Friday 30 November 2018

My November Days

Anyone else slightly alarmed by the fact it's December tomorrow? As much as I'm looking forward to opening the first door of my Malteser advent calendar I have to admit the festive season has really crept up on me this year and I think I really do need to start getting myself prepared.

Here are just a few of the things that didn't make the blog this month.

A Miracle on Grey Street

Is it just me or has Newcastle really gone all out on Christmas this year? Everything seems bigger and better and the new addition of Miracle on Grey Street, a festive themed pop up bar, has got people queuing up the street to get their hands on a Christmas cocktail. I popped in on a very rainy Tuesday which I would say is the best kind of time to go - we got a table pretty quickly and the wait at the bar was minimal. With back to back Christmas tunes playing, an entire menu of festively garnished drinks and the most beautiful decorations, this place really is a Grotto for Grownups and I am loving it!

November Days - A Miracle on Grey Street

Cake at 1901

When coffee dates turn into cake dates! I visited Cafe 1901 in Jesmond for a quick coffee with friends this month and made the mistake of perusing the cake counter as I walked past. Not the best idea, before I knew it a huge slab of lemon and marmalade cake had appeared in front of me! Perhaps a little overindulgent for a Wednesday afternoon but definitely no regrets.

November Days - Cake at Cafe 1901

Wardrobe Rediscoveries

Since my style makeover with Helenleeloves I have loved rediscovering items in my wardrobe. I honestly can't recommend having a capsule wardrobe enough, I've been wearing things that I haven't really worn before. I bought this coat in the sales last year but have barely worn it until now. The colour and waist belt really fit into my style code and for some reason I feel like a proper grownup each time I wear it.

November Days - Wardrobe Rediscoveries

Greggs Festive Bake

When someone dares to challenge my Honorary Geordie title I take it very seriously. This month someone said that I couldn't have my title until I had tried a Greggs' Festive Bake - apparently Christmas in Newcastle really hasn't started until you've joined a mammoth queue for a bake so I needed to see what the fuss was about. Unfortunately I grabbed the last bake on the tray so it was a little cold, so I think I may need another one!

November Days - Greggs Festive Bake
Brunch at Aidan's Kitchen

I've been hearing so many great things about the dishes at Jesmond's newest breakfast spot, Aidan's Kitchen so I'm very happy that we finally got there this month for some much needed Christmas Shopping fuel. I had the Shakshuka, Simon had a pancake stack and it was absolutely spot on! An absolutely lovely place that you all really need to try, and if you can time your visit with Aidan's sausage rolls coming fresh out of the oven you've really hit the jackpot.

November Days - Aidans Kitchen

Christmas Markets

Newcastle's Christmas Market is bigger and better than ever this year with loads more stalls and some rather delicious food offerings. There are definitely more options than previous years and we munched on Halloumi Fries and Bratwurst before having to call it quits because we couldn't fit any more in. I've heard great things about the Yorkshire Pudding Wraps and Bubble Waffles so I think I'll be back again before the festive season is over.

November Days - Christmas Market
Festive Dressing

Whenever I stick on a red dress at this time of year I instantly feel Christmassy and start getting a little excited for the big day. This is my brand new cord dress from Zara and I absolutely love it.  I wore it for a day of Christmas shopping with Simon, which soon turned into an afternoon of touring our favourite gin bars in the Toon (Dacantus and The Continental in case you wanted your own shopping escape!) when the crowds just got too much. A great afternoon sinking G&Ts but it does mean we now have to brave the shops again next weekend to get our shopping finished.  MUST STAY FOCUSSED!

November Days - Festive Dress
For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you follow me on Instagram. I post a new photo every day and you'll find video diaries featuring all my favourite North East adventures in my highlights. 

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Discover The Palm - Sunderland's Brand New Multi Venue Restaurant and Bar

* This is a collaboration with The Palm

Some might say that Sunderland gets a bit of a bad deal compared to Newcastle and for many years the good folk of Wearside have had to watch whilst the Toon enjoys a never ending amount of redevelopments, new concept restaurants and exciting new bars. So I'm very excited to be able to tell you all about The Palm, Sunderland's brand new multi purpose venue which is completely different to anything else I have seen in the North East.

