Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – The Ivy Clifton Brasserie, Bristol

August 17, 2017

Situated on the corner of Caledonia Place in Clifton, The Ivy is a beautiful restaurant that’s been open for around a year round. Stu and I finally got round to going a couple of months ago and now I’ve finally got round to writing my review. We’d both heard good things about The Ivy but I still went in with an open mind because there’s nothing worse than somewhere not meeting your expectations and letting it ruin your night.

Spoiler alert: There was *nothing* to be disappointed about.

We were booked in for a Saturday night so expected it to be busy. It was, but in a good way. We were sat in the main seating area which will leave you wishing you lived somewhere with high ceilings and huge chandeliers. Being busy, there was a constant buzz about the place which always creates a good atmosphere in a restaurant. I hate places where you feel everyone is listening to your conversation and you have to whisper. It wasn’t so loud that we had to shout across the table at each other either so win-win.


Now, The Ivy is more expensive than your standard chain restaurant but this was a treat night for us so we decided to not worry about the price and just pick what we wanted. For me, this obviously meant starting with a cocktail! I had the Lavender Lady which was a pretty, gin based drink. 

Now, the food. Our server was really attentive and explained all the specials to us and made some recommendations which is always a good sign. I like it when someone clearly knows the menu rather than just reading off the whiteboard behind them.


I started with the Tuna Carpaccio and Stu had the Crispy Duck Salad. Both came out presented beautifully and the flavours lived up to expectation. My tuna was so fresh and the miso mayonnaise it came with was phenomenal. I do love miso though. Stu’s dish was just as good (obviously I tried some) and the crispy duck contrasted wonderfully with the watermelon.


I was really torn with what to choose for a main. There was lots of choice on the menu and it took me a while to decide. Quite often, one dish will jump out at me but so many options sounded great. I eventually went for the Aromatic Duck Curry because I was intrigued as to how duck would work in a curry. The menu described it as ‘fragrant’ and that sums it up perfectly. It smelt wonderful and all the flavours really complemented each other. Any curry that uses lemongrass will always be a winner with me. The curry was served separately to the rice and although the rice looked good wrapped up in a banana leaf, it made eating it slightly difficult. I didn’t know whether to dip my forkful of rice in to the curry or to add all the rice to bowl of curry in one go… Neither seemed ideal!


Stu had the Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder which came with creamed potato and vegetables. The lamb looked immense with a mustard and herb crust and Stu definitely enjoyed it. I didn’t try any unfortunately but we can trust his opinion!

We were both feeling pretty full by this point but there is always room for pudding. I could only manage something small and went for the Mini Chocolate Truffles. These came filled with salted caramel and were a perfect sweet treat to end the meal with. Stu had the Lemon Meringue Alaska. This was a baked meringue with lemon ice cream and was served on a lemon curd sauce. All sorts of deliciousness!



With a tip, our meal came to just over £100 which is more than what we’d usually spend but for a three course meal and drinks it was worth it. Sometimes it’s nice to really make an occasion of eating out and The Ivy in Clifton is perfect for those times. It’s so easy to grab a Nandos that it can be easily forgotten that eating out should be an event. So get dressed up and head to The Ivy, no excuses needed.

Belgium, Europe, Travel

24 (ish) Hours in Bruges

August 9, 2017

Before we went to Amsterdam the other week, we stayed in Bruges for 1 night so had a bit of time to explore the city and some of the surrounding area. This was very much a stopover on our way to our main destination so there is plenty more to see and see in Bruges but it was a good little introduction to this beautiful place.

This wasn’t my first trip to Belgium but I was quite young the first time and my overriding memory of my visit is getting horrifically seasick on the ferry over. So not the best memory to associate with Belgium. We did the ferry this time as well but I was armed with travel sickness tablets and felt absolutely fine. Phew! The weatherman had promised us a bit of sunshine so we decided to drive to a beach in Belgium on the way to Bruges.


