Beer Market, Clarke Quay

I love cool days. But I don’t really appreciate it when it’s an evening when I am headed out and the weather decides not to hold up properly. Last night being a Friday evening when I was headed to where I needed to be out in the open (at least for a short duration to walk from MRT to wherever), it rained rather heavily and continued for a relatively long period of time.

Although the plan was to meet around 7pm, we were stuck in Central Mall, like many others who had perhaps also planned to head over to Clarke Quay that is on the opposite side of the river. I think the rain only let up a little around 9pm, when we made our way across the bridge, and yes I had a jacket for cover because K so nicely offered it. Thanks!

It was my first time at Beer Market, where Penny Lane the Band was playing, from 10:30pm, so we had plenty of time before they start. But the thing about weekends and live bands is that, usually these bands don’t start playing till late, and to make sure you get a seat, and especially a decent seat, you have to be really early, maybe a couple of hours or more ahead. That is the part I don’t like. Since we got there late, we only got a seat that was way inside, so from where we were, we could not see the band at all. Beer Market has a curved interior, and the band is situated nearer to the entrance, while we were at the other far-flung end. That kind of sucked because the whole idea, for me, of going to places with live gigs, is that I get to at least see the band when they are playing, doesn’t matter if I am not exactly close by. We ended up just listening to the band when they play, and the rest of the time watching the excruciating Olympics semi-final tennis match between Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro. I can’t believe that they played non-stop for almost 4.5 hours, with the last set going to Federer at 19-17. I got tired watching, and can just imagine how exhausted the players must be at the end of it, especially the one who lost.

Aside from the layout that I wasn’t very satisfied with, it also makes for the people who can’t see the band unable to show their appreciation. Mostly, when live bands play, the audience will clap, cheer, etc. Here it is just not possible, and I don’t know if there were anyone who actually clapped, because needless to say we can’t tell from where we were. I thought it’s polite to clap for the band when they play.

Drinks were relatively pricey too, because they go by half-hour trading blocks. If a drink was popular during the next block the price would go up. I don’t really know how it works but from the few hours we were there, prices of almost all beers went up, and I don’t really know if there were really so many people drinking beer, because I saw quite a lot of tables with bottles of hard liquor. Hmm.

But maybe I will go back there again in future, I don’t know. I like the band, and I think the place is generally spacious, I just have to be earlier the next time.

Golden fries. These were served with a wasabi-mayo sauce or the likes. It has a slight wasabi taste but was overall a little sweet. I would have preferred if the wasabi was stronger. The menu also serves up other things like chicken wings, pizza, calamari, etc. The table next to us ordered cajun fries and the smell was so overwhelming! Perhaps the taste as well because they didn’t finish even half of it, but well not everyone is a carbo/potato-lover like me, especially those who are weight-conscious!

my kryptonite

Some of the things I can never say “No” to, even though maybe these days I have become a little better at resisting the temptations, or maybe circumstances have made it easier to turn away.

Does Wala Wala not serve Kronenbourg Blanc anymore? The last time I was there, it wasn’t on the menu anymore, instead a sticker was pasted over it that read Grimbergen Blanche, or something like that. I didn’t like it as much because obviously it tasted different, more like the usual white beer of other brands and definitely without the fruity flavour that was what drew me to K.Blanc in the first place. Tried Kronenbourg 1664 too and reaffirmed my opinion that I still do not like it.

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One of our favourite bar grub, porkys! Sinful and most likely unhealthy, but another of my weakness is carbohydrates. I am a major carbo freak, which is also a reason why I haven’t been very successful where weight loss/dieting is concerned. I compensate for any exercise done by overloading on carbs whenever I have the chance. Hrmmm. But porkys are really fantastic, even better than the polenta chicken bits that I usually order at Acid Bar (because they don’t have porkys).

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The biggest of them all, the mother of all carbo-weakness for me, would be french fries. Deep fried to a golden brown… how can I ever say no? I am quite partial towards french fries, and generally I enjoy fries from most places but the ones I am extremely fond of are of the shoe-string variety. Walas does fries rather nicely, so does Paulaner at Millenia, Brotzeit, Brewerkz and P.S. Cafe (their truffle fries are TDF). But according to my friend, sometimes these fries are fried in ‘old’ oil, i.e. oil that has been re-used numerous times, making the fries taste a little stale. I didn’t really know what she meant initially, but I think I know now. Fries fried in fresh oil, or at least oil that isn’t too ‘old’, really do taste better.

