Yuu Kitchen

Yuu Kitchen – A New Restaurant Opens in London’s Aldgate East

Yesterday saw a crowd of journos, bloggers and foodies gather at the press launch of a new restaurant in Aldgate East, London – Yuu Kitchen. I, too, was there to find out what this newcomer is bringing to the table. There will be no further puns in this post, I promise.

Yuu Kitchen Press Launch

Yuu Kitchen is run by two Aussie mates, General Manager Stephen Lowe, previously of Icebar London, and Head Chef Jon de Villa, previously of Nobu, Nobu Berkeley and Zafferano. Other owners include Fred Olsson and Alex de Pommes, both of whom are co-founders of Icebar London, and Peter Jones. This seems like a group of guys who would have the experience to make a successful restaurant.

What about the food then? With items like Bao buns filled with Twice-cooked 7up Braised Pork Belly, Poke with Tuna, Salmon, Whitefish & Octopus, or Peanut Chicken on the Big Green Egg Grill, it’s safe to say the menu is inspired by the flavours of south-east Asia and the Pacific rim. Dishes will be served in a sharing style.

“We want to bring the multicultural diversity of Asian food that we grew up with in Australia and bring it to London.”

Yuu Kitchen canapés

Bar Manager Keira Page has put wine, including sparkling wine, and beer on tap. That’s right – tap. There are bottled options available if this is not to your fancy. The rest of the drinks menu includes seasonal cocktails as well as a carefully selected Sake menu to complement the meals.

The vibe at Yuu is casual – guests are seated on barstools at elevated tables and the décor is paying homage to pop art, Manga and modern Asian styles. With a capacity of only 55 pax the atmosphere will be vibrant and cosy.

Yuu Kitchen artwork

With its casual setting, cool vibe and super tasty food, Yuu Kitchen is definitely one to watch. Lucky me, it’s just a 2 minute walk from my office.

Average price pp:
£15 – £25 plus drinks

Address:
29 Commercial Street, London E1 6NE
Nearest tube: Aldgate East

Opening times:
Lunch; Wed – Sun 12:00 – 14:30
Dinner; Mon – Sat 17:30 – late, Sun 17:30 – 22:00

Reservations:
Yuu Kitchen will operate a walk-in policy except for groups of 6 or more
020 7377 0411
http://www.yuukitchen.com/

Featured image copyright: Yuu Kitchen

Carlos P. Romulo

Romulo Café – Authentic Filipino Cuisine in London

Last weekend I ventured out to 343 Kensington High Street with a group of friends to try out the recently opened Filipino restaurant, Romulo Café. Founded by the Romulo family back in 2009, this is the first branch of Romulo Café outside of Manila. Here’s a quick recap on Filipino cuisine and some of the dishes my friends and I enjoyed.

The Filipino cuisine is a mixture of Malay, Indian, Spanish, Chinese, and American, as well as other Asian Indian cuisine adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate. Typically you will see a lot of meat, such as lechon (a whole roasted pig) or longganisa (Philippine sausages), fish and other seafood, e.g. salted fish or fried shrimp, and various soups like sinigang (meat or seafood in a sour tamarind broth). All very tasty and always served with lots of rice.

At Romulo Café, my Filipino partner did the ordering for our group of six. We tried twelve different dishes, and of some of them we ordered two portions to share. By the time we were finished, no one complained about still being hungry.

First off, the customary bread, or pandesal. These warm, incredibly soft pieces of carb heaven impressed everyone at the table. We promptly googled for the recipe and ordered two additional servings.

Romulo Café - Pandesal in a bowl

Next, the Pomelo Salad, lettuce with native grapefruit and salted egg with an amazing strawberry vinaigrette:

Romulo Café - Pomelo salad

Tuna Kilawin, a tuna ceviche marinated with cane vinegar with red onions, cucumbers, peppers and radish:

Romulo Café - Tuna Kilawin

Chef Lorenzo’s Pork Sisig, chopped seared pork belly topped with fried egg, pickled apples and caramelised shallots:

Romulo Café - Pork Sisig

Sinigang Na Salmon Sa Miso, salmon cooked in sour tamarind broth served with aubergine, green beans and daikon:

Romulo Café - Sinigang na salmon sa miso

Binagoongang Boneless Crispy Pata, a deboned crispy pork leg with aubergine salsa and tomato shrimp sauce:

Romulo Café - Binagoongang Boneless Crispy Pata

Banana Turon, banana fritters served warm with banoffee ice cream and toffee sauce:

Romulo Café - Banana Turon

Sans Rival, “unrivalled” modern Filipino dessert of dulce de leche buttercream, cashews, chewy and sweet meringue with vanilla ice cream:

Romulo Café - Sans Rival

And finally, a traditional Filipino dessert, the halo halo, a combination of ube ice cream, glazed banana, jackfruit gel, pandan jelly, milk granita and coconut:

Romulo Café - Halo Halo

Compared to other Filipino restaurants in London (Josephine’s being the most famous), Romulo provides a breath of fresh air with a bit more excitement in the atmosphere and presentation of the food. The service is very good and friendly. Even with a full house we never had to wait to have our glasses filled.

Address:
343 Kensington High Street, London W8 6NW

Opening times:
Mon – Sat 12pm – 12am
Sun 
12pm – 11.30pm

Reservations:
020 3141 6390
http://www.romulocafe.co.uk/

Featured Image copyright: Romulo Café

Hidden Beach, El Nido

Why You Should Visit El Nido, Philippines, Right Now

Wish I could say its good to be back home, but this cold London weather is just a massive downer! Having returned from the long awaited trip to the Philippines, I am already starting to plan my next escape to the paradise that is El Nido. You’d better grab a hot beverage and get comfortable as this is going to be a long read. Hope you enjoy! Oh, and do click on the pictures to view them larger. You’ll thank me later.

Getting to the Philippines
Flying out from London, you have a number of options in terms of routes to the Philippines, both direct and with connecting flights. The bigger airlines, such as KLM, Air France and Cathay Pacific choose to use their homes – Schipol, Charles de Gaulle and Hong Kong respectively – for connecting, whereas the Philippine national carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), have recently reopened their direct Manila – London route.

Man with child, Manila

When planning my trip, I figured I would not enjoy a direct 15 hour flight and chose to fly with Emirates, with a three hour stopover in Dubai. This turned out to be an excellent plan. Being almost half way through my journey, it allowed me to stretch my legs and enjoy the many amenities Dubai International has to offer.

Having arrived in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, getting through immigration and customs was a breeze. Getting out of the airport, though, took a bit longer, even with the late night traffic.

A word of advice: make sure you have plenty of time when travelling around Manila, especially if you’re due to catch a flight. The city has recently been voted as having the worst traffic in the world. A simple, unexpected fender bender along your route could add hours to your journey.

El Nido, Palawan
The Philippine island of Palawan has been voted the best island in the world by Condé Nast Traveler readers two years in a row. Trust me, this is no fluke. It is absolutely gorgeous!

El Nido town beachfront

The beachfront of El Nido town.

El Nido is a small town in the northern part of Palawan. To get there, you have two viable options:

  1. flying to Puerto Princesa International (PPS) and taking a six hour coach (van) transfer to El Nido or
  2. taking a direct, one hour flight from Manila to El Nido’s Lio Airport (ENI).

My friend and I chose the latter. The round trip costs around P10,900 (GBP 150 / USD 230 / EUR 210) per person. Island Transvoyager, Inc. (ITI), now operating as AirSWIFT, is the only airline currently allowed to operate the Manila – El Nido or Cebu – El Nido routes. Book your tickets directly with the airline – you won’t find them on Kayak or Expedia. When booking your accommodation in El Nido, your hotel will usually be happy to assist with the flights as well.

The town proper is very small, but offers a variety of bars and restaurants (many of them right on the beach) for you to enjoy. Everything has a local feel to it, with no chain shops or restaurants in sight. Very refreshing!

El Nido town proper

El Nido town proper.

At this point, I would like to address two misconceptions other blogs and websites have highlighted:

  1. as of Oct 2015, there IS an ATM in El Nido, so you don’t need to worry about running out of cash
  2. as of Nov 2014, there IS electricity around the clock in El Nido town. This used to be only available between 2 pm and 6 am.

Accommodation in El Nido
There are already plenty of hotels, hostels, guesthouses and resorts in El Nido for you to choose from. Depending on your budget, you can choose a room in the town proper from as little as P500 (GBP 7 / USD 15) per night, or go for the luxury resort experience on a private island at P22,000 (GBP 300 / USD 465) per night, or something in between.

As mentioned in a previous post, we booked our seven night stay with El Nido Cove Resort, a four star resort approx. 10 km north of the town proper, 4 km from El Nido Airport. A tricycle ride to town takes about 25 minutes and costs PHP 200 per way.

El Nido Cove Resort

El Nido Cove Resort.

The resort’s staff were very friendly, offering a choice of activities at the resort such as kayaking, or the many island hopping tours. With only about a dozen rooms, the resort was tranquility central even when fully booked. As this was not peak season, there were only a few guests for the majority of our stay. It was absolute bliss. You had the well maintained pool all to yourself.

El Nido Cove Resort pool

El Nido Cove Resort pool.

The rooms were very clean and equipped with powerful air conditioning units. There were no TVs in the rooms (pending installation of the antenna cable) which was actually a good thing. It forced us to spend our precious time outside. Also, there was no Wi-Fi available in the rooms, only in the Lobby area and the Terrace. A minor inconvenience, which will most likely soon be addressed.

According to the staff, El Nido Cove have big plans for the future. They are preparing a massive expansion in the next 12 months. An additional 200 (!) rooms will be added. I hope they will be able to maintain the level of service and personal touch with over ten times the current capacity. (Special thanks to Richelle (?) and the rest of the staff for taking such good care of us!)

Sunset at El Nido Cove Resort

Sunset at El Nido Cove Resort.

Things to do in El Nido
Snorkelling and island hopping tours are by far the most popular activities in El Nido. With crystal clear waters and a number of small islands scattered around northern Palawan, this is absolutely the thing to do. There are four different island tours, A though D, all visiting different islands, hidden-away beaches and the best snorkelling spots.

My friend and I chose ‘Tour C’. This six-hour tour took us around four beautiful spots: the Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, the Secret Beach and Helicopter Island. At a very affordable price of P1,400 (GBP 20 / USD 30), the tour comes with a delicious lunch prepared by the tour guides, snorkelling gear and a day you’ll never forget.

Hidden Beach, El Nido

Blue waters at Hidden Beach.

Matinloc Shrine, El Nido

Matinloc Shrine.

The crew preparing lunch.

The crew preparing lunch.

Star Beach, El Nido

Lunch was served on this beach. It may have been called Star Beach.

Helicopter Island's stunning beach.

Helicopter Island’s stunning beach.

Please note: The (P200 per person, payable with all Tours) Eco-Tourism Development Fee was established in 2008 in an attempt to fund the expenses of environmental maintenance and protection. The Fee is also used to develop environmental protection projects which aim to limit the impact of tourism on the environment.

Here are a few tips for your consideration when going on one of these tours:

  1. Bring plenty of sunscreen. You’ll need to reapply it every chance you get. Trust me and my crispy, burnt legs on this.
  2. You will get wet so dress accordingly. Many of the stops will require you to swim to shore. If you are a non-swimmer, the tour guides will literally drag your floating a** to shore. Good thing too – you wouldn’t want to miss the breathtaking scenery.
  3. Bring a dry bag or at the very least a sealable plastic bag for your valuables. You’d hate to lose your iPhone or worse, your DSLR, into the blue waters (has been known to happen a lot).
El Nido island hopping tour

The always smiling crew at the back, stern tourists at the front.

An alternative to the island hopping tours is Tour E, an inland tour covering the breathtaking beaches of Nacpan and Calitang as well as the Nagkalit-Kalit Falls and Makinit Hotsprings.

Instead of a full-blown tour, we decided to just head out to Nacpan Beach for a few hours. This was a good 30 minute tricycle ride away from the resort. Past lush rice fields, at the end of a rough dirt road lies an absolutely stunning beach that stretches on forever:

The beautiful Nacpan Beach.

The beautiful Nacpan Beach.

Nacpan Beach.

Nacpan Beach.

You could also rent a scooter or a motorbike from El Nido town and drive up to Nacpan Beach for the day. At the beach you will find a small restaurant and a stall selling drinks (e.g. a can of Coke was P50 / £0.70 / $1.10) and snacks. Make sure you leave nothing behind and use the bins provided to discard your trash!