Discover The Palm - Sunderland's Brand New Multi Venue Restaurant and Bar
The Palm has been created by the people behind Le Petit Chateau, As You Like It and The Holy Hobo so, as you would expect, it really is dressed to impress and you get the wow factor as soon as you approach the building. When I shared a photograph on my Instagram a few people commented that The Palm reminded them a little of Dubai and I have to say the dramatic palm tree lined paths and large archways did make me feel a bit like I was going on holiday. If it hadn't been for the wind and rain I could easily have forgotten I was in Sunderland!

The Palm is made up of five completely different venues all under one roof. The much loved Liberty Brown (Steakhouse and Kitchen), The Street Food Garden, Pineapple Cove Cafe (serving brunch, desserts and coffee), Tropicana (Carnival Bar and Tapas) and Wildernest (Bar and Lobster Cabin).

The Palm Sunderland - Pineapple Cove Cafe

Each venue has a different vibe and I have to say after having a nose at all of them, I'm definitely keen to experience them all. There aren't many places you can visit where you'll enjoy a completely different and unique experience each time you go back.

For my first visit to The Palm I had a table booked at Wildernest, the Bar and Lobster Cabin lovingly described as a treehouse for grownups and I have to say it's the cosiest place to spend a Winter's evening. Complete with warm glowing lights, faux fur throws, wooden furniture and, of course, plenty of foliage. Can I just move in?

The Palm Sunderland - Wildernest

Using the bad weather as my perfect excuse (believe me I'll always find one!) I decided to go big and do three courses. Taking my time to peruse the menu whilst sipping on a delicious Gin Cocktail, as with all the Apartment Group restaurants and bars these guys make a damn good cocktail and there was plenty of choice.

The Palm Sunderland - Wildernest Cocktails

I started with the Wild Mushrooms on Toast (£5.95) - foraged wild mushrooms in a garlic, white wine and cream sauce on toasted local sourdough. It was absolutely loaded with creamy sauce so a very indulgent way to start the meal. I do wish there had been slightly less sauce to bring out the taste of the mushrooms but nevertheless I cleared the plate and really enjoyed it.

The Palm Sunderland - Starters

If you really want to experience a fancy evening out at Wildernest then the Lobster Cabin will be right up your street. Serving local North Sea lobsters from Whitley Bay and Hartlepool there are some delicious sounding dishes on the menu including Full Lobster for £34.95.

Although I do kind of regret not giving the Lobster a go (I've never actually tried it!) I decided that Winter comfort food was in order and was very excited to order the Mince and Dumpling Pot (£12.95). I had just started dreaming about the delicious Thyme and Onion Dumplings when our waitress returned to inform me that the kitchen didn't have the necessary ingredients to be able to serve the dish that evening. Gutted! So, after looking through the menu again I opted for the Handmade Pie (£10.95) only to be told 10 minutes later that they'd just sold the last one so that wasn't available either.

I was a little stuck at this point because I had got myself so ready for a comforting Winter Warmer that I was struggling to find anything else on the menu that packed the same kind of punch so ended up going for something completely different.  The Popcorn Shrimp Po Boy (£11.95) - Ciabatta Bun loaded with popcorn shrimp, fresh avocado, gem lettuce, chunky crab mayo and a sprinkle of Tabasco served with salad and seasoned fries.

The Palm Sunderland - Popcorn Shrimp

It was perhaps the disappointment of not being able to have what I really wanted that left me a little underwhelmed by my alternative dish. The salad wasn't great and although I did enjoy the Popcorn Shrimp it wasn't Mince and Dumplings and I think I wasn't really in the mood for it. I actually think I need to return for the Mince and Dumplings just so that I can give you some proper feedback on a dish I'm keen to try.

The absolute star of the show for me was the Apple Pie Nachos (£4.95) - cinnamon and sugar coated sweet nachos served with slow stewed apples and a helping of custard and vanilla ice-cream on the side for dipping and scooping. Oh wow! The dish was so more-ish and absolutely huge, it would actually be a fantastic choice to share because I really couldn't manage it all on my own but couldn't stop myself going back for more and more. In the end I had to move it out of reach to stop myself having more. I've never seen anyone else serve sweet nachos but think they definitely need to start appearing on more menus.

The Palm Sunderland - Apple Pie Nachos

Although my first visit to The Palm wasn't without its glitches I will be returning to experience the other parts of the venue. I really fancy enjoying a slice of cake on a tropical beach and spending the night sipping cocktails in Tropicana.

Find The Palm at:

Timber Beach Road

0191 516 9009

I was treated to a complimentary meal and drinks for two in exchange for this honest review. 

Thursday 22 November 2018

How to find the Best Hotel Deals Online - An Overnight Stay in North Yorkshire at Blacksmiths at Hartoft

* This is a collaboration with

Please note since this blog post went live unfortunately the Blacksmiths at Hartoft has had to cease trading due to unforeseen circumstances. We wish the hotel and all their staff the best and keep our fingers crossed they can reopen in the near future.

Simon and I have been all about finding the best staycation hotel deals this year as we've enjoyed filling our weekends touring the north of England rather than splurging on overseas trips. Whilst we've had pitying looks from some of our friends ("what do you mean you're not going on holiday this year?") we love exploring the UK and have become pros in finding the best hotel deals online. Our most recent adventure was an overnight stay in North Yorkshire at Blacksmiths at Hartoft, a beautiful boutique inn we discovered thanks to our new obsession with

How to find the Best Hotel Deals Online - An Overnight Stay in North Yorkshire at Blacksmiths at Hartoft is an easy to use website with thousands of hotel deals across the UK focussing on hotel experiences rather than just a room for the night. Their offers include entertainment breaks, spa treats and meal inclusive stays giving just that little extra something to your staycation. As they mostly work with smaller independent hotels there are some real hidden gems to be discovered and each hotel is handpicked to meet their quality standards with a lot of their deals being book now, pay when you stay.

Our deal at the Blacksmiths at Hartoft promised us Dinner, Bed & Breakfast and a Cream Tea for only £49.50 per person - definitely the best hotel deal that we've found this year! The website gave us all the information we needed including check in and check out times, parking and access information, and a great guide to all the facilities on offer at the hotel and things to do in the surrounding area. We couldn't wait to get ourselves there.

The drive from our home in Newcastle to Blacksmiths at Hartoft was an absolutely stunning tour of the North Yorkshire Moors, with the hotel located in the rural National Park just seven miles north of Pickering. The surrounding countryside is picture perfect and the hotel is ideally located for visiting some of our favourite parts of the county including Whitby and the North Yorkshire Moors.

An Overnight Stay in North Yorkshire at Blacksmiths at Hartoft

We arrived at the hotel in the afternoon and with the weather taking a slightly miserable turn we were so happy to step into the welcoming reception from the rain and when we were shown to our home tonight, a beautifully large room perfectly furnished with calming greens, we instantly felt relaxed.

It was very easy to fall in love with Blacksmiths at Hartoft, the 16th century farmhouse converted to an inn has a lot of character and although still a work in progress for the new owners, the work that they have done so far is perfect and our room was an absolute haven complete with a brand new bed and luxury bedding. As an added bonus our room had a lovely extra surprise - french doors leading out into the garden with our own garden furniture (how perfect for the Summer months!)

Blacksmiths at Hartoft

The deal we booked through included Cream Tea by the Fire on arrival so after we'd put our bags in our room we made our way to the bar. I was so happy that we got exactly as promised - a comfortable table in the corner of the bar right by the fire, ready laid out with the most generously sized pot of cream I've ever seen and plenty of strawberry jam.

We ordered a pot of tea (Yorkshire Tea, of course!) and within minutes our plate of scones had appeared. I had thought we'd probably just get a small scone each but we were presented with three mammoth scones! Cutting into them they were so fluffy and slathered with the jam and cream they really hit the spot. Although we were full to the brim after having one each we couldn't resist sharing the third.

Blacksmiths at Hartoft - Hotel Deal

Dinner in the evening was served in the bar which was surprisingly busy for a Monday evening. With four other tables dining in the small bar area the place was buzzing with happy chatter and we had a great time making friends with Cookie, a gorgeous Spaniel belonging to the neighbouring table (yes, we definitely left Yorkshire wanting a dog of our own!)

Our deal included £20.00 each towards dinner and after a quick look at the menu we could see that that was a pretty generous amount as, depending on what we ordered, that would treat us to two courses each.  We decided to skip starters this time and headed straight for the main course. The menu was filled with plenty of our favourite classic dishes so we had plenty to choose from.

Blacksmiths at Hartoft -  Evening Meal

Simon went for Trio of Sausage and Mash, 3 Yorkshire Dale sausages (farmhouse, pork and apple and caramelised red onion) served with creamed mash and raised red cabbage (£12.00) The sausages were really fat and juicy and after having a bite I was worried that perhaps I'd made the wrong order.

I opted for the Fish of the Day which was revealed on the Specials Board to be Trout, served with new potatoes, broccoli, sea-herb and a brown shrimp and butter sauce (£15.00). A fairly sensible option for me (usually when we're out and about I can't resist ordering "something with chips") and I'm very happy as it was incredible.

Blacksmiths at Hartoft -  Dinner

We just about managed to squeeze in a dessert (don't ask me how!) and I opted for a slice of homemade custard tart served with ice-cream (£5.50) and Simon ordered three scoops of ice-cream with honeycomb (it was the offer of Black Treacle ice-cream that had him intrigued!) for £4.00.

When I'd seen that we got £20 each towards our dinner I hadn't been sure if this would cover our entire meal or if we'd end up having to pay extra but we ended our meals with very full bellies and nothing to pay other than our drinks bill.

Once we'd finished we rolled ourselves off to bed, as much as we wanted to stay in the cosy bar and enjoy a few after dinner drinks we were feeling so sleepy after all that delicious food so thought we'd best retire for the night. It wasn't long before we were fast asleep in the huge comfy bed.

Blacksmiths at Hartoft Pickering

The next morning we were in and out of the shower quickly with the promise of a full breakfast served in the restaurant. Having not seen the restaurant the night before I was very interested to explore a different part of Blacksmiths and it definitely didn't disappoint, we were both particularly taken with the beautiful feature oven at the end of the room.

Breakfast started off at the buffet with a great selection of juices, cereals, yoghurts, pastries and fruit and, of course we both went for a cooked breakfast made to order in the kitchen. We were both thrilled to find French Toast on the menu and we ordered a portion each.

Wow!  I was so happy when my dish turned up - the most perfect French Toast with a delicious cinnamon crunch and the biggest pot of compote you have ever seen. It blew me away and was one of the nicest hotel breakfasts I've had in a long time. If you visit you have to promise you will order the same!

Blacksmiths at Hartoft Pickering Breakfast
I was really impressed with the our deal, we got everything that was promised when we booked and our entire stay went without a hitch. We were both really impressed with the standard and quality of the hotel and wouldn't hesitate to use them again to book our next staycation.

Our stay was over before we knew it and as we set off back home I went a little quiet in the passenger seat, head buried in my phone. I daren't tell my husband that I was frantically hunting through all of the deals on, plotting our next adventure. I guess I'd best leave it at least a week!

Blacksmiths at Hartoft Pickering North Yorkshire

Plan your own adventure with here!

We received a complimentary deal from in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Sunday Lunch and an Overnight Stay at the Northumberland Arms, Felton

* This is a collaboration with the Northumberland Arms

Although Simon and I love going out for Sunday lunch, it's definitely something that we don't really indulge in too often. The list of places in the North East that we'd like to try is now so long that I'm seriously considering making "go out for more roasts" a New Years Resolution in January (sounds better than joining the gym doesn't it?). Somewhere we've been meaning to try for ages is the Northumberland Arms in Felton and last week we finally ticked their Sunday Lunch off the list.

Sunday Lunch and an Overnight Stay at the Northumberland Arms, Felton

As we drove into the pretty Northumbrian village of Felton we realised that it had actually been over three years since our last visit when we went on a bus trip from the centre of Newcastle to enjoy afternoon tea at the Running Fox. Don't ask me how we managed to get ourselves out there by bus but haven't been back since having a car, it's pretty bonkers really isnt it?

If you've not been to Felton before it's a must visit for the next time you find yourself pottering in Northumberland. A picture perfect village a short drive from Morpeth, its stone buildings, cute little bridge and lustworthy cottages make it the perfect place for a lazy Sunday afternoon especially when its local is The Northumberland Arms.

The Northumberland Arms is the kind of pub that makes Simon and I instantly go into daydream mode of "wouldn't it be nice to live somewhere with a pub like this" - it's everything I love about pubs in the countryside. Warm, friendly, really cosy and with a wonderful atmosphere that makes you want to stay for the entire afternoon. I knew we were going to be in for a treat as soon as we stepped through the door.

Overnight Stay at the Northumberland Arms, FeltonSunday Lunch at the Northumberland Arms is served from 11:30 am and with our table booked for 3:00 pm I was a little worried there'd be no meat left! Simon and I are the kind of people that usually book ourselves in for lunch on the stroke of midday so late lunch dining feels a little strange to us. Luckily I had nothing to worry about and we were presented with a full menu on arrival - phew!

Following our server through the never ending restaurant (the Northumberland Arms has a labyrinth of beautiful dining rooms and every table was busy!) we were shown to a lovely little corner by the window - perfect for people watching and for Simon to indulge in his new hobby - watching people trying to get a spot in the pub's carpark across the road.  I honestly thought I was going to have to draw the curtains so I could have his full attention!

Sunday Lunch - the Northumberland Arms, Felton

With starters, mains and desserts to work through Simon took the lead and decided that a full three courses were in order as this was "our only meal of the day", I obviously didn't take too much convincing and turned my attention to the first course menu.

I opted for Locally Foraged Mushrooms on Toast with Truffle Hollandaise (£6.50). Packed full of flavour, it was the perfect way to start off my meal and a great promise of what was to come. This wasn't going to be your average Sunday Lunch!

Sunday Lunch at the Northumberland Arms, Felton
Despite warning Simon that whenever he orders fish cake as a starter he ends up stuffed before we get to our main course, he chose to ignore me and ordered Smoked Haddock and Salmon Fishcake with Wilted Spinach and Lemon Mayo (£6.95). The portion was huge with two fish cakes put down in front of him and, as they were "the best fish cakes I've ever had" he ate the whole lot!

Sunday Lunch Northumberland Arms, Felton

If you're a fan of Sunday Lunch then you really do need to get yourself to The Northumberland Arms as their main course offering really is something to write home about. With the full selection of meats, a traditional nut roast and some delicious sounding local alternatives there is something for everyone on the menu.

I was secretly fuming when Simon managed to get his order in first (he loves to do that as he knows I'll never order the same) - Roast Topside of Beef (£12.95). Roast Beef is my absolute favourite Sunday Lunch dish if it's done well, and with the starters being such a huge success I knew their Topside of Beef would be spot on, and I was right. Simon allowed me a little slither and it was so pink and tender.

Sunday Roast Northumberland Arms, Felton

I went for a meat that I'd never usually order - Slow Cooked Lamb (£12.95). Whenever we go out for Sunday Lunch I will always automatically order chicken or beef without even really properly looking at the menu so it was lovely to go for a different meat and my slow cooked lamb was so delicious. It's made me realise I should really order different dishes more often.

Each roast at The Northumberland Arms comes fully loaded with with duck fat roast potatoes, swede mash, braised red cabbage, seasonal veg and a yorkshire pudding. If you're feeling particularly hungry you can also boost your roast for £3.00 which will give you extra meat, roasties and yorkshire (believe me you'd need a big appetite to do that because the standard roasts are huge enough!) We also loved that despite our plates swimming in delicious thick gravy we were also presented with a jug of gravy on the side, there was no way we were running out!

The Sunday Lunch at the Northumberland Arms was so good, it was the kind of roast lunch where you want to rush into the kitchen to ask the chef for all the secrets. How did the roast potatoes get so fluffy, what was the secret ingredient that made the cabbage so delicious and how on earth do you serve up meat that tender?

Northumberland Arms, Felton Sunday Roast
As you can imagine, after eating all of that we were so full but still couldn't resist dessert and so sneakily undid our top buttons before taking a good look at the sweet offering. I don't know about you but if somewhere has a really good menu I can't resist a pudding no matter how full I am, and The Northumberland Arms had some very tempting treats.

I really love hot puddings in the Winter months so couldn't resist the Bramley Apple Crumble with Orange Creme Anglaise and Vanilla Ice-Cream (£5.95). Having creme anglaise and ice-cream on your sweet is the ultimate Sunday treat and I drowned my crumble in both before tucking in. It was so delicious but the generous portion well and truly defeated me and I couldn't quite make it to the end.

Northumberland Arms, Apple Crumble

Simon opted for the Brownie Sundae served with Vanilla Ice-Cream (£5.95), his idea of heaven, you can always rely on Simon to go for any dessert served in a tall glass with layers upon layers of treats. It was huge and although I was too far gone in my crumble to pay much attention to him he definitely enjoyed it although, like me, couldn't quite finish it off.

After all that food we were feeling incredibly sleepy and not really in the mood to drive back to Newcastle so we felt very lucky to have a room booked at The Northumberland Arms for an overnight stay. I feel like this is definitely the way forward when eating a big lunch, taking a short journey upstairs to lie down is an absolute dream.

There are six rooms above the pub at The Northumberland Arms, and our home for the night was Bockenfield Market, a Superior Ensuite with a Super King size bed, White Company toiletries, a massive bath tub and a tray of cakes to have with our teas and coffees.

We crashed out on that bed as soon as we got upstairs and barely moved for hours. After flicking through some of the local magazines in our room I felt myself nodding off and by 9:30 pm I was fast asleep.

Northumberland Arms Felton

I had the best night's sleep I've had in months. I hate being woken up by an alarm clock during the week so having an early night in such a comfortable bed and getting to wake up naturally at daylight was an absolute dream. I slept for 10 hours which is unheard of for me but I am so thankful for having a proper rest, I think I'll be talking about it for a while to come!

Breakfast at the Northumberland Arms is served in the beautiful River Room with plenty of food to help yourself to including cereals and pastries, we managed not to go too crazy and saved ourselves for the main event - our Northumbrian cooked breakfasts.

Northumberland Arms Felton Breakfast

After such a huge lunch the day before neither of us could face a full on English Breakfast so decided to go for slight more sensible options. Simon ordered the Smashed Avocado on Toast served with a Poached Egg and I opted for the Smoked Salmon Omelette, a three egg omelette topped with smoked salmon.

My omelette was delicious and I wolfed it down in minutes before I managed to pinch a pretty sizeable portion of avocado off Simon's plate - with such a generous mountain I don't think he missed it too much.

The Northumberland Arms Felton Breakfast

Our stay at The Northumberland Arms was really lovely and the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon in Northumberland. I honestly can't think of a better way to end a busy week.  We can't wait to go back!

Find The Northumberland Arms at:

The Peth
NE65 9EE

01670 787 370

We were treated to a complimentary Sunday lunch, overnight stay and breakfast for two in exchange for this honest review. 

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Where to find the Best Hot Chocolate in the North East

The nights are getting darker, the air is feeling cool and once again I've dug my jumpers out from the back of my wardrobe. Winter time is definitely approaching and to me, that can only mean one thing - it's officially hot chocolate season! For a rather long time now I've been wanting to take on the challenge of discovering where to find the best hot chocolate in the North East so this year I decided to finally go for it and have spent the last three months charging my way round a lot of places sampling mugs of chocolate.

You may think that finding the best hot chocolate is easy but let me tell you, it really isn't. When I think about the perfect hot chocolate it needs to be thick and indulgent, creamy and really chocolatey - of course if it comes completely covered in ridiculous toppings that's a bonus!

So here we finally are, my guide to where to find the best hot chocolate in the North East, and yes I sampled every single one of these beautiful treats myself!

Proven Goods Co, Newcastle

As soon as we tried the hot chocolate from Proven Goods Co in Hoult's Yard (£3.80) I almost decided there and then to call the search off. They are incredible! Topped with homemade freshly toasted marshmallow fluff and proper chocolate shavings - battling through the delicious gooey marshmallow to get to the rich hot chocolate underneath is a moment to truly be savoured. Of course you also have to have a doughnut on the side so make sure you turn up hungry!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Proven Goods Co

Love Lily, Sunderland

Perhaps the most perfect location in the North East for a hot chocolate, Love Lily is the cutest little tea room opposite Roker Beach in Sunderland. A brisk Winter's walk along the seafront followed by a hot cup of chocolate is the best way to spend an afternoon! They have an impressive hot chocolate menu with lots of flavours to choose from and each cup is made with liquid chocolate and lovingly created to perfection to ensure a really smooth drink. The Black Forest (£4.20) uses Dark Hot Chocolate with Cherry Syrup, Cream and Chocolate Sauce that's so generous it oozes down the handle and ends up all over your hands - delicious!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Love Lily

Hotel Chocolat, Teesside and Sunderland

There are two Hotel Chocolat stores in the North East where you can enjoy their special hot chocolates - a sit down cafe at Teesside Park and a takeout counter at The Bridges in Sunderland. No syrups, no powder just pure chocolte - the hot chocolate comes 50% milky, 70% dark, 85% dark or 100% dark or, if you prefer salted caramel, hazelnut, chilli, mint or vanilla white. Personally I love the salted caramel (£3.50) and if you order the Cacao Whip and Supermilk Shard on the side for an extra 50p you're really onto a winner.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Hotel Chocolat

Cake Stories, Jesmond

This was the hot chocolate that had all eyes on me as it made its way over to my table and who can blame them - that is one impressively large mountain of cream going on there! The Extra Special Hot Chocolate (£3.60) at Cake Stories in Jesmond is made with real melted milk chocolate drops steamed with milk and comes topped with vanilla whipped cream and salted caramel sauce. The real challenge for me was not to order half of the cake counter to go with it!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Cake Stories

Maddisons, Consett   

Consett is a bit of a drive from our house but the hot chocolates at Maddisons are enough to make us jump in the car and travel down to County Durham for our fix. The daily home blended hot chocolate is created using delicious Belgian Chocolate and the Hot Chocolate With Everything (£3.50) comes with a very generous helping of freshly whipped Vanilla Cream with the most incredible homemade marshamallow on the side. Easily one of the best hot chocolates in the North East - you need to try this bad boy!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Maddisons

The Boatyard, Cullercoats

Out of all the hot chocolates I shared on my Instagram during my mission to find the best hot chocolate in the North East, this one at The Boatyard got the most likes and it's easy to see why, it's an absolute beauty! The Bounty (£3.75) is what I like to describe as a big hot mess - Hot Chocolate flavoured with a sweet coconut syrup and topped with cream, sticky sauce with a cheeky little Bounty on the side.  It's a real sugar kick and the one to go for if you have a sweet tooth. It's also worth noting that after our visit a lot of people contacted me to say that they also do an awesome vegan Hot Chocolate!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - The Boatyard

Staithes Cafe, Gateshead

If you're going for an alfresco hot chocolate this Autumn then I highly recommend an outside table overlooking the Tyne at the Staithes Cafe. Their Hot Chocolate of the Month (£2.60) offers something different each time. Forever dreaming up new ideas, the October special featured this rather handy marshmallow kebab, ideal for dunking and stirring. Just make sure you get there early if you're visiting at the weekend, the queues for a table are pretty epic!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Staithes Cafe

Yolo Coffee, Newcastle

Anywhere that serves me hot chocolate with some added cake is going to win its way into my heart pretty easily. The Red Velvet Hot Chocolate (£2.95) at Yolo Coffee in Stack is just one of the special twists that they do on a classic hot chocolate. White Hot Chocolate served with a secret extra something, a huge mountain of cream and a chunk of red velvet cake is the ultimate indulgent treat. There's limited seating inside so this one is the treat to grab and go!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Yolo Coffee

Cafe 1901 Deli, Gosforth 

The Deluxe Hot Chocolate (£3.50) at Cafe 1901 in Gosforth is topped with a candy covered mountain of cream and once you dig your spoon in you realise that it just keeps going and going until you eventually hit the pile of marshmallows that have begun to melt into the liquid chocolate below. So good!  The hot chocolate is made using Dark Single Origin 70% and is absolutely delicious and perfect as a Winter treat.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Cafe 1901

Cafe W, Newcastle

This was the hot chocolate that came with a beautiful view and no spoon (yes, I had to face dunk into my cream despite the fact I was sat next to a stranger!) A few people told me that the Hot Chocolate (£3.00) at Cafe W in Waterstones was worth a try. I had it fully loaded with cream and marshmallows and I have to say it was one of the loveliest I had mostly due to the peaceful surroundings and gorgeous views of the city.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Cafe W Waterstones

I soon realised when I was researching this blog post that there are a lot of places in the North East that do amazing hot chocolates. My list of places to try is still pretty long but, I thought that I'd best publish this now otherwise we'll hit the Summer and I'll still be going!

After all of that you're probably wondering which was my favourite and where to find THE best hot chocolate in the North East. The answer was actually discovered right at the very beginning, Proven Goods Co in Hoult's Yard in Newcastle have attracted an army of very loyal hot chocolate fans who have all gone crazy for their marshmallow fluff topped drinks and believe me it is worth the hype! They are definitely the best hot chocolate in the North East.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Proven Doughnuts

Maybe next Winter I'll do a part two because believe me I have enough places I still want to try. In the meantime make sure you let me know your favourite hot chocolate discoveries and where you think I should try next!

Thursday 8 November 2018

Exploring The Rabbit Hole, Durham's New Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club

This is a collaboration with The Rabbit Hole

Take a stroll down Hallgarth Street in Durham and you might notice an unassuming antique shop, after a quick glance through the window the chances are you'll carry on your day without giving it another thought, unaware of the amazing secrets that lie inside.  You see if you were to just stop for a moment and take a short stroll up the side of the building you may have noticed a door with a bell and if you'd only dared to push it, you would have tumbled into a whole new world.  Welcome to The Rabbit Hole, Durham's curious new 1920s Shanghai inspired speakeasy, jazz bar and supper club.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham's New Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club

Simon and I visited the Rabbit Hole to experience their Sunday afternoon supper club (the one day a week that they open during the day) to bring a little special something to the end of our weekend.  Feeling slightly nervous about the Rabbit Hole's house rules (there's a dress code and some very refreshing etiquette rules about using your mobile phone at the table) we made our way down the alleyway in our fancy clothes, rang the doorbell and waited for an answer.

Within seconds the door was pushed open and we were welcomed inside.  The door shut behind us and we confirmed our reservation before being escorted through the bar into the restaurant.  When you first make your way into The Rabbit Hole it's a wonderful shock for the senses. The dimly lit corridors felt very dark compared to the harsh light outside and it took a while for our eyes to adjust.  As we followed our waitress through the bar, our noses filled with the most delicious smells that made our tummies growl and the soothing sounds of jazz instantly gave us the most wonderful Sunday afternoon vibes.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham's Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club

As we got used to our dark surroundings I began to notice the decadent interior of the Rabbit Hole.  Velvet curtains and ornate mirrors dressed the exposed brick walls, with stunning chandeliers hanging above the tables and leopard print cushions scattered around the plush seating areas .. hang on a minute - did I really just walk past a giant giraffe?!

There are two levels at the Rabbit Hole with a drinking den on the ground floor featuring a long bar lined with tasselled bar stools and cosy booths.  The ultimate spot for a night out with friends, the bar hosts live jazz nights and serves up cocktails served in the most beautiful glasses.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club

The restaurant is on the second floor although you soon realise that the maze of corridors leads to hidden tables that are so easily missed at first glance.  We were lead to the back of the restaurant to a cosy booth for two dimly lit by a small light above the table and partially hidden behind a beautifully dramatic curtain.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar and Supper Club

Resisting the temptation to draw them and hide ourselves away for the afternoon we settled ourselves down with the menu, wondering how on earth we were going to be able to read it in the dark!

The Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club
We got quite the shock when we opened the menus to discover that they lit up and after