A Foodie’s Stroll along Covent Garden with a Toddler

Covent Garden, London. I absolutely adore strolling along its elegant piazza, taking in the atmosphere and enjoying the living statues and performers. There’s a true buzz to this place and my toddler loved running around chasing pigeons and observing the street entertainers. However, she did keep a safe distance from the incredible live statues. My other half is also kept entertained (much to my delight) as there’s an Apple shop which kept him occupied for a little while at least whilst I enjoyed a spot of window shopping.

Sssshhhh ,there’s also lots of ‘tummy temptations’. Its not a secret that I love eating and I have a very sweet tooth. First stop, Laduree! French macarons are one of my true weakness, I love them. (They are so expensive though) Their display is always impeccable and is always way too inviting. Aaaah, a little box to share.

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Even if it can get very crowded, I still enjoy looking around some tourist-friendly crafts. This stall in the Apple Market definitely caught my eye as my toddler absolutely loves dancing. The quote was so apt ‘ Born To Dance ‘.

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The Apple Market was gorgeous in all of it festive glory. We had a wonderful time catching a few shows, relaxing and just enjoying each other’s company.

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Time for sweet treat number 2. Intense dark chocolate soft serve with raspberry sauce on a crunchy waffle cone from Godiva. It was heavenly.

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Of course, after all these lovely sweet treats .. the toddler just had to announce that she was hungry. Starving in fact. We managed to squeeze in a few photographs before stumbling upon a friendly family-run restaurant, Pasta Brown. Luckily, they had smaller starter size pasta portions on their menu.

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Mummy daughter duo

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One with her grandpa

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One must dance, everywhere.

Hello, Pasta Brown.

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Gamberoni, butterfly king prawns sautéed in garlic butter with mixed leaves. The sauce was perfection.

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Spaghetti Alio Olio Alice. Chicken, brocolli, pine nuts, chilli, garlic and olive oil.

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Classic Bolognese which little one loved. Dairy and egg free option for her.

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I have a soft spot for family run restaurants and they dealt with all our requests very well. Delicious food is the main thing though. Mmmm! I would definitely go back. Do drop by if you are around Covent Garden, I have made a mental note in my head to explore the London Transport Museum the next time we are there.

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Chinese food in London

Foodie post! We are obviously huge fans of Chinese food, no surprises there and London just has so much to offer. Where to find the BEST OF IT? It’s really hard to tell as there are just so many ‘types’ of Chinese food from Dim Sum to numerous regional cuisines.

Different restaurant excel in different dishes and one restaurant that I personally enjoy is Mandarin Kitchen in Bayswater. A little birdie told me a few years ago that we must try their specialty signature dish, their lobster noodles and once I tried it, it was love at first taste. We take the chance to drop by whenever we are in London for a few days. It is very impressive when they bring a huge plate out to your table, just look at it! A tad pricey, but well worth it for a treat and you do get what you pay for. Well, we do not savour lobsters every day. I had to stop the waiter to get this picture, as they take it away to plate it out for you. Even portions for everybody, so there is no need to rush to get seconds. Other dishes are also tasty but the lobster noodles take the cake.

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Lobster noodles, Mandarin Kitchen.

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Squid in salted egg yolk

We were there during the festive season and it was almost impossible to get a reservation. We managed it but we still had to wait for half an hour. It is often very busy, it might be best to reserve a table before you go.

Mandarin Kitchen

14-16 Queensway, London W2 3RX, England

+44 20 7727 9012

Another must try for their roast meats is Four Seasons. The reputation of the Four Season’s roast duck has spread worldwide and some of my friends from Hong Kong and China said it is the best, even better than the ones in their home country! Now, that’s a dazzling review. They have a few branches in London now, but we tend to walk pass the one in Bayswater or drop by the newer branch in Chinatown.

Oddly enough, I do not have any picture of the roast duck! The toddler must have been playing up, have you tried eating in peace with a 2 year old? Wrestling chopsticks out of their hands, trying to order something you think they will eat and then getting them to enjoy their food. They do have an extensive menu and everything is reasonably priced. I did however capture what we ordered for my daughter. She loved it. Stir fried prawns with broccoli and mushrooms.

