Sunday, 31 August 2014

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore

Wangz hotel, singapore
Halo Rooftop Lounge

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore

Sunset is the perfect time to head up to Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel’s casual bar. Weekend live music, paired with cityscape views, make it a chilled locale for relaxation and enjoyment of the area’s hip vibe. Daily drink specials and grilled tapas further assemble an agreeable spot for whiling the evening away.

We arrive on a Friday night and are greeted by the energetic buzz of a full house. Single seaters at the bar, couples at tables, small groups of friends and one large party crowd fill the open space. A duo sings popular tunes accompanied by acoustic guitar. All in, it’s a lively scene.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Crowd on a Friday Night
A fortuitous spot by the open balcony grabs our attention where we’re just far enough away from the band to engage in comfortable conversation, and too, benefit from the cooler night air and vistas across the treetops and city.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Ravished, after a long drive from Kuala Lumpur, we start with the grilled tapas menu. Marinated Chicken Skewers ($11) are tender chunks of breast marinated with Asian condiments, patterned with onions and bell peppers. They immediately fill a hungry hole with the moist flesh and roasted veggies.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Marinated Chicken Skewers 
Lamb Cutlets ($14) showcase premium Australian lamb rack with natural jus and a mint sauce on the side. The sauce is great, but the meat is flavourful all on its own. Hubby makes a second order. Even though worthy of the repeat, Hubby’s favourite turns out to be the Beef Tenderloin with Caramelised Onions ($14). A scaloppini of marinated steak is folded over the sweet onions with a few leaves of salad greens lightening the density.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Lamb Cutlets
Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Beef Tenderloin with Caramelised Onions 
Lined up in a coral coloured display, the Grilled Tiger Prawns ($15) are charred just enough to imbue the smoky grill throughout. Continuing with seafood, the Crab Cakes ($10) is another plate that has both hubby and I crooning. Fresh shreds of crustacean are mixed with Arborio rice and bell peppers forming an almost risotto-textured filling, which is then deep-fried and served with an almond aioli. The result is a crisp exterior and pillow like interior. Good stuff.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Grilled Tiger Prawns 
Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Crab Cakes 
We know we shouldn’t, but the grill section has been highly satisfying so we venture onto some things from the fried section. Fried Mozzarella Cheese Rolls ($8) with homemade tomato sauce, are encased in a crisp filo pastry, which breaks way to a hot stringy centre. Kernel’s Corn Chips ($8) are served warm with guacamole and cheesy dipping sauces. Although not house made, the chips are of good quality, and served at this temperature, with yummy dips, they too are consumed in their entirety.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Fried Mozzarella Cheese Rolls
Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Kernel’s Corn Chips  
A good selection of drinks is another crowd pleaser. Creative cocktails unique to Halo, more than a handful of boutique beers, and an interesting range of spirits and wines make spoilt-for-choice offerings.

Hubby tries two craft beers, each with its own distinctive character. Belhaven Twisted Thistle (500ml $16) is a stunning Indian Pale Ale, which promises to  “tingle taste buds with pleasure after a sip or two of its golden nectar.” Apparently the description is rather accurate, as I have to be swift to get a taste in before the last drop disappears through my partner’s lips.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA
The second, Kwak (330ml $16), is bright amber in hue with a textured creamy head. Fruit and malt aromas waft to our nostrils with a hint of spice mixed in. Easy drinking, yet full flavoured, we get caramelized fruit in our palate and a lightly bitter ending. Presentation is special too. Coming with its own curvaceous glass and wooden stand, it’s certain that this beer has been lovingly brewed.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
I like the look of their “Especial” cocktail list with a bundle of specialties created solely for Halo. Hawaii on the Roof ($18) seems appropriate for the location and I’m pleased with the half coconut shell delivery. Chilled with floating ice cubes, Angostura rum, Mango Tropic, Malibu coconut rum, orange juice and cranberry make a refreshing mix. Pineapple, orange, strawberry and a maraschino cherry garnish the rim.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Hawaii on the Roof 
The Dragonfruit Martini ($18) both looks and tastes great! Lemon-infused vodka, Vanille de Madagascar, fresh dragonfruit and agave nectar are shaken together to form this thirst quencher. It’s sour and vanilla-y, and gently sweet and fruity, all at the same time – a rather unique blend of flavours that I’m glad to have tried.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Dragonfruit Martini 
Our dining buddy, who’s a little more sensible than us, orders a mocktail, the Minty Fresh ($10).  Served in a tall cocktail glass, this slushy style drink puffs up to a tower of icy deliciousness. A fresh lychee and sprig of mint garnishes the beverage with lime juice, mint syrup, lychee syrup and soda topping up the glass.

