Category: Travel

Staycation – The Grand Hyatt

Last weekend was my 9 year anniversary with TFB, I cant believe it has been so long, I’d get less time for murder (just kidding). It being such a special occasion and all, we thought a stay at a luxury hotel would be the perfect way to celebrate. TFB had been lucky enough to win the grand prize at a recent chamber of commerce event. Included in the prize package were two very nice bottles of wine, a Jo Malone shower gel, and a night in the grand executive suite at the Grand Hyatt. This was his first time going to such an event and the cheeky beggar managed to take home the first prize. I have been to at least a dozen of these things, and the only thing I have ever won is a hairbrush, but as I reaped the benefits of his win I shall not complain. So despite the hotel being literally 200 meters from our house, we set off up the hill to enjoy our romantic getaway.

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Our room was a grand executive suite. I have stayed in a couple of suites over the years and I have to say it is so nice to have the extra space, in fact this one was bigger than our whole apartment. The room had a guest toilet, a guest toilet, you know for all those guests I planned on having over (lol). We also had a work space, living room, bedroom, walk in closet and gigantic bathroom with a sunken bathtub and walk in shower. It was pretty damn fancy. Although the decor wasn’t modern or cool, it was classic enough to not look too dated. One of the nicest things about the room were the views of the city. They had thankfully assigned us a room on the river side, as I can look at Namsan Tower any old day.

I think the thing we all want to know about is the food, and our room included Club Lounge benefits, which is where we enjoyed most of our perks. The Club Lounge is a service that many big chain hotels offer, and we have taken advantage of many times over the years. For a slightly higher room price you usually get a cool little executive lounge that you can sit in in, access to a business room, and free snacks and refreshments all day. After we had checked in and seen the room we popped down to the lounge to see what was on offer. There were some very nice tea & coffee making facilities (nicer than the room ones), soft drinks, cookies and a selection of cakes and what not. They also had these really nice pastry cream filled donuts too, which I wish I had eaten more of.

Between 6pm-8pm is where you really reap the rewards because they offer happy hour. In many of the hotels we have stayed in they offer this kind of service. You usually get spirits, wine and appetisers, more recently this includes hot food too. The Grand Hyatt puts on quite a spread, and it is one of the largest club lounges I have been seen. Booze wise there is Cava, a selection of white wines, and a selection of red wines. I cant say any of the wines I tried were that great, the Cava was probably the best but as it was free I can’t really complain. As with most bars there were ice and lemons, mixers and several spirits (gin, vodka, white rum, campari and bourbon). Nothing fancy but enough to make a simple drink. I wouldn’t go as far as calling them cocktails, but a free drink is a free drink. There was also a selection of international bottled beers, if you had seen what they were charging in the mini bars for these you would be astonished. I know mini bars are supposed to be expensive but at 20,000 for a little Absolut and 9,000 won for a bottle of local water they are kind of taking the piss. Thankfully there was an ample sock of free ones for us in the lounge.

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Food wise I was very impressed, there was a hearty salad station with a do it yourself caesar salad bar, plus an Italian pasta salad and other grilled veggie medley. There were also olives, breadsticks, dips and hummus which was a nice reminder of home. Then there was nice bread, smoked salmon, meats, and cheeses. Plus a hot appetiser buffet with some awesome samosas, chicken teriyaki, and even Korean dishes like ddeokbokki and kimbab. There was also a dessert selection with more donuts, cheesecake, tarts and fresh fruit. It was very bountiful and you could happily eat and drink here instead of going out for dinner, it was just like a free all you can eat and drink buffet. The food and booze was all taken away at 8pm but as a club lounge aficionado I stocked up ahead of that time so were able to relax over our remaining drinks and snacks.

The next morning we were also permitted to have breakfast in the club lounge. When I have stayed in club lounges at other hotels you are usually given the choice between eating breakfast in the club lounge or down in the main buffet. I generally opt for the buffet, despite the fact the club lounge being much quieter as I prefer the larger variety of foods you get at the main buffet. However this is not the case at the Hyatt and you can only eat breakfast in the club lounge unless you wish to pay. That being said the lounge breakfast was pretty good. There was more or less everything you would expect to see at a hotel buffet, just smaller selections. There were tea and coffee machines that are free for use throughout your stay, fresh juices, like the carrot apple and ginger one I enjoyed. There are also 4-5 different types of milk all labelled in different jars including non dairy. There was cereal, cold cuts, salad, bread, yoghurt, fresh fruit, danish pastries in the cold buffet. While the hot buffet had sausages, bacon, eggs to order, fried potatoes, noodles and congee. There was plenty to suit everyone and more than enough to feed a greedy sod like myself. I think I had about four rounds.

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After breakfast we relaxed in the room until check out at 12. But had we wished we could have used the gym, sauna and swimming pool. Overall we had a lovely stay, it was such a treat and nice to spend a relaxing weekend away, even if it was only 10 minutes from home. We didn’t pay for our stay as we won it as a prize in a raffle, but I looked up the prices online and the club rooms start at 300,000 KRW per night, and the Executive Suite that we stayed in is 370,000 per night, though this may vary. If you would like more information about the Grand Hyatt, please visit their website.

The Grand Hyatt is located 322 Sowol-ro, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. To get there you can walk from Noksapyeong station (line 6), but it is up quite a steep hill so if you have baggage I would advise taking a taxi. For more information you can call them on 02-797-1234, or check their website.