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Four Seasons

12 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London W1

+442074940870

I have always noticed a long queue outside Kam Tong Restaurant, so this time around we decided to join the queue! If that’s not an indication of good food, I don’t know what is. We tried their vegetable spring rolls and king prawns with asparagus. Simple and delicious.

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We also tried their Cantonese Roast Duck. Competition is fierce when it comes to this barbecue roasted dish. Its good but I prefer the one in Four Seasons or Gold Mine (both also in Bayswater)

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I have heard raving reviews for their dim sum at this restaurant, we were here for dinner therefore ordered dishes to go with steamed rice. The best dish from Kam Tong must be their Mongolian Crispy Lamb. It was served with iceberg leaves, spring onion, cucumber and Oriental brown sauce. The flavours were incredible and the crispiness of the lamb is absolutely beautiful. Try it!

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Kam Tong Restaurant

59-63 Queensway, London W2 4QH

+4420 7229 6065

Hope you are not feeling too hungry after this post! Thank you for reading and do leave your recommendations on what Chinese food to eat at your favourite joints.

Iris x

Pick us to be your Mark Warner family, please?

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I always do this, stumble upon something when it is 6 hours to the deadline! Oh seriously. ‘Why do I do this to myself? but but this is too great of an opportunity to not give it a shot?’ Come on Iris, write.. write for your life! I have just finished gawking at Capture by Lucy’s beautiful travel pictures and am taking up her call to apply to be one of Mark Warner’s family ambassadors. As she would put it, I would regret it if I don’t. Absolutely, so here goes and wish us luck.

Travel, extraordinary travel. It truly is the best. We have been very lucky as a family to be able to escape the pressures of daily life and see so much of the world together with our 2 year old. We have formed precious lasting memories by flying the little one all the way to Malaysia to start, exploring the hot springs in YangMingshan Taiwan, taking in all the sights in downtown Taipei all in a day and recently if you follow our Instagram, we have just been to Madrid, Barcelona and Greece!

Lots and lots of exploring the world with a tot in tow. Instagram must be my favourite social media platform, it was like our travelogue with lots of holiday snaps and videos especially of the little one prancing around everywhere. I have managed to snap about a thousand pictures (no joke) and I cannot wait to get them organised for my little blog.

To be in the running for Mark Warner’s fabulous holiday i.e for us to be brand ambassadors, I am suppose to collate our Top 10 travel must haves! I have written a similar blog post ‘Surviving Long Haul Flights with our Toddler‘ last year and this still stands. Always better to be prepared BUT after our recent travels, I have an alternative Top 10 MUST HAVES.

  1. To be Bold and Adventurous – experience new things!

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We risked it with the toddler and took a cruise boat out when we were in Athens to experience 3 absolutely beautiful islands namely Hydra, Aegina and Poros. It was a very long day from 7am till 7pm and we had about 9 hours to spent hopping on and off the cruise ship. It started off very wobbly as she was exceptionally quiet which is very unlike her and then she was sick! Thankfully, it was just the one off. She must have been seasick, bless! It paid off tremendously as she had a ball dancing around. When she is older, we must show her this postcard worthy picture of Hydra where she was in awe of all the donkeys on this ‘no vehicles’ island.

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2. Relax the rules – try not to be too uptight (speaking for my husband *jokes*)

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When you are on holiday, anything goes. Oh well, within limits of course. When we arrived in Greece the little one was exceptionally taken by all the gorgeous stray cats roaming everywhere! They were absolutely gorgeous although one will never know if they have fleas or carry illnesses. I definitely relaxed the rules and allowed her to touch them as long as she could wash her hands properly. Definitely makes for a more relaxed holiday!

3. Indulge – in good food, fun shopping, relaxing spa sessions, whatever tickles your fancy.

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There is no denying that I love my food especially desserts! When on holiday, INDULGE. Try it all, eat it all. Don’t follow me for diet advice although if you have or had a 2 year old. You will know that they run. These little humans can really run and chasing a toddler around takes its toll. I definitely burnt more than enough calories keeping her safe.