Tricycles are the easiest way to get around El Nido.

Tricycles are the easiest way to get around El Nido.

Finally, my top reasons to visit El Nido right now
I must stress the urgency here. There is a lot of development going on in El Nido and I fear, unless the local authorities take extra care, this gorgeous, unspoilt paradise will turn into a trash-riddled, overpriced tourist trap. Go now, before it’s too late!

  1. The true “away from everything” experience
  2. Many islands to explore, all with pristine beaches
  3. Not (yet) overcrowded with tourists
  4. Very affordable accommodation and dining.

So what are you waiting for? Go. Now.

PS. Let me know if you have any questions or would like further recommendations for travel to the Philippines.

Video: Nacpan Beach

I have just returned from my two week trip to the Philippines. It was amazing! I’ve started to write up my experiences, but it’s going to be a very long post. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this video I shot at the spectacular Nacpan Beach in El Nido. I already want to go back.

El Nido, Palawan by Allan Ascaño on Flickr

Preparing for El Nido, Philippines

Photo credit: Ace Reston on Flickr

Photo credit: Ace Reston on Flickr

In just four weeks’ time I will be heading out to the Philippines for a two week holiday. It’s been a long time coming since I bought my flights nearly seven months ago. Recently I’ve been planning the various aspects of the trip: accommodation, transportation, wardrobe (read: online shopping), what camera to bring, etc. There’s still plenty to be done before take-off in mid-November.

The majority of my two week getaway will be spent in El Nido, a small town in the northern part of Palawan island. Here’s what I have to look forward to:

Photo credit: Aleksandr Zykov on Flickr

Photo credit: Aleksandr Zykov on Flickr

Photo credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ on Flickr

Photo credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ on Flickr

Are you jealous yet? Well, I can’t wait!

As far as the preparation goes, I think I’ve covered the broad strokes:

  • return flight to Manila; I’m flying with Emirates so there’s going to be a quick stop over in Dubai (bonus: first time on the Airbus A380!)
  • return flight from Manila to El Nido; choosing to fly directly to El Nido instead of Puerto Princesa is more expensive (PHP 10,900 per person, approx. GBP 150/USD 230), but will save me from a five (5) hour coach journey on rough roads
  • accommodation in El Nido; El Nido Cove Resorts & Spa is located 10km away from the town proper and should offer a relaxing start for my holiday. There’s no electricity in El Nido town between 6am and 2pm daily so this should be a welcome break from pretty much everything.
  • accommodation for a few days in Manila; my partner and I chose to try Airbnb for this one instead of booking a regular hotel room. We chose a two bedroom flat as we will likely have friends over for a long overdue catch-up. This is located in Fort Bonifacio Global City, the financial centre in Metro Manila, and offers a wide variety of shops, bars and restaurants.
  • I will not be bringing my DSLR; having recently upgraded my phone to the iPhone 6S, I’ve decided not to bring my trusty old Canon DSLR with me. The 6S has a 12 MP camera and can shoot 1080p HD or even 4K video. This will be my primary camera for the trip, but I might bring my Canon AE-1.
  • as for the wardrobe, well, I still haven’t stored away my shorts and flip flops after the summer plus I’ve spent a considerable amount of time shopping online for swimwear, so I should be sorted!

Did I forget anything? Ah yes! You may have noticed that I haven’t booked any tours, be it for island hopping or snorkelling. These I plan to figure out when I get there. Or maybe I’ll just find a spot on the beach and arrange for a steady flow of drinks with the hotel staff.

Do you have any recommendations for must-see/must-do activities in El Nido or Manila? Do let me know in the comments below!

Featured image credit: Allan Ascaño on Flickr

Ōura Rings in Black and White

Oura – The World’s First Wellness Ring

With just over two weeks remaining on their Kickstarter campaign, a revolutionary ring-sized wellness computer Oura has already received over $400,000 in pledges, four times their initial goal. The first $50,000 mark was hit in the first few hours of the campaign going live in August 2015. The public’s thirst for wearable technology, especially when designed and manufactured with such incredible attention to detail, seems unquenchable. Let’s have a look at what Oura brings to the market.

