Tag Archives: best

Make-Up Miracles: Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Foam review

At a recent facial, my beautician was so impressed with my skin that she proclaimed it to be ‘like bean curd’. I’m hoping she means the soft, milky-white kind as opposed to the yellowish wrinkled deep-fried stuff. If this was the case, my next make-up miracle can take most of the credit: step forward, Clinque’s Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Foam.

Prior to the entrance of Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Cleansing Foam in my life, my forehead was suffering from a life-long breakout. Even when spots weren’t springing forth in all their shiny red glory, they were bubbling under as unsightly bumps lying in wait for a day when I’d need my photo taken to make their ugly presence felt. I’d tried various cleansers designed especially for acne prevention (Clearasil, Oxy, Witch) to little effect, plus continuous application of supposed miracle product Freederm only resulted in a constant headache and my family wondering why I smelt like the medicine cabinet.

Part of the problem was the type of Pill I was on – the one the NHS puts you on first as it’s the cheapest – so my GP switched me to a different brand. I became blessed with wonderful skin but also with a mystery nausea that steadily ruined my life and was basically akin to morning sickness during pregnancy. Blood tests abounded until someone worked out it was the Pill and switched my brand; whilst I no longer felt a 24-hour urge to vomit and lie in a darkened room, my forehead was back to square one.

Why didn’t I go to Clinique sooner?! I’ve already told you why they’re practically a make-up miracle in themselves but here goes anyway – stringently allergy-tested, 100% fragrance-free, great for sensitive skin, dermatologist-developed and with a long and trusted reputation for putting your skincare into their white-gloved hands.

After about a month of using the Anti-Blemish Cleansing Foam, my skin was – and still is, she says frantically whacking on wood – the clearest it’s ever been in my adult life. I had got so used to anti-blemish products drying out and tightening up my skin that I’d assumed it was the only way; Clinique proffered a gentler, kinder path that actually produced results.

It works like any other cleanser – massage onto wet face, morning and night, rinse off, follow with a moisturiser of your choice. The pump dispenser is convenient, ensuring no mess (especially safe for travelling), and the foam itself is very light but easy to work with. As well as clearing up and preventing acne, it does the other basics of a cleanser, removing dirt, unclogging pores (another noticeable difference to my skin was how my blackheads were substantially reduced) and reducing redness. Whilst AM and PM cleansing is standard for the sweaty summer months, I find just a morning cleanse is enough in winter and only one or two pumps of the foam can go a long way – meaning one bottle generally keeps me going for upwards of six months, which I think is fantastic value given the stellar results.

My skin is softer, smoother, brighter and lighter – the coveted ‘bean curd’ that my beautician was on about. Clinique, my forehead sends you its eternal thanks.

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Foam, $170 for 125ml

Isola restaurant review – that’s amore!

Isola is one of those restaurants that routinely crops up in magazines, reviews and forums as one of HK’s best – whether it’s for being the best Italian, the best pizza or the best view in town. Surely it can’t be all three?

Nevertheless, anyone with eyes and a functioning brain could cast an easy vote for ‘best view’, as seen above. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows not only give Isola a wonderfully light and airy atmosphere, but also allow you to soak up an unimpinged vista of HK’s harbour, beautiful both by day or night (save for HK’s never-ending construction sites). Isola also offers terrace dining for those of you courageous enough to brave potential downpours and bloodthirsty mosquitoes in order to enjoy the view. But a great view alone is not enough to make a great restaurant so onto the food.

Firstly, if your idea of ‘best Italian in town’ constitutes hearty dishes in ‘Mama’s favourite’ style portions served to you by jovial Italian gentlemen to the tune of That’s Amore (this idealised image may have spawned directly from The Lady & The Tramp, damn you Disney!), then Isola may not be your cup of tea, or indeed glass of vino. This is modern Italian dining in a refined setting (I loved the clean chic white décor and the beautiful lace-like woodcut details), with a menu stuffed with lots of fancy names, premium ingredients and nary a bolognaise in sight.

