Food, Photography

Busaba Eathai ~ the only chain I’ll openly admit to enjoying

Chain restaurants get a bad rep. I admit to being immediately skeptical to any enthusiasm bore towards a restaurant chain as a collective. My reasoning ~ how can you love multiple restaurants whose main purpose is to produce an almost homogenous experience and be low cost as a result.

But even I can admit that maybe sometimes, I really do have a genuinely nice meal…. at a chain restaurant!!

For example, here is a meal I loved and it was at Busaba Eathai in Stratford – Westfield.

If you haven’t been before, Busaba Eathai is a chain of pan-Asian (I know, bear with me) cuisine, its interior tastefully fitted with a blend of dark woods, tropical flowers and musky incense. Its menu reflects the decor, with Asian dishes inspired by a variety of countries.

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Sen Chan Pad Thai

Pad Thai – a staple in my diet. I LOVE flat noodles, adore seafood and pretty much prefer any dish that has crushed peanuts (or a fried egg) on top. The addition of tart green mango and fluffy crab meat helps breath new life into this familiar and normally unremarkable dish. Plus, portions are HUGE.

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Chargrilled duck

Juicy, tender duck rested gently on a bed of firm broccoli, swimming in a rich umami pool of tamarind sauce. Alex, forever a skeptic about Asian-food portion sizes, wanted the biggest dish on the menu. And with a side of sticky rice, further accompanied by a portion of ‘Thai’ calamari, biggest dish he got.

Did he finish it? Not so much.

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So if you’re stuck in Westfield Stratford and you don’t want to fall in the trap of bad shopping mall food – pick Busaba. It’s like those reliable pair of uggs that you will never openly admit to loving but you’ll wear them all the time. I know, my analogy doesn’t even make sense, just eat at Busaba, it’s good I promise!

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Food, Photography

Ramen time

What better way to welcome the unwelcome cold weather than with an awesomely delicious bowl of Tonkotsu ramen.

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Droooool….. creamy pork broth

Melt-in-your-mouth BBQ pork belly, accompanied by seaweed, bean-sprouts, soft boiled egg, pickled ginger and spring onions, all swimming gloriously in a rich pork bone broth. This is my (Umai-bought) Tonkotsu ramen!

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My favourite dinner buddy

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Food, Photography

Making beef brisket even more special

Lazy city people like myself rely heavily on pre-prepared food. I wish it weren’t so, but sometimes it’s a worthy sacrifice to have a few more minutes with my loved ones each evening.

With this oh so terrible sacrifice, M&S comes to my rescue. Although their 3 for £10 meat deal offers me flavour and convenience, they do come in tiny, tiny portions! And this is where some simple ingredients help bulk up and transform my dinner.

A combination of Pinterest and tube-time daydreaming…. I present my Beef Brisket sandwich!

Beef on a bed of creamy coleslaw, topped with a sunny side up egg. Freshly baked Mediterranean bread laced with roasted peppers and olives, gently dipped in the beef brisket juices.

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Food, Life, Photography, Travel

Prague ~ the new Paris

A couple weekends ago, my boyfriend and I were very lucky to spend 3 days in the beautiful city of Prague.

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It is so hard to pick just one picture that embodies the true beauty of Prague. Partly because there are just too many things that we loved about this historic city, but also because my camera lens is pretty crap for landscape photography =_=’

Before we left for our trip I was pretty skeptical about people’s fascination with Prague. I had so many preconceptions about it only being a stag do/cheap beer kind of destination. I was SO WRONG. Yessssss there we’re many groups of drunk guys with the groom-to-be always dressed as a lady (so weird), and hell yes the beer was only £1 (seriously), but Prague was so much more than that. Let me explain.

Food

Food was my biggest fear for this holiday, mainly because I have never been excited over the thought of having meat and dumplings for dinner. Not the scrummy and delicious Asian kind, but the stodgy, food-baby-making bread or potato kind.

So meh.

Luckily for me, and luckily for Alex because I google everythingggg to death, we managed to pick some amazing places to eat.

Lobkowicz Palace cafe

I am a firm believer in not eating at tourist attractions, but sometimes you just gotta eat! £££ 7/10

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Special of the day – Apple strudel, and a parma ham and cheese panini

Grosseto marina

Fancy Italian riverboat style restaurant with views of the castle over the river. A solid 7/10 for the food, but really you come for the views. ££ 9/10

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Saporita pizza and Ravioli con polpetine di pollo e prosciutto

Cafe Lourve

Fancy, art nouveau style 100 yr old cafe where both Albert Einstein and Frank Kafka got their Parisian brunch on. Lunch set menu is only in Czech but very good value. ££ 9/10

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Aperol spritz – everyone was drinking them!