Expats love Ecuador, find UK a bit of a mixed bag

For the second year running, Ecuador has topped the list of best places to live abroad in the InterNations Expat Insider survey. With more than 14,000 respondents, this is one of the most extensive studies ever conducted to explore the living conditions of expatriates. 94 per cent of the foreigners in Ecuador are pleased with local leisure options, while 91 per cent are satisfied with the local cost of living. And the weather’s not exactly horrible either.

I’ve lived and worked in the UK for the past eight years and my sentiments are echoed by the survey’s results: the cost of living makes most expats cringe but the job opportunities and the ease of getting off the island (to find some sun, usually) are a definite bonus. A mixed bag of results there for the UK, which puts it in the 31st place in the survey, when the low cost of living and ease of settling in push Mexico and Malta to the top three.Top Expat Destinations 2015 - infographic

(Career) Opportunities-A-Plenty

My employer asked if I would consider relocating from Helsinki to London as my skills were required there. Making the decision didn’t take long at all. I had always wanted to live abroad, and my partner didn’t really speak Finnish so it would be easier for him to find employment in an English speaking country. Plus the company would pay for a relocation agent to help us get settled in London as well as the move itself. I even got three return flights ‘on the house’ to go back to see friends and family if (and when) I got homesick. All in all a pretty good deal, right?

In the Expat Insider survey, the UK stands out when it comes to working abroad, ranking 7th out of 64 countries for job satisfaction and career opportunities. Finding a job in the UK on their own or moving for their partner’s job or education are the two most popular reasons that expats gave for moving to the United Kingdom.

Expats who have made the move to the UK are particularly content with their career prospects: over two-thirds gave them a positive rating. In addition, 63 per cent of employed expats are generally satisfied with their jobs in the United Kingdom. Overall job security is also considered favourable here, with the UK ranking 17th out of 64 countries in this category. It is not all work and no play, though: more than eight in ten respondents are generally happy with the available leisure options and about nine in ten rate their opportunity to travel positively. I just need a few more days off, that would make travelling so much easier.

Cost Of Living

The first thing that will hit expats relocating to the UK, myself included, is definitely the cost of living. More than half of the expats surveyed by InterNations in the UK were unhappy with the overall cost of living, with a third finding it difficult to find appropriate housing and 66 per cent rating the affordability of housing negatively. We had expert help in finding accommodation that suited our needs, but the cost of rent, council tax, electricity and travel was definitely more than we were expecting.

Let’s Talk About The Weather

The dreary weather of the United Kingdom has Brits leaving for sunnier shores. Of the British expat respondents, 45 percent stated that the weather and climate of their destination was a consideration for their move abroad. This is significantly higher than the global average of 29 per cent of expats who expressed the same sentiment.

Personally, I do not miss the sleet and snow back in Finland. I’m quite happy with the milder winters of these British Isles. I just wish it didn’t rain quite so often.


About the InterNations Expat Insider 2015 survey
For its annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations asked more than 14,300 expatriates representing 170 nationalities and living in 195 countries or territories to rate and provide information on various aspects of expat life. The ratings of the individual factors were then used to draw up topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living. These were further averaged in order to rank 64 expatriate destinations around the world.

Laundrapp Logo

Laundrapp – The Easy Way to Get Your Laundry Done

Laundrapp LogoWhen you get all giddy and excited about trying out something new, say a product or a service, there’s nothing worse than having a bad first experience. Especially from a point of customer retention. You’d need to be pretty extraordinary to get a customer to buy again if you’ve failed to meet their expectations during the first contact. Well, to be honest, my first experience with Laundrapp, a door-to-door laundry service, didn’t go as planned, but somehow they managed to convince me to give them a second chance.

Beast restaurant

Crab or Steak – A Restaurant Review of Beast

Today’s restaurant trend seems to be to relieve customers from choice and have only two things on the menu. Burger or lobster (Burger & Lobster). Chicken or steak (Tramshed). Just over a year ago, Beast, by the good (pun!) people behind Goodman restaurants, joined this trend and offers only two choices: Nebraskan steak and Norwegian king crab. Personally, I’m a big fan on simplicity and hate deciding between a dozen different options for both starters and mains. Followed by six friends visiting from Switzerland and New York, we ventured out to see what the Beast experience is all about. Here’s what happened…