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I know sometimes we think that fries with wine is an odd combination but when we don’t feel like having beer and would like to have wine instead, what’s to stop us from sipping wine and munching on fries? It’s all meant to be a moment of enjoyment anyway right? Even if there are days when we would do the usual wine-and-cheese, but it’s not everyday that I feel like having cheese. Fries, on the other hand, do not require seasons or reasons.

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sundays are meant for chilling

Finally had a chance to visit the Starbucks outlet located at Duddell Street. I had read about this place sometime ago, and recently a friend who visited Hong Kong posted some pictures of it as well. Since I was staying not too far from this area I thought I’d pop by, and I did on Friday afternoon but was short of flabbergasted that it was packed with people. Don’t people need to work on Friday afternoons?

Sunday morning was probably when most people are elsewhere, attending church service or maybe just lazing in bed but at about 10am, Duddell Street was a picture of tranquility with some random pedestrians. The street above was where they filmed a movie starring Daniel Wu, Louis Koo and Gao Yuan Yuan (called… I cannot remember the title now), which was what my friend was trying to tell me about but I just brushed her off then and said, Daniel Wu and Louis Koo filmed many shows together, until I think she mentioned Gao Yuan Yuan, or at some point I started to recall because I watched that show twice, once at the cinema and a second time on the plane.

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I’m sure this also forms the backdrop for many other HK dramas and movies. The entrance to the Starbucks is in the middle section of the stairway on the right, total non-descript and easily missed if not for the signature green logo trying desperately to scream for attention amidst the distraction from the apparent grandeur of the stairway and the pair of lamps at either end.

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This was what you enter into, a vast space from that tiny opening in the wall. This was the part that resembles almost every other Starbucks on the planet, with the pictures hung on the walls and couches/sofas.

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Further inside after the service counter was where the charm of this outlet lie. This is the very first Starbucks outlet in Hong Kong, and I think they have probably conserved the furniture or at least its decor to mirror the outlet back then, perhaps. I haven’t done adequate research on this. But it was unusual to be seeing such furniture and interior decor within a Starbucks, so you can imagine this is where a lot of tourists come to take pictures. Actually I think they (or myself) can find equally interestingly-decorated Starbucks outlets elsewhere in the world, or at least exterior facades (such as those in Beijing, China) so if I do see some of these I’ll try to take some pictures too.

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The place didn’t really fill up while we were there although it gradually started to see a steadier stream of customers as compared to when I arrived at 10am where only a couple of tables were occupied.

After having our fill of breakfast and coffee, we headed across to Kowloon side to check out Harbour City. Even though it was still before noon and I suspect most of the HK population were still either at church or having their Sunday brunches, Harbour City was already brimming with activity from the tourists who have come early to shop. It still wasn’t too crowded, but there were already queues at the fitting rooms. Go figure.

Stepped out of the air-conditioned mall to snap a picture of the harbour area and as much as the sky looks gloomy it was rather humid and warm so it wasn’t a short while later before we escaped back into cool comfort. Harbour City is a nice place to shop at, decked out with numerous high-street brands, luxury brands and with some eateries. The variety of shops isn’t too bad and at one end of it nearer to the harbour there is even an area with possibly most of the skincare/cosmetic brands you can think of. And the best part is that you don’t even need to step outside as you walk/shop from one end to the other so you can safely protected from the elements. If you’re interested, there is a City Super on level 3 too, with some other small eateries in addition to the restaurants on the other levels, and there are also several lifestyle shops on level 3.

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After walking around Harbour City for a while, we got a little tired and stepped out. It was warm and the place was starting to get really crowded so we went to this place called Heritage 1881 (I think). It has a very colonial feel so I guess these buildings are conserved, and there are a number of high-end boutiques in that area. Some couples were having their wedding photos taken (yes in that kind of heat no less) and of course a lot of other tourists too. We went up to the third level where many people were having their Sunday champagne brunch (price seems rather reasonable) at The Parlour, but we were just gonna be having a small tea break so it was just coffee and tea and a cake.

