Monday, 23 May 2016

Date Night at the Gentleman, Newcastle

When I suggested to Simon that we have a date night on the Bigg Market he looked less than impressed. You see, the Bigg Market hasn't always had the greatest reputation around these parts - it tends to be famed for its collection of kebab shops and cheap boozers.  It's where people go to end a night out and isn't exactly the most romantic of destinations for date night.

But recently there's been change on the Bigg Market with a few little gems popping up on the road, making it a part of the city that's definitely worth investigating.  The Gentleman is one of these gems.  I visited a few months ago with some girlfriends and was so impressed with our food that I just knew I had to take Simon to try it for himself.

The Gentleman looks small from the outside but is actually pretty huge.  With plenty of tables, chesterfield sofas and gorgeous decor that definitely gives a nod to its  name, I couldn't help but have a little nosy round before settling down to take a look at the menu.

At weekends you can enjoy live jazz and blues performances and I can imagine it's quite some evening so a definite one to add to your list for the Summer!

The best table in the house is by the window.  The colourful characters wandering past make for some great people watching and in the early evening it was a beautiful sun trap.  Although the Bigg Market has a reputation I felt perfectly relaxed gazing out of the window and watching the world go by and hopefully in the coming months the Bigg Market will become more of a destination for diners.

The Gentleman have an impressive collection of cocktails and are some of the very best I've had in Newcastle.   Great love and care is taken in the creation of each one and if you love your drinks sweet, colourful and garnished with an impressive array of fruit, the Gentleman really is the place to go.

I'm trying to slowly work my way through the cocktail list and on this trip I tried the Cocojito - Malibu, Bacardi, Coconut, shaken with fresh lime and mint - tell me that's not Summer time in a glass?  It was so refreshing.

On my last visit I took advantage of the Happy Hour Menu where you can get two courses for £12.95 or three courses for £16.95 every week night after 5:00 pm - an absolute bargain but this time we decided to push the boat out and order off the main menu.

The last few months I've found myself loving burgers.  I never used to be fussed by them but I now find it's the first section of a menu I turn to.  So whist I was pretty tempted to order the Steak and Ale Newcastle Brown Ale Pie, it was The Big Bad Wolf Burger that really caught my attention.

A Pork and Chorizo Burger served on an artisan bun and stuffed full of bacon, cheese and lettuce.   Served with fries and sweet burger relish.

The burger was really satisfying  The patty was huge and a completely different consistency to a beef patty.  It was really juicy and squishy and tasted so good.  We both wiped our plates clean.

We couldn't think ahead about dessert as the menu wasn't available online so I was eager to see what was on offer.  On my last visit I had the chocolate fudge cake so wanted to order something different on this visit.

The Chocolate Banoffee Pie was the standout choice for me.  A twist on the classic Banoffee Pie it involved a very generous dollop of thick and gooey chocolate.  It was a perfect dessert if you have a sweet tooth, with the added bonus of crushed meringue, sweet strawberries and ice-cream - I was in my element.

Simon opted for his usual favourite, Sticky Toffee Pudding.   The only let down of the whole meal it was a little tough and chewy and tasted a little burnt in places.  Such a shame and I did feel a little bad for him as I woolfed down my delicious Banoffee Pie with a massive grin on my face.

My second visit to The Gentleman was just as good as my first and I'm very happy that Simon is now fully on board.  I think we'll be seeing a fair bit of The Gentleman this Summer.

Anyone else got any new discoveries to share?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Looking Back at New Girl in Toon

New Girl in Toon is 3 years old today!  Don't ask me where that time has gone!

It's such a cliché, but I promise I only speak the truth when I say that I genuinely can't believe all that I've achieved with this little North East blog and every day it allows me to grow in confidence and experience. 

More than anything I am so thankful for the friends that I've made along the way, North East bloggers who have become great friends and who have made my life here in the North East complete.  Relocating to a part of the country where you know no one isn't easy and if it hadn't been for New Girl in Toon I think I really would have struggled to settle.

To celebrate 3 wonderful years I've been delving through the archives to share some of my favourite posts on New Girl in Toon.   They're not necessarily posts that got the most page views or comments, but are posts that I worked hard on and am very proud of, either because of the photography or writing or maybe because of the fantastic opportunity or experience.

Just click the titles to have a read and enjoy!

Afternoon Tea at Jesmond Dene House - April 2014

Jesmond Dene House is somewhere that's had a lot of mentions over the years on New Girl in Toon, this is probably because Simon and I are genuinely obsessed with the gorgeous hotel (in fact we were there only yesterday!)  On one of my first ever trips to Newcastle we popped in for coffee and we were just blown away by our beautiful surroundings.

To this day it's still our favourite place for afternoon tea and this is one of my favourite blog posts.   It was a gorgeous sunny day, I had my first Pimms of the year, the food was fantastic and it was probably one of my first experiences of embarrassing myself posing for blog photos out in public!

The Sky Lounge - April 2014

I'm proud of this post because we actually managed to get up to the Sky Lounge at the Vermont Hotel, something which I've since learnt is pretty hard to do.  It's hardly ever open to the public and so the only way you'll find yourself up there is if you're invited to a wedding or a function.  For some reason for a few weekends back in April 2014 the Vermont opened the roof for everyone to enjoy and the rest is history!

The Arrow - May 2014

In an ideal world New Girl in Toon would be a blog full of adventures from across the North East but unfortunately as we don't have a car it can be a little difficult to fulfil that dream at the moment.  So on the odd occasion that we get a hire car and can go off somewhere new I'm literally in my blogging element.  I organised a Turbo Ventures archery experience for Simon at Matfen Hall and it's one of the best blogging adventures we've ever been on.

A Cabin in the Woods - September 2014

Blogging our holiday at Centre Parcs at Whinfell Forest was so much fun.  I absolutely love travel blogging and although we don't exactly jet off to anywhere fancy we still love to share our experiences of adventuring on a budget. I'm hopeful that once our wedding is paid for that we'll have a little more money and I'll be able to share more travel adventures with you.

Living with a Blogger - February 2015

Every now and again (usually when I'm in the shower!) I get a sudden flash of inspiration and a fantastic idea for a blog post just hits me.  Back in February 2015 New Girl in Toon celebrated Valentines by handing over the reigns to Simon for a week.  The result? This rather amazing blog written by him about what it's like living with a blogger.

Afternoon Tea at the Running Fox - March 2015

It was around Spring time in 2015 when New Girl in Toon really grew into something I was proud of and this post really shows how much my photography and writing had improved.  Of course when you're somewhere as amazing as the Running Fox for afternoon tea the work is pretty easy.

Putting the Castle into Newcastle - April 2015

We were in our element when Newcastle Castle invited us over to theirs for a play.  We felt like King and Queen for the afternoon and learnt loads of great facts about our wonderful city.  The beautiful photos we took on the roof are some of the best we've ever taken and if you haven't yet been up to the Castle you really must go!

Glamping at the Bells of Hemscott - May 2015

Sometimes as a blogger you get an opportunity that makes you SO excited and thankful and blogging for the Bells of Hemscott was one of those times.  I'd always wanted to try glamping but knew I'd struggle to convince Simon so when I got to do this for New Girl in Toon it was a dream come true.  It was a miserable day - cold, wet and muddy but I had the best time and sleeping in the Shepherd's Hut is a memory I'll cherish forever.

The Proposal - September 2015

For personal reasons this is obviously a blog post that meant a great deal to me and since getting engaged I've loved sharing a few details about our wedding with you all.  With only 4 months to go I'm so excited about finally telling you all about our special day - trying to keep it a secret is so difficult and I can't wait to spill the beans and share our day on New Girl in Toon.  I've been working with so many amazing North East suppliers who are making my wedding dreams come true and it makes me so happy that we decided to get married in this part of the country.

Just a very small collection of some of my favourite blogs and a wonderful trip down memory lane.  I have loads more highlights that I could have included, but had to stop somewhere!

Thanks so much for reading, commenting, following and sharing.  It amazes me to think that anyone other than my Mum actually reads this.  Crazy, yet so amazing!  Here's to another year!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Whitley Bay to Seaton Delaval Coastal Path

Remember last month when we shared our tips on how to adventure in the North East when you don't own a car?  Well, last weekend we were at it again with yet another of my brilliant ideas.  With sunshine on the forecast and desperate to find somewhere new to adventure I did my usual trick of studying Google maps to see what I could come up with.

My plan? A day trip to Seaton Delaval, via Whitley Bay!  Whitley Bay is easy enough to get to on the Metro and looking at the map it looked like we could do a nice walk along the coast to Seaton Delaval.

It's always a risk when I come up with these ideas, but it's worth giving it a go.

An epic walk of any kind requires fuel so arriving at Whitley Bay we took a casual stroll towards the seafront for brunch at Hinnies, home of Geordie Comfort Food.  You may remember that I visited them back in the Winter to try out their delicious Weekday Dinner Menu.  Ever since that trip I've been wanting to go back to take Simon and try out some Weekend Brunch.

Brunch is served at Hinnies every Saturday and Sunday between 9:00 am and 12:00 pm and is a lovely little menu featuring all of my favourite things.  I love to start the day with a really indulgent cooked breakfast and there was so much amazing local produce on offer I was in my element.

With very satisfied tummies we waddled our way down the seafront towards St Mary's Lighthouse.  I have very fond memories of the Lighthouse from my first Summer visiting the North East when Simon and I climbed to the top and enjoyed gorgeous views across the sea.  We've been meaning to return ever since but that'll be a trip for a different day.

As we rounded the corner the moment of truth had arrived.  Would walking from Whitley Bay be feasible, or were we going to be forced to walk alongside a loud and busy road?

I've never been happier than when we saw a footpath sign pointing us towards a coastal path running towards Seaton Sluice with gorgeous views of St Mary's Lighthouse.  What a result!

So happy to have found such a scenic route we enjoyed taking in huge breaths of the fresh sea air and admiring the stunning views.  Moments like this truly make me feel like the luckiest girl to be living in the North East.

The path was a lovely easy walk with plenty of benches along the way to rest.  Another day I think we'll head up to the path with a picnic, it was so peaceful and a real sun trap.

A few miles down the coast from Whitley Bay we eventually found ourselves at Seaton Sluice, a beach that has been recommended to me time and time again.

For a traditional day relaxing at the seaside Seaton Sluice looks absolutely perfect.  The Kings Arms pub looked very inviting with perfect views of the sea and the promise of a traditional pub with no Sky Sports and no TV (heaven!).  Unfortunately there wasn't time to stop on this trip, but it's a definite one for the North East Bucket List.

To complete our adventure I was determined that'd we'd make our way up the road to the National Trust owned Seaton Delaval Hall, a beautiful Grade I listed building complete with gorgeous gardens.

I will admit by the time we arrived we were a little shattered but I was really chuffed that we'd managed it and after a quick sit down in the gorgeous courtyard restaurant we just about managed to find a last little bit of energy to spend a few hours exploring the grounds.

Of course every great adventure ends with food and we decided to really put our tired legs to the test by slogging our way up hill for another mile to Seaton Delaval, the promise of ice-cream driving our tired feet to keep moving.

Seaton Delaval ice-cream at the Crescent Cafe is Northumberland's most famous ice-cream and we had images of beautiful glasses stuffed full of ice-cream and toppings.  Unfortunately when we finally reached our destination we were a little disheartened to discover a rather large queue outside the Crescent Cafe.  With no sit in option we joined the line for takeout feeling a little deflated.

We were a little ratty by the time we got to the front of the queue and I was really hoping that the ice-cream wasn't going to be a let down.  Thankfully it was just as good as the rumours had promised and I could see why most people were heading out of the shop with an ice-cream for now and a huge tub for their freezer at home.

Beautifully creamy, it was the best ice-cream that I've tasted outside of Italy and is definitely worth every mile that we walked.

Tracking our steps when we got home I was thrilled to discover we'd walked over 6 miles.  We definitely deserved that ice-cream.

Where are your favourite places to go walking? I'd love to discover some new routes.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Exploring Seaton Delaval Hall

Time for a confession.  Despite having lived in Newcastle for three years until last weekend I'd never been to any of the North East National Trust properties.  I'd always presumed that it'd be impossible to get to any of them without a car.

So I was pretty thrilled to discover that, with strong legs and a spot of Spring sunshine, we could easily walk to Seaton Delaval Hall from Whitley Bay Metro.  It's a fair few miles but if you love a walk with beautiful coastal scenery I'd recommend giving it a go.

We knew the achey legs were worth it the moment we clapped eyes on Seaton Delaval Hall, an absolute beauty, I'd actually say it's the most stunning National Trust property that I've ever seen.

Built in the early 18th century, Seaton Delaval Hall was home to the Delaval family who held large wild parties, gambled and were renowned for the practical jokes that they played on their guests.  They were quite the characters!

We couldn't wait to being our adventure.

Needing a bit of a sit down after our hike we began our trip with a visit to the cafe.  Taking advantage of the sunshine we joined the crowds of families outside in the courtyard.  It's the prettiest place to enjoy a cup of coffee and we loved lounging in the sunshine.

It was hard convincing ourselves to get up and move, but we had some important exploring to do.

As it was a beautiful Spring day we decided to begin with a stroll round the garden.  I love how gardens change so much with each season and Spring time at Seaton Delaval Hall sees a gorgeous display of colourful tulips. We've already decided we need to return in a few months time to take a look at the maze which is home to a rose display in the Summer months.

The real focal point of the garden was the beautiful fountain, which looked so cold and inviting in the warm sunshine.  We just about managed to resist the urge to dunk our (slightly sunburnt) faces in!

As if the gardens weren't beautiful enough we were thrilled to stumble across a short woodland walk close to the garden which has an impressive display of wild flowers throughout the year with snowdrops in the Winter and daffodils in the Spring.

I was so happy to discover an impressive carpet of bluebells for our visit.  The woods were so calm and peaceful and we loved taking a few moments to relax amongst the flowers.  It's not too often in modern life that you get to appreciate such simple beauty.

I will admit that when it comes to exploring National Trust properties I tend to get more excited about the grounds and gardens than the house.  But we do always make sure we stick our nose in for a little look.  Seaton Delaval Hall really surprised me as I managed to get completely engrossed in the history and stories of the Hall and fell in love with the gorgeous building.

The Hall is split into two parts, the Central Hall and the West Wing - each completely different to the other.

Central Hall was sadly savaged by a fire in 1822 and you can still see the telltale signs today.  Although partly in ruins the Hall hasn't lost any of its grandure.

Unfortunately during our visit there was limited access to the Hall whilst an important conservation assessment was taking place so we couldn't fully explore most of the rooms.  The perfect excuse for another visit I think!

The West Wing houses a stunning collection of furniture and portraits and we loved learning more about the colourful Delaval family.  Moving through the rooms admiring the beautiful furniture, it certainly put our collection of Ikea tables and drawers to shame.

It was the portraits that fascinated us the most.  The detail on the material of the dresses was so perfect that each painting looked more like a photograph.  Being able to study them up close we saw just how perfectly placed each brush stroke was.  Completely stunning.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Seaton Delaval Hall and it really was the best first experience of a National Trust in the North East.  We're so excited to see where we can explore next!

Let me know your favourite National Trust property, I'm ready to plan our next adventure!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Wedding Chat: Norma and Dorothy - Rustic Wedding Stationery

Pulling together your dream wedding can be a little tricky at times.  I realised this when I found myself needing to pick out wedding stationery for our save the dates before we'd decided on our colour theme.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who felt a little overwhelmed at having to do that?

Luckily, although we hadn't quite decided on colours, we knew that we wanted a casual country affair without any stuffiness or too many stale traditions and when we stumbled across Norma and Dorothy, creators of the most beautiful rustic wedding stationery our job suddenly became a lot easier.

From beautifully detailed Save the Dates to Invitation Bundles, Place Cards and Seating Plans, Norma and Dorothy have everything covered in designs so beautiful the colours and style of your wedding naturally follows.

There are colours, styles and patterns to suit everyone and I couldn't resist ordering more than a few sample packs to obsess over as we tried to pick what design to go for.  I've since kept them all, not just so I could photograph them to show you how stunning they are, but also because  I just love looking at them all!

The beautiful hand crafted designs at Norma and Dorothy are created by a very talented team of seven in the North West and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending them if you're going for a rustic country wedding like us.

You can order a free sample pack here - I'm convinced you'll be as obsessed as me!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Ladies Lunch at Pleased to Meet You, Newcastle

Is there anything better in life than ladies lunch? I'm talking the kind where you find yourself a window seat somewhere beautiful, where the food is fantastic and there's plenty of room round your feet for shopping bags.  It's best enjoyed with a close friend who loves nothing more than eating far too much food whilst gossiping and enjoying a spot of people watching.

Last weekend I had the perfect ladies lunch at Pleased To Meet You in Newcastle with my lovely friend Sarah.   We both live to chat and eat and catching up over a long 3 course lunch is our favourite way to spend the afternoon.

You'll find Pleased To Meet You on the cobbled street of High Bridge, just off Grey Street making it so convenient for ladies lunch after a shopping trip, pre theatre food or just a great start to an evening out. Head Chef, David Kennedy has created a new lunch menu featuring a fantastic range of seasonal and local produce from the farms, coast and woodland of the North East.  The lunch menu is a bargain if you dine during the week with 2 courses for £9.95 and 3 courses for £12.95 between 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm.

A choice of 3 starters, we were tempted by the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup but in the end both decided on the Chicken and Bacon Terrine with Pickled Carrots.  We might be big copycats but it just sounded too good to resist and I didn't want to get any food jealousy.  An absolute must for any meat lover, it was the perfect start to lunch.

The 8 dishes on the mains menu lead to some serious decision making. I finally managed to whittle down to a choice of 5 before settling on the Slow Roasted Pork Belly Sandwich served with Sage, Apple Sauce and Thin Cut Fries whilst Sarah chose the Seared Minute Steak Sandwich which was also stuffed with Grilled Bacon and Mature Cheddar.

Our sandwiches were absolute monsters and we realised pretty quickly that the best tactic was to grab them with both hands and enjoy getting messy.  In my opinion the best sandwiches always end up all over your mouth and in your lap.

I'm always a little nervous when I order meat in a restaurant, sometimes the worry of it being too tough or, even worse, too fatty puts me off ordering but I'm so glad that I took the risk at Pleased To Meet You as my roasted pork belly was spot on and I enjoyed every bite.

As I polished off the last bit I realised I was beginning to feel a little full, but was determined to continue.  Everyone knows dessert is my favourite course and it's not often I can turn it down.   Deciding to go out in true stodgy style I ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding served with Hot Toffee Sauce whilst Sarah went for a more sensible dessert of Citrus Cream, Blood Orange and Pistachios.

Beautifully rich and sweet I managed to eat my entire dessert, it was just so good I kept on attacking it even though I was seriously stuffed.

We had a wonderful lunch at Pleased to Meet You and really enjoyed trying out the lunch menu and having a good nosy out of the window (I'd recommend trying to nab yourself a table seat if you're partial to a spot of people watching and love a little sun trap).  The restaurant was full the entire time we were there with more and more people coming in from the street.  Definitely book a table if you're going to be giving it a try!

Let me know your favourite place for a ladies (or lads!) lunch in the Toon and if you have any more Pleased To Meet You menu recommendations.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Speaking Geordie

3 years ago today I climbed aboard a train at Kings Cross ready to say goodbye to my life as a Londoner and start a new chapter as an honorary Geordie.  Where on earth have the last 3 years gone?

To celebrate my special anniversary I thought I'd share a few of the wonderful Geordie words and sayings that I've picked up over the years.  I have always loved the Geordie accent - from my childhood obsession with Byker Grove to my major girl crush on Cheryl, I have always wished that I had a North East accent.

When I first started visiting Newcastle I was desperate to hear my first "Way Aye" and it was actually quite a while before I heard it because, despite what you may think, people don't walk around the Toon saying it at every given opportunity!

The Geordie accent is so much more than a "Way Aye", it is almost a language in itself, full of wonderful sayings, unique sounds and beautiful words.  Whilst I doubt I'll ever lose my southern accent (sob) I learn more and more about the Geordie dialect every day and on occasion even find the odd word slipping into my every day chat.

Here are just some of my favourite bits of Geordie that I've learnt over the years.

Bairn (means: Baby)

No one says "baby" in the North East - fact!  People have bairns and, if they don't have bairns, they have hairy bairns.  The first time my lovely friend Kayleigh referred to her dog Jay Jay as her "hairy bairn" I almost snorted tea out of my nose!

Shy Bairns Get Nowt (means: You don't ask, you don't get)

This saying is easily my favourite and one I wish I could live my life by.  I find myself quoting it whenever I am brave enough to be cheeky, even if it is just asking the cashier in Tesco to give me a free plastic carrier bag!

"eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" (a great way to start a sentence)

I have no idea why, but in the North East people like to start their sentence with a long "eeeeeeeeee". It's usually a sign of appreciation or support in answer to whatever someone has just said, but sometimes I just think it's a great thing to do to give yourself a bit of time to gather your thoughts before speaking.

Bait (means: lunch)

It took me quite a while to realise that "Bait Box" was a lunch box.   For a while I just thought that everyone in Newcastle was partial to a spot of fishing.  Whenever someone says to me that they're having some bait it really makes me smile, it's definitely one of my favourite Geordie words.

Neb (means: nosy)

We all know I love being nosy so this is definitely a word I enjoy and one I get a bit of use out of.  I quite often arrive home and proudly tell Simon that I've been nebbing through next doors window - he usually tells me off.

Wor (means: our)

"Our" in itself is a northern saying so something I wasn't too familiar with before moving to Newcastle.  Being from the north himself, Simon often refers to his brother as "our kid" which I just love.

Howay! (means: no way!)

"Howay" is something I hear on a daily basis and is probably the one Geordie word that I quite often feel myself about to say.  I think it's only a matter of time before I start using it, I love a word that sums up so many things so easily.

Mortal (means: drunk)

I don't think I've actually heard someone say they were drunk since my relocation to Newcastle, in the North East if you've had too many drinks you're getting mortal!

Canny (means: great, brilliant, good)

Try asking a Geordie to explain to you exactly what canny means and how to use it in a sentence and it gets a little confusing.  It's probably the word that you'll hear most in Newcastle and appears in most conversation.

I could actually sit here writing about Geordie sayings and words all day, there are that many.  Each week I hear something new and i just love that the Geordie language is so unique.

I'd love to hear your favourite Geordie words or sayings, teach me something new!