4. Enjoy an ‘adult’ holiday

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As long as you not taking them to a night club, all should be fine. I was initially stressed before we embarked on our trip to Athens as understandably we want to climb up the Acropolis but having read some feedback from Trip Advisor forums, some won’t recommend it as you have to leave your stroller. You know what, just do it! She had lots of exercise and plenty of fun, who cares if I could not feel my arms properly afterwards. She napped when we were still up there and we had to carry her back down. Daddy did most of the heavy lifting. Well worth it! There’s always a way for them to entertain themselves or maybe we are one of the lucky few.

5. ‘Dancing shoes’

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Those of you who follow our family’s journey will know of my tot’s tendency to break into a dance anywhere and anytime! Only 2 but she lives to this mantra ‘Why walk when you can dance?’ Plenty of dancing videos, check out one of my favourites filmed in Madrid on my Instagram HERE. Her lack of inhibitions is fantastic, she had a ball every time she heard music. Boogie boogie throughout your holiday, you will not regret it.

6. Take silly pictures and videos

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These two never fails to crack me up! They think of the most random things to do whilst waiting. Like daddy, like daughter?

7. CAMERA. Video camera. Phone camera. – even better an Insta-husband

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Bless my patient husband for dealing with my .. ‘another picture baby’. Another one here and here and here and here! Whoops. In all honesty though, my pictures of him and our daughter are way better than his. Grrrr.

8. A very LARGE inflatable – in our case, Horsey

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I kid you not, this horsey has been with us to Taiwan, Malaysia, Wales, London, you name it! Proof –>

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9. Lots of soya milk and SNACKS!

Bubba has a dairy allergy so we tend to be very prepared in this department. Lots of soya milk just in case. NEVER ever travel without snacks. I mean it. It makes them happy when they are upset. Pictures above were taken in Madrid, she was getting very grumpy and all it took was a small box of raisins to turn her frown into a smile. She even fed daddy some.

10. Little activities to keep them busy. Stickers and lots of them!

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Thank you for taking time to read and fingers crossed we will be able to embark on another fantastic getaway. Sunny one perhaps?

Pick us pick us! Little one would be thrilled if I am a #MarkWarnerMum and then she can do THIS all over again and our family will be able to form lasting memories in the sun with Mark Warner. Can we just be full time ‘wanderlusters’?

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Pumpkin picking experience

Yes yes, its yet another pumpkin patch blog post on the internet but it is special for us as its our first experience with the little one in tow. It might have been easier ( *clears throat* photo opportunity ) last year as she was not yet a walking talking toddler .. I could have plopped her anywhere and it would have been picture perfect (jokes). Its nice to set little traditions for the family though and we will have to make a conscious effort to go again.

We went to Cattows Farm, a beautiful piece of Leicestershire countryside but their pumpkin patch was empty. They had a huge demand of Pick Your Own this year but no worries as they had a special plan in place for the kiddies. They just placed pre harvested pumpkins on their land 🙂 Well, who cares! We were there and we were going to make the best of it.

She was thrilled when she saw so many pumpkins but one would assume pumpkins would be the main attraction at a pumpkin farm? It was ALL about the dandelions and the daisies for her. She kept saying ‘Look Mummy ‘ ‘Look Daddy!’ ‘I am picking lots and lots’. It was adorable, bless.

Pumpkin Patch

Cattows Farm

Pumpkin Picking

Dandelion

Pumpkin Picking at Cattows Farm

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Dandelion Love

Daddy Daughter Time

Daisies

What a lovely experience for us to enjoy as a family, we must remember to go earlier in the month next year. Perhaps there will be actual pumpkins to harvest 🙂 Cattows Farm is a wonderful family friendly place, we had a good wander around the farm shop and made some purchases. Little one was pretty chuffed with her big and ‘little’ pumpkin. Oh yes, I have to mention the cakes in their tea room. Looks super delicious but unfortunately we already had food plans, therefore did not indulge this time around.

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Cattows Farm Shop

They also had a little children play area which must be fab for the summer!

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… no prize for guessing my height 😉

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Last not but not least, a picture with their resident sheep and goat. Sure hit with bubba, she loved saying hello.

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Taipei with Kids – One day itinerary

We had a wonderful time in Taipei. We found it to be a well-mannered kid-friendly (toddler friendly) city with a variety of things to see and do. I mentioned well mannered as I always had the impression that I might be slightly put off by the people. Totally wrong as the people there are very kind and especially accommodating as we could speak some Mandarin. The city is very clean too. Stroller friendly and oh it just reminds me of Japan and Korea. Cultured.

