Categories
Coffee Corner Reviews

Review: Mahlkönig E65S GbW Grinder

I’ve only been drinking coffee since 2016, and since then I’ve been mostly been making my coffee at home. I started off with a De’Longhi bean to cup coffee machine, and then later upgraded to the Breville Oracle, followed by the Rocket Appartamento and then finally to a La Marzocco Linea Mini a couple of years ago. Along the way I upgraded my grinders as well, the first two machines had grinders built in, but with the Appartamento I got a Rocket Faustino Grinder for it, and with the Linea Mini I got the Mahlkönig X54 grinder.

I didn’t end up liking the X54 at all even though I love the Mahlkönig brand (they make some of the best commercial grinders). The X54 wasn’t very consistent, it was slow, and the grind adjustment knob felt horrible, the whole tactile experience actually was poor. Compared to the experience of using the commercial quality Linea Mini machine, the X54 felt very plasticky. So I decided I’d upgrade my grinder to one that would match the quality of my coffee machine. I did a lot of research and had eventually settled on the Ceado E37s.

I found a website online that would ship it to Kuwait and after their Black Friday discount and removing VAT, the price shipped to Kuwait was 525KD. Not cheap, but it was commercial quality, had large 83mm burrs and highly recommended by reviewers online. Just as I was about to make the plunge, I found out about the Mahlkönig E65S GbW. GbW stood for grind by weight, it was a new grinder by Mahlkönig where you could set the weight of coffee you wanted grinded, and then just place the portafilter into the machine and it would grind enough beans till it hit your weight. It was also fast, commercial grade, had a large adjustment ring as well as a large digital screen. It wasn’t cheap, online I found it for around 690KD after discount shipped to Kuwait, but since I knew the local dealer, I figured I could try and get a better deal locally.

The local dealer referred me to Coffee Tools who were selling the machine for a whopping 836KD (they since dropped it down to a more reasonable 731KD). I tried to work out a barter deal but that didn’t pan out but they did offer me a 25% discount which brought the price down from 836KD to 627KD. It was around 70KD cheaper than the price I found online so I decided to pull the trigger and get it (along with a much shorter 250g hopper). It was the best decision I made.

The E65S is such an incredible grinder. Firstly performance wise, it’s fast grinding out 18g of coffee in under 6 seconds (compared to 18-20 seconds of the X54). It’s also been really consistent and I’ve been using it daily since January. I don’t adjust the grind settings as much as I used to, and if I do it’s generally minor adjustments. It’s also really easy to adjust the grind size since the adjustment ring is large and the screen displays a digital read out of the distance between the two burrs. So I have my baseline set at 0.094mm and I generally adjust anywhere between 0.088 and 0.0096mm. It’s minor adjustments which I can do accurately because of the digital read out. But, the best feature is grind by weight. I use 18g of beans for my coffee, with regular grinders you use a timer to measure that out. So for example with my previous grinder, 18 seconds would grind around 18g of coffee, sometimes it would grind 16g in that time, sometimes 19g. It wasn’t a very efficient workflow either. You’d first put the portafilter on the scale and reset it to 0g, you’d then place portafilter in the grinder and have it grind for 18 seconds, you then put the portafilter on the scale again and see how much coffee it grinder, if its under 18g you have to put it back in grinder and manually grind a bit more coffee, if it’s more than 18g then you have to remove some coffee. It was a slow process and messy. The new workflow is so much better because of the grind by weight feature. All I have to do is place the portafilter into the grinder, and the grinder takes over and does all the calculations for me. As soon as I place the portafilter into the machine it starts grinding the coffee while measuring the weight. I think I read somewhere it does 6,000 calculations a second. Once the machine grinds 18g of coffee out, it stops and flashes green to let me know it hit the weight.

My coffee making process in the morning is a much more pleasant experience. I know a lot of people won’t understand or care about any of this, but as I’ve gotten older and I can afford nicer things, I’ve started caring about my experiences with objects a lot more. It could be a fork, it could be a car, I just like the experience of using nice things. My grinder and coffee machine are the first things I interact with in the morning. Then it’s my computer and then it’s my car. So having a good coffee making experience, then sitting in front of a fast computer with fast internet followed by driving to work in a 1970 Alfa Romeo, it’s really a great way to start the day. So would I recommend this grinder, yes. Do I recommend investing in expensive coffee equipment, for most people no. But if you enjoy using nice equipment and like the process of making coffee then yes. It’s actually cheaper to spend 3,000KD on coffee equipment than to have two coffees a day at a coffee shop. If you have 2 coffees a day, thats around KD1,460 you’re spending a year. So you’ll make your money back pretty quickly making coffee at home. If you’re married and your wife also drinks coffee then you’re going to make your money back twice as fast. And a commercial grade coffee machine is going to last a pretty long time at home.

I also highly recommend La Marzocco in Kuwait, their customer service department is one of the best I’ve experienced in Kuwait. Because they’re commercial machines, anytime I have an issue I’m treated like a coffee shop where any downtime is bad for business. I usually get a service person over either the same day if I report a problem in the morning, or the next day if I report a problem in the evening. So 5 stars to them.

Categories
Food Reviews

Ferdi Restaurant Now Open in Kuwait

I had Ferdi for the first time back in 2013 when I visited a couple of friends who were studying in Paris. They were both regulars at Ferdi, a hole in the wall restaurant that was starting to become a hotspot for celebrities and a place to be seen during Paris Fashion Week and other high-profile events. I remember the second time I was having dinner there, Kim and Kanye were also there just a couple of tables away. It was surreal, mostly because everyone there was so casual about it.

But that was then, today Ferdi has become a popular tourist destination and they now have locations around the world as well as a spinoff brand called Dinand par Ferdi. They also just opened in Kuwait, and last night I was invited to try it out.

The best way to describe Ferdi’s food is unpretentious comfort food. My usual order includes corn on the cob, mac & cheese, French fries and their famous cheeseburger. Nothing about their food is special, they don’t have the best cheeseburger in the world or the best fries, but when in Paris, it’s the combination of good simple food, decent prices, cozy space and the ambience that makes Ferdi, Ferdi. Not sure that concept works in Kuwait since we all have our favorite comfort food spots and we all definitely have our favorite burger places, but we’ll soon find out.

Ferdi Kuwait is located at JACC right next to White Robata. Their prices are similar to Paris with their Mac Ferdi’s Cheeseburger costing KD5.850 and KD2.000 for a side of fries. Reservations at the moment are required and as of this post, it looks like the next available date is May 29th. So good luck getting a table until the hype settles. @ferdi.kuwait

Categories
Reviews

Review: Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor

A couple of years ago I bought an Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor for my home and for the longest time ever, I found it totally useless. The data for my indoor air quality never changed, it was always stable, so after reading the data for the first time it felt like the device was useless. I think I actually might have even left a review on Amazon saying how useless the device was because I wasn’t using it anymore since the data was always the same. But, I just bought two more of the same devices for my home.

Recently I’ve been renovating my apartment, I had ceramics work, painters, guys doing microcement, and more. All the work took place over different points in time and the data my smart air quality monitor was collecting and showing me was actually pretty helpful, and kinda scary.

The Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor connects with my Alexa devices on the network and provides me with the following data:

Temperature
Humidity
Particulate Matter (PM 2.5)
Carbon Monoxide
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

With the ceramics people there was a lot of dust caused by the cutting of the tiles, and so the PM would spike up, with the microcement guys some of the chemicals they were using would caused the VOCs to spike, with the painters my apartment humidity level shot up and the PM levels were pretty high cause of the plastering. It was constant data and alerts to the point I went out and bought two air purifiers and a de-humidifier to try and help keep the levels down and stable. It actually got me so interested with my apartments air quality that I decided to get two more devices and plug them into some other spaces around the house.

The device is tiny, fits in the palm of my hand and runs on USB power so you can hide it pretty much anywhere. I tried to see if there were alternative options that were maybe cheaper or better but I couldn’t find any, Amazon’s device is the best bang for the buck. They sell the device for around $55 which seems like a bargain when compared to other devices on sale. IKEA have a device they sell for 17.5KD, but theirs doesn’t connect to wifi so you can’t monitor the data or check the history through the phone.

If you’re looking for an air quality monitor for your home, check it out. Amazon won’t ship direct to Kuwait so I had to ship to my Shop&Ship account.

Categories
Personal Reviews

The iPhone 15 Pro is the Best iPhone Ever

I wasn’t planning to review the iPhone 15 Pro this year and mainly because I didn’t think people were still interested in the iPhone anymore, but I was wrong. After watching countless TikTok’s of the long queues in Dubai and then similar long queues in Kuwait of people lining up to get their hands on the new iPhone, I realized, people still care a lot.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with Xcite who provided me with this iPhone to review. They’ve been very supportive from the very early days of the blog and I’m a huge Xcite fan.

I’ve been using the phone for over a week now after upgrading from my iPhone 13 Pro, and to be honest, it doesn’t feel any different. This isn’t a phone that’s going to make Android users want to switch over, and it also isn’t a phone that’s going to make existing iPhone users run out and buy one.

But, this is the best iPhone ever made.

People complain about Apple’s incremental updates but I don’t understand why they make it sound like it’s a bad thing. The new iPhone is faster, has a better screen, better camera, better battery life, is lighter, and now even has USB-C. It’s better in every way compared to the previous iPhone but that doesn’t seem enough.

I tend to want to upgrade to a new phone because of the camera which I use a lot for my blog. I do have my Fuji X100V always nearby, but the iPhone’s standard 28mm and the ultra wide lens tend to be more useful than my Fuji’s 35mm and the iPhone is always on me while the Fuji isn’t. So any extra bit of improvement in the camera is always beneficial for me.

So, should you upgrade?

I upgraded from an iPhone 13 Pro and didn’t really notice much of a difference overall. If a friend with a 13 Pro asked me if they should upgrade, I’d tell them they didn’t have to. On the other hand, if you’re an iPhone Max user, the weight difference alone might be worth the upgrade. A friend who uses a Max felt a huge difference moving to the 15 Pro Max.

In any case, as of right now it’s still difficult to get a hold of an iPhone 15 Pro in the color and size you want from an authorized reseller. So good luck with that.

Categories
Food Reviews

Review: Shakir’s New Chicken Shawarma

Shakir just launched the chicken shawarma a couple of days ago and it made me realize just how strange it was that they didn’t have chicken as an option to begin with. If it was me opening a shawarma place and someone suggested to me to only sell meat I’d be like wtf? The number 1 rule of a shawarma place is the fact that you have chicken and meat, that’s basic Shawarma 101. But that’s the power of Shakir, since the start they’ve been doing things differently and it’s worked out really well for them.

I passed by their Salmiya location yesterday which tends to be fairly quiet, but when I got there it was really busy with delivery drivers and people waiting to order the new chicken shawarma. I’m a big fan of Shakir but had recently gotten bored of it, the fact they have chicken now has re-sparked my interest in the brand and I’m guessing it’s done the same with other people.

Was it worth the wait?

So their chicken shawarma is actually pretty good, better than I was expecting it to be, not that I was thinking it was going to be bad. I think it’s their nicely balanced garlic sauce combined with the freshly baked bread that gives it a slight edge over my other favorite places like Ebn 3my and Shawarma Arabi. The only issue is the ratio of chicken to bread, they’re pretty stingy with the filling. After having two sandwiches, I went back for a third and asked for extra chicken (it’s an option with the meat shawarma for an extra fee if you didn’t know). But, according to the cashier, the IT guys hadn’t set up that option yet on their system. When it does become an option, that’s how I’d recommend you have it, order the sandwich with extra chicken or else it will mostly feel like you’re eating bread as you can see in my photo.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The price of the chicken shawarma is 750fils similar to their meat. They also have the platter for 2.750KD. I had my sandwich with just garlic inside because that’s how I like it but it usually comes with greens, sweet potato chips, and pickles.

Categories
First Impression Reviews

Winter Wonderland First Impression

Yesterday was the official opening of Winter Wonderland and I was lucky enough to get tickets when they first went on sale. I ended up passing last night and it wasn’t what I was expecting, mostly in a good way.

I parked a full block down from Winter Wonderland and decided to walk the rest of the way because I was expecting crazy traffic. It was opening day and tickets were sold out so I was pretty surprised when I got to the Winter Wonderland street and realized there wasn’t any traffic and parking was available.

The second surprise was the lack of a queue to get into the park. There were two gates, the first gate checks to see if you have a ticket and for the correct date, then the second gate is a metal detector which once you go through, staff on the other side scan your QR code.

Once inside, the park also felt empty. I was there around 6:30-7:00 PM and it didn’t feel busy at all. I think because the area of the park is huge and the few rides they have are spread out, the place didn’t feel crowded at all. A lot of rides, especially the ones further out from the center were empty while some, mostly the interesting ones had queues. I kinda wish they had squeezed Winter Wonderland into an area half the size so it would feel cozier and busier.

The whole thing was really organized with lots of staff around in case you needed anything as well as lots of cops everywhere (both inside and outside the park). Tickets for December are already sold out so if you’re interested in going, the earliest tickets are for January. Booking is through winterland.kw

Categories
Food Reviews

Battle of the Chicken Tikkas

Every time I post about Khyber, I get comments about other places with supposedly better tikka, the two most popular ones being White Rose and Paratha King. So, I decided it was time to give them a ranking:

First Place: Paratha King ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Second Place: Khyber ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Third Place: White Rose ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Paratha King

Khyber

White Rose

It’s really close between Khyber and Paratha King but based on the overall experience, I think I’d lean towards Paratha King more. Paratha King has a better-tasting tikka but Khyber’s location is a nicer experience. The seasoning and marination of both tikkas are very different with Paratha King having a more thicker coating while Khyber doesn’t which is why some people might think Khyber’s tikka is drier (it isn’t).

With White Rose, I think it’s just overhyped. Under every tikka post I usually get a few comments saying I should try White Rose and that White Rose has the best tikka. I don’t think it does. Of the three places listed here, I find the White Rose tikka the least flavorful. Their location is also not great so the dining experience isn’t very appealing either.

Pricewise, Khyber and Paratha King are similar and White Rose is the cheapest.

Paratha King: 1.000 KD per piece
Khyber: 1.000 KD per piece
White Rose: 0.900 KD per piece

If you want to check the places out, here are their locations on Google Maps:

Khyber Location
Paratha King Location
White Rose Location

There is one more place I need to try (I think) and that’s White House. If there is any other place that has good tikka let me know in the comments, if there are enough places I might have a part 2 battle.

Update: After visiting Paratha King for a second time I decided to update the review and ranking and give Paratha first place.

Categories
Food Reviews

Trying the Food Delivery App Cari

Last week Cari, the new food delivery app soft launched in Kuwait. It was more of a beta launch than a soft launch since the app was constantly crashing at first, there were barely any restaurants and there was no sign of one of their most aggressive features which was 30 minutes delivery. Since then there have been at least two software updates sorting out the bugs so I decided to finally try them out.

Inside the app there are two main categories, one for all the restaurants and then another one just for restaurants that offer 30 minutes delivery. I decided to try out their 30 minutes delivery by ordering lunch from BBT. It wasn’t the most scientific experiment since my office is only a couple of blocks from BBT in the city, but I also wasn’t trying to make Cari fail the test or anything. Here is how the timeline looked like:

12:06 PM – Order placed
12:14 PM – BBT started preparing my order
12:29 PM – Driver arrives
12:31 PM – Order delivered

My order took 25 minutes to deliver from the moment I placed the order which is pretty cool and fast.

Right now they’re also not charging a delivery fee which is great for us. Not sure how long this is gonna last but it gives us a good reason to use Cari for now at least. There aren’t that many restaurants on the app that offer 30 mins delivery, in the city, there were like 10 only and they were either burger or coffee places.

As of this post, Cari still hasn’t officially launched so if you want you to try it out you need to click the download link on their Instagram page @getcari and follow the instructions.

Update: I’ve been told that the official launch of Cari will be happening today

Update2: They’ve officially launched, here is the direct link to the app on the Google Store and Apple Store.

Categories
Apple Reviews

Review: Apple Watch Ultra

I’ve never been an Apple Watch fan, I didn’t like it when it came out, and I didn’t like it 5 years later. I didn’t like the way it looked or the fact I had to raise my wrist just to turn on the screen. I also hated the idea of having to remove my watch to charge or to shower, because I never remove my watches no matter if it’s a cheap Casio or an expensive AP, my watch is always on me no matter what. Then I saw the new Apple Watch Ultra being introduced during Apple’s Keynote event, it was the first time I actually saw an Apple Watch and actually cared for it. It looked great, had a large screen, and had great battery life. I wanted it.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with Xcite who provided me with this watch to keep. They’ve been very supportive of the blog from the very early days and they’ve lent or given me a number of items over the years to review, as well as hooking me up with discounts. I’m a huge Xcite fan and they’re an Apple Authorized Reseller.

I picked up the watch a week ago from my friends at Xcite and ever since I got it, I haven’t removed the watch except occasionally to charge it. I really don’t have a lot of requirements from a watch, I need it to tell time (easily), show the date, look good on my wrist and I don’t want to have to keep removing it from my wrist. I’ve tried watches with leather straps or vintage Casios that weren’t water-resistant, I hated having to take them off before showering. Before Covid, I was mostly rotating between two of my expensive watches, one made out of titanium, and the other forged composite, both pretty large but both very light watches (same formula as the Ultra). During Covid, I got a Casio calculator watch, similar to the one Michael J. Fox wore in the movie Back to the Future. Ever since I’ve gotten it I’ve basically stopped wearing all my other watches. It’s such a simple watch that I think looks great with its 80s design, and it was very practical. I didn’t have to worry about scratching it or banging it around, and if something did happen to it I could just get another one without going broke. But, I did have two issues with it, the first being that to see the date I had to press a button, and the second was that it didn’t have a backlight. This meant I couldn’t read the time if I woke up in the middle of the night.

This is going to sound weird and obvious, but the Apple Watch Ultra is a better version of my 1980s Casio. The new Ultra although big is actually really light for its size because of the fact it has a titanium case. It has a beautiful large screen that can show me all the information I need at a glance, and at night when I fall asleep, I have it set up to change screens to a much simpler one that only shows the time in an x-large font and in red, to ease eye strain in the dark. So functionality, it does everything I need and more. But the regular Apple Watch has all this, what sets the Ultra apart is mainly that it looks way more interesting than the regular watch which to me always looked really boring. Most of my watches are either chronographs or dive watches, I’ve never been into simple clean-looking watches, even my first watch as a kid was a Snoopy watch that looked like a dive watch. If I’m going to be wearing and using something all day, I need to like the way it looks and feels, and for me, the Ultra is the first Apple Watch I want to wear.

Another big selling point for me is the battery life, even in the first few days of owning it when I was playing around with the watch non-stop, it lasted me two days on a single charge. The fact that I can use the watch all day and then go to sleep with the watch on my wrist monitoring my sleep and knowing that I’m still going to wake up and have more than 50% battery life is such a satisfying feeling. I don’t want to deal with another device in my life that I have to worry about the battery life. So now I’ve created a routine where every morning when I sit on my iMac to type out my blog posts, I put the watch on the charger. By the time I’m done with my posts, my watch is fully charged and goes back on my wrist until the next morning. I noticed it charges really really fast over USB-C.

One of the things I was worried about initially when I saw the watch was if it was going to be too big on my skinny wrists. It’s not. Even though the watch has a 49mm diameter case, it doesn’t look huge on my wrists and so most likely won’t look big on yours either. I’m wearing the watch with a medium-sized Green Alpine Loop strap which I think is the best-looking strap on the watch. I thought initially it might be a bit annoying to put on and take off, but after using it for a week now, I’ve found it not an issue. The only issue with the strap if I’m being picky is the fact that it does get wet when showering but tends to dry fairly quickly after so not too big of a deal.

I’m trying to think of a negative thing to say about the watch but I can’t seem to think of anything. Even if I’m trying to be extra picky, there doesn’t seem to be anything that I find really annoying about it. The orange action button doesn’t have a lot of customization options right now, I can just pick a handful of different things it can do and right now I have it set to turn the watch into a flashlight. Actually, since I’m being picky, the location of the action button is where I usually place my thumb when I want to click the crown with my other finger. So on more than one occasion, I’ve accidentally turned on the flashlight when I’ve just wanted to click the crown. Just a minor issue.

When I was growing up in the 80s, the Casio G-Shock was the watch I wanted because it looked rugged and had various features I would never use like a stopwatch or altimeter. To me, the Apple Watch Ultra feels like a modern-day G-Shock and I think a lot of people see it that way. It’s going to be really popular and you can already tell by how quickly they’re selling out.

If you’re looking to buy an Ultra there is only one model but comes with different strap options. My favorite strap is the alpine loop I have but I’ve tried the trail loop and found it really comfortable. The price of the watch is 290KD and here is a link to the watches on the Xcite website.

If you have any questions about the watch, let me know in the comments.

Categories
Food Reviews

Dinner at Cocoa Room

I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, I rarely eat at new places anymore. Well, that’s not completely true, I’ve just gotten a lot pickier with where I eat. I have my goto places that’s for sure, and Cocoa Room is my favorite breakfast spot. Earlier this year Cocoa Room launched a dinner menu and yesterday I decided to pass by and try it for the first time as part of my new goal to try a new place once a week.

The Cocoa Room dinner menu is Mediterranean influenced and so the mains section has lots of pasta, a couple of steaks, one seafood dish, and a burger. Not a big variety to pick from, and nothing really interesting but that’s because their starters section is where all the exciting dishes are. Thankfully they had an iPad with photos of all their items because all the dishes were in French and I had a difficult time visualizing what they were (You can check out the full menu here). I ended up ordering the following items:

Milefeuille D’avocat
Brioche De Champignons Crémeuse
Carpaccio De Boeuf
Spaghetti De Capri
Gratin de Maiz

Picking just three starters was difficult and if I had to pick again I’d probably go with the seabass carpaccio instead of the beef only because it’s not something I’d find elsewhere. For the pasta, I decided on the Capri because I wanted to try a new flavor and I never had a zesty spaghetti before (it was pretty ok).

Overall everything I had was good, the avocado millefeuille was probably my favorite dish while the mushroom brioche my least favorite (not enough mushrooms). The only complaints I have with the menu is the item names being in French and the lack of interesting mains. Lots of places in Kuwait have pastas and steaks so I was looking for something a bit more different to try. Also the desserts section wasn’t that appetizing but you can always head to Burger Boutique after dinner for their chocolate brownie pudding.

The total bill came to KD27.500 so expect to pay around KD15 per person. I had to reserve before heading there although there were empty tables so you could probably just walk in. Cocoa Room is definitely my favorite breakfast spot in Kuwait, but not sure I’d go back as often for their dinner.

Categories
Automotive Reviews

Review: The New Toyota Hilux

I’ve had my Toyota FJ Cruiser for over 12 years which is why I recently started looking for a replacement. My requirements are really simple, a bit more comfort, something I can abuse and still survive 10 years with me, it has to be a 4×4, it has to have 4 doors, and finally, it has to have an automatic gearbox. I don’t like the way the 4-door Wrangler looks, the Ford Bronco is nice but being a Ford I’m not sure about the long-term reliability. The new Defender is great but impossible to get right now, costs over KD20,000, and it’s a Land Rover so can’t imagine it being very reliable. The new Land Cruiser is too big and expensive, the G-Class is crazy expensive, the Prado too boring, and the Jimny too small. I really wanted the Toyota LC76 and was so close to buying one last year but I really do need my main car to be automatic and they only come as manual.

I had kinda given up on finding a replacement until a couple of weeks ago when I spotted the new Toyota Hilux on the road. I had seen them when they first came out a few years ago, but last year they got a facelift and I hadn’t seen one until now. The new model looked pretty nice on the road and I couldn’t get it out of my head all day. So I got in touch with my contact at Toyota and managed to borrow the car for a few days to try out.

Two thoughts came into my head as I drove out of the Toyota dealership and headed to work. The first was my amazement at how comfortable and quiet the car was. The second thought was on how uncomfortable and noisy all my cars must be that I thought a Hilux pickup truck was quiet and comfortable. Seriously, it was very puzzling, I think it must be because the rear wheels are outside of the cabin which is how come it was very quiet. Whatever the reason, my first impression was great.

A lot of people might not know this but the Hilux is actually one of the most popular cars in the world. In Australia for example, it’s their #1 selling car and it’s also a best seller in a bunch of other countries. It’s a durable go-everywhere commercial vehicle and if my FJ could survive over 10 years with me, the Hilux should be able to survive even longer. My whole experience with the car over four days was very positive. Everything from the ride quality to the seating position impressed me. I’m going to start driving to Saudi once a month for work so I need a car that would be comfortable on long trips. That’s why I tried to spend as much time in the car over the weekend and at no point did I feel exhausted or tired. The Hilux ticked all the boxes for me, it pretty much has everything I’m looking for in a new car. Surprisingly the car didn’t feel that big. Since my FJ is wider the Hilux felt a bit more nimble and compact even though it’s a longer car.

It doesn’t have much tech so no features like lane change assist, autonomous emergency braking, or even digital gauges, but I don’t mind that. What I do wish it had was dynamic radar cruise control so it could slow down and speed up depending on traffic. That would be super helpful on my long road trips to Saudi but we don’t get it as an option in Kuwait. Another thing I wish it had was a better sound system, it has Apple CarPlay, but the speakers are pretty crap. In other countries, there is an option to upgrade to a better JBL system, but we don’t get that here either. But, it shouldn’t be too difficult to upgrade the sound system eventually since some manufacturers like FOCAL have made upgrade kits for it. One odd thing is the fact there is just a single USB port in the car and it’s the one I need to use to connect my iPhone so I can get CarPlay working. That means other passengers can’t charge their phones unless I get a USB adapter for the 12v socket. I guess I should be glad it at least has CarPlay.

The model I took out was the Hilux Adventure model which costs KD9,700 KD11,400. They also have cheaper models and a more expensive GR model. I think at this price point there really aren’t that many options and the fact it’s a Toyota is great. I’ve only had good experiences over the past 12 years with them and my FJ has been very reliable and the service costs very low. I actually think the price is a steal compared to the prices of other cars on the market. I was meant to drop off the car back to the dealer on Saturday but ended up keeping it for an extra day just because I really didn’t want to get back into my FJ. When I eventually did take it back I ended up putting my name down on the waiting list for the next shipment. I liked the car so much I’ve decided to get one.

The only issue is because I’m an expat I can’t own a pickup truck so I either need to put it under my friend’s name or the company I work for. They really need to update this law… If you want to find out more about the Hilux, there are a ton of videos on YouTube (I watched ALL of them) but here is a link to the Hilux page on the local Toyota website.

Update: Just a correction with the price. The Adventure model costs 11,400 a different model costs 9,700. I just found out while putting a deposit down on the car 😅

Categories
Food Reviews

Review: Tekka Lumee

My favorite Bahraini grills spot is still Ghadeer al Bahrain in Salmiya, even though after the pandemic they had to increase their prices by around 100 fils. But last night, I decided to try another Bahraini grills spot in the city called Tekka Lumee. This past winter whenever I drove by Tekka Lumee in the evening it would be super packed with people, they actually had to expand their outdoor seating and double the size because of their popularity. I was with a friend in the city last night and we were originally planning to walk over to Little Ruby’s for dinner when we decided to give Tekka Lumee a shot.

Tekka Lumee is a small place across the street from the newly opened Assima Mall. Unlike Ghadeer al Bahrain which has been around for 30+ years, Tekka Lumee is a new concept that opened up over a year ago. Their menu has a pretty good variety of items and you can check it out online here. We ended up getting hummus to start with and Tekka Lumee grills, Tekka Yogurt, Kebab Special and Special Tawooq for the mains.

A couple of minutes after placing the order the food started coming out. First the freshly baked Irani bread with the hummus, and then all the grills. If you’re hungry and don’t want to wait too long for your food then this is the place to come to. I quickly started digging into the food and right away knew what I liked and what I wouldn’t order again. Both the Tekka Lumee and Tekka Yogurt were great, especially the Tekka Lumee which had great flavor. The Tawooq was the third-best item, I usually wouldn’t order chicken at a Bahraini grills place but was curious to try it here but wouldn’t have it again. The most disappointing item though was the kebab, it was fairly dry, a bit bland, and was the only thing that we didn’t finish on the table. It sucks because I usually like ordering kebab with my tikka but wouldn’t do so again here.

Even though Ghadeer al Bahrain is a low-end hole-in-the-wall restaurant, I do feel like I have to compare it with Tekka Lumee only because they both basically sell the same food. Pricewise Tekka Lumee is surprisingly pretty good, their grills are around KD2.500 a plate and contain 5 skewers. What is important to point out is their skewers are longer than that of Ghadeer and contain more meat, so you could say close to double the size of Ghadeer’s. This means price-wise it’s fairly competitive to Ghadeer Al Bahrain even though it’s a much nicer (cough cleaner cough) place with a better dining experience. Tastewise the tikkas at Tekka Lumee were great but the kebab as I mentioned was a disappointment. The kebab at Ghadeer is much better but I’d still go back to Tekka Lumee for the other items (and for the bread which was crazy good). The total for two people including 3 drinks came out to around 13KD. If you want to check the place out, their Instagram account is @tekka.lumee, and here is their location on Google Maps.

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Photography Reviews Travel

Best Travel Camera: Fujifilm X100V

Last year I bought the Fujifilm X100V to use as my compact camera when taking photos for my blog and for when I travel. I just loved the way the camera looked and so convinced myself that my Sony A7 III was too big and bulky for traveling and I needed the X100v. I wasn’t really exaggerating much, the A7 was actually a bit big and heavy, even with a compact lens. I had tried taking the Sony with me on a few trips and I just ended up leaving it in the hotel room most of the time. I was hoping I’d carry the lighter and more compact X100V more and after having now taken it on three different trips, I can easily say this is the best travel camera I’ve ever had.

Most cameras nowadays can take great quality photos, but what sets aside the Fuji for me is the way it looks, the way it feels, and most importantly, the weight. Walking around a city for hours with the X100V hung across my shoulder was never an issue at all. When I traveled with the Fuji I always had it on me and rarely ever left it in the hotel. It was never annoying to carry no matter how long I was out of the hotel for. On trips that required me to wear a heavy jacket because of the cold, I could barely even tell I had the camera on me.

The battery life was also great, I’d go for days without having to recharge the camera and when I had to it used USB-C which is what I carry with me because of my MacBook. So I didn’t need to pack an extra cable or charger with me. The camera is also really well built and weather-sealed so I didn’t have to worry about knocking it around or being stuck in the rain with it. I think one thing I liked about the camera was how it made me want to take more photos, especially when it came to capturing moments I came across. No hassle, no having to think about anything, I’d just see a moment and quickly grab the camera from my side, turn it on and by the time it’s up at my eye it was ready to shoot. The simplicity and speed allowed me to capture a lot more moments compared to any of my previous cameras I traveled with.

The only issue I had with the Fuji was related to the transfer of the images from the camera to the phone. It’s all done wirelessly which is great but the Fuji software can be a bit buggy sometimes and I’d have to quit the software or turn on and off the camera a few times to get things working.

At around 400KD the camera isn’t cheap but it’s half the price of my Sony A7 III and so I felt a lot more comfortable taking it with me on trips. It really is such a great camera, I love it and can’t recommend it enough.

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Food Reviews

Review: Midar – ‏Authentic Kuwaiti Seafood

It’s been a while since I last posted a restaurant review, but there really hasn’t been any that interested me until now. Midar is a new Kuwaiti restaurant opened by the team behind some of our favorite places like Burger Boutique, White Robata and Slider Station. I passed by Friday for lunch and left wanting to go back.

Midar opened during Eid a couple of weeks ago in The Gardens area of Avenues phase 4. I had seen pictures of the space ahead of time and it looked really pretty but in person, it looks even better. The restaurant was smaller than I imagined it being but I liked it more this way since it felt cozy. I had a reservation that I had made a couple of weeks earlier so I was seated as soon as I arrived. We were given a choice of either sitting inside or in their outdoor space, I chose inside and that’s what I would recommend. The outdoor space is pretty generic and so you’d miss out on the beautiful interior.

