Enroute to…

… the neighboring state where we be feasting like there’s no tomorrow on the king of fruits. downside – 5am wake. kill me now.

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That Memorable Day

‘That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day.’

– Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

The Jackson Plan, Singapore

English is as English does. The Jackson Plan along Duxton Hill is a 6-week-old British gastrobar established by Italian restaurateur Beppe De Vito and i’m in love with it.

Entering via the wooden patio on the side of the establishment, you’re greeted with a bright yellow wash and all I could think of was ‘Yellow Submarine.’ Named after Lieutenant Philip Jackson, an engineer who drew up Singapore’s first city plan in 1822, it’s gotta be a tribute of sorts. PS. I only know this because of the establishment and not from Social Studies.

The interior features vintage flower design tiling [which I would so wish it to be translated onto a well-cut shirt], mis-matched wooden chairs and table against deep green washed walls that is some part sterile, inviting and quirky. Being the first diners in the space, we were overwhelmed by the cavernous emptiness and the over-eager wait staff. For some 20 mins, it felt as if we were being watched and about to be killed without anyone knowing. Yes, I admit it must be the result of an overactive imagination but be warned on arriving before 8pm.

We knew from the get-go we’d be ordering a bottle of wine, no doubt, and we ended up ordering a bottle of Prosecco and water on tap [we were specific and the waiter actually proposed – ‘would you like mineral water? it  is filled with minerals which is good for you.’ I was tempted to walk out that instant. If he meant for it to be funny, he failed miserably. The Jackson Plan has a good list of beers, vintage ales, cider and wines, and a good selection of cocktails and punches that will please a diverse group.
 We ordered in moderation or so we thought – 1 starter, 2 mains, 2 desserts. Not over-indulgent right? Being the only diners at that time, our Crab cakes, Quail Eggs, Anchovy Cream was served in less than 5. The egg-fan in me leaped for joy as I broke into the semi-cooked quail egg and watched the yolk seep into the crab cake bed. It was perfection at SGD16.50 an order.
We were spoilt for choice on the mains but settled for the Saltmarsh Lamb, Irish Champ, Chard and the Roast Quail, Trimmings, Bread Sauce to share. The game plan was to attack the white meat before conquering the dark meat so as the flavors would not overpower.
Spearing a well-charred carrot slice into my mouth, the sweetness of the carrot took me beyond and back, leaving me watering for the star of the dish – the roast quail. Slicing into the tight portion of quail and ensuring i have a bit of everything on my fork, it was love at first sight and bite. At SGD25.50 a serving, I am definitely not complaining.

We moved on to the Saltmarsh Lamb, Irish Champ Chard which came highly recommended, with great expectations only to be left slightly deflated. The mash was unbelievable but the star of the dish did not leave me wanting as the gamey flavor permeated my palette, the meat was dry and could not be remedied with generous dollops of the too-sweet sauce. I can’t say to be an expert in British grub but it did not go down as well as i hoped for my taste buds. A serving of this will set you back SGD28.

The stunners of the night were the desserts. Stuffed as we were, we cleaned and polished our plates of Sticky Toffee Pudding and Burnt Custard, Toffee Caramel.

I’m a huge sticky date pudding fan and I thought my find at Artichoke was THE ONE until I sunk my teeth into the Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Jackson Plan. Chewy, sticky pudding soaked in rich toffee sauce blended with an cool blend of vanilla ice cream was worth every last cent of the SGD11.00. I smiled.

Not a huge creme brûlée fan, I sinked my spoon gingerly into the dish only to turn a convert. The vanilla custard was not overtly rich and just perfectly fragrant with a smooth consistency reminiscent of the best bean curd. What won it for me was the contrasting layer of hard caramel that spoke of such skill and dedication that I was instantly won over at the first mouthful.

With our tummies bulging, we drained our glasses of Prosecco and headed to the outside patio to further enjoy the space, the night and to taste their cocktails which looked magnificent.

Settling at the barrels and high stools, I declared my desire to take a barrel home to be placed at the entry way of my home to toss my keys, cell and other knick knacks atop as i kick off my shoes. Of course, I didn’t manage to wheel one home.

