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North Island, New Zealand Part 1

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and to lots more eating in 2015 – I certainly know there will be a lot of it happening! It’s been a while since I last blogged, we had a nice 2 weeks break, just hanging in Hong Kong. New resolution this year is to blog a little more, not nearly as much as pre-Dragon but definitely a little more than post-Dragon! Below is a family photo from our trip in New Zealand which I absolutely love!

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It seems like forever since our last trip to New Zealand (have yet to blog about Kaoshiung, and not to mention some eateries from Helsinki and Prague!), we were there just over a week. I have previously been to New Zealand, South Island to be exact – Christchurch, Queenstown, Milford Sound and had a wonderful time. We did the awesome foursome which includes bungee jumping, white water rafting, canoeing and shotover jet. This time though, we were in the North Island, for a wedding in Auckland and thought we would check out the nearby towns. We stayed a couple of nights in Taupo, then Napier (my favourite!), Auckland and then Bay of Islands.

We arrived quite late to Auckland and ‘The Mother’ drove straight away to Lake Taupo, so by the time we got there it was quiet late, bed time for Dragon and we didn’t do much. We had something quick to eat on the way which I can’t even remember, either Mc Donalds or KFC!

Where we stayed: Hilton Lake Taupo, 80 – 100 Napier Road Taupo and we got the suite. It was very spacious, separate bedroom and living room. It was a shame we were there in Winter, would have loved to have gone swimming. The water was warm, but outside was freezing!

What we did: We had lunch and dinner at Lake Taupo town. We took photos in front of the lake and it was beautiful. Even our little photographer couldn’t wait to take photos of us and order us around!

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What we ate: We had breakfast twice at Dixie Browns, which was located on the shores of Lake Taupo. It has one of the largest fresh water lakes in the South Hemisphere and there was also the view of Mt Ruapehue, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the hot chocolate

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With a large dollop of chocolate which I couldn’t help but eat on its own! YUM!

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I opt for the kiwi farmhouse breakfast (NZ19.90) – fried eggs, Kransky sausage, mushroom, hash browns, smokey bacon and grilled tomato served with hot buttered toast. It was a pretty large serving (bacon and tomato not on the same plate) and pretty decent.

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‘The Mother’ opt for a sweeter breakfast, truck stop pancake stack (NZD15.90) – blueberry pancake stack drizzled with maple syrup and cream. Oh my, it was good but sickly sweet in my opinion especially with hot chocolate, but ‘The Mother’ seemed to have enjoyed it.

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Service at the Dixie Browns was excellent and food was good, that we came again the next day to try out their lunch menu!

After brunch, we took a quick drive to Chateau Tongariro Hotel – it’s a BEAUTIFUL Chateau, ‘The Mother’ originally wanted to stay here, but I was against moving every single night as it wouldn’t be too relaxing.

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We went inside and had some afternoon tea, scones and tea and some bread for Dragon at the Ruapehu Lounge Bar.

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The scones were beautiful, I have missed good scones, I have tasted some horrid ones here in Hong Kong, guess I can just make my own?

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And we got some bread with dips for Dragon

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We went for a drive to the top of the mountain, and the views were spectacular. I love how there were still snow which was amazing and yes it was STILL VERY COLD!!!!

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For dinner, we ate at Taupo town centre, Plateau Restaurant & Bar. There was even a kids menu which was awesome – drink, food and dessert for NZD15! Dragon opt for the meatballs, tomato sauce with steamed rice (weird combo I thought but she seemed to have enjoyed it). And she of course enjoyed her ice cream sundae which we took some also.

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I was a tad greedy and ordered the 2 things – the crispy fried chicken with chipotle mayo (NZD12.50) – it was a little bigger than I anticipated. I was expecting drumsticks and wings, however, it was chicken breast fried, which was a little disappointing.

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The steamed pork bun, braised pork, coriander, hoisin sauce (NZD9.0) was a little dry, I liked the steamed bun but the braised pork was a little on the dry side which was a shame.

