Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Eight Days in Melbourne, Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road!

Greetings from the land down under! Well, not quite -- we're already unfortunately back to the daily grind back home, looking forward to our next holiday!

Ahem. Anyway we spent a (relatively) short eight days in the Australian South East, landing in Melbourne and then slowly making our way up to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road. Without further ado, do check out our video highlights reel below!

So on to a quick breakdown of things we did, places we visited and things we ate!

Day 0: Overnight flight from Singapore to Melbourne.
- Parents: Singapore Airlines First Class (80,000 KrisFlyer miles + s$56.60/person).
- The rest: Singapore Airlines Economy Class (s$811.20/person).

Thoughts: Singapore Airlines First Class is as awesome as ever, with superb dining options and extravagant service. Economy class is, well, economy class. And the darling's recline button was broken both ways, which sucked quite a bit.

Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Food Changi

Day 1: A victorian suite, pho, and the world's best pizza.
- Car: Apex Car Rentals, s$85/day for a mid-size SUV, aud500 insurance excess.
- Hotel: The Hotel Windsor, s$554/day for the Victorian Suite
- Lunch: Pho Dzung City Noodle Shop.
- Afternoon: Ran some errands (moneychanger), did some shopping at target, and explored the city a bit before resting in the hotel.
- Dinner: Explored the Crown Entertainment complex and had the "world's best pizza" at Gradi.

Thoughts: The Windsor has a great location and the suite is huge, but the hotel is quite a bit overdue for an overhaul. Gradi was expensive and a little disappointing; but I understand from Melbourne natives that I should have visited the Brunswick branch instead.

Melbourne Parliament House at Night

Day 2: A market, a garden and an art gallery.
- Morning: Coffee and Bratwurst at the Queen Victoria Markets. Followed by oysters and shopping. And calamari, fish, and chips at Funk Fish.
- Afternoon: We started off touring the Royal Botanical Gardens before a bout of rain sent us scurrying to the free exhibits in the nearby National Gallery of Victoria.
- Dinner: Explored the South Bank and settled in for lamb shanks, paella and pork cheeks at The Bohemian.

Thoughts: It's awesome that the entire CBD has free-of-charge tram transport (and not only just for tourists). More cities should do this.

The Bohemian South Bank Melbourne

Day 3: Great Ocean Road, Day 1
- Morning: Checked out of the hotel, visited a long lost friend, and found out that shaved fresh black winter truffle over steak tastes awesome.
- Afternoon: Great Ocean Road Day 1, unfortunately having the time to make only one stop at Bell's Beach, home of the world's longest continually running surf competition.
- Evening: Checked into the semi-AirBnB/semi-hotel Seafarer's Getaway. s$311/night nets you a comfortable beach-view villa which comfortably sleeps 5 adults. Dinner was a forgettable fish & chips shop in the nearby Apollo Bay.

Thoughts: I didn't know until this trip that Australia (particularly the south-western corners) is a pretty solid Truffle Producer. Had always thought that truffles only come from France and other European countries.

Seafarer's Getaway, Apollo Bay

Day 4: Great Ocean Road, Part Deux
- Morning: Bacon and eggs (self-catered) in the villa, followed by a detour to the Cape Otway Lightstation.
- Afternoon: The 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, The London Arch and The Grotto. Self-catered ham sandwiches in the car.
- Evening: Drove to our accommodation for the night: Rosa's Apartment in Mt. Gambier, which must be the best value (s$200) AirBnB that we've ever stayed in.
- Dinner: Some forgettable indian restaurant in the town.

Thoughts: It's pretty surprising that despite having an entire day on the road, we didn't really get to stop at that many places. Probably because we had to spend quite a bit of time on the road ...

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Day 5: Great Ocean Road --> Adelaide
- Morning: Bacon and eggs (self-catered, again) in the apartment, followed by a visit to the Blue Lake and Umpherston Sinkhole.
- Afternoon: Finished off the additional ~5 hour drive to Adelaide, stopping halfway to have sandwiches (meh) and coffee (awesome) at the Henry and Rose in Keith.
- Evening: AirBnB/Stayz - Neo Apartment in the City, which is roomy, has a kick-ass location (right next to the Adelaide Markets) but is perhaps getting a tad bit run down. s$266/night.
- Dinner: Shopping at the Rundle Mall, followed by forgettable kebabs somewhere nearby.

Thoughts: 3d/2n to do the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide is a bit rushed. With around ~5hours of driving a day (most of it in daylight), we really didn't have the time to stop at all the places we wanted to stop at, or to really explore. If we were to do it again we'd do at least 4d/3n, and maybe even 5d/4n.

Pig statues at Rundle Mall, Adelaide

Day 6: Got on a plane, waited around a bit and jumped off at 12,000 feet
- All Day: Skydiving with SA Skydiving at Langhorne Creek.
- Dinner: Self-catered with steak, chicken wings, bread and vegetables bought from the Adelaide Market.

Thoughts: Skydiving is the bomb! Definitely should be on anyone's bucket list (unless you've got a deathly fear of heights). Not exactly a cheap hobby, though: aud409 for a 12,000ft tandem jump (including transport to-and-from Adelaide and a lunch of sausages and bread).

Skydiving at Langhorne Creek

Day 7: Did some cosplay, went up a stage, and got a piece of paper from an old man.
- Breakfast: Group breakfast at Luigi Delicatessen, which serves up an awesome breakfast platter. And great coffee, of course.
- Morning: Graduation from the University of Adelaide.
- Lunch: Porchetta, Ribs and Pasta at Borsa Pasta Cucina.
- Evening: Adelaide Markets (again) followed by more self-catered steak and vegetables.

Thoughts: It really did feel that there were more foreign students graduating than local ones ...

Graduation University of Adelaide

Day 8: Two-dollar ketchup, a garden and a museum.
- Breakfast: Dim Sum at the Star House Chinese Restaurant. "OK" food, two dollars for ketchup.
- The rest of the day: A short detour to the Botanical gardens, followed by the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum. We then returned the car at the Adelaide Airport and took a s$100 Virgin Australia flight to Melbourne.
- Melbourne: Dinner at P.J.O'Brien's (awesome Irish Stew) and a short overnight at Cilom's Airport Lodge (s$159) before heading back to Singapore / KL.

Thoughts: The last day of a holiday is the crappiest one, especially once you start checking out of hotels and returning rental cars.

Adelaide Botanic Gardens

If you've made it this far, thanks for sticking around, and do let us know in the comments if you've got any questions!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How much is a KrisFlyer Mile worth (after the 2017 Devaluation)?

In March 2017, Singapore Airlines announced a revision to their Redemption Chart. And naturally, by "revision," they effectively meant "to increase the cost (in miles) for redemption flight tickets." The old and new redemption charts can be found on their website here and here respectively.

Having said that, we feel that it's actually a pretty fair revision, because Singapore Airlines also eliminated fuel and insurance surcharges. So redemption tickets now cost more miles, but less cash.

So with the new redemption charts, how much is a single KrisFlyer mile worth? As with our previous analysis, it really depends on which flights (and to a larger extent, which class of travel) you're flying on.

Krisflyer Economy Class Redemption Value

As expected, Economy redemptions are really poor value - as low as 0.6¢ per mile! In most cases you would be better off just paying the full cash fare to your destination. Of course there are exceptions where it could make sense: For example, perhaps the Economy Super Saver or Saver cash fare isn't available for the dates that you want to fly, or perhaps you have a small number of miles that are going to expire soon anyway.

Krisflyer Premium Economy Class Redemption Value

Premium Economy redemptions are a little better - around 2-3¢ per mile. At this value point, the decision to spend miles instead of cash starts to make a little more economic sense. Singapore Airlines' Premium Economy class isn't really that great, though - but that's a discussion for another day.

Krisflyer Business Class Redemption Value

Business Class redemptions seem to hover around a value of 3-4¢ per mile: a significant reduction from the 4-8¢ per mile values in the old redemption table.

Krisflyer First Class Redemption Value

And as expected, First / Suites Class redemptions continue to give the best bang for your mile at around 5-7¢ each.

So to conclude, the value of a single KrisFlyer mile ranges from around 1-7¢ per mile depending on which flight/class you fly on. The ¢ per mile figures are still pretty solid for Business and First Class flights, but if your mileage earning and redemption patterns normally allow you only to buy Economy and Premium Economy flights, it could be worth re-evaluating whether 'playing the mileage game' still makes sense for you.

One caveat: The number of miles required for redemption tickets are fixed, but the cash fares vary according to promotion periods, availability of cheaper fare buckets (e.g. the economy super saver buckets), etc, so these ¢ per mile values should only be taken as a rough guideline.

Hopefully this post has helped you. And if you've decided to continue playing this mileage game, good luck and have fun with your next Singapore Airlines Suites Class Redemption flight, whenever that is!!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Equinox at Swissôtel The Stamford: A romantic restaurant with an amazing view!

Let's get this out of the way first: Equinox is probably the restaurant with the best view in all of Singapore (If you know of a food joint with a better view we'd love to hear it in the comments). The magnificent view makes it a pretty romantic place to dine at, although the dining room can be a little loud and boisterous.

The darling and I are more interested in how good the food is, though, so we place our orders and hope it lives up to the view!

Equinox Restaurant Singapore Night View

First up, a complimentary canapé. I think it's testament to just how crappy a food writer I am that I don't remember what ingredient was used to make the chip. Oops! I do recall that it had a miso paste and a block of yuzu jelly, and that it was pretty good though!

Bread-wise we get a so-so slice of (cold) sourdough toast and some unsalted butter.

Equinox Restaurant Singapore Canapes

The first of our starters is out next: Burrata ($22) - Iberico Ham sitting on fresh cheese, with green peas, lemon, and rosemary bread crumbs. Burrata's got an amazing creamy texture, but can be a little bland, so we're pretty happy with the accompanying salt and fat from the ham.

Equinox Restaurant Singapore Burrata

The Seared Foie Gras ($34) is a hefty portion of fattened goose liver, accompanied by roasted apricots, ginger marmalade, and toasted seed granola. As always, it's hard to get foie gras really wrong, so we're quite satisfied (although the liver could have perhaps benefited from a stronger sear).

Equinox Restaurant Singapore Foie Gras

On to the main courses, then, starting with a 300gm Ranger's Valley, Black Onyx, Grain Fed New York Strip Steak ($90, marble score 3), served with roasted bone marrow. The steak was fine: cooked to our requested medium-rare temperature, but without that crust that you get from dedicated steakhouses like Morton's. It was also a tad bit under-seasoned on its own, but that's probably because it's served with your choice of sauce (we went with the black truffle butter).

You also get a choice of side dish: We chose the mac & cheese, which was nice, cheesy and creamy.

Equinox Restaurant Singapore New York Strip Steak

Our second choice of main course was the Lamb Saddle ($70) with provencal terrine, green olives, spinach and tomato fondue, also requested medium rare. The lamb was juicy and tender and terrifically delicious with the gravy; sadly we weren't as mesmerized by the (in our opinion) too-strong tomato flavour in the vegetables.

Oh and one common minor criticism: The knives that we had were really due for some sharpening.

Equinox Restaurant Singapore Lamb Saddle

Being quite stuffed we decided to share something tart after all that meat: The Blackberry Trifle ($22) which comes with mascarpone jelly, meringue, and elderflower ice cream. It was quite delicious and also rather pretty looking.

Equinox Restaurant Singapore Blackberry Trifle

To finish - petit fours (caramel chocolates) which were really a tad bit too sweet.

Equinox Restaurant Singapore Petit Fours

As Equinox doesn't serve free water (boo), we paid $5 each for warm, filtered water - bringing the total to $248++ for two. In our opinions the food and the view don't justify the price tag if you pay full price. However, you can get a pretty nice discount via via various promos (e.g. OCBC 25% off, Amex Platinum 50% off with 2 diners) which increases the value proposition by quite a bit.

Equinox Restaurant is on the 70th Floor of Swissôtel The Stamford. Reservations recommended; Non-halal. Oh, do note that the restaurant levies a s$20++ surcharge for securing a table by the window.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Braised Fish in White Wine Recipe

This dish is a balance of texture and taste. One of my successful experimental fish dish which have immediate approval and request to have it cooked again soon.

2 Fish Fillet (Red Grouper, Cod, etc)
300ml of Fish Stock
300ml White Wine / Cooking Sake
2 diced in cubes Water Chestnut
2 tablespoons of diced in cubes Yellow Onion
1 tablesppon of diced in cubes Ginger

Garnish with
2 tablespoons of Ikura
Chopped Coriander and Parsley
Drizzle some Olive Oil

Serve with
Grilled Asparagus

Step 1: Bring the Fish Stock to a simmer.
Step 2: Add in Fish Fillet skin side down and let it simmer for 5mins with the lid on.
Step 3: Turn the Fish and add in Onion, Water Chestnut and White Wine. Continue to let it simmer for another 5mins with the lid on.
Step 4: Lastly, when the Fish is cooked, transfer the fish to a serving plate. Pour the sauce over the fish. Arrange the Grilled Asparagus. Garnish it with Ikura, Coriander, Parsley. Drizzle some Olive Oil and serve immediately.

Give this recipe a try and hope you like it too.

- Fish Stock & White Wine ratio can be adjusted to your liking.

Click here for our blog page Cooking Recipes - Japanese Cuisine for more recipes. Hope you will be inspired~