+ foodie

A Char-mazing culinary experience!

I couldn’t help myself!

I just had to share a fabulous restaurant I have recently visited! I don’t profess to be a food expert by any means but I am a bit of a foodie. I love trying new places and this one is now on my repeat list – please let me introduce you to CharFor my Singapore readers, if you haven’t visited Char then it’s a must! I will be skipping back, taking my sister and her boyfriend when they visit Singapore for the first time, precisely one week tomorrow! Excited much!

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Char: 363 Jalan Besar, Singapore

Char are renowned for their Cantonese roast meats (Cantonese is, I believe one of 8 types of Chinese food!) Ooh Chinese food, I miss that…sweet and sour chicken, crispy chilli beef….it’s a bit different to some of the traditional Chinese food I have experienced since! Oh my, I have just been transported 5.5 years back when I was taken for a work lunch and of course mega excited that we were going to a Chinese restaurant. I was confronted with a menu which looked like it was from The Matrix and I made it very clear to my colleague that I was putting all my trust in him with the choice of food, secretly hoping I wasn’t presented with anything I had to politely decline. Of course the food which arrived was divine, including steamed buns with sticky barbecue pork fillings (omg I am salivating) and the best noodles I have ever tasted, however the finale was something else…CHICKEN FEET! I always have a rule to try food I have never eaten before, but I have to say, this is not for me. It is probably the best thing to eat if you’re on a diet because there isn’t much meat as you can imagine however none the less, I still tried!

I have totally digressed (I do this a lot, my mind is like having 20 Google tabs open at once!).

Back to Char…it was my friends birthday, it’s her favourite restaurant so of course it’s her choice where she has a foodgasm. As soon as we entered the restaurant, boom there it hit you…rich, flavour-some, comforting wafts of food which make you want to immediately claim the nearest table and snatch the menu from the closest waitress! Char has been open for 2 years, it occupies 2 floors boasting a communal, comforting and welcoming feel. The menu is extensive with a detailed description of each dish which makes it difficult to choose because everything sounds amazing. It’s a good job I was with an expert who knew exactly what she wanted to eat! We chose 3 dishes (I was thinking only 3?! I am starving and that is not going to fill me!) however my sensible friend seemed to sense this and kindly said, “It’s ok, we can order more as we go along” – PHEW!

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We ordered Special Char Siew, Beef Hor Fun and Beancurd with dry scallops. All washed down with a Hobgoblin beer! I have to be honest in that I only ordered this because it sounded like a Harry Potter butter beer kind of drink (I love Harry Potter!). It was actually a dark malt beer, rich with a toasty taste and I swear I could taste chocolate! Back to the food, oh my, it was serious melt in the mouth heaven! My mouth is watering again.

The Special Char Siew was my favourite, it arrived looking totally naughty! It is succulent pork drenched in a luscious sticky sauce and as someone who doesn’t do ‘fat’ my friend immediately says, “Don’t look at it, just eat it!” – oh man, immediately it melts in your mouth, you know when it almost dissolves? It’s sinful but it really doesn’t matter, it is delectable, I didn’t want to share, I wanted to eat the entire plate.

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Left to right: Beancurd with dry scallops & Special Char Siew

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Beef Hor Fun

Needless to say, I was more than full after sharing 3 dishes and we really didn’t need to order any more food as we went along! Every mouthful was worth the full and satisfied tummies!

Happy Birthday once again to my dear friend 🙂

If you haven’t yet been to Char, stick it on your list!

N x

+ inspiration

Inspiration from a rooftop bar!

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Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Look up 656ft and 4in – that’s where I spent Monday evening (the additional 4 inches are due to rocking my most adored pair of Louboutins!). In my last post I mentioned I was going to share with you one of my favourite places to hang out. This place is majestic and to me, THE most iconic building in Singapore…I present to you Marina Bay Sands! (MBS for short).

To be an info geek for just a second, MBS opened in 2010 and as I recently discovered, part of a 2 day celebration! The whole complex contains a hotel, luxury stores named ‘The Shoppes’, many impressive restaurants including 2 of my faves (CUT and db Bistro), 2 theatres, 2 floating crystal pavillions (one being an impressive Louis Vuitton store and the other a nightclub). There is also a casino, a skating rink surrounded by a vast food court, a convention centre and to finish, the complex is topped with what looks like a big ship to me, holding a SkyPark with an infinity pool! Now if that isn’t a bit mind-blowing then I don’t know what is!

