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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.

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. 

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.


Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – Miller & Carter, Cribbs Causeway

February 4, 2017

You may have heard of Miller & Carter, it’s a nationwide chain with a good reputation. When Stu and I heard that a new branch had opened in Cribbs Causeway we couldn’t wait to try it out. We decided to visit to help celebrate our 7 year anniversary last month. Not that we needed an excuse!

The Cribbs branch is in a building that used to be a Harvester and it turns out Miller & Carter and Harvester are from the same parent company. I don’t mind Harvester (got to love the unlimited salad bowl!) but Miller & Carter is much more up my street.


Our visit fell in Dry January which I decided to do this year so I was pleased to see that their were some ‘softails’ on the menu. I had the Minted Cranberry Spritz which was a light and refreshing contrast to the rich food we were eating. I’m a nightmare for choosing a drink based on the glass it comes in and the Miller & Carter menu has that handy silhouette next to each drink so you know what your drink is going to look like. Stu also likes this so he doesn’t end up with a ‘girly drink’.


To start, I had the salt and pepper calamari which came with lemon aioli and I think Stu had the pulled brisket croquettes but I can’t actually remember haha! This is why I should take photos of what we both eat!


Being a steak restaurant, there’s not much point in going to Miller & Carter unless you’re a fan of meat. There are other options on the menu but if you’re visiting a really good steak restaurant, you should be having what they specialise in. Stu and I decided to go for one of the sharer steaks, the Chateaubriand. It was heaven on a plate. Just, beautiful.

If you’re not a fan of meat then I recommend you look away from these next few photos…


How nice is the presentation?

With each steak you get to choose which sauce you have and also which sauce you have on your lettuce wedge. Yes, a lettuce wedge. Literally, a wedge of lettuce comes with your steak. I’m sure this is some well known combination but to me it was totally random but actually quite nice to have in between all the rich, heavy food. If you have a sharer steak like we did, you still get to choose a sauce each rather than having to share.

To finish, I had the cheesecake (obviously) and Stu had a coffee with a mini chocolate pot. I was really full but I can never resist a cheesecake. It’s nice to make the evening last a bit longer as well.


We both had a really nice evening at Miller & Carter and I’ll definitely return. The cocktails are calling my name!

Have you been to a Miller & Carter near you?

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – The Hankridge Arms, Taunton

January 22, 2017

Earlier in the month, I ate at The Hankridge Arms in Taunton for a belated Christmas get together with family. We chose The Hankridge Arms because it’s a good meeting point between my home in Bristol, and Torquay where my Dad lives. According to their website, The Hankridge Arms is “Taunton’s best kept secret”. I guess this is because you don’t expect to find a country pub minutes from the M5 and next to a retail park. Although the pub looks a little out of place, it doesn’t disappoint once inside.


The Hankridge Arms was originally a 16th Century farmhouse and has retained a lot of the original features. Expect oak beams, low ceilings and huge fireplaces. Anywhere that has an open fire is a winner with me so I was so pleased to be sat on a table next to fire. The whole feel of the pub is cosy and traditional so you would probably expect classic English pub food but the menu was actually very modern.


I always suffer from food envy in restaurants and find it difficult to pick something on a menu. I want to have the best option available and like to get lots of food so always check out what comes with a meal. The curry came with naan bread and poppadoms so it was a no brainer for me!



All the meals were beautifully presented so although I was happy with my food, I will still jealous of  everyone else. I also like when restaurants serve food in quirky ways, even if it isn’t actually very practical. For example, the brownie came with a chocolate mousse/sauce concoction served in a mini bottle and it was slightly too thick to just flow out and we didn’t have a small enough spoon to help it out. But it looked good so who cares haha!

We all enjoyed our time in Taunton and I would definitely recommend The Hankridge Arms for a good family meal. Sitting in front of the fire is perfect on a cold day and we could have spent hours there.

Europe, Ireland, Travel

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Dublin

November 7, 2016

I don’t know about you but one of my favourite things about going away is all the food you eat. I get really excited about eating out and trying the local cuisine. You can really immerse yourself in a country’s culture by eating and drinking where the locals go.

So obviously, Dublin was no different.

Breakfast


Eating out for breakfast has become big business now. My Instagram feed is flooded by poached egg and smashed avocado on a weekend, it can make going downstairs for a bowl of porridge a bit underwhelming to be honest!

I love going out for breakfast. It feels like such a luxury because we don’t do it very often.

