Monday, 31 August 2015

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives

A smiley Jen representative awaits our arrival at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. As the Maldives is a series of small islands, the airport and capital included, our hotel transfer is by speedboat. Whipping across the ocean with the night’s cool breeze in our hair seems a fitting start to this tropical island getaway.

Malé, Maldives
We’ve chosen Hotel Jen Malé as our point of transfer for its convenient location, modern facilities (high speed Wi-Fi, 24 hour gym) and reputation for bright clean comfortable rooms.

Check-in is fuss-free, and we’re soon settled into our Deluxe King room. White linens and walls, neutral hues in the furnishings and a splash of contemporary adornment in subtle artworks create a peaceful ambience in its smooth lines and uncluttered elegance.

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Deluxe King Room
Arriving on the night flight from Malaysia, it’s not long before we’re in bed. Highly appreciative of the hot high-pressured shower, we’re cleansed from the journey, but feeling slightly peckish. As fatigue permeates our limbs, we add another tick of gratefulness – this time for the in-room dining service. Not long after we’ve allayed our hunger with a delicious meal from Azur, we drift off into undisturbed sleep, with pleasant dreams of aquamarine seas and tropical island bliss anticipated.

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Pumpkin Soup with Chili Oil - Excellent Choice
Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Prawn Tortilla Wrap - Delicious
Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Local Tuna with Artichokes - Must Eat the Tuna - Fabulous!
I love to wake with the sun, so have purposefully drawn the curtains leaving a small gap, and am naturally roused by the sun’s first rays. If not however, the blackout drapes would have stood their ground, not allowing a single beam of light to infiltrate until sanctioned. After I’ve tested out the personal espresso machine, and dressed for a workout, hubby tests out the curtains, closing them again for an extended doze.

In final efforts to be “bikini ready” I hit the gym, and finish with a dip in the rooftop infinity pool before breakfast. Open 24 hours, I have no concern for timing and find sufficient cardio and strength training facilities to get my day off to a positive start in the health club.

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Ending with a few laps of the pool, I capture the potential of the surrounds from the rooftop. If staying longer, I’m sure this spot would be worthy of a sundowner or two. Also, with an extended stay, we’d be sure to take up the free walking tour of Malé provided by the hotel – of which we’re told the local market is a real highlight.

Rooftop Pool
Brekkie is included in our package and it’s taken at the all-day dining outlet Lime. A decent sized selection ensures a variety of tastes are satisfied. Friendly staff give us a brief tour of the spread as we sip on fresh coconut water. Western, Asian, healthy and decadent options abound. Chefs at live cooking stations for eggs, waffles and thosai take diner’s orders and prepare them a la minute. A waiter notices my hunt for something Maldivian and soon has me wrapped a local breakfast of tuna salad in a flat bread – yum! Coffee is freshly brewed, and for those in a hurry to-go cups and paper bags are available to grab a cuppa and a pastry to take away.

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
A Super Helpful Staff Member - Truly impressed by the service of this guy
Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Maldivian Breakfast
Omelette Made to Order
Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Complimentary Wi-Fi Internet “anywhere and everywhere” allows my final social media updates before we’re escorted by a Jen representative to our transfer for our next destination, Gili Lankanfushi.

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Airport Transfer 
Reasons to visit: excellent transfer point to or from a holiday in the beautiful Maldives; gracious service; clean cheery rooms.

Hotel Jen Malé, Maldives
Ameer Ahmed Magu
Malé, 20096
Republic of Maldives
+960 3300 888

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Lightfoot Travel, Bespoke Itineraries by the Artisans of Luxury Travel

Lightfoot Travel
Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

Lightfoot Travel

Deciding on where to stay in the Maldives can be an overwhelming experience. Studying webpage after webpage of stunning beauty, pretty soon the sites all blend into a whir of brilliant aquamarine with promises of tranquility, superb service and delicious meals. It’s difficult to distinguish one from another, but with the price tag accompanying most resorts and the cost of flights to get to these secluded paradises, the decision on where to spend our hard-earned cash is not taken lightly.