Chiang Rai – Must Eats

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As you know I recently took a quick jaunt to Thailand over the Chuseok vacation. I have been to Thailand many times in the past, but this time I ventured up to the far north to Chiang Rai. This was my first time up in the mountains, so I was very excited to see a different kind of cuisine than that I had experienced further south. There are no direct flights from Korea, but it is cheap and easy to transfer in Hong Kong, even during the peak season of Chuseok. It also allowed us to spend a few days in Hong Kong, which is never a bad thing. Chiang Rai is a small town like city, but it is home to the famous White Temple, which was quite a sight to behold. On this trip we weren’t lucky enough to bag a free stay, but we did find a very nice and reasonably priced hotel called Laluna Hotel. We paid around $50 USD a night for our garden view king sized room. I was really pleased with this place, the room was really light and spacious, well decorated and had a gigantic bed. The bathroom was nice enough too. There was a fab pool with super big and comfy sun loungers, and a  plentiful breakfast buffet included in the price. It was only a cheap tuk tuk or taxi ride into town, and I think we made a darn good choice on where to stay.

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Barrab – On our first night we headed to Barrab, a cheap and cheerful Thai restaurant located just by the clock tower. It was here we first tasted our first bowl of heavenly Khao Soi. The local sweet & sour coconut curry noodle dish is incredible and you will find it in virtually every restaurant you go to. This one was topped with a chicken leg, but we also saw it served with beef, shrimp and pork. While this didn’t end up being the best one we had, it was still pretty decent. We also had a very good Pad Thai and a fairly mediocre cashew chicken. The food was very cheap though, and whilst we had better dishes at other restaurants, I certainly wouldn’t say we had a bad meal here, especially considering our three dishes & two beers cost less than $10. In Seoul you wouldn’t even get one dish for that.

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Some Sunday Magic – This place is a little bit out of the main town, but not far and cheap enough to get to in a taxi or Uber. I promise if you enjoy delicious food and good aesthetics you won’t be disappointed you visited. The restaurant is actually an art gallery too, meaning the whole place is filled with plenty of beautiful things to look at as well as serving some amazingly good food. We couldn’t resist ordering another Khao Soi. This one we decided to try with pork which I think we both preferred over the chicken. The broth in this soup was even better than the Barrab one as it had a slight peanutty flavour which added an extra dimension to the dish. We also had a boat of pineapple fried rice, I just adore food that is served in food and this tasted just as good as it looks. To drink I had the most beautiful caramel macchiato, it was like a dessert you could drink. Seoul coffee shops take note, this is the way to do it. I also enjoyed another killer smoothie which I of course topped with vodka and TFB enjoyed a Leo beer, which soon became his favourite of the three local varieties.

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Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House & Bistro – One of the most popular spots to visit in Chiang Rai, is Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House, and for good reason, the huge wooden clapboard house set in beautiful cottage style gardens along the Mekong river is absolutely stunning. However it is not just the setting that is beautiful, the food is equally as fabulous. The adorable newspaper style menu is a mix of western and Thai food. After eating pad thai non stop all week, we were up for a change, so enjoyed their incredible Truffle Eggs Benedict with bacon and potato wedges. I’m not sure hollandaise will ever taste as good again without truffles. We also wanted to test the muster of their Khao Soi, which has quickly become my new favourite Thai food. We also supped a refreshing Raspberry Lemonade and and a super sweet Banoffee Cofffe, this was like desert and coffee all in one glass. One small thing that was rather annoying, and caused me to have a total Verruca Salt moment was the fact that they stop serving alcohol between 2pm-5pm like most of the convenience marts. Most bars don’t seem to observe this, but this one does and I felt tortured enjoying such a fabulous lazy lunch without a cocktail in my hand. So if you want to drink, plan your visit accordingly, or be sure to smuggle in your own.

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Nai Suan Bed & Breakfast –  Probably the world’s cutest bed and breakfast ever, when stepping on to the property and wondering through the gardens it had a real Alice in Wonderland feel about it. The baby blue wooden building is set in a very adorable overgrown English style garden. Once inside the decor doesn’t stop, mismatched vintage furniture is strewn throughout. The drinks and food on the menu are all really well priced. We enjoyed a chicken salad, and a very tasty shrimp curry, with rice and a heart shaped egg which we thought to be adorable. I also had a mango and passion fruit shake and another fabulous caramel macchiato. Well worth a visit if you want a pretty place to take some pictures.

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Favola at Le Meridian Hotel – On our last night, we were invited to fantastic dinner at Favola by the lovely staff at the Meridian hotel. The hotel itself is incredible with the gorgeous grounds and rooms being a beautiful mix of modern and eastern in style, and had I known how beautiful it was, we probably would have ended up staying here. There are two restaurants on the property, a buffet and the upmarket Italian, Favola.  We dined on the restaurant’s set menu dinner menu for two which kicked off with a prosciutto wrapped shrimp salad, before moving on to the incredibly creamy gnocchi vongole. For our main course we had roast chicken and melt in the mouth belly pork, both were so good it was hard to choose which one was the best. We finished the meal with an incredible light and creamy tiramisu. It was the ideal way to spend our last night and was a great end to the trip.

Staycation – Incheon

A few weeks ago I went on my very first staycation, as I was invited by Incheon Tourism Office to come and enjoy the city of Incheon. While I have explored much of Korea over my 9 years of living here, I have to confess, the only time I have visited the city of Incheon is to go to the airport, despite the fact it’s only an hour away from Seoul. The biggest lure of the inclusive trip for me was the VIP ticket to the World Club Dome music festival. I do enjoy a good rave, but have had such a busy summer I haven’t been to a single festival this year. So when I was offered a chance to go, I quickly agreed, and packed up my unicorn horn and headed off to dance the night away to Armin Van Buren

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As part of our package we were granted a stay at the Central Park Hotel, in Songdo. The hotel is conveniently located right by the park and we were afforded the most beautiful views from our room on the 11th floor. The room itself was really nice, I never expected such luxury. It was a very overdone gold gilded affair, very Liberace but anyone who knows me will tell you that is exactly my style. The best thing in the room was the fabulous king-sized bed in the center of the room. The sheets were silly soft Egyptian cotton and really high quality I had the most wonderful nights sleep upon them. The bathroom was glorious too, with the a rainfall shower and huge Jacuzzi claw foot bathtub. The room came with all the amenities you’d expect including a fridge which we were able to fill without own goodies and lovely white cotton robes. I hadn’t imagined I would get up for breakfast after such a hard nights partying at the World Club Dome, but I awoke ravenous and managed to drag my ass out of the bed for something to eat. The dining room down on the lobby floor was rather large and put on a rather good spread for breakfast. Coffee, fresh fruits and juices, pastries and a variety of western breakfast and dinner dishes. However if you aren’t staying it is probably not with the 20,000 if it isn’t included in the room rate.

