Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Mixed Feeling - Gaddi's

Whether it's because of its location, its gorgeously-designed dining space with Victorian windows, high ceiling, crystal chandeliers and candlestands or its classily-dressed wait-staff, in our mind, dining at Gaddi's is never a light-hearted affair. Even without the dress code (there is one actually), you would have felt obliged to dress up a notch so as to not feel too out of place with the classic, colonial decor - of course, whether you like it or not that way is a personal preference.

My bro and sis-in-law came back to Hong Kong recently for a week-long break to attend a wedding, so we met up for lunch here as this was the only time slot we were both available. The maitre d' seated us in the middle of the dining room after everyone arrived. Well, a few tables were occupied here and there, but it's so quiet that I can almost hear the pin drops. To be honest I am not a big fan of such "tranquility", felt more like sitting in a deserted place that made me feel a bit uncomfortable - again, a matter of personal preference.

Compared to its dinner menu, the menu du dejeuner obviously offers better value for money - a 3-course lunch with options to choose from for appetizer, main, and dessert (or cheese if you so choose). It came with a glass of wine too, though there's nothing particular to write home about for a rustic, typical Macon Village that I had (or the Australian shiraz as the other option).

The food this afternoon wasn't bad, per se, just that it's certainly not as inspiring as previous times when we tried the chef's table dinner menu - which I didn't blame him cuz that would have been four times as expensive. I love the presentation of all the courses, both in terms of plating and how the food's brought to the table - so elegantly done that it's certainly a class of its own. Well, this is once called the best French restaurant in the Far East for a reason, I suppose.

My main course - Bresse chicken confit with lentils - is a classic winter dish cooked beautifully and I have to tip my hat off to Chef Goodridge for that.  It's served with a foam of foie gras which did bring a balanced flavor and a new facet of texture to the plate, figuratively speaking. I also adored my dessert of prune and pecan clafoutis - another iconic French dish - this time served with a quenelle of armagnac icecream.

Unfortunately service is one of the areas that we found especially dissappointing this afternoon. So often when we turned around looking for our waiter we found none within our proximity, not to mention the mere fact that we actually had to ask - several times - for simple things such as having our bread plates and water glasses filled. We almost have to resort to the rather rude two-hand wave in order to get some attention from someone - at one point I even considered calling the maitre d' on the phone for rescue. From our past experience that's very not typical of this hotel I must say, especially from this very dining outlet. Perhaps that made it even more of a let-down.

We can certainly live with a little less uptightness, a more "lively" dining room and definitely more attentive service, yet we wouldn't complain too much after sitting down for a decent meal like this - we became even more appreciative to that once we saw the long waiting line for the "famous" afternoon tea downstairs as we made our way back to the hotel lobby. But next time, we will probably save up to enjoy a sumptuous dinner here rather than coming for the presumably better-valued lunch.

when? November 13 2010
where? Gaddi's, The Peninsula, TST, Hong Kong
menu highlights?  Bresse chicken confit with Puy lentils and goose liver

Monday, December 27, 2010

Repeat Business - Bombana Part 2

It's extremely rare that we lavished ourselves in upscale dining in quick succession, but a couple nights after Amber we were sitting in Bombana's dining room at Otto e Mezzo yet again, this time with my college buddies. With the white truffle season on-going and the newly acclaimed 2-michelin stars to show forth, it's not easy to score a reservation at this restaurant but we were glad that a last-minute cancellation by someone else cleared us off the waitlist for a table.

The restaurant's already full of ppl when we arrived - most of whom looked like they are coming for some corporate functions, then a few couples and us - party of six. I suppose that's typical of a Monday evening. Mr Bombana's mingling around the dining room as usual, chatting with guests and preparing the still-in-season white truffle dishes by the table - he ought to be more than pleased looking at the buzzing dining room on what is usually the slowest night of the week for restaurant business.

Glancing through the familiar menu and wine list - we came here for dinner a few weeks ago - I decided to bypass the degustation menu this time and opted for something simpler. I started with tagliatelle with lobster and cherry tomatoes and move on to the main course of osso bucco with saffron risotto. I had a similar dish a month ago - only last time it was angelhair instead of tagliatelle, and by choosing to repeat that probably tells my fondness towards this pasta dish. In my opinion, no one does Italian meat dishes better than Bombana, and this classic dish of osso bucco is without a doubt the best in town. It's meaty and juicy and goes so well with the creamy, flavorful and perfectly-cooked risotto. Our friends mr and mrs y ordered the grilled rib-eye. The menu said it's good for 2 but in my opinion it can easily serve 3 or 4 average person - hence we were able to steal a bite from them, and it is amazing.

I also loved the Super Tuscan that we picked - a non-traditional Merlot-Syrah-Sangiovese blend gave this wine a berry-forward palate with good smooth tannin not very typical of its young age. Easy-drinking and goes well with the meat dishes we had. We didn't find anything interesting from the dessert menu, so instead we went back to our place for a dose of homemade ice-cream - a scope each of darjeeling and espresso flavors - my interpretation of "yin-yang" as a perfect nightcap to bring this Monday evening to a conclusion.

Well, of course white truffle is the ingredient of choice when it came to the right time at this restaurant, but surely for the rest of the year, as we found out this evening, there are still plenty of reasons to come here more regularly, whether for an elaborate celebration, or just a run for a simple, comforting Italian meal. Either way, Bombana is certainly our choice.

when? December 6 2010
where? 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Alexandra House, Central
occasion? Gathering with Friends
menu highlights? Osso Bucco with saffron risotto
drinks? 2008 Gaja Ca'marcanda Promis

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry "Yummy" Christmas

Well most people made their christmas cards with the pictures of themselves, their spouses, their babies, their kids, their dogs, cats, squirrels, rabbits, goldfish, plants or whatever. We decided to share with you some of the wonderful food we have enjoyed over the past year.

Have a great holiday season, my friend, and all the best (food) in the year 2011! Just remember: a man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work! (a quote from here) Amen.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Remarkable Night at Amber

I just realized I am in a dry spell lately as far as blogging is concerned... not that there aren't any remarkable things happening recently worth reflecting on or sharing, especially as far as eating's concerned, so I decided to bring them all on in one go...

Going back and forth several times and a few tweets to Chef Ekkebus later, we landed back at Amber on our 6th wedding anniversary on this Saturday night in December, and we love it!

With the memory of leaving the restaurant as two very satisfied customers on Valentine's Day still living vividly in mind, it seems to be an obvious choice for us to return for another celebration. After arriving promptly at 7:30pm (okay that's not true - we were late), we were seated near the entrance of the elegant yet lively dining room - and in my opinion the more quiet and comfortable section away from the crowd and the kitchen. I love the setting of this place actually - chic decor, well-designed space with tables organized sparse enough that you don't feel intruded yet close enough that you can take a peek at what other people are eating and don't feel you are sitting in a room by yourselves.

The menu left us with a very simple decision - everything in the degustation menu sounds enticing so we spent no time settling on it without even bothered to look at the a la carte options. We are very eager to see what the best the chef has to offer us through the creation of his signature dishes on the menu. Ian our sommelier was very helpful in making our wine selection a straight-forward exercise too. Being my favorite wine region along with Ian's affirmation, picking a Chablis is a no-brainer and glad it worked well with most courses on the menu.

We started with the familiar amuse bouche of foie gras lollipop and iberian pork croquette. We loved the lollipop when we first had it in February, and we still do this time, even though the amusement bit has faltered somewhat with the second try, naturally.

Chef Ekkebus' signature appetizer dish - hokkaido sea urchin served in a lobster jell-o with cauliflower mousse, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles - is easily the one dish that made a lasting impression on us tonight and rightfully so - the presentation is impeccable - it's served in a shell of sea urchin with fine layers of delectable colors inside; the combination of classic regional flavors - uni from Hokkaido - and modern techniques is simply flawless, and the delicate taste and texture are divine - we felt like we are tasting the essence from the sea as the sea urchin roe and lobster jelly along with the caviar's "swimming" in our mouths. CYY mentioned the dish reminded her of the equally adorable "oyster and pearl" that we had in a small yet significant culinary outpost in Yountville a couple years ago, which I totally agreed. I can't say this is fusion, but the chef certainly took full advantage of regional ingredients for this unique and spectacular dish. An absolutely genius creation, I must say.

We also love the melt-in-your-mouth and intense-flavored waghu beef with the main serving oven-roasted and served in its own jus, and in comparison, the second serving - short ribs braised with passion fruit-glazed root vegetables - is just okay (to me, I don't even mind doing it without the second serving altogether) It's so soft and tender that I don't even need to force my knife through. Once again, he made use of regional ingredients - in this case the exquisite Kagoshima beef - and cooked to perfection. I like the light yet flavorful texture of langoustine and foie gras dish, but the scallop's a tad bit overcooked to my liking, which left a slightly rubbery taste on the surface as a result. Nonetheless I think the combination of toasted brioche mousseline and kabocha squash that was served with the scallops an interesting one.

Other courses in the menu included salmon that's cooked to pinpoint accuracy, presented in a somewhat playfully manner with a crust of squid ink-dyed bread crumbs (pretending to be a roast beef tenderloin) and worked in harmony with avocado puree and apple "rolls" on the side, as well as a more-than-decent selection of cheeses wheeled in on a cart after our beef main course.

After a surprising treat of champagne - courtesy of the very man behind the kitchen - we moved onto something sweet. The first dessert of vacherin "coque" with blood orange yoghurt inside was refreshing and did its job of cleansing our palate (and I also like its neat and clean presentation), and by contrast, the chocolate souffle and cocoa sorbet which followed is a rich and comforting winter dessert that is equally enjoyable.

It is a memorable evening to us no matter what but a fine meal like this certainly added a nice touch to it. How appropriate to celebrate our time together with something that we enjoyed doing together most - going on a culinary adventure that is. Will we go back soon? You bet. I am already looking forward to its spring menu coming out in mid-January.


when? December 4 2010
where? Amber, at Landmark Mandarin Oriental
occasion? 6th wedding anniversary
menu highlights? Hokkaido Sea Urchin, in a lobster jell-o with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles
Chablis Premier Cru "Fourchaume" 2008, Bouchard Pere et Fils
Krug Grande Cuvee NV

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday at Sushi Shin

一個星期中, 周一可能是日本料理店生意最冷淡的一天. 不知有多少人是聽了Anthony Bourdain在Kitchen Confidential書裡面"千萬不要在周一在餐廳裡點海鮮"的忠告, 所以壽司店可能不會是大家這天外出吃飯的頭號選擇. 但對我們來說, 人少反而是個好處 - 甚麼人氣長龍食店, 無論多好吃, 要等要擠的, 也從來不是我們的cup of tea, 能舒服自在的嘗一頓飯, 甚麼天也沒有分別.

前個星期和朋友到大坑的一家"隱蔽小店"嘗了頓精彩的"住家菜", 行經這家相熟的壽司小店, 方發現原來已有好幾個月沒有光顧. As a matter of fact, 這幾個月甚至沒有"正正經經"的吃過一餐像樣的sushi. 於是在緊接的一星期裡來了這裡兩遍: 周末獨自walk-in嘗了一頓午餐之後, 順便訂了隔幾天兩個人晚飯的位置. 沒有特別原因, 就隨便揀在這天.

周一晚, 我們來到門前, 才七點半還不到 - 這是個relaxed的平日, 我們寧願稍為早一點開始, 好避開晚飯的黃金時段. 推門進去, 看到是店內少見的清靜, 只有寥寥數位客人在進膳, 還有後方廂房內的私人宴會; 比起前兩天午飯時間的"盛況", 猶如"地獄"與"天堂"之別, 當然, 如果明白supply與demand的原理, 原因也不難想像. 坐進了壽司吧靠寬敞的角落, 師傅已遞上沾了芝麻粒的淮山作前菜 - 簡單利落的amuse bouche. 平時主理壽司的是阿偉和阿傑兩位師傅, 不過這天偉師傅休假了 - 其實反正人不多,  有傑師傅在壓場已綽綽有餘. 侍者遞上酒單, 這裡的清酒選擇並不多, 亦不算出眾, 心裡嘀咕早知自己帶一支來算了, 最後揀了初孫的純米大吟醸. Decent, 只是有點predictable.

坐在壽司吧, 當然連menu也懶得看. 師傅先逐一遞上數款白身魚: 左口魚, 池魚, 針魚及油甘魚腩. 針魚是時令的海鮮, 固然是鮮味不凡, 油甘魚腩也不錯. 接著來了兩片toro - "大拖羅"用上chilled(冰鮮)的, 未經過急凍就空運直送到店; 和"普通"的急凍toro一先一後的品嚐, 頓時高下立見 - 這亦解釋了為甚麼在日本嚐的sashimi很多時都比在其他地方好. 燒帶子夾著紫菜, 只簡單灑了海鹽調味, 已經是一絕. 一輪sashimi以後, 換上了sushi. 海鰻搭配yuzu zest, 味道清新; 嘗了一口雲丹壽司之後, 你會明白為甚麼晚飯的價錢會比午餐高上好幾倍.

本來omakase我一向也很少向師傅亂點菜, 不過也忍不了口要了一件秋刀魚, 因為快要off season的了而我可不想要等下年秋季才有機會再嚐. 秋刀魚算是很"麻煩"的魚, 稍欠新鮮的話, 不用甚麼食家也很容易吃得出, 雖然季節已臨尾聲, 但這一件也很好, 還很肥美.

傑師傅不快不慢, 邊聊天邊飲邊做, 不知不覺就一個晚上,  而且不單是我們, 所有人客看來都很愉快, 難怪不少人認定這裡是全城其中一家最好的. 後來來了一件鮪魚魚鮫壽司, 味道絕不下於剛嘗過的chilled o-toro, 再加上toro飯團和一碗暖呼呼的天婦羅烏冬, 一輪又一輪的美食剛好足夠把前幾天下雨天加上monday blues帶來的抑鬱一掃而空.

Not to order seafood on Monday? said who?

when? November 8 2010
where? Sushi Shin, G/F 110-114 Tung Lo Wan Road
menu highlights? Chilled Toro Sashimi
drinks? 初孫 純米大吟醸

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A time for everything - Otto e Mezzo

There's an obvious reason why October is always my favorite month of the year, and a lot not-so-obvious ones. It's about the only time of the year that one can truly appreciate the pleasantness of scrolling on the street in Hong Kong, feeling the gentle breeze and admiring the clear sky, and often the time when we have the fullest moon of the year. As we bid farewell to the gruesome hot and humid days, this is also the time when we see buckets after buckets of in-season delicacies start showing up in the supermarkets and grocery stores - oysters, hairy crabs, just to name a few.

Oh of course, it's also hard to overlook the fact that October is the white truffle season - from the numerous emails, newspaper articles, tweets from restaurants around town announcing the arrival of this so-called "diamond of the kitchen" from Alba. (a friend of mine received 8 of those in one day) This is not surprising since just the mere mentioning of the word truffles in any menu item almost gave you the automatic right to charge 50% more than normal.

With that in mind, when the time comes to decide where to go to celebrate an October birthday, it seems like a no-brainer that Umberto Bombana's Otto e Mezzo is the ideal choice, especially what we are talking about is MY birthday and Chef Bombana is known as the best in the trade as long as cooking truffle dishes are concerned. Perhaps the reason why we have waited for so long to try this restaurant is that we subconsciously think October is THE best time for him to leave a first impression.

We have little doubt about Mr Bombana's ability to deliver perfectly-executed fine meals consistently - after all our previous experiences with him at Toscana of the former Ritz-Carlton and The Drawing Room never disappoint. And we were delighted to see the grand maestro mingling with guests and supervising his staff as we walked inside the comfortable yet stylish dining room just as darkness begins to fall - dim but appropriately lighted space with minimalist table decorations, no flashy or unnecessary stuff that does nothing but shouted "snobs".

We were seated at a table by the window which gave us a good view of the entire restaurant. The place's located on the second floor so don't expect a jaw-dropping view but it nonetheless gave us a sense of tranquility, overlooking the quiet Chater Street in Central as the day's drawing to a close.

As we are surveying across the tables surrounding us, it's no surprise that almost every table opted for the treasured white truffle dishes this evening - a fanatic couple next to us almost refused to eat anything unless there were truffle flakes scattered on top of the dish and even went to the extreme of keep sniffing at every dishes like a ***, or drug addicts, if you might. I guess they were so self-indulged that they didn't realize the funny scene they were making of themselves by doing that. Not wanting to bore ourselves and our taste buds, we instead decided to supplement the tasting menu with just a couple white truffle dishes to share - to eat, not sniff, of course.

The dinner's absolutely gorgeous - quite possibly our best of the year so far, except a couple meals we had in South Africa. The scrambled "taiyouran" eggs and risotto - both served with white truffles in abundance and prepared by Mr Bombana by the table - were of course unforgettably divine, as we both sort of took for granted from this restaurant and from this man. With the dining room soon getting full as the evening progresses, the entire place's quickly filled with this enticing aroma of the "white diamond".

