One last look at 2016

December 31, 2016

One last look at 2016

Unboxing Day: A Sneak Peek at My Christmas Haul

Look, today I'm not even going to try to English - I know that most of you come, you see the pictures; you conquer or rather, close tab. Besides, I'm knackered. Perhaps it's the exhaustion of hauling ass from dawn to dusk volunteering at the local homeless shelter on Christmas Day. Maybe it's from attempting a 60 person-strong Mannequin Challenge during a boozy Christmas dinner. Possibly from running around London on Boxing Day to make the most of the Pokemon Go Christmas event (plot twist: Niantic makes Santa-hat-wearing-Pikachu the new norm. Trainers who transferred their hatless Pikachu to make room before hoarding festive 'Chus as collectibles weep en masse).

Whatever it is, I've got a cold, which I'm sure is appropriate on some level because 2016 has been a real clustercuss of a year and that bitch just won't quit. Much like my favourite present this Christmas: a very loud, so terrible-it's-amazing Gucci Lilith handbag in a very limited edition - only 27 in the world, and only available in-store so if you fancy one head down to the flagship on Bond Street. I'm rather less taken by the Gucci loafers, but I've included them for posterity anyway before exchanging them for a Harrods Gift Card (see what I swapped them for on my Dayre microblog). 

Fun little stocking stuffers - festive Yankee Candles that smell uncannily like Christmas trees and candy canes, a little Fendi purse, an Anya Hindmarch Rubik's Cube I forgot to actually take a photo of for this post (see, I told you I'm tired) - padded out an otherwise sparse Christmas present haul. You'll have no complain from me otherwise. 

The bird-song outside my window (the poor buggers are confused by the city's light pollution, it's only three in the morn...) is my cue to turn in for the night. I'll do a proper 'What's In My Handbag' post to get you acquainted with Lilith, but for now I leave you with photos of my Christmas present haul, sans witty repertoire because a) I'm tired and ill and b) does anyone actually read this anyway? If you do, comment below: "I am the Loch Ness monster".
How was your Christmas? What did you get up to? Were you naughty or nice? 
What did Santa slip in your stocking, the dirty devil? 

December 27, 2016

Unboxing Day: A Sneak Peek at My Christmas Haul

Look, today I'm not even going to try to English - I know that most of you come, you see the pictures; you conquer or ra...

Christmas Menu at Pan Chai, Harrods

My family are hard work. Don't get me wrong, I love muh crazy Asian fam and wouldn't swap them for any other brood in the Chinese diaspora world, but let's make no bones about it - they keep me on my toes, in the most literal sense. You may have gandered from Instagram Stories (and if you didn't, you really should keep up) that the pack were in town over the weekend. Disappointed by their lack of aurora borealis sightings in Reykjavik, the fam extended their stopover in London - turning their frowns upside down with a four-day orgy of conspicuous consumerism (because there's no therapy like retail therapy) and seeking a Pan-Asian antidote to their Icelandic smorgasbord of reindeer meatballs. Clearly, 'tis the season to be hunting and gathering because Harrods was full of like-minded shoppers on a mission; nostrils flared and credit cards pointed like a smoking gun, pausing only for nourishment. And what nourishment there was to be had at Pan Chai. On previous occasion I've described their offerings as luxurious Pan-Asian fare for the fast and furious, and it still is, going by their dizzying turnover. But this festive season Pan Chai are bringing to the table a reason to linger - their gorgeous and decadent CHRISTMAS PLATTER.


I whetted my appetite, as one does, with an old favourite the BANZAI platter (lobster tempura, avocado, asparagus, spicy mayonnaise topped with orange and black caviar, unagi sauce) and the SNOW CRAB SALAD (shredded snow crab with avocado, caviar and seaweed salad). 



