Her Fashion Life in Bangkok, Thailand.

Review: Mango Tree, London

mango tree london
Despite being on ‘The List’ for over three years, my first visit to London’s well-renowned Thai favourite Mango Tree only took place last week. Boy, have I been missing out.

Not since living in Bangkok have I had such a pleasing array of authentic Thai dishes. A stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, nonetheless. My aesthetic eye quickly realised that Feng-Shui ruled the design process for Mango Tree, resulting in a timeless, beautifully lit and carefully-considered hideaway to dine for any occasion (or, in my case, non-occasion).

With incredible service from the first Sawadee ka (a pre-meditated nod to Thai traditions), the meal was a string of exemplary flavour and care. Flipping through the gargantuan menu over a Love Ocean (ketel one vodka, lavande syrup, passion fruit syrup, fresh lychee and dragon fruit, lychee juice, and fresh passion fruit juice) and a Thai Martini (wyborowa vodka, gabriel boudier lychee liqueur, fresh lemon grass, thai red chili, lychee fruit, and sugar syrup), an extensive and creative vegetarian menu almost pulled me out of my meat-eating ways…

…until I spotted Poonim yum mamuang. The starter – a tempura of soft shell crab with and sweet chilli sauce – is one of simplistic glory if executed in the right way. Thankfully, Mango Tree’s version was lightly battered perfection and the perfect introduction to the meal. Alongside a starter of Moo nam tok (a spicy north-eastern thai-style salad with sliced grilled pork mixed with dried chilli, shallots, mint leaves and a spicy lime sauce), my tongue was officially alight.

For mains, both my dining partner and I had the desire to see where their ‘traditional’ dishes would stand against experience. First choosing a first rate super-seasoned Ka pow gai (a spicy dish with stir-fried corn-fed chicken fillets, fresh chilli, garlic and holy basil leaves), we then opted for Pad thai goong yai. Unlike the bastardized versions of ‘Pad Thai’ that litter the Great British High Street, these thai rice noodles had been stir-fried with corn-fed chicken, chinese chives, peanuts, bean curd and beansprouts in a special homemade sauce, and were served topped with an egg net. Far too much food for me to handle, but far too great a taste for me not to attempt a plate-cleaning.

Having been defeated halfway through the Goong Yai, we had to take a short recovery break before giving in to the dessert menu. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, Asian desserts are not my thing. For this fact, it seemed to be fate that the only two things that could get me to order an Asian dessert were on the menu: Kow niew mamuang and Sang ka ya mamuang.

Sang ka ya mamuang – a mango creme brulee with pistachio biscotti – was delightful for the one or two bites I trialled but, in all honesty, my full focus was on Kow niew mamuang. Mango sticky rice means to me what Vita Coco (ahem, apparently) means to Rihanna. Mango Tree’s version, blended with honey and served with coconut milk and dry ice, was the most decadent I have ever tasted.

You know a restaurant has won you over when you start waxing lyrical about fruit and rice.

mango tree london
mango tree london
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Valentines Day Review: Blue Elephant, London

blue elephant london
Thanks to nine months of living in (and eating through) Bangkok I have become one of London’s pickiest Thai foodies. Don’t get me wrong, I taste and trial at every opportunistic corner of The LDN but sadly find that little compares to authentic Thai food.

Personally, a visit to Blue Elephant was the Ultimate Thai Test. Now open for over 25 years (having recently located from Fulham Broadway to a beautiful riverside spot at Imperial Wharf), many people consider Blue Elephant to be London’s go-to for excellent Thai food.

After previewing and gorging my way through their Valentine’s Day menu, I now feel the same.

Nestled in an exotic Thai-themed room of Asian antiques and objets d’art, we were first presented with a zakuski of Tom Yam Koong soup with tiger prawns and a flavorful hit of dong quai alongside a small sampling of Chef U-La’s homemade green-curry and vegetable-stuffed pastry. The familiar sour spice mingled beautifully with the herbal pastry and was right on par with every Tom Yam dish I sampled in the Thai capital.

As a Valentine’s menu, both the starters and mains are perfectly paired for two. As well as a surprisingly sumptuous steamed egg custard with foie gras (topped with homemade strawberry sauce), the large range of starters included deep-fried duck, black mushroom and celeriac spring rolls, steamed floral-shaped dumplings stuffed with minced free-range chicken and aromatic herbs “Chor Chom-Pu Black Chicken”, as well as a ‘Plah Koong’ avocado salad with prawns, lemongrass, coriander, mint and kafir lime leaves wish I would happily eat every day of my life.

