PB Travels… Georgetown

Hello Georgetown! We left Kota Aur and it was only a short drive to Georgetown. Once again, like in Melaka, I knew I would like this place. Georgetown is a very walkable place – and the taxis were pretty reasonable too. 

Where am I staying?

Red Rock Hotel is a 10 minute cab ride from the heart of the action, or a 20 minute walk. The hotel was equipped with a pool and the rooms were pretty basic. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: low, but the room had a ‘threadbare’ quality about it – like everything was falling apart 
  • Bed: 6/10. Bed was comfy, however the air conditioning was exceptionally loud – and it needed to stay on as Georgetown is a hot and humid place. It was like being on a plane.  
  • Shower: 8/10. Nice and powerful. 

What did I eat?

Breakfasts were essentially more fruit and these cereal bars I picked up from the supermarket  whooo! No fried rice!! No pic either.  As it was so hot I couldn’t do lunch – I would have a cereal bar and just drink loads of water.  I also had another cendol for ‘lunch’ which to be honest wasn’t as nice as the first one.

Dinner one night was at Red Garden, essentially a food court specialising in seafood.  Everyone was in ‘food paradise’ as expected apart from me. There wasn’t much for me to eat. I had a seaweed salad (out of a packet methinks) and some spring rolls. I was still so hungry that I ordered a mango sticky rice. It was all ok,  nothing special to be honest. 

But all was not lost! What did I find? By accident? A WESTERN VEGAN RESTAURANT!!! Wholey Wonder. Now you know me – food wise I try and go local but a month of non stop veggies and rice and tofu just left me craving something completely different – or stuff I have back home. So I popped in to check out the menu and ordered a smoothie. Cacao, almond milk, blueberries, chia seeds!!! The manager was this lovely bloke who gave me then heads up on where to buy stuff I was craving – like the aforementioned chia seeds – I was a happy banana. 

So while the gang went to another food court for dinner (I wasn’t going to join them again to eat, well, nothing), I went back to Wholey Wonder. Another smoothie (green this time), a roasted vegetable pizza (with this amazing nut/nutritional yeast Parmesan) and dessert too! This stunning berry cheesecake slice, followed by an almond milk cappuccino. Oh Mama! All this food was so so so full of flavour, so tasty and so so nourishing. I loved this place. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. 

What did I do?

We drove around Georgetown, checking out the buildings and listening to our lovely tour guide about how Georgetown has changed over the years. We also checked out a few temples, the most notable being the temple of the Goddess of Mercy, or Kuan Yin. I loved this place. Very impressive and blingy, but very calming and sedate. There was a prayer tree where you could get ribbons with pre printed messages for virtually anything – love, money, power.. you basically write your name (or the person you’re dedicating the wish to), pray, make a donation and hang it on the wooden ‘wishing tree’. Aaah. The things we do! 

There are a number of jetties by the sea, they were built by the Chinese when they first came here, and most of the jetties at named after prominent Chinese families – whose descendants still live there. I went to the Chew Jetty – and loved it.  Full of character, you could look into people’s houses, chat to the locals, buy souvenirs, food, everything and anything. It was lovely just to walk up and down and watch the world go by – and the view at the end was lovely – with a cool breeze too. Bonus!  There are also Tao temples dotted around, on and at the start of the jerry. These photos are of temple at the start. It was also so cool – you can go there and get your fate predicted (think Tarot sticks), and apparently there is a resident shaman/sorcerer to sort out everyone’s problems – he wasn’t there when we visited. 😦 


I also spent a lot of time walking around, checking out the malls (meh), walking around Little (South) India, and the amazing street art. There were also quirky little shops, selling souvenirs (the only interesting thing that wasn’t same same but different were these notebooks with pics of the street art – I bought a few). Every local I came across – Malay, Chinese or Indian was super friendly and always up for a conversation. I spent half my time chatting there – and I loved it! 

Finally – I went to the local Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) on Jalan Gurdwara. This was a tip from one of the locals I meet along my way. I was expecting a tiny little temple but when I got there, it was lovely and big. I really really loved going there – I had the place all to myself and I spent enough time giving thanks for all the amazing experiences I am going through and wonderful people I am meeting through my travels. Simple, humble Gratitude. Thank you!!! And thank you for Wholey Wonder – I stumbled across it on the way back from the temple. Whoo! 


Georgetown, I have enjoyed you and your people. This is a place I’ll definitely come back to. 

PB Travels… Melaka

Hello Malaysia! The flight from Yangon to KL was short and sweet. There was a lounge in Yangon airport (yay) and I actually got a really decent meal (rice, dal, tofu – looks grim but tasted amazing) on the flight. I’ve always liked Malaysia Airlines – another airline I’ve never been disappointed with. 