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Classic Sacher – A chocolate cake laced with apricot jam and homemade watermelon ice cream

U Kroka

Our favourite of the trip, this truly is the place to come try Czech Pork Knuckle. Great value and right near the old castle grounds. ££ 10/10

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Roasted pork knee (or knuckle) – this was the portion listed in the ‘Manly’ section of the menu. A dish so filling you didn’t even need sides!

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Roasted duck with apples, red cabbage, homemade bread and potato dumplings

Klasterni pivovar Strahov

17th century brewery restored as a restaurant. Staff were grumpy but food was more-ish, the beer even better. ££ 7/10

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Wheat and ‘Amber’ beer

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Goulash in a bread bowl (tacky I know!) and Sirloin of beef in a cream sauce with cranberries and dumplings.

Things to do

Prague as a city-break is one of those cities where you can always find something to do, whether you plan ahead or not. Despite not speaking any Czech (I reeeeaaally wanted to try) I felt the entire city was pretty much accessible to me – not just because most people we encountered spoke English, but also because there were so many things you could just stumble upon and explore.

Prague castle (Pražský hrad)

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An afternoon can easily be spent on the castle grounds, with plenty of churches and museums to keep you occupied. If you’d rather see just the best bits (as we did) then 200 korunas gets you into St Vitus Cathedral, the grand royal hall, St George’s Basilica and the Golden Lanes. Even if you decide not to explore all of the buildings or wanting to make the most of a sunny day – the views from the castle grounds of the city below are enchanting.

Church of Saint Nicolas

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By far my favourite of all the religious sites, it’s (almost) gaudy gold finishings is what makes it so special. We sat in here for a good half hour just taking it all in (and cooling down from the sun)!

Charles bridge

The tourist destination that I was most looking forward to photographing, the internet has hundreds of pictures capturing Charles Bridge at its most romantic – lamps glowing through a cloak of thick mist! I was so disappointed when all I could see/capture were swarms of tourists and caricature artists – boo!

The John Lennon wall

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Although I’m not particularly a Lennon/Beatles fan, I loved the wall! Insanely bright and AMAZING to photograph!

Wenceslas square

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We didn’t spend much time here but it was worthwhile to go having just been to the communism museum. Not so much because the museum was great but more for being able to put what we had learnt there into perspective. For those who love makeup, they sell Inglot at Debenhams and have a Sephora in Wenceslas square!

Old Town square

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If you’re only in Prague for a weekend like we were, then this is one of the best places to just sit and soak in some Prague atmosphere. Hell yes it’s probably one of the most touristy places you could go (and for many would make you run a mile) but it’s touristy for a reason! A mixture of historical charm (the Astronomical clock, the Church of Our Lady before Tyn) and commercialisation of a touristy hotspots (American students promoting bar crawls, and tours on Segways) we happily paid three times as much for a beer just to soak it all in and people watch! Yay!

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If you walk a few minutes away from the square (and notice the crowds have thinned) this is where you start discovering some of Prague’s best drinking spots – Chapeau Rogue, Bugsy’s and Hemingway bar (my favourite) are all cosy, chilled and cheap!

Riegrovy Sady

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We visited this beer garden during the Germany vs France World Cup quarter-final match where they had set up a big screen with tons of benches and beer/food stands lining the garden. Full of expats, tourists and locals alike, the actual park itself offers yet another place to overlook the city.

Vysehrad castle

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This serene castle and grounds are two minutes away from my top pick restaurant – U Kroka. An impressively tall, fort-like wall surrounds the grounds which makes for an awesome first impression. Couples and tourists line the castle walls, which from up there you can enjoy an entirely different view point of the city, with Prazsky hrad as the crown of the horizon. Further in you come across more locals walking their dogs but I would highly recommended allocating and evening to spend here during your visit.

Peddle boating on the Vltava river

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No messing with the captain. Serious business!

200 koruna (about £5.50) for an hour! Such a bargain and was such a great way to spend our last morning in Prague. Wanting to make the most of ten warm weather while simultaneously avoiding being near other people (haha), we paddle boat-ed up and down the Vltava between the Charles bridge and the Dancing House. We even spotted a few fellow paddle boaters who had remembered to bring beers onboard!

