Saturday, April 29, 2017

Norwegian Cruise Line's Luxurious Seven Seas Voyager


If you like cruises but not the crowds, there are ships specially built to service a smaller but more exclusive clientele. Norwegian Cruise Line's most luxurious brand the Regent Seven Seas Cruises has a four-ship fleet that carries at most 490 to 700 guests per ship. These smaller ships can go where big ships cannot, and hence may be able to offer more interesting itineraries. They visit more than 425 destinations around the world. 

The highlight of these upmarket cruises is the inclusive experience. You get everything included in the price, from WiFi to offshore excursions. No more worrying about gratuities either. 

One of those ships the Seven Seas Voyager came to Singapore recently. So we were able to take a peek.



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The Voyager just completed a US$14 refurbishment last November; it's part of a US$125 million fleet-wide refurbishment. The Voyager sports new decor and style across restaurants, lounges, and the 350 suites. Even the menu selections have been upgraded. Voyager offers guests four dining selections from modern French cuisine to the largest specialty restaurant at sea.




Here's a quick tour (10 photos) of the ship that I posted on Instagram.



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The suite is fairly roomy (ranging from 300 to nearly 4,000 square feet) with a large European king-size bed or twin bed featuring their exclusive Suite Slumber Bed® with luxurious European linens and duvet. All suites have a separate sitting area and 97% have a private balcony.

Guests enjoy a personalised full-liquor bar set-up and mini-bar replenished daily with soft drinks, beer and bottled water - all complimentary.

The interactive flat-screen television comes with an extensive media library and complimentary movies-on-demand.


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Marble-appointed bathroom with tub or shower in each suite, along with a walk-in closet. For toiletries, expect no less than L'Occitane® soaps, shampoos and lotions.






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There are plenty of lounging areas, some with gorgeous vantage views. This is the Observation Lounge on Deck 11.



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Prime 7 is the Steak and Lobster house where you can enjoy USDA Prime steaks and seafood like whole Maine lobster and Alaskan King Crab legs. In the first photo, we see Chartreuse the French fine-dining restaurant. 



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There's a casino on board, with games like blackjack, roulette, poker, craps and slot machines, but it looks fairly small.


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The Constellation theatre brings you full-scale musical productions and cabaret shows backed by a nine-piece Regent Signature Orchestra. Tiered seating ensures everyone has a good view.


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A fairly well-stocked library hugs the wall of one floor.



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Hair and nail salon for your grooming needs.


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A full-fledged spa on board offers signature massages and therapeutic bodywork, aromatherapy, ayurvedic and seaweed treatments, as well as facials.



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There's a workout studio and gym as well. There are free exercise classes on Pilates, yoga and aerobics. Instructors are on hand to offer advice and demonstrate the use of fitness equipment. One-on-one training can be arranged at additional cost. Equipment includes Lifecycles, free weights, striders, StairMasters, treadmills, weight benches, a Nautilus machine, workout mats and step benches. There's also an outdoor jogging track.




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We had a pretty good lunch at the Compass Rose restaurant.


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Lobster Medallions on Jumbo Lump Crab Salad, with Paddefish caviar


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Seared Duck Foie Gras, banana bread, candied pineapple, pomegranate syrup


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Miso-glazed Black Cod Fish


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Roasted Veal Rack Loin, Porcini-port wine sauce, mashed Yukon gold potatoes, seasonal vegetables



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Warm Croissant and White Chocolate Pudding, vanilla sauce and berry compote



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It was interesting to see the wonderfully inclusive experiences with fine-dining and entertainment aboard a luxury vessel; it's definitely how the upper crust would travel if they wanted a cruise.





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Friday, April 21, 2017

Canon EOS M10 Toytravel Bundle with Pikachu Shoulder Plush


Remember last year's Canon #ToyTravel campaign with Rilakkuma? Well, it was hugely popular, and now we have Season 2 which will see Pikachu fans squealing in delight - Canon is partnering with Pokémon as “The Perfect Adventure Buddy”!

Canon's special edition EOS M10 box set, bundled with a 20cm Pikachu Shoulder Plush, should spur users to incorporate ToyTravel creatively in their photography.



