Le Chinois Chinese Afternoon Tea, Knightsbridge

I was recently invited down by the lovely people at Joe Blogs to a bloggers’ afternoon tea at the Millennium Hotel in Knightsbridge. Those who know me well know that I’m not particularly a fan of cake, but when I was informed that Le Chinois at the Millennium Hotel offers a dim sum afternoon tea I was ridiculously excited. All the excitement of afternoon tea combined with my endless love for dim sum – what could be better?

The concept of the Chinese afternoon tea is a new one, but for £25 per person, the offering at Le Chinois is value for money especially given it’s location.

2015-01-19 15.12.35Upon arrival, I was given a glass of champagne while we were busy mingling with the other bloggers, both new friends and old!

Once seated, we were given some jasmine tea as our dim sum began to arrive. I was sat next to the lovely Olivia, who I’d met previously on my Zombie Run, and Emma from Emmainks.

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The first dish to arrive was minced chicken wrapped in lettuce. I loved the mixture of flavours and textures of this – they were really moreish, satisfying while feeling light.

Chinese lettuce wraps, le chinois

For the event, we were served everything separately, but if you pop in for the afternoon tea the dishes are all served at once, presented beautifully on a tray.

Le ChinoisLe Chinois

Highlights of the meal for me were the crispy shredded duck spring rolls, the sauteed prawns coated with wasabi cream (which I’ll be sure to recreate soon), crispy scallop rolls and steamed siu mai. Those with a sweet tooth shouldn’t fret – a delicious pink and green mochi cake (a sweet rice cake filled with red bean paste) is sure to keep you satisfied!

Le Chinois duck rollsLe Chinois ShumaiLe Chinois Butterflies

Other items on the menu included crispy scallop rolls, chai siu pork buns, dip-fried prawns with passionfruit coulis and fresh sliced mango, along with pepper and beef skewers.

Le Chinois KnightsbridgeLe Chinois Beef SkewersLe Chinois Rice Rolls

The items that I tried were beautifully presented, light and appetising – a really nice alternative to a traditional afternoon tea. Having just come back from Hong Kong, and having a mother who makes the most incredible siu mai in the world, I can’t honestly claim that the dim sum was the best I’ve ever had, or particularly revolutionary, but the dim sum was pleasant and tasty.

Dim Sum Siu Mai Afternoon Tea Le Chinois

We were lucky enough to be shown how to carve a traditional Peking duck – though I was too fixated on taking pictures to try any myself, a massive error on my part!

Le Chinois Peking DuckLe Chinois Peking Duck

I am completely enamoured of the dim sum afternoon tea concept, and I think the Millennium Hotel provide a beautifully presented option which is great value for Knightsbridge. Dim sum traditionalists might not take to Le Chinois’ offering, but for £25 the Chinese afternoon tea is a safe bet for an unusual London afternoon tea experience.

Thanks so much to Joe Blogs for hosting such a fun event! Although my meal was comp’d, all opinions are completely my own.

Le Chinois Joe Bloggers

Le Chinois is located within the Millennium Hotel Knightsbridge, at 17-25 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9NU. The Chinese Afternoon Tea is available at £25 per person.

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

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Lobster Kitchen, London

Lobster Kitchen

I’d say I’m a fan of the current trend of making lobster affordable and more accessible for Londoners – my glowing review of Burger & Lobster shows as much. I think that they’ve got it spot on – simple dishes that they do well, with high quality ingredients at an affordable price.

Lobster Kitchen2015-01-20 19.09.43

One of the best parts about Burger & Lobster though, besides the price, is the ambience – it’s understated, but charmingly done, and while it makes lobster affordable it’s tasteful – a nice place to go for an indulgent payday treat.

Lobster Kitchen

I’d heard mixed reviews about Lobster Kitchen, but always prepared to come with an open mind, I made my way to its corner of Fitzrovia, just off of Tottenham Court Road.

First off, it wasn’t the easiest place to find, especially on a dark evening in January – I walked right past it. As you walked in, the space was kitschy and cute, reminding you of a hip version of the lobster shacks in Maine. The benches were impossible to sit on gracefully in a skirt (I saw several women struggle, and complain about it) and once we’d sat down, we had to go up to the bar to order, making it a bit of an ordeal.

Lobster Kitchen Fries

Lobster Kitchen was distinctly more like a fast-food chain than I would’ve liked. What is cute, kitschy and charming in New England, where you are paying New England prices for seafood, isn’t quite so cute when you are paying £14 for a rather measly lobster tail and tiny portion of fried pickles and £7 for a glass of cheap-tasting wine.

I opted for the ‘garlicky one’ – a lobster tail served in a white wine and garlic sauce – with a side of fried pickles, which were pretty tiny. Although tasty, I found myself wishing I’d just paid the £6 extra and gone for the whole thing a few streets away at Burger & Lobster.

Lobster KitchenFried PicklesLobster Kitchen

My dinner date was pretty in love with her Lobster Mac & Cheese, which came in one of those Chinese takeout boxes, and was dripping with grease – I couldn’t say I was particularly tempted.

