Saturday, July 09, 2016

JOURNEY TO GREAT VALUE BRITAIN...THE FINALE

The city of Bath made a literal splash with us as we arrived amidst a feather-light drizzle. It was difficult to see much in the dark but The Edgar Townhouse (64 Great Pulteney Street, Bath, Somerset BA2 4DN, tel: +44 (0)1225 420619) proved warm and cheerful once we entered the boutique hotel's warm, homely premise. Designated as a Grade I listed building and in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Edgar is located in Central Bath; close to all the major attractions, shops and restaurants.

After a speedy check-in process in the well-furnished and cosy lounge, we lugged our luggage up to our respective bedrooms. Mine was done up in less than fifty shades of grey, complete with a sleek white-tiled shower and wash room. Besides the comfy bed with a whimsical throw cushion, the linear, minimalist room included a writing table and heart-shaped mirror.
After a quick breather to refresh ourselves, we trudged out to grab a bite for dinner. Since it was rainy and chilly, going for Indian food seemed ideal. That was how we ended up at Rajpoot, a multiple award-winning Indian restaurant.
 
The flight of steps taking us down into the resto barely prepared us for the intricate warren of private dining rooms and alcoves within. It was akin to being transported straight to Incredible India thanks to the profusion of ornate lantern lights, Indian motifs and wall murals, artworks and collectibles.
 
Redolent with exotic and fragrant spices, our selection of chicken tandoori, several different curries, king prawn biriyani and Indian roti were out of this world. Some of the specialities packed enough hotness to warm our hearts and stomachs.

Needless to say, we slept like logs that night...well, at least I did. A cheery blue sky with wisps of white clouds greeted me when I looked out of my room window the next morning. After packing quickly, I made my way downstairs for breakfast in the light-filled dining room.
Besides cereals, bread and fruits, the affable team on duty served cooked breakfast upon request. I opted for smoked salmon with scrambled egg and fried mushroom which as expected turned out delicious. It was with much reluctance, we had to depart from this serene and tasteful haven for we had to visit some of Bath's famous attractions.
View of the weirs in the city centre of Bath
 
It was a lovely day as we strolled briskly towards the city centre. There were so many breath-taking, picturesque vistas Jennifer and myself dawdled ever so often to take quick snapshots of them. We couldn't help it as we wanted to remember as much as possible from this sojourn.
One of the key highlights which gave Bath its name is the Roman Bath which was founded upon natural hot springs with the steaming water playing a key role throughout its history. Lying in the heart of the city, The Roman Baths were constructed around 70 AD as a grand bathing and socialising complex; one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world.
 
The domed building where the ticketing and reception areas are sited alone is fantastical and awe-inspiring. Loads of visitors trudge through the Roman Baths daily but the sprawling attraction is so huge, you'd hardly notice the crush of people constantly streaming in and out.

The ancient ruins depict Bath’s spa culture 2,000 years ago when the Romans once bathed in the natural thermal spa water. Despite signs posted reminding visitors not to dip into the water, many sneakily broke the rule just to feel its warmth. If you observe closely, the rising steam is evident from the pool surface.
After the whirlwind tour, it was time to head over to Royal Hotel (Manvers St, Bath BA1 1JP, tel: +44 1225463134) for lunch. The city is immensely walkable but Jennifer and myself had to depart for Heathrow Airport to catch our flight home so we had no choice but to make haste.
 
First opened in 1846, the classic hotel has a French-style brasserie known as Brasserie Brunel (named in tribute to architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel) where we had our farewell lunch.
Since it was Easter Sunday, the menu featured 'back to basic' fare: roast chicken and fish & chips. Maybe we felt too down in the dumps to really appreciate the lunch. Sigh.
 
The hotel is strategically located across from the Bath Spa train station (pix below). We were to catch the train heading to London Paddington Station so we made good time before settling down for that 90-minute journey back to London. 
Once we reached Paddington Station, we simply kept our eyes peeled for directional signs indicating where to board the Heathrow Express. Everything was seamless and hassle-free - a relief for us travellers who had heavy luggage in tow.
All in all, it was an exhilarating experience having the fortuitous chance to discover and enjoy Great Value Britain. From the time we landed up at Heathrow to the time we depart, we have had countless #OMGB moments to cherish. I'd like to express my heartfelt appreciation to Visit Britain for the unforgettable travel experiences!
Travelling from Malaysia to the UK on a budget? Discover Great Value Britain with some great tips from http://www.visitbritain.com/malaysia or visit CIT Malaysia http://cit.travel/europe/united-kingdom to plan your VisitBritain itinerary.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

READY, GET SET, BREAK FAST AT BAAN KUN YA

The fasting month is fast drawing to an end as Hari Raya will be celebrated mere days away. After a surfeit of Malay fare, some of you may wish to opt for something different this weekend to break fast with. How about starting with some fruits? Especially dainty, handcrafted ones that you can enjoy at a pop like these Look Choop (RM24 - 12 pcs)?

Made from sweet mung bean paste coated in translucent albeit colourful jelly, the miniature pieces of edible art should please your visual and gustatory senses. We think it's a nice yet different way of breaking fast. You can expect these little gems and some soulful Thai dishes by going for the Buka Puasa Set Menus (RM120 for 4 persons, RM200 for 6 persons, RM280 for 8 persons) at Baan Kun Ya.
 
