The Merchant Bar @ Hotel Armada Celebrates Its 22nd Anniversary

Turning 22 is always a big thing: and The Merchant Bar marked this milestone by inviting friends and media to celebrate at its premises within Hotel Armada PJ.

Despite my office being so close to the hotel, I’ve never actually been here. The interiors are a bit dated, but it is still popular with business travellers and the older crowd.

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Located on the first floor, the Merchant Bar underwent a facelift in 2015, and now sports a spacious interior, complete with a ‘bar island’ in the centre, a small stage for live music performances, a games corner with pool tables and dart machines at the back, and a private lounge area. Lighting is cosy and intimate, with chandelier-shaped lamps casting a warm yellow glow. Patrons should note that smoking IS allowed in the bar, so if you’re a non-smoker, this might be something to consider before you pay a visit.

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For the anniversary party, guests were invited to partake in some of the hotel’s offerings. While the buffet spread was not fancy, I was impressed by the quality of the food, including Malaysian favourites such as crispy sang har mee with tiger prawns, steamed chicken dumplings, fried chicken, smoked duck and salmon appetisers, as well as a variety of cakes and desserts. The noodles were especially tasty, and had me going back for seconds (and thirds) !

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The highlight of the night was a set by legendary Malaysian pop-rock band, The Alleycats, who played some of their greatest hits as well as song covers.

THE MERCHANT BAR 

Hotel Armada, Lorong Utara C, Pjs 52, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Union – Beijing’s Latest Bar – Opens at The Opposite House In Sanlitun

UNION – Beijing’s latest bar – opens at The Opposite House in the Sanlitun district, bringing with it a brand of elegance, comfort and the free spirit of an artist’s studio infused with a curated hospitality experience.

UNION bar view

With a 20th-century modernist sensibility, the beautiful space embodies the spirit of 1920s modernism with a showcase of artworks and objects reminiscent of the International Expos of the era, paired with drinks inspired by the ancient Silk Road.UNION was designed by leading, New York-based design firm, AvroKO.

UNION key visual

Seemingly whimsical in nature, UNION was created to have a clear social flow. Copper architectural frames and metal mesh sheets showcase artwork, sculptures and objects, drawing in and engaging guests, whilst hidden elements such as the bar trolley, spicery wall and DJ booths enable a seamless transition from day to night. The interiors are inspired by potter Lucie Rie’s studio – a beautiful yet versatile space well suited to living, working and socialising. The aim is to create a sense of belonging and discovery, evoking the sense of witnessing something for the first time. A carefully curated soundtrack allows the bar to seamlessly transition from day to night with the perfect eclectic mix of tempo, BPM, energy levels and genres.

UNION night time view

A sophisticated drinks menu consists of an extensive wine list made up of 60 bins that are all available by the glass, as well as selection of signature cocktails and alcohol-free drinks. The wine list changes monthly and whilst it features some well-known wineries the list is carefully curated to provide representation for lesser known producers, hard to find bottles and biodynamic wines.

As for the signature cocktail list, it encapsulates a diverse range of flavours inspired by international tastes; non-alcoholic creations include Spring breeze (a representation of Eastern Chinese flavours) which has pear, vanilla, coconut, citric acid and sea salt , whilst the traditional cocktail menu includes highlights such as Genghis Khan Martini (Mongolian representation) with French Gin, Mongolia Milk Wine, Dry Vermouth, Elderflower, Coconut and Sea Salt.

UNION sofa view

The Opposite House by Swire Hotels is one of four Houses in The House Collective. Located in Taikoo Li Sanlitun — a vibrant open-plan shopping, dining and entertainment destination developed by Swire Properties, The Opposite House was designed by Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s most celebrated art and design geniuses.

The House’s 99 guest studios include nine spacious suites and a penthouse duplex with a 240-sq m roof terrace, all pet-friendly with special treats and amenities available for guests’ furry companions. More than half of all the studios are over 70 sqm and all are strikingly simple with natural wooden floors and subtle touches of Chinese décor. The Atrium of the House presents itself as a contemporary art gallery, showcasing art steeped in fresh cultural insights. The House has one restaurant and a bar, Jing Yaa Tang, which specialises in local fare including the famous Peking duck.

 

Go ‘Island Hopping’ At Native Kitchen @ Village Hotel, Sentosa Singapore

Go on a gastronomical “island hopping” adventure with Native Kitchen, the latest islander-inspired restaurant to open at Village Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. Serving up wholesome and authentic cuisine from the tropics, the casual setting is ideal for sharing meals and conversation, over dishes that use fresh ingredients and culinary techniques to bring out their natural flavours.

Grilled Seafood Platter

Under Executive Chef Patrice Godino’s direction, expect iconic dishes from Southeast Asia as well as the Polynesian islands, on top of well-loved local favourites and international food. Chef Patrice’s philosophy is simple: a good meal should be easy to appreciate, and the flavours of fresh produce must stand out without being masked by heavy sauces or extensive plating.

Island Ceviche

Fruits, meats and seafood prepared with a tropical twist are part and parcel of island dining, and feature prominently in Native Kitchen. Some of the restaurant’s signature dishes include appetisers such as the Watermelon & Feta Salad ($14), served with cherry tomatoes and cucumber in a lime dressing and tossed with chia seeds, and the delicious Island Ceviche ($18) (above) with Barramundi, cucumbers and carrots marinated in lime juice, coconut milk and ginger.

Big Kahuna Burger

Misoyaki Butterfish

For mains, choose between comfort food items such as a Big Kahuna Burger ($28) filled with chopped steak, grilled pineapple and thick bacon, or a Mojo Pork Cubano Sandwich ($18). Other delectable options are Misoyaki Butterfish ($40) and Bebek Goreng ($25), a Balinese-styled deep fried duck served with jasmine rice.

Chicken Rice

Dig into familiar classics such as the Native Kitchen Nasi Lemak ($20) with home-made sambal, and a Hainan Island Chicken Rice ($24). Other exotic island cuisine to tuck into include the Aloha Fish Tacos ($22) from Hawaii to the Maldivian-styled Sticky Island Wings ($16).

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Dessert lovers can round up the meal with the Pineapple Upside Down Cake ($22) and the Hula Pie ($20). A wide selection of Cocktails, Mocktails, Spirits, Beers, Wines and other refreshing beverages are also available.

Island fare aside, Native Kitchen serves a Breakfast Buffet for families, travellers and staycationers staying at Village Hotel at Sentosa. Guests can look forward to a wide variety of Asian and Western delights, fruits, cereals, juices and hot morning brews to kickstart their day.

For reservations, email enq_nativekitchen@refineryconcepts.com or call +65 6722 0818.

*Photos courtesy of Native Kitchen

NATIVE KITCHEN 

10 Artillery Avenue, #02-02, Sentosa Island, Village Hotel at Sentosa, Singapore 099951

Opening hours: Breakfast Buffet (6.30am to 10.30am), A La Carte Menu: 12pm – 10pm (last order at 9.30pm)

Website

A Countryside Winery Experience @ Fowles Winery, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria

When you talk about visiting Australia, big cities like Melbourne are probably what come to mind. I spent my first day tucking into artisanal coffee at a hipster cafe-cum-roaster, stuffing my face on freshly baked breads, gelato and cheeses in the city’s Little Italy district, before ending the night on a high note with some fine dining. While there’s certainly plenty to see and do in the city, there’s a different kind of adventure when you set out beyond, into the surrounding region of Victoria. 

Known as the third largest producer of wines, Victoria boasts stunning vineyards and hills, with rustic countryside views and fresh produce served in homely farmsteads. So much so that the tourism authority has put together a food and wine trial itinerary, where visitors can literally eat and drink their way across the region from one rural town to another. Which is what I set off to do on my second day. 😀

Our first stop was to Fowles Winery in Avenel, located in the Strathbogie Ranges some 100km north of Melbourne. Our car rolled past hills and through segments of bush. The grass was yellow and the trees had that dry tinge as it was autumn time, but the  views were gorgeous all the same. Arriving at their cellar door cafe, we were greeted by a modern-looking circular structure sitting atop a hill. The interior was spacious yet cosy, with lots of sunlight filtering in from the glass windows.

Shop area selling wines.

Other products, such as sauces.

Was still groggy from the early morning wake up call, so had a coffee for starters…

Although a relatively young brand, the family owned Fowles Wine has been making waves in the winery scene, winning the great Australian Shiraz Challenge for Australia’s best shiraz, while their cellar door was awarded Hall of Fame status by the Victorian Tourism Awards. One of their best selling ranges is the quirkily named Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch, which are available in Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz varietals. The concept and blends were developed specifically around game, so it wasn’t surprising that they had a tasting platter that paired wines with game meat. Unusual, since I’ve only seen wines paired with items such as seafood or regular red meat.

PS: (Above) real photography and (below) my shitty photo… this is why businesses need to invest in a professional photographer xD

Initially we were only here to taste the wines but the friendly proprietor Matt insisted we go with the whole experience, so he had the kitchen whip up ‘the Gamekeeper’s platter’ for us. My favourite was the pale-coloured Riesling, which had a flowery aroma to it with hints of lime, citrus blossom and notes of rose petal that gave it a fine and complex flavour that lingered on in the mouth. To go with it, crispy grilled trout with horseradish and lemon cream. It was nice to try the wine before on its own, and then after with the trout to really bring out the flavour of the seafood and horseradish. The other game meats we tried included a pork and rabbit rillette, duck and venison.

Why hunting and game meat, you might ask? In an interview, Matt explained that meat in the wild has a different texture and flavour compared to commercial meat – which creates a completely different wine and dine experience. As a hunter, one is also confronted with the realities of meat-eating: you actually go out, hunt, track down and kill the game before it’s served to the table, so it creates a respect for the animal and less wastage.

Aside from food and wine tastings at the cellar door, interested visitors can join private guided tours to find out more about the wine making process as part of their Ultimate Winery Experiences programme. Those who sign up for the Stone Dwellers Experience will get to enjoy a scenic coach ride to the vineyards and winery, as well as tank and barrel room tastings before adjourning to take in the scenic views of the central Victorian plains while sipping on a glass of wine.

 

We were pressed for time so we couldn’t go on the tour, but it was certainly a great experience to kickstart our food and wine trial across the Victoria region. More to come!

FOWLES WINE 

1175 Lambing Gully Rd, Avenel VIC 3664, Australia

Open daily: 9am – 5pm

Phone: +61 3 5796 2150 

fowleswine.com

 

*Photos not watermarked are courtesy of Fowles Wine

*Views expressed are the writer’s own

 

 

Penang: From Sandy Beaches to Skyscraper Rooftops

We continue our gastronomic adventures in Penang – this time at the Hao You (Good Friend) Seafood restaurant at the coastal area of Teluk Kumbar.Located in a somewhat rickety wooden shack just at the edge of the beach, the place serves fresh catch straight from the sea and has gained popularity among locals and tourists alike after a famous food show host featured the stall.

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We arrived just as the sun was setting. Fishing boats docked at the water’s edge rocked gently back and forth with the waves, while the light of the dying sun cast long orange shadows across the water amidst a backdrop of dark forest-covered hills. Very picturesque.

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Place was packed to the brim with dinner crowd.

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While waiting for the food to be served, my brother and I stood at the beach to enjoy the sea breeze and the sand in our toes.

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For starters, we had grilled chicken satay from a small shop just outside the main restaurant. They still cook these skewered barbecue meat over a charcoal fire, giving it a slightly charred, smokey taste. It is special because Malaysian satay tends to come served with a side of peanut sauce, but the version here already has the peanut/marinade slathered OVER the meat before cooking. The result is a soft and tender texture with the juices all sealed on the inside. Definitely one of the best satays I’ve had! The spice level is quite high though, so cool off with chunks of accompanying cucumber.

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Steamed kerang (cockles) – fat, bloody and juicy. The shellfish was much fatter than the small, shriveled ones you get in your char kuey teow, so biting into the meaty portions were oh-so-satisfying. Eating cockles is supposed to be good for replenishing iron for anemics, but is also reported to have lots of bacteria. Once in awhile is okay I suppose.

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Very simply done steamed octopi. Some of my family members complained that it was too chewy, but I like chewy stuff so this tasted just fine. It was rather bland  – could have done with a dash of chopped garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce to bring out the octopi’s freshness.

We also had stir-fried vegetables, pork trotters with mushrooms in a dark soy sauce, steamed fish and oyster omelette (oh chien).. while decent, nothing to shout about.

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The real star of the night was the mud crabs cooked in kam heong style. The spicy sauce oozing over the crab shell and in between the fresh, juicy sweet meat is made from garlic (prevalent in Chinese cooking), curry leaves, bird’s eye chilli and other herbs/spices. The resulting concoction is a savoury hot sauce that can help you mop up a couple of bowls of rice in one go.

The crabs were just the right size – not to small or large – and had a bunch of sweet flesh on the inside. Cracking the shells was a pain though.

Hao You Seafood restaurant,

84, Mukim 9
Teluk Kumbar
11920 Penang, Malaysia

Operating hours:  daily except Tuesday (5.30pm till 10pm)

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We were really tired out after a long day out, but still managed to drop by our hotel’s rooftop Skybar for a quick drink. Dubbed THREE-SIXTY@Bayview Hotel, it also has a revolving restaurant next to the open-air rooftop area where a small bar laid out with tall stools gives visitors a panoramic view of the Penang skyline at night. All around the patio are smaller wooden tables and chairs in booth-like settings, comfy and quiet for those wanting a more private chat. The lighting is low, colourful and intimate.

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Since I don’t drink alcohol, I had a Sweet Eighteen mocktail of fruit (strawberry, lychee, pineapple.. and I forgot what else). It was very sweet, but pretty good.

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Three Sixty Sky Bar
Bayview Hotel Georgetown
25-A Lebuh Farquhar
George Town, Penang
Malaysia
+604 263 3161 ext. 226
Open daily 4pm-1am, 3am on weekends.