My Blog List

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Sponge: Mobile Beauty Service for HK's Lively Ladies

It’s almost December and our calendars are filling up with festive invitations, faster than you can say “Father Christmas”. We’ve got it all going on: from office parties, to seasonal socials and family obligations. Oh, and we also have to hold down those day jobs to fund these frolics! Ladies - it’s a lot - I hear you. With so much to think about, Diane Younes and her Sponge team have popped up at the perfect time to launch the city’s slickest at-home hair and makeup service, to help us look and feel fabulous for any occasion.


Diane herself is the most impressive advert for Sponge, as she arrived to our meeting with meticulous makeup and her hair in a chic chignon. Her drive and determination is infectious and her personal connection to the brand is evident in every element of Sponge. She is the epitome of a #girlboss - after leaving behind her corporate number in New York to move to HK - where she discovered that we were missing the effective, efficient and economical beauty services synonymous with NYC. Cue some serious hustle and the birth of Sponge, which offers women an extensive range of hair and makeup looks in your home, office or, anywhere that is convenient for you; all you need is a flat surface and a plug – genius!


The whole process is a pleasure; start by choosing your desired looks from the website and locking in your preferred appointment slot. I decided to go for The Weekender hair which promised cool waves and an undone look and The Influencer makeup: a smoky eye, contoured cheek bones and a neutral lip. I was clearly going for Gisele vibes and while I, unfortunately, did not transform into an Amazonian Goddess (sob), I did feel super swish and pampered after my session!


The only thing I was slightly apprehensive about was inviting people into my home to complete this service. Undergoing beauty treatments can be a personal and intimate experience – especially in a HK sized apartment – so you really need to have the right personalities to make sure it doesn’t get awkward. Don’t sweat it though, Diane is a step ahead and has assembled a Sponge squad who are talented, warm and friendly; a joy to welcome into your private space. I was lucky enough to have two ladies who were pleasant but professional, punctual and prompt – everything took just under an hour and we even had time for a sign along to Britney’s greatest hits. Yep, those girls rocked!
 I was really pleased with my finished looks and so impressed by the ease and affordability of the service. Everything at Sponge is customisable and after chatting with my stylists, I was able to create an individual look that I was fully satisfied with – all while lounging in my living room. This is definitely something I can see myself getting hooked on so, I may need to ask Santa for some Sponge vouchers in my stocking this year!  

Appointments can be booked anything from two hours to one month in advance, with prices from HK$330 to HK$440 for hair and HK$440 to HK$550 for makeup. Eyelash extensions are also available and you can avail of a HK$50 discount off your first appointment, when you enter the promotion code “FIRST50” at checkout. Happy pampering and here’s to a new way of doing beauty in HK!




The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar - Chiang Mai


As a lover of Thai food, I thought I had tried it all: from the classic pad Thais and papaya salads to the more intricate and unusual dishes created in the northern regions of Thailand. On a recent trip to Chiang Mai, I was eager to try one of the city's finest and – more importantly – unique dining spots and knew that The Service 1921 had to be at the top of my list. This famed eatery is heralded by most publications and has been favourably reviewed by those who have been lucky enough to try it. With this in mind, I was both excited and apprehensive to put it to the test: enthusiastic to try Chiang Mai's top-rated venue and very hopeful that it would not disappoint, as hyped venues unfortunately often do. 
Image title
Image title
The restaurant is set in the grounds of the Anantara Hotel, which introduces the stunning scene for the most sublime dining experience that is to come. Everything about the hotel staff, gardens and setting on the Ping River is perfectly in tandem and effortlessly and consistently ties together the key ingredients of great culinary adventure, slick customer service, delectable food and sensational surroundings. The alluring atmosphere of mystery and intrigue is present from the moment one steps inside The Service 1921.
Image title
Image titleImage title
Image title
We began our experience in the bar and were immediately immersed in the historical artefacts on show. The colonial house originally opened as the British Consulate in 1921 and welcomed a constant stream of high-profile and compelling visitors. The Service 1921 has preserved and reinvented the sentiment of this colonial era in an eccentric and fictitious revival of the British government’s secret intelligence service. We spent the beginning of our evening fascinated and discussing the photos of enigmatic spies while sipping on cocktails concocted by the in-house mixologist. The drinks menu is extensive, and there is something for everyone on the list of these inspired creations, but I particularly recommend The British Consulate or Tea Time for a different and delicious aperitif. 
Image title
We continued upstairs to the restaurant, which did not disappoint with its dark, dramatic interiors, full of subtle twists and turns seducing us back into the Roaring 20s. We were treated to a jaunt in the Interrogation Room and found a secret door in the library wall leading to the private dining area, decorated with old-time filing cabinets and complex maps detailing the British colony. These features were so novel and fun and truly added an extra dimension to our evening. 
Image title
Image title
The menu at The Service 1921 is a beautiful blend of contemporary Thai, Chinese Sichuan and Vietnamese dishes, created by expert chefs from each region. It's obvious that the freshest, most fragrant ingredients are carefully selected, and we savoured every exquisite mouthful. I am often hesitant when such a variety of fare is offered and worry that the quality of the food may suffer, but this is absolutely not the case at The Service 1921. I can wholeheartedly recommend everything from the tender beef and pomelo salads to the butter chicken curry and the spicy pork dumplings. I must also give a shout-out to the unforgettable chicken satay, the Chinese roast duck and the beef massaman curry. Let's just say that these guys know how to do flawless fusion and execute it with precision. For added individuality, we washed the bountiful buffet down with a local Thai wine and a chat with the most cordial and accommodating staff that we encountered during our entire trip. 

