Tag Archives: cafe

The Satisfaction of Samsen

This Thai casual style eatery is NOT kid friendly. Do not bring your toddlers or babies, there are no high chairs (bar chairs), no kiddy utensils and no kids menu. So you gotta go alone or on a date!

Note: it’s open Mon-Sat lunch 12 noon to about 2.30pm then dinner 6-10pm. Shut on Sundays.

We have done takeaway from Samsen several times, all delightful eating even out of cardboard boxes. The only dishes Samsen doesn’t allow takeout for are their noodle soups or “boat noodles”. 

One day last week, I found myself liberated and alone for lunch. I gleefully took myself to Samsen at 12 noon and promptly got seated at the bar counter. Perfect. 


There are hooks thoughtfully placed beneath the counter to hang your bag (love restaurants that do this) and I had a great view of the working kitchen which always helps to manage time and expectations. 


It was a boiling hot day. The Thai iced tea was perfectly shaved and sweetened with just the right kick of lime acidity. It was a pleasure I sought to extend by drinking it very slowly. 


My Wagyu beef boat noodles arrived. Oooh first….inhale the aromas. Then follow up with a taste of the soup. Be careful not to slurp it all down. The Wagyu beef was super tender and the beef balls chewy. The noodles were done just right, smooth texture with a good touch of elasticity. 

The bowl looked small but by the time I got to the end of the broth I felt strangely satiated. 

No dessert for me today but definitely next time.

Samsen requires no introduction given its high profile chef and nightly queues for dinner. It’s a thumbs up from me, a welcome addition to the Wanchai dining scene. 

I’m already craving the next visit. 

Bite Unite. Kitchen, Dining Space. Chefs for hire.

After our lunch at Maureen’s, we decided to walk off a bit of those noodles. SW suggested we walk up towards the Pak Tai temple where he had noticed a new cafe. 


Just when you’ve walked up as far as you can go on the tarmac, the road bends to the left (straight ahead is a path that takes you up to Kennedy Road). Here was a promising sign under the street sign. It was a blackboard with a fairly simple menu touting coffees, tea and a few pastries.


Encouraged by the menu, we proceeded down the street. Lung On Street really is a beautiful street. The banyan trees, conserved and cared for by the temple, provide shade and a sense of nature’s calm. 


At the end of the street is a cul de sac, and this is where the cafe is located, looking all cool outfitted in black and glass. 

It really reminded me of neighbourhood cafes I’ve been to in London, New York or Sydney. Simple, with some alfresco seating areas and a signboard that isn’t screaming full attention. Nicely designed. 

There was a kids cooking class that was going on. About ten children were creating a ruckus just talking to each other. All equipment had been laid out, they were definitely doing some baking. 


There wasn’t a whole lot of space internally as half of it was devoted to a professional kitchen. There was a proper large stacked oven for breads, pizzas or grilling a whole suckling pig. A nice looking fridge and some pots and pans. Importantly there was a deep wide sink and a work top. Bite Unite offers chefs a licensed kitchen for hire.


Khun Tanarak, the owner, is there as the site also serves as his office (he’s a photographer specialising in weddings). 

I asked him about his choice of location.

“Wong Chuk Hang where most kitchens are, is too far away. Most chefs just need a convenient space to pop in, prepare and get back to whatever else they need to do..”

Since he lives up on Kennedy Road, it is also convenient for him to site his office within walking distance.

He apologised as the coffee machine was under maintenance. Well, that’s a perfect excuse to come back to try the cafe another day.

Elephant Grounds Cafe, Wing Fung Street

My neighbour E moved to Hong Kong six months ago. We went on a nice tour of the market together and decided to catch up for coffee again a few days later. She wanted to know where she could purchase a knife sharpener and I said I would take her. 

We went to King Tak Hong for the knife sharpener (they have a fancy new knife cabinet on the second floor) and I bought 4 stainless steel ladles for my mother. 

It was a beautiful day and I suggested we head over to Star Street and have a drink at Elephant Grounds Cafe. I had been meaning to go try it for the longest time. It was supposed to be open by the time Art Basel came round earlier in the year but was delayed.

I’ve been there” E said endorsing my choice, “the coffee is excellent.”


We took our seats at the bar counter and I parked my pram on the ledge. I noticed that there was a bowl of water for people who bring their pooches, but there weren’t any dogs around so I assumed it’d be ok.

The menu is whimsically designed both in terms of looks and the actual items for consumption. 

Here’s the first menu I saw.


Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen any cafe do a list of hot chocolates. Usually it’s just one type of hot chocolate, take it or leave it.

The breakfast menu is reasonably varied, something for every tastebud.


And here’s the drinks list.


Not bad eh. 

I had to see the breakfast selection at the front counter. 


Mmm… yum. A few sweet choices and croissants. I decided to have a hot chocolate and a simple butter croissant.


I have to say it was delicious. The croissant was light and fluffy with just the right amount of crisp. The hot chocolate was the right temperature and not too sweet. 

E had a coffee and a hot chocolate. From where we were sitting, we had a great view of how the coffee is lovingly and patiently brewed.

