Author Archives: pbeatsntravels

PB Eats… Vegan Toronto

So apparently the week I was in Toronto was a great week – weather wise.  I agree, all I could see were blue, cloudless skies from the meeting room where I spent 11 hours a day for the week.  Yep, Toronto for work, but I did have about 12 hours free before flying back where I did take full advantage of the sunshine, and to check out the plentiful vegan scene.  Lunches were all at work, and I had told my colleagues about my food needs – and I was pleasantly surprised.  Roasted veggie wraps, cous cous with curry, pasta, salads – all good.  As for my other meals, during the week they had to be near the hotel and quick.  A combination of a cold and jet lag meant that once we finished, all I wanted to do was eat and sleep.

There was a mall about 5 minutes from the office, and amongst all the places, I found 2 – Urban Herbivore and Thai Express.  Having had cold sandwiches for lunch, I didn’t want the same for dinner – and that is exactly what Urban Herbivore did, however good they looked, I didn’t try them out.  Thai Express had an option for a vegan pad thai – which I had a couple of times in the week. Spicy, delicious and comforting – exactly what I needed.  Where else did I eat?

Planta Burger

I found out (thank you Happy Cow) of a vegan burger joint that had opened up a few months ago, literally across from the hotel.  I was so excited!  So Day 1, I went to Planta Burger to order my takeaway.  They had 4 options, and if I see buffalo cauliflower on any menu, I’m ordering it.  I will not lie, I had visions of the burger I had in New York at Blossom Du Jour.  At Planta Burger, I ordered the spicy buffalo cauliflower burger with ranch, pickles, red onion, iceberg and tomato.  I also got a side of the caesar salad.  YES. vegan caesar salad.  Whoo!  I was very excited and so looking forward to eating this.  The salad – very excellent. Creamy and crunchy with meaty mushrooms and killer pickled onions, this was good.  As for the burger – a sheer disappointment.  The bread was hard, the patty almost burnt and too small for the bun, with NO flavour.  It was just very dull.

I’m all for second chances, so the next night I went back to try another burger.  I picked the crab cake, with heart of palm and tartar sauce, and a side of the BBQ fries.  The fries = tick.  Very nice, very moreish and crunchy.  But the burger? Yes. Again. Horrible.  It looked like the burger from the night before.  Tiny almost burnt patty, tasteless and grim.  The only redeeming factor, the tartar sauce which tasted like the real thing.

2/2 terrible burgers is not good in my book, I wouldn’t go back for the burgers – maybe if you forced me, I’d get the casear salad, but that is it.  Nothing else.  There is a Planta restaurant too, but I didn’t want to risk trying it if it turned out to be just as grim as the burger joint.

Mill Street Brewery

For our team dinner, we went to the Distillery District, to the Mill Street Brewery.  I really like this area, the last time I was here it was in the middle of winter, and it was just as magical in the summer.  There were a few veganisable options on the menu – and they were very accommodating too.  This being a brewery and my interest in beer increasing over the years, P and I decided to split a beer flight – 4 tiny beers, 2 for him, 2 for me.  I went for the organic original lager and an organic amber lager.  Very impressed and very smooth.  The also went down a bit too quickly 🙂  For my main, I went for a falafel salad – without the falafel as it was made with eggs.  But the creamy dressing was vegan, and when in doubt, always ask for avocado, which is what I did.  I got a giant portion full of beans, chickpeas, rocket, sunflower seeds, clementine segments, avocado.  So tasty and filling, I could only get through half of it.  I did finish all the avocado though!

Fresh on Bloor

I’m a firm believer in balance – every grim meal means that there is a superb meal waiting for me to enjoy.  And enjoy I did at Fresh. This is a chain of restaurants scattered around downtown.  It was heaving when I got there around 7pm, and I only had to wait for 10 minutes for a table.  Everyone there was SO friendly and chilled, I really liked the atmosphere.  You get a big bottle of water when you sit down, and a MASSIVE vegan menu.  I’m not used to this much choice!! I wanted a burger mainly because of the crap ones I’d had earlier in the week.  I went for the chipotle bacon burger – chipotle, tempeh, jicama – yum yum.  And then I saw ‘dragon fries’ on the menu as a ‘side’ option.  It read “french fries, miso gravy, hot banana chilies, green onions, sesame seeds and chili oil” How could I say no!

