Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Paring our Life Down to the Essentials


Due to recent changes in our financial situation, we had to look for more affordable dwelling situations. We seriously thought about moving into a studio flat but unfortunately in order for my husband to continue sponsoring visas for me and our kids, we were required to have a one bedroom flat.

Thus began our quest to look for a one bedroom flat with the same price as a studio flat. The search disheartened us at best. Some of the buildings were so old with tiny creaky elevators that could possible substitute for a death trap. The house fixtures were so broken down and rusty, I wondered if they will last for a year. Another option was in a nicer building with a well maintained elevator but the flat was on the 15th floor and had only one postage stamp window. You literally felt trapped at 15 floors up.

Finally we found a one bedroom flat in a building that looked old on the outside but was very well maintained on the inside. The place was fairly decent in comparison to the previous choices and the price was within our range. Although still small, it seemed to be our best possible option at the moment.

But as to how small, we finally found out on moving day. When we tried to fit our furniture, we realized that our new living room was not even ¼ the size of our old living room. The kitchen was also so small and could not accommodate our fridge; it would have to find a way to fit in the living room. The new bedroom was also half the size of our old bedroom. I think it was safe to say that the WHOLE of our new house was just the size of our old living room.

Truthfully, my heart broke. This was reality 101 and we were definitely downsizing. Since I was a little bit overdramatic, I confess that my heart was full and heavy with a lot of unshed tears.  I mourned the loss of our spacious old house.

But I decided to count my blessings. I have two of the best person in the world, with a third one coming soon, to share this tiny dwelling. They make my heart full with their love and laughter. If destiny pares down my life to the essentials, it would still be complete for as long as I have my husband and children in my life.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter Brunch at The Talk Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel


I have never been lucky in raffles, mall competitions, or any other luck based contest that gives out prizes. So when I chanced upon Movenpick’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Easter themed brunch contest on my Facebook newsfeed, I joined with nary a thought or hope of winning. I sincerely thought that I was wasting my time (about 180 seconds to be exact) in joining a contest which I would never win anyway.
But to my surprise, I actually won! I received a Facebook notification on my phone from Movenpick replying on my comment on their contest post. The reply was an amazing “Congratulations, you have won a brunch for four on Easter Sunday” or something to that effect. I think my heart stopped for a moment. This was the first time ever in the history of my existence that I have won something in a legitimate raffle if you don’t count the USB which I won in my son’s family day raffle about 4 years ago. I was ecstatic, never mind that a few seconds later, my phone decided to die because a few minutes before, my son soaked it with his water drenched hands. Nothing was going to rain on my parade, not even the death of my one and only phone.
Although I have never been to The Talk and Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Movenpick  Bur Dubai was always one of my favourite places to go for brunch. They never disappointed. The price point was always right and the food was always delicious. But the best part of Movenpick was always the service. If you want to feel like a V.I.P. regardless of your race, gender, appearance or financial category, go to Movenpick. They treat everyone like royalty without distinction. From the servers to the managers, they all go over and above the call of duty in friendliness and service to the point you might actually want to melt on the floor in embarrassment because you have no idea what you did to deserve such a star treatment. They give you all the 5 star treatment without the snottiness and snobbery. I was assuming that the same policy applies to all their branches so I was terribly excited to go the The Talk in Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
The Fa├žade of the hotel was beautiful and had an exciting beach vibe because it was right across the Jumeirah beach. Of course, my son and I could not resist the photo opportunity.




They had a beautiful lobby which my handy photographer/husband forgot to photograph because we were all hopping excited to go for brunch. The men in suits, who were probably the managers, were standing in the lobby right next to the Easter Bunny to welcome all Easter merry makers. They sort of looked comedic in a nice kind of way because the Easter Bunny looked so casual and quite goofy right next to the impeccably dressed men in suits. But regardless in the stark difference in outfits, they were all welcoming and smiling.


The brunch proper was at The Talk which was at the second floor of the hotel area. It was right next to another restaurant, The Soul. Apparently, they love adding THE to their restaurant names because one of my favourite restaurant in Movenpick Bur Dubai is THE Fountain. 



My ravenously hungry companions were so excited when they saw the extensive buffet spread. Not to disappoint, their international menu included Chinese, Japanese, British, Indian, seafood, some possible French, a little Arabic, Italian and Mexican. One might think that their menu might be spread too thinly and might not be as expertly done if they were serving a more limited fare but the food were all delicious most especially the Japanese and Chinese cuisine.

In fact, when my family thinks of a Movenpick Buffet, we think delicious Chinese dumplings and Japanese food so we made a beeline for those right away. 




They had 3 variants of the Chinese Dumplings: chicken, vegetarian and shrimp. Aside from being overly delicious which was quite surprising because good dumplings were really hard to find in the U.A.E., all of them had a melt in your mouth texture especially the vegetarian dumpling.  They were very light and airy. The chicken dumpling was a little heavier and you need two bites to finish one off but the vegetarian and shrimp were definitely one bite dumplings. My son ate around 7 pieces of each dumpling and my husband probably even more. Sorry The Talk. They were really ravenous and they hadn’t had a proper breakfast.

The next stop was the Japanese food station. They had all kinds of sushi, maki and nigiri. My husband’s favourite was the sashimi station because the salmon and tuna were really sweet and fresh. You could taste the brightness and high quality of the fish. Three to four servings alone of their sashimi could cover the price of your buffet. We once ate at buffet restaurant in a 5 store hotel which exclusively served Japanese food and I could say with confidence that the Japanese Food station at the Talk served better and fresher Japanese food most especially in the sashimi department. Quality ingredient was probably the key.


They also had some beautifully laid out appetizers. There were also selection of Arabic mezze and salads. At other times, I would have probably sampled them because based from previous experiences, Movenpick’s appetizer were a taste explosion. However since I am pregnant and I have only a little room for food, I decided to skip this one out. I think my husband and son also skipped this part for fear of missing out on important food space inside their stomach.




Nevertheless my husband did take advantage of their awesome seafood selection. They had raw oysters, smoked salmon, raw tuna, raw salmon, prawns and other creatures from the sea. But my husband feasted mostly on the raw oysters. I couldn’t really partake in his enthusiasm for oysters since I’m pregnant but aside from that, I really could not understand the fascination. If you ask me, raw oysters are really gross. They honestly taste like salty fishy slime. But I guess it is an acquired taste that can take root in such an addicted way. But for people like me who like their seafood mostly cooked, The Talk also has a wide variety of seafood selections that can be grilled at their outdoor area.





There were still other food stations at The Talk but we were so excited by the food that we forgot to take photos of them. True story! There was a pasta station which cooked whatever kind of pasta. Parents with kids who are picky eaters will love this because you can probably request just a plain mac and cheese. Another plus for the kids was the pizza station which served gorgeous authentic style pizza in pepperoni and margherita. There was a build your own tacos station if you are hankering for some Mexican food. There was the British food station which served steaks, lambs, all kinds of cold cuts which you will probably be hard pressed to find in your local stores, wellingtons and roast potatoes. The roast potatoes were particularly delicious. I never thought that I could be blown away by a simple roast potato but this one was so soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and amazingly sweet. I actually went back for second helpings. There was a cheese and bread station which I didn’t visit because my pregnant nose was very sensitive to the cheesy smell. Last but not the least was the main course station which served a variety of food from oriental to western. They also had a special section of main courses for their around the world in 80 days theme. One of the cuisine was duck cooked in chocolate sauce which I did not have the nerve to taste.


One of the unique things about The Talk’s buffet was that they have a menu of food you can order fresh from the kitchen. Amazing right? One would say a tad bit excessive since you can already probably drown from their already extensive buffet selection. Then again, Movenpick’s motto is probably, “Let us do it better than everyone else!”



For this particular day, their fresh from the kitchen menu included foie gras terrine with brioche and apple compote, dynamite prawn cocktail and steamed bao buns with hoisin duck. Hands down, the bao buns was the star of the show. The buns were pillowy soft and sweet and the duck was perfection. If I order this ala carte somewhere else, I will probably be paying through the nose. It was that good. However, I wish they would remove the dab of yellow hollandaise. It overpowers the taste of the bun and duck and I had no other choice but to remove all signs of it. 


Because I’m a sweets addict, the best part of the buffet for me was none other than the Desert station! I am particularly in love with Movenpick’s ice cream selection. For all the times I ate in their buffets, it was always the ice cream which haunted my taste buds. The texture was very creamy and dense. I have never encountered the same texture with other store bought ice cream or any ice cream in other restaurants or establishments. If there is one brand I can compare Movenpick’s ice cream, I would say they are at par or even better than Haagen Daaz. They have different flavours ranging from sorbet and to the more chocolatey ones. You can taste the freshness and quality of the ingredients with every bite. If the flavour was chocolate, expect a chocolate explosion inside your mouth. If the flavour was raspberry sorbet, expect a fresh raspberry explosion. The ice cream station also served pancakes and gelatin gummies for the kids and kids at heart.


But of course the deserts do not end in the ice cream station. As part of their Easter Brunch theme, The Talk laid out a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Desert Spread. The desert selections were mostly chocolate and candy themed. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take individual names since when presented with sweets; I usually just divide and conquer. But rest assured that they were all delicious. The Talk beautifully decorated their desert table just like the factory in the movie. In fact, at the back of the table, there was fully functioning chocolate fountain and river. I was tempted to dip something in the chocolate river but the adult in me was too embarrassed.


At around halfway of the brunch, the Easter Bunny appeared to give out Easter goodies to all the kids at the brunch. Of course, the 9 year old boy could not resist having his picture taken with the Easter Bunny. Even at this age, his is still a true blue kid at heart who finds excitement and appreciation with everything.


Afterwards, in line with their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme, the servers gave out chocolate cupcakes. One of the cupcakes contained a golden ticket which would entitle the holder to a two night stay in an executive suite for two at the Movenpick Jumeirah Hotel with breakfast. 



My 9 year old son was super excited because he does want to win a hotel stay. Sadly our cupcake did not contain the golden ticket. But that was okay because I guess it was too much to ask from the fairies of competition to ask for two wins in one event. We had a grand time with our free Easter Brunch and I think it was only fair to share the happiness and luck with someone else.

Overall, we had a fantastic Easter Day experience thanks to The Talk Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel. For all those who are interested to try their weekend brunch, the price is at 289 dirhams inclusive of soft beverages. They also had an option for unlimited hard beverages but I’m not quite sure how much that costs. You can give them a call at 04-4498888 or you can drop by their website at http://www.movenpick.com/en/middle-east/uae/dubai/hotel-dubai-jumeirah-beach/restaurants/restaurants-bars/the-talk-restaurant/ . They also have a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MovenpickJBR/ which you can check out.