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This cake is nice, flaky on the crusty parts and juxtaposed with the creaminess of the sandwiched filling and small blob of ice cream.

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Decided to leave Tsim Sha Tsui thereafter and headed back to Causeway Bay, where we settled into Inside Out Bar nearby for some beer, peanuts and fries. By then it was about early evening and the air had grown a little cooler; it was nice to be sitting and chatting mindlessly and freely over beer, as was what a lot of other folks were doing.

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Somehow in Singapore, drinking usually seems like a nocturnal activity and typically Sundays tend to be alcohol-free. Maybe that’s just me stereotyping the Singaporean lifestyle based on what I see and do, as I don’t usually do drinks on Sundays, but it doesn’t seem as common. Here at Inside Out, the place was abuzz with activity on a late afternoon and everyone was chilling out over beer or cocktails. The Sunday evening was also a prelude to me heading back home and saying goodbye to my friend working in HK. Saying goodbye always feel a tad sad even if we have all gotten so mobile and it shouldn’t be long before we get to meet again but maybe I just didn’t want to bid adieu to my short vacation.

we are young. or so we hope to be.

Special edition Apple Caramel cake. Spot the dried cranberries and it’s sea-salt cream cheese coating on the cake. Extremely yummy but equally sinful. Good things seldom come in healthy proportions.

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Kronenbourg Blanc was dry. Kronenbourg 1664 doesn’t taste as good but we have to make do at some point. Grimbergen Blanche comes close but is nevertheless still different. Less fruity and tastes like any other weiss bier methinks.

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Hello porkys and hello late-night carbo-loading. Still one of the best bar grub ever. Second to shoe-string fries, if they are not deep-fried in oil that is too old. Not really a chicken wing person but I can acquiesce sometimes.

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oddity of the elements

It has been raining on and off pretty much but like a friend tweeted, it’s weird that it is still very warm and humid. Truth is, that’s the way our climate is I suppose. Even if it’s raining heavily, by the time the rain stops and the earth dries up, and the sun emerges from behind the clouds, the entire atmosphere will start to warm up. I miss times abroad when in bright scorching sunshine, the temperature is still at a biting 2 degrees celsius.

This morning it started raining way before the sun rose, and even when it was time to leave the house for work it was still raining rather heavily. I’d resolve to minimise, as much as possible, my incidences of cabbing to work. It isn’t expensive to take a taxi to work from home, and since I don’t do it everyday it certainly is manageable, but I would still like to have it more as a luxury than the norm. But with that kind of rain we see, it’s quite off-putting just to think of taking the bus to work and having to walk the long way to the office, because I know the legs of my trousers and my shoes will just get wet.

So… Oktoberfest! I told my friends we are not people who need any valid reasons to drink. We are not alcoholics but somehow it has become a part of our lives to have alcohol on-and-off. There are just so many things we can do in little sunny Singapore.

Off it was to Paulaner for drinks on an early Sunday evening. I’ve come to really like evening times, dusk to be exact, when the sun is setting and just before it disappears completely beyond the horizon. But as with most beautiful things, it is always too fleeting, just like how ice, cold beer doesn’t stay that way for long. Beer that isn’t cold just tastes bad.

This was the special brew for the Oktoberfest; I still prefer the usual lighter golden-coloured one that always order but we just thought we’d give this a try.

She said she was very hungry, so we ordered a Bavarian pretzel in addition to the sausage sampler platter. It was almost tasteless, though rather chewy, and oddly with salt grains.

And the sausages. They are actually quite oily, and if I remember correctly, Brotzeit serves nicer sausages. We actually were deliberating between Brotzeit and Paulaner but I picked the latter eventually because I hadn’t been to Millennia Walk in a while and I found Raffles City area a little too congested and busy.

