Quick no MSG Noodle Lunch on Landale Street

Landale street has been having a makeover lately. Gone are many of the little local grimier places, replaced with several spanking new eating joints.

One of them has a particularly fancy name that has a millennial marketing feel to it. Foxtail and Broomcorn declare their philosophy of using no MSG and using slow cooking techniques.

  
I invited a friend to try the noodles there with me today for an early quick lunch before small person had to be shuttled to school.

  

  

What a great day for a bowl of hot noodle soup”, remarked my friend as we settled in our seats. The temperature has dropped around 5 degrees overnight to the relief of all Hong Kongers. Winter, is finally here.

We went at 11.30am and the crowd followed at noon. While no one else was occupying the high tables, the staff permitted my pram in the restaurant. However once the tables filled up, my pram was relegated outside just beyond the glass sliding door. We were sitting right by the door so I didn’t mind.

  
Lunch sets were very reasonable at less than HKD 80 per head. The noodles were a decent portion, the soup was tasty but I wish that these noodle shops would add a tad more green vegetables to their serving. I find this lacking at every noodle shop except at 一碗面. Vegetables are relatively inexpensive but possibly more work to process and clean. Perhaps most diners prefer having more protein. (Hmm an idea would be for them to provide an option for one to order meat and vegetables in broth with less or no noodles.)

  
I had the Amoy fish bee hoon noodles, my friend had the chicken coconut soup bee hoon noodles.

The set comes with a choice of drink and we were recommended the house fruit tea. It was served warm, which was as requested, but a tad in the sweet side. Ice would have solved this by dilution I suppose.

Overall it is was okay, nice presentation for menus and ambience but it would be better if the dishes looked as hearty as the photos in the menu. Perhaps we’ll try the starters next time and see how those work out.

Note for families

  1. No high chairs available
  2. No children utensils or plates but everything is plastic.
  3. Soup spoons (they claim this was the only spoon they have) are too large for comfortable toddler eating
  4. Get the bench seating if going with kids.
  5. Try to sit near the door if you have a pram.
  6. Peak hours 12-2pm, queues build up very quickly during this time.

  

Indoor playground for Toddlers

If there’s one thing worse than being in an outdoor playground when it’s hot, it’s being there when it’s full of people so there’s nowhere to sit, AND full of mosquitoes that leave horrible welts on your calves for weeks (horrible Hong Kong Park).

It was in the height of summer last year that I discovered Spring. How did I hear about it? A minibus went by with an ad for it and I googled the address and went to check it out.

What a fantastic find. A large open indoor play space with natural light in Wan Chai only exists here. Unfortunately Baumhaus, despite a better location (recently opened on Queens Road East) cannot compare. Combine that with great interior design and warm friendly staff who know when to leave you alone.

Toddler exercise zone
Constantly changing toddler exercise zone


Small person has spent an immeasurable amount of time there ever since. She took to it right away, the toddler exercise area changes every week, providing new challenges. The indoor swings were a huge hit with her, I’m always moving furniture out of the way for maximum amplitude.

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natural light, thoughtful furniture design

The padded stairs, tree house and slide are superb areas for toddlers to work out their little leg muscles. And it’s all cleverly designed so that a small adult can also fit in it if necessary. The glass windows provide a direct visual of the kids and serves to reduce the racket their making.. Very well thought out.

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Park your kid, your pram and yourself

I love that I can sit for a while and perhaps speed read a magazine, have a drink and luxuriate for a few minutes in a nice loo.

Aside from cooking and mandarin classes, small person spends her time with kitchen play sets, train tracks, Lego and other dexterity building toys in the toy zone. Depending on where you sit, as it is an open concept space, it’s possible to keep an eye or ear on your toddler wherever they are.

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Barefoot babies, bring your socks mummies

The play space you’ll get to use for free if you sign up for at least one of their myriad of classes (cooking, language, art, sports, dance….). Though I’m sure that if you’re in the neighbourhood and just need to set your child down for a while, the staff will let you in. 
Spring is on the 3rd floor of a commercial building. There’s lots of parking for cars nearby. You can get the tram to Tonnochy if it’s too far from the MTR (but remember,
no prams on the trams) If you’re coming on foot like me, there are two entrances to the building, via Gloucester Road ( big orange highway) or Jaffe Road. Jaffe road is also known as Food Street in Wan Chai, many delicious restaurants along here, most are mommy-pram friendly if you get there by 11am, before the lunch crowd starts. Otherwise, wait til 2pm and you’ll get your seat and less stressed wait staff.

