Coriander Leaf at Chijmes, Singapore

Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Chef Iskander Latiff. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.

I first tried Coriander Leaf ten years ago, in 2005, when it was still located in Clarke Quay. We even took a cooking lesson with its founder, Samia Ahad.

Margaux Salcedo taking a cooking lesson at Coriander Leaf at Clarke Quay * Samia Ahad, founder of Coriander Leaf. Circa 2005. Photos from Kris Alcantara.
Margaux Salcedo taking a cooking lesson at Coriander Leaf at Clarke Quay * Samia Ahad, founder of Coriander Leaf. Circa 2005. Photos from Kris Alcantara.

Which is why I was happy to find her again ten years later at the new location of Coriander Leaf at Chijmes.

Samia Ahad, Coriander Leaf at Chijmes. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.
With Samia Ahad, founder of Coriander Leaf

I was quite surprised with the Chijmes location. I was a bit overdressed in a long dress. The attire here is skin, more skin and more skin! Ironically, even if the centrepiece of the compound is a beautiful church!

Chijmes, Singapore. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for Margauxlicious.

Chijmes Singapore. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.Beyond the church are several restaurants and on top of El Mero Mero is Coriander Leaf.

Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.They stuck to the Bengal tiger theme. They also kept some items in the old menu such as the lamb cooked in their tandoor oven, brought in from the old restaurant. There were many new items but this one was the one that I gravitated to the most. The baby lamb (from Australia) was so tender. But it was the flavours, the earthiness that captured my heart … and tongue.

Coriander Leaf at Chijmes. Lamb by Samia Ahad. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for Margauxlicious.From India, you can hop to Nepal with these chicken dumplings. I thought they were just being creative. It turns out they had done their research. The chicken dumplings are a common Nepalese fare called chicken momo dumplings.

Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Nepalese chicken momo dumplings. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.My lovely, posh and 90-pound seatmate loves this coconut salad. “It’s light but filling,” she observed. I did love the crunchy texture of the coconut.

Coriander Leaf, Singapore. Grated coconut and marinated prawns. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for Margauxlicious.Then there was this obscene display of sea urchin. The time that I had fresh sea urchin delivered to my house and I consumed half a box in one sitting, I thought I was going to get a stroke so I proceeded with caution on this one, although it is irresistible.
Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Sea urchin. Photo by margaux salcedo for margauxlicious. Another irresistible dish is the soft shell crabs with a salted duck egg sauce. What’s not to love?! Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Soft shell crabs with salted duck egg. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.The Chef de Cuisine is Iskander Latiff. He is married to a Filipina!

Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Chef Iskander Latiff. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.So guess what. He makes a very sosyal sinigang! On the menu it just itemises the ingredients of clam, tamarind, coconut water and calamansi. But Filipinos will recognise that beautiful sourness of tamarind soup (sinampalukan) and undoubtedly recognise this as sinigang.

Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Clam, tamarind, coconut water, calamansi sinigang. Photo by margaux salcedo for margauxlicious.And for Filipinos in Singapore looking for Halo Halo, you MUST try the version of Chef Isk. He uses a White Rabbit ice cream in place of ice cream and evap (evaporated milk). It is just brilliant. No need for Milky Way halo halo!

Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Iskander Latiff's Halo Halo. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.

He also makes the very popular almost classic molten chocolate cake. It is good … but I am biased in favour of the halo halo!Coriander Leaf, Chijmes, Singapore. Molten chocolate cake. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.

If you find yourself in Singapore, make your way to Coriander Leaf! The ambiance is casual but definitely chic. The food is for the well-traveled gourmet. The drinks are also excellent – their sake and whiskey collection is impressive. Wish they would open in Manila!

Coriander Leaf, Singapore
#02-01 Chijmes 30 Victoria Street.
Tel. +65 6837 0142
Email: reservations@corianderleaf.com

A Gem of a Hotel in Little India, Singapore

One Farrer Hotel, Little India, Singapore, Agoda

one farrer hotel singapore little india

For the past nine years, I’ve been going to Singapore at least once a year. Sometimes twice. I have never stayed at the same hotel twice though because it is just such fun exploring the different options in this very vibrant city.

Last year, I got to check out two really sexy hotels in hip happening Chinatown  and another hotel in Bugis. I must admit that I did not think that Little India would be as competitive but One Farrer was impressive beyond belief. Whaddaya know – Agoda is really full of delightful surprises.

On this last trip of mine for the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards,  I was lucky to find myself in a gem of a hotel in Little India. At first I was hesitant because Little India is not too well known an area for visitors but after seeing the 8.4 rating on Agoda.com plus the photos, I was convinced that One Farrer Hotel & Spa was a hotel I needed to check out.

And I’m happy I got acquainted with this hotel.

Super accessible. My first question every time I book a hotel is accessibility. How far is it from the train station? Even if a hotel is not in the city center or where most of my activities would be, as long the train station is a block away, I’m good. This one of Farrer was perfect because One Farrer is actually a stop! There is literally a Farrer stop and exit on the MRT line.

Crazy comfortable beds. Next most important thing to me is the bed. The quality of the sheets is important. I don’t know the threadcount of these here but I could sleep in these sheets all day.

Another plus for this hotel is that they have window shades that you can “pull down” by remote. You could sleep in a click! And yet another thing I noticed with One Farrer – you don’t need to insert your key for the lights to go on. You can keep your key in your purse!