So after a short overnight stop in KL, the first proper stop on my Malaysian adventure in Melaka. It was quite easy to get to, a metro ride to the main bus station and then a two hour ride on a local bus. The bus station was massive and air conditioned, very well organised and oh my word. What a change! I was cool! I was relaxed! I wasn’t fanning at a feverish pace (don’t even know where it is!). A Malaysian local bus has seats and leg room and air conditioning – wider, longer and cooler than any other bus I’ve been on.  Very nice change from the boiling tin can in Burma. 

I warmed to Melaka the minute I got there. Quirky, full of character and small enough to walk around. My kind of place. 

Where am I staying? 

Hotel Mimosa, a 10 minute walk from all the action. Perfectly alright for the time I was there. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: low. Nice and clean with crisp sheets 
  • Bed: 8/10. Hard bed with pillows of the right height. Yay!
  • Shower: 6/10. I need more power!! 

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts in the hotel – a decent enough spread. I went for the usual – banana on toast SANS PB. I have finished my lovely unadulterated PB, and it is very very hard to find one here that doesn’t have any hydrogenated oils. Why!!! Peanuts are oily enough!! And why add extra sugar and salt and other cr*p?! Aargh! 

Dinner? Street food! And enough options for me! Lime soda was the default drink. I tell you, it is made for the heat :). What did I have? Mushroom galore – barbecued and sprinkled with this spicy mix and Laksa! Vegetarian! Spicy, hot killer broth, tofu pieces, veggies – seriously delicious. Similar to but nothing like a tom yum. Same same but definitely different. I also had another go at durian (topped with coconut milk) and managed to have a mouthful, but I’m sorry. It is not a fruit for me. Gotta love you and leave you durian. 

One of the best snacks I had was cendol. Pronounced chendol, this was a serious pleasure to eat – and ‘Me friendly’ without having to modify it! Shaved ice, brown sugar, pandan worms (what else are they made of?!) and coconut milk. Yummy. Perfect dish for the heat – cooling, icy, textured. This was an excellent eat.


What did I do?

I did the typical tourist things and loved it. The only thing I didn’t do is the river cruise, as I practically walked up and down it. Lots of beautifully maintained houses, cafes, hideaways – very picturesque. 

What was very impressive and a definite don’t miss was the Baba Nyonya museum. Baba Nyonya is the name given to the people who have Malay/Chinese heritage – who created their own culture and food. The museum was and still owned by a prominent local Baba Nyonya family. We paid 16 ringgit and got an hour long fascinating tour – you can’t take pics inside unfortunately but it was still excellent. Loved it.  

We sat on pimped trishaws and got cycled around. We went to the Dutch square, a stunning place with maroon/red buildings in a Dutch colonial style, and a stunning Chinese temple. We also went to the A Fomosa fort, with very scenic views of Melaka. 



Jonker Walk was also very interesting. It starts off with a food market, morphs into a street market that sells everything and anything and then into a street food market. Full of character, chock full with locals and tourists and a brilliant place if you wanted to buy junk or eat amazing food. 


I also had an amazing reflexology massage. My masseuse was so amazing, she pinpointed what was physically bugging me – she was spot on – and also what I should or shouldn’t do. Go here! 

I loved loved loved Melaka. So much to do and so much to see and eat. I can see why it is one of the highlights of Malaysia! 

PB Travels… Inle Lake

Ok. Let me be honest with you. My first impressions of Burma were not favourable. First of all, the temperature shot up by about 8 degrees – from a bearable 28/29 degrees c to a stifling 36/37 degrees. Combine that with a bus with air conditioning just for show and NO cool air/breeze, sheesh. I was not happy!

Border crossing from Thailand to Burma was effortless. I came in at Tachiliek and yes. You can use an e-visa here, despite all the conflicting info you read on the internet. I went to the embassy in London which wasn’t a problem for me, but other people in the group I’ve joined had to send theirs off at additional cost and worry. You don’t have to!

We made our way to the airport near the border. Airport? Well think of your standard bus station in rural India – that was the airport. No cooling facility, (naturally) heated metal seats and very very grubby. The service on the flight with Yangon Airways was very good, and so was the food for those who experienced both. Everyone got 2 cakes and coffee/tea – I  couldn’t eat the cakes, so no food for me. 

The plane was filthy as hell though – I promptly feel asleep once in my seat and didn’t wake up until we landed. Maybe that is why the flight was good 🤣. We finally got to our hotel in Nyang Shwe – the gateway to Inle Lake. 