Selection of 6 pieces sashimi (salmon, fatty tuna, yellow tail) 

Selection of 6 pieces nigiri (tuna, salmon, yellow tail) 

Whole grilled live Canadian lobster with Korean spicy sauce or
 Japanese teriyaki sauce topped with gold leaf 

Alaskan King Crab leg with spicy chilli sauce 

 Skewered yaki scallops with sweetened soy sauce 

A bowl of edamame, delicately steamed and salted, served as a palate cleanser for the CHRISTMAS PLATTER; a cornucopia of delights whose stand-out attractions were the whole GRILLED CANADIAN LOBSTER with Japanese teriyaki sauce topped with gold leaf and the ALASKAN KING CRAB LEG with spicy chilli sauce. As decadent as the crustacean dishes were - as excessive as lobster brushed with gold may seem, in our gilded surroundings of Harrods Food Hall it made perfect sense - the rest of the Christmas Platter was no less rewarding. The SASHIMI selection of SALMON, FATTY TUNA, and YELLOW TAIL was predictably fresh, and YAKI SCALLOPS SKEWERED WITH ASPARAGUS, while deceptively informal-looking, enjoyed the same precision of its more elaborate companions. 

The CHRISTMAS PLATTER is brilliant in its seemingly simple presentation; one begins from the bottom left and eats anti-clockwise - beginning with delicate sashimi then progressing to more complex, intense flavours before ending with rich lobster. Although it was the penultimate dish that made the greatest impression on me; the spicy chilli sauce, so perfectly imbued into the Alaskan King Crab legs reminded me of the similar flavour palate of my maternal grandmother's top secret chilli crab sauce.

All in all; the Christmas Platter is a stunning seasonal addition to Pan Chai's already excellent menu, sure to impress even the most time-starved of shoppers-diners into slowing down. Catch it while you can at Harrods.

*I was invited to review Pan Chai and the meal was complimentary.
December 21, 2016

Christmas Menu at Pan Chai, Harrods

Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL WWW.PANCHAI.COM My family are hard work. Don't get me wrong, I...

Dealing with Depression During The Festive Season

Christmas Confessional: Dealing with Depression During The Festive Season

The flip side of festivity:
How do you cope with depression during 'the most wonderful time of the year'?

It's the most wonderful time of the it though? The truth is, I've been battling the blues ever since I fractured my foot - read the gruesome story on my Dayre microblog. Now, I've always hesitated discussing mental health on this blog because, well, admitting to struggling with depression isn't terribly aspirational. Shiny it isn't but real it is, and while the causes of my current mental state may seem relatively 'first world problems' allow me to politely point out that I have the right to feel the way I do as much as anyone has the right to an opinion. 


Opinions aside, the facts are: I've had to take extremely strong painkillers for the good part of a month while recovering from a broken bone. I've just about managed to free myself from its side effects when I had to face a new set of chemical imbalances to my system (I'll explain below). Add to the mix a figurative 5 month prison sentence + not even the soothing salve of shopping to ease the pain, and I've found myself suffering episodes of insomnia, depression, and anxiety attacks. Add the aggravation of festivity forced down my throat and eventually the Christmas lights on Regent Street begin to look less like twinkling stars and more like mocking leers (top marks for mulled wine-scented toilet paper and prosecco crisps, though). 

Anyway, that's a long enough introduction. It's time for my Christmas confessional...


Would you ask a bird not to sing? Or a fish not to swim? So why, in the name of all things sacred would you withhold a travelling blogger's passport for half a year while you deliberate on whether to hand her the keys to the country she's made her home in, paid taxes to, and provided employment to the nationals of for the past ten years? The decision to grant me with Indefinite Leave To Remain should be a no-brainer really, but I respect that there's a process. 

What I find perplexing is why I have to be grounded in the country during the process without any of my photo ID - I can't board a domestic flight let alone join my family's annual trip. Right now, they're chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland.

My despondence is not helped by the many photos they're spamming the family Whatsapp group chat. The glaciers aren't the only thing that's blue. My misery at not being able to travel abroad for another five months is only going to get worse, to say nothing of affecting my work as a huge part of my blog content is travel-related. It's safe to say that the time between now and when I get my passport back is so far the greatest personal and professional challenge I've ever faced in my life.


The run up to Christmas is most profitable for peddlars of conspicuous consumption, including "social media influencers" (I shudder to use that phrase, but alas - a spade by any other name would sound just as twee) frantically going on Net-a-Porter shopping binges to shoot for their blogs (gotta get those 'Gift Guides' with affiliate links up in time for Christmas, amirite?) before quickly returning the loot to get their money back for spending on the things that really matter, like...gin. Or buying followers. Not naming names. You'll have none of that from me, because one: I can't be bothered with disguising money-grubbing as care for my readers, and two: gifting is too personal to simplify down to the lowest common denominator. 

