Sunday, 31 May 2015

DAPUR SPRING AFTERNOON TEA

Despite living abroad for all these years and experiencing different cuisines from all around the world, there will always be that one cuisine that I will have that occasional distinct craving for - Malaysian food.
This was my first time visiting Dapur, a small and cosy cafe tucked away along Lambs Conduit Passage in Holborn. I have indulged in plenty of traditional English afternoon teas, hence I was intrigued to try out their Malaysian Spring Afternoon Tea.
There were three seatings that day, with each session lasting two and a half hours, and we booked in for the first one at 12noon.
The long table was set and lovingly decorated with pretty flowers and dainty teacups and cutlery.







We started off with the Nasi Lemak Bungkus, while it was still warm, excitedly unwrapping the brown paper and banana leaves. You don't often get them served wrapped up in those pyramid shaped packages, unlike back home in Malaysia, so it was a joy to enjoy these little pleasures. I remember those days that I used to drive around with dad and pick up a few packs of nasi lemak from the roadside stall for 50 cents each (FIFTY CENTS!).
As most people know, nasi lemak is an iconic Malaysian dish, and you can usually find them on the menu in most Malaysians restaurants around London, commonly served with an extra side of curry. It is often the dish that I would order during my first visit - sort of like the 'benchmark' dish for me!
It traditionally consists of coconut rice, slices of cucumber, roasted peanuts and deep-fried ikan bilis (anchovies), hard boiled egg, and my favourite SAMBAL chilli.
I had to control myself and hold back from finishing off that fragrant coconut rice so that I had enough space for the other food!

Nasi Lemak Bungkus

Roti Jala, or otherwise directly translated as 'Net Bread', is another popular Malaysian snack served with curry dishes. It is sort of like a pancake or crepe, except that they use coconut milk instead of cow's milk, and they are commonly sold at the pasar malam (night market). I used to have them back home when our Malay friends or relatives held parties at their homes, or Mum also had some 'special contacts' where we could place personal orders to eat at home!
They go well with curries, such as this tempting bowl of chicken and potato curry.

Chicken Curry

Roti Jala


We soon moved on to the sweeter delights served on our three tier afternoon tea stand. There was a Portuguese man working in the kitchen as well, so we were also served some freshly baked Pastel de Nata, a Portuguese egg tart pastry.

Pastel de Nata

Starting from the bottom tier, these little balls on the satay sticks were Jemput Jemput Pisang (fried banana balls), or as I usually call them cekodok pisang. They are a type of Malay traditional mashed banana fritters, commonly sold in street-stalls or can be found in kuih shops. Next to them were the Chicken Rendang Puffs, kind of like a mini Malaysian pie!

Jemput Jemput Pisang

Chicken Rendang Puffs

On the second tier, were the Kuih Bakar Pandan, a rich, dense custard-like baked cake, with a natural green colour from the juice of the pandan (screwpine) leaves. And next to these were little balls called Pulut Serunding - made from glutinous rice and coated with spicy dessicated coconut. Both really tasty and moreish.

Kuih Bakar Pandan

Pulut Serunding

And finally on the top tier were the Kek Gula Hangus (directly translated as 'burnt sugar cake'), which has a soft springy texture, and has a bit of a honeycomb look to it.

Kek Gula Hangus

For drinks we were served teh tarik, a hot milk tea beverage made from black tea, condensed milk and/or evaporate milk, commonly served in kopitiams in Malaysia. 'Tarik' means pull, the name derived from the preparation process which involves pouring and 'pulling' - you can search for it on Youtube if you haven't seen it!
I remember Dad warning us not to drink too much back home to avoid getting diabetes... which is understandable due to the high sugar content. But of course this was a very rare, once in a while treat for me when enjoying Malaysian food.


It is usually served in transparent glasses or mugs, or in this case we had the option of having it the more regal way in our dainty teacups!


