Saturday, 26 January 2013

Setchwalk from Wessex to Portdown

Vimy House along Woking Road.

Wessex Village Square
Although the island Republic of Singapore has been submitted to a systematic territorial revolution since the 1960s, some of its urban heritage has been preserved. This is the case with Wessex Estate, a quiet residential neighbourhood located in the low hills extending on the western flank of the central urban area. Made up of less than a dozen bungalows and 26 small blocks of flats, Wessex Estate is of no particular architectural interest, but it does represent a heritage through the names borne by the blocks of flats.

Clearly printed on the façades of the 26 blocks of flats, these names all refer to military feats of British history. The study locates and briefly describes these events, several of which took place on European fronts, as far back as the early 18th century (such as Ramilies, Blenheim), others throughout the British Empire, starting from the middle of the same century (such as Plassey, Quebec, Khartoum, Pegu).

Built just prior to or just following WWII, it seems that the flats housed non-commissioned British officers during the Malayan Emergency (1948–1960). Their names refer to battles or theatres of war in all of which a given British regiment, the 67th or South Hampshire Regiment, might have been involved. Whatever the case, it remains somewhat remarkable that so many reminders of the colonial past, even a good number with "no natural connection" to Singapore, have remained prominent in this city-state otherwise apparently prone to sever "colonial apron strings".

Friday, 25 January 2013


Sketch by Favian
Hi everyone,

The first sketchwalk of the year will be along Portsdown Rd (Wessex Estate area). We will meet 930AM, 26 JAN, Saturday, at Fusionopolis' Ya Kun cafe. You may take the circle line and drop off at One North Station, which is below Fusionopolis itself. Take the escalator up to the first floor and you will see Ya Kun cafe. 

Have your kaya toast breakfast there earlier, if you like. At 9.30 sharp, we will start moving off along Portsdown Road (see map). You may stop to draw anything that catches your interest along the way. But keep moving up the road, pacing yourself, until you reach Colbar, a famous eatery. There will be signs that will point to the eatery when you near it. There is a cluster of cafes there. Feel free to take any detours you like along the way. But at 12.30pm, please be present at Colbar for our "show and tell" gathering and possible lunch there.

If you are late, just head up Portsdown Road and you will find us along the way. It a long walk so travel light. But it's a nice walk. See you there!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

In Pursuit of Life and Liberty Coffee!

Liberty Coffee at 131 Rangoon Road: for a satisfying and mesmerising cuppa with pastry selections that is matchmade in heaven in an equally wonderful environment.
Quite literally, it had been a chase. I had originally planned Liberty Coffee as part of my December Cafe Skecthwalk (Part 1). That was when I learnt that they are wholesalers and retailers of coffee beans rather than a cafe and they consider the occasions when they do open for drinking coffee as 'coffee-tasting' sessions. It is only on certain adhoc, random days when they do open for such an event. They do announce a few days in advance for a one-day only affair. So really, they are like the mayflies in the coffee-drinking circle. Missed the day and that's it - you have to wait for the next cycle.

However, the wait is certainly worth it. I noted that they are opened today make a trip down after work for an experience. I was fortunate to find a seat at a vantage point (to eat, to observe, to sketch). What was even more fortunate was that Pauline (the lady of the house) had prepared a wonderful pastry concoction of gula Melaka pandan chiffon to go with the latte I ordered from the master of the house, Terence.

The pair is a matchmade in heaven (referring to the food, of course). The cafe latte, made with espresso from the Speakeasy Houseblend is extracted just right - nutty, smoky, chocolatey with just the right amount of sweet from the espresso and the perfectly steamed milk served in a fancy latte art. Meanwhile, the chiffon is delectable with just the right amount of sweet to complement the coffee that was served together.

The environment is a cosy, homely hustling and bustling coffee place. On opening days, arrive at the right time (i.e off peak hours if it happens to be a weekday) for a seat as well as a satisfying selection of pastry to go along with your brew or espresso. The place will not disappoint.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

《青花瓷》: My Affections for Blue+White aka An affair with Royalty (of the Copenhagen type).

TWG loose leaf tea and Royal Copenhagen Blue Flower Curved Tea Cup Saucer
I have always loved blue+white porcelain. "Blue and white wares" (Chinese: 青花; pinyin: qīng-huā; literally "Blue flowers") designate white pottery and porcelain decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt oxide. The decoration is commonly applied by hand, by stencilling or by transfer-printing, though other methods of application have also been used.

One of favourite range is from Royal Copenhagen. I got a few pieces of their wares when I started working and had hoped to own a whole tea service when I get my own place. However, they pulled out of Singapore before I got the chance to do that. Fortunately, I still have a set of mugs and tea cup and saucer, plus a couple of their crystal glasswares.

