Friday 31 October 2014

Brunch Club at the Tyneside Cinema

I am obsessed with cute and quirky little independent cinemas.  Nothing beats watching a film on a crystal clear screen in a room with only a few rows of seats.  The Tyneside Cinema is the best cinema in Newcastle for this very reason and it beats all of the larger cinema chains hands down. 

Recently the Tyneside became even more special with the opening of its brand new Tyneside Bar Café.  Fully licensed for after work drinks it also offers a menu full of homemade bar snacks, lunches and 3 course dinners.  

The Bar and Café is the perfect place to head for great food and ambience with a huge amount of things taking place including Quiz Nights every Tuesday and Cult Classic Film screenings.

For our first visit we decided to head there on a Sunday to try out the Brunch.   Every Sunday morning the Café hosts "Brunch Club" where you can nurse your hangover with a hearty breakfast and a classic film.

We arrived just after opening at 10:00 am and had the pick of the tables.  It seems not everyone gets up as enthusiastically early on a Sunday as we do!

I loved looking over the menu, it was my idea of the perfect breakfast menu and to be honest I really wanted everything and found it difficult to make a decision.   Think of your favourite breakfast treat and it's probably on the menu - porridge, granola, eggs cooked every way, bacon sandwich, waffles, pancakes ... or if you want an authentic cinema experience you can even order a hot dog!

If that decision wasn't hard enough, when you go up to place your order, you are suddenly met with the wonderful site of a counter full of pastries tempting you to change your mind.

The menu is very reasonably priced, the cheapest option being the croissant with butter and jam at only £1.75.

I was out with Simon and my friend Lauren.  You'd think that when dining out with two other people we would have ordered a nice variety off the menu but it seems we're all huge egg fans and all ordered very similar dishes.

I chose the eggs benedict - poached egg and ham served on a toasted muffin and covered in hollandaise sauce.   I've had a lot of Eggs Benedict in my time and this was up there with the very best.  I couldn't fault my food at all, the yolk was perfectly runny, the sauce was delicious and I literally wiped my plate clean with the muffin.

Simon decided to order something that wasn't on the menu (awkward!) and spotting they had salmon elsewhere on the menu asked for Eggs Royale.   His request was immediately accommodated so he was very happy.

Lauren is a vegetarian and went for Egg Avocado which was also served on a toasted muffin.  Vegetarians aren't always very well catered for so it's great that the Tyneside have a nice selection of morning treats that don't feature fish or meat.

The Café quickly began to fill and I loved how many people came prepared with the Sunday Papers, ready for a good relaxing brunch.   The atmosphere in the Tyneside Bar is spot on - buzzing with people yet peaceful at the same time.

At 11:30 am it was film time and the famous Bond theme tune filled the Bar as Goldfinger started.  I will admit I was slightly torn between enjoying the last of my coffee and crawling about between the chairs pretending to be James Bond. 

I wasn't sure how brunch and a film would work together but it seems at the Tyneside it's a match made in heaven.   The screen is positioned at the back of the Bar with plenty of tables in front of the screen for the true film buffs to be right in the action.   Those with a passing interest are able to still enjoy the film from further back but the sound levels still make it possible to have a quiet chat without disturbing the enjoyment of others.

My only disappointment with brunch was that I couldn't sample more of the menu but luckily I have a brilliant plan for next time. 

I plan to keep an eye on the Brunch Club film list and as soon as something takes my fancy I'm getting myself down to the Tyneside where I plan to sit and watch an entire film whilst slowly making my way down the menu.   A 2 hour film is a perfect amount of time to eat a nice healthy almond milk porridge followed by some pastries and pancakes - leaving just enough room as the film reaches it's close for a bacon sandwich.

With favourite classics such as Princess Bride and Grease having already been on the menu, I know it's not long before something takes my fancy and I return. 

Wednesday 29 October 2014

The Oak Cafe

We found ourselves in Newcastle on Saturday without a plan.  After aimlessly wandering around the shops and getting fed up with the crowds and heat we decided it was time for a sit down and so decided to consult my list to find somewhere new to go for coffee and cake.

A short while later we were making our way to the furniture shop, Barker and Stonehouse -  maybe not the first place you'd think to head for cake but I'm about to let you into a pretty awesome secret!

Back in the Summer, local restaurant The Oak opened up the first northern in-store café at the Newcastle branch of Barker and Stonehouse, located on Leazes Park Road.  I've been eager to get myself through the door ever since.