The burger was great – a giant of a burger, with generous fixings and a nice chunky patty.  Most enjoyable.  BUT THOSE DRAGON FRIES.  If you live in Toronto, go here NOW.  I will say it – hands down the best vegan thing i have tried.  Hot, crispy fries, umami popping miso gravy, a punch from the spring onions, a super punch from the chillies – OMG.  Stunningly, amazingly, perfectly delicious, perfectly LUSCIOUS.  I went here on my last night. It will be my death row meal – I loved them that much!!  But for now, if I do go back to Toronto, this is the first place I will go to.   Straight off the plane.  YUM!!!

King’s Cafe

I had the morning off to wander around the streets of Toronto, and what a time to be there.  The Invictus Games were starting that evening, so the place was buzzing.  I walked around Kensington Market, or what I call the Camden Market of Toronto.  I loved this place, full of quirky shops, delis, restaurants and cafes.

I came across Bunner’s – an all vegan bakery full of yummy looking stuff.  Since I was flying later I didn’t have the liberty of buying the selection I wanted to (one of each), so I settled for the apple butterscotch crumble tart and I bought a brownie for later.   The tart was sweet, apple-y, full of texture and super good.  I loved it. I didn’t take a pic of the brownie which I had on the place with a cup of tea on the plane – JUST AS GOOD.

Washed down with an almost perfect iced coffee with almond milk (whooo!) from Jimmy’s, it was the perfect mid morning treat.

So onto Kings Cafe – which made me very happy.  Another all vegetarian/vegan place, I just wanted a few dim sums to keep me going.  Once again, this was a Happy Cow find.  What did I order? Curry puffs, veggie dumplings and my favourite – sticky rice.

I am pleased to say this meal hit the spot.  The curry puffs were crispy and stuffed with this fragrant potato mixture – yum.  The dumplings were stuffed with veggies and herbs – excellent. And that rice. With that chilli sauce – oh man. Super good.  I would definitely come back here to try more dishes.  Suitably stuffed, I headed to the airport. The plan was to have dinner in the lounge and knock out on the plane.  There were very few vegan options – everything had cheese or a yoghurt dressing. I helped myself to a cucumber salad and got them to pimp a fajita for me – roasted veggies and salsa.  It was enough to fill my belly.

All in all, I would have loved to spend more time in Toronto, so hopefully I’ll get to go out there soon – lots of things to do and lots and lots of vegan food to eat!

PB Travels… Mallorca

OMG. I can’t believe I have neglected my blog for so long! I blame work entirely. But thankfully I had a week off in Mallorca (Majorca?) for a Pilates and Hiking Retreat. The teacher was excellent at Pilates, but useless at leading group hikes. I still enjoyed myself and managed, with the ever supportive M, to eat some decent vegan food. I stayed in Port de Soller, in the north west.  Beautiful, quaint and I would highly recommend a visit there.

The flight was only a couple of hours long from Gatwick.  But before the flight, a lounge to chill in.  There are numerous to choose from in Gatwick North, I was told by a lady in another lounge which one to head to – and it wasn’t the one she was in! I went to the No 1 lounge.  A nice space, free flowing drinks, but no decent vegan options when it came to food.  I ordered a flatbread, sans feta and yoghurt dip – so basically salad on doughy bread.  I just had the salad, and compensated with a few glasses of prosecco.

Where did I stay?

Hotel Es Port, a pretty town minutes away from the seaside in Port De Soller.

A very picturesque hotel I must say.  The gardens, reception, common seating areas were stunning and rustic.  In comparison, the rooms were pretty simple – especially in the ‘newer’ part of the hotel.  I was clearly not in blog mode so didn’t take pics of the room.  There was also a lovely spa, free to use for hotel guests – pool, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and therapists too – if you could get an appointment. I did have a 1/2 hour back massage, and it was excellent.

Ratings:

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent – nice and clean, absolutely no issues
  • Bed: comfortable, did the trick when we weren’t chuckling looking at dodgy photos or awake due to indigestion. HAHAHA.
  • Shower: nice and clean, good power shower (which was lovely after the hike and being out in the heat) and beautiful Ritual toiletries.

What did I eat?

I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of food I encountered.  It definitely did get better as the week went on, and Happy Cow did come in handy when looking for a few restaurants around the port.

Breakfasts were included as part of the hotel stay – and as you would expect, a pretty extensive spread, perfect for omnis – lots of eggy and meaty options.  There were a few things I could eat, but after a few days it became a bit monotonous.  Orange juice that you press yourself and fresh warm bread were the highlights.  When beans were on the menu, they were on my plate, sitting on top of that glorious bread – brown, rye, it was all good.  The fruit salad was yummy too, and they had soy milk!  So not all bad, but what also helped with the variety were those fabulous chia puddings.  I don’t travel without these any more, they are so handy and super tasty, both the vanilla and chocolate flavours are excellent.

