Trip Report – Business Class: YOW-LHR-PEK-SIN-BNE

(Note: I think this is going to be a long post, but I hope you enjoy!)

Hello friends!

On January 7th, Michael and I began our journey from Ottawa back to Brisbane… in style ๐Ÿ˜‰

With 90 000 Aeroplan points and the most lovely agent on the phone, we were able to book our entire flight back in Business Class, going the long way. Of course, we had to pay taxes, which came to approximately $600.

Here was our flight itinerary:

itinerary

And so begins my amateur trip report! It certainly was an enjoyable first experience, definitely wanted to document and share!

January 7, 2014

Flight AC888 YOW-LHR (Boeing 767-300)
Departing Ottawa at 9:45pm
Arriving in London Heathrow at 9:35am Jan 08
Flight time: Approx 5hrs 40mins

Seats 2C and 2F

We said farewell to our family around 8pm at the airport and headed in through security. One of the best things about flying executive quickly became clear. Priority lines. For everything. Makes life so much easier.

Once through security, we headed to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. A worn but roomy lounge with ample seating space. A conservative but good selection of drinks. There were also snacks, including some hot foods, I believe. We didn’t take a closer look, mainly due to being stuffed from dinner.

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The lounge was quite deserted and quiet, but good environment to get some work done. Also a nice view of planes landing and departing for those who are interested. Bathrooms were spacious with large, private stalls and anything you might need (feminine hygiene products, body lotion, etc).

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Boarded without any issues and I got to experience the Classic Pod for the first time. Not to mention they recline completely flat! Although slightly sad that configuration was 1-1-1 because it meant I couldn’t talk to Michael at all while seated.

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We left around an hour late due to bad weather outside Ottawa causing half the crew needing to come in via taxi from Montreal.

Hot towel, champagne and nuts right after take off as opposed to before due to lack of staff – no problem!

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Every year, Michael and I exchange cards on our flight back to Brisbane. Continuing with that tradition and reading my card after take off.

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Happy in his seat under mood lighting.

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Dinner was quite tasty, I was impressed.

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Appetizer: Nova Scotia lobster, seared scallop and marinated shrimp served with quinoa salad and caper tartar sauce.

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Salad: Mixed greens, grape tomatoes and Parmesan served with balsamic vinaigrette. Also had warm crusty bread.

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There were a choice of 4 mains, I chose the Ricotta and spinach ravioli offered with rose sauce, basil chiffonade, portobello mushrooms and parmesan. The ravioli was delicious but I simply couldn’t finish it all.

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Mike chose the Sauteed Atlantic salmon accompanied by lemon and scallion sauce, a grain medley of wheat berries, long grain rice and acini di pepe pasta, french beans and baby carrots. Slightly dry salmon but good flavours and definitely good quality for airplane food. No photo, sorry!

For dessert, a chocolate pecan brownie with whipped cream. Certainly not close to being one of the best brownies I’ve ever had but still good, nice and warm too. I passed on the cream.

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A decent wine selection but no Canadian choices, which I thought was a shame!

One of my favourite aspects of these flights – amenity kits. This one was compact and included the usual items (eye mask, toothbrush, tooth paste, ear plugs, socks) as well as some beauty products by Vancouver company Escents.

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In terms of service, nothing was lacking. However, both Michael and I felt pleasantries were forced rather than genuine coming from one particular flight attendant. Going up to every single passenger with a list in your hand, mumbling or butchering names while saying the exact same greeting to each person comes across as robotic. When we greet people and are unsure of how to pronounce their name, the easiest and most polite thing to do is to simply ask, “Excuse me, how do I correctly pronounce your name?” Such a simple thing to do and you look a lot less ignorant.

I had ambitious plans to stay awake and get a lot of studying done for my MCCEE. Yea, that didn’t happen. I slept most of the flight, eventually waking up to have breakfast before landing.

Continental breakfast consisted of fresh orange juice, sliced seasonal fruit, yogurt and croissants (and blueberry muffins I didn’t see) with butter and preserves.

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And soon we touched down in London! We made a quick stop in the AC Arrival Lounge to freshen up before heading into the city. Paid a small fee to store our carry on luggage at the airport and headed into the city via the Heathrow Express Train (ยฃ34/person return).

On the train for just a short 15 minute ride into the city!

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Arrived at Paddington station!

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Being on the streets of London for the first time!

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Due to our short layover (approx 8 hours total), we decided to go on a tour with The Original London Sightseeing Tour. The bus tour was great, we didn’t hop on and off like we would’ve it we had more time but got to see most of what it had to offer. It eventually got pretty cold being on the top of the double decker bus and not moving around at all! ๐Ÿ˜›

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Here’s a short video I put together of the sights we saw! London is beautiful, we’d love to come back and visit again when we have time… and money!

We eventually made our way back to Heathrow Airport. I didn’t take any photos of the Star Alliance lounge but it was packed, even for 2 levels. Apparently many flights going into North America were delayed due to bad weather which explained why the lounge was so busy. Had a nice shower to recharge for the next leg of our journey and enjoyed some snacks and drinks as well.ย 

Sooner than we wanted, we were zipping through lines in order to board our next flight with Air China to Beijing.

January 8, 2014

Flight CA938 LHR-PEK (Boeing 777-200)
Departing London at 5:40pm
Arriving in Beijing at 11:25am Jan 9
Flight time: 9hrs 15mins

Seats 16A and 16C

Warm greetings from all the staff, a near empty cabin and seats actually beside each other, we immediately knew we were going to enjoy this flight.

Within minutes of being seated, we were given our noise-cancelling headphones, amenity kit, slippers and menu.ย 

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Amenity kit with L’Occitane de Provence products, lovely!

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And of course, champagne for take off ๐Ÿ™‚

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Good bye London!

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I didn’t take any photos of the cabin, but here are some from other (as linked) sources

Wine and more champagne

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Air China was serving their Winter menus.ย 

For dinner, Michael chose to have the Western option, which consisted of the following:

Amuse Bouche: Asparagus wrapped in parma ham, Scallop with keta caviar and radish and Hot Canape: Chicken kebab with chili sauce, Veg brochette

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Assorted bread roll served with butter

Appetizer: Seared scallops with noodles

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Salad: Fresh seasonal salad mix with Italian dressing or basil vinaigrette

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Main courses: Beef fillet served with Frisse risotto & vegetables OR Blue cheese gnocchi spinach & pine nut kernels

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Dessert: Apple crumble tart OR Bread & butter pudding OR selection of cheese with crackers

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Seasonal fresh fruit

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Overall, Michael enjoyed all components of his meal and found everything quite tasty! And of course, very filling ๐Ÿ™‚

For myself, the Chinese option which consisted of the same amuse bouche, hot canape, breads and dessert options, with the following differences:

Appetizer: Poached chicken thigh with sesame soy dressing, mushroom shitake with julienne carrot, and mixed peppers with black bean sauce

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Main courses: Monkfish with hot bean sauce served with peppers, asparagus and carrots OR Chicken Yu Hsiang Aubergine served with brocoli (both options include steamed rice).

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I chose the Chinese option because I thought of all airlines, Air China would have Chinese food down pat. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The food was alright but mostly bland. Comparing our meals, the Western option is certainly more elegant with much better and sophisticated ingredients.

Like the previous flight, these seats also laid completely flat, it was wonderful! Again, I didn’t get much studying but a lot of sleeping done. ๐Ÿ˜›

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The flight certainly didn’t go by quickly, but was very comfortable and enjoyable. Service was impeccable and the bathrooms were spacious and well maintained. Air China has a small but decent drinks list, although we didn’t take advantage of it.

Lovely views passing by Mongolia!

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Breakfast!

As I had already chosen the Chinese breakfast option, I was anticipating disappointment after the first meal, haha!

My meal consisted of:

Plain rice congee with pickles, pickled spicy radish julienne, and mushroom wood fungus julienne. I’m normally a huge fan of pickles and especially fungus but again, not very flavourful.

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Dim sum with shrimp dumpling, sieu mai, char sieu bun, and chive & prawn dumpling. The dim sum was tasty, thank goodness!

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Mike had his Western breakfast of Scrambled eggs with bacon sausage & grilled tomato. Also danish, croissant, pain au choc & breakfast rolls with butter, marmalade, honey, cornflakes & milk, and fresh fruit. Of course he enjoyed his meal immensely!

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Again, comparing our meals, the Western option is much more substantial with more flavours.

Soon landing in Beijing!

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Check out the crazy smog pollution… the closer we got to the city…

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I was last in Beijing in 2007, around a year before the Beijing Olympics. I remember the airport service being horrendous with poor service and extreme lacking in English speaking staff for international flights.

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The airport is still not completely efficient as they had only 1 kiosk open to proceed to international transfers. As a result, a haphazard, huge snaking line coiled around a tiny space that blocked way for further incoming passengers. Should’ve taken photos!

Once through security, we proceeded to International Air China Business Lounge (serving all Star Alliance members) located on the 2nd floor.

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The lounge itself is quite spacious with plenty of seating area, and multiple stations to get snacks (packaged pastries and sandwiches) and non-alcoholic drinks.

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There is also a separate hot food station. However, like the airline food, I don’t quite understand how the quality of Asian styled food is so low. It might taste alright if you are extremely hungry, however, we certainly didn’t go for seconds.

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And unless we were mistaken and couldn’t locate other bathrooms, there are only 3-4 bathroom stalls in the entirety of the lounge, not enough!

The bar

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Otherwise a relaxing layover!

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View from the lounge

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ย 

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Heading to our boarding gate!

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January 9, 2014

Flight CA969 PEK-SIN (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Beijing at 3:25pm
Arriving in Singapore at 9:45pm Jan 9
Flight time: Approx 6 hrs

Seats 13D and 13H

Again, service was lovely as we boarded and settled into our seats. Although the seats were not as nice or private, we did find the cabin more spacious and open. We also liked the insect-antennae lamps.

The seats beside us.

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Unfortunately, the cabin was quite full, with many Chinese passengers who find hoarking (Is this a real word? To bring up sputum and snot by snorting and hoarking) and spitting completely socially acceptable, as well as talking at full volume. Oh well, such is life!

No amenity kit either… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But champagne for take off!

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Meals! We switched things up this flight. Mike decided to opt for the Chinese dinner option, consisting of:

Appetizer: Five spice smoked pomfret and Chinese salad: Marinated bran with vegetables and peanut

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Main courses: Gong Bao prawn OR braised chicken and chestnut with yellow wine sauce, both servedย with steamed pearl rice and seasonal vegetables, OR stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Michael found the meal, “meh.” The main course was alright but he didn’t touch the pomfret and most of the salad.

Learning from my previous mistake, I chose the Western option this time, which should have included:

  • Amuse bouche: Tea smoked duck breast
  • Hot canape: prawn skewer with Thai chili sauce
  • Appetizer: Baltic style smoked salmon with black pepper
  • Salad: Fresh seasonal salad leaf with French dressing or Chinese vinaigrette.
  • Assorted bread roll served with butter
  • Main courses: Baked Tandoori fish served with raisin turmeric rice and curried vegetable ORย stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Unfortunately, bad luck struck again! Although I received my main course, apparently, they had made a mistake and were completely out of the other Western dishes. I said not a problem and accepted the Chinese side dishes… which weren’t very good and like Michael’s, remained mostly untouched. The Tandoori fish was very spicy and salty, I couldn’t finish it although the rice was extremely flavourful! Curried vegetables were mushy snow peas though ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Dessert: Hazelnut cake OR orange flavour chocolate cake OR selection of cheese with crackers AND seasonal fresh fruits.

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Cakes were alright but not tasty enough to finish all of it!

This flight went by quickly and we soon found ourselves landing in Singapore!

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After transferring terminals and doing some duty free shopping (have to restock our bar ;)). For spending over $100 on duty free liquor, we got a free Spongebob SquarePants plush toy! I chose to take Patrick, complete with a deep innie belly button home.

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After shopping, we headed to the SilverKris Business Lounge.

Very spacious with ample seating room, this lounge reminded us of a gentlemen’s club with dark colours and leather seats. Lots of drink options and an extensive hot foods area although we didn’t check out the food. I was able to squeeze in a shower in their lovely bathrooms (that you don’t have to go to reception to get a key) which was refreshing and great.

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Michael enjoyed a frosty mug of Tiger beer, of course

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We had a very brief 3 hour layover and soon found ourselves heading to our boarding gate for our last leg home.

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January 10, 2014

Flight SQ255 SIN-BNE (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Singapore at 12:45am
Arriving in Brisbane at 10:45am Jan 10
Flight time: Approx 7hrs 20mins

Seats 12H and 12K

Perhaps our most anticipated leg of the journey due to it being Singapore Airlines, the aircraft was probably one of their oldest and most outdated. The seats looked and felt tired, disappointment!

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The service, however, was great as always on an SQ flight. Again, no amenity kit (why? :() but we did get funky slippers!

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As always, champagne for take off!

We opted for 2 meals during this flight. Both dinner and breakfast. With many naps lying nearly flat in between… ๐Ÿ˜›

For dinner, we had warm focaccia with smoked chicken, cheddar cheese and sweet onion relish. Delicious!

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Highland Park 12 Year-Old Single Malt Whisky for Mike and a Skyhigh (“An invigorating recipe featuring vodka, Cointreau, lemon, topped with 7-Up). I quite enjoyed all the unique Singapore Airlines’ cocktails on this flight.

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And egg noodles with braised beef brisket, mushrooms, and leafy greens. Also delicious!

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Before landing, we both enjoyed an American Breakfast with fruit yoghurt, poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, bacon, ham, mushroom and roast potatoes. As well as breads with preserves. For airplane food, it was impressive and mighty tasty!

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Once landed in Brisbane, we proceeded through immigration and customs without any issues or delays. Once outside, there was no taxi queue, allowing us to immediately get into a taxi and be home within 1/2 hour.

Although we enjoyed most aspects of our flights immensely, it was a relief to finally be home!

Summary:

Best service: Tie between Air China and Singapore Airlines
Best food: Air China (LHR-PEK) for Michael, Air Canada (YOW-LHR) for me
Best drinks selection: Singapore Airlines (SIN-BNE)
Most comfortable: Air China (LHR-PEK)
Best entertainment: Air Canada (YOW-LHR)
Best lounge: Changi Airport’s SilverKris

Would we do it again? Yes! But only on points… ๐Ÿ˜‰

And thank you to James and Kim for being so lovely! Not only did they keep an eye on our place for us, they made sure we had some fresh bread and milk in the fridge for when we got back! You guys are the best!

Night out with friends @ Moda Restaurant

Xuan and Amanda joined us for a 50% Dimmi special at Moda Restaurant this past Wednesday. We had looked at the menu before arriving and were certainly excited to try many of the delicious sounding dishes.

We were immediately greeted and shown to our table. I was a little skeptical to be sitting outside on a cold breezy evening but it was surprisingly nice and warm! Francois, the front of house host, also came by to check up on us multiple times through out the evening.

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Our server (I’m sorry I didn’t get his name!) was extremely friendly and pleasant, recommending dishes and answering our questions.

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We started with bread ($3/pp, homemade Ciabatta) and house olives ($5). Good conversation starter and I liked having the small bottle of olive oil at our table.

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We soon decided on a share plate (5 items) for 4 – $78. The dishes all came out to be enjoyed at once. (I’ve taken the menu items straight from the website, but I think some of the menu may have changed the night we were there)

Black pudding (blood sausage) with white onion puree. Tasty but did not stand out by the end of the night.

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White anchovies with heirloom tomatoes. Personally, I’m not a fan of anchovies and found the pickled taste overpowering but everyone else really enjoyed them!

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Reef fish ceviche with rose water and berries. Lovely combination of flavours with the sweetness of the pineapple and tartness of the blueberries. The roe added a pop of flavour but the texture of the fish was quite stringy/chewy which I thought was odd when it was supposed to be raw and fresh.

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WA Octopus with persimmon and passion fruit. Easily the favourite at our table. Tender grilled octopus on slices of fresh persimmon – one of my favourite fruits. So yummy!

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Half shell scallops with cauliflower & saffron and jamon. These were delicious and the second favourite dish between us. The cauliflower added a nice creaminess and the jamon was thin, crisp and flavourful – such a treat!

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It was only afterwards that I realized the prices: $78 for a tasting plate of 5 dishes ($15.60 each) or $16 to order them individually – not really sure why there’s this option when you end up saving only $2. The portions were also quite small, especially the scallops – there were only 2…

We then moved on to mains:

Mike got the Beef cheek with horseradish mash and King Brown mushrooms ($35). He found no fault with this dish, the cheek was so tender it fell apart in your mouth. I think he wanted more ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Xuan got the Angel hair pasta with scallops, clams, prawn and aioli ($37). He was pretty disappointed with this dish, which he found similar to fried noodles and the aioli sauce an odd combination.

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Amanda decided on the John Dory with pancetta, potatoes, rosemary and garlic ($39). I remember she said this dish was okay, a 7/10

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And after changing my mind a few times, I settled for Venison Pie with persimmon and Goat’s curd ($36). The best thing I put in my mouth that night. The flavour combination was so unique and delicious to me, I just wish it hadn’t been SO TINY. Really… the pie should’ve been at least double the size!

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Because almost all the portions were tiny, we had plenty of room for dessert. There were 4 options on the menu which made the decision easy – one of each.

Spanish creme caramel with mini meringues and lemon sauce ($17). None of us were expecting such a… texture. It was very thick with a strong flavour of egg yolk and sweet like condensed milk. Interesting but I wouldn’t order it myself again.

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Creme catalana with white raspberries and honey comb ($18). I’ve never had creme catalana before, and when I looked it up, Google tells me it’s also known as creme brulee. That was certainly not what we were served but it was my favourite dessert of the night. A glass of foamy, delicious, spicy creaminess with a nice crunch and sweetness from the honey comb. There was also some sherry (made into a jelly) at the bottom of the glass which added nicely to the dessert.

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Valhrona Chocolate Fondant with orange marmalade ice cream ($19). Like molten lava cake… it’s hard to go wrong with this decision! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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And lastly, Rice pudding with poached pear and vanilla bean ice cream ($18). I am not a fan of anything porridge like, whether sweet or savoury. I found the texture of rice a little too hard for a pudding, made me think of a sweet risotto, haha! The others enjoyed it though! I forgot to take a picture of this dish – haha, sorry!

Service was easily the best out of all the places we visited so far this year. We were lucky to have been able to dine here for 50% off our food. Despite the good experience, we all found it too expensive to return here (at least anytime soon as poor international students) at regular prices. Additionally, the portions were quite small when compared to the prices and our expectations. With that being said, the ambiance is fantastic (although I wish the lighting had been better for pictures) and I would definitely recommend this restaurant to others looking for a special night out.

Moda Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Oh awesome richness at Capri Cafe Bar

Another 50% flash deal, this time for an amazing dinner at Capri Cafe/Bar – Mediterranean styled dining at Fortitude Valley’s Emporium.

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We had reservations for 6pm and were immediately shown to our table. Very happy with the tentative and friendly service!

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We ordered some drinks and after a lot more pondering, finally decided on food.

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We got three entrees/sides to share:

1) Oven baked chips and aioli – don’t really know why we ordered this. Chips were really plain and could not taste the garlic in the aioli. An unnecessary addition to such good food!

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2) Arancini – Home made beetroot and walnut risotto cakes served with a fetta and rocket salad. A really good sized portion and quite delicious! The salad was nicely dressed which was a pleasant surprise because I’ve had many undressed “decorative” salads in the past at other restaurants.

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3) Scallop canneloni – Pan fried sea scallops with cherry tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs, salsa verde and Grana Padano cheese. Generous serving of scallops and super fragrant tomatoes – yummy!

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Onto our mains!

I got the Prawn risotto – Local garlic prawns with roasted pumpkin and fresh basil in a creamy risotto. Don’t be fooled by the size of the plate, it’s a deep dish, could barely finish my serving! Huge, super fresh, well marinated prawns – I was very surprised at how many prawns I received, at least 6! Risotto was creamy and delicious with the roasted pumpkin – mmm!

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Meaghan chose the Pumpkin Gnocchi – Roasted pumpkin in a creamy sun dried tomato pesto sauce with fresh
spinach and Grana Padano cheese. I tasted some – it was amazing! The only thing that would’ve made this dish more awesome is filling in the gnocchi ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Mike got the Sand Crab & Scallop Risotto – Fresh Australian sand crab and sea scallop meat in a seafood bisque risotto topped with fresh rocket and Grana Padano cheese. Nicely flavoured with generous amounts of seafood – he was definitely pleased with his food!

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Service was great throughout the night, thank you to the wonderful staff at Capri Cafe/Bar for a delicious night out! With 5 drinks and 50% off all our food, our bill for 3 people came to $95 – a steal! Would definitely recommend giving this place a try!

Capri Cafe Bar on Urbanspoon