Belfast: Stunning Street Art

I can’t recall the first time I fell in love with street art but visiting cities renowned for outstanding murals such as Penang in Malaysia and Brisbane in Australia only grew my fascination for them. And although my primary reason for visiting Belfast recently was for Game of Thrones related interests, the fact that the Northern Ireland capital is also filled with stunning street art certainly made my trip much more memorable.

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Building-high mural located opposite the Albert Memorial Clock in Belfast Cathedral Quarter [Photo: Marguerita Tan]

Everywhere you turn in Belfast, you are likely to spot a mural or two on a building close to you. There is actually a black taxi tour that brings you (I think) to every notable mural in the city but if you are not that fussy, a thorough walk around the city centre or Cathedral Quarter will offer you a good number of outstanding paintings on the walls.

2018-05-21 19.10.21 (640x640)This lively mural, for instance, is located close to Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Street – where you can find “the best Guinness in the city”, according to my Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus guide. There are many other eye-catching murals in this area on and around the popular pub’s outdoor premises too.

2018-05-24 12.37.45 (620x640)Located in an empty parking lot close to the Belfast Cathedral (a.k.a St Anne’s Church) is this amazing larger-than-life caricature of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, one of my favorites found on this trip. Various murals can also be found on other buildings around  the magnificent church.

2018-05-26 10.32.58 (640x640)There are also tons of colorful murals to be found all along the nearby North Street. Whilst trying to find a reported mural of Game of Thrones‘ King in the North, Jon Snow, I walked all the way to the northern most end of the street, which although also showcased lots of intriguing murals and graffiti, the buildings were also rather isolated and creepy even in broad daylight, so I quickly walked back towards the city centre.  Only after a Google search later did I learnt that the Jon Snow mural has been painted over as the building it was on is undergoing renovation. Sob. Oh well, luckily there were other fun murals to see.

2018-05-25 11.12.07 (640x640)Like this cool Dali-inspired mural I found in a covered alleyway close to another famous pub, Duke of York, reportedly the oldest pub in Belfast. The mural, which features many Belfast landmarks and of cos the famous Guinness, is very long – covering the entire alleyway which was too narrow for me to photograph the whole painting in one shot. Just glad I stumbled onto it while taking a shortcut.

2018-05-22 16.39.09 (640x597)Most of the murals in Belfast are also very political. One of the city’s main attractions is the main Belfast Peace Wall located at Cupar Way and which you can get to easily via a Hop-On, Hop Off Bus (which is also a good way to give you an idea of where the notable murals are across the city).

There are reportedly about 100 “peace walls” throughout the city – majority which are six metres high with barbed wire on top and with colourful artwork painted on the side, most of which do not necessarily contain messages of peace however. The walls are still up – with gates at certain junctions that are locked at night – to divide communities (mainly Catholics and Protestants) that were responsible for a very troubled warring period in Belfast’s history infamously known as “The Troubles” where thousands were killed and many more injured. The walls run for kilometres so if you want to cover it all, best to ask for a detailed map which alas I was unable to find for myself.

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Murals with political overtones are also aplenty along the Falls Road and Shankill Road areas. Thanks to the city tour bus, I was able to catch most of them ‘cos I don’t think I could or would possibly see them all on foot. (There’s a lot of ground to cover.)

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You need to be extremely flexible, agile and seated on the top of an open-top bus if you want to capture them all on camera cos the guide will rattle like a machine gun with instructions such as “over your left shoulder, and over your right shoulder, and back to your left, and now right!” while the driver sped on as if he’s late for an urgent family matter. Still, a very good (and cheap) way to see and learn about the history and significance of some of the murals in the city.

If you love murals as much as I do, Belfast is a great city for it. Just wished I could have found at least one Game of Thrones mural though…

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.

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The Green Oven @ Alley on 25, Andaz SG

2018-02-22-14-11-34-640x624.jpgHad a Chinese New Year lunch with the office people at The Green Oven @ Alley on 25 last week and it was a fun experience. Well, it didn’t begin that way. I didn’t read the address clearly and just following Google Maps, I assume the restaurant was somewhere on ground level in the U-shaped alley (Fraser Street) around Parkview Square (or Gotham City, as we Singaporeans affectionately called it). FYI, it’s not.