Where am I staying?

Hupin Hotel, a road away from the main street and market, a 10 minute walk from the pier to Inle Lake and that is all I can tell you. 

The hotel itself was not bad at all. I forgot to take a picture of my bedroom. It was bright, spacious and airy.  Ratings?

  • Grubbiness Factor: low, just a bit tired in places. 
  • Bed: 7/10. Nice hard bed but soft pillows for me. 
  • Shower: 9/10. Powerful, rain shower and really nice toiletries. Whoo!

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts were included in the hotel, eggs, pancakes, sausages, fried rice, banana bread. Nothing for me so I had the standard – banana and PB on toast. Didn’t take a pic of that. But what I did take a pic of was the breakfast that awaited me the next day. When the manager found out that I couldn’t eat much, she offered to bring me a home made breakfast. LOOK! 

Bearing in mind I haven’t had Indian food for about three weeks – this was a welcome sight. Roti! Puri! Aloo! Oh man. I had all those puris, one roti and most of the aloo. I was in heaven. I even took the rest of the food for the bus ride later that day. Thank you Hupin Hotel Manager! 

Lunch? One day – a simple one in the airport – a room with green plastic chairs and garish stuffed toys. I ordered a sprite – and I’m not a soda drinker, but I needed something to combat the heat and lack of air conditioning. I ordered mixed vegetables – which were loaded with pepper, not a bad thing in my book. Delicious, although I would have liked to have a bucket of ice at this point. To eat but preferably to sit in. 

We had lunch on the lake one day, and I was told by my guide that the eggplant salad is a speciality of Burma. I decided to dive in and order it. What arrived (along with my lime soda), was a seemingly simple and squishy plate of food. But my word. Aubergine is back on the menu! Loaded with fresh onion, fresh green chillies and a killer sauce, it hit the spot. Oh, and a snack of fried bean curd with a soy chilli dipping sauce also went down very well. 

Dinners? Hupin Restaurant, a 2 minute walk from the hotel – I couldn’t manage walking more in that heat. Thankfully the food was stunningly good.  I had the same stuff – tofu with veggies, fresh chillies and steaming rice. Proper Chinese food and it was excellent. Soft tofu, tangy, hot sauce (no MSG), crunchy veggies = bliss. 

The waiter was so so lovely, he even got me my own veggie soup when he found out I couldn’t eat the complimentary chicken soup. That soup might not look like much but is was so full of flavour. YUM! So recommend this place for the food and also because of the Bollywood movie playing in the TV screens 😬. 

What did I do?

I got hot and stayed hot. Other than roasting and sweating, we got on a long tail boat that took us across Inle Lake. Stunning scenery and we came across these fishermen of the lake, putting on a show for us.  




We made our way to a market that is held every 5 days – and this was a wonderful experience.  As you have now gathered, markets are a highlight for me. This one was still so raw and organic and full of so many interesting things – food, flowers, pots, mild intoxicants. And the people. Super friendly and curious, always up for a sign language conversation. After  walking around I ordered yet another sprite from the local market caff and people watched. Loved loved loved it.  

We then embarked, still on our boats (thank the Lord for brollys and cool breezes), on checking out the local craft action. I’ve seen silk weaving enough times, but what amazed me this time, and I’ve never seen it before, is thread made out of the stem of the lotus plant. Amazing to watch. The stuff produced is a really labour of love, and very expensive. I’m talking $90 USD for a thin long scarf. 


The other thing that I hadn’t seen before was cheroot making. Girls with beautifully manicured nails expertly rolling up cheroots, with a lining of newspaper and a corn husk filter. They also had them in different flavours – star anise, rum and banana – they all smelt pretty horrible.. whatever floats your boat I say. 


Next? A pagoda with 5 mini Buddha statues. Or they were once – you can’t see them anymore as people have plastered them with gold leaf. So although this was a temple and there were lots of locals, there were also lots of tourists – which meant someone decided it was a good idea to charge 500 kyats if you wanted to take photos. I decided not to pay – on principle – not with all the postcards and posters on sale all over the temple. I was also not impressed that women can’t get near the Buddha statues. Don’t appreciate any culture/religion that imposes such restrictions. 😤

Finally, another highlight. Even more so because the weather had cooled down so much and it was raining. Whoooo! The floating gardens of Inle Lake. Sweet potato,  chillies, and 60% of the region’s tomatoes are grown here. No pesticides, grown on the mud dredged from the lake, it was a very impressive sight! 


