Wednesday 15 March 2017

March Days

My round up post has come a little early this month as New Girl in Toon will be taking a short break so that I can recharge my batteries. This year I will have been writing this blog for 4 years and it's very rare that I take any time away from it, so I'm really looking forward to having some weeks away from my screen - I promise I'll return full of great stories and adventures! Here are a few things that happened the first part of the  month that didn't make the blog.

An evening at the Malmaison 

Somewhere between researching ports and writing my packing list I realised that I seriously needed to get myself booked into the Malmaison on the Newcastle Quayside for some essential pre Honeymoon treatments. I enjoyed a very relaxing evening getting a luxury manicure and pedicure followed by a spray tan at The Spa. Being a redhead and naturally very pale, having a tan ready for the Caribbean is an absolute dream. Shorts really do look so much better with a tan!

Malmaison Newcastle Quayside

Primark Hauling

The Summer clothes have finally arrived in Primark and I couldn't help going on a haul which definitely got out of control as I somehow ended up leaving the shop with two huge bags which meant I had to get the bus straight home as I was struggling to carry everything. These beautiful sandals caught my eye but after spending forever trying loads of sizes on and falling in love with them I decided they weren't sensible and put them back. I've been regretting it ever since!

Primark Sandals

Afternoon Tea at the Movies

A Sunday afternoon watching a classic movie over an indulgent afternoon tea, does life get any better? The Tyneside Cinema invited us over to experience one of their Afternoon Tea at the Movies events and it was amazing!  The food, the atmosphere, the service - we couldn't fault any of it and I can't wait to share a proper review with you next month. Watch this space!

Afternoon Tea at Tyneside Cinema Newcastle
Dior Lusting

You know Summer is almost here when Fenwicks in Newcastle have got the designer shades back in stock. Admiring the beautiful frames through the glass cabinets is one of my favourite things to do and I currently have my heart set on making my first designer sunglass purchase at Dior.  I'm hoping to get my dream pair at Heathrow as we set off on our Honeymoon - I am so excited!

Dior Sunglasses at Fenwick Newcastle

"Honeymoon Simon"

During my latest catchup with my friend Kelly she was telling me that her husband Thom has a holiday wardrobe of clothes that are completely different to his usual style that he brings out for every single holiday. This has resulted in him transforming into "Holiday Thom" every time they go away. Her story made me chuckle and I also realised that poor Simon had a very limited amount of clothes to take away on our cruise so I decided to make it my mission to create "Honeymoon Simon". I dragged the poor man to Primark and we spent over 3 hours (yes, really!) creating him the perfect look for a Caribbean Cruise. He marched out of the Metrocentre with three huge very full bags and a brand new wardrobe!

Metrocentre Gateshead

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Monday 13 March 2017

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre

Recently Simon and I became Odeon Limitless members which has resulted in us spending a fair bit of time in the Metrocentre on the hunt for pre-movie food. Usually feeling very hungry but in a rush, MOD Pizza is a great discovery perfect for our cinema dates.

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre

MOD Pizza is a pretty new addition to the Metrocentre and has joined a huge amount of restaurant openings in the mall. Founded in Seattle, MOD specialise in super fast pizza at purse friendly prices to suit the busy modern family.

As Simon and I walked in to discover a counter spilling with toppings, we realised pretty quickly that MOD Pizza is a pizza lover's paradise allowing us the freedom to create whatever pizza we fancied. I don't know about you but it's not often I find my perfect combination of toppings and I was excited at the thought of playing pizza chef!

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre

Unfortunately, my favourite pizza topping was missing from the counter! No egg! I love egg on a pizza, it's always been my guilty pleasure so I was a little disappointed. There are, however, 34 other toppings available so I got over it pretty quickly and set to work creating my own special pizza.

Pizzas at MOD Pizza come in three sizes; mini (£4.47), mod (£7.47) and mega (£10.47) - the price always stays the same no matter how many toppings you pile on. Simon and I both decided to order a mod each - they were huge and left me wondering how on earth anyone could ever fit in a mega!

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre

I have pretty simple tastes when it comes to pizza so didn't go too crazy with the toppings. I can't really say the same for Simon though, every time I looked back at him he was piling more on to his base.  I opted for a BBQ base then added plenty of cheese, mushrooms, mild sausage, red onion and Mozzarella - so delicious!

Our pizzas arrived at our table within 5 minutes, piping hot and covered in toppings. You know that a pizza looks amazing when your husband starts taking photos for Instagram, usually it's me messing about taking photos! I think you'll agree that they look damn good, and believe me they tasted as good as they look.

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre
On the side we ordered a Garlic Strip and Dip (£2.47) which we weren't overly fussed about - I much prefer proper thick and chunky garlic bread and this was a little average in comparison. Neither of us liked the cheesy topping and it was a little on the salty side. We'll definitely stick to just ordering pizza on our next visit.

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre

Because we were feeling super naughty we also decided to have a milkshake each!  It was a moment of weakness, the milkshake options were just too tempting for us to resist.  Milkshakes come in three classic flavours - chocolate, vanilla and strawberry (£3.47) and we decided to add some "mix ins", I went for the Cappuccino Crunch.

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre

Don't ask me how we managed to fit it in but to end our meal we indulged in some Cinnamon Strips (£2.47) which came with a choice of chocolate or strawberry dip. They were so delicious but pretty hard to squeeze into our bellies after eating so much pizza.

MOD Pizza, Metrocentre
We loved our first visit to MOD Pizza and will definitely be returning next time we want to grab a quick bite whilst out shopping. I don't think we'd order that mammoth amount of food again though, we've both agreed that a pizza to share would be more than enough for a lunchtime treat.

Let me know if you've made it to MOD yet and what your favourite pizza toppings are.

We received a complementary meal for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are our own. 

Friday 10 March 2017

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution

The most recent restaurant to open at Intu Eldon Square Gey's Quarter is Tapas Revolution, the seventh of Omar Allibhoy's Spanish restaurants to open in the UK. To celebrate I was invited along to a special beer and tapas pairing evening hosted by Omar to learn more about his new restaurant in Newcastle.

Tapas Revolution is a Spanish Bar, Café and Restaurant that transports you to a sunnier climate as soon as you walk through the doors. With Spanish music filling the restaurant, beautiful Mediterranean inspired decor and delicious smells it's not long before you feel like you're on holiday rather than in Newcastle!

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution

Tapas Revolution is definitely one of the more authentic feeling chain restaurants that I've been to, so much so, calling it a chain feels like you're doing it a disservice. Listening to Omar talk about the delicious ingredients sourced from Spain, how his favourite dishes are created and the love and care that goes into designing each restaurant to make it different it's clear he is passionate about bringing great tapas to the people of Newcastle.

The evening began with an introduction to some of the beers available at Tapas Revolution. Before the evening I'd always associated Sangria as the drink of choice with Tapas but Omar explained that beer and tapas is hugely popular in Spain and the two very much go hand in hand.

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution
Our main course was served with two Estrella beers, the 0.0%  which was very light and refreshing with a smooth and long bitter aftertaste (perfect for a non-beer drinker like me!) and the Estrella Galicia 4.7% which was light in body with a medium alcoholic warmth.

With our dessert we had a very special 1906 Black Coupage 7.2% with the roasted aromas of malt and coffee and a slightly sweet kick with delicious flavours of liquorice and cocoa.

Now, I'm really not a big beer drinker, but with my tapas I was pretty surprised how easily I was drinking the beer. I would even consider enjoying a beer with my tapas again (although the cocktail menu did look pretty tempting!)

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution - Beer

Our food feast began with four tapas dishes to share between us which quickly covered our table. As a foodie nothing makes me happier than seeing a great spread of food and it seemed my dining companions agreed as we all eagerly grabbed as much as we could fit on our little colourful plates.

My favourite of the evening was the Pan de la casa (£4.25) - toasted bread, topped with tomato, garlic sauce and serrano ham. There's most definitely no ladylike way of eating this beauty - it's best enjoyed without a care to how you look or what ends up hanging out of our mouth. It was so delicious!

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution

Next up we enjoyed the Tortilla de Patatas (£4.50) - classic Spanish omelette with free range eggs, potato and onion. Never really my favourite tapas dish but it was most certainly one of the best that I've tried.

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution
One of the biggest hits of the night was the Croquetas de Jamon (£4.95) - deep-fried Iberico ham and bechamel croquettes - which disappeared from their little dishes at great speed.  These little balls of heaven were so moreish it took a lot of self control not to just pinch the whole dish and keep it to myself.

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution

A first for most of us, the Pulpo a la Gallega (£6.95) - steamed octopus with potatoes and pimenton paprika - was a dish we were all very curious about. I wasn't sure if I'd be a fan of octopus but was pleasantly surprised, definitely one to try if you've not before.

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution

Our main course finished with a huge dish of Paella de Pollo (£24.00) - Chicken, green beans and chicken stock. In my eyes you can't really go for tapas without paella and this one was perfectly prepared and tasted just as good as the paella dishes I've enjoyed in Spain.

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution

I'd never usually think to order a dessert after eating all that tapas but our evening ended with a little taste from the sweet menu. Torrija  - caramelised brioche bun soaked in custard and served warm.  It may not look terribly exciting (it's very hard to photograph believe me!) but wow this little treat was a dream and the most perfect end to our evening.

Intu Eldon Square: Grey's Quarter - Tapas Revolution
I loved my first visit to Tapas Revolution and am looking forward to sharing it with Simon very soon as I know he's going to love it!

Anyone else made it to Tapas Revolution yet?

We enjoyed a complimentary night.  All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle, Kelso

You'd think that after my epic birthday fail hunting for daffodils last year that I would have learnt my lesson when it comes to driving great distances to look at flowers. But no, I've been at it again! This time desperately looking for the perfect place in the North to see snowdrops. Don't ask me how but I somehow managed to convince Simon that going to the Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle in Kelso was a great idea.

I may have failed to mention to him that we'd be journeying to Scotland in our search for snowdrops!

Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle, Kelso
I have lived in the North East for a few years now but I am forever forgetting exactly how far north we are. Who knew we could drive to Scotland in 90 minutes? Feeling pretty excited by this prospect and planning more adventures over the border we set off too early for a Sunday in search of those beautiful little white blooms.

Floors Castle, Kelso
Kelso is a market town in the heart of the Scottish borders and home to Floors Castle, Scotland's largest inhabited Castle and home to the 10th Duke of Roxburghe. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't often get to visit the home of a Duke so I was pretty curious to spend the day at Floors Castle. There's plenty to do - lose yourself in the grand rooms, enjoy the sights and smells of the formal gardens, stroll by the river, get lost in the woodlands or have a cheeky slice of cake in the Terrace Cafe. It's a great place for an adventure!

Floors Castle Kelso

Important things first, we were there for the Snowdrop Splendour that took place over one weekend in February offering guests the chance to explore the gardens and grounds at a discounted rate (£5.00 per person) to see the snowdrops.

I will admit I was pretty worried that we'd travelled all the way over the border to Scotland and that I'd be left disappointed.  Simon had already made me promise that if I didn't see any snowdrops that I wouldn't throw a strop and spend the rest of the day sulking. So we were both relieved as we made our way into the woods to find blankets of white nestled underneath the trees.

Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle, Kelso
I was so happy, there may have been some skipping as I dived in and out of the trees discovering more and more snowdrops - they were stunning and I haven't seen such an impressive collection in a long time.

My obsession with snowdrops began when I was in the Brownies. Brown Owl lived in the same village as me and had an impressively sized garden that came to life with snowdrops at the end of Winter. Every February we'd all be invited into her garden to pick a small bunch to take home for Mum. Seeing bunches of snowdrops always transports me to my childhood and it's one of the simplest things in life to make me smile.

Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle, Kelso

With each corner we turned we discovered more snowdrops, each display more impressive than the last and it wasn't long before I had muddy patches on my knees from crawling about on the ground trying to capture the perfect shot of the pretty blooms. I was in my element!

Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle, Kelso

Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle, Kelso

Once I'd finished messing around and had filled my memory card with a silly amount of snowdrop photos we decided to give our legs a proper stretch and go on one of the walks at the Estate. As the grounds and gardens were both open it seemed silly to drive all that way and not do a good amount of exploring. There were two walks to choose from, the river walk or the woodland walk.

As I'd forgotten to pack my wellies the river walk seemed like the most sensible option so with Simon in charge of the map and me carrying all of our luggage we set off on an adventure.

Snowdrop Splendour at Floors Castle, Kelso
In my opinion every great adventure in the country has to involve a stile and I was delighted that we had a fair few gates to navigate.

Floors Castle, Kelso

As I attempted to climb over them gracefully I kept my husband entertained with stories of my childhood in the Norfolk countryside. I would spend hours running through fields and climbing over fences and as I navigated one particularly tricky stile I claimed that my natural climbing agility was clearly down to my Norfolk upbringing.
Floors Castle, Kelso
The riverside walk required an enthusiastic hike through some long grass which was a great work out for our legs and treated us to some lovely views of Floors Castle. Despite the less than brilliant weather forecast we were blessed with some beautiful skies and sunshine which made our walk particularly spectacular. I honestly don't know why I believe the forecast, it's always wrong!

Floors Castle, Kelso

We loved our first trip to Floors Castle and would definitely return for Snowdrop Splendour and for a good nose round the Castle when it opens properly later in the year.

Let me know if you've seen any beautiful snowdrop displays this year.

Monday 6 March 2017

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017

Let's start with a confession. Sunderland has never been a North East food destination for me, in fact I know little to nothing about the Sunderland food scene and whenever we've been there in the evening we've felt completely lost when it comes to making dinner decisions. So when I was invited to the launch of Sunderland Restaurant Week I was so curious I had to say yes.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017

Well, Sunderland I must say I owe you an apology, who knew there were so many fantastic restaurants, bars and cafes to discover Wearside, and Sunderland Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to explore them.

Eat Drink Sunderland Restaurant Week is returning for its second year after a successful debut last Autumn, and this time it's bigger and better. Taking place from Saturday 11 March to Sunday 19 March, there are over 40 restaurants involved, all offering three or two course menus for £10 or £15.

I popped to Sunderland last week to take part in a Safari Supper, which I'm pretty sure I'm now going to be adding to my list of hobbies. We strolled our way round Sunderland enjoying a different course in each of four restaurants, which in my eyes is the perfect way to eat!

Drinks and Canapés at Cafe Purple 

Cafe Purple on Park Lane  is the place to be seen in Sunderland - plush booths, sparkling chandeliers and ornate mirrors set the scene for a great start to our evening.

Important things first and we had a little look at the cocktail menu which promised so many fun and fruity cocktails, reaching a decision was hard. In the end I went for one of my classic favourites; Porn Star Martini (I think it's the little shot of Prosecco on the side that makes it)

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017 - Cafe Purple Cocktails

The canapés arrived on a sharing board that was covered in slabs of cheese, garlic bread, fresh fruit and battered onion rings. We eagerly tucked in, I love this kind of grab and enjoy food, it's the best way to eat with friends.

Taking a little glimpse at the Café Purple menu and I was secretly a little gutted that we weren't spending our entire evening there - I really need to make my way through their "Proper Burger" menu - they have some epic creations with the most mouth watering fillings.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017 - Cafe Purple

Cafe Purple are offering 2 courses for £10 during Restaurant Week. Menu details yet to be released.

Starters at Royal Thai 

When we walked through the door of Royal Thai on Mary Street we were immediately greeted by delicious smells that had our tummies excited for our Starters.

We were served up a sharing plate of tempting goodies including Thai Fish Cakes, Chicken Satay, Spring Rolls and Dumplings - absolutely delicious and a great start to our Safari Supper.  Looking at the food arriving at the tables around us I really wanted to stay for longer, but we had places to be!

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017 - Royal Thai

Royal Thai are offering 2 courses for £10 during Restaurant Week, Sunday to Thursday only with a choice of three starters and five main courses.  See the full menu here.

Mains at City Bistro, Sunderland College

We walked over to City Bistro at Sunderland College for our main course. A new addition to Sunderland and a real hidden gem, City Bistro provides students with the chance to perfect their skills, serving up food to a very high standard under the watchful eye of Head Chef, Kelvin Linstead (previously of Peace and Loaf and Jesmond Dene House). Students get a very real taste of life in a busy kitchen with the City Bistro being a fully functional restaurant full of eager diners.

My highlight of the Safari, I enjoyed Chicken Breast, Sweet Potato, Corn, BBQ Sauce and Red Slaw - beautifully presented and so delicious. City Bistro really is a "must visit" in Sunderland and I know it wont be long until I revisit.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017 -  City Bistro

City Bistro are offering 3 courses for £15 including a glass of wine during Sunderland Restaurant Week.  There are four choices available on each course.  See the full menu here.

Coffee and Cake at Port of Call

Our evening ended at Port of Call on Park Lane for my favourite course, the all important coffee and cake. Port of Call is best known for its seafood and rum cocktails but did you know that they also do the most delicious homemade cakes? With an ever changing menu it's a great place to pop in for a sweet bite after a busy day of shopping.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017 -  Port of Call
We were treated to a board covered in some of their delicious treats including huge slabs of chocolate fudge cake, Oreo chocolate pots, Gateaux and brownies. It took every ounce of my strength not to just throw my face into that board because the forkfuls that I had were so good.  Port of Call make great cake!

The good news it that coffee and cake is one of the offers during Sunderland Restaurant Week - make sure you fill your boots!

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2017 -  Port of Call

Port of Call are offering coffee and cake for £5, 2 courses for £10 or 3 courses for £15 during Sunderland Restaurant Week.   See the full menu here.

My exclusive little look at Sunderland Restaurant Week has made me realise how much Sunderland now has to offer the eager foodie and I can't wait to return and try out some more places.  For information of all the restaurants and deals happening during Restaurant Week, click here and make sure that you share your photographs from Sunderland Restaurant Week by using #EatDrinkSunderland on your social media.

Let me know your favourite restaurant in Sunderland and where I should try next!

We enjoyed a complimentary safari supper.  All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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