Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Posts Tagged ‘Raffles Writers Bar’

Singapore History & Art Museums, Wed 22.9.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 24, 2010

Our body clocks were still on Melbourne time so we started off our day in Singapore at five in the morning but loafed around in luxury and had a late breakfast. Even so, it was still comparatively cool (for Singapore) when we set out for our visit to the National Museum of History. It’s housed in the lovely building you can see at right, but has been recently renovated. We enjoyed ourselves, but in my opinion they have overdone the hi-tech at the expense of providing the visitor with any useful information. 

The visit begins with a long and utterly pointless tramp down a long pathway to the bowels of the building. It probably symbolises going back into the past, but for small children, the elderly or inform, it doesn’t offer anything except a long walk. There’s nothing to look at en route, and the welcome on the obligatory audio gadget was just annoying. 

Even more annoying is that when you get to the galleries there are no print explanations about the exhibits, only the audio which is slow and not particularly informative. For each gallery there is a dumbed down introduction, and then for each numbered item in a cabinet there’s more information if you program in the item number – but it’s a slow and tedious way to find out anything. Unless you’re prepared to stand there and load up each segment for each item you miss a lot, and there aren’t any serendipitous discoveries, which is one of the things I really like about museums. We came out not knowing much more about Singapore’s history than we did at the beginning (That is that it began as a trading centre, then became a British colony, followed by Japanese occupation, squabbles with Malaysia and Independence.) We much preferred the Asian Civilizations Museum which we visited last time. 

However, quite by accident, we then stumbled into one of Singapore’s best Chinese restaurants. We’d worn ourselves out by the time we’d walked to and around the museum and it was time for a late lunch – but the most prominent of the museum’s restaurants offered disappointingly European fare. Tucked away behind the obvious places is Chef Chan’s Restaurant, and it was here that we had the best Chinese food we’ve ever had. (And that includes a meal at the Flower Drum in Melbourne.) 

We couldn’t resist menu D, which offered the steamed sliced frog with red date and black fungus and ginger onion. It was a fascinating dish (though tricky to eat with chopsticks)   

Prawns with green beans

 

Frogs and fungus

 

 but it was the sauteed beef with snow peas, celery and black pepper sauce which really impressed. Perfectly cooked, and perfectly balanced in terms of texture and taste. A truly memorable meal. 

 

Our next stop was the Singapore Art Museum, housed in what used to be a massive boys’ school run by the De La Salle Brothers. It’s a young gallery so the focus is on contemporary artists and were most impressed by the exhibit of Cheong Soo Pieng’s works. He’s an extraordinarily versatile artist and his work is influenced by his travels throughout SE Asia. 

Back at Raffles to collect our bags we had a cocktail at the famed Writers’ Bar to while away the hours before our flight. The bar is a salute to writers who have stayed at or written about the hotel, my favourites being Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham George Bernard Shaw. It was in honour of these writers that on my first visit in 2005 I had bought a little souvenir key chain, and – having mislaid it, I was disappointed to find that I could not buy a replacement because they were no longer making them. 

When we were checking out and were asked if everything was satisfactory (how could it not be?!) I mentioned this disappointment as a joke. No problem, said the manager, and vanished off to the shop despite my protestations. He was back before long and produced one of these lovely key chains as a complimentary gift. It was the second-last one they had and it’s a collector’s item because they’re re-designing them. I’m going to take very good care of this one! 

It was all downhill from there. Changi airport has all manner or luxury goods for sale but the food hall for dinner between check-in and departure is very ordinary and we ended up picking at some rather dull sushi in a far corner of the airport. It was a very long day before we finally boarded our 11.05 flight to London…

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Posted in Dining out, LitLovers pilgrimage, Singapore 2010 | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Singapore Sep 21-22

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 11, 2010

Our body clocks were still on Melbourne time so we started off our day in Singapore at five in the morning but loafed around in luxury and had a late breakfast.  Even so, it was still comparatively cool (for Singapore) when we set out for our visit to the National Museum of History.  It’s housed in the lovely building you can see at right, but has been recently renovated.  We enjoyed ourselves, but in my opinion they have overdone the hi-tech at the expense of providing the visitor with any useful information. 

The visit begins with a long and utterly pointless tramp down a long pathway to the bowels of the building.  It probably symbolises going back into the past, but for small children, the elderly or inform, it doesn’t offer anything except a long walk.  There’s nothing to look at en route, and the welcome on the obligatory audio gadget was just annoying.  Even more annoying is that when you get to the galleries there are no print explanations about the exhibits, only the audio which is slow and not particularly informative.  For each gallery there is a dumbed down introduction, and then for each numbered item in a cabinet there’s more information if you program in the item number – but it’s a slow and tedious way to find out anything.  Unless you’re prepared to stand there and load up each segment for each item you miss a lot, and there aren’t any serendipitous discoveries, which is one of the things I really like about museums.   We came out not knowing much more about Singapore’s history than we did at the beginning (That is that it began as a trading centre, then became a British colony, followed by Japanese occupation, squabbles with Malaysia and Independence.)  We much preferred the Asian Civilizations Museum which we visited last time.

 However, quite by accident, we then stumbled into one of Singapore’s best Chinese restaurants. We’d worn ourselves out by the time we’d walked to and around the museum and it was time for a late lunch – but the most prominent of the museum’s restaurants offered disappointingly European fare. Tucked away behind the obvious places is Chef Chan’s Restaurant, and it was here that we had the best Chinese food we’ve ever had. (And that includes a meal at the Flower Drum in Melbourne.)

 We couldn’t resist menu D, which offered the steamed sliced frog with red date and black fungus and ginger onion. It was a fascinating dish (though tricky to eat with chopsticks) but it was the sauteed beef with snow peas, celery and black pepper sauce which really impressed. Perfectly cooked, and perfectly balanced in terms of texture and taste.  A truly memorable meal.

Our next stop was the Singapore Art Museum, housed in what used to be a massive boys’ school run by the De La Salle Brothers.  It’s a young gallery so the focus is on contemporary artists and were most impressed by the exhibit of Cheong Soo Pieng’s works.  He’s an extraordinarily versatile artist and his work is influenced by his travels throughout SE Asia.

Back at Raffles to collect our bags we had a cocktail at the famed Writers’ Bar to while away the hours before our flight.  The bar is a salute to writers who have stayed at or written about the hotel, my favourites being Joseph Conrad,  Somerset Maugham George Bernard Shaw.  It was in honour of these writers that on my first visit in 2005 I had bought a little souvenir key chain, and – having mislaid it, I was disappointed to find that I could not buy a replacement because they were no longer making them.  

When we were checking out and were asked  if everything was satisfactory (how could it not be?!) I mentioned this disappointment as a joke.  No problem, said the manager, and vanished off to the shop despite my protestations.  He was back before long and produced one of these lovely key chains as a complimentary gift.  It was the second-last one they had and it’s a collector’s item because they’re re-designing them.   I’m going to take very good care of this one!

It was all downhill from there.  Changi airport has all manner or luxury goods for sale but the food hall for dinner between check-in and departure is very ordinary and we ended up picking at some rather dull sushi in a far corner of the airport.  It was a very long day before we finally boarded our 11.05 flight to London…

Posted in Singapore 2010 | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Singapore: High Tea at Raffles 27.9.2005

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 19, 2005


Here we are in the most famous hotel in Singapore, in the Tiffin Room. That’s a Singapore Sling, the real thing this time, in a glass with the Raffles logo on it. This is the recipe: 30ml gin; 15 ml cherry brandy; 120 ml pineapple jiuce; 7.5ml Cointreau; 7.5ml Dom Benedictine; 10ml Grenadine; dash of Angosture Bitters, garnished with a cherry and slice of pineapple.
We took High Tea International, a smorgasbord of finger food from Malaysia, India, China and good old Britain. Not exactly as it would have been in Somerset Maugham’s day, but close enough – as I discovered when I foolishly chose a sandwich which turned out to be made with Peck’s Paste.
Like much else in Singapore, Raffles is all white lattice and palm trees. The waiters wear crisp white linen suits, the napery is white, and the service is superb. And after enjoying a scrumptious tea, there’s the Raffles Museum to explore, full of fantastic memorabilia. Wonderful old postcards and photos from the 1930s in its heyday in society. Naturally there is a souvenir shop, where I bought some Raffles coasters to use in The Left Wing and a copy of the Raffles Cookbook for my beloved Tim so that he can recreate these splendid meals at home.

There is also the Writers’ Bar, named for Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad amongst others. I wonder if I could get an Australia Council grant to write The Great Australian Novel there??

Posted in Dining out, LitLovers pilgrimage, Singapore 2005 | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »