Cok Cok, Istanbul

The restaurant scene in Istanbul is dominated by traditional tavernas and cafes serving delicious but repetitive meatballs. Cok Cok is a rare novelty in the city offering fresh and flavoursome Thai food for those needing a break from the local fare. A firm favourite with adventurous locals and tourists, Cok Cok was recently voted best ethnic restaurant in Turkey.

Located on a street corner in Beyoğlu, this discreet venue is relaxed and instantly welcoming. Diners sit at simple wooden tables and chat animatedly over a chilled glass of wine. We enjoyed the low-key atmosphere as we anticipated our Thai feast. Starters were piping hot from the kitchen, fresh plump chicken and vegetable spring rolls with the lightest crispy pastry and grilled chicken satay with peanut sauce were a delight.

A sweet and exotic red curry arrived next, steaming and fragrant with a medium spiciness rather than an overpowering chilli hit. Rice noodles with prawns: roasted peanuts, bean sprouts, dried chillies, tofu, eggswas a mild and moreish plate of contrasting textures and tastes. Our favourite though was the irresistible fried chicken with seasonal vegetables, garlic and black pepper sauce: a pile of crispy coated chicken with an aromatic peppery flavour.

The desserts were a big success too, and with my social media followers who liked the photo I posted. The battered banana looked devilishly rich covered in shaved dark chocolate, but it tasted light and gooey coated in a thin crunchy topping, sweet and fruity with a salty kick. The homemade ginger ice-cream was the perfect refreshing final course for me, spicy and creamy. I accompanied my dessert with a traditional thick Turkish coffee, which has a tendency to look and taste a bit like mud, but this time was very drinkable especially with a touch of sugar.

With the devoted Thai chef Miss Nuch in the kitchen, this Asian cuisine, looks and tastes authentic. It would be a success on any city street but in Istanbul it positively thrives, a completely unique restaurant.

More information and book here:

Hot on the Highstreet Week 206 – Sretsis

If you love shopping Bangkok is the ideal place for you, many tourists visit Thailand’s capital city JUST to shop. The huge, shiny, air-conditioned shopping malls Siam Discovery, MBK, Central World, and Siam Paragon are all found in the Siam district, connected by convenient walkways. Others centres such as the more boutique Emporium is found in Sukhumvit. I was initially put off by these overwhelming stores housing many international designers, but if you look hard you can discover local brands that are inspiring and interesting.

In Paragon Department Store, within the Paragon complex, I found Sretsis… Sretsis is a collaboration between Pim Sumhahuta and her two sisters, Kly and Matina. The brand name is sisters spelled backwards and represents the strong bond they have. Sretsis creator and lead designer Pim Sukhahuta graduated from the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York in 2003 already with a store, two fashion shows, and a covetable internship with Marc Jacobs to her name. Her achievement with this successful and innovative brand is testament to her talent and vision.

Pim’s eclectic East meets West background and studies are realised in her colourful and imaginative designs. The flamboyant clashing patterns and excessive frills of previous collections reminded me of the bold but pretty designs by Brit, Luella. This season Sretsis presents ‘Children of the Stars’ for Spring / Summer 2014. A collection of quirky and girly ready-to-wear clothes and whimsical, imaginative accessories. Thin tops are adorned with glistening chunky rhinestone crystals, whilst flimsy playsuits are made from tropical exotic silks and edged in lace. The shop was quite simply my dream wardrobe. Accessories can be found in one corner of the shop, heart shaped sunglasses, and studded sparkling rings. I couldn’t resist getting the green heart ring, which seemed reasonable, costing £40. Most garments cost between £70-200.

Sretsis is a breath of fresh air in the suffocating streets of Bangkok. Psychedelic prints, delicate designs and a lot of personality… I fell in love with the whole collection.

Visit the Sretsis website for more information and to see the whole collection:

La Bauhinia, Shangri-La Paris

Shangri-La is a charismatic hotel brand. Since the Shard acquired the new London branch, many more Brits have become aware of this company’s power and esteem. During my last trip to Paris I was priviledged to visit Shangri-La Paris to dine at the Asian style restaurant in the hotel, La Bauhinia.

Wandering through this opulent palace, my feet squeaking on the polished floor, I felt relieved that at least I had my little Chanel bag on my shoulder, my most luxurious possession that increases my suitability for an establishment like this. La Bauhinia is one of three restaurants at the hotel, the other two are both Michelin-awarded offering Chinese and French cuisine. Located in the heart of the building, its name is inspired by the bauhinia flower and is a reminder of the hotel’s Asian heritage. A luxurious glass ‘cupola’ structure designed by renowned architect Maurice Gras dazzles at night with a grand chandelier illuminating the space.

Both French and Asian dishes are given equal importance on the menu, though I felt more swayed by the Thai dishes. First though, top notch pink champagne and crostini whet our appetites prior to the main meal. To start we shared a delectable plate of Mangalica ham with minced pear and spiced pear chutney. The salty but delicate meat contrasted with the aromatic sweet fruit. It was polished off in minutes.

For main course we decided to sample two classic Thai dishes: Shrimp Pad Thai and Lamb Green Curry. The Pad Thai consisted of sautéed rice noodles, shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, tamarind juice, daikon radish, white cabbage, peanuts, garlic and lime. Everything was perfectly cooked though I found it a little too sweet. Lamb shoulder stewed in a Thai green curry and coconut basmati rice was amazingly spicy and creamy, with tender chunks of meat and the lovely addition of fresh peas and cherry tomatoes that added pleasantly to the look and taste. The knowledgeable waiter brought complementing glasses of wine, we particularly enjoyed the French white Meursault Les Criots.

For dessert we shared the Orange in Many Ways, it was absolutely sensational, too pretty to eat. Orange segments, orange mousse, orange crumble, Grand Marnier ice cream made for a tangy and fruity sundae of deliciousness. It was the ideal palate cleansing sweet treat.

If you can’t afford a night’s stay in the stunning Shangri-La, a special meal at La Bauhinia is a great alternative: delicious food and wonderful surroundings in the heart of Paris.

More information about La Bauhinia here.

Thanks to the Paris Tourist Board, more information here.