Destination Food: Sri Lanka and Singapore 2013

On my recent trip to Sri Lanka and Singapore I was excited to experience a variety of delicious foods and tasty treats.

I always love going to Sri Lanka and enjoying the delicious hot and spicy curries and pastries or fresh tropical fruits, many of which are hard to find or cannot be found in Australia. Singapore is also a fave of mine because it is so beautiful, clean, warm and happening and the food is always reliably good.

While I don’t have photos of everything I ate, I have tried to put some of them together to give my lovely readers an idea of the types of things we enjoyed!

So without further ado, here are some of my foodie adventures for Sri Lanka and Singapore 2013!

Sri Lanka

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Good ol’ chocolate milk out of a plastic packet. Cheap, cold and delicious!

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Pineapple and sugar bananas- very tropical!

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Fresh juices at Roots (like Boost).

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An old favourite that has been around for years, Green Cabin’s chocolate eclair and stuffed gothamba.

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Fish cutlets, a round ball of pan fried fish and potato, battered and covered in bread crumbs, then fried.

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Me with a King Coconut drink (thambili) at the fruit markets in Galle.

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Ambarella pickle- ambarella, chilli, salt.

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Food from Peddlar’s Inn at Galle- including the famous chocolate brownie!

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Green mango- love it

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Sri Lankan traditional milk rice

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Chocolate cake from Perera & Sons.

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Guava, wood apple and mangosteen- some fruits I definitely don’t see in Australia (except maybe guava)!

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Fab pastries- “Chinese” rolls, patties and sausage rolls

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Bayleaf restaurant, Gregory’s Road

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Rest stop meal on the way to Jaffna- egg gothambas, string hoppers, bread

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Steamed corn from a street vendor

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Orange Crush (basically Fanta).

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Thosai, also known as Dosa/Dosai, This is basically a crepe made from rice batter and dhal. It is crispy and slightly bitter, and can sometimes be made in a long round roll or cone shape.

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Breakfast fruit at the Jaffna hotel- pawpaw, pineapple, sugar banana and lime.

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Toddy – an alcoholic drink from the sap of the palm tree. Smells like hair products.

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Lunch at the beautiful Fort Hammenhiel, north of Jaffna.

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Beautiful golden Jaffna mangoes.

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Huge jackfruits on the floor- this one was about half a metre!

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More mini Jaffna mangoes

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Pit stop curry lunch near Jaffna – delicious!

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Lingan Ice Cream in Jaffna.

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Rio Ice Cream in Jaffna

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Toast pan (bread), kimbula buns (crocodile shaped sugar bun), malu pan (fish bread).

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Delicious Ministry of Crab meal, a restaurant owned by famous Sri Lankan cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, along with Sri Lankan chef Dharshan Munidasa.

Singapore

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What The Fries??? Hot chips with a variety of sauces, including the Singapore Chilli Crab sauce, which I tried.

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Popeye’s Louisiana Fried Chicken, delicious- like KFC.

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IMG_4990Bubble Tea- pomegranate green tea with lychee jelly.

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Macarons from TWG. Amazing flavours incorporating tea, such as Earl Grey Chocolate!

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Hilton Buffet Breakfast.

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Conrad Hilton fruit platter and complimentary chocolates.

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Award winning BBQ Pork and Chicken with Chilli Sauce in Chinatown.

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Amazing Haianese chicken – one of my favourites!

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Soursop and mango and guava juices.

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Mum enjoying a traditional Singapore coffee- she loved it.

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Room service breakfast at the Grand Park Orchard hotel.

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Red bean pudding with coconut milk, served warm- actually so delicious.

Summary

Overall, the foods I experienced were amazing and I can’t wait to return to Asia to experience more of it.

I’d love to hear what your favourite spots are in Singapore or Sri Lanka- I know the lovely Christine from Cooking Crusade has many great places in Singapore to recommend!

Please comment below with your tips and favourite restaurants!

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Guest Blog: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London

This review was written by a friend of mine, Serena Lazarus, about her experience at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in the UK. Enjoy!

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Noted as one of the UK’s (and possibly the world’s) most influential and renowned celebrity chefs, you’d expect only excellence when it comes to anything Gordon Ramsay; and that’s exactly what you get dining at his very first wholly owned restaurant, Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, Greater London.