My main course of beef duo - tenderloin and short ribs served in red wine sauce - was predictable (like the one we had at The Drawing Room) yet still delicious no matter how many times we have tried before. I also liked the contrast of two vastly different cuts being prepared differently but served as one dish. But it came as a surprise to us that the common verdict of our favorite course belongs to the angelhair with cherry tomatoes and lobster - it's not at all eye-opening or creative but simply fresh and harmonious in flavors. Classic Italian dish at its best. Nothing in particular to write home about for other dishes such as foie gras with caramelized pears or the dessert of almond cake and chestnut icecream, but we nonetheless enjoyed them much.

Wine list is concise with good variety. Our Nebbiolo d'Alba showed floral yet earthy nose which matched well with the unique aroma of that of the truffles', was medium-bodied with predominantly black fruit flavor and wrapped in mellow and smooth tannin, a sign of graceful maturity. It's very approachable both in terms of its taste and price - especially when compared with its more famous neighbors.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven... I wonder if God's enjoying a dish with white truffles as He gave us the verse. I was sure reminded of this when I had mine. Despite the hefty dinner tab, I have a feeling that it won't be too long for us to return to this Michelin-star contender - hopefully before the end of this truffle season.

when? October 16 2010
where? 8½ Otto e Mezzo, Alexandra House, Central
menu highlights? Everything with white truffles
drinks? Luca Abrate "Ceisa" Nebbiolo d'Alba DOC 1999

Monday, September 27, 2010


This new restaurant serves the best sausage in town. Enough said.

Portabello - stuffed with mixed mushrooms (portabello, champignons, porcini), caramelized onions and sage. Served on signature BRAT bun, dijon mustard, and some extra caramelized onions as condiment. This is what I ordered - everything's great - except I can certainly live with more mustard and more condiments. The more the better.

This place's in Soho (and the lower part of Elgin). Here's their website: They called themselves "Purveyor of Awesome Sausages" and deservedly so. If you are sausage lovers like us, don't just come, RUN to this place before words got out. I bet soon enough it will be swamped with people.

when? September 25 2010
where? brat, 7 elgin street, hong kong
menu highlights? sausages! more than 10 to choose from.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Encore @Tim's Kitchen

Not too often did we find ourselves returning to the same restaurant in quick succession, but we did draw exception every now and then, and this Monday evening was one such occasion. It's my father's bday and when we suggested two decent Chinese restaurants to pick from for celebration, that's what he chose, so Tim's Kitchen that is. (the other one's The Chairman, just in case you wonder)

Since our last visit in June, Tim's Kitchen has undergone quite a number of changes actually, so in a way it's somewhat new to us - it's moved to a bigger and nicer venue a few blocks down the street with a more upscale decor, and the menu has greatly expanded (I also heard whispers saying that they inevitably raised the price for some items in the menu). Presumably with a larger kitchen and staff team, they are now able to serve dim sum daily for lunch, and have more choices of a la carte dish for dinner.

Nonetheless, we ended up repeating some of its signature dishes, plus a few more new ones. The Steamed Crab Claws in Egg White (蛋白蒸蟹鉗) is still my favorite of the evening - the claw was de-shelled, exposing the meat inside, and was steamed with superior broth and egg white. It's delicately prepared, nicely presented, with melt-in-your-mouth texture and rich flavors. This time we also tried to do a crab claw 2-ways course, with the second dish being the deep-fried stuffed crab claws (百花炸釀蟹鉗). Even though we probably had this dozens of time before as this is a common dish in banquets, I think this one just blew the rest of competition away by a long mile.

Water melon soup (冬瓜盅) has always been our favorite summer "dish" - and its portion is just perfect for four of us and is full of various ingredients - we enjoyed that as much as we did the first time. We completed our meal with three additional a la carte dishes - chicken with black beans , stir-fry chinese cabbage with garlic, and satay beef rice rolls. They are not fancy but nonetheless delicious.

For dessert, we ordered 4 huge Chinese birthday buns - which unfortunately, weren't as good as some others we had elsewhere. I don't know what's a bigger problem - not enough filling, or slightly undercooked dough. That certainly discouraged us from returning a third time for its newly introduced dim sum menu any time soon.

The old free corkage policy's long gone after they moved but at $80 per bottle we still found it reasonable. We brought a lovely vintage champagne in that matched well with the dishes, with pleasant complexity and smoothiness to show forth. It's no doubt an enjoyable evening and we will certainly come back again - actually we are already plotting to do so when their famous snake soup's in season - but I think we will likely stick with the tried-and-true old dishes next time around.

when? September 20 2010
where? 桃花源 tim's kitchen, G/F, 84-90 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan
menu highlights? Steamed Crab Claws in Egg White again! (蛋白蒸蟹鉗)
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1996

Saturday, July 31, 2010


南非之旅 Day 3: July 2

自從來到南非之後, 雖然頭幾天碰巧沒有賽事, 不過也很難擺脫世界杯的影子. 在開普敦機場一下機, 我們已被無數巨型的宣傳廣告所包圍. 桌山山頂的吊車站, 就放置了一個賽事的吉祥物zakumi. 在開普敦其他主要的景點, 也不難發現身穿球衣, vuvuzela和國旗的人四處拍照. 而V&A Waterfront是離green point stadium最近的購物區, 亦是遊客必到之地. 商場裡面就滿佈了售賣球衣和紀念品的店舖, 還有贊助商的宣傳攤位, adidas也在商場內外各放置了一個巨型的jabulani足球展覽. Waterfront的露天廣場, 多家食肆/酒吧設立了beer garden和放置了大電視直播賽事固然不在話下, 另外也有三個臨時搭起的巨型帳篷, 兩個用作spectator zone, 可容納數百人, 每逢賽事前後都有音樂表演, 剩下的一個就是市內最大的FIFA官方紀念品店.

這天早上我們刻意選擇了羅本島11點出發的導賞團, 就是為了迎接下午和晚上的兩場8強賽事: 荷蘭對巴西和烏拉圭對加納. 首場在下午舉行的荷蘭對巴西, 固然是八強賽事的焦點, 可觀性不容置疑, 而晚上的賽事, 加納背負著全非洲人民剩下的希望, 面對以"黑馬"姿態出線的烏拉圭, 也是被受觸目. 雖然一場來到這個城市還花時間坐在螢幕面前看電視直播好像有點浪費, 不過如此戲碼實在是非看不可, 所以也並不難決擇. 結果, 這兩場賽事, 我們選擇了兩個不同觀賞球賽的地方, 也感受了很不一樣的氣氛.

頭場荷蘭對巴西的開場時間, 碰巧是我們從羅本島回來, 在V&A Waterfront落船的時候, 故此我們選擇簡單的留在原地睇波. 一落船, 雖然離開賽還差不多近一個小時, 我們也不敢怠慢, 匆匆跑到海濱長廊旁的戶外劇場"霸位". 這裡有個大概可以容納500人的小看台, 而且有特大屏幕, 入場費全免, 地點亦在waterfront的中心點, 所以不難想像這裡是附近最受歡迎的睇波熱點. 我們好不容易才找到第一排被欄杆遮擋了部份視線的座位. 我們安頓下來時, 看台已差不多九成滿座, 不久已經坐滿了人, 連看台旁的行人路, 和上面商場的露台也擠滿了觀眾. 由於賽事是在平日的白天, 而且V&A Waterfront屬於遊客區, 觀眾也大多是遠道而來的球迷, 而且大都也"壁壘分明", 各有支持的球隊. 亦因為如此, 加上賽果的"峰迴路轉", 歡呼和叫喊聲也此起彼落. 荷蘭和巴西都是以鮮艷的顏色為標記, 整個看台和背後就頓時變成了滿佈一片橙色和鮮黃色的畫面. 在這裡, 我們還第一次親身體驗了vuvuzela的"威力". 說真的, 初時的確有點不習慣(從香港帶來的耳塞就大派用場), 不過看了半場賽事已經開始慢慢適應了. 人海和歡呼聲, 加上不絕的vuvuzela"音樂", 在這裡睇波的氣氛, 絕不下於在現場觀看所感受到的.

看完了第一場賽事, 到酒店會合了同樣從香港飛來的朋友ys一家人, 就一同走到市中心grand parade廣場的fanfest場地去觀看下一場的賽事. 今次世界杯, 南非當局在不同的城市, 設立了Fan Fest, 讓沒有門票的球迷, 可透過場內設立的巨型屏幕一同觀賞賽事, 而場內亦安排了歌舞音樂等表演, 亦提供餐飲服務和贊助商攤位, 場內就儼如嘉年華會一樣. 其實, Fanfest這個概念, 大概是從2002年韓日世界杯時首爾市中心萬人聚集在首爾廣場(Seoul Plaza)觀看直播賽事開始, 而在2006年德國的一屆就正式成為了世界杯主辦單位官方節目的一部份. 開普敦的fan fest, 就設於市中心最大的廣場Grand Parade之中, 附近就是市議會大廈, 會展中心, 火車總站和著名景點好望堡(Castle of Good Hope). 場地可容納25000名球迷, 是這次世界杯之中最大的fan fest. 其實除了是作為舉行fan fest的地標之外, 對於本地人來說, Grand Parade本身亦有其歷史意義: 1990年曼德拉被釋放之後, 就是在這裡向南非人民發表演說, 而94年他被選為南非總統時, 亦是在這裡發表勝利宣言.

在走向fan fest的路上, 原以為應該充滿了節日氣氛, 萬人空巷才是, 不過就差點如死城一樣, 連街燈也沒安放多幾支, 令我們有點出奇. 對於開普敦的市中心區, 一般旅遊書籍都提議入夜後還是避之則吉為妙, 看來所言非虛. 最後到我們抵達時還算是多一點"人氣", 總算舒了一口氣. 場地裡的設施並不算多, 只是基本的餐飲攤位和紀念品店, 人雖然多, 但比起不白天我們在waterfront, 氣氛也並不算特別熾熱, 這倒另我們有點兒失望.

球賽並不如想像中精彩, 而且由於天氣寒冷加上早已"周車勞頓"了一整天, 所以並不算是太過享受賽事的過程, 當完場的一刻出現時我們都頭也不回地直奔向出口, 恨不得馬上返抵旅館. 不過在現場看到加納由臨完場前獲得一個十二碼的機會, 到射失了到在打和互射十二碼落敗的過程, 看到全場觀眾的心情又天堂跌進地獄, 也不免為他們感到難過和戥加納隊不值. Well, 足球有時就是這樣, 賽果往往並不如人意.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


南非之旅 Day 3: July 2

認識南非歷史, 或是看過去年的一部由Morgan Freeman和Matt Damon主演的電影"Invictus"的人, 應該不會對羅本島(robben island)感到陌生. 羅本島是開普敦對開的一個孤島, 而從十七世紀開始, 這個小島就曾被用作流放麻瘋病人的地方和負責鎮守好望角軍事基地, 而在"種族隔離政策"統治之下, 當時南非的白人政府, 就利用這裡關押當年抵抗這政策的有色人種政治犯. 而其中最著名的囚犯, 就是在這裡度過了十八個寒暑的前南非總統曼德拉(Nelson Mandela).

隨著1994年"種族隔離政策"的廢止, 帶著歷史污點的羅本島監獄也正式於1996年關閉. 翌年, 這裡就被改建成為博物館, 成為了南非人民長時期抵抗不平等和爭取自由的見證. 1999年, 更被聯合國UNESCO列入世界文化遺產名單上, 是除了桌山和好望角之外, 另一個開普敦必遊的景點.

參觀羅本島, 唯一的方法, 是購買博物館的套票參加每日定時的導賞團 - 套票的費用(r200)已包括了來回羅本島的船票和島上的遊覽巴士. 由於每日只有上午9時, 11時, 下午1時和3時出發的船, 每團的人數亦受到船的載客量所限制(約150人一班), 而且遊覽船亦有可能因天氣影響而臨時停航, 所以如果打算參觀的話, 最好還是安排在旅程的頭幾天(以防因天雨需要改期)及預先在網上訂票(反正如果因天氣而取消是可以獲得退款的), 不然滿座了就要終日在碼頭等候stand-by的位置, 甚為掃興. 我們亦是在出發到南非前已安排好門票, 省卻了不少麻煩及時間, 加上這天亦是陽光普照, 可以如期出發.

渡輪就從V&A Waterfront的Nelson Mandela Gateway碼頭出發, 大概是半小時的航程. 渡輪一共有3層 - 如果選擇坐在下面的船艙的話, 沿途可以看到介紹羅本島的宣傳影片; 不過, 如果不介意沿途吹點海風而坐在頂層的話, 這可是遠眺桌山的最理想地點. Waterfront的promenade上, 有不少觀光船推銷海港遊, 如果乘搭過羅本島的渡輪, 其實也不用多花時間多花錢去參加. 登岸後, 我們就分別登上已在碼頭等候我們的巴士, 正式開始我們的導賞之旅.

導賞團大致分成兩個部份. 第一段(45分鐘)我們是乘坐巴士圍繞島上參觀及透過不同的景點進一步認識羅本島的歷史. 我們經過的地方就包括麻瘋病人的墓地, 二次大戰是盟軍抵禦德軍的炮台, 單獨囚禁民權領袖的牢房, 獄吏的宿舍, 還有是用作勞役囚犯的石礦場等等. 第二段我們就下車到達是昔日監獄的地方, 親身感受獄中的生活, 和參觀包括曼德拉住過的囚室. 這個b倉7號囚室, 至今仍保存了曼德拉用過的毛毯和床舖. 每一段均分別由不同的導遊為我們作介紹.

參觀期間, 有兩件事是比較深刻的. 第一件事, 是巴士途經一個石灰石礦場. 據導遊解釋, 石礦場是當年勞役囚犯的地方, 不過其實石灰石在當時並沒有多大的實際用途, 要求囚犯在這裡工作, 只為了消磨他們的體力, 意志和時間而已, 有時獄吏甚至只是命令囚犯將開採到的石頭從石礦場的一邊搬到另一邊, 隔一兩天由把石頭搬回原位. 對於囚犯來說, 就透過在這做苦工的時間, 能互相交談, 受過教育的囚犯亦會將知識傳授給其他囚犯甚至是看守他們的獄吏, 故這裡素有"羅本島大學"之稱. 不過, 由於石灰岩會反射劇烈的陽光入眼, 囚犯當然沒有任何保護設備, 很多人都因此而視力衰退. 現在, 石礦場的中間有一個小石堆砌而成的小山, 是曼德拉連同其他曾經同囚的政治犯, 釋放之後在這裡重聚時隨手堆成的, 記念渡過的苦工日子, 現在已被當成紀念碑, 是這裡文物的一部份.

另一件事, 就是不少的導遊都曾經和這裡的人和事扯上過關係: 要不是當年抵抗種族隔離政策的中堅份子, 就是曾在這服刑的政治犯, 甚至是在這裡工作過的獄吏. 帶我們從巴士上遊島的, 和在監倉中引領我們參觀的, 就分別是以前抵抗組織的領導人和曾和曼德拉在這裡一起服過刑的囚犯. 由他們帶領我們導賞, 並分享他們的經歷, 實在是適合不過. 而最難得的, 是他們有勇氣在這個曾受到不少冤屈的地方談回自己的經歷, 對當年的事亦已再沒有一絲仇恨. 當曼德拉在1990年被釋放的時候, 也曾經講過: "當我走出囚室, 經過通往自由的監獄大門時, 我清楚知道, 自己若不能把悲傷與怨恨留在身後, 那麼我其實仍在獄中." 和解和寬恕, 談何容易, 就是曼德拉這種寬容的態度, 感染了其他的囚犯, 也感染了國人, 讓南非很快的能忘記黑暗, 攜手創造大同的將來. 有這樣的氣魄和遠見, 才真正能稱得上是政治家 (statesman, not politician)

世界杯期間, 這裡固然接待從世界各地前來觀看球賽的遊客, 也同時招呼了到這裡作賽的多支國家隊球員. 據這裡的工作人員提到, 荷蘭隊上個星期就趁停留在開普敦對賽喀麥隆之前來過這裡. 而我們參觀當日, 就遇上了阿根廷隊的部份成員. 他們也和我們一樣, 輪流參觀了這裡的設施和監倉, 並沒有甚麼特別的待遇, 我們甚至數次與他們擦身而過, 這也是體現平等的一個實踐吧. 在Invictus電影裡面, 當年南非的欖球隊員, 就是被安排到過羅本島後, 排除了萬難奪得了95年欖球世界杯的冠軍, 球員們趁世界杯練習的空檔過來參觀, 可能或多或少也有點迷信的意味吧.

桌山或是好望角, 固然引人入勝, 不過拿起張名信片可能也略感受得到. 不過當我踏進羅本島監獄其中一個囚室時, 就發覺要感受歷史, 就不得不親歷其景.

Robben Island -

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

La Colombe

南非之旅 Day 2: July 1

印象中, 之前從來都沒有將"美食天堂"和cape town聯想在一起, 不過, 經歷了這次旅程後我們恐怕要有所改觀. 今年4月, 英國的餐飲業雜誌"Restaurant"公佈了全球50家最佳餐廳. 歐美以外排名最高的, 就是我們今天下午到訪, 位於constantia的La Colombe (2010年的名單上排名第12位).

離開了觀賞企鵝的Boulders Beach, 靠gps的帶路向北的內陸走, 45分鐘左右我們就抵達了Constantia. Constantia是離cape town最近的酒莊區, 只是30分鐘車程, 也是附近歷史最悠久的酒區 - 第一家酒莊Groot Constantia在1685年已經建立. 當年constantia獨有的甜酒, 地位更能與一級的sauternes和tokay相提並論. (後來, 甜酒所用的葡萄被當年橫掃舊世界的phylloxera災害給全部摧毀, 而近年, constantia的酒莊才嘗試重新釀製這種vin de constance酒) 現在一般人都把南非視作"新世界"的產酒區, 就曾經有人提出過異議, 因為南非的釀酒歷史, 比起作為"新世界"代表的美國甚至是澳洲, 足足早了最少200年, 而且南非一直都傾向受法國的blending風格影響較大, 與其他以varietal為主的new world產區也不太相同.

以酒區的面積Constantia不算很廣闊 (尤其是比較起附近的paarl和stellenbosch), 而且只有5家酒莊, 而La Colombe所在的, 是其中一家名為Constantia Uitsig的酒莊. 這家集酒莊和旅館一身的莊園並不算十分大, 不過就有三家都做得很出色的餐廳, 各自提供不同風格的dining options. La Colombe是其中較傳統的fine-dining restaurant.

無論從外觀和裡面的裝修, 都覺得餐廳的環境有一點french laundry的影子: 同樣是位於酒莊區, 以古雅的cottage house作為setting, 不過這裡的擺設更為輕鬆. Main dining room只有7張桌子, 另外還有annex裡數張, 我們被安排了在主餐廳靠近窗的一個位置, 景觀寬敞寫意.

侍者安頓好我們之後, 就把寫上是日時令菜式的黑板拿過來逐一詳細的介紹. 以一家這樣規模的小餐廳, 午餐算是有很多選擇 - 有fixed course的set menu, 也有不下十款的a la carte choices. 驟眼望進去半開放式的廚房, 看樣子並不是很大, 也沒有很多廚師工作, 有點難想像他們能handle得到, 不過既然餐廳一直以來都甚獲好評我也不應抱太大的懷疑.

我們按個人喜好分別點了在set menu和a la carte menu裡不同的菜式. 選完了菜式, 再對著wine menu, 就發現了一個不大不小的dilemma. Constantia 的幾家酒莊(包括了Constantia Uitsig)一向是以白酒較引以為傲, 一場來到, 自然想試一下. 不過, 觀乎我們點的主菜, 又確實跟白酒格格不入, 唯有向sommelier求救. 他就提議先為我們帶來了一小carafe自家最著名的constantia white (Bordeaux-style blend)在餐前享用, 之後再推薦了產自附近stellenbosch saxenburg酒莊的shiraz (2005 signature collection), 這樣就把問題解決了.

前菜我點了以炆煮的小龍蝦及鵪鶉配以新鮮粟米及青瓜等蔬菜 - 不平凡的surf and turf配搭. 光看碟上不同食材的顏色組合已經令人食指大動, 試完一口之後也令人感到新奇, 充滿了春天的田園味道, 小龍蝦和鵪鶉的味道都是獨特而且香濃, 原來也可如此配合, 粟米爽脆得就好像是今早新鮮摘下來的一樣, 做得真出色. 主菜我點了這裡的signature dish - veal "la colombe". 牛仔柳以sous vide烹煮, 旁邊是polenta配以wild mushroom弄成如canelloni卷狀然後煎香, 醬汁以肉汁加上濃香的羊肚菌, 再以略炸脆了的一塊薄煙肉伴碟 - 絕對是很精彩的味道和口感配搭, 難怪餐廳這麼有信心將自己的名字來為這道菜命名, 把聲譽也押上了.

這裡的服務也是令人印象深刻 - 從踏進門口到侍者親自送我們離開, 每一刻都感覺都賓至如歸 (只要習慣了這裡悠閒的節奏之後) 甫坐下, 侍者已不停的逐一遞上餐前amuse-bouche小點 - 對, 不是一款, 而是三小碟, 而每款都令人眼前一亮, 可口悅目 - 先來了一個帕馬森乳酪弄成的泡沫, 接著是一味用竹籤插著的鵝肝小吃, 然後是簡單的鮪魚達韃靼. 尾後的petit fours亦是一樣 - 從頭到尾都令人感到滿意.

午餐一共又吃了三個多小時, 我們吃完主菜, 一看鐘, 已經是差不多下午4時. 不過, 面對如此舒服的環境和美食, 我們根本捨不得離開, 甚至臨時決定致電取消了原本安排了的酒莊參觀, 好讓我們有時間一嚐這裡的甜點. 甜品也同樣令人忘懷 - 一款是以三種茶(earl grey, camomile和南非獨有的rooibos)分別弄成napoleon cake, icecream和cream, 配以暖的chocolate pudding和細切的草莓 (appropriately named "Three Teas and Chocolate"); 另一款則為用白酒做成的果凍配上迷你蘋果批和草莓sorbet, 個人就比較喜歡前者. 午餐已經是如此的美食, 很難想像更elaborative的晚餐會是怎麼樣 (我們原本是打算來這裡吃晚飯的, 不過一個月前想訂位時發覺已經滿座了, 可惜)

午飯過後, 我們順道也參觀了隔壁的tasting room, 不過由於之後還打算到附近的groot constantia酒莊看一看, 故再有在這裡多嚐幾杯了. Oh, 我們前一天在gordon ramsay的maze餐廳已經對那裡午餐的訂價嗟嗟稱奇, 而這裡更是有過之而無不及. 只能這樣說, 在別的地方, 以這家肯定達米芝蓮兩至三星水準的餐廳吃午餐, 同樣的價錢恐怕連隨便點支餐酒也不止, 你可以想像我們離開餐廳時是感到如何的滿足.

La Colombe -

Monday, July 19, 2010


南非之旅 Day 2: July 1

Chapman's Peak Drive

這天可能是整個旅程當中行程最緊湊的一天. 起了床吃完早餐我們便開車出發. 由於我們4個人還在jetlagged的狀態, 這樣也不是個問題. 從開普敦到到南端的好望角, 可以從內陸走, 也可以沿海岸線行, 我們選擇了沿海岸線去, 從內陸回程的路線, 因為根據我們的行程計劃, 這樣我們會更"順路".

沿著桌山腳旁的M6公路直走, 不多久我們已駛到開普敦西面的Clifton Bay, Camps Bay和Hout Bay等幾個海灣區. 沿Hout Bay再往南走, 我們會經過一條風景美麗的收費公路 - Chapman's Peak Drive.

Chapman's Peak Drive 依山而建, 連接北面的Hout Bay和南面的Noordhoek. 雖然只能夠單線行車, 但實際路程並不長, 不過由於在這一邊是垂直的峭壁, 另一邊是一望無際的大西洋, 而且沿路多彎, 相比起我們港島南區的路, 是大巫見小巫. 故此, 我開車都得小心翼翼, 當然, 在這條不少電影/廣告在此取景的公路上, 我也不介意慢一點, 好享受一下駕駛其中的樂趣. 而在公路旁也有很多觀光點, 讓我們能停車, 居高臨下的一睹海岸線上的風景, 有一段路, 甚至是在山旁, 鑿開了一部份峭壁開僻而成, 就像那些只在打機或是看007電影時才看得見的情節一樣, 有點兒觸目驚心. 結果, 15分鐘的路程我們花了差不多一個小時, 沿途當然也拍了不少照片.

私家車的路費其實只是R22. 如果因為這樣而選擇避走這條路線, 確實是大錯特錯. 沿路我們也看到不少旅遊巴士經過, 不少車上的乘客都睡著了, 唉, 他們可是浪費如此動人的風景了!

Cape Point 和 Cape of Good Hope

Chapman's Peak Drive過後, 大概45分鐘, 我們進入了桌山國家公園的範圍. 付了入場費, 再沿車路駛了一會, 就到達Cape Point的山腳. 以前常以為, Cape Point就即是好望角所在之地, 來到才發覺誤會了. Cape Point只是在高處有一個古老的燈塔, 在這裡可以看到遠方大西洋和印度洋交界的海域, 並不是一般人所講的好望角(Cape of Good Hope). 早上出發前, 旅館的phil提醒了我們, 其實燈塔上並沒有甚麼好看, 只是遊客覺得到此一遊, 拍過照心安理得而已, 故我們選擇只遠眺過燈塔就算了, 反正在山腳也能清楚看見遠處的海景, 也因此省回了要走幾百級樓梯登上去的力氣. 從cape point開車到好望角, 其實是需要15分鐘, 大概兩公里左右, 並不算近. 而contrary to popular belief, 好望角亦不是甚麼非洲最南端之類. 只是傳說中, 古時航海的人認為, 由於這一帶水流喘急, 能從歐洲安全來到這裡並繞得過這個岬角的話, 富庶的印度和中國就在望了, 故取其名為好望角; 而這個以往的航海要地, 現在就成為了到這裡旅遊的必到景點.

來到好望角, 每個人都必須做的, 就是在這個寫著Cape of Good Hope的木牌前拍照留念. 其實隨此之外, 在這裡吹一下海風, 看著好望角上的石灘, 配襯不時拍打著岸邊的巨浪, 也有點意思, 令人感覺壯觀, 總算不枉此行.


離開了好望角, 沿著相同的車路相反而行, 大概30分鐘左右, 我們來到了一個叫simon's town的小鎮. Simon's Town位於Cape Peninsula的東面, 亦即是面向著印度洋的那一方. 大部份到好望角的遊客都會選擇到這裡停留, 因為在附近的boulders beach, 有一批遠近知名的住客 - 企鵝. 泊好了車, 沿著寫了Penguin Colony的路牌, 在閘口乖乖的付上入場費, 一路走向海邊的木橋, 我們一直都看不到企鵝, 我們還半信半疑, 心想是不是被騙了入場費, 直至快走到盡頭, 我們頓時嚇呆了 - 因為出現了數以百計的企鵝在我們面前! (據旅遊指南的介紹, 這裡估計有多達3000隻企鵝出沒!)

在Boulders Beach棲息的, 是名為非洲企鵝(African Penguin)的品種, 與平常認識的, 一般在南極生活的帝王企鵝(emperor penguin)有分別, 主要是體型較細小, 胸前有獨特的黑色斑點. 由於這裡是屬於野生保護地區, 我們並不能進入企鵝棲息的海灘上, 只能在海灘旁搭建的木橋上觀賞, 但木橋和海灘相隔並不遠, 也沒有設置圍欄, 故也有不少企鵝走到木橋旁的陰涼地方休息, 我們可以近距離的看見它們, 只是不能夠觸摸到它們. 雖然它們並不比體型較大的南極企鵝可愛, 不過這可是我們第一次能這麼近的看得見它們, 而且數量是這麼多, 心情也很興奮. 而可能這些企鵝早習慣了絡繹不絕的遊客, 所以也都愛理不理, 自顧自的在灘上自由走動覓食, 或躺在附近休息, 要拍下它們的特寫照片, 一點也不難. 難的, 只是要和其他的遊客爭奪有利的位置而已.

Tips: Simon's Town是來回好望角的必經之地, 遊客可選擇在去程或回程逗留, 不過要記住在中午繁忙時段進入桌山國家公園可能會有擠塞的情況. 如果是一早出發的話, 還是先到好望角, 回程才到simon's town比較化算, 這樣可避開人潮. (相反, 如果是下午的觀光行程, 就可考慮先停simon's town, 再到好望角, 不過要留意桌山國家公園黃昏前的關門時間) 我們離開好望角時, 看到對面車路長長的車龍, 就興幸我們做了這樣的決定.

Chapman's Peak Drive -
Table Mountain National Park -
Cape Point -
Boulders Beach -

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Parker Cottage

南非之旅 Day 2: July 1

我們這幾天住的, 是家名叫parker cottage的b&b旅館. 世界杯期間, 南非很多酒店要不大幅加價, 要不就是囤積居奇, 企圖多賺一筆, 好不容易才找到這家較為老實的, 只是輕輕比原本low season的價格調高了20%, 也沒有那些必須最少住7天之類的嚴苛條件, 看tripadvisor上的評語也還不錯, 故此很早已把這幾晚的房間預定下來.

旅館位於Tamboerskloof區, 在signal hill的山腳, 正好在連接市區和Table Mountain吊車站的路程中間, 另一個著名景點bo-kaap houses就在附近. 到市中心大概是15分鐘車程, 對於我們開著車的遊客來說, 這樣的距離就剛剛好. (沒開車的, 乘的士也只不過是10-20蘭特, 只是沒那麼方便而已) 從我們這幾天的經驗, 這個neighborhood看來都十分安全.

抵達的一早, 還未到check-in的時間, 旅館的經理robert在門口迎接我們之後, 特別安排我們使用浴室梳洗, 還吩咐負責清理房間的marie優先準備我們的房間, 好讓我們能早一點放下行李休息. 我們入大門時, 看見了門口黑板寫上了我們的名字和歡迎的字句 - 這不算是甚麼驚天動地的gesture, 不過這樣的心思也頓時令人感覺貼心. 不消30分鐘, 我們梳洗整理好, 在旅館的電腦上catch up了facebook和twitter後, 房間已經弄好了.

我們住在地下後方的7號房間, 窗戶正向著後園 - 透入室內的陽光並不多, 不過就很寧靜. 房間不大, 不過放入我們2個行李箱之後, 還有足夠地方走動, 空間也就算是綽綽有餘了. 來南非之前, 擔心b&b旅館並不如平常住慣的連鎖酒店般, 有齊梘液洗頭水等供應, 特地從香港帶來了一套 - 來到這裡才發覺有點多餘. 這裡不單設備齊全, 還特別從本地的社企採購這些產品, 不少比我們帶來的還要好用 (例如現在我們還後悔沒有把那支薰衣草香味的body lotion拿走繼續用)

旅館是由兩間維多利亞式的的古典小屋改建而成, 前面有個小花園, 魚塘和小陽台. 前門旁邊, 是個放滿了特色佈置的drawing room, 每隔一天的傍晚, 旅館會在這裡準備好wine and cheese, 好樣住客mingle享樂一番. 房間設備不多, 不過也有無線上網, 另外亦有一部公用電腦供我們使用. 平時我們如果需要甚麼小吃或是飲料, 自己到廚房拿就可以, 就像自己的家一樣 (除了不用自己洗碗之外). 早餐就在廚房旁邊的breakfast room, 食物的選擇是我們這麼多天之中最多的, 熱的涼的也有.

而最令我們感到窩心的, 是這裡每一位員工發自內心的熱誠和殷勤. 從旅館的主人phil和liz, 到日常打理的robert, 到負責housekeeping的betty和marie, 他們總是帶著笑容去對待每一位住客. 一到步, robert已經很熱心的為我們預備房間, 給我們梳洗的地方, 介紹附近的環境等等. 每天早上, phil或是robert都會為我們準備不同的早點 - 我們住了4晚, 沒有試過一天是重覆的. 每一次遇到旅館的員工, 他們都熱烈地和你打招呼, 需要請求幫忙時, 他們都會放下手頭上的工作先為我們安排. 我們來之前, 有些其他的地方要求我們以現金落訂, 為免要多付電匯的費用, 只好硬著頭皮發電郵找phil看看能不能幫忙, 他二話不說就給我們弄妥. 後來我才發現他幫我們預付的費用差不多等同我付給他預留房間的訂金, 弄得我十分不好意思. 這些都是他們走的extra mile, 在大的連鎖酒店, 一定找不到這樣的服務. 之後在旅程中也住了另外幾家旅館, 可是幾次都匆忙的差點忘記了留下小費, 唯獨是在parker cottage, 臨走的前一晚早預備了, 因為衷心覺得他們是worth our appreciation.

受到phil和liz的啟發, 有一天早餐, 我們打趣說他日退休後, 找個地方開一家這樣的小旅館也不錯... 最少我們還有很多個十年去考慮這個idea. 在Tripadvisor的網站上, parker cottage的評價, 在cape town的b&b中排在頭三位. 住了在這裡4晚, 明白到這絕對不是偶然.

Parker Cottage (

Friday, July 16, 2010


南非之旅 Day 1: 6月30日

出發之前看過有guidebook提及, 最好是在下午接近吊車關閉的時候到Table Mountain. 因為這時大部份旅行團的遊客都完成了觀光下山, 隨著人群開始散去, 車位也較多, 纜車的等候時間也較短, 而且這時太陽開始下山, 陽光也變得較隨和適合拍照, 在這時逆人流而上, 反而更好. 於是午飯過後, 剛好3點多, 就啟程上山 (冬季時份, 最後的一班登山吊車是下午5點鐘).

上Table Mountain, 有兩種方法 - 一是花10分鐘乘登山吊車, 一是用兩至三小時步行上山 - 當然我們是選擇前者 (下山倒還有多一種方法 - 就在山崖上abseil游繩滑下去, 如果喜歡歷險的, 這不失為個充滿刺激的選擇) 泊好車步行到山腰的吊車站, 果然人並不多, 甚至連排隊人龍也沒有, 真興幸遵從了guidebook的建議. (guidebook還有另外兩個建議, 是出發前先在網上購票, 這樣也可省去排隊買票的時間, 反正網上買的票是有7天有效期的, 不必擔心因要改變行程而須花錢再購票的問題, 而出發當日最好先上網/致電查詢吊車是否開放, 以免白行一趟掃興, 因為吊車是經常會因天氣惡劣而臨時停駛的)

桌山的吊車不是昂平360或海洋公園每架載4個人的那款, 而是兩輛吊車從山頂和山腰互相對開的設計, 每次可載80人. 10分鐘的旅程中, 吊車還會作4次360度旋轉, 讓車上所有搭客都能享受山上和山下開普敦的懾人景色. 到了山頂, 反而不怎麼特別 - 只是短短的一條小徑和幾間餐廳和紀念品店而已. 不過, 遊客上來, 主要是為了看山下的景色 - 一面是開普敦市區, 另一面是Green Point Stadium和西面海岸的幾個幽美的海灘區, 另外兩面, 如果天朗氣清的日子, 甚至可看到好望角和Constantia酒莊區的風光, 可惜今天有點雲看得不太清楚. 不過, 由於我們明天也會開車到那邊去, 所以也不覺得失望.

雖然我們也等到太陽"收工"我們才跟隨它下山, Table Mountain我們實際逗留的時間並不長, 有點"到此一遊"的心態. 不過也沒有辦法, 如果到開普敦, 連桌山的山頂也沒到過就實在有一點兒那個. 開車離開山腰的吊車站時, 忽然有一個念頭, 即興的直接開車沿山路到桌山旁較為矮的訊號山(signal hill)上, 看一下Green Point Stadium的夜景. 晚霞映照下的夜色, 對比著球場亮起的燈光, 跟我們在桌山上看到的, 又是另一番景致. 我們顯然並不是唯一有這個想法的人, 因為到了山頂, 那兒早擠滿了汽車, 的士, 和希望一賭球場夜景的遊人. 而這幅圖畫, 也為我們在南非的第一天劃上了句號.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Maze by Gordon Ramsay

南非之旅 Day 1: 6月30日

幸好南非的道路系統和香港的相若, 再加上GPS的幫助, 離開了機場不消多久, 我們已經在開往市區的N2公路上. 半小時後, 我們已安全抵達我們未來4天逗留的小旅館. 在旅館安頓梳洗好後, 還只是中午12點不夠. 和比我們早一天到的Travel Partners LB和K聯絡上後, 就相約了在開普敦最著名的地標V&A Waterfront會合食Lunch. Again, 有GPS在手, 從旅館到V&A Waterfront只是一條大直路, 15分鐘的車程, 簡單得很. 往後幾天, 從旅館到waterfront, 已不需要gps幫忙帶路了.

午餐, 我們選擇在Waterfront內, One & Only Resort裡的Maze餐廳裡. One & Only Resort是開普敦最新也是最豪華的酒店, 上年才開張, 剛趕及今年的世界杯, 而非洲唯一的兩間Michelin-starred Chef Restaurants, 松久信幸的Nobu, 還有我們今天到的, Gordon Ramsay開的Maze, 就座落在這裡.

相比起倫敦的那家gordon ramsay旗艦餐廳的精緻, maze的環境更來得平易近人, 不過亦同樣地低調. 入口的兩旁, 只是放滿了酒瓶的玻璃外牆, 連招牌也沒有, 不知情的話, 未必看得出是celebrity chef開的餐廳. 偌大的用餐空間, 一旁是開放式的廚房和pastry station, 另一旁是面向酒店旁的人工湖和luxury apartments, 夏天的時候, 甚至可以走出去湖畔作Alfresco dining. 今天的天氣雖然有點雲, 但總算陽光普照, 遠處的桌山也可看得清楚, 湖上也有不少人悠閒地踏著水上單車觀賞著風景. 午飯時間, 餐廳出奇的並不多人, 所以顯得特別寬敞寫意.

侍者遞上了餐單, 午飯他們是供應2道菜或3道菜的prix fixe menu. 最先吸引了我們注意的, 是近乎難以置信的相宜價錢 - 3道菜的午飯, 只是200元蘭特 (南非蘭特和港幣大概是1:1). 200元港幣, 在中環隨便挑一間餐廳, 吃一頓"a-b餐"的lunch, 恐怕也不止, 而在這裡已經可以在最好的酒店中最好的餐廳用膳, 實在有點匪夷所思.

菜式是一貫Gordon Ramsay的現代法式料理, 前菜是baked goat cheese, 主菜是煎白身魚配以大蒜濃汁及紅蘿蔔, 食物"大路", 談不上fancy, 質素算中上, 很難特別pinpoint那一樣是我的favorite dish, 不過印象中甜品 - 是個輕盈的strawberry and vodka cheesecake伴以冷的lavender souffle - 弄得特別簡單而美味. cyy點的主菜羊膝, 聽說也做得很好. 服務也很周到, 侍者十分友善, 得知我們來南非的目的後, 還和我們侃侃而談的講"波經".

南非生活節奏的悠閒, 在午飯時我們終於領略得到 - 吃罷頭盤和主菜, 都已用上了兩句多鐘, 當我們點甜品時, 侍者還驚訝我們為何不多坐一會. 面對著如此的景致, 如果不是要趕著在日落前上桌山的話, 我們倒也不介意再多享受一下. In retrospect, 如果你問我來開普敦旅遊的best-kept secret, 在One & Only Resort Cape Town的maze吃一頓午飯, 會是其中的選擇. 自在的享受了一個下午... 雖然來到開普敦只是短短幾個小時, 我想, 我們已開始愛上了這個地方.

One & Only Resort Cape Town (
Maze by Gordon Ramsay (

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

南飛, 南非

南非之旅 Day 0: 6月29日

終於等到了出發的一天. well, 球賽的門票是一年多前訂的, 酒店和機票, 還有觀光景點的門票, 也早安排好了, 連吃飯的餐廳, 也於一個月前訂好了座. "你們不是去睇波的嗎, 幹嗎還未出發?", "看那一場球賽呀?", "南非不是很危險嗎? 你們還打算自由行? 你們瘋了嗎?" - 自從賽事在6月中開始後, 類似的問題/comment, 早已聽過不知一千幾百次, 變得有點兒麻目了.

出發前常以為, 這樣預先安排好行程, 讓"未出發, 先興奮"的感覺linger on了一年有多, 加上因為提早預定能省下來的錢, 感覺就好像早已把所花的旅費賺了有餘. 但到臨近真正出發時, 又感覺到有點"反高潮", 心裡由興奮變成了忐忑, 產生了不少古怪的念頭, 不知實際的旅程會不會如想像般精彩, 也生怕會掛一漏萬, 打擾了行程, 再加上臨走前看到了英格蘭黯然出局, 令我們原本希望能在8強/4強賽親眼看到支持的球隊昂然晉級的夢想給幻滅了. 我們就是在這樣患得患失的心情之中, 踏上了南非之旅.

香港到南非, 航程並不如想像之中悠長. 傍晚由香港飛到新加坡(via UA), 再轉機經約翰尼斯堡到開普敦(SQ), 連transit的時間, 總共才20個小時 - 絕不比以往放完暑假由香港回學校的那幾次差.

從香港到開普敦, 並沒有直航客機. 看似最直接的方法, 是搭南非航空和國泰到約翰奈斯堡, 再轉內陸機. 不過乘Emirates經杜拜, 星航經星加坡, 甚至是Jet Airways經孟買, 都是可以考慮的選擇 - 反正約翰奈斯堡機場行李"離奇失蹤"的情況早已臭名昭著, 如果不打算停留jo'burg的話, 還是避之則吉為妙. 我們乘坐的星航客機, 是direct但不是non-stop的航班, 會在Jo'Burg機場落客及更換機組人員, 不過只多停留一個小時, 還算可以接受 (最少這樣行李並不會在約翰奈斯堡機場處理, 減少了任何問題發生的可能性)

Anyway, 一場電視直播的球賽(在樟宜機場的候機大堂裡看的, 日本對巴拉圭), 兩餐不置可否的飛機餐(SQ的還可以, UA的那份真有點令人想嘔), 三套電影之後, 飛機已穿越了赤道, 到達我南半球的第一個目的地 - 南非的開普敦, 抵達時已經是第二天的上午.

常聽說南非生活節奏輕鬆, 本地人工作效率很差, 是真的嗎? 我們從下機, 辦入境手續, 提取行李, 清關, 到購買手機sim card, 到FIFA的櫃位取門票, 到租車公司取車, 前後一共只用了不到45分鐘, 比香港機場還要快! Impressive! As we later found out, 這只是我們對這個地方眾多的錯誤印象的其中之一而已.

放好行李, 跳進了車廂... 不知是不是因為舒服的天氣, 還是能飛快的離開機場, 還是取票時發覺我們第一場球賽被安排坐在最近場邊的下層第一排的關係, 出發前的患得患失, 早已給忘記一空了.