I was pretty impressed when we arrived that we managed to avoid spending hours looking at the furniture.  Since deciding we're going to buy a house next year we have been known to get completely lost in the land of sofas and coffee tables.  Luckily if there's one thing we love more than window shopping for furniture, it's cake so we headed straight up to the First Floor to find the Oak Café.

As soon as I approached the Oak, I was smitten.  The café is furnished with mis match sofas, dining tables, comfy chairs, coffee tables, rugs and gorgeous lights.  Every piece is available to buy from Barker and Stonehouse and it's a perfect way to try before you buy!

We were perhaps a little greedy with our seating choice.  There were only two of us but we couldn't help but head straight for the largest area and swiftly plonked ourselves down at a gorgeous low wooden table surrounded by a leather sofa, squishy chairs and colourful cushions.  It was more like sitting in a cosy little lounge than a café.

Heading to the counter to place our order there was a small selection of really tempting looking cakes.  I was annoyed at myself for my nut allergy because the huge peanut butter and banana cake looked so good.   I also loved the look of the Tiffins which came in the choice of Dark Chocolate and Apricot or Milk Chocolate and  Ginger.  But in the end there was only one winner for me - a slice of Bakewell Tart and a caramel latte.

Settling down into our new comfy home we had a wonderful time lost in the plush furnishings and admiring the views from the large windows.  The Oak Café is such a light open space with plenty of room to really relax.  A far cry from the hustle and bustle of the streets below.

Our treats arrived quickly and I was really happy to see that, keeping it local, the coffee was made by Ringtons a company that originated in a horse and carriage in the streets of Heaton.   When I'm ordering a latte I do love it to be really indulgent and creamy and this one definitely hit the spot - it was gorgeous!

The Bakewell Tart was also fantastic, perfectly crumbly with great flavours.  I was so disappointed when I'd eaten the last crumb and there was no more.  I would have sneaked a bit off Simon's plate but unfortunately he'd wolfed all of his down too.

On the menu there's also a nice selection of salads and sandwiches as well as a full afternoon tea.  Using plenty of local produce - including bread and cakes from one of my personal favourites, French Oven - the Oak at Barker and Stonehouse is definitely somewhere not to be missed!

Following our food we were quite tempted to set up camp and have a little kip on the comfortable chairs but regrettably we had a few boring chores to get on with.   Luckily the Oak Café gave us the perfect chill out to leave us feeling ready to face the rest of the day.

Monday 27 October 2014

Tune Hotel Arrives in Toon

I've always loved going on adventures and there aren't many cities in the UK I haven't visited.  When I was in my 20s, my friends and I loved picking places we hadn't been before and heading to a strange city to experience the shopping, restaurants and nightlife of somewhere new.  Therefore I know how hard it can be to find reasonably priced hotels in a city centre.

So I am very excited to be able to share with you the brand new, purse friendly Tune Hotel that opened in Newcastle last week.   I've been watching the hotel being fitted out with great interest over the months so when I received an invitation to try it out for a night I was very eager to give it a go.

Tune are a chain with 7 hotels in the UK, with Newcastle being the latest to open.  Situated just off the Quayside, the 104 bed hotel is in the newly renovated Proctor House.  

One of my favourite things about the hotel is that it is built in a beautiful Edwardian building and has kept the original mosaic tiles in the stairways and original fire places in the corridors.

The hotel is modern and clean but its "no frills" concept means that all the added extras you don't really need during your city break aren't there, keeping costs down.  You are in control of what you want out of the hotel and how much you want to spend.  You book a basic room and then have the option to add on extras like TV and wifi for an extra cost.  I love the idea of being able to pay for exactly what you want to use.

Cheapest rates can be found by booking in advance with double rooms for as cheap as £15.00 during promotional periods and £25.00 at other times.

Simon and I stayed in a Double Room with Windows as part of a "Comfort Package".   The Comfort Package is perfect for anyone who wants all of the added extras and gave us use of our TV, Wireless Internet Access, Towel Rental, Toiletries, Hair Dryer and Safe.

Check in was very fast and simple with friendly faces waiting to greet us.  I really loved the Reception  area, especially the huge Newcastle feature wall behind the desk that I really wanted to take home with me.

There are also computers, lovely comfortable sofas to chill out in and a good selection of magazines as well as leaflets and maps to help you explore the area and chocolate to purchase if you have the munchies.

