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London’s Sweets: Crosstown Doughnuts & Lola’s Cupcakes

So I had a bunch of other sweets from London’s notable bakeries that I thought should be written up as well, namely: Crosstown Doughnuts and Lola’s Cupcakes. Just in case you poke around Instagram or Twitter ad find they are featured quite a lot, here are unbiased reviews for you.

Crosstown Doughnuts

Crosstown Doughtnuts began from a stall in the London markets but after just two short months, the doughnut-ery expanded to high-end shopping malls like Selfidges; where I got mine. It was a beautiful day in London (missing it so much now!) and I got off at the wrong station which turned out to be a blessing as I walked past Mayfair, and dreamt of being rich and famous (hah).

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Mummy and I were waiting for my Dad in the Foodhall (bad idea) when we came across this little stand and “heard” the doughnuts call out to us! I figured my detour justified a doughnut! This doughnut-ery offers a delicious array of the traditional ring and filled dounuts. It also prides itself on “doughnuts made daily from quality ingredients and locally sourced products.” But between you and me, after Bread Ahead’s deliciousness, we simply could not resist getting one of these in the hopes of experiencing another revelation.

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We got ourselves a Peanut Butter & Currant Doughnut because I am madly in love with peanut butter.

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According to Crosstown D’s website, this flavour is:

Our indulgent take on the classic all-American peanut butter and jelly combination.

It’s filled with a crunchy yet velvety peanut butter cream, and wrapped up in our unique square-shaped Crosstown sour dough. The doughnut is topped with a Tongan vanilla-bean glaze, our homemade tangy blackcurrant compote and a sprinkling of toasted peanuts.

Plus another filled doughnut, perfect for comparisons with Bread Ahead, yeh?!

Like Bread Ahead, this was another generously filled dougnut with the filling to pastry ratio of 2:1. (Singapore, please take note. Customers like more filling so please stop stinging on it!). While it was in general not bad, the pastry unfortunately lacked the pillowy tenderness of Bread Ahead’s. The peanut butter cream filling was a tad bland but the tangy currant atop was quite delectable. I blame the overall dry texture on the exposure in the air-conditioned shop  floor.

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But really, I say, if you had to go for one doughnut on your London trip, make it Bread Ahead Bakery in Borough M!

By the way, London is undergoing a Doughnut Explosion! The same way Cupcakes did in New York (did it ever take off in London?). High quality gourmet doughnuts do not seem to have taken off in Singapore but I predict next year.

On a separate note, check out this cute dessert spotted in Selfridges too!

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Lola’s Cupcakes

This was EVERYWHERE. Be it in a counter in malls such as Selfridges or Harrods, or just a cart in Spitafields, I saw this so often I had to get one just to appease my “fear of missing out”. I got mine from the Harrods Foodhall. While my parents had Roast Chicken for lunch, I needed a sugar-hit to perk me up. I could not resist Lola’s after seeing it so often on the internet and their cupcakes did look pretty gourmet, isn’t it?

IMG_5138There was a yet again an impressive range of flavours that tugged at my heart and nearly made me get EVERYTHING. It also helped that every cupcake was topped with the most uniform swirl of buttercream.

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Unfortunately, the flavours and texture of the cupcake left little to be desired. What’s the big deal, again? Picking up a Harrods exclusive flavour: Double Chocolate Cupcake topped with a Chocolate Brownie. I was all ready to be chocolate-out! To float on some fudgy chocolate clouds after this. Except I didn’t get a chance to.

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The cupcake was so dry and densed, after one bite, I craved for water so badly to un-stuck chunks of cake from my teeth. However the rich smooth buttercream was pretty addictive. But all in all, another unimpressive cupcake in London. I say, save the calories for other better eats…

Tea and Scones @ the V&A Cafe, Victoria & Albert Musuem, London

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Can you guys believe I am not done with posting on my epic trip to Europe more than two weeks ago?! I did and ate so much that I must tell you all about it.

