Friday 27 February 2015

Newcastle's Best Grab and Go Lunches

To ensure that I'm having a healthy and cheap lunch during the week, I always make my own salad to take in to work.  However, as you can imagine, eating the same thing every day can get a little boring and with the cold weather my body does sometimes crave something a little more filling.

So recently I decided that every now and again I'd treat myself and head into Newcastle to try out a few independent sandwich shops so I could share with you some of the best places to grab lunch on the go.

I'm not denying for a moment that I don't love a Greggs sausage roll but I do struggle to understand why people would want to buy the same sandwich from the same predictable chain every day.  There are so many fantastic alternatives in the city and it's great to support the local businesses that make Newcastle extra special.

The Laughing Cat Café, 6 Upper Princess Square

The Laughing Cat is conveniently located just off Newcastle's main shopping area, Northumberland Street.  Hidden beside the Library and Cruise it's a bit of a secret gem, giving you the benefit of not having to wait in a massive queue when you need to grab a quick lunch.

For those with a bit more time on their hands, the little café has a number of tables in a homely and relaxed environment.  Even arriving during my lunch hour there were seats available so it's a great place to head.

The food is homemade and the menu offers a wide variety of sandwiches, jacket potatoes and salads as well as a few rather delicious looking cakes.

I was tempted by a number of sandwiches on the menu before opting for Sausage, Cheddar and Garlic Pickle served on a white roll.   My lunch was made to order so I was offered a seat whilst waiting a short while for my sandwich.

As it was a nice day, I took my lunch for a stroll down to the Quayside to enjoy the Winter sunshine.   The roll was quite small but it was stuffed with filling, so much so that when I unwrapped it I was desperately trying to catch precious flakes of cheese (there's no way I was letting any yummy food miss my mouth!)   My lunch was delicious, I really enjoyed the flavour provided by the extra kick of the garlic pickle.

Good Times Sandwich, 7 Grey Street

Positioned on the beautiful Grey Street, Good Times Sandwich has been open for just over a year.

Despite having their menu stashed in my desk drawer at work since opening it has taken me this long to visit. Shame on me!

Offering an immense selection of fillings, Tommy and his team serve up pretty much anything you like in a sandwich as well as freshly made soups and hot filled stotties at breakfast time - all at very reasonable prices.  

On my visit I had a jacket potato with cheese and beans and I was so impressed with the service I received. I was asked what size potato I'd like and whether I'd like the cheese or beans on first. It's this attention to the small things that makes GTS such a great place to visit. 

I ate at one of the few seats provided and enjoyed listening to the happy buzz in the shop.  The place was busy, the service was fast and the banter was great. GTS have a lot of regular customers which speaks volumes.

They also have the most eye catching window in Newcastle, with a festive tribute to Home Alone over the Christmas period and more recently a homage to Geoff from Byker Grove. 

Made Deli, Melbourne Street

Located equal distance between the Quayside and the centre of Toon, Made Deli is very popular.  With a constant stream of customers filling the little shop this is somewhere where it definitely pays to arrive before the rush or pre order. 

Pre ordering at the deli couldn't be easier and you can order your sandwich from the comfort of your desk via the website so it's ready for you to collect at lunchtime.  The "Order Online" section of the website is clearly set out and so easy to use with a tick box list to create your favourite lunch. 

The deli is small but a lovely space with colourful shelves and wallpaper and beautiful blackboards full of food choices all written in coloured chalk. There is a small seating area with 4 chairs so be quick if you want to park your bum. 

The selections of bread, fillings, sauces and extras is pretty overwhelming but I loved the "Sandwich Combinations" blackboard that gave great inspiration. I chose my stottie off the board and went for a Goats Cheese, Beetroot and Onion Marmalade. It was huge, stuffed full and very satisfying. 

Made Deli offers great value for money, a huge choice of fillings and delicious food.

Love Lunch Deli, Arch 19, Forth Goods Yard

Finding Love Lunch can be a bit of a mission, a stone's throw away from the Life Centre in Newcastle it's hidden down a little side street next to a storage unit so definitely a "word of mouth" deli.

I found it with no problem after a good study of Google maps.  I hiked from the Quayside which was mostly uphill so I was hoping Love Lunch would be worth the walk.    As I burst through the doors, announcing my arrival and explaining my journey I couldn't have been made to feel more welcome.

Dani and her team are passionate about the food they serve and were enthusiastic in explaining their lunch options to me, in all honesty I could have stood about chatting all day!

Love Lunch is one of a few establishments in Newcastle offering "clean" lunch options with gluten free dishes, low carb bread and yummy treats made with natural ingredients rather than processed sugar.  The small display of cakes were especially impressive and I loved the sound of the cookies made from chickpeas, honey, dark chocolate and nuts.   Unfortunately being allergic to nuts it was a no go for me but I'm hopeful someone will give them a try and let me know how they are!

Lunch was a choice of sandwiches, freshly made salads, melts or a rather scrummy looking hot dish that Dani produced from the oven to show me.

I opted for a Vegetarian Sausage, Mozzarella and Caramelised Onion melt which was made freshly as I waited. 

Their menu changes daily so make sure you give them a follow on Facebook to see what's cooking at the Deli - if you're lucky you may stumble across a day when there's pancakes, brownies or scotch eggs on the menu.

My lunch was beyond delicious, I savoured every mouthful and was gutted when it was over, and to think that my melt was a darn sight better for me than a shop bought processed and packaged sandwich made me grin from ear to ear.   There is no doubt that it was worth the walk and I will be back!

I'd love to hear what you have when you fancy something special at lunchtime, and if anyone in Newcastle has recommendations of other local sandwich shops and delis I should try please do let me know.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

A Forgotten Primark Treasure

Does anyone else have an item of clothing in their wardrobe that more or less sits there untouched despite the fact that you really love it?

I am a little guilty of not always wearing some of my favourite clothes as much as I should.  I find myself saving things for a "special occasion" and instead reaching for the same pair of jeans and jumper every weekend.

So one of my resolutions for 2015 is to have a good look through my wardrobe to see what I have and get some wear out of the clothes that I claim to love but hardly ever see the light of day.

This jacket is one of those items.  I bought it in Primark in November.  Before you say that November wasn't that long ago, I have to confess that I made this purchase in November 2013, and I've worn it once!

Yet I love it, it is absolutely stunning - I love the fit and the perfect tartan trim and detail on the sleeves.  What's not to love? 

This is one of those fantastic outfits that makes me feel really good about myself.  It gives the illusion of being well put together yet in reality is something that's so easy to just throw on as you hurry out the door.

Not only do I feel great in this jacket but the one time I did wear it I had compliments from Simon all day.

I would love to know how you would style this jacket.  Maybe it'll provide me with some more inspiration and ensure that it's allowed out of the wardrobe a little more often.

Look out 2015, this jacket is coming to get you!


Monday 23 February 2015

Serendipity Tea and Trinkets

February's Cake Club saw us travelling to Sunderland and finding ourselves on Frederick Street, my favourite place in Sunderland.  It's a quaint little road full of absolute gems like Serendipity, one of the North East's loveliest little tea rooms.

If you love to eat cake surrounded by plenty of cute and kitsch then Serendipity is definitely the place for you. 

Decked out in bunting, the homely tea room is bursting with colourful knitted cakes, mismatch crockery and even has a makeshift photo booth complete with props.

This wasn't my first trip to Serendipity, and on every previous occasion I've skipped cake in favour of hot chocolate.  I realise that as I'm the Queen of Cake that might be a little shocking but it speaks volumes as to how good the hot chocolate is.  The choice of flavours is impressive and I'm very partial to the Turkish Delight Ultimate which comes served with lashings of cream and marshmallows.

If the hot chocolate was anything to go by I knew that afternoon tea at Serendipity would be fantastic and on a very cold day in February it was what we all needed for a perfect cosy afternoon.

Everything at Serendipity is homemade, just the way I like it. Our sandwiches were brought out to us freshly prepared and they were some of the nicest sandwiches I've ever had on an afternoon tea.  The bread had the perfect amount of bounce and squish (don't laugh, to me that's the perfect way to describe fresh bread) and the fillings were generous.

Just as we finished our sandwiches a huge plate of scones appeared, warm from the oven.  I have never seen such a generous amount of scones.   We had a mixture of cheese and herb, plain and fruit - something for everyone - accompanied by butter, jam and cream.

The best thing about scones at Serendipity is they're cute and bite size (if you have a large mouth like me!), so there's no risk of over stuffing yourself to the point where you can't eat the cakes.  I managed to try one of each and still had plenty of room for my favourite tier.

As cakes at Serendipity are homemade you can never be sure what you may get.  We were very pleased with our selection.  We had macarons, cupcakes and chocolate brownies.  All absolutely delicious.

We had a wonderful few hours chatting (and playing with a selfie stick!) and slowly ploughing through our food, it was nice to be in such a comfortable environment and not made to feel rushed.  Despite taking our time the tea still defeated us so we boxed up some goodies to take home.

If you're in Sunderland and looking for somewhere to take the load off your feet and settle down with some homemade cake make sure you head to Serendipity (and leave room for a hot chocolate too!)  Afternoon Tea is only £15 per person which is a real bargain for a homemade afternoon tea hosted in such a lovely environment.

Serendipity also host children's parties, baby showers, is available for private functions and organises fun events.  If you're after something a little different to celebrate something special make sure you take a look at their website.

Friday 20 February 2015

Jump for George

I'm not a huge fan of the Winter months. I find them too cold and dark and if I'm not careful they tend to make me feel very down in the dumps.

This year I've been very focussed on keeping myself happy and motivated. We had a big clear out in the flat on New Years Day, I've been eating well, running regularly and making plans for friends and family weddings. So far so good!

So when George got in touch asking me if I'd like to spread the word that dressing glam isn't just for the festive period, I knew getting involved would be another great way to keep me smiling. 

It's too tempting to hide away in tatty old leggings and a big jumper over Winter, but it's not the greatest way to help you feel cheery.  Putting on something flirty and fun is a far better way to approach the cold season.

I love the amazing bargains you can find in George and they currently have some gorgeous dresses in store with lots of beautiful colours and bold patterns to chase away the Winter blues or if you prefer something a little more subtle they have some lovely monochrome pieces.

I've decided I'm not quite ready to rid my legs of their Winter fur or scare anyone with how milk bottle white they are so I've been trying to glam up the colder months with printed trousers and colourful skirts with thick tights.   One thing I was yet to try this Winter was a jumpsuit so when I stumbled across this one from George it was love at first sight.

It's a belted wrap top which is so flattering.  I really love the cut around the neckline - it's low without being revealing and gives limitless accessorising possibilities.   It would look gorgeous with a statement piece or looks equally fantastic with simple gold jewellery.

It's hard to find jumpsuits that are a good fit without making me look like a sack of spuds and I was really happy with the way this one fitted.  I had plenty of room to move around, it clung to the right parts and skimmed past the lumpy bits and made me feel glamorous with minimal effort (a great combination!)

I always appreciate something with a bit of fun detail and this jumpsuit has really cute little zips on the shoulders which I adore.

The navy blue colour has given me endless ideas of how to style this jumpsuit, it's crying out for some crazy pops of colour so I decided to pick out these Floral Shoes from George to go with it.   They are so bright but look fantastic with the jumpsuit.

Let me know if you have any great ideas of how you'd style the jumpsuit and if you've picked up anything from George yourself this Winter.

This post has been written in collaboration with George.  The jumpsuit and shoes were sent to me for review purposes.  But I love them so don't be surprised if you see me strutting around Newcastle in them!

Wednesday 18 February 2015

A Double Date at Bills in Durham

Back when I lived in London I was very fond of a spot of brunch on a Saturday morning and was always on the look out for somewhere new to try.  It was a Google search for "best brunch in London" that lead me to St Martin's Courtyard and my first ever visit to Bills, a produce store and restaurant that soon became my favourite place for breakfast.

Unfortunately for me, my little secret haven didn't stay secret for long and on my next visit queues for tables were out of the door, it seemed that Bills had captured the imagination of foodies in the capital.

Fast forward a few years and Bills now has over 50 restaurants across the UK, not bad for a little family run business that began life in Sussex only 14 years ago.

When I first relocated to the North East I was a little gutted that I was moving to a part of the country that didn't have a Bills.  So as soon as I heard a little whisper that we might finally be getting one I kept my ear to the ground until the news reached me that Bills was to open in Durham.

If I was to pick a place in the North East to have a Bills then Durham would be my perfect choice.   A gorgeous little city full of cobbled streets, river views and beautiful buildings.  It's a great fit for Bills.

When Bills invited us to try out their new restaurant I decided to bring along my friend Kayleigh and her boyfriend Chris to introduce them to Bills.  Pressure was on after telling them all about the menu stuffed full of lovely food.

Like many branches of Bills, the Durham restaurant is very popular with every table taken.  If you want to drop by to try it out for yourself, make sure you book in advance!

As a fan I've been to a number of Bills restaurants and although their newest space is laid out in Bill's typical style with chalk boards and shelves full of produce, the Durham restaurant definitely has its own charm with plenty of tables in cute little hideaways.

I've had so many Bills breakfasts over the years that I decided for our first visit to Durham we'd try something different and have some lunch.  The lunch and dinner menu is served from 11:45 am until late and is bursting with dishes to suit every taste.

We turned our attention to the drinks menu first and were impressed with the amount of non alcoholic beverages available.  I usually just find myself ordering a Diet Coke when I'm not drinking but there were so many other options at Bills it took me a little while to decide.

In the end I opted for Cream Soda and Rhubarb, it was sweet and refreshing - I really enjoyed the little hint of rhubarb.  Kayleigh had Bill's Pink Lemonade which comes served with strawberries.  I've tried the Pink Lemonade before and it's gorgeous.  You can also order it as an ice-cream soda and it's so refreshing on a hot Summer's day.

Typical Simon went for the naughtiest drink he could find on the menu and ordered the chocolate brownie milkshake which was served with cream and a flake.  In his own words "it was goooooooooooood!"

The Main Course was an even tougher decision with a great list of home comforts, classics, grills and steaks to chose from.  I quite often find myself tempted by vegetarian dishes when I'm out and this time the Mac n Cheese with Butternut Squash sounded too good to resist.   It was seriously scrummy and I'll be ordering it again on my next visit.

Kayleigh ordered the Pan-Fried Sea Bass which looked amazing and both boys had burgers.   I'm not sure if anyone else is counting how many burgers Simon has had so far in his hunt for the best burger in the North East but I think it's been a fair few!  He was very impressed with this one and pretty much fell silent as he happily munched his way through it.

There's a great range of desserts at Bills so we knew to make sure we had enough room for some pudding. 

I ordered the Rhubarb and Stem Ginger Crème Brulee.  I'm a massive fan of rhubarb and ginger so was pretty excited at the prospect of having the two flavours together.  My portion was very generous, I loved the tang of rhubarb mixed with the sweet Crème Brulee and the buttery ginger biscuits served on the side were beautiful.

Simon had the Eton Mess which he enjoyed but admitted was a little too sweet for him (anyone else thinking this could have something to do with him ordering a chocolate milkshake  AND  dessert?!)

Kayleigh had the Lemon Meringue Pie Cheesecake in a glass and Chris ordered the Warm Chocolate Brownie.  I always love when everyone at your table orders different desserts, it's good to see what you're missing out on.   This time I definitely think that I had the winning dessert but I'm pretty sure the others would probably argue that they did.

As well as eating at Bills you can also shop!  The shelves are full of cookery books, jars of jam, sweets and bottles of pop.   Each product has such beautiful packaging and it makes the restaurant alive with colour.

If you can't be bothered to get up off your seat (which admittedly is difficult after you've indulged in too much food) you can peruse the shopping list that's on the table, fill in what you'd like to buy and pass it to your Bill's server who will package your items up beautifully in some of Bill's bright coloured paper.   I've never ordered anything myself, but my friend Kate orders the chocolate orange buttons each time we go, she's addicted!

You can also shop online here .   I have my eye on quite a few things for our next visit - some cherry jam, some cappuccino buttons and of course a bottle of pink lemonade.

I am quite literally bursting with excitement that Bills have finally arrived in the North East and I can't wait for you all to get out there and give it a try for yourselves.  Please do let me know if you visit! 

Now I just have my fingers firmly crossed that another Bills pops up in Newcastle.  Me, greedy?  Never!

Bills treated us to a complimentary lunch but all enthusiasm is my own.  I have had countless meals at Bills and have always loved the food .. just ask all the friends I've introduced to Bills over the years.

Monday 16 February 2015

Frock Swap 2015

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Just recently I've found myself stalking someones wardrobe like a crazy lady!  Who is the object of my fashion lust?  Alexa Chung?  Victoria Beckham?  Nope, one Ms Erica from I'm Being Erica.   You see Erica has THE best taste in dresses and every time I see her sporting something beautiful and floral I find myself reaching for my Visa and placing an order with Asos!

This spot of fashion stalking resulted in me being invited to partake in this years Frock Swap.  For those that don't know, last year a group of bloggers decided to dive into their wardrobes to hunt out clothes they once loved but were struggling to style.  Each blogger posted their chosen frock to another Frock Swap blogger in the hope they could inject some life back into the forgotten treasure with some serious style inspiration.

I loved last year's Frock Swap and eagerly followed the story of the travelling frocks and discovered some of my favourite blogs in the process.   So to be asked to join in this year is a little bit of an honour!

I will be swapping frocks with four gorgeous ladies - Erica, Donna, Charlotte and Ally and I can't wait to see what they've picked out from their wardrobes for me to style.

At the beginning of the year I had a clear out of my clothes yet there are still a few items that I just can't bring myself to get rid of despite the fact they rarely get worn.  One of these is this cute duck print dress I bought from Primark a few years ago.  I love the print and it really shouldn't be that hard to style but for some reason I struggle to know how to wear it so it hides away - abandoned and unloved.

It may have something to do with the fact that I'm now in my 30s and am perhaps a little too old to be wearing printed dresses.  Yet I just can't bring myself to get rid of this cute frock.

I'm really hoping these lovely ladies can help me fall back in love with this fun dress and show me that I can still pull off a dress covered in ducks!

My dress is packaged up and travelling across the country as we speak to Donna who I know will have something great up her sleeve for it as she always looks seriously amazing and has a great eye for an outfit!

Over to you ladies!

Saturday 14 February 2015

Love is ... The Pudding Parlour

As my social media slowly fills up with people posting photos of their big bunches of flowers and expensive jewellery whilst announcing to the world that they are "blessed", I've decided to come and talk to you all about my second great love - CAKE!

So far, my Valentines has consisted of getting my mop chopped, a mooch round the shops and battling round Tescos - whilst poor old Simon has been sitting on the couch recovering from Man Flu.

We don't really make a big fuss out of Valentines Day and, as with every other day, the highlight for us is spending time together and eating food. 

Our plan for this evening is to lounge about watching films - one chosen by him (something very geeky) and something chosen by me (some awful Rom Com) whilst feasting on sugar.  We decided we needed a special kind of treat and in the spirit of Valentines we decided to support local and get some cake from the Pudding Parlour.

The Pudding Parlour is a decadent dessert company based in Northumberland with stores in Hexham and Morpeth.  Living in Newcastle (and without a car .. sob!) I'd had to admire the delicious looking cakes from afar, knowing that it would probably be a good long while before I could try any.   So imagine how happy I was when the Pudding Parlour opened a counter in the Food Hall at Fenwick.

I popped along this afternoon to pick something out for our Valentines evening and was shocked by the amount of cakes on offer.   From British classic cakes to American desserts and a few unique treats invented in the Parlour, there were so many to look at I had to phone Simon from the counter just to read out some of them to him so he could make a decision - I didn't want to get it wrong!

In the end I chose the Black Forest Layer Cake and Simon went for the Caramel Cake.  It wasn't the easiest of decisions and I urge anyone living near Newcastle to head to Fenwick and take a look at the counter for yourselves.   I know I will definitely be back - I have my eye on the Custard Cream Cake and the Toblerone Cheesecake!

Whilst we're here, I'll let you into a little secret.  There is also somewhere else you can get Pudding Parlour goodies in  Newcastle.   The recently opened Longhorns Barbecue Smokehouse are serving up a variety of the American inspired treats so if you find yourself there make sure you save some room for dessert.

The Pudding Parlour also make rather spectacular cakes for special occasions and offer a variety of cake decorating and baking classes which I really want to check out some time.

Let me know if you've been to the Pudding Parlour and if you have any recommendations of which cakes I should try next.

Friday 13 February 2015

Living with a Blogger

My name's Simon and I live with a blogger.

Living with a blogger definitely has its perks.  Sure, sometimes I get to be a plus one at the opening of the hottest new bar, enjoy the occasional complimentary meal and yes, once I even bagged myself a winter coat.  But before you think I get a free ride, just take a second to think about what it's like to live with a blogger.

We're out for a meal, usually somewhere new and awesome, I've spent the day studying the menu and for hours my mouth has been watering at the thought of eating an epic burger.   But, no matter how hungry I am, I can't tuck in until after my meal has gone through the required photo shoot.  This often involves me having to lie across chairs to get out of shot, and sometimes I'm even asked to leave the table!   One day I'm going to be mistaken for a waiter!

Sometimes we find somewhere amazing to eat, but as the meal comes to an end I can't help but feel a little sad.  This is because I know we wont get to return any time soon as there are so many other places on the (eternally growing) list that need to be visited first.  Never fall in love with a restaurant if you're dating a blogger!

Every spare moment is spent in the gym as our weekends mostly consist of eating and photographing cake.  I'm sure I had a 6 pack before this blog began (lies!).

My Sunday evenings used to consist of chilling out, perhaps gaming with some mates on Xbox, preparing myself for the week ahead at work.  Nowadays my Sundays involve proof reading the following week's blog posts.

I used to be able to take just one photo of my other half and she'd be perfectly happy.  Now when she presents me with her camera I know it's to take new outfit photos.  I instinctively take 40 (plus) shots, even though she'll hate each one!

When I pull back the curtains on a Saturday and see sunshine I can't help but let out an inward groan.  My chill out time has gone, as my blogging girlfriend will now insist on gallivanting round the countryside on an adventure.

Whilst out on our adventure I'm often given the opportunity to perfect my juggling skills when I'm given the task of taking her photo whilst holding her handbag, camera bag, coat, scarf, hat .. oh and maybe her gloves.

I used to pride myself on being the techy geek in our relationship so it did take me aback when Chloe started bringing up Google stats and SEO into our conversations.  I will admit that she has taught me a thing or two.

Joking aside, I love seeing how much enjoyment Chloe gets from her blogging and discovering all the places, new and old to visit in the North East. And as someone who does enjoy food, I'm not really going to complain when it comes to eating out somewhere new.

I did want to take a quick minute to thank everyone who reads and comments on New Girl in Toon. Moving to a new part of the country wasn't easy for Chloe but writing this blog encouraged her to get out and about and meet new people.   She was welcomed into the blogging community in the North East and I'm really pleased that she's made such lovely friends.
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