Overall
I loved Prague! Although beach holidays are more my thing, Prague was perfect for a long weekend.

For 3 days we paid:
Flights – £75 p/p return with Wizzair (never again!)
Hotel – £85 p/p for 3 nights at a ‘5 star’
Spending money – £120 p/p

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Food, Life, Photography

Family time

As you probably feel in your own life, no matter how ambitious you want to be about your free time, the weekends seem to fly far too quickly. For us, as a young couple living in the city, it takes tremendous will power to make time – quality time – for our family.

I don’t mean this in a bad way but how easy it is to… plan a barbeque, do the week’s worth of shopping, pop to the cinema because you stillhaven’t seen that must-see film, sunbathe, sleep, sleep some more, check in with your favourite Malay restaurant (hehe) and before you know it that’s every weekend of the month almost over!

Luckily for me, I live very nearby my family, but for Alex this means an excursion… to the country side O.O

Yup, that’s a whole weekend job.

So for Father’s day weekend, we made the trip and I got snap snap snap happy!

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Food, Life

The Big Easy ~ Covent Garden

Burger and Lobster? Burger and Lobster who I say!

The Big Easy is my new go-to recommended whenever any says anything ‘lobster’ related.

In fact I’d be tempted to say it’s my go-to BBQ recommended too! (I’m sorry Bodean’s, I didn’t mean it!)

Why do I highly recommend The Big Easy? Because the food is big, and the choice is easy. If you fancy reliable, yet filling Lobster meal – then the Big Easy’s for you. If you want said Lobster meal to come with all the trimmings AND an icy cocktail that’s altogether still cheaper than its competitors, then The Big Easy’s still for you.

Don’t believe me – take at look at this:

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Sorry for my poor photo quality – mood lighting does not make for good photography lighting!

All this Lobster goodness (plus icy cocktail don’t forget) for £20. Ah, okay so it’s not your everyday meal, but it’s worth the treat; I felt real good sitting there in my bib.

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Me in my bib, waiting patiently (not patiently) for my Lobster

But what else is on the menu – excuse my poor manners – plenty, I say, plenty.

One of the big draws about The Big Easy is that it regularly has deals for the food aficionado and bargain hunter among us. Each night of the week there’s a different Deep South inspired deal, I remember seeing unlimited shrimp, BBQ, steak and lobster amongst these nightly deals. It’s also known (although I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it) for it’s live music.

Live music and great deals – what more could you want!

I’ll tell you what – great decor! Yes, it ticks all the boxes. I visited The Big Easy Covent Garden branch (it’s second branch after it’s flagship restaurant on King’s road) only a few weeks after launch, and after having read quite a ton of terrible reviews regarding service I happened to have a pretty hitch-free and extremely enjoyable dining experience. Ask for Mike, he’ll crack jokes and tie your bib for you, one of the few times I’ve felt a waiter fully deserved a generous tip.

I hope The Big Easy stays like this, I can’t wait to book a return visit 🙂

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Food, Life, Photography

Polpo ~ fancy lunchtime tapas

Hello my old friend!

Blog time no see.

heh heh heh, I’m so funny.

Anyhoo, what better way to ease myself back into blogging that to give you a scrummy scrummy update of where I’ve been eating!

Polpo, a tapas restaurant in Farringdon (slash Clerkenwell?) is a rustic/hipster cool kinda place. Menus come printed on rusty, ‘aged’ paper – which I very generously took a picture of!

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As you can see the menu is fairly decently priced, typically a bit more expensive which you expect the closer central you go into London, however the menu is vast enough that there’s something at everyone’s price point.

On to the food!

As there were 3 of us for Alex ‘s (my colleague) Birthday lunch, we decided to be extra greedy and exceed the recommended at-least-two-dishes.

We went for….

Potato & Parmesan crocchette

Potato & Parmesan crocchette

Classic beef & pork

Classic beef & pork meatballs

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Lamb & mint meatballs

Prosciutto, mozzarella & basil bruschetta

Prosciutto, mozzarella & basil bruschetta

Tenderstem broccoli, chilli & garlic pizza

Tenderstem broccoli, chilli & garlic pizza

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Birthday girl!

Rabbit ragu, black olives & gnocchi

Rabbit ragu, black olives & gnocchi

Sliced flank steak, rocket & Parmesan

Sliced flank steak, rocket & Parmesan

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the Boss tucking into ‘his’ steak dish

Pork belly, radicchio & hazelnuts

Pork belly, radicchio & hazelnuts

Tiramisù pot

Tiramisù pot ~ just for me!

And what a lovely end to a lovely meal, to then receive a ridiculous bill!

Having chosen the restaurant, without really comprehending how much we would order, when our bill exceeded £100 I was definitely weeping.

While it was an absolutely delicious meal – I had a few niggly negatives:

  • I’d booked a table especially – and yet we were given the absolute worst table in the house! We were placed right near the kitchen counter – not fun 😦
  • I have never had such stroppy staff. While they were timely and semi-efficient, jesus, if I’m tipping you then I at least expect a smile and some manners!
  • Which leads me to my last point – we HAD to tip 12.5%. I’m okay with tipping, but I’m not okay with tipping when your service is rubbish!

All in all, I would definitely recommend the food especially if you’re in the area – the service could be overlooked if you were a little more pushy and assertive than I was. However, Clerkenwell has so many more delicious eateries at a much more budget friendly price that you wouldn’t be missing out if you didn’t pay Polpo a visit!

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Food, Life, Photography

C&R Cafe Restaurant ~ my favourite Malay restaurant has finally reopened!

Having been brought up with an amazing chef for a mother, force-fed (with threats of punishment for not finishing my veg) by my father, I was in for a hell of a treat when I lived in Malaysia – which in my opinion has the best food ever. Literally.

My dad worked out there when I was younger, and every summer we would fly out to visit him for two months where we would stuff our faces with tons of deep-fried food, topped off with refreshingly tropical fruits. But it wasn’t until I got the chance to live out there with him that I truly appreciated all the amazing food we were exposed to each summer.

Long story short, I cried a lot (on the inside) when my favourite Malaysian restaurant was closed for refurbishment. I’m pretty sure my mum mentioned to me once how she was so upset having arrived at the restaurant finding it wasn’t open, and we both just sat there with the same face sulking about it. I LOVE their food at C&R. It’s cheap, it’s authentic and  they serve huge portions!

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My Wat Tan Hor – flat rice noodle in egg gravy!

I love love love Wat Tan Hor. If I’m feeling sad – Wat Tan Hor; if I’m feeling travel-withdrawals – Wat Tan Hor; if I’m feeling HUNGRY – Wat Tan Hor. Ha, you get it right? I just love this dish. It’s a comfort food improvement on Char Kway Teow (which has achieved comfort food status in it’s own right). The rice noodles are given the stir fry treatment, which gives it that perfectly moreish wok-char on the noodle. Topped with seafood, pork, veges and an egg gravy – this dish lets the flavours of each of the ingredients stand out on their own.

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Mee Siam topped with lemon, rather than lime.

Alex went for a Mee Siam – he was craving a meaty stir fried noodle dish without the sauce. Prawn, chicken, fried beancurd and shredded omelette over skinny rice noodles make this dish. It has a tangy sweet taste with a hint of spice. It’s an easy dish to try if you’re not quite sure about Malay food, but know you love Chinese.

On prior visits we’ve had Nasi Lemak, Nasi Goreng, Singapore Laksa, Mee Goreng etc. all the classics – and they have gone down well each and every time. I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad dish here and the portions are honestly massive. They even serve Teh Tarik and bubble tea! Avoid the Roti Chanai however, as it’s the frozen version rather than fresh! Boo!

Our meal came to £18 for the two dishes plus jasmine tea each.

It has been recently decorated – but it doesn’t change how small it is inside (I felt like I was dining with the couple on the table next to us), and the service is a little on the moody side – however, this doesn’t stop this restaurant from being a great place to hit while in central London!

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Turtle head | British museum
Food, Photography

Byron Burger ~ Soho

Just a quick review and photo dump!

Post-museum hunger pangs, and some aimless wondering led us towards Byron burger in Soho for lunch.

Admittedly not our first choice to go eat – Honest burger, which is just around the corner, having the highest score for a burger joint on TripAdvisor, still manages to have a 1 hour wait during the week – wut? I say it has the highest burger-restaurant rating on TripAdvisor – but even that score was average at best.

Still, burgers we wanted. Burger and Lobster seemed a good second choice, well, before we took a minute to actually think and remember that £20 for a burger is just plain crazy.

And this is how we came to find ourselves in Byron. As it started to pour outside, Byron’s relative calm for the lunchtime hour, as well as spacious booths and the wafting scent of melted cheese was enough to entice us into the restaurant.

