Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Malacca 2014 - Casa del Rio

Lots of hotels are cropping up in Malacca and one of the new 5 star hotels just opened in 2011 is Casa del Rio. In Spanish the name means "house by the river", so Casa del Rio is built right next to the Malacca River, opposite the Customs building. The architectural style is pseudo-Spanish-Mediterranean - an attempt at evoking the Colonial history of Malacca - but the Colonizers of Malacca were the Portuguese and later the Dutch - not Spanish. The pseudo-style is also quite jarring against the mostly Straits-style shophouses in the surrounding area.

Though I don't like the architectural style of this hotel, at least it is not a monstrous highrise that would have been a disaster so close to the heritage zone.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Malacca 2014 - The Baboon House Cafe

Right next our hotel is a very interesting cafe with an interesting name - The Baboon House. When you enter from the front - you could mistake it for an art gallery of some sort. The front room is empty except for some very cutting-edge and intriguing artworks on the walls. 

The front room connects to a large courtyard which is where the main cafe space is. It felt like the original building had been left very much as it is, but on the high wall of the courtyard is a full intricate mural with the name of the cafe. The furniture and decor has been carefully curated to create an eccentric, grungy and edgy feel. It is pretty cool. 

We ordered a burger and some fried potatoes as a snack before our dinner. The food is good, but not great. The coffee though - is very good.

Strangely this nice cafe has a no photography policy. In this day and age it is annoying to come across an F&B outlet which does not allow photography. It means the owners have an irrational biase against social media - or are deliberately going against the flow. It takes something away from the overall experience.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Malacca 2014 - Courtyard at Heeren Boutique Hotel

During my previous trip to Malacca I came across a nice boutique hotel on Heeren Street (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) - Courtyard on Heeren, so for this trip we checked-in to this cosy boutique hotel right in the heart of the historic centre. It did not disappoint. The lobby is beautifully decorated with museum quality Peranakan antiques, and the rooms are also beautifully designed and furnished.

The first thing that surprise you about this hotel is how deep the building is. Front the front it looked like an ordinary shophouse, but inside it just seem to go on forever. The rooms are behind the ground floor lobby or on the first floor.

The deep shophouse is lighted and ventilated by several air wells and courtyards which are nicely landscaped.

Breakfast is included with the room, and is served in another shophouse just across the road. Though the selection is not as impressive as a 5 star hotel, what is provided is delicious and more then enough to start the day. Courtyard at Heeren is a great little boutique hotel that is beautifully done, conveniently located and reasonably priced. I will be back.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Malacca 2014 - Food Street

If you continue along Jonker Street until the upper end where it meets Jalan Tukang Emas, you will arrive at this little triangle which is Malacca's own street food heaven. The concentration of stalls here is just amazing, and they are all doing brisk business with delectable looking ingredients. The choices can be daunting for a first-timer, so it is advisable to go with a local who knows where to start.

You cannot go wrong with Char Kueh Tiaw or fried noodles, but there's also oyster omelette, char kueh, satays, grilled seafood - and they have great specimens here which really surprised me - look at the size of those scallops ! And the barbequed giant oysters were really great !

The next time you visit Malacca, don't miss this little corner that is packed with some of the best food you will find in the historic city.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Malacca 2014 - Jonker Street

Since becoming a World Heritage Site together with George Town in 2008, Malacca has become increasingly popular both with local and foreign visitors. Hotels are mushrooming everywhere, and there are lots of new projects catering to the tourist crowd. I just hope they are careful with their developments - especially the old buildings, or they could be in danger of destroying the very things which draw people to the City.

The top draw in Malacca is no doubt Jonker Street. This short old street transforms into a night bazaar on the weekends, and it is standing room only during peak hour. 

If you are a collector of old curios, this is the place to be. 

Walking down the street during the weekend night bazaar is always a joy. You never know what you are going to find.  

If you are feeling a little peckish, there's also plenty of good street food to be had. The dim sum stall is justly popular with lots of great, cheap and piping hot morsels for takeaway.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Singapore 2014 - Nam Nam Noodle Bar

Finding affordable good food in Singapore can be a real challenge - especially if you come from Malaysia. The currency makes everything 2 1/2 times more expensive, and a simple meal can easily cost RM30 after conversion. Therefore it is quite a surprise when one of the most successful fine-dining restaurant groups - Les Amis - has ventured into affordable Vietnamese food. Nam Nam Noodle Bar is a new concept fast-service restaurant that specializes in Vietnamese street food. I went to their outlet at the basement of Raffles City - they have another outlet at Wheelock Place. 

Nam Nam's decor is simple and chic. The menu has been pared back to the basics - with Pho and Banh Mi being the stars on offer. The Pho is reputably very good, but I was there for the Banh Mi as I was still nursing a craving for this simple yet delicious Vietnamese delicacy from my last trip to Hanoi. At Nam Nam they have about 6 varieties ranging from pork, chicken to sardine and tofu. I ordered what I thought was the most delicious sounding on the menu - Banh Mi with caramelized pork belly, cold cut and chicken floss.

This Banh Mi is really great. It is packed with flavours from all the fresh ingredients, the bread is really good with a crunchy crust and soft centre, and the caramelized pork belly makes it really sinful yet delicious bite.

The other surprise was the drink I ordered. It looked really simple when it arrived, but was filled with pineapple, jackfruit, lychee and several other ingredients which gave it a unique tropical punch.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Singapore 2014 - Parkroyal on Pickering

One of the more unusual new hotels in Singapore is the Parkroyal on Pickering on Pickering Street. The design of this hotel takes the concept of "greenness" to a whole new level. While the 3 towers that accommodate the rooms and an office block are quite ordinary glass boxes - the garden terraces which span across the towers are planted with lush tropical greeneries. 

Even the interior carries through the garden and landscape concept, with the ceiling and walls designed like the stratified layers of a canyon.

The all-day-dining restaurant Lime is on the ground floor. It serves a very popular buffet that is one of the most reasonably priced in Singapore - at SGD 62++. I gave it a try and can report that it is quite good. At the seafood section the oysters were freshly shucked, really fresh and delicious. The other dishes were all expertly prepared - and you can see the great effort they put into the buffet from the huge service team behind the kitchen.