Lemon Garden KL: Reopened and Revisited

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with my in-laws at Lemon Garden

Two words: buffet brunch. Our family loves buffet brunches and whenever Arshad and I would spend the weekend back in KL, this is definitely a must-do. Mum and Dad have countless membership cards for buffet brunches in hotels and even for credit card activation, this is one major consideration. Of course, Arshad and I are more than happy to ride on and use the memberships to our hearts’ (and tummies) content.

Last weekend, we went back to KL for a quick weekend break to celebrate Mum’s birthday. Since it’s her birthday, she had dibs on where we will celebrate and so Mum recommended we all go to Lemon Garden Cafe’ at the Shangri-La in KL. Lemon Garden closed for months late last year for renovation and was just newly reopened so we were all excited to go.

The ambiance was very warm and welcoming with hues of yellow, faithful to its brand
name. We arrived around lunch time and the place was packed! I guess it wasn’t just us who were excited to go back and try it.

The Intercontinental buffet spread was exhaustive: Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian-European. Being a pesco-vegetarian, a buffet spread wins if it has my awesome three:

  1. Seafood station with oysters 
  2. Cheese table 
  3. Fresh sashimi with every sashimi-able fish or seafood you can imagine

I’m glad to report that Lemon Garden has all so I’m one happy pesco-vego Bella!

The seafood station was excellent and the oysters were HUGE. The oysters didn’t have anything grainy-sandy when you eat them so they were carefully, professionally pried open and shucked.

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Don’t even ask how many plates of oysters I wiped out!

Aside from the oysters, the rest of the seafood offering were also notably fresh: scallops, mussels, clams and king prawns.

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Lemon Garden’s seafood station

My next favorite in buffet brunches is the cheese spread. Although the cheese selection was quite limited, it had emmental (my favorite) and camembert by default. The rest of the cheese (I don’t remember all of their names) were exquisite-tasting, ranging from light and soft, to hard and flavorful-strong. My cheese and seafood platter were perfectly paired with Cloudy Bay, my default go-to Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the buffet brunch did not have an option for unlimited wine and champagne. Drinks were charged extra, but the restaurant had the usual decent wine and sparkling offerings on their menu.

The rest of the buffet spread was interesting. There was an area for roast chicken and duck. Although the duck ran out, Mum talked to the chef if it’s remotely possible to get another duck from the Chinese restaurant and they actually obliged! Yep, Mum has the gift of persuasion and Arshad was one happy camper!

Other dishes included dimsum, noodles, fish, roti and dahl, curries of all kinds, pasta, soup, salads, cold cuts and a lot more.

Another notable highlight is the dessert spread. The desserts were very good, from the cakes and ice cream to the local sweet fare: ice cendol and what do you know? They have durian cake! Durian is not for the faint of heart and since I’m one of those who actually enjoy it, I tried a slice of it which Dad actually reserved for me before it ran out. It was delicious with just a hint of durian flavor so it wasn’t overwhelming. It was perfect!

One tiny hiccup they had was the waiting time spent to get our bill. I don’t understand why, but we had to ask several waiters (not one, not two, but three!) to get our bill and it took them 45 minutes to send it over. Most of the customers were gone already by the time our bill was sent!

Sans the bill fiasco, it was a pleasant experience overall. Food was fresh, delicious and spot on. It was pesco-vegetarian friendly and with what we paid for, it was definitely worth it.

The buffet can be had at RM 140 per person, but our credit cards had a 50% off promo so it was just RM 70 per person for us. Even without the discount, it’s just P1,580++ or USD 32 roughly and for a buffet with an exhaustive spread, shut up and take mah money (or my husband’s)!

Will we ever go back? The question is: Why the hell not???

For more information on Lemon Garden Cafe:

Phone:   (60 3) 2074 3900

Email:   restaurantreservations.slkl@shangri-la.com

Location:

Lobby Level

Operating Hours

Operating Hours
6am – 11.30pm (daily)

Buffet Breakfast
6am – 10.30am (daily)

Buffet Lunch
12noon – 2.30pm (Monday – Friday)
12noon – 3pm (Saturday, Sunday and public holidays)

Buffet Dinner
6.30pm – 10.30pm (daily)

Dress Code

Casual

Smoking Policy

Smoking is not permitted in Lemon Garden.

