Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Byron Burgers: where we found some skinny love

I never really liked burgers until two years ago and now all I can think about is how much I would love to have a cheeseburger.

I've had five burgers in the past five days (two last Sunday, none for Meatless Monday) and as my friends plan around weekend dinners I've been suggesting steak/burger joints like MeatLiquor, The Admiral Codrington, Honest Burgers. It's strange, but my burger cravings really skyrocket this time of year (late summer/early fall). Yesterday I wanted to try the new Chilli Cheese Stack burger from Deliverance but I had leftover arroz caldo c/o the boyfriend so I had that instead. This morning, I woke up scrambling to press my four snooze buttons hoping I'd hear the sound of four sizzling steak patties on my griddle pan instead. I want a cheeseburger. DARN IT!

Ironically, the most memorable burger out of the five is actually a 'not-so-burger' burger from Byron called the Skinny (£7.50).

Now, a standard burger looks like this:
Photo by this dude.
Ladies and gents, dissect: 1) a massive minced beef patty (cooked medium rare to medium); 2) a decent bun that can soak the juices and can hold through monster bites (preferably sourdough or brioche); 3) gooey or tangy melted cheese (American cheese, extra mature cheddar/comté or even Red Leicester); 4) streaky bacon; and 5) crisp LTG (lettuce, tomato slice & gherkins). Ideally served with fries on the side and some sort of beer or soda float.

You are excused to burp at the thought of that.

Anyway. Here's what a Byron Skinny looks like:

Bun-less, check. Cheese-free, oui. Bacon-deprived, sure. Purists would not even call it a burger; they'd roll their eyes and drop their jaws at the thought of using utensils to eat it. But hey, suum cuique!

Now I've had 'skinny' burgers before (back when I found it strange to eat meat enveloped in bread). Chefs usually go crazy on presentation for lack of everything else, as if serving meat on slate or on a chopping board should somehow make up for the carb-stripped meal. Byron must've missed the memo on prettifying because the Skinny came as straightforward as a slap on the face; it was essentially just a beef patty on a plate served with a side salad and a wedge of gherkin. My date had the signature Byron (£9.25) with fries on the side so my order looked like a coughed up excuse of a snack.

Then again Byron has never been a fancy schmancy place. A few years back, when London had a surge of steady American-inspired restaurants, Byron was hailed as the holy grail of burger chains. I remember queuing up for an hour and a half at the old Intrepid Fox to try the signature Byron myself (with extra guacamole and extra bacon plus a malt choccy milkshake). It was indeed delicious. Since then, heaps more diner-inspired places have opened and I personally think there are better burger joints in town. But Byron still serves good quality grub.

My date had a forkful of my Skinny and said my patty was weak. He didn't think it was as good as his Byron (which he thought was good but 'I've had better' - fair enough, he was exposed to NY burgers). I disagreed. At any other time I'd pick a proper burger but on that day my lone, boring-looking, medium-cooked patty was all I needed and wanted. I thought it was tasty and comforting in its simplicity. It totally hit the spot.

Oh, of course it wasn't totally a carb-free meal. Pssssh.

Steady creamy macaroni and cheese (£3.25), homemade skin-on fries (£3.25), a decent serving of soda and an awesome date. My belly was as happy as my heart. =)

Ave spend pp: £15

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Six more tracks for October

This month just keeps getting better and better. Here's a few more tracks to add to your playlists because music definitely sounds better with YOU =)

1. Jake Bugg - Someone Told Me
Loving the sounds from this Brit teen's debut. Whilst his counterparts sing and write about bubblegum ideas, Jake's gone back to the candy shop and stripped it down to old school fudge. His voice is sweetly on its early days and his musical influence is distinct: a lot of Bob, a bit of the Gallagher bros (Two Fingers), a bit of The Beatles (Ballad of Mr Jones) and even a bit of Johnny (Lightning Bolt). I am so excited for this kid, I hope he sticks to what he does best. He's defo one to watch.

2. Bat For Lashes - All Your Gold
Natasha Khan is so quirky, so incredibly comfy in her own skin, so hot to watch. She feels like the better, less commercial version of Jessie J and I hope she doesn't sell out as much. This song is quite catchy and I love singing (well, pretending to) and dancing a bit to this. This may just be the song written in response to Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know.

3. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
If there's anyone in the world who can make any lyric (no matter how silly) sound smooth and sexy, it's got to be Miguel. In 2010 he came up with the surefire come on number Sure Thing, this time around he offers a follow up album with Adorn which screams sexy time all over. All other tracks are just as delicious. The two-year wait is damn worth it; you'll definitely thank him later.

4. Deaf Club - Break It Slow
I don't know much about this band, as I've just come across them through Spotify. But I like this track. Good for winding down after a long day at work.

