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Surely for the Grand occasion

When I first heard that Jeep Grand Cherokee was picked as the “Premium SUV of the Year” at last year’s illustrious New Straits Times-Maybank Car of the Year Awards, I knew I had to get my hands on it. But that alone was no easy feat as the rest of the nation’s “car boys” were equally eager to see for themselves what the fuss was about.

After all, in the rapidly popular SUV arena occupied by more accustomed European brands as well as the fast growing Asian marques, to hear that this lesser known American car maker had topped its counterparts was indeed an eye-opener.

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Let’s start off stating what would undeniably be on almost everyone’s mind when they first hear of its price tag: “At RM439,000 (on-the-road price including insurance for the Grand Cherokee Overland), it’s rather steep.”

I admit that my first impression of its unpretentious exterior and under-fitted interior did not help to ease the apprehension of this premium-class sports utility vehicle. Like many, I had hinged my expectations on its price tag and was guilty of focusing on what I did not see rather than what it could deliver. Yet indeed, deliver this baby did, and in truly grand fashion!

Pumped by an energetic 3.6 litre V6 heart, which delivers 284hp at 6,350 rpm and 347Nm at 4,300rpm, the Grand Cherokee Overland comes out as a genuine American thoroughbred. But it is the effortless 8-speed automatic transmission that allows the driver to truly appreciate the near perfect synergy of performance and handling.

Unlike some of its more prevalent peers that seems to struggle in adjusting their paddle-shift transmission’s ratio to seamlessly fit Malaysian driving conditions, Jeep seemed to have got this right with the Grand Cherokee as it serves up smooth manual shifting usability when quick acceleration is required.

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Running surprisingly quiet on two pairs of 20-inch polished wheels, the car emerged sleeker than its stable mates with a smoothed-edged silhouette, aerodynamic spoiler and modern front grille, although the front Bi-xenon headlamps and projector fog lamps could do with a tad more bulk.

However, as said, this is one ride that has all its secret weapons beneath the shell. As I zipped across the North-South Expressway from Kuala Lumpur to Penang in the dark and in the torrential rain, the car’s intense fog lamps and adaptive automatic concentrated headlamps, which self-adjust up to 15 degrees to illuminate the road around corners, were a delight.

It is the informative and meticulous full-colour leather-trimmed instrument panel that kept my fingers busy for extended periods throughout my time behind the wheels. The customisable 7-inch multiview TFT display allows you to view the car’s GPS navigation system, access the entertainment channels, monitor vehicle performance, check your tire pressure, choose the five available traction control system and more importantly, receive visual notifications of safety applications.

Housed within the user-friendly 8.4-inch touchscreen multimedia unit is a comprehensive navigation system tagged with one-step voice destination entry and high-definition nine-speaker audio system and USB/SD slots. Passengers will have no problems with connectivity via the standard iPod mobile device integration and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity and voice command.

For a family trip with the kid’s plethora of provisions and toys, my overflowing golf set, our luggage and not forgetting the missus’ heaps of snacks and dietary needs, the rear cargo area, which provides up to 1,943 litres of storage, was a joy to have. It is no slouch either when it comes to towing as it has a capacity to tow up to 3,267kg of practically anything you want.

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The designer’s attention to details is what sets the Grand Cherokee apart. Exceptionally spacious for up to five passengers, its premium-quality soft Nappa leather trimmed seats stays comfortable in both hot and cold weather conditions. If that’s not lux enough for you, then the combo of heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel – yes you read it right – will surely do the trick.

For a touch of “awesomeness”, the car is fitted with an automatic air suspension system that features five vehicle height settings that enables a clearance up to a maximum of 24.7cm higher, as well as automatically lowers the car when speed exceeds 88 km/h, thus increasing vehicle stability.

Oh, amid all these impressive gizmos and features, did I forget to mention that the Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with push start button, keyless entry and my personal favourite, a stretched out dual-pane panoramic sunroof?

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Keeping you safe

There are over 70 available safety and security features with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, including:

  • Advanced, multistage driver and front-passenger airbags
  • Supplemental side-curtain airbags
  • Side guard door beams
  • Front park assist
  • Rear back up camera and rear park assist
  • Hill start assist
  • Electronic stability control
  • Electronic roll mitigation
  • Anti-lock brake system
  • Brake assist
  • All-speed traction control

 


On the Longitude of adventure

My first reaction when I first laid eyes on the Jeep Cherokee Longitude was, “This does not look like a Jeep!” For 75 years, Jeep has always been famed for its military-grade toughness, terrain versatility and reliability; styling and luxury were never its chief concerns; that is until the latest Cherokee variants came along.

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Two months after my stint with the rugged Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the well-appointed Longitude. Offered in two variants – the other being the more adventurous Trailhawk – the latest Cherokee is Jeep’s mid-size SUV that has cleverly combined user sophistication with leading off-road competencies.

Starting from its customary intimidating seven-slot chrome grille at the front, the car’s exterior boasts of a modern and sleek silhouette that stands proudly alongside other luxury-orientated brands, before flowing through to an aerodynamic-designed rear tailgate.

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A supporting cast of 18-inch polished aluminium wheels, stern-looking headlamps, LED daytime running lights, Bi-Xenon projector fog lamps and LED tail lamps gives the car the type of sleekness and elegance previously missing from its stable.

Yet, it is under the hood of the RM358,278 priced Longitude that truly earn its keep. Powered by a 2.4 litre 16-valve engine and piloted by a speed-sensitive electronic power steering system, it performed sturdily and effortlessly within the city roads. On the longer stretches while the ride stays smooth and quiet, the power somewhat trails off a notch.

With the engine impeccably mated to a distinctive 9-speed automatic transmission, it can get up to 13.2km per litre on petrol consumption. Due to its extended gear range, city folks going through the traffic crawl will unlikely be able to truly experience driving in the highest gear available.

CHR_4035Beneath the chassis, the powertrain features a class-leading disconnecting rear axle – the axle seamlessly switches between two- and four-wheel drive without driver input – for maximum fuel efficiency with minimal emission production while providing superior 4WD performance. Together with two pairs of finely tuned front and rear independent suspensions, the vehicle is a master at handling speed breakers and poorly maintained roads.

Cherokee’s Selec-Terrain traction control system with five customisable modes – auto, snow, sport, sand/mud and rock – keep the ride stable and ensure competent traction control on any roads or weather conditions.

Once inside, the Longitude’s stretched dual-pane sunroof was easily my favourite feature. It offers wide-open views, a rather exceptional experience for car owners and passengers who are familiar with the standard sunroofs in the market.

Although it does not possess the full complement of features one would expect from its price point, this model comes with many handy widgets that is guaranteed to keep a new owner busy for several days, including high-resolution 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation, USB and SD-card slots, Bluetooth connectivity with hands-free phone, streaming audio, voice command and text message, Alpine sound system with nine amplified speakers and subwoofer, ambient led interior lighting, 8-way control driver seat, remote start system and keyless entry with push start ignition.

P1020099In front of the driver is a customisable high-definition instrument cluster that can be controlled on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. At the back, it is sensibly fitted with a central air vents for the back row, which has to be a standard feature for cars in this increasingly hot and humid country.

Leg space and storage capacity is visibly one of its key selling points, highlighted by its exceptional Cargo Management System that includes a 60/40 split folding back row and a fold-flat front passenger seat.

For me it was the in-seat storage compartment on – yes, on and not under – the front passenger seat that did the trick, as it came in handy for me when keeping my personal belongings away from prying eyes when I am on the football field or zipping into the grocery shop.

The Longitude may well have raised the bar for its peers when it comes to safety, as the vehicle offers more than 70 safety and security features including seven airbags encompassing rear seat side airbags, all-row side-curtain airbags, driver knee bag and front seat-mounted side airbags. It also comes with rear park assist, electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation and anti-theft engine immobilizer.

At the end of my weekend date with the Jeep Cherokee Longitude, I returned home much like a loves-struck teenager; enthralled by her looks, highly infatuated with her performance and eager for the next date.


Unlimited adventure by an iconic 4WD

Having driven through a World War and after several decades of legendary supporting roles in countless Hollywood blockbusters, this four-wheel-drive continues to be on most men’s “must-drive” bucket list.    

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Growing up with black-and-white combat movie flicks and later being madly consumed by the heroics of MacGyver, I cannot be faulted for my never-ending grin when I received confirmation of a weekend fling with a Jeep four-wheel drive ride.

Over the last two decades, mostly during my journalism career, I had driven sport cars to the limit, enjoyed the finest luxury vehicles, and got myself lost – twice – in the jungles of Borneo with only a mud-covered four-wheel drive and packets of instant noodles for company. But none of these experiences involved a Jeep Wrangler; the palm-sized diecast plastic army-green military vehicle I slept with throughout my early years, which I vowed I will one day get my hands on the real thing.

For all those dreamers out there, let’s first get any false hopes out of the way. The Jeep Wrangler is not designed to be modish nor built for a relaxed city drive. Seated on top of old-school solid axles at both ends together with heavy-duty monotube shock absorbers, the retro-styled vehicle comes out rather bumpy with a steering seemingly detached from the road with its share of body roll during sharp turns. And particularly during this year-end monsoon season, the cabin inside can be rather noisy during a downpour.

Its features and fittings, particularly the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sahara variant which I had, is seemingly unadorned when compared to the current generation of 4WDs that are mostly created to allow city dwellers to theatrically project their adventurous side. There is no fin-shaped antenna, keyless entry and push-button start, rearview camera or 10-way seat adjustments to show off to your friends.

Yet for those like me, it is exactly these types of throwback sensations that make this trail-ready ride great. The real fun starts when you bring this rugged off-roader into nature for a wet and wild weekend. Supported by an extended wheelbase of four 18-inch polished satin carbon wheels accompanied by antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, the Wrangler Unlimited is driven by an imposing 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that serves up 284 hp and delivers up to 347 Nm of torque.

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Jeep’s Command Trac 4WD system splits torque 50/50 to the front and rear axles for off-roading or conditions where more traction is required, while the main case joint is clamped by 18 bolts for added structural stiffness. Combined with its electronic roll mitigation and electronic stability control, the 4WD allows the driver to be in complete control during the most demanding conditions.

The Wrangler Unlimited’s raised chassis has the capability to safely manage in up to 508 mm of water, offers up to 25 cm of ground clearance, has a 42.2-degree approach angle and a 32.1-degree departure angle, along with a 25.8-degree breakover angle.

Managed by a five-speed automatic transmission which takes it from zero to 100 km/h in approximately 8.8 seconds – commendable considering its bulk and box like shape – this variant is capable of towing up 2,000 kg when properly equipped.

First introduced back in 1941 during World War II, the early Jeep featured a gearshift on the steering column, two circular instrument clusters on the dashboard and a hand brake on the left side. Today, these artless pieces have been replaced with automatic headlamps, steering wheel controls, height-adjustable driver seat, heated power mirrors, cruise control, power windows, auto-dimming rearview mirror and under-hood insulation. But gladly, the iconic seven-slot grille remains.

There are numerous features that will please the sheltered city folks’ palate. While the Alpine premium audio systems with nine speakers – four 6.5-inch speakers, two weather-resistant tweeters and an all-weather subwoofer – is easily the main attraction, there are also the CD/DVD /MP3 player, leather upholstery, heated front seats leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, hard disk drive, a USB port, voice controls, front airbags and hill start assist to tinker with. The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara also comes in 10 options of colours for discerning owners to choose from.

I particularly found the centre console’s lockable dual-stage storage facility very handy, especially when we had to keep our phones, wallets and keys secured when the family’s out for a quick dip at the waterfall. Out from the wet and straight onto a pair of heated front seats, what more can one ask for?

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The most fun I had, to my sun fearing wife’s detriment, was undoubtedly the easily removable three-piece hard top. As I cannot recall any other vehicle that allows the driver to effortlessly remove not only the roof but the doors too, driving around looking cool like in MacGyver with no anxiety over the sudden rainfall makes it all worthwhile as the simple snaps made locking and unlocking the roof pieces fast and simple.

Much to my surprise, the fully-imported Wrangler Unlimited was clearly not found lacking in cabin space. Even with two long-legged adults in front, the back row comfortably seats three, including a child safety seat, while offering over 70.6 cubic feet of ample storage with the 60/40 split rear bench seat folded in.

At the end of the brief but truly enjoyable weekend affair with the RM328,899 (on-the-road without insurance) Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, I am glad to have fulfilled a boyhood dream of getting behind the wheels of a Jeep Wrangler and marking off another item from my bucket list.

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Roll on, not roll over

Electronic stability control senses when you begin to over- or under-steer and applies individual brakes and controls your throttle as needed to help put you back on track. Electronic roll mitigation determines when a rollover may occur and applies braking force to help reduce the likelihood of such an accident.

Additionally, Wrangler Unlimited offers all-speed traction control with special calibrations for driving in 4LO, a brake assist system and a four-wheel disc antilock brake system for improving vehicle control and decreasing stopping distances on both dry and slippery surfaces.


Keeping guests in the know

Beyond providing a good night’s sleep, this award-winning hotel is also keeping guests connected to the country’s wide array of attractions and rich cultural heritage.

3013709It has only been a short four years since InterContinental Kuala Lumpur first opened its doors, yet it has already chalked up an impressive list of awards and industry recognition.

Aside from being blessed with a strategic location at the heart of the city with the iconic Petronas Twin Towers as its backdrop and several of the finest dining outlets in town, what makes the hotel truly stands out is their effort to keep their hotel guests “in the know”.

      Having accumulated my fair share of hotel accommodation over the years, I have always been infuriated by hoteliers who do not possess sufficient awareness of their own hotel facilities and services, let alone show any interest for tourism-related information and knowledge of the hotel’s surrounding areas.

But that’s clearly not the case with the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur team during my recent weekend stay there. Be it the steward at the concierge desk of the lobby, the manager at the Japanese restaurant or the supervisor at the spa, the staff are evidently well-informed of not just their own hotel operations, but also amply knowledgeable of their work and the respective industry’s development.

3013712“While we believe that high quality, understated service and outstanding facilities are important, what makes us different is the genuine interest we show in our guests,” says InterContinental Kuala Lumpur general manager Hafidh Al-Busaidy.

He adds: “Every day, we connect them to the things that make their destination special, sharing our local knowledge with them and helping them enjoy the authentic experiences that enrich their life and broaden their outlook.”

Al-Busaidy’s team label this as the “In the Know” programme. Associated with its brand positioning, they believed that theirs is the only hotel brand that goes out of its way to share its knowledge with guests.

At the front of this is a professional concierge team where the well-trained personnel share their knowledge to give guests the insider’s view of the place they wish to visit and the latest updates on local attractions and information, particularly around the capital city.

The programme also focuses on adding value to those who uses the hotel’s meeting and banquet facilities by providing support such as venue options for coffee breaks, outdoor meeting locations and speakers recommendations. The hotel has a pillarless grand ballroom that can accommodate 1,300 guests and a junior ballroom catering up to 230 guests, in addition to eight smaller function rooms accommodating 30 to 70 people.

Getting more personal space

Not one to rest on their laurels, the hotel recently spent US$2 mil (RM7.4 mil) to upgrade its Club InterContinental facility, which now features a new mezzanine level to accommodate additional private boardroom, a discreet library corner and a bathroom with separate shower facilities for departure guests. Having expanded from 50 persons to 100 persons, the premier club lounge is available exclusively for guests staying in the club rooms and suites.

“Starting from the arrival, the dramatic and bejewelled design is seen reflected throughout the myriad of spaces, bestowing a feeling of understated and refined luxury. Club InterContinental and the rooms are made with the contemporary and comfortable concept in mind,” explains Al-Busaidy, who has been with the InterContinental Hotels Group for more than 28 years.

3013694Another significant investment totalling RM3 mil was capitalised at the hotel’s event space where the two ballrooms and eight meeting rooms were fitted with upgraded audio-visual amenities, new high-resolution LCD projectors, HDMI cables, Wi-Fi connectivity, increased motorised screens and programmable LED lightings to create ambiance to suit every function requirement. Three new coffee break stations were also added to the enhancement offering locally inspired coffee breaks.

The hotel has 473 spacious, stylishly designed Deluxe, Premier, Grand Premier Rooms, Club Intercontinental and suites, including 110 newly refurbished Grand Premier Rooms designed to cater to sophisticated business and leisure travellers.

Specially designed to enhance spaciousness and to provide the ultimate deluxe experience through simple yet elegant design, the 42 sq metre room is equipped with multi-device high-speed wireless and wired Internet access, digital audio hub and new plush bedding up to super-king sized beds.

Amid the occasional visible remnants from its predecessor, the earthy coloured refurbished room exhibits warm and relaxing tones highlighted by plush fabrics and convenient furnishings. The well-lit accommodation feature an iPod docking station, a modern glass work desk and ergonomic chair with desk-level multi-media hub that include a DVD player and an adjustable 40 inch flat screen LED TV, along with international sockets and wireless high-speed broadband Internet access.

“The refurbishment demonstrates the owner’s and InterContinental Kuala Lumpur’s commitment to continuously deliver outstanding facilities in line with the latest trends and innovations that position us competitively with other hotels,” says the United Kingdom-born hotelier.

On the technology front, the hotel’s latest adoptions include electronic folios for registration, and billing transactions, as well as the industry leading IHG application available on Apple and Android devices for guests to book and manage their stays in any IHG hotel brands.

“This latest technology trend is also in line with our group-wide sustainability programme initiative, IHG Green Engage. We have also engaged a new partner to help us increase our internet bandwidth, all guest are entitled up to 3MB of complimentary internet bandwidth,” Al-Busaidy points out.

3013688Cooking up a reputation

It is not just the new facilities that are raking up the credit points for the hotel; its culinary team is also cooking up a storm amongst food connoisseurs. It recently launched the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur World Celebrity Chef Series 2015 where celebrity guest chefs are invited to share their gourmet skills. The first session featured South Korean celebrity chef Edward Kwon.

In addition, the hotel’s own award-winning chefs appear at the Master Chef’s Table and Cooking Class Series 2015, showcasing a different chef every month with recipes from Malay, Chinese, Japanese and Western cuisine.

Each night over at Serena Brasserie, guests are treated to a sumptuous buffet spread of Malaysian food delight – World of Curries on Monday, Hawker’s Delights on Tuesday, Lok Lok Fare on Wednesdays, Meat Lovers on Thursday, and Seafood Galore on Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch with seafood and BBQ are served on Sundays.

With a panoramic view of the lobby’s waterfall and lush garden landscape beyond its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, this all-day dining outlet It offers a totally relaxing and spacious dining ambience to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring a lavish buffet spread of international choices, Japanese specialties and all-time local favourites.

3013685Its award-winning Tatsu Japanese Cuisine restaurant displays a contemporary and simplistic design across the main dining area, along with teppanyaki corner, sushi bar, lounge, semi-private dining and private dining rooms. With a seating capacity of 147 seats, the upscale Japanese restaurant brings a sophisticated twist to the traditional dining experience as it combines a subtle blend of Japanese aesthetics with contemporary yet minimalist design.

Even though I am not the biggest admirer of Japanese food around, I did however find myself rather taken in by some of the dishes, particularly the chef’s speciality of special crab Maki with almond sauce. Presented in a sushi roll encompassing eel, avocado and deep fried sushi shell crab, it was really crispy with the almond sauce helping to cloak the raw taste.

Along with the freshly served Namban pickled Atlantic salmon, another must try is the Tatsu volcanic stone grilled wagyu beef served with Tatsu spicy dip as meat lovers will enjoy the tender and juicy meat perfectly blended with the dip.

To complete the dining experience, I would strongly recommend the raspberry chocolate mousse mingled with almond Dacquiose, Rhubard apricot compote and topped off with rose scented brulee ice-cream. Simple in presentation, yet it is the minimally sufficient dash of sweetness and soft New Zealand ice-cream that truly melts your heart.

3013718For sake and wine connoisseurs, the restaurant features a private sake bar surrounded by floor- to-ceiling glass windows that offers a breathtaking view of the beautifully landscaped garden and cascading waterfall. The bar serves more than 20 types of sake, shochu and wines whilst Tatsu’s Sushi Bar displays an abundance of the freshest seafood flown in twice a week from Japan.

Another of its award-winning restaurant, the Tao Chinese Cuisine showcases a menu, which epitomises executive chef Wong Lian You’s style that creatively blends traditional items with a modern presentation. With more than 15 years of culinary experience under his belt, the award-winning chef constantly reinvents and creates new dishes; preferring vivid seasonal flavours and ingredients that are rich in colour and aroma set to impress discerning taste buds.

It would be a grave sin if you dine in this place without starting off with its invigorating Tao black tea, which is created from its own signature blend infused with essential rose oils for a refreshing. My personal favourite dishes here include the fried Canadian oysters served with mango salsa dressing, and baked cod fillet accompanied by pomelo spicy plum sauce.

For a refreshing respite to the day’s activities, drop by OneSixFive Lounge and Bar, fringed by a tropical garden and a cascading waterfall. The lounge offers a wide variety of handcrafted cocktails, iced teas, tapas style snacks, afternoon tea with 20 varieties of teas and an extensive range of cigars. There is also Bentley’s Pub, a traditional English-style watering hole that offers a variety of beers on tap, wine by the glass and cocktails to unwind for the day.

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In a club of its own

Designed by P49 Deesign, Thailand’s prominent interior design company, Club InterContinental was fashioned to reflect the needs of today’s executive traveller where functionality and style merges into a contemporary aesthetic. Placed on the 26th floor of the hotel, the lounge radiates elegance, thanks to the 17.8 ft floor-to-ceiling glass windows, gradient of neutral and timeless colour palette and prominent white marble throughout the space.

3013727Marrying the traditional elements of its local destination and chic modernity, the club interior features a treasure trove of ‘In the Know’ gems for guests to get connected and discover Malaysia’s cultural heritage. Brought to life by Florence Lambert Lee, director of GadisManis Malaysia, guests will be inspired by oversized “Terima Kasih” hand painted portraits of three ladies representing the different races in Malaysia, “Pua Kumbu” original piece dyed woven from Sarawak, “Wayang Kulit” wall etching a Malaysian tale through the traditional art and other complementary pieces in the lounge.

Revealed behind the reception counter overlooking a glowing multi-coloured jellyfish aquarium, Club InterContinental experiences include benefits such as gastronomic indulgence of international and Malaysian delicacies at the daily buffet breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktail hour, complimentary high speed Internet, local calls, daily laundry or pressing, usage of boardroom, and late check-out.


Running ahead with added boost

You can’t go wrong with a shoe that took more than two years to construct, built on aerospace technology and designed for a customised fit for your feet

It was back in 2013 when Adidas first unveiled its radical Energy Boost collection and those that had the privileged to have slipped on a pair of those would have felt that nothing else could be better. Doing away with standard ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam and replacing it with a lighter thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) midsole made out of thousands of miniature pebbles for improved cushioning, it was then the shoe that every runner wanted to get their feet into.

However, running buffs had to endure more than two years before the celebrated sporting goods maker finally rolled out its long-awaited upgrade, the Ultra Boost; as this writer found out, it clearly does not disappoint.

2992530 “We pay great attention to what athletes tells us about our products and asked them about their first Boost experience from the initial Energy Boost launch. It has been two and half years since we had our first brainstorming for the shoe and the Adidas innovation team have been researching and testing different ideas and prototypes since then,” describes David Wong, Adidas (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd’s senior manager of brand activation.

The result of combining these feedbacks with its advanced engineering tools is what Adidas claims is its “greatest running shoe ever” providing 20% more cushioning material and the “highest energy return” in the running industry.

Using the same Aramis 3D shape and surface measurement system as those used by Nasa, Boeing and BMW to measure crash tests, vibration analysis and durability studies, the German brand has created a shoe that intuitively adjusts to a runner’s stride, offers superior support and adaptive comfort over hundreds of kilometres, in virtually any running environment.

By filming the foot at 500 frames per second, the Aramis system provides an in-depth engineering data backed up by visuals including a topographic map of a foot’s shape change and deformations through every stage of the running stride.

“We used Aramis to build knowledge on the natural movement of the foot and how well the footwear we’ve developed adapts to the movement. The findings enable us to develop a new upper construction using Primeknit fabric that adapts to any kind of foot shape for better comfort,” says Wong, adding that temperature tests from -20 to +40 degrees Celsius revealed that the Boost foam is more temperature resistant than standard EVA material, resulting in a more consistent run.

Unlike other knit technologies, the innovative Primeknit pattern of Ultra Boost provides comfortable support in less expansive areas of the foot and adaptive stretch where it is needed to deliver maximum comfort. A new dual-density Torsion system is embedded into the shoe’s base that allows greater independent movement between heel and forefoot for increased stability while running.

One of the most advanced features of the new design is the stretch web outsole that adapts and stretches to your foot strike and movement. The perforated elastic design perfectly complements the shoe’s attention-grabbing energy capsules.

The Ultra Boost also features an entirely new heel construction that frees the natural movement of the Achilles tendon. A carefully tuned external heel counter comfortably cradles the foot and adapts to the high extension of the Achilles while a new featherweight sock liner adapts to the runner’s natural foot form for a customised fit and feel.

Wong professes that not enough attention has been paid in the conventional running footwear sphere as to how the foot dynamically changes shape during the running gait. As a runner’s foot can expand up to 10 mm or more in width while running, if restrained, this expansion can cause severe discomfort, friction and blisters.

“We realised that there are still too many runners out there complaining about ill-fitting footwear in the forefoot area. We looked for ways to create an unrestricted yet supportive upper which can adapt to each individual foot type and movement to make a real difference in fit and feel,” says Wong, pointing out that the shoe was designed to amply handle the different types of running terrain and also for both serious and casual runners.

He adds: “Our goal was simple; create a shoe that unleashes the full potential of the amazing Boost foam while at the same time ensuring an unsurpassed adaptable fit in the shoe’s upper, which is the part of a shoe covering the top of the foot.”

Available in core black for both men and women and an extra colour option of solar red (men) and flash pink (women), the Ultra Boost is available at Adidas Sports Performance stores at the retail price of RM650.

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Boost to the self-esteem

Hitting the gym with a new pair of shoes will undoubtedly set you back a couple of hours. Fellow members whom you have never even so much as blinked at before, are now suddenly standing next to you expressing unsolicited running advice, while at the same breath, quietly admiring your shoes.

After the Ultra Boost has helped added a handful of ladies’ contact number to my phone, it was time to put the shoes through its pace. On the treadmill – comparatively softer to the asphalt roads – the most sensed difference was in its cushioning; not overly dense but yet plenty of bounce from the midsole.

As both the speed and incline level increases, the upper knits, side panels and elegant matte finish heel counter kept my feet secured consistently throughout the 30-minute run. Differing from some of the gym members’ view that it lacked the essential back support, I found the v-shaped heel design useful for increased Achilles’ flexibility.

Unlike those who are unaccustomed to running shoes that wear like a padded sock, I surprisingly bonded very well with the improved PrimeKnit, despite my slightly wider feet. Clearly, the designers at Adidas did a very thorough job of getting the overall firmness of the knits just right at the specific areas of the shoe.

When it went onto the road, the higher toe provides a much better roll off especially when on the uneven paths and to a certain degree, striding through the next step seems a tad easier; perhaps it’s merely the nimbleness of the shoe. After a two-hour assessment, it’s clear that my next marathon’s timing is definitely coming down substantially.

Clocking up a couple of weeks with it, without a doubt, the Adidas Ultra Boost is by far the most cushioned and comfy pair of shoes that I have ever put on and one that makes running almost effortless.


Steamy affair with coconuts

The relaxed sun baked coconut has finally found its way into our steaming hot pot, and making our favourite family dining affair even better.

Traditionally only associated with the beach, sand and sun, the modest coconut has in recent years rapidly rolled towards a more significant presence in our everyday life. From quickly filling up the shelves at the supermarkets with beauty products as the likes of skin moisturiser and hair conditioner, the tropical fruit is fast emerging as the latest darling of the food and beverage industry across the globe.

2987844        As it builds on a growing fan base, particularly amongst the health conscious community seeking healthier alternatives and functional food products, the fruit is claimed to be an elixir to treating many illnesses and ailments that affect the stomach, liver, kidneys and pancreas.

Based on its varied composition of vitamins and minerals, including being rich in protein and dietary fibre, consumers are relying on it to help increase the body’s resistance to viruses, boost metabolism, control diabetics and improve their digestive system.

Such is the extent of the coconut’s rise in popularity; a Malaysian entrepreneur has turned to it in his quest to transform a much-loved communal dining activity into a premium experience. “Steamboat has always been about family and friends coming together in a very open and often boisterous affair. In many ways, it’s the embodiment of our culture, which revolves around the family and good food,” explains Dax Lee, director of The Group (F&B) Sdn Bhd, which are the owner and operator of YeZi.

2987883Pronounced as “yeh cee” — as in the Cantonese word for coconut – the new restaurant is located on the top floor of 1 First Avenue in Bandar Utama, making it The Roof’s sixth and latest food and beverage outlet.

“YeZi completes The Roof’s 360-degree integrated entertainment concept as we knew from the start when we first conceptualised this place that it will have six F&B outlets coupled with the presence of a Chinese cuisine outlet,” explains Lee. In addition to YeZi, The Roof at present houses Signature By The Hill, Score, Malt & Leaf, Stratosphere and Play.

Being aware that steamboat dining is already an established and popular concept in the country with several operators having already cemented their brand presence over here in recent years, Lee decided to turn to China for new ideas on what he could offer differently to Malaysians.

After tour of several cities, it was finally in Shenzhen where Lee along with Katrina Wong, the outlet’s director, experienced how steamboat could be served as a fine-dining experience combined with the use of coconut-based broth.

2987865“Foremost of all, we wanted our first outlet to be positioned as a more sophisticated location with emphasis on the freshest and finest ingredients. We saw the opportunity to serve the business market segment that want to entertain their guests to an enjoyable steamboat session but in a more stylish and refined environment,” says the 39-year-old Lee, adding that they had initially invested approximately RM1.5 mil to get the place up and running.

Calling itself a premium specialty steamboat restaurant, YeZi’s uniqueness clearly lies in its broth. While most steamboat operators would dispute over who has the tastiest broth, the chefs at YeZi are contended to serve a port of unadorned soup made simply from coconut water, bamboo shoot and water chestnut.

Unaccustomed to this concoction, the broth indeed starts off somewhat bland but as dinner progresses with more farm fresh items added in, it certainly manifests into a distinctly flavoursome broth that gets heavier in essence and aroma as the night goes by.

2987850However, Wong, who supervises the outlet’s daily operations, admits that her team is striving to manage their customers’ expectations especially with most people being used to the existing types of broths served by other operators.

The enthusiastic lady sees this as an excellent opportunity to explain to her customers of their brand positioning, the freshly prepared ingredients, and also what she terms as the “YeZi story”.

“Rather than focus on the soup options, such as Tomyam or clear soup, as those served by others, we are more concerned of preparing quality handmade food items, of which the customer can enjoy fresh, clean and quality foodstuff instead of simply having frozen and pre-packed items served at most steamboat joints,” remarks Wong,

As for what goes into the hot pot, this is where YeZi markedly stands out from the field. With most of the restaurant’s ingredients purchased locally, all of them are handmade daily by the kitchen crew while ensuring no food items are kept overnight if not consumed at the end of the day.

2987874Currently supported by a team of six full-time kitchen staffs led by two experienced head chefs from Malaysia and Taiwan, the kitchen only sources the best quality produce that are available each day including the use of free range organic chicken, organic vegetables and fresh seafood.

Another stand out from its peers is that the restaurant also serves up a variety of charming appetisers, such as “tong sum” century egg with ginger slice, coconut bacon roll, shredded chicken jellyfish cucumber salad and beancurd skin with chicken floss roll. A must have is its signature pandan chicken and seafood wrap, which I found it to be perfectly seasoned and cooked just the right amount of time, making it truly irresistible.

Its current menu shows more than 20 different food items for the steamboat selection, highlighted by its signature dishes, which include the Imperial seafood dumpling, coconut dumpling and YeZi beef ball, with the latter brought in exclusively from Taiwan.

Its specialty lies in having a wide range of dumplings and balls including squid ball, Wagyu beef tendon ball, coconut dumpling, pepper cheese ball and mushroom chicken ball. So firmly rolled with quality ingredients, it doesn’t take many servings of these tantalising balls to fill me up very quickly. My best “ball” dish for the night was undoubtedly the innovative black truffle balls.

2987856 Of course, steamboat must always be accompanied by noodles and in YeZi’s case, some very innovative ones like fish and tobiko paste, black truffle squid paste and seaweed fish noodles. For the discerning foodie, there is also an array of premium seafood offering that includes air-flown Alaskan crabs, Australian lobster and Matsuzaka beef.

“This is what makes us different from the rest; our customers have a choice of having a RM5,000 to RM10,000 dining experience with us if they choose to enjoy premium food items, which they will never be able to do so at other steamboat outlets,” says Wong.

Another distinguishing component at the restaurant is its dipping sauce. Unlike most places that come with choice of chili paste, tomato sauce or sambal belacan, YeZi offers a singular soya sauce that has to be combined with homemade chopped sand ginger and lime to bring out the best essence of the dip.

The diner currently sits up to 200 persons at any one time including the availability of two separate rooms for private functions. Since its official opening in March, it has receives an average of around 50% capacity during dinner time; understandably owing to the cooking time required, the restaurant is not open for lunch.

Wong and her culinary team are already pondering over plans to extend the existing menu to include fast meals, dining for a smaller groups and couples, as well as to accommodate the vicinity’s growing supper crowd, particularly catering to The Roof’s patrons.

Lee, who has a finance degree and was trained as a banker, concurs: “While it’s ideal to stick to one unique offering, the reality in many food-related businesses is that we have to at times try to meet customers’ need as much as we can so that we can achieve a higher market reach.”

An example of this willingness to pay heed to his clientele’s wishes is its broth offering. While adamant that it would never change from a coconut-based soup, he has allowed the team to expand to five different variants for customers to choose from, including mushroom soup, Taiwanese beef soup and rice wine soup.

2987892Already planning ahead, Lee has already lined up nine outlets to be opened across the country within the next 24 months, with IOI City Mall in Putrajaya and The Club in Kota Damansara next on line to be opened within the next three months. Sited on a 6,500 sq ft premises, the outlet at IOI City Mall will even be larger than the current 4,000 sq ft outlet at The Roof.

Going forward, the team is still exploring various options for growth, including franchising, joint-ventures and even product merchandising for their homemade soup and sauces. “The key now is to foremost of all to focus on getting our food quality and menu choices right first before even going too far about expansion plans,” the Petaling Jaya resident asserts.

2987868 One item on the menu that definitely needs no further enhancing is its signature dessert – fragrant coconut ice cream. Scooped onto a halved coconut husk, this smooth and refreshing ice-cream is truly reminiscent of the yesteryears, before the rise of the horde of overzealous so-called artisan ice-creams peppered all around town these days. Unadorned and simple yet deliciously fresh and aromatic; an embodiment of what YeZi’s is all about.

2987901


Planning for our golden years

Having achieved her share of the limelight, a leading advocate of personal finance is returning back to the books to make life better for our elderly community.

Over the last 13 years, Carol Yip has been prominently enlightening our society on personal financial education and sustainable retirement for Malaysians. Whether she’s donning the hat of a speaker, advisor, coach or columnist, the certified financial planner always exudes enthusiasm in all that she preaches.

Carol Yip-mar2015-01 In addition to having scribed countless articles and shared her views on leading print publications, digital media and broadcast channels both within the country and abroad, Yip has contributed significantly to the national cause through community projects and workshops with government institutions like Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency, Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia, Institution of Banks Malaysia, Federation of Investment Managers Malaysia, and Financial Planning Association of Malaysia.

It is this unmistakeable passion, particularly on the subject of sustainable retirement that has made her a recognisable advocate in the financial fraternity, culminating with speaking engagements over the years at numerous international conferences across Asia Pacific, Australia and United States.

“Sustainable retirement is when you have sufficient funds to sustain your retirement lifestyle and aged care needs according to old age conditions for as long as possible, independent from relying on others,” Yip remarks.

She points out that currently in Malaysia, the care needed by older people is delivered formally or informally by government welfare homes, private nursing homes, day-care centres, voluntary aged care centres and by families at home.

“With a mix of services delivered by different agencies, each payment option has potentially a different funding base. Regardless of the payment options available, it will be challenging for elderlies to have sufficient money to pay for their long-term care needs for as long as possible because their needs can intensify as they age further. The cost of care will increase if both care needs increase in intensity and inflation of medical costs continues,” says Yip.

Yet despite all that she has achieved in her field of work, the MBA graduate from University of Hull, United Kingdom is turning back to the academic hallways to elevate her proficiency even further, with hope of playing a role to improve the country’s healthcare services.

“Based on the current situation where the existing system of health care services is fragmented, the development of Malaysia in terms of this area is that while the higher income populace can pay for health care needs, it is the middle to lower income population that have more reasons to be concerned, since they have to pay for these services on their own,” says Yip, who also holds a Master’s degree in counselling and a bachelor’s degree in economics attained from Monash University, Melbourne.

Carol_BrogaSpurred on by this desire to increase her knowledge on the field of long term care for elderly Malaysians, she proceeded to undertake a PhD research programme back in 2013 and expects to complete it by next year.

“My research aims to find out the actual level of long-term care needed by elderly people living in nursing homes, care centres and at home, and whether these people are appropriately placed according to their care needs,” she says. 

Through her education and personal financial planning background, Yip was able to gain a better understanding of behavioural finance, the human psychology, and how people live through different life stages. 

“When there is appropriate placement of elderly people according to their level of care needed and is based on the minimum standards required by the regulators, financial resources will be utilised optimally. It is likely elderly people will be happier with the care services and support given to them, while simultaneously, they or the family members are able to financially sustain the care services needed.

“Therefore, having enough money during retirement to pay for aged care is an important component of personal financial planning, which is the toughest part of the plan because of many unpredictable variables,” explains the author of four personal finance and behavioural finance books — Smart Money-User, Money Rules, Credit Card Syndrome and Money Work Life. Money Rules – which are all available in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, while the last two are also translated into Thai.

Malaysia as a preferred retirement destination

In between burning the midnight oil and flipping through endless journals and research materials, she currently serves as the chief executive officer of Aged Care Group Sdn Bhd (ACG), an organisation conceptualised to innovate and transform the perception of aging. 

Explaining further about ACG, Yip says: “The role of ACG is to create a paradigm shift in which the handling of aged care becomes a community effort where the infrastructure of human resources, development, medicine, law and policies come together smoothly as oppose to an individual effort.” 

ACG’s aim is to be the centre for continuum care to provide enriched living to the elderly community in order to raise the quality of life and set the stage for an improved standard of aged living where Malaysia would be set to be amongst the top ideal places for retirement.

Amongst the services currently active is its Circles Enrich Living Programme where they aim to serve the full spectrum of aged care needs; a pilot version of this programme is already running in a community hospital just outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Another active initiative by the team is the 3age.com.my web portal that aims to function as the platform for anything related to aged care, ranging from educating Malaysians on the lifestyles and issues that are constantly faced by elderlies to the providence of solutions and links to resources that can address those issues.

“We are also looking into the master planning of integrated residential care centres for elderly, providing services to serve the different level of care needs, and specialised care including stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s and other old age illnesses,” says Yip. 

Having organised the Malaysia’s Retirement Transformation Conference in 2010 and the Private Pension and Healthcare Conference the following year, as well as being a former facilitator for Pemandu’s Senior Living Lab discussion panel, Yip is well positioned to understand the challenges and recognises the need to transform the current care centres and nursing homes to a higher quality of care and living standards for the ageing population.

As for the resulting benefits from her PhD research thus far, she states that it has given her a sound understanding of elderly care in Malaysia and the opportunity to familiarise herself with the existing situation on aged care facilities.

It has not been exactly smooth sailing for financial planner as she explains: “My sample size is very large and with the lack of a directory listing of day care centres and nursing homes, I’ve had to physically search for these places making it difficult to obtain data and interview subjects, along with the uncertainty if the centres and homes that I’ve found were licensed.”

Undeterred, Yip continues on her quest to acquire more knowledge through this research programme she has embarked on. She reasons: “The combination of my experience and background coupled with the immediate welfare needs for the aged population of today and future aged care needs for the seniors of tomorrow, drove me to wade into the deep waters of these issues and challenges, and to find possible solutions for them.”


Bitten by an iconic bug

This is no ordinary bug; it has a cult following of millions globally, its own movie, and was the beacon of the peace movement in the 1970s.   

Since its inception 76 years back, this German-born vehicle has accumulated its fair share of names across the globe. While some call it a turtle and others argue it is more of a ladybug, most have come to identity its distinct shape simply as a beetle.

vw-3

Yet, it is rather ironic that Volkswagen’s Beetle became an emblem of peace during the 1970s hippie movement, especially considering its close association with former German dictator Adolf Hitler, whose idea was to have an affordable car to be made available for every German family back then, hence it being labelled as the “people’s car”.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche — founder of the Porsche car company – the two-door car is easily amongst the most instantly recognisable automobiles around the world today. While it has obviously come a long way since in terms of technology and features, it has kept true to its iconic exterior shape and original intent to be a reliable car for the masses.

Running on a front-placed turbocharged 4-cylinder direct petrol injection engine, the Beetle 1.2L TSI was a welcomed surprise for me in comparison to my subdued experience with its earlier larger and faster 1.4L variant, specifically when it comes to road handling and driveability.

Zipping around the city traffic and our ruthless weather-beaten road conditions, its impressive seven-speed direct shift gearbox built with innovative dual-clutch technology provides a well-controlled drive across all gear shifts. Considering the engine capacity and shape of the car, the anticipated drag never occurred.

Rather surprising bearing in mind its’ not perfectly aerodynamic-friendly bubble shape, the bug has a very responsive throttle from a static position. With the ability to accelerate from 0-100 km/hour in a decent 10.9 seconds, it effortlessly delivers a top speed of 180 km/hour. It seems to deliver on its promise to “drive you happy” via its ability to serve up a maximum output of 105ps at 5,000rpm and a maximum torque of 175Nm within the range of 1,550-4,100rpm; providing an almost instantaneous push from the start.

vw-2

Although it will clearly not outrun the field on the expressways, one thing that it does very well is in handling the tucks and turns along the urban roads. The pair of standard struts, tuned slightly on the soft side, comfortably makes its way through those pesky speed bumps.

Resting on two pairs of 215/60 R16 alloy wheels, it also boasts of electronically adjustable, foldable and heated exterior mirrors, halogen headlights, front fog lamps with static cornering light, front windshield wiper with intermittent control, as well as heat-insulating glass for side and rear windows.

On the inside, personally, I found the unadorned level dashboard particularly the front old-fashioned flip-up glove box – in addition to a second standard glove compartment — a nice sentimental touch to replicate the car’s predecessors’ styling.

The multi-adjustable steering column was a very thoughtful inclusion as this allows a flexible and comfortable driving position for everyone in the family. The leather seats provides firm support and keeps the driver in place during the turns, although the bucket-like seats at the back were not a favourite for the kids as they kept slipping backwards on the thrust. And I’m pretty sure Volkswagen’s remarkable designers will be able to sneak in a few more centimetres of legroom space at the back in its future releases.

Reflecting on its “people’s car” motto when it comes to fitting up the bug, interior features include the presence of two 12-volt sockets that allows for both front and rear passengers the added convenience of charging their phones and tablets. Other standard highlights include cruise control, foldable rear backrest, front centre armrest, front seats with height adjustment and a multi-function audio/systems display unit.

vw-1

To keep everyone safe, the Beetle is incorporated with anti-lock braking system, brake assist, hill-hold control, electronic stability control, rain sensor, park distance control, IsoFix child seat system, combined side and thorax airbags for front passengers, and anti-theft alarm system.

Okay, some may argue that it’s RM135,888 price tag may not exactly be for “everyone” as in accordance to Hilter’s initial intent, yet if compared to its current peers in terms of performance, it is definitely amongst the more cost effective option within its target market segment.

 


Nothing fishy about authentic British chippy

Surviving through two world wars and sustaining millions during economic downturns, the “authentic” version of this more than 150-year-old dish finally finds its way into our shores 

Personally, I find that any restaurant operator that openly shouts out that they are the “best of” whatever it serves makes it extremely tough on themselves, particularly when you are a newcomer to the marketplace

UnionJack-jan2015-0009Hence, when I came across Union Jacks’ declaration of being the “best of British fish and chips” boldly inked onto their signboard at their first outlet in Damansara Uptown, there was no hesitation for me to step in to see if they are able to back up the proclamation. It wasn’t because that there was a lack of places serving fish and chips in town; just that those that truly live up to the legendary style and taste of its’ English peer are far and few between.

For the startling few that may not be acquainted with fish and chips – practically a national institution in Britain – it is a traditional English fare, consisting of moist white fish, often cod and haddock, walled in by crisp batter and commonly served with chips and mushy peas on the side.

Nestled between a much-adored Hokkien mee restaurant and several local eateries, the three-month old diner was decked out with an overall interior that mirrors many of the classically neat and uncomplicated fish and chips outlets found within London.

UnionJack-jan2015-0016The “chippy” (as these fish and chips shops are commonly termed in Britain) was adorned with modest wooden dining tables with an antique-like British flag painted on top of each table. Its surrounding plain walls were highlighted by vibrant art pieces embodying the shop’s main menu attraction.

“The shop was designed to be bright, yet simple in terms of interior design with some simple touches to reflect our British concept. The idea was to ensure that the focus will be on our food,” explains Robert Teasdale, managing director of UJ Chippy (Uptown) Sdn Bhd, the operator of Union Jacks in Malaysia.

Zooming in on the food, starting with the main courses, the two-storey outlet’s bestseller is its UJ’s catch-of-the-day (RM16.90) that comes with choice of chips, fries or mashed potatoes, sauce or gravy, baked beans or mushy peas and soft drink. In keeping to its brand claim, I was glad that its signature dish was served with salt and malt vinegar and not mayonnaise and lemon as served up by many other operators.

UnionJack-jan2015-0021The restaurant houses three varieties of fishes, namely pollack, flounder and Pacific cod, all directly imported from Alaska and the South Pacific. Although the flounder fish I had was not exceptional, especially after expectations were raised by the brand’s tagline, the batter was pleasantly crisp and deep fried perfectly.

While I also found the thick-cut chips a tad soggy for my preference, what stood out was its perfectly-textured mash potato, made fresh daily and not one of those widely used powdered varieties.

“To ensure we deliver on our promise of freshness and the best quality possible, we only use the very best potatoes available, which are brought in from Australia. They are peeled and prepared fresh every morning on the premises,” says Teasdale, who hails from Darlington, England and has been in the food and beverage business for over three decades.

If fish is not your thing, there are several other main courses to choose from including tiger prawns (RM26.90), oven-roasted quarter chicken (RM16.90) and traditional sausages (RM19.90). Those looking for a quick bite, can try out the Ciabatta bread sandwich (RM18.90), oven-baked pies (RM24.90) and UJ’s fishcakes (RM16.90).

For lighter options, ideal for a soothing tea-time office break, there is the choice of soup-of-the-day with bread slice, Yorkshire pudding, prawn cocktail, pineapple rings, Mars bar, apple turnover pastry and dessert of the day.

UnionJack-jan2015-0027Not forgetting the kids in tow, Union Jacks’ Under 12’s junior menu comprising of fish nuggets, mini fish cake, chicken tenders, and junior fish fillet will keep your children contented. To wash it all down, the chippy has decided to keep it simple; soft drinks, beer and coffee or tea.

As Teasdale assures that his team are already working on adding more British specialities to their existing menu, he believes that their current line-up has done well to attract workers from the immediate commercial areas as well as residents from the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Located at 111G Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, the place is opened daily from 11am to 10pm. With an existing seating capacity of 68 people including a private area on the first floor, the outlet also caters to corporate functions as well as private events like birthdays and anniversaries.

UnionJack-jan2015-0018Operating at an average of about 85% of its seating capacity during lunch and dinner hours since it opened in November last year, the management is already working towards introducing more food items to the menu including traditional English breakfast sets and Sunday roast, as well as to expand its reach through delivery services.

The 60-year-old geology degree holder, who previously worked in Hong Kong and Singapore, says: “The plan is to continue introducing more authentic British food to the market, especially dishes that are extremely difficult to find over here. When we first started, we thought that we would get more take-aways and that our base would be expats in KL, but two months on, we discovered that most prefer to dine in and 70% of our customers were locals.”

In terms of business expansion, Teasdale has set his sights on opening a couple more outlets in Klang Valley as well as to commence on its retail business, which he hopes to see Union Jacks’ brand made available at leading supermarkets and retailers across the country.

“The long term idea for Union Jacks is to expand the brand through various revenue models, such as franchising, product development and product retail. It’s not just about opening more stalls along the way, but also to make it easier for Malaysians to buy and enjoy quality British food fare,” he states.

UnionJack-jan2015-0005Although I walked away from the restaurant not completely convinced of it being the “best of British fish and chips”, it was heartening to know that at least there is a decent option for Malaysians to get a taste of authentic British food. What would have made my day would be to have seen the fish and chips served to me wrapped in newspaper, preferably one using a “page three”.

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Catching up on the facts

  • When cooked the authentic way, fish and chips are 100% natural with no added colouring or preservatives.
  • Besides containing less fat and calories than burgers or pizzas, white fish is also a good source of high quality protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, iron, calcium and dietary fibre.
  • There are around 10,000 fish and chip shops all over the United Kingdom, selling 276 million portions of fish and chips each year.

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Ranger runs wild in the city

Housing developers need to start building larger car porches for residential homes judging from the increasing preference for pickups as a family vehicle.    

fordranger-jan2015-0010It was not too long ago when these pickup trucks used to be exclusive to those sun-baked construction-site workers. They would literally jump up onto these colossal grime-covered off-road sloggers, throw their hefty toolbox behind and dive head on towards the hostile muddy terrains these vehicles call home.

That visualisation of a four-wheel-drive vehicle has increasingly changed over the years as more and more families rely on them these days for their family, recreational and daily use. While it evidently remains colossal and tough in appearance, its’ comfort, interior features and capabilities have evolved substantially since.

Leveraging on modern engine technology, passenger comfort and ease of drivability, today’s pickups are equally comfortable ferrying the children around, hitting the shopping mall or accompanying the family for a weekend getaway, as they are if utilised for carrying bulky construction materials or for towing around machineries and other heavy equipment.

fordranger-jan2015-0020Echoing this growing option for car owners is the Ford Ranger 2.2L XLT. Although almost four years on since it was first unveiled to the world, this four-wheel-drive pickup remarkably still manages to preserve its contemporary overall design and balanced exterior. Its most recent tweaks were to incorporate the handy electronic stability programme as well as an added peace of mind for parents with the IsoFix device for child-seat attachment at the back row.

Driven by a 2,198cc commonrail direct injection diesel engine and managed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode that enables manual interjection, which I relied on frequently having found the auto gear ratio too distanced between each shift, the truck was perfect for our unfavourable flood-prone city road conditions; very often resembling their off-road counterparts

Though slightly deterred by its unhurried acceleration, I did however found the truck to very responsive when it hit the higher gears. When on the wide and long expressway, I can barely tell the difference between driving a compact SUV and this pickup.

fordranger-jan2015-0002Having conducted this test drive during the recent monsoon season, the Ranger’s 233mm ground clearance and 800mm water wading depth offered plenty of assurance, notably when this vehicle was used by the writer as part of a small aid convoy that assisted in transporting food and other essential items to several communities affected by the floods in Pahang.

For its primary intended purpose of being a workhorse and with a maximum torque of 375Nm at 2,500rpm, it can comfortably handle up to 1,341kg of goods on its back and is capable of towing up to 3,350kg behind it. Alongside handy features like load sensing proportionate valve, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and hill descent control, the Ranger is clearly designed for serious work

fordranger-jan2015-0018Seated on an 80-litre capacity fuel tank, the truck comes equipped with several features for a more lifestyle touch including auto rain sensing wiper system, electrochromatic inner rear view mirror, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a 4.2” colour display media/entertainment system incorporated with Bluetooth, USB port and voice control. It would have been a tad more impressive if the display console was larger and had more content to display on it.

Putting on the city dweller’s hat, there are a couple of trivial aspects to the car that I found wanting. First off is the comparatively smaller interior cabin space to fit in the whole family and their individual luggage, when equated to the horde of SUVs presently available.

fordranger-jan2015-0015Settled on a child-seat at the back, the hyperactive 2-yeard-old was not able to fully stretch out his legs despite mummy pushing her front seat as far front as possible. As most parents would agree, on an extended journey, an uncomfortable and disgruntled kid is the last thing you need at the back of car.

Possibly just a personal aversion or most likely unfamiliarity with such vehicles, another grouse I had was the distinctive smell and slight clattering emitted from its diesel engine. Adding these mundane whimpers together with the lack of a rear-view reverse camera – vital for such as lofty vehicle – are what prevented me from instantaneously trading in my timeworn jalopy for this RM99,465 ride.

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