 

The woes of a traveler who doesn’t have enough time: part 1 

This year, I have 3 scheduled trips already, with booked and bought plane tickets:

  1. Spain and Portugal for our annual European vacation
  2. Malang, Indonesia – a birthday gift for Arshad; and
  3. Bali, Indonesia – a group trip that my inner circle booked so I can celebrate my birthday with them in October outside of Manila (ain’t it so posh to say you threw a party for your friends in Bali? Hahaha.)

This list doesn’t include the short trips that we normally make en route to Manila, KL and Singapore for weekends.

Sounds all exciting, doesn’t it? I am excited – super! The thing that worries me and gives me anxiety is the lack of time to research and prepare for the trips in a leisurely way that I want to.

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Bella in Salzburg, Austria (2016)

See, I’m a traveler at heart. It’s one of the major reasons why I decided to be an expat since traveling comes with the job. But the job also comes with long hours, 10-12 hours per day on the average, which either leaves me exhausted after a long day or requires me to fit my other activities in a very tight timeline: workout, bank errands, grocery and all the other usual daily grind.

And unlike some of my friends who became successful travel bloggers, I have a full-time job that takes me away from my passion for traveling. Don’t get me wrong, though. I love my job and the career that I have, which is also why I never had the intention of giving it up for other equally important passions. That, and it pays for the trips and the expenses that go along with it!

So although it may sound such a first world problem (though I clearly do not live in one), a traveler at heart with a full-time career has 2 dilemmas:

  1. Not enough time to plan 
  2. Not enough time for travel itself

For this blog entry, I specifically wanted to write about planning. For me, part of the joy of traveling is in the planning itself! The anticipation of traveling is what keeps me from being a trainwreck despite my crazy work hours as of late.

Here are some ways I do to get around my lack of time to prepare for the trip and to keep myself excited:

1.   Prepare way ahead of time. As in way ahead. This is most especially true when you are preparing for travels abroad that will require visa applications. Things you have to note on visa processing and requirements:

visa application

  • Bank references and bank statements – requests will have SLAs of 2 days to a week.
  • Visa appointment – depending on the country, some visa appointments, like for the US or the UK, can take 2-3 weeks to schedule.
  • Employment certificate – depends on how fast your company can provide this, but usually a day or two.
  • Confirmed flights and hotels – some countries requiring visas will also require that the plane tickets and accommodations have been booked and purchased. You definitely need to sit down on this to compare prices, book and buy.

At the same time, comparing accommodations, researching about restaurants, museums and activities require time. The longer the trip, the longer amount of time is required to prepare for it. For a European or US trip, I give myself 2-3 months to prepare and research, and this is crunch time already. For trips in Asia, a month is usually enough.

2.  Prepare to steal moments from your day-to-day routine to do some online research. Busy women like me fantasize about a lazy Saturday morning where we can just sit down, have a cup of coffee while browsing online to research. For most of us, though, ain’t gonna happen. There will always be pressing matters.

Whoever said, though, that there aren’t pockets of time in a day when this can be done? Reality is, we live everyday in a frenzy. If research must be done: beg, borrow or steal some time. In my case, I wake up half an hour in advance in the morning to do this, or I shorten my lunch break, lock myself inside my office and hit Google. If you’re stuck in traffic, thank God for 4G LTE so you can research faster through your mobile phone or tablet.

3. Lists. Lists will save you. Prepare checklists for almost anything and everything related to travel preparations. My personal favorite is to use Evernote and I have a notebook inside categorized as Travel. I have a checklist of requirements needed for a Shengen visa, so everytime that I need to renew or apply all over again, I have my Shengen list as reference.

trip list

from Stuff Asperger People Like

I also have a comprehensive checklist of items and clothes to bring depending on what kind of trip, where I am going and when. For example, I have a default checklist of summer essentials and what to pack on a beach trip, while I also have a checklist of what to pack for a Europe trip during autumn or winter time. It may sound extremely OCDC, but for seasoned travelers, it helps to have a default checklist to go back to, and seasoned travelers already know that there is a pattern for most kinds of trips, whether for backpacking, beach trip or cross-country.