Inle Lake is very beautiful – it is really like a mini city and there is enough going on so there is something for everyone. The first taste of Burma – so far so good. Onward to Bagan, via public bus. 

PB Travels… Halong Bay

So one of the reasons why I decided to come to Vietnam again was to go to Halong bay – again. I had been there in December, when it was freezing cold and foggy. All we did was sit on a dingy little boat, sleep in a dodgy little cabin, and the only thing I did was go to the surprising cave – which wasn’t very surprising but very pretty. 

So this time round I was booked to go on a Pelican ‘luxury’ cruise. With no expectations, we set off (they pick you up from your hotel / name on bus was different to the cruise company – there are hundreds out there). 4 hours, including a half hour stop at a proper tourist trap of a place, I arrived and was transferred to a pretty tidy boat. 


Where am I staying? 

On board the Pelican 3. My room is big, bold and beautiful, with double doors opening so I can lie in bed and watch the bay (which I did) or sit in my armchair and watch the bay (which I did). Stunning! 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent. Everything was pristine
  • Bed – 9/10. So comfy, I didn’t even realise I was on a boat!
  • Shower 9/10. Nice hot water, big, I didn’t even realise I was on a boat!! 

What did I eat? 

What didn’t I eat – ask me that. This is why I didn’t have many meals in Hanoi – this food was still in my system! They had been warned about my dietary requirement before hand, and has honoured them. This was good, seeing that all my meals were included. So. Lunch. A set menu. This is what everyone else was having.

This is what I had. Pumpkin soup to start, pleasant enough. The fresh spring rolls were excellent – stuffed with noodles and herbs galore, they came with a soy chilli mixture. I love these babies. Refreshing, chewy, herby flavour bombs with every bite. 

Next course – the omnis got a prawn cocktail, basically got bhajias 😂. Soft potato covered in a crispy crispy but sweet batter. Why and how they were so sweet, I don’t know but I didn’t enjoy them. Or finish them.  It was literally like having a sweet waffle batter around a slice of potato. No thank you. 

I was almost stuffed at this point – and the mains hadn’t even arrived yet. 4 more dishes to come!!! The ubiquitous sticky rice dish, a shockingly disgusting yellow curry. It was horribly bland with NO flavour at all. Eugh. What had oodles of flavour was the tofu in soy sauce, ginger and chilli. Perfectly balanced flavours and soft melting tofu, it was perfect with the rice. Top it off with some braised lettuce, perfect meal and I was spectacularly full. 

Omni courses? Mixed rice, same horrible yellow curry with chicken and apparently a very tasty fish dish. This meal was 45% local, 55% touristy. 

Onto dinner. Ho boy. To start, a really tasty and creamy sweetcorn soup for me, seafood for everyone else. A golf ball portion of papaya salad. Veggies were nice but there wasn’t any other flavour – no chilli or sourness. Hello tourist version! Omnis got the same with a prawn on top. 

Veggie spring rolls on pineapple (dramatic presentation) were really yum. I do like a good Vietnamese spring roll. Dipped in some chilli lime sauce – excellent. Predictably so, I was pretty stuffed by this point so I left the tempura – or rather scraped it off (as sweet as before) and just ate 2 giant pieces of broccoli – mmmmm. Broccoli! I also got a plate of oil laden chips. Which were also left alone. 

The omnis on the other hand were oooing and aaahing over their food. A seafood boat with barbecue prawns and oysters, beef with vegetables, fish with broccoli. 

The last dish for me – ‘pasta’ with noodles and.. Lets be honest. A tomato jam. I took one bite and couldn’t eat any more. It was a bizarre dish – full of oregano, garlic and sugar. Dessert? While everyone else had this banana cream tart, I had a mango hedgehog. Delicious after that heavy meal. 

So onto the final meal on the boat – there were two breakfasts available, one at 7am (before a visit to the surprising cave) and after at 10am. After all that food yesterday, I couldn’t face breakfast #1, so lazed until 10am. Another billion course menu. Now bear in mind. This is breakfast. First course? Soup. Broccoli soup. Nope. Thank you. Not in the morning and definitely not for breakfast. Insipid and watery. 

Next? These super sweet, super naughty and super tasty deep fried balls of goodness, filled with taro and coconut. Piping hot, crispy, soft interior, pretty, sweet – YUM. Apparently they are made for special occasions. 

Onward and well, downward into my gut – veggie fried rice (YUM), deep fried sweetcorn (you know, that breakfast staple – toooooo heavy) and mixed veggies – aubergine, carrot and potato in a pool of oil (the bits not oil soaked were actually nice). All in all another bizarre and filling meal. Oh. And for dessert – sweet sweet pineapple. 


So if you go on this cruise, you definitely get your money’s worth. I think they chicks introduce smaller portions and save a lot of money. Drinks are chargeable, from the water to beer to wine – they have everything including 2 happy hours in the evening. 

What did I do?

Take in the scenery from my room and on the upper deck. Some advice. If you want to come to Halong Bay, please don’t expect it to be as serene and calming as it seems to be in the photographs/on the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, it is a super majestic awe inspiring humbling place with stellar sunsets. Just be prepared to share it with 50 other cruise liners (yes, I am aware I contributed to this), speed boats, noisy chugging boats and 10000s of tourists (yes yes, like me). 

So I didn’t go to the surprising cave, instead I went on a bamboo boat to this lagoon via a cave tunnel. Really stunning and peaceful. 

Next stop – Ti Top, with a man made beach. Did not like it – too many people, and why people would swim in that water, I don’t know. Really good place to people watch though! 

All in all, I suppose I’m glad I did it the second time and actually got to take in more of the bay, but it isn’t on my ‘I want to come back here’ list. 

PB Eats… Vegan In London 1

There has been a lot of eating going on over the past few weeks, lots of home made food, lots of the usual stuff  (Zizzi, Pizza Express, Wagamama, Haz), and a few interesting eats, which I’ll talk about here.  So the first one was… wait for it… a vegetarian pizza restaurant!  So this place is apparently the third in a chain, and not only is it vegetarian, but Indian – which means that you can order pizzas with lots of coriander or paneer!!

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Mr Singh’s is just outside Gants Hill tube station, we rocked up early (pretty early, around 6pm) for dinner.  We were the only ones there to sit and eat, but it filled up quickly.  There were lots of people taking away or picking up orders.  The menu is great – not only do they do pizzas, but burgers, wraps, lots of sides and lots of desserts.  I decided to go for the vegetarian hot, with red onion, sweetcorn, mushrooms, peppers, jalapenos and fresh green chillies, sans cheese.  They do a soy based vegan cheese, but I’d rather go without.  My mama ordered a vegetarian supreme, which was essentially the same as mine, but without the green chillies, and obviously with cheese.

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It was only after I ordered I read that pizzas are deep pan, but you can request thin crust (which is my pizza of choice).  The deep pan was about a centimetre thick, really well cooked and crispy – so no complaints there.  I usually top my pizza with chilli oil, chilli flakes, and whatever else there is – but this time, I didn’t have to.  The pizza was SO good – and the generous amount of green chillies really hit the spot.  Super tasty!  Definitely coming back here to try the other stuff on the menu.

Next? The food stalls at Spitalfields Market and Boiler House.  Well we did check out all the fashion stalls – there is so so much there, all quirky and different, teeming with people – but I was here for the food.

There was something for everyone – virtually every different type of cuisine and dish available, and everyone, well, almost everyone was happy with what they got.  I wanted to check out the vegan burgers at Pomodoro e Basilico.  I had been seeing these ‘cheesy/mozarella’ sticks that they sell on social media for so long, I really wanted to try them – so I ordered one.. It looked like the real deal, tasted like the real deal, the only problem for me was that it was under seasoned.  All it needed was hit of salt.

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They also do different kinds of burgers, either with seitan or jackfruit.  They even do a sweet burger.   I went for ‘The Good’ with a seitan beef patty, beetroot ketchup, garlic mayo, cashew cheddar, carrot bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion. There is a lot of effort that goes into these burgers, but for me, it was too sweet!  The bun was sweet, and the beetroot ketchup and carrot bacon just enhanced that.  Also, my patty was really really small.  I think that if the patty was bigger and thicker, it would change everything about the burger.

We also went for a slice of the spinach, peanut butter and banana cake.  Amazing texture, moist, but it could have been a bit sweeter for me.

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So some stuff was too sweet, some not enough sweet or salty – but overall, quite pleasant.  I will try them again though, and compare the difference to this time…

Next highlight – din din with the cousins.  We wanted to go to Iberica, but they didn’t have any availability until 10pm, so we ended up going to Sabor Iberico – tapas too, but much more rustic, cheaper and cheerful.  It was a lovely place, lovely staff and a typical menu with all the expected fare… but what was unexpected was a lovely gin menu, with my favourite tonic(s) – Fever Tree.. I went for a Portobello Road Gin, which was jolly good.