Lobster Kitchen

All in all, I’d have to give Lobster Kitchen 2.5 stars – while the lobster tail tasted nice, I found it lacking in terms of value for money. In my opinion, if you want to channel a New England lobster shack you need to do it right, and for me Lobster Kitchen doesn’t quite get it on the mark.

2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

Lobster Kitchen is located on 111 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3NQ.

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Sky Garden, London

For the most breathtaking views of London, I recommend going up the Walkie Talkie building to the Sky Garden. I went up a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved the dramatic views combined with the lush greenery within.

Sky Garden LondonSky Garden London

Some critics argue that the space is rather like an airport lounge, but I was completely blown over by the incredible view and beautiful bar.

Skygarden IslandbellSkygarden

I actually preferred the Sky Garden views to the Shard, but that might be due to the fact that I prefer looking at the Shard rather than the Walkie Talkie building!

Sky Garden London

Tickets to go up to the Sky Garden seem to be booked up for the foreseeable future, so I suggest you book yourself in as soon as possible.

Sky Garden London

One word of advice I’d give is that you do have to go through a security check – we had to wait behind a girl who was chugging down the remains of her Cafe Nero, and was thoroughly questioned due to all the cutlery she had in her backpack.

Have you been up to the Sky Garden? What did you think?

Sky Garden is located on 20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M.

24 Hours in Hong Kong

Hong Kong

After a few amazing weeks in Cambodia, it was time for me to go back to reality: back to work, back to London. There aren’t any direct flights from London to Phnom Penh – and with the free 72-hour transit visa for Hong Kong, it seemed rude not to experience the city while I had the chance!

I had 24 hours in Hong Kong, and thanks to some careful planning I feel I managed to make the most of my time there. My fleeting visit was short and sweet, and I’m really excited to go back at some point!

I was in Hong Kong shortly after the demonstrations – I was preparing myself to witness some of the residual aftermath, but to my surprise I didn’t see any (though during my short trip I didn’t manage to get to Admiralty or Causeway Bay, where a lot of it took place).

Hong Kong

My flight from Phnom Penh landed in Hong Kong at around 3pm. After buying a return ticket on the Airport Express, I had managed to get to my hotel on Nathan Road, drop off my hand luggage and check in at around 4.30 – leaving me with plenty of time to explore.

Yat Chow Pearl

My first stop on my Hong Kong itinerary was to Yat Chow Pearls, on Canton Road, near the Jade Market. This little shop might not look like much from outside, but it was highly recommended by a Hong Kong local as a great place to get your hands on some high quality pearls. You can get strands of pearls, earrings and pearl rings all at incredibly reasonable prices. I bought myself a single pearl pendant, and brought back several strands as birthday gifts for friends and relatives.

Hong Kong

Yat Chow and my hotel were on the Kowloon side of the river, and I was keen to get to Hong Kong island and up to Victoria Peak. We walked from Yat Chow to the river (around 20 minutes or so) to get the Star Ferry across – a great way to get a view of the Hong Kong skyline. Unfortunately it was for me it was fairly overcast, but spectacular nonetheless.

During my planning, I’d envisioned going up to the Peak by Tram, but once I saw the ridiculous queue I scrapped that idea as I risked wasting a great deal of time. Rather than queue for 45 minutes (or pay an extortionate amount and buy a ticket to Madame Tussauds in order to skip it), we jumped in a taxi to the top.

hong kong

The taxi worked out rather nicely, but we’d agreed upon a set fee beforehand – next time, I’d run it on the meter as the driver completely ripped us off!

Despite having been ripped off like typical tourists, the skyline was pretty amazing and more than made up for it.

Erin (Islandbell) in Hong Kong

After an hour or so of taking in the view, we got in a cab to Wellington Street, Central to the Yung Kee Restaurant for dinner.

yung kee restaurant hong kong

Our trip to Yung Kee was based on another recommendation given by a Hong Konger, and had the most incredible roast goose. You always know a place is good when you place your order, only for your waiter to correct you to the point where you’ve changed it almost completely. On his recommendation we ended up getting the roast goose, and I am so glad I did.

Goose from Yung KeeYung Kee

It might not look like much, but if you’re ever in the neighbourhood I seriously recommend it. The sweet and sour pork was pretty good too!

With a belly full of goose, after dinner I put my party pants on… and went back to the hotel for internet, Back to the Future II and some serious shuteye.

Back at the hotel, I’d been given a mission from back home, a seemingly simple one – to bring back a bamboo steamer. What was casually requested, rather offhand, soon descended into a mini frenzy of obsessed madness, as simply popping out to get a steamer in Hong Kong isn’t as quite easy as you might think it to be.

tuck chong sum kee bamboo shop

Hong Kong is no longer a place where these things are made, and had it been any city in China it might have been a fairly simple request to make.

Luckily, the hotel had fabulous internet, and I read up on a charming little local family business – the last of its kind in Hong Kong – which supplies local restaurants (and annoying tourists, like myself) with homemade bamboo wares.

tuck chong sum kee

And so I spent my last morning in Hong Kong trekking across town to Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Company. Much to my delight and relief, it was still there (some of the articles I’d found online were quite a few years old).

Tuck Chong Sum Kee was a charming little store full of amazing handmade bamboo steamers, moulds and other knick-knacks, making my brand new, homemade bamboo steamer the perfect souvenir to bring home – and one with a story, too!

tuck chong sum kee bamboo shoptuck chong sum kee bamboo shoptuck chong sum kee bamboo shop

After my morning excursion, I had my fill of dumplings and caught the Airport Express back to the airport for my flight, almost exactly 24-hours later.

tuck chong sum kee bamboo shop

My short stint in Hong Kong really won me over, and I’d absolutely love to come back one day!

Yat Chow Pearls can be found on Canton Road, near Kowloon Park.

The Yung Kee Restaurant can be found on 32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong. If you go and don’t get the goose, I don’t want to hear from you.

4 Stars (4 / 5) for the goose alone.

Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo can be found on 12 Western Street, Sai Ying Pun.

Kep & Kampot

In terms of global cuisine, Cambodian food is, in my opinion, seriously underrated. Cambodian food has the same culinary roots as it’s Thai neighbours, but with less of the heat. When the Portuguese brought over chillies in the 16th century, it became an integral part of Thai food culture, while it didn’t influence Khmer cuisine in quite the same way.

Kampot

Dishes like fish amok or beef lok lak are delicious, but relatively unknown outside the region. They are seriously under appreciated, and if you do ever have the chance to try them, you should.

Rusty Keyhole, Kampot

A two hours drive from the capital, Kampot province is home to the Kampot pepper. Kampot, you could argue, along with the neighbouring province of Kep, is the Lyon of Cambodia – the gastronomic capital of the country.

Kep and Kampot are a foodie’s paradise – with rich spices, deliciously fresh seafood, and, inexplicably, home to the BEST RIBS I’VE EVER HAD.

Rusty Keyhole, KampotRusty Keyhole, Kampot

I was in the region for three days, and managed to make it to the Rusty Keyhole twice for their ribs. I’d like to point out that I am usually not a fan of ribs at all – I don’t like barbecue sauce, and gnawing at bones isn’t usually my thing. Usually.

Rusty Keyhole, Kampot

The Phnom Penh Post rated the ribs at the Rusty Keyhole as the best in Cambodia. I, however, rate them as the best in the world. The sauce was perfect – not too sweet, not too sickly, just right – and the meat was succulent, falling off the bone and divine. I am still dreaming about these ribs, three weeks on.

rusty keyhole

For those who dare brave it, they challenge diners to eat a whole ‘Dino-Rib’ (1kg of ribs). Those who accept, and succeed, get a free dessert and a photo up on the wall of fame. There’s also a hilarious wall of shame for those who fail miserably. I didn’t take them up on the challenge, but if I could eat a kilo of anything in one sitting, it would be these ribs.

Rusty Keyhole: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

Kep Crab MarketKepKep

There was no shortage of things to do during a trip to Kep – like going to Rabbit Island, just a short boat ride away, and going up to Bokor Palace and Casino, an abandoned French-colonial resort on top of a mountain. It’s all beautiful, eerie, and somewhat magical.

Kep

Dining in Kep was also a magical experience. Go down to the crab market at sunset, to enjoy fresh crab served with a delicious Kampot pepper and lime juice sauce.

We went to So Kheang, one of many establishments adjacent to the crab market. Once we gave our orders, our waitress would wade out into the ocean and retrieve the crabs fresh from the baskets.

You can get the crab served in different ways, but from experience, getting it steamed rather than grilled or fried is the way to go. For anything else, I’d recommend the latter, but for crab you want it to retain its juicy flavour and texture.

Kep Crab MarketKep Crab

So Kheang, and the other establishments alongside the crab market will get you a few crabs each for around $7. They are standard, no-frills type places, but often have a stunning view of the ocean and the food is simply incredible.

Kep Crab MarketSo Kheang Crab So Kheang Crab

So Kheang 5 Stars (5 / 5)

Kep Sailing Club

Another place to try in Kep is the Sailing Club. Try and get a table for sunset (it’s worth booking), and the cocktails are really enjoyable, and the view is simply stunning. The Sailing Club has a great atmosphere, but is let down by the food slightly – with such a good view, and such great cocktails, it’s such a shame that the quality of the food doesn’t compare to the cheap and cheerful joints a stones’ throw away. However, if you’re looking for a romantic setting, the Knai Bang Chatt Sailing Club would be a great place to go (and the desserts there are fabulous).

Kep Sailing ClubKep Sailing Club

Sailing Club 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

The Rusty Keyhole can be found by the riverfront in Kampot.

So Kheang can be found next to the Crab Market in Kep – 092 254 683; 097 253 9186.

The Kep Sailing Club (Knai Bang Chatt) can be found at Phum Thmey Sangkat Prey Thom, 989, Cambodia.