Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Pi (Altrincham)

My husband and I went out for my birthday to the new bar Pi in Altrincham. Known for serving a wide range of real ales, draught and bottled beers, Pi have been keeping the people of Chorlton and Mossley Hill in 'stonkingly good' Pieminster pies for some time now.

Pi (Altrincham) have opened up in the former Le Trappiste Belgian bar and have retained a similar ambiance with candles on the tables and helpful staff to talk you through the extensive beer menu.

The pie menu is on a handwritten blackboard on the wall. I chose the Heidi pie; spinach, sweet potato, red onion and goats cheese. Perfect eaten with half a Brooklyn lager. Or two...

Pi (Altrincham)
18 Shaw's Road
Cheshire WA14 1QU
0161 929 9098

Blackpool Rock Birthday

I got this cute birthday card in the post from one of my best friends who is on holiday in Australia. How retro having your school nick name on a stick of Blackpool rock!

Superfood Sunday

There is a superfood salad on the menu at Giraffe which inspired this post-swim lunch on Sunday. My version was made up of:

Quinoa & bulgar wheat
Salmon fillets marinated in chilli
Green beans
Edamame beans
Lemon juice

It took about ten minutes to make my superfood salad. It tastes even better when it has sat in the fridge for a while letting the quinoa soak up all the surrounding flavours. Yum!

The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage

I spotted The Lebanese Kitchen book in Waterstones a couple of weeks ago and had to have it! I discovered Lebanese food a couple of years ago after dining out with friends at Yara in Altrincham. Their lamb chops cooked on charcoal are amazing.

This book had so many beautiful recipes - over 500 - and stunning photographs which will inspire a few Lebanese nights at our house.

The book itself has a very artistic feel. When you open the book you see that all the pages are serrated and it makes you want to fan through them and watch the pages fall. I have tried to take a couple of photos to demonstrate what I mean. The Lebanese Kitchen was on sale for £30 in Waterstones but is available cheaper on Amazon.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Boutique Breakfast at The Salthouse Hotel, Ipswich

I stayed at The Salthouse Harbour Hotel in Ipswich when away with work recently and it was so nice! It's not often hotels actually make you feel at home. The hotel is situated right on the harbour side and in the summer months would be stunning. There are lots of totally random pieces of artwork throughout the hotel which really catch your eye. The hotel offers breakfast delivered to your room at no extra cost so I went for it and ordered this tray of brekky delight to be delivered at 8.45am.

The breakfast was so well presented I didn't even freak out at the sausage on my plate after I lifted the silver dome (I HATE sausages). I liked the little tiny pots of jam, marmalade, honey, brown sauce, red sauce and mustard...what is it about miniature pots of things that make you smile? Anyway I didn't use the sauces but they look great now in my kitchen cupboard ;-)

Wilmslow Artisan Market

I went to Wilmslow last Saturday for the latest Artisan Market. Perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. I say morning because it got absolutely packed by 12 o'clock. It was so nice to see so many people out supporting the 'shop local' message. And shopping they were, not just browsing, the people of Cheshire like to spend their cash! I bought some pineapple chilli sauce from The Delicious Sauce Company who were featured in last month's Cheshire Life magazine. I also bought two bottles of real ale from The Wincle Beer Company. Here are some of the photos I took on the way round...

Find out more about the Artisan Market here: http://www.theartisanmarket.co.uk/

M&S Pasta Bar, Cheshire Oaks

M&S opened their second biggest store in the world at Cheshire Oaks, Wirral earlier this year and it is pretty impressive. It feels futuristic and airy with iPad equipped, helpful shop staff over two floors, plasma screens, two spacious coffee shops and masses of car parking space. The entire clothing range is on offer including the higher-end Autograph and Swarovski Crystal embellished line. Described as 'the most carbon efficient and premier M&S to date', it is hard not to be impressed by what M&S have done here.

I really like the Deli bar-Pasta bar concept they have launched downstairs in M&S Food. It feels like they are going along the Selfridges food hall route with tall stools and glistening wine glasses. Yet the prices are pretty reasonable. The menu offers wine and fizz too so you can feel like a proper lady who lunches. I chose the butternut squash and sage raviolli with tomato and basil sauce which was simple and fresh. The food at the Pasta bar is cooked in front of you and is a bit of a crowd-pleaser with shoppers stopping to watch. One lady even came up to me mid mouthful and asked what my lunch was like as she was thinking of bringing her grandson for something to eat 'as a treat'. Well done M&S. The Wirral needs and loves this type of thing.