Accompanied by crab-meat and celeriac-infused jasmine rice and pak choi, the mains kicked things up a notch…
1) A rich spicy lamb shank curry with black wild ginger (apparently known for it aphrodisiac properties).
2) Grilled black cod marinated with Korean ginseng, wrapped with banana leaves, and accompanied by caramelized golden tamarind and crispy shallot dip
3) “Love Drunken Prawns” so large you could keep them as pets. The stir-fried dish featured a homemade paste of bird’s eye chilies, shrimp paste, black wild ginger, kaffir lime, sweet basil leaves and a hint of rice whisky, culminating in my favourite dish of the evening.

By the time dessert arrives, you will be more than happy to split the heart-shaped treats in two. Their Panna Cotta – flavured with Royal Jelly and vanilla pods from The Royal Project Farm – was the only thing I was able to polish, but the eclairs (filled with rose-flavored cream) and young coconut jellies proved to be popular among my dining companions.

If you are interested in a spicy evening this 14th I highly recommend this £69.00 per person menu (with vegetarian options available).

blue elephant london
blue elephant london
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Life In Thailand: The Photo Diary

thailand expat
The Summer of 2011 marked the end of an eight month stint living in Thailand for The Manfriend and I. Our decision to move there stemmed from a frustrating day of flat hunting in Chelsea, and – in retrospect – I couldn’t be happier that I was so…deliriously…frustrated.

I love Thailand. I am itching to leave the familiarity of these London streets behind once again to dive into the wild and charming culture of Bangkok and beyond. I am having a barbaric Asian love affair via memories.

Time for blog therapy! Though I wrote my book and continued to build my business while living in Bangkok, I certainly didn’t take advantage of LelaLondon.com to document my Southeast Asian adventures. Click below for eights months of life highlights in photography. Continue reading

Fashion News – October 6, 2011

Princess Siriwanwaree Nareerat

Princess Siriwanwaree Nareerat

  • After living in Thailand for eight months, I pretty much consider Princess Siriwanwaree Nareerat to be ‘my’ princess as much as Kate Middleton is ‘my’ princess. That’s why I was beyond excited to see the gorgeous Princess of Thailand sitting front row at Christian Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, Balmain and Hermes during Paris Fashion Week. Princess has fashion sense for miles.

  • In a study funded by Procter & Gamble (aka P&G – cosmetics giants), a team of researchers at the Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital fond that women who conform to societal standards of beauty are perceived more positively than women who do not. The experiment was set up by the team showing participants some female faces with no makeup, “natural” style makeup, “professional” makeup, and “glamorous” makeup for varying amounts of time. Variants like race and age were controlled to keep it as precise as possible.

    The study found that a face with any makeup whatsoever is perceived as more likable, competent, and trustworthy than a face sans slap. The only time this trend went off-course was in the ‘trustworthy’ category when it came to women in the “glamourous” category (but they were still perceived to be hotter and more competent!)

    Are these results shocking to anyone? I do wonder how different societies would respond…

  • L’Oreal has just announced that they are successfully on their way to develop a pill that will prevent gray hairs from showing up. (Are we really getting so concerned with aging that our grandmothers will now all have ‘young’ hair?) The company plans to have it available for retail within the next four years.

  • Fashion Week/Month is over! What do we do with ourselves?! Well…apparently we all start to swap fashion houses. In what I consider to be some pretty shocking news, the latest unfortunate soul to lose it’s creative chief is Vionnet! After an amazing Spring/Summer 2012 show, designer Rodolfo Paglialunga has been replaced by Barbara and Lucia Croce. Thankfully, it is not a negative situation, as he is leaving to pursue “other personal and professional paths”. Hands together, and pray – solo line, solo line, solo line
  • The Library, Koh Samui

    Hotel Koh Samui
    Last week, I went to paradise.

    Though I’ve lived in Bangkok for eight months – and have done a significant amount of travelling, book writing and Thaiglish speaking in that time – I have only now visited my first Asian island.

