Friday, 22 July 2016

Vicolo at the Tyneside Cinema

The Tyneside Cinema is one of my favourite places in Newcastle, whether it's to catch a film or to work my way through the brunch menu at the Tyneside Bar Cafe, I honestly can't get enough.

So when I heard that the Tyneside were going to be closing their coffee shop, Intermezzo (which has been part of the cinema for 15 years!) I was very intrigued to see what they had up their sleeves.

And here we have it! Introducing Vicolo, the Tyneside's brand new Coffee and Cocktail Bar.




Photo by Graeme Rowatt at Burns Rowatt Photography

Situated on the ground floor of the Tyneside Cinema at the corner of High Friar Lane and Pilgrim Street, Vicolo opens early and closes late serving the people of Newcastle coffee in the morning and cocktails at night.

I popped along a few days after opening with my friend Katie for a post shopping cocktail, just what we needed to rest our weary legs.



Stepping into Vicolo we were immediately won over by its charm. The bar might be small but it ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to dreamy interior. A beautiful white marble bar top, shiny gold details and stunning tiles make this place a little piece of the Continent in the North East of England!

Being huge foodies Katie and I were both keen to have a nose at the counter to see what scran is available to the hungry folk in Newcastle.

I'm pleased to say there's a great variety of light food served at Vicolo - freshly made pastries for the early riser, homemade soft serve ice-cream for the dessert lover and the fun "sandwich by the inch" for the hungry office worker. Each day Vicolo will be creating a huge sandwich which you can buy by the inch depending on how hungry you're feeling.

I'm definitely most excited about trying out the cakes though. I've seen some rather delicious looking eclairs popping up on social media that I'm desperate to try.

Photo by Graeme Rowatt at Burns Rowatt Photography

Grabbing a cocktail menu we both decided to order the Rhubarb and Ginger Fizz which went down a treat. As Vicolo is a little snug we presumed we wouldn't be able to find a seat so made our way outside to the pavement cafe, just as the first spots of rain appeared.

The pavement cafe looks like a great place to enjoy the sunshine but not wanting to get wet we headed back indoors as fast as possible and the lovely bar staff managed to find us a booth that was hidden away at the back of the bar - such great service.

Photo by Graeme Rowatt at Burns Rowatt Photography

Our cocktails were delicious, our booth was so cosy and the atmosphere in Vicolo was brilliant with a lovely warm feeling and a constant gentle buzz of chat from the tables around us.

As we left and strolled down the alleyway towards Monument we happened to glance up and noticed some fairy lights hanging above our head. We chuckled to ourselves that someone had obviously forgotten to take the Christmas decorations down but I've since learnt that this is Vicolo's very own canopy of lights, twinkling down on the pavement seating. I bet it looks stunning in the evening and I can't wait to return for a date night cocktail underneath the lights.




Photo by Graeme Rowatt at Burns Rowatt Photography

Vicolo is the cutest little place you'll find in Newcastle and the perfect place for a post shopping cocktail, an early morning croissant or a pre-movie coffee. I can't wait to take Simon!

Vicolo is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am - 11:00 pm, Saturdays from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm and on Sundays from 10:00 am - 10:00 pm

Vicolo treated us to a complimentary cocktail each but all opinions are my own. 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Spring into Summer at Malmaison Newcastle

It's been a while now since the refurbishment of the Malmaison on Newcastle's Quayside, and although they haven't featured here on New Girl in Toon for quite a while, the Malmaison is actually one of my most visited places in Newcastle (to the point where most of the bar staff now know me - embarrassing!) and is my favourite place to "latte and laptop".

I was recently invited to "Spring into Summer" with a VIP launch night of the Mal's new Summer menus. Newcastle's biggest food fans gathered in Chez Mal, eagerly clutching plates and forks ready to tuck in.




Me with Alexis from Newcastle Sparkles and Sarah from Plain Sarah Jayne - photo by Peter Atkinson

Our evening began with the a la carte menu where we happily tucked into a variety of dishes from the Starters Menu including tempura of calamari (the batter was so light and more-ish I think I ate more than my fair share!) and classic prawn cocktail served on crisp iceberg with rye bread.



When it came to the main event we were eager to try out some meat from the Grille section of the menu, starting with beautifully tender steak ...




and then moving onto the famous Mal Burger served with sweet cured bacon, Gruyere cheese and relish. These were disappearing off the table as soon as the Chef brought out more, they were so popular and rightly so!  I've never been disappointed by a Mal Burger.



Saving the best to last I was like a kid in a toy shop when I spotted the giant sized afternoon tea stand that had been set up in the corner of the bar.  Showcasing the new look Mal afternoon tea I was seriously impressed with the new additions.



I do love an afternoon tea that's a bit quirky and different and the Mal's latest twist fills the cake stand with wraps, a mini burger, strawberry & vanilla pavlova, salted chocolate brownie, lemon & polenta cake, rhubarb & custard trifle and strawberry milkshakes.



I've enjoyed so many meals at the Malmaison since moving to Newcastle and have always been so impressed with the food. I'm definitely looking forward to trying out some more dishes this Summer.

I hope you enjoyed that sneaky peak of what you can expect at the Malmaison Newcastle this Summer.

I was invited to the event by Malmaison and enjoyed complimentary samples of the new menus. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Newcastle Airport - Connections to the rest of the world

This may sound a little bizarre but when I was thinking about relocating to Newcastle I quickly explored the Newcastle Airport website to see what destinations I could reach from my new home. Although I haven't had the money to go travelling much in the last few years it was important to me that I live somewhere with great connections to the rest of the world.

Luckily you can fly to over 80 destinations direct from Newcastle and it's not unusual for me to browse the airport's website and research the places that I could travel to. I want to make sure that when we finally have some money to travel I'm well informed on where to go.



Here's just a few of my favourite discoveries.

Alicante

One place that's been ticking a lot of boxes is Alicante in the Costa Blanca which offers a tempting city break with plenty of sunshine and culture. Alicante flights are available most of the year round and with hot temperatures guaranteed it sounds like a great place to escape to.

Alicante hasn't lost any of its Spanish charm with a beautiful castle, an old quarter to explore and a waterfront to stroll along. The food looks great as well with plenty of tapas bars and traditional Spanish restaurants.

I daren't tell you how much time I've wasted looking at things to do in Alicante, and pretty high on my agenda is a private shore excursion and a Segway Tour (I've never had a go!)

New York

It still amazes me that you can now fly direct to New York from Newcastle and it's something I definitely need to take advantage of at some point. I have never been to New York but have been desperate to go for years.

Strolling round Central Park, retracing the steps of Carrie and her friends and, of course, going on the biggest shopping spree ever are just some of the things that I want to enjoy.

This year it's felt like everyone I know has visited New York, and I still haven't managed to sneak away into anyones suitcase yet. Local blogger Amy made me so jealous with her stories from New York.

Dubrovnik

My sister has just got back from Dubrovnik and seeing all of her photos pop up on Facebook made me feel a little jealous, the place looks so stunning! Of course being a huge fan of Game of Thrones may also have something to do with my wanderlust, who wouldn't want to explore King's Landing? A beautiful walled city overlooking perfect blue sea, it looks like an idyllic place to wander.



Prague

Prague has been on my travel list for years and seeing Katie's Prague Photo Diary made me want to go even more. The old town looks like something out of a fairytale, I always love places with beautiful gothic buildings. It looks so picture perfect it'd be a fantastic destination to wander around with my camera.

Salzburg

I'm sure this isn't the first time I've mentioned wanting to visit Salzburg, and I'm sure I've already confessed to you why. Promise not to laugh but I have a secret obsession with the Sound of Music and nothing would make me happier than treading the same streets as the Von Trapp family (I'm pretty sure I'd start singing).

I also really want to try schnitzel (even if I'm not completely sure what it is!) and explore the beautiful churches, palaces and castles.



Believe me I've only just scratched the surface of dream destinations from Newcastle . I can't believe that I've been living in Newcastle for 3 years now and haven't yet managed to travel to any of these amazing places. I definitely need to start ticking some things off my travel list.

Let me know your favourite destinations (like I need any more excuse to daydream!)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A Guide to Newcastle Restaurant Week 2016

Being a bit of a foodie Newcastle Restaurant Week is always an event that I clear the diary for. I love having a great excuse to eat out loads in one week and try to take the opportunity to try new places that I've not been to before.

This Summer Newcastle Restaurant Week runs from Monday 8 August to Sunday 14 August and the rather epic list of restaurants taking part has just been released. This year sees over 85 of the city's best restaurants taking part with many offering the much loved 2 courses for £10/3 courses for £15 deal.

You can find all of the deals here, but if you are struggling on where to book (and please do make sure you book ahead as tables go fast!) here's just a few of my recommendations and my menu highlights.



Gusto

The Deal: 2 courses and a selected drink for £15
My Menu Highlight: Peking Pizza

You have no idea how happy I am that one of my favourite Gusto dishes appears on their Restaurant Week menu, I'm completely obsessed with the Peking Pizza so if you're planning to visit Gusto during Restaurant Week make sure you give it a try. Gusto is one of my favourite places in Newcastle to eat - the restaurant is beautiful, the staff are so attentive and as for the food, it's always so good.





Bonbar

The Deal:2 courses for £10, 3 courses for £15
My Menu Highlight: Rich Chocolate Pave with Orange Posset

Bonbar is somewhere I actually discovered through Restaurant Week. Before that day I'd always seen Bonbar as a bar to go and drink - but then I saw the Restaurant Week menu and the rest is history. The food at Bonbar is so good and it seems to be a bit of a secret. If you're yet to give it a go then book yourself a table for Restaurant Week.


The Bottle Shop Bar and Kitchen

The Deal: 2 courses and a selected drink for £15
My Menu Highlight: Blueberry and Lemon Mille Feuille

Regular readers will know that I've already been very much banging the Bottle Shop drum. It's one of my favourite discoveries of the year so far and if you still haven't got round to visiting yet then let Restaurant Week be your chance. Remember that amazingly good dessert I've been talking about? It's on the Restaurant Week menu - don't make me tell you twice!





Blackfriars

The Deal: 2 courses for £10, 3 courses for £15
My menu highlight: Pan Haggerty, Summer Cabbage, Poached Hen's Egg, Sage and Mustard Cream

Dining at Blackfriars was actually my very first ever Restaurant Week experience when I moved to Newcastle in 2013, and it seems I started off with the very best. I love Blackfriars - the building is beautiful, the atmosphere is wonderful and the food is outstanding. Sourcing the very best produce from around the North East, you're guaranteed to leave with a very happy tummy.


Turtle Bay

The Deal: 2 courses for £10, 3 courses for £15
My Menu Highlight: Run Down

I'm not the biggest fan of chain restaurants but Turtle Bay is one of the few that I really do enjoy (so much so I'm actually there again this week!) and I've been recommending it to anyone that'll listen since it opened in Newcastle. The one pots are so good!




I could sit here typing away all day about my favourite restaurants in Newcastle that are taking part in this year's Restaurant Week, believe me this selection is just a very small handful.

I recommend you study each menu carefully to see which one takes your fancy, book yourself a table in advance and don't be afraid to try out somewhere new.

As for me? Well, you'll just have to wait and see which restaurant I end up in.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Wearing Contact Lenses Abroad

With our Honeymoon booked talk in our house quite often turns to sunshine and beaches at the moment. Even though we're not going until March I'm already obsessively thinking about packing lists and clothes shopping (any excuse!).

One of my biggest obsessions at the moment is sunglasses and I may have made a couple of cheeky purchases already in my mission to create the perfect Honeymoon wardrobe. 



Sunglasses are something that Simon always feels like he can't get excited about and that's because of his poor eyesight. Ever since I've known him he's grumbled to me about how hard day to day life can be when you wear glasses. In fact only the other morning I realised just how annoying wearing glasses can be when we were out on our morning run in the rain. His glasses had clouded over with rain and whilst removing them to give them a wipe poor old Simon managed to launch himself right into a giant puddle (I didn't laugh - promise!)

So Simon's now made the decision that on honeymoon he's going to leave the glasses behind. Wearing contact lenses abroad definitely makes sense. I'm sure Simon's not the only frustrated glasses wearer out there and I'm sure many of you have found yourselves on holiday wishing that you had packed your contact lenses.



So you might be interested to hear just how easy it can be to order your contact lenses while you're away from home. Vision Direct are Europe's largest online contact lens supplier and offer free fast delivery as well as savings of up to 42% against high street options.

As part of Vision Direct's Summer campaign you can follow Gizmo (who might be the world's cutest dog) and his family as they travel to Malaga (seriously check out the video of Gizmo's adventures, it's so cute!)

Vision Direct offer fast European delivery meaning that you can receive your lenses in 2-3 days depending on your destination for as little as £4.98. We had absolutely no idea that this service existed and was so easy to use, looks like Simon's days of panicking about contact lenses on holiday are over!

This post is in collaboration with Vision Express

Friday, 15 July 2016

Falling in love at Saltwell Park

Falling in love at Saltwell Park is an easy thing to do. I'm sure we're not the only couple in the North East who share our love story with the gorgeous Victorian park in Gateshead.




Copyright Katie Byram Photography

When it came to choosing a location for our pre-wedding photo shoot with our wonderful wedding photographer Katie Byram, Saltwell Park was an obvious choice for us. Simon and I both love the park and it's played an important part in our relationship right from the start.

I first visited Newcastle to spend a proper long weekend with Simon back in the Summer of 2012, a few months after we met. Being in a long distance relationship means it can be a little daunting in the early days. Spending a whole weekend with someone that you've only had the opportunity to meet a few times is a little scary!



Copyright Katie Byram Photography

That first visit we spent an afternoon at Saltwell Park on the swan boats, and that time we spent messing about on the lake played a pretty important part in making me feel comfortable in the new relationship. Whenever we go to the park we love to reminisce about that day.

I sometimes wonder if that was the moment when we first started falling in love. Out on a lake in Gateshead, sitting in a white plastic swan!




Copyright Katie Byram Photography

Saltwell Park has always featured pretty heavily in our relationship. The first time I ran 5k it was in the park, with Simon by my side encouraging me to push on to the end. I never would have made that run if it hadn't been for him.

Hours have been spent sitting on the benches in the park watching squirrels, Simon usually steals my camera and runs around like a kid photographing them all.  His enthusiasm for wildlife is pretty infectious and a lot of my favourite memories involve us sticking our heads into the trees and bushes at Saltwell Park trying to discover what's rustling in the leaves.



Copyright Katie Byram Photography

Up until a year ago we lived in a tiny flat in Gateshead with no outside space so Saltwell Park became our garden. We would pack up picnics or put on our comfiest shoes in the hunt for Spring flowers. In times when we had no money to spend and felt like we needed a break it was Saltwell Park where we wandered. Walking the paths and busily making plans for our future.



Copyright Katie Byram Photography

These pictures were taken on the day we celebrated our 4th anniversary, and our very last anniversary as singletons. We couldn't have imagined spending it anywhere else.

Crazy to think that next time we return to Saltwell Park we'll be Mr and Mrs!



All photographs in this post were taken by the amazingly talented Katie Byram (http://www.katiebyram.com) who we can't recommend enough. If you're looking for a relaxed and fun photographer for your wedding or family event she really is your girl.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Summer at the Bottle Shop Bar & Kitchen, Newcastle

Those of you with a great memory might remember that earlier in the year I visited the Bottle Shop Bar and Kitchen in Newcastle to try their rather epic Sunday lunch. I was blown away by the beautiful food and great surroundings so when I was invited back to try the Bottle Shop's new Summer menu I was really excited.

Needing a bit of girl time I booked a table with the lovely Katie for a leisurely lunch and catchup. It doesn't matter how long I have with Katie, it's never enough. We can talk on and on and on! Luckily the Bottle Shop is the perfect place to catch up with a friend.

If you missed my last post (shame on you!) then here's a little bit of background on the fantastic Bottle Shop Bar & Kitchen. Opened late last year on Waterloo Square in the centre of Toon, the craft beer hotspot serves a hand-picked and constantly changing selection of craft beers from around the world as well as a mouthwatering menu. We all know that I eat out quite a lot, and believe me when I say that you have to try the food at the Bottle Shop!



Every visit to the Bottle Shop Bar & Kitchen has to start with a trip to the bar to see what beers are on offer. Now, confession time, neither Katie or I are big beer drinkers, but the barmen at the Bottle Shop are experts in pointing you in the right direction if you're unsure on what to order. By asking us what we like to drink they managed to find us some beer options to suit our tastes and I was pleasantly surprised at the little sample of fruity beer that they poured me.

The lovely looking cocktail menu sitting in the corner had caught our eyes though so we decided that we'd order ourselves something fun and fruity and save the beer for another time. Katie opted for the Lavender Ice Tea - Blueberry vodka, Raspberry Liquor, Fresh Lavender Syrup and Lemonade (£5.90) and I chose the Summer Gin Garden - Tanquery Gin, Sloe Gin,  Fresh Cucumber, Mint, Elderflower and Pressed Apple Juice (£5.90).

So refreshing and perfect for the Summer.

Wearing our stretchiest pants, Katie and I decided we were fully committed to a three course lunch. I mean if you can't go all out on a rainy Saturday when can you?

Both being huge fans of sharing (and sampling as much of a menu as possible) we decided to create ourselves some tapas to start off our meal. The Bottle Shop is ideal for this with a Savoury Small Plate Menu and a Bar Snacks Menu to choose from.

We went mix and match and chose the Bacon and Smoked Cheese Doughnuts with Pea Puree and Shoots (£5) from the Small Plate Menu along with the Scotch Egg (£2.50) and Sausage Roll with HP Brown Sauce (£2) from the Bar Snacks Menu.



Top marks to us for our food choices, we were thrilled when our dishes turned up and eagerly tucked in.

The Bacon and Smoked Cheese Doughnuts were like nothing I'd ever had before. The slightly sweet dough really shouldn't work with the cheese and bacon but it really was an amazing flavour combination. I was in my element dipping each doughnut into the beautiful Pea Puree - absolutely gorgeous!


We eagerly tucked into the Scotch Egg which we both agreed was perfect and the Sausage Roll which was mixed with Black Pudding and covered in a gorgeous buttery pastry.



We were getting pretty full by this point but had both ordered pretty epic main courses so taking a deep breath we carried on!

I ordered Sam's Fish Finger Sandwich, served on white sliced bread with tartare sauce, mushy peas, watercress and chips (£8)



Katie went for the Classic Burger, 7oz steak and ale burger, baby gem, tomato, honey and thyme melted onions, bacon smoked blue cheese, stottie and chips (£9).

We both admitted that we had a pretty serious amount of food envy going on. The great thing about dining with a close friend is that when this happens you can share. So shortly after these photos were taken we attacked our dishes and cut everything into half to share. We messed up our plates but really didn't care.

Although my fish finger sandwich was delicious, it was Katie's burger that won - the ingredients were so fresh and the slightly pink burger really hit the spot.


After finishing our main courses we both agreed that we really didn't need a dessert. We were both feeling very full.

We couldn't stop ourselves taking a little peak at what was on offer though and then it was game over. The small dessert menu was just too good to resist and we quickly decided that we could perhaps maybe just about fit one in.

Katie went for the Eton Mess (£5) which was an absolute beauty of Summer colours. I was too busy concentrating on my own food to pinch any but she seemed to be loving it!




I ordered the Lemon Mille Feuille with Blueberry Compote (£5). I'm a complete sucker for a dessert that's a little bit different and this one really had my intrigued.



It's not often that a dessert leaves me lost for words, but I really am struggling with explaining to you exactly how good this dish was. Wow! It was one of the best desserts I have ever had (and we all know how much I love dessert). Light and flaky pastry, sweet berries and plenty of cream. It was one of those desserts that made me so happy I was desperately trying to eat it at a snail's pace to appreciate every mouthful.

I was gutted when it was over!

I really can't stress enough how delicious the food at the Bottle Shop Bar & Kitchen is. It's somewhere that I recommend to people time and time again and somewhere that I think everyone needs to go and try.

So what are you waiting for? Make sure you let me know what you think and what you ordered.

Thank you to the Bottle Shop Bar & Kitchen for our inviting us for lunch. Our meals were complementary but all opinions are my own.