Monday, 28 March 2016


Just back from my long awaited Taiwan trip :) I'll share this post in two parts with the first being Cingjing. My initial preference was to just blog about the food in Taiwan but given the lack of information during my research on Cingjing, I decided to help provide some.

Cingjing is a farm area located in the mountains of Taiwan. To head there from Taoyuan Airport, I took the Ubus 705 to Taoyuan HIgh Speed Rail (HSR). There we purchased tickets to Taichung HSR. This journey is rather manageable taking about 15mins by bus and 40mins by train. Train tickets can be purchased online or directly at the station. To purchase UBus ticket, head to ground floor and follow the signages. It's pretty clear. 

Thereafter, you have the option of busing up to Cingjing or taking a cab. I travel with the mentality that if it's too troublesome or time consuming, just spend! So I booked a cab before even flying to Taiwan. The driver's contact is here: Xie Zhiming +886 937 216 180. A lot of travelers use him and on the day he picked us up, his wife and son was with him so I felt safer! They are nice people who even bought us Taiwanese popular buns to try. 

In Cingjing, you can either walk or take their internal bus or call their internal drivers. I tried walking and the distance between attractions and where I stayed is far! Honestly I picked a minsu much closer to the attractions than all the other available options in Agoda so you can imagine the inconvenience. Internal bus on a rainy day is also relatively difficult as the waiting time is uncertain and walking distance isn't exactly the friendliest. The preferred option is to call their internal drivers but it's 50TWD per person per ride. So it's the most convenient but the priciest. See your preference. All minsu should be able to give travelers the number to call. 

The key attractions in Cingjing are mainly the Green Green Grassland and Small Swiss Cottage. It's hard to take pictures when it's pouring otherwise I thought it'll be fun. Both locations can be walkable if you are in a trekking mood but otherwise it's considered far in my opinion. 

One of the places everyone tells me I must visit is the Old England Manor. It's also the most expensive place to stay in Cingjing and much pricier than even many of the 5 star singapore hotels. In my opinion, it's a overhyped place. To enter, you either stay there or eat there. But if you eat there you are only limited to a few places linking the entrance to the dining area. 

Worthy of an English King? The afternoon tea set cost about 500 TWD per pax. It's food are interestingly agreeable with my palate even though they are much simpler than many other high tea sets I've eaten. I particularly like the raisin scones which I normally won't eat. Vain pot felt that the food was just so-so, I guess it's really dependent on individual preference. We both had a very pleasant afternoon though. 

Another must try in my opinion is Urn Chicken. I tried mine at Yi Na Gu, taking the minsu's recommendation. My initial choice was Ah Dong chicken. The difference is that both are really far away and Yi Na Gu provides transportation to and from the place for free! In any case, it taste like a very tasty chicken. I wasn't very impressed with Taiwanese food in general, but this chicken is probably the tastier chickens I have eaten. 

Pretty much this sums up my Cingjing trip and stuff you need to know about the place to have a good time there. The minsu I stayed is Star Villa. It's considered pricey for a minsu at $150 a night. But the rooms are very big and clean. They provide star gazing sessions at night daily. Sadly I failed to experience the sessions due to the rain. They have this observatory tower for star gazing. To get back to Taipei, just do a reverse of everything. You needn't hire a driver again because Star Villa provides a cheaper transportation back to Taichung HSR. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016


I'm typing this from high up in the Cingjing farm and it's cold up here. The blog post will be relatively short because the place I went was a rather impromptu visit I had yesterday after Vain Pot's dental took longer than expected and I need to rush home to pack for my trip.

We happened to be at Tanjong Pagar and just wandered around seeking food and Vain Pot led me here. The general appearance of the place generally told me its a brunch cafe but I also noticed that they offered a lot of healthier choices in the form of salads and natural juices. 

For a change from coffees and teas, we picked Orange Grapefruit ($6.50) and Apple Beetroot ($6). Service was good as this mix of fruit juice choices are recommended by the staff. A look at the menu doesn't offer the option of mix and match. What's more, there's no extra charge! 

My love for omelettes started during my visit at Maison Ikkoku. Ever since then, I have shunned away from the typical Eggs Benedict and big breakfast choices for eggs omelette as my preferred brunch choice. Here at SPRMRKT, I settled for Eggs Omelette with Crabmeat and Spinach ($16). It tastes very fresh with creamy tasting eggs and a good mix of crabmeat and spinach. Personally, I always felt that crabmeat is overrated and I didn't really get a very distinct taste outside of eggs and spinach. I only chose crabmeat because the other omelette choices had distinct processed food inside and I am rather health conscious recently. 

Vain Pot settled for Eggs Florentine ($14). It was a satisfactory with properly poached eggs that was runny the moment you cut through it. The taste blended well together. One feedback was that the portion was rather small but at $14 it's reasonable.

SPRMRKT is a fairly decent brunch venue at the heart of town. While the food I tried won't make me specially make a trip down, it's worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. I do think there's not many brunch places near Capitol Tower so here's a brunch idea if you happen to be working on a Saturday morning around the area. 

2 McCallum Street

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Fresh Fruits Lab (FFL)

It's one more week to my Taiwan trip! I'm pretty much scurrying to prepare for it because the weather these days is kinda crazy and I have never been to anywhere near single digit weather and the weather forecast seems to indicate that some parts of Taiwan are like that. Another aspect we learn from our last trip is that I pretty much can't walk a lot. So... today is foot reflexology day! But of course prior to giving my leg some comfort, we need to eat. I've shortlisted two cafes this week namely Fresh Fruits Lab and Five and Dime. Vain pot settled for FFL so here we are!