    While Koh Samui is a breathtaking haven of sun, sand and smiles, it was actually The Library that created the paradise. This boutique hotel, an innovative and relaxing hideaway, was the perfect romantic getaway on Chaweng Beach. It had to be shared.

    Upon arriving ridiculously early, The Boyfriend and I sleep-stumbled into “The Content” – a check in space with a cozy yet minimalist design – and were welcomed with a refreshing island soda and fresh scoop of fruity sorbet. A delightful difference to the super-processed travel food we had been gnawing over the previous few hours.

    Once we stepped foot in our suite, the deal was effectively sealed. As each of their twenty-six residences aligns with their minimalist concept, we were surprised to find a space full of warmth and modernity. With a white and black palette, you can customise the mood of your room via a six-colour lightbox on the wall (we favoured the utterly tranquilizing oceanic blue), as well as many extra light and blind controls. Tres chic. Tres hooked up.

    The room also boasted:

    • A separate reading area, kitted with literature lounges and a spacious desk. Since one of The Library’s main attractions is their library, the entire hotel has countless areas for your reading pleasure. (You’ll see “The Library” shortly!)
    • The comfiest bedand pillows in existence. You are also offered a ‘pillow menu’ with everything from a boomerang to pyramid pillow.
    • An iMac. An essential alternative to your travel netbook.
    • A flat-screen tv and DVD player. A perfect way to coax your significant other into watching Moulin Rouge with you (...for example).
    • A rain shower and jacuzzi bathtub- with all the luxurious amenities and products you would need to feel utterly pampered.
    • A Lavazzacoffee maker (with complimentary coffee selections). Heaven for caffiene addicts – a true departure from the custom ‘kettle and instant coffee’ misfortune of every other hotel in Thailand.But, when visiting a beach hotel in Koh Samui, it isn’t just about the room. And God, does The Library recognise.

      Making your way through the greenery that surrounds the suites – the hotel was actually built around the trees that were already on the land – you come across an empyrean crimson-coloured pool and beach bag lounge area, all of which looks over the crystal-clear waters and beach of Koh Samui. Never crowded and always free of all non-Library tourists, it is an absolute sanctuary.

      At the perimeter of this area, you have “The Fit”, “The Page” and “The Library”.

    • The Fit“: a crisp, clean and glass-walled fitness room that overlooks the beach. Nothing brings ease to fitness like breaking sweat in front of a sunrise or sunset.
    • The Page“: 5-star food in an intimate setting. Serving 101 cocktails and a menu of Michelin star-worthy food, it can’t be missed.
    • The Library“: because the hotel’s owner observed the tourist trend of books on beaches, the hotel created a large space of literature and DVDs free for guests to ‘rent’ (many leave their own books when they check out!). Material was available in many languages and many genres. A goldmine.After our first day, we were pretty sure we weren’t going to leave. Then breakfast happened and signed our permanent lease of love. Settling into a beach bed at 8am, sand between our toes, we were acquainted with a superior three-course breakfast that left us full for hours. Breads and pastries (with potted jams and Nutella!) come with everything, though you can specify the actual ‘breakfast items’ you desire. I would reccomend: (take a breath!) a latte, a lime juice, water, fruit plate, salmon-topped scrambled eggs, asparagus, sausage, bacon, and banana pancakes. I promise you won’t be hungry until breakfast the next day.

      While Koh Samui does have a reputation for a “party-party” atmosphere – it is where many people stay for the Full Moon Party – The Library feels like a secret treasure amidst the madness. In some feat of magic, though it is located on the main road (which is wonderful to walk at night, and has Western conveniences of Starbucks, McDonalds, and the like), the moment you get past The Library’s entrance it seems to all dissapear. No sound, sight or smell of tourist dissolution whatsoever.

      On our second day, I decided to try my chances as The Little Mermaid and swim off into waters unknown. I got attacked by a crab. Without a word to the staff of the Library, I limped by bleeding leg towards the front desk for a first aid kit, only to be stopped by one of their staff who told me to wait and brought every medicine/plaster/cotton ball back I could need. Above and beyond. This is only one example of their special personal service. With a plethora of cases in relation to The Library’s attention to detail, they also left “3-1-1″ bags on our bed the night before departure, as well as bookmarks and extra water throughout our stay (I inhale water).

      I urge you to cancel any other vacations. The Library is what you’ve been looking for. Continue reading

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