Read more and watch a video about M&S Cheshire Oaks here: http://social.marksandspencer.com/plan-a/introducing-ms-cheshire-oaks-store/

M&S Cheshire Oaks
2 Stanneywood Avenue
Ellesmere Port CH65 9LF

The Gob Stopper, Hale

I love the window displays at The Gob Stopper in Hale. Described as a 'retro vintage sweet shop', The Gob Stopper is one of the most inviting looking shops on Ashley Road. This is their latest window display for Halloween featuring a cute dog.;-)

The Gob Stopper
156 Ashley Road
WA15 9SA

Fondue Lounge, Elviria, Marbella

One of the best steak restaurants in the Marbella area has got to be The Fondue Lounge. Argentinian steaks are the restaurant's speciality. However the desserts at The Fondue Lounge are pretty special too. Four of us shared this mega fruit and Belgian chocolate fondue dessert. Not for the faint hearted, this dessert is seriously RICH. Especially when following a fillet steak with peppercorn sauce and a third of a bottle of Malbec. Bikini diet this is not.

The Fondue Lounge
Centro Comercial
Los Pinares

The Beach House, Elviria, Marbella

If you holiday in or around Marbella on the Spanish Costa del Sol you are certainly not stuck for choice when it comes to eating out. I think this year was the fifth time we have holidayed in Elviria, Marbella but it was only the first time we ate at The Beach House. Probably because its rather expensive however you definitely get what you pay for.

This is precisely the type of restaurant I like. Balearic background music, international diners, white decor with tables and parasols stretching out on to the beach which gives a stunning view of the sunset. On seating the waiting staff come round with a pre-dinner cocktail menu which is a fabulous touch. For my main meal I chose sea bass with Thai green sauce with pak choi, coconut rice and served in a banana leaf. It was beautifully presented and very light. Perfect washed down with an ice cold glass of sauv blanc.

The Beach House was packed the Saturday night we dined there and always looked busy when we walked past in the daytime. Full of couples, large parties, families and first dates, The Beach House is a chic choice of restaurant with a relaxing atmosphere. No Marbella-Belles in sight.

The Beach House Restaurant 
Urb. Coto de los Dolores Carril del Relojero Elviria 29604 Marbella Malaga Spain

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lunch at The Black Swan, Lower Withington, Cheshire

I read about The Black Swan pub in Living Edge magazine and decided to give it a try one Saturday afternoon after a drive through Alderley Edge. We found the pub down a small country lane not far from Jodrell Bank astrophysics centre. The description of The Black Swan in the magazine sounded nice but I was not prepared for such an incredible, welcoming, beautiful, female focussed pub.

The decor at The Black Swan is stunning. If Cath Kidston decorated pubs this is what it would look like. The sofas are all covered in pretty floral fabric, the lampshades are like my Nan used to have (but in a cool way), the signage and menus are all carefully hand scripted and they have a real open fire which the staff come along and top up now and again.

The Black Swan pub is the 'little brother' of The Swan Hotel & Spa in The Lake District and has just been opened following a reported six month £500,000 refurbishment. There is definitely evidence of its Lake District roots with Beatrix Potter-esque pictures and imagery dotted around the walls.

The Black Swan Cheshire menu is impressive too with everything from soup and sandwiches through to fish and chips and scones with jam if you just want afternoon tea. There are four flat breads on the menu- one lamb, one chicken, one chorizo and one vegetarian. I chose the veggie flatbread served with roasted vegetables and masses of rocket and watercress on top. It was much bigger than I expected! My husband had the tomato, fennel and red pepper soup with a cheddar cheese and chilli jam sandwich. To order your food you write your choice down on a little piece of Black Swan branded paper and present it at the bar which adds to the quirkiness.

Upstairs at The Black Swan pub there is a dining room which looks like it would be perfect for a private celebration and outside there is a British garden party style beer garden, wood fired pizza oven and boules pitch. Whoever designed the refurbishment of The Black Swan has serious vision.

The Black Swan Cheshire is officially my new favourite destination pub. I just wish it was even closer to home.

The Black Swan
Trap Street
Lower Withington
SK11 9EQ

01477 571770

Sunday, 16 September 2012

I won't lie...I've been getting around recently...

Tragic night on Friday after work in Cask in Castlefield. I met my husband (swoon) for after work drinks. I asked for half a Guinness. Standard. Much to my complete shock and horror it didn't taste nice. So my husband took my half pint of Guinness back to the bar. The guys behind the bar tasted it and said it was fine. But my husband quite rightly defended my Guinness tasting capability and asked for my alternative choice of half a Cusquena instead. I didn't really like that either.

Anyway it came to my round and I went to the bar and asked for my new bit on the side Brooklyn Lager. They didn't have any in stock. 'Oh right' I said. Momentary dizziness set in. I searched the bar for something familiar and the barman kindly suggested I try a James Boag lager from Tasmania. 'Alright' I said (easy). 'Its Friday', I thought, 'I have room for Tazmanian-devillish behaviour'. I tasted the James Boag and was impressed. The barman knows his stuff. I looked at their website to find the link for this blog and they have some cool videos on there. Check it out. Warning: it may make you thirsty.

Ssssh. Don't tell Guinness I'm having an affair with Brooklyn.

I think I first tried Brooklyn Lager in Trof or Common Bar in Manchester's Northern Quarter. I've since found myself ordering it in Gorilla and Cask. My husband and I have also bought Brooklyn Lager in Sainsburys for a Saturday night in and I bought two bottles in Tesco this morning to drink whilst I'm doing the ironing. Rock n roll.

Little by little I am starting to realise I might actually be falling in love with Brooklyn. Eeeek.

I feel a bit guilty on Guinness as it has always been my top most favourite, completely reliable drink to definitely taste amazing every single time and never results in a hangover no matter how many pints I consume.

But Guinness, what can I say, you have some competition. I've not desserted you...it might be a phase...I'm just being honest....the sexy 'B' on the label keeps catching my eye.....

To be continued.

Caribbean Mango Marinade from Borough Market

The Caribbean. Just saying 'The Caribbean' makes me feel happy inside. When I saw the Caribbean food stall at Borough Market I was instantly drawn to see what was on offer. I've not heard of Pimento Hill before but they had the most fabulous sauces, spices and marinades on offer to taste and savour.

I bought this jar of Mango Natty for about £4 which I was advised to use as a marinade or sauce on chicken or fish. Chatting to the lady working on the stall I mentioned I was going on holiday to Barbados to which she replied 'that's just like going to Spain'. I nearly choked on my natty taster and asked her where in the Caribbean she would advise I go instead. 'Grenada, St Kitts, St Vincent...somewhere more interesting...' So there you have it. Travel tips and a mango marinade for £4. I'm yet to open the jar but when I do I'll serve with a can of Ting and think of the woman from Pimento Hill who compares Barbs with Marbs. Yeah mon.

Girlie Weekend at Borough Market

I went to London recently and visited Borough Market during what was dubbed the Weekend of Dreams. Five of my best girlfriends are now living in London so it is always a guaranteed weekend of laughs when I go down to visit. The Weekend of Dreams (aka WOD2012) was carefully coordinated around the much hyped Lady Gaga concert at Twickenham which was AMAZING.

I arrived in London on the Saturday lunchtime and after some cold pink bubbles on my friend's balcony in the sunshine we went to nearby Borough Market for fizz and food-fest. My friend has been wetting my appetite with everything Borough since she moved there earlier this year and I can see exactly why she loves her new neighbourhood.  

Borough Market is a food lover's heaven and being able to walk around with glasses of wine, sangria or spritzers makes it a booze lover's heaven too. We sampled olives, cheese, Caribbean curry and Thai curry and quickly realised one glass of fizz is just not enough so bought a bottle, sat on the pavement outside in the sunshine and loafed. It was the ideal Saturday afternoon and I can't wait to go back.

Hola! It's Spanish Night Señor...

With ten days holiday booked in red hot Spain this meal definitely got us in the mood for all things Espagnol. New from Marks and Spencer is this cod with serrano ham and lentils dish. Super easy to cook in the oven it is perfect served with an ice cold bottle of San Miguel.

Anniversary Dinner at Dee Thai, Hale

We dined at the Dee Thai restaurant in Hale recently to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. This was our first visit to the Dee Thai and the food was beautiful. We chose:

Honey Spare Ribs
Vegetable Tempura

Green Weeping Tiger
Lamb Red Thai Curry

The Green Weeping Tiger was absolutely stunning; thin slices of sirloin steak marinated in herbs and served sizzling with a green coconut curry sauce.  The food is highly recommended and the service excellent. The restaurant itself could do with following the interior design style of Chaophraya in Manchester city centre as it is a bit plain considering where it is located and what you pay to dine. I would definitely eat here again though.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I love it when my husband plays golf in the afternoon on a Sunday as it means one thing....Come Dine With Me marathon completely uninterrupted. Complete with ad breaks and no flicking between channels.

Anyway it always inspired me to cook something a little bit different. I made these stuffed portobello mushrooms one Sunday evening ready for when my man returned from golf. I brushed the mushrooms with olive oil and stuffed with chopped piccolo cherry tomatoes, spinach and basil, grated cheddar cheese and chilli flakes. I then grilled the mushrooms for about 15 minutes and served up with some salt and pepper. Nice and filling and probably a bit too big for a starter.

Vintage Tea Party Napkins

I picked these vintage napkins up in H & M recently for a bargain basement price of 50p in the sale. They are almost too cool to use.

My sister and 3 year old niece came round for a tea party today so I got my first chance to use them. Admittedly completely wasted on a 3 year old but they made the table look pretty.

Yogberries. Where Cheshire cool kids hang out.

The North West's coolest place to send your teenage kids to hang out on a sunny Sunday afternoon is Yogberries the frozen yogurt bar. With branches in Hale, Wilmslow, Bramhall and Fallowfield, Yogberries is very much the Cheshire set's upgrade on a good old fashioned ice cream van.

With funky branding and pristine clean interiors, the Yogberries in Hale is making the most of its new position on the high street next to The American Bar.

Choose a natural or seasonal flavoured frozen yoghurt and then garnish with a toppping of your choice from shaved coconut, granola or honeycomb pieces through to peanut, pineapple or white chocolate buttons.

I think we paid about £7 for two tubs....not much change from a tenner....see what I mean about an upgrade on a good old fashioned ice cream van. Tasty but pricey.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Akbars Manchester - Mega Naan Bread

Akbars is one of my favourite places to eat in Manchester. Particularly on a Friday night after a couple of post work drinks at Cask. I went last week with work and their massive naan breads served on vertical trees never fail to impress me!!!! I always have the vegetarian Balti Palak Aloo Dahl which is potatoes, spinach and lentils cooked to a traditional balti recipe. YUM. The atmosphere is always buzzing in Akbars no matter what day of the week you go and is popular with Corrie stars and Manchester's footballing elite. Highly recommended.

Real Ale from Hobsons Brewery

We went to the BBC Good Food Show in June and true to form we came home with absolutely no food. But we did come home with booze. Hobsons Brewery from Shropshire had a stand at the show and were offering tastings of their selection of real ales. I can't quite remember what we paid for this fabulous gift box of six bottles but it wasn't very much - maybe £12. We bought three bottles of Hobsons Town Crier and three bottles of Hobsons Twisted Spire.

Hobsons have won awards for their beers and they have a funky website which is worth a look. You can buy Hobsons beer from their online shop.

BBC Good Food Show 2012 at the NEC

My husband loves football. In fact he loves all sport. So there's a lot of Sky Sports watching going on in our house. I don't mind as long as we can do stuff I'm interested in too. So at the end of the football season I arranged a 'couple's day out' to the BBC Good Food Show and Gardeners World Live at the NEC. We got there about 10am and watched John Torode and Gregg Wallace cooking live. After that we went round some of the stands tasting goats cheese, feta cheese, olives, Magners and chilled red wine. Then we got to see Lisa Faulkner hosting Masterchef Live with the latest winner Mauritian born Shelina Permalloo cooking fish curry (pictured).

Unfortunately there was torrential rain on the day so Gardeners World Live was a washout. And because it was raining everyone was inside in the food hall meaning it was PACKED!!! It all got a bit claustrophobic so we didn't get as much out of the day as I'd hoped. Still - better than watching football!

Sunday Brunch at Willowpool

We got up early one Sunday morning recently and walked from Altrincham to Lymm along the Bridgewater Canal and ended up at Willowpool Garden Centre for brunch. I'd never been before and loved it! It is a very quirky, unique, vintage feeling, bohemian garden centre with fabulous tea rooms where you sit in Alice in Wonderland-esque booths with bunting, incense and tablecloths galore. We ordered tea for two, orange juice and smoked salmon bagels which were served with salad. We then had a good look around the farmers market, the craft stalls and watched the ducks swimming on the pond. Willowpool is a very nice destination for the weekend and Nans and Mums would love it!.

Week Night G&T (Without the G)

In January my husband and I decided to go a month without booze. Lots of Christmas parties and New Year shenanigans left us feeling pretty rotten so we decided to give up the demon drink. Of course as soon as you give something up, all you can think of is that thing, so when it came to Friday and Saturday nights we needed something nice in a glass to replace the wine or beer we would usually drink.

And so the G&T mocktail was born; lime flavoured tonic water on ice with fresh lime. It tastes so nice and has since become part of our week night ritual saying in faux posh Tarquin and Felicity voices 'Here you go dear, treat yourself to this G&T you've worked hard all day'. 'Oh thanks dear' *cheers and slurp* 'mmm that's delicious'. And so on. Most nights. Small things eh?

The World's Best Olives at Jamie's Italian

I chose 'The World's Best Olives' as my starter at Jamie's Italian in Manchester recently. They are huge! Also known as mammoth olives, they are served on crushed ice with a black olive dip and crispy music bread. The olives are amazingly tasty and so big that you end up nibbling around the stone in the middle rather than putting the whole olive in your mouth in one go.

I used to be in the olive hating camp but now can't get enough of them. I have a trip to London planned in September with a visit to Borough Market which will involve lots of olive tasting no doubt washed down with copious amounts of sparkling wine.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Orzo, sundried tomato, mozzarella, basil, spinach and red wine vinegar lunchbox

Top tip for low-cost but mega-tasty lunch box delights is orzo, sundried tomato and mozzarella salad. Throw in some basil leaves, spinach and red wine vinegar and you have a 12.30pm lunch to look forward to. We like healthy portion sizes in our house ;-) and I reckon this costs about £4 for two. It takes 10 minutes to cook the orzo during which you throw everything else together. Leave it all to marinade in the fridge overnight, divide into his and hers lunch boxes the next morning, shake at lunchtime and enjoy.

Home sweet home tastes of ice cream

I might get this photograph printed and framed for our home. It would melt my husband's heart. They say home is where the heart is. Currently heart and home are on long term sabbatical in Hale, Cheshire but really it belongs in Parkgate, Wirral.

Nicholls of Parkgate - ice cream shop extraordinaire- is the local cash cow when the sun is shining. Actually even when its not, Mr Nicholls opens his doors to floods of twitchers, weekend breakers, locals, school trips, OAPs on coaches, motorbikers and lots of very welcome day trippers from the other side of the water; good old Liverpool. The ice cream is award winning and you get absolutely every flavour under the sun. Made on the premises (like the poor relation ice cream shop next door where I used to work as a teenager) the mint choc chip and strawberry double cone with a flake is a top choice.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Yara Altrincham Review

Yara is without a doubt one of the best local restaurants in our area. It is a Lebanese and Syrian restaurant on Oxford Road in Altrincham with the friendliest staff and tastiest food. Yara is a small restaurant over two floors in what feels like a converted house. You can take your own alcohol which is partly what makes this a very popular and busy restaurant where you often have to book up to a week in advance for a weekend table.

The menu consists of lots of lamb, tomato and aubergine based dishes. I've eaten here four times now and last time I had cheese and spinach parcels followed by lamb chops and chips. The lamb chops are cooked over charcoal and are so insanely tasty its hard to choose anything else. It costs us approx £30 for a meal for two. You only get your table for about 1 hour 20 minutes if you're in for a 7pm sitting at the weekend. And the staff stick to this - they make no bones about coming over to you when your time is up! There are always groups of people in Yara on big tables celebrating birthdays along side couples sharing a bottle of wine. Go if you get chance.

Lunch at Barburrito, Liverpool One

I can't believe I've never eaten in Barburrito before last weekend! My husband and I went for a day out to Liverpool and visited the Museum of Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, St George's Hall and The Walker Art Gallery. We also went shopping at Liverpool One and The Met Quarter. All on a lovely sunny day. It was such a good day I out I highly recommend it especially for couples on a weekend. But make sure the weather is nice when you go as Liverpool is one windy city every day of the year so it is grim when it rains!

Anyway we were going to go for a fancy lunch on Chavasse Park on top of Liverpool One. There are lots of restaurants up there- Las Iguanas, Cafe Rouge, Chaophraya, Yee-Rah, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Nandos and Yo Sushi. We both really fancied Mexican and when we noticed Barburrito we decided against a fancy wine and dine lunch and went in for what were the most incredibly huge and tasty burritos packed with cajun chicken, salsa, salad, rice and guacamole. It cost £15 for two burritos and two drinks. The tortilla chips were thrown in for free. Definitely my new preferred choice for a quick light lunch in town.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

BBC Good Food Magazine

I bought a subscription to BBC Good Food magazine via the Tesco clubcard scheme last year. It is such a good magazine I can't recommend it enough. Every month it is packed full of ideas and the photography is beautiful. There are always great offers on cookware and accessories. This year we are going to the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham after buying discounted tickets via the magazine. Can't wait it is going to be foodie heaven!

Pineapple Piece Pudding

I love buying pineapples. I like the way they look in my shopping trolley and I like seeing one in my fruit bowl in the kitchen. It brings a sense of freshness, holidays and exotica to your life. It is nice to chop a pineapple up for dessert and then save all the leftover pieces in an air tight container in the fridge. We are not big on desserts in our house but at weekends we make a nice fruit salad and pineapple is so amazing you almost don't need anything else. Juicy!

Home Chopped Vegetable Stir Fry

This is the Tuesday night staple tea in our house. We go to ashtanga yoga on a Tuesday night which is absolutely amazing for both body and mind. Last week I was in a head stand and we are learning to do actual hand stands. It is such a rush and you feel amazing the following day with all that fresh blood to your brain. Anyway the last thing you want to do is turn up with a full tummy of food so we always have a light stir fry after work to keep the hunger pangs at bay. This one contained a green and red pepper, chestnut mushrooms and sliced baby courgettes. They are all thrown into the wok to sizzle away. After a couple of minutes throw in some fresh egg noodles and a stir fry sauce of your choice. Cooked and served within 5 minutes.

Quinoa, Edamame & Bulgur Salad

This has fast become the base for all my lunchtime salads recently. I try and take my lunch to work every day partly to save money but mainly so I know exactly what I am eating, where it was prepared, what has gone into it and that all utensils used to make it were clean and hygienic. OCD? Yes definitely.

This quinoa, edamame and bulgur salad base is so easy to make. I use a packet of Pedon 10 minute quick cook quinoa and bulgur from the wholefoods aisle at Tesco. You simply place the grains into boiling water for ten minutes and add the edamame beans in three minutes before the end. Then you rinse in a sieve and run cold water through. I then tip the mixture into a large mixing bowl and add whatever other ingredients I fancy along with the juice of a lemon or lime depending on what suits. Easy, tasty, full of protein, cheap, healthy and perfect for tipping into a lunch box and eating at your desk.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Athenaeum Hotel is named as London’s top place for afternoon tea in 2012

The Tea Guild has awarded The Athenaeum Hotel in London its top award for Afternoon Tea in 2012. The Athenaeum thoroughly deserves this award for its food, service and venue which all have a very sumptuous and luxurious feel.

My friend and I took pink champagne afternoon tea at The Athenaeum last year as part of our WOD (weekend of dreams) and it continues to be my favourite afternoon tea experience so far. Here is the blog I wrote all about it.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Linden Hall Golf & Country Club

We went on a mini break recently to Linden Hall in Northumberland. It's a beautiful Macdonald hotel with a very nice spa and surrounded by an 18 hole golf course. We stayed on a dinner, bed and breakfast deal and ate in the double AA rosette Dobson Restaurant both nights which demonstrates fine dining at its best. The food was beautiful and served in a very quiet and very high end drawing room. One is addressed as Sir and Madame in an establishment like this. Anyway if fine dining is not your cup of tea you can eat and drink in the Linden Tree Pub on site which is much more down to earth. This is where we watched the Gold Cup with two pints of the finest black stuff. This is what a day off work looks like to me.

Posh Nando's

Now I know I need to work on my food photography. My trusty old iPhone 3G needs an upgrade even just for the camera. We stayed in last Saturday night for the first time in ages, watched The Voice, a bit of BGT and then Anchor Man. Very cosy. So I made us something for dinner with a bit of a takeaway feeling. I called this Posh Nando's as I bought their medium Peri Peri sauce and marinated a couple of chicken breasts whilst watching Jessie J & co on BBC1. I cooked the chicken on the griddle pan and added some mini sliced courgettes towards the end and served it all up with some Mediterranean couscous. The Nando's sauce is just hot enough, cost £2.09 from Tesco and resulted in clean plates all round.

Chicken Caesar Salad

It's that time of year. One day it's warm and sunny and you're wearing a blazer to work having packed the winter coat away. The next day its chilly and you're hunting out a scarf. So what do you eat on these not-quite-summer kind of evenings? Home made chicken caesar salad is a good choice as it gives you the light leafy feel you want for the summer body but packs a nice cosy winter punch with the (low fat version) warm caesar sauce. Top with avacado and plenty of black pepper. Its a hearty salad even suitable for boys.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Roses Tea Rooms Review

This little gem of a place used to be located in Heswall village and was very popular for its afternoon tea. Roses Tea Rooms have since moved to the fabulous location of Ness Gardens and I went last weekend with my mum for lunch. I love places like this. The type of place you could take your Nan. Roses Tea Rooms is based in the entrance hall to Ness Gardens and I expect is bringing a lot of visitors to what is usually a venue only really popular in the summer time. The Tea Room actually takes up a really big space in the foyer and is full of quaint little tables for two or four with a rose and a menu on each one. They offer a very full and impressive tea menu with everything from Assam and Earl Grey to herbal teas which are served in a pot with loose leaves and a strainer. The lunch menu is also very generous and includes soup and a sandwich for £6.50 which we both chose. As we sat down it looked very busy with most tables taken but the waitresses were very quick to come over, take and serve our order. This is a very quaint place to lunch and rivals the cafe at nearby Gordale. Perfect for a lunch date with your Nan. Or anyone else who likes all things floral and vintage.

Valentines Treat: Mount Gay Rum Truffles

If someone asked what you associate with Barbados you might say Rihanna, sunshine, or Simon Cowell on holiday at Sandy Lane over Christmas. But Barbados is also famous for the oldest brand of rum in existence; Mount Gay Rum. Records show this rum was first distilled in Barbados in the 1700s and it has since gone on to become a world recognised brand. My husband and I were first introduced to Mount Gay Rum during a family holiday to St Lucia in 2007 when we stayed at Windjammer Landing for the Cricket World Cup. My Uncle in Law told a story about this being the rum sailors brought back from the Caribbean when returning from long trips at sea (this could be entirely made up – I got so drunk on this rum – we all did – it has the power to knock you off your feet). Mount Gay Rum does sponsor regattas around the world however so there may be some truth in this story. 

Anyway ever since that holiday my husband and his best friend have enjoyed Mount Gay Rum and coke as an end-of-the-evening kind of tipple. I was reminded of this rum when I was on the tram to work recently reading the Metro where there was a snippet about Mount Gay Rum truffles being made by Rococo Chocolates in London. I contacted the shop to get some truffles as a Valentines present for my husband but they don’t sell the fresh truffles online. So one of my best friends kindly went into the Kings Road store and bought me a box of the Mount Gay Rum truffles and a box of banana rum truffles, packaged them up and sent them in the post. I got very excited when this package arrived on my desk at work. The truffles are ovals of dark chocolate all smooth and rich on the inside. We ate one each on Valentines Day and then packaged them back up for rationing over the next few weeks. How amazing is this packaging?! Have a look at the very cool Mount Gay Rum website to read the story of the drink and learn a little bit about Barbados

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Afternoon Tea at The Marsh Cat Review

There's no place like home. And there's not many restaurants where you'll be made to feel more at home than at The Marsh Cat in Parkgate. A jewel in the Leisure Peninsula's crown, there is hardly a Wirral family who hasn't celebrated some kind of family occasion in The Marsh Cat, and if they haven't, they have been missing out.

The MC/The Bog Mog/The Rezzie as it is colloquially known by some has recently started serving afternoon tea for £9.95 a head between 2.30pm and 4pm. My friend was home this weekend from London so we decided to book a table for afternoon tea to celebrate her birthday.

I have been for afternoon tea at three different venues in the past year - two in London (The Athenaeum Hotel and One Aldwych) and one in Manchester (The Radisson) - and all were formal, suited and booted, stand on ceremony kind of affairs. Afternoon tea at The Marsh Cat is different. Its relaxed, its friendly, the crockery is mismatched and vintage, you're more likely to sit next to a table of pensioners than a table of botoxed WAGS like you get in some afternoon tea venues and you get stunning views of the Welsh hills out of the window.

The tea is served in nice floral tea pots (you don't get a tea menu) and the finger sandwiches and cakes are served on a chintzy cake stand like the one in the photograph. We had egg and cress and ham sandwiches which were demolished pretty quickly. The chef Phil came over to say hello and clearly sensed we liked our food and kindly brought some additional sandwiches made of smoked salmon and also duck with cherry sauce.

Two hours of eating, drinking, laughing and chatting later, we settled our bill and said our goodbyes and all agreed what a lovely time we'd had. If you're looking for afternoon tea in the Wirral/Cheshire area I would definitely recommend The Marsh Cat. It is what it is. Soft finger sandwiches and a selection of cakes with scones, clotted cream and jam washed down with a nice brew in a local restaurant known for its laid back class.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

I am a Tesco Robot

I think I have a Tesco Extra addiction. I walk in with my trolley, am immediately seduced by the flowers and plants and select a bunch of roses or lillies depending on which look healthier, then linger around the magazine aisle thinking 'Look or Grazia, Look or Grazia?' and almost always end up buying both so I should just learn to throw them both in the trolley and stop wasting time. I then go to the card section and think about what month it is and whether I need to buy any cards for anyone. Then I always look at what offers they have in Homeware and wham bam I'm sold on candles, anything seasonal (de-icer and scraper before Christmas which actually came in very useful this week so not a wasted purchase), napkins, some form of kitchen gadget and most recently glassware. (This is all before actually buying any food.)

Tesco are currently running an offer on Royal Worcester glassware where if you collect five coupons you get 70% off. So in went a box of four red wine glasses which are huge - Cougar Town style- and some tall heavy bottomed tumblers which make even lime cordial and soda water feel glamorous and expensive. They were £7.99 and £4.99 which I decided was a very good price. Sold. Another robot purchase.  More Clubcard points. More robotic behaviour.

I am definitely addicted to building up Clubcard points. Things I have purchased with Clubcard points over the years include tickets for the Eurotunnel for a holiday to France, a BBC Good Food magazine subscription, countless Pizza Express vouchers, champagne, flowers and books. All of which are pretty good in my (robotic) opinion. And it keeps me going back for more. I spend an increasing amount of time in the foreign foods aisle these days buying things like 'Ting' - fizzy Caribbean grapefruit drink - which I clearly don't need but reminds me of holidays in the West Indies.

I know I'm addicted to Tesco Extra but I don't mind. That's the sad thing. I go in once a week to do the big shop. My husband half heartedly offers to come with me but I always say oh don't worry I'll be quicker doing it myself. That's a lie. It takes me ages. But I just don't want him to see the sick way I go into a trance and stare at the selection of Pyrex dishes on the shelves.

Then I 'pop in' on the way home from work a few times a week. A pint of milk becomes a new top for work from Flo and Fred, a tube of toothpaste becomes shampoo and conditioner on BOGOF, and a box of cereal becomes a bottle of wine reduced from £12 to £6. I am up sold, cross sold, every-which-way-possible-sold yet I continue to go in and buy practically ANYTHING they offer me. Apart from the BOGOF bags of mini eggs I looked at tonight. A small victory. I held my head up high and walked right past those small bags of crack thinking YESS I have defeated the Tesco marketing machine. That was until I bought two tiny boxes of mini eggs for £1 instead.

My name is Cookie and I'm addicted to Tesco Extra.