There were a few meaties and I think they ordered the calamari and chorizo, but there were loads of veggie/vegan options.  Olives – fat, juicy and so moorish.  Delish! The pan con tomate was sensational – we ordered some plain and some with manchego cheese.  Fresh tomatoes, fresh bread – it has got to be one my favourite tapas dishes.  We also went for patatas bravas (acceptable), ensalada de espinaca with nuts, butternut squash and a really good whole mustard dressing.  The padron peppers were appropriately charred, with a sprinkling of paprika..mmmmm.  I was happy.

Other veggie dishes ordered were the tortilla with cauliflower (hmmm), the feedback was that it was ok.  What went down well though was the broccoli in a nice buttery sauce, and a dish of mushroom and goats cheese.

Sadly I couldn’t partake in any of the desserts, so I settled for a cup of hot water with lemon (they had run out of fresh mint!) and watched the girlies enjoy the churros and tarta de Santiago – and boy, they did.

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Sabor Iberico was really reasonable, the food good, the desserts and gin heavenly – will definitely return for a cheap and cheerful and tasty meal.

So those have been some of the eats (to be honest, the ones where I remember to take photos of, haha).  I’ve been busy planning travelling phase 2 – Asia it is and some of the countries have been decided on, but I’m also doing a bit of ‘going with the flow’… I leave in 2 weeks – and I can’t wait! Whooo!

PB Eats… Yauatcha

I am enjoying being back home, making the most of the free time I have, and eating obviously.  I met up with L for dinner at what has become my favourite place for dim sum – Yauatcha – I prefer going to the branch in the city.  Over the years, I have experimented with what I can eat, what I want to eat, what I should be eating, and Yauatcha has always graciously supported my preferences.  L managed to wrangle the current bookatable £29 deal – 9 courses (including dessert) and a cocktail.   Yay! The table was already set with the usual fare – vinegary cucumber (yummo), and two chilli sauces, top right con fish, bottom right sin fish.

Our cocktail arrived – a cherry chaser with brandy, cherries, orange and a few..erm.. other things – yep, I can’t remember.  Surprisingly refreshing and not very alcoholic given all that ice.

So the set menu has the following yummy nibbles – Har Gau, Crystal Dumpling Wrap (ve), Baked Venison Puff, Mushroom Spring Roll (ve), Shui Mai, Black Pepper dumpling, Prawn Cheung Fun and a lotus leaf sticky rice.  Phew.  Obviously most of the stuff was off limits for me, but they had alternatives, as expected.  I got more taro (2 to be exact) and veggie dumplings (1 fried and 1 steamed) and a mushroom cheung fun.  The fried dim sum were very tasty – as were the steamed.

We also got a cheung fun each – soft, yielding and very delicious.  At first glance, you may think this is not a lot of food, but it was just the right amount.  Every dim sum was well made and flavourful, I can’t choose a favourite.  Ok. I can – the orange dumpling, it’s always been you.  It contains pine nuts – not an expected ingredient but what an ingenious addition! The mushroom spring roll with a hint of truffle comes a close second.  My dishes on the top, L’s in the middle.

PB Eats… Big Easy

So my travels are about to start – I fly next week to Central America (sooo excited!) to start the first part of my travels, but before that – I needed to meet up with S and T, my wonderful friends/work mates.  We agreed to meet at Big Easy in Canary Wharf.

Big Easy specialises in ribs, lobster, meat, bbq – basically 99% of the menu is inedible for me.  But as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not fussy – if there is one item on the menu it is mine.. and more importantly, I never want to be in a situation where I can’t socialise because my eating options are limited – or where I have to always dictate where we go to eat.

It was so so wonderful to catch up, so much to talk about, so much to say, so much prosecco to drink!  When we finally had a look at the menu, I honed in on the Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burger (hold the sour cream).  What arrived was a decent looking burger, stuffed with a yummy bean patty, avocado, pickled onions, tomato and lettuce.


There was a lot of bread, which I basically didn’t eat.  In the battle of bread vs fat chips – fat chips win everytime! The pickle was a nice addition, and I didn’t try the slaw so can’t comment on that.

S went for the Lobster Roll meal deal (terrible photo, I know) and T went for the giant lobster meal – both came with a free drink and were giant portions! I think they went down well!

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The staff were lovely but very strict about the ‘2 hour turnaround policy’ and reminded us about it more than once – until we had to decamp and move to the bar – where we ended up staying for the next few hours.

Big Easy has an amazing atmosphere – it was buzzing and busy and we had such an awesome time, to be honest the food (which was decent) definitely played second fiddle to the brilliant company – that was one good night!

PB Eats… Grain Store

I met up with M for our annual Christmas dinner (yep, in January – thank you cold/flu virus for making me miss it in December).  Ever resourceful, she suggested Grain Store – a restaurant with lots of options for the dietary fussy amongst us.

