Cold, dark and windy – that is what Stockholm is like right now. Regardless of the weather, I am starting to recover from the shock of returning home. Browsing through pictures from the previous weeks is a bit depressing, but I will still torture myself further by writing about Bangkok for a while. There is so much good there that I want to recommend. Eat Me, in this case, is not an invite to come and chew off my arm, but the name of one of my favorite restaurants in Bangkok. It is absolutely amazing quality and for a fraction (well perhaps half) of the price of Europe. Continue reading “Eat Me – Don’t Mind if I Do”
I can’t believe it’s already the 7th of January. Only two days left until we return to Sweden. The weather has been quite brutal there, down to minus 20 degrees Celsius and snow. Think about it, going from plus thirty to minus twenty. Brutal! Anyway, as our time in Singapore is still fresh in my mind, I thought I would recap with some of my favorite eats from this (last) years trip. It is quite funny, we ate almost everything but Singaporean food, and kept away from all starred restaurants. Very unlike us, but a good choice I think. With the newly established Guide de Michelin in Singapore, prices for the winners have skyrocketed. And I thought they were quite high to start with. Continue reading “2016 Singapore Best Eats”
It is time for food porn again my friends, and plenty of it. Our recent visit to restaurant OX in Helsinki was a real feast for the eyes, as well as the palate. OX serves bistro style food from ingredients from the season and the wine list features small producers also from the biodynamic movement. The small restaurant is rather new in town, located on the edge of the center and Punavuori. Continue reading “@ OX Helsinki”
It is Monday again and time for a coffee related post here on the winecurious. I am however also introducing some news: having realized that we have so much coffee related things to post on we are also launching a seperate blog for that so head to the The Coffee Curious to see what is going there. The coffee Monday posts will appear on both blogs but in addition there will be a lot of other coffee stuff on the Coffee Curious.
In the Tianzifang market complex that is a huge mess of different touristy shops selling various levels of useless gadgets, art, design stuff and other stuff there are also some restaurants and cafes. Most if not all are severely overpriced but we still decided to try Cafe Dan as they brand themselves as a specialty coffee bar, wine bar, restaurant and coffee roasting institute.
They do indeed have a large coffee selection, I counted more than 15 different beans to select from. All severely overpriced (a cup coming in at least at 70 yuan, approximately €11-12) but since we were there we still decided to go for some. We opted for some of the lighter roasts, the Kenyan and and Malawi Geisha coffee. Both came in very dark and clearly dosed in a way that no serious coffee place would make coffee. There were hints of nice flavors there but the coffee was so much to dark that it was not really that great. It still beats most of the coffee to be had in Shanghai but it has very little to do with specialty coffee. I am not sure how they roast their coffee here but I do think that there is some development potential. That said it was still drinkable and better than most regular places for coffee but at the price charged here it should be amazing to even consider coming back,
The food is however much better, it is more of a restaurant actually. The food is both decent value and good so would perhaps return for that instead of the coffee. Service was friendly, albeit a bit lacking in speed and English. That was perhaps not a big issue as the menu was still easy to understand and use (it was provided on an ipad). Free wifi was available and the place was rather nice to sit around in, spread over three floors and with a small outdoor terrace this place is a place that it would be possible to spend some time in.
So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 1.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Vs local competition: 3
Our recent trip to Paris, not surprisingly, entailed a lot of nice food and wine. We have already reviewed the excellent Frenchies Bar a Vin but we did also visit other places. On the day we arrived we wanted something close by the hotel so opted for Vivant Cave for dinner. It is a very narrow small space where the bar takes up a large part of the entire premises and behind it the chefs are working on creating the nice small or mid-sized plates. There is seating all along the bar as well as at a few tables that have been crammed in at strategic places. There are also several wine fridges lining the wall opposite the bar.
The restaurant used to be owned by Pierre Jancou but he has now moved on to new projects. I had not read up on the new chef before but being seated at the bar and having the chef take the orders for us I right away heard the unmistakable Swedish accent. The new chef is indeed Swedish, Svante Forstorp , but while relatively new at Vivant Cave he has plenty of experience from before for example from Aux Deux Amis. He makes some lovely small dishes behind the counter, the limited space does not seem to bother him at all. Not only is the food very good, it is also great to watch him at work. I am of course a bit of a sucker for the open kitchen but I am a firm believer that it keeps restaurants honest.