Wan Chai Post Office..

..is accessible with a pram. 

  
For a while now, ignorant me has been going up and down the escalator in Wu Chung House with my purple monster. I’m pretty good at it but I admit that I almost had an accident once where the pram wheel got stuck when I was trying to get off the escalator at the top. Luckily a Good Samaritan was there to help pull the pram up onto non-moving ground. 

No one bothered to tell me. Not the security guards wandering around, none of the office workers who migrate in and out of the building every day. 

Finally, I saw a courier guy hauling lots of packaged down a corridor and thought I might see where it led.

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Between the Bank of China and newly renovated Fubon Bank lies the corridor to the cargo lift.use this lift to get up to the 2nd floor. Exit out into the main lift lobby area and head for the open air terrace. The still renovating post office is on your right. 

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The post office seems to be downsizing which is a pity. I liked the look and feel of the old one. It had the pop up black Lego style linoleum floors and the counter windows were lined with wooden panels. There was also plenty of space for queuing, prams, people and parcels.

Now it’s white laminate, fluorescent lighting and half the floor space for customers. I do hope it’s a little larger once they remove the hoarding.

Update: there’s a bit more room now, counters are fewer but there’s a bit more space for staff. Here are some picts.

 

unless you want speedpost, get in the main line
  
room to write, stick, stamp, weigh, tie and a big bin to discard
 

A walk from Wan Chai to Aberdeen

You already know that it’s possible to hike across Hong Kong island. There are many trails running over the mountains and numerous hikers blazing through them every weekend. 

Most parents with babies and strollers restrict themselves to walking around the Peak or Hong Kong Park. Nothing wrong with that except that if you get off that beaten path, the route becomes quiet and you can hear running water and the chirping of birds in the bush. 

  
If you have about two hours and would like to do a relatively simple walk for exercise and fresh air, try this country walk to the first area of settlement in Hong Kong, Aberdeen.

  
We were relaxing (otherwise known as pfaffing or moping) at home while husband was out having a meeting with the boss. He came home at around 5pm to a very excited toddler who was dying to go to a playground. He remarked what a nice day it was and suggested we go on a W-A-L-K. To fulfill both expectations of playground and walk, we decided on the Aberdeen country park walk. This nicely paved, all-downhill walk (as long as you start where we did) is a very easy, quiet and shaded walk. 

Naturally small person didn’t want to leave Coombe road playground. The swing! The slide! The swing! The slide! She had to be forcibly removed with the promise of food. I fed her two herb boiled eggs and she was satiated and singing. To get the the start of the walk, exit Coombe Road playground, get on to Mount Cameron road on your right and then turn right again into Aberdeen Reservoir road. You’ll then see the sign for Aberdeen Country Park.

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We started off at around 5.30pm, it was already starting to get dark. The moon rose and the raptors were circling waiting for the night hunt to commence.

It soon got too dark to take any photos, so take it from me that it is a very green trail and perfectly suited to a stroller. There are no stairs or bumps in the road. 

  
There are bins along the way if you need to toss the diaper or food wrapper. Toilets are only at the beginning and end of the walk. 

Look out for a junction where you see a big deep drain on your right, turn right and walk along it, it will lead you straight down into Aberdeen. The park will end near a barbecue/ picnic area and you will suddenly find yourself walking on a concrete pavement going downhill all the way towards bright city lights with fifty or more people who are leaving the barbecue area. Not to worry, this crowd thins out very quickly. 

Stay on the left pavement going down and you will see traffic light at the bottom of the hill. Cross and walk straight along that road, crossing another one into Aberdeen Square. It looks very messy and people are everywhere, get into the main square area where there are shops and people generally hanging out by the decorative fountain in the Center. You’ll know when you’re there by the mock chinese gates that you’ll have to walk through.