Some of the newer creations have also been included in the set menus and soon, the a la carte menu so if you're a repeat customer, the latest line-up should keep things fresh. Our fave was Crab Meat with Pineapple Curry (RM45).
Everyone in our dining party agreed the bright, sunny yellow curry laden with freshly extracted crab meat a joy to behold and eat. Lightly creamy with a tinge of fruity sweetness, the curry allows ample room for the natural sweetness of crab meat to shine.

Of late, the sweltering weather just begs for more servings of fruits and vegetables. You'd find greens aplenty in the portion Fresh Spring Rolls (RM18 - 6 pcs), a Thai take of the more famous Vietnamese rice paper rolls. A small mound of pickled papaya and onion with crushed peanuts and some zingy greenish chilli dip bring the ensemble together in a robust, zesty symphony.
The pretty floral shaped Ka Tong Thong (RM15) - deep-fried pastry cups (similar to our pie tee) filled with stir-fried minced chicken, carrot, corn and green peas is another whimsical appetiser to debut in the upcoming new menu. Personally, I find the flavour profile too muted to hold much appeal but it may go down well with folks who prefer their food delicate tasting.

More assertive accents emerged from the bowl of Stewed Beef Curry (RM42) but it won't cause true chilli addicts to break into a real sweat. The gravy held sway over us with textural interest boosted by the presence of golf ball sized Thai eggplant (Solanum melongena) and the tinier pea eggplant (terung pipit or Solanum torvum). Still, a notable option if you like lacing lots of gravy over plain rice.
Bold peppery overtone dominated the initial sampling of the Mixed Thai Clear Soup (RM38) but once that dissipated, our tastebuds soon detected the deep musky savouriness of large dried shrimps as we dug deeper into the soup pot. Chunks of ridged gourd, succulent prawns, baby corn, shimeji and eringi mushrooms piled on welcoming layers of texture to set this homey soup apart from regular broths.
 
For some of us older folks, sayur manis or cekur manis or sweet leaves is a familiar green as it's most often used to cook the traditional hand-torn flat dough-like noodle known as 'mi hun kuey' or the modern 'pan meen' (Chinese version of tagliatelle). It's also a popular green served in East Malaysia where it's called Sabah 'shi chai choi' (potato leaves). Now we know the Thais love it too as evidenced by the introduction of Stir-fried Egg with Sweet Leaves (RM20) at Baan Kun Ya. We love how the combination works together - simple yet heartwarming like granny's cooking.
Also in the same vein is the irresistible pot of Steamed Squid with Lemon Sauce (RM39). Soused in lemon juice and fish sauce, a scattering of roughly chopped garlic, sliced onion and bird's eye chillies was all it took to bring the springy squid pieces to sublime heights. Definitely a show-stopper worth returning for.
We also enjoyed Paku Pakis with Anchovy Curry (RM28) - fern shoots cooked in a coconut milk gravy with anchovies and lemon grass. It was reminiscent of our local masak lemak style so this dish should hit the spot for those breaking fast in these last few days.
Anyway, families with kids in tow need not fret as granny always keep young ones in mind. After all, which child will turn down delicious Thai Style Fried Chicken (RM25)?? Even us young at heart will readily fight to get another piece as the crispy chicken is much much better than the famous fast food ones.
In case some adults deem that too childish, then fire up the tastebuds with Sambal Chicken (RM35). Sweetish yet packed with red-hot firepower, the sambal alone can induce you to devour a plate of rice. With crisp fried chicken thrown into the equation? Sure unbeatable right?
Oh, your preference for something typically Thai would adequately be met by Basil Chicken (RM28). There's that occasional burst of heat to singe the tongue fleetingly followed by the lingering complexity of fish sauce and chicken jus. Wickedly good to seduce you into asking for more rice!
Although we had the Crab Meat Omelette (RM32) on our last visit, the fluffy soft speciality was roundly welcomed by young and old. The house chilli dip is the perfect excuse to spice things up should it be necessary.
Need more greens in your meal? We recommend going with Stir-fried Vegetable Paprik with Seafood (RM28) as the go to option. All that crunchy fibre ramped up with yummy squid and prawns should reel everyone in for a sampling.
 
When it comes to dessert, the Thai prowess is equal that of our Nyonyas. We discover Khanom Ba Bin (RM15) - baked tapioca cake has riffs of bingka ubi. According to the resto's Director of Operations May Lim, the rice flour, palm sugar and grated coconut mixture renders a toasty crust to the tapioca cake while the inner part remains subtly chewy.
Those miniature treats of look choop return in a different guise at the end of our meal, transformed into delightful Look Choop Jelly (RM16 - 8 pcs) with each 'fruit' embedded into tiny cups of coconut jelly. A definitive dessert to ensure you leave Baan Kun Ya with sweet memories.

 


Of course, some diners would beg to differ and hail the resto's scrumptious Coconut Ice Cream (RM18) the 'must have' treat. The nutty richness is distinctly different from that of dairy milkiness but adorned with jackfruit strips and diced waterchestnuts, roasted cashews and steamed glutinous rice, it suddenly becomes a high brow creation fit for a king. Worth ditching the diet for.

For reservations, call BAAN KUN YA, tel: 03 7733 3337. Address: F107-F110 1st Floor, Centrepoint, 3, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Open daily from 11am to 11pm.

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