Wine tasting at Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley

During our stay in Melbourne, we spent Christmas Eve, which is the big day in Sweden, with a trip to the nearby Yarra Valley for a bit of wine tasting. Instead of snow, heavy food and Disney’s Christmas there was lush scenery, actual heat and of course wine drinking.

Based on a recommendation we went to Domaine Chandon, which is owned by LVHM, that is Louis Vuitton Moët Hennesy, eg. the French luxury conglomerate making fancy bags and of course the Moët Chandon champagne.

Splash tasting at Domaine Chandon

We opted to do a little tasting before having lunch, and paid I think $20 AUD each for a ‘splash tasting’ of five different wines – four bubbly and one red. Everyone quite delicious and we ended up buying a bottle of their blanc de blancs (eg. made with just chardonnay grapes) for our upcoming New Years Eve celebration.

After the tasting lunch was literally on the menu. We tried half of the dishes on their menu, and it was all delicious. Cheese and charcuterie boards, a trio of crostinis as well as a plate of crunchy fat chips with a good quality mayo. Paired with a glass of their aged cellar bubbly and a view over the vineyard this was another highlight of our visit, and sort of a must do if you’re visiting Melbourne.

My best ever fish and chips at Bridge Fish & Chips, Mordialloc

After five days of South East Asiaing in Singapore, it was time for the next destination. After a sort of painful red-eye flight, that was prolonged by a tropical thunderstorm, we found ourselves at the Mornington Peninsula, just outside of Melbourne, Australia.

As I have relatives there, Christmas in Australia was sort of the main goal for our trip, despite only spending five days there.

Anyway, after managing skybuses, commuter trains and finally some walking we ended up at my relatives’ house. Fortunately they had anticipated our state of mind, and fried food was on the agenda.

Close to where we stayed, there is Mordialloc. To me, it sounds like some vicious creature straight out of Harry Potter, but fortunately it’s a quite nice little suburb by the ocean that also happens to have a nice fish and chips shop. We opted for take away and brought a load of deep fried seafood goodies, chips and white Aussie and New Zealand wine and crashed down on a bench next to the ocean. It might’ve been reaching firm ground after the painful flight and all that, but this was the best fish and chips I have ever had. The calamari was ridiculous. Not even a bit chewy – soft meat, crunchy coating. The fish was flaky and with equally crunchy batter. The prawns, oh the prawns. Juicy, sweet and with a beautiful crispy coating as well. Great chips, tartare sauce (I love that stuff so much), a squeeze of lemon, and cold white wine. A red sunset for dessert. Couldn’t be much better.

Website (their page on Tripadvisor)

A night at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore

Being my third visit to Singapore, I’ve not been able to miss the enormous, pretty-yet-slightly-ugly, structure of three buildings topped off with an ironing board, sort of.

The space ship-y structure is of course the Marina Bay Sands, a huge complex including a hotel; casino; giant shopping mall; the world’s most Instagrammed swiming pool; and, naturally, canals with gondolas.

In spite of my slightly pretensious intro, I’ve always loved Marina Bay Sands. I have a thing for futuristic, slightly over the top architecture, and MBS together with a couple of buildings in Dubai might be one of the best examples of that style.

So, anyway, third time in Singapore, and we decided to fork out and stay our last night at Marina Bay Sands.

Price for one night in a club room

After doing lots of research we decided to go for a club room, which in addition to the room also gives you a range of perks. For one night we paid around 650 sgd in total with taxes. A huge price for one night, but it was sort of worth it.

Checking in

As we arrived the Tower 1 with an Uber, we ditched the lines in the gigantic main lobby and instead entered the Sands lounge for our check in procedure. It was calm, there was free coffee, tea and water, and they made you sit down in a comfy leather chair while taking your details. We purposely arrived early (11 am) to see if we would get access to the pool or even early access to our room. Fortunately both. First they said we would get a temporary visitor card so to access the guests only infinity pool, but the moment after the room was also ready, and off we went to the 49th floor.

The room

I had hoped for a room facing the city (despite booking the cheaper option facing the ocean and Gardens By the Bay), but no luck. We could however see the city from the hallways, lounge and pool so no worries in the end.

The room had decent sized balcony, and surprisingly for such a fancy hotel there was a cockroach on it (not in the room though). Otherwise the room was meticulously clean and fresh. It was big and airy, with all the things needed such as a flatscreen TV, large bed, mini bar, free wifi and a fancy looking bathroom with both shower and a tub. Since the hotel is sort of a destination in itself, we did not spend a great amount of time in the actual room in the end.

