Wednesday 31 May 2017

May Days

I hope you've got a cup of tea because something tells me this is going to be a busy roundup! I've been such a busy bee this month, looking back through my Instagram I can't actually believe how much has happened in May.

Here's what didn't make the blog this month!

Ice-cream Sundays

Sundays are made for lounging about with your loved ones and we had the most fantastic lazy day when we crashed out on the lawn at Seaton Delaval Hall recently.  We had a little snooze in the sunshine after a particular enthusiastic game of catch (which left my finger bruised!) and our afternoon finished by joining the queue at Arrighi's ice-cream parlour for a Lemon and Ginger Sugar Cone. The best ice-creams are always worth queuing for!

A Cragside Fairytale

We finally made it to Cragside! After months of using our National Trust membership to visit Gibside and Wallington on a constant loop we finally adventured a tiny bit further north. As soon as we reached the drive we were both stunned by how beautiful the place is, I've been to a fair few National Trust estates in my time but this surely has to be the most beautiful! There are fourteen walks in total so I'm looking forward to getting them all done and having a proper explore.

Saying Goodbye

This month we said goodbye to Simon's Nana. She reached the amazing age of 94 although had been ill ever since I'd known her. It makes me so sad that I'll never truly meet the lady that Simon speaks so highly of but hearing the wonderful stories from the family helped to bring me slightly closer to knowing her. She loved adventure and food so something tells me we would have got on rather well. There were many tears but we gave her a wonderful send off followed by an afternoon in the White Lion in Wrightington which I think might be my favourite new pub (it has beach huts in the beer garden and a fantastic menu!).

Frapps in the Sun

Does anyone else crave naughty Frappuccinos from Starbucks every time the sun comes out? Last year I got completely hooked on the Java Chip Frapps, this month I've been working my way through the menu trying to decide what my favourite will be! Does anyone have any recommendations, or some great Starbucks menu hacks?

Mixing Cocktails at the Alchemist 

The Alchemist opened in Newcastle while we were on our Caribbean Honeymoon and I was a little sad that I missed the launch so I was thrilled when my friends Sam and Katie suggested a quick cocktail stop there during a recent night out. Although a little pricy, the dramatics of mixing your own drinks is too much fun to resist. I went for the "Colour Changing One" (£7.75) which I mixed myself from two chemistry flasks - it smoked and changed colour so I was pretty chuffed!

Fancy Fragrance at Fenwicks 

I was invited to a brilliant event at Fenwicks in Newcastle this month and got to "meet the experts" at their premium fragrance counters. As someone who doesn't have a signature scent I love to explore new perfumes on my hunt for "the one". I had a fantastic evening with Diptyque, Frederic Malle and Kilian and learnt so much from chatting to the lovely ladies at the counters. Next time your'e strolling through Fenwicks make sure you stop for a chat, they have some really interesting stories and the products are beautiful.

There's a Duck in my Cocktail?

I headed to Durham recently for a day out with the lovely Kayleigh and Lisa. Usually when I visit Durham I'm all about the cake but this time we actually decided to go for a cheeky drink in My House which has the quirkiest drinks menu in Durham.  I ordered the Bubble Bath Martini that came with rose and elderflower bubbles and a cute little rubber duck. I can't wait to go back and try some more of the menu.

For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you follow me on Instagram. I post a new photo every day.

Monday 29 May 2017

My Struggle to Maintain my Healthy Weight

Stepping on the scales in Boots I daren't look at the screen as my weight flashed up in front of me. I knew I'd had a bad few months - with loads of meal reviews for New Girl in Toon, a Christmas of binge eating, an injured achillies and a dangerously relaxed attitude towards food - it was never going to be good news.

Glancing down at the screen I saw the numbers flash back at me.


For the first time in years I was over my goal weight and officially in the "overweight" category of BMI.

Now I know that numbers aren't everything but I'd been feeling pretty rubbish in my own skin and knew that I needed a reality check.

Today is the five year anniversary of reaching my goal weight. That's five years of being happy and healthy and making a lifelong commitment to never let myself go back to the girl I used to be. So how on earth had I let myself get out of control?

Growing up with a weight problem it's pretty inevitable that you are going to have a problem for the rest of your life and this was something that I'd almost forgotten.  Lost in the world of size 10 clothes, I'd forgotten where I'd come from and felt invincible. Dangerously relaxed I took my eye off the ball and weight had crept back on.

This last year has been a real struggle for me and I have learnt many valuable lessons.  I could never sit here and tell you that battling obesity and staying healthy is easy. It doesn't matter if it's been a year, five years or 20 years - it will forever be difficult and something I have to think about every day for the rest of my life.

So how have I managed to get myself back on track?

I've stopped making excuses! My favourite excuses have been food blogging stopping me from eating healthily and my injury stopping me from running. We all have excuses ready to stop us from achieving something that is perhaps a little difficult, the hardest thing is breaking the cycle. Once I'd realised that I was being silly I made a conscious decision to defeat each obstacle that was holding me back.

My achillies injury may have stopped me running but I realised that I could easily start exercising again by forcing myself off my bum to go on walks. So every lunchtime I dragged myself out and did an hour long power walk and within a week I was already feeling so much better. It's amazing how some fresh air and exercise makes all the difference to your attitude.

The biggest hurdle for me when it came to getting myself back to goal was blogging. I'm very fortunate to be invited to a lot of meal reviews where I'm encouraged to eat as much as I possibly can whilst downing sugary cocktails. Believe me, tell a greedy person they can eat whatever they like and they will pretty much do that! So I've been trying to make more sensible decisions when I look at menus so I can share healthier menu options with my readers, and on days where I know that that wont be possible I make sure to do more exercise.

Admitting that I needed help was the biggest step in helping me regain my control. I've often commented that I got myself into the mess to start with because I have an unhealthy addiction to food. When you have an addiction like that it's important to have the help and support to tackle it. So every Monday I now join Simon at Weight Watchers to face the scales and chat to the group about the problems that I've faced that week.  I haven't point counted for a long time and at this point in my life don't feel like I need to, however knowing that I'm getting weighed and talking to other people with similar problems to mine has done me the world of good.

Maintaining my happy, healthy weight will never be easy.  Quite often the best things in life are the hardest to achieve but I'm here for the long haul and I am determined to never let myself get back to where I came from.

I'm very happy to tell you that today, on my 5th anniversary of reaching my goal, I am sitting here at my healthy weight and I feel so happy and lucky that I have made it this far.  Here's to the next hour, the next day, the next month and the next year - it'll be a challenge but happy, healthy Chloe is here to stay.

To read more blogs about my weight loss check out: I used to be Fat, How I lost 9 stone, Learning to Run and How I Maintain my Weight Loss

Friday 26 May 2017

Healthy Eating at Pizza Express Metrocentre

Simon and I have a life long commitment to beat the bulge. Having both battled obesity, we are constantly attempting to watch what we eat and being huge foodies it's never very easy. One of our favourite restaurants to eat in on those days when we're committed to making more sensible choices is Pizza Express, we've been going every since we first met and their low calorie healthy eating menu has saved us many times.

Healthy Eating at Pizza Express Metrocentre

So when Pizza Express invited us to check out their new look restaurant in the Metrocentre we had no fears about overindulging and I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to talk about how we make healthy eating decisions at Pizza Express and what we like to order.

Pizza Express in the Metrocentre has recently reopened and is paying homage to Metrocentre history with a little something that is bound to make Geordies smile. Pizza Express sits where Metroland once was and to celebrate, the refurbishment includes artwork inspired by the rollercoaster that used to be inside the mall.

The rollercoaster pictures are as close as I'm ever going to get to Metroland as unfortunately the funfair inside the Metrocentre was before my time (it closed in 2008, four years before my very first visit to the North East) but I know that those who spent their childhood at Metroland are going to love reminiscing with their families over slices of pizza.

Pizza Express Metrocentre Rollercoaster

Whilst the interiors of Pizza Express at the Metrocentre have changed the menu that we all know and love remains, with, of course, a newly launched Spring menu full of delicious salads, and the much talked about Lemon Bundt Cake (has anyone tried it? I've heard it's really good!).

On our trip it was the Leggera Menu that had our full attention. Perfect for those working hard on their bikini bod for Summer or if you just fancy something a little lighter while you're out shopping, the menu offers lower calorie pizzas, pastas, salads and even dessert options if you can't resist the sweet stuff.

Pizza Express Metrocentre Leggera Pizza

Simon and I always order Leggera pizzas whenever we go to Pizza Express, the thin based pizzas have a hole in the middle filled with a delicious fresh salad which cuts the calories down to under 600 calories per pizza. We've never felt like we're missing out when we order the lighter calorie pizzas and actually enjoy them more than the full sized versions, so much so that every Friday we recreate them ourselves at home - something we've been doing ever since we first discovered the Leggera menu at Pizza Express

Simon opted for his favourite, the Leggera Pollo ad Astra (£10.90) - Chicken, light mozzarella, sweet Peppadew peppers, tomato, cajun spices garlic oil and red onion. He orders it every time we visit, in fact he doesn't even need to look at the menu, he loves it so much I can't see him ever ordering anything else.

Pizza Express Metrocentre Leggera Pizza

I'm also very much a creature of habit at Pizza Express and always order the Leggera Padana (£10.70). Goat's cheese, caramelised onion, spinach, red onion, tomato and garlic oil. It is so delicious and always fills me up. Crazy to think that a pizza with a hole in the middle can be so filling but there are plenty of toppings and the salad really bulks the dish out.

Pizza Express Metrocentre Leggera Pizza

Of course, when you're dining out as a treat desserts are a must. For those who are feeling extra virtuous there's a Leggera Raspberry Sorbet for just under 200 calories however, if like us, you always like to push it that little bit further the Dolcetti menu is a perfect smaller treat.

Mini desserts served with a tea or coffee, the perfect way to be naughty but without going too crazy! There are four desserts to choose from as part of the Dolcetti menu with something to suit every taste. Although not part of the healthier menu they do come in at less calories than a full dessert (although obviously be aware that ordering a creamy latte to go with it will increase the calories!)

Simon chose the Lemon Posset Crunch (£4.75), creamy lemon posset on a ginger biscuit base, which I was very thankful for as I'd been wanting to try this one too. It was delicious, the lemon was beautiful with the ginger.

Pizza Express Metrocentre Lemon Posset Crunch
I opted for the Chocolate Brownie (£5.00) topped with fresh strawberry and icing sugar. Usually ordering chocolate feels extra naughty but it was so perfectly sized I felt like I'd had a real treat without the guilt. I can't believe more places aren't serving mini desserts.

Pizza Express Metrocentre Chocolate Brownie
The very best thing about dining at Pizza Express when you're eating sensibly is that the nutritional information is available on the website which makes planning ahead super easy. Simon is currently doing Weight Watchers so was able to track all of his points and I like to keep an eye on my calorie intake which was so easy at Pizza Express.

Let me know if you've ever ordered from the Leggera menu and what your favourite treats are.

We were invited to enjoy a complimentary meal for two at Pizza Express in exchange for this honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own. 

For more great foodie photos from around the North East be sure to check out New Girl in Toon on Instagram

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Gibside Pub Night - The Best Beer Garden in the North East

Since first visiting the National Trust site at Gibside we've been curious to try out the Gibside Pub that opens every Friday and Saturday evening under the cover of the beautiful trees of the Market Place. With free admission from 4:30pm, the cafe is transformed into the Gibside pub each weekend and I honestly can't think of anywhere better to enjoy a few drinks with friends. It really is the best beer garden in the North East!

Gibside Pub Night

On a particularly beautiful sunny Friday we decided it was the ideal time to finally spend an evening at the Gibside pub and, with a cheeky day off work for both of us, we took advantage of being able to get to Gibside as soon as the Beer Garden opened for the evening.

Gibside Pub Night

I would advise getting to the Gibside pub as soon as it opens at 4:30 pm. As you can imagine the best beer garden in the North East is a little popular so you'll need to beat the crowds to have your pick of the tables.

For the lucky few who arrived early there were a few seats still in the sunshine to grab and for those sitting in the shade of the trees it was easy to get a spot near the fires which would be much appreciated when the sun started to go down.

It was pretty quiet when we first arrived and we had our pick of the seats but by 6:00 pm every table was full with people still arriving. Those in the know had brought their own chairs so if you can't get to the beer garden for opening time, definitely take yourself something to sit on.

Enthusiastically early as always, we were the first at the bar so took our time to study the small selection of drinks and were very happy to discover that the prices were pretty reasonable. With some local Wylam ales on tap as well as bottled ciders, lagers and wine (by the glass or the bottle) we had plenty of change from a £10 which is pretty unheard of if we'd been drinking in our favourite bars in Newcastle.

Gibside Pub Night - the Ultimate North East Beer Garden

Although it had been a pretty warm and sunny day in the North East the Gibside Pub was chilly. The tables are almost entirely under the trees in the shade and although very pretty it wasn't long before we were feeling a little cold. I was very thankful that I had on several layers and even though it certainly wasn't the normal outfit you'd wear to the pub on a Friday night I was so thankful to keep snuggly. If you're planning a visit definitely make sure you take spare emergency jumpers!

Of course after a few bevvies it didn't take long before our mind had wandered towards food and we eagerly made our way down to the pizza oven to see what was on offer. Wood-fired pizza is freshly made to order on site and there's an impressive menu of toppings to choose from. Stay a while and watch your dinner get created or simply take a seat and wait for your number to be called.

Gibside Pub Night - woodfire pizza

Our pizzas took around 10 minutes and were served on disposal plates for us to enjoy at our table. I went for the Ham and Mushroom (£6.00) - the thin crust was slightly charred at the edges which added to the wonderful alfresco dining experience. Served piping hot with plenty of toppings we happily devoured our pizzas snuggled round the fire pit.

Pizza in the best beer garden in the North East, Bliss!

Gibside Pub Night - woodfire pizza
With my tummy nicely warm with pizza I decided that the perfect end to my meal would be an indulgent hot chocolate. Hardly rock and roll but at the Gibside Pub it's all too tempting to enjoy a post pizza latte or hot chocolate.  Served with a generous mountain of cream and with marshmallows tumbling off the top, it was the perfect end to our evening.

Gibside Pub Night

The Gibside Pub is pretty special as it's one of only two National Trust owned pubs in the country! There was a wonderful atmosphere with plenty of families, dogs, couples and groups of friends enjoying the early evening sunshine. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a glass of wine in such a relaxed environment and I'm pretty keen to make the Gibside our local for the Summer.

As it turned cooler we retired to the indoor cafe to warm up a little, it's great that the Gibside Pub can go ahead come rain or shine with plenty of undercover seating available.

Gibside Pub Night

There are plenty of monthly feature nights to keep you entertained with live music at "Showcase Night" the first Friday of every month, "Beer and a Bite Night" featuring some of your local favourite food traders every third Saturday and "Board Games Night" every fourth Saturday.

As an extra special treat Gibside have extended their opening hours until 30 September. On pub nights you can access the wider Estate until 9:00 pm (last admission 8:00 pm) on Fridays and Saturdays. Normal admission charges apply or if you're a member you can wander for free.  My head is already filled with the idea of romantic evening picnics on the lawn!

Let me know if you've made it to the Gibside Pub and if you have any recommendations for great beer gardens in the North East.

For more inspiration of things to do in the North East this Summer check out New Girl in Toon on Facebook here.

Monday 22 May 2017

Intu Eldon Square - Grey's Quarter - Smashburger

I love a good burger and if there's one thing we have plenty of in Newcastle at the moment it's burger restaurants. From the best burgers in the land at Fat Hippo to the well known chains like Byron and Five Guys - we have it all! So when Smashburger opened in Eldon Square's Grey Quarter I was interested to give it a go and see if there's room for more burgers in the Toon!

Smashburger opened in America ten years ago and has arrived in the UK with five restaurants now open across the country, I have to say I do love the fact that Newcastle is one of the very first UK cities that Smashburger have chosen to open, they must have heard that Geordies love a burger!

Eldon Square - Smashburger - Avocado ClubThe idea behind Smashburger is simple, they create their burgers by smashing them onto a hot buttered grill to seal the juices and flavours (anyone else now suffering from a rumbling tummy?) Using 100% British Beef their tagline "Burger Better" is a pretty bold promise to a city that already has so many burger restaurants.

So, are the burgers better?  I popped down to the new Eldon Square restaurant in Newcastle with the lovely Sarah to give them a go.

The menu at Smashburger is split into Signature Beef and Signature Chicken with plenty of sandwiches to choose from, in fact the burgers all sounded so good there were at least 4 I wanted to try and I struggled to make a decision. There are also two vegetarian options and, for the super healthy, four salad bowls (I'm not even going to pretend that we looked at those!)

Eldon Square - Smashburger Menu

After debating the menu and changing our minds a fair few times, we headed over to the counter to place our order before settling down at our table to wait for the food. We'd barely started gossiping before our meals had appeared in front of us. Smashburger know how to serve up a super speedy burger!

I had decided to focus on the Signature Beef Burger and chose the "Truffle Mushroom Swiss" - sautéed chestnut mushrooms with truffle mayo and aged Swiss on a Smash Bun. I also couldn't resit adding a fried egg for an extra £1.35, egg on a burger is one of my favourite things and I wish more places offered them as an addition.

When my food appeared in front of me I was a little disappointed with the presentation.  My burger looked pretty deflated and, being a slightly greedy person, I prefer my burgers so huge that they make my eyes pop out. I was starving and was expecting to be wowed by a mammoth sandwich stuffed with goodies.

Eldon Square - Smashburger
At least, being so small, my burger was easy to handle but my second disappointment of the meal followed when I realised that my egg wasn't runny. I was expecting to bite in and then battle the yolk as it dribbled down my chin. The best burgers make a huge mess and my Smashburger sandwich wasn't nearly messy enough!

Sarah's meal was the real winner of the evening. She opted for a burger from the Signature Chicken Burger menu Avocado Club and it looked delicious.  Chunks of fresh avocado with applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing and mayo on a multi-grain bun, it arrived deconstructed so she built her own burger then tucked in.

Eldon Square - Smashburger - Avocado Club

It looked seriously delicious and judging by the huge smile on her face she was enjoying it. I was left feeling pretty jealous and vowing to myself that on my next visit I would definitely be opting for the Avocado Club!

My side of Smash Fries tossed in Italian olive oil, rosemary and garlic made up for my burger disappointment. I loved the seasoning and they really stood out compared to the fries that I've had in similar burger chains. They were so moreish I could have polished off another portion.

Sarah ordered her burger with a side of Haystack Onions which came with a pot of BBQ sauce for dipping. Our helpful waitress told us how popular they were with Smashburger customers and we could definitely see why.

Eldon Square - Smashburger

The absolute star of the show for me actually ended up being my drink.

I'd heard great things about Smashburger's Hand-spun Shakes that are blended with Haagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream so knew that I had to order one and decided to go for the Oreo (fair to say I'm obsessed with Oreo!)

Eldon Square - Smashburger - Oreo Milkshake
My Shake didn't disappoint, it was as thick as ice-cream, tasted so naughty and I loved the big chunky straw that was perfect for sucking up the chunks of Oreo.  Delicious!  It was also a really generous size with more than enough extra to top my glass up again.

Next time I'm in Newcastle shopping I'll probably be sneaking my way off to Smashburger just to get myself a cheeky Shake in the afternoon.

Eldon Square - Smashburger - Oreo Milkshake

Despite the burgers not being the best in the Toon (sorry guys, Fat Hippo are always going to win!) We really enjoyed our evening at Smashburger, the service and atmosphere was brilliant, the Shake was epic and those sides are seriously delicious!

Eldon Square - Smashburger

I will definitely be returning, probably with Simon my resident burger expert, and will look forward to trying something different from the menu.

We were invited to Smashburger to enjoy a complimentary meal for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Happy 4th Birthday New Girl in Toon

Is it normal to celebrate the birth of your blog? As I don't have any pets or children, indulge me for a little while as I say a big Happy Birthday to New Girl in Toon.  Can you believe this little blog is 4 years old today?

That's 4 years of me gallivanting my way around the North East, with a reluctant Simon in tow, showing off the beautiful scenery and indulging in far too many cakes.

This year has been another of important lessons, thrilling firsts and pinch me moments. Here are just some of the highlights!

Happy 4th Birthday New Girl in Toon - North East Bloggers
Wedding Blogging

I got married 8 months ago and little did I know that my love of wedding planning and passion for the North East wedding industry would lead to sharing more wedding content on New Girl in Toon. Despite my days as a bride being over (sob!) I still continue to get asked to review wedding venues and do some freelance wedding writing. I'm overjoyed that I still get to be involved in weddings even though I'm no longer planning my own.


I've had some pretty fantastic travel opportunities this year, getting to explore more of the region and a little further afield whilst staying in some beautiful places. Whether it was travelling just up the road to a luxury B&B in Northumberland or adventuring to Harrogate and Manchester - it's been great to get out and about fulfilling my desire for adventure.  I love the UK and am such a strong supporter of more people staying at home and holidaying in our beautiful country.

Happy 4th Birthday New Girl in Toon

Supporting local business

I've been involved in two kickstarter/crowdfunder campaigns this year, one for Flat Caps Coffee and one for Simply Cheesecake & Friends. Both were hugely successful and it was such an honour to be asked to help out. If there's one thing I love more than anything else it's supporting local business here in the North East.

Newcastle Guides

I've attempted to take New Girl in Toon back to its basics this year by sharing more guides to the city and inspiration for places to eat and visit. Some of my favourites have been the best cocktails in Newcastle, the best seaside adventures in the North East and my guide to healthy eating and fitness in the North East. Ultimately I want my blog to be somewhere that people can come to get a good picture of the North East and find inspiration for places to visit so I'm planning on creating many more guides this year.

Happy 4th Birthday New Girl in Toon - Botanist

Sneaky Look Launches

There has been an incredible amount of launch nights in Newcastle recently and I've been very fortunate to be able to share so many with you. With new restaurants taking over Eldon Square, the opening of CrossEyes on High Bridge and the long awaited landing of the Fat Hippo loyalty card - it's certainly been a busy year!

Happy 4th Birthday New Girl in Toon - Fat Hippo

So, here's to another 12 months!  As always thank you so much for sharing my adventures with me, let's see where the next year takes us!

For further adventures with New Girl in Toon check out my Facebook Page and Instagram.

Friday 19 May 2017

The Experimental Diner at Alderman Fenwick's House, Newcastle with Peace & Loaf

Ever fancied dining on a rooftop? Feasting in a tower? Scranning on a barge? If you love the sound of fine dining in weird and wonderful places then I need to tell you about The Experimental Diner.

From the team behind Newcastle in the Sky (remember that amazing looking dining table that was suspended above the Sage in Gateshead?), The Experimental Diner promises unique dining experiences in the North East with some of the region's best chefs. They have plenty of ideas hidden up their sleeves and booking yourself an Experimental Dining experience is a must for any North East foodie.

The Experimental Diner launched last week with a one-off experience hosted by Dave Coulson's restaurant, Peace and Loaf at Alderman Fenwick's House, one of the oldest buildings in the centre of Newcastle. I was lucky enough to be one of only 20 people to experience this unique night of dining.

The Experimental Diner at Alderman Fenwick's House, Newcastle with Peace & Loaf
Alderman Fenwick's House on Pilgrim Street is somewhere that I've walked past many times without even realising. The 17th century building is a unique piece of Newcastle's rich history and has, in its time, been a private residence, a coaching inn and a political club - Charles Dickens even stayed there!

By 1962 it looked like Alderman Fenwick's House would be pulled down and lost forever to new development until it was rescued in 1982 and restored. Now run by the Tyne and Wear Preservation Trust, you can only access Alderman Fenwick's House by appointment, unless of course you were one of the lucky few at The Experimental Diner launch.

I felt thrilled to step foot inside Alderman Fenwick's House, there's something so special about getting to explore somewhere that many other people in Newcastle haven't discovered.

The Experimental Diner at Alderman Fenwick's House, Newcastle with Peace & Loaf

The evening began with a drinks reception where we were greeted by the events team before mingling with our fellow diners on the roof of the building. Although we couldn't quite see the Tyne Bridge from the top of Alderman Fenwick's House, it was still pretty special getting to stand on a roof top that very few get to enjoy.

Once our glasses of fizz were emptied we made our way back down the beautiful staircase and into our room for dinner. There were some audible gasps as we were shown to our seats. I don't think any of us were expecting the beautiful light green panelling in the room or the stunning ceiling dating back to 1660.

With 20 of us at the event we all gathered round one large dining table, beautifully decked out in white table cloths and fresh flowers. I love this style of dining as it's always a treat to be able to chat to new people through the evening.

The Experimental Diner was a wonderfully intimate affair with our hosting chefs for the evening, Junior Sous Chefs Simon Whitehead and Hugo Embleton-Black from Peace & Loaf, preparing some of the dishes in front of us. It's not often you get the opportunity to chat to chefs whilst they are working but we were encouraged to ask the pair any questions that we had and they happily answered and gave us a little insight into what it's like working at Peace and Loaf.

The Experimental Diner Menu was available on the website before the evening but there were plenty of unexpected treats on the night with a few extra surprise courses and appetisers including this stunning slate of treats. Smearing whipped beef dripping all over the homemade bread (which I was very pleased to learn is served daily at Peace and Loaf!) was absolute heaven.

The Experimental Diner at Alderman Fenwick's House, Newcastle with Peace & Loaf
Our starter was a beautifully presented dish of Skrei, Buttermilk, Vodka and Cucumber. I'd never tried Skrei before and it was a deliciously fresh dish. The perfect way to start our dining experience.

The Experimental Diner at Alderman Fenwick's House, Newcastle with Peace & Loaf

Between courses we learnt more about Alderman Fenwick's House from The Tyne and Wear Preservation Trust who were on hand to answer all of our questions about the beautiful building. Our enthusiastic guide passed us some fascinating artefacts down the table to look at and gave us a brief history of the building and the room we were sitting in.  I'm very romantic and sentimental about Newcastle and hearing the stories from Alderman Fenwick's House gave me goosebumps!

For the main course we enjoyed Beef Hanger, Pearl Barley, Wild Rice, Leeks. Beautifully rich, tender pink meat and packed full of flavour. This was my favourite dish of the night and had me wondering why on earth I've not made it to Peace and Loaf for food yet?

The Experimental Diner at Alderman Fenwick's House, Newcastle with Peace & Loaf

Our talented chefs were cooking in very strange circumstances but they certainly loved the challenge. When they weren't preparing food in front of diners they were busy creating their menu on a tiny stove in a back room of the house. Not exactly the kitchens of Peace and Loaf that they are used to. I quite often grumble about trying to make food in the tiny kitchen at my home, but these guys put me to shame. I can't believe they created such fantastic food with so little space.

Our evening ended with a chocolate wheel sitting on a beautiful parfait sprinkled with popping candy. A happy tummy and a slightly fuzzy head after all that wine I was feeling on top of the world by this point.

What an end to the evening!

The Experimental Diner at Alderman Fenwick's House, Newcastle with Peace & Loaf

The Experimental Diner evening at Alderman Fenwick's House cost £70 for a ticket which included a drinks reception, a four course meal with wine and after dinner drinks. It offered fantastic value for money and I was so happy to have the opportunity to eat such delicious food in such a beautiful location.

The next event is yet to be announced and I'm desperate to discover the next location and chefs. I tried my hardest to get it out of the team last week but they refused to tell me! So for now it's a waiting game, I suggest we all keep an eye on the Experimental Diner website and Facebook page to be first to hear about their next event. Something tells me it'll sell out fast!

I was a very lucky to be invited to the Press Table at the Experimental Diner for a complimentary evening. All words and opinions are my own and I definitely plan to purchase a ticket to a future event!  

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

A visit from our friend Lauren gave us the ideal opportunity to tick something off my 40 Before 40, list and what better way to start than with an adventure into the North Yorkshire countryside to climb Roseberry Topping.

Climbing Roseberry Topping

After gently breaking the news to Simon that Roseberry Topping wasn't some kind of delicious treat poured over an ice-cream sundae (he's still gutted!) and was in fact North Yorkshire's most famous hill for hikers, we pulled on our walking boots and climbed into our little car ready for a great adventure. 

You'll find Roseberry Topping between Great Ayton and Newton Under Roseberry on the edge of North Yorkshire. Towering 1,049 feet over the beautiful Cleveland landscape, the summit promises to reward climbers with stunning views. On a clear day you can see for miles.

Climbing Roseberry Topping

We easily found the public carpark at Newton Under Roseberry (just tap TS9 6QR into your satnav) which offers access to the footpath leading to Roseberry Topping. There are a few easy to follow routes up the hill so it's not necessary to download a walking map although we decided to follow the National Trust's two mile Roseberry Topping and Newton Wood walk.

I'll admit as we set off down the footpath to the foot of the hill I did begin to feel a little nervous. I'm no great climber and suddenly Roseberry Topping was looking pretty huge.  What on earth had we let ourselves in for?

Climbing National Trust Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

Our climb started with a gentle hike up some stone steps that were pretty easy to navigate. We stopped a few times to appreciate the views of the brightly coloured yellow and green fields behind us which meant we always had plenty of puff to carry on with our mission ahead. When climbing a hill always stop to admire the views, it's a great sneaky excuse for a breather!

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire
We found the best way to tackle Roseberry Topping was to always look at our feet and plan our next step rather than looking at what was towering above us. As we got nearer to the top and saw the rocky summit I have to admit I was quite worried about what was going to happen towards the end of our climb. I had images of us having to scale a huge rock and even found myself nervously asking a few people passing us on their way back down what the top was like.

As we began to make our way towards the summit the terrain got a little trickier. There was a clear path to follow but it was gravelly at times which made us thankful we were wearing shoes with good grip - you definitely wouldn't want to be climbing Roseberry Topping in slippery conditions.

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

Chloe, the great adventurer, definitely lost her nerve a couple of times as we scrabbled our way up to the top. The last few steps involved a fair bit of balance, leg strength and determination and there were a few moments when I felt a bit lost as to where to put my foot to give myself the ability to get up the rocks.

I think my final moments of the climb are captured beautifully by Lauren who took this sneaky photo on her phone as I clambered my way up. I was clinging onto Simon for dear life as he helped pull me up a few of the trickier rocks.  What a gent!

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

The climb was over as quickly as it had begun and as we pulled ourselves up to the summit we were greeted by the most beautiful views.

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

Although windy at the top there were plenty of families sheltering under the rocks feasting on sandwiches and flasks of tea. It really is a beautiful spot to enjoy your lunch and although there were a fair few people up there it felt so peaceful, everyone seemed to be truly in awe at the perfect views.

Sitting down on a rock with my feet freely dangling over the edge I felt like I was sitting on top of the world.

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire
We began our climb down the opposite side of the hill where gravity more or less pulled us down at great speed.  Passing a few people who were on their way up it was good to give those that were struggling reassuring smiles. 

Our reward for surviving Roseberry Topping was a beautiful stroll through Newton Wood back to the carpark. Springtime had gifted the woods with a beautiful blanket of bluebells as far as the eye could see and we enjoyed stretching our legs on a nice flat surface whilst enjoying the stunning display.

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire - Newton Wood

Finding a great bluebell display had actually been next on my list of weekend adventures so Simon was pretty chuffed that I'd manage to do a two in one with our trip. Even if you don't fancy climbing Roseberry Topping, Newton Wood is a great spot for a stroll through the bluebells.

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire - Newton Wood Bluebells

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire - Newton Wood Bluebells
As you can imagine all of that climbing was pretty hard work so a good hearty lunch was definitely in order.  The King's Head at the bottom of Roseberry Topping looked really cute but we decided it would probably be pretty busy with walkers so we decided to take the advice of Twitter and headed to the Whinstone View Bistro a few miles up the road.

I didn't know much about Whinstone View before our visit but I was blown away by how picture perfect it is. They host weddings (which look beautiful!), have their own spa and even have romantic log cabins with hot tubs which I'm now desperate to stay in!

Once I'd finished ooohing and aaahing over the spa and lodges we settled down for some food. With an extensive menu to choose from there were so many dishes that I wanted to try but as soon as I spotted the Croque Madame Topped with Fried Egg (£8.00) I knew I had to order it.  Wow so good, and the beautifully crispy sweet potato fries were heaven.

Climbing Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire - Whinstone View

We loved our little adventure into the North Yorkshire countryside and I am so happy that I've managed to tick something off my 40 Before 40 list, I'm so excited to see what I'll tick off next.

I'd love to hear if any of you have climbed Roseberry Topping and your experiences.

For more adventures across the North East from New Girl in Toon be sure to check out my Instagram here.

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