Artisan Boulangerie Co. (Somerset, SG)

Short version

This is a local cafe that we go to whenever we want a quick breakfast or lunch (or brunch ๐Ÿ˜Š).

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 8/10 – Not bad for western food in SG.

Price: 9/10 – Pretty good value for western food in SG.

Service: 8/10 – This is one of those places where you order at the counter, ie not table service. Usually quite good, but we’ve been here often enough that I have experienced inefficiency and poor service as well. Food comes out relatively quickly.

Ambience: 9/10 – It’s a casual cafe with simple, modern decor. It’s quite a large cafe inside, which you can’t really see from the outside.

Coffee: 7/10 – Not bad. Milder taste, which I prefer, but a little watery.

Artisan Boulangerie Co

118 Killiney Road

Singapore 239555

+65 6444 8130

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Long Version

This is our local cafe, the one that we go to on an almost weekly basis for breakfast or lunch (or brunch ๐Ÿ˜Š). They’re also open for dinner, but we’ve never been here for the dinner service, so my review is really only about brunch.

It’s good value western food, done relatively well. Prices are not astronomical for western food, they are actually perfectly reasonable. We would ordinarily pay around S$40 for brunch for the two of us, which works out to be S$20 per person. There is no service charge, so you’re just paying for GST, which probably helps with the cost.

Service is usually quite fast and efficient. It’s one of those cafes where you order at the counter, so there’s no table service. We’ve been here when it’s been busy, and one time the waiter taking the orders and payment was also the one who was retrieving the food if it was something from the cake/pastry display. Not sure if this was a one-off occurrence coz they were down on staff that day or something, or if this is regular process, but you can appreciate the inefficiency of this scenario. I have also had one time when the waiter who took my order got both my coffee and my food order wrong. Just minor errors, but still, a fussy customer would be complaining. Luckily I am a very relaxed one ๐Ÿ˜‰ But generally they’re very good at taking orders.

Food is also not bad. It’s quick and easy, and portions are decent size (note Asian portions, not crazy ass Aussie – let alone American – portions ๐Ÿ˜‚). They used to offer Vegemite as a spread on their toast, but they’ve recently removed this fantastic option from their menu, and I am veryย very sad about this latest decision. Nonetheless, they have a good variety of options on their menu. Here are some dishes that I have ordered in the last few weeks (note the Vegemite photoย ๐Ÿ˜”).

Wholemeal toast, but sadly the vegemite spread is no longer availableย ๐Ÿ˜”
Had to try the Aussie beef pie, of courseย ๐Ÿ˜Š
There is so much fruit in this bowl that you can barely see the granola underneathย ๐Ÿ‘

Coffee is also not bad, slightly better than most places I’ve been to in Asia. A bit watery, but it has a milder taste, which I prefer. A lot of other places make it more on the bitter side.

They have an interesting bathroom layout up the back of the restaurant. There is one cubicle for men, one for women, and a disabled toilet. There is a shared sink area, and there is also a sink in the disabled toilet itself. The toilet in the women’s cubicle has a very inefficient flush, even when just doing a number one, so I never like using that cubicle. Plus it’s quite small, so I prefer to just use the disabled toilet, which is naturally larger in size. These are the things that a non-foodie pays attention to! ๐Ÿ˜œ

So overall, I like going here, not just for its location, but also for the convenience and the consistency of the food and service – on most days ๐Ÿ˜Š

Mince Pork & Eggplant with Rice

Serves 2

Takes roughly 1 hour, as cooked by a non-foodie ๐Ÿ˜Š EXCLUDING cooking the rice

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of brown rice. You can use whatever rice you want, I just use brown rice for health reasons. And 3/4 cup works for us. Again, cook however much you want. Note, too, that without rice, I find this recipe quite salty, so the more rice I have, the more balanced this dish is.ย 
  • 300g of mince pork
  • 300g of eggplant. These eggplants weighed around 350g whole, but when I chopped off the ends, they end up beng around 300g. I like using roughly the same amount of pork and eggplant.
The eggplants that I generally use
  • 1/4 tsp salt to add to the water when boiling the eggplant
  • 2 tsp garlic, as per my staple ingredients. Because I buy the already minced garlic, I am assuming that my two teaspoons equates to about 3 cloves of garlic. So you can dial it down or up depending on how much you like your garlic.
  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil as per my staple ingredients
  • A few sprigs of coriander leaves (optional)

