Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Recently I've come to realize that I'm not very good at traveling alone. When I'm by myself, it's easy to procrastinate. Holed up in a hotel room for three straight weeks while not being on an actual holiday, the big bed with pristine white linens and the oh, so welcoming tub in full view always seem to beckon to me, "It's so hot out there, why bother?" When I do get out, I'll end up taking it easy, not rushing from one place to another, sometimes spending hours on end just sipping coffee while watching life unfold in a foreign land.
Then there's this little problem between directions and I. While Vijay has confirmed that I'm an excellent map reader and a great road trip co-pilot (when I'm not sleeping while he's on the wheel), I tend to put myself in a spot by relying on the sometimes unreliable GPS - I proceed to blame the easy access of modern technology for this. It is faster to press the Google map button on an iPhone than to dig out a half crumpled map somewhere from the deep abyss of a full backpack, unfold it and try to determine the 'You are here!' spot innit?
After exploring City Super at Causeway Bay's Times Square two weeks ago, I got out from the store spent the next half an hour trying to locate this café somewhere along Leighton Road. I nailed the building down but Leighton Center's entire front was undergoing renovation and somehow I got the wrong address from Google, looking for a street level café which doesn't exist. I gave up eventually and decided to leave the area towards Central but as I passed the back of Leighton Center on the way back to the MTR, a bookshop called G.O.D. caught my eye and next to it the sign Caffè HABITŪ was plastered above a flight of stairs leading to my target destination. Great, I thought, my first solo venture at the Island didn't turn out to be so bad after all.
This is one of those places where mothers with strollers co-exist happily with hippie teenagers testing out their lomo cameras, starry eyed couples on dates and notebook toting techies looking for free WiFi. I was there primarily for a change of diet (after a week long of typical Hong Kong fare) and one of their signature coffees - the intriguing rose latte. The lobster bisque and roasted lamb chops were just... necessary distractions to address my protesting tummy. I'm pretty sure what went into the latte was a few drops of rose water, which can come across strongly even when used sparingly, as I have experienced when making this and these. It worked for me though, the sweet fragrance blended in perfectly with the bitterness of the coffee, the end product required little sugar to sweeten the deal.
Normally I wouldn't be fazed by cuteness but the baby lobster half drowned in the bisque was too much for me to handle, so I decided to let the little guy hang around after polishing off the soup. I never thought I'd see the day when I can't bring myself to dismember and engorge an already cooked crustacean due to its adorable appearance. The chilling lobster confused the waitress somewhat, she passed by a few times, not sure whether I'm going to eat it or not, before finally asking me if she could clear away my red friend.
The good thing about not having an agenda for the day when travelling is the possibility of being involved in whatever comes next.
Over the next hour and a very sweet lemon meringue tart, I made friends with two strangers - Vivien and Katie. As my lamb chops gradually met their fate, Vivien arrived first, sat beside me and sank deep into her book (later discovered to be Narnia) after placing her order. Then Katie parked herself on the chair opposite and asked for the menu. All three of us were alone but Katie seemed to have some difficulty deciding on what to order. As Vivien's tarfutto pizza (with wild mushroom and black truffle) arrived, Katie broke the ice and asked us if we wanted to share something. So while a plate of spinach and ricotta tortellini was being passed around, three women - one from Hong Kong, another from a small town an hour away from San Francisco and yours truly from Malaysia got to know each other. Food brought us together but our conversation quickly steered into the direction I truly missed. Subjects ranging from quality of education, cultural diversity, cultural adaptation and mastering languages to personal growth were debated late into the night. We could've gone at it all day had we met earlier. Needless to say, we added each other on Facebook.
On Labor Day I brought a visiting Vijay back here after a movie date. It amused him that it still took me awhile to figure out where the place was. For novelty sake I ordered the Earl Grey latte but found that the tea leaves were too overpowering. The chocolate mousse though, kept me happy while Vijay poured over his map to plan the rest of his short trip. I haven't been to the other branches of the café but reviews in general attest to similar quality of food and service as this Causeway Bay outlet.
If I return again in two weeks (and still remember where it is), I would give their rose milk tea a go.
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Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
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