I was on top of this ship, 57 floors high in the CE LA VI SkyBar where you are treated with epic panoramic views of Singapore. The bar oozes sophistication and style, it’s a relaxed atmosphere. Straight from the office ready to unwind at sunset, looking out to Malaysia on my left, Indonesia on my right and flirting with one of the sexiest cocktails (my tipple being Berry Bellini) is my idea of heaven. The DJ begins kicking out his loungey beats around 7pm as night falls and the city begins to pimp itself up in lights!

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It’s obvious that this building and what it has to offer is cool, but the design, architecture and views aside, it’s a great place to chill and reflect. Each time I visit I am overwhelmed with gratitude, I mean let’s be honest – I live here! It’s pretty phenomenal! Somehow I always end up musing over my journey to Singapore, what I have achieved so far, the love of my life, what is important to me and what I want from my future. I have no regrets, I believe that a positive mindset is key to happiness. I have worked hard on myself to have an abundance of hope, optimism and future mindedness, this isn’t always easy of course but if you practice enough it becomes a habit.

My practicing has led to 3 daily habits:

1. Think of 3 things to be grateful for – today they were:

  • The amount of support I have received in just 2 weeks since setting up my personal blog (seriously it has been overwhelming, thank you!)
  • Waking up to bright sunlight in the bedroom this morning – how gorgeous is that and what a great start to the day!
  • Being able to do a 13k walk home straight from the office, it’s a beautiful walk, it’s safe and just perfect to blow away the cobwebs!

2. Appreciate rather than complain – everything is an experience, from meeting people to undertaking activities. Maximizing your life is important, you don’t get another go at this, you only have one life! Don’t waste it being miserable, being angry or apportioning blame as this only makes you miss what is right in front of you!

3. Think happy thoughts – rather than allowing the negatives to take over, the worry and the sick feeling in your tummy to consume you, think of the people or the things that make you happy! Listen to your favorite tune, take yourself to a place where you have a great memory, something which makes you smile.

Try them, I hope these work for you!

So with all this in mind, a couple of Bellini’s later, chatting about life and what the future holds with one of my dear friends, reinforces just how lucky I am to be here. Dreams can come true if you believe and work hard enough. The desire to create a personal blog, share my life experiences and hopefully make a difference to others has been a passion of mine for some time. To be precise, the decision was made five and a half years ago, stood in the same bar looking out at the same view. Now THAT is awesome!

To quote Ms Audrey Hepburn, one of my idols, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.”

Follow your dreams 🙂

+ british expat

Ni Hao!

Singapore has been my home for the last five and a half years. You now know how I got here but what is it like for me now I am here?

FLASHBACK – I remember the moment I first landed. I was through immigration, had all 3 suitcases in hand and in a taxi within 20 minutes! Changi Airport has the quickest immigration passport control I have ever seen.  First impression – tick! What I wasn’t prepared for was the doors opening to lead me to the taxi stand…it felt like I had just been thrown in a 200 degree oven!  (I have to keep remembering this when I have visitors and shuffle them into a taxi for immediate air con!). The heat coupled with humidity is a bit of a shock to the system when you first arrive but Singapore has it covered, there is almost an air-conned underground city to help prevent the Adventure Water Park look!

It’s hard to condense life here into one post without it becoming the Magna Carta so here is my top 10 of what I love about Singapore:

  1. I live in flipflops! The mere word flipflop for me conjures up images of holidays, relaxation and hot weather. I have basically just described Singapore and I call it a working holiday! We don’t have seasons with living so close to the Equator and the weather is consistently ranging from approximately 27 to 32 degrees. Of course we have monsoon season (September to February) but it’s summer all year round. However, what I don’t necessarily enjoy is the humidity. Unfortunately it’s impossible to rock the sweat look but the $2 fan I bought when I first arrived, greeted by a happy bubbly woman saying “Ni Hao!” (hello!) is still my trusted companion 5.5 years later! Air con becomes your best friend and you find yourself hopping in and out of stores just to get into the air con!
  2. I love my poolside living (before I see my UK friends rolling their eyes, it’s just the same as having a back garden for you! This is my space to unwind). The lifestyle here is uber relaxed if you allow it. I love spending my weekends lazing by the pool reading a book or chilling on my balcony with a glass of red (gotta get my 5 a day!) before the working week begins all over again.
  3. It’s safe! Don’t get me wrong, low crime doesn’t mean no crime, but I can go running late at night or walking first thing in the morning and feel safe. There is no way back home I would go for a run in the dark, especially as a female. There are many people here exercising at night, for pretty much one reason…it’s a tad cooler!
  4. Singapore is a multi-cultural society – the main religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism – this means we get some pretty awesome bank holidays! On a serious note, there is great respect for the different religions.
  5. Food! Singaporeans love their food and so do I! One thing which is asked of me daily in the office is “Have you had lunch?” This is their way of caring, of saying hello and of making conversation. But food is a huge part of Singaporean life. Hawker Centres (open air food centres), are a hit especially amongst the locals and my favourite is Lau Pa Sat as daily from 7pm they close a busy street in the CBD, out come plastic tables and chairs, barbecues are fired up and satay is served along with Tiger beer!
  6. Wet Markets – I love going to my local Wet Market, Marine Terrace which is on the East Coast of Singapore. I buy all my fresh produce from here including meat, herbs, spices and bunches of flowers to make the apartment smell gorge! It is typically cheaper than going to a supermarket but I enjoy chatting to the locals (I love meeting new people and I really will talk to anyone!). I believe they are called Wet Markets because they clean the floors with water after washing their vegetables so the floors are often wet (you learn something new every day!). And I recently discovered to add to the food romance that Singapore’s Changi Airport is within the top 10 for food in the World Airport Awards 2016 – well done Singapore!
  7. We call people Aunties & Uncles – this doesn’t mean we are now related to everyone! This is what we call people who are older than us, it’s a sign of respect.
  8. Helpers – it’s normal in Singapore to have affordable domestic help, especially for those who have a family and in which case having a live in helper is an absolute god send! Most helpers are from the Philippines or Indonesia and work dam hard to support their families back home. My helper is like another mum to me, she is here right now as I am typing away helping to make my place spotless and sometimes I don’t know what I would do without her!
  9. Living in Singapore means it’s a short distance to take a break! In less than 4 hours you can be in Bali, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bintan to name a few. That reminds me, I really could do with a proper holiday!
  10. Singapore Grand Prix – this is the only night race in the world! How awesome is that?! The city comes alive over this weekend, the atmosphere is amazing and I am always extremely proud that I live here when Singapore is showcased to the world. It is held in September every year.
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Singapore Grand Prix, 2013 

And finally, did you know? The World Happiness Index 2016 has ranked Singapore the happiest country in Asia and is ranked 22nd happiest in the world! That’s pretty cool.

Next week I’ll be posting about one of my favourite places to relax after work so stay tuned!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

N x

+ expat life

An expat abroad? Can-Lah!

 

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“You’re so brave!” – this has been repeatedly said to me over the last 5 and a half years.

The first time was from a previous boss who has now become a dear friend of mine. For the sake of privacy I am calling her Vera (I am waiting for the backlash for this!). I can still hear the panic stricken voice down the phone because I had casually mentioned to her I was considering moving to Singapore…just like that! Of course it wasn’t just like that as many an evening was spent with my nearest and dearest discussing the pros and cons over copious bottles of Pinot Noir (I am a red wine fanatic, after all it is fruit right?!) however knowingly throughout the whole process I had already made my mind up that I was going! Just so you don’t think Vera went home and hung herself from her shower rod, she provided support in abundance and still does to this day on any decisions I am making 🙂

I had been travelling for nigh on 2 years with my company, lucky enough to spend lengthy amounts of time in some great locations including Amsterdam, Rhode Island and of course New York City! From that very moment I fell in love with the Big Apple and it’s the only place in the world where I am at my happiest…but more on that at a later date!

So, I return from these 2 years. I am back at my old desk, doing the same old commute…notice the word old! I had experienced such amazing cultures and cities, from both a personal and work perspective and I began to feel stale. I knew somehow I needed to move forward, I wanted to maximise living my life – I have always had a strong view that I only have one life, this is no dress rehearsal and I am going to live it! It was strange as I was experiencing a feeling of excitement, although I didn’t know what I was excited about (I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a nutter!). I wasn’t scared, it didn’t even enter my head and to this day I still don’t know why I wasn’t but I was determined I was going somewhere! Luckily, at the time my company had a great global footprint and after searching for many locations with roles to match my experience on the internal career website, I applied for a role in Singapore.

