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.

 

Woo Bar @ W Hotel Kuala Lumpur

One of the latest 5-star hotels to grace the Kuala Lumpur skyline, W Hotel  is a cool and edgy establishment, designed for those with a rebellious streak and creative individuals who thrive on non-conformity. Don’t expect to find chandeliers or dated-looking leather couches here!

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I was visiting for a food review at their Cantonese restaurant, Yen, recently – and couldn’t resist going on a tour of the other parts of the hotel. The pool deck was my favourite, the cabana/bar area with its high ceilings giving it a lofty sense of space.

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W Hotel KL probably has one of the best pool views in town: you can swim with a full view of the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers

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True to their edgy concept, the lobby is called the “Living Room”, and the Concierge, the “Whatever/Whenever” counter. Dangling from the ceiling are rows of colourful neon threads, reminiscent of a cascading waterfall.

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The ‘waterfall’ booths make for cosy meeting spaces

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Flock, W Hotel KL’s all-day dining restaurant, is a warm and inviting space with quirky bird-themed touches, including seats shaped like bird cages.

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Breaking once more from tradition, the restaurant boasts an open kitchen concept where you can watch the chefs in action. It almost feels like being in someone’s home!

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Tiffin carriers – a staple in many households – are the Malaysian equivalent of Japanese bento boxes. At Flock, the colourful containers are used to serve freshly baked bread.

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Next, we adjourned to Woo Bar on the Living Room level, where friendly mixologists whipped up several cocktails. Rows of liquor and ingredients line the shelves, as well as unique cups and glasses for serving.

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  • (From left) Nut This Time – Dark Rum, Nuts insued Camparini, Blood Orange, Lime and Simple Syrup
  • High Five – gin, lime, mint, Tualang Honey and pomegranate
  • Bouquet – Gin, macadamia bourbon, Tualang Royal Black Honey, mint and Floral Spray

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Not a big fan of alcohol because I get migraines whenever I have them, even in small amounts, but taste wise, these were not bad at all. I especially liked the High Five as it only had a faint taste of gin, with a stronger hint of honey.

WOO BAR 

W Kuala Lumpur, 121, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia.

Tel: 03-2786-8888

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