Pies & Coffee, Robertson Walk

Did a staycation over the weekend at the Swissotel Merchant Court, for a change, since the last few times we went to Swissotel the Stamford as well as Fairmont. I think I was grousing a little too much, so sorry about it. These days, I seem to be feeling easily irritable and annoyed; maybe not just “these days” but it has been like this for a while and it can get really tough keeping a lot of such emotions in check.

Nevertheless, moving on along… We didn’t go to the Ellenborough Market Cafe, which is what Merchant Court Hotel is well-known for. I can’t remember what it is about the cafe that draws the crowds, my friend said they have a pretty good Peranakan buffet spread for high-tea, but even at dinner times, they are rather full.

On this particular staycation, we hit the right notes most of the times with the food choices we picked. One of them was the last, which happened to be Sunday brunch. I was actually rather keen on having a buffet breakfast at the hotel especially since I am an early riser and would have liked to have breakfast early before the crowds start thronging the place but since it’s Sunday, it is supposed to be a sleep-in day. So we made it out for lunch on this warm and very sunny late morning, to Robertson Walk nearby. It is about a kilometre walk away from Merchant Court, very manageable but probably not so for people who can’t take the heat and humidity of walking under the sun.

Pies & Coffee was where we were headed for, and was the last thing I remembered talking about before I dozed off the night before. They have expanded since the first time I came across this place at Rochester area, and also I almost popped in at the outlet located at Centrepoint recently but eventually I gave it a pass, for something else.

My friend ordered the Sun Riser, which is a pair of pie bases, or probably they look more like tart bases as compared to pie bases that I would expect to be more flaky. These contained an egg each with a runny yolk, and beneath that, there are other ingredients like ham and sausages I think. I thought the presentation was really cute, and my first impression was that it’s a bear-face. Until I realise it’s all four corners that are nipped and not just two. Haha. My friend finished them in a jiffy, which would probably suggest its yumminess.
The Sun Riser, if ordered as part of the breakfast set, comes with either a glass of cloudy apple or orange juice, and topping up a dollar gets you an additional cup of coffee or tea.  I opted for safer choices, i.e. pies, since this is what the place is known for, by its name I thought and because the other breakfast items didn’t particularly appeal to me since I am not a big fan of scrambled eggs or sausages, etc. Between the Curry Chicken Charcoal Pie and the pie of the month, i.e. the Minced Chicken Basil Pie, I chose the latter, thinking of how they would take on the popular Thai dish, basil chicken. All savoury pies are served with a portion of salad and mashed potatoes.  The pie is fairly substantial, for me at least, but it’s not overwhelmingly huge that would leave you totally stuffed. I liked the minced chicken which did resemble Thai Chicken Basil but it could have been better with a more distinctive basil flavour as I didn’t really notice the basil notes in the taste. What I liked though is that the pie skin was not thick, so it’s really more about the filling than the crust and base, which also wasn’t too dry/flaky or oily. The mashed potato was also quite nicely-done, with palpable potato chunks that my friend commented suggested it’s made from real potatoes instead of powdered mash. So it’s quality food that we are paying for, at S$11.20 per pie with the sides.  Along with the pie, a long black goes well to complement the taste, and it’s a good strong cup of brew that is served with a small piece of biscotti.

There are about 10 or more different flavours of pies available, and in addition there is a breakfast menu to choose from. On top of that, there is a full display case of cakes, muffins and scones that had us totally spoilt for choice. I already know that I would be heading back again, and in the next visit, I would order something sweet instead, because the loaf cakes are just screaming at my sweet tooth.

Thank You, to the one who made Singapore possible

I’m sure there are plenty of tributes all over the blogosphere, dedicated to the man who is also known as the Founding Father of modern Singapore. Most of us are deeply saddened at his passing, despite that he had lived a great and fulfilling life. I guess we feel a big sense of loss because knowing all that he had done for us, devoting much of his life to building Singapore, there can never be a second person who would come close, at least not in our opinion, for many years to come.

It is also with him leaving us that many of us get to know him better, his accomplishments and achievements, and learn that he is pretty much a misunderstood politician. I am never a keen follower of politics, and ashamed as I am to say that I do not really know a lot of the who’s who in our local government, it is just a personal preference to not take an interest in it. The only times I was ever involved were just in recent times when I had to take part in one presidential election, and the most recent General Election where the constituency I have lived in my whole life was being contested. So you can imagine how apathetic I am politically. Throughout the week which was called the National Mourning week… regular TV programmes were disrupted and in their place, features of Mr Lee were aired, showing snippets of speeches that he made, interviews that he gave and chronicles of his life. I learned a great deal about him that I never knew, and even though right after his funeral was over, on Monday morning, I started griping about the train delays again, I am still thankful to him and grateful for what we have here in Singapore that I call home.When I think back, all that we have now culminated from the policies of this one man, who became the first Prime Minister of Singapore at an age that is even younger than what I am now. How does someone have such lofty aspirations to want to build a better Singapore, when at this stage of my life, I am still drifting aimlessly in life, grousing about trivial things daily. I suppose that is the mark of distinction of people who are destined for big things.