A musuem cafe was the last place on earth I would expect to find decent food. Maybe it’s because I can’t fathom making a trip to any Singapore musuems so as to check out their cafes (if there is even any). The last time I ate in a Singapore musuem was when the flea-market, Public Garden, was held in the National Musuem and I scored myself a cupcake from Vanilla Bakery. Hence my one and only afternoon tea experience at the Victoria & Albert Musuem in South Kensington blew me away, and since then has forever changed my impression of musuems.

I really tried to go cultural in London. A city filled with renowned museums containing world-famous exhibitions, I was very keen on visiting one in particular at the V&A: Wedding Dresses 1775-2014. My girl friend was more than happy to accompany me and catch up at the same time.

But she suggested we start with the Scones at the V&A Cafe. My hopes were not high but when she came back to our table armed with the most beautiful printed-tray, I was in awe and knew right away it was going to be a good afternoon tea!

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As if things couldn’t be more delightful at this point; MATCHING printed-paper cups. Isn’t this one of the prettiest paper cup you have ever seen?! It totally made the Chamomile Tea so much more special.

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I was also impressed with the huge scone. It was on steroids; as big as my palm. The moist doughy raisin scone was uplifted with traditional clotted cream and sweet strawberry jam from a tiny Wilkinson & Sons jam pot. My girl friend and I certainly did not held back and slathered on all of the cream. It was delicious!

The Cafe was also pretty amazing. To begin with, my jaw dropped when I walked in and saw where we were having simple scones.

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Isn’t this one of the beautiful space to enjoy a hot tea in the chilly London weather?

My girl friend went to pick up our tea and scones while I dutifully “choped” for us seats. Except I couldn’t sit for long and minutes later, I was on my feet exploring… The food area was HUGE. There were like three sections. One for sandwiches and savouries, and another just dedicated to sweet treats.

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See more pictures of the cafe here! I was also so grateful for the complimentary water.

Then I had to visit the Ladies and it was all vintage and again prettyyyyyy.

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A gorgeous musuem filled with the prettiest of things, the V&A Musuem was a highlight of my trip. I may not had an all-out Afternoon Tea with tier-ed trays and finger sandwiches but this scone satisfied my craving for one.

In the end, we had such a comfortable time sitting and chatting at the cafe that we had to dash off to Gold Mine for dinner and never made it to the exhibition. >_<

If you fancy an afternoon tea at the Musuem, or just want to swoon at pretty things, find more details about the Cafe here!

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Borough Market – Feast Your Eyes, Satisfy All Your Cravings!

London’s oldest Market (1,000 years old!) was definitely the highlight of our trip in London. I had grand plans to embark on a Three-Markets Crawl beginning with Borough. But we filled ourselves up with so much goodies there that there was no way we could eat further. So we ended up shopping on Regent Street to walk off our full bellies. Haha.

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Borough Market needs no introduction. There are many many blog posts dedicated to the AMAZING eats you will find there (here, here, here, and here). Plus with free Wi-fi, you CANNOT come to London and not make a trip to Borough. In fact, I highly encourage you to set aside a lot of tummy space and time for the stuff here. A lot of people say Borough is a tourist trap. Well, I am not sure about that. Isn’t the definition of tourist traps when one pays for substandard and overpriced food. We did not experience such in our four hours(!) there. Everything we got was worth it. And the immense size and selection in one space was amazing for us tourists. We were respectively craving something (sweet for me, savoury pies for my parents) and Borough was there to satisfy it and more. Plus it was highly convenient for it avoided us running all over town for just one good food.

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My parents and I all had a favourite from our feast that morning. Mine was definitely getting my grubby hands on the doughtnuts from Bread Ahead Bakery.

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On my final day in London, I could not leave without having one more doughnut for memories’ sake. It was an unforgettable doughnut and worth every sprint on the treadmill when I came back.

IMG_5859.JPGMummy’s highlight was the Scotchegg from Scotchtails.

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Fried to order, each Scotchegg constituted a perfectly crisp batter surrounding tender minced pork with that perfect perfect half-boiled egg. How beautiful does that egg yolk look?!