Breakfasts were big and they kept me going through the day when I was hiking.  When I wasn’t, well, they still kept me going 😝. As for lunches, a few of them were mainly on the go while hiking .  As expected, I had a decent snack pack I brought with me – nak’d bars (lemon drizzle – my new favourite) and Clearspring nuts and seeds (all of them are FAB) mainly.   I did find a little place on Happy Cow – Petit Cafe Frozen Yoghurt. What did I find there? Not the frozen yogurt (they didn’t have any vegan ones!) or the coffee (they did have soy/almond milk but it was too hot to have any) BUT the vegan croissants!! Flaky, crumbly, tasty – they made me very happy.  They also had croissant sandwiches which were excellent for lunch.

There were only 2 restaurants I tried out for lunch…

Sa Gavina

We stumbled across this restaurant after our hike on the first day – I think it was part of a hotel but I can’t remember now.  The menu was luscious sounding if your a seafood lover, but I did see gazpacho – perfect to have in the sun – and patatas on the menu. Expecting bravas I got fritas – and limp ones at that. They came with a ‘spicy sauce’ – mayo I think, which I left to one side.  The gazpacho was flavourful but a bit watery.  A meal for the stomach if not the senses.

NONAME

Now this was one delicious meal.  Once again, thank you Happy Cow for this suggestion.  Interestingly enough it only had one rating (mine is the 2nd :). But what sold me is it was the only place I had come across that had a vegan section on the menu. A cute little restaurant with a small indoor space and a massive outdoor seating area, I loved it.

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It was a hot day so I went for a Hugo – lovely and refreshing.  Choosing a main on the other hand? It was either the gazpacho or the aubergine salad.  The latter was recommended and oh my word.  Was I glad it was.  I usually have this dish warm – but cold, with all the garnishes and this sensational miso dressing – heavenly.  And not only that, there was dessert!!!!! Strawberry soup, yuzu sorbet, bits of crumble, coconut milk cubes, edible flowers.  Beautiful and super tasty. A wonderful wonder dessert and a lovely end to a really great meal.  This place was utterly great – I SO recommend it.

Dinners were more interesting – had some really fab food.

Sa Figuera 

First night dinner was in the hotel – top hit on trip advisor and a classy little outdoor joint.  What I loved about this place is that when they found out I am vegan they made an effort throughout the meal to make sure I was happy. And I was.  The amuse bouche was this pumpkin concoction, whetting the appetite.  The bread basket had bread made with eggs/milk, so they went out of their way to bake me a baguette so I didn’t miss out. Warm, fresh bread with grassy earthy local olive oil. LUSH.  My main? Quinoa with vegetables.  Boring I hear you say.  Boring is what I said when I saw it – but it was jam packed with veggies and flavour – I enjoyed every mouthful.  I’d go back.

Es Raco de’s Port

Trying to find a place for dinner on the port was quite difficult.  Restaurant after restaurant, all targeting tourists.  We went to one that was full of people, we even had to wait 1/2 hour for a table.  A proper Spanish restaurant, we ordered vegetarian paella.  But before that – bread, olives and pardon peppers as we were starving. The peppers were yummy (can’t really go wrong).  The paella was ok – yummy to start off with but it did get quite oily towards the end.  I wouldn’t go back to this one.

NONAME

Having tried out NONAME at lunch, I wanted to try it again for dinner.   Not that there was a different menu, i just wanted to try more of the options available.  We sat outside this time, just as lovely as inside.  We started off with some lovely glasses of good quality of cava, and a few nibbles. Guacamole with cassava and plantain chips, and hummus with crisps.  But not any hummus, curry flavoured hummus.  Moreish, tasty and very different.  Most enjoyable.  For mains, I decided to try the tagine with veggies and cous cous, and M went for another veganisable option, wok fried veggies (but she had some chicken if I remember).  Mine?  Looked very tomatoey but was super delicious – the chef in the kitchen definitely knows what he’s doing.  I had a bite of M’s veggies – nice variety but waaay to sweet.  Would definitely go back… a really wonderful restaurant.

Restaurante Luna 36

This has got to be the best restaurant I went to.  It wasn’t in the Port, but rather in the town centre, Soller, a tram ride or a 10 minute cab ride from the hotel.  We discovered it by accident.  We were looking for an early dinner, but in Spain, that is unheard of.  So we walked into a hotel hoping to eat in their restaurant – which was closed! But the lovely people at reception recommended a few other decent places to eat – including this one.  We walked past just before 7, and grabbed the last table available.  A really really pretty space, lovely lovely service and very knowledgeable about what I could eat – a lot it turns out.

