Europe city hopping: London 2017 (food edition)

We walked and ate our way through London… we were super exhausted on our first night because we had clocked more than 30,000 steps that day. In this post, I will cover the food consumed, and I will talk about the places we visited in the next post.

Pret A Manger

Our first meal in London was actually sandwiches from Pret A Manger. I had been searching for affordable meals/food in London and I saw several branches of Pret A Manger on Google Maps. There was one outlet just outside Liverpool Street station when we arrived in the early morning, so we just grabbed some sandwiches there and ate while we walked to our accommodation. I got myself an egg mayo & watercress sandwich £1.75. No pictures because it’s just your standard egg mayo sandwich.

After we were settled in our accommodation, we started our sightseeing journey and came across yet another Pret A Manger (told you they are everywhere!). I decided to get myself a coconut coffee because non-dairy milks are always good for me. Not the best tasting coffee because we are so used to cow’s milk, but I’m glad that the creamy coconut did not overpower the coffee taste. It wasn’t too lemak.

Bone Daddies

I had the tantanmen £11.40 (sesame, chilli, pork mince, chashu pork, bok choy in chicken bone broth) and he had the yuzu tonkotsu £11.40 (grilled pork belly, spring onion, bamboo, egg in pork bone broth). To be honest, I did not think it was fantastic because I just had Ippudo recently, but I definitely enjoyed it! The chashu and molten egg were wonderful. We also ordered the Korean Fried Chicken £6.80 for 3 wings. I was wowed by how crispy the chicken was, even though it was coated in sauce!

*Note that there is an additional 12.5% service charge on top of the menu prices

Borough Market

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at Borough Market, so we did not have a lot. Oysters were the main deal for me at Borough Market. These freshly shucked oysters from Richard Haward were so good – huge, plump and full of briny flavor. You may want to note that I usually eat my oysters with a squeeze of lemon juice and a couple drops of Tobasco sauce. I’m no expert. There was another recommendation from my friend, just diagonally across from Richard but I found Richard to be more affordable (£5.50 for 4).

 

Poppies Fish & Chips

You cannot say that you’ve been to England without trying their fish & chips right? Poppies is one of the best known places for fish & chips, so we had to try them. We got ourselves a takeaway order for a large cod and regular fries, because takeaway prices are cheaper and you don’t end up smelling like grease.

The order came up to £10.50 (sorry I cannot remember their individual pricing already but you can find them online) – the chips or steak fries as I know them, are ok, and the fish was moist and the batter still crispy even though I slathered it in malt vinegar and subjected them to a 10 min steambath while we walked back to the hotel. However, the fish was on the thin side, so not a lot of meat for the price.

Portobello market

We had our standing lunch at Portobello market, eating as we move along. We had a chicken samosa for £1.50, and a serving of seafood paella for £7. The chicken samosa was good albeit cold, I really liked the Indian flavors. The paella was a little lackluster, probably because we got the last few portions of the pan, so we got some charred rice and not a lot of seafood.

Le Pain Quotidien

For an afternoon snack, I got myself a plain scone while ZH got himself a chocolate croissant from Le Pain Quotidien. We didn’t know that this was a popular bakery chain but the croissant was good – buttery layers of pastry and bittersweet chocolate. My scone, on the other hand, was a little disappointing. It was a little doughy for my liking.

Big Easy

Burgers & Lobsters has always been a popular choice for lobster-lovers when in London, but I decided to go for Big Easy instead because I’ve heard recent bad reviews about B&L. Big Easy also offers lobsters for a good price. I had the 1.5lb lobster while ZH had the lobster bake. Among the two, we preferred the plain lobster because of the quality of the lobster meat. The other seafood within the lobster bake were not as impressive as the lobster.

Goldmine

This was a highlight of our “eatcapade” as good Chinese food is a rare find in Bremen. It came highly recommended by my friend, and touted as a popular joint of the SIA cabin crew. We ordered the “3 treasures rice” and “jzap kum chao hor” – both items off the menu. Unfortunately, since they are off the menu and the receipt only gave the total price of both dishes (£22.80 for both dishes), I cannot tell you how much they cost individually.

The “3 treasures rice” is basically roast duck, roast pork and char siew with rice. I only tried the roast pork because I don’t really like duck that much and I also had char siew in my hor fun. The roast pork was seasoned beautifully. The roast meat counter was up in front, by the door, so we saw that the restaurant relies on the microwave to heat up the roast meats instead of having the heat lamps. Despite this, the roast pork crackling was still crunchy. Impressive.

