Tag Archives: family

UK September 2018

Our annual trip to the UK to visit my in-laws this year was one that felt long overdue. Last November D’s father sadly passed this plane to join my Dad, and almost immediately after, we had news of the dreaded C in the family. Almost a year on, we can triumphantly say that B successfully kicked the big C in the teeth, and everyone is well, and happy.

Family reunions are always cherished. Living away from both sets of parents makes them that much more joyful. Even with technology where we can keep in touch on what’s going on in our every day lives, nothing beats that first big bear hug and the wonderful conversations over seemingly endless cups of tea and meals that follow.

This year we were greeted in the UK by icy winds, but clear brilliant blue skies. Out in the village in Essex where we stayed the sky seemed so vast, dotted with Simpson’s-like fluffy clouds.

It’s also the harvest moon which meant we had some incredible sightings of a huge globe full moon, fat and low in the evening sky.

And the food…ah, the food.

We stayed at the Bell Inn. A lovely b&b where the historic pub was voted one of the top 10 pubs in the UK in the good pub guide 2019.

With locally sourced produce, cooked to perfection and beautifully presented, the dishes are always a winner.

A selection of dishes from Frog’s seven course degustation menu

The next day was a trip to London to eat at Adam Handling’s Frog restaurant. D and I had eaten at “the Frog” in Shoreditch a few years back, and absolutely loved it (especially his betroot betroot betroot) so we were keen to check out his Covent Garden establishment. It didn’t disappoint. The seven course degustation menu surprised and delighted with perfectly balanced dishes full of flavour and texture. Favourites were the brandade (a salt cod and olive emulsion) tortellini with pickled leeks and frozen cod roe – a fishy riot in your mouth, and the surprising coconut ice-cream with chocolate soil and garden pea dessert. Thats certainly one way to eat your greens! Oh. And chicken skin butter (crispy chicken skin is mixed with butter and served with crispy chicken skin and chicken jus on top). So moreish.

Roast beef at Le Benaix

Pea and mint arancini

Le Benaix Bar & Brasserie was a late Sunday roast the next day. We were challenged with their menu but landed on starter of a pea and mint arancini. It was the perfect light starter to the main course which was enormous – roast beef. Medium rare roast beef slices – tender and juicy with crispy duck fat potatoes and Yorkshire pudding with gravy in the middle.

Spotted dick

Last day was sunny and bright and a non-stop Bbq at my BIL’s place. If I recall correctly (I was so amazed at his expert BBQ skills I forgot to take photos) there was bone marrow beef burgers, venison and caramelised onion sausages, lamb loin, pork ribs, herb-fed organise free-range chicken (where we could really taste the herbs in the chicken) and a bone-in rib eye of beef which we couldn’t even eat we were so full. All that amazing meat and for me the winner was a complete surprise and absolute treat – home made spotted dick with syrup and proper custard (thank you L! ♥️). Spotted dick was a dish that we saw on the Great British Bake-off when it was a suet pudding challenge. Quite traditional (it was first attested in 1849), it’s a steamed suet pudding with dried currants, raisins and sultanas. I was fascinated at the stories told as we happily spooned big mouthfuls of the pudding, of different family variations. What a treat to end our UK visit on top of the daily English breakfasts lovingly cooked by my MIL and her husband for D and I. All in a bright sunny kitchen looking across at the allotment.

The courtyard at the Bell Innu

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Why Chef Valentino is a GENIUS

Truffle ice-cream with freshly shaved white truffles

Who else would shave fresh white truffles over truffle/vanilla ice-cream??

In my earlier post on Valentinos, I mentioned that D had loved it so much that he said that Valentinos was where he wanted to have his birthday dinner.  So off we went last night.

Fresh buffalo mozzarella

I had already rang ahead to check if they had any fresh buffalo mozarella that night and was delighted to find out they did.  We had a similar round of starters than we did our first time there – lightly breadcrumbed and deep-fried anchovies, the buffalo mozarella and sweet tomatoes with olive oil and basil, cow’s milk cheese wrapped in proscuitto and pan-fried, and we added a selection of cold meats to make four for the table.

Cherry tomatoes with basil

As before, the mozarella was light and chewy and stringy and milky and all the things buffalo mozarella should be.  Paired with a mouthful of tomatoes and basil and we were transported to our trip to the Amalfi Coast once again.  The cold meats didn’t look like much, but the flavour from the thinly shaved slices of proscuitto, salami and mortadella (something I’ve always wondered about but never tasted) was a perfect way to balance the other dishes on the table.

Porcini ravioli with truffle oil

For seconds we shared two pasta dishes – the porcini ravioli with truffle oil and the house speciality, squid ink pasta in a creamy crab sauce.  The ravioli was just so … mushroomy, for want of a better word.  And the squid ink pasta came in thick ribbons covered with large chunks of fresh crab leg meat, the sauce a mix of cream and tomato and with a hint of heat from chilli.  I couldn’t really taste the squid ink over the flavour of the sauce, so a good thing the sauce was so delicious.

Delicious steak

Mains we again shared two dishes – the veal saltimbocca and a 500g steak, cooked on the bone and medium rare, served thickly sliced over a bed of rocket and tomatoes. Both solidly good.