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup of light soy sauce
  • 1.5 Tbsp of fish sauce
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper

Steps

Boil about 500ml water with the 1/4 tsp salt. While it’s boiling away, chop up the eggplants into bite-size pieces. I have these relatively small eggplants, so I just cut it into thirds to make small rings, and then I cut the rings into quarters. There’s probably a “proper” way to cut eggplant, but this works fine for me ๐Ÿ˜Š

Once the water is boiled, add the eggplant pieces. I have the stovetop set to 8 out of a possible 10, so it’s quite high, but not at the highest levels. I boil the eggplant for about 10 minutes, basically until it’s relatively soft and pretty much ready to eat. Drain the water and set the eggplant to one side.

Whisk in a small bowl all the ingredients that make up the sauce and set that to one side too.

Heat the oil in a saucepan at a high heat (I use ‘9’ on our stove top). Test the heat by putting in a little bit of garlic. If it starts to sizzle, then add the rest of the garlic in. Stir it around a bit, maybe for about a minute, and then add the mince pork. Cut this up and stir the pork around until it’s all cooked through.

Once it’s all cooked, add the eggplant, and the sauce, and stir for a few minutes, just to make sure everything is stirred through.

Serve with the rice, and add a few sprigs of coriander leaves, if you want. I like coriander, but N doesn’t, and I don’t like wasting money on buying a whole bunch of coriander leaves when I’m only going to use one or two sprigs, so I don’t bother with this most of the time. But this does add an extra flavour to the dish, so if you like coriander, by all means pile it on! ๐Ÿ˜œ

And like I said, this dish is quite salty, so I like eating it with plain rice to help balance it out.

Enjoy, peeps! ๐Ÿ˜Š

EXpresso (The Excelsior, HK)

Short version

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 9/10 – The egg tarts were REALLY niceย ๐Ÿ˜‹

Price: 8/10 – For a cafe in a hotel, this was actually priced quite reasonably. I ordered one of their breakfast sets for HKD$52 (just under S$8) for two egg tarts and a medium coffee, which is pretty good value.

Service: 5/10 – This is based on my own personal experience, not on the level of service that other people received, as they seemed to receive much better service than I did. Were they regulars? I don’t know. Ot that it should matter.

Ambience: 6/10 -Nice enough. Small cafe with not many seats inside, but it didn’t feel particularly special. Just a cafe in a hotel, not much more than that!

Location: 9/10 – Located in The Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay, which is just a few minutes walk from Causeway Bay MTR (exit D3 is probably your best bet). It’s just next to the hotel lifts so it’s a bit hidden, and not a cafe that you would just happen to walk past. You’d have to be making a deliberate trip to go there – or you’re staying at the hotel, like I was.

Coffee: 2/10 – I am giving this a low score as this is primarily a coffee shop, and their coffee was terrible. Most cafes in Asia sit at 6-7 for me, but this was way sub-par. And for a place that specialises in coffee, I can’t give them any concessions.

EXpresso

281 Gloucester Rd, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

+852 2837 6777

https://www.mandarinoriental.com/hong-kong/the-excelsior/fine-dining/cafes/expresso

Long version

I went and had breakfast at the coffee shop in the lobby of our hotel. For some reason, I started reading reviews of the place there, and a lot of people were complimenting them on their egg tarts. There were also a few comments on their good coffee, so I decided to check it out. I don’t normally like egg tarts at yum cha, but for some reason, I decided to have this one. Maybe coz it was my last day in HK and I was feeling adventurousย ๐Ÿคทโ€

I ordered their breakfast set, which the waiter pointed out to me when she noticed that I was reading the sign. One of their sets was for two egg tarts and a medium-sized coffee for HKD$52 (almost S$8) which is pretty good value, considering that a small cup of coffee in HK will already set you back around HKD$35-40 (S$6-S$7 ๐Ÿ˜ฒ). So I ordered that.