Part of a dining hub termed Alley on 25 which comprises five restaurants and two bars, The Green Oven is located on the 25th floor of the relatively new Andaz Singapore hotel. To get to it, you have to find an escalator in the huge shopping complex (Duo Galleria, if I’m not mistaken) located directly behind Parkview, which will bring you to the second floor where you will see the Duo Tower and Residences. Entrance to Andaz Hotel is on the far left and in there, hotel staff will show you where to take the lift to the 25th floor.
2018-02-22 12.53.41 (640x631)Serving classic international fare, The Green Oven is an all-day diner with a menu comprising breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert items, including a decent selection of non-alcoholic beverages, beer, wine and champagne. The place is cheery looking with good city views although the first thing that catches your eye is the huge green Beech oven (hence the name I guess) behind the kitchen counter where all the baked dishes are cooked in. The waitresses, majority of whom are Korean, are chirpy and orders were quickly and easily made. Quite a feat considering there was a dozen of us.

The plan at first was to order their set lunches (@$25++) but after a quick vote, everyone agreed it would be more fun (and economical) to share dishes. As it was Chinese New Year, the first dish we had was Abalone Yusheng. Quite cool for a “western” place to serve a CNY item, complete with giant chopsticks, and allowing us to shout blessings at the top of our voices. (Whether the other guests minded, we didn’t really check, heehee.)
2018-02-22 13.05.54 (640x640)We didn’t have to wait long for the main courses we ordered but we did have lovely Sourdough Bread by Tiong Bahru Bakery with Butter ($5) to pass the time. The first dish that I attacked was the Braised Lamb Shank ($35) which would have my set lunch choice. Served steaming hot with Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, semi dried tomato, rosemary, and tzatziki, the tender meat came smoothly off the bone and was absolutely succulent. A lovely dish indeed.
2018-02-22 13.09.58 (640x640)The Lobster Mac & Cheese ($35) was a fascinating item. It did have a very fragrant “marina” smell – as one of us described it – that you have to get used to. The lobster was meaty, macaroni yummy and I do love the burnt cheesy crust. But a normal Mac & Cheese without the half lobster could be better.
2018-02-22 13.09.02 (640x640)The Half Spring Chicken ($25), stewed with lardons, chat potatoes, pommery mustard, and thyme, was a popular item among the team. Meat was tender and the gravy was delicious, as was every piece of vegetable (especially the potatoes).
2018-02-22 13.18.43 (640x640)This fish main course was so good, I was only left with this small piece to take a picture of. It’s the Barramundi Fillet en Papillote ($28) cooked with Pernod anise, globe artichoke, capers, olives, and Tuscan olive oil. The meat was fresh and tasty, making every mouthful a delight. Just wished there were more mouthfuls to savor.
2018-02-22 13.10.07 (640x640)Oxtail soup yes, but I don’t think I ever had Oxtail Pie ($25) in my life, so I was eager to try it. Baked with red wine, the garlic mash was lovely but the flavor of the meat was a tad strong, even for a carnivore like me. I thought it was beefy but a few others felt it was more mutton. (It was probably a mix of meats). Pity as I was hoping to like it.
2018-02-22 13.08.33 (640x640)Finally, we had the token “vegetable” dish. The Violet Eggplant ($20) is baked with
plum tomato, Boursin cheese, and basil. It’s flavorful but one big piece was enough for me. A dish that definitely need to be shared unless you are totally into eggplants.
2018-02-22 13.52.36 (640x640)There are only two desserts on The Green Oven’s menu –  Tropical Fruit Trifle ($16) and
Brownie ($16) which must have been very good ‘cos both plates didn’t make it to my end of the table. Luckily, some kind soul bought these colorful mini sponge cakes with different sweet coverings from a bakery downstairs and they went very well with the nice Fair-Trade Java Mountain coffee  (various, $6) we had to end the meal.