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I have no idea why my photography is so out of focus of late!

I went for a simple classic beef burger, which comes with salad and tomato in a brioche-style bun, with a gherkin on the side. But what is that green in the middle you ask – well I couldn’t really go for a plain burger could I. I added some avocado (btw with bacon as well = amazing, but post-Christmas diet and whatnot) and my burger was thus complete.

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Alex opted for a Byron burger, and to throw me super creepy faces while he ate. With bacon, cheese and their ‘special’ sauce – it wasn’t a bacon cheeseburger to write home about, but “I would eat it again”.

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His friend Parker is a little on the shy side and didn’t seem too pleased when I shoved my camera in his face to take food pictures (perhaps the cause for Alex’s creepy face?), he chose to order a Chilli burger – with green chilli, American cheese, lettuce and chipotle mayonnaise. Apparently not too spicy, but with enough kick to make his beer all the more satisfying.

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Iceberg wedge, courgette fries and onion rings.

Too greedy for our own good, we each ordered sides as well. I honestly could have managed without (I thought I was going to explode after my burger), but the boys were pretty hungry. Our sides included an Iceberg Wedge (with bacon bits and blue cheese dressing – nutrition what?), GIANT onion rings and courgette fries. Okay I can’t poke fun at Parker for his iceberg wedge, coz hey, after they’ve been deep-fried my fries didn’t do me much good either. But I have to note – they were the best courgette fries I’ve ever had. Dipped first in batter, it made them extra crispy and counteracted the usual sogginess courgette seems to have.

For the fries alone (plus my giant Oreo milkshake I forgot to take a picture of) I would go back to Byron. Good burgers, but nothing special!

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Food, Life, Photography

My one true love ~ Roka

Enough about all these other restaurants, they were just mere flirtations. Now we’re talking about the real deal here – my one true love – Roka.

My love for Roka bloomed 4 short years ago, when one Chinese New Year we happened to book this as our New Year’s eve feast. Let me explain how it works.

Part of the magic of Roka is not just its culinary expertise, its mood lighting, or even its open plan kitchen for me too oogle anyone and everyone’s food. The magic lies in the word buffet.

Ordinarily buffet is such a tainted word. A hideously diseased word. But at Roka, it’s an elusive invitation to the most popular kid at school’s birthday party. And you got the seat right in front of the birthday cake.

When Roka seductively utters buffet, what it really means is – we’ll spend 4 hours making the freshest sushi, most succulent barbecue, crispest salads and tantalising soups that you could ever wish for. And you can have as much as you want. Really, as much as you want. And I’ll just keep making it.

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Nibbles and more from our buffet starter selection.

bellini sushi egg salmon

Bellini’s and sushi – yum yum!

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Chee eating salad? Books for Christmas?

On top of as-much-as-you-want sushi/bbq/salad/soup, I’ll also throw in unlimited wine, table snacks (such as the delicious beef dumplings below), a main course (see even further below) and to top it all off, a ice-cradled dessert platter.

Beef dumplings | Roka

Piping hot beef dumplings – brought straight from the kitchen to our table.

baby back ribs

These baby back ribs is the only thing that held the dinner together. My brother becomes Hulk without baby back ribs, our family dinner hanging precariously on my brother’s mood.

teriyaki salmon

Teriyaki salmon is shy

giant king prawn tempura

The most giant king prawn tempura you ever laid eyes on.

beef steak teriyaki

My steak. I was soon over the fact they had cut up my steak for me (who does this) when I let a piece of beef melt on my tongue – god it was delicious.

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Herro Lau family + Alex! He’s still referred to as ‘plus Alex’. Something to do with having a lot more facial bone structure than us I suspect.

Before I complete this post with more food photos – this was actually our Lau family (plus Alex) Christmas dinner. As Chinese and conflictingly British as we are, we do celebrate Christmas, but we want the tastiest food to celebrate it with – whether it be Japanese 😉

dessert platter

Yummy! Smaller than our portion we received on our first visit 4 years ago, and far less selection, but one mustn’t be picky after one has eaten all of the food.

passionfruit ice cream

Secret passion fruit explosion inside of our ice cream.

alex mowles pohlin lau

Even shier than the teriyaki salmon. Who woulda thunk?

Merry Christmas, everybody!* **
*in my best Dr. Nick voice
**Simpsons fans, you know who you are.

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