That’s where Lightfoot Travel was able to assist. Being fussy travelers, not fond of anything involving a group or large scale operations, and desiring to make the most of every moment leaving nothing to chance, Lightfoot’s “travel designers” noted our needs and offered to compose a personalized itinerary utilizing only the best properties, activities and restaurants they have sourced first-hand.

What a time saver! I’m relieved of the duty of spending hours comparing online reviews and seeking personal recommendations from friends and social media contacts. It might actually feel like a holiday – one that I haven’t had to do hard labour to create beforehand.

Lightfoot employs a group of select travel-obsessed planners, all who have had years of experience personally trotting the globe. Take my travel designer Nikki for example. She was born in Seattle, grew up in Hong Kong, studied in Boston and London, and is currently living in Beijing.

Lightfoot Travel
Nikki Pang - Our Travel Designer

After discussing our needs, Nikki sent us an itinerary summary including dates, timing, flight numbers, room categories and so on. The one pager let us see at a glance our entire trip. Following the outline, was a detailed schedule including a couple of beautiful photos and a few sentences about each item.

Lightfoot Travel
An Example of Part of Our Expanded Itinerary

In upcoming posts you’ll see more of our wonderful four days planned with Lightfoot Travel. We’ll be using them again for sure. Currently personalizing travel itineraries across six continents, we’re excited to see what more one-of-a-kind experiences they can invent for us.

Book bespoke itineraries through Lightfoot Travel, the Asia-based artisans of luxury travel with offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai:

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Top Five Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur This Weekend

best of kl
Top Five Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur This Weekend

Staying in town this long weekend? We think you should take advantage of fewer cars on the roads and get out to explore the city. Here's our list of:

Top Five Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur This Weekend

(Click on the title links for full details, maps, prices and photos)

Have a Relaxing Spa Treatment in these Lush Spa Villas

luxury spa kuala lumpur
Beautiful Spa

Dine on a Delicious Cafe Meal and Take Home Scrumptious European Breads

best cafes kl
European Bread

Watch the Sun Set from These Stunning Sea Villas Only 90 Minutes from KL

avillion port dickson
Watch the Sun Set

Treat Yourself to a Bubbly Brunch with Views of the Iconic Twin Towers

marble 8 kl
Bubbly Brunch

Caffeinate In One of KL's Top Coffee Shops

coffee hop my
The Best of KL's Coffee Culture

Follow the title links for full details.

Do share with us your favourite things to do in Kuala Lumpur on a long weekend.

Interview with Chef Sanal, Bateaux Dubai, UAE

Chef Sanal

Interview with Chef Sanal, Bateaux Dubai, UAE

What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I am Senior Sous Chef onboard Bateaux Dubai. My career path started at St Mary’s Institute of Hotel Management when in 1998 I embarked on a Management degree. During this time my entire life changed as I learnt, developed and embarked on my career. Every country in the world has a hospitality industry and the skills you learn are readily transferable and so the key to discovering new countries, culture and people. As I developed, I found that my main passion was food. The excitement I felt for being in the kitchen and discovering new recipes brought me to Bateaux Dubai where I have worked for 12 years.

Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes. 
It can be tough working in the kitchen. You must always be professional. After finishing my studies I started training with a well-known hotel group. One day I came to my breakfast duty late and the executive chef punished me in a very interesting way - by putting me on butchery for one week solid. After that I was never late to my duty again and still keep very punctual while on duty at all times.

What's the best part of your job?
There are so many aspects that I love in my job but the highlights are working with such a professional, caring and passionate team. My staff show integrity, creativity and focus and I feel very lucky to work with them. Also, I love being in the position where I can help reinvent and take forward our ever popular Bateaux Dubai menu by being creative and innovative. When I walk around Bateaux Dubai whilst cruising to meet with our guests and they complement the food, it fills me with pride. We really do have a fantastic offer onboard Bateaux Dubai.

What's your personal favourite meal/ drink onboard the Bateaux Dubai?
This would be the starter dish - Chevrie Goat Cheese with Beetroot, Cauliflower Couscous Cucumber Carpaccio and Ponzu dressing. For me, this is the perfect balance of textures – smooth and crunchy. It’s creamy yet not heavy or overbearing.