Now Grain Store is one of those painfully hip places, the staff, the menu, the cocktail list (they have savoury cocktails! Aubergine Rum! Horseradish Vodka!).  Too much hard work to go through the list – so we settled for a celebratory glass of prosecco 😉  Thankfully the food men was less complex, full of yummy stuff.

We both loved the look of the desserts (parsnips in a dessert! So hip!) so we decided to forgo starters for mains and dessert. It was a toss up between the chilli con veggie or the veggie bourguignon and the lovely waitress did say the chilli was a better option – decision made for both of us.  What arrived were 2 piping hot skillets – one with mixed rice (brown, white, wild) and one with the chilli (the pot of white fluff in the middle was sour cream).

Oh boy. I was impressed. The chilli was full of flavour and warming spices, all complementary and subtle. Super delicious.   Moving on to desserts. I really wanted to try the “Coconut & Kaffir lime green tapioca, sweet potato, banana crisp”.  I thought it was a very intriguing bunch of flavours and textures – and  I also like tapioca (never been scarred via school dinners – was it really that bad??) so it was a no brainer. M went for tart of the day – apple bakewell, served with a coulis and creme fraiche, which looked LUSH.

As for my dessert, WOW. It was sensational – other than the banana crisp which I though was a bit stale so didn’t eat it. But the rest of it – wow. Umami flavour explosion. I can’t even explain how tasty this was – so different yet so comforting, it was more like a chia seed pudding than a tapioca pudding. Exceptionally delicious!

Accompanied by a cup of fresh mint tea, and I was a happy bunny.  All in all, a really really good meal.  I definitely want to go back to try the other stuff on the menu.

PB Eats… Borough Market

So after the sedate Christmas mood of Norway, it was good to be back in London where you can’t avoid Christmas – lights on every street, trees, decorations, lovely!  I am not big into the material/spending side – I’m more about the food, so where else to stock up on a few Christmas pressies than Borough Market? It was suitably decked, as expected.

We wandered around, and yes, there were lots of people and lots of stalls.  The free samples were mainly for cheese (nope), deli meats (nope), oils (yep).  I can’t write too much about the stuff I bought – but it was on the lines of nuts, chutneys and oils.  There is so much variety there, it is possible to buy something for everyone!  So presents done, we decided to fill our bellies.  Thankfully there are so many options for me, but today I was feeling like a spicy stir fry, so I made a beeline to my fav place, L’ailOlive.

There is a standard meal that I always order – vegetarian rice noodles with veggie gyoza.  Served piping hot with some fried onions on top.  This came to about £7.50, more expensive than Mr. A’s Ethiopian box that was jam packed with meat, veggies and rice for only £5.  

I should also say that they were served by a very Christmas-y lady, decked in a jumper, tinsel, baubles – and she had even done her nails – loved it!!

Now L’ailOlive specialise in garlic and chilli products, and they always have a couple of sauces to pimp our food with.  One contains dried shrimp, but the other one…ho ho ho (pun intended).  The Super Hot Garlic Peperoncino is dynamite, literally as the name suggests, super hot – and that comes from someone who can handle her chillies!  The kick is spectacular – and I’ve learned from experience to use this oil sparingly – amazing flavour, but definitely use with caution!  The stir fry was super delicious – hitting the spot on a cold London day.

Next – dessert. Keeping with the Thai theme, Mr. A spotted a place selling coconut pancakes – dairy free! Made with coconut milk and rice flour, they looked like little discs of snow, dotted with black sesame seeds.

Crunchy on the bottom, soft on the top, lightly set – they were very moreish and so so yummy.  8 to a portion for about £3 I think – I could have had about 32.  A must try for sure.   All in all, a good day out – I always come to Borough market with a plan when I want to buy foodie pressies, however on the eating front, anything goes! I always leave full and happy 🙂

PB Travels… Tromso – Reindeer, Hummus..and The End

Today’s plan was to check out the reindeer, and spend the rest of the day basically being lazy. We had booked a tour with Tromso Arctic Reindeer for a Reindeer and Sami experience.   Once again, we were picked up from the hotel (yay!), this time in a coach with about 50 other people.  We drove just 25 minutes outside Tromso city centre to a custom, tourist made, Sami/Reindeer site.

We met our hosts, a lovely Sami man and his fiance in a giant lavuu that had a roaring fire.  They were traditionally dressed and looked very attractive.

We were first going to feed the reindeer and then come back to a Lavuu to have some lunch and to hear about the Sami – history and current situation. So, equipped with buckets off feed, off we went to feed the greedy reindeer.