The beach was in Niewpoort and we were all pleasantly surprised. With no idea what to expect, Niewport beach turned out to be a really pretty beach surrounded by sand dunes. Being able to feel the sand between my toes always makes me happy and this time was no different. One day I’d love to live close enough to the beach to be able to do this more often. Anyway, we found a sheltered area between the dunes and spread our towels out so we could have a sit down and look out to sea. Our friends who we were travelling with, Nath and Tash, are getting married later this month so there was plenty of wedding talk whilst we relaxed. The sun soon made its promised appearance and we decided to walk down to the shore. Nath decided to have a proper dip in the sea but the rest of us settled for rolling up our jeans and going in about ankle deep. The sea air soon made us thirsty and we walked a bit further along the beach and came across this cute little bar behind some sand dunes. We bagsied the swinging bed and made ourselves comfy with a pint. Stu and Tash went for a local 8% beer which actually turned out to be the weakest beer we’d try in Belgium. We love Belgium.


After our pint and swing session we got back in the car and drove to our accommodation in Bruges. We were staying within the city walls in the old town so were surrounded by picturesque bridges and buildings.


So, what is there to do in Bruges? I had done zero research but Tash was super organised and had lots of ideas of what we could see and do. When I think of Belgium I think of beer and chocolate but Bruges has a lot more to offer. We decided to head out and aim for some of the main sights and then just see how the day goes.


Our first stop was The Basilica of the Holy Blood which is a chapel which is home to a phial which apparently contains some of Jesus’ blood. Unfortunately it wasn’t on display when we were there but we’ve seen where it is kept which is practically the same thing right? The chapel itself was really impressive with huge stained glass windows and intricate displays. I love visiting religious buildings as you usually have to be silent and it’s nice to be able to take in your surroundings peacefully.


From the chapel we walked to the historic centre of Bruges which is surrounded by impressive buildings in the traditional architecture.  A lot of these buildings including the bell tower are in the film, In Bruges, which I haven’t seen but feel like I should now. We had a little mooch around a chocolate shop near here but didn’t buy anything. We must be one of the only people to visit Belgium and not try and chocolate. Next time!


However, what we lacked in chocolate, we definitely made up for in beer. The 8% beer on the beach was followed up by an 11% one called Garre Tripel served in a tiny pub called De Garre which is nestled down a tiny alley way off the main square. This beer is only available here and is well worth the visit. It may be strong but as a non-beer drinker, I can promise you that it’s nice. It came served with some cubes of local cheese and we ordered some chopped cured sausage as well. Perfection!


We wandered around the canals for the rest of the afternoon/evening, popping in to local pubs and sampling more Belgium beer. I never drink beer and surprised myself how much I enjoyed it. I quickly learnt that a strong blonde beer would be fine for me so I’ll have to keep an eye out for these in future. In one of these pubs we stopped for some food. The waitress recommended some simple Italian dishes which turned out to be huge portions covered in cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking of them again. Before long, we headed back to our accommodation feeling very content with our time in Bruges.

I think I now need to go and watch ‘In Bruges’ and get planning a longer trip to this great city.

Have you been to Bruges? What else would you recommend to see or do?

Europe, The Netherlands, Travel

The Restaurant in Amsterdam that you NEED to know about.

August 7, 2017

When you visit a new city it’s sometimes hard to know where to eat. Especially in a place like Amsterdam where all the streets look the same and it’s difficult to tell one pub from another. If you’re after somewhere a bit different outside of the main city then read on.

Introducing Plekk.


Plekk is a short ferry ride from Central Station in North Amsterdam. The ferry is free and only takes about 15 minutes. When you get across the water don’t be put off by your surroundings. It may seem a bit deserted but you’re only a 5 minute walk away from Plekk. You can’t miss it either as it’s built from colourful shipping containers.


So what’s so special about Plekk? Well, it’s right on the beach for one. You can sit inside but the best seats are the long benches outside. Expect to share with other people but this just adds to the friendly atmosphere of the place. Sit down and look across the water at Amsterdam. We went on our last night in Amsterdam so it was great to look at where we had spent a great few days with friends.