I was pleasantly surprised: the coffee turned out to be atrocious, but the egg tarts were really nice! I was expecting it to be the other way around. I drank the coffee anyway, simply coz I needed the caffeine. But it definitely wasn’t drunk for its lovely taste ๐Ÿ˜‚ Thoroughly disappointed, as they stock Illy, a brand of coffee beans that I like ๐Ÿ˜” They offered three sizes of coffee: small, medium and large. Medium was what was part of the breakfast set, so maybe brewing a small vs a medium/large is different? The coffee was just way too watery. It ended up being just flavoured water ๐Ÿ˜”

Service was a bit inconsistent too, I felt. The waiter who took my order was nice to certain customers, and rather curt to others, including me. So I’m not sure if she was just friendlier to the regulars, or people who she’s seen at least once, or some other criteria, but I did notice the difference. She wasn’t any more rude than wait staff at other places, but I did notice the inconsistency. Others got a smile, friendly banter at the counter when they were ordering, and/or a goodbye. I got none of those ๐Ÿ˜•

But kudos to her for being able to speak different languages! She obviously spoke Cantonese, her native dialect, but switched easily enough to English when I ordered. And then Chinese customers ordered soon after me, and she then just as easily switched to Mandarin. I suppose more and more people in the service industry needs Mandarin now, with so many tourists from China visiting. I am totally jealous of their multi-lingual abilities!

It’s relatively easy to get to this cafe. It’s in the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay, which is just a few minutes from Causeway Bay MTR. It’s tucked away next to their lift lobby, so you wouldn’t just randomly walk past it as you’re going about your day. You’d have to be dead set on walking in that direction. It’s on the ground floor, so it’s quite accessible.

I’m not sure if you can charge to your room, as I just paid in cash, since it wasn’t that much anyway. They don’t take Octopus card, which I was surprised about, given that their transactions would be relatively small in amount, I would’ve thought. But credit card is accepted.

Overall, I would come back for their egg tarts – and that’s coming from someone who generally doesn’t like egg tarts! But I would pass on their coffee. Maybe if I stay at or near this hotel again, I may give them a second chance and update this review, if needed. Let’s see ๐Ÿ˜Š

Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad

Serves 1

Takes approximately 30mins, as cooked by a non-foodie ๐Ÿ˜Š

Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, as per my staple ingredients
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp salt

For the salad:

  • 35g of smoked salmon. This is about 1/2 the packet that I buy from our local supermarket.
  • 1 cup baby spinach. I don’t jam the spinach into the cup, I just pour it in and let it form a heap in the cup.
  • 125g of cherry tomatoes. This is half of the packet that I buy, as per my staple ingredients, which is about 12-13 tomatoes.
  • 1 stalk of a spring onion

Pasta:

  • 70g of fusilli pasta. This is what I use, but you can probably use whatever other pasta you like. The foodies are probably cringing right now, but I give you freedom to use whatever pasta you wish to use ๐Ÿ˜‚ I like the spiraliness of fusilli pasta, that’s why I use it. Pastas all pretty much taste the same to me, so I choose by the visual aspect ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • 1/4 tsp salt

And at the end:

  • Pepper and/or chilli flakes (optional)

Steps

  1. Start boiling about 500ml of water, add 1/4 tsp salt.
  2. Add the pasta once it’s boiled. Stir occasionally. It usually needs to boil for about 15min before the pasta is the way I like it. So just boil according to your personal preference.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and roughly chop the baby spinach. I prefer to cut the spinach into fine strips / squares, so it’s easier to eat. Also cut the spring onion into roughly 1cm pieces.
  4. Tear the smoked salmon into bite sized pieces. Again, I tear it into pieces that makes it easier to eat ๐Ÿ˜†
  5. Combine the ingredients for the dressing and mix well.
  6. Once you’re happy with the softness of the pasta, drain and put into a bowl.
  7. Add the tomatoes, spinach and spring onion onto the pasta. Then add the smoked salmon on top.
  8. Pour the dressing over the salad. There is a lot of dressing, so adjust the dressing to pasta salad ratio as per your personal preference. Foodies gawk at my drowning of food with sauces, but I like sauce, so whatevs ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ
  9. You can add pepper or chilli flakes if you want a bit more spice, but I tend to just leave out.

And voila! We’re done ๐Ÿ‘