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After checking out of the hotel at midday, we sauntered off to have a go on the Incheon City Bus Tour. The tour starts Incheon Station and goes all the way to Songdo Central Park, with seven different stops along the way including China Town, Wolmi Culture Street, and Incheon City Museum. The bus cost 5,000 won for a one day ticket allowing you to jump on and off as often as you please. The first bus starts at 9:30am, and the last bus leaves at 5:20pm. If you manage to visit every stop and collect a stamp at each, you can even exchange it for a free prize.

After a busy trip exploring all that Incheon had to offer, we were desperate need of lunch, so after receiving a recommendation form a local friend we headed to Burger 101. It was just opposite the hotel on the other side of the park. I’ve written at length about burger options in Seoul, but I had no idea of the scene that was happening in Songdo. This was just what I needed to cure my creeping hangover. The Roasted Cheeseroom (10,500) was a 7oz beef burger topped with roasted cheddar, red onion, bacon and slathered in horseradish mayo. I was very happy when I saw the mound of horseradish mayo on this one but it did make it very hard to eat. We also ordered the BBQ Onionroom (10,000), a 5oz burger topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings and BBQ sauce. This one was also a delight,as I love any burger with onion rings on it. We also upgraded each of the burgers to include a soda and fries for an extra 5,000 each. The burgers were good, and while I wouldn’t travel all the way there for another, it was a great option while in Songdo. When we explored the area more we also stumbled across another swathe of Korean and foreign restaurants which all looked promising so you aren’t likely to go hungry in Songdo.

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We ended our  trip with a fabulous five course course dinner at the  Panoramic 65 restaurant at the Oakwood Premier Hotel. There is a special lift in the hotel to take you all the way up to the 65th floor, it is so high up our ears popped. The weather was a touch on the cloudy side in the early evening so the view was rather misty once we arrived, but as soon as it got dark we could see the sparkling lights of the city below. We sat down in the very extravagant high ceilinged dining room, which was wrapped in floor to ceiling windows. We were recommended to try Set B, a 6 course menu which cost 75,000 per person. We stared our evening with Carpaccio Di manzo, which consisted of thinly slice Raw Beef with Black Olive Pesto, Parmesan Cheese, Cherry Tomato
and Arugula. Our second course was a rich and creamy celeriac and clam chowder. It paired perfectly with the freshly baked bread. After the soup came the salad course, we were instructed to choose our own dressing,  I went for the light and zingy lemon, whilst my beloved choose the balsamic. Once our plates were cleared we were presented with a magical foggy bowl of watermelon graita to cleanse our palates before moving on to the main course of chargrilled rib-eye. The melt in the mouth steak was served with vegetables, mashed potato and Madeira sauce. It was great. We finished up with coffee and a tiramisu. All in all a lovely meal, and quite affordable compared to other hotels. If you have a special occasion it is the ideal place to celebrate.

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Overall I was surprised there was so much to do in Incheon, and we didn’t even take full of advantage of everything to see. I’ll certainly be going back, there are some lovely hotels and it’s the perfect city getaway or another option if you have a layover at Incheon airport and don’t want to come all the way into Seoul.

 

 

Budapest Must Eats

As you more than likely know, I recently took a trip to Budapest, Hungary. Sorry it has taken me so long to compile a list of where we ate, but I have been a very busy girl since I arrived back in Seoul. It was my first time visiting, so I couldn’t wait to spend three days exploring all the best places to eat and drink. This European city is split into two by the famed Danube River, each half making up the cities name Buda & Pest. We stayed on the Pest side which was where we found all the amazing places below, hopefully one of these days I will find time to return and check out the Buda side.  Hungary still uses their own currency making it very affordable, especially when compared to the rest of Europe though it’s likely to go up once(if) they officially change to the Euro so be sure to check out this amazing city sooner rather than later.

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Ruin Bars –  One of Budapest’s most famous food and drink attractions are the ruin bars in District 7, also known as the Jewish district. As a regular reader it should be clear to you how much I enjoy going to the pub, so was thrilled by the prospect of visiting these fabulous attractions in the name of sightseeing. All of the bars are different but one of our favourites and probably the most famous is Szimpla Kert. The ruined building is set over several floors and deceptively large. When you first enter you are greeted with a map which points out the various bars to be discovered all serving different drinks. The walls, floors and pretty much every imaginable surface are covered with plants, bathtubs, mannequins, old cars, and all manner or trash like treasures. It was a real sight to behold. If you like things a little bit more sleek and polished then you will surely enjoy Mazel Tov, a more glamorous location which houses a gorgeous long stone bar, and ceilings which are covered in fairy lights and dangling ivy. We kicked off our night here with a couple of really good cocktails, and pre-dinner appetizers of freshly baked pita bread, sweet potato fries and hummus. We really enjoyed the the live band which was playing, though the place got pretty busy, so be sure to make a reservation if you want to avoid a long wait.

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Karavan – The Karavan is a street food market and beer garden filled with different food trucks. This place was uber cool, and conveniently located right next to Szimpla Kert. The trucks had a real mix of foods going on from burgers, to pizza, cocktails and desserts. We decided to try the burger made from the Hungarian speciality bread called langos. This burger was topped with salty sheep cheese, grilled paprika peppers and rucola. We also tried the Kolbice from Kobe sausages. This was a gigantic cone shaped pretzel type bread that was filled with our choice of sausages, cabbage and bacon. I wasn’t really sold on this particular speciality, but my beloved seemed to enjoy it.