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Dad’s favourite was these god-awesome, god-damn cheap, and giant Oysters from Richard Haward’s Oysters:

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Fresh palm-sized oysters… killer-ly beautiful.

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My favourite part of this Oyster joint, the hand sanitizers and napkins, free for all.

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Whenever Dad is in England, he has to eat a Steak and Kidney Pie. And he satisfied his craving with one from Pie Minister. It was a good call as later I learnt this stall has published a cookbook! Surely a sign of good pies.

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They had the cutest named pies:

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We unisonly enjoyed a Kate and Sidney Pie (A British beef steak, kidney & real ale pie)

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The fillings were rich and generously filled with chunks of steak pieces with hints of the kidney. Plus that stellar golden brown puff pastry shell wasn’t just inviting, it was deeply appetizing. This pie quickly warmed our hearts. It was a good pie and I need to go back and try the others.

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Cheese Toastie from the renowned Kappacasein stall.

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Constituting of Montgomery cheddar, leeks, onion, garlic, and sourdough, this seemed a little bland that morning. Maybe because I just had two doughnuts before… haha. 

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We also shared a carb-less platter of Roast Pork from Roast Hog

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I was told this was sublime but quite frnakly, I don’t remember much of this.

IMG_4942.JPGAnd weirdly, egg tarts were sold next to this too.

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Read on for more delicious pictures.

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Oven & Fried Chicken at Telok Ayer, Singapore

Back in Singapore, there is a new Korean Fried Chicken joint in town!

If you are not in love with Korean Fried Chicken, what is wrong with you?! I will not allow you to judge my love for it despite it still hanging on my hips 12 hours later.

This new joint on Telok Ayer Street in Tanjong Pagar is called Oven & Fried Chicken. I’m serious. Check it out for yourself.

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Dinner at OFC tonight was purely accidental. We were on our way to another friend’s cafe when a shop with bouquets of flowers signifying the opening of a new business caught my attention. I read the signboard and the name said it all. You got to admit, it was CALLING OUT to me. My companion, equally a fried chicken-lover like me, was as taken with the signboard too. And just like that we abandoned our plans and walked right in requesting for a table of three. The staff were mostly Korean save for some Singaporean teen waiters. We were in safe hands. Handed a brand spanking new leather-bound menu, the tough decision of what to satisfy us began.

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OFC offers up two types of chicken. Oh wait, that was obvious right? Roasted oven-baked and deep fried; the Korean way i.e. delicate, crackly crust. But we quickly learned that at OFC, it wasn’t just any fried chicken but fried Rice chicken. I have no idea whats the difference but I can tell you, we had some pretty stellar fried Rice chicken.

No roasted chicken for us. Fridays are cheat evenings. So we skipped the selections on the first two pages and headed right for the heart-clogging options on page three. Two whole pages of fried chicken in whatever cut, amount (whole or half), and sauces you would like. This place catered to all preferences. Amazing!

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You can choose either simple fried ones or fried WITH sauce. Ooo no one does great saucy fried chicken the way Koreans do. We had to get both!

Before our chicken arrived, we were served metal utensils and a square box of prawns crackers and cubed pickled radish to whet our appetites.

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I pulled out my Truffle Crisps all the way from Barcelona. These were truffly good! Thin crisps rich with the fungus flavour, it’s a shame this flavour is hard to find in Singapore.

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Then our heart attacks on plates arrived. We had half portion of the simple Fried Rice Chicken and half portion of the Original Sauce Rice Chicken with additional spicy.

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Boy did the simple fried chicken fulfill any dreams of Korean Fried Chicken we had! The crispiest crackliest skin wrapped around moist chicken meat. A wondrous joy.

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The spicy saucy Chicken was S.P.I.C.Y! The teenage waitress who highly recommended it can really handle her chilies. But the spicy sauce was so addictive! With our lips burning, we simply could not stop at one piece. With this plate, we swiftly forgot about 4Fingers Chicken. This easily trumped the Korean Fried Chicken stalwart.

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Thank goodness we had iced-cold Aloe Vera drinks to sooth our lips.

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Spontaneity tonight won us all a delicious dinner. But having like-minded friends who believe in the power of fried chicken to lift one’s mood is EVERYTHING.  

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Barcelona’s Pasteleria: Mauri and Escriba

If there was anything in Barcelona that surprised and impressed us, it was their Pastelerias, or Pastry Shops. After having an assortment of pastries from two of Barcelona’s best: Mauri and Escriba. We concluded that the Spanish’s offerings could rival their higher-profile French neighbours. 

Mauri

Establish in 1929, this grand old pastry shop has had its regular customers salivating over the endless range of sweets, chocolate croissants and gourmet delicatessen items. Mauri’s amazing selection of freshly baked bread, cakes, pastries and other sweets has kept it a local favourite for more than 80 years.

One evening, while strolling around our hotel, I came across this Pasteleria just a street away. I remarked to my parents on its “fame” and just the next morning, they sent me out on a pastry run to get our first breakfast. Later hungry again, we popped by for two more sweet treats.

I got us four sweet pastries and savouries: Chocolate Croissant and a Mallorca snail-shaped classic, Ensaïmada, a round Pastisset De Tonyina marked with a “X”, and Patisset de Carn.

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For the chocolate croissant, we were enamoured with the generous thick chocolate filling and dainty flaky croissant.

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Unusually filled with minced pork, the Pastisset de Carn was an appetizing little treat with its moist filling and buttery puff pastry.

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Stuffed with tuna, the Pastisset De Tonyina was equally as flavourful and endearing for us fish-lovers.

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Dusted with icing sugar, the Ensaïmada was a flake-master. It flaked all over us. A cross between a croissant and brioche, the light, airy and delicate spiral-shaped dessert was delicious for the first few bites but the lack of flavour, aside from butter, got monotonous and boring. I was glad my parents were there to share this with me. I was hard-pressed trying to finish this.

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A quick walk around our hotel saw our tummies rumbling again and we popped back to Mauri to get two sweet treats. A signature, flaked with almonds, the circular Amond Cake, and an Apple Tart that reminded me of the French Tarte Tartin.

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The Almond Cake had a touch too much almond essence, and with its tender sponge and solid buttercream was different from the sort I had back home. While I did not enjoy this immensely, I did not dislike it either.

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 The Apple Tarte Tartin with it’s weak apple flavour failed to register in me. Mummy enjoyed it more though.

Escriba

Originally estalished in 1906 as a bakery, this Pasteleria is also widely know for it’s chocolate and elaborate sculptures of the same dessert. We grabbed three sweet pastries on our way back to the hotel after a long afternoon.

We could not resist the opulent shopfront along La Rambla. We got a square of icing sugar-dusted coarse crumbly Orange Sponge Cake, A chocolate-sprinkled Chocolate Croissant, and a Pine Nut-topped Coca de pinones.

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The Chocolate Croissant was remarkable with its dainty flakey pastry. More than half of the pastry was filled with the rich and thick chocolate.

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The Pine Nut Pastry lacked any flavours, and the Orange Sponge Cake was a tad dry but bursting with a citrus flavour.

Sure, there were hits and misses but when done well, the Spanish/ Catalans do work up a mean pastry.

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Cal Pep in El Born, Barcelona

Cal Pep is said to be THE best tapas restaurant in Barcelona. Acclaimed for it’s fresh tapas especially the seafood, super fun atmosphere, amazing service, it is no wonder the long queues out of the restaurant is notorious. This restaurant is also famous for the lack of menu. Simply tell the English-speaking Filipino waiter how many courses you want, he kindly recommended us lost tourists the best, and sit back to wait. I can’t second the “best tapas” claim for Mummy and I only tried three dishes. Such a shame as I am sure if I had more stomach-room for more, I would have tasted the best Cal Pep had to offer. However the three dishes we had were SPLENDID! It was where I experienced for the first time the truly amazing Spanish Codfish!