5. Flight Facilities - Crave You
An oldie but goodie, I can't stop feeling all perked up and flirty with this tune. Definitely a tune I like listening to with girlfriends. =)

6. Dave Matthews Band - If Only
My favourite DMB album has always been Crash and a close second would defo be Before These Crowded Streets. The next few ones after BTCS were just okay but the new album 'Away From The World' is the perfect reminder of why I love this band: fresh new tunes with the classic DMB sound. Dave's lyrics are still as make-me-melt as ever (ie 'Come winter I will build you a fire / From the bones of who I used to be / Before you came and washed the weary away / Before you came here for me' - Snow Outside) and the sheer talent and musicality in the tracks speak of incredible brilliance. Love this (I hope they make it available on Spotify soon!)

I have a feeling this month's going to end perfectly. Watch this space.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Gone Girly at L'Occitane Covent Garden

Some people say at one point, we become like our mothers. I felt that yesterday.

My mommy is very much into her skin products and L'Occitane is one of the brands she's been using all these years. She used to smell of Green Tea perfume (when she doesn't smell of Pleasures - yes, my mother likes floral scents) and would moisturise her hands with their Shea Butter Cream. She had some products from their facial skin care range too (can't remember which ones) and I remember testing them out as a child when she was away.

I needed new lip balm as the weather's getting colder and as I've always liked L'Occitane's Shea Butter Lip Balm, I went to their store at the piazza. It turned out to be an eventful visit.

I was greeted by rosé spritzers.

 Which I got to enjoy whilst having a look around.

Clockwise: Ground floor, basement (where they had a room for beauty therapies), me with the awesome wicker shopping basket (they sell them for £25), more products

The chap who served me was very nice. He wasn't too sales-y, but he was very knowledgeable of the products and he super knew the stuff. I ended up wanting to buy heaps but impulse succumbed to practicality so I ended up buying the essentials. 

Cherry Princess is a limited edition scent, launched this year in celebration of their Cherry Blossom range. Compared to the classic Cherry Blossom eau de toilette, this is definitely fruitier, sweeter but still delicate and feminine. It comes in a cutesy 50ml bottle and retails for £29. I was surprised to like this scent a lot (I wish they sold them in 100ml bottles!), as I'm not really a fan of floral notes. However, based on my last perfume purchase, perhaps my taste is changing. Or maybe I'm actually turning into my mother.

As I said, I wanted to grab the Shea Butter Lip Balm but the limited edition Fortune Flowers From Africa range grabbed my attention first. They come in three scents: Date Bouquet, Mango Flowers and Rose Petals. I liked Rose Petals best, probably because it had a hint of almond and is the most classic, uh, tasting, of the bunch. A 15ml tube sells for £8.50.

I was really really really happy with my stuff but the cherry on top? I got freebies! They have a special offer til the end of this month: spend £35 and get a pressie for free. =)

The Shea Butter Shower Cream (£13 for a 250ml bottle)

I also got samples from their upcoming limited edition leaves and flowers range (launching in time for Christmas) and their classic Precious range (which I think is what my mother uses).

As I don't shop much, this has been one of the few shopping trips where I actually found myself leaving the store really giddy and really happy. I was a bit thoughtful about my taste changing; it feels like I'm finally embracing my inner femininity. Which will probably make my mommy proud.

Shepherd Market 
The Piazza, Covent Garden
London WC2E 8RB
020 7379 6040

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


If you ever signed this, thank you.
(I've actually not read this yet)
Ten years ago, my parents threw me a debut party. I really didn't want to make a fuss, but my mother’s dreamt of organising her (then) only daughter’s 18th birthday all her life, so I agreed. I had the works - the 18 'roses' (special boys you dance with)/ 'wishes' (close girl friends)/ 'stars' (people who give you special presents), the custom-made gown, the make-up artist, the crazy food spread, the giveaway CD with my 18 favourite tracks, the father's speech, etc. It was quite a nice shindig if you're into that  kind of thing - and this will make me sound like a bratty ingrate - but I really didn't want the whole shebang. All I really wanted was a nice dinner with my complete family followed by an awesome beach trip with friends. And maybe a trip to South America.

I can only remember a few bits from the party. I remember getting antsy as it started so late and feeling irritated when the DJ messed about my playlist for the 18 roses (which became 20 as my father insisted that I danced with his business partners). I remember having a bit of roast beef and a lot of vodka cruisers, but I don't think I had anything else, not even my cake. I remember swinging the room for requisite table photo ops and realising that half of the guests were my parents' peers. I remember feeling moved and actually being teary when my friends said their wishes but I actually don't remember the full list of roses/wishes/stars. I remember seeing a lot of presents, pretty dresses, a new car, old and new friends including two versions of the 'love of my life' (or so I thought) and a haze of blue and silver. I remember the drive back home after going out further with friends, thinking hey.. it's the morning after and it's not my birthday anymore. I remember feeling that even after this 'coming-of-age party' I've not exactly come out of age yet. I felt fortunate but rather exhausted and lost and it felt like the future was one big... 'Huh?!'

