Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eating My Way Through Europe (and Singapore) Part 1

11 countries in 6 weeks...impossible? Of course not! A bit rushed though but the experience was still there. If SBS Food Safari has taught us anything, it is that food in Europe is diverse not only between each country but even within certain regions of the country itself. For example, Italy and Spain have their own unique food cuisine based in the North, South and the coastal regions. For six weeks, I have travelled across Western Europe, Great Britain and Singapore with my friend AC and 49 other travellers who are hungry for adventure. As I was travelling with Contiki for most of it, there was sightseeing, eating and lots of drinking and partying! Some of the food we had was incredibly amazing and there were others that were pretty average and somewhat repetitive. Did I mention there was a lot of drinking?

Singapore, Singapore

If you happen to end up in Singapore for a few days instead of just passing through transit, you have to check out their hawker centres! There are so many to pick from though we were recommended by the locals to steer clear of the pricey ones primarily aimed at tourists. The amazing thing about Singaporean cuisine is how diverse it really is with food inspired from Malaysia, China, India and Thailand to name a few.

Satay sticks

Singaporean Noodles

Carrot cake (Chai Tao Kway) - a must try dish!

It was hard to pick which ones we wanted to try but eventually we settled on Chinatown Food Centre. Here we have tried a carrot cake, several satay sticks and Singaporean noodles. The food centres use a hygienic rating system for their hawkers which is a very good idea if you are one of those people who intend to avoid food made from unsanitary conditions. Considering how clean Singapore really is, it is no surprise that most of the stalls are rated A or B. I was surprised at the lack of carrots in the carrot cake but AC said that the radish cakes used in this dish can be also be known as a 'carrot'.

Fish ball noodles

We also checked out a food court inside one of the biggest shopping centres on Orchard Road, which serves a decent amount of Singaporean food. Unfortunately we were there very early when most of the shops were setting up or starting to cook so we stuck with whichever was available at the time. Eventually we tried the fish ball noodles and the steamed dumplings which were both satisfying but we had to catch a very very long flight to London very soon after this.
Sadly I did not get the chance to try the Singaporean Chilli Crab or the Haianese Chicken Rice. Hopefully there's always next time. colour!

London, Great Britain

Here, they not only had the typical British pub food with Fish and Chips. There was a significant number of European (particularly Italian) restaurants around the city. I did try the fish and chips at the local pub (called 'The London Pub') inside the Royal National Hotel where most of my tour mates were staying and where we began and finished our tour. Unfortunately the first time, I left my camera at the other hotel I was staying and the second time I was there, my camera battery no fish and chip pictures :(. From what I can tell you, the meal was very dense and most of us struggled to finish our own plate.

Since I forgot to take my camera for the British pub food, here's a picture of something much much MUCH better...

I also tried several of the big name restaurants including an Italian cafe called Carluccio's. Both places deliver a very extensive menu which made this diner very indecisive for a while. The pastas were absolutely delicious! It was unusual stuff to see something like pasta crisps on the menu which is basically chips made from fresh pasta - very delicious too. Carluccio's cafe also has a section which serves sandwiches, paninis, deli products and various Italian food products reminiscent of Cafe Sopra and Fratelli Fresh. This is one of those restaurants that I wish Sydney has. If Jamie's Italian can get the hype, surely this will be worth a nod at least since Antonio Carluccio made a few appearances on Masterchef? A foodie can dream.

Pasta crisps

Fettucce con Polpette

Spaghetti alle vongole in Bianco - recommended!

Tiramisu at Carluccio's

Paris, France

The one thing related to food that I can remember is that Paris literally has a cafe in every single street corner in Paris - possibly every second store is a cafe or restaurant. I am not joking here. So this made the decision of where to go for lunch on our free day a lot tougher.

The tour stopped at Le Solferino the other side of the Seine River so we can try snails. Yup snails! Surprisingly it tasted rather nice especially with the sizzling garlic. I actually enjoyed it quite a lot that I had it again for dinner the next night at another restaurant.
We were also given a cheese platter which gives you a chance to sample some of their finest French cheeses including Brie and Blue cheese.

Cheese platter (this includes Blue cheese, Brie and Camembert.
Cannot remember the last one)

Ended up at Le Sarah Bernhardt for lunch where I had the steak en frites (steak and fries) and vanilla creme brulee. The steak was reasonably tender but the chips were not too crispy. The creme brulee servings was a lot bigger than I expected so it was tougher to finish it. While the food was pretty decent, the service was terrible and rude.
Steak en frites

Creme brulee

Surprisingly I did not see as many macarons as I thought I would. But the ones I did see were very interesting. The macarons us Aussies are familiar with are considered as 'mini macarons' whereas the macarons in most French cafes are twice as big! As big as your hand!

Epic Macaron!

On the second night in Paris, we went to a restaurant called the 'La Bonne Franquette', which has an artistic vibe as it used to be the hangout of artists such as Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Monet and the likes. Since the majority of diners there were from several Contiki tours, it looks like it aims for the tourist groups especially those who were checking out the Sacre Coeur nearby. We all made our choices based on a set menu which has classics such as beef bouguiginon. The service was better here but the staff got a bit too flirty with a couple of girls on the tour which made the rest of the group a bit uncomfortable.

Complimentary bread

More snails!

Enjoyed the snails the day before so I decided to get them again as an entree. Judging from my tour mates' reactions, it is one of those dishes that you like or dislike. Very enjoyable to eat with garlic.

Duck a l'Orange

The duck was very juicy and tender but we were all very puzzled with yellow block that came with the meal. I assumed that it was polenta but the taste was pretty unusual.

Chocolate cakewith vanilla flavoured custard

Nice, France

We also trekked down to the French Riviera where the food served around here is a combination of both French and Italian cuisine. At the time I had no idea so I searched for over an hour trying to find a French restaurant for my last taste of authentic French cuisine before going crazy in Italy. Eventually I did stumble at a cafe along the Promenade but then went to a landmark in Nice which stated that it used to be an Italian city before France took over the region in the mid 19th Century - hence the abundance of Italian food. Which explains why the steak tartare I had was not the best one I've tasted. The olives still had the seeds inside which did not make a pleasant experience.

Steak tartare

The Old Town in Nice has a lot of nice surprises once you manage to navigate your way around. Aside from the numerous Italian restaurants, there were French patisseries and, surprisingly, a frozen yogurt store! Did not get a chance to taste this though.

Move over Moochi and Noggi!

At our campsite we were given a tasting of frog legs. Many of us on tour pretty much shuddered at the thought of eating that (and snails) but then it does not hurt to try right? It wasn't that bad either. Several of us thought it tasted like fish while a few others thought it tasted like chicken. The meat tasted very fishy to me but somehow I ended up getting seconds!

Frog legs!

There is so much more that I wanna say but you can't fit everything into one post. But Europe is a place you must see at some point in your life. Because I don't know when is the next time I will be back there, I had to take so many photos just to cherish the memories. Don't mind me...
Next stop Italy!

Much much much more momentarily with Part 2 and Part 3 coming soon!


  1. Dear Annie,

    That is truly awesome that you did so many countries in such a short time although I might be inclined to stay a little longer in each.

    Singapore has some great food and I reckon the best satay is at Lau Pa Sat markets. I love the escargots in herb and garlic butter sauce, so much awesomeness to mop up with some fresh bread too.

    Here's a post of some of my escape in Singapore last year.

    1. Thanks for that. I have been itching to go back to Singapore for a while now as I didn't get to try many of the hawker centres there (not even Maxwell Road! *sadface*). I'll keep Lau Pa Sat in mind as well. the food looked really good when i was researching some places to try in Singapore before the trip