All in all, food at The Green Oven is good, service is commendable, and ambience is pleasant. Prices may be a bit on the high side on the whole but not uncommon in other restaurants of the same vein. It’s definitely a nice place for meeting up with friends or acquaintances, or if you want to pamper yourself with a nice meal in a classy restaurant. Dinner have more appetizer choices and seafood main courses. Damage per person will probably be about $50-$80 per person. Worth checking out.

The Green Oven is @ Alley on 25, 5 Fraser Street, Andaz Singapore Hotel, Level 25.

Malacca: Chicken Rice Balls

2017-09-15 12.56.20 (640x640)When in Malacca: If you love Hainanese chicken rice, you are in for a treat as the Malaysian world heritage city has some of the best chicken rice in Asia. And the thing which makes their chicken rice unique for a good many decades is the fact that, thanks to one genius of a chicken rice stall owner, the fragrant chicken rice is served in the shape of balls. In the heyday, the balls were bigger – like the size of ice balls. These days they are the size of fishballs and you can tell they went through an assembly line rather than hand-made.

Still, the rice balls are a novelty but it’s the deliciously tender “kampong” chicken meat that marks the quality of a good chicken rice stall here. One of the best – and you can tell by the queues they have almost everyday – is Hoe Kee Chicken Rice, easily found right at the start of Jalan Hang Jebat or, as it’s popularly known, Jonker Walk.

It’s best to go early as the stall closes like by 4pm. When you are in the queue, prepare your orders so that a server can take them, enabling you to get your table faster and the food will arrive as soon as you are seated. The restaurant has a large dining area, with quaint marble tables and wooden chairs, which reminds one of a big hall of a clan association.

But we are here for the food and it didn’t let us down. The steamed chicken was tender and succulent, slightly drenched in a light soy sauce gravy. They were generous with their cucumber and even throw in a free chicken liver for us though we didn’t ask for one (we prefer gizzard). Unlike other places, Hoe Kee only has one choice of vegetables so we went with the cabbage which thankfully was decent. As for the rice, we ordered a plate of loose rice just in case the rice balls weren’t up to standard – it was rather flat and dry at another restaurant we dined at – but Hoe Kee rice balls are flavorful and has the chicken rice taste. Even so, novelty or otherwise, I think chicken meat is best eaten with loose rice (and with dark soy sauce sprinkled on it).

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There are many other chicken rice balls stalls in the city but Hoe Kee seem to be the top favorite (and they been around since 1962). Some like the Famosa chain has a few outlets and most remain open till the evening. Their chicken is not half bad and they have a wider variety in terms of roast meats and vegetables. Their chicken rice chili, for one, is really good – spicy hot with dashes of garlic and lime, as well as their char siew (Honeyed BBQ pork).

So if you are into Hainanese chicken rice, do check it out if you happened to be in the historic Malaysian city of Malacca. You won’t regret it.

Hoe Kee Chicken Rice is at 4, 6 & 8 Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca, Malaysia.
Famosa Chicken Rice is at 21,  Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca, Malaysia.

 

Malacca: Jonker Walk Night Market

 

2017-09-15 19.25.36 (640x640)When in Malacca, Malaysia: A visit to the Jonker Walk Night Market is a must, especially if you love Asian hawker food and knick-knack street stalls of all kinds. The night street market only take place on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm till late, so do plan your trip well to coincide with it.

2017-09-15 18.51.23 (640x640)Seriously, the amazing varieties of food and snacks you can find along the 500m-long Jonker Walk (a.k.a Jalan Hang Jebat) is the key highlight here. From durian puffs, to savory buns filled with meat, to Korean iced desserts, there’s sure to be something that will tickle your taste buds.

2017-09-15 20.49.46 (640x640)Just like Singapore, Malacca’s weather is usually super hot and humid. Thankfully, there are drink stalls aplenty too – from frozen smoothies, to bubble tea, to fresh fruit juices such as these super cool coconut water drinks with housed in a coconut meat ball which you can eat too.

