Sunday, 19 October 2014

#Restaurant Review: Clinton St Baking Company, Dubai

When the wifi password is 'pecanpie' you know that you've stumbled upon a winner. The Clinton St Baking Company is originally a New York based cafe, and has recently opened a branch in Dubai.  Having looked up the menu online before I went, I was torn between what I was going to order, as I was going on my own and wanted to try at least 4 items on the menu.
I went on a Sunday for a late brunch, and was lucky that it wasn't very busy as I understand there's a wait on weekends. Although I was curious about the savory dishes, I finally settled on the brioche French toast, which came with caramelised bananas, roasted pecans and warm muple butter (not syrup!).  I had wanted to try the house granola, the sweet pancakes, the crispy potato pancakes, and the special black cod fish tacos also looked very interesting but .... more reasons to go back I guess..
The French toast was exactly what I would have expected a New York portion of colossal toast to look like, very similar to what I had tried previously at Normas in New York. The caramelised bananas were fluffy nugget-like pieces... a total mystery how they were made. Although I could only finish one piece of toast, I hadn't really expected to be able to conquer the portion so I was happy just having tried it. 
The toast is served with maple butter which looks like it's their signature, but to be honest I would have preferred syrup as once the butter got cold it had a runny consistency. 
They have a take-out dessert bar from which I bought a slice of their pecan pie (yes, I couldn't resist), and this was a true American style pecan pie oozing with a lovely soft pecan filling, loaded with pecans and a just-right crust.
The take-out muffin and dessert bar
I can imagine that this is a buzzing place on the weekend, but it was really just a bit quiet and lacking character during the time I was there. I am definitely curious to go back maybe with friends so we can order stuff to share.  

Open windows to the kitchen under a board displaying the specials of the day
Price: Breakfast for one was around AED 120 (french toast, orange juice and coffee).
Information: Clinton St Baking Company  is located at Burj Views, Downtown GF01 (At the Address Downtown Hotel traffic light, turn in the direction opposite to the hotel.You will come to a roundabout, where you need to take a right. Then take your first left and you will arrive at the Burj Views Towers. Our restaurant is the last place on the right, next to Flywheel). +9714-428-1331

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Zeri Crafts- Architectured Elegance

I had planned on visiting Zeri Crafts on a couple of different trips to Kuwait but because of timings (closed on weekends or by appointment only) it just never happened. With a couple of hours to spare and a driver who could find his way around, I finally called for an appointment and was given one at a time that I could make it. 
Zeri Crafts sells exquisite pieces designed with inspiration from Gulf heritage. Selling a range of items from cushions to mubkhars, notebooks to shawls, the showroon is a converted bungalow that exudes light in a contemporary atmosphere. 
With a display that is inviting and interesting, Arabian inspired shapes and fabrics draw you into the main showroom where items are displayed in the most innovatively artistic way. Colors of camel, mahogany, beige and red  welcome you into what I would call a gallery more than a shop.
Although by no means cheap, quality craftmanship is evident in the pieces sold at Zeri Crafts- you won't find an endless range of products which makes it clear that the products which are being sold have been carefully thought out and created.  
Among my favorites were the camel leather notebooks (around KD 30) and the mubkhars (incense burners) (KD 90).  Beautiful as souvenir gifts for non-Arabs but honestly at these prices if I'm buying them I would not want to let them go!

My favorite item- the mubkhar collection... the black and white ones now come in more colors!
The owner of the shop, Laila Al Hamad (whose sister Sarah Al Hamad is the famed author of Arabian cookbooks including Cardamom and Lime), was lovely to talk to and extremely helpful in organising the appointment for me, and if her shop is anything to go by, her taste is exquisite!
Information:  Not the easiest place to get to if you aren't a Kuwaiti resident, but Laila was very helpful in helping us find the way with the assistance of our driver... Call +965 9940 2406 for appointments and directions. Instagram: @zericrafts

Prices: You can get smaller items such as leather bookmarks and notepads within the KD 5-20 range, with shawls ranging around KD 80-100. Plan on buying something if you're going as the pieces really are special :)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Posher than Posh: Afternoon Tea at The #Claridges, #London

What could be posher than afternoon tea at The Claridge's? Quite simply.. nothing. 

I booked a table through my hotel's concierge, and there were time slots to choose from - I was later told that we were very lucky to find a table on relatively short notice. 
For those familiar with my blog you'll know I'm a total sucker for afternoon tea - not so much the food but the whole affair (ok, so the food is a major factor too).  Two places I had always wanted to try were Fortnum and Mason and The Claridge's, so it was all or nothing during my last trip. 