The first time I went (yes, we went again on our last night too), I just chose 2 dishes, the padron peppers with a romanesco sauce, and utterly delicious vegetable tempura.  Yes yes, not your typical tapas, but super amazing. Crispy as hell, with this stunningly good sesame seed dipping sauce.  SO GOOD.

I could NOT not order the vegetable tempura again, and it was just as good.  I also ordered the vegetable escabeche, crunchy, pickled, flavourful vegetables and the gazpacho – presented very prettily in a giant wine glass.  I couldn’t fault any of the dishes..  The bread was also delicious and went down well.

 

The omni dishes – tuna, prawns, ham and the spaghetti with truffles – were also very good.  No complaints there either.

We went the whole way and indulged in desserts.  The omni option looked fab – chocolate and ice cream and biscuity, cakey, meringue things – went down well, M polished it off even though she should have stopped after 2 bites when she was truly full.  Mine? Simple, clever and I am so stealing this idea to use at home – lemon sorbet with rose cava. Not much to look at but it tasted sooo good.  Try it – such a brilliant idea.  An espresso completed this excellent meal.

Other memorable things that went in my mouth? Orangey treats – all local!  I had an orange sorbet – good, but I would have loved it more if it was more bitter and less sweet.   And more fresh orange juice.  More so because of the situation as opposed to the juice. I went for a solo hike one day and I was almost at the end, my water almost finished, hot, sweaty and I spot this man on the way down – selling freshly squeezed orange juice for eur 1.50.  Cool, refreshing, hydrating – talk about being at the right place at the right time!

All in all, I enjoyed some pretty good food on this trip, especially as it is getting easier and easier to find vegan food.  Whoo!

What did I do?

Pilates, hiking, chilling by the pool, swimming and reading.  We also went up to a sunset spot and saw a glorious sunset.  Perfect! The hikes were really scenic, the views were stunning, regardless of where I was walking – to Soller, Fortnalux, the refugi maleta lighthouse – truly wonderful.   All the routes are very well marked, so if you are out with a guide who has no regard for health and safety for the group or goes at her own pace and not the group’s (sheesh.  Passive aggressiveness in all it’s glory!), you can go out on your own and not get lost.

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Port De Soller is a beautiful place, with lovely hikes, stunning scenery and great restaurants.  A wonderful holiday 🙂

PB Eats… Vegan Beer Festival

Oh my word. Where is the time flying.  Back at work, completely settled down, my time off is but a distant memory….  Food wise, I’ve been making a lot of home cooked lunches – quinoa, cous cous with veggies.. Eating out? Nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual places.

Saying that, I did have a nice meal at Virasat, a north Indian restaurant based in Newbury Park.   It serves a lot of carnivorous food, lots of dishes with dairy – paneer, butter naan, but there was salvation in the form of crispy bhajias, channa masala and puri. The bhajias were nice and crunchy, and the tomato chutney was amazing – it actually should have been a garlic sauce!  The channa masala was super spicy in terms of spices used as opposed to heat (does that make sense?), although the fluffy puris did help.

But my highlight was the London Vegan Beer Festival, held at Hackney Downs on 15th July 2017.   But before that, I went to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford for the Para Atheletics.  The last time I went to the stadium was during the Olympics in 2012 – I loved every event I saw, and we were even lucky enough to get tickets to the closing ceremony.  So being back watching these amazing, inspiring athletes was a humbling and impressive experience.

Now. Vegan Beer Fest. Whoohoo! A place where I can eat whatever I want? Without having to ask questions? My excitement was building up while we were queuing up.  £5 (booked in advance) got you entry, a plastic pint glass and a sheet with all the beers on it that you could tick off while you drank them.

To be honest though, I was mainly there for the food, although we did try 1/2 pint of beer from Moor Beer Company.  I chose a bitter beer – Claudia, which I enjoyed, and M went for the milder So’Hop, which she didn’t enjoy (she’s not a beer drinker, but she tried!)

We tried mushroom arancini from Arancini Brothers, which were moist, juicy and served with this red pepper dip.  Good start.  Young Vegans, the pie experts where also there – and seeing that I had never tried their pies, we chose the Seitan and Ale pie, with mash, fried onions and a teeny salad.  The mash was excellent, the pastry was super delicious and crumbly and the filling – massive pieces of seitan – a very big portion and good value for money.  Next – an option that you can’t go wrong with – Club Mexicana.  I love everything on their menu, usually choosing what to order is the difficult bit.  We went for fish tacos.  Oh my word.  Not surprisingly, the best thing I ate – full of flavour, texture – seaweedy and fishy in a good way – oh so tasty.

