The Seoul Journal

This will be hard to fit in one post, but here goes. For the past three and a half days, we have been in South Korea. Seoul to be exact. You might think that that’s a short time to visit a city, but it is often sufficient for us to have a break. It’s the long flights that are offsetting. However, once a year, we are lucky enough to fly long haul in first class – with airline points of course. But the first-class experience is not the topic (I can write someday about that too), I aim to summarize our four day food extravaganza: low and highlights. There are not many disappointments though (except for the Aseana first class lounge), but a list of great recommendations for a foody holiday in the capital of South Korea, Seoul. Continue reading “The Seoul Journal”

Bangkok Bar Secrets

Secret bars – what do I think about them? To be honest, I am a bit torn. I don’t want to go to a bar because it is hidden, I want to go because the drinks are good. Of course its a fun concept, I don’t mind that, but sometimes it attracts a bit of an odd crowd. In Bangkok though, the best bars are hidden ones, and I dare to claim that I can now give a very competitive top-3 view. Continue reading “Bangkok Bar Secrets”

Memories from the Luggage Room – London

It is Thursday, the day of the week when I start thinking about the weekend and cocktails. I must admit, I have nothing new. Cocktails are often my second choice (if good wine is not available). However I do have some memories to share from the time I lived in London. It was a time that wine and cocktails did not single each other out, but it was rather common that one followed the other.

One of our favorite late night hangouts was the Luggage Room at the Marriot Grosvenors Square. Yes, I know, a Marriott sounds a bit boring. However, as with Punch Room (review here), the Luggage Room is not your average hotel bar. To start with it is a speakeasy. You enter the bar by knocking on a door (with the letters LR) on the side of the building. A little window slides open, true speakeasy style and you are escorted in by a well dressed host/ hostess. There is an entrance from inside the hotel as well, but it is just a pair of closed doors that in no way give away that there is a bar behind them. The Luggage Room is a rather silly name, but that is what the space used to be, the room where luggage was kept.

The bar is 20’s inspired with leather couches and fine furniture. There are initials on all of the tables and they are there after the famous Bentley Boys, a group of wealthy British motorists, who brought the Bentley brand on the world map. The staff explained that the group used to cruise around the area. The staff are also dressed accordingly to the look of the 20’s and 30’s with flap-dresses and smart bow ties. The ambiance in the Luggage Room is fancy but comfortable.

As you sit down, the host brings you a seasonal aperitif and snacks: crispy veggie chips and gourmet nuts, all served in a beautiful silver platter. Food – no better way to be greeted. The selection of drinks is also mirroring what was popular at the time: punches, swizzles, juleps and coolers. The ingredients are fresh and every drink is made with enormous care at the bar. The price tag is rather high, 12-14£. However, I at least feel that it is worth it. All the small extra snacks and spotless service is worth the extra buck. They also have some champagnes on the menu, however I am not convinced of the value for money (especially with the strong Pound). A bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvee is 95£, so I would rather invest that money into many many cocktails.

The wonderful service and good drinks are enough to convince me to visit. However there is something extra with the luggage room, and that is that it is open until 2 am. Now this might sound like nothing for us Finns and Swedes. However in Great Britain bars often close already at 11 pm. Yes, I know, it is really frustrating. But the Luggage Room is the perfect place to go for a drink after a late dinner in the center.

28 Hong Kong Street, a Well Known Secret

Time for cocktails again! I have chosen Thursdays as the day to publish my “other than wine” reviews as I think its a nice way to set the mood for the weekend. Not to say that I couldn’t have some cocktails during the week (I visited 28 Hong Kong Street on a Monday) but it is less likely than me having a glass of wine.

28 Hong Kong Street is one of the first post-Mad Men speakeasy bars in Singapore. Its been around since 2011. Even though its not a big secret and it’s relatively easy to find due to the name pointing to the exact address, it is still clearly a speakeasy. There are no signs pointing towards it, and the door is not inviting to someone just passing by. You need to go there with a purpose and preferably with a reservation. We were there on a Monday, and despite that not being the busiest day of the week they only had a few tables available.

The service was first class from the start. We were shown to our table and the waiter explained the menu of the night. There was a “visiting” bartender behind the counter and he was making some of his own specials. The fun names of the cocktails and eccentric mixes caught our eye, this is not the place to order “just a basic Mojito”. I ordered a Shrub You Long Time with strawberry infused Gin (Gin, what a surprise) with some orange, dry sherry and a balsamic finish. It was delicious (although M didn’t like it). M ordered the Hulk Smash, mainly because of the wonderful name, but also due to the ingredients. It was served in a “smashed” tin cup to sweeten the deal. We also had a Singapore based friend with us and he first ordered a Old fashioned liked drink and on the first sip realized he did not at all like it. Staff were however very attentive and noticed that it was perhaps not what he would preferred and they straight away offered him to exchange it for something else without any cost. Big plus for being so attentive and the great service attitude.

As I mentioned, it was a Monday, so one drink was enough. However the menu was long and inviting so I could imagine spending the whole evening here. We didn’t have any food, but I eyed the burgers passing by our table and they looked delicious. Next time, I will have something salty to match my drinks.

Flavors and Party Tricks at Bar Stories (Singapore)

Bar stories ranks perhaps as my number one cocktail bar in Singapore (maybe even the world). If you would ask M, he would prefer Longplay (review here), but I am sure this place would not be long behind.

Bar stories is located on Haji lane, a street where the Western and Middle-Eastern cultures collide. There are many bars around with tourists and expats having drinks, but also bars that serve no alcohol to respect the Arab-heritage. Bar stories is located in the upstairs of an old shop-house. Its not a speakeasy per-se, but it is not something you wonder into without knowing what it is.

Upon entering we were greeted and seated at the end of the bar. I love a seat with a view! The concept was as in Bitters & Love (review here), there is no menu, you explain to the bartender what you like and they will make you a drink. We went with our usual spirits of choice, me wit gin and M with a dark rum. We are perhaps a bit boring, but it helps compare one place to another. Also I am really not fond of whiskey, cognac or vodka as a base, so the options are limited. The bartender also asked some questions like do I like lemongrass and could I handle some egg white in my drink (YES!).It was nice to get some suggestions as I would perhaps not have thought about them myself.

I could already see from the equipment they had at hand that we were going to see some party tricks. I don’t mind as long as my drink is good. M’s cocktail arrived with a flaming branch or rosemary, and mine with a long lemongrass sticking out of the Martini glass. Looking around others had pretty cool looking drinks as well, and none of them looked the same. The staff seemed to like experimenting and you could see they were having fun with it. The taste was wonderful, like a mix of a fresh breeze and dessert (due to the creaminess of the egg white) with spices on top.

We only had one round of drinks this time, but I can imagine I could have sat there sipping on cocktails for a full evening. The ambiance was charming and relaxed and the cocktails excellent. As with many nice bars these days, it is possible to reserve a table (I remember the days in Finland when it cost something and you only got a crappy bottle of Vodka and some mixers as “compensation”). There doesn’t seem to be any food or snacks, so my recommendation would be to have dinner before going.

Bar Stories, I love you and I hope we meet again soon!