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Szimply – After walking around the city for only half a day, we soon realised that there are a hell of a lot of vegan and veggie friendly places happening in Budapest. Clearly the healthy food craze is happening in this Bohemian city. One place I couldn’t resist trying was the beautiful Szimply. We ordered their Avo Toast (2200 Ft)  which was smashed avocado on sourdough toast topped with sun dried tomatoes, roasted chickpeas, and basil. We also got the Cheese Steak (1900 Ft), a sandwich filled with celery steak, beetroot mayo, cheese sauce, grilled peppers, and bacon. While this item wasn’t veggie, most of the other items on the menu were. We also shared one of their Fresh Juices (990 Ft), a beetroot and lime concoction which helped revive our jet lagged bodies. As well as the food being just what we needed, the cafe itself is located in a really cute courtyard along with their coffee shop which is just opposite.

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Great Market HallThe Great Market Hall is probably the most famous of the food markets in Budapest, which is why it is filled with lots of high end goods and tourists. However while it isn’t the cheapest, it has a great selection, and the market itself is quite beautiful and will yield some great photos. It is also conveniently located at the Pest end of Szabadság Bridge allowing you to take a gander at the Danube river after you are finished.

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Drum Cafe – For those on a budget but desperate to try some Hungarian food, then you must stop at the Drum Cafe, we stumbled across this adorable outdoor cafe that was packed to the rafters on a sunny afternoon when we were looking for a delicious snack to tide us over between lunch and dinner. The menu was huge and had plenty of traditional dishes like the Goulash, and Paprikash, but we couldn’t resist trying the traditional Langosh (790 Ft). A Hungarian fried bread topped with sour cream, garlic and cheese. The bread was delightfully fresh and chewy and quite refreshing when topped with the sour cream and cheese. We also tried the Dödölle (990 Ft), a dumpling filled with cheese, and roasted in goose fat, topped with bacon and cream. We adored this dish, it wasn’t one we were familiar with and never would have tried it if we had not stopped here.

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Mr Funk – If you love desserts then Mr Funk is one place you cannot miss. The donut and bagel cafe is the kind of place where all your dreams come true. The donuts are decadently decorated, and you can even have one on top of a freakshake. I couldn’t resist getting the Unicorn Shake (1990 Ft). The strawberry shake was topped with a unicorn donut with a sour candy mane and fondant horn and ears, marshmallows, whipped cream and sprinkles. But there were dozens of others to choose from along with the bagels which also tasted great and I’m guessing often get overshadowed by the more instagramable donuts. We had The Italian (1190 Ft), the bagel of your choice topped with cream cheese, tomato and prosciutto, a damn fine lunch indeed.

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All you can eat Hungarian Buffet – There isn’t much I enjoy more than an all you can eat buffet, the greedy pig inside of me just loves the opportunity to stuff myself silly. So when we came across an ad for the Trofea Grill Restaurant, it seemed churlish not to give it ago and have the chance to try lots of different Hungarian specialities in one go. There are three locations in the city but we visited the Etterem Location which included all you can drink cocktails along with the wine and beer for the same price. It varies between lunch and dinner but we paid 5900 Ft per person for a weekday dinner. This included all of their booze, which was surprisingly good (even the cocktails). A huge appetiser, soup, and salad section. A grill to order station with at least 20 different kinds of marinated fish and meat. A hot buffet filled with more meat and side dishes like goulash, paprikash, and the famed dumpling. There was also a magnificent dessert buffet, with at least 8 creamy and chocolatey desserts. One of my favourites were the incredible profiteroles, which were served in a fabulous chocolate mousse, but there was also tiramisu and another half a dozen things I was too drunk to remember or photograph. For the more healthy among us there was also a beautiful fruit platter. Probably the best part of the evening was when the two Hungarian dancers put on a show for us all, after that they started a conga line and then taught us all a dance. I was having the time of my life after all those drinks and it made for a very fun evening. If you are short on time this is a truly great find. 

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Gozsdu Udvar – We found this cute and quirky courtyard of bars  when we very tired after a hard days sightseeing. The Gozsdu Udvar area is overflowing with bars and restaurants, and I can imagine it is the place to see and be seen of an evening. There is also a little area filled with more food trucks. If you are looking to party this would be a great place to start your evening, sadly we had a very early flight the next morning so neglected to do so. But next time I will be there for sure!

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Lehel Market – We first came across the Lehel Market when we were travelling to Trofea for dinner, but quickly found out it was worth a trip in itself. The market is more local than the Great Hall, and here you will see the community doing their shopping and living their lives. The array of different goods was quite impressive, from fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, bakeries, dried goods, and even a honey store. We found that the prices here were really cheap and if you are staying for a couple of weeks and have time to prepare your own food then this would be a great place to source your own ingredients.

 

London Food Markets

There is nothing I adore more than food, not even my dear TFB (don’t worry, he knows his place in my heart, and he’s cool with it). So a giant space filled with different mini restaurants and stalls selling every kind of food under the sun is a day spent in heaven for me. London is well known for its incredible food scene and markets, though I’d be hard pushed to be able to visit them all for you without living in London again for at least a year. However as I was home I had to check out  a few and wanted to share them with you. If you love food even half as much as I do these are must do’s when you visit London.

The Beefsteaks -Steak & Chips

Borough Market
Probably London’s most famous and biggest food market, the area has really expanded since my last visit a few years back. The main market is filled to the brim with absolutely incredible artisan produce that would be hard for most of us mere mortals to find. You name it they have it in spades, cheese, booze, fruit, veg, condiments, meat, and fish. However they also have dozens of ready to eat and drink foods, from the incredible scotch eggs and pies, to beautiful patisserie items like cakes and breads. Dotted throughout the place are stands selling all manner of hot and hip international and British foods. If you have seen it on Instagram, you are almost certain to find it here.  When we visited their were queues a mile long to get venison burgers, Jamaican BBQ, gyoza, and even Korean fried chicken!

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Borough market is located at 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL. To get there take a train to London Bridge Station, then follow the exit signs for Borough Market. The Market runs from 10am -5pm each day, but has many more stalls at the weekend. For more information including a list of vendors visit their website.

Maltby Street
This food Market was completely new to me, but was recommended by my very fabulous friend Gizzie Erskine. Located under the railway arches about 10 minutes away from London Bridge is the uber cool Maltby street, which although small is lined with stalls and shops selling their wares. I felt although this market was small, it was just overflowing with good food. One of our favourite food stalls was Beef Steaks, which specialised in serving quality steaks at a low price, our steak and chips with chimichurri sauce was a mere £10. Some of the stands are more established and have built proper stores under the arches themselves, like our favourite Little Gin. A small batch locally made gin bar that specialises in cocktails, most of which were £5-£6 and absolutely delicious. There was outdoor seating and we were able to enjoy the buzz of the market around us. I felt this market to be very me, cool without being so trendy I felt out of place, yet not mainstream like Borough which was packed to the rafters on a sunny Saturday morning.

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Maltby Street market is located at 41 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA, UK. To get there take a train to London Bridge Station and follow the map below from there.  The Market is only open from 9am-4pm on Saturdays, and 11am-4pm on Sundays. For more information including a list of vendors, please visit their website.

Dinerama
Many many years ago, back in my uni days, I was an East London resident, and often frequented the then trending area of Shoreditch. It was still in its early days back then and I couldn’t believe the changes it has undergone since I lived there many moons ago. The whole area was absolutely teaming with trendy folks enjoying themselves on a Saturday night.  Despite wearing my hipster hat and glasses and a very cool vintage blazer I still felt way too mainstream for this fashionista crowd.  But no matter, I wasn’t there to impress, I was there to eat, and hang out with my celebrity friends. Food wise Dinerama had a lot to offer. We tried some vegan tacos from Club Mexicana, which I didn’t think were half as good as the ones at Plant in Seoul, although their deep fried cheese was pretty epic. We also got a giant platter of barbecued smoked meat from Hot Box, and the incredible Lew Burger from Burger & Beyond which was topped with smoked cheese, pancetta, and smothered in bone marrow mayonnaise. It was sinfully addictive. I was also way into the Frose (frozen rose) that almost of all the bars seemed to be selling. The whole place is packed with bars in fact, each one having a different vibe from the 70s disco vodka bar to the German sex dungeon. If you like places that are too cool for school then it is the perfect place to eat, drink, and be merry at the weekend.

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Dinerama is located at 19 Great Eastern St, London EC2A 3EJ. To get there take a train to Old Street Station and follow the map below from there. Dinerama is open From Thursday – Sunday from 12pm – late. For more information including a list of vendors please visit their website.

 

Searcy’s Champagne Bar

There is nothing quite like a glass of champagne to make you feel glamorous and sophisticated. Being a glamorous and sophisticated girl, I’m always quaffing a bottle or two, as my Instagram account will attest. One place I have always wanted to visit in London is the Champagne bar located in St Pancras train station, and as luck would have it I was in the area and had plans to meet up with two of my oldest friends(that I met in Korea) and thought that Searcy’s would be the perfect setting for the reunion.

Searcy’s is located inside of St Pancras / Kings Cross Station. Boasting the title of ‘Europe’s longest champagne bar’ the 98m space is truly breathtaking. The magnificent location allows panoramic views of the entire station terminal, showcasing the glorious wrought iron and glass ceiling overhead. The are twelve banquettes that line the length of bar, each adorned with art deco and a ‘press for champagne’ button that ensures you never need to get up to refill your glass. The place has a real retro luxe vibe going on, and you cant help but feel utterly decadent while sipping your bubbles.

Unsurprisingly the menu has a great selection of champagnes and sparkling wines, with the cheapest one starting at just under £10 a glass, making it affordable even if your budget is more akin to the £3 Asti Spumante from Aldi. After perusing the menu I decided to treat my friend to bottle of the English Grey Friars – Rose Brut which was a very reasonable £65 for the bottle. Made from Pinot Noir it was a very drinkable with notes of strawberries and cream and the most delightful blush hue. It was hard to believe that the grapes were grown only 25 miles away in Surrey.  Nestled in our booth, we took soothing sips of our champs, while busy commuters ran to catch their trains below us. It was quite the contradiction. If you are feeling peckish the adjoining restaurant has a rather nice menu and an incredibly beautiful gold leaf ceiling, unfortunately we had another train to catch so couldn’t partake, However if you have the time I’m sure it is well worth stopping by.

Seary’s is located at the Grand Terrace, Upper Concourse, St Pancras International Station, King’s Cross St. Pancras, London, N1C 4QL. To get there take the tube to King’s Cross station or a train to St Pancras and take the escalator up to the second floor. It is above all luxury glass fronted shops. For more information or to make a reservation you can call them on 0207 870 9900   or visit  their website.

10 Must Eats in Hong Kong

If you have been following my foodie adventures, you’ll know that I took an amazing trip to Borneo a few weeks ago, but I also found time to live it up in Hong Kong! Hong Kong is one of my favourite food capitals in the entire world. It just has everything I could want and more, namely Chinese and British food. This wondrous city is a pure treasure trove of delicious goodies.  For anyone who is travelling there and looking for some damn delicious things to eat then this list should help guide you.

1. Char Siu Pork Bun – Tim Ho wan is renowned for their fantastic char siu pork buns, probably because they are one of the worlds cheapest Michelin starred foods (18HKD for 3). I never miss an opportunity to eat them so we put them top of the list of things to try. We arrived on bank holiday Monday and the queue to get a table was absolutely insane, luckily as seasoned eaters at this place we knew we could order a take out order which was ready in less than 10 minutes. The IFC Mall where we got ours has plenty of places to sit outside so grab your order to go and have yourself a picnic.

