There was a lot of buzz about the opening of Opheem so we waited a little before we went to try it out, wanting to get past any early snagging points or busy dining rooms so last month we booked a midweek table for a birthday meal. Having read a tonne of reviews by this point I was itching to go and its fair to say we were not disappointed.
The Foodies Festival returns to Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham from the 22nd-24th June with an even bigger lineup in what is set to be the UK’s ‘biggest celebration of food, drink and live music’ And there is a competition running to win some free tickets!
Whilst Jordan has been to Singapore, this was my first visit which meant that getting around and knowing where to go was easier than normal.
We started our day with breakfast at the hotel (after missing it everywhere else we had been) It was ok- no comparison to ones we have had in Thailand though. I do question my choice at breakfast time though..
We decided to head to the Botanical Gardens as they are known to be very good and Jordan was impressed with the orchid garden in the past. The weather was excellent so we soaked up the sun whilst wandering around. I am not sure how we ended up visiting 3 different Botanical Gardens on this trip as we aren’t really ‘plant people’ . However, it was certainly worth the trip and paying for entry for the Orchid Garden was a good choice.
The gardens are incredible, a good atmosphere, plenty to see and lots of information available for people who just want to look at something pretty but might not know what it actually is. Jordan mentioned that he had seen a turtle on his previous visit so when we spotted one in the lake I was ecstatic. As we walked along it quickly became apparent that there were loads of them. Families of turtles sunning themselves or swimming around was a sight to behold and I couldn’t believe how easy they were to spot. We also saw several Water Monitors digging for food and scuttling across the grass (N.B.- They may have been turtles and water monitors, we weren’t 100% sure and this was the best guess we could make after a bit of googling)
We did a lot of walking around the gardens and took an obscene number of photos which on reflection, are only interesting to us! Following a recommendation from a friend in Melbourne, we sought out the Adam Road Hawker Market. There are quite a few dishes that are considered to be ‘must try’ but we tended to go with whatever we fancied at the time
Most of the food I went for was quite simple really, this was a roast pork, prawn and noodle soup. Not too spicy but packed with flavour and very filling. It was off course accompanied with a fresh juice. Jordan had a chicken set meal similar to Hainanese Chicken Rice but with vegetables on the side. I quite enjoy this style of eating, just finding a stall that looks appealing and watching it be cooked quickly before sitting at a plastic table surrounded by other hungry people. It’s not something we do well in the UK (The food court in Birmingham was always terrible) which is a real shame. At least we have Digbeth Dining Club now which has ever expanding opening times.
Not wanting to miss out on the highlights of Singapore, we headed to Raffles for a signature drink. When I told people we were stopping in Singapore as part of our holiday, it was one of the first things people asked if we were doing but to be honest- I didn’t really know what the fuss was about and hadn’t given it much thought.
As it turned out, Raffles was closed for extensive renovation but they clearly know how much of a draw they have for the influx of tourists as a pop up bar is in place just around the corner. We stopped in for one (very good) drink and to snack on some monkey nuts. I’m not much of a cocktail drinker but a gin base is always nice and we were interested to learn that Sipsmith developed a special gin just for Raffles. More impressive to me, were the posters lining the construction area and I wish we had picked up copies to bring home.
Not content with what had already been a jam packed day, we had booked ahead for dinner at Labryinth, a 1 Michelin Star restaurant located in a shopping centre of all places. I didn’t know much about Singapore or it’s native cuisine so when we were researching our dinner options before we went away, this menu was one that caught my attention. Dinner was excellent and gave us the opportunity to try new things without fear. We had an incredible Chilli Crab Ice Cream which was the highlight for me (along with a single dumpling based on Hainanese Chicken) It was exciting, modern food and after we had eaten the chef came out to chat with us which really did top off our experience.
Research paid off again as we finished our night at Atlas Bar A huge venue, dripping in Art Deco features and with over 1000 gins on the menu (now you know why we ended up there…) The options available were mindblowing, and many items were limited to a single pour per person. We had been really looking forward to Atlas, especially after the excellent bars we had found in Melbourne but we found it lacking in depth. Whilst the menu was excellent, the staff were not as informed as we had expected and therefore if we asked for recommendations they didn’t seem to know too much about what was on offer or in stock. Whilst we did try some good gin, the experience wasn’t as memorable as it could have been because of this (and maybe because I was once again feeling sleepy) The gin didn’t come served as we expected, no specific botanicals and one of the Tonic waters we had was truly vile (we were not warned that it was an ‘unusual’ one until it was too late) I had expected that we would end up staying there for the rest of the evening but we headed home early.
Given much of our time was spent in Australia on this trip we were keen to try some different gins that we wouldn’t be able to find at home and also pick up a few bottles to take back with us. It may be a booming industry but in general, a lot of newer gins are a bit hit and miss at the moment. We did very well in our sampling so here is a run down of some of the best bars and bottles we came across.
Uber hipster feel (it is connected to an actual barbershop) but a great collection that has expanded beyond its capacity behind the bar so that now there are cabinets dotted around the room stuffed with bottles.
We liked: The printed menu sorted by location, the knowledgeable staff, the amazing soundtrack including the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and Blondie.
An amazing find, this is like walking into your great nan’s living room or stepping back in time to post war Britain but with a bit more luxury.
We liked: home made tonic water and pickles, going behind the bar to investigate all of the bottles. The owner has a lot of knowledge and his suggestions led to us finding the best gin of the whole trip.
Not a gin bar but it might as well be, they sell spirits and jaffles (toasted sandwiches) in a no fuss environment. We each did a tasting paddle of 5 gins with tonic and garnish for $30AU and got to pick which gins we tried.of particular note was the conversation we had with our server who told us about the origin of our selected drinks and the time he has spent with local distilleries helping make products. He also gave us a pointer on where to go to buy bottles that turned out to be very fortuitous.
We liked: One to one service, good pricing, informed reccomendations.
Probably my least favourite of the bars we visited although probably due to uber tiredness rather than the venue itself. This is a table service style venue but we ended up going to the bar as it was a bit slow. Venue has low lighting and comfy seats and would be good for a date.
We liked: extensive menu sorted by location, good for lounging on sofas and slow drinking.
By far the best gin we tried in my opinion, it has a strong, cocoa finish that is only slightly sweet. It does have a lingering finish but that’s what I like about it. IF you have ever tried Polugar gin, this is very similar
An unusual find, we tried this at Bad Frankies and originally thought it could be a bit of a gimmick but traditionally, these ants were eaten by Indigenous peoples and carry a strong, citrus flavour similar to lime. The ants are used in the distilling process and a few are also found in the bottle, they remain hand harvested by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people. This is a citrus based gin with coriander and pepper berry notes
There are a couple of different varieties of this gin, we tried, Meadow and Mountain but Ocean was probably the one I most enjoyed. All 3 use the same base botanicals of native pepperberry, lavender and wakame and then variants added to reflect the landscape. The salty, seaweed richness and soft hint of jasmine made this a really easy drinking spirit- it was quite hard to find so sadly we couldn’t bring a bottle home.