But we weren’t done – not yet.  There was dessert.  A peanut butter chocolate brownie from Young Vegans (part of the meal deal with the pie).  Gooey, moist, peanut buttery, chocolatey but a bit too dense – didn’t stop me from eating it – it was delicious!  Peanut Butter Bakery also had a stall – I bought two doughnuts for later – almond dulce de leche and I think a raspberry one.  The flavours were nice, but I found them dry – they needed a cup of tea.

It was an excellent day – athletics, truly excellent vegan food – I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Apparently there was a vegan food market held in the same place in June, I’ll be keeping an eye out for when the next one is on!

PB Eats… Back in London

No travel blues, no jet leg, I’m enjoying the weather and free time and not really thinking about going back to work in July.  What have I been up to? Spending time with my lovely niece, pottering about, chilling in london and exploring new restaurants.  This week I have mainly been eating a lot of hummus and falafel. But first, a wonderful discovery – a vegan cafe in Pinner, north west London.  Everything is vegan, fresh and simple. I loved the concept – a number of hot dishes – tofu, beans, potatoes, quorn that can be put in a wrap or in bowl – with loads of salads on the side. 

We went for an ABC – apple, beetroot and carrot – juice, freshly pressed and tasty. I went for a chilli tofu salad bowl with quinoa, salsa, avocado, cucumber.  The other bowl? Bombay potatoes with hummus, avocado, olives, cucumber and watercress.  These were big bowls for about £6 – such good value for money.  We really enjoyed our food – simple, tasty and flavourful.  They also had a counter of VEGAN cakes and muffins. We bought a slice orange and polenta cake (really really tasty and orangey) and an apple and cinnamon muffin (ok, a bit to sandy in texture for me), but forgot to take photos.  

This is a place I will definitely be going back to – a no brainer really.  Next stop? Turkish restaurant Yaprak in Eastcote.  They have an excellent lunch time menu, 2 courses for £6.95. My sister had been here before and was impressed with the food.  The restaurant was a bit quiet – we were ladies who lunch on a weekday – but I’ve been told it gets really busy on weekends.  I ordered a fresh mint tea and chose a starter and main from the lunch menu. Hummus and falafel. My sister went for just a main (a la carte) of vegetable kebab, that came with a big salad. 

Complimentary flatbread brushed with this lovely mix, and dips – yoghurt (I think), olives (marinated with coriander seeds – whoa! Excellent) and chilli sauce (sensational!!!!!).  The portions were massive and super tasty. Everything was made in house – and you could tell. Hummus was very earthy and full of flavour. The falafel was airy, nutty and very moreish. I didn’t know what to expect with the vegetable kebab – but we got a mound of vegetables in this delicately spiced sauce. Absolutely lovely.  Only thing I didn’t want to have or try was the psychedelic Turkish delight.  Another place I’d visit again.  




A place that I won’t be going back to is Ya Hala, a Lebanese place in Paddington. We went for a an apple juice with mint and ginger – nice, but mainly because I needed hydration as opposed to it being good. It definitely wasn’t fresh. I went for the falafel  and hummus again, and M went for a mixed mezze plate. 

Big portions – and the mezze platter looked good but M did not even have 3 bites. Verdict? The meat tasted like it was a few days old and everything was tepid and horrible.  So epic fail then.  The falafel on the other hand weren’t bad flavourwise, just very dense and stodgy – nothing like the light and airy ones at Yaprak. Salad was dull. The hummus was ok though. 

So more hit than miss on the restaurant front, but it is always good to explore new places. And talking about new places, there is an ice cream shop in Ruislip that does proper gelato and dairy free sorbets – La Dolce Vita. 

I chose raspberry and it was super delicious! No added colouring, nice bit of raspberry flavour, no artificial taste – bellisimo. The pistachio and hazelnut gelatos are apparently very very good! Will definitely go back to try the other sorbets – mango, passion fruit, lemon… whooo!

PB Eats.. London Night Market

The London Night Market, essentially an outdoor food market was set up in Kensington Gardens for about 10 days in June.  So let me be honest. I wasn’t expecting to find anything to eat here. Maybe some chips, but that was it. How wrong I was! I liked the way this place was set up – the food trucks and stalls, there was a lot of seating space dotted all around, and if you didn’t want to sit on a chair, there was a whole load of green to sit on.  The whole market had this really relaxed and chilled vibe. It was a Saturday night, the weather was glorious, the sun was shining until 10pm and everyone was smiling. What more could I ask for. Oh yes. The food. That was EXCELLENT!