So where would I recommend having breakfast in Dublin? Well we stumbled across Two Pups Coffee on our way to the Guinness Storehouse on a late Saturday morning. Situated near St Patrick’s Cathedral, this gorgeous little cafe and vintage clothing store offers delicious coffee and breakfast for hungry locals and tourists.  I had a cheese toastie which came with the most amazing chutney. The staff were really friendly and gave Stu’s Dad a cute cupcake with a candle on as it was his birthday!

Lunch


If you know anything about the Dublin nightlife then you know that the tourists flock to the Temple Bar area and attempt to drown themselves with Guinness every night.What you might not know, is that within the Temple Bar area, there’s a traditional Irish pub called The Temple Bar. Keeping up?


This pub is busy no matter what time you go (it’s never too early for a pint of Guinness) and usually has a band in playing some Irish music. A busy pub playing loud music might not sound like the ideal place for lunch in Dublin but The Temple Bar has the most extensive sandwich menu I have ever seen. There must have been close to a hundred different combinations on the menu. I’m a nightmare when presented with so much choice on a menu but I eventually made a decision and went for a baguette with turkey, ham, brie and cranberry – YUM! The sandwiches also come with some grapes and a couple of little cakes so you can finish with a sweet treat. Wash this down with a Guinness and you can’t go wrong.

Dinner


How do you follow a cute cafe and a tourist hot spot in the centre of Dublin? Well if you head to the Portobello area of Dublin, you’ll find the Locks restaurant next to the canal. Locks was recommended to us by our Air BnB host and we were all really impressed. The menu is only small but everything was of the highest quality. We were overwhelmed with just how good our food was and just how much there was. When you go to a posh restaurant, you expect Masterchef sized portions but all the portions at Locks were very generous. Good food, good wine and good company, what more could you want to finish off your day of eating out in Dublin?

If you have any more eating out suggestions for Dublin then please let me know. This definitely won’t be my last visit to this great city!

 

Europe, UK

Afternoon Tea at Thornbury Castle

August 9, 2016

For Valentines Day, Stu bought me a voucher for Afternoon Tea at Thornbury Castle and we finally got round to going last month. Tea and cake is always worth the wait, especially when you’re sat in a castle!

Our afternoon tea was booked in on a sunny Sunday afternoon so Thornbury Castle looked stunning. If you’re travelling by car, you arrive by driving past the vine yard and then under an archway into the Tudor castle grounds to park.


Our host sat us down on the comfiest armchairs in one of the castle’s drawing rooms where our table was already prepared for us. There were a few more guests that had already been served their afternoon tea but the whole atmosphere was very quiet and relaxed. You could tell everyone was savouring the experience rather than rushing through a meal.

Shortly after sitting down we were asked to select a type of tea from a selection on a menu.  I went for a green tea (my standard choice) and Stu chose Earl Grey. Our choices were then brought over to us in little tea pots which were kept topped up throughout the experience. All the teas are served loose so you need to remember to use the tea strainer. Stu forgot once so had a couple of stray leaves lurking at the bottom of his cup!


Next up was the main event, the sandwiches, scones and cakes! When the selection was put in front of us we were sure that we could manage to eat it all but it’s surprising how quickly you fill up on cake! All of the food was lovely and was obviously freshly prepared, the scones were still warm!


I expect the menu changes season to season but ours was delicious. The sandwich fillings included, crayfish, ham, cucumber and egg (not all in one haha!). We then moved on to the scones. You’re served two enormous scones each, one plain and one fruit but both equally yummy. The cakes consisted of a berry tart, carrot cake, coffee cake and a mint and dark chocolate macaroon. Definitely too much for us to eat in one sitting and it’s not often that Stu and I can’t finish a meal!


We had a lovely afternoon at Thornbury Castle so thank you to the staff who couldn’t do enough to make us feel welcome and thank you to Stu for the present. Happy Valentines Day!

 

Europe, Travel, UK

One Day in London

October 23, 2015

Last Saturday I spent the day in London with my mum for a bit of mother daughter time. We booked a return coach (so cheap with Megabus!) and had a loose plan of going round the shops and having a meal somewhere.

  
I was in London only a couple of weeks ago for work but I didn’t get a chance to see much more than the tube station and the office so it was nice to be a bit more of a tourist for once. First stop was Harrods as we knew they would have all the Christmas stuff out in the food hall. This made me seriously excited for the Christmas season to be upon us! Keeping in the tradition of shopping in expensive stores, we went to Harvey Nichols next. They also had their Christmas gear out so we really couldn’t get away it all.

Now lunch was something to get excited about. One of mine and Stu’s favourite restaurants in Australia was Vapiano. We went to one in Sydney, Mebourne and Surfers Paradise. In fact the only one we missed out was Brisbane! Anyway, Vapiano is now in the UK! They have 3 branches in London and one opening in Manchester next month (Vapiano if you’re reading this – please come to Bristol next!). Mum and I went to the Soho branch and I was filled with happiness as soon as we walked in. The restaurant was so similar to the ones in Australia and brought back so many memories. The menu was the same as Australia and Mum and I both had bruschetta followed by a pasta dish. If you haven’t been to a Vapiano before, your meal is cooked in front of you as you order and you can really taste how fresh it is. We loved it! I can’t really recommend it enough – just go!

   
    
 After lunch we headed to Regent St and Oxford St for a bit of retail therapy. It’s so busy shopping in London on Saturday and I can imagine its only going to get worst in the build up to Christmas.

  
Come 5pm, Mum had a treat booked for the two of us, a trip to Ice Bar London! This was so much fun and I’ll write a whole blog post about it soon.

  
Before long, it was time to head back home. It’s only a couple of hours to London from home and I sometimes forget just how easy it is to get there. I might see if I can squeeze another trip in soon…

Australia, Travel

The Margaret River – Wine, Chocolate, Cheese and more Wine.

December 28, 2014

Australia is renowned for it’s wine so it was only right that after living in this country since March that I finally got round to trying a few (apparently ‘goon’ doesn’t count). We were in West Australia to visit friends in Albany and to break up the journey we stayed in the Margaret River region for two nights. It was during this time that we took part in the Bushtucker winery tour. The tour had a fantastic rating on Trip Advisor so we had high hopes and we left far from disappointed.

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The tour lasts all day and during this time you visit a number of wineries, a brewery, a chocolate factory and a cheese shop. In the first winery our guide, Silvano, taught us how to ‘Swirl, Smell and Swallow’ our wine to get the best flavour. I’d always thought that at a wine tasting day you would only be sipping the wine and then spitting it back out but we were encouraged to drink all of the wine we were given. This resulted in us feeling a little tipsy so have a decent breakfast before the tour! Luckily for us, just as the wine was giving us a fuzzy head, lunch was served. This is a delicious buffett of local meats, bread, dips and cheese. Silvano made sure everyone ate until they were full and there was still more food to come! The afternoon is spent eating chocolates and cheeses and even more drinking. We went home extremely full and extremely happy.

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It really is a great tour and I would highly reccommend it to anybody travelling through that area. I certaintly learnt alot about wine and tried some that I would usually turn my nose up at. I’m looking forward to impressing my family and friends with my new found knowledge and my wine swirling technique once I’m home!

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Asia, Travel, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

February 27, 2014

Staying at Thanh Thuong Guesthouse.

We weren’t sure what to expect of the South capital of Vietnam as memories of almost being run over by motorcycles in Hanoi were still haunting us. However we were greeted by a fairly modern city and although there were still thousands of bikes, this city had discovered pavements for pedestrians.

The staff at our accommodation have been helpful throughout our trip but they were particularly helpful here, giving us a map and explaining how far it would take to walk to certain landmarks and letting us know how much a taxi would cost it we were feeling lazy.

Memories of the war are most prominent here with a large war remembrance museum and trips to the nearby Cu Chi tunnels heavily advertised.

The war museum gave us a chance to see the war from the Vietnamese’s point of view and although I knew it was going to be very one sided, I didn’t expect the pure hatred of Americans which most of the museum concentrated on. There was lots of graphic pictures which we wouldn’t see in Britain of corpses and injuries and even disabled foetuses in a jar. It isn’t a trip for those with a weak stomach. We spoke to some local people about the war and they still hold a grudge against America. Only our tour guide in the Cu Chi tunnel trip admitted that the museum is very one sided and Vietnam was at fault too.

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There’s a large backpacker scene here, mostly based on the Bui Vien street which is full of restaurants, bars and market stalls. The food continued to be good and the beer continued to be cheap!

There’s a few sites to see around the city, including the Notre Dame cathedral (not kidding), the Financial tower and the Reunification Palace. All are within walking distance of each other.

We were meant to spend 5 days here but due to a mix up with our flight (me getting the dates wrong) we actually spent a week. It was an enjoyable week but 5 days would have been enough.

Next stop is Bangkok and a chance to avoid the protests!

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