Travel 2011 – Macau, Day 4

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Wednesday 16th November

Wednesday we didn’t intend achieving much though we did have to go and collect the long lens from the locker in the press centre (my fault for leaving it there and not thinking that I would need it on Thursday morning and wouldn’t necessarily want to go all the way to the paddock and back to Melco before the first practice session). The night before we’d arrived just in time to see the Formula 3 drivers – all bar the two who were under 18 (Mitch Evans and Carlos Sainz Junior) and thus could not be included – being bussed off to one of the casinos for a publicity opportunity. It seemed a bit harsh that the two who didn’t get to go didn’t even get the t-shirts that everyone else had been handed. However, that was immaterial. Right now we needed to get moving because we were meeting Alain Menu to treat him to lunch. We had a vague plan to go to a French restaurant we had read good things about, la Bonne Heure, and so we picked Alain up at the Casa Real hotel, then headed across to Senado Square, a part of town he didn’t know. This is no surprise – the drivers don’t tend to get much beyond their hotels and the paddock unless driven there for some event or other, so at least he got to see something new. So did we in the shape of the side street the restaurant is on… unfortunately it had a notice up in the doorway saying it was shut for lunch for the next four days, so we cast an eye around to see what else was near, while promising we’d come back for a look one evening and get a table if possible. There was a Portuguese restaurant across the way, the Platao, so we headed there instead, throwing the staff into something of a panic by arriving 10 minutes ahead of the midday opening time, and then requesting seats in the courtyard outside. What followed was a lot better than the initial impression suggested (especially the seafood noodles), and after a good lunch and a catch up on all that has happened since last year, we informed Alain that he was due at the ruins of Sao Paulo for a photo shoot at 2pm or thereabouts. It was news to him… seems the WTCC boys are not kept informed, and a call from the team at 13:45 confirmed this – he was supposed to be there. An urgent request for a team shirt was fired off and we wandered round there, stopping so Alain could get an ice cream (Haagen Daz at around $36 HK for a single scoop which is ridiculously expensive for Macau).

As a result of being nearby we were the first people to the location and for a while it looked as if the others had somehow managed to get lost or something. They certainly weren’t anywhere to be seen, which meant Alain started to get bored.


When they did finally arrive, the photoshoot itself was a somewhat perfunctory affair before the drivers and motorcyclists were all rounded up and put back on their buses, to be taken to the Macau Grand Prix Museum.


The museum is a very fine establishment for those with an appreciation of the history of this event. There they were interviewed, photographed and – at least in the case of some – sat down to autograph posters and hand them to large numbers of small children, all in their school uniforms. The tiny tots (and they were tiny) were mostly more interested in the bag of sweeties and crayons and such that each was given along with the posters than they were in the strange foreigners disrupting their afternoon routine, so much so that even the ever charming Tiago Monteiro, trying English, Chinese and Portuguese in turn, couldn’t coax a smile out of one of them – at least not until after he handed over the goody bag! Before that there’d been some very impressive lower lip thrusting going on, and tears looked to be imminent.



Tom Coronel seemed to be having rather more success!


As the drivers began to make their escape we realised we could have skipped lunch (though it would have been far less fun) and eaten from the impressive buffet, laid on it transpired from the kitchens of the Espace Lisboa. I was impressed to be recognised by the staff, who were manning the tables, and the delicious looking spread was certainly eye-catching. However, we were full and we were saving ourselves for the evening although we hadn’t yet decided where to go for dinner…

Back at the hotel we got ourselves organised for the morning, then headed to the bar for a fresh caipirinha, and a discussion of the relevant pages of the Michelin guide. Initial attempts to get tables at restaurants that interested us came to nothing, and so we read through again and then decided to return – for the first time in a number of years – to the Pousada de Sao Tiago, where the new (at least new to us) restaurant La Paloma sounded promising if somewhat scarily expensive. A cab was organised and off we went…



The terrace was not an option, the weather starting to look seriously threatening by now, so we were shown to a table overlooking the fountain and the Pearl River delta, where the “disco” boat kept catching my eye as it steamed up and down to Zuhai, lit up like a garish neon Christmas tree. It was alarming but it didn’t detract or distract too much from the food. On being seated we discovered that we couldn’t afford (or more to the point couldn’t justify) the tasting menu, and so we carefully negotiated the wine list to try and find something good for less than $1000HK, managing a nice robust Portuguese red, and settled in to enjoy the food. The bread that came with the menus was pretty splendid in its own right, flavoured with cheese, and studded with chunks of chourico, it was light and doughy and tasty, with a lovely crunchy crust. I could have eaten a loaf of it, never mind a slice, but I turned down a second helping having seen the size of the portions being delivered to other diners.


I started with a fish soup, which was in essence somewhere between a bisque and a consommé, rich in the flavours of star anise, orange and saffron, and served poured over a prawn, a mussel and a squid ring.


Lynne had the roasted aubergine and tomato and very good it was too.


For mains I couldn’t resist the duck, which came as a pan-fried breast and a confit leg, with pears in port and an orange sauce. It was somewhat lacking in vegetables but was perfectly executed and thoroughly enjoyable, though it was clearly an enormous duck! I wouldn’t have wanted to meet it on a dark night is all I’m saying.


Lynne had the pigeon casserole, with rice and ceps, spiked with rosemary. We were going to eat half each and then swap and for a moment I thought she was going to baulk at that – luckily for me she didn’t and the casserole was wonderful!


Luckily perhaps neither of us wanted a dessert after all of that, which didn’t stop the bill racking up to around £120 when translated back to sterling, but we usually have one mad splurge meal each time we go to Macau so we decided that would be it for this trip. After that we had the problem of trying to get a cab. Because the Pousada is now somewhat off the beaten track it’s hard to get a taxi firm to even answer the phone, never mind send a car. We waited for a while but it was clearly not going to happen anytime soon – or even any time later, so we switched to plan B and walked back towards the bus station and the Maritime Museum, walking on slightly past the small cluster of restaurants on the main drag there so we didn’t lose out to the doorman outside trying to snag passing cars for his customers. We waited about two minutes and were able to catch a cab emerging from the Old Town area and were soon back at the hotel, where it soon became apparent that the weather was taking a turn for the appalling!



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