The restaurant itself is refreshingly intimate, seating about 45 guests, making your dining experience just that little bit more special knowing you’ll be well looked after. The décor is stylishly elegant yet simple and the staff are warm and welcoming from moment you come in.

My friend and I had the 3 course set lunch menu at £45pp which turned out to be excellent value, especially given it’s a Ramsay restaurant and I could name a fair few Sydney restaurants that could not match the quality of the food here nor the price.

We selected 3 different starters, mains and desserts and were given a selection of breads to choose from (rosemary, rye and white) which were offered to us throughout our meals.

The ‘wine specialist’ also assisted us with our selection of wines to match our meals.

Starters

Salt cod brandade, ‘Tartine’, noir de bigorre ham, piquillo peppers, olives, confit tomatoes and quail’s egg- This picture perfect starter tastes as wonderful as it looks! The tartine itself was light, the cod wasn’t overpowering and the other ingredients complimented the dish really well.

TCFB says: What an amazingly colourful dish!

Smoked potato and poached hen’s egg ravioli with pak choi, roast chicken jus and leek velouté – The ravioli with was just exquisite and the leek veloute was incredibly smooth.

Mains

Fillet of Cornish pollock with chorizo couscous, baby squid, artichoke and spiced tomato jus – The pollock (an alternative to cod or haddock, commonly cooked in the UK) was simply cooked and accompanied by the stronger flavours of the chorizo couscous, squid and spiced jus. Delicious!

Spiced free range Devon duck with Swiss chard, beetroot and grilled onions- An excellent balance of flavours here with the grilled onions, beetroot and duck.

Desserts

Banana parfait, peanut butter mousse and bitter chocolate sandwich with caramelised bananas- Great combo of textures here with the crummy banana parfait, the smooth but nutty mousse and the chocolate provided just the right amount of sweetness. Definitely my favourite of the desserts.

TCFB says: you are making me drool with this one Serena!

Roasted pineapple with coriander financiers, coconut sorbet and vanilla cream- The coconut sorbet won me over completely and the pineapple had a wonderfully unique taste.  It wasn’t a favourite of mine but I’m just being a little critical here seeing as everything so far had been amazing!

We ordered this dessert separately as we had seen it come out a few times and were curious! It was white chocolate and strawberry balls with some light milk chocolate and rosewater squares which acted as a great palate cleanser!

Overall

I can definitely see why this restaurant has retained its three Michelin star status since 2007. I couldn’t fault anything from the excellent service, wonderful ambience and of course impeccable food! If you appreciate fine dining or just want to experience what all the fuss is about when it comes to Gordon Ramsay, I highly recommend this place if you’re ever in London town!

DISCLAIMER:

This review is a guest review and reflects the reviewer’s own personal opinions. The Casual Food Blogger accepts no responsibility for anything that is said in this review or anything contained in, or arising out of the videos or photos contained in or referred to in this review. 

15 Great American food adventures!

While in the US (for about a month in total), I ate many American-style foods which were both delicious and overwhelming at the same time! It was exciting to be able to try new things which I wouldn’t be able to have in Australia.

This is a list of some of the delicious American food adventures I had. Make sure you also have a look at my posts on The Cheesecake Factory, Cafe Mason and the Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court Tea.

1. Noah’s Bagels, San Francisco

This place is great! The variety of bagels (see below) is amazing and they offer both sweet and savoury options. Service is pretty quick and the place has a great buzzing atmosphere.

My cranberry bagel with strawberry jam (or “jelly” as the Americans call it), went down a treat and was the perfect start to the morning!

2. Buffalo Wild Wings, Los Angeles

This is the all-American wings and football joint. Located on Hollywood Boulevarde, my friend and I unwittingly came across this place after a day spent sight-seeing in Los Angeles.

We were absolutely hungry, and although we weren’t really in the mood for heavy, fatty foods we decided this was the best option available at the time.

Every meal comes with a trivia toy/game that you and your companions can use to compete against the other tables in the restaurant and against people from other restaurants as well, for the top spot on the TV screens around the room.

The menu comes with different sauce options (see below), ranging from “smilin'” to “screamin'”. We decided to go for 8 buffalo boneless chicken wings to share, with a buffalo sauce. Not being a fan of chicken wings because of the annoying bones, I absolutely loved the boneless wings.