Besides, the only purchase on my mind right now is my new apartment in Phase 1 of Battersea Power Station. I bought the flat before it hit the public market (good job I did, too, because the units sold out in hours) back in 2013 and completely forgot about it even though I've apparently blogged about my Circus West pad. Unfortunately, my lapse of memory and blissful ignorance left me with the sudden prospects of having to renovate my current place (before I put it up for sale) and redecorating the new place. These things cost money, so I've had to prioritise practical over Prada. Save for a very versatile, sure to be 'hero piece' pair of black snakeskin Lucy Choi pointed pumps (above) and some books, all recent shopping has to be home-related...if any at all. The concept of saving vs shopping is as depressing as it is alien to me, but hey, what's the point of "having $40,000 of shoes and nowhere to live"?


...and here it is, the real reason why I'm as morose as I am. You didn't really think that lack of foreign travel and non-home-related-shopping was enough to tip me into a dark place? If yes, wow, give me some credit. Of course those two temporary lifestyle changes have contributed to me not feeling my best, but the straw or rather filter that broke this camel's back is the last cigarette I stubbed out, hopefully forever.

That's right. I've quit smoking. Allow me to rephrase: I am becoming a non-smoker. Not "quitting" - I hate that word. I blogged in greater detail on my Dayre about how painful the withdrawal symptoms were during the first week (I'm on Day 11 now) which I expected... 

...what I did not see coming was the clinical depression that followed when the nicotine left my system, taking with it the 'happy chemicals' of vasopressin, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Yet I insisted on going cold turkey rather than wean myself gradually with a nicotine replacement therapy (vapes just look...pretentious).

Despite the hell of painful cravings plus my mind and body being caught in a chemical-based storm as my system struggles to cope with the sudden, shocking expulsion of five years worth of ingested poison, I hold steadfast that I'm doing the right thing for my health both short and long term. Plus, every penny I save helps the 'new home cause'. I apparently used to spend £300 on cigarettes a month. Shocking.

The true test of willpower was last Saturday, at my friend's star-studded birthday party. Literally star-studded (not just in the full of celebrities and Rich & Aristocratic Kids Of Instagram way): it was India's Cosmic Birthday, complete with its own sparkly unicorn Snapchat filter. I'm so proud of myself for resisting a cheeky puff despite being surrounded by dozens of London's more glamorous smokers.

Smoke Free Me: 
Day 3 and Day 7

Now you understand the three greater causes that I'm fighting for: a good home, a good house, and good health. Spending Christmas alone, without friends or family, wouldn't usually be a big deal to me. But when faced with the chemical rollercoaster that supposedly is the worst during the first 21 days from when one stops smoking, and no travel + no company + no money + no drugs to ease the pain my situation quickly escalated into full-blown depression. On the plus side though, I started my 'Smoke Free Me' journey on the 3rd, which means that the worse of this clinical depression should be over by the end of the 24th. Just in time for Christmas then. This year, my present to myself is good health.

I may not be in a position to shower myself nor friends with lavish and decadent gifts this year, but I have something rather more special to give. As per my annual tradition, I'll be volunteering at my local homeless shelter on Christmas Day. If you'd like to do the same, you can find out from my posts below on how to make a difference this festive season.

Do you or have you suffered from depression and/or other mental health issues during the festive season? 
How did you cope?
December 13, 2016

Dealing with Depression During The Festive Season

The flip side of festivity: How do you cope with depression during 'the most wonderful time of t...

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Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods

Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods


All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth...and my passport back in time for me to join my annual family trip, this year in Reykjavik. Unfortunately, both the Home Office and Santa's workshop take the same amount of time to make a little girl's wishes come true ie. a whole friggin' year because the odds of me traipsing about Iceland with Rudolph & Co in just over a week's time are as slim as the chance of a white winter in London. I bear no grudge toward the big red guy (although I'm a tad exasperated by bureaucratic red tape), after all as a sometimes-Atheist-mostly-Agnostic-Asian my claim to Christmas celebrations goes as far as opening every window of my beauty advent calendar on the 1st and Bucks Fizz benders on the 25th.