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‘The Mother’ opt for the fresh market fish with some saffron pasta which he utterly enjoyed.

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The next morning, we had brunch at Replete Café and store which was also located in the town centre.  It was a relatively busy when we rocked up,  you pay at the counter and food will be delivered to your table. I absolutely LOVED the banana smoothie – very creamy and had a pretty strong banana taste which I liked.

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For breakfast, I opt for the field mushrooms on megagrain farmhouse toast with sausage (NZD16.00). Dragon ate most of the sausage, as I was happy to just have the mushroom.

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‘The Mother’ opt for the complete Replete breakfast (NZD17.50) – eggs, chargrilled bacon, roasted field mushrooms, grilled focaccia and tomato relish. I stole some bacon but he pretty much demolished this on his own.

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We left for Napier just after lunch and arrived at about 4.30pm. Now have I mentioned how much I LOVE NAPIER? From memory it was about 4 hours drive from Lake Taupo. I LOVED LOVED LOVED Napier. It’s located in Hawke’s Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island.

Where we stayed: Art Deco Masonic Hotel, 2 Tennyson Street, Napier South, Napier 4110, New Zealand. It was a very ‘cool’ and funky hotel. There’s a pub downstairs and we got the pacific suite, again separate living and bedroom and overlooking the ocean – it was indeed beautiful!

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What we did: We arrived early afternoon, and we walked along the Marine Parade, again taking photos. This time jump shots which Dragon absolutely loved!

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We also went to the National Aquarium, it’s not a big aquarium but worth visiting, especially since it was raining. Dragon found this ride and didn’t want to leave! We walked around town, I wanted to do a bit of shopping but ran out of time. Definitely worth staying at Napier a bit longer. We also went for a drive, about 1 hour drive to a mountain, it was so windy that Dragon couldn’t stop laughing- she loves the cold weather! There were some jump shots also!

We had breakfast at the hotel both days as it came with the package, nothing too fancy but it was pretty good – eggs, bacon, toast, pastries, cereals and fruits.

For dinner on the first night, we ate at Emporium eatery and bar which is located at the Art Deco Masonic Hotel.

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We shared a couple of things, including a pizza – roast chicken, chorizo, brie, pesto mayo and rocket which Dragon thoroughly enjoyed. The crust was thin and there was a generous serving of chicken and chorizo.

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I loved the fried polenta, cauliflower puree, smoked tomato salsa and parmesan (NZD15) – ‘The Mother’ wasn’t a huge fan of polenta, which meant more for me!

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The pork, fennel and lemon meatballs, hummus and tzatziki (NZD16) was good but I still preferred the polenta.

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We were too full for dessert, and it was almost Dragon’s nap time, so we waddled upstairs and had a wonderful sleep!

The next day, we had lunch at Salt, which is also known as the ‘round house’, a Napier icon. It has a lovely view of the inner harbor of Ahuriri and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For lunch we had the lunch menu which was a great deal! I think for NZD20, you get soup or salad or garlic bread and a choice of main.

We had the cream of mushroom, which was deliciously creamy

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The garlic focaccia which Dragon demolished!

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‘The Mother’ opt for the steak, which was served with herb butter and chips! The steak wasn’t too bad for the price, and cooked just the way he likes it.

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I opt for the chicken and mango filo pastry with a side of salad. It was ok, the filing was quite rich, it was a little too creamy for my liking.

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Service was good, and pretty decent value. Pity my chicken filo pastry was a little on the rich side. There were a lot of seafood on the menu if you preferred (which is also their specialty!).

For dinner, we made reservations with Mister D and I have to say, it is one of the best food I have eaten in a while! Mister D is ‘a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, we believe in fresh, local produce delivered with great service but no fuss’.

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We started with some fresh bread which was hot and fresh – yum!

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The waiter suggested the potato gnocchi, cheese sauce and coffee (but without the coffee) (NZD13) for Dragon. It was a very cool presentation, gnocchi served on a stick, which creamy and cheesy sauce. Unfortunately Dragon didn’t take a liking to the gnocchi or cheese sauce – I should have known. She is not a big fan of potatoes and she hates cheesy food, cheese on its own she loves, but cheese on food, not so much!