“You’re so brave!”…this time from family, friends and colleagues. All were extremely supportive (albeit creating an excuse for numerous leaving dos!!). However, there was much sadness, especially the airport farewell which was a total tear jerker! I can still see my close relatives waving me off with our tears enough to give the Hudson River a run for its money! It was a tough moment and thank god for WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook because without these I wouldn’t have been able to keep in touch with everyone to the point where I didn’t feel I was on the other side of the world so much!

So 1 month and 3 packed suitcases later I was on a BA flight to Singapore!

Even though I am Little Miss Positivity, moving countries is tough, it is a big deal and on retrospect I guess I was brave but not everyone finds it easy, including me at times. For anyone out there considering taking the plunge, I  have 6 ‘heads-up’ tips on what kind of things to expect (from a female point of view and please bear in mind this relates to my move to Singapore!).

  1. You will have heartbroken family and friends – feelings of guilt and doubt will creep over you I won’t lie. You will miss events happening at home, your family get-togethers, your friends on a night out – I spent many a night in tears about this so I recommend giving Facebook/Insta/Twitter a break for a while when you first move!
  2. You feel like the new girl at school again – building a new circle of friends can be hard (especially if you don’t have kids) but I find work colleagues get you through that initially. There are so many things to do, many groups to join and when you are ready there are groups on Facebook with expats feeling exactly the same way so many ladies meet up regularly to make new friends
  3. Check out the local language – in Singapore we speak Singlish! This is Singapore’s unique brand of colloquial English. A simple example being, if someone asks would you like to grab lunch, your reply would be can-lah or cannot-lah (meaning yes I can or no I cannot, the ‘lah’ is added on to the end purely to complement the sentence but doesn’t actually have a meaning, similar to scouse in Liverpool!)
  4. All of a sudden you will miss Monster Munch, Warbutons crumpets, Blue Ribands, Jaffa cakes and Double Deckers (I don’t care what anyone says, chocolate tastes different here to the UK!)
  5. The fact you have a balcony and a pool in your condo puts you in a ‘posh’ bracket but don’t worry, that won’t become an issue when your friends and family come to visit, they will immediately get it!
  6. The time difference – you’re awake and your nearest and dearest are asleep! Hang in there, initially it is hard but you figure it out and remember you really are only a SMS/phone call/Skype/FaceTime away

I do have to add that all that said, moving abroad has been amazing, it has given me great independence and it has taught me what really matters in life. I have faced many fears, managed to overcome them and I still continue loving my life no matter where I am or what I am doing.

I look back at the journey and I think I just did it, to others it’s being brave.

 

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+ london life

Back to Blighty

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Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen: Old Street, London

One of the things I love about London in winter (although it wasn’t really winter, it was a week ago and apparently 11 degrees is warm?!) is heading into a dimly lit, warm and inviting restaurant from the cold.

There are two very different restaurants which have topped my list on my recent visit that I just had to share:

1. Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen – what made me fall in love with this restaurant was that you turn off a busy high street and suddenly find yourself in a quiet cobbled street – almost Harry Potter like! It’s freezing cold outside and infront of you is a gorgeous corner building, dimly lit with a cosy greeting.

The interior is an eclectic mix of modern and rustic design, it’s comfortable, romantic and snug. The menu is delightful and reasonably priced! For that mouth watering, close your eyes for a second then open them with a dreamy glaze in your eyes I recommend to try the following:

  • Duck croquettes, prune ketchup
  • Burrito, calcite onion, smoked walnut, malt
  • Gnocchi, Delica squash, goat’s curd, sage, brown butter
  • Short rib, baby garlic, mash, Montgomery Cheddar

 

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Dishoom: Boundary Street, London

2. Dishoom – this hidden speciality has a walk-in / no reservation policy. Bearing in mind how cold it was it was a nice touch bringing a hot toddy whilst you queue. The only downside about this is the length of time it can take to get a table as we were waiting for a good 90 mins before we could sit down to order.

The food however was worth the wait, by this time we were so hungry we pretty much ordered enough to feed a village! The dishes however were divine and the service was exceptional.

The dishes which were my favourite and I recommend trying are:

  • Chicken Ruby
  • Vegetable Biryani
  • Black House Daal
  • Murgh Malai

There were of course many other places I tried which were just as tasty: Gaucho, Cookbook Cafe and Wagamama for pure lunchtime comfort food.

Now I am back in Singapore and on a diet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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