First impressions when I reached our room was that it was pretty small compared to hotel rooms that I'm used to - consisting of a double bed and desk with a TV fixed to the wall and some hangers on the wall to hang clothes.  The room made great use of the little space.

It may have been small but it looked comfortable, cosy and clean and once I'd dumped my bags and sat on the bed to watch a bit of TV, it wasn't long before I felt at home. 

The night we stayed we were getting ourselves ready for the North East Blog Awards, this meant getting changed into a nice dress and doing my hair and makeup.  I was really happy with the full length mirror, perfect for putting together my outfit and the level of lighting in the room was just right for doing my makeup.

When we returned to the room after the Awards later in the evening I was exhausted and ready to crash into bed.  I found the bed really comfortable and it was hard to believe that I was spending the night in such a cheap hotel - the mattress and bedding didn't feel budget at all and I had a really comfortable night's sleep.  I really appreciated the black out curtains and the temperature of the room was controlled with easy to work air conditioning. 

Unfortunately Simon didn't have quite such a restful night as me as the double bed was pushed up against the wall and he spent the night bashing into it.  This probably has more to do with him disco dancing in his sleep though, I'm not sure a normal person would have this problem!

The next morning I was looking forward to using our little ensuite bathroom and I was really impressed with the shower which was hot and powerful.

Being a budget hotel there isn't a restaurant for breakfast, however as Tune is in an ideal location close to the Quayside there is an amazing choice of fantastic places to eat, many of which  I've featured on my blog before.   A stone's throw away is the Quay Ingredient, which is constantly voted as having one of the best breakfasts in Newcastle.  Just round the corner is the Great British Cupcakery which offers up huge slabs of cake and a couple of doors down you'll find Burger Stop for a perfect weekend dinner.

I've spent a lot of time on my blog saying how wonderful the North East is and I've lost count of the amount of lovely comments I've had from people saying that I've persuaded them to visit Newcastle.   Well now I've found the perfect budget hotel for you to stay in, so no more excuses! 

Tune invited us to stay in their lovely new hotel in Newcastle free of charge.  However our experience is real and my review is the truth!

Friday 24 October 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Bank, Low Fell

Low Fell is an area of Gateshead that we love to stroll around.  We dream about being able to buy our first house there as it's such a convenient location, has lots of cute little shops and to have Saltwell Park on our doorstep would be amazing.   Unfortunately it is probably a little out of our price range.

Somewhere we've walked past many times before when daydreaming round Low Fell is The Bank, a bar and bistro situated in a beautiful grade 2 listed building that used to home Lloyds Bank.  I've heard great things about the food and was interested to read that they also serve afternoon tea.   So when a deal popped up on Living Social I decided it would be an ideal time to finally give it a go.

The Bank is split into two, with a wine bar downstairs and a restaurant upstairs. There is also an outside terrace but as Autumn had well and truly arrived on our visit it was far too cold to even contemplate sitting outdoors.

Our food was served in the restaurant, a cosy room that feels nice and private.  The dark interior and leather furnishings made me think it would be a great place for gentlemen's afternoon tea.

The afternoon tea was served very promptly and looked lovely.  I was, however, a little frustrated that we weren't told what was on our cake stand.  More and more places seem to be forgetting this now, and its such a simple, yet important little touch.
We had three little sandwiches on our first tier, but didn't really enjoy the fillings.  They were rather unimaginative to the point where I can't remember what they even were!

The tier was a good amount of food for me but Simon did feel a little cheated as most afternoon teas we enjoy come with four sandwiches.

Next we came to the scones, we had a plain and fruit scone each although the appearance of butter on our stand did confuse me into thinking we had cheese scones.   Bank's decision to serve whipped cream rather than the traditional clotted cream left us feeling a bit disappointed in a tier we usually love.

Our cakes were the highlight of the tea with a little square of victoria sponge(fluffy and really tasty) some chocolate cake (so deliciously rich) and a lemon posset (a perfect fruity finish).

The staff were helpful and friendly and the quality of the afternoon tea was, I think, reflected in the fair price of £9.95 per person.   Although we weren't blown away we had an enjoyable afternoon at the Bank and I'd be interested to see what other meals in the restaurant are like.

Let me know if you've tried the Bank and if we should give a different part of the menu a go.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Climbing Penshaw Monument

Last weekend my friend Lauren travelled up from Essex to come and stay.  As this was not her first trip to the North East I'd already taken her to my favourite places so this time I had to think a little harder about where we could spend our Saturday.