Food wise, everything looked good but we went for some tapas options. We pretty much went for one of everything from the menu and shared 7 dishes between four of us. It’s always difficult to know how much tapas to order but our waitress thought 7 would be enough and it was perfect for us.


Every dish looked and tasted amazing. We had olives, flat breads, chorizo, a cheese platter, padron peppers, boar croquettes and roasted mushrooms. The chorizo was all of our favourites and we managed to leave a piece each to finish with. Because your last mouthful has to be the best, right?


After eating, we took our drinks on to the beach and sat on one of the many huge cushions. The sun was just starting to set so it made for a great view. There was also a silent disco going on and they are always fun to watch. It was great just to chill out and enjoy a drink at the end of our holiday.


We decided to head back to central Amsterdam for some more drinks and managed to catch the ferry back during a fantastic sunset. I hadn’t heard of Plekk before but I’ll definitely be recommending it now to everyone visiting this beautiful city.

 

Lifestyle

An Afternoon of Polo and Pimms at The Celtic Manor Resort

August 5, 2017

Anyone for Polo?

There’s three words that I didn’t think I’d ever start a blog post with but I have been to my first ever polo match!

The Celtic Manor in South Wales hold this event annually and I went with a group of friends this year. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t even know what to wear. In the end, I figured  that I’d dress as if I was going to the races because Polo has horses too. Sounds reasonable right?



We arrived on a sunny June afternoon and it was BAKING. We were so lucky. I got a horrific tan line from my dress but the day would have been terrible in bad weather. I’m sure the Celtic Manor have a contingency plan but I can’t imagine many people turning up. The good weather meant that we could chill on picnic blankets surrounded by jugs of Pimms. Life was pretty good. I even got a cheeky picture with Lydia and her Mum from Towie!


As this was my first Polo match, I knew barely anything about the game. A couple of friends knew the rules so I kind of understood what was going on but I just didn’t find it that exciting. Maybe it was just because I didn’t care who won. The best part was definitely half time when everyone descended on to the pitch for the divot stomp. This is where everyone walks around the field pressing the divots flat to improve the pitch. More sports should definitely get the crowds involved in this way.



More Pimms and food followed the match and time seemed to fly by. A local band then started playing to a tipsy crowd so there was plenty of dodgy dancing on display. Not from me obviously, I’m great…

I definitely enjoyed the Pimms more than the polo so I don’t think I’m going to be saying ‘yar’ instead of yes anytime soon. It’s a great day out though and something different to do with friends.

Have you ever been to a Polo match? What did you think?

Europe, Travel, UK

Bristol Zoo Twilights

July 16, 2017

The zoo is a great day out in Bristol but like all things these days can be ridiculously expensive, especially if you’re taking the whole family. Luckily Bristol Zoo open the doors on certain Friday evenings throughout the Summer and for just £5 each, you get to visit all your favourite enclosures, enjoy some live music and visit the newly refurbished restaurant, The Hide.


When I visited a couple of weeks ago with a group of other Bristol bloggers, it was my first visit to Bristol Zoo in years. We were lucky enough to have a quick private tour of the Zoo before the doors were opened to the public. If I’m being honest, I’m not 100% sure if I like zoos. The conservation work that they do is great and goes someway to make up for the slightly sketchy history that many zoos have, but I still find it a bit uncomfortable to see birds restricted to netted areas and to stare at a gorilla behind a pane of glass when they’re so similar to us. Bristol Zoo are doing the best they can and it’s clear that the staff are really passionate about their areas and want the best for all the animals.


That aside, the seals seemed to be having a whale of a time (see what I did there?) and I did let out a little squeal when I saw the red panda. I swear it’s the first time I’ve seen a red panda awake. They’re definitely my spirit animal!