I came here for the hor fun because my friend said the wok hei here is good, and you know what? She’s absolutely right. Not many places get the wok hei right, even in Singapore. If I had to nitpick, it would be that the restaurant used kuay teow instead of proper hor fun, but that’s just me saying because I love love love hor fun.

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Europe city hopping: London 2017 (accommodation edition)

We needed to stay near Liverpool Street station because of our early flight at Stansted Airport on Easter Monday, and Leman Locke was my choice of accommodation. It is a new establishment that had opened recently and already has close to perfect ratings on various hotel booking sites.

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The rooms all come with a well-equipped Smeg kitchenette (toaster, dishwasher, stove, oven, microwave, full fridge) and a welcome care pack was also provided (a bottle of drinking water and a small bottle of milk in the fridge, T2 teas, the little coffee bag co coffee bags, some sugar sticks and Doisy & Dam chocolate bar). By the way, the little coffee bag co blend no. 1 reminded us very much of the local kopi in Singapore! As it was brewing, I casually mentioned how much it smelt like the instant kopi-O that my MIL likes and ZH agrees! He says it tastes like it too.

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The bathroom was outfitted with modern Grohe fittings (woo hoo rainshower!), heated towel rails and mirror. Basic toiletries were also provided (yummy-sounding salted caramel haircare, Himalayan hibiscus shower gel from Kinsey Apothecary).

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The bed is a comfortable Queen (I think…) which was perfect for a good night’s rest after touring the various London sights. There is also a separate living area which social media fans would love because of the famous pink L-shaped sofa. Really, just search for “lemanlocke” hashtag on Instagram and you’ll see many pictures of the cute pink sofa! It was quite comfortable for us to just chill on it and watch K-drama on our tablet. When it got a little chilly, just wrap yourself in the lamb wool shawl that Leman Locke has kindly provided in each room.

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Should you need to wash or iron your clothes, they also have a washer & dryer and ironing board in the room (they also provide washing tablets, so there’s no need to bring your own, unless you’re particular about the brand).

We did not use the Smart TV in the room though because our device does not support mirroring and the free channels did not interest us much.

There were several well-located powerpoints in the room, so there’s no need to fight over who gets to charge their phone first. Leman Locke has also conveniently provided USB charging points so you can just plug in your USB charging cable without the need for an adaptor to the wall socket. For those coming from Europe, do note that UK uses a different plug, and the front desk do not provide any travel adaptor. I had brought a hair iron from Germany (EU plug) and so needed to borrow a travel adaptor, which the front desk staff told me they do not have any. It was only on my last evening that my husband found, by accident, that there was ONE single wall socket that was for EU plugs. I wonder why the staff did not tell me that…

Leman Locke is marketed as a service apartment and therefore they do not offer daily cleaning services. Well, they do actually, for a fee. Otherwise, they clean the rooms every 7 days, and clear the trash from your room every 3-4 days.

If you like any of the items they have kindly provided (toiletries, shawl etc), you’ll be glad to know that Leman Locke also sells them!

Europe city hopping: Cologne & Bonn

At the end of January, we made a weekend trip to Cologne and Bonn. It was a quick trip because I had to be in Cologne for a trade show on the following Monday, and so we decided to spend the weekend there since ZH has not been there before, and my previous trips to Cologne and Bonn were work trips (meaning, I only saw the hotel room and customers’ offices).

Thankfully, Bremen and Cologne were connected via a direct route and we were able to arrive at our destination comfortably without any hiccups. I had booked our accommodation via Airbnb as most hotels were fully booked due to the trade show. The apartment was located near the Basilica of St. Ursula which was a short 2 min walk from the Cologne HBF.

While in Cologne, we were mainly walking around a rough agenda that we had planned. Cologne is well known for its many art museums but since we already know from our Amsterdam experience that we don’t know how to appreciate art, we decided to skip out on all the art museums.

As it was already past noon when we checked into our accommodation, we decided to head to the Mustard Museum for lunch as I had read that you can taste several different varieties of mustard at the museum and also enjoy a sausage with your choice of mustard sauce. I told my family that we were in Cologne and going to visit a mustard museum and my sister was surprised that there’s even a museum for mustard sauce. We were too, and that’s why we decided to visit it! It was about 30 minutes’ walk from our apartment to the museum but thankfully it was along the river and we were blessed with good weather that day (by good, I mean blue skies and not too cold, maybe around 8 degrees), so it was a lovely stroll.