The swimming pool

Marina Bay Sands is probably most famous for its 57th floor swimming pool. Only accessible for hotel guests (although you can sneak a peek of it from Cé la Vie Bar and the admission Sands SkyPark) it offers really spectacular views over Singapore’s skyline and a hint of vertigo as the infinity pool seems to end right at the edge of the building (which it sort of does, although there’s a bit of edge a bit further down which is only visible if you swim up to the edge). Definitely the coolest (pun intended as it was sort of cold) pool I’ve experienced. It was quite busy during our visit, but the pool is looong so there’s still plenty of space to sunbathe and swim. There’s a fair bit of selfie game going on, but less to that I anticipated. And again, the views themselves pretty much motivate the stay in my mind.

The afternoon tea

In the Club 55 lounge (as name implies located on level 55), which is included in club rooms, afternoon tea is served from around 2 pm and lasts for two hours, until 4 pm. The afternoon tea consisted of a buffet with both savoury and sweet items, but with a focus on pastries and cakes. Great macarons! You are offered coffee (including speciality coffee such as cappuccinos) or tea when you arrive, which is brought to the table. The coffee was so-so, but the buffet items were really nice.

https://foodetccooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/img_8550.mov

Evening canapées (with free champagne!)

After a brief chance to reload, evening canapées with complimentary cocktails or drinks are served from 5-7 pm in the same Club 55 lounge. We arrived pretty much 5 pm sharp and there was already a line. Five minutes later the line was quite long. We managed to get a window table which was really nice for taking pictures as the sun started to set during our visit. Like the afternoon tea, a buffet is served and is self service. This time it was more focus on savoury stuff, and they had a quite good selection of small and tasty bites such as quiches, cheese, salmon, grissinis, olives and dips. If you’re a bit greedy like us, you could quite easily have a quite filling meal.

Drinks are served to the table and they emphasised that there’s one (alcoholic) drink at a time. Greedy as we were I think we managed to drink 4 or 5 glasses each of Piper-Heidsieck champagne that was included along with a bunch of other drinks and cocktails. A great argument for the extra $150 SGD we paid extra for a room with lounge access, since “real” champagne is quite pricey in Singapore and we probably drank like a bottle each with possibly the best view in the city.

Breakfast

As a club guest you’re again entitled to breakfast in the Club 55 Lounge. Although you can also choose to have it in the lobby, OR by the pool, at Spago by Wolfgang Puck. “Why eat inside when you live in a land of that’s pretty much covered in ice and snow half year”, we thought and took of for Spago around 8 am. There was quite a few that had the same idea though, and we had to wait in line for 10 minutes or so before we were seated. The breakfast was really good fortunately and definitely worth the wait. You can order speciality coffee (included in price) but they won’t tell you, as we realised too late after a few cups of bland “hotel coffee”. You can also order your eggs according to preference, which included eggs benedicte style, meaning poached on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce. Apart from this a quite large buffet is available with high quality food – both Western and Asian. Tasty freshly squeezed juices too. A very nice breakfast for sure.

The verdict 5/5

Despite us paying pretty much the exact same price for one night at the Marina Bay Sands as we paid for our four prior nights at the Hotel Bencoolen at Hong Kong Street we actually found it quite worthwile. I probably wouldn’t stay there for an entire stay even if I could properly afford it since there’s so much stuff going on that you wouldn’t really have a chance to properly experience Singpore. But for 24 hours of feeling like a millionaire, I’d say it’s worth its price if you find a deal similar to ours (650 sgd incl taxes).

My foodie happy place: Lau Pa Sat food market

Lau Pa Sat, also known as Telok Ayer Market, is a hawker centre that has fed Singaporeans since the 1800s. Situated smack bang in Singapore’s financial district, the classic building, filled with local eateries, is one of my favourite foodie places in the world. Just sitting there, sipping on a beer, smelling the grilled satay skewers from the “satay street” next to the market while waiting for what ever you’ve ordered (there is actually sort of table service with different vendors selling and bringing food to the table). Above is satay, grilled chicken, lamb and beef skewers with peanut sauce. There are different stalls doing different kinds of satay, but all I’ve tried has been really good.

Blackpepper crab and mantou. A really nice steamed crab, woked in a spicy blackpepper sauce. The mantou buns are sort of like deep fried bread rolls that you use to soak up the sauce. So good.

Hokkien Mee. A seafoody noodle dish topped with crispy pork rinds.