Housing, bilingualism, clean potable water from taps, an armed forces, a generally well-connected and efficient transportation system, world-renowned airline, airport, etc. There are so many things, if not everything, that he had dabbled in to bring forth. Even without having the experience of living overseas, business trips that had led me to various parts of the world outside of the usual holiday destinations make me appreciate the convenience and safety of Singapore.

I missed the opportunity to head down to the Parliament House on a couple of occasions and was feeling extremely disappointed and uneasy. On Saturday, I made up my mind to go early in the morning to pay my last respects to this great man but was dismayed when I awoke to know that the queue had been suspended from Friday night. I headed down instead to Tanjong Pagar Community Centre to write a tribute to him, joined a file of people and bowed to his portrait.

After a yoga class, while I was having coffee, I read that the queue had re-opened at 615am, just right after I went to the TPCC. My heart was undecided but finally I went ahead with my heart’s desire, finished my coffee and muffin in a jiffy, and hopped on down to City Hall. It was a balmy and humid afternoon, with rain clouds threatening above. As I joined the steady stream of people all headed in the same direction, I overtook many as I brisk-walked along the route that took me from the exit of City Hall MRT opposite the former Capitol Building, along the street across from Raffles City to the Padang to the Esplanade, past it, all the way to the floating platform where we looped back along the Esplanade. I came to a half somewhere after emerging from beneath the Esplanade bridge (or whatever that was called). By that time, sweat was trickling down my temple and sides of my neck. For someone who doesn’t perspire that easily these days, I could only imagine the speed at which I had been trudging along. The queue inched slowly forward, but all through the route from the Padang, lots of volunteers lined the way distributing sustenance of food and beverages. Some even went as far as cheering us on, while we struggled to catch some fresh air to prevent ourselves from fainting.

The queue was unbearable despite that there wasn’t much of the scorching sun for most parts of it that day, not like what some others went through. There was some drizzle when I reached the Asian Civilisations Museum, but compared to the downpour that drenched those on Sunday, the drizzle was really a walk in the park.

Finally, after what felt like forever but was just about 2 hours, I arrived outside the Parliament House.

From that point, everything happened in lightning speed. In 2 files, we made a procession past where Lee Kuan Yew laid. I was in a daze, that as I passed I slowed a little but missed to stop and bow. I really regretted not doing that but at that point I only thought about moving on so that others could also come in to pay their last respects. As I exited the solemn hall, it hit me what I didn’t do. But I could no longer head back in.

It’s just like that with life, sometimes when we pass over something that we had considered doing but ended up not doing, there is no turning back. That is why there are always people telling us about the importance of seizing the moment and living in the here and now.

It was a sad week for many of us, and indeed I felt down but I didn’t go as far as shedding tears, even if I consider myself to be somewhat emotional these days. Perhaps it is a different kind of loss that I am mourning, thinking about what would lie ahead for us now that we have lost someone so vital to the development of Singapore, even if not all his policies and decisions were right. It was different as compared to earlier this year when my grandmother passed away; even if we weren’t as close as compared to the relationship I had with my maternal grandmother, it was heart-breaking when I saw her for the last time, lying in the coffin with her eyes closed for the last time, with pale pallid skin replete with wrinkles, a far cry from how I remembered her to be. Then, it was a 3-day wake that I attended and during the funeral as we trailed behind her cortege, I couldn’t help but break down as I thought about how we are now separated by life and death.

Anyway, Mr Lee’s passing caused me to reflect on a lot of things. I don’t know if these reflections will amount to any tangible actions but I hope it will make me more appreciative of things, be thankful of the things that I have, and learn how to live a better life.

Singapore will always be my home, whether or not I complain about its everything. I don’t believe in leaving and migrating because somewhere else is better off than here. We aren’t necessarily the best but because this is where we were born and grew up in, it’s where we belong and should work to make it better for ourselves.

Radio Silence

I just saw that it has been more than a month since I last posted. And for some reason, this blog has morphed into a tired food journal. I try to be current in terms of some of the cafes and maybe occasional restaurants that I visit, sometimes from the occasional holiday I try to fit in to satiate the wanderlust in me, yet the effort is getting to be too much these days. I am constantly tired, and would rather just stare at the computer monitor playing mindless games of Bejewelled Blitz instead of doing something more productive, a very good example of which would be to update the blog. Not so much because it needs to be updated but because writing was something that I counted as a passion. I don’t know if I still consider it to be because I hardly want to these days and for lack of things that I want to really write about.

The blog was meant to be a repository of the many thoughts that never leave my grey matter but which may or may not make it into verbalised form. But then there are times when I start to feel a little uncomfortable with penning these down because much as I know I have limited readership here, I never know whose eyes could be watching.

I’m not sure how much longer I would remain silent or would I ever want to revive this blog. I really don’t want to quit and give it up because it is part that I consider to be what gives some life to me. Perhaps it is just me taking an extended break from here while I try to sort out my life, whether I am actually doing anything but I believe that things will change for the better and things can only get better.