It's been ten years. And on the eve of my 28th, I'm a bit disorganised with my birthday dinner plans (no big ball gowns, truballoos, nor DJs messing my playlist about!) but I have the same feeling of... 'Huh?!' except I suppose this time around I feel more hopeful about things to come. The past decade feels like a proper coming of age because I...
  • have come and gone a few times over, but realised that I'm blessed to have people I can call 'family' in all sense of the word. Home will always be home, but my second/third homes are just as beautiful because of the people in it.
  • may have made a number of wrong decisions but learned a lot more lessons than my parents paid the academe for. 
  • now know how to protect myself from heartache without having to feel cynical and numbing myself from 'feeling more than anything I should'. It took me a while, despite being in actual relationships, to actually allow myself to fall in love and to be in love without hesitations and without second-guessing what I feel. It takes a lot of courage, and an amazing partner to make you see that you are worthy and capable of loving.
  • feel more responsible and accountable.
  • have better relationships with people in my life, especially my family. I now understand that everything we've argued/debated/discussed about previously has made me a better person. I've listened to my parents more in the past few years than I ever have my entire life. They do know best.
  • have a better understanding of my faith. I feel so blessed, so loved and so... saved. Galing mo God, super!
I still have a lot to learn and there are still times when a flicker of doubt crosses my mind. Then again, as with everything that's happened in the past decade, I just have to chalk it up to experience... dust myself off and move forward. Plus,with the love and support of the family and friends I have, I know everything is going to be alright. The rest may still be unwritten but I'm playing the part; the future may at times seem unclear but hey... at least it looks bright. =)

In a few hours, I'm officially entering the late 20s. I still feel like a child sometimes but then again that's not a bad thing, aye? I am so looking forward to another year of learning, good food, clumsiness, corny jokes and amazing tunes. 

Thank you, you crazy nutters, for staying with me in this journey. =)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Six tracks for the birthday month

October is my favourite month, not only because it's my birthday month, but because it kickstarts the last quarter of the year and fall. Fall is such a gorgeous season, with the colours and the ethereal feel of leaves floating in the air. The slight drop in temperature can be a wee bit depressing as it reminds me of dark days and endings but then it also makes me think about the promise of great new beginnings. That said, it's actually proving to be a sunny month again and the sight of sunshine is just making me feel hopeful and motivated.

As usual, here's my six-track playlist for the month. Enjoy =)

1. Asaf Avidan & The Mojos - Reckoning Song (Wankelmut Remix)
Perfect for walking around the city streets at night or traipsing in the country in parkas and wellies. It's rather trippy. There's a quirky kind of queerness in Asaf's voice that makes the verse 'One day baby, we'll be old / Oh baby, we'll be old / And think of all the stories that we could have told' half sinister and half laughable. Ah, yes. A year older this month.

2. Clubfeet - Heartbreak
These antipodeans really know how to do synth-pop and I'm waiting for the remixes to pour in (like the one here). Love how this band can turn melancholic/grr-worthy lyrics into something you can bop your head to. There's something very LCD Soundsystem about that, which I love.

3. Band of Skulls - Cold Fame
An old track from the band's debut album which I've recently unearthed on Spotify (yay Premium!). I listened to this song over and over last year, but before we get historical about this, it's just a nice track to listen to when you're winding down with a glass of bold red or scotch after a long day. In the tub. It's not emo, just... contemplative. =)

4. Ghost Beach - Miracle
Such a feel good song, this one. It's tropical, summery and fun. Everytime I listen to this (when I walk to work after a gruelling battle with rush hour traffic) I feel heaps better and pumped for the day ahead. I also like the remix/cover by similar artists Trails and Ways (I've featured them before here).

5. Snow Patrol - It Doesn't Matter Where, Just Drive
I think this band's generated the most number of 'universal' songs in this age. We've all heard their tracks everywhere - wedding AVPs, adverts, show/movie scores, etc. Gary Lightbody's voice + songs we relate to = a warm feeling. That said, I actually like their B-side/non-album tracks too. Check this one out. It's not a love song but it's good.

6. Alt-J - Tessellate
My boss and I were actually at The Hospital Club when the nominees for the Mercury Prize Award (formerly won by The xx, The Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons, Elbow, etc.) were announced. Ecstatic but unsurprised to hear the band's debut studio album An Awesome Wave is nominated. It's got to be one of my favourite albums of the year. All the tracks, including the three Interlude cuts, are just so gooooood. Have a listen here. My favourites are Bloodflood, Something Good, and Interlude II.

Happy October, kids. Keep warm.