What's one of the craziest things you've seen behind the scenes?
Bateaux Dubai is challenging but it is not crazy, which is what I like most about it. However, some of the more surreal moments in my career have been onboard when I’ve been lucky enough to cook for some amazing and inspirational people from national leaders, Hollywood film stars, and professional sporting stars..

The perfect day off would be...
My days off are very special and I use them to rest, revitalise and most importantly spend time with my family – my wife and daughter. Our routine is to wake up late in the morning, relax around our home and then usually visit one of the new hotels for dinner.  I see this as a good way to review other menus and see what else is on the market. Although the best evenings during my time off are when I’m at home eating one of my wife’s homemade dishes and having lot of fun with my daughter.

A day in the life of a chef is...
Personally to me, each day as a chef is memorable and I’m always very thankful for being able to do a job that I am passionate about. My daily tasks change from guiding the kitchen associates, planning the menu planning, coming up with new recipe creations, food and supply ordering, and some specific cooking duties for the day to day preparation on the Bateaux Dubai.

What do you do for fun?
My number one fun thing to do is play around in the kitchen, coming up with new recipes that take on my own style and name.

What's something you'd like guests to know about Bateaux Dubai?
Bateaux Dubai is like no other dining experience in Dubai. It’s most certainly different from any other cruise experience on the Dubai Creek. We serve a varied choice of international cuisine over four-courses. Upon boarding, guests can select their four-course dinner from the international à la carte menu, which is then freshly prepared in the vessel’s fully fledged kitchen on board – like no other! The specially designed seasonal menu offers a choice of seafood, poultry, meat and vegetarian options, along with salads, local Arabic delicacies and desserts like the famous bitter chocolate fondant. Guests can also select the finest luxury beverages, fresh juices and soft drinks to accompany the cuisine of their choice. Guests can enjoy the 360 degree panoramic views of the romantic old Dubai shoreline. During the two hour cruise, there is a constant flow of food, and by the time we dock, they are quite full and pleased!

What's your view on the Dubai food scene?
Dubai is a foodie’s playground. It’s diverse and multicultural with lots of international brands from Zuma to The Ivy and dining styles from take away to four course sit down meals. There is something for everyone and with late night service, you can pretty much eat at any time during the day or night. The food offering is also very dynamic, with a new openings almost weekly and some of the world’s top chefs opening up restaurants here, showing that Dubai really is a city to be present in.

What's in store for you in the upcoming months?
There are exciting times ahead for Bateaux Dubai. We are working on a new menu, which we will launch soon and will include dishes such as roasted pink Sea Bream with miso butter nut puree, and homemade smoked duck with baked apple and geese liver puree and juniper berry sauce. Keep your eyes peeled! 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Saujana Hotels and Resort Exclusive Wine Collection, Kuala Lumpur

saujana, bespoke wines
Saujana Hotels and Resort Exclusive Wine Collection

Saujana Hotels and Resort Exclusive Wine Collection

In Australia, bottling wine from a premier vineyard with your own label is a fashionable thing to do. Bespoke branding is one thing, but curating your own blends to form a signature collection? This takes passion for a good drop to a whole new level.

The team at Saujana Hotels and Resorts, with their dedication to quality food and beverage experiences, has exactly that zeal. In collaboration with an award winning Margaret River winery, Frankland Estate, they have designed a wine series that is not only delicious, but true to varietal character and great value too.

Three whites and three reds have been selected as great drinking on their own, but specifically to pair well with food. Clearly in the interest of our readers, we attempt to try them all.

Saujana Hotels & Resorts, Wine Collections 2014, Grape Expectations Estate, Margaret River, Western Australia, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon:

On the nose this wine shows exotic fruit aromas. We detect wafts of lychee, mango, rose, quince and spices. In the palate it exudes a powerful, burst of fruit, flattering and round with a mild spice finish. We think goats’ cheese would work well with this drop, but also fish and salads prepared with fresh herbs should do nicely too. The mellowness of the Semillon stabilizes the zippy sauvignon blanc, forming also a good partnership with Asian flavours such as curry and light spice.