Bristol Zoo is currently home to the Dinomania exhibition. As you walk around the Zoo, you’ll spot these huge interactive dinosaurs nestled between the animal enclosures. They look so impressive and the kids in our group loved them. Watch out for the one that sprays water though…


After our tour, we got to visit the Zoo’s restaurant, The Hide. If you’ve visited Bristol Zoo before, you probably remember a large canteen area with no personality which sold expensive junk food. It’s been completely refurbished and is now beautiful inside. Modern interiors are paired with an updated menu. It’s still a bit pricey but is actually worth the money now. We got to try a few of the sharing boards which included pizza, sausages, tortilla chips and bread and dips. We all agreed that the food was really good and would visit just for lunch if we could.




The next Friday Twilights session is on the 4th August and I might be going again with some work pals. Don’t miss out on visiting the Zoo for just £5!

I was given a complimentary ticket to the zoo but all views are my own!

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – Backwell House, Bristol

June 29, 2017

Just a few miles from the busy city centre of Bristol sits the beautiful Backwell House and I was lucky enough to visit and try out their new menu on a stunning weekday evening a couple of weeks ago.

It’s hard to put in to words just how picturesque Backwell House and surrounding grounds are but if you take a look at the pictures below, you’ll get a pretty good idea.



We were greeted with drinks by the entrance before being given a tour of the House and gardens by Guy, the Managing Director of the Hotel and Restaurant. I would usually summarise the tour in the same post as the restaurant review but that wouldn’t do this place justice so I’m going to write another post at a later date to showcase all the quirky details and the wonderful gardens.


After the tour, we were seated in this huge dining room reserved just for the Bristol bloggers group and we each had a goody bag filled with gifts from Backwell House and local suppliers which was a lovely touch. Before long our Starters were being brought out and I’m the worst for getting food envy so even though my dish looked great, I also wanted to try everyone else’s as well! I started with the Pressed Backwell Pork with New Season Peas, Pancetta and a Tarragon Emulsion (this sounds better if you read it in your best Masterchef voice). The crackling was a bit awkward to eat politely so not a great option for a first date. I ended up picking mine up and just going for the chomp! The rest of the dish was really tasty and set the tone for the rest of the meal.


Next up was the Cornish Cod with a Brixham Crab Bonbon, Crab Bisque, Kohlrabi and Pak Choi. I’m not usually one to pick fish but I thought I’d give it a go and definitely wasn’t disappointed. The whole dish tasted really fresh and no flavours were too overpowering. I was sat next to Rebecca who had the sirloin steak which looked immense so I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures.



Now for dessert I had to choose the strawberry cannelloni just because I was so intrigued. I had no idea what to expect but it was a nice refreshing end to the meal. The cannelloni was served with cute little meringues and some Cheddar Valley strawberries.


The atmosphere of the evening was great, everyone was chatting between courses and hearing stories of Backwell House from the staff. The chef, Ross Hunter, came out to see us afterwards for a little Q&A session and he was so modest! I told him to get on Masterchef: The Professionals! It was good to hear that all the food was sourced locally, including some from the very gardens of the house.

Our hosts for the evening, Guy and Felicity, were ridiculously accommodating and couldn’t do enough to make sure everyone was having a good time. I’ve been to a few blogger evenings now and this was one of the best. You can tell how much Guy loves Backwell House or ‘his baby’ as he calls it and I’m sure every visitor will leave just as happy as I did. Just go!


I received a complimentary meal at Backwell House but all views are my own. 

Lifestyle, My Life

Why Do We Always Ask Ourselves ‘What Next?’

May 22, 2017

Do you ever feel like your life has to follow a certain path just because that’s the way other people think it should be done? I’m talking education, get a good job, meet someone, buy a house, get engaged, get married, have a baby, have another one, keep pushing for that next promotion, retire, grandkids…. Then what?

Life goes quickly enough as it is and I’m sure we could all do without the pressure that we and others put on ourselves to be constantly moving towards the next milestone. So why do we do it?

I know I’m guilty of asking friends and colleagues when they think they’re get engaged, move out etc but I hate it when people ask me. ALL OF THE PRESSURE.

I’m trying to make a conscious effort not to ask these sort of questions because I’ve realised that it really doesn’t matter.

So what if you never get married? So what if you never have any kids or pop out a whole football team’s worth? So what if you rent all your life? IT’S YOUR LIFE.

Forget about what society thinks, people will judge you no matter what you do so you might as well enjoy your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to have goals but your life doesn’t have to follow a particular order. How boring would it be if everyone did the same thing?

There’s no need to compare or feel judged. Just do you and enjoy it.

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – The Square Kitchen, Bristol.

May 20, 2017

Last month I was invited to try out the new Spring menu at The Square Kitchen in Clifton along with a few other local bloggers. I love eating out so I was excited to try somewhere new. Bristol is full of so many hidden gems when it comes to restaurants and for someone who has lived in Bristol their entire life, I feel bad that there are so many places I’ve never visited!


The Square Kitchen is situated in The Berkeley Square Hotel off Queens Square.  It’s a private members club aimed at the creative industry but luckily members of the public can also visit.


It was cocktails on arrival for the bloggers and I was glad to see a good selection of mocktails as I was driving. Cocktails and bloggers meant an awful lot of photos had to be taken before we could drink. Did you even have a cocktail if you didn’t take a picture of it?


Before we sat down to eat, Heather let us have a nosy around her room as she was staying in the hotel for the night. The room was absolutely perfect for a short stay and I’m pretty sure I could actually live there haha! There was a definite Alice in Wonderland theme going on in her room as you can see from the pictures below. They know how to make food and drink look appealing! Also – how cute is the kitchen area?!


After a quick visit to Heather’s room, it was time to sit down to eat. The quirky interior theme continued to the restaurant with beautiful art work and low hanging lights which look good but did nothing for the pictures I took of my food!


We started with ham hock and piccalilli appetisers before our Starters came out. These were completely unexpected so felt like a real treat. I felt like I was a judge on Masterchef as the presentation was so pretty – a definite theme to the whole meal!


I decided to be brave with my choice of Starter and went for the seared scallops with serrano ham chips, a clam salad and caviar. This looked really delicate and came with some lemon spherification which is something I only know about from watching posh chefs on TV! I enjoyed the starter, especially the scallops because they’re such a rare treat.


For my main I chose the herb and parmesan gnocchi which was served with butternut fondant and a parmesan tuille. The gnocchi was beautifully rich and the butternut fondant was so smooth it was almost creamy. I wished there was more of this dish it was so tasty.


I finished with the chocolate bomb which was an event in itself. A filled chocolate sphere is brought to your table and then the waiter pours hot salted caramel sauce over the chocolate causing it to collapse and exposing the filling inside. Mine was filled with peanut butter parfait and a banana mousse. What’s not to love?


The whole menu was reasonably priced for the quality of the food, it’s definitely somewhere you should consider for a nice meal out without a stuffy atmosphere.


Blogging

I Went On A Copywriting Course And This Is What I Learnt

May 18, 2017
copywriting for bloggers

This post is a bit off-piste but I recently attended a copywriting course with work and found it really interesting so thought I would share what I learnt here for any other bloggers/writers.

What is Copywriting?

In basic terms, ‘copy’ is just words. Copywriting is making those words sound good. You can also use copywriting for SEO purposes but it’s much more fun if you’re not trying to cram a load of key words in to your writing.

Good copy should be easy to read. That means it makes sense, flows well and doesn’t contain jargon. The main tip I took away from the day was to write how your reader speaks, don’t be really formal if you don’t need to be. I did learn quite a few tips and tricks to improve my copywriting and I’ve summarised them all below.

 AIDA

AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action and is a common marketing technique. It’s a good formula for a piece of writing if you want the reader to do something (i.e. the action) after reading.

Attention – It sounds obvious but you need to grab your reader’s attention in the first place. This can be a catchy headline, a bit of harmless clickbait or something intriguing.

Interest – Great, you’ve got your reader’s attention, now what? Attention spans are at an all time low. How often have you opened a blog post or news story and just skimmed the first few lines before moving on? Pretty much every time? This is why paragraphs in a news story decrease in importance the further you read. After your attention grabbing headline or strapline, it’s time to get the reader interested. Talk about something that your reader cares about. No one cares about you until you’ve proven that you care about them or can do something for them.

Desire – If someone is still reading then they’re starting to buy in to your story. Now is the time to get the reader to start desiring the ‘action’ at the end. Good techniques to use here are storytelling and backing up your claims with evidence. People buy on emotion and numbers sell.

Action – The action is the most wanted response. What do you want your reader to do after reading your writing? Enter a competition? Leave a comment? Or apply for a job? Make it clear what you want the reader to do. This is the ‘call to action’.

 Powerful Language

The most powerful word in writing? You. By speaking directly to your reader and using words such as ‘you’, ‘us’ and ‘we’, the reader is more likely to carry on reading and feel like your writing matters to them. You’ll notice that Politicians use this technique A LOT!

VAK – The three senses, Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic.

Most people have a preference to one of these three senses so it’s best to use all three to make sure you’re appealing to everyone. Examples of each are:

Visual – Can you see yourself…?

Auditory – Do you like the sound of…?

Kinaesthetic – How would it feel to be…?

Towards/Away

Some people move towards a goal, while others move away from a problem. This one works well for job adverts. For example, moving towards a goal could be ‘Looking for the next step in your HR career?’ and moving away from a problem could be ‘Hate commuting to London every day?’.

Rule of 3

Some Psychologist called Gestalt figured out that humans like a list of three. So use bullet points and examples in threes. You’ll notice that I used this technique earlier in the post.

And there you have it! A quick overview of some copywriting basics. Once you know some of these techniques you’ll spot them everywhere. So many adverts use the rule of three that you’ll actually start to find it amusing. Well you will if you’re a word nerd like me.

I hope you find these techniques useful and can put them in to practice. Let me know how you get on! (This an example of a call to action if you didn’t notice…).

copywriting for bloggers

Food, Lifestyle

Beauty & The Beast Afternoon Tea at Old Down Estate

April 29, 2017

Before I start this post, I have a teeny tiny confession to make.

I still haven’t watched the new Beauty & The Beast in the cinema.

I know, I know, I’m such a bad Disney fan. I don’t even have a good excuse, as always, life has been busy and time has just flown by. I promise I’ll see it soon though. Or maybe just wait for the DVD…

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I got to experience a Beauty & The Beast themed afternoon tea with a couple of friends at the beautiful Old Down Estate. Disney and afternoon tea? What could be better!


It was a beautiful afternoon when we visited so the grounds looked wonderful. You can get married at Old Down Estate and if you were lucky with the weather, you’d get some beautiful photos. Inside was just as pretty and we were quickly shown in to a holding area before our table was ready.


The Beauty & The Beast soundtrack was played quietly in the background to get us in the Disney mood (as if we weren’t already!) and before long we were shown to our table.


Each table had a replica enchanted rose and little figurines of characters from the film. The whole room was overly excited and everyone was taking lots of pictures of their tables. Mrs Potts as the milk jug was a firm favourite of mine. I actually ended up with a really milky tea as I was recording myself pouring the milk and trying to get that elusive perfect Boomerang for Instagram!


There were even more pictures as our afternoon tea came out to us. Alongside the usual sandwiches and scones, the macaroons were sitting inside a Chip mug and we had a chocolate cake shaped to look like Cogsworth. Everything looked really pretty and it’s always a shame to eat it.


I’m actually a bit weird and don’t like many desserts so I was happy with the sandwiches and scones but didn’t like many of the other treats – too much coconut and mousse for my liking. If I’m being honest, I’ve had better afternoon teas but the the Beauty & The Beast theme made this a special occasion.


As we were finishing off our food, a lady dressed as Belle came in to the room. Unfortunately there were only a couple of children in our sitting so Belle had to make awkward small talk with a lot of bemused adults. We still had a picture with her though! Belle then started to sing along with the sound track which again would have gone down better if there were more children to join in.

I liked Old Down Estate and I’d definitely like to see a wedding there, just got to bully one of my friends in to choosing it for their venue!