Empire Cafe in the Raffles has been replaced by Ujong

Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM

The indomitable and debonair Travelling Gourmet reveals that…

Raffles Hotel has leased out what used to be Empire Cafe to an independent restaurant…

Remember my article “Empire Cafe is now a ghost town….”

Please have a look at it at the link below.


MAMA mia! Now Raffles Hotel has leased out what was Empire Cafe to an independent restaurant called Ujong. Ujong or hujong is a Malay word that means ‘the end’ or ‘the end of something’. Not a very auspicious name to my mind…I had heard from very reliable sources that Raffles Hotel wanted to lease out the space after closing Empire Cafe. The Raffles people told me glibly, “We are closing for renovation and we’ll reopen after the Mooncake Festival.” Not very true. I was not born yesterday…My good friend, a French Chef wanted to relocate his fine dining restaurant. Raffles offered him the premises for a huge rental figure. Chef X cleverly declined the offer from Raffles. He confessed, “I’ll be working like crazy just to pay Raffles the rent!”

I wish Ujong well although I have not tried the food there yet…but I wonder how long it can last. The rental must be incredibly high!

The other restaurant that Raffles Hotel closed was Seah Street Deli which they have leased out to independent restaurant Halia. Doc Cheng’s restaurant was also closed by Raffles and leased out to a Japanese restaurant. Raffles Culinary Academy was also closed. The Bar and Billiard Room is now only open on Thu, Fri and Sat. Long ago Raffles closed their Chinese restaurant called the Empress Room and leased it out to an independent restaurant called Royal China. I wrote about Empress Room years ago when it was open, as one of Singapore’s top restaurants.

The F & B business is a very tough one…

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Fabulous Food HotelAsia 2014!

Story & photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM

The indomitable Travelling GourmetTM goes to FoodHotelAsia 2014 and finds…

MARVELLOUS food, wines, hotel equipment, gadgets and lots more! I was featured in the Show Daily of the 1st day of FHA2014 on page 23 as a Wine Judge in the WSA Wine Challenge 2014, with the title ” Results of WSA Wine Challenge will draw buyers’ attention”. Now I must go and see what new foods and wines I can find…


To be continued

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Another love story in Verona…

and it has to do with the love of the Nectar of the Gods…Wine!

Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM

The intrepid and irrepressible Travelling Gourmet travels to the romantic city of Romeo and Juliet to delve deeply into…

MARVELLOUS Vinitaly, the largest wine event in the world held in Verona every year. Verona is where William Shakespeare set his immortal story or love and passion…and here you can visit Casa di Giulietta or Juliet’s House and see the balcony Romeo climbed! I always say Romeo must have had some SAS training to be able to climb up that very high balcony. In the courtyard of Juliet’s house or Casa di Giulietta, there is a bronze statue of Juliet. If you look carefully, you will see that the right bosom is very well brightly polished. According to legend, if you caress the left bosom you will have money in your life…but if you caress the right bosom…you will always have Love in your life. Clearly, most people prefer Amore to money!

Anyone who loves wines must come here, if only once in their lives. I have been here many times, and have also been a Wine Judge here in the Concorso Enologico Internazionale Wine Competition held here yearly too as part of Vinitaly. This year is the 48th Edition of Vinitaly, and I am looking forward to tasting superb wines and learning more about the world of oenology!

photo of juliets house, juliets balcony photo, verona photo, verona italy

5th April, 2014

Just a few hours after landing in Milano’s Malpensa airport and travelling to Verona, I attended the opening of Opera Wine. Opera Wine 2014 is held as part of the world’s largest wine fair. One hundred Great Italian Wines as selected by Wine Spectator magazine were presented for tasting in the grand environs of the Palazzo della Gran Guardia. The Palazzo overlooks the iconic Piazza Bra and the ancient Arena that dominates this most romantic of Italian cities. L’Arena is the third largest amphitheatre in Italy with the Colissuem in Rome being the largest. Every summer L’Arena becomes the world’s largest opera theatre.

Among the superbo wines were Allegrini Valpolicella Amarone della Classico 2004, Arnaldo Caprai 25 anni Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2009, Donnafugata Mille e Una Notte Contessa Entellina DOP 2008, and Damilano Cannubi Barolo DOCG 2010. The wine makers were on hand to talk about their wines at each tasting stand.

6th April, 2014.


I am in the Press Lounge writing this after a nice lunch in the Ristorante Club 89 of Gnochetti Sardi con Salome e Gamberi (prawns), very traditional Vitello (veal) in Salsa Tonnato (tuna sauce) and dessert of Macedonia which is essentailly fruit salad…plus Lamberti DOC Bardonlino 2012 wine. Early in the morning, my first wine tasted was at the Doctor Wine seminar by my friend Daneile Cerlini, former head of Gambero Rosso. It was the Ferrari 2007 Franciacorta sparkling wine.

After the tasting, I went to see another good friend Antonio Nardini of the oldest Grapperia in the world, Nardini in Bassano del Grappa. It was the favourite Grappa of Ernest Hemingway. I also went to Bottega and heard Sandro Bottega’s new plans to open Prosecco Bars in places like Abu Dhabi and Vienna Airport, based on the ancient Venetian ‘Bacaro’ concept with finger food. it is hot and very sunny outside with powder blue skies. Now, I really need a Macchiato before venturing out again for more wine tasting…It’s a tough job being  The Travelling Gourmet but somebody has to do it…

So many wines and so little time!

It is always mind boggling to see how HUGE Vinitaly is. Wines from every region of Italy are showcased here and also wines from other countries like France, Germany and the USA to name just a few.

It was wonderful to meet my good friend, Gianluca Bisol, the Chairman of Bisol. Gianluca told me about his new partnership with Gruppo Ferrari who produce sparkling and still wines. I told him I had read about it in Il Corriere della Sera newspaper, the day before.

I have discovered and tasted many wonderful wines and spirits here in VINITALY in Verona, the 48th Edition.

They include:




Marchesi di Barolo

I tasted some really lovely wines with the Marchesi di Barolo family. They are the oldest winemakers for Barolo wines in the Barolo area.




I was very happy to see my good friend Antonio Nardini of the oldest Grapperia in the world. I sampled his new 50% and 60% Grappa. They are also available aged in oak.

Castello Banfi


At Paladin Wines, I tasted their wines with Lucia Paladin with some very tasty Mortadella!

To be continued…

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If I’m going to be a cook then I’m going to be a good one!

Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM

The irrepressible and inspiring Travelling GourmetTM goes to Dolce Vita restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Singapore to interview…

MICHELIN Star Chef Thomas Buehner…who was in sunny Singapore for the World Gourmet Summit 2014. Chef Tomas is from Germany so I got to practice my German too. Laid back and unassuming Chef Thomas got his 3rd Michelin star in November 2011. I was impresed by his down to earth attitude.

The Travelling Gourmet (TTG): How did you become a Chef?

Chef Thomas: After I left school, I went for an Aptitude Test at the Job Center. It was a six hour test! The results suggested that I was best suited to being a cook, a baker or a farmer. I decided to be a cook…I told my parents, ” If I’m going to be a cook then I’m going to be a good one!” You must have your goal and you must follow your passion. To be a cook means long working days and hard work.

TTG: What are your signature dishes in “La Vie”, your restaurant in Osnabruck?

Chef Thomas: Potato Espuma with Curried Pumpkin Ice Cream and Roebuck in a stock  of Asian Flavours. Lamb from Head to Tail…the sweetbread, neck, shoulder, liver, lamb rack, the tail. Every part is used. You can even cook ‘politically correct’ Foie Gras now. We have hunting season in Germany and I like to cook game.

TTG: What is your culinary style?

Chef Thomas: It is a mixture…styles of all the world…in  the avant garde style.

TTG: What wines do you personally like?

Chef Thomas: I like a fatty white Burgundy. Ein Wein in ein Glas…( In English it means wine in a glass) and just sitting on the terrace alfresco…I have a very good Sommelier and over 1000 wines in my restaurant. He chuckled and said, “As long as the wine is good, I’ll drink it!

TTG: What was your worst dining experience?

Chef Thomas: It was in New York, celebrating my 5oth Geburtstag (Birthday) in a very famous restaurant…and everything was bad! From the service to the food…Everything!

TTG: What are your favourite restaurants?

Chef Thomas: There are so many good restaurants. I like “Jean-Georges” in New York.

TTG: Do you cook healthy food in your restaurant?

Chef Thomas: We have a healthy kitchen. We serve fresh fish for example…our dishes… always accompanied by vegetables, we use butter, no trans-fats. I had an intern in my kitchen, She would trim off ALL the fat form the meat and bacon and then have two helpings of Moulleaux au Chocolat! You know how much fat is in a Moulleaux au Chocolat! He laughed shaking his head and added, ‘Youth eating ‘fast food’ is a giant problem! They eat NO vegetables!’

TTG: Who are your heroes in the culinary world?

Chef Thomas: My mentor Chef Harald Wohlfahrt of the Schwarzwaldstube. Ferran Adria with his Molecular Gastronomy and Deconstruction. I don’t do Molecular in my restaurant. In Germany people are scared of all the powders and chemicals used in Molecular Gastronomy.

TTG: Who are the celebrities you have cooked for?

Chef Thomas: Well, there’s Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. His staff told me Tony Blair can only eat one dish and has only 15 minutes! He was in and out of my restaurant in a flash! When I cooked for the Turkish State President they had three Hubschrauber (helicopters) circling overhead! If you don’t want to attract attention, why do you have so many armed bodyguards and so on? Celebrities are very disruptive and the celebrities are always nicer than their staff. Their staff are usually terrible!

Chef Thomas looked me in the eye with a wry smile and said sincerely, “To tell you the truth, Michael, it is much more meaningful for me when people come to my restaurant and celebrate their Anniversary and Birthday happily with a nice dinner. More memorable!”

I told him, “Ganz genau, einverstanden!” (exactly correct, I agree)

The delightful dishes Chef Thomas served in Dolce Vita included Foie Gras, Coca Cola with Lemon Granitee and Rocket, Langoustine with crispy Kroepoek Crust, luscious Lobster, Beetroot and Hazelnut and Strawberry and Cucumber with Hendrick’s Gin Gelee and Basil Meringue. I like to dine at Dolce Vita, not least because of the splendid view of the pool and the Marina Bay skyline.

Dolce Vita Restaurant

Mandarin Oriental Singapore

5 Raffles Avenue

Marina Square

Singapore 039797

Tel: 65 6338 0066


La Vie Restaurant

Krahnstraße 1

49074 Osnabrück in Germany

Tel:+49 5 41 33 11 50


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Wine and Spirits Asia 2014 and FoodHotelAsia 2104

Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM

All rights reserved

The indomitable Travelling GourmetTM judges hundreds of wines for Wine & Spirits Asia 2014 Wine Challenge Wine Competition at…

MOD Hotel Capri which was the venue for the Wine Judging with 9 judges in all. On 19 and 20 March 2014, as one of the Wine Judges, I meticulously judged the wines and we selected the Double Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal winners. With only a lunch break, I judged from 8.30am to 6.30pm for two days! Wine Judging is hard work and needs a lot of stamina and concentration. After tasting, I spat out the wines. This is de riguer because a professional Wine Judge and Wine Connoisseur is NEVER intoxicated! This si so your judgment will not be adversely affected. I tasted and judged Still White Wines, Still Red Wines, Sparkling Wines, Dessert Wines and Fortified Wines too from around the world. The Medal Winners will be showcased  during FoodHotelAsia 2014 from 8-11 April 2014. When I was a Wine Judge on many occasions in the Concorso Enologico Internazionale Vinitaly in Verona, Italy held in conjunction with Vinitaly, I tasted and judged even more wines! After tasting many red wines, your teeth turn dark red! It is true and quite shocking when you see them in the mirror. Vinitaly held in Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, is the largest Wine Exhibition and Trade Show in the world.

FoodHotelAsia 2014

In ASEAN, there are over 615 million consumers with a combined expenditure estimated to exceed US$1.5 trillion in 2015! This rising wave of consumerism has huge potential for the Food and beverage sector. Held in gargantuan Singapore EXPO, FHA 201 4 and WSA 2014 will take up all 102,300 m2 of exhibition space across 10 Exhibition Halls and Max Atria. FHA 2014 is Asia’s largest and most comprehensive international food and hospitality trade event with admission only for Business and Trade Professionals only. This shall be the largest FHA since it started in 1978. Sixty four countries will exhibit their products at this cosmopolitan exhibition and trade show. There shall be 56 international pavillions from Argentina to Switzerland and the USA. Do not forget to see the 75 manufacturers at our own Singapore Pavillion.

Some exciting cutting-edge products include Chye Choon Foods Basmati Rice Spaghetti which boasts a low GI and is gluten-free and fat-free. They also have Macadamia Oil from Australia. At a special preview, pretty Almy Goh May San, the Marketing and Research Manager of Fong Yit Kaya (since 1945) kindly let me taste her Durian Kaya. It was velvety and scrumptious! Samsiah Suliman, the MD of Jumain Sataysfaction bade me sample her award winning Chicken Satay. Very chunky, moist, not overly sweet and tender…it has NO layer of fat like your more traditional satay. I think that is a real PLUS point. Therefore, it is not only good to eat but healthy too. A very important point in this today’s health conscious society. I was pleased to taste Oishi International’s Yubari Japanese Hammi Melon Ice Cream as well as Mixed Berries and Matcha Green Tea Ice Creams. The flavours were fresh and vibrant and I particularly liked the Passion Fruit Sorbet bursting with its natural-tasting tanginess.

On 11th April, I was the Celebrity Chef for Auric Pacific in Hall 6 F2-01 and cooked 3 of my original recipes using McCormick’s spices, Tabasco Sauces, Mak Nyonya Sauces and more. It was very well received and many liked my food! The 3 recipes I cooked were Spirali Pasta with Laksa Sauce and Pomodorini, Spicy Beef Rendang with Red, Green and Gold Capsicums and Red Wine and Cheeky Chicken with Apricots and Cashews.

You cannot live well, love well, work well and sleep well unless you eat and drink well!

Enjoy! Bon appetit and a votre sante! :-)


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Beetroot Carpaccio, John Dory and Flat Iron Steak…

Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM

The intrepid and irrepressible Travelling Gourmet savour Epicurean Delights by Chef Ian Curley at…

MARVELLOUS The Prime Society on Dempsey Hill. Chef Ian Curley who is in Singapore for the World Gourmet Summit 2014 kindly cooked his signature dishes for me to taste. Born in England, his 24 hour restaurant “The European” in Melbourne, Australia has earned many accolades. The first course of maroon red Beetroot Carpaccio with crunchy Smoked Walnuts, Soft Curd and herbs was light and most refreshing. The dishes were matched with Japanese Sake! A nice bite was the Truffle Duck Liver and Smoked Eel Parfait. The tasty mousse was piped into a crispy ‘cigar’ and looked like a cute spring roll. The slightly sour Pear Chutney that came with it was nice too.  A nice one for seafood lovers was a generous slice of John Dory Fillet subtly spiked with Indian spices like Turmeric and Coriander. It came with orange segments and Roasted Witlof. As Chef Ian explained, “Now food is so expensive, we use everything! I saved the orange peel to roast the John Dory for extra flavour. I don’t put foam and stuff on my food.” His style of giving a contemporary twist to classical cuisine was evident in the main course…Cape Grim Flat Iron Steak done “rare” with a sleek Bone Marrow Sauce and Mustard Crust. Tender, moist and succulent. I loved it! Incidentally, ‘Flat Iron” is the cut of meat near the shoulder..

My motto, “das Leben es ist unbestimmt, iss erst den Nachtisch!” means ‘Life is uncertain, eat dessert first!’ so I really adore desserts. His signature dessert is Chocolate Salty Caramel with Creme Fraiche Sorbet and Caramelized Peanuts. Two spheres, slightly bigger than a golf ball…one black and one white was on my plate. The white one was the Creme Fraiche Sorbet while the black ball was the gooey Salty Chocolate Caramel  fudge enrobed in a 1mm thick chocolate shell. The level of saltiness to my mnd was just right, not too much and not too litle either. To keep things simple, creme fraiche is really another name for sour cream so it gives you that slight sour, tart flavour.

The Travelling GourmetTM interviews Chef Ian Curley

In an exclusive interview with The Travelling GourmetTM, I asked him, “What made you want to be a Chef?” Down to earth Chef Ian Curley confessed candidly, “In Coventry, there was no work. If you know Coventry, you know why you want to get out. Being a Chef was a good way to get out of Coventry and meet girls…”

TTG: What are your favourite spices to work with?

Chef Ian: Pepper, ginger…I like Cardamom, very good in ice cream and just boiled with milk.

TTG: I like your program “Conviction Kitchen” which helps former convicted prison inmates to learn culinary skill so they can change their lives. What inspired you to start this program?

Chef Ian: When I was young, I wasn’t lucky enough to get a good education. There’s NO unemployment in hospitality and food. I always believe you should give a bit back to society…anyone can make a mistake. That’s why I started this program.

TTG: What qualities makes a good Chef?

Chef Ian said emphatically: Hard work. Some Chefs want to be an ‘overnight sensation’…after a few years you never hear of them again. You have to be consistent. You can’t go out on the town and get drunk four nights a week. It took me thirty years to be an “overnight success”.

At The Prime Society, Chef Ian Curley is cooking with the restaurant’s affable Head Chef, Dallas Cuddy. My good friend, lovely “Prime Princess” Ingrid, the owner of The Prime Society, said, “The Prime Society is honoured to be having Chef Ian Curley, and having mentored our Head Chef Dallas Cuddy, WGS 2014 promises to push the envelope with the reunion of these two exceptional Chefs.”

Bon appetit!

The Prime Society

10 Dempsey Road

01-20 Dempsey Hill

Singapore 247700

Tel: +65 6474 7427

Hours: Mon and Tue 6pm -10.30pm

Wed to Sun 12noon – 10.30pm

Bar stays open till late

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King of Catering Award 2014 in Italy

The intrepid Travelling GourmetTM reports on the the award honouring the best Italian Catering and Banqueting companies, which has reached its 4th edition!

From Milan to Naples the best of Italian catering gathers together on the podium

Trial by jury, March 7th, 2014 at Four Seasons Hotel Florence

Award presentation, March 8th Taste – Stazione Leopolda Florence at 15.00
Ring, March 8th - Stazione Leopolda Florence at 14.00
Talk show, March 9th - Stazione Leopolda Florence at 10.30

Saturday March 8th at Stazione Leopolda during TASTE, the saloon event dedicated to Excellence in Taste and organised by Pitti Immagine, the award ceremony for the fourth edition of King of Catering Bisol (the only award dedicated to catering and banqueting companies) took place.


King of Catering, which was set up to showcase the best companies in the sector, presented the following overall awards:

King of Catering Platinum Plus/Ferrarelle Le Gourmet (Varese)

King of Catering Gold Sire Ricevimenti (Naples)

King of Catering Silver Santi Catering (Treviso)

King of Catering Bronze Caffè Scala (Milan)

Awards for the various categories were also presented:

King of Impossible to Frank Food (Milan)

King of Menù to Papillon Ricevimenti (Milan)

King of Service Top Automotive La Fenice (Ravenna)

King of Mise en place a Assaporando (Udine)

King of Style & Food Design to Casamanu Catering (Bologna)

King of Tradition & Innovation RCR to Aliante Catering (Florence)

King of Glamour Venchi to Design & Food House (Rome)

The theme for King of Catering 2014 was ‘marriage of tastes, Italian catering interpreting international cuisine for the big occasions.’

The four finalists presented a menu based on the traditional cuisine of Azerbaijan, China, the Arab Emirates and India with the preparation and presentation reflecting Italian taste and style. A complex undertaking, where only experience and careful analysis of the diverse cultures would allow them to skilfully interpret the theme.

This theme give ample room to the creativity of each catering style which had to express its own abilities both culinary and in scenographic decor.

The final challenge took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence in the presence of a prestigious jury made up of:

Gianluca Bisol (Bisol), Massimo Buli (Flamigni), Mauro Costanzo (RCR Cristalleria Italiana), Eleonora Cozzella (journalist), Federico De Cesare Viola (journalist), Marilisa Allegrini (Allegrini), Augusto Di Blasi (Ferrarelle SpA), Maddalena Fossati (journalist), Marisa Fumagalli (journalist), Giovan Battista Mantelli (Venchi), Christine Mauracher (Director of the Ca’ Foscari Master in Food and Wine Culture at Venice), Vito Mollica (Chef, Il Palagio-Four Seasons Firenze*), Riccardo Monco (Chef Enoteca Pinchiorri***), Raffaello Napoleone (Pitti Immagine), Davide Paolini (il gastronauta), Agostino Poletto (Pitti Immagine), Leonardo Romanelli (critic and journalist), Enzo Rossi (La Campofilone), Claudio Sadler (Sadler Milan**).

Fede & Tinto, the hosts of the radio program Decanter-Radio2, enlivened the final evening and the award ceremony on the TASTE stage where Gianluca Bisol and all the protagonists of the award crowned the winners of the 2014 edition.

King of Catering is backed by important ‘Made in Italy’ companies such as Bisol, the time-honoured Vadobbiadene wine makers, who have believed in and backed the award’s creator and organizer Riccardo Cioni since the very beginning. The new partners of this edition are La Campofilone, Flamigni and RCR Cristalleria Italiana together with Ferrarelle whose name is historically linked to the award. Lending a sweet note to the proceedings is Venchi, brand chocolate makers since 1878.

King of Catering is organised in collaboration with Pitti Immagine, Mondadori Pubblicità and the Four Seasons Hotel Florence.

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