And finally for dessert, we finished off with Sago Gula Melaka, made from delicious chewy sago pearls drenched in rich coconut milk and sweet caramel made from palm sugar. A really refreshing yet comforting Malaysian dessert. They served them in some really cute and colourful cups, they reminded me of the vast collection that my landlady has displayed on her kitchen shelves!


Overall, it was a very pleasant dining experience, and definitely a nice change from the usual afternoon teas that I have had. Malay kuih-miuh can sometimes be a bit heavy, but the portions sizes here were just about right, and they weren't overly sweet and sickly which you sometimes get with Western cakes.

Our hosts were very friendly and accommodating, and you always seem to have that special connection when talking to people from your home country. 
A word of thanks to Sharizah and her team for all the good food and their hospitality.
I would definitely recommend booking in the next time they hold it, especially if you are craving some authentic Malay food.
And remember to go on an empty stomach.

The Cheekster, signing out x




Friday, 29 May 2015

WEEKEND IN EDINBURGH [MAY 2015]

We're off on an adventure!

It has been over a year since my last trip to Edinburgh, and quite a few years back since I last had a proper tour around the city. And now that Viv and Ross have finally moved into their new place, it gives me all the more reason to visit more often and explore more of this amazing city.

Arriving just after noon at Edinburgh Waverley station, we popped into Mimi's Picnic Parlour on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh's Old Town, the mini cafe/takeaway version of Mimi's Bakehouse. I had my regular flat white and we both shared some generous portions of a cheese and chive scone, and coconut macaroon sandwich treat. The place itself is quite small but cosy, and seats about 8 people in total - a nice little place to relax whilst watching the hustle and bustle outside along the Royal Mile.





Viv initially contemplated booking us onto one of the walking tours, but to keep things more relaxed she  decided to just bring me round on her own little route that she had planned out. 

COWGATE!

I've been to Edinburgh Castle years ago, but of course we just had to make a quick stopover for an obligatory selfie with it. As you may have guessed, it was rather windy that day!


We then popped into Iain Mellis Cheesemonger where Viv usually gets her cheese supplies. Established in 1993, Iain Mellis has since opened five more shops across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews, with the best cheese from across Europe. Unsurprisingly, despite our efforts to resist to multiple block of cheese that surrounded us, Viv picked up a couple for us to nibble on - one of them was the deliciously aromatic Murcia al Vino, also known as 'the drunken goat'!



After visiting a couple of small museums, we stopped by the Albanach Whisky Bar for an afternoon tipple. I'm not much of a whisky drinker in general, but when in Rome...

I meant Edinburgh. 
I swear I only had one drink...



It is not often that I would stop to watch a bagpipe player on the streets, but there was this one (rather dashing if I must say) bagpiper that made both our heads turn.
Okay, his attractiveness doesn't really show much in this photo as this was taken on our way back passing him again (by coincidence), and he had put on a few more layers due to the chilly winds.

Viv: You don't often see such a good-looking bagpiper.
Me: Mmm-Hmm... *discreetly takes photo and drops tip in his bag*


After a quick drink at the G&V Royal Mile Hotel bar (formerly Hotel Missoni where we stayed during Viv's wedding weekend) we went to one of her favourite French restaurants in Edinburgh - Chez Jules, a casual, friendly bistro serving classic French dishes. Click here to read the full post about our pleasant meal there.




We then went to my first comedy show at The Stand Comedy Club where there were about 5-6 different acts throughout the evening. All were pretty entertaining, except for one lady who clearly didn't look very comfortable on stage... I felt a bit sorry for her, but as they say, the show must go on!
We have been Youtube-ing Danny Boy ever since watching that show.

The next day, we woke up nice and early to get ready for Spa in the City. The event was not due to start until 9am, but the queue had clearly already started forming about half an hour before then. We thankfully weren't too far back in the queue, although it still did take us about half an hour before we finally got our wristbands and goody bags, before hurrying off to the treatment stands that we had our eyes on.


Most of the complimentary treatments were booked up really fast, but I managed to booked myself for the Toni & Guy 'Fashion Fix Updo' and the table massage at Neal's Yard Remedies.

We made our bookings for later in the afternoon, so that we could go for lunch first at Ruan Siam, a casual and intimate Thai restaurant. We ordered a few small dishes to share including my favourite Som Tam, Thai Green Curry, Mee Krati, Tom Yam Soup, and finished off with sticky rice with coconut milk and mango.



Back at St Andrew Square Garden, we popped in for the mini Cocktail Masterclass run by Element, where they demonstrated some drinks from their new summer cocktail menu.


At the Toni & Guy marquee, I went for the Ballet School Braid as I usually prefer having my hair up. I was pre-warned that it was going to be quite a fidgety hairstyle, but as they say, No Pain, No Gain. After much tugging, pinning, and a whole lot of hairspray, I was finally done. I don't think my recent haircut which added more layers to my hair really helped as you can see my unruly hair trying to break free...
I pity the poor stylist's fingers who had to do another head of hair as the next customer requested for the same style after seeing mine.
Trend-setter *ahem*

So here's a few shots before I washed it all out the next day...


My 'Screw Face', as quoted by Owen...

'Inspired' by the Cocktail Masterclass earlier, we bought some ingredients from Sainsbury's and made our own little strawberry concoction.

The Art of Blending


MORE strawberries you say...?

For dinner, we went to vegetarian restaurant David Bann, which reminded me of Mildreds back in London. Viv and Ross had the beetroot, bramley apple and Dunsyre blue cheese mousse, whilst I had the Risotto of asparagus, celery and lemon. 
Looks like we had a pretty meat-free day!



A nice healthy meal, ending with a not-so-healthy dessert - Assiette of desserts for 2 to share (or 3!) which consisted of vanilla and whisky pannacotta, homemade chocolates filled with sambuca, coffee and white chocolate, hot apple, cinnamon and calvados tart, with raspberry ice cream and pineapple sorbet. But the again I guess it's not so bad sharing the calories between the three of us - sharing is caring!


On my last day in Edinburgh, after battling with the multiple knots in my hair, we had a light brunch at Clarinda's Tearooms. The place is pretty cosy and quaint, and thankfully a large table of diners were just leaving as we entered. We both ordered the English Breakfast, or rather the HALF English Breakfast - the smaller 'off-menu' version. Like a kids meal.
Unfortunately we were both too stuffed for cakes, so I'll have to leave that for next time.








We then walked it all off at Arthur's Seat - walking around rather than upwards and over. I don't think my midi hip-hugging skirt and ankle boots would have survived that journey. Or Viv's dodgy knee.
I'll make sure that I am better equipped for outdoor adventures on my next trip!



We already had French once during this trip, but I was intrigued to visit this other restaurant, Petit Paris Restaurant, that Viv mentioned usually had some rather good-looking French waiters...
Unfortunately the better looking ones were not working that day (drats), but it was a relaxing, cosy restaurant and we had a pleasant light lunch. I haven't had some good onion soup in a long time, and I really enjoyed it there. The fish soup that Viv ordered was also really creamy and tasty. The chocolate tart was rich and indulgent, and I was also very pleased with my fruit tart and raspberry macaron.
I really was interested to try out the good food - honest.





With a bit more time to spare before I had to catch my train, we took a different route home so that I could see Greyfriars Bobby - a Skye Terrier who supposedly spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he himself died on 14 January 1872. Whether or not the story is totally true or not, I hope that one day I will be able to keep some faithful dogs of my own. I do miss my Evan and Ethan back in Malaysia!


And as all good things come to end, it was then time for me to get back on my train back to London...


I very seldom venture out of London these days, but it is nice to escape every once in a while, and I have to admit that I felt a bit happier than usual that weekend. Maybe it was the weather, the excitement of being in a different place, or maybe it was just the comfort of being around family.
I guess that I should try and get away a bit more, and I'm already looking forward to the next one in a couple of weeks time!
Expect to be bombarded with plenty more photos and selfies.

Love & Light.

(Not sure when I suddenly became so spiritual)

The Cheekster, signing out x