We opted for a selection of different dishes but among the highlights were the asparagus, the spicy pasta (chili and fresh lemon) as well as the smoked foie gras with cabbage. The place is known to have a good selection of, in Paris so trendy, natural wine and we were rather pleased with the wine recommendations. We tried an lovely Brut Nature champagne from Ruppert-Leroy as well as an excellent Austrian sparkling from Strohmeier as well as some nice reds – the reds were very different, one extremely light while the other was much darker and fuller. I think the picture gives a pretty interesting comparison.
Service was in general very attentive and the staff were happy to explain the all-French menu to us. I also very much liked the pleasant atmosphere here, staff were relaxed and that made guests relaxed as well. We ended up chatting with people seated next to us at the bar and it did really seem very popular with foreigners visiting (we had Danes, Brits and Americans around us).The price level was rather decent as well, not exactly cheap but definitely value for money. Will be on my list for places to return to if in the area.
Frenchie Bar à Vins is the more casual ‘cousin’ of the more upscale Frenchie Restaurant across the street. The bar has a no reservations policy and it is rumored to be crazy busy all the time. We therefore headed there not at all sure to score a seat. However, arriving around 10 minutes before opening time there was a not too long of a queue outside so we happily stood there and were seated at 7pm. The waiter later explained that they just recently started staying open in Saturday and Sunday so not that many know about it yet. So we were just lucky.
The bar has a very relaxed atmosphere and it does to some extent remind me a bit of José in London. However, Frenchie is a bit more of a proper sit down meal as there are quite a few high tables, with chairs, so not that many people standing around.
The food is all made to share and it is some sort of mid-sized or larger tapas dishes so a great way to sample many things. It is clear that they have a lot of international guests as well as the menu is also available in English and the staff speaks English. The wine list is interesting: a lot of French wine as can be expected but also some well picked international ones mixed in there. The selection by the glass is also pretty good with 6 reds, 6 whites, 2 sparkling, 1 rosé and 1 sweet (as well as some beers).
Surprise, surprise we started off by sampling the sparkling wine. The champagne from Pierre Gerbais was very much what I would have expected and that was not bad at all. The Crémant de Limoux (Domaine Les Hautes Terres, Joséphine) was however not all what I would have expected. The nose of it was not that appealing but when tasting it I was really pleasantly surprised. It had a very elegant mineral taste and it just paired perfectly with our first dish, the terrine. Before going more into the food we also sampled some of the other wines, a pleasant Pinot Noir as well as red from Languedoc. Neither of these were bad but also not extremely memorable.
The food was really something extraordinary here, the start was a terrine and after that we had a very fresh ricotta tortellini with a pea sauce. Greta refreshing dish that really made me want more. That was followed by a ragu of tender lamb with pappardelle, the flavors were perfectly matched and the meat so tender that it just melted away in my mouth. At this point I was really starting to build up expectations for the dishes to come and when the chicken with asparagus and mushrooms came in I was amazed that it was also so great, this actually competes for the best chicken dish ever but after considering it both S and I still hold the chicken we had at Hedone in London as one small step above. Still it was a wonderful dish. We were now actually already full but we could not say no to a dessert (we did skip the cheese, but they do have some nice British cheese from Neal’s Yard) and went for a fresh coconut dessert with chocolate surrounding coconut and a creamy crust on top. After all that food we were full and very happy.
The service was very friendly and they could make good recommendations for the wines and it was possible to have some proper discussion about the wines and the staff actually all appeared to be knowledgeable about the wines on offer. The only drawback was that the service was a bit slow, I am however not sure if it was too slow. The dishes did not come quickly but I also believe that it is nice to have some time between dishes, and here I believe they were just within the limit of what is acceptable (I did however see some people waiting longer than us, and 30 minutes between dishes is too long when there are at least 4-6 dishes).
All in all I was however very pleased with the quality of food, prices were reasonable, the mostly organic wine selection was also great so this is without doubt one of the top places, on my list, for food and wine in Paris. It also seems very good to head there on Saturday or Sunday as it is not yet that well-known that they are actually open then as well.
Pacamara is one of several places to open up in the Upper Thomson Road area a North of central Singapore. The whole area seems to be buzzing with cool new places. Visiting on a Sunday it was also packed with people in search of a good brunch spot. Pacamara had a pretty nifty system for managing the queuing. One enters a phone number on a screen and how many people are in the group and then Pacamara calls when a table is available. The table will be held for 10 minutes after receiving the message, so you can browse around in the neighborhood while waiting.
