Month: November 2009

10 Things To Do at Alila Villas Hadahaa

NOTE: The resort is no longer managed by Alila. It is now the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.

So you’ve finally amassed enough leave days (and moola) to plan that dream vacation. She’s been pestering you about escaping the cold weather for weeks now. And you want to surprise her with something really stunning — so special that all her friends’ husbands and boyfriends are going to be hating you for months to come. You’ve scoured travel magazines and surfed the right websites and you’ve made your decision. You’re going to bring your hunny bunny to Alila Villas Hadahaa in the Maldives.

Chat with Bill Granger

When you think about great foodie travel experiences, there is perhaps none more quintessentially synonymous with Sydney than having breakfast at bills. For many of us, a trip to Sydney just isn’t complete without having tucked into the best scrambled eggs in the Southern hemisphere or a bite of bills’ fantastically fresh corn fritters. Bill Granger started bills back in 1993 at just 22 years old. When I was 22, I was still in university, spending my nights hanging out in dive bars and my days pompously debating political philosophy with classmates. I can’t even imagine the cojones it would take to strike out on one’s own and start a business at that age. Yet Bill did it, and has not only succeeded but become a culinary legend in the process, not just in his native Australia but worldwide.

On my most recent trip to Sydney, I did what I always do in Sydney. I had breakfast at bills. My greedy, gorgeous wife S and I inhaled some scrambled eggs, an order of corn fritters, and a plate of ricotta hotcakes. We visited the Darlinghurst branch, Bill’s first and still my favourite. As always, it was fantastic. Great fresh, simple and delicious fare, served in one of the most charming and casual dining rooms on the planet.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Bill. The interview follows.

Blowtorched prime rib roast

Sometimes it takes a great chef to come up with the simplest and most elegant solutions. Like blowtorching a prime rib before slow-roasting it at low heat for several hours. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me backtrack a bit.

As you all know, my voraciously literary wife S and I are avid cookbook collectors. For the both of us, there’s perhaps nothing better than spending an afternoon browsing the shelves at one of our favourite bookstores, especially if that store specializes in cookbooks. On a recent visit to 25 degree Celsius, Singapore’s only cookbook specialist, S and I went a tad nuts, picking up several fantastic hardbacks, including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook and Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.

Lamb burgers with herbed yoghurt

I’ve never made my love of burgers a secret. Despite the fact that a large part of my working life revolves around slightly fancy restaurants, I still have a thing for burger bars and the simple joy of chomping into a juicy, beautifully seasoned burger, chased with an ice-cold beer or soda.

I’ve tried a lot of burgers in my time. Turkey burgers, cheeseburgers, portobello burgers, tuna burgers, even tofu burgers, just to name a few. For some strange reason, I’d never eaten a lamb burger. Which, as I think back, is really kind of weird. Especially because I love lamb. It’s up there with pork as one of my two favourite meats. So, when S and I ran across a recipe for an Indian-accented lamb burger with an herbed yoghurt sauce in one of Anjum Anand’s cookbooks, I knew I had to try out the recipe.

An amazing new patisserie

When I was 21 years old, I had the great fortune of landing a summer job in Paris. The pay was miserable, but I didn’t care. I was thrilled to be living in the City of Lights. But because my allowance (I won’t even call it a salary) was so low, I had to find a really cheap place to put up. Fortunately, a friend who was studying in Paris wanted to go off gallivanting across Eastern Europe for the summer, and didn’t want to lose the lease on her pad. I was able to sublet her ridiculously small studio for a song. And while it took me over an hour to commute each way from Rue de la Sante, on the border of the 13th and 14th arrondisements, to Neuilly and back; while the little apartment had no air-conditioning; and while I could literally walk across the studio with 3 steps; I was a happy camper. Hey, what guy wouldn’t be thrilled to be in Paris on his own for 10 weeks?

Once I arrived and took over the studio, I found another reason to love my new home. There was a cute little patisserie on the ground floor of my apartment building. There’s something simply special about walking out of one’s home every morning knowing that just a few moments away, you’re going to be engulfed in the rich smells of freshly baked breads and pastries. More often than not, I started my morning with a still warm, buttery and oh-so-good croissant. On days that I didn’t have to work, I’d explore Paris, stopping (as one does) at every patisserie I’d chance upon, if only to inhale the fabulous perfume that a store full of French breads and pastries creates.

Recently, and totally by chance, my always hungry wife S and I discovered the cutest little patisserie, right here in Singapore. Housed in a tiny shopfront on MacKenzie Road, diagonally opposite the recently revived Rex Cinema, Mirabelle is a godsend. The young owner-bakers make and sell what I consider to be the best ham and cheese croissants, and the best frangipane croissants, I have ever had in Singapore.