2. Wonton Noodles – There nothing like a good bowl of noodle soup and Maks in Central is a great place to get one. We tried the shrimp wanton noodle soup and the fried noodles topped with pork in a slightly sweet and spicy bbq sauce, they were so good I wanted to lick the bowl clean, and cheap as hell too (around 60HKD) for a quick and delicious lunch.

3. Xiao Long Bao – Obviously dim sum is a must in Hong Kong, but my favourite of all the different dumplings in the world are Xiao Long Bao (aka Shanghai Soup Dumplings). Some of the best are found at Crystal Jade. And although they are traditionally from Shanghai, Hong Kong has some pretty good ones too. I’m sure there are better ones out there but I have always preferred Crystal Jade over Din Tai Fung. We ordered a couple portions of the original which were filled with the most delicious flavourful soup. There are plenty of other dishes to try on the menu too.

4.Char Siu – I already covered char siu pork buns but you really need to have it as a main course too. In Central there are dozens of restaurants with meat in the windows all with Michelin stars offering lunch plates for around $60HKD a piece which include a fabulous Hong Kong lemon ice tea. I love that tea so much I nearly gave it a place on its own. The melt in the mouth meat is typically served with rice or noodles and some bok choi, and if you are lucky a bowl of soup. Don’t be afraid if they have no menus in English on the outside, they will almost always have one inside.

5. Egg Tart -These little eggy custard tarts can be found in bakeries all over the city and cost next to nothing (8HKD). We ate a variety of different ones including a green tea and chocolate variety, though it’s best to stick with the classic. Be warned though they are incredibly addictive so make sure you get yourself a couple.

6. Champagne Brunch – If there is one thing that Hong Kong knows how to do well, it’s a champagne brunch. Virtually every restaurant in the city offers up a free flow package from as little 200HKD (25,000 KRW) for free flow wine, cocktails and champagne. It’s not called Sunday Funday for nothing, right? We enjoyed an extra special one at 2 Michelin starred restaurant Duddells to celebrate my birthday. Ours cost 750HKD per person which included unlimited dim dim sum, Chinese food, champagne and cocktails on their fabulous roof top terrace. But there are hundreds of other place to try throughout the city.

7. Roast Goose – Roast goose can be found hanging in the windows of many a meat shop, but the golden and crispiest goose in the city is found at Kam’s Roast Goose in Wan Chai. The place is exceedingly popular thanks to its Michelin star. We went for lunch and were able to get a set including goose over rice, a bowl of soup, a side dish and delicious and refreshing lemon ice tea for 75HKD which is about 10,000 won. One of the cheapest Michelin starred lunches ever! They also have a variety of different roast meats on the menu, the char siu came a very close second.

8. Egg Waffle – I guess Hong Kongers really love eggs in their desserts. You’ve tried the egg tart, now it is time to try the egg waffle. These little things are the absolute cutest. I stumbled across an adorable one when walking around Wan Chai, but I am told that other much more pimped out versions filled with ice cream can be found elsewhere in the city like at Oddies in Central.

9. Sweet & Sour Pork – By far and away one of my absolute favourite dishes in the words. In fact if I was on death row and I was having my last meal, this would be on my menu for damn sure. I love the lurid orange sweet and sour sauce, and the crispy chunks of battered meat, served with a pile of egg fried rice and I am pretty much in heaven. I didn’t get to eat nearly as much of this dish than I was planning but this one came from 2 starred Duddells, so I certainly got the cream of the crop.

10. British Food – Hong Kong has a huge population of Brits making it a great place to get some good old British fare, I mean they have proper M&S Food Halls!  So what better place to get yourself a roast dinner than Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen. We indulged in their fabulous lamb & beef roast, which came with all you can eat roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, veg, and gravy for 350 HKD. This really was epic, it was even better than my mum’s(sorry Mum), I was so happy. We also added an all you can drink element to the meal where we supped on free flow champagne,  and Bloody Mary’s which were some of the best I have ever had.

Hilton Hotel – Kota Kinabalu

If you have been reading this blog regularly and following me on Instagram and YouTube then you’ll be well aware that I have been living it up In Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. While we enjoyed a sumptuous stay at the beautiful Rasa Ria Resort, we also enjoyed a few days in the city. We were lucky enough to be offered a stay at the brand spanking new Hilton Hotel. This place is so new you can still smell the paint, it has only been open for just a few short months but is already one of the hottest hotels in town.

The team at the Hilton hooked us up with the most fabulous one bedroom suite. It was awesome, this place was even bigger than my apartment back in Seoul. There was a gigantic bed, double sink bathroom with a bath and a shower, dressing room, living room with two TV’s, office, dining room, and a guest bathroom. Like seriously, it kinda made me wish we had friends to invite over and show off to. had there been more of the two of us it would have been a great spot to host a party.

After the most relaxing night sleeping in our incredibly big King sized bed, we headed down to try the breakfast. Although I do enjoy the elegance of a private breakfast, we decided to have breakfast in the main restaurant Urban Kitchen instead of the club lounge, as my greedy self just couldn’t resist seeing what was on offer at the breakfast buffet. I have eaten at a hell of a lot of hotel buffets and this one was pretty epic. There was a killer baked goods section with everything you could want and more, including sprinkled, pink, Homer Simpson style donuts! There were also fresh fruits, juices and smoothies, cereal, yogurt, deli meats, cheese and salads, a western breakfast hot style buffet which included eggs to order, as well as an Asian hot section which is where I spent most of my time. Nothing makes me happier than eating spring rolls, fried noodles, and curry for breakfast. Honestly it was kind of amazing how many different dishes were there, I can’t imagine ever getting bored. I also loved the fact that they included local dishes within the menu too, it was nice to see another sota station, clearly these fresh bowls of noodle soup are the go to breakfast in Borneo.

One of the hotels best features is the fabulous roof top pool. The pool is surrounded by lovely comfy sun beds for you to laze the day away on. There are also tonnes of sumptuous sofas and day beds in the shade for those who burn easily (I’m looking at you TFB). As well as the beautiful pool, the rooftop has a pretty incredible view,  in fact it was so hard to peel ourselves away for lunch we ended up ordering a couple of burgers from the restaurant and staying put. Food and drinks delivered to my daybed, that really is living the dream as far as I’m concerned. As well as the pool, the hotel also boasts a big ass gym and sauna. Not that I would ever use it for anything other than picking up free bottles of water, but I appreciate having it there.

On our first night we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Rooftop Bar & Grill. We were pretty knackered from all the travelling we had done, so decided to get dinner in the hotel.  The menu has a very Australian feel about it with lots of surf and turf like options. I decided to try Sabah Green Tailed Lobster (98MYR) which was served with buttered mushrooms, mixed salad, fired courgette flowers and pea puree. I never turn down lobster, when given the chance to eat it, and I really loved the way it was served with pureed peas. It was like an uber posh fish and chips. TFB true to form got himself a big ass steak. The 350g Black Angus (220MYR) if I’m not mistaken. The steak was served with proper fat chips, which I have longed for them ever since. Our dinner ended with a chocolate brownie with popping candy and celebrity sighting (sort of). At the next table was Dereck of The Holidaze, another travel blogger and perpetual nomad who filled us in on all his Borneo adventures. What a night!

As we were staying in a one bed suite we had access to the exclusive Executive Club lounge. As an executive business woman who does important executive business it is always nice to have a special place to do that. The open plan kitchen is stocked with free drinks and snacks for you to enjoy until your heart is content, however the party really gets started between 5pm-7pm as they offer free cocktails and canapes too. It’s a great way to unwind after a hard day of eating and lying by the pool. It was not my first time enjoying this kind of service but boy did we get our money worth (not that we paid, but you get the idea). I relaxed over Moscow Mules while my beloved enjoyed a refreshing beer or six. There was also a well stocked pre-dinner dining section. The food was different each night but some of the most memorable items were dumplings, curry, fried rice and noodles, as well as a dazzling array of mini cakes and desserts. You could easily skip dinner and fill up here if you liked, though as a diligent and hard working food blogger, I would never skip a meal.

Overall I can’t recommend this hotel enough, if you are looking for a luxurious stay in the city that wont break the bank then this is it. The location is fabulous (next door to the famous Welcome Seafood restaurant), and it’s close to the airport if you have an early or late flight. If you have the funds then I would definitely recommend upgrading to the club level, especially if you eat and drink as much as we do.  Rooms start at 400 MYR per night. For more information or to book a room please visit the hotel website.

Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort – Sabah, Borneo

Sometimes my life is fabulously chic, and these past few days have been one of those occasions. I was lucky enough to be invited to come and stay at the spectacular Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort in Sabah, Borneo earlier this week. Borneo has always been at the top of my list for places to visit, and when I saw where we would be staying I couldn’t book my plane ticket fast enough. There are half a dozen airlines that fly directly from Seoul, making it just a hop, skip, and a jump away. The resort has been open for 20 years, and at this stage has virtually every amenity you could imagine. Private beach, golf course, two pools, gym, a nature reserve, and a spa just to name a few.

We stayed in the very beautiful Ocean wing, where every room comes with an oversized outdoor bathtub on the balcony. The room itself was very spacious, with a gigantic bed big enough for four, a twin-sinked bathroom, a walk in wardrobe, and of course the aforementioned tub on the giant balcony. Guests staying in the Ocean wing are treated to a complimentary fruit/snack platter and minibar, which was stocked with beers and soft drinks for you to enjoy until your heart is content. Ocean Wing guests also get to enjoy a complimentary cocktail and canape hour down in the courtyard, which we of course partook in too and sampled a very nice tropical cocktail as well as some local snacks. It’s so nice to be able to unwind with a few drinks without worrying abut the cost, so this was a real plus point for us. The most luxurious feature of the room is probably the “indulgence” bath on your very own balcony, with a choice of rose petals, bubbles, or bath salts (once for free and 50MYR for additional baths). We had a very romantic bubble bath at sunset, which was just the thing to refresh us after a long day of sight seeing.

Our day started with breakfast at Oceano restaurant, which offers up the standard hotel buffet fare, along with an a la carte menu with items such as Eggs Benedict, frittatas, and local specialty nasi goreng. The nasi goreng was especially good, as were the made to order omelettes. Honestly i don’t think there was anything that you could want that wasn’t available. TFB particularly enjoyed the deli meats and cheese and tended to have a charcuterie to begin his day, while I was thrilled to find a juicer, and a huge array of fresh fruits and vegetables to pack in some vitamins alongside my Eggs Benedict, pastries, and fried rice.

One of my goals when I travel is to eat as much of the local food as possible, however when I get home, a lot of the time the delicious treats I have been stuffing my self with are unavailable to me, which is where a cooking class comes in. Learning to cook from local chefs gives a real insight into the food culture of an area, as you can really see what gets put into the dishes that you have enjoyed. In our class with Chef Chiew we learned to make the famous butter Prawns, using the gigantic tiger prawns found locally. I have never seen anything like these before, they were bigger than a babies arm! We also whipped up the Tuaran Mee, which is a local specialty noodle dish, and the chef added some satay as it’s one of my favourite dishes. All of the food was fantastic and the only thing that could compete for my attention was the breathtaking view of the ocean as we sat at our beach side table.

One of the activities that was arranged for us as part of our stay was a boat trip along the Mengkabong river(156 MYR per person). The river is the home of the Bajaus tribe, a lot of whom still live in traditional wooden houses built on the water. The saltwater river is home to an abundance of sea creatures, from which the Bajaus fishermen earn their livings. In particular mud crabs, tiger prawns and oysters can be found there. The river itself is peaceful and calm, and there is a real sense of calm isolation once you reach some of the narrower, mangrove surrounded, stretches of the river. We were then taken to the water village to sample some local coffee and a kind of fried cake made from rice flour, water, and brown sugar. The coffee was very sweet, and the fried cakes were tasty. The trip ended with us returning to our crab traps, which we had set up on the way out, to inspect our catch. As luck would have it, we had caught a couple of small mud crabs, and a solitary jellyfish, all of which we returned to the murky, muddy depths to be caught another day. This trip was a real highlight for me, it would not have been something that I would ordinarily arrange to do, as I tend to lean more towards food themed activities, however I was pleasantly surprised with the trip along the tranquil river, and highly recommend it, if you get a chance.

The property has maybe half a dozen restaurants within its grounds, but we opted to try the Japanese Teppanyaki-Kozan. For those unfamiliar with Teppanyaki, it is the style of cooking where a chef prepares your dishes in front of you on an iron grill, the teppan. This tends to be one of the more fun and interactive styles of dining, as you can build up a rapport with your chef as they prepare a selection of delicious treats for your enjoyment. At Kozan, there are several different set menus available, as well as the option to order a la carte. Given my aversion to fishy fish, I picked the more land based Akita set(159 MYR), whereas TFB went for the more mixed Kozan set(295 MYR). Out of all of the dishes we got to try from the two set menus, the standout was the Fois Gras. It was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth without having too much of the oiliness sometimes associated with fois gras. We also loved our steaks, which were still pink in the middle and melt in the mouth despite the epic flames that engulfed them during one of the tricks. Our chef Ben, was entertaining throughout our dinner, and while he didn’t quite manage to succeed in performing his egg trick, he did however put smiles on our faces with his stories.

The resort is located on a large plot of land, part of which is a nature reserve. On one of our mornings we got up at the ungodly hour of 6am to hike up to the top of the nature reserve for breakfast (98 MYR per person or 498 per couple with a bottle of champagne). Very un-fatgirl-like, I know, but it was a thousand percent worth it. Our friendly guide Sabinus led us up the trail, pointing out various interesting plants,as well as the tree snakes that we needed to be wary of. The hike, while not being longer than 30 mins, was definitely enough to work up a good sweat, especially in the tropical heat, so when we were greeted by a cool breeze at the top of the path, it was with palpable relief. A light breakfast of fruit and pastries had been laid out for us, and we sat down to eat with a view of the majestic Mount Kinabalu away in the distance, and the Bornean coastline stretching away to the horizon. Honestly it was incredibly humbling to be able to enjoy the stunning scenery in such an exclusive way, this is one for the bucket list for sure.

After our morning hike, and a second breakfast back at Oceano…, we wandered down to the beach-side pavilion for the combo massage. This was combo reflexology massage(239 MYR) for the back, shoulders, and feet, and I can honestly say it was one of the best massages I have had, and I’ve had about a thousand.  Lying out next to the sea and having all the tension massaged away was exactly what I needed and the state of bliss stayed with us for the rest of the day.

Having enjoyed breakfast in the Oceano restaurant each day, it seemed fitting to go and have a look at what is on the actual menu throughout the day. Rather than order something from the menu, the head chef, Luca, came out and said he would make us “something”, which is always fun. We ended up trying several dishes, some familiar, some not so much. We started with a take on one of our favourite salads, the caprese. As you can see above the juice from the tomatoes had been made into a kind of jelly which sat atop a a huge ball of fresh mozzarella. The star dish for me was probably Chef Luca’s incredible gnocchi, it was so soft it was like a cloud was melting in my mouth. The meal ended with the tiramisu, which was a novel spin on the classic Italian dessert. The dish is made a la minute, with biscuits, cream, and two kinds of meringue. A shot of espresso is then poured over the dish at the table, before being quickly absorbed by the biscuits. This method results in the tiramisu having a real punch of flavour, and the coffee meringue on top added a balancing crunch. This was a fabulous meal to end our stay, and we left with full bellies.

Although our time at the stunning Rasa Ria was all too short, it was incredibly sweet and I cannot recommend this place enough.The staff were truly wonderful, and every last person we encountered went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of. This culminated in them gathering together to sing a farewell song as we departed, which was the perfect touch to say goodbye. If you are looking to get away from it all and indulge yourself it is the perfect location, and if you are in the mood to get out there and really explore Borneo it is perfect for that too. Rooms in the ocean wing average 1400 MYR per night. For more details about the resort or to make a booking please visit their website.

Korea Travel Expo 2017

Last weekend was the Korea Travel Expo at COEX mall. The four day event gave visitors the chance to learn everything there is to know about travel within Korea. Each of the 9 provinces, and various travel related organisations hosted booths, so they were able to show off the beauty that the land of the morning calm has to offer.

Like most of the expos held at COEX, the exhibition was gigantic, with several hundred different kiosks offering information and interactive experiences. One of our favourites was this pottery making station from Ulsan. Visitors were welcomed to make their own cups and vases, which they were then able to take home. They brought the wheel to help promote their pottery festival which happens in May.

Another popular booth was the perfume making from Namhae province. For 3,000 won per person you could your own perfume from all the different fragrance notes they had available. I’ve never made my own perfume before so this was lots of fun. and now I have my own fantastic fragrance,

One of the largest sections of the event was the edible one, which is of course where I spent most of my time. Almost every area of the country offered up a chance to buy the traditional dishes they are most famous for.  There was wine from GyeongSang Buk-do, Kimchi from Yeosu, along with dried octopus, cheese, grains, pickled and dried fish, and the famous Jeju chocolate.

I have visited most of the different provinces over my years in korea, but there are always new and exciting places to discover. For such a small country there are so many different things to see and do, and having an event like this was the perfect way to find out more about them.

The event has finished for this year, but if you would like to visit or set up your own booth at the next one you can find more information on the Travel Expo website (Korean only) or visit their facebook page.