Saujana Wines
Sauvignon Blanc

Saujana Hotels & Resorts, Wine Collections 2014, Frankland Estate, Western Australia, Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc Riesling:

This wine is young and fresh with floral and citrus aromas. The blend of grapes gifts it with versatility and matches any number of white meats, salads and cheeses. A chilled glass is very suitable for Malaysia’s warm climate.

Saujana Wines

Miles from Nowhere, Margaret River, Western Australia, Chardonnay:

We find ripe stone fruits, spice, citrus and a light toastiness nosing this glass. In the mouth, it contributes a rich and luscious creamy mouth feel. The butteriness of the wine is a pleasant complement for fried or roasted salmon.  

saujana wines
Miles from Nowhere, Chardonnay

Saujana Hotels & Resorts, Wine Collections 2014, Frankland Estate, Western Australia, Merlot:

Ruby red in the glass and with aromas of berries and plum, this wine is immediately attractive. Oak, spice and an earthy complexity, makes smooth easy drinking with a medium to bold flavour. Multi-faceted, it plays pleasant companion to meats, risotto and mature cheeses.

frankland estate, margaret river
Saujana Hotels and Resorts Merlot

Miles from Nowhere, Margaret River, Western Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon:

Dark fruits such as plum and blackcurrant alongside fresh herbs and even chocolate give the first hint of the complexity of this wine with its delicious aromas. Full bodied, yet graceful, in the mouth it’s well-balanced ending with a lingering finish. Bring on succulent cuts of red meat, especially a charred around the edges and pink in the middle piece of Australian Rib-Eye or Scotch fillet.

saujana wines
Miles from Nowhere, Cabernet Sauvignon

Olmo’s Rewards, Frankland Estate, Western Australia, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc

This wine was unavailable during our tasting session, but the hotel’s notes read: “Cedar and vanilla aromas complement the cherry, blackberry and dark stone fruits giving a more earthy flavour. Complexity is generous and persistent on the palate.”

saujana wines
Red Wine from Margaret River

The SHR Sauvignon Blanc 2014, SHR Chardonnay 2014 and SHR Merlot 2014 are priced at RM88 nett per bottle and RM960 nett per case (12 bottles). Miles from Nowhere Chardonnay 2013, Miles from Nowhere Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and Frankland Estate Olmost Reward 2006, are priced at RM110 nett per bottle and RM1200 nett per case (12 bottles). 

There are certainly some scrumptious wines in this half-dozen. Bottles make excellent gifts and can be purchased on-site or ordered and delivered to your home. Even more welcome news is that these exclusively sourced wines are available at their retail price when dining in any of the Saujana Hotels and Resort restaurants.

Saujana Hotels and Resort
Jalan Lapangan Terbang SAAS
40150 Shah Alam
Selangor Darul Ehsan
+6 03 7840 5288

Thursday, 27 August 2015

La Casa, Verve Suites, Mont Kiara

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
La Casa, Mont Kiara

La Casa, Verve Suites, Mont Kiara

By Aisling Cullen and The Yum List (Monica Tindall)

A new cluster of restaurants have opened up in Mont Kiara at the base of the Verve Suites.  Among those restaurants is La Casa, a cosy and homely space that lives up to its name.  

Arriving at La Casa, it was no problem to get parking on the street directly opposite the restaurant’s wide terrace, and should that be full then there is plenty of car parking in the building beneath the new restaurant hub.

La Casa has lofty ceilings and ample space between the indoors and outside terrace, however it still manages to maintain a cosy feel of home. Reclaimed wooden floorboards, iron chandeliers and colourful seating create a relaxing and welcoming vibe. 

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
La Casa, Mont Kiara

On arrival, we pepped up our afternoon with a Latte (RM12), Hot Chocolate (RM12) and Green Tea Latte (RM11).  A Japanese barista greeted us and explained that the beans are roasted locally by a Japanese team of roasters who are passionate about their coffee. The Latte had a double shot of espresso which was full bodied – a good caffeine fix to start us off.  The Green Tea Latte was sweet and mellow, and the Hot Chocolate was light, creamy and smooth.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Hot Chocolate, Latte, Green Tea Latte, Piccolo

We tried a couple more drinks including a Mango Passion Smoothie (RM14) which was fresh and tangy, and a Blueberry and Homemade Yoghurt Milkshake (RM16) which was creamy with plenty of fresh blueberries. Perhaps our favourite however was the lush thick Chocolate, Banana, Almond – a delicious blend of the namesake trio.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Mango Passion Smoothie
La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Blueberry and Yoghurt
La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Almond, Banana, Chocolate Milkshake

The starters were all generous portions, making them ideal for sharing. The Sauteed Mushrooms (RM22) was a simple but very tasty dish. A large portion of mushrooms served atop a slice of crispy-rimmed, spongy focaccia showcased simplicity and mouth-filling flavours at their best.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Sauteed Mushrooms

Fried Mozzarella (RM24) came with a spicy tomato sauce.  The sticks were packed with melting mozzerella cheese and covered with a crispy panko crust. Clearly these were one of Caning’s favourites - judging by the oohs and aahs coming from his side of the table as he demolished a number of them.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Mozzarella Sticks

Next up was the Smoked Chicken and Orange Salad (RM26).  The chicken is smoked in-house and was wonderfully tender in this salad. The dressing was light and subtle, and the sweetness of the orange complimented the smoked chicken adeptly.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Smoked Chicken and Orange Salad

One of our favourites was the Italian Chicken Burger (RM29), which was beautifully presented in a house made seeded bun. Pickle and salsa added to the sweetness of this dish, and the succulent patty with noticeable pieces of chicken – not minced – finished the composition astutely. 

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Italian Chicken Burger

The Turkey Chorizo (RM24) came with melting Camembert cheese on a chewy and crusty sourdough toast. The chef also drizzled a little honey onto the cheese, which gave a wonderful balance of sweet and savoury. 

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Turkey Chorizo

Sampling from the mains menu, the Pan Seared Chicken Confit (RM32) proved a very rustic and homely dish.  A beautifully creamy garlic mashed potato formed a bed for the moist and sizeable portion of poultry that was succulent and flavourful.  

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Pan Seared Chicken Confit

For veggie lovers, the Ratatouille Pasta (RM24) was a simple dish of roasted vegetables with a rustic Provençal flavour served atop al dente strings of spaghetti. The quality of the pasta was very good which allowed the simplicity of the dish to shine. 

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Ratatouille Pasta

The Duck Confit Pasta (RM32) consisted of homemade confit duck tossed with light ribbons of linguine in an al oglio sauce.  The flavour of the duck was rich but the light sauce balanced it well.  A hint of chili gave this dish a subtle bite. 

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Duck Confit Pasta

Desserts make a pretty display in the front counter of La Casa. As the name of the restaurant suggests, everything is made at home, in ‘la casa,’ so our expectations were met when it came to the quality of the pastries. Choices were difficult with the colourful array of macarons to begin, but we finally decided on Rose, Earl Grey and Salted Caramel (RM4.50 each), with all three getting us off to a super sweet ending.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia

The Mont Blanc (RM13) and Lemon Tart (RM12) proved strong competition for ‘most liked dessert.’ I couldn’t put down my fork after trying the former – a combination of pureed chestnuts and a crumbly cake base, with whipped cream in the centre. Caning however was at it again with his moans over the tangy centre of the latter.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Mont Blanc
La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Lemon Tart

The sizeable portion of Berries Waffle (RM26) was also enjoyable with a good quality crisp waffle, homemade ice cream and tart blueberries. Great for sharing! 

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Berries Waffle
La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Mocha Affogato

La Casa also has a decently priced wine list and a number of choices by the glass.  We tried out a Hamelin Bay 2011 Shiraz Merlot from Margaret River (RM23), and the De Bortoli Sauvignon Blanc (RM17). Both were very easy drinking – good companions to the comforting, home style menu of La Casa.

La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
Red Wine by the Glass
La Casa, The Verve, Mont Kiara, Malaysia
De Bortoli Sauvignon Blanc
Reasons to visit:  Good quality simple home cooking, generous portions, relaxing ambiance, ample terrace seating, easy parking

La Casa
G-5 Verve Shops Mont' Kiara
8 Jalan Kiara 5
50480 Kuala Lumpur
+6 03 6211 8875
Tues-Fri, 10am-11pm
Sat-Sun, 9am-11pm