2017-09-15 20.47.17 (640x640)Not sure if it’s just me but I do think that the best food stalls are along Jalan Tekong, just off before the end of Jonker Walk (if you are walking down from the side of the iconic Christ Church). Here you will find many stalls selling grilled meat skewers and stir-fry dishes, as well as specialty stalls such as Japanese sushi and Vietnamese pho.

2017-09-15 19.26.20 (640x640)There’s seafood galore too, from crabs to fish to all kinds of funny looking shells. You can have them stir-fry, barbecued or steamed. Oh, and there’s fresh oysters too. So much choices, didn’t know what to choose!

2017-09-15 19.48.11 (640x640)In the end, my friend and I settled for black soy sauce carrot cake, sambal stingray and garlic lala clams, washed down with refreshing pineapple smoothies. All in the comfort of tables well placed alongside the street and where a hard-working cleaner uncle will clear plates and leftovers as soon as diners leave.

Truly a must-visit attraction in Malacca especially if you are a food lover. Don’t say I didn’t say…

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s authorisation.

Roadhouse @ Dempsey

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[Credit: Musings on the M49]

A shutterbug friend and I had fun taking a couple of photos at the magnificent red-bricked St George’s Church at Minden Road last weekend and thereafter proceeded to Dempsey for dinner. There were a couple of eateries that we haven’t yet try and we ulitmately settled for the American diner-styled Roadhouse, known for its burgers and milkshakes.

The place has a cosy ambience, bright and cheery. The attentive manager gave us a quick menu run-through, explaining the difference between a classic beef patty (meatier) and a Wagyu beef patty (juicier), and pointing out the non-beef options (Hogzilla with pulled pork/$22 and Hey Chook-Looking with chicken patty/$13). The rest of the menu comprises salads, sides, desserts, drinks and a kids menu.
2017-08-12 18.37.16 (640x640)As we were dead thirsty after our photo shoot and the walk up the hill from the church up to Dempsey, both of us opted for the Root Beer Float ($8) and the free water Roadhouse provide. We realised too late that we can’t leave the float to rest – the drink was decent for the first few gulps but became rather bland once the soft serve ice-cream melted. To be fair, milkshakes are probably more their specialty but then again, we seriously can’t wait for A&W to make its return to Singapore next year!
2017-08-12 18.49.49 (640x640)For sides – which can also be starters – the fries are the top choices especially the Texas Beef Chilli Cheese Fries ($14). But as there will be fries with our burger orders, we decided to go for The Corn Identity ($7) which was a great choice as the Hokkaido corn on the cob grilled with (our choice of) butter was absolutely lovely – yummilicious and well presented.
2017-08-12 18.54.13 (631x640)For my burger choice, I had the Kiss My Swiss Mushroom with classic beef patty ($15) that also comes with bacon, Monterey Jack cheese and a special Roadhouse sauce. The patty was tender and juicy so there was no regret not ordering a Wagyu patty ($23) instead. The burger was huge though so it was tough holding it to eat and I had to resort to using a fork and knife. The straight cut fries it came with were nice and crispy with a nice dose of truffle oil.

My friend wanted a non-beef option and so she ordered the Fishy Business ($16) with breaded snapper fillet topped with cheddar, lettuce and tartar sauce. Other than the fact that she found the patty rather dry, she had no major complaints.
2017-08-12 18.47.59 (640x640)Overall, Roadhouse is a decent place for a meal if you are craving for a good burger (you can also customise your own). Another cool bit is that if you need the rest room, you can use the one at The Green Door, a quaint garden bar located opposite and which uses a bicycle as a base for their toilet sinks (pictured above). Definitely would look for opportunities to visit both F&B outlets again.

Roadhouse is at 13 Dempsey Road. Opens daily, 11am to 10pm (weekdays)/10am-10pm (weekends & PH).

Chef Andre Chiang shares His Favorite Flavours of Taipei

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Fun Taipei Salon with Chef Andre Chiang (third from right)

Ask everyone who’s been to Taiwan what’s the top attraction there and most will say it’s the food. That’s why for this year’s NATAS Travel Fair, which runs till Aug 13, the Taipei City Government has launched a special tour package with the Singapore foodie in mind. And helping them to promote Taipei’s distinct flavours was native son Chef Andre Chiang who shared his favourite Taipei culinary delights at the Fun Taipei Salon event held yesterday at the InterContinental.

Prior to owning the Michelin 2-star Restaurant Andre in Singapore and Restaurant RAW in Taipei – both of which are ranked in The 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – Chef Chiang was head chef of the 3-starred Michelin restaurant, Le Jardin de Sens- Montpellier, in France.

“My memories of food growing up in Taipei is that the many different flavours the city offers are not tied to just the ingredients or the condiments used in the dish,” says Chiang in a statement. “Rather, these flavours are almost always a collage of physical ingredients and the feelings that come from soaking in the beautiful nature around us, the festivals we celebrate and the constant desire to explore Taiwan to fuel our need for new cultural experiences and memories.”

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Chef Andre Chiang with Taipei City Government’s Information & Tourism Commissioner, Ms Chien Yu-Yen

Here are Chef Andre Chiang’s 5 Most Memorable Taipei Flavours:

1. Shilin Night Market
Located in the Shilin District, Chiang has fond memories of this market which is regarded as the largest and most famous night market in Taipei. After school, he would alight one bus stop before home and walk through the market stalls, trying out various snacks and delicacies.

2. Danshui Old Street
When young, Chiang also lived in the Danshui district for six years. Danshui Old Street is renowned for its many shops and street stalls that sell a variety of snacks – from Iron Eggs to Fish Crackers. What he loves most, though, are the different types of handmade drinks, ranging from freshly made fruit juices to sweet honey and ginger tea.

3. Beef Noodle Soup
Tender braised beef with egg noodles served in a flavourful broth – you can’t mention Taiwanese food without mentioning beef noodle soup. Each time the chef returns to Taipei, this dish is a must-eat for him. And though there are many stalls all over Taipei, Chiang’s favourite stall is Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodle in Zhongshan District.

4. Taiwanese Hot Pot
Another traditional foodfare that Chiang enjoys is hot pot or steamboat where various meats, seafood, vegetables are cooked in a rich broth. And just like beef noodle stalls, there are many hot pot restaurants one can find in Taiwan’s capital city.

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Chef Chiang’s version of the Pineapple Tart at RAW

5. Authentic Snacks Re-styled at RAW
For his fifth pick, Chef Chiang couldn’t resist giving a shout-out to his restaurant RAW where he create dishes by blending Taiwanese ingredients with modern international influences, and where reservations are usually booked up to 3 months ahead. Whenever he could, Chiang would take an authentic Taiwanese delicacy and churn out a new “look” for it using new ingredients and techniques. One example is the traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake. Unlike our local Chinese New Year types which look like tarts, the Taiwanese ones are more blocky, with a crumbly crust and pineapple bits either in a jam form or fruit slices. The RAW version (pictured above) is like a cube with a soft and buttery crust and layers of juicy pineapple slices within. Certainly unlike the pineapple tarts I’m used to but nonetheless an unique variation of it.

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Various Gifts-To-Go ideas from Fun Taipei

Taipei’s 5 Distinct Flavours
Back to the foodie package offered by the Taipei City Government. The 3D2N free-and-easy package which costs from $545 per person (tax included) offers foodies to go on a hunt to discover Taipei’s “Five Distinct Flavours” which comprise:

1. Classic Taiwan Tastes: The likes of xiao long bao, beef noodles, bubble tea, mango ice, and so forth.

2. Everyday Aromas: Taiwanese stir-fry that usually features seafood, Chinese herbs and local fruits as ingredients. Popular dishes include chicken steak, egg omelette and soy-based pork.

3. Hotpot Hotspots: From mala (“numbingly spicy”) twin-sided hot pot to Taiwanese-styled shabu shabu, having a hot pot in Taipei is a must.

4. Refreshing Sweet Treats: Handmade drinks from classic bubble tea to shaved-ice treats with seasonal fruits can be found everywhere in the city.

5. Gifts To-Go: From pineapple cakes to nougat candies, Taipei has a wide selection of tasty tid-bits for visitors to present as gifts to family, friends and co-workers.

Fun Taipei’s 3D2N free-and-easy package “foodie” package will be available from the Taipei booth at the NATAS Travel Fair at Suntec City till August 13. There will be extra perks for the first 100 sign-ups each day. For more information on Fun Taipei, visit http://www.travel.taipei.

All Photos by Marguerita Tan.

 

WOK°15 Kitchen @ ONE°15 Marina

2017-07-12 14.28.01 (640x617)I can’t afford an apartment at Sentosa Cove (yet), so it’s always nice to attend events there as it gives you a chance to check out the eateries or the luxurious yachts berthed in the marina. Hence I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” when Musings on the M49 was invited by SUTL Consumer Goods – which owns and manages ONE°15 Marina Club, among other brands – for a food-and-wine tasting luncheon at WOK°15 Kitchen.

Just over a year old, WOK°15 serves exquisite Cantonese cuisine and is helmed by Executive Chef Chum Kar Ho from Hong Kong who has two decades of experience working with the likes of Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure.

The a la carte menu features the usual suspects of appetisers, soups, dim sum, live seafood, stir-fry dishes and grilled items. For the tasting, we were presented with a selection of WOK°15 signature dishes.
2017-07-12 14.28.08 (640x565)First up was a trio of appetizers. The Deep Fried Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk (pictured at top of page) was light, crispy and tasty – a good way to kick off the tasting. The Chilled Cucumber with Garlic (above), which was very well presented, wasn’t half bad but it is not exactly a vegetable you can enjoy a few helpings at one go, unlike kangkong or kai lan if you get my drift.
2017-07-12 14.28.20 (640x546)The Sauteed Pork Belly with Special Sauce though was a different story. The semi-thick slices of pork were yummy with lovely crispy skin and enhanced much by the dark soy sauce which had a dash of chilli padi in it. Taste even better with sliced red chilli, it was a dish I  wouldn’t mind ordering a plate of white rice to go with it!
L1160959 (640x457)Next came the “big plates”. Something that is relatively new on the menu is the Deep Fried Marble Goby – or Soon Hock in Hokkien – with Deluxe Soya Sauce. The dish was a delight – the fish is fresh with much meat, the crispy skin was crunchy and the soy-based gravy flavourful. It is tagged at a special price of $48++ till July 31, 2017.
L1160961 (640x470)I’m a carnivore but the next dish, the Sauteed Beef Cubes with Garlic Flakes, didn’t quite shake my tail feather even though the best of Australian Mignon was used. The beef was soft and tender but not exactly sensational either, even with the giant garlic flakes, broad bean pods and onions. Maybe I was just holding out for the next dish…

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… which was this fiery red Singapore Chilli Crab with Fried Mantou, which tasted as good as it looked. Served in a huge wok, Indonesian crabs are used instead of Sri Lanka crabs. Even though they may be smaller in size, they were no less tasty as the crab meat was fresh and delicious.
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Joy too was dipping the photogenic – they usually are – fried golden mantou into the thick gravy, which though was a tad on the sweet side, was still thoroughly enjoyable. If we didn’t have to rush for the wine tasting on board a yacht, I would have unashamedly asked for more mantou because it was that good!

Speaking of wines, we were also at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove for the launch of Jules Taylor Wines in Singapore. At the luncheon, we had the chance to try some of their fine wines – a Chardonnay from the Jules Taylor brand, and a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from their The Better Half line. Will tell you more of these exquisite wines by a New Zealand husband and wife team – she’s the “Jules Taylor”, he’s “The Better Half” – in my next blog post. 🙂

In the meantime, if you are looking to have some good Hong Kong-styled Cantonese fare, do give WOK°15 a try. Its 120-seat dining hall is spacious and has a good view of the marina. There are also two private dining rooms that can accommodate up to 12 guests each. You can ask the restaurant to suggest a personalised food and wine pairing set course for private events.

WOK°15 Kitchen is at Level 1, ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove, 11 Cove Drive. Opens from Tue-Sun & Public Holiday: 11.30am-2.30pm/6pm-10pm. Closed on Mondays. Tel: 6305-6998 or email: wok15@one15marina.com