  
Best bet for a reliable dinner was the Tai Hing. There was a queue but it moved quickly and that’s where we ended up for a hearty meal.

A short taxi ride or the green minibus 4B or 4C takes you straight through the tunnel back to Wan Chai.

Coombe Road Children’s Playground

This playground is very very popular on weekends. There are two playgrounds separated by a road. One for the young ones 2-5 years of age ( climbing frame and swings) and another for the 5-12 year olds which has a climbing frame, swings and a scooter/ skateboard zone.

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Families come from all over to let the kids go crazy on the slides, scooter around, buy bubble guns that shoot out a stream of bubbles… Every kid wants one of those.

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Then there’s the fairground atmosphere of adults and children eating as they play, instead of cotton candy floss and lollipops, think local snacks, fish balls, steamed Siew Mai and herbal boiled eggs (my favourite… try it for $5 per egg). The little concession stand does milk teas and coffees, hot or cold, ovaltine and Horlicks. The fridge stocks most soft drinks that you can think of and there’s an array of candy, chips and chocolate to choose from. Let’s not forget the ice cream. There’s the usual Walls type ice cream available, cones and sticks. They only accept cash so make sure you bring change.

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Amenities wise, there’s a public restroom, water coolers to refill your bottle and lots and clean benches to sit and eat. Or just sit. 

On a clear low pollution day, you can look out over the South side from the picnic area and enjoy the cool breeze rushing over the mountains. The falcons love it, look out for them soaring overhead. 

In the high humidity of summer, there are lots of mosquitoes so do not forget your bug spray. 

Access this playground via:

  1. No. 15 bus, catch it from Central or Wan Chai towards the Peak (possible with pram but depends on how crowded bus is, usually full of tourists with very big fancy cameras)
  2. Walk up Wan Chai Gap ( starts beside Bamboo Grove. Tough with pram, do not try going uphill unless super fit. Do not try going downhill unless someone else carries the baby.)
  3. Catch a taxi/ uber it up there

  
There are some nice pram friendly walks you can do from here (Black’s Link and Aberdeen Reservoir Walk), I’ll be detailing them in another post. 

Monmouth Children’s playground

On Sunday, we met up with friends who had just moved here from Paris. We brought them to one of our favourite noodle shops in the Star street area,  一碗麵 (“one bowl of noodles“, it only has a Chinese name). After that, we needed to get the kids to work off some of that excess energy.
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A friend whom I’d bumped into on the minibus recently told me about a playground I’ve never seen or heard of. It’s not marked on maps and there are no signs on street level that this playground exists. He said it was up Electric Road, up the stairs from Maison Es. This was the playground I suggested we check out.

This playground is NOT pram friendly. 

Firstly, Electric Street is a rather steep slope. If you found it steep going up Wing Fung Street or St. Francis Street then you should just stop for coffee and forget about attempting Electric Street. If your coffee came with two sugars and you also ordered dessert, then I highly recommend you try pushing your pram up here ( just to metabolize it off, of course).

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At the top of the street, you’ll see some rather narrow stairs. Fold your pram up or hoist it up on your shoulder and prepare for a good workout. This walk up the stairs will feel like an x kg one arm dumbbell press (x = weight of your pram), working out your shoulder, back and legs. The good news is, it only takes about 3 minutes to get up there.

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The playground is a decent size with a climbing frame and see-saw (but disappointingly, no swings), ensconced on all sides by the tall apartments on Monmouth Terrace. I suppose this playground was provided for the residents in these buildings. It’s shaded and has little in the way of greenery but a nice breeze makes up for that. 

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There’s lots of sitting benches, which are made of metal and discourage sleeping. A little gazebo provides a bit of shade if it should rain. There’s also an open gazebo structure, I’m not sure what purpose it serves apart from being an eyesore. Best if they remove it and put in a nice swing.

We spent a good hour here just relaxing and chatting. Having the privacy and the nice cool breeze made the effort worthwhile, although I’d never have made it up here with the pram on my own (thank you husband, your gym instructor is doing a fine job).

After that, it was back down the slope to Star street to peruse the shops. Fortunately small person had the company of an 8 year old boy, she was very motivated to walk and chase him down.

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Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty