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.

La Table Khmere – Cambodian Cooking Class

One of the highlights of my last visit to Phnom Penh was the cooking class I did, booked through Frizz, a restaurant on Street 240. I had a blast at my last class, but was keen to see what else was out there. Although the food I’d made last time was delicious, the cooking class was up on a hot roof, covered in tarp, and it was hot.

2014-12-25 La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

So when I heard about La Table Khmere, I was intrigued, but the air-conditioned kitchen was what really sold it to me.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

La Table Khmere has two classes a day, a morning one commencing at 9am, and an afternoon one at 3pm. The morning one includes a trip to the market, and is a dollar more than the afternoon class. For me, the choice is a no-brainer, and so we set off for Street 278 bright and early to hit BKK market.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

BKK market, like all markets in Phnom Penh is a shock for the senses – the smells, colours and sensations in particular. The highlight of this trip for me was picking up some shrimp paste and seeing coconut being dessicated by a machine.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

Back in the air-conditioned cool of the kitchen, we were set to work – chopping, grinding, boiling and squeezing until we had our three courses.

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The first course was a green mango salad – made with shredded mango, dried shrimp, carrots, chillies, shallots, basil leaves, peanuts and chicken knorr powder. The mangoes give the dish a tart sourness, which goes well with the creaminess of the peanuts and sweetness of the carrots.

green mango salad, La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

The main, like last time, was fish amok – the national dish of Cambodia. A coconut milk-based curry made with chillies, keffir lime leaves and galangal, my fish amok was delicious. The curry differs from what we in the West might be used to – made with an egg, it is steamed and becomes almost like a souffle.

La Table Khmere Cooking Class
fish amok, La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

The third and final course was a dessert known as Chek Ktis, a sweet coconut jelly. I loved the flavour of this dessert, particularly the sweetened coconut milk, but wasn’t a fan of the gelatinous texture.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

The cooking class at La Table Khmere was really enjoyable, in a lovely setting with charming instructors. It’s definitely more of a slick operation than the one at Frizz, though I did prefer some of the dishes at Frizz, especially the dessert. The Frizz class was definitely the ‘rougher, backpacker’ option – if you can handle the heat, and the longer hours then it’s definitely worth considering. But if you are up for a more leisurely class, in a nicer setting and at a lower cost, then La Table Khmere is the class for you.

The morning class was $20, and La Table Khmere can be located at 11E, Street 278, Phnom Penh.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

Artillery – Eating Clean in Phnom Penh

With all the fresh produce and incredible fruit you can find in the markets of Phnom Penh, it’s quite easy to eat healthily – but I was in Cambodia over the Christmas season, and with all the usual Christmas treats combined with tropical cocktails I wasn’t feeling particularly tiptop.

Artillery, Phnom PenhArtillery, Phnom PenhArtillery, Phnom Penh

Enter ARTillery cafe – calls of ‘healthy’, ‘organic’, ‘homemade’, and, of course, ‘free wifi’ drew me down a charming little alley on Street 240 (note: in the same alley you can find Public House, Bar Sito and Alley Cafe). Artillery is a teal-coloured mecca of superfoods, juices and all manner of clean-eating. Vegans, health fanatics and coeliacs rejoice, as Artillery Cafe will have something for you.

Hummus, Artillery, Phnom PenhVitamin Vitalizer, Artillery, Phnom Penh

I ordered a Vitamin Vitalizer juice (carrot, ginger, lime and apple), and grazed on some homemade hummus as I waited for my lunch companion. I’m pretty particular about my hummus, and I was pleased with Artillery’s offering – even more pleased by the stacked vegetables.

Hummus, Artillery, Phnom Penh

My friend ordered the Phnom Penher smoothie – a blend of dragonfruit, lemongrass, ginger, lime and honey, which left me with drink envy for the rest of the meal. It’s not the prettiest of smoothies, but my god is it delicious.

Phnom Penher, Artillery Cafe

For my main, I went for the raw pizza, as everything on the raw menu was gluten-free (as well as dairy-free, sugar-free and meat-free). My raw pizza consisted of sun-dried tomatoes and nut cheese on a flax and almond crust, topped with some assorted greens. It was crisp, sharp and refreshing – but nothing at all like a pizza – I think of it more as a crispbread.

Raw Pizza, Artillery, Phnom PenhDSC01244

My friend went for a seasonal special – a brown rice bowl topped with kombu, local vegetables, sesame seeds and cabbage.

Brown Rice Bowl, Artillery, Phnom Penh

For my next visit, I’m really keen to try the breakfast menu – gluten-free pancakes, muesli with a Clean Green (apple, mint, spinach) sounds right up my street.

For fresh juice and a guilt-free dining experience you can’t beat Artillery for their vast selection. But for those who don’t consider a meal complete without some meat (like all the men in my family) then Artillery might not be the place for you.

ARTillery cafe can be found on Street 240 1/2 laneway, near St 19
behind Wat Botum, near the Royal Palace, or at their second location on Street 278 #13B, near St 63, close to Wat Lanka, behind Lucky Market Sihanouk.

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)