There were too many things that I wanted to cover in Taiwan but we did not have time for them all. The weather was also not very pleasant on certain days as we were there during typhoon season. We managed to squeeze a little trip away from downtown Taipei to a hot springs resort and that’s a lovely touch. I would highly recommend it if you are travelling with children. Much needed rest and relax before or after covering the city. Ps. if you are planning any travels, I personally LOVE the DK Eyewitness travel guides.

I wrote about our experience at Taipei 101 and Din Tai Fung in my previous write up.

We had one full day left on our holiday, so here goes! This is a post covering our busy day exploring Taipei. We could have covered more ground but I think this is perfect if you are with kids. We even had cheeky cakes and coffee whilst little one had a long snooze in her pram. This post is also my entry in to the Trips100 Family Adventure Company blogger challenge. We would love for our little family to go on another adventure to Cambodia with them 🙂

First stop, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This place was spectacular, it was HUGE and oh so picturesque with the impending storm clouds. The view at CKS Memorial Hall was really something, from the moment you walk through the large Memorial Hall Doors, to the National Theatre & Concert Hall buildings on the left and right and they sure did save the best for last .. the sight you get to enjoy when you climb up 89 steps to the Memorial Hall. We were left ‘breathless’ .. properly gasping for air as I did not want to miss the changing of guards. You can imagine me trying to run up the stairs carrying the toddler whilst the boys had to fend for themselves and get my heavy handbag and the pram up those stairs.

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‘Come on, little one’. This might be one of my favourite pictures of all time.

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My beautiful mummy in front of the National Theatre.

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We made it! Caught the changing of guards ceremony which takes place every hour from 9am to 5pm. It was fascinating. If we got there earlier, little one might have enjoyed this with a better view. She was still mesmerised, probably viewing it through someone else’s phone. *jokes*

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Look at all the selfie sticks 😀

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We were all warm and sticky after our first stop and quickly hopped in to a taxi to the next attraction, Longshan Temple. Its also conveniently located next to Huaxi Street Night Market (which is open all day long) also known as Snake Alley. We decided to have lunch there. Ps. NOT snakes. Thank goodness we had lunch at a relatively normal and DELICIOUS stall before we walked passed all the ‘snakey stuff’

A large, red, palace-style archway marks the entrance to the market.

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We decided on this little stall, look at how they present their food. They charge you based on weight. All we did was point at the food we wanted and we were pleasantly surprised when the food arrived.

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Look at how little the shop is, the seating area is opposite. Picture of my mummy in front of the shop if you are in the area. Its very very good and not pretentious at all.

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Little one was quite happy playing with chopsticks and waiting for her food to arrive.

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The seafood was incredibly fresh. Delicious squid. I was quite surprised to see our tot eating this dish, she loved it paired with her noodles and rice.

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Clams, also very tasty.

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Huge pot of nutritious chicken soup.

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A very fine lunch I must say. Drooling, just thinking about it and it was not very costly too. Perhaps 20 quid for 5 adults.

We then walked around the market and I had goosebumps most of the time. There must be a reason why its called ‘Snake Alley’. They had specialty shops serving different parts of the snake and boy I was not amused. Little one was intrigued though.

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All fired up from a satisfying lunch, off we went to explore Longshan Temple. It was beautiful, mystical and bustling with all sorts of sights, smells and sounds. It is probably the busiest temple in Taipei but if you were to visit any, this would be it. I know most people would say that the temple isn’t the greatest place to visit with kids in tow but we managed to manoeuvre the little one through the temple without too much stress. We whizzed through the inside of the temple as it was very smoky with incense but little one really enjoyed the grounds of the temple. They had a waterfall and a lovely garden. I have been told to go in the evening as the candles and lights gives it a more special atmosphere. Next trip perhaps.

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We quickly hopped into a taxi for some ‘rest and relax’ at The Grand Hotel. Why a hotel? This is also one of Taipei’s popular landmarks featuring beautiful palace like exteriors and intricate interiors. Our little human was way overdue for her nap and she fell asleep oh so quickly in the taxi on the way there. Perfect timing! We had plans to drop by the very famous Shilin Night Market in the evening, so this pit stop was much appreciated after our busy morning. Ps. the Shilin Night Market is not too far from here too. Hence, this strategic and grand ‘rest station’

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Check out their keys, it symbolises wealth. Of course, following the trend of times The Grand Hotel (established in 1952)  has renovated all of their key systems to ensure better security but this wall display certainly caught my eye.

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We were really stuffed from lunch but if you are up for it the restaurant has a lovely afternoon tea buffet deal which was quite popular. We just ordered from their menu. I enjoyed a green tea slice accompanied by some lovely live music. Oh what a way to relax whilst bubba was snoozing.

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Look look, someone’s all rejuvenated after a long nap. Time to take more pictures! Grand Hotel?

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‘Hi Nanna’

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Next and final stop for the day, Shilin Night Market. Shilin is indisputably the most famous night market in Taiwan. Taipei is a food lovers dream, everything looks and tastes delicious. I had dreams about devouring everything and anything at the night markets but … unfortunately this was not the case.

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Yes, the market was filled to the brim with a wide variety of food stalls but night markets can be very overwhelming for an 18 month old. It got congested quickly and it was not particularly stroller friendly when it got busy. They are not many places to sit and there are queues everywhere.

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This might have been the trigger for her crying her eyes out. There’s a variety of amusing games in the night market too, she was thrilled with the monster my dad won for her but I think the popping of them balloons spooked her.

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We did however manage to get seats to try the famous oyster omelettes. A simple egg omelette with fresh oysters but boy did it taste good.

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Bubba was far from cooperative at this point, so we decided to call it a day and have dinner in the hotel. Once we got in the taxi, she was perfectly happy. All the hustle and bustle in the night market must have gotten to her.

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Very picture heavy post and pretty long for my standards but I am sure I will be thrilled to re-read this post when she is a bit older. Gosh, we really do love traveling especially with the little one in tow.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our travels in Taipei and do ask if you have any questions.

xxx

Ice Monster Taipei – Taiwanese Desserts

We jumped at the chance of a baby-free outing when my parents volunteered to babysit.  I quickly did some research and decided that we should definitely try one of the most famous desserts in Taiwan – shaved ice. We dropped in at one of the top shaved ice eateries, Ice Monster.

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The menu is definitely something, the variety was endless .. it was so tough for us to make a decision. We settled on their bestseller, the Mango and the Bubble Milk Tea Sensation. You can also take a peek at how they prepare your desserts as they do it right by their doorway.

Check out their branding .. got to love their ‘grumpy’ bright yellow monster.

When our desserts arrived, we just stared at each other .. channeling ‘ITS HUGE’ thoughts. Overwhelming, we should have shared but we we were greedy and wanted to try more than one flavour.

On first bite, I was rather surprised at the silky smooth texture of the ice. Quite different compared to the Malaysian shaved ice dessert (Ice Kacang) that I grew up with. Super soft shaved ice that melts in your mouth like cotton candy. Amazing! Refreshing and oh very addictive. They must add some sort of condensed milk to the ice. The mango was very fresh and this is not surprising at all as Taiwanese mangoes are abundant.

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Bubble Tea Sensation was interesting, looked like a Chewbacca. It was a deconstructed bowl of ‘frozen’ bubble tea. Creamy ribbon like shaved ice served with a side of ‘pearls’.

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The bill came up to 400 TWD , about £10. Definitely quite dear if you compare this to a street stall selling shaved ice but cannot complain for the quality, variety and experience 🙂

One for the books, baby-free ‘date night’ when we were on holibobs.

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xxx

 

Taipei travels (Part 1) : Taipei 101 & our first Michelin star experience at Din Tai Fung

Back to more travel tales, if you missed it I wrote a post about Surviving Long Haul Flights With our Toddler , our wonderful hot springs retreat and a bit about Jinshan, in the north of Taiwan.

Bit of a recap .. we were in Taiwan in July and when we there, we were issued a typhoon warning. Category 5 Typhoon Nepartak was supposed to make landfall and we rushed from Yangmingshan, the mountain area down to downtown Taipei where we hunkered down at our hotel. All very scary especially as we had our little one with us and we have never experienced anything like this at all. Thankfully, it did not batter Taipei much and the warning was lifted and shops and attractions which were initially closed started to open for business again in the later part of the afternoon.