First stop? Get something to drink. There was a Cobra Beer stall and loads of bars and cocktail stalls. I had a grapefruit Collins with Tanqueray 10 year. Nice, but definitely not worth £8. What was better was the pint of Pimms that was also £8 – and not an ice cube in sight!

First stop? Mama Jerk for some fried plantain – only £3. Fresh and super hot, it was super delicious. They were offering mayo (why? nooo!) or a tomato salsa as a dip. But what took it to the next level was the (vegan) jerk seasoning paste that I went for. OH MY WORD. I have ever tried a jerk paste this good. Perfectly balanced with all the flavours and chilli. Amazing amazing amazing. Good start. Very good start.

There was a gyoza truck but the queues were so long that I wasn’t willing to queue.. until next time. Next? Spicebox. I had never even heard about this place – all vegan, all plantpowered and all tasty. Such different options – I went for the jackfruit tikka masala and the tandoor cauli steak, on a bed of quinoa.  It was all topped with super tasty chutneys, coriander, pickled onions and chillies.  I was so impressed. Fresh, zingy flavours, and each mouthful was literally a flavour explosion – right down to the last mouthful. I was so so impressed with this power box of tasty food. I’ll be tracking them down to indulge again.

The rest of the gang indulged in a lot more food – a truffle burger (all hype and all fat and no truffle apparently), Goats cheese veggie baos (apparently very horrible) and raclette (which I adored in my cheese eating days, that went down very well).

Onto desserts. Churros! Which I could eat – but I couldn’t have the chocolate sauce. And that was completely ok as the churros were so tasty. Crispy, soft and not too sweet. So so good. I was told the chocolate sauce was virtually perfect.  Yorica also had a presence there. Now I usually have the frozen yoghurt, but they had run out. So we chose the salted caramel and the chocolate and orange flavours. Whoa! The salted caramel flavour was by favourite.. lovely – not overpowering and not too sweet. Loved it.

A brilliant evening with brilliant food and company.  And so much food for me – so happy and so impressed.  I have to say, there are so many vegan options in London at the moment – grateful.com. Definitely signing up for the next night market.

PB Eats… Mildreds

I’m back in London, will be back at work in July, so am enjoying the last few days of ‘freedom’.  I have to say the glorious weather has definitely helped – they’ve chased my holiday blues and jet leg away for sure.  First meet up was at Mildreds, a place I’ve been meaning to try for a while.   Vegan heaven, super popular and amazing food.  Aaah.  So the food was not as good as hoped, and I’m not sure if it was down to them being so busy or whether it was poor choices on our part.  But poor choices aside, the food should taste good, right?  We kicked off with a cocktail, I went for an Aperol Spritz – perfect drink for a sunny day.  

Instead of going for a main course, we decided to share some small plates/starters, and go with the flow.  I thought we chose a good selection of dishes.  Gyoza with a soy/sweet chilli dipping sauce.  The filling was soy mince I think, not my favourite, but the outside – hard and chewy dumpling wrapper, and not in a good way.  Next? Smashed avocado with lime and chilli and organic corn chips.  Beautiful avocado, but lacking in terms of seasoning and lime – which let everything down.  The purple corn chips were quite yummy though.  

Now I love miso aubergine, or nasu dengaku, and when done right, this dish is luscious.  Meltingly soft aubergine, hot, almost fluffy miso dressing, sweet, sour, salty, umami overload.  Sadly this dish was an epic fail.   Barely lukewarm aubergine, I couln’t taste any miso.  Bland bland bland.  The best small plate was tenderstem broccoli with confit garlic and chilli.  Perfectly cooked, the dressing was so delicious, and the garlic was divine.  Loved this dish.  One decent dish out of four, I wasn’t happy and didn’t want to spend any more time or money on the savoury stuff.  

So bring on desserts. Vegan desserts.  Now We Are Talking.  The BEST vegan dessert I have had.  Chocolate hazelnut brownie, salted caramel sauce and ice cream.  Served warm, it turned out to be one of the best vegan desserts I have had. Seriously chocolate my, seriously caramel, seriously creamy, seriously good. That with a cup of green tea – lovely. 

In hindsight, I think I should have just gone straight in for a main course – but it was such a hot day, the idea of having a pie or a burger or a stir fry/curry or a dish with rice (yep, still not feeling it fully) was not welcoming.  I will give this place another try and check out the main courses – just to make sure the problem might have been with me and not Mildred.

PB Travels… Hong Kong Pt 2

I’m back in Hong Kong, the start and end point of my Asia travels. The plan was to do some shopping, sight seeing, but the main focus was to explore the other side of HK. people rarely look past the sky scrapers and congestion and madness of this place, but there is another beautiful side – which I discovered.  I stayed in the same hotel, Lodgewood by L’hotel Monk Kok, and I would so recommend this place.  Really reasonable, the staff always happy to help, and the room was excellent with LOADS of storage space. Details in Part 1.

I’ve also got a separate post for food, so I’ll just focus on my highlights of HK.   I could have had a blog post for each of these – but for now you’ll have to do with just this one. 

Shopping

So over the years my shopping threshold has dropped drastically. I don’t have the time or patience for it, I’m usually a ‘I know what I want and I’m going to get it’ kind of gal. So where did I go in HK?

Citygate Outlet Mall

I was off to Tian Tan (the Big Buddha) and I had to get to the last stop on the MTR – location of a massive mall.  A whole load of sports shops, fashion stores and a massive supermarket stocking familiar goodies (hello Waitrose!) it was packed.  It had a mixture of normal and high end shops, all with really good discounts. Worth going to check out the bargains.

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Mong Kok

This place has always been manic, Ladies market especially. Street upon street of same same but different fake but original crap. 100% tourist focused, if you go here, you must bargain. The main reason I went here – to get these amazing durable reusable bags (yep – those ones Lil!). I got about half a dozen – starting off at HKD39 for one down to HKD10 for one. Don’t mess with me!

I also went to Sai Yeung Choi Street in the heart of Mong Kok – lots of high street clothes shops and electronic shops – where I did a bit of shopping – clothes for my niece (Giordano, Bossini), toiletries (Sasa, Bonjour), a couple of ipads, a cool camera and basically that is it.

The rest of the malls I visited were FULL of high end names (why spend money there? Save it for food and travelling!!), and I was merely passing through to my next destination.  So if you are a shopaholic, this is the place for you, but not for me.  I will say that the place that brought me joy was M&S – after months on the road, a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and a tub of hummus tasted utterly gorgeous!

Dragon Boat Festival

I was fortunate to be in HK when the Dragon Boat Festival was on, and I got to see two flavours of it!

Stanley 

So this was clearly a big deal for locals – the plan was to get a bus from Central, we got there but the bus terminal was PACKED but in true HK style, organised and efficient. We spent only 15 minutes queuing before hopping on a bus. Once again, the ride (which took about an hour) was pretty scenic. The atmosphere in Stanley was excellent. It was a beautiful day, perfect for chilling and watching the races – which is exactly what happened. While there, I also visited the Tin Hau temple – most enjoyable.

Central

The other place where I checked out the action was Central. Very crazy but without the chilled vibe of Stanley. There were loads of food stalls (nothing for me to eat), activity stalls and beer stalls.  A lot of fun again – but I preferred Stanley.

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Tian Tan Buddha 

The plan was to take the Ngong Ping cable car from Tung Chung MTR station to the peak, but unfortunately it was closed for maintenance. I ended up taking a terribly scenic bus ride up to the statue. I actually preferred it this way – so much more to see.

The Buddha was as majestic as I had remembered from last time.  Even the hoardes of tourists didn’t put me off.  You can easily take pics from the bottom of the statue and then go off exploring, but I wanted to go to the top. I did buy a ticket (entry to the museum at the top and a standard lunch), and I think it was definitely worth it.  The paid for museum has some of the best oriental watercolours I have ever come across. Sadly, we couldn’t take photos so you’ll have to take my word for it. The lower free ‘museum’ is also interesting, but not as impressive as the paid one. It was a seriously hot day, but there are so many souvenir shops before getting into the complex, there was no shortage of cold drinks.

Touristy stuff done, I went off the beaten track and walked around the trails – a beautiful one being the wisdom path – absolutely stunning and peaceful.  I loved this place and spent a whole day here. Quiet, peaceful, so much greenery, bugs galore – yep. This is HK nature. Whoo!

Hong Kong Park 

This has always been one of my favourite spaces in HK. A beautiful and chilled out park, surrounded by sky scrapers. I also visited the Botanical centre in the park – loads of flowers – stunning stunning orchids, cacti, a tropical garden, definitely worth visiting, more so if you have kiddies. That, along with a waterfall, enough benches dotted around, makes for a lovely space. Loved it.

 

Victoria Peak 

Hong Kong island does have one of the best skylines in the world. I love seeing it from Kowloon side, and from the peak. So even though I had done this before, I wanted to go up again. So the last time I went in the Peak Tram. Guess what? Under maintenance.  So, the bus it was. And once again, SO much better. The views were truly excellent – I would so recommend this over the tram – and it is cheaper :). The other thing – don’t pay to go up to the observation deck.  The views lower down are just as beautiful.

What I LOVED doing was walking down all the way back to Central instead of taking the bus back. The walk is very safe, all paved, but you’re surrounded by trees and lots of foliage.  It did take about 30 minutes and it was a surreal experience.  I did think I was in the middle of a nature walk, until I’d get a glimpse of a tall apartment block or hear some traffic. You are literally going downhill the whole way, so if you have dodgy knees, be careful. Better than coming up though – some people were doing that, and they were panting like dogs.

HK Biological and Botanical Gardens 

This is another green space in the centre of the madness, and another pretty space.  Along with all the flora and fauna dotted around, there are loads of animals and birds. I’m not the biggest fan of zoos and caged animals, thankfully the largest animal was a lemur. But birds? No! Birds are meant to fly! This place was full of locals, very few tourists on the day I was there.  The highlight? A pond with musical amphibians. Very entertaining.  This is the perfect place to animal watch if you want to take a break from people watching (love HK for that – so many characters!)

Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Gardens 

So, as you can tell, I’m on a nature roll, and the next stop was mentioned to me by a friend – and that is where I met my newest friend in HK (Hi J!). I know I sound like a broken record, but I LOVED this place. A trek to get to – but very clear directions, and this place has it’s own bus stop so if you get lost, well.. you have a problem then.

There was the option of using the Farm shuttle to take me to the top of the farm and on the way, stop and check out certain attractions.  It was either that or walking uphill for a couple of hours. Alright then. Bus it is.

The Fern Walk and Orchid Haven were exactly that.  Lots of ferns of different shapes and sizes. The orchids – just a handful were flowering – but still worth it. The memorial pavillion was a very pretty space, with views of the mountains and trees. My favourite stop was Kwun Yum Shan, a space dedicated to the goddess of love and compassion. Beautifully manicured garden, a circular path surrounding the statue – and a beautiful energy to the place.  The butterfly park was excellent – lots and lots of butterflies and flowers, I spent almost an hour here just checking them out. That meant that I missed the shuttle bus so walked back down to the main farm – another hour – but more stops on the way – birds, pond life, places to sit and take it all in. You could walk around the farm, there were greenhouses with more beautiful orchids, a small organic garden, a pig sty with ginormous pigs – I would so recommend this place. The vegetarian cafe onsite was also great, but a tad expensive.

HK Wetland Park

The wetland park was another expansive space, it took a while to get to, using both the MTR and the LRT.  Now I assumed that they both use the Octopus card (they do) but I didn’t realise I had to tap out of the MTR and into the LRT. Result? I got a telling off! And a warning! I wasn’t fined as ‘I was a tourist’. Moving on (quickly), I picked a searingly hot day to explore the park. There is an entrance fee to pay (HKD30) that gives you access to all areas. There was a massive, modern exhibition centre with an education zone (full of cute kids), a souvenir shop (nothing worth buying) and a cafe (overpriced and not very good I was told). I didn’t spend too much time indoors, but we walked around where we could. Lots of shades areas, lots of nooks and crannies to cool down in when the sun got too hot. Lots of birds (there were even bird watching shelters), butterflies, flowers and crabs – among the mangroves.  I would love to come back to this place in the winter – or when it is colder – I think it would have a completely different feel to it. Another must see.

A Symphony of Lights – Victoria Harbour 

Yes yes, possibly cringingly touristy but I loved it. Walking along to the harbour on Kowloon side, we noticed it was pretty packed. Whoo! Light show! But first, I took lots of stunning photos of the harbour. So so pretty. All those colours.  The light show – also very colourful – was very kawaii to watch, with cheesy music too.. I did this on my last night, I think it was a perfect way to end my HK adventure. 

I’ve always liked HK, and discovering her green side made me love the place. Don’t let anyone tell you it is all skyscrapers and madness and crowds. It is all that – but there is a lot more, and all you need to do is scratch below the surface… looking forward to the next visit already!

And that is it for all my epic travels in 2017. I have loved every day of travelling – some more than others. The highlight? Culture and Nature goes without saying. But the people. I met so many people. Locals, fellow Brits, a whole load of Aussies – so many wonderful people who I am keeping in touch with and already planning dinners and visits – it has been an amazing experience.

So back to work soon – but it isn’t going to be just work – I’m planning 2 holidays for the rest of the year. That should keep me going. Until then? Keep your eyes open for my ongoing London food adventures.

Here is to a lifetime of good food and never ending travel! 😘