Halo Rooftop Lounge, WANGZ Hotel, Singapore
Minty Fresh 
Cool night breezes, live music, grilled tummy fillers, craft beers and creative cocktails – Halo Rooftop Lounge is a top spot to spend a few hours.

Reasons to visit: creative cocktails; boutique beers; grilled tapas menu; rooftop breezes.

Halo Rooftop Lounge
231 Outram Road
Singapore 169040
+65 6595 1388

CasCades, Great Views With Breakfast, Viceroy Bali, Ubud, Indonesia

best view
CasCades, Viceroy Bali, Ubud

Cascades, Great Views With Breakfast in Ubud, Viceroy Bali

Breakfast at CasCades restaurant Viceroy Bali is a real treat. Bequeathed with breathtaking valley vistas viewed from the open-walled pavilion, fresh crisp air rising from the ravine and, a delicious menu of a mostly Western essence, the stage is set for a fantastic start to the day.

CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
CasCades, Viceroy Bali
I delight in the smell of freshly brewed coffee and aroma of pastries hot out of the oven and, CasCades restaurant at Viceroy Bali gifts me with both. Illy espresso based drinks are my kick-start of choice, so a flat white with skim milk is my first order. Hubby’s pretending not to take caffeine but is fooling no one with his pot of extra strong black tea ensured by double tea bags.

CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
Flat White and Carrot and Ginger Juice
Juices are squeezed fresh. Carrot and Ginger tickles my fancy and hubby loves the Beetroot and Apple which reminds him of a Venezuelan childhood favourite, tres en uno, which also features the deep purple root vegetable. There are many others for the choosing and you can create your own combo from the fruits and veggies listed on the menu.

I toy between the idea of a seasonal Balinese fruit platter or the fruit salad. The latter wins out in the end with the addition of ginger and star anise promising to contribute a twang of wake-me-up flavour. A shot glass of the dressing on the side allows me to adjust the amount of condiment to my own taste. Overjoyed to see the Mango Trifle remain on the menu, it’s ordered too. Whipped layers of yoghurt and mango puree are topped with rolled oats and a minted cream yoghurt. Fluffy light and toothsome, hubby takes a spoon of mine and soon makes an order of his own.

CasCades, One of the Best Breakfasts in Ubud, Viceroy Bali, Ubud
Balinese Seasonal Fruit Platter
CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
Local Fruit Salad
CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
Mango Trifle
The Baker’s Basket holds a selection of house baked pastries: a buttery croissant; a cinnamon scroll; a star shaped Danish with a fresh strawberry centre; and a delicious mini muffin. These are European style recipes with good bite to each, plenty of butter and, a tasty flakiness. Despite a generous portion served, they all disappear, not a taste of a crumb remaining.

CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
Pastry Basket
Hubby is forced to order the Balinese Benedict as it’s one of those dishes that Kirsten and I have raved about for the past year. Poached eggs sit atop yellow rice pancakes and are coated with a Balinese spiced Hollandaise sauce and, finally crowned with dried Javanese beef. The grin on his face suggests it was a good order.

Balinese Benedict
My main, Mediterranean Eggs presents steamed eggs on organic eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and Italian plum tomato ratatouille with arugula pesto. Two strips of green sauce mark the sides and in between sit two round servings. Each is topped with crispy thin whirls of potato fries, which hubby reaches over and polishes off knowing that I’m unlikely to finish the chips.

CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
Mediterranean Eggs
Yes, we ate that all in one sitting. I’m not particularly fond of buffets but do like the option of trying a number of things on the menu, so unlimited a la carte options offered by CasCades is a perfect solution. The rest of stay we repeat orders of that divine Mango Trifle, but try some new dishes too.

Hubby reports the pancakes with cream, maple syrup and fruit coulis as a fine rendition of a classic. “Que rico,” he continues as he adds another scoop of whipped cream on top, then with one final murmur of satisfaction wipes the last drops of syrup from the serving glass with the remaining piece of pancake ending with a declaration of, “Fantastico!” He too tries the Citrus Crepes that have been infused with orange zest and filled with caramelized strawberries and bananas, topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate.

CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
best breakfast ubud
Citrus Crepes
From the eggs section we try the Salmon Scramble topped with chives and served in a filo pastry shell with deep fried pickled ginger and smoked salmon. We decide it a terrific twist on the traditional recipe. Cascades Omelette baked with Camembert cheese, ham and shallots, and sided with a dob of cranberry jam, is just as satisfying.
best breakfast in ubud
Salmon Scramble 
viceroy bali
Cascades Omelette
We think we’ve sampled all that grabs our fancy until hubby spies the Coconut Rice Pudding with vanilla and cinnamon at the very bottom of the menu. In hubby’s words, “The only way to make rice pudding better is with coconut milk!” My final taste is of Toasted Muesli with coconut, nuts and yoghurt. It’s a lightly sweetened mouthful of crunch combining well with creamy yoghurt.

cascades breakfast, viceroy bali
Coconut Rice Pudding 
CasCades, Breakfast, Viceroy Bali
Toasted Muesli and Yoghurt
With a great selection of scrummy foods and an unbeatably peaceful and natural setting, CasCades restaurant at Viceroy Bali is a choice place to start the day.

Reasons to visit: stunning views; Mango Trifle; Balinese Benedict.

Viceroy Bali
Jalan Lanyahan
Br Nagi, Ubud
Bali 80571
+62 361 971 777

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca, Malaysia

Casa del Rio, Melaka, Malaysia
“Your home by the river”

Words and Photos by Monica Tindall
Video by Anthony Jegu

When I first visited Melaka many years back I would never have dreamed of staying on the river. At that time, it was at best, a place to be avoided. The rears of shophouses backed onto it, and cleanliness of the water left much to be desired. In recent years however, the local government has done a super job of cleaning up the waterfront and turning it into an attraction in itself. A boardwalk, lined with cafes, bars and restaurants, now runs its length, and some of the most sought after accommodation is on its edge.

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Casa del Rio Melaka
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Casa del Rio Melaka at Night
Casa del Rio is, as its name suggests, a home by the river. Primely located minutes away from Melaka’s historical heart, the shopping and eating hive of Jonker Street, and a slightly longer stroll to the sea, the property overlooks the waterway offering visitors to the old Portuguese town a charming abode of both convenience and beauty.

casa del rio
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Roofscape View from Casa Del Rio
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Icy Welcome
Paying tribute to the history of the area, Casa del Rio utilizes design mimicking traits of Portuguese architecture blending with the local surrounds and honouring the Melaka Sultanate. A low-rise building runs along the water’s edge, with arches and wrought iron framing the river and city views from inside. Local stone, rendered walls, natural woods and terracotta ceramics make up the hard finishings, while pomegranate, amber and burnt sienna hues wash the interiors with a distinctively Mediterranean appeal. The central courtyard and water feature encourage cooling breezes to flow through the open hallways reducing the need for constant air-conditioning and taking the edge off the daytime heat. 

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Casa del Rio Melaka
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Open Hallways
While the architecture may echo the past, amenities however are firmly planted in the present. A rooftop infinity pool, gym, spa, numerous dining outlets, meeting rooms and full concierge services make a stay more than just comfortable, but rather highly enjoyable. (Click on the links to see our recommendations about the spa - above - and food and beverage outlets - below.)

casa del rio
Rooftop Pool - Check out the Ship in the Background
Casa del Rio Melaka
Rooftop Pool and Bar Sol
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
casa del rio
Satkara Spa
Although one of the prime reasons to visit Melaka is to experience the street food and local cuisine, a number of food and beverage outlets make it very easy to stay in. All have pleasant riverside locations and a mix of local and international items on the menus. 

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Chef at the River Grill
Bar Rio is a great place to spend Happy Hour with daily specials, tapas and live entertainment later in the evenings. During our visit, a duo from Cuba were heating up the stage, while energetic salsa dancers burned their heels on the dance floor. The River Grill is where breakfast is taken featuring an a la carte menu supported by a generous buffet spread, while lunch and dinner see primarily Western offerings with great steaks and a good wine selection being key highlights. Nightly shows by a renowned local pianist (he's even played with Oliver Newton John!) jazz up the evenings with a touch of class. River Café on the corner affords guests a bit of crowd watching amusement from its slightly elevated level. A range of lighter fare including pizzas and Peranakan dishes are available during the day, and the nightly steamboat is another fun experience not to be missed. Bar Sol is the place to be at sunset as the torridity softens and the sky is set ablaze with fiery hues.

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Bar Rio
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
River Cafe
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
River Grill
Rooms too reflect the charm of the location, at the same time providing all the modern comforts (and more) that you’d expect for a boutique hotel of Casa del Rio’s status. Design mirrors a Mediterranean feel with mosaic tiles, stucco walls and arches. A splash of Peranakan is infused into the mix with dark wooden furniture, upholstery patterns and books and other adornment sourced from traditional homes in the area.

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
View from River View Deluxe Room
The majority of the 66 rooms are 50 square metres in area, split-level, and with their own balcony either overlooking the river or the courtyard. The outdoor area has the added comfort of a ceiling fan. That, in team with the gentle breezes, enables the patio to actually be used, which is often not the case in many hotels in the tropics. The large space is further divided into a dressing room, bathroom and spacious sleeping and living area.

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Deluxe River View Room
Bathrooms are decked with pale marble, and all feature a bathtub big enough for two (salts provided and rubber ducky too!) and separate shower. Sliding panels open or close the room as desired giving either a sense of more space and views to the TV and balcony from the tub, or privacy. Luxury bath products promote local herbs and spices and smell so good you’ll want to take them home.

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Bath Products
All mod cons are included: CD, DVD and radio tuner; iPod dock; international plug points; free Wi-Fi; 42” flat screen TV; mini bar; hair dryer; electronic safe; iron and board; coffee and tea making amenities; robe and slippers. The team at Casa del Rio however take service beyond these regular features in providing a local Kopi-O mix, hot chocolate packets; scented bookmarks and the following day's weather forecast during turn down service, and books, guides and magazines informing of the wonders of Melaka. A special treasure in each room is a personalized notebook in which all guests of that particular room leave a message or tip they have about how to best enjoy time in Melaka. There cafe recommendations, museum suggestions and even advice on where to get the best shopping deals - each guest passes on their experience encouraging following visitors to benefit from those who have trodden the path previously.

Casa del Rio Melaka, Boutique Hotel Malacca
Although Casa del Rio undeniably gives remarkable consideration in providing just about every physical item you could hope for in making the property your home by the river, it’s the staff who make the place really feel welcoming. Gracious, helpful and friendly at every encounter, it seems they can’t do enough for us and continue to surprise us even when we think there’s no way more we could be served.

boutique hotel Melaka
Casa del Rio Melaka's Central Water Feature
Extraordinary service continues beyond check out. Escorted to our car with our bags, we find a note on the window informing us that our windows have been washed supporting us in a safe return home. Casa del Rio has indeed been our home by the river over the past few days, one of which we can’t wait to return.

Reasons to visit: boutique hotel offering extraordinary attention to detail; excellent riverside location in the heart of historical Malacca; good range of food and beverage outlets.

Casa del Rio Melaka
88 Jalan Kota Laksamana
75200 Melaka, Malaysia
+6 06 289 6888