After a couple of minutes holding the bucket and being pushed around, I’d had enough of the feeding and switched to taking pics.

We then wandered back in the lavuu for a truly interesting talk on the Sami, their history, what they wear, their accessories, how they protect themselves in this harsh environment. Very informative and enjoyable.  As for the food?  A reindeer stew which was strongly ‘scented’ (being polite here), and a veggie, dairy filled cous cous option. So no food for me.  The best part of the day was the Sami talk – and that was it really.  But if you do want to get close and personal to lots of reindeer, then definitely do this if you’re out there.
We got back to the hotel for 2pm, did a bit of packing, and a bit of window shopping.  So far we haven’t done any serious shopping yet, other than buying lefse and Kvikk Lunsj, Norway’s answer to Kit Kat.  But first, a coffee in a deli, Mathallen.  This was a beautiful space, with lots of tempting items to buy, but all we wanted was a coffee.
So after a quick espresso (not the worst, but not the best) + a couple of pieces of salted almond chocolate (from Copenhagen), and we were ready to wander for a couple of hours before dinner. We were hungry, since we hadn’t had lunch (M didn’t want to try the reindeer soup – and S wasn’t joining us, she was going for Northern Lights part deux) but we thought we could hold out.
We found a spa to book a massage for the final day of the holiday, went to the polar museum and the tourist shops to check the tourist tat – and boy, there was a lot of it out there.  It was really enjoyable walking around, and we also nipped into the library and chilled and read a few comic books – brilliant.  One of guides told us that you can borrow a book from any town or city in Norway and return it in another. So I could borrow a book in Tromso and return it in Oslo…how cool is that!
So after reading Nordic anime-esque comics about Thor’s daughter and Vikings, off we went to Kafe Globus (or if you’re M, it’s bobus/nobus/anythingbutglobus rofl rofl) a cafe with international cuisine that had.. wait for it.. VEGAN CUPCAKES.  Whoop Whoop.
A beautiful space once again, with a very relaxed vibe.  Very reasonable, cheaper than most other places we visited.  See what you want, order, pay and sit back and relax.

I ordered a ginger beer..mm.. zingy..

And a middle eastern plate with extra falafels.  It came loaded with a salad, tabbouleh, olives, beetroot, pickled veggies.. and houmous. YUMMY!   I love that stuff and I eat it virtually every day – so not eating it for almost a week and then getting it… I was one happy bunny.  As for the rest? Fresh, crunchy, spicy, juicy… most enjoyable.

M’s plate was identical – but with extra chicken and yogurt dip.

Suitably full, I made sure I left room for dessert – vegan chocolate cake accompanied by a jasmine tea.  It was a big hunk of cake with icing – and yes, I ate it all.

We waddled back to the hotel – not because we were stuffed. Well, okay, that was partially the reason, but also because the roads were so icy and we were being careful 🙂

On our last day in Tromso, after a late start and a leisurely breakfast, we did some shopping and took a final walk around the city centre.. so pretty!

Time for our final meal in Tromso – lunch at what is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Tromso, Emma’s Drommekjokken, or Emma’s Dream Kitchen.  Another small restaurant, no more than 15 tables, but beautifully done up.

The menu here was also short and sweet, and they had a vegan option (with houmous!!) with me even asking for one 🙂 The owner mentioned that the Head Chef has worked with Jamie Oliver and it was Jamie’s influence. Go Jamie..

We started off with a glass (or two) of sparkling wine..

My meal with essentially a salad with hummus and roasted root veggies – ginormous and oh so tasty. Every mouthful was full of texture and brimming with flavour.

The girls went for the baked clip fish, sitting on a mound of creamy mash.

No room – or time for dessert, we paid about £48 each and legged it to Essens Spa for a massage.  My masseuse was also a physiotherapist, so my massage turned into a proper deep tissue, painful at the time but so relaxing afterwards massage.  It cost £80 for 45 minutes, but it was exactly what my muscles needed!

So leaving the spa completely relaxed, after 2 days of chasing, Wandering Owl said they couldn’t leave my scarf anywhere convenient (for them!!) so M and I spend 40 minutes power walking up and down a very steep hill to a residential part of Tromso to retrieve it.  Letter to self – don’t forget anything when you go on an activity with them!

We rushed back to the hotel, rushed to the airport, rushed to the gate… and relaxed.

All in all, Tromso was seriously enjoyable, there is so much to do and it is a beautiful city.  It isn’t a place for a budget holiday, nor is it a place where you’ll be rushed.  So after Day 1, we settled into the flow of Tromso, relaxed and went with the flow – and we were all better for it 🙂