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#ToyTravel essentially is the art of photography where toys imitate life. You'll have seen selfies of various figurines in action doing things humans do, either alone or with humans. You could create one chilling by the pool or at a cafe on a lazy afternoon, or maybe do a jump shot with your favourite plush toy on top of the mountain you just conquered. 



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The EOS M10 is the lightest camera in Canon’s EOS M range of high performance mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras, so it's perfect for carrying around. Selfies lovers will adore the tilt-type LCD touchscreen that extends to 180 degrees. The Self Portrait mode features a one-touch beautification shortcut that offers a skin smoothing effect, allowing users to take flattering selfies and instantly upload them on social media platforms via the camera’s Wi-Fi connectivity.




Pricing and Availability

The special edition EOS M10 box set, bundled with a Pikachu Shoulder Plush will be available in May at all Canon authorised dealers at the following recommended retail prices.

Recommended retail price
EOS M10 kit (EF M15-45 IS STM) – available in Black or White - $649
EOS M10 kit II (EF M15-45 IS STM & EF M22 STM) – available in White - $799
EOS M10 kit III (EF M15-45 IS STM & EF M55-200 IS STM) – available in White - $999


Canon EOS M10 – The Perfect Adventure Buddy Photo Challenge

Feel like winning an EOS M10 Kit with the Pikachu plushie? From May to July 2017, Canon is launching a monthly photo challenge, so head on out to capture some creative shots with your Pokémon! Bring Squirtle surfing or go skating with Jigglypuff! If you prefer a quiet afternoon, you could even bring Snorlax to your favourite café for a shot of expresso.

The challenge is open to the public to top the leadership board. With a different theme announced each month, participants are required to incorporate the themes into their photos and the winner of each theme stands to win an EOS M10 kit (EF-M15-45mm) along with a Pikachu Shoulder Plush or Limited Edition Pokémon Key Chains.

At the end of each month, the top three best photos on the leader board will stand a chance to be the grand winner for the month. One grand prize winner will be selected out of the three by a professional photographer. The remaining two consolation prize winners will win limited edition Pokémon key chains.

For more details, please visit https://snapshot.canon-asia.com/Pokemon.







All photos (except Instagram one) are courtesy of Canon Singapore
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hooked@Edge Seafood Buffet, Pan Pacific Hotel Singapore


Seafood, seafood everywhere! The popular Hooked@Edge Dinner Buffet every Wednesday and Thursday evening at Pan Pacific Hotel is just the place to go if you're a big seafood fan. Chef de Cuisine Ken Zheng has crafted numerous dishes that convey the versatility and natural flavours from the ocean.

Expect a comprehensive array of crustaceans on ice including Boston Lobster, Alaskan King Crab, Flower Crab and freshly-shucked Oysters.


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Sunday, April 16, 2017

BioRoyale GroBack Haircare: Can You Stop Hair Loss?


Hair loss is a huge issue affecting more and more people, and not just men but women as well. Reasons range from hardness of water used in bathing, and harsh chemicals in shampoos, to diet and nutrition, but on the whole, I find it's been hard to name a credible solution for arresting hair loss.

The team behind BioRoyale has spent 20 years formulating the GroBack range of haircare products using natural ingredients. I was initially skeptical but gave the products a chance.

The range has a two-prong approach:

1. Harsh ingredients are removed 
Chemicals such as coal tar, parabens and sulphates give the illusion of a healthier scalp but end up doing a lot of damage in the long run. Coal tar is one of the most popular ingredients used to combat dandruff. Experimental studies have found that exposure to and application of coal tar can produce skin tumours and it has also been associated with cancer of the lung, bladder, kidney and digestive tract.

2. Use of good quality ingredients which balance water/climate changes 
BioRoyale products contain ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Calendula, Baccopa Muneri, Bhringraj, Rosemary oil and Lavender oil. These ingredients have been widely known to reduce hair loss and promote hair growth. Saw Palmetto and Green tea extracts help reduce the production of Dihydrotestosterone, which is thought to be a major factor for male and female baldness. Other natural ingredients in BioRoyale help the hair to fight dandruff, improve volume and texture, fight split ends, prevent premature greying and reduce scalp problems.


I used the GroBack shampoo together with the GroBack Conditioner. The conditioner contains natural ingredients rich in Vitamin E and moisturising fatty acids to maintain oil and moisture balance for soft silky hair.

