Monthly Archives: April 2010

You can’t have your bread buttered both sides…

…Except you can at Style2 Restaurant. And it’s garlic butter. And it’s as amazing as that sounds.

Honestly, this may be the best garlic bread I’ve ever tasted. I’m not entirely sure how it’s made – toasted, fried, made by the garlic bread fairies – but it’s delicious and possibly a meal in itself. What I do I know is that I somehow winded up with four on my last visit.

It’s double the thickness of normal toast, meaning it’s golden crispy on the outside yet still soft and fluffy on the inside. And it’s double the deliciousness of normal garlic bread because it has garlic butter on both sides. Yes, you heard right. Why has no-one thought of this genius before?!

It comes free with some set meals, with others you add $6 for a slice or you can order it as a side of 2 slices for $18. But at the moment, for the whole of April, they’re giving it away FREE. I’ve obviously been trying to rack as many visits up as I can (the rest of Style2’s food is good, the atmosphere is nice, the staff are really helpful even though there’s no 10% service charge… and the menu is a Chinglish-spotter’s delight). What’s more, they’re open until 3.30am, meaning I could presumably get my garlic bread fix whenever the urge takes me. And believe me, it’s been taking me rather frequently these days!

UPDATE: Style2 is now closed.

Style2 Restaurant, Shop E F, G/F Tung Po Building, 483-497 King’s Road, North Point, 2811 1515

Bliss Triple Oxygen Energising Cream moisturiser review

As regular readers may know, the day where wonderful PRs sent me a bag full of Bliss bounty was one of the happiest in my life. Having been testing the Triple Oxygen Energising Cream for a good month now, I feel it’s time to make it my very first Beauty Spot and I’m afraid it’s bad news for my loyal Aldi moisturiser.

It’s basically a tub of loveliness. It’s beautifully lightweight (especially advantageous in this muggy HK humidity) and gets absorbs by the skin so easily, it barely needs rubbing in. It smells gorgeous and fresh, without being either overpowering, artificial or medicinal. It comes with some clever-sounding science stuff about how the pairing of oxygen and vitamin C helps cell respiration, collagen synthesis and skin hydration.

But all this is relatively unimportant compared to the bare bones – this stuff works. Rather like the Triple Oxygen Mask (soon to be a Make-Up Miracle – you heard it here first, folks!), it genuinely makes your skin look wonderful. As in lighter, brighter, softer and glowing. Dull skin is banished with all the effectiveness of a fairy godmother; I didn’t actually believe moisturisers could work such relatively instant wonders. Given the recent stresses of my job, this cream is about the only thing saving me from looking like the sleep-deprived energy-depleted dead-girl-walking that I feel (although the matchsticks propping up my eyelids are a bit of a giveaway).

Triple O Cream (not to be confused with the burger joint of the same name) is designed for use both morning and evening, which has pros (no need to buy two creams) and cons (uses up faster). But so far, it looks like one tub might last for at least 6 months, even with such regular use, hence justifying the HKD $420 price tag. It looks like a case of having realised the grass is indeed greener, I’m not sure I could return to the cheaper though perfectly functional astro-turf on the other side (that’s the Aldi moisturiser btw, for those that aren’t fans of an extended metaphor).

So it’s buh-bye sallow stressed complexion, hello radiant revived skin. Not bad work for a thirty-second routine rub of Triple O cream, eh?

P.S. Still waiting on other nice HK PR-types to start sending me free make-up to review; I’m twiddling my thumbs at rachelmread@gmail.com

Edit: Sadly, my prediction of the tub lasting 6 months was a little optimistic. With twice-daily use, I managed to eke it out for about 4 months; the shape of the pot is a little misleading as it’s only a cylinder in the middle filled with the moisturiser, not the outer edges too.

Bliss Triple Oxygen +C Energising Cream, $420, available from Bliss Spa in the W Hotel, Kowloon and counters in FACES (Tsim Sha Tsui) and Lane Crawford (Times Square, Causeway Bay and Pacific Place, Admiralty)

Introducing… Beauty Spot

Regular readers may be aware of my Make-Up Miracles series; the Holy Grail of beauty products, these are my desert island essentials, the ones I couldn’t live without or would sell members of my family for in order to stop them being discontinued (insert appropriately needy cliché here). However, being a girl, the quest for new products never ends and my make-up bags are busting at the seams with plenty of cosmetics that, whilst I wouldn’t sell an unloved cousin to keep them in production, I do like using. And there are plenty more that are just crap. So in order to review these, welcome to a new series: Beauty Spot.

This is intended to be a clever pun on beauty spot (as in Marilyn Monroe, Cindy Crawford sexy facial mole) and spotting (as in seeing, finding) something beauty-related. Basically, I’ve been writing far too long and feel the need to try and do something off my trusty rhetorical techniques list with every other utterance.

Stay tuned…

Once upon a time…

For a girl raised on a diet of Disney movies and who’s still hoping she’ll wake up to discover she *is* Giselle from Enchanted, the Maison Moshino in Milan looks like the perfect holiday destination.

Spotted in the Sunday Times’ continually-brilliant Style magazine, this is the sort of hotel that fairy tales are made of. Literally. It’s based on fairy tales. *Swoon*

Having enjoyed a wonderful stay at the similarly-whimsical W Hotel in HK (which I will one day blog fully about, I promise), this is the kind of modern-day luxury that’s right up my street… or should that be yellow brick road. The airy beauty of the place is evident in these photos – fall asleep in an enchanted forest (based on Narnia, natch), take tea on an oversized teacup table straight out of Wonderland, throw yourself onto a romantic ballgown-shaped bed. There’s also a floaty lobby that looks like something out a dream, with its flower-petal seats and cloud-like soft lighting, a string of cute silver keys hanging above the lifts that look like they would unlock something magical and a scrumptious chandelier that would have Hansel and Gretel chomping at the bit.

The press statement on the theme of the hotel is beautiful, even if it boils down to essentially meaningless fluff: ‘The common thread connecting each of the rooms is the fairy tale theme; because to sleep is perchance to dream, and dreams are fairy tales that we are allowed to experience first hand, fables of a fantasy world we have created’. Apparently each of the rooms in this 18th century already-castle like hotel are different (Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty have been mentioned), meaning I would clearly have to stay in a different one every night until I’d experienced them all. My boyfriend might have to grow deeper pockets.

Possibly my favourite, although not nearly as fantastical as some of the others, is what I’m calling the Luxury Shoebox room. My auntie, in her desperation to impose order on the mess in my room, has taken to storing anything I can’t nail down in a series of boxes – in a dream world, my room would look more like this one… if only I wasn’t drawn to picking boxes with lovable Disney alien Stitch on.

The only problem… I might never want to leave my room and actually explore Italy. Problem I can live with, I’m sure.

Photos from Hotel Philosophy and Times Online.

Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence – Escape to Waichow Exhibition: I’m talking bout a whole lotta history…

Boys will be boys…

One of the downsides of having a boyfriend with a history degree is that he is prone to parroting “interesting” history facts whenever we’re out and about town (to be fair, I do the same with Disney trivia and Girls Aloud lyrics, so I shouldn’t complain). Having put off a trip to the dryly-named Museum of Coastal Defence for practically as long as we’ve been going out, I finally capitulated last week.

Someone in HK’s marketing department is clearly missing a trick, as the place would much better (if not entirely politically correctly) be named Hong Kong’s Wartime museum, hence instantly snagging an instant demographic of 7-14 year old boys (or just boys in general… the two twentysomethings I went with loved it). Built around Lei Yue Mun fortifications, the museum details how Hong Kong has defended itself from various attacks, invaders and general baddies over the years. It’s a little short on actual exhibits because the exhibition is the place itself; get your walking boots on if you plan on exploring every caponier, ditch, underground magazine, battery, gun, jeep, cannon and ruined wall with visible bullet holes in. (The torpedo station is well worth a look though and the views, as seen below, over Lei Yue Mun and across the harbour are stunning).

What did strike me is that, despite HK’s frequent attempts to make itself ever newer and shinier (as evidenced by the many front page stories of the government trying to tear down historical buildings), history really is all around. The museum details the remains and ruins of all the other fortifications around Hong Kong that are around if you care to look. OK, it’s not the palaces, country houses and spectacular cathedrals that Britain excels at and exist even in some of the sleepiest of villages but seeing and touching the bullet holes in that wall still sent a shiver down my spine. A 19th century hand-drawn map of Hong Kong is also startling in revealing how history exists in what’s not there – coastlines in today’s HK have been entirely redrawn as land has been reclaimed.

Photo Copyright © Marion Udall

After a couple of less-interesting rooms about how Hong Kong defended itself from pirates in ye olden days (with an exhibit of embroidered armour made from silk and reinforced with ummm… cotton – looked beautiful, can’t imagine it keeping the arrows out), you hit the good stuff – World War II and the Japanese occupation (if by good stuff, you mean rivettingly horrifying). Connected to this is a special exhibition called Escape to Waichow, a truly amazing story that I knew nothing about and which more than justified the visit.

It’s a story that’s itching for a Band of Brothers television mini-series at least, if not a big screen epic. It’s a tale of the kind of unparalleled courage, bravery, fighting spirit, doggedness and sheer good luck that just doesn’t seem to happen these days. The actual exhibits are by-the-by (newspaper clippings, uniforms, medals) but it’s a story so remarkable that it could be written in Morse code and still remain enthralling. Time for some details (excuse factual inaccuracies, I’m working largely on memory)…

Escape to Waichow – HMS Cornflower survivors

As the Japs were attacking and the surrender of Hong Kong looked inevitable at the end of 1941, an escape plan was put together to smuggle out some senior officers. Even before this party got on the boats, the route was fraught – their car was stopped by Japanese soldiers several times and they were only able to proceed thanks to one Henry Hsu, whom you’ll hear more of later, shouting ‘Banzai! Long live the Emperor!’ in Japanese. On reaching the harbour, they were told the MTBs they were supposed to have taken had left so they then had to rush to get sixteen gallons of petrol to power the ship that they could find (HMS Cornflower). I remember reading that some officers has been told to leave without the Chinese contingent but refused. Once they finally took to the sea, the barrage began – rifles, machine guns, shells.

They had to bail out. One was shot in both legs, another killed outright, another shot and drowned – Admiral Chan Chak only had one leg to start off with! As he handed someone else a lifejacket, he was shot in the wrist. As Henry Hsu removed his artificial leg (where he had HKD$40 000 stashed away) so Chan wouldn’t be weighed down for the swim, Chan shouted, ‘What should we do?!’ Hsu’s answer was ‘Pray to God!’; Buddhist Chan replied, ‘If we make it out of here, I’ll convert to be a Christian!’. Needless to say, one-legged Chan (with the help of Hsu, who was conveniently a champion swimmer too) made it ashore, became known as the Nelson of the East, was awarded a KBE and duly converted. My friend would also like to point out: ‘One leg, one arm = auto badass’. No prizes for spotting him in the photo above.

David MacDougall, of the Ministry of Information, was shot in the shoulder. He practically bellyflopped in, was unable to swim for long on his front, kicked his shoes off after nearly going under twice and managed to reach the shore – fully clothed, with a pistol strapped to his waist – on his back. Another of his colleagues swimming to shore heard one of their colleagues drown noisily behind him. All this while still subjected to ceaseless gunfire from the Japanese. [Another crew member who couldn’t swim and remained drifting on the boat even managed to get rescued – talk about lucky!]

Upon reaching China, they still had an arduous journey aided by guerrilla Chinese – through the jungle, some not wearing shoes, many suffering from injuries and illness, freezing at night. When they reached Waichow, they were treated to a hero’s welcome although it would be four years and many thousands of miles until some of the British finally made it home. The famous photo of the 68 escapees from all the boats (shown below), invaluable in tracking down descendants and piecing together the story of this ‘great escape’, was taken with the photographer’s last glass plate – luck again!

I’ve not even done this incredible story justice. Many of the survivors went onto great things in high office – mayors, governors, Hsu in the International Olympics Committee. Another became arguably the most famous Coastal Forces Commanding Officer of WWII. The majority of the Cornflower party led long lives, with many only dying in the last few years, in their late eighties and early nineties (Hsu in 2009). I’m not a great believer in faith, as can be evidenced by my reluctance in joining in my school’s prayer meetings (they occur in Chinese, I was once told we were praying the air conditioning got fixed – excuse me if I think God has bigger things to worry about) but you can say that someone out there wanted these men to survive. Wonderfully for us, they survived long enough to leave detailed accounts of their amazing lives – some in diaries and letters, others in audios that you can listen to in the museum and others simply by living long enough to procreate and produce sons, daughters and grandchildren who can also share their memories and are keeping their ancestors’ legacy alive (they retraced the journey last Christmas).

I couldn’t help but wonder what would be left of our generation now the paper trail has dried up. Seems unlikely a Google cache of my blog will still be about – will all that’s left of me be the worksheets I’ve made for kindergarten?! Then again, do we have anything worthy enough to write about that could warrant an exhibition?

Anyway, the Museum of Coastal Defence is well worth a visit, especially whilst Escape to Waichow is on (hopefully they will make it permanent). It’s a story too incredible to not learn about. Entry is just $10 (free on Wednesdays) and the whole shebang will take a good 2-3 hours if you read thoroughly and intend on exploring the fortifications (so a nice day would help). The charmingly amateur café would make England’s cultural bods shriek – hand-written signs on scraps of paper, plastic garden chairs, one bloke hand-cooking everything in the kitchen – but everything else is informative, professional and well… not as boring as expected. And at least I can now pre-empt some of boyfriend’s history trivia with a few sneaky facts of my own!

Museum of Coastal Defence, 175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan, +852 2569 1500. Open 10am-5pm. Entry $10, free on Wednesdays, closed on Thursdays.

Check out this website, run by one of the survivors’ son and from where I got the pictures of the escapees, for more about the incredible (yes, I feel I haven’t used that word enough) Escape to Waichow.

New Doctor Who review – officially excited!

It’s always heartening when you get the worst bit of something out the way as soon as possible. I can safely say that happened with the first episode of the brand spanking new reboot of Doctor Who with their opening credits – the theme tune wasn’t a patch on the OTT grandiose drums of Russell T. Davies’ reign. Everything after the wobbly purple credits for The Eleventh Hour was somewhere between good and amazing. Just how I like it.

This isn’t a review for people that didn’t watch the first episode of Matt Smith’s incarnation as the Doctor; more fool you and take this opportunity to right your wrongs and check it out on iPlayer before I spoil things for you. The Eleventh Hour was a fresh start to the franchise – new Doctor, new companion in the comely shape of Karen Gillan, new Tardis, new sonic screwdriver and new head honcho in the form of Steven Moffat, who has been responsible for most of the best Who episodes since the show got revived (the spooky clockwork monsters in the Madame de Pompadour episode, the tantalising prospect that the Doctor has a wife in the wonderful Alex Kingston’s River Song and, of course, the super-scary weeping angels in best episode EVER Blink). As a result of all this shiny newness to introduce, The Eleventh Hour was a little busy, a little unevenly-paced but mostly brilliant.

As a big David Tennant fan, I was worried that I wouldn’t take to Matt Smith. These worries proved unfounded. He brought an energising joie de vivre to the part and crucially, didn’t feel like a whole other character. He was a continuation of Tennant’s version, helped by a clever script that was unafraid to reference some of the old Doctor’s moments (‘wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey’), but with added new potential. I look forward to seeing how Smith’s portrayal develops and it already feels like it will be exciting to watch.

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, the new companion, looks like she will leave all memories of Billie Piper in the dust. After wooden Martha and shouty Donna, I found Amy instantly likeable, brave, feisty, clever and also, stunning (her eyes are just bewitching). How’s that for good first impressions?! Moffat also gave her a great back-story – she met the Doctor when she was little, everyone in the village knew about her ‘imaginary friend’ and here he was, actually real!

There have been a few complaints online about the ropey CGI aliens, but let’s not forget, the Daleks once were made using sink plungers. And the sight of Olivia Colman with a set of gnarling gnashers was just the right mix of scary and silly (I feel this balance is key to Who). The script, even with so much story-telling to do, managed to be mildly witty (a welcome change from the bodily fluids jokes and fleeting gay allusions frequented by Davies) – I particularly liked the Doctor’s line that he had twenty minutes to save the world and all he had was a post office ‘that’s closed’. Anyone (i.e. me) who has lived in a village where what few amenities exist totally shutdown on a public holiday will identify. There was even a stirringly-iconic ‘I am the Doctor!’ moment that showed Smith has the otherworldly authority to pull off the role, despite being the youngest Doctor to date. I could have done without the seemingly endless shots of foods the Doctor’s new body wasn’t a fan of but ho-hum, it seems churlish to complain when there was so much to be thrilled about.

As if the episode wasn’t enough, we were then treated to a preview of the rest of the series. Wow. It looks amazing (then again, these previews always do). River Song and, o-m-g, THE WEEPING ANGELS are back. After the damp squib that was Strictly, the ridiculousness of Robin Hood being killed off and the lacklustre So You Think You Can Dance, it’s time to get excited about staying in on Saturdays.

Sugababes – Sweet 7 album review

I’m not even going to mention the ‘K’ word. Yet the Sweet 7 era has been a disheartening experience – how could a band whose last album positively ached with beauty, emotion and harmonies be reduced to a dance routine that involves smacking each other on the arse? How could a band who were always ahead, or at least bang on, musical trends be so desperately, unimaginatively chasing the zeitgeist?

If you’re going to be uninspired, at least do it in style. Lead single, Get Sexy, was a tacky noisy mess, regardless of who was singing it (then again, noisy messes seem to be all the rage now – I’m looking at you, Christina). The RedOne-produced About A Girl should have been this album’s sure-fire smash, before the pounding beats and belter of a chorus were completely enveloped by the SugaDrama that ensued and Wear My Kiss is a cute little album track with some great ‘da-da-da’ing but a completely faceless and unremarkable choice for a single. It’s sad because the album, although it has about as much emotional depth as a Gossip Girl extra, does yield better.

Thank You For The Heartbreak is a flash of Sugababes past – tight too cool for school vocals, crunching earworm beats, Heidi sections that are a totally different pace to everything else yet somehow just feel right – and easily the album’s highlight. Sean Kingston is drafted in for Miss Everything and fashions a catchy, dancefloor-destined chorus whilst She’s A Mess is basically Get Sexy done right i.e. without a Right Said Fred reference. It’s a trashtastic, vocoder-ed to death hot piece of ass, with Amelle inciting everyone to ‘go psycho’ in her almost Cockney manner.

However, the ballads (previously a Sugababes speciality) are especially insipid – Crash & Burn is the least terrible of the lot, with Sweet & Amazing and Little Miss Perfect proving more saccharine-soaked puddings than sweeping slowies – whilst Jade’s vocal contributions (especially overwrought on Wait For You) do little to dispel the notion that she is a promising soloist biding her time.

Writers may harp on about Brand Sugababes but there’s precious little identity here – this direction suits the band about as well as the skin-tight leather outfits suit Heidi. The quicker this band get back to being the class act they once were (if that’s even possible), the better because Sweet 7 is shallow, soulless and soon-to-be-forgotten.

3/5