Tag Archives: Mirabelle

La Renaissance

La Renaissance Patiserrie’s ham and cheese croissant

In a recent trip back to Sydney for my dad’s 70th birthday, we decided to opt for a hotel near Circular Quay, overlooking Sydney Harbour, rather than our usual hotel choices nearer to the retail district of town.

It meant that every morning we had the luxury of being able to walk outside of our hotel (we stayed at the Four Seasons), and out be straight out on to the Rocks area of Sydney.

Projection of the symphony conductor on to the Sydney Opera House

Sydney’s a very young city, relative to the rest of the world, being just over 200 years old, and the Rocks area is where it all started.  I used to learn about it in school (social studies) and this area has not only been preserved – building facades and areas still paved in cobblestone – but enhanced by a activities around the area to take advantage of the breathtaking location. Activities like projecting a broadcasted symphony onto the sails of the Opera House.  Or the Rocks Markets where you can take a leisurely stroll on a weekend to view various arts and crafts.

The one thing D and I took advantage of was our close proximity to La Renaissance Patiserrie. Part of Bistro Baroque, a wonderful French Bistro, this small patisserie was pretty much where we had breakfast every day.  Eating al fresco on Argyle Street watching the world slowly wake up, sipping our coffees and enjoying La Renaissance’s amazing array of pastries and macarons (which were savoured for morning or afternoon tea).

You get a glimpse of the kitchen when your order – all balloon whisks and the smell of sugar and butter permeating the air. It was just such a joy to be close to that much pastry 🙂

Highly recommended (although not if you’re on a diet) are the croissants – I simply had to have them while I could, especially with the close of Mirabelle patisserie in Singapore (anyone know if they just moved from Mackenzie Street rather than closing down please tell me !).  The ham and cheese croissants were also decadently delicious.

A charming and delightful way to enjoy a morning (or afternoon) cup of coffee.

La Renaissance Patiserrie
47 Argyle Street The Rocks Sydney
Tel: + 61 2 9241 4878


From croissants to…chwee kueh

Chwee kueh – steamed rice cakes with preserved radish and chilli paste

It rained early this morning in Singapore and I love rare mornings like this, especially on weekends, when the late-to-rise Singaporeans are still asleep, the traffic’s minimal and it’s relatively cool.  It’s just so peaceful in this usually frenetic city.

I took the opportunity of all of the above to take a 20 minute stroll to Mackenzie Street to Mirabelle with the intent of picking up a bag of buttery goodness – from light and flaky plain croissants to pain au chocolate to croissants baked with ham and cheese. All delicious, artery-clogging treats which we are lucky to get in Singapore.  Mirabelle’s pastries rival the best we’ve had in Paris.

However, when I got to Mackenzie Street, all I saw were metal roller doors.  The friendly girl who worked next door told me that Mirabelle was closed till mid Feb.  Guess even the best bakers have to take a holiday, no matter how much we want them not to 🙂

So I took a slow stroll back to Bugis, enjoying watching the town slowly wake up, and ended up at Albert Centre Food Market. I don’t know what I expected to find there that I wanted – it’s a tough switch from french pastry to local fare – I thought I actually fancied nasi lemak, until I chanced upon a chwee kueh shop.

Chwee kueh literally translated is “water rice cake” and is Teochew dish of steamed cake of rice flour that is most importantly served with preserved radish or chai por.  The rice cake itself has no flavour but it is the vehicle with which to eat the chai por.

Chai por is radish that has been cooked with salt, dried shrimp and sugar in pork lard (hence why it tastes so good).

It was so delicious it pretty much erased the taste of croissant from my mind !  I’m thrilled that I have access to this local treat so close to home and will definitely be going back again.


And on to Rome…

Before I get to Tippling Club, I want to say how damn easy it was for me to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress.  And how much more user-friendly WordPress is !  And also I wanted to include our trip to Rome last September.

APART from the fact that I seem to have lost my entire post on Rome !!

OK I will persevere, and I might even put some pretty pictures in, because that reminds me of what a wonderful time we had there.

After Positano we drove to Naples and then we caught a train to Rome.  I want to remember the romantic train ride, but for some reason (which D reckons is “sleep”) I cannot !  Shame.

I do recall arriving at our hotel – which was tucked away in a very small, dark alley.  This kind of freaked me out initially but then I realised that Rome is simply made up of these sorts of alleys, and there is a thriving cafe scene, where locals go – guess the tourists stay in the light.

It was a pretty weird setup – 2 flights of stairs and then what I can only say resembled an apartment, of which they rented out the rooms.  It was so weird.  Clearly it was new, even the safe had not been secured in the cupboard but I’ll say one thing for that room we rented – the bed was a tempur mattress which made it wonderfully comfortable, especially since travelling you always end up sleeping in weird beds that you’re unused to.  I swear all hotels should have them.

But I digest…

Food-wise, Rome is somewhere where I think you have to definitely avoid the touristy places.  We went to a few places on recommendation from D’s colleagues and clients – one which was apparently at the place where Brutus stabbed Caesar, where I had suckling pig that was pretty average.  Mirabelle, which was a lovely location – overlooking the Vatican – tables were very close together and although I recall the food to be lovely, it was pretty forgettable, and I had foie gras and duck – some of my favourite things in the world !  We also went outside of Rome – I can’t remember the area but I keep thinking of Sardinia – obviously we didn’t actually go to Sardinia, but we went to a little taverna which had lovely food but unfortunately the night we went there was a major football game on so we were literally the only ones in the restaurant.  We forgot about that though, when they brought out the grappa.

Ice-cold, syrupy goodness in two flavours – one was the normal one and the other was… I want to say wheat ? Anyway, I do recall walking around the Piazza Navona near our hotel absolutely giggling girties.

I always like to wander streets and get lost when we travel.  You always seem to stumble upon some really great stuff and here we managed two places.  The first was where we spent our last night over dinner.  There was a tiiiny little restaurant near our hotel called Pietro Valentini Ristorante, and the thing which caught our attention was the fact that he boasted to be the King of Truffles.  When we walked into the restaurant, we were almost overwhelmed by the warm hospitality of Pietro and his daughter in-law, Simone, and the wondrous smell of truffles.  There is a tray full of the biggest, fattest looking black truffles and oh. my. gosh. it smelled goooood.  Before we ordered we were served a three cheese bread, cut from a gigantic loaf – this is hearty Italian food and hospitality at its best.  While we were waiting for our entrees, the other good news was the place was full of local Romans – always a good sign.  My entree was mozarella stuffed zuccini flowers, D’s was calamari – both crispy light.  Mains were steak for D and mine was a pasta which has freshly shaved truffles over it – I can’t even remember what sauce it was the truffles were so good ! In fact, it was so good that D committed a crime by ordering pasta after his carne.  Dessert was called Fantasty Ravioli which is a chocolate filled ravioli that is then deep fried, so the chocolate inside becomes smooth and molten….We were pretty drunk but last Christmas we received a Christmas card from the restaurant, so we can’t have made such a bad impression.  This meal really made my visit to Rome amazing.

The other little find was a tiny little supermarket in one of the streets near the Pantheon (I get chills just writing that word down I love that place so much).  Normal supermarket, but keep wandering around and you find a meat deli section where D and I had our first taste of Iberico ham.  I do wish the man behind the magical counter sliced it thinner but I think it just meant that you had to really work and chew at the ham, which seemed to warm and release the flavours even more.  We left with so much cured meat from there it was hilarious – lucky we weren’t flying back to Sydney where we would have had to eat it all at customs.

We had superb weather the entire time we were there – it seemed to cool down significantly in Rome from Amalfi, so we also enjoyed many walks through the Campo Di Fiori – fresh produce markets, where, again, is full of tourists but also locals.  And as we are early risers, we got to wander around in the warm morning sun watching the locals buy their produce to cool for the day – fresh borlotti beans, soup mixes, fresh salad mix.  Just wonderful.

I have always loved Rome and it’s inspired me and D to travel to the other parts of Italy to go on a gastronomic tour of the country !  ps the Vatican, you can keep.