The bread was lovely and fresh, even if no-one bothered to explain to us the different varieties. No-one bothered to explain the sludge-coloured spread either; my boyfriend suggested it might be bread in paste form (!) and from the nondescript taste, his guess is as good as any. Answers on a postcard please.

Whenever I see scallops on a menu, I am powerless to resist so we kicked things off with scallops wrapped in pancetta on white polenta with black truffle ($208). These were as delicious as scallops should be – meaty, juicy and with that trademark hint of sweetness. Pairing scallops with some sort of cured pork product is a classic combination and justifiably so – the crispy salty pancetta complemented the sweet shellfish perfectly. Elsewhere, the black truffle dressing added an earthy little kick and the wisps of crispy onion on top were a decent addition. But the polenta, which I think was the white foam on the bottom, was one texture too far. I’d say it was one taste too far as well, but I can’t really say it tasted of anything. I don’t think it added anything to the dish.

For mains, I went for the strozapretti – hand twisted pasta with mixed seafood and fresh tomatoes ($188). This, again, was absolutely delicious. On first taste, you might think the sauce was a little bland but with each mouthful, it builds into something light yet really appetising. The pasta was gorgeous as well; you can definitely tell it’s fresh and hand-made, as it practically melts in the mouth (something I didn’t think pasta could do!). I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount and variety of seafood – and thankfully, it’s miles away from the pre-packed ‘fruits de mer’ other restaurants dish up. There were prawns, shrimp meat, scallops and squid, all in plentiful supply and all sweet, fresh, meaty and delicious.

The boyfriend opted for a stone-baked pizza and c’mon, even the photo is good enough to eat, right? It’s also far too big for one person! He went for the Piccante ($168), which was topped with spicy Italian salame (not a typo, that’s how the menu spells it!), mozzarella, tomato and black olive. It was good to see (and eat!) a salame that was not razor-thin slices of cured meat you can get from any old Park n’ Shop; this stuff felt like it had actually started life as a sausage and rather than just being salty, was robust and delightfully spicy. The pizza base was the thinner, crispier kind that I love and yes, it was possibly the best pizza I’ve had in HK. Admittedly, more the gourmet variety rather than comfort food designed for noshing whilst slobbed out on the sofa in front of America’s Next Top Model.

With no room (and no money!) left for pudding, we were served some complimentary petit-fours with the bill. I don’t really think this is an Italian tradition, more a signal of Isola’s high-end dining ethos and it was nice touch, albeit one nicer in conception than in digestion. They were a bit dry and the bow-shaped ones were utterly tasteless (the whirl-shaped ones were softer, sweeter and much nicer though).

A few more tips – have the strength of character to say no to mineral water, however snooty the waiter seems! We caved in to the suggestion of still water, hence adding a mighty $75 to our bill ($68 plus 10% service charge), enough for a whole meal down the cha cha deng! Others have commented that Isola is a little tricky to find – we cut through Lane Crawford to reach it, and following signs directing you to the roof verandah should lead you in the right direction (and provide that stunning view for free, which is actually where I took my photos). And if you’re hoping to do dinner before going to the cinema in the IFC (as we did), bear in mind Isola doesn’t open for the evening until 6.30pm.

So best view? Check. Best pizza? Check. Best Italian? For me, Isola doesn’t have enough range in its menu or offer enough traditional staples to make it the best Italian in town, per se. However, the combination of view, décor and quality of food do make it one of the best restaurants in HK, if a little overpriced. Save those pennies and share that pizza, next time!

Isola Bar + Grill, Shop 3071-75, Level 3, IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong, 2383 8765.

The Press Room restaurant review – read all about it!

UPDATE: The Press Room is now closed.

Many reviews of The Press Room seem to begin and end with their frites (chips to us Brits). Or should that be FRITES!!! And yes, they are delicious but there’s more to The Press Room than that.

Aiming for a modern European brasserie style, with menus on blackboards and pictures scattered at random on the walls (a random-ness I’m sure took hours to achieve!), it has a nice relaxed atmosphere. For dinner, the lights are dimmed and it’s a rather cosy kind of darkness, even when the place started to get packed around 8pm.

When the boyfriend and I arrived around 7pm, we were the first diners in, meaning our service was second to none. Bread (below right) was served almost immediately and our dishes (all hot, I should mention) arrived within 10 minutes of their being ordered, with mains rolling up almost as soon as we’d polished off our starter.

We both opted for the 2-course menu at $260, where you can choose any starter/soup/dessert from the regular menu, with a choice between lamb, sea bass, skate, pork belly or hanger steak as your main. Go with your significant other, with one of you opting for starter and one for dessert, and (as long as your partner isn’t a total gannet) you effectively get a 3-course menu that, given the quality of the food, is a bit of a bargain.

We started with escargots de bourguignon (snails to us Brits, normally $92; above left, click for enlargement ). At many HK restaurants, these are often cooked to the point of apocalypse and arrive at your table dried-up, shrivelled, rubbery imitations of their former sluggy selves, with some overpowering cheese sauce drenched on top attempting to disguise this fact. Here, they were cooked perfectly, allowing their unique texture and subtle taste to shine through. Garlic butter is the norm for escargots but there was an interesting addition of almonds here that was just as tasty – a shame that there wasn’t the usual bed of mashed potato to mop this scrummy juice up!

We tried to use our bread to soak it up and alas, this was the only disappointing aspect of our meal. My boyfriend (ever the comedian) commented that ‘this bread must have lost its absorbing properties a day ago’; I don’t think the bread was actually stale, just that fancy bread that was never soft to start off with. Not a fan – given that the menu is vaguely Gallic in its feel and the French practically orgasm over the breaking of the bread, I did expect better.

Anyway, onto the mains. Only one word: divine.

For those seeking a few more words, I had the roast pork belly with pomme purée (mash to us Brits), apple sauce and cider jus (sauce to us Brits, $202 ; shown left, click for enlargement). The pork belly was absolutely sublime – stupidly delicious, ridiculously soft and tender and dreamy, with fantastically crispy crackling on top. I hate restaurants that give you one artful drizzle of sauce that isn’t enough to wet your upper lip never mind your whole dish, so I was very pleased at the amount of cider jus, which had just the right amount of tang to bring out even more lush flavours from the pork. One of the best mains I’ve had in HK, no question.

The boyfriend (a chip connoisseur fyi) went for the hanger steak and frites (above right, $248). Again, there was a decent amount of sumptuously rich red wine sauce to complement the beautifully tender and juicy strips of steak. It came on a bed of spinach that my boyfriend, not being one for greenery, largely ignored so I have no idea how that tasted. And, of course, the frites…

They arrive in their own canister, they’re so special. What more can be said about them that hasn’t already been said? Crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, just the right side of salty and with the texture and taste of having come from a quality spud. Chips that have some skin on are always the best kind, aren’t they? You may remember me being similarly cock-a-hoop about the chips at SMLSML, The Press Room and The Pawn are all run by the same group, so I’ve only got to try the latter to confirm that their chips are uniformly good (edit: I have and they were!). What’s more, they’re incredibly more-ish; even though I couldn’t finish my mash, I found my fingers creeping to them far too often! The chip connoisseur was happy too (less happy that I munched my way through so many though!).

We rounded things off with the baked chocolate (above, $78) and quite frankly, I could have put away two of these on my own. I’m not entirely sure what it was – some hybrid between cake, sponge, brownie, fudge and warm chocolate – but it was definitely good. The consistency was wonderfully smooth and light but the hit of richness felt like pure chocolatey goodness and its soft creaminess contrasted well with the crunch of the tuile biscuits. The raspberry sauce was a little too tart for me but the waiter did offer to leave it on the side rather than pouring it over, so it’s my own fault (tbf, it did look prettier)!