We demolished these crunchy little morsels and moved on to the next course. I ordered a buffalo ranch chicken sandwich and my friend ordered a wrap. Both came with chips/fries.

Whilst at the restaurant we witnessed some fellow diners participate in the wings challenge where they had to eat as many wings as possible within a set time frame. Although kind of crazy and disgusting, it was fun to watch and made for an interesting night out!

3. Hotel Food- Monte Carlo, Las Vegas

Whilst a bit overwhelming and very filling, a big buffet meal is a MUST when in Vegas. The city is famous for its clubs, casinos and overload of food in buffets!

We tried the one at the Monte Carlo, where we stayed, and tried to get a bit of variety on our plates with some salad and fruit as well. I also previously stayed at the Hilton in Las Vegas and found their food great as well. As long as you stay at a good hotel (and there are many in Vegas on the Strip), the buffet should be satisfying 🙂

4.  Little Italy: Buon Appetito and a little gelato/coffee bar, San Diego

On our first night in San Diego, my bestie and I were starving and wanted something that wasn’t fast food.

The staff at the Hilton Doubletree suggested Little Italy, and we found ourselves here:

The place was beautiful and had a lovely atmosphere with a large crowd and little candles on the tables.  We really enjoyed our meal there and I always remember it as one of the best Italian meals I have ever had!

Insalata Fantasia – Escarole and baby greens tossed in or raspberry vinaigrette with sliced pears and topped with Gorgonzola cheese

Linguini allo Scoglio- Fresh clams, mussels, bay scallops and shrimp

Basil Pesto Gnocchi

Here are some photos of the coffee and gelato bar:

5. Max Brenner, New York City

Everyone knows I love Max Brenner. It is my ultimate chocolate heaven and while in New York I was determined to visit the store there.

We went one night after dinner, around 11.00pm and caught the subway. It didn’t take long before we had found our way over to the familiar looking store.

The store was extremely busy and we were told that there would be a wait of 30-45 minutes for a table. We decided to do take-away instead and were able to get a cocktail table and some stools to sit on.

I ordered a waffle which I hadn’t had since I was in Australia 6 months ago, but found it was smaller, and less crisp than the ones here. I also noticed the food didn’t seem as fresh as the ones back home. Nonetheless, I do love Max Brenner and was very happy to visit this chocolate lovers paradise!

Chocolate Pizza

6. Wipeout Bar & Grill, Pier 39 of Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco

Pier 39 is a beautiful place and we wished we had more time to spend here as we only had a few hours after our Alcatraz Tour and day of San Fran sight-seeing!

We found this little beach themed bar and grill and thought we would get into the Cali spirit and dine there! The restaurant has a beachy feel and the staff are “totally awesome dude”! Very chilled and laid back.

We enjoyed our burger + chips and fish + chips and then went to explore the rest of the Pier!

7. Serendipity, Las Vegas

A lovely eatery with great dessert and drink options including a frozen hot chocolate :p

8. Planet Hollywood, Times Square New York

An American favourite, we had to dine at Planet Hollywood before we left!

With great food, very interesting props and decor, and entertaining waiters, we had a unique and fun, if not overwhelming, dining experience!

9. Magnolia Bakery, New York

This famous bakery is known for its amazing cupcakes. A “sugarholic” like me couldn’t possibly leave New York without a visit to this cute cupcake store.

It was great to be able to see the cakes being iced right in front of you and my little choc cupcake was a great after dinner treat!

10. Dylan’s Candy Bar, New York

This New York Wonkaland is owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, a self-confessed sugar addict.

The store in New York features 2 levels of lollies, lollies and…more lollies!

I loved this place and anyone with a sweet tooth is sure to have a blast in here!

11. New York Pizza

If you don’t try anything else in New York, make sure you have a slice of GIANT New York pizza. Cheap as chips and as common as Lindsay Lohan arrests, these babies will fill you up and give you your money’s worth!

12. M&M World

There are plenty of these around and everyone will enjoy exploring the cute and colourful home of the world’s most famous chocolate buttons!

 

Yes Folks, that’s m&ms in those tubes!