4. Find a travel buddy who you can share the workload and planning with. Faaaaaaayn, I get away with it because my husband is an efficient travel planner. We make an effort (well, he makes the effort) to sit down and discuss our options: travel dates, whether to book a hotel or use AirBnB, what activities to do, etc.

When traveling with friends, assign the tasks. In my circle, we usually assign tasks depending on what we’re good at. Someone with a huge credit card limit can book the plane tickets, another one can plan the itinerary and someone else can research on which Michelin star restaurants to try. My specific competence, for obvious reasons, is planning trips for Indonesia and Malaysia. At the same time, since I’ve done the rounds for vineyard tours and whiskey flights, so they normally leave these things up to me.

5. Package tours. For the lazy ones, the pragmatists or those who are really running out of time, package tours is always the way to go. Package tours will already have everything: transfers, guided tour, food, detailed itinerary and even prepaid entrance tickets for museums, churches and other places of interest.

tour packages

The tour package approach, though, is not for people who want to try traveling off the beaten path. This is more for those who prefer organized travel with less risks of uncertainty.

For some, it can be a safe choice, but not as exciting and not as spur-of -the-moment.

6. Digitize and appify. Thank God for Google and all the emerging travel-related apps that can simplify research! They make life less complicated, saves me a lot of time for research and I can store everything on my mobile phone or notebook!

Here are some of my favorite travel apps and sites that I always use for research and planning:

Skyscanner

  • Skyscanner – to search and compare flights
  • Agoda and AirBnB – for accommodation
  • TripCanvas – for Indonesia and Thailand  places to go to and things to try
  • TripAdvisor – for pretty much everything about travel (including reviews)
  • Time Out – one of my favorite city guides on art, entertainment, food, drinks, film and even theater. Go figure why I like it!

7. Lastly, find joy in the experience of planning a trip. It’s very simple. What you find pleasure in, you will always make time for. Cliche’ but true: It’s the journey, not the destination. And part of the journey is planning the trip.

To the busy Bellas with wanderlust that never goes away, have fun in planning and traveling. There will always be time for these things for us. Come hell or high water, off we travel!

 

 

 

 

THE CURSE OF THE PHILIPPINE PASSPORT

Reblogging this because I feel the pain! Like Jennie, I have a Philippine passport, which means I need to apply for Visa pretty much everywhere!

This is very timely for me, as I’m going through the same process right now for my annual European trip.

The Traveling Titas of Manila

As much as I love being Filipino, holding a Philippine passport is a hindrance to spontaneity for sure!

POSTED BY JENNIE

So let’s say you wake up one morning and you’re inspired to go to…let’s say Paris. If your Schengen visa is still valid then by all means go. If not, well you’ll need to go through the whole application process and that’s not so inspiring but that’s just how it is.

I recently applied for a Schengen Visa and no matter how many times I’ve applied for one, it’s never stress free.

So here’s my latest visa application experience at the France Visa Application Center at Eco Plaza along Chino Roces Extension.

Ecoplaza_map-close_up I find it far more convenient to apply here at VFS than in the individual consulates.

Last year I discovered that you can actually renew your Schengen Visa. You’ll just need to apply before your visa expires…

View original post 606 more words

Colette & Lola: Of Sweet Endings and Easy Weekends

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Colette & Lola’s small cakes

Manila has spoiled me with a plethora of good cake shops and dessert places. Like I said in my previous blog post, I wasn’t really a dessert person, but I know how to appreciate a macaron or a sliver of cake…or two.

Back home, I never clamored for cakes since cake shops were just everywhere! There were even pastry chefs who didn’t have their own shops but they have their own Facebook and Instagram accounts. You can just order from them and they can deliver right at your doorstep.

It was a struggle to find a decent cake shop – dessert place in Jakarta. The cakes that I’ve tried in the past were either too sweet, too dry or too hard that you can throw it like a block and it won’t even disintegrate. Even the desserts in the usual hotel lounges and restaurants were blah.

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Rainbow Cake

So I never really bothered for cakes in Jakartown anymore, until Tita Liza, our UP Alumni President here, brought us a Colette & Lola rainbow cake and a red velvet cake for two of our UP meetings. The rainbow cake looked so pretty I didn’t want to slice it. It was light and not too sweet, but it wasn’t a favorite of mine.

In our Induction of Officers at the Philippine Embassy, Tita Liza brought a red velvet cake (see my last blog post). I was hooked from there!

The red velvet cake was light and the frosting was creamy and flavorful, but not too sweet. Yep, I did the unthinkable: I had a second serving!

Both cakes have piqued my interest so one fine Sunday afternoon, after a soccer event, I asked ze Hubs to take me to Colette & Lola in Senopati since it was nearby. The shop looked very dainty and colorful, which reminded me of my daughter Abby. She will love this shop!

It wasn’t big but it was cozy – the chairs and tables were designed to make you stay, enjoy every bite of your cake while sipping a mug of their creamy latte’ and reading your latest novel. They also had merchandise for sale: book bags, notebooks, pillow cases and aprons.

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Arshad & I at Colette & Lola, Senopati

Arshad and I tried two of their small cakes and they didn’t disappoint. I tried their Operaccino while Arshad had the tiny version of the Lola Bar.

Both cakes were moist with just the right amount of sweetness. The Lola Bar had peanut butter in it too, which can be perfectly paired with an espressso or a tall Americano.

The Operaccino had the right amount of chocolate and caffeine. It was good, but red velvet remains to be my favorite. I wanted to order the red velvet cake again but only the big version was available.

The staff told us that we should try the Ovo Milo next time, since this is one of their bestsellers. I intend to try their macarons, too.

Their big cakes are beautiful, to say the least. Now I know where to get pretty and tasty cakes for my friends’ birthday celebrations.

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Colette & Lola’s big cakes, but no hearts for me, please!

Colette & Lola delivers in the Jakarta area and it even has an online shop! For their hotline, you can call +621-2900-7997. They deliver for free if the purchase is above Rp350k.

Colette & Lola is definitely a 5 stars experience that is a must-try!

5-out-of-5

Sweet tooth

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Creamy cheesecake drizzled with Baileys Irish Cream at Atico by Javanegra

Atico by Javanegra

Menara Bank, Rooftop Floor, Jl.Dr. Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung, Kuningan , Jakarta

Nasi tumpeng

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Nasi Tumpeng – “the dish that binds the diversity of Indonesian various culinary traditions.”


Nasi tumpeng is a cone-shaped rice dish. The yellow rice, shaped like a mountain has several side dishes of vegetables and meat. Tumpeng is a symbol of gratitude. After speech and prayers, the top of the tumpeng is cut and given to the most important or the oldest person in the group.

Bandung on my mind: the old and the new

When my friends back in Manila ask me about Bandung, I usually say: “Bandung is like our version of Tagaytay here.” Although this may not be 100% accurate and it doesn’t do justice to Bandung, I need something to anchor Bandung on so that my friends can visualize how it’s like.

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For the longer version of it though:

Bandung is the capital of West Java, roughly 140 kilometers away from southeast of Jakarta. Again, in Manila reference, the distance is like 3 times of Tagaytay, one way.  In terms of population, it;s the third largest city by population in Indonesia.

Whole year round, it has a cooler temperature compared to other parts of Indonesia (thus, my Tagaytay metaphor). The city lies on a river basin, surrounded by volcanoes and tea plantation. In the olden days, the Dutch immigrants planned to move the colonial capital from Jakarta (formerly Batavia) to Bandung (formerly Bandoeng). With this plan came the blossoming of restaurants, cafes, hotels and European-inspired shops. With this, the Dutch nicknamed Bandung as Paris Van Java (The Paris of Java).

I dare not romanticize Bandung this way, because like it or not, what used to be an idyllic place surrounded by lush greenery and flora has become a nightmare of traffic gridlock.

This is not to say though, that I have stopped loving Bandung. There is a workaround to the traffic. For me, I go to Bandung for 3 main reasons:

  1. Factory outlet shopping 
  2. Culinary exploration 
  3. Relax amidst nature and fresh air 

Last weekend’s trip to Bandung was a combination of business and pleasure. I had to do a market visit and an on-ground activation in Paris Van Java mall. I took that as an opportunity to spend the weekend there as well and check out what’s new. Since I had limited time, I mainly wanted to just do a quick R&R and check out the new restaurants. Based on this very recent visit, here are my  recommendations and new finds:

1.   Padma Hotel Bandung – consistent in their service and always reliable. If you are looking for a place that has everything because you just want to hibernate, then Padma Hotel it is. Situated right in the middle of lush greenery  and colorful flora, Padma Hotel is the perfect getaway.

 

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The Padma Hotel Bandung Lobby

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View of the playground at Padma Hotel

Complete with amenities, it has a massive gym, sprawling gardens, pools, a hiking trail, a playground for children with a small petting zoo, spa and several hidden corners where you can just sit and read a book.

They have yoga sessions by the pool side at 7am during the weekends and activities for children.

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I particularly liked that the gardens and the yards are well-maintained. Every morning, I saw gardeners cutting and watering the plants.

The restaurant’s view is spectacular. It’s located above the green valley, overlooking trees and bright flowers, giving you a whiff of open, fresh air. The buffet spread has a lof of selections, I don’t even know where to begin! I fixated on the local fare, and I liked their lontong, mie goreng and local pancake.

2. The Valley Cafe and Restaurant – has an amazing view of Bandung. I read about an Indonesian blogger rave about it so it made my list of new places to visit this time around. The place is massive in terms of seating capacity and its come-hither factor is its unobstructed view of the city.

When it comes to food, The Valley offers a wide range of cuisines: Japanese, Thai, Italian, American and Indonesian. The exhaustiveness of the menu sacrificed the authenticity, though. I ordered unagi with rice and salad and although the eel was very fresh and tasty, it didn’t taste “Japanese enough” for me. I was so hungry that time (it was 5pm) and it was my first decent meal of the day so I couldn’t care less.

The Valley made it up for its beautiful view and surprisingly – cheap wine! They also didn’t have an exhaustive list of alcoholic drinks, but Jacobs Creek (a safe choice) can be had for Rp285k! Cheap, in Indonesia standards.

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3. Sierra Cafe’ and Lounge – not far from The Valley is the Sierra Cafe’ lunch, also with an idyllic view of the Bandung hills. Again, another massive restaurant in Dago Pakar. The restaurant is massive! It can accommodate 700 clients.

The menu looks interesting but I was too full by then that I only had space for coffee and dessert. The latte and mascarpone with cream as a combination was perfect for me! I’m definitely bookmarking Sierra Cafe’ to try their mains the next time I visit the Dago Pakar area.

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Mascarpone at Sierra Cafe’

4. Yoforia Yogurt Studio – I’m a sucker for ads (What a paradox for a marketing executive, I know!)

yoforia_wmI saw Yoforia’s Coffee Meets Yogurt add inside Paris Van Java mall and I immediately hunted it down.

I ordered their Yofoccino at Rp35k a cup. It’s a delicious combination of plain yogurt + espresso + caramel. Not bad if you are looking for a cold drink with a slight caffeine kick.

5. Pop-up markets and local hipster brands – last but not least, and in fact my most favorite discovery in Bandung, is the proliferation of local, hipster brands that sell unique, beautifully crafted items. I’m a sucker for pop-up markets. They offer a lot of things that you can’t buy from the big brands in malls. Although I like designer shoes, bags and watches, I also like wearing items that can’t be had from the popular brands. In my last trip, I discovered 3 brands that hail from Bandung: Suvit.id, Chillax Friday and Fawn and Luna.

I bought a pair of Bohemian sandals from Suvit.id and some weekend book bags from Chillax Friday. I bookmarked Fawn and Luna as supplier for quality notebooks and sketch books for my artist friends because I love notebooks with great quality leather and acid-free paper where I can draw, sketch and write smoothly!

Overall, I have to say that Bandung is still very much worth the trip and the traffic. Given a 3-day weekend, I don’t mind doing a road trip to smell the fresh air, try local food and discover more local brands! That for me is a perfect Bandung weekend.