A few hints for any prospective diners – the Hollywood Road address may fool you into getting off at Central MTR but it’s actually way closer to Sheung Wan (albeit uphill – work up that appetite!) and pretty easy to find as it’s just a stone’s throw along from Man Mo Temple (even if you have no idea what it looks like beforehand, you really can’t miss it). I also noticed an early-bird dinner offer, which looked amazing value, but even so, try and get there earlier if you want a quieter dinner as it clearly attracts a lot of custom from folk in Central getting straight off work.

I’m practically chomping at the bit to visit again, in case this review leaves you in any doubt. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers but do believe all the good stuff you’ve heard about The Press Room – it offers a quality dining experience. And the FRITES!!! aren’t bad either.

The Press Room, 108 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2525 3444


Make-Up Miracles: Clinique Cream Eyeliner review

Ages ago, in a dim and distant millennia, Benefit’s Get Bent brush was my very first make-up miracle. I proclaimed it the only make-up brush worth having and that its prowess for applying eyeliner was unbeaten. Well, that hasn’t changed. But now, I have found the perfect eyeliner for it to apply. Step forward Clinique’s Brush-On Cream Eyeliner.

Having never mastered the art of liquid eyeliner without looking like a jellyfish inked in my eye and sick of pencil eyeliners sliding down my face and making me look like a panda practically before I put it on (especially in HK’s humidity), it was obvious some kind of middle ground was required. Cream/gel eyeliner, here we come.

Clinique’s is certainly not the only cream/gel eyeliner on the market yet in my opinion, it’s the best. Having sped through Mac’s, Bobbi Brown’s and even my beloved Benefit’s without getting a feel for them being ‘The One’, I turned to the ever-dependable Clinque for answers.

Clinique the brand is practically a make-up miracle for me in itself. It’s one of those reliable, safe and well-regarded companies whose make-up counters are not fronted by some Next Top Model also-ran trying to plaster every shade of her brand’s eyeshadow on at once, but by someone in a white coat. Oooh, science-y.  All their stuff is allergy-tested (7200 times for each product fyi) and 100% fragrance-free, which is great if you have sensitive skin. Or in this case, sensitive eyes – like me.

Admittedly, Clinique’s Cream Eyeliner can’t compete with Mac in terms of colour – the four shades available (Black, Brown, Grey and Black Honey) are squint-and-they-all-look-the-same similar – but it beats them on every other front. It goes on like a dream, stays put all-day (pretty much the only eyeliner I’ve found that does so) and can be fiddled about with easily for either a low-key daytime look or a sultry and sexy night out.

My shade of choice is Smoke Grey – softer and less harsh than pure black for day but can still be layered on for proper darkness come the midnight hour. My appliance of choice, as you’ve established, is the Get Bent brush, which sweeps it on at precise angles to achieve the perfect flick. And my place of choice is perpetual residence in my make-up bag, where one tiny pot seems to take on Tardis-like levels of seeming bigger than it is by lasting forever; it genuinely is my ‘Can’t Live Without/Desert Island Essential’ product ever since I developed a deep-seated addiction to eyeliner in my teens. Thankfully, my look is a little more grown-up than the smudgy-eyed racoon style I sported in those days – and I’ve got Clinique to thank for it.

Clinique Brush-On Cream Eyeliner, $130 for 5g (doesn’t sound much but lasts well over a year!)

Article also available at Teentoday.

Make-Up Miracles: Benefit High Beam review

We’ve been meaning to tell you about this product for years – ever since we bought it in our high-school years (…yes, that long ago) and it became firmly wedged as one of our make-up bag essentials. The 5th make-up miracle to be inducted in my Hall of Fame is Benefit’s High Beam.

We’re massive fans of cute and cult cosmetics brand Benefit anyway (their Get Bent eyeliner brush was our first make-up miracle, fact fans!) and High Beam has long been a favourite amongst make-up artists, stunning ‘slebs (count Kylie amongst its followers) and regular Joes like me and you. Why? ‘Cos it’s blooming fantastic, that’s why.

Benefit claim it’s ‘supermodel in a bottle’ and they’re almost right. High Beam is basically a pale pink shimmery highlighter that gives a radiant, dewy glow to all those who dab it on their faces. Since it’s only used sparingly on all places, one bottle will last for ages and it’s one of those products that goes on like a dream, is fairly difficult to mess up and looks great without looking too much. There are tons of other highlighters on the market, but for our money (and teentoday.co.uk quids are not to be sniffed at), it’s the original and the best (we haven’t actually researched if it’s the original but meh).

Our top tips: use the applicator brush (handily located inside the bottle’s cap, like nail varnish) to dot High Beam along your cheekbones (smile in the mirror to find them!) and blend to bring out your cheekbones supermodel-stylee – tres flattering and tres naturel. Also, dab along under the arch of your brow (feel for the bone under your eyebrow) and in a circle around the outer edges of your eyes, blend and you will instantly, through some make-up miracle (see what we did there?!), look more awake. Which, if you get as many late nights as us, can only be a good thing.

It can also be used in a ridiculous amount of other places – mixed in with foundation for an all-over glow, used lightly as a very pretty eye-colour (dot just at the inner corner of the eye for a great look), on the cupid’s bow of the lip… In fact, it may be easier for us to tell you where not to use it, which is the forehead, the nose and the chin, all places that get shiny well enough without artificial help to draw further attention to them!

So welcome make-up miracle number five – and sorry that it’s so long overdue!

Originally posted at Teentoday.

Make-Up Miracles: Urban Decay 24/7 Eye Pencils review

Inspired by Alcazar’s neon look for their new album, I thought I’d finally write about one of my favourite make-up miracles, Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils.

I’m a massive fan of Urban Decay anyway; their combination of great packaging, great range and great quality makes their products pretty irresistible in my book. The 24/7 Glide-On Pencils are no exception – and this is coming from someone who has probably tried as many eyeliners as she’s scoffed tubs of Ben & Jerry’s.

They have simply the best range of colours for eyeliners on the market, with vibrant tropical brights, shimmery metallics and sexy dark shades all looming large in their evocatively-named range. My personal favourites are Electric (a zingy turquoise that practically pops out of the pencil), Graffiti (an ultra-flattering iridescent mermaid-green), Lust (a lush regal deep purple – a key colour of the season), 1999 (a goldy-maroon colour that looks so much better than it sounds), Stash (a shag-me dark green/gold/brown that is fantastic for smoky eyes), Demolition (the perfect everyday matte brown)… obviously, I love the whole lot.

The pencils somehow manage to be creamily soft and easily blendable whilst having more staying power than that lingering last party guest who just won’t leave (living up to their 24/7 name) and can be used purely as liners or blended for shading purposes. Waterproof and sweat-proof, they’re absolutely ideal for lazy beach days and sweltering summer nights. So basically, they’re perfection in a pencil. Ideal for make-up miracle number four then.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils, £11, from Boots (who sadly don’t do HK delivery yet so get your mates to send you some!)

Originally posted at Teentoday.

Make-Up Miracles: Aldi Moisturiser review

It’s simply never too soon to start moisturising – your forty-something self will thank you for it at a later date.

Having said that, it’s safe to say that in your teens and early twenties, you don’t really need to be spending thousands on the stuff. For this reason, Aldi’s cheap and cheerful Siana day and night creams are just the ticket. Apparently the night one has a retinol complex to stimulate cell growth whilst both moisturisers contain the enzyme Q10, the same substance found in more expensive products that mimics the skin’s ability to protect against premature ageing. Quite frankly, the fancy words are immaterial because the make-up miracle is the fact that they cost £1.89 each and actually work.

They are light, sink in easily and do not have an overpowering scent. I’ve tried more expensive creams and these are just as good, if not better than those dearer counterparts. Packaging-wise, they look clean and simple (the jars are at least glass not plastic) so you won’t be embarrassed to have them on your dressing table. So there’s no excuse to not moisturise – and if you don’t, teentoday.co.uk will be the first to say ‘Told you so!’ to your wrinkles!

Originally posted at Teentoday.