13. Coca-Cola World

There are almost as many M&M World Stores as there are Coca-Cola ones. I saw these stores in New York, Vegas and LA. Great for Coke lovers to grab souvenirs, vintage items and vitamin water flavoured lip glosses!

14. Lolly stores

See also the Sugar Factory, It’s Sugar and Universal Studios lolly shops for more swweeet treeeats! 🙂

 

 

 

 

15. Flip Restaurant, Bloomingdale’s New York

A great burger joint for shopping fuel. Check it out if  you’re in the area!

 

So those are a few of my favourite dining experiences in the USA.

I’d love to hear what your favourite American restaurants or cafes are. What was the food like? Was it something unique you hadn’t seen before? Let us know by posting a comment below!

The Cheesecake Factory, San Francisco

Address: 251 Geary Street  San Francisco CA 94102 United States

Tel: (415) 391-4444

Website: http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com

Opening Hours:

Monday – Thursday- 11.00am to 11.00pm
Friday & Saturday – 11.00am to 12.30am
Sunday- 10.00am to 11.00pm
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I’m not usually a cheesecake lover. In fact, I don’t really like cheesecakes at all. I will eat them if I have to, because there are no other desserts or to avoid offending someone, but I will never go out of my way to eat a cheesecake.

However, despite my dislike for cheesecake, this place came with a strong recommendation and I had heard that they didn’t only sell cheesecakes.

My bestie and I stumbled across this little store whilst walking through Macy’s near Union Square. Suffering from a bad case of “I-didn’t-wear’my-shoes-in-before-I-brought-them-on-holiday”, bestie decided to relax outside the store on the Macy’s couches while I went in to sus out the cake situation.

The place was absolutely packed and so there was no hope of getting a table any time soon. I was told the wait was about 30-40 minutes, and so we decided to get take-away instead.

Whilst checking out the yummy cakes in the display cabinet, I noted that many of them didn’t look very “cheese-cakey.”  Some even looked -to my surprise – delicious!

I decided to go for a chocolatey cake as there would be no chance of the cake being “cheese-cakey” (I think I’ve just invented a new word). I chose one for myself- the chocolate truffle cake, and one for my friend- the chocolate fudge cake.

Back at the hotel, we decided to share the cakes. They were rich, moist and very chocolatey. Not a hint of “cheese-cakeyness”. Although the portion sizes were large and, full from dinner we couldn’t eat all of the cake, we really enjoyed the deliciously sweet dessert.

Even though I am not a fan of cheesecakes, I really enjoyed these cakes and I would highly recommend a visit to The Cheesecake Factory to anyone who comes across one!

Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

Cafe Mason

Address: 320 Mason Street, San Francisco CA 94102 United States

Tel: (415) 544-0320

Email: info@cafemason.net

Website: http://www.cafemasonsf.com/

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One fine morning while holidaying in San Francisco, my bestie and I woke up with a hunger for a big breakkie!

We were lucky enough to stumble across Cafe Mason, a small eatery which specialises in producing homemade breakfasts, lunches and dinners from scratch using fresh ingredients.

We were pleased to find that we were able to have unlimited tea, as we were given a large jug of water and a bowl full of tea bags!

I enjoyed the smoked bacon or sausage with eggs ($9.95), which included a “choice of side dish: home fries (Yukon Potato ), fresh fruit, roasted tomato with basil and herbs, or slices of fresh tomato, and a choice of toast (nine grain, white, rye ; or add 25¢ for English mun; or add 50¢ for homemade banana-nut bread; or add 95¢ for croissant).” I chose the sausages and tomatoes with basil and herbs.

My bestie got the Eggs Benedict ($10.95)- poached eggs and ham topped with Hollandaise sauce.

Source: photo from Cafe Mason website

The food was great and the service was excellent. We thought the place was really funky as well, and really gave off a San Francisco vibe!

After all that food you would think we would be full. But no, our sweet tooths got the better of us and we decided to order some yummy pancakes to finish off the meal.

Buttermilk pancakes were $3.95 for one, $6.75 for two or $8.25 for 3.

Strawberries were $2.50 extra.

We topped it all off with some healthy juices! What a fantastic way to start off a day of exploring!

Cafe Mason on Urbanspoon

The Palm Court, Plaza Hotel NYC

Reservations via Open Table.

Address: 768 5th Avenue, New York NY 10019 United States

Tel: 212 546 5300

Email: palmcourt@fairmont.com.

