Wednesday, 27 July 2016

YO Sushi returns to Newcastle

Hands up! Who else was a little gutted when YO! Sushi left Newcastle following the refurbishment of the Fenwick's Food Hall? Simon and I spent many a Saturday lunchtime stacking up piles of colourful dishes off the conveyer belt before having a stroll round our favourite department store. Things just haven't been the same since YO! left!

Well, wipe away those tears as YO! Sushi have finally returned to the Toon with a brand new flagship restaurant that's far bigger than its predecessor.  You'll find the new restaurant on Grainger Street in the heart of Newcastle and it boasts 69 covers.

As much as I loved our old YO! in Fenwick it was pretty much forgotten about as soon as I stepped foot inside the new place. Wow! It is seriously huge with quite possibly the largest YO conveyer belt I've ever seen and loads more booths.



Ladies and Gentleman we have landed in Tokyo!

If I plan to get down to some serious eating then the lovely Sarah is one of my favourite dining companions. We love nothing more than eating greedy amounts of food whilst discussing our fitness goals (we do it every time and it always makes us laugh!).

Put two people who love eating next to a conveyer belt full of colourful dishes filled with food and things are bound to get a little out of hand. Sarah and I both felt like kids in a sweet shop.



For those of you who haven't been to YO! Sushi before, allow me to explain. The menu on the table acts as both a menu that you can order your fresh hot food from and also a guide to what is going round on the conveyer belt. Press the "call" button on your table when you're ready to order or simply grab whatever you fancy off the conveyer belt.

The food all arrives in brightly coloured bowls that are colour co-ordinated according to their price with the cheapest green dishes being £2.15 each and the most expensive black dishes £8.50 each. Be warned you will get carried away and these little dishes do begin to add up!

The folks at YO! Sushi Newcastle are great at helping you out if you're stuck with any part of the menu and always on hand to give you recommendations if you need them. Our lovely waiter suggested that we try the Aloe Vera drink rather than our usual diet coke and it was really tasty and refreshing.



I began by grabbing myself some Salmon Maki off the conveyer belt just as a little starter. I always like to warm myself up with the chopsticks by attempting to eat something small before I move onto the messier foods and the Salmon Maki went down a treat.



Whilst I was tucking into that we ordered ourselves some hot dishes and decided on getting a few each to share. YO! Sushi works best if you try loads of different dishes, and I'm definitely never shy when it comes to covering my table in brightly coloured bowls.

Sarah went for the Takoyaki (lightly battered dough balls with octopus) and Chicken Teriyaki and I decided on the Yasai Yakisoba (noodles in a tangy sauce served with vegetables) and Duck Gyoza, duck filled dumplings with hoisin dipping sauce. My absolute favourite and something that I have to order each time I go.



Our clear winner of the evening though was the Popcorn Shrimp Tempura, a dish that neither of us had tried before but that we both completely fell in love with. We shared the bowl as we chatted and didn't realise how fast we were getting through it. It was just so good! We both agreed that we could have happily munched our way through an entire bucket of it.  A definite new favourite!





It's not often I leave myself enough room for a sweet treat at YO! and if I'm being completely honest with you I don't think I really had room for it on this visit either but there were some delicious goodies whizzing past me on the belt and before I knew it I'd grabbed a couple.

If you've never tried a dessert at YO! Sushi before then I can recommend the Custard Dorayaki (Japanese pancake sandwich with a custard filling) or if you're a chocoaholic like me the Chocolate Mochi (sweet rice balls with a chocolate ganache centre) both are amazing.




We had a fantastic evening at the new YO! Sushi and I'm so happy that they have finally returned to Newcastle!

Thank you to YO Sushi for our inviting us for dinner. Our meals were complementary but all opinions are my own. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Instagram Tips and win an iPhone SE

Instagram is by far my favourite social media platform (if you're not already following me then you can find me here).

In my early days of using Instagram I used to post photos straight away as soon as I took them, usually after applying some really awful filters. I cringe a little when I look back at the first photos I took.

Since getting my brand new iPhone (in the beautiful rose gold colour of course!) my Instagram skills have definitely improved, the camera on my iPhone is so much better than on my previous phone! Whilst having a phone with a great camera does wonders for your Instagram there are a few other ways that I have improved the quality of my Instagram photos and increased my follows.



Great Lighting

Instagram photos look best when they're well lit. A dingy photo taken in a dark corner is never going to be getting you any likes. I like to take my photos with a window behind my iPhone camera so that my photo looks really light. Work out the best part in your house to take photos and when you have a good day with some great lighting take a few photos for your Instagram to save for later.

Save into favourites

I like to make sure that I always have a stash of photos saved onto my phone that are Instagram ready. The great thing about my iPhone is that once I've taken a photo I can mark it with a heart at the bottom of the screen. This puts the photo into my favourites which I use as a little album of photos ready to add to Instagram.



Editing

I don't go too crazy with the editing as I wouldn't want to be spending hours messing around with each photo. There are so many apps you can use to make your photos better for Instagram and I'd definitely recommend editing this way rather than just relying on Instagram filters. I use Afterlight to make my photos brighter and lighter.

Consistency

To increase your followers consistency and interaction are crucial. I post a photo to Instagram every day and try to respond to comments and find new accounts as much as I can. If you find an account you like be sure to like some photos and leave comments - people love to chat on Instagram.



Personality

Whilst I love overly styled beautiful Instagram accounts, my favourite people to follow are those with personality. You don't have to post similar styled photos to everyone else to become popular. Here are a few of my favourite Instagram accounts that are bursting with personality:

ashliesugarrushed - Ashlie's army of followers hasn't come from overly styled photos portraying a perfect life, instead she tells a true story of her busy life as a Mum of two energetic boys. A picture tells a thousand words and that's spot on when it comes to Ashlie's Instagram.

misskatyenglish - Another Queen of Instagram, Katie takes the most amazing flatlays and has made an art out of taking photos of her colourful socks and delicious food (you seriously need to check them out!) Every one of Katy's photos tells a story and she's a huge inspiration.

saltyseaflower - Sarah is a photographer and creative writer from Cornwall and wow can this lady take a picture! Her love of Cornwall, countryside and nature is obvious from each and every picture and if you ever want a reminder at just how amazing life can be, I recommend giving Sarah a follow.

Hashtags

Hashtags are a crucial part of getting your photos noticed on Instagram and using the right ones is important. Making up your own isn't going to get you anywhere. Make note of what hashtags popular accounts use and pick some that you can use on your own photos. Some of my favourites are #petitejoys #lovelysquares and #flashesofdelight. Don't forget to also tag and hashtag any brands that are in your photos.




Now for the exciting part. I've teamed up with Three to offer you guys a chance to win a brand new iPhone SE and of course it's in the bloggers favourite colour - rose gold!

To be in with a chance of winning just enter via the Rafflecopter below. The competition will run for 2 weeks. Please note you have to be over 18 and a UK resident to enter and please do check out the other terms and conditions.  Best of luck everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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