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I couldn’t go past the bone marrow ravioli, beef juices, salsa verde (NZD24.50) – OMG! THE BEST! Even Dragon ate half of it (maybe more). The ravioli with bone marrow was just superb, tender and delivious and the beef juice – my my. I could have definitely eaten a second serving on my own!

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‘The Mother’ opt for fist in a bag, new potatoes, asparagus, Telegraph Hill smoked olives parlsey butter (NZD29.50) – it was quite a novelty. The fish was incredibly tender and ‘The Mother’ definitely enjoyed it.

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For dessert, we shared the ginger beer crème caramel, poached rhubarb and gingerbread (NZD15). Dragon ate most of the gingerbread on her own, she wasn’t a huge fan of the crème caramel but it’s probably due to texture. ‘The Mother’ and I fought for every single last piece – it was delicious!

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I really enjoyed my meal at Mister D and wished we came back the next day for breakfast! I heard the donut was too die for and always runs out!!!! Definitely worth going if you are in Napier, service and food was excellent!

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Next… Auckland and Bays of Islands

Dixie Browns – GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

38 Roberts St, Taupo 3330, New Zealand

Tlp:+64 7-378 8444

Dixie Browns on Urbanspoon

Chateau  Tongariro Hotel – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

State Highway 48, Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 7892 3809

Ruapehu Restaurant Chateau Tongariro on Urbanspoon

Plateau Restaurant & Bar – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

64 Tuwharetoa Street Taupo Town Centre, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 7377 2425

Plateau Restaurant & Bar, Taupo on Urbanspoon

Replete Café and store – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

45 Heu Heu St Taupo, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 7377 3011

Replete Cafe on Urbanspoon

Emporium eatery and bar – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

Cnr of Tennyson Street & Marine Parade, Napier, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 6835 0013

Emporium Eatery & Bar on Urbanspoon

Salt – GA’s ratings: 6 / 10

10 West Quay Ahuriri, Napier, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 6833 6035

Mister D – GA’s ratings: 8.5 / 10

47 Tennyson Street Napier South, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 6835 5022

Mister D on Urbanspoon

Bowery Lane, Sydney

I have heard so many good things about Bowery Lane, especially about the burger and the lamb ribs. I first came here for lunch with an ex-colleauge, and then back again with my brother for lunch. Bowery Lane can be found on O’Connell Street, and serves diners breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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I love the cute 2 seater booth, the open kitchen. The restaurant was a lot bigger than I thought, we walked around and was pleasantly surprised at how big the venue that was! The menu is quite vast, and everything sounded delicious.

I opt for the pork cotoletta with slaw, garlic aioli, lemon and sea salt (AUD27) – it was one of the biggest schnitzel I have ever had, it was bigger than my head! The flavours were great, but I thought this was a little dry, even with the garlic aioli. It was ok but not fantastic, thought my mum’s schnitzel was infinitely better!

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My ex colleague had the sherry marinated globe artichokes, ancient grains heirloom carrots, goats curd and beets (AUD25). It was quite a pretty dish and apparently very tasty! However, he expected the artichokes to be clean, so easy to eat, however, he had to peel the skin off himself which he thought was a little troublesome.

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We also had the baby cos – peas, beans and mint (AUD14) which was very fresh, light and refreshing.

On my second visit, I came with my bro, F, for lunch. We shared the braised wagyu short rib, horseradish cream and roasted garlic (AUD58) and my goodness, this was superb! the beef was melt-in-you-mouth tender with the right amount of fat! THe horseradish cream was a wonderful complement, and oh my my, even though it was a huge serving, we both managed to finish it! It was seriously tasty!

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We also had a serve of fries with chili salt aioli (AUD7) and it was delicious!

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Service was great, and food was fantastic! I was a little disappointed with the pork cotoletta but the wagyu beef short rib definitely made up for it! We saw other diners having the burger and it looked fantastic, so will definitely try that next time we are back.

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Bowery Lane

1 O’Connell Street

Sydney, 2000

Ph: +61 2 9252 8017

Bowery Lane on Urbanspoon

John Smith Cafe, Waterloo, Sydney

I’ve heard so many good things about John Smith, which is located in Waterloo in Sydney and was on my list of cafe’s to visit on my recent trip. My list pretty much consisted of cafes and good breakfast. The place however, is tiny, so get there early or in our case, we went during the weekdays just after the lunch time rush and didn’t have to wait for a booth at all.

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The menu vast which we love and who doesn’t love all day breakfast? We started with cold pressed juices – apple, pineapple and it was refreshingly good. Dragon drank most of it, that we had to order another glass for me!

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My brother really enjoyed their coffee – one of the best he said.

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My sis-in-law, O and I couldn’t go past the eggs Benedict with pulled pork – my goodness, it had my name all over it! The pulled pork was incredibly tender, even Dragon wanted more. The béarnaise sauce was excellent, wasn’t too rich and sickening and perfect with oozy egg! It was the perfect breakfast!

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I was pleasantly surprised when my brother, F, ordered the chicken salad with pesto. I thought he would have ordered a burger but he wanted something healthy and indeed it was surprisingly tasty. Everything was so fresh and we love pesto, so its as a win win for both of us.

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We thought we would share a cronut, and oh my my, it was sinfully good! I have heard wonderful things about Brewtown Newton’s cronut and this definitely did not disappoint!

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The staff was super duper friendly, and food excellent. We did have to wait a bit for our benedict as they ran out of béarnaise sauce but it was definitely worth the wait. I can’t wait to visit John Smith Cafe when I am back next!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

John Smith Cafe

1 John Street

Waterloo, 2017

NSW Sydney

Australia

Ph: +61 422 855 811

John Smith Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Pig and Pastry, Petersham, Sydney

I have heard wonderful things about The Pig and Pastry which opened sometimes last year by a husband and wife team. I was catching up with a couple of my favourite peeps in Sydney and suggested this place. The Pig and Pastry is located in Petersham, overlooking the Petersham Park and serves diner healthy and deliciously breakfast and lunch.

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We started with some drinks – i love the cute tea set and the small milk bottle

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The house made sodas – from memory, mine was the raspberry and strawberry and it was refreshing and excellent for a hot day!

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the bacon and free range egg roll (AUD 9) on soft gap with house made tomato sauce. He has been craving a good back and eggs and this totally hit the spot.

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I opt for the sweet corn fritters (AUD 17.5) served with poached egg (on the side), crispy bacon and avocado salsa. The bacon was a little dry for my liking but the sweet corn fritters was delicious – crunchy on the inside but soft and sweet inside. I especially loved the avocado salsa and not to mention the poached egg!

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E had the poached eggs (AUD17.50) with smoked streaky bacon, roast tomato, field mushroom served on a toasted sourdough and it looked very good! I’d happily eat everything on that plate also!

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Service was polite and friendly. I really wanted some desserts but was feeling extremely full! We arrived at 9.30 am and got a table reasonable easily, as we were leaving at about 11am there were a long queue outside. Really enjoyed my breakfast here, how I have missed cafe food! Would definitely be back in November to try their other dishes, lunch perhaps and some desserts!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

The Pig and Pastry

1 Station Street

Petersham 2049

Ph: +61 2 9568 4644

The Pig & Pastry on Urbanspoon

El Toro Negro, Kafka Snob Food, Prague

Wow – it seems so long ago that we were in Prague – almost 3 months ago. Sorry it has taken me this long to post my eats in Prague. To be honest, I wasn’t utterly blown away by the food in Prague, the food was so so. Maybe it was my taste buds, or the fact that I didn’t really research it enough but nothing really wow’ed me unlike in Helsinki!

We arrived late afternoon in Prague. Dragon was still jet lagged so was pretty much asleep as soon as we checked in. We stayed at the Prague city apartments and I have to say, it was one of the nicest apartments I have stayed – it was bigger than our current place in Hong Kong! It was an old building but the inside was beautiful and we truly enjoyed our stay there.

We wandered around town, and stumbled across El Toro Negro – it was packed but thankfully they could fit us in. It is a steak bar and is located in the oldest part of Prague opposite the Old Town astronomical clock.

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The menu was vast – diners have the option of choosing a wide range of meats and fish and there were over 120 cocktails on offer! I couldn’t go past the grilled tenderloin pork which was served with chips. The pork was tender and the chips was excellent!

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the Argentinean rib-eye steak served with potatoes. The steak was cooked to perfection, medium rare and tender. Rather a small serving but we had our eyes set on desserts at the markets.

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We walked around the night markets – it was beautiful and the food looked good, especially the desserts. ‘The Mother’ couldn’t resist these hot donuts and they were excellent when eaten warm, especially in the cold weather.

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I couldn’t go past the crepes with nutella and banana – seriously sinful and seriously delicious!

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We went to the markets at least 3 times during our stay, we just couldn’t stay away – the desserts and snacks were just too good!

The next morning, we were strolling by and found this cute little cafe – kafka snob food. The cafe was rather cute, I liked the relaxing vibe but the food was a little ordinary I thought.

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The scrambled eggs were a little dry for my liking and incredibly salty!

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The croissant was delicious – crunchy pastry and soft fluffy on the inside

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‘The Mother’ had the muesli, the yogurt was nice and creamy but nothing special I thought.

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There was fruit salad also, which was again nice but nothing special – Dragon demolished it. Service was friendly but we didn’t go back for breakfast during our trip. There were better cafe’s I thought.

El Toro Negro

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Address: Staromĕstské nám. 22, 110 00 Praha 1 – Staré Mĕsto, Czech Republic

Phone:+420 221 632 536

Kafka snob food

GA’s ratings: 5 / 10

Address:  Siroka 64/12, Prague, Czech Republic

Phone:  +420 725 915 505

Nosh Tai Ping Shan, Sheung Wan, Hong Kon

I may have found a cafe that I really like in Hong Kong! Nosh Tai Ping Shan can be found on Upper Station Street just a block away from Upper Modern Bistro which is an up-and-coming area of Sheung Wan filling up with arts galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and cool little shops.

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The place was busy when we rocked up on a Sunday – there were a few people already waiting in line. Thankfully after about a 15 mins wait we were seated by the window, higher seat but it didn’t bother ‘The Mother’, or myself. There was direct sun light which was nice – how I have missed sitting in the sun drinking coffee and eating my breakfast! I really like the menu here… on weekends, there have all day breakfast which i love! On weekdays there are separate breakfast and lunch menus. The lunch  menu changes frequently, and they have salad, sandwich and soup on offer as well.

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the Nosh Brunch (HKD140) – two poached eggs on sourdough, german sausages with spicy harissa, yogurt, roasted vine tomatoes, nosh potatoes and grilled portabello. Everything on the plate was fantastic, the bread were on a tiny side, but the potatoes definitely filled him up. I especially loved the portabello mushrooms.

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I opt for fried eggs on toast with crispy prosciutto, avocado puree and mixed green salad (HKD90). You can’t see the avocado puree as it was spread on the tiny bread which is hidden underneath the HUGE fried eggs. This was also very tasty.

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I have to say, I was rather impressed, I have only been once but I have to say that I am extremely excited to go back and try their other dishes. I noticed someone having the smoked salmon and lemon mascarpone on sourdough and it looked relish! Service was ok – there’s definitely room for improvement. There were a lot of confusion between the waitresses but food definitely worth going back for!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Nosh Tai Ping Shan

G/F, 11 Upper Sation Street

Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Ph: +852 2559 8508

Helsinki – Ristorante il Siciliano

It seems so long ago that we were in Finland, Helsinki. ‘The Mother’ was going dog sledding with his friends in Sweden and thought we would use the opportunity to visit Europe. There are so many places I have yet to go in Europe, and we picked Finland as it was a direct flight from Hong Kong (easy for Dragon) and it was close to where ‘The Mother’ was dog sledding. We were there for almost a week in total, we were there for 4 days, then Prague for 4 days and then another 3 days in Helsinki before heading back to Hong Kong.

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The weather was COLD! I had my ski jacket on and Dragon was geared up from head to toe! She has never ever worn SO MANY clothing in her entire life but it was necessary. Especially since she couldn’t say if she was cold or not – but eventually she was able to ‘tell us’ that she was cold. She loves the cold weather though but we were still prepared and brought her lots of clothes.

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We didn’t do  much in Helsinki especially since it was winter and it was dark by 3.30 – 4pm! Perfect for Dragon and I for the first couple of days as we were jet lagged and we were in bed by 4pm on the first day. Poor ‘The Mother’ – he really wanted to go out to eat but we were just too tired. Sadly, we were up at 2am! It wasn’t fun jet lag believe me.

On our first day, we caught a tour bus that took us around Helsinki – saw the Cathedral

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I loved the Temppeliaukio Church – made out of rocks!

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We walked around the Design Museum and much more. It is quite a beautiful city and we stayed in a service apartment which was awesome – not that we did any cooking but the extra space really made a difference, especially when you have a child!

Now food wise, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I read there were a lot of seafood in Helsinki and ‘The Mother’ was afraid that I couldn’t eat anything as I am still on a seafood band. However, surprisingly the options were pretty good. We even managed to eat Italian on our first day!

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Our first meal in Helsinki was at Ristorante Il Siciliano which was conveniently located near tram stops and not too far from the esplanade. I was starving, and cold and wanted some comfort food. Italian was the perfect choice! Food was relatively cheap I thought, especially the lunch special which ‘The Mother’ had – crab linguini – i didn’t have any of this but he demolished this!

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Dragon loves chicken, I ordered the chicken parmigianna. It was a little sad looking, not enough cheese or sauce for my liking. Surprisingly the chicken was tender and Dragon who doesn’t usually like chicken breast ate at least half of this. Not to mention the wedges!

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The pizza’s and pasta’s looked though – seems like that’s their speciality. Service was polite and friendly I thought. The lunch specials came out a lot quicker than the a la carte – so if you are in a hurry, go for the lunch specials.

The next day before we started sightseeing, we stumbled across this cute little cafe. Stupid me forgot the name, thought I had a picture of it but with juggling Dragon and a camera, I totally forgot! You just have to trust me that it was pretty decent. It was near the tram line opposite H&M on the main shopping drag of Helsinki!

‘The Mother’ ordered the muesli with yogurt drizzled with strawberry compote. With it came boiled egg, cold meat, tomatoes and sour dough bread.  He loved the muesli and yogurt – said it was fresh and excellent. For someone that doesn’t usually eat breakfast, he demolished this!

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Dragon and I shared the yogurt with fruits, croissant, cheese, tomato and toast. She loved the mango yogurt with fresh mangoes. The croissant she didn’t enjoy as much which was a surprise – more for me I guess. I think ‘The Mother’s’ breakfast was infinitely better. Both breakfast set came with juice and tea or coffee. From memory it was about 11 pounds?

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Service was a tad slow, no table service but the food was good. We sat here for a while as Dragon decided to have a nap – shame she napped after she ate as it would have been nice to eat in peace! ha!

Below are a few snap shots of Helsinki.

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I Have to say, Helsini is a beautiful city! ‘The Mother’ even asked if I would live there! HA! I’m just settling in nicely in Hong Kong – not sure if I am ready to move yet, but maybe… down the track. Not sure how I would cope with sun set at 4pm though – it was rather depressing! Besides that, it was lovely, I love the open space and the parks and the cafes! More on Helsinki food coming up 🙂

GA’s rating: 7 / 10

Ristorante il Siciliano

Aleksanterinkatu 9,

Helsinki, Finland (Vironniemi)