Read this the other day: “If someone wants to be a part of your life, they’ll make an effort to be in it. So don’t bother reserving a space in your heart for someone who doesn’t make an effort to stay.” So everyone should do their part and make that effort; sometimes I think I have tried hard enough but the other party probably doesn’t think that I have done enough. What do you think?

simple pleasures of my life

Many of my friends who probably disagree with me when I say that I derive pleasure from some of the simplest things in life. Just because I happen to enjoy some of the finer points of life, although not really that ‘fine’ as compared to many others around, it doesn’t mean that I can’t feel happy and content with the little things that can nonetheless bring a sparkle into my life. It really isn’t difficult for me to feel happy, the tough part is how to sustain that on a consistent basis.

Last Friday, Isetan was having their regular private sale that saw throngs of shoppers packing into the mall which made the place seem like a fish market of sorts. I was there with a friend cos she wanted to pick up a pair of shoes so we braved the crowd and queues, and I left with a pack of rice crackers that had a shoyu-honey flavour, if I remembered correctly.

It was only in recent years that I took to drinking beer. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I used to take more hard liquor in the past but of course mixed with a myriad of other liquids, and due to age catching up which definitely saw the rapid decline of the clubbing nights, I turned to pubbing or just chilling out instead. Although expensive, since we tend to drink quite a bit in just a night, and not to mention fattening, it makes for an excellent way to spend time with friends. 🙂

In one of the last posts, I mentioned grocery shopping. And each time I shop at the supermarket I feel weirdly happy. I’m even happier if I can push a trolley around and just load it up full, if I don’t have to consider how to lug all that home without breaking my arms.

Caffeine officially became a part of my life a couple of years after I started working, not because I needed it to wake me up or stay awake but it was perhaps a tool that helps connect people. Think coffee / tea-breaks. And the habit was formed then, and has since stuck. Locally, Starbucks is my usual choice of poison, but I don’t discriminate towards coffee because I don’t pride myself as a connoisseur so good or bad coffee, I can’t really tell unless it’s really bad.

So what are the small things in your life that lights it up?

knowing myself a little better

This past week, I have no idea what transpired in the office. These days, the office seemed to have taken on an exceptional quality of tranquility that is actually not very healthy. Perhaps the recent departures, coupled with many being out of the office, whether they are on annual leave, away on jobs or otherwise, has made the same space emptier than before, and as such the past buzz of activity has become a page in the history of this place.

Left the office building pretty much on time and headed off to ICB for happy hour! My life seems to revolve around happy hour too much. I was just telling my friend that I ought to cut down on all those junk that are making me upset with the weight spike that I’m reading off the weighing scales, but yet I can’t cut out happy food from my life, which actually translates as beer, fries, pizzas, and the likes. Junk food, which are unhealthy calories and carbohydrates, help to make me feel happier when I consume them but the aftermath is that I get upset when I feel that I’m growing into a ball of fats. Ewee. That’s quite a gross thought, but anyway, don’t start imagining because it’s really not a pretty sight. We had a beer each, and together with a basket of fries and deep-fried prawn dumplings, we were actually bursting at the seams. Odd.

My friend wanted to go somewhere else so we paid and hopped over to Devonshire Road where Bar Stop was. I remembered only being there once, years ago, and was sitting outside with a bunch of friends sharing a bucket of Heineken/Carlsberg, and it was then extremely humid that even though it was night time and we were cooling off with chilled beer, we couldn’t stop perspiring. I was really surprised that the place was still around after all these years, because we all know how a lot of such establishments just do not withstand the test of time, but ok there are those that have remained strong too. It wasn’t a warm evening but we decided to skip the al fresco part and went upstairs where we were kind of worrying if the wooden platform that our table was on would actually give way and crush all those below. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Anyway, I just wanted to rave about their “chicken picks”, which was actually half of the mid-joint of a chicken wing. On first taste, I thought it reminded me of braised chicken wings that are then fried/roasted, and it’s really yummy! Even nicer than the much-raved about ICB chicken wings that I felt aren’t as nice as before.

And the ambience of Bar Stop was pretty nice. Dimly-lit duplex that has music at a comfortable volume allowed us to talk and be able to hear each other. I was just annoyed with a group of people at the next table frantically snapping photographs of each other. I have no issues whatsoever if you want to take photos, but please be considerate of other patrons when you are taking pictures with a blinding flash courtesy of a DSLR, and not be flashing the offending light for 20 minutes straight. Except for that, I enjoyed my early night of drinks, and was on my way home at 10pm!