Carrot cake or chai tow kway. Not containing any carrot but radish and sliced rice cake in a omelette-meets-pancake kind of creation.

Murtabak. A pancake-like dish filled with spicy, fragrant sliced chicken. Dip in the accompanying curry sauce. Mmmm.

Great lunch at Candlenut, Singapore

Before leaving for Singapore, I read at several places about a restaurant called Candlenut that serves Peranakan style food, sort of meaning Singaporean/Malay and some extent Indonesian food influenced and fusioned with the food of Chinese migrants. Straits-Chinese Candlenut themselves call it. They also have a Michelin star, naturally I had to pay Candlenut a visit.

As the headline implies, we went for lunch. To start we ordered their pork neck satay that came without any peanut sauce or similar. We ordered their housemade spicy sambal to have something to dip in though.

Next up was a delicious fresh, sweet, salt and sour crunchy salad with wing beans, fresh prawns, cashew nuts, lemongrass, kalamansi lime and baby radishes.

King Tiger prawns in a ‘gula melaka” coconut sauce with lemongrass and Thai basil. Giant juicy prawns and the most intense coconut flavour I’ve ever experienced. Totally delicious.

Rendang, or sort of a dry Indonesian curry, I’ve tried in both Indonesia and actually also at home trying to recreate our vacation favourite. It is a bit like pulled beef, to draw a similarity to a Western dish but with quite complex flavours of different spices cooked into the meat for many hours. Candlenut’s version with Wagyu beef ribs was very rich, for me almost too rich. But still very good flavour wise.

Last but not least, the buah keluak dessert that apparently is one of Candlenut’s signature dishes. Buah keluak is a nut from the kepayang tree and is in this dish made into a quite bitter cocoa-y ice cream. With it comes Valrhona chocolate, chilli and a warm chocolate espuma. I read a few reviews of this dessert and many did not like it. I did though. Actually, I really liked it, almost really, really liked it. A really cool way of showcasing a unfamiliar (to the Western palate at least).

What a lunch is all I can say to summarize our visit to Candlenut. Good efficient service; nice interior and ambiance, and of course great food.

Price

We paid roughly 140 SGD (including the ++) for food, a shared dessert and a cup of coffee each. We did only have tap water to drink, which was complimentary.

Website

Dinner at Din Tai Fung Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Whenever I am in a city with a branch of Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung, I tend to go there for a fix of one of my favourite dishes in the world – the famous soup dumpling, xiao long bao.

Din Tai Fung’s Marina Bay Sands branch is one of the best I have visited (maybe that’s a general Din Tai Fung Singapore-thing though) of the Din Tai Fungs I’ve visited over the world so far. The above xiao long bao pork soyp dumplings were great. Filled with broth and minced pork, then dipped in a chilli-vinegar-soy-ginger dipping sauce, they make your taste buds do the happy dance.

Almost as good as the soup dumplings is the dan dan noodles. Chewy, elastic noodles in a creamy spicy sesame-peanut sauce, sprinkled with spring onions. Mmm-mmm!

Pork buns meets Singapore’s national dish, the famous chilli crab in a – you guessed it – pork and chilli crab bun. This was quite good, although not as good as above dishes.

In the foreground a spicy cucumber salad, in the back – another all time favourite – Din Tai Fung’s Taiwanese pork chop with perfect, slightly oily, egg and scallion rice. Incredibly tasty.

Finally we tried pork and prawn gyoza. Flavour wise it was good but nothing out of the ordinary. Texture wise, however, one of the best gyozas I’ve ever had. Insanely crispy bottom, and light, slightly chewy top.

A short staycation at Hotel At Six in Stockholm

I recently took a brief staycation in one of Stockholm’s new ’luxury hotels’ – Hotel At Six. At Six is a part of both iPrefer and Nordic Choice Hotels (not sure how that works, but I could only receive points from one 😩), the latter is the mother company of my favourite Scandinavian chain Clarion, and hence my expectations were quite high. I won’t elaborate that much, but the stay was definitely my best hotel experience so far in Sweden; great staff, great room and amenities, and most of all fantastic views from our ’deluxe room’.


Room and views over Stockholm. Try to get a room facing Djurgården. The other direction, towards Södermalm has more nearby buildings blocking the view.

Complimentary breakfast buffet pretty latte.

We brought our own champagne to the room and got to borrow nice Riedel champagne glasses from house keeping. Ice bucket was included in the room and ice machines was in the hallway.

Room service sounded delicious but was a tad expensive so we went for take away from Barrels and Burgers (city), which is relatively close. The money we saved was invested in a bottle of Brunello that was deeelicious with the burgers, wings and fries.