Image title
Image title
After our incredible night, we knew that we wanted to return to the Anantara the following day and decided to indulge in the decadent afternoon tea, served riverside. We met with the pastry chef, as well as the executive chef (fresh off the plane from Peru!), who talked us through the sweet and savoury sensations on offer. We chose the perfect ending to the trip by relaxing in the lush greenery and sampling the refined crumbly pastries and boutique desserts, alongside crisp glasses of Prosecco. 
Image title
Image title
While I hope that I have done the resort and the restaurant justice, nothing could beat experiencing both for oneself. Thankfully, Chiang Mai is such a short flight from Hong Kong, and not only will I be returning on my next visit there, I might just have to plan my next trip around revisiting my new favourite hotel destination. If it sounds like I'm gushing about it, it's even better in reality: trust me!

The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar, Anantara Chiang Mai, 123–123/1 Charoen Prathet Road, Changklan, Muang, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand, +66 53 253 333 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

T'ang Court Launches Lavish Lunar New Year Menu

There's no denying that time flies – especially in this fabulously frenetic city where the celebrations last all year long. So it's not surprising that Chinese New Year menus have already been perfectly prepped by HK's hottest spots, to ensure that eager diners can book well in advance to avoid disappointment. With this festive spirit in mind, I can't think of a better place to step back in time to China's Golden Age than T'ang Court in the Langham Hotel, which serves up authentic Cantonese cuisine along with exquisite presentation and supreme service. 

Since 2009, T'ang Court has been recognised by industry heavyweights like The Michelin Guide, Forbes Travel Guide and Elite Traveler and has impressively maintained its prestigious reputation as one of the most credible and opulent venues to indulge in local fare in the city. The kitchen is led by veteran chef Kwong Wai Keung, who continues to re-invent Cantonese delicacies with elegance and innovation whilst remaining diligently deferential to the ornate attributes of China's Golden Era. The T'ang Court team have crafted a stellar menu to celebrate Chinese taste and tradition, perfect for ringing in CNY with a close group of friends or family in a charming environment.
From the moment you step inside T'ang Court, diners can expect to wonder at the classic, lavish furnishings where reds, golds and velvets create an atmosphere of luxury and exclusivity while long, heavy drapes maximise privacy for the ultimate individual dining experience. There are also several stunning private function rooms featuring dark mahoganies and traditional accessories that pay homage to the T'ang Dynasty. There are endless choices in HK, but for me, this is the perfect place to get lost in time immemorial.

Image title
The menu is a collective triumph of old favourites such as a scrumptious scallop and shrimp dim sum combination, decadent black truffle dumplings and crispy, golden-fried taro puffs packed full of fresh, flavourful seafood and adorned with colourful flowers. Following this came light and fluffy pan-fried rice flour rolls, served with homemade XO sauce that broke up the glutinous texture of the rolls with a fiery kick. I would highly recommend enjoying these dishes with a cold glass of Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, on the expert advice of T'ang Court's sommelier. 
Image title
Image title
Another standout was the baked fresh lobster with mozzarella cheese and a creamy Portuguese sauce, alongside a cool white Burgundy wine that enhanced the deep flavours and tender texture of the lobster. Staying on the seafood theme, the sautéed prawns arrived surrounded by asparagus, crunchy, caramelised walnuts and mixed peppers, together with a light and airy 2014 rosé. Meat lovers will be kept happy with the succulent stir-fried diced lamb with mixed mushrooms and onion, ideally served with a warming Shiraz. 
Image title
To make sure that T'ang Court has all bases covered, I specially requested some vegetarian options and can promise any veggies out there that you will be fully catered for at T'ang Court. I often find Cantonese vegetarian options bland and uninspiring, but this was certainly not the case after tasting the unique menu full of meatless choices that were fun and tasty. Everything from the ingredients to the presentation was prepared with equal consideration and effort, ensuring that anyone with special dietary requirements would feel just as included in the extraordinary experience of dining at T'ang Court. This is a true testament to the team's commitment to consistently producing award-winning culinary masterpieces. 
As with all fine dining options, T'ang Court sits at the higher end of the price scale, but if it's splendour, satisfaction and sophistication you're after, this one will certainly give you a lot of bang for your buck.
1/F and 2/F, The Langham, Hong Kong, 8 Peking Road, TST, 2132 7898
All images courtesy of Taking Hong Kong and T'ang Court