The service was however severely impacted by the place being full. They were slow to give out menus, things were sold out and they did not inform about it upfront. Food came out slowly and orders were mixed up. All in all not a great experience. Some of the people working there also seemed to have a little bit of the attitude that they are slightly too cool to actually work at a cafe and we were actually on one visit asked if we would mind to speed up a bit as they have many guests waiting – that was especially annoying since we then had just gotten the last of our food after a very long wait.
The space is however very nice and bright, in a corner with big windows. There are mainly communal tables but it works fairly well and I must say that it looks really nice. There are a lot of seats, and while not super-comfy it is fine to sit for some time. There is also free wifi so on weekdays it may be a better bet if one wants to sit for long.
The coffee was pretty disappointing. Not at all that bad but looking at a place that at least markets itself as a top roaster I was expecting more. The filter coffees sampled were a bit bland but no bitterness and smooth, but they had not managed to bring out the best in the coffees. I got much better results when brewing the same at home so perhaps more a flaw in the brewing. Still a good cup compare to the average cafe but nowhere near the better ones in Singapore. They were also out of several of the coffees that they had up on the board so that was also slightly disappointing. The espresso based coffees where however very nicely prepared.
The food was however excellent. The truffled eggs Benedict is perhaps the best Eggs Benedict I have had. The pastries were tasty so the Kitchen know their stuff. It is a shame about the service and that the coffee quality is not top notch as the space is really nice and if they could up their game it would be a place I would visit again and again.
So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3
Ambiance and service: 3 (2 for service and 4 for ambiance)
Vs local competition: 3.5
As I mentioned in the last Wineweek, we did some cocktail-hopping over Valentines day weekend. Because we were concerned there would be a lot of people out, and we wanted to visit as many places as possible, we set out on our journey already at 6pm. Great choice as we had no trouble getting a seat at Bitters & Love, a much talked about “speakeasy” here in Singapore. The bar is not really what you could call a real speakeasy. It’s located in the back room of a restaurant called Shoebox Canteen. There are no signs outside, but you can already see from the door that there is something going on in the back. The look of the place is lightly hipster, but I suspect that the real pioneers have already moved on to something new and cooler. I don’t mind at all, I am here for the cocktails, not to get on the good side of the in-crowd (I’m too old for that).
The concept is simple: you have a menu with a set of flavours (sweet, sour, spicy etc) and a list of spirits. You tell the bar tender the spirit and flavour of your choice (you do not need to limit yourself to the list provided either) and perhaps describe what kind of ingredients you like (I love stuff like ginger, cucumber and mint in my drinks), and the bartender will make you a drink based on that. Awesome if you are a person who likes surprises (not so awesome if you are not). I chose a nice Gin and asked for something spicy (not Asian spicy, but in the medium range) and M selected a dark Rum and asked for something fresh and full. After a short wait we were served a pair of beautiful drinks that did not disappoint neither in looks or taste. Both wishes had been taken into account and we got to taste something new.
We also ordered some bar snacks as a substitue for a ‘proper’ dinner: some truffle fries, chicken fritters and sliders. All were pretty decent. Not the best gourmet experience of my life, but took away the hunger. The only real disappointment for us was that we could not order from the Shoebox Canteen menu and eat at the bar. Perhaps they have this policy to make sure the cocktail bar stays as a cocktail bar, I would just really have liked to have a larger menu. All in all, Bitters & Love was an excellent experience. Not the cheapest cocktail bar in town with drinks ranging from 19-26 SGD, but at par with other places (it’s the weakening Swedish krona that is killing me). I definitely recommend popping by if you are in Singapore. If you can’t make it before 8pm, I recommend reserving a table up front.
LongPlay is a fairly newly opened (opened in dec 2014/jan 2015) cocktail bar on Haji Lane (and having an entrance also on Arab Street) in the Arab district of Singapore. As the name suggests it is celebrating the old vinyl LPs and while I may be a bit too young to fully have lived through that era I still must say I love both the LP as such and the concept. The bar is clearly aimed at young hip crowd and will most likely draw in a mix of hipsters, after workers and expats. When I was there it was however very relaxed and laid back and friendly service so hopefully that will continue as popularity increases.
The bar is a part of the growing empire of restaurateur/hotelier Loh Lik Peng. He already has restaurants/bars such as Esquina, Sorrel, the Library, Bincho and hotels the New Majestic Hotel, Wanderlust and 1929. They also run the Typing Room, Corner Room and Town Hall hotel in London as well as hotels and restaurants in Sydney and Shanghai. It is an ever growing empire but as long as they do things as well as this I am not complaining.
Design wise the premises is a bit tricky as it as a very long and narrow space but they have made remarkably good use of it. There is a bar when entering (if coming from Haji Lane), barely space to walk past before entering the slightly more spacious lounge that has sofas, chairs as well as tables along the wall. The decor is tying into the era of the 1970s but also connecting to the LP with menus in the shape of LPs, round LP-style tables. There are exquisite looking brass mirrors, dark wood furniture, comfortable leather sofas and wooden chairs paired with perfectly fitting lighting as well as light white curtains nicely dividing the space and creating at least an illusion of privacy at some of the tables. The, a little bit rugged style fits the place perfectly. There is of course also a DJ playing LPs and I loved hearing music like David Bowie, the Beatles and Elvis Presley when sitting there sipping my cocktail.
There is a short and well selected cocktail list and there were many ones that peeked my interest. I opted for the cleverly named Marlon Brando with cognac, Stella (of course since it is Brando) beer infusion, orange slices (think end of the Godfather…) and a nice straw with some Godfather branding so most of the ingredients had some connection with Brando or the roles he played. A bit clever and cute and the other cocktails had similar fun aspects to it (eg House of the Raisin Sun with raisin infused tequila and there was also a Fred Astaire cocktail). More importantly than these fun things were that the cocktails were very well-prepared and tasted great.
For those not in the mood for cocktails there was also a good selection of wines by the glass such as two cavas (Torello at 16 SGD and the Noches y Dia at 17 SGD) as well as a Verdejo (white) and a Crianza both priced at 16 SGD per glass. Also very impressed with the commitment to quality in them checking the wine served, discarding the first bottle and opening a new one. Clear they know what they are doing. There are also a number of beers as well as different liquors and a good selection of non-alcoholic beverages and the bartenders will be happy to whip something up for you as well.
They also have a short but well considered food menu with a number of snack sized dishes as well some larger dishes. The standout dishes seemed to be the buttermilk chicken as well as the squid with Harissa dip. I was however also very interested in the mac n cheese well as the hummus with pita. So while it may not be the main reason to visit they do have good food as well. All in all a very welcome addition to the Singapore cocktail scene. What makes it even better was the really good service. The manager, David, made sure all guests were being tended to and he always had time to chat with all the guests so really made people feel welcome so if they keep up that level of service this place will be a huge success.
I like white wine, I really do. But I don’t have it very often. Perhaps because I don’t know that much about it. I have thought about starting to acquaint myself with reds and whites region by region. Its much more interesting to buy when the label says something to you.
Daniele Piccinins Montemagro is something I picked up in London at a place called 40 Maltby St. Its a wine bar and kitchen located in an old railway arch in Bermondsey. The restaurant is connected to the warehouse of Gergovie Wines, an importer specialized in ecologically produced wines. You can taste the merchandise by the glass or buy a bottle to have at the restaurant or take home. Upon a visit to the restaurant and after chatting to the staff about what I like in wine they suggested I try something they just had one bottle of. And after one small taster of the Montemagro, I was convinced this is a white wine I want to get to know and have in my cellar. As it was at that point only a sample bottle, we had to return a few times until they got the shipment in. But since 40 Maltby Street is such a lovely place that was a great excuse to go back (as if I need an excuse).
The grape Durella, is a grape that has been long ignored not only in Italy but everywhere. The variety has been called rabioso (furious) due to its high acidity. The color of the Montemagro 2010 is very yellow and it is low on residual sugar (0,3%). The nose is bready and has a hint of yeast and the taste with plum and raisins, but not sweet. It is like a non-sweet dessert wine. The wine is veary pleasant, not rabioso at all.
Price-wise this wine was very reasonable. I cant remember exactly, but something close to 15£. For white wines especially I am a bit more sensitive when it comes to price. I guess its because the selection is so large, that I expect to find a good white for around 10-20£. But what is to say that will not change with some more education. Five years ago I thought 15£ was a high price for a bubbly too.
All in all I give this wine a 4, both for quality and price. I think they are both aligned. I am also very intrigued to try more from both Danielle Piccinnin and wines made of Durella.