After a good nights rest in the fluffy bed it was time for a very nice breakfast before checking out.

Stockholm-Helsinki in a deluxe cabin onboard Tallink-Siljas M/S Silja Serenade


Had a bit of luck a few weeks ago when booking a cruise to Helsinki with one of the infamous Finlandsbåtar (Finland ferries) that cruise the Baltic Sea. 

After finishing our purchase I got a confirmation email for the wrong dates from what I had booked. I contacted the cruise company, Tallink-Silja, who explained that due to some kind of glitch, we had booked cabins that were already sold out. Fortunately, Tallink-Silja were friendly enough to compensate us with an upgrade to their deluxe cabin so we could go on our prefered dates.
One of the main issues (or the USP depending on your trips purpose) with going with any of the Finland ferries is the fact that you can drink the inexpensive stuff bought in the duty free shop directly after your purchase, meaning there are cabin parties all over the ship. That, and the lacking sound-proofing between cabins can make the trip a bit of a struggle as you can’t really escape the party anywhere.

Fortunately Tallink-Silja has adressed this to some extent with closed hallways depending on cabin category, meaning your key card can’t enter other hallways than the one you’re staying in.

We stayed in the deluxe cabin area of the ship, where there are only two-bed cabins, meaning the party crews stayed elsewhere.

The deluxe cabin
Where the standard cabins are good enough to get a couple of hours of sleep, the deluxe cabins are more hotel room-like. The cabin is 14 square meters with a good-sized window giving great ocean views from the 11th floor. Included is also a fridge with complimentary drinks (2 small 20 cl bottles of sparkling wine, 2 beers, 2 cokes, 2 Fanta, and one bottle each of sparkling and still water). It wasn’t replenished during our trip, we did get our beds made though day two, which does not happen in lower cabin classes (I’ve done the trip many times in C, B and A cabins). Instead of bunk beds there is a decently comfortable double bed (queen size I guess), there is a flatscreen tv of decent size and with good reception and Swedish and Finnish channels. Ship’s free wifi worked okay in the cabins, but the signal is much better in the public areas.




The main change for me compared to traveling in lower cabin classes was that this cabin was actually pretty nice to hang out in. The sound-proofing is not much better (if any), but our neighbours were quite silent. We probably spent three hours day two just watching tv, eating chips and resting.


A bonus attached to the cabin is also the ’luxury breakfast’ in Tavolata restaurant. The luxury being coffee and tea being brought to your table instead of you getting it yourself, and a complimentary glass of prosecco, or a bellini. The self-service buffet is good enough, comparable to a 3-star hotel or similar, with decent bread, charcuterie, eggs, Karelian pies, fresh fruit, pastries and bland juice.


Although this post is mostly about the deluxe cabins, as I did not find much information myself about them, I of course need to mention the food we had as well. 🙂

We had dinner the first night in Serenade’s fancy restaurant; Bon Vivant. The restaurant is quite popular, we made a reservation a week before our cruise and got the last table according to the booking agent. The restaurant has a Nordic theme, and menus are changed a couple of times per year. We had the Tommy Myllymäki menu earlier this year when we went to Estonia, and this time it was Finnish chef Jukka Nykänen’s menu.

Wild duck with apples.

Beetroot marinated salmon tartare with truffle mayonnaise.


Pike perch, potato and whey.


The vegan starter was according to my dinner companion one of the best ever.

Day two we swopped the fine-dining for a Finland ferry must.


No trip without a buffet! I managed four rounds of food (and a couple of glasses of wine on tap), but only the picture of round one was publishable. 🙂

3 days of eating in Madrid, Spain

Just got back from a short, fun and busy trip to the great busy Spanish capital Madrid. Unfortunately the image quality is not that great since I only brought my phone. But nevertheless, below are the (mostly) great restaurants I visited.

O’Grove restaurant

Most restaurants that has a man or woman hand slicing pata negra when you enter turn out to be great places in my experience. The thin, nutty and fatty pata negra ham did not dissapont at all to start our meal.

Pulpo, eg. squid grilled and seasoned with smokey paprika.

Grilled seafood. Langoustines, prawns, crayfish, clams, razor mussels and lemon. So good.

Our main was a perfectly sized (after the enourmos amount of tapas to start) beef fillet, served with only a few chips and piementos de padrón.