My take? I really like both. The shampoo cleans well and lathers nicely enough (albeit not as richly as commercial shampoos with sulphates, but you won't miss that). Hair feels clean and manageable. The conditioner also helps to soften and smoothen hair without leaving it feeling heavy or weighted down. I really like how hair feels after using these products.


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The BioRoyale range also includes a GroBack Serum Aftershower and a GroBack Overnight Vitalizer. These are supposed to help keep your hair fall to a minimum, improve texture & softness, reduce frizz and restore moisture to dry scalp.

However, my scalp was a little too sensitive for these. Maybe I should just use them on the ends instead, as direct application to the scalp caused slight itching.

But how effective are these products in curbing hairfall?

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I measured the difference by counting the hair that dropped out after bathing. I used to lose a LOT of hair and the hair loss was getting worse with age. I wasn't expecting the shampoo and conditioner alone to do much, but I was surprised that my hair loss became noticeably less.

I was pretty intrigued and asked them what makes the products work. Their answer:

"What makes any shampoo work is its ingredients. BioRoyale has more than 20 natural ingredients. Each ingredient aims to resolve the underlying cause of hair/scalp problems. BioRoyale has natural DHT blockers and reduce TGF- B formation. These are major players responsible for hair loss and follicle miniaturisation. BioRoyale also contain natural ingredients that unblock the pores and provide nourishment to the hair follicles. This improves the circulation and aids hair growth. Natural ingredients like Jojoba oil, Grapeseed oil etc. are rich in Vitamin E and moisturizing fatty acids. This helps in retaining moisture and keeping the hair healthy.

But it isn’t important to just consider the mechanics that work. It is also important to understand that chemicals present in most shampoos nowadays like SLE/SLES and parabens cause damage in the short and long run. These chemicals are skin and eye irritants. They can cause hair loss and rashes. They have been linked to cancer too! BioRoyale products are SLE/SLES/Parabens and Coal Tar free. BioRoyale products do not have any known side effects. Stoppage of use does not rekindle or renew the issues, unlike most other products in the market."

Well, I like the products enough that I'd repurchase them. They seem a little pricey, but as reasonably effective hair therapy with natural ingredients, they might be worth it.

The shampoo and conditioner are S$35 each for 160ml and the serums are S$45 each for 30ml. More pricing and details can be found here: http://www.bioroyale.com/shop

BioRoyale products are available at Four Seasons Market Place (Parkway Parade/ Marina Bay Link Mall) or on the website.






Many thanks to K&K Labs for providing the BioRoyale products for trial. This is not an advertorial
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Burger


McDonald's is adding a new item to its Signature Collection today: the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Burger (above right, next to the Classic Angus Cheese). It's described as:

Crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Burger features a piece of whole-muscle chicken thigh flavoured with buttermilk laid atop a bed of romaine lettuce and a slice of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth New Zealand Colby Cheese. Drizzled with black pepper mayonnaise, the chicken patty is topped with crunchy purple cabbage and grilled pineapple rings, all sandwiched between a beautifully glazed bun.

I know I just posted about PBD's buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, but this is one I definitely have to try to see how it is.

UPDATE:

I think there's plenty of room for improvement. The chicken patty is way too greasy; I had oil drips on the table while eating. I couldn't finish even half the burger. McD might need to lose the skin (although I love a good crispy skin). The batter should be crispy enough compensation. I don't know. The McSpicy itself is just right.




The Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Extra Value Meal, served with French Fries (M) and a refreshing glass of Coke (S), is available from S$8.95. Upgrade your Extra Value Meal at an additional S$0.60 to enjoy the all-new Roasted Sesame and Seaweed Shaker Fries (L) as shown above. The burger is also available a la carte from S$6.95.

The Buttermilk Crispy Chicken is available after breakfast hours in all restaurants and via McDelivery® from 13 April 2017. The Roasted Sesame and Seaweed Shaker Fries are available while stocks last.










