Tag Archives: HK

Sense Of Touch, LKF: The Sweetest Hangover spa treatment review

As you may have worked out from this blog by now, I’m rather partial to a good spa treatment (hi Bliss Spa and Elemis!). Sense Of Touch is a spa that has a lot of buzz and positive word-of-mouth in Hong Kong (plus the multiple awards to prove it!) – and now I’m going to join the ever-mounting chorus of praises!

Thanks to Sense Of Touch, Sassy Hong Kong and the lovely Vivien, I was invited to try their newest spa treatment – The Sweetest Hangover (the fact that this branch is in Lan Kwai Fong, THE nightlife spot in HK, should mean that name makes a little more sense!). It’s a 2- hour intensive treatment comprising of an organic seaweed bath, a sugar cane scrub and a full-body massage using a combination of essential oils – and it’s amazing!

The seaweed bath actually has real pieces of Irish hand-harvested seaweed floating around in it, which made me feel like a cross between something from a wildlife documentary and an alien from Doctor Who! But sans tub in my apartment, it was just exciting to be getting to have a bath in the first place!

Overall, it was a blissful experience – detoxifying, invigorating, refreshing and relaxing. By the end, my skin just felt out of this world (and in a good way, rather than a Doctor Who alien way). You can read a full review of The Sweetest Hangover, Sense Of Touch and all the beneficial best bits of the treatment at Sassy Hong Kong here – but this is just a quick garble to say, if you get the chance to try Sense Of Touch, GO GO GO!

The Sweetest Hangover is currently on promotion until 15th September for $1290 for 2 hours and normally costs $1590.

Sense Of Touch Lan Kwai Fong, 1-5F, 52 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, 2526 6918

Grappa’s restaurant review – the Italian job

I don’t think Grappa’s gets nearly enough love.

Whenever there’s a request for reasonably-priced, good quality pasta or a shout-out for your favourite Italian in Hong Kong, I feel like I’m the only one gunning for Grappa’s! It might not be the newest or hippest Italian restaurant on the block or have a particularly innovative exciting menu, but what it does deliver is efficient service, consistent quality, food that I want to come back for and at prices that don’t make my wallet run away screaming in horror.

For a chain, its branches do vary a lot, both in quality and atmosphere. The one in Central is in a cosy cellar and is one of the best venues for live music from artists that can’t yet sell out arenas but aren’t quite ‘skivy bar in Wan Chai’ material. The one in Quarry Bay has a more business-like vibe and fantastic staff, yet their food tends to range wildly in quality (two years ago, it had a limited menu that barely included any meat; now, they’ve rebranded with a whole new supposedly American-Italian menu). But for me, the one in Pacific Place – a stalwart of the HK dining scene for over 20 years – is where it’s at.

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Kylie Minogue: Aphrodite Live @ HKCEC concert review

‘I’m fierce and I’m feeling mighty
I’m a golden girl, I’m an Aphrodite!’

And so with her show opener, Kylie (no surname required) set the agenda for her Aphrodite Live concert in HKCEC.

Fusing elements of Greek mythology with lavish Busby Berkley-style Broadway musical sequences, plus a dusting of trademark Kylie high campery on top (was there a male dancer who ever had a top on?!), Aphrodite Live delivered pure pop spectacle at the highest level. So that’s more costume changes than Kate Middleton on her American tour, high-flying acrobatics from dancers potentially responsible for a world shortage in baby oil, a 90-minute-plus crowd-pleasing set-list, an on-stage replica of the Parthenon and a few butt wiggles every now and then too. Who else could make singing on a golden chariot pulled along by a coterie of half-naked men seem the most normal thing in the world?

Believe it or not, even with fluffy wings on her ears (beat that, Hermes and your winged sandals), descending from a golden Pegasus or being embraced by a dancer whose angel wings put all future hen party efforts to shame, this was actually a scaled-down version of the Aphrodite: Les Folies tour that has been doing the rounds in the rest of the world. But thanks to Kylie’s effervescent stage presence, a rapturous crowd reception and razzle dazzle to spare, you barely noticed the missing much-vaunted ‘splash zone’ or that you couldn’t really see the dancers unless they were cavorting on high wires until the glittering festivities were all over anyway.

The all-star set-list, featuring new tracks from her latest album (the eponymous Aphrodite) plus old favourites and a few surprises too, was almost perfectly-judged. Once Kylie entered the fray wearing a Masters of Ceremony top hat complete with shiny gold basque, the evening truly rocketed up to Olympia – the hypnotic Cupid Boy was followed by a euphoric rendition of Spinning Around, an unabashed call to the dance floor in Get Outta My Way and a whizzingly joyous What Do I Have To Do. Elsewhere, the blissed-out dreamy beats of The One and In My Arms suited the Grecian goddess vibe here far better than they did the anonymous electronic mish-mash of parent album X, whilst there was no doubting the crowd favourite – chants of ‘La La La’ started practically before the opening chords of Can’t Get You Of My Head itself, almost raising the cockroach-roof of HKCEC in true rave-up style.

It’s nice of Kylie to provide an obvious toilet-break moment in the slow-jazz version of Slow (cue nightmares of the similarly-treated never-ending Locomotion from the Showgirl tour), meandering floaty number Everything Is Beautiful was another momentum-killer and Better Than Today probably isn’t a strong enough track for the closing section. However, I was downright smitten with her cover of Eurythmics’ classic There Must Be An Angel, a generously open-hearted version that added a enchanting gospel-feel to one of my favourite songs of all time – and for all those that criticise Kylie’s thin vocals, her trilling here was positively beatific.

An acapella version of If You Don’t Love Me served mainly as a vehicle for the audience to (loudly, continously) declare their undying love for her, and her near-inability to finish the song due to laughter just made it all the more charming. Meanwhile, the request section yielded a rollicking run through The Locomotion and I Should Be So Lucky (complete with reminiscences about bubble perms), whilst her costumes grew all the more insanely dazzling – one dress looked like shiny wrapping paper, another outfit featured a bejewelled swimming cap, another looked like it had claimed the life of an unsuspecting Muppet. Yes, it was a little bit corny, a little bit cheesy, a very big bit camp – but that just made it all so right. And if you can’t enjoy cheesy at a Kylie concert, then when can you?!

A true one-off in a sea of Gagas, Ke$has and Katy Perrys, Aphrodite Live proved exactly why Kylie deserves her place in the pop pantheon. Then again, she never had to prove it in the first place.

Kylie Minogue, Aphrodite: Live concert, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, 1 July 2011

7-Eleven Hong Kong – use your noodle

UPDATE: This is the post that got my Stitch pillowcase and my boyfriend’s hands forever immortalised on Buzzfeed – check it out here (#35!).

Oh 7-Eleven. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I love that you’re never more than 5 minutes away from any given location. I love that I can now buy crisps and ice-cream whenever the hell I want, preferably in my pyjamas. I love your cute collectible promotional toys that I will never spend enough to obtain all of (but I’ll lose my mind trying), and friends and colleagues will harass me for the tokens regardless.

I love that school kids frequent ‘Club 7’ to get their first illicit taste of alcohol, stand outside in the streets drinking it and that staff actually open their bottles for them. I love that we then do exactly the same thing in a loosely ironic fashion and it probably ends up being more fun than a night out in Dragon-I. I love that living it large outside Club 7 is practically a rites of passage in Hong Kong (see above photo for reference, taken in my second month in HK!).

But recently… I love your noodles. Not as much as my boyfriend does though.

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Elemis Day Spa, Central: Modern Skin Facial treatment review

UPDATE: Elemis Day Spa is now closed 😦

Following on from my first Elemis experience courtesy of their magical melting cleansing gel, I was lucky enough to be treated to one of their signature facials at the Elemis Day Spa in Central – and it was every bit as lovely as I’d hoped.

I was pleasantly surprised at how peaceful and relaxed the spa felt, even though it’s located in one of those anonymous commercial buildings right in the heart of bustling Central (the more hardcore among you could even pop to Lan Kwai Fong for drinks after, it’s that close). It’s luxuriously laid-out and spacious, the soft spa music soothing without being irritating and it felt so tranquil and ‘other’ that it was hard to believe the heat and hustle of HK was going on just a few floors below. Being in Central makes it extra convenient as well – it’s so easy to get to and perfect for slotting into and around your daily routine, especially if you’re working (or shopping!) nearby.

After a brief chat with my beauty therapist (and after the poor girl endured a detailed inspection of my face), she decided the Modern Skin Facial would be the best treatment for me, with a few modifications for my skin. It’s especially suited for young skin (relieved I still fit in that category), and by rebalancing sebum levels, regenerating skin cells and raising mineral levels, helps repair and replenish stressed-out smog-exposed complexions, a feeling most HKers can probably identify with! Given that my blackheads are visible from the moon, she also performed a thorough and relatively pain-free extraction session and my pores have never looked clearer or better.

The facial lasts around an hour of cleansing, toning, massaging and moisturising, though thanks to the extraction, mine took about ninety minutes – and even then, it just doesn’t feel long enough! I didn’t want to leave! Throughout your session, you’ll be treated to plenty of Elemis’ wonderful products – cleaners, toners, serums and creams galore – but in all honesty, it passes by in a blur of bliss. All of the products felt so soft, smooth and soothing and my therapist had the lightest and most calming of touches.

Be prepared for an amazing array of scents too; I felt I’d drifted off into the aroma equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. They were too many lovely ones to count, but they were all heavenly and invigorating without being overpowering.

I particularly enjoyed the Papaya Enzyme Peel (one of Elemis’ best sellers). Unlike so many exfoliators, it didn’t feel harsh or grainy; instead, it was more of a gentle wash, with an uplifting fresh citrus scent to boot.

The other highlight was the Mineral Rich Peel-Off Mask… or rather, the wonderful dry-scalp massage you get during it. Head massages normally set my teeth on edge but this was brilliant and weeks’ worth of headaches just melted away. While you’re enjoying that, the mask works deep in the skin to boost mineral levels (it contains zinc, copper, magnesium and Swiss Garden cress), combining with an earlier product, the Visible Brilliance serum, to deeply moisturise and clear your complexion. There’s also a lovely neck and shoulder massage later on too.

Overall, it’s a relatively straightforward facial – there are no fancy tricks or bizarre high-tech utensils – but for that reason, it’s basically the ultimate in straightforward facials, although at $1280  it may feel a little pricey (it’s worth checking out the many coupon websites in HK for some good discounts; I was lucky enough to be receiving a complimentary treatment). However, the products used are of the highest quality (acting as a good introduction to Elemis’ range of skincare) and the expertise and training of my therapist shone through in her confident and assured touch. I love that she didn’t provide a running commentary of the items she was using or give me the hard sell for any of them (a pitfall in many local salons). She also gave me some great tips about my beauty routine, for instance that I need to exfoliate closer to my lip area as I’m missing out some parts due to my eagerness not to eat products!

This is also one of those facials that leaves you looking great instantly. Unlike many that leave you looking a little oily, blotchy or with a breakout set to burst, I emerged from Elemis with glowing plump skin and a brighter more even complexion. A few days on my skin still looks remarkably radiant and with a definite noticable decrease in redness.

I finished things off with a final trip to the Zen Room, where there’s a small but perfectly formed buffet – and yes ladies, there are brownies! [Very tasty ones too]. But what’s even better than the brownies (and that’s a phrase I thought I’d never utter) is Elemis’ signature health drink, found in a teapot that should be labelled ‘Drink Me’! It’s a deeply soothing mixture of honey, ginger and lemon that’s absolutely greater than the sum of its parts; I often do a homemade version of this at home when I’m run-down and I can promise you, I’ve never managed to make it taste this good! Warming and sweet with a bracing little kick of ginger at the end – the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

I’d highly recommend the Elemis Day Spa for its convenience, its super-chilled atmosphere and most importantly, the quality of its treatments. Many thanks to Sarah at Communique for organising my day and all the lovely Elemis staff who made me feel so welcome. My skin is most grateful!

Elemis Day Spa, 9/F, Century Square, 1 D’Aguilar Street, Central, 2521 6660, http://www.elemisdayspa.com.hk

Red Pepper restaurant review – the spice of life

Ask my boyfriend what his favourite restaurant in Hong Kong is and his answer may well be Red Pepper.

Red Pepper has been a staple of Hong Kong’s dining scene for years. It’s the kind of place that old-timers in HK for flying visits make a point of visiting, the kind of place businessmen take clients for impressive banquets and the kind of place that tourists get told to try. Consequently, some of my local friends shake their heads and complain it’s only for ‘gweilos and expats’, with its Sichuan dishes geared towards Western tastes. Oh well, leave it to the gweilos and expats then, as that means more prawns for us!

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Sweet like Chocolate Rain

I promised you more Chocolate Rain cuteness after my post on Hong Kong Creative Ecologies and whaddya know… it doesn’t just rain here but it pours!

The mall in Olympian City (yes, named after the Olympics) had a super-kawaii installation dedicated to Chocolate Rain and I couldn’t resist taking some photos, much to my boyfriend’s annoyance (‘You’re so local’).

I’m more used to shopping centres in the UK too depressing to even warrant a George A Romero-style zombie stampede but malls in HK are a totally different ball game. [Remember that awesome Lane Crawford installation in Pacific Place?]

What’s more, there are so many malls here that it’s a competitive game, especially during Christmas and other special occasions, where they all attempt to out-do each other with special decorations, performances, giveaways and exhibits – HK folk do love their photo opps, after all! Hence the Chocolate Rain one here, called Olympian City’s Easter Dream Brûlée.

I just love artist Prudence Mak’s distinctive patchwork style for Chocolate Rain – absolutely lovely and just that little bit quirky too – and I love that a locally-designed brand can challenge the cute character powerhouse that is Sanrio. But most of all, as you know, I just love pretty things! And this delivered pretty things in abundance.

The Fatina doll character was dressed in colourful costumes inspired by different ice-cream flavours whilst the centrepiece was a 30-foot banana boat. Overall, it felt like I’d wandered into a village straight from a fairytale!

Truly scrumptious!