It's not always easy coming up with new adventures when you're limited to using public transport but after a bit of research I came up with a plan and we jumped on the Metro heading to Sunderland Interchange to catch a bus out to Penshaw.

Penshaw is a little village outside of Sunderland famous for the Penshaw Monument, a half scale replica of the Greek Temple of Hephaestus that sits on top of Penshaw Hill.  Locals are so proud of the Monument it even features on Sunderland Football Club's badge.  It can be seen for miles and I've often caught a glimpse of it in the distance and wanted to get a closer look.

The Monument was built in 1844 as an honour to the first Earl of Durham and was gifted to the National Trust in 1939.

It is full of really interesting history, legend and tradition.  I love the sound of the yearly event that sees local children climbing to the top of the hill to partake in the "Penshaw Bowl" - a boiled egg rolling competition.  Whoever rolls their egg the furthest wins a prize and this is a game that has been going for many years.

The most famous legend is the one of the Lambton Worm which was said to live coiled around Penshaw Hill, only stirring to terrorise the villagers of Penshaw below.  Apparently if you look carefully you can see the marks where the giant worm once slept.

Hidden in one of the pillars of the Monument are some secret stairs leading to the top.   For many years locals and visitors could freely climb to the top of the Monument for spectacular views across Tyne & Wear and Durham.   Tragically in 1926 a 15 year old boy fell to his death from the top of the Monument and after an inquest the doors to the top were closed.

They remained shut for 85 years until the National Trust reopened the stairs in 2011.  You can now climb the Monument during the Summer months.  Unfortunately we'd missed that by a few weeks so had to make do with taking a look at the giant structure from the bottom.

I will admit  I was a little disappointed by how easy the climb up the hill to the Monument was.  I'd been expecting a tough up hill hike to earn myself some cake (one track mind!) but instead it was a short walk up a few steps to the very top.   

Luckily the Monument itself did not let me down.   It towered 66 foot above us and looked beautiful against the clear blue sky.  

We walked round it enjoying the views before climbing the few steps into the main floor of the temple.  I loved how you could see gorgeous scenery peaking out between the pillars.

After enjoying the lovely views, we made the quick walk down the hill and headed straight to the Penshaw Tearoom that sits at the bottom.

As it was lunchtime I decided against having cake and opted for something savoury instead.  There were some delicious looking quiches and pies displayed on the counter that I had been tempted by until I saw several flies buzzing round them and crawling on the food. Such a shame as this could easily be prevented by covering them up properly. 

As those were definitely off my list I turned my attention to the substantial list of sandwiches, paninis and wraps on offer.  With a huge range of cold and hot fillings to pick from they certainly have an impressive looking menu for lunchtime.   I decided on a Tuna Melt Toastie, a great lunch time treat for £4.40 and Lauren chose a Pesto, Tomato and Mozzarella Panini for £4.90.

The Tearoom was very popular with a bum on every seat indoors so we decided to have our food outside. Luckil,y the weather was beautiful with warm sunshine and clear skies. It felt amazing to be sitting outside without a coat in October.   I loved the garden in the Tea Room, we were sitting near a feeder full of birds which I enjoyed watching and we had a great view of Penshaw Monument.

Despite being told there might be a wait for our food due to the crowds inside we were impressed with how quickly our lunch arrived at our table.   Our sandwiches were served with homemade coleslaw, side salad and crisps which was a nice addition to the plate.   My toasted sandwich did the job and I happily wolfed it down.

I was less impressed with my diet coke which came served with a small glass that was very old and scratched, giving it a slightly dirty look so I stuck to drinking out of the can.

We enjoyed our food but I was a little baffled by the popularity of the Tearoom.  Maybe if I'd had some cake I would have felt differently.

To walk off our food we crossed the road to Herrington Country Park which offered a nice large space for a good stroll round and some more beautiful views of the Monument.

I really enjoyed my day visiting a North East icon and learning a bit more history about my new home.

Monday 20 October 2014

Jam Jar

When an e-mail popped into my box inviting me to dine at Jam Jar, one of the restaurants from my ever growing "list", I didn't even need to think about my answer.  Whilst I am working hard to tick everywhere off the list, it's nice when something comes up that gives me that extra little nudge in the right direction.

Jam Jar opened last year in Jesmond, a trendy suburb of Newcastle famous for its student residents and an ever growing collection of restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

They have recently recruited a new head chef, Steven Foister, a local lad with an impressive CV including favourites Café 21 and The Cherry Tree.   Steven's mission is to develop the menu at Jam Jar to offer American comfort food and English classics as well as bar snacks and freshly made desserts.