All photos courtesy of McDonald's Singapore.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Easter Champagne Buffet Brunches in Singapore



Easter Sunday (16 April 2017) is almost here. Have you picked a nice place to celebrate yet? If not, it's not too late; here are some options to consider.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Firebake: Wood-fired Bakehouse and Restaurant in Katong

We have been waiting so long for Firebake to open. This corner shophouse opposite Jago Close in Katong is the first full-scale wood-fire bread oven in Singapore, proudly using European historical techniques of bread-making.

The menu here features contemporary dishes cooked with traditional European techniques, which complement and showcase the range of wood-fire baked sourdough bread.



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For veteran food & beverage consultant Konstantino Blokbergen (above, standing in cap), launching Firebake is a dream come true. He gets to articulate the ideals of ‘back to basics’ cooking, and a return to traditional food ways and a more ‘human touch’ to cooking.

Konstantino's childhood spent in Greece and Switzerland, on farms and his family’s olive tree grove, gave him a passion for wood-fire cooking and sourdough bread-making, along with a devotion to natural, high quality, whole ingredients.



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The restaurant’s centrepiece is a pair of wood-fire bread ovens hand-built from 5,000 pieces of brick, in which the bread is baked and selected dishes are slow-cooked. From raw ingredients to firewood to water, everything is as non-processed, sustainable, and close to its natural state as possible.

The flour is organic, sourced mostly from Western Australia. They plan to introduce batches of global ancient wholegrains, milled onsite using a traditional wood and stone flour mill. The salt is natural, non-processed and non-iodised.

Even the water is extra precious. Firebake’s elaborate Nordaq Fresh water filtration system yields water that is as pure as humanly possible with natural salts and minerals intact -- ‘the most primitive stage of water’. The system allows the amount and temperature of water to be precisely calibrated as well.


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Rice may be the staple in Asia, but bread is equally significant in the feeding of nations since civilisations began. Breaking bread with your neighbour? It's the basis of bonding and kinship.



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The Bread Board (S$10) features the four kinds of breads nicknamed Wave (organic white sourdough), Field (organic wholemeal rye sourdough), Valley (organic sourdough fruit loaf), and Rock (organic rye sourdough), served with a very special butter and Greek olive oil.


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Anchovy Dip, The Field (S$8)
The dip is like a mayo, but with a boost of umami. It's made with eggs, oil and anchovy. When paired with the wholemeal sourdough bread, it's a snack you can't get enough of.






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Smoked Eggplant, Spiced Hummus, Tomato, Manchego (S$15)
The eggplant is roasted in the wood-fired oven and then served cold, not warm. It's topped with spiced hummus, marinated heirloom tomatoes, crunchy barley and topped with Manchego cheese and mint.



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Heirloom Tomato, Pickled Cucumber, Feta, Mountain Oregano (S$17)
This salad has juicy sweet heirloom tomatoes marinated in an INCREDIBLE smoked oil overnight. The oil gets its potent aroma from a burning piece of charcoal dropped into it. It's strained until it's clear but the charcoal flavour remains.


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Tomato gazpacho (blended tomato) and vinegar are added to the tomatoes. Mix it all up with the pickled cucumbers with dill, feta marinated in oregano and white sourdough croutons, and you have a salad that's not only beautiful but memorable.




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Norwegian Blue Mussel, Lager, Chorizo (S$25)
The blue mussels are cooked in a broth of shallots, garlic, chorizo and Kingpin lager (because lager is associated with wheat and bears connection with the bread). They are finished with butter and garnished with parsley.

I loved the mussels but not so much the bitter aftertaste of the lager. Beer lovers might take delight in this though. I wonder if we could get a non-alcoholic version...hmm.



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Cured Norwegian Salmon, Bread Crust, Dill, Leek, Pickled Onion (S$25)
The salmon has been cured in salt, sugar, fresh dill, coriander powder, fennel seeds, lemon zest and finally pan-seared to get a crispy rye crust.

It's accompanied with pickled onions, fresh dill, drizzled with dill oil, grilled
leek, and served with Australian leeks that have been sauteed in olive oil and finished with a beurre monte (butter emulsion).






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Grilled Pork Belly, Garden Vegetable Broth, Rye Bread (S$22)
Here we get a slab of pork belly that has been brined, sous vide cooked and grilled. It's not meant to have a crispy skin, and is served in a vegetable brothwith cubes of celeriac, pumpkin, fennel, carrots, ratte potato.