But I digress.  I am typing all of this as fast as I can just so I can tell you about the special dessert Chef Valentino served D especially for his birthday – truffle ice-cream, with freshly shaved white truffles.  The only time I have seen so many truffles was when we were in Rome at Pietros where they had a tray of fresh black truffles.  Chef Valentino showed us a square bowl full of arborio rice, with the most beautiful smelling truffles dotted on top.  This was how he stored his truffles – in order to further flavour the arborio rice for his truffle risottos.  Another stroke of genius.

White truffles perfuming a bed of arborio rice

He then gave us a martini glass with one scoop of truffle ice-cream – we ate the ice-cream on its own – a rich vanilla ice-cream that actually already tasted of truffles.  Why it works, we didn’t care.  Just trust me when I say it does.  Chef then liberally shaved the fresh white truffles over it and the four of us at our table greedily scooped out spoonfuls of ice-cream with truffles.  There was absolute silence in the room for a few seconds before the exclamations – “mmmmm !”  and “ooooh !” – started of just how good that tasted.

We left happy, full and with a parting shot of Limoncello.  For such an unassuming restaurant, this place rocks.  Apart from the food, the service is just so warm.  Not only is it clearly family run, but clearly the staff are also treated like family, and it really shows.  Add to this the fact that the Chef is an amarone fiend (ask to see his wine cellar!!), means we will definitely be going back again, hopefully very soon !

Ristorante Da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka
Singapore 588908
Restaurant: 6462 0555

Closed Mondays


Shhhh…happy new year

Was our phrase at midnight on new year’s eve this year.  Both D and I said goodbye to the last decade and hello to the new, in bed, thinking the other was asleep and not wanting to wake each other up to open the bottle of champagne we had bought to celebrate.  Gotta love getting sick on holidays.

Ah, Penang.  I go there not for anything other than my granny lives there and it was nice to have a holiday together with my family, and see four generations together.

I know people always bang on about how amazing the food is in Penang, but to be totally honest, unless you are willing to travel for miles and often ages due to traffic, in that blistering heat, I’d rather find food close by.  And I guess staying at Batu Ferringhi, the touristy part of Penang, you’re not going to get great authentic food easily.

Our first night of eating was at a nearby hawker centre which truly was average.  We were hungry and indecisive, so we pretty much ordered at least one dish from every stall.  The one standout was the chilli stingray, which came not smothered in a rich red sambal, that we are more used to from Singapore, but a thinner, less processed version of limejuice, chilli, sambal belachan, sugar, onions and garlic.  It was knock-your-socks off hot, but absolutely delicious.

On our last night, we went with my uncle and his family to a restaurant further up the hill, called “Restoran End of the World”, named, I assume, because it’s pretty much at the tip of Telok Bahang, and not because eating there will be the beginning of the apocalypse.  It was essentially a koptiam specialising in seafood (it is located near a fishing village), and boy did we order (and eat!) a lot of that.

After a short wait, we started off with fried rice and fried noodles, and then the food just kept coming.  Crisply battered calamari, pipis and “chu chu”, a strange conical seasnail (which I have to admit I only eat because it reminds me of eating it when I was very young), mantis shrimp, oyster omelette, cereal prawns and the two absolute standouts, a fried fish “ikan hantu” covered in that same chilli stingray sauce and simply steamed local mud crab.

The ikan hantu (which means devil fish because it looks pretty mean and ugly) was delicate and tender and was partnered so well with the sweet chilli sauce.  At the other end of the spectrum, steaming the crab did the crab complete justice – nothing at all distracted from the incredibly sweet flesh of the crab.

I’m sure Penang is still full of wonderful local delights, but for me, the need to travel to the padang just to eat the Penang laksa under that sweaty, heat-containing “roof” is not really a big puller for me.  I’m sure my relatives who live there would vehemently disagree with me – everything is “the best” in Penang to them – but for me…maybe not so much.


Merry messy Christmas !

My entire family (mum, dad, sister, brother in-law, niece) arrived yesterday in Singapore and we’d arranged to celebrate Christmas lunch at the Hyatt Mezza9 to a) avoid the mad crush of cramming 7 adults in our flat and b) to allow me to enjoy the company of everyone without having to lift a finger in the kitchen.  As it turns out, the table we ended up getting at Mezza9 was so “cosy” that we would have had plenty of space at our place anyway, but would we have had the superb spread of food that we enjoyed today ?  No way.  We’ve also been wanting to try the Christmas brunch since we got here a few years ago.  Comes around only once a year, after all, but we’ve always had last minute changes or we’d tagged along to lunches other people had organised.

It was a full house at Mezza9 today with all the Christmas orphans left in Singapore all champagned up and creating a merry cheer in the restaurant.  The atmosphere really was festive, with some patrons dressing up in Santa outfits and everyone dressed in truly “smart casual” – none of the random flip flops and three quarter length pants that can sneak in on a normal Sunday brunch.

The food was, as usual, stellar, and today we had some festive upgrades – suckling pig instead of just roast pork, chilli crab in the chinese section, turkey (I was sad to see no goose as I would have loved that), ham, roasted pork belly and roast beef, and Christmas pudding.  The pork belly and ham were the winners for me – both were melt in the mouth tender.  For D it was a second helping of smoothly whipped mashed potatoes and delicious portabello mushrooms.

The service was a little slow to start – I think they really struggled to try and seat everyone at once, but once seated, the staff found their groove and soon it was all working like the smoothly oiled machine the Sunday brunch at Mezza9 is.

Queues were long for pretty much everything, but on Christmas day, does that really matter ?  Especially with all that free flowing champagne.  Long live the Sunday brunch !