Coffee Assembly, Hong Kong

Took us a while to locate this quaint and cosy little cafe situated somewhere in the mid-levels, or actually I don’t really know which area of Central that is considered. Its address said Elgin Street, but we were not able to find it despite walking to the end of Elgin Street and seeing a unit number that was larger than what the cafe is. Turns out the street continued further down, not directly across from an intersecting point but a little off the main Elgin Street that we were walking on. Talk about being confused by the myriad of criss-crossing streets in the SOHO area!

So anyway, it is on a second level, and there is a small signage that you could easily miss if you are not keeping a lookout for it. Turns out, this cafe opens at fairly weird timings. The day that we decided to pop by, which was a Thursday, it supposedly only opens its doors for business at 1pm. It was just about 1pm when we knocked and a lady, presumably the boss, opened the door to greet us and welcomed us in, but informed us that there was no food available.

We were fine with that since we thought about getting food later on, post-coffee that is, and since we were all still quite full (except me perhaps) from the morning’s food.

These were our drinks. Flat white, soy latte and cappuccino? Or perhaps there was a mocha instead of the cap. The latte art showed the painstaking effort put in by the lady boss to make it good. But our only gripe was that it took a little too long. The interval between two beverages could be 10 minutes, or perhaps more. And we were the only customers. At least when we arrived it was just us, then another two pop in and one lady got really frustrated waiting for her coffee.IMG_1468

I suppose maybe the main intent of this cafe wasn’t for the sake of profiteering but probably it grew out of a passion for coffee and managing a cafe? Although it was stated that they open at 1pm, it was pretty evident that nothing was really ready at 1pm. It took a long while to set things up, to prepare the coffee and froth the milk for the latte art. For holiday-makers like us without an itinerary and a rush for time, we were quite alright with waiting as we chatted and caught up with each other. But for people who are there for a post-lunch cuppa, I think the pace here would take a toll on the customer who may be strapped for time in needing to get the coffee and head back to the office.IMG_1469Nevertheless, we still enjoyed ourselves, basking in the enjoyment and idyllic wait of people on vacation, so this would be a good spot to visit if you have time to spare and wouldn’t mind just sitting and waiting as you tuck into the selection of magazines available.

Spontaneity

And so it was a very last minute decision, as usual, that took me to Hong Kong last month. Some people probably think I’m nuts, for in 2014 I had already made 2 trips to Hong Kong, albeit fairly short ones, the first over a long weekend during Good Friday in April, and another 4-day trip in the middle of December. So why did I go to Hong Kong again just barely a month after?

It was a trip that started out planned for 2 persons and I was just the extra party who butted my way in because it seemed like such a great opportunity to rebuild a lost connection and forge something new among 3 friends, as well as an excuse for me to travel again. I really miss travelling, which is pretty evident from the several short trips that I had done over the course of 2014. No doubt that most were very short holidays and booked on the spur of the moment, they nevertheless betrayed my growing desire to hit the road once more.

Some people say, “Be careful what you wish for” and perhaps that is indeed an apt description for what happened to me. I got tired of it at a point, it wore me out and I wanted out, and I did get out. Yet just shortly out of it, I already started to miss it and the feeling just grew and grew.

Anyway, it was a trip characterised by a slow and easy pace. We didn’t do much other than just laze the days away in cafes and eateries, even though we did not eventually check out as many cafes as we might have liked to. We did finally do something new though, like visit Tai O for a short couple of hours, a small village located somewhere to the western part of Lantau Island. It’s thronged with visitors, possibly mostly tourists so it might have lost its once initial laid-back charm but as compared to the areas of Hong Kong we frequent, this definitely contrasts starkly. The weather was still nice and cool, cold even for me, but generally fair and dry, perfect for traipsing around.IMG_1456What I realised though, after the trip, as well as from other similar experiences, is that once something is broken, although it can be mended, things will never be the same again. There would always be that scar and blemish of cracks that can’t be healed and restored.

Looking at this picture and reminiscing the holiday, wanderlust is striking me once more. I probably need a protracted period of rest and break to get my jive back. Whatever that is. I want to feel my passion to write and the words to flow once again, but the effort seems too great these days.

Weekends are supposed to be…

Happy times. Yet this weekend somehow didn’t start out well and didn’t really proceed well.

When you get used to something and that something somehow doesn’t happen, it’s a disappointment that I can’t really conceal yet it hurts pretty much. That you don’t really matter.

When what you thought would be a good catch up ended up in a bout of frustration because everything said seemed to earn a cutting rebuttal that slices deep, making me feel small and insignificant, petty and whatnot.

What happened along the way. What is all this I’m going through? Yes it is tiring and I do wish I can put an end to everything, once and for all. I’m tired too, consciously or not.

gaining and losing

As time passes and life events occur in an individual’s life, some people who are not going with the usual flow of things inevitably get left behind.

Sometimes it does indeed feel that way.

With some, we try to reconnect and are successful for a while, with others it just becomes futile.