Whereas F+M is large and very English with turquoises and whites, the Claridge's is more of an old estate type set up, with lavish furnishings and side rooms.. very fussy and extravagant. 
The afternoon tea menu is quite creative, with a sandwich selection of organic chicken, smoked salmon with brown shrimp butter and rock samphire, and cucumber with creme fraiche.  The scones, including raisin and plain, come with the signature Marco Polo gelee- hands down the best jam for scones I've ever had.. and believe me, I've tried a few.  For dessert, our favorite was the mille feuille. 

Service is slightly snooty which is no less than what is expected, but they were very responsive to our requests. It took some time to find a waiter at times, as the dining area was a full-house the whole time we were there- and we had booked a time in the later slots.

I hadn't expected it to be as touristy as it was- there were some groups there who were obviously just there to see and be seen which I didn't really like but I guess in London that's unavoidable. 

If you've been to The Plaza in NYC for tea, this is a bit similar in terms of set up and style.  In terms of afternoon tea, the scones were by far the best -- probably because of the jam used. 
Highly recommended. No flash or intrusive photography allowed so please excuse the quality of my pictures :)

Price: Very expensive (50 pounds a head!!) + tax. 

Information: By appointment only! Bookings are made in slots-- call The Claridges +44 (0)20 7629 8860.

Monday, 6 October 2014

#Restaurant review: Katsuya, The Avenues, #Kuwait

I don't usually have high expectations for mall restaurant chains, but Katsuya was a pleasant exception. I initially tried the one at The Avenues in Kuwait, and more recently also had lunch at the Dubai Mall branch, and both of them did not disappoint. 
I dined with a group in Kuwait and then solo in Dubai so I was able to try quite a number of items on the menu.. 
For the most part, we enjoyed everything we ordered.  The rock shrimp, the crispy brussel sprouts (don't miss this- it's a star appetiser and is not what you would expect!), the ceviche, the robata grills (special mention to the maitake mushroom here!)

Artfully presented, accompanied by delicious sauces... the only dish that we couldn't eat was the stripped baze- this is a striped bass and was relly fishy and inedible when we ordered it so we returned it.  
The salmon teriyaki (tried in Dubai) was very good and with the accompanying veggies it's a very filling dish.
For dessert we ordered the mochi - this was the first time I taste this and it wasn't really to my taste, although my friends also said that it wasn't the best they had tried. We also got the chocolate lava cake which was good.

Service in both the Kuwait and Dubai branches was so-so... in Kuwait I can understand because we went during peak time on the weekend but in Dubai I went for a quite late lunch and there weren't that many diners...   The location in Dubai is quite nice as there is terrace seating for when the weather is nice, and in The Avenues it's right in the center of the mall so as with everywhere else in Kuwait, great for people-watching!

Information: Katsuya (Kuwait) menu is on Level G, Grand Avenues Mall, +965 22283195. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

#Restaurant Review: Granger & Co, #London

If you've ever passed through Westbourne Grove on a weekend you will have seen the line to Granger & Co for breakfast/ brunch. I've always been curious but never been in the mood to stand in line.. you have to twist my arm quite a bit to get me to wait over 30 minutes to get into a restaurant.. but one must sacrifice for one's blog readers and so there I was waiting with friends for over 30 minutes to get into a restaurant...

Firstly, I was on a diet at the time and secondly, I don't do eggs.  So maybe I'm not able to give you a proper review of this as I wasn't able to try the yumminess from my friends' plates... I ordered the quinoa felafal which came with edemame hummus, roast beets, haloumi and grilled flatbreads- which was delicious. My friend had the ricotta hotcakes which come with bananas and a honeycomb butter- it looked divine, but... diet. The menu is a very interesting one, with a mix of Mediteranean, Asian and Italian flavors (according to their website, it's Australian??) with items like sweetcorn fritters, pastas, yellow fish curry with spiced butternut squash, miso charred open steak sandwich and a host of wonderful sounding apetisers and sides like courgette chips with tahini yoghurt and crispy salt and pepper squid.  

We didn't get a proper table so we chose to sit at the bar instead of waiting longer for a private table. Service for where we were sitting was a little slow- we asked for coffee and it took 2 reminders before we got it-- for a restaurant which constantly sees this many diners they should at least have a better managed service system. 

I would have loved to try a dessert too, but you know, diet and all...but honestly I would like to go back when I'm not as restricted with what I can eat and try some of the more eclectic items on the menu. Go with a group of friends so you can share food- and maybe even convince them to go earlier and stand in queue so you don't have to wait as long  :) 

The restaurant itself delivers on what its website claims as a bright, light and airy dining room, which makes it welcoming and homey. 

Information: Granger and Co is located in Notting Hill on 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB, Tel:+44 20 7229 9111.  They also have branches in Australia, Hawaii and Japan. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

#Hotel review: The #Sheraton Hotel, #Kuwait

I hadn't considered staying at the Sheraton on my Kuwait trips because I thought it would be too institutional and old-fashioned. I'm not quite sure what swayed me this time but I didn't regret the decision. 
I booked two rooms directly through the hotel only a few days before my scheduled trip, as it was a last minute decision. I am an SPG member but hadn't used my card in around a year and didn't have the number on me when I booked. I had read numerous reviews of guests who had been upgraded and wasn't sure if my on-and-off SPG stays would qualify me for one!
We were offered complimentary airport transfer- when I booked I was given the option of shared transport (maximum 3 people per car) or private transport which is limited to your party.  I told them the shared transport was fine (it's for any 3 people arriving on same flight), and we ended up being alone for the ride so I'm glad I didn't pay extra. 
The hotel is as traditional as I expected it to be in terms of lobby and entrance, but this wasn't a bad thing. The lobby area seems to be a popular meeting spot and despite how busy the hotel was, our check in was very smooth.  We were greeted with juices and coffee as we sat at the check-in desk; I presented my SPG card and asked for a room on a higher level.  We were offered the option to upgrade ourselves to the executive rooms which we declined, and then to my pleasant surprise, we were each upgraded to junior suites!
This process was done very discreetly, and the staff were helpful and friendly. 
We were then shown to our rooms - my impression of the hotel's style was outdated yes, but very well maintained and clean.  Hallways were bright, and when we saw our rooms we were both very happy. 
The room was spacious, with a seating area seprarated by a wood partition, a great bathroom and excellent storage space- drawers and hanging space. When I travel, even it's for a short weekend trip, I always like my room to be spacious because I don't like the feeling that I'm cramped up in a small space away from home. Rooms with limited cabinet storage annoy me so luckily this room was perfectly designed and equipped. 
Tea and coffee makers with mugs and small biscuits are complimentary in the room and water bottles were replenished often.
The hotel has around 4 restaurants including Iranian (renown in Kuwait), Lebanese and Indian as well as a tea room where they serve traditional afternoon  tea. We were out all the time so unfortunately couldn't dine at the hotel, but I had their in-room dining (french toast for breakfast-- average; and shrimp biryani for dinner- quite good). You can order items from their restaurants for dining in-room which is also a nice option. 
The on-premises facilities include an ATM machine (critical for all hotels!), a salon and a newsstore. 
Service was very good, although housekeeping was a bit too keen in the morning and if you don't have your DND sign up then expect to be nagged about when you want your room cleaned. 

The hotel's location is very central- everything seemed to be 15 minutes away.  It was quite busy over the weekend and seems to be a popular venue for weddings, but we weren't disturbed by any noise either in the lobby or in our rooms as the banquet halls are at the back of the hotel. 
Would I stay here again? Absolutely. 

Price: For a two night stay I paid KD 216.500... What you would expect to pay at the Sheraton... 
Information: The Sheraton Kuwait is located on Fahd Al Salem Street in Kuwait City.  Tel: +965 183 5555.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Rush to Rioche! - New Gourmet Chocolatier in Town!

Who doesn't love walking through the food hall at Selfridges or Harrods and zeroing in on their favorite chocolate brand for that coveted box of chocolates? Well you have one less reason to go to London now with the soft opening of Rioche Artisan Chocolates in Um Al Hassam.

Gourmet chocolate brands including L'Artisan Du Chocolat, Sugarfina, La Cure Gourmande and tea brand Kusmi Tea are some of the brands that are currently stocked at Rioche, with more brands being added.
If you haven't tried Sugarfina, I highly recommend this line- you can get the sampler box with 9 different types, or choose the individual boxes you want which come in around 18 pieces per box. Chocolate and cocoa covered nuts, fruits, superfoods... you name it, you can with it as chocolate!
Though the shop is small in size, its selection is quite good, with different types of chocolates, chocolate bars, drinking chocolate, biscuits and candy all in stock. Large orders can also be accommodated if orders are placed in advance.

Information: Rioche is located in the same area as KIMS hospital in Um Al Hassam.  Tel: +973 3844 3844.

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