Tea, anyone?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Little Soba Fix

Dinner at Shimbashi Soba
Soba (そば or 蕎麦?) is the Japanese name for buckwheat. It is synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour, and in Japan can refer to any thin noodle (unlike thick wheat noodles, known as udon). Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn. In Japan, buckwheat is produced mainly in Hokkaido.[1] Soba that is made with newly harvested buckwheat is called "shin-soba". It is sweeter and more flavorful than regular soba.

I love the soba served at Shimbashi for two reasons: the freshness and the texture. Their soba is made fresh daily at the premises and has a wonderful chewy texture that is just right. So, whenever I feel like a soba fix, I'll find myself here

Saint Marc Cafe at Vivocity

It was a melange of fun at Vivocity on Sunday (clockwise from left cluster): St Marc's Choco Cro, chicken sandwich and latte; Starbucks chamomile from previous sketch; agate seal in stylised Chinese character seal.

It was a Sunday for chilling out. I packed my things and went off to Vivocity to try St Marc Cafe and their famous Choco Cro, which is essentially a croissant stuffed with chocolate. Once I got a bite of that crispy-outside-fudgey-inside deliciousness, I melted with the taste.

The croissant is a regular piece of golden baked goodness with a generous portion of chocolate goey rolled inside. Do not be fooled though. It is packed with just the right amount of goodness and sweetness, so one is just enough for a good tea or dessert serving to go with that latte you've ordered.

It is important to note though: Saint Marc is known more for their desserts than their barista beverages.

On the same day, I spotted an ongoing roadshow at Vivocity and saw an actual master craftsman carving seals by hand in the traditional 篆书. I chose an agate seal - a premium material - and got the master to create a stylised seal for me. The result as you can see is the seal on the bottom right of the sketch.

That was a good day. :D

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Chamomile Moment...

Starbucks Chamomile Blend
After spending the whole afternoon walking and writing, I deserve this break...

Friday, 11 January 2013

Catching up is always good...

Girl friends catching up over coffee and cakes.
When I saw them, I wondered what would happen if I said I am catching up with my boy friends...?

60¢ for a moment of nostalgia...

Kueh tutu - an expensive form of nostalgia...

Kueh Tutu is a traditional delicacy and a uniquely Singapore dish that was invented right here. Made primarily with rice flour or glutinous rice flour, the light snack contains either ground peanut and sugar or shredded coconut as its filling. The typical method of preparation involves rapid steaming of the flour and the filling. Once ready, the Tutu is served on pandan leaves to add fragrance.

I remember I used to have them at 20¢ each, then 30¢ each and by the time I was in my early teens, it was 50¢ each. Now? It's a whopping $3 for a set of 5. You do the math.

Nostalgia and memories are an expensive hobby...

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Costa Coffee at Vivocity is the first time I've tried Costa Coffee. They have other outlets at Chevron House and Raffles City. However, I have not noticed them till they opened at Vivocity. When I tried their latte (my 'standard' for testing barista skills) I found it bitter and ashy and the milk was not sweet and rather thin. I do hope the barista's skills improve.

Costa Coffee started when Bruno and Sergio Costa founded a coffee roastery in Lambeth, London in 1971, supplying local caterers and coffee shops with their slow-roasted blend mocha Italia. Costa branched out to retailing coffee in 1978, when their first store opened in Vauxhall Bridge Road, London.

In 1995, the business was acquired by Whitbread, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary. In 2009 Costa celebrated the opening of their 1,000th store - in Cardiff. In December 2009, Costa Coffee agreed to acquire Coffee Heaven for £36 million, adding 79 stores in central and eastern Europe. By the end of 2010 the company had overtaken Starbucks in the UK, reaching a 37.6% market share measured by revenues.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Lunch at Maison Kayser, Wheelock Place

Maison Kayser, Wheelock Place Kayser is Eric Kayser's venture into retail bakery. He is a master French baker with over 80 stores worldwide and his products are a household name.

Eric Kayser is a fourth generation master baker. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all traditional French bakers. At the age of 18, he became a companion of the prestigious Tour de France of baking.

On September 13, 1996, Kayser opened his first bakery at 8 rue Monge in Paris. It was an instant success, garnering much critical acclaim. The opening of many more bakeries in Paris and in various countries abroad followed very quickly.

Eric Kayser is widely regarded to be one of the world’s best bakers. He is commonly referred to as the “ambassador of French bread to the world”.

Today, there are over 80 Maison Kayser locations worldwide. With 18 in Paris alone, more locations have opened throughout Greece, Portugal, Russia, Japan, Ukraine, Morocco, Senegal, South Korea, Lebanon, and the UAE.

The products and services in the bakeries vary from country to country, each adapting to the local tastes and flavors. This dynamic touch has helped the growth of Maison Kayser throughout the world. Each Maison Kayser location produces its products on-site daily.