E told me that her coffee was delicious. It must’ve been because she finished it off well before I was done with my hot chocolate. Unless it was just me talking too much 😉

Find them here:

Map to Elephant Grounds Cafe

Baumhaus Playroom in Queen’s Road East

It’s been at least half a year since I last visited Baumhaus. Since then, things appear to have gotten much busier with many more mothers and children visiting the playroom. 

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The lift attendants are now more attentive and open the door to the secure lift lobby when they see you coming. The lift buttons still don’t light up when pressed but light up only when it gets to the floor. In this case, Baumhaus is on the first floor. 

Some thoughtful renovation has been performed. The front counter and bench has been shifted to give more space to the playroom, it also created a useful reading nook beside the cafe which was otherwise a wasted corridor space that visually partitioned the cafe from the playroom. 

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There were additional toys, a play kitchen, an aeroplane baby swing. I liked that when the playroom got really busy, they expanded the roam area by opening the collapsible doors to the classroom to create a contiguous space. 

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The soundproofing was a critical upgrade. The walls beneath the windows are now covered with an inch thick layer of padding. It makes a huge difference to the acoustics of the playroom. Think 30 screaming children dampened to half. That’s a significant tolerable reduction.

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The cafe is now properly equipped, so coffees, teas, hot/cold chocolate and bottled juices are now available. Served alongside if you want are a variety of biscuits, muffins and toasted bagels with cream cheese (recommended, HKD 23).

The playroom costs HKD 80 per entry, kids are welcome to play for several hours but 2 hours is usually enough for them to do all the sliding they want, and get through most of the toys. 

Eric Kayser bakery and cafe

If you desperately need a baguette to complement your curry or a sourdough loaf for your bruschetta, this is your stop. This Wan Chai store always have a baguette for you (unlike Passion who has let me down before). 

Once, I ran into a neighbour in the elevator who was eating an EK baguette plain, straight out of its paper envelope bag. He yanked off the chewy bits of bread with his teeth.. I’ve never seen anyone eat a baguette that way before but it’s an indication how delicious it must be. Or how hungry he was.

  
Maison Eric Kayser needs very little introduction, they’ve successfully launched premium bakeries in cities all around the world.

The Eric Kayser in Wan Chai is located prominently on Queens Road East, beside the Indigo Hotel and strategically next to the Wan Chai Market bus stop. It’s impossible to miss. 

   

great for prams/ strollers and kids
 Sharing the hallway with neighbouring Fortress (electronics and appliances store), the patrons of Eric Kayser benefit from large street facing windows (2 sides) and lots of open space. Occasionally passers-by stop to salivate at the various pastries and breads displayed bountifully in the window. 

  
The interior designer made the best of an internal pillar, creating shelves and a glass case for the creme de la creme of pastries (eclairs, tarts etc). 

  
There’s reasonable seating for about 12-15 people inside the cafe and an additional 6 outside along the hallway. The hallway seating area is my preferred place, the chairs are more comfortable and don’t leave grid like patterns on your bum. When the doors of the building open and close, it feels almost alfresco. The purple monster pram is right at home here and small person enjoys pressing her nose on the Fortress glass walls to watch the demos on the large screen TVs. The Transformers movie and those weird slideshows on animals scratching their butts never fail to entertain.

  
But how good are their pastries really? I’m not impressed with the croissants (won awards in Tokyo), quite light inside but the outer texture is little rubbery. Perhaps it’s the glaze. It just tastes like bread that has been left out overnight to me. Many of their French style pastries are constructed with the same dough base, so in contemporary language, it’s all a bit “blah“.

Croissant – blah

Peach Danish – blah

Chocolate croissant – blah

Brioche- very blah

Note: If you are going to have one of these vennoiseries then please insist that they heat it up in the oven before you eat it. This extra touch makes all the difference and is not offered voluntarily by the staff.

Small person does enjoy their chocolate croissant when it’s been in the oven.

  
She doesn’t discriminate much when it’s chocolate.

  
Worth eating are the prepared sandwiches behind the payment counter. These focaccia breads and toasted baguettes stuffed to the brim with tuna, chicken curry or salads are delicious.

 

the menu
  
ah so that’s a chouquette
  

And here are the rest. The eclairs are pretty good but I haven’t tried the others, a tad too sweet for me. There was a lonely box of macarons, but I’d suggest you head to Passion for these.

sugar addiction under lock and key

The Wan Chai bakery makes the most of its corner location, creating pram accessible entrances on both sides. However the split level means that you can’t get down the stairs to pay after selecting your breads. I usually pop the pram by the steps where you can maintain line of sight at the payment counter.

  
If you’re heading in just to grab coffee and a sandwich, enter via Tai Yuen street, the side facing Indigo hotel. Otherwise for seats, enter via the main building doors on Queen’s Road East.

  
Whenever I have space in the freezer, a pre-sliced Kayser sourdough usually fill the space.

Can anyone tell me why these master bakers won’t buy a slicing machine in their stores so that the staff don’t need to cut the breads by hand? I can’t finish the loaves in one sitting….Bread slicing is a lot of hard work.

 

the Kayser tuna baguette
 
Peak hours to avoid 7.30-9am (working people grabbing breakfast, long lines) and lunch 12.30-2pm. Otherwise it’s mostly French mums loading up on breads for the week and people catching up in between office appointments.