O’Grove restaurant website

El Buey restaurant

Surprisingly, you got to cook your own steak on a hot plate set in front of you, something I did not realise while booking. This is the steak, pre-grilling. By some reason I took no post-grilling pics. The meat above was really good and was served together with some really good chips/fries and a nice, slightly acidic sauce to baste it in while grilling.

Starters were handed out before the meat and consisted of salad with a mayonnaisy dressing; a ratatouille-like tomato and vegetable stew topped with quail eggs, and deep-fried potato baskets. The same baskets were included with the blood sausage scrambled eggs.

El Buey restaurant website

La Lonja del Mar

Despite being the fancy restaurant of the trip, I was a bit dissapointed with La Lonja del Mar. Although the dishes were okay, they did not at all impress. Above is the two best dishes, a Donistiarra style hake with clams and Torrija, a Spanish version of ‘French toast’ served with missing cherries and ‘Amarena’ ice cream. Tasty enough, but by no means great, unfortunately.

La Lonja del Mar website

Bodegas Pablo Morate winery

Our visit to Bodegas Pablo Morate, a small family winery just outside of Madrid was a highlight of our stay. We got to try some excellent wines (unfortunately not the 101 year old bottle above) and got served some of the best tapas I’ve had. Extra good because Pablo Morate’s mom, the cook of above feast, joined us and told us about the food and even gave us the recipe for the incredibly tasty Spanish tortilla omelette.

Bodegas Pablo Morate website

Tapas tour in  the Salamanca district
Our last evening we decided upon a walking dinner with stops at three acclaimed tapas restaurants in the Barrio de Salamanca where we stayed at the Novotel Madrid Centro, which was pretty good.

La Castela restaurant

Cold but quite tasty shrimps to start the evening.

Pizza-like sandwiches with cheese, grilled and peeled peppers as well as ham. Went down well with a glass of red.

La Castela website

La Monteira restaurant

Might not look that exciting, but a quite nice little nibble in the form of deep-fried breaded pork.

Prawns, deep-fried and supposed to eat whole.

Seared tuna with a tasty dipping sauce. One of the highlights of the tapas we were served.

La Monteria Website

Restaurant Castelados


We got served a plate like above at each of the places visited. A mix of whole deep-fried fishes – to be eaten with bone and all, piementos de padrón and some crunchy stuff I can’t remember.


We had lots of sandwiches. This one was quite inventive, being the vessel of one of Madrid’s most famous dishes; oxtail stew. By this point I was so full, but still managed to chew one and a half of these guys down.

Restaurante Castelados website

The roof at Hotel ME (Radio), Madrid


As a bonus, we also visited the cool rooftop club/bar ‘The Roof at ME’. Not a very high up skybar (7th floor), but a really nice place to dance off the tapas from earlier, have a few nice drinks and admire the (although limited) view. Admission was 20 euro, but included a drink, including cocktails.

The roof at ME website

Breakfast at Novotel Madrid Centro


A breakfast plate at Novotel Madrid Centro, where we stayed. This is just picked up from the buffet, but I would like to mention it because of the nice assortment of charcuterie/coldcuts that they served. The watery juice above is some kind of watered down mango juice I mistakenly took. Fortunately they also had proper fresh squeezed orange juice that was much better.

Novotel Madrid Centro website

Mercado de San Miguel


We also managed to make a quick stop at Mercado de San Miguel food hall in the central parts of town. During the 10-minute visit I had both the above duck foie gras pincho with onion compote and fig jam (I think), as well as churros dipped in hot chocolate. Mmmm……

Merca de San Miguel website

Madrid, hit or miss?
It was a very short visit to the Spanish capital, but the food was great, the people friendly and the city very pretty. I’d love to go back soon to explore some more.

Delicious lunch at Leib Resto ja Aed in Tallinn

Visited the Estonian capital Tallinn earlier this Summer. We went to a really nice restaurant called Leib ja Aed, and I’d thought I’d share some pictures from the very delicious lunch we had there. Above, and served before the meal was a very delicious traditional Estonian black bread with chive butter.

Carrot tartare.

Slow cooked pork ribs with jus and vegetables was really good.

59 °C Siberian sturgeon fillet from Härjanurme with green vegetables and butter sauce.

Crème brûlée with black bread, paired with a Pearu IPA made by Leib Resto ja Aed themselves. Probably the best brulee I’ve ever had.

“Rhubarb rhubarb”. Rhubarb pannacotta, honey oat milk cookie crumble, mint, violet and rhubarb compote.

A really good lunch, and quite affordable too. We paid about €90 with drinks for a shared starter and one main and dessert each.

Leib ja Aeds website