Walking into Jam Jar I loved the place immediately.  It's quirky with loads to look at yet feels homely and comfortable.  I loved the wooden tables, brick fire place and the jam jar wallpaper.  It was a great place for a romantic date or a cosy catch up with friends.

The restaurant is kept fairly dark in the evening but is lit up with lots of beautiful candles and the welcoming red glow from a large neon jar that hangs above the bar.

The restaurant was busy, with every table reserved or full of happy diners.  Jam Jar is hugely popular and we loved the atmosphere.

Three days of the week there are exciting offers.  Every Tuesday is "Shrove Tuesday" with buy one get one free on pancakes and "Burger Tuesday" with 2 burgers and 2 fries for £14.00.   Wednesday is "Supper Club" which offers 2 courses for £9.95 or 3 courses for £12.95. Sunday is Quiz and Curry night with curry of the day costing only £6.00.

We dined on "Supper Club" day, but decided not to order from the menu as the alternative Sandwich menu we were handed was too good to ignore.

Simon chose the Jam Burger with fries - a burger served with crispy bacon, smoked cheddar sauce and tomato jam.  It was beautifully presented and made my mouth water as soon as it was put down in front of him.  Being a fully loaded burger he did find it a little awkward to eat, full of liquid the bottom bun was very soggy so he ended up eating it upside down.   He wolfed it down though and said it tasted amazing.  As this isn't "Bake Off" I guess a soggy bottom doesn't really matter.

I ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich with sweet potato fries- BBQ pulled pork served with baby gem lettuce, shallots, Swiss cheese and apple.  My sandwich was full of flavours and so delicious.  Again it was so packed with filling it was hard to eat without making a mess.   Luckily I think half the fun of eating yummy food is to make a huge mess.  

We were so full after our huge sandwiches but I knew I couldn't leave without trying one of the desserts, so I picked the Raspberry Tart off the board.    I'm so glad that I decided to squeeze in a pudding because it was delicious.  Covered in almonds, it was quite similar to a Bakewell Tart which I'm a huge fan of.  It was one of the nicest desserts I've had in a long time.

I am very glad that we finally got ourselves to Jam Jar, the food was lovely and we will definitely make sure we return.  I have my eye on the rather tasty looking brunch menu.

We were invited to dine at Jam Jar and our meals and drinks were complimentary.  As always this review is my honest opinion.

Friday 17 October 2014

Woodland Walking

Let's all just take a moment and think about poor old Simon!   There we were on our nice relaxing holiday at Center Parcs when suddenly before he knew what was happening I was throwing on a new outfit and marching him out into the woods to take some outfit photos for the blog. 

In my defence I just couldn't resist.  Whilst I'm no fashion blogger, I do love parading about in new clothes and sharing my finds with you but as we currently live in a flat with no outside space I never get an opportunity to prance about doing outfit posts.   Being somewhere with so much gorgeous scenery was just too good to be true.

Autumn fashion is my absolute favourite.  I love that suddenly it's acceptable to throw on some funky tights and knee high boots, I adore the colours and sometimes I even convince myself that I might be able to get away with a floppy hat.

So far this season I haven't let myself buy too much even though the shops have been singing to me every time I walk past them.  

This gorgeous mustard colour shirt dress is one of the few purchases that I have made.  It's from F&F and it caught my eye as I was innocently strolling around Tescos doing the weekly shop. 

Lucky for me Simon spotted it at exactly the same time, knew immediately that I loved it and practically pushed me into the changing room to try it on as I was trying to talk myself out of buying it.  What a man eh?

It cost £20.00 and it was love it at first sight.  It's a very large cut and my usual size literally swamped my body so I ended up going for a size 8 just to make it a bit of a smaller fit.

The bag I bought especially for holiday when I realised that I was in serious need of a small brown day bag.  It cost £4.00 from Primark and although small it fits in a lot.  I used it every day on holiday and managed to cram my sunglasses case, camera and iPhone into it.

The boots were from Dorothy Perkins and it pains me to tell you that they have now been reduced from £45.00 to £36.00.  They are really comfortable so if you are still looking for some new Winter boots grab yourself a pair whilst they're still cheap.

Let me know if you've found any amazing new clothes in the supermarkets recently.   I'm always look out for a great bargain to celebrate the arrival of the new season.
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