Refreshing breakfast by the pool. I am not a breakfast person. I always skip hotel breakfasts too because they are all the same: eggs, cereal, sausages – boring, boring, boring. I’d rather dash out for a kaya toast. But how can you resist breakfast in this hotel when you get to greet the day with this gorgeous pool and view of the city?

#iwokeuplikethis

The Bar. I saw signs in the elevator teasing for happy hour. Wouldn’t mind get happy in this setting!

Room with a View. It’s almost as if you were staring at a postcard! I took this photo from my room. Just with an iphone.

Impeccable service. The staff are alert, quick to act, accommodating, helpful. I needed something printed, it was brought to our door. Restaurant reservations were easy. Directions were given properly. Taxis were called immediately. I couldn’t complain.

This apple marks an entrance. Another entrance has a red apple. They’re supposed to represent good and bad, with Greek mythology references (though I thought the apple first made a cameo in the bible with Adam and Eve?). … Well, whatever the source, this hotel was the apple of my eye!

PS A few floors of the One Farrer building is home to some doctors’ clinics. So if you need to get some liposuction after all those food festivals … grab and room and recover in utter luxury after! 😉

One Farrer Hotel & Spa
1 Farrer Park Station Road, Little India, Singapore 217562
Check it out at this link in agoda.com.

BIG Hotel, Singapore: Functional chic in a great location

BIG Hotel, Singapore. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.

IMG_9543Soon after the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, I was invited back to Singapore for one of the dinners for World Gourmet Summit. Easy me (haha), I flew back in a heartbeat.

I was planning to stay in Chinatown as I fell in love with that area the last time I was there (more on that later). Singapore’s Chinatown has become a hip venue. It does not feel like Chinatown at all. Feels like Malate back in the ’90s.

This time, though, we ended up in Bugis. I was not a fan of Bugis until this stay. Apparently it’s their arts area. The design center was around the corner from our hotel.

We stayed at a hotel called BIG.

BIG 15 front deskThe first thing that struck me was the hotel’s attention to detail. This is the front desk, with this striking painting. But note the weighing scale on the side to help you make sure your luggage is not overweight when you check out (brilliant! at other hotels you have to ask). And how cute is this hat stand?

BIG Hotel, Singapore. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com
Lobby waiting area.

After being led to our room, we were briefed on how to operate the switches: you have the option of doing it the regular way (light switch on the wall) OR you can use a tablet! There is a photo of the room on the tablet with indicators of where to push to switch on the lights.

BIG 6BIG 8 tabletThe room reminded me of a hotel I stayed at in New York years ago called the Hudson. Designed by Philippe Starck, the breakfast area is like a mess hall and the rooms are supposed to look like dorm rooms – but with far greater style, of course.

At BIG, the rooms are bigger (rooms at the Hudson are puny!), possibly because of their amazing use of space. In our deluxe room, instead of a cabinet, you can hang your clothes on hooks and a wall metal shelf. Instead of compromising with a single sized bed, a queen sized bed keeps its post but is shoved sideways to the wall.

It’s makes sense. Who really uses a cabinet anyway for a quick weekend trip? Plus, you get the benefit of a large bed even on a tight budget. And, might I add, the beds here are perfect. Sooooo soft. Felt like 500,000 thread count sheets. Ok, a few extra zeroes but you know what I mean!

I also really liked the way the designer used very relaxing shades and textures. The colors and wallpapers really help you calm down after a tiring day of walking, walking and more walking. One wall resembles cement bricks while another was like teak. It’s supposed to be a Scandivian-inspired design but to me it felt like upscale Muji!

Below the bed is the safety deposit box and a LOT of room for your bags or shoes. Really brilliant maximization of space.

BIG 20 roomsThe breakfast place called the Nook I surmise is supposed to resemble a school cafeteria. It gets really full around 8 am, a  testament to how booked the hotel is!

BIG 21 nook collageI liked this touch of using footprints instead of arrows to direct you.

IMG_9458 confess though that I did not eat at the Nook because we went out to discover more restaurants. But the brewed coffee was a necessity after a wine pairing dinner at The White Rabbit for the World Gourmet Summit the night before! It’s from a dispenser so you can chug down as much coffee as necessary to wake you up! (Make sure you bring the coupon they give you upon check in.)

If you find yourself checking in here, you’ll be relieved to know that the hotel is also near a couple of MRT stations. My sister and I found the Bugis station most convenient as it was also like a Glorietta mall with all these shops you can pass through before riding on the train.

After your day of fun, just before you hit the sheets, you can grab a drink at their Wine Bar. Check it out – my dream closet:

BIG 4BIG 5And just like in college, there’s a dart board and scotch!

IMG_9507My kind of place!

Traveler’s tip:  If you book via Agoda (which I have been doing for several years now), you may be able to get a room here for less than P5,000 a night! I used Agoda to book myself at various stops in Italy, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Saigon, even Tagaytay, and I can honestly say that they give really good deals. In fact at some hotels, I was surprised to find it cheaper to book via Agoda than to book directly with the hotel!

Oh, this hotel also has cute references to “BIG”. To clean your room, the door sign says “I’ve made a BIG mess.” The hotel pen says “Living it Big”. And check out where they keep the blow dryer:

BIG 2BIG deal 😉

BIG Hotel 
200 Middle Road, Bugis, Singapore 188980
http://www.agoda.com/big-hotel/hotel/singapore-sg.html