朋友號, 出發吧!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cepage - An evening without football

I thought I should be more excited than I am now with the World Cup well underway and our South Africa grand trip's just slightly more than a week away, but the England performance last week against the meanly Algeria has dented any of the remaining enthusiasm and hope that I had. Now I am seriously considering defecting and adopting a new team - at least for the rest of the tournament.

Anyway, we did manage to get out of the couch one evening to try out this Michelin-starred restaurant near Star Street with our friends k and p. Taking up the site formally occupied by another fine dining wannabe restaurant, Cepage, as the restaurant is now called, represented the first entry into Hong Kong's dining scene by the Singaporean's highly successful Les Amis Group. Since its opening a year ago, it has gathered quite a number of awards in its own right (among which, the first Michelin star and being ranked as the world's Top 100 Restaurant)

We were the first to arrive for the evening and soon the remaining tables in the lush and cozy dining room were filled. As we were surveying the menu, the manager brought us a couple hors d'oeuvres to start off. A nice touch, I reckon. After much deliberation, we opted for the Table d'Hote which essentially is a 4-course tasting menu comprised of some of their signature dishes.

As the restaurant boasted itself as having the most extensive wine collection in town - including some of the rare finds, I found it surprisingly one-sided. Sure they did have a fair share of selection from Bordeaux and Burgundy, but for anywhere else, it's close to nothing. At least their mark-up was reasonable, if you didn't count the fact that the sommelier tried hard to recommend to you their most expensive wines on the menu (when we asked for suggestions for a easy and ready to drink Rhone Valley wine, he gave us a Hermitage La Chapelle. Go figure!)

The food's decent in general and consistent with restaurants of similar caliber. My favorite dishes included foie gras icecream with rhubarb, and egg confit with asparagus, truffles and ham. The chef managed to strike a balance between being traditional and adventurous so there's a sense of harmony as our dinner progressed. We were surprised to have been offered more choices for petit fours than cheeses - that's a bit disappointing. Service's a bit aloof to my liking but I can't find much fault in particular either. The egg confit was originally not on our menu, but the manager gave us a tasting portion to try after we asked about the dish - we certainly appreciate the nice gesture and turned out that's one of my favorite dishes of the night.

All in all it's a comfortable evening just to be away from being a couch potato momentarily and enjoyed good food and company - and as we depart, I realized I didn't even check scores on my iphone for once. Oh I am so proud of myself about that - at least I know I am not totally addicted to football, yet.

when? June 19 2010
where? Cépage, 23 Wing Fung Street, Wanchai
menu highlights? "Taiyouran" Organic Egg Confit, Green Asparagus, Summer Truffle, Joselito ham "Gran Reserve"
drinks? Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Pignan Reserve 2004

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"Act Now" vs North Pole

This morning as I was staring at the "Act Now" campaign billboard on the MTR platform and trying to imagine what it would be like to set sail on a journey without knowing the destination, suddenly this story came to mind... it happened a long long time ago in the Hundred Acre Wood...

"We are all going on an Expedition," said Christopher Robin.
"Going on an Expotition?" said Pooh eagerly. "I don't think I've ever been on one of those. Where are we going to on this Expotition?"
"Expedition, silly old Bear. It's got an 'x' in it."
"Oh!" said Pooh. "I know." But he didn't really.
"We're going to discover the North Pole."
"Oh!" said Pooh again. "What is the North Pole?" he asked.
"It's just a thing you discover," said Christopher Robin carelessly, not being quite sure himself.
"Oh! I see," said Pooh. "Are bears any good at discovering it?"
"Of course they are. And Rabbit and Kanga and all of you. It's an Expedition. That's what an Expedition means. A long line of everybody. You'd better tell the others to get ready, while I see if my gun's all right. And we must all bring Provisions."
"Bring what?"
"Things to eat."
"Oh!" said Pooh happily. "I thought you said Provisions. I'll go and tell them." And he stumped off.

So there he went... Thinking "Expedition" is some sort of boat and "North Pole" as some "thing" that you are to discover, Pooh rounded up his buddies Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Eeyore and all Rabbit's friends, and hurried off to this Expedition. And along the way, Pooh's singing this song:

They all went off to discover the Pole,
Owl and Piglet and Rabbit and all;
It's a Thing you Discover, as I've been tole
By Owl and Piglet and Rabbit and all.
Eeyore, Christopher Robin and Pooh
And Rabbit's relations all went too--
And where the Pole was none of them knew....
Sing Hey! for Owl and Rabbit and all!

So how this story ended? They keep moving "forward" and as they were walking across a stream together, Roo fell into the water, on the verge of being washed away, and was saved by Pooh with a long stick in his hand. Just as the troupe was chatting and celebrating this amazing rescue...

But Christopher Robin wasn't listening. He was looking at Pooh.
"Pooh," he said, "where did you find that pole?"
Pooh looked at the pole in his hands.
"I just found it," he said. "I thought it ought to be useful. I just picked it up."
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin solemnly, "the Expedition is over. You have found the North Pole!"
"Oh!" said Pooh.
Pooh looked anxiously at Christopher Robin.
"Pooh's found the North Pole," said Christopher Robin. "Isn't that lovely?"
Pooh looked modestly down.
"Is that it?" said Eeyore.
"Yes," said Christopher Robin.
"Is that what we were looking for?"
"Yes," said Pooh.
"Oh!" said Eeyore. "Well, anyhow--it didn't rain," he said.
They stuck the pole in the ground, and Christopher Robin tied a message on to it:


Then they all went Home again. And I think, but I am not quite sure, that Roo had a hot bath and went straight to bed. But Pooh went back to his own house, and feeling very proud of what he had done, had a little something to revive himself.

(The story's taken from Chapter 8 of the book Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne)

Now I can't wait for the day when Donald Tsang sticks a plague on the ground outside the Government headquarter and proudly announces:

Universal Suffrage
Discovered by Donald
Donald found it

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Weekend Indulgence (Part 1) - Caprice

The old saying of "it never rains but it pours" seems to hold true to us lately - luckily it's not about misfortunes but memorable dining moments that we seem to have experienced in quick succession. I can't think of a better way to wind down a week's "hard" work than (occasionally) indulging ourselves in good food and wine, so here we are on a Friday evening, at 7:30pm sitting in the dining room of this fine restaurant (of whom many said is the best in town). Oh yes, it's also an early celebration to my wife's birthday too.

The décor's elegantly relaxing - it does sound like an oxymoron, but the surroundings do give you a sense of majesty without feeling uptight. Rows of chandeliers hang on the ceiling with modern lighted floor, open kitchen in the center stage of the vast dining room with magnificent harbor view in front... it's almost as much fun looking at people enjoying their food as chefs preparing them and we were glad that our table gave us a little bit of each.

After carefully surveying through the menu, we opted for the 6-course tasting dinner. Not a difficult decision really given everything on the menu seems so attractive. The wine list has a reasonable selection and good variety but seems to be on the pricier end (yet still have a few good value choices available), and the sommelier has been very helpful to sort out my dilemma of wine selection between a few that I think are equally good. Service's friendly but not over the line - you can feel they did genuinely try everything they can to make you feel comfortable.

Then the next few couple hours can only be described as magical. Everything that was brought out from the open kitchen on to our table is nothing short of flawlessness - by everything I meant from the amuse bouche of potato two-ways, to the appetizer of slow-cooked lobster with daikon raviolo and jellified tomato "gazpacho", all the way to dessert and petit fours. My personal favorite is the salmon, which was smoked and then oil-poached in low temperature, and served with rich-flavored sauteed morel mushrooms and a dash of herb coulis on the sides; while CYY loves the juicy and tender suckling pig which was cooked to perfection and served with cabonara orzo pasta (a risotto-like pasta) and sage jus. The sauteed foie gras crusted with poppy seeds with white asparagus is another dish that I like a lot too.

When the cheeseboard was brought in front of us, we can't help but exclaimed at the variety and interesting selections (that means those we have never seen), and the server was very patient in introducing and explaining and recommending. That certainly was another highlight of the evening - we already plotted to return some time later as we enjoyed our cheese course, even just for more cheese and a good bottle of burgundy. There are some restaurants that we keep saying to ourselves that we will return some day but never did, but I am sure (and hope) this is not going to be one of them.

I never believe there's such a thing called an impeccable meal, but I guess our evening at Caprice was as close as it gets. We had yet another reason to say "Thank God It's Friday!"

when? May 14 2010
where? caprice at four seasons hong kong
occasion? CYY's Birthday Dinner - Part 1
menu highlights? Olive oil-poached Smoked Salmon, Morel Mushroom and Fresh Herb Coulis
drinks? Domaine Geantet-Pansiot Gevrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes 2005

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