Though we liked some other flavors that were for sale, we bought a jar of (boring) honey mustard at the museum to enjoy at home because the mustards were sold in large ceramic pots and I can only foresee ourselves enjoying honey mustard without getting bored before the jar is finished. It’s a pity that they don’t sell sample sizes or variety gift packs because the large sizes meant that you must really love mustard in order to finish one jar.

After the mini lunch, we crossed over to the Chocolate Museum but we only went to the Chocolate Shop because we have been to many Chocolate Museums in other countries and so we didn’t want to pay 9 Euros each for things that we have seen before. There were some interesting chocolate products in the shop and I got this Madagascan chocolate bar with sea salt and cocoa nibs but sadly it wasn’t really tasty.

On the way back to the apartment, we made several stops along the way to view some churches and Roman architecture. We also made a pit stop at the Cologne Cathedral but didn’t stay for too long as it was crowded inside with tourists, and outside with a demonstration going on.

The left picture below is the Hahnentorburg or the west gate in Cologne. It was part of the medieval city wall that once circled round Cologne. The picture on the right shows the old town hall, it is the oldest building in Cologne and has different architectural influences all in one building. Interesting.

On Sunday, we traveled to Bonn where we met up with a friend I had met while learning German in Singapore. Like me, she moved to Germany because her husband had found work in Germany. These men… they had better appreciate all the sacrifices their missuses have done for them! I do not know the lady that well, but I guess you bond naturally with your fellow countrymen when you’re longing for home. The TehSee couple (as they are commonly known among their friends) brought us around Bonn, showing us some tourist attractions such as the birthplace of Beethoven and even brought us for a short hike up the Drachenfels hills – it was a tough walk up but the view overlooking the Bonn city was gorgeous.

We then had steamboat dinner at their place as it was the first day of the Chinese New Year, and nothing signifies better than steamboat! They had put in so much effort in preparation of the food… TehSee had gone to 2 different Asian supermarkets to gather all the ingredients. We had flower crabs (! I was very surprised), salmon fish, mussels, fish balls, meat balls, tofu, kang kong vegetables, mushrooms. They even prepared a dual hotpot so we could have the choice of spicy tom yum soup or chicken broth. Talk about putting in effort! Kudos. Why don’t we have more options for Asian food like they do… 😦

Europe city hopping: Prague (accommodation edition)

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Hotels.com. I have been using the website to book my travel accommodation for a couple of years now and I like that they have this reward system that gives you a free night stay after completing 10 nights on their site. After using the site for 2 years now, I finally received my first free night (oh yeah!) which I used for Prague.

We stayed at Mamaison Riverside Prague on our first night in Prague because the value of my free night was calculated at around SGD150. Being the greedy Singaporean I am, I booked us a junior suite room to maximize the value, and then we moved to another service apartment nearby which was only about SGD60 a night.

The check in procedure at Mamaison was prompt and friendly. Our room was not ready when we arrived so we had to wait for a couple of minutes at the bar. Not a big deal as we used the time to catch our breath and decide where to go next. We were then assigned our room which was located on the top floor. Then the staff told us “the lift is not working now, it is under repair”. I thought he would help us with our luggage, but no. He just turned and walked back to the office, leaving us to carry our luggage up 6 stories. Granted, we had a relatively light luggage (only one cabin piece), but still! At that moment, I was thanking myself that we had packed light for the trip.

Upon entering the room, I was drawn by the view at the balcony. It faces the Prague Old Town and it being located by the riverside, means you get unobstructed views. The rest of the room was huge and modern (except the TV). They had a coffee machine as well. The sleeping area was carpeted so you might want to bring your own bedroom slippers if you’re finicky like me.

Though the lift was under repairs when we checked in, thankfully it was working by the time we left the hotel an hour later to explore the town, so we didn’t have to climb the stairs again when we returned. The location of the hotel was 10 mins walk from Café Savoy, and 30 mins walk to Old Town.


Our second accommodation for the trip was MH Apartments Riverside, 10 mins walk from Mamaison, further away from Old Town, but it was only 300m to Andel subway station. You can also catch the trams to the city centre from outside MH Apartments.

MH Apartments had recently opened its new location at Andel and so everything was new, modern and in working condition. For the price of SGD70 a night, it was excellent value for money. We got a one bedroom apartment which included a living area and a small but well-equipped kitchen. The management had very thoughtfully included a cleaning pack for their guests so you have fresh dishcloths, dish detergent, clothes detergent, and tea towels.

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The kitchen also had almost everything you’ll need for simple meals: pots, pans, cooking utensils, cutlery etc. The amount of cutlery was sufficient for the 2 of us for 3 meals, so we only had to operate the dishwasher once after accumulating everything.

In the bedroom, there were two single beds put together to form a double bed – this is common for Europe. Gosh I could go on and on about how soft the European pillows are, but thankfully MH Apartments had provided two pillows per person, and with different firmness so I was spared a sore neck for this holiday. Bath towels were also provided, and extras were also available at the wardrobe area, so you won’t need to call them for a change of towels. By the way, there is no front desk at this service apartment chain. Check in is done self-service, via a machine. Super cool!

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The bathroom was nice and cosy, and they had a heating towel rack!! Our favorite because nothing beats warm, fluffy towels after a nice rain shower (toilet fittings by Grohe!).

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By now, you should be able to guess which of the two accommodations is my favorite. MH Apartments wins the award, hands-down, no need to consider and mull over my decision. At only SGD60-70 a night, fantastic location and amenities, it’s a steal!

Europe city hopping: Greifswald

A couple of weeks ago, we rented a car and visited Max in Greifswald. He is now doing his internship there with a firm that builds yachts. Figures, since Greifswald is just next to the Baltic Sea so the yachts can be built and docked at the harbour there.

Greifswald

I’m glad that Max is living there now so that we had the chance to visit the place and take in its beauty. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come across this beautiful town.

Greifswald is about 3.5 hours drive away from Bremen, and the place is definitely bigger than where I work. Haha, the town I work in is surrounded by fields and greenery, very different from Greifswald.

Max cooked us a lovely German lunch – authentic schnitzel, and we had a BBQ dinner. German style too, with sausages, pork steaks, bell pepper, mushrooms, gyros skewers and German potato salad. 2016-07-02 18.48.342016-07-02 12.35.01

He brought us to the beach, to the harbour and the city centre, plus a large MarktKauf where I managed to find my Alpro “hazelnuss milch”. I immediately bought 6 packs of the plant milk since it’s quite difficult to find it in Bremen and my work town, plus some of my favorite vegan cheese and I tried a new vegan cream cheese.

Such a pity that we only stayed for 24 hours since it’s a long drive home, because I would love to just soak in the warm atmosphere at the beach. It was also nice seeing Max again. Hopefully we will be able to see each other soon again. The lovers (Max and ZH) need to reunite (internal joke).

Europe city hopping: Dresden

On a whim last year, we decided to go to Dresden – to visit the Christmas markets. On hindsight, visiting a city just for the Christmas markets is probably a bad idea especially when we have a good Xmas market in our own “backyard”, but still it was fun going on a roadtrip with the husband. 🙂

Our German friend (Hi Max again!) strongly recommends us to take the coach bus when traveling, instead of DBahn and so we tried taking the bus for the first time. It took us close to 8 hours on the bus, one way, and thank goodness I fall asleep easily when I’m commuting because Mr Goh was bored to tears. I think I’ll need to pack in some snacks and coloring books for him in future. Haha! Maybe load a few cartoons on the tablet too.

We stayed at DJH since we didn’t want to spend too much. Location was about 10-15 minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof and relatively near to the attractions like the Zwinger Palace and the Frauenkirche. However we found that the hostel was filled with migrants/refugees, and they were all hanging out in the corridors for better Wi-Fi signals.

The main purpose for the Dresden trip – the Christmas markets – were super crowded and had a lot to offer. Obviously the food was a main draw for us since we do not celebrate Christmas and thus no Christmas tree and no need for Christmas decorations. But we did get a couple of pouches of scented soap shavings as I refused to leave Dresden without a souvenir. HAHAHA! Those scented soaps are now in the wardrobe, gently “infusing” my clothes. I think it’s a pretty good souvenir because I get a whiff of the scent every time I open the wardrobe doors and I get reminded of Dresden.

The weather then was really cold and wet (mid December), and I needed something to warm me up. Having learnt my lesson at Hamburg (I do not appreciate alcohol), I opted to have the non-alcohol warm apple punch drink. We also had a fried Mexican pie (I think they were called empanadas?), filled with spinach and cheese. It was yummy (say it with me: “all deep fried foods are yummy”) but not very good for me since I cannot take dairy products due to my allergy.

It was a short trip that we took since we arrived in Dresden around 2pm on a Saturday, and had to leave at 11am Sunday, so we didn’t have much time to travel around. But if we do have a chance to revisit Dresden, I would definitely do so in a different season (I guess spring would be nice) when the operating hours of attractions are longer, and I wanna visit the Hygiene Museum!