I'm a meat eater and adore pork belly of all stripes but I have to say the housemade broth and crisp vegetables tasted so pure and good, they completely stole the show.



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Roast Half Spring Chicken, Grilled Beans (S$23)
The chicken has been brined overnight, cooked sous vide and then finished off on the grill. It's a good-sized portion, served with roasted beans and mustard jus (beef jus with Pommery mustard).



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Braised Lamb Shoulder, Root vegetables (S$26)
The tender lamb is braised in lamb jus and crusted with white sourdough and toasted ground cumin. It sits in a broth made from lamb jus spiked with a plethora of aromatics - coriander and cumin, sage, sage stems, mint stems, rosemary, parsley, onions, garlic, shallots, celery and carrot. Comes with roasted ratte potato and rutabaga.



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Rangers Valley Striploin 300gm, Wood-fired Jerusalem Artichoke, Chimichurri (S$38)

The most expensive dish at Firebake is probably the best value dish as well. The charcoal-grilled grade three marble score wagyu carries the right balance of fatty flavour and beefy bite. At 300g, this platter is good for two to share as a main, or for 3-4 pax to enjoy as a side. The wood-fire-roasted Jerusalem artichoke cooked with butter and thyme is also a delight. The beef is good enough on its own, but feel free to add some chimichurri for variation.



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Peach, Vanilla, Sourdough Ice cream, Rye Chip (S$12)
The peach is poached in sugar syrup, vanilla and moscato. What's unusual is the sourdough ice cream made from sourdough starter with crème anglaise and churned till smooth - it's almost doughy in texture. Giving this dessert a salty tang are some crispy rye chips.



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Firebake Bread and Butter Pudding (S$10)
Fruit loaf is toasted with butter and layered with crème anglaise. You'll have to wait for 15 minutes upon ordering as that's how long it takes to cook in the wood-fire oven.


Firebake looks set to be one of the hottest dining spots in Katong. It's already packing the crowds in at night when it operates. Breakfast and lunch menus will be launched soon.


FIREBAKE - WOODFIRED BAKEHOUSE & RESTAURANT
237 East Coast Road, Level 1
Singapore 428930
Tel: +65 9784 2950 / +65 6440 1228
Instagram: @Firebakesg
Email: chat@firebake.sg
Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sundays, 6 pm – 10 pm
Closed on Mondays





Many thanks to Firebake for the invitation. Photos taken using the Canon 5dsR kindly loaned by Canon Singapore.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

SunnyHills: New Takashimaya Outlet and Castella Cake

I've been following SunnyHills since 2012 when I visited their Nantou headquarters in central Taiwan and saw how they make those lovely golden pineapple tarts. It's a farm-to-bakery process making full use of native Taiwanese pineapples, New Zealand butter and eggs from hens untouched by antibiotics.

Today is a new milestone as they launch their new shop at Takashimaya Shopping Centre. They have moved from Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade.

The new outlet is a pretty little wooden circular shop, complete with the signature bicycle.

It's as delicious as ever
We are all familiar with the brick-shaped pineapple tarts (my personal favourite).


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They also sell bottled pineapple juice and organic oolong tea.

They have a new product that might be coming soon too: a Castella cake made with high-pressure cold-pressed sugarcane juice. So there's no refined sugar, and the cake is apparently low GI. Right now, it's being sold in Taiwan.


SunnyHills Castella Cake
It tastes really healthy, non-oily and not too sweet. Best taken with a cup of tea.


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They have retained the long wooden table and some seating from the Raffles Hotel outlet, so customers can take a respite and enjoy their warm Taiwanese hospitality of tea and a small bite.

But if you have no time to head to town, you can buy SunnyHills products online and get them delivered instead.

SunnyHills Online Shop:
You can join as a member to get 10% rewards points on your purchases. Every point entitles you to an S$1 off in your next purchase online.

Delivery is available from Mondays to Sundays. Delivery fee of S$12 will be waived for purchase above S$150.

SUNNYHILLS AT ORCHARD ROAD
Facebook:
Ngee Ann City Tower B
#B2-27A Takashimaya Shopping Center
Singapore 238872
Tel: +65 8522 9605
Opening Hours: 11:00am to 9:00pm


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