Opening Hours:

Afternoon Tea is served daily in The Palm Court from 2:00pm – 5:00pm.

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So this post has been a long time coming. Going through some of my photos from the US I saw some from high tea at the Plaza Hotel and thought I should write a post on it as it was one of the best experiences of my trip!

The Plaza Hotel is one of the most fashionable and famous hotels in the world, and Afternoon Tea at the Palm Court has become an institution for food lovers and jet-setters alike. One afternoon in late December 2011, four friends and I dressed up and headed out to see what all the fuss is about.

The Palm Court

We had booked online earlier, and luckily too, as we saw quite a few people being turned away as they didn’t have bookings. The hotel was busy with post-Christmas, pre -NYE guests and we waited bout 10-15 minutes before we were seated.

Service was typical of a 5 star hotel, with the waiters unfolding our napkins for us and placing them on our laps, and promptly bringing us Tea menus and water to drink.

The room was elegantly laid out with beautiful palms, luxurious golden walls, and sparkling cutlery, crockery and silverware.

A look at the menu revealed that there were four Afternoon Tea options:

1. The Classic
SANDWICHES AND SAVORIES
Truffled Quail Egg Salad
Maine Lobster, Sturgeon Caviar
Roast Beef, Horseradish
Cucumber, Radish, Basil
Smoked Salmon, Endive
SCONES
Freshly Baked, Warm Seasonal Scones
Double Devonshire Cream, Lemon Curd, Preserves
PASTRIES AND SWEETS
Pâté de Fruit, Sacher Torte, Lemon Tea Cake, Hazelnut Napoleon, French Macarons
$50 Per person

2. The New Yorker
SANDWICHES AND SAVORIES
Cucumber, Radish, Green Herbs
Smoked Salmon, Endive
Roquefort, Shaved Red Grapes, Watercress
Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Pesto
Roast Beef, Horseradish
SCONES
Freshly Baked, Warm Seasonal Scones
Double Devonshire Cream, Lemon Curd, Preserves
PASTRIES AND SWEETS
Black and White Cookies, Mini Canoli,, Chocolate Cupcake, New York Cheesecake, Lemon Tea Cake, Profiteroles
$50 Per person

3. Chocolate Tea
CHOCOLATE FONDUE
Strawberries, Pound Cake, Pretzels, House-Made Marshmallows, Golden Pineapple
SCONES
Freshly Baked, Warm Seasonal Scones
Nutella, Double Devonshire cream, Lemon Curd and Preserves
SWEETS
Chocolate Profiteroles, Mini Pot De Crème, Chocolate Cupcake,
Chocolate Macaroon, Sacher Torte, Chocolate Truffles
$60 Per person

4. Eloise Tea
SANDWICHES AND SAVORIES
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Cucumber, Buttered Bread
Organic Peanut Butter and Jelly
Strawberry and Cream Cheese Sandwich
SCONES
Freshly Baked, Warm Seasonal Scones
Double Devonshire Cream, Preserves
PASTRIES AND SWEETS
Assorted Cookies, Chocolate Cupcakes, Pink Pink Jello, Eloise Shortbread Cookies, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
$30 Per child under 12 years of age
$50 Per adult
COLD COLD PINK LEMONADE OR PEPPERMINT ICED TEA

*Note: the above menu comes directly from the Plaza Hotel Palm Court Menu

My four friends and I selected our High Teas and also decided on which tea we wanted to drink. I went for the Classic Tea (minus the quail, which I don’t eat).

I also selected a lovely organic earl grey Sri Lankan tea which was described as “Exotic bergamot sweetness. Full bodied with a hauntingly smooth finish.”

We were served our teas and treats, and thoroughly enjoyed savouring them. I always make it a point of at least TRYING everything on the tray, and if I can, I try to finish it all! This time, I did manage to try everything on the tray, but was unable to eat all of it as there was so much!

We had a lovely time chatting, sipping delicious tea and enjoying our sweet and savoury delights. The atmosphere was perfect and all in all it was a lovely afternoon. I would definitely recommend this experience for anyone living in or planning to visit New York.

What has been your favourite high tea experience? Have you been to the Palm Court? Please post a comment- we’d love to hear from you!

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Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel on Urbanspoon