Friday, August 28, 2015

Afternoon Tea at Yauatcha


Yauatcha* | Chinese Dim Sum & Desserts | 15-17 Broadwick Street, London W1F 0DL | www.yauatcha.com


I usually don't get very homesick, though it's always during Lunar New Year and the Mid Autumn Festival, that I start missing my family. Now that September is approaching, so is the Mid Autumn Festival. You can consider it to be the equivalent of Thanksgiving, where the harvest is celebrated and families come together. Visit Vietnam or China during those times, and you will see streets decorated with lanterns and many street stands selling traditional moon cakes everywhere. Now imagine my excitement, when Michelin star Yauatcha* invited me to try out their moon cakes they are serving until September 27th alongside their other patisseries. So after a shopping tour with Emma around Oxford Street, we headed over to Yauatcha in Soho for some afternoon tea (read her review here). (Don't forget to check out our improvised video at the end!)


*Yauatcha is a part of Hakkasan Group. Many thanks for the complementary afternoon tea experience!

   





   

I'm fairly often in Soho, be it for drinks or food, it's a popular area to go out. So of course, I've walked past the eye-catching glass-front of Yauatcha quite a few times. And how can you not notice it? The glass front literally invites you to come closer with their gem-like selection of macarons. When entering the Chinese dim sum teahouse, you will first see the patisserie counter containing multiple rows of petits gateaux, macarons and chocolates that combine classical European cooking techniques and Chinese cuisine. Seriously, I felt like Gretel from Hansel and Gretel who just discovered the biscuit house, I couldn't stop walking up and down, contemplating which piece to try first.




   



   



Sipping on my cup of Classic beauty tea (simply love roasted teas) in the dim-lit restaurant, I tried a bite of the moon cake. To be honest, except for its nostalgic value, I'm usually not a fan of the lotus seed filled cakes. Lucky that Yauatcha has created its own take on the traditional moon cake - a version with a sweet pastry exterior with a thick, Chinese custard filling. Also, it's smaller size is perfect for snacking and sharing. Thumbs up! When dining in, the moon cake is served with vanilla ice cream (£6.20), perfectly balancing out the richness.

But of course, we didn't just have the moon cakes. The Raspberry delice was such a feast for the eyes and once sampled, convinced me that its taste was definitely up to par to its looks (despite my dislike for chocolate!). I really enjoyed the lightness and subtle flavours of the Red fruits fromage frais, though, it was the Passion fruit mango dome that won my heart. Just look how the glaze shines! And you could clearly taste the the sweetness and understated sourness of the passion fruit that glazed the cream and mango filling. The white chocolate pieces on the side unified all the different flavours beautifully with its sweet richness.

I expected to fall into a sugar shock after the afternoon tea, though, surprisingly and to my delight, they were all incredibly light and well balanced, not too sweet. Adding up all the drinks and patisseries, we would have paid £58.90 without service charge, so around £30/pp. Considering how much we had, it's a much more cost effective than your usual afternoon tea experiences! I definitely want to come back to try the dim sum, and you'll probably see me stopping by for a cheeky petit gateaux takeaway...


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Travel Diary Edinburgh



The highlight and last stop on our road trip was Edinburgh. I've been wanting to visit for such a long time! Unfortunately, I was never lucky enough to find reasonable flights and willing friends at the same time. But now I was finally able to discover Edinburgh with probably the best mix of people! However, despite the fact that I've been wanting to go to Edinburgh for ages (blame all the gorgeous photos on Instagram!), I actually didn't research much before going. You know how it is: you are busy, don't think about it and suddenly you are already there without a plan. And trying to coordinate among 4 people with different schedules didn't help much either. Still, I wouldn't have it any different, since everything was super relaxed and we just spent our time taking in as much of Edinburgh's flair as possible, instead of trying to tick off all sights and attractions.








   





So without much planning, we decided to simply wander around the medieval Old Town. Pretty convenient that the "Royal Mile", the main artery of the Old Town, was just 3 minutes away. Walking down Lawnmarket, ignoring all the tourist shops, we passed St. Giles' Cathedral, made detours walking down all the dark alleyways and visited Adam Smith's grave ('cause why not). One of the most picturesque alleyways was probably Fleshmarket Close that connects Market Street and the Royal Mile. It's actually were we started our pub crawl: at The Halfway House! It describes itself as "Edinburgh's smallest and friendliest pub" and it was indeed! Not the place where other people our age went, but definitely perfect to get a real and unfiltered experience of Edinburgh with a great selection of beers.








   



When you are in Scotland, you definitely have to eat haggis and that's what we did. For those who are not familiar with this traditional Scottish dish, it's basically a savoury pudding that contains sheep's intestines. We decided to have lunch at the Royal Mile Tavern as we got some discount on our food with our stay at the Castle Rock Hostel. Rated 4/5 stars on Trip Advisor, I was pleasantly surprised by the pub food. My Highland Chicken filled with haggis and served with vegetables was tender and flavourful. Really liked the combination, it's great for those who don't dare to have a full haggis meal. But I loved the presentation of the Haggis, Neeps & Tatties which was basically haggis on mashed turnip and potato. Looked pretty good and tasted really good as well (of course I tried!).

Skipping the greasy kebab we had during our pub crowl, let's go straight to brunch which we had at the Circus cafe. It ticked off two criteria on our breakfast hunt: not too far with the option of eating outside. The garden in the back was the perfect place to enjoy the sunny morning and we both enjoyed our vegetarian breakfast. Sadly, it was a bit plain in flavour, but there's nothing a bit of ketchup and brown sauce can't rescue, right?




   









One of the staff at the Halfway House who we got to talk to recommended the Scott Monument as well as the Calton Hill for their great view. So followed his advice for our 2nd day in Edinburgh. For £4 you can climb the 287 steps to four levels from which you can have great view of Edinburgh from above. I'm not good with heights, so I was a little scared walking up the narrow stairs. I avoided looking outside the tiny windows (or more like holes) that you get along the way. It's crazy how narrow it gets at the top and since its a spiral staircase you don't even see when you reach the next level. Nerve-wrecking! But ultimately, it was totally worth it for the view. Edinburgh Castle on the West side, the coast on the North side and Holyroad Park as well as Calton Hill on the East side.

It was much easier to go up the Calton Hill (it's obviously not as high either) and the perfect place to enjoy the sunny day. Situated at the east end of Princes Street, it's included in Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage Site! While you have a great view of Edinburgh overall from the Scott Monument, the view of the Holyroad Park from the Calton Hill is stunning beyond words. We were so lucky that the weather was good! It was the perfect end to a wonderful road trip.

Discover the whole road trip series: here


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Castle Rock Hostel Edinburgh

Castle Rock Hostel* | Hostel | 15 Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2PW | www.castlerockedinburgh.com

Another day, another city, another hostel! Our little road trip concluded in Edinburgh, where we stayed at the Castle Rock Hostel*. Located in an old building right next to the Edinburgh Castle and 2 minutes away from the Royal Mile, it was the perfect starting point to explore Scotland's capital. Rated highly on most travel and hostel sites, I was excited that Castle Rock offered us to stay here! And I'm glad we did. The hostel is full of character thanks to the quirky castle decorations, the big common areas and all the different opportunities offered to mingle with other hostel guests. Unlike the YHA York where we were surrounded by families and children, the, Castle Rock Hostel is for over 18's only, so we met a lot of other groups like ours. It's not without flaws, but definitely a fun place to stay at and £11 for a bed in a 12-bed dorm, isn't too bad, is it?


*Thanks to Castle Rock Hostel for the complimentary stay. All thoughts are my own.

   



Totally exhausted from the drive, we arrived on a Thursday during lunch time. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, giving us our keys, directed us to the closest parking facility and also recommended a lunch place. After we parked our car further down the road, it was time to explore our accommodation! I simply loved the quirky paintings and castle-themed decorations. Except for maybe the armours, they'd surely scare the hell out of you, if you'd stumbled across them late at night.

Our 12-bed dorm was called "Happy Days" like the film and our beds were named after its characters. I was impressed how clean and tidy it was, if you take out the suitcases and some scattered clothes. Though, the beds could do with some new mattresses as they were quite worn out already. However, the thing I was previously dreading were the mixed bathrooms! In the end, they weren't as bad as I thought, since the showers were in separate cubicles you could lock and the closest bathroom to ours had a separate row of shower cubicles at the back reserved for female guests.






To accommodate all the guests, the kitchen was simply massive! Right next to the common rooms, you find it with lots of cookers, fridges and plenty of place to store your food. Lazy as we are, we didn't make use of it either this time. Especially, since the common rooms had an area for preparing tea and coffee, there wasn't really a need for us to use the kitchen, but we saw a lot of groups cooking and chatting, while we explored the hostel.






   



At the end of our "Discover Castle Rock Hostel-Tour", we found the common areas. The main room had big comfy sofas, a few tables, a bar for refreshments (and a fridge to store your own drinks) and a pool table! Perfect place to meet and mingle with other hostel guests. Oh, and let's not forget to mention that it had a second floor overlooking the ground floor with even more sofas! A bit more secluded with many more sofas (make-out area?). Next door, there was also a computer room, which connected the main room with another lounge. But we spent most of our time in the main area, where we played pool and joined the pre-gathering of the Thursday pub crawl. We met a group of people from California, some girls from Sweden, it was the ideal place to hang-out with people. Definitely recommended!

Discover the whole road trip series: here