoyable four floor walk.

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Now for the private bar and dining rooms, what gorgeousness for an exclusive party. Situated next to a “wedding chapel”, “The Croc” 1950’s bowling alley and private theatre, I would assume many great PR parties are to be hosted at the Ham Yard.

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Though my party was a tea party I was neither disappointed with the beauty of the adjourning main floor bar and restaurant. Before my tea was served I took a moment to have a tipple and meet the friendly cocktail makers for a glass of Cherry Pie! I would recommend their freshly made aperitifs but get there before the Soho herds come in at 7pm, or on a warm day get a seat in the outdoor courtyard.

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Afternoon Tea was hosted by an adorable waiter who showed me the way to the pretty conservatory lounge. Modern taupe and grey macerated the walls and wooden ornaments filled the gaps.

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The menu for the Afternoon tea was flexible in that you could choose whether you desire to have the set tea menu or opt and pay for only tea addition items.  So great if you are not a sweet tooth as you can stock up on all savoury or great if you only want scones!

I opted for the set Afternoon Tea (that changes weekly) for a very reasonable 18pp. The Peppermint Tea came highly recommended so I took it and agree it was one of the better ones I have had. My tricky choice came with the bubbles –  the selection is divine and I upgraded with a smooth pink glass of Roger Pouillion Rose de Maceration Brut 1er Cru. I would again, and again!

The smiles were all out when the purple multilayered plates of savoury rolls and sweet cream morsels arrived. Particular favourites were the Chorizo Sausage Rolls and Pulled Duck Sliders. The scones were good and better then many others I have tried at other London Hotel establishments,  but their sweet green pistachio and blueberry profiterole was a master gem of the sweet items for me.

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Considering the beautiful setting, great service and tasty tea treats I would highly recommend the Ham Yard’s extremely well priced tea service. The hotel’s decor is worth the visit in itself and I would definitely drop in again for an aperitif, scone or nightcap! A gem in Soho.

Check out the Ham Yard Village……@ https://www.firmdalehotels.com/hotels/london/ham-yard-hotel/

 

 

To Tea Or Not To Tea

I’m guilty of eating between meals and at half past three everything stops for tea!

Its National Afternoon Tea Week in the UK a National event I feel compelled to join in. After all, it is a very British affair and we do, quite frankly, do it the best.  I spent last week in London meeting friends over tea, I achieved a new record; 4 afternoon teas in 6 days.  How fitting for Tea week! It feels apt to share some scone highlights and tea favourites, One gorgeous tea review at a go…. Kicking off with……

Afternoon Tea Inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory @One Aldwych £34.50 per person, alternatively you can opt for an add on (as I did, and would recommend) of Lallier Grand Reserve Champagne at £45 per person. There is also a Charlie Cocktail option which had many takers.

One Alywych had me at the menu! Inspiring they promised and inspiring it was. Who doesn’t have fond memories of Roald Dahl’s classic characters?!

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The contents of the menu continued to be inspiring and transported me back to my childhood; candy floss, eton mess, chocolate eggs! Glee. The Tea Selection was full of fruity options, I chose the Jewelled Apple and was not dissapointed. It aimed to transport you back to the days of sticky, crunchy toffee apples and it really did.

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No afternoon tea is without its sandwiches and savoury. I say upfront however in my opinion they are not the highlight of this tea. Its about the Sweet. A good range nonetheless for vegetarians and pescatarians as the only land animal was the Roast beef sandwich (resembling a chocolate brownie) which wasn’t really to my taste, a bit too rare for my liking but probably the way it should be.

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Now for the ultimo magic, the Sweet round. What a display, quirky, imaginative and highly attack worthy. We ate it all without any pause. I cannot say any particular item was standout as they were all superb! We left nothing but a few crumbs behind us. Like a big kid the homemade pear drop & rhubarb candy floss got my attention first and then the Golden Chocolate egg filled with vanilla cheesecake and mandarin. The Chocolate Caramel Milk helped wash down the divine Eton Mess and Lime, Coconut, White Chocolate pop.

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I normally eat scones before the Sweet Round however this time they came third and rightly so after that display. That said, the scones were good and came in a bread basket accompanied with a blueberry brioche and the best Cocoa Bean Financier I have ever eaten.

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If like me Roald Dahl sits very fondly in your childhood memories then this tea is worth your time. Perhaps even a visit to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical running across the road would be a fun joint trip.

One Aldwych have aced their tea service, they are attentive and warm which is not always a London norm. The theme is wonderful and full of magic and sparks. Overall, a fun sweet filled day at a price that is competitive to the main high tea flyers in London. Go!

http://www.onealdwych.com

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Watch out for the second scones write up….featuring one of my favourite Drawing rooms in South Kensington!