Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Copyright all rights reserved
All food photos are of REAL food with no photoshop
The irrepressible and intrepid Travelling Gourmet TM goes to an island to stay where…
MARTHA Stewart, “America’s Mummy” stayed here when she visited sunny Singapore! CAPELLA is a resort 5 Star hotel in lush tropical gardens with not one, not two but THREE swimming pools! Capella is actually the name of the largest star in the Auriga Constellation. Yes, The Travelling Gourmet TM is also a bit of an astronomer…most do not know it. It rhymes! 🙂
Check-in was a breeze…despite the many guests also checking in for the Hari Raya long weekend. Perky Jenna from Perak brought me on a tour of Capella, with the main building being a National Heritage site…and then to where I would stay. I admired the lush foliage, orange Heliconia (bird of paradise) flowers, Arrowhead shaped Yam (Taro)leaves..if you dig up the yam and cook them, you will never go hungry in the jungle. Aha, the things you learn in Combat Jungle Survival School…
After a longish walk, Capella is set in 30 acres of land after all we arrived at the…
Splendid SENTOSA Suite!
Perched in the secluded corner on the topmost floor, which is the 5th floor…it was the luxurious Sentosa Suite Number 503. Wow! A really nice suite and with my own personal outdoor al fresco Jacuzzi no less! I was delighted! It brought back memories of my favourite hotel in Venice, the incomparable Danieli and the Greta Garbo Suite where I love to stay!! All mod cons as befits a 5 Star resort hotel, and I liked the hidden Ironing Board and Iron in the walk-in wardrobe as well as the personal safe hidden in the writing desk. Of course, it is de rigeur now to have your own personal coffee maker, in this case a Nespresso. I liked the real Dairy Creamer by Cremo Kafferahm of Switzerland since 1927 with 15% fat instead of cancer causing palm oil hydrogenated to make Coffeemate…YUCKS! The big bath tub too was very nice as were the twin sinks and the high ceilinged Rain Shower and Hans Grohe shower head. I like to activate both simultaneously and then when you are clean…go take a long soak in the clean water of the bath tub with a view of the lush tropical foliage which includes Heritage Angsana, Johor Fig and Rain Trees as well as the South China Sea! This is how the Japanese Samurai do it! The very hygienic Japanese NEVER bathe in a bath tub full of dirty water like Europeans. Think about it. It makes perfect sense! Nothing quite like soaking for sometime in your own al fresco hot tub Jacuzzi with a flute or two of Taittinger NV Champagne…Oh mein Gott! La Dolce Vita…Genauso! Das Leben es ist unbestimmt, trinkt erst den Champagner!
The Travelling Gourmet TM goes to a Library…
My head was going very slightly dizzy…too much Champagne on an empty tumbly is not a good idea…With this in mind I made my way to The Library. I love books! Well, truth be told, a little bird had told me I could find food there…and there was a rumbly in my tumbly…
There was. Food that is! Which I discovered after climbing 26 steps from the hidden staircase to the left of the lobby Check-In Desk. Food fabulous food! I liked the ANZAC biscuits with oats, Chocolate Chip Cookies, triangles of Strawberry Jam Sandwiches, Kaya Sandwiches, little mini cube Scones and more tasty little treats…A strong Doppio Espresso on fine floral patterned Wedgwood Bone China no less and I was right as rain! There were some books too, but you cannot eat books n’est pas!
My next stop was the high tech compact Gym near the Auriga Spa. Cold Steel, glittering glass, and all the machines to burn calories and build muscle the natural way with NO protein powder shakes and steroid drugs YUcks! Not very big but well equipped. As The Travelling Gourmet TM I have to work out daily or else I shall be very horizontally challenged!
Ask the CHEF!
Mon ami, Director of Culinary/Executive Chef of Capella Singapore, Chef David Nicolas Senia has been cooking captivating culinary creations worldwide for over two decades. Chef David began his illustrious career way back 1988 with culinary stints at some of the acclaimed hotels and restaurants in France. Just to name two…Grand Hotel St. Cyr Les Lecques and Michelin Starred Chateaux Ezain in Nice on the fabulous French Riviera. Having spent 12 years in Japan and his wife is Japanese, Chef Senia blends the best of eastern and western flavours to create magical dishes exuding culinary excellence. Drawing inspiration from unique experiences with local flavours and ingredients, he aims to harmoniously blend it with various cooking techniques & styles acquired from experiences round the world.
Exclusive interview with The Travelling Gourmet TM
I was privileged and honoured that Chef David extended the courtesy to me as a fellow Chef to bring me in to his Kitchen from the Pastry/Bread, Garde Manger, Cold Rooms, Hot Kitchen, Banquet and more. I always enjoy being in Kitchens and Libraries. I feel very at home and joyful. The excitement is there as Chefs create food for hundreds of guests! Along the way, dynamic and energetic Chef David let me taste the new recipe Wagyu pepper and other secret Spices encrusted Beef for the Sunday Brunch and other delights like a special bread made with Foie Gras! Oh Madonna! heavenly! He was at the Ritz Carlto Osaka and celebrated Hotel Negresco in Nice before.
In between tasting and giving instructions to his Brigade of 50 Chefs, David explained,
“Chefs are artists and we want to give our best…for our guests. We don’t want getting but we want giving. My uncle was a Chef in Japan and he inspired me to be a Chef. I was 12 years in Japan and my girlfriend…now ma femme (wife) is Japanese.
David is no chauvinist and he is more the SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) when he says, “Coming from a family with a strong matriarchal figure, I have always respected women and the inner strength they exude.”
We paused to taste the Wagyu Beef marinated in secret spices including black pepper and fennel. A veritable dynamo, David gave pointers to the Chef that had prepared the beef to make it better next time. His dynamic style brought back fond memories of cooking with my good friend, 3 Michelin Star Chef Philippe Legendre of Le Cinq in the fabulous Four Seasons George V in Paris. The Capella Kitchen is spotless and super clean like that of the George V. One of my favourite restaurants in “la ville lumiere” is Le Cinq, a veritable Temple of Gastronomy where gourmets go on a pilgrimage to worship….
“Some Chefs give their life…mon ami, two have died!”, David continued shaking his head in the Gallic way, “To get a Michelin Etoile (star), just one…to give a macaron (Chef’s lingo for the Michelin Star} to a hawker that serves food on plastic plates…???” I nodded and said softly, “D’accord.” I agree completely. Many Chefs in Singapore feel the same way but they dare not say it. Why? Political correctness and they fear they will not get a Michelin Star for being outspoken. With the Singapore Tourism Board involved in the Singapore Michelin Guide…there is obviously politics involved, nicht wahr. I have friends in high and low places…so I know these things. Frankly, you do not have to be a Brain Surgeon Genius to know that. I am not known for political correctness and I LIKE a gentleman and a Chef who speaks the truth!
I shared a story with him about my dear friend Caroline Mennetrier. who was the Directrice of Communications at Four Seasons George V in Paris, a simply wonderful woman and smart too! Caroline has the classic French beauty that makes men swoon…Over lunch one lovely Spring day as I tucked into Chef Legendre’s legendary Lobster/Homard (pun intended), Caroline looked at me with her beautiful dark eyes and told me with a cheeky grin, “You know, cher Michel, a few days ago I had lunch with a food writer who is vegetarian!” The taste of Philippe’s lobster was so very gooood but what she said caught my attention. “Eh bien…” I said munching away…as the amazingly beautiful flavours seduced my palate…
Caroline continued, “She took a piece of boeuf (beef) and looked at it…very good boeuf!” She demonstrated with a laugh using her fourchette (fork), “…then she smell..like so..” Caroline laughed. Such a happy laugh that made me happy and I laughed too uproariously with her. “Then she write in her notebook!” It was “un grand moment” as the French say. When Chef David heard the tale he laughed too! I joined in! Wahahahah! How absurd, a vegetarian food writer! This is what in Italy we call a “truffano” which means a fraudster or charlatan. There are too food bloggers with micro-mini hot pants and long red talons/manicured nails like vulture’s claws who love to stand on chairs and tables to show off their scrawny anorexic legs, in order to take vertical-down photos of the food. Legs like stick insects..Yucks! Then they sit down on the seat that they have dirtied with their stiletto heels….,,Also, es ist wahnsinnig und ganz dumm!” Auch narcissistisch…Quatsch!
I have met and talked to many Chefs in my time as The Travelling Gourmet TM and as Donald Trump would say, “Believe me. I know a good Chef when I meet one, and Chef David Senia is a good one.”
After a second relaxing soak with more Champagne in my Jacuzzi in the Sentosa Suite, I fell asleep…but only for about 20 minutes. When you are here you really feel like you are in a foreign country and the sound of birds singing and the tranquil and peaceful ambience is so amazing!
Dinner found me in…
Captivating CASSIA…where Cantonese haute cuisine is de rigeur. Ambience is understated elegance for those wo appreciate such a décor. IT is not the kind of décor that appeals to the culturally challenged ‘nouveau riche’ but will appeal to those of higher intellect and ‘old money’. A most calming a soothing restaurant. The service too is exemplary with dishes served course by course in portions to please but not satiate.
The Degustation Menu c’est fantastique! I shall not give too much away but you MUST try it sometime…
~~One of many yummie Goodies! Om nom nom nom! 🙂
As an International Wine Judge I have found that certain Pinot Noirs from Borgogne or Burgundy in France go hand in glove with Cod Fish in the Classic Cantonese Style…OMG! Yummie!
It’s a tough job being The Travelling Gourmet TM…but somebody has to do it…
A day in the life of The Travelling Gourmet TM…
MY Mother always says, “Son, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” Scientific evidence proves that Mummy is right.” Ahha…but before that at…
06:00 <> My Breitling titanium watch woke me up with its alarm! Titanium, my favorite metal is 600 TIMES STRONGER than cold Steel. I made a beeline for Palawan Beach on Sentosa Island. along the way I stopped to swim in the curvy resort pool outside the Knolls restaurant. One level down and I swam in the second resort pool, also an infinity pool. At the next level below…the rectangular two lane Lap pool surrounded by lush tropical rainforest.I reminded me of my favourite resort hotel on Phuket Island..the absolutely spiffing Sri Panwa Resort. SUNRISE…
Then a long walk down to Palawan Beach and through the heavy steel gate. Luckily I had brought my suite key to gain re-entry to the Capella. Well, if I had forgotten my key, ,,wir haben unsere Wegen”…one way is the SAS up-over-the-razorwire method…Not recommended for the faint hearted. I was greeted by the slowly rising sun over the beach which was very clean except for a few plastic bottles from ill considerate litterbugs and some “homeless” persons sleeping rough on the beach covered in dark blue blankets. A salmon pink hue in the sky was most mesmerizing and the thought in my head was ”There but for the grace of God and/or the Buddha go I…” It is a cold cruel world…and no one asked to be born…
I walked a fair distance to the white chained suspension bridge to be welcomed by a sign saying proudly: The most southernmost point of continental Asia. Shades of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! IN the distance I saw twin towers like Balinese watch towers in Uluwatu…The suspension bridge swayed as I walked on it purposefully. The white paint on the metal chains holding it up was chipped and worn off in many places.
Here at the end of the moving bridge there are two tall towers in the Balinese style made of wood. I climbed the stairs to find on the middle level a group of sleeping and snoring 6 Bangladeshi people, 3 men and 3 women! Stepping around them stealthily, I proceeded up to the highest level to be rewarded by a spectacular panoramic view of the sea and the many ships anchored there! There is a total of 76 steps to climb to the top of the tower.
I swam in the sea, caught a small lice crab which I later ate for my Breakfast..
A fast run back to the Capella, then a quick workout in the GYM and eh Voila! The most important meal of the day! That is what my Mummy always says. She is right!
Breakfast in the Knolls is simply splendid…
This is the kind of Breakfast Buffet that after you dine …you do not need lunch…a light dinner maybe but definitely NO lunch! I am not easily impressed…but I was impressed at the scale and variety of the Breakfast items on offer and also the technical execution of the dishes and the top quality of the products. The Century Egg for instance was of a very premium quality and with such a firm and tasty yolk…So too was the Viennoiserie of Croissants, Wholemeal Croissants, Filled Croissants with Crème Anglais, Pain au Chocolat, Cute cuddly Berliner filled with Crème Anglais (custard) and more. The egg Station outside had a young Korean Chef making Omelette, Scrambled, Sunny Side Up or whatever takes your fancy. I tested him by ordering a Spanish Omelette with Smoked Salmon. He passed the test. I also tasted the Capella Eggs Benedict which was yummie with a sexy smooth Canary yellow Hollandaise Sauce. The yolk of the poached egg so soft and molten as it should be…Oh YUMMIE!
I am partial to a well done Omelette with Smoked Salmon…
One of the BEST parts of this Breakfast which reminded me of the splendid Sacher in Vienna, and also the Cavalieri Roma in the Eternal City, was the free flow of Taittinger Champagne NV (Non Vintage)! In the Hotel Sacher it is Sekt while in the Cavalieri Roma it is Prosecco di Valdobbiadene! I like to put some cut fresh strawberries inside my flute of Champagne 🙂 It went well with my Eggs Benedict. I loved too the real PORK sausages and real crispy Bacon strips, I hate fake turkey “bacon” and chicken sausages masquerading as pork! The Seleccion de Fromages or Cheese Board is also not to be scoffed at but to swim in shark infested waters for! I love cheese, especially strong blue cheeses!
Food styling and Photography by DR. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Coming here makes one feel like one is in another country! Surreal! Strange but true! No hassle with check-in at the airport 2 hours before the flight, flight delays, security checks, X Ray scans of your carry on bags, ransacking your carry on bags by over zealous security staff, long queues at Immigration, lost suitcases, etc….Sometimes the true gourmet does not have to travel far and wide…because sometimes…actually oftentimes…
The Grass is Greener on This side.
Dream, Explore, Discover, Enjoy! 🙂
1 The Knolls
Cassia Chinese restaurant
1, The Knolls
Bob’s Cuban Bar – superb chill-out bar Habana style!
Sentosa Island, Singapore 098297
Tel: +65 6377 8888
Always brings to mind …Vienna and the splendid Sacher…
Le Cinq in Four Seasons George V is one of the world’s finest 3 Michelin Star restaurants…where I have cooked before with Masterchef Philippe Legendre
One of the stars of the hit movie The Tourist was the incomparable Hotel Danieli in Venezia!
SENTOSA in WW2…a battlefield
British Gunners in action in WW2 with 5.5inch Howitzers in the steaming tropical heat
In World War 2, Sentosa was called Pulau Blakang Mati which means ironically in the Malay language…Death from behind. The Heritage Building of the Capella was the HQ and Officer’s Mess of the Royal Artillery in WW2..Due to military incompetence and poor Intelligence plus over confidence, the guns of the British faced the sea. The British expected a seaborne assault by the Japanese but the Japs with a good network of spies and intelligence officers in Singapore…attacked from the back. Ironic as the island was called literally “Death from behind”.
Belakang Mati Beach, off the Sentosa Golf Course in WW2 was the terrible scene where the Japanese Imperial Army and the Kempetai massacred Chinese civilians suspected of Anti-Japanese activities and being spies, in the infamous Kakyō Shukusei (華僑粛清, “Purging of Overseas Chinese”) operation. The Imperial Army and Kempetai (Military Police) were only outdone by the evil SS or Schuetzstaffel and Gestapo (Gehiemestaatspolizei) of the Nazis in Europe.
Some 300 and more bullet-ridden corpses shot by Arisaka rifles and machine guns washed up on the shore of Sentosa. They were civilians who were transported from the docks at Tanjong Pagar to be killed at sea nearby. British gunners captured a POWs by the Japanese Army awaiting Japanese internment in POW camps were forced to bury the bloated and rotting corpses. Ironicaly, Japanese are one of the biggest tourists who like Capella today. In Japan, the new and young generation of Japanese know NOTHING of what abominable atrocities their forefathers did in WW2 due to the abhorrent state censorship of WW2 history in Japanese schools.
Happily, things are more peaceful now in luxurious Capella.
A very popular song of the period…Rose of Malaya
The taste of war I know so very well…