An order of Queen’s Cup and the Jackson Punch was placed as we leaned back on our high stools and enjoyed the natural breeze that our little island offered. What’s impressive are the serving portions of the cocktails/ punches – filled to the brim in wide, deep glasses, the drinks were well worth the prices comparative to the standard minimal servings at other pubs and bars in Singapore.

The Jackson Punch is a crowd pleaser made of gin, campari, orange, strawberries, lambrusco for a sweet drink with a kick.

The Queen’s Cup on the other hand proved to be too much of a surprise  – a mix of vodka, tomato, cucumber, lemon and masala, it was far from my expectations for a refreshing drink and I tried my luck requesting for a change of drink despite the sips I had taken. This is where The Jackson Plan sealed its status as a must return venue for me. The Assistant Manager inquired after my expectations of The Queen’s Cup and I admitted that it was my fault as I did not expect the masala to be so strong and all I was seeking was a sweet, refreshing drink to end the night. Smiling, he took my glass and promised to return with the elusive drink I seeked.

Presenting me with The Duxton Punch – a mix of gin, pineapple, orange, morello cherry and nutmeg, I was beyond pleased and I expressed my satisfaction. Such personalised service is rare in Singapore and I was floored by his gesture. In addition, my original order of Queen’s Cup was not added to the total bill and I must say, I’m never going to kick the service standards in Singapore as long as The Jackson Plan stands. And oh, that morello cherry is the bomb.

I am determined to return and introduce this gem of a find to my crowd, and it is my sole ambition to try every item on this menu. Till then, stay tuned or let me know what you have tried.

GETTING THERE

M1NT, Shanghai, China – Party like a Rockstar

I’ve not held back my adoration of Shanghai as a cosmopolitan city, a city close to my heart and a potential place for a long haul stint should the opportunity arise.

That said, one of the reasons why I love Shanghai so much is the nightlife there and M1NT was one of the places I visited during my short trip there last year.

The first thing I noticed and fell in love with was the interior design and decor of the space – stylishly chic with impeccable taste in individual pieces that heightened M1NT’s status as a glamorous destination.

Stationing ourselves at the bar for starters, like moths drawn to light, I was mesmerized by the overhanging display at the bar. As i said, impeccable taste.

Pulling myself from the draw of the display, we flipped through the menu and ordered our drinks without much deliberation and definitely no hesitation. The cocktail bar offered a respite from the adjacent club as groups gathered by the elegant stainless steel bar centered in the room. I had my regular – a mojito but if you’re adventurous, do try some of their signature cocktails!

Moving on to the main draw, M1NT club offers some of the best beats. According to the club’s website, it’s an ‘international mash-up of old-school house, electro, pop and R’n’B, combined with the latest and best tunes doing the club circuit the world over ensuring a night to remember.’ Genre of music spun while I was there I do not remember but a ‘night to remember’ it was. The crowd speaks for itself..

Till the next post, stay elevat[ed]. Peace out.

GETTING THERE

Strictly Pancakes, Singapore

When you put off a craving, it bites back twice as hard. That was me two weeks ago suffering from an undeniable pancake crave so I rustled up a mate, pulled myself out of bed on a Sunday [yes, unbelievable!] to visit a joint that serves nothing but that one thing i crave, PANCAKES.

I’ve long heard about Strictly Pancakes but never had the opportunity to visit and I took it into my own hands to schedule a visit to satisfy that crave. Such was luck, upon arrival, misty eyed from the relatively early wake… there place was filled and there wasn’t a seat for me. With slumped shoulders, I placed myself on the wait list and we decided to stroll over to the mall on the opposite side of the street to catch some cool drafts from the air-conditioning.

Upon return, we watched a table check out and found ourselves placed at a table before the counter and a chalkboard menu [major love right there], devouring the menu with an intensity driven by pure hunger and rapidly made our selections. It was a major bummer that we missed the weekend breakfast menu by a mere fraction of a second but I made up for it with a customised order.

Let’s start with the Chocolate Peanut-Butter Milkshake [SGD5.00], that combination of sweetness and the saltiness perked me up almost immediately. What I really love about a good milkshake is the consistency and this one definitely made the mark for me, keeping that rich creaminess ’till the very last gulp.

As if teasing us, the staff served up the maple syrup and garlic herb butter that I had ordered with my customised short stack. I’m not sure I’m a 100% behind this procedure but I do wish they serve this up just before our orders arrive so as to manage that expectation of the arrival of our food. On a separate note, I love how they offer up butter options to go with your pancakes. Choose from salted, unsalted, garlic herb and rum & raisin.

After about a 20 mins wait, our mains were finally served and tuck in with gusto we did.

Going for the customised order, I picked a short stack [that’s 2 pancakes for SGD5.50] with 3 out of the 5 side dishes available *sheepish grin* – scrambled eggs, sauteed mushrooms and chicken chipolata [at SGD2.50 each]. That brought the total to SGD13.00 for my customised order which I must say ain’t too shabby. Taste wise, I was left less than satisfied. The pancakes were well-flavored and fluffy BUT the entire dish did not tie together. It felt like each component was cooked and popped on a plate and I could not enjoy the combination of the flavors which was a bummer. Expecting gooey, thick, syrupy maple syrup, I was once again left disappointed as the maple syrup served was thin and runny, lacking the fragrance that I was expecting of a good maple syrup. Would I return for this? No.

The mate order a What-A-Spread! which was not quite the spread i expected. This dish is built with a medium stack of peanut butter pancakes [3 pancakes] layered with Nutella and served with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream and two sticks of Kinder Bueno. Perhaps my expectations of the dish were too high but it was a visible letdown upon service as it was not quite the spread I had envision would come with such a name. Taste wise, the peanut butter pancake lacked in peanut butter flavor and actually tasted like salted pancakes to be honest and was not entirely palatable to me. As with the customised order I had, I found that the individual components of the dish were best enjoyed as separate entities and did not work together to enhance the overall flavor. A pity really.

I left Strictly Pancakes with a crave settled but dissatisfied. I would not return again on my suggestion, but that’s just me.

Cracked Up in Bangkok, Thailand

Since my first trip to Bangkok in 2009, every return trip to the city meant a promise of a cracking good time. If your mind’s in the gutter, please pull it right out ’cause all I’m referring to is a good old Thai massage.

Three trips in, at least four massage parlors tried and tested. I’ve definitely landed on a favorite and you stand to gain from my experience. I guess. Below are my top 3 massage spots to satisfy your Thai massage needs

Popular with the locals – Healthland Spa Thailand

A popular chain in Thailand, Healthland Spa is a hit with the locals as well. Go for the traditional Thai massage which lasts for 2 hours, valued at 450 baht. For a value for money deal, get a book of vouchers that entitles you to 10 visits for 3,500 baht! Perfect for those travelling in a group and intend to return for repeat visits.

I’ve visited the parlor at Sathorn and you can request for a private room at no extra charge if you’re sharing it with your pals. The only downer about Healthland Spa is its popularity and with that fame comes the crowds. Do book an appointment or be ready to wait if you decide to walk in.

Deets on Healthland Sathorn below, do visit their website on location of the other parlors.

Personal Favorite – Chambala Spa

Hands down winner for me is the Chambala Spa at Siam Paragon. Pricier than the other parlors I’ve visited but worth every cent at 700 baht for 2 hours worth of priceless stretching and deep massages. You’d never get anything at that standard and value in Singapore so don’t scrimp on having a good rub down.

As with all good places, be sure to make an appointment or you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Best secondary alternative – Lek Massage

Discovered this outlet on a desperate hunt for Thai massage after being informed that Chambala Spa was fully booked for the night. Wandering across from Siam Paragon to Siam Square, we stumbled across this stretch of streets which held a row of massage parlors and entered each one, asking for vacancies we did and Lek Massage managed to

accommodate all 4 of us at short notice. I did not have high expectations of the place but it proved to be better than I thought so if you find yourself stranded without an alternative options, Lek Massage is one to check out.

General tip – The massage is dependent on the skills and expertise of your masseuse so be sure to take down the name of your masseuse if you enjoyed the services so you won’t be let down on your return visit. Trust me, you WILL return for another massage sooner than than you expect.

And these are the faces of satisfaction post a good crack-up.