I'm surprisingly sanguine about the prospect of spending Christmas on my ownsome. Christmas is about food, family, and fighting. The latter two, I'll get my fix of the week before Christmas when my family make their way to me in London (which I'll no doubt milk by nudging them towards the Prada concession in Harrods *cough* consolation present *cough*) and the former, I can get my fix of with Chai Wu's Christmas Menu - seasonal dishes with a delightful Chinese twist. So Santa, put me on your naughty list for all I care - I see your minced pies and raise you the Chai Wu scallops and foie gras in red wine sauce.

87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL
Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods
Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods
Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods

You know from my previous review of Chai Wu that this glossy Pan-Asian restaurant serves up luxurious Chinese and Japanese favourites with a literal Midas touch (gold leaf-flaked dim sum, anyone?) so I was as curious as anyone to see their tribute to the festive season. It seems that as far as flavours go, the references are subtle - such as the deliciously dense black pepper turkey roll, while the focus is rather on that hearty, homey feeling of Christmas dinner. Hence a creamy starter of avocado lobster soup topped with fish roe in a delicate glass bowl, hinting at the refinement to follow. The scallops and foie gras in red wine sauce brought glamour and decadence. The star dish was the Chilean sea bass, the skin perfectly pan-fried with the most moreish yellow bean sauce begging to be mopped up with the accompanying rice. Even humbler dishes, like the baby pak choi and egg fried rice were elevated with rich ingredients; the former with silky shiitake mushrooms in oyster sauce and the latter with bits of scallop.

£88 per person, minimum for 2

Avocado Lobster Soup 
Black Pepper Turkey Roll 
Scallops and Foie Gras in a Red Wine Sauce 
Pan-Fried Chilean Sea Bass with Spicy Yellow Bean Sauce
Shiitake Mushrooms and Baby Pak Choi in Oyster Sauce
Egg White Fried Rice with Dry Scallops and Mixed Seafood
Dark Chocolate Orange Fondant

Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods

Desserts at Chai Wu are always a gorgeous and elaborate affair. The Christmas special is no different - the dark chocolate orange fondant mercifully had none of that cloying chocolate orange sickliness (its popularity amongst the Brits will forever remain, to me, a great mystery) but rather a thick, rich, warm sauce that oozed with all the sensuality of a good pudding. 

I made two curious observations; one: that the meal began on a distinctively Western note, and two: that despite the rather traditional Chinese home-cooking style of the other dishes, the Christmas menu evoked just the right amount of homeliness with none of the 'dated' feeling. For yours truly, that rare Overseas Chinese expatriate who eschews simple Chinese home-cooking for more time consuming-to prepare dishes such as duck pancakes, it's a compliment to Chai Wu for finding the right balance between comfort food and contemporary cuisine.

I invited Honey to join me at Chai Wu for a long overdue catchup. A seven-dish Christmas menu turned into a nearly-four hour long meal; partly because the dishes were so delicious that they begged our full attention, partly because we had so much to say in between courses, and partly thanks to the libations. As per my suggestions Honey had the signature champagne cocktail - Chai Wu Fizz - while I whet my palate with a sake cocktail I believe to be called the Gold Miyagi. And then there was the tea. So much tea - and I'm not only talking about the herbal variety but also about the jaw-dropping, scandalous variety. After what seemed like an endless and delicious wave of 'Oh my God!'s and 'They did NOT!'s the drama was punctuated with perfect comedic timing when the ever-attentive staff asked, 'Ladies, would you like some tea?' WOULD WE! The Jasmine Blossoming (how appropriate) flowering tea was a wonderful refreshing note to the end of a decadent meal and equally juicy conversation.

The Chai Wu Christmas Menu is Chinese comfort-food with the restaurant's signature luxury - 
a mix of traditional and Western dishes with seasonal references.
Just the thing then, for homesick me in London, pining for the feel-good factor of Christmas.
The Chai Wu Christmas Menu is available till the end of December, and is £88 per person.

Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods
Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods
Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods

*Our meal at Chai Wu was complimentary in exchange for this review.

November 28, 2016

Christmas Menu at Chai Wu, Harrods

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