FFL is famous for their lab apparatus looking decorations, equipment and as the name suggest, fresh fruits. It's not very obvious from the photo but you can see the utensils served on a kidney dish and complimentary test tube fruit juice. Even their pen used to sign the bill is in the form of a syringe. I was first introduced to FFL when a colleague of mine told me about their Tuesday - Friday afternoon tea promotion. I was very tempted to go because it looks Instagram worthy but coordinating leave with friends isn't easy so I never got round to it. In any case, the blogosphere has mixed reviews about this place so it wasn't high on my to-go list. Yet, I am very curious about their quirky laboratory concept, so heart itchy (心痒痒) want to try. 

And try we did! For mains we picked Eggs Blackstone ($14) and Masago Caviar Pasta ($20). The Eggs Blackstone is made up of poached farm eggs with smoked bacon, beefy tomatoes, sautéed shiitake, toasted English muffin and fruit salad topped with hollandaise sauce. The eggs were runny, bacon went well with the sautéed shiitake mushrooms and English muffins making the meal flavorful. However, it should be pointed out that it basically met all the minimum criteria of a decent rendition of an Eggs Benedict kind of dish where if mistaken for the best eggs benedicts in the world you will be disappointed. Given that I have eaten lots of pricier similar dishes, Eggs Blackstone definitely makes the cut for a eggs muffin hollandaise sauce meal presenting good value. 

I grappled with myself a long time before ordering the Masago Cavier Pasta. I love pasta and most places known for brunch pretty much have served me disappointing pasta during my 2 years of cafe hopping. Moreover prior to coming here, the last blog I read complained that the blogger's experience at FFL was a disaster. So you can imagine, my apprehension when I ordered. The pasta, was as complained oily but I felt most Aglio Olio type pasta that tastes good have a certain degree of oil and this one was no more than the other good ones I have tried. The pasta was al dente and well infused with Masago Cavier that makes it very flavorful and tasty. I've always said that food that retains its taste in your mouth after eating is good food. So I was pleasantly surprised this dish is close. I felt the half shelled scallops were big and was a decent complement to provide a balance for the dish. 

Vain Pot and I both selected green teas from their drinks selection, Paradise Green ($5) and Tokio ($5) which are refillable! The teas agreed with our palate and we ended up ordering a lychee cake ($6.50) to complete a very relaxing weekend brunch. The cake in my view is just decent. But my view is bias as I don't like fruits. Vain pot on the other hand seems to like it and gobbled up most of it. 

All in all, my experience at FFL is a really satisfying one. Will I be back again? It's a resounding yes! Having said that, I'll need to manage expectations. FFL doesn't serve tip top michelin worthy food but it serves above average brunch food that presents good value. It also provides a unique experience in terms of concept and definitely it's paradise if you like to take photos like me. I felt that FFL is among my favorites in terms of satisfying my taste buds without blowing a hole in my pocket. I can hardly find places that cost less than $60 bucks for drinks, mains and dessert with air con and waitering service for two that taste great at the same time! 

Fresh Fruits Lab
351 Changi Road, Lor Marzuki 
(The brunch menu is only available on weekends)

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Epicurious Cafe

While I'll be flying out in two weeks time to Taiwan, I'm always kinda adamant to my friends that there's stuff to do on this tiny little red dot. This week is dumpling week! The main event is dumpling making but prior to that I wanted to pamper my tummy with something nice. I have this secret little plan at the end of this year that I kinda dragged fussy pot to Epicurious Cafe despite her lukewarm enthusiasium. Oh yes, I have a special request from Fussy Pot to change her name to Vain Pot. Apparently she thinks it's a more appropriate name for her. One food related reason for this visit is because I've been reading not too good reviews about this place two years after my last visit and I wanted to verify if it's true. 

Epicurious Cafe was first introduced to me two years ago by Bak Bak. Back then, I kinda fell in love with the food there and went back another two times with Vain Pot to explore their brunch menu. Most of the photos you see there is a collection from my multiple visits. Epicurious is located at the Quayside which is along the Singapore River. The view along with the alfresco dining area makes it a very relaxing environment for a carefree day of coffee and food. My experience with the brunch menu exceeded expectations and Epicurious Cafe effectively became my favorite brunch place in 2014. Today's visit was to see if they still keep their place among my top 5 brunch favorite. 

We settled for our favorite Eggs Benedict ($15.60) and a Breakfast Burrito ($15.60) which we never tried before. The Eggs Benedict met our expectations with refreshing runny poached eggs which we chose to pair with spinach (we tried smoked salmon previously and it was a clear winner) this time and it comes with English muffins and hollandaise sauce. This version is pretty well executed too. It's filling, value for money and the ingredients compliment each other really well. 

The Breakfast burrito which comes with two scrambled eggs, chorizo (pork), tomato, cheddar cheese and tomato-chilli relish is pretty good too. While it's a bold choice on my part, I'm not a big fan of tomato and failed to appreciate the dish as a result. Taste wise, I can tell that the scramble eggs is well executed and the combination of tomato-chilli with cheddar cheese, eggs and pork really made the burrito tasty despite my personal dislike my tomatoes. One thing I really like about Epicurious Cafe is the sides which are equally tasty. The watermelon has always been sweet and the roasted potatoes are nicely done too!  

Is Epicurious Cafe still my all time favorite brunch place? Well one of... It definitely still makes the top 5 list. My gripe about this place is that it's too out of the way even with a car (lazy me). Service is still as great as before. No ang mohs discrimination unlike what I read online. I think this is the perfect place to take a morning stroll and have top quality breakfast by the river. 

Epicurious Cafe
#01-02 The Quayside, Robertson Quay