We then decided to head on over for some sightseeing and food at Taipei 101. It was still raining cats and dogs, so taking shelter somewhere indoors was the best option. The Taipei 101 tower itself looks like a giant bamboo stalk, no pictures as we rushed in due to rain. An engineering marvel as its one of the tallest buildings and its designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes.

Besides the tower itself, the base of the tower is a HUGE multi-level shopping mall, food courts and restaurants.

Look, swanky mall eh?

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We took a trip to the top of the tower by purchasing tickets. Tickets will grant you access to the observatory and the museum. Since it was ‘typhoon day’, there were hardly any queues although this also meant that the outdoor observatory was closed.

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Just found a picture of the tower from the outside, but its one of those touristy ones. Whoops. Definitely not buying it as little one and the husband is not even in it. Bet you have done this too, just take a picture of it for memory sake. They are really efficient when it comes to children and the elderly, there’s a special seat for them to wait instead of going round in a queue.

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The lift up is quite something as well. It took about 40 seconds to the 89th floor. Unbelievable.

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The views from the observatory deck was amazing.

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Little one slept all the way up and was still fast asleep when we were up there. Gave us a chance to take ‘lovey dovey’ touristy pics.

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Hoorah, someone is up to join the fun. Grouchy though *approach with caution*. Posing with the postcard we sent home specially for the little one. Lovely little note for her to read when she is older.

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and one with her grandparents.

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This is the massive gold coloured damper that keeps the building from swaying. Very interesting, my husband read all about it 😀

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There are a number of figurines around the observatory deck. Little one had a bit of fun holding their hands and imitating them.

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There’s also a little museum bit before you head out.

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I would highly recommend adding Taipei 101 to your itinerary even with little ones in tow. She found it quite interesting and there’s lots of space for them to run around when its not too packed.

After our spot of sightseeing, its time for food. Well, its always a good time for food especially in Taiwan. We wanted to try Din Tai Fung. One of the ‘must eat’ places in this country. This restaurant originated in Taiwan and it has lots of branches in 13 (or more) countries. It has 1 Michelin star and we knew that we were in for a long wait. We expected to wait an hour according to all the reviews and if that’s the case, we would have looked for food elsewhere. Definitely our lucky day, we waited for only 15 minutes for a table. The service was impeccable and although it was very busy, we were attended to very well. Ps. never in my life .. we had to get a number to wait for a table. They hand you menus and make you order in advance before you are actually seated too.

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Hoorah, we are in. It was a huge restaurant and the first thing you notice that it is actually very clean despite the volume of people who eats there. Their staff is top class which is expected of a Michelin star restaurant I suppose. The glass window feature to their kitchen was very interesting. Entertaining to watch the kitchen crew diligently making their famous dumplings and buns.

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The food did not disappoint, definitely lived up to all the raving reviews. You know sometimes, when you are looking forward to something that’s pretty hyped up .. its not as good as you think or it always slightly disappoints .. this was not the case. Food was lush.

Would recommend their Shrimp Fried Rice. Not salty and not oily, it was delicious.

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For dumplings, we tried one of their inspired creations. Steamed Gourd (or Squash?) and Shrimp Dumplings. There’s an art to eating them .. well I just ate them. They were outstanding. Did you know that there’s soup in them dumplings. Wow. Do make sure the soup runs into your spoon though.

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Now for something sweet to end our delicious meal on a higher note.

Snow fungus soup served cold, I was not a huge fan as it was pretty ‘gelatinous’.

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The Taro Steamed Dumplings on the other hand was exquisite. Dessert version of their steamed dumplings. I was apprehensive at first but the taro filling was not overly sweet and has a texture like mash. It works though. Did you know that all their dumplings have a minimum of 18 folds. I tried counting and I think all of them have exactly 18, what a piece of art.

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What really stood out to me about the food at Din Tai Fung was that nothing was overly salty and they really focused on the quality of the ingredients. Very intriguing and delicate tastes.

A must try – lived up to its hype.

 

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