Once seated it took a pretty long time to be attended to by a waiter. Service was actually the only issue I had with the place, not because the service was bad or the waiters were not any good, they were just not attentive. Their menu like most places today was digital and you can check it out by going to midar-me.com/menu. Midar is a Kuwaiti seafood concept so all their dishes are seafood related and you won’t find any chicken or beef on their menu. I ended up ordering Jahra St. Hummus to start with and then a Grilled Medium-sized Seabass and Fresh Shrimp Mumawash for our mains, followed by the Sticky Date Cake for dessert. Oh and we also ordered their super spicy Special Mabooch on the side.

The food all looked great, the portions were fairly big, and everything we had ended up being delicious. The fish was brought next to our table and then cut open and plated, it reminded me of the one I have at Shemam except this one was obviously elevated and better. The Mumawash when mixed with the special mabooch and the sauce they bring with it on the side was my favorite thing (and really spicy). Finally the dessert, I mean it’s such a basic thing, a sticky date cake, but it was easily the best one I’ve ever had, it actually caught me off guard since I’m not really a sticky date cake guy. Once the meal was done we had a choice of complimentary regular or lumi tea which is a nice touch.

The final bill, including a mocktail, soft drink and water came out to around 35KD which is pretty reasonable for a place like this. Really the only odd thing was the service. The waiters just never seemed to be around even though the place isn’t that big. But, they also just opened and the whole restaurant industry is suffering with a lack of staff so it’s understandable and I’m sure they’ll work out the kinks quickly (their concepts tend to have the best service in the industry). I’d definitely go back and I actually have a to-do list of things I want to try next time.

Since Midar just opened they’re going to be really busy during prime hours, so even though they do accept walk-ins, you’ll have a better chance of getting a table if you reserve through their website midar-me.com

Categories
Reviews Travel

London Hotel Review: Kingsland Locke

A couple of days back ago I got back from a 10-day trip to London. Other than a day stopover in 2018 on my way from LA, it was my first time back in London since 2015. I flew Kuwait Airways which btw, is so much better than flying British Airways. Firstly the timings of the flights make a lot more sense (no late night flight so no need to sleep on the plane) but also the overall experience is better because of the Kuwait Airways airport and the less busy flight. Because I was staying for 10 days I needed a reasonably priced hotel that wasn’t a shoebox, was somewhat trendy looking and located in a great area. After doing a ton of research I decided to stay at the Kingsland Locke in Dalston.

I hadn’t heard of Dalston nor had I been to it up until this trip. It’s an area in East London, part of the Hackney borough. If you’ve been to Shoreditch before then it’s around a 30-minute walk up from there. Dalston turned out to be the best place I could imagine staying. I had the award-winning bakery The Dusty Knuckle like a 5-minute walk from my hotel so that sorted out my breakfast and coffee routine every morning. Instead of losing weight on this trip because of all the walking, I think I put on weight because of all the pastries I was having every morning. I was also within walking distance from the bar 🔶🟥🔵 which became my go-to spot for a nightcap and to chill at the end of the day.

I was also surrounded by loads of grocery stores including M&S and Amazon Fresh (post on that coming soon). There was also a Pret-A-Manger, a community garden and an amazing Indian restaurant called Attawa all a few minute’s walk.

The area is connected to the rest of London via Overground and there were two different stations next to the hotel, one that was a 2-minute walk and another a 5-minute walk. Both stations were on different lines so it made getting anywhere rather simple and quick. Shoreditch and Peckham were both reachable without swapping any trains while areas like Oxford Circus or Notting Hill would require swapping to the Underground line which was just 2-stops away.

The hotel itself was pretty cool. It gave off a slight hipster vibe but it was subtle. The interior was nicely designed, and the staff were friendly. The hotel works like a short stay apartment which it what helps keep the costs down. It’s like a tiny studio apartment so you get a fully functioning kitchen in the room and a laundry area in the basement if you need it. There isn’t a daily cleaning service, depending on how long you’re staying you might get a complimentary clean included or you can request it for an extra cost. If you want new towels, shampoos, toilet paper etc, you can just request those at the front desk.

I stayed in their City Studio room which was fairly small but larger than the room I stayed in last year at The Hoxton in Paris (which also cost twice as much). The bed and pillows were super comfy, and the whole room gave a very cozy vibe. Even though this hotel was one of the affordable ones I found, it still cost KD60 a night, so it’s attainable but wouldn’t call it cheap. You can obviously find cheaper rooms but don’t think you can find one that has as cool a personality and vibe that was located in a good area. I’d totally stay there again if I go back.

If you’re traveling to London this Eid and haven’t booked a place to stay in yet then check this place out. Here is a link to the hotel website Link