One late afternoon at 2pm, my Mum and I finally got a little hungry after walking off our three breakfasts. So we decided to head to El Born where Cal Pep resides since so many guides raved about it; also the only reason we ventured into El Born. When there, the small tapas bar was packed. There was a queue but only 6 people in front of us therefore saving us the torture of waiting outside under the hot Spanish Sun.

After twenty agonizing minutes, we finally sat at the end of the bar. I was absolutely delighted with my placemat. And so the acclaimed fun begins. The portly man in specs is the legandary owner, Pep Manubens.

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Here he is, in the flash:

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Every diner had a different illustrated placemat too, I liked this place immediately!

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Mummy’s was particularly interesting too.

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When asked how many courses we wanted, we decided three would be best for two of us. Dad had gone on a Big Bike Tour.

A must-order, this Grilled Green Peppers with large salt flakes sprinkled on it, was unusual, not spicy as I expected, and good!

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The restaurant recommended us this: a Seafood Platter comprising of expertly deep-fried Calamari (OMG! YUMS!), little fried shrimps, and two types of fish. You might think it is hard for deep-fried food not to be tasty but how often does one have really good deep-fried grub that is devoid of the heaviness from oil?! This dish was it.

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And finally, this! Cod Fish with Spinach and Aioli. To describe this as splendid or marvellous would be unkind to the good people at Cal Pep. This was stellar and unforgettable! I could literally taste the freshness of the codfish! The sturdy fish contrasted beautifully with the soft spinach and evenly sliced tender potatoes. It was a fine dish.

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If you do head to Cal Pep, do ensure an empty tummy to fill yourself with more of their delightful dishes and save some room for their desserts which look AMAZING!

Address : Pl. de les Olles, 8
Zip code : 08003
City : Barcelona –
Area : Ciutat Vella
Email : calpep@calpep.com
Website : Cal Pep – Barcelona
Opening hours : Monday from 7.30pm to 11.30pm / Tuesday – Friday from 1pm to 3.45pm and from 7.30pm to 11.30pm / Saturday from 1pm to 3.45pm / Closed Sunays and holidays
Prices : Tapas 5€ -15€ Restaurant from 40 €
Phone : +34 933 107 961
Phone 2 : Fax: 933 196 281
Metro/Bus : Metro: Barceloneta (L4) / Bus: 17, 36, 40, 45, 57, 59, 64, 157

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Gold Mine Restaurant in Bayswater, London

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For any Singaporean or Malaysian, Gold Mine is Duck Mecca. Whenever we are in the Big Smoke, it is mandatory to make a trip to the Bayswater restaurant and feast on a plate of THE Roast Duck. Then when one returns, the inevitable question will be “Roast Duck?” Expect judgmental reactions if one says no. Therefore no trip to London is ever complete until we have had had this Roast Duck.

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What’s the appeal? You might be thinking: “it is just duck, what’s the big deal?!” Oh no, no no, no. I am talking extremely fatty duck (a thick layer of fat underneath the skin), uber-tender meat (devoid of any gaminess), and brown crisp skin. Get those three factors right and watch us South East Asians coming running!

In my six days in London, I went to Gold Mine twice. The first when my friend held her birthday party there. The second with my parents. On my first visit, I was sure to take note of other dishes besides Roast Duck that was served. Then I noticed a high frequency of Lobster Noodles being served up so I made sure this was on my parent’s itinerary. When we got there, the Lobster Noodles was our second order. Guys, the lobster was so meaty and succulent! Marvellous.

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One of the non-duck dishes I adore is the Pipa Tofu; fried tofu shrimp patties shaped to resemble a pipa – a Chinese instrument. I first had this four years ago and I am so happy to announce just last week, it was still fantastic! The heaviness of the deep-fried balls was cut by the soy-based gravy. Satisfying and addictive!

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To seem healthy, we needed a vegetable dish so we got this Sambal Lady Fingers. We were not expecting much but boy were we impressed! Fried until the green fingers just retained a bite, this dish alone proved the Chef here in Gold Mine is of a high calibre.

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I love Gold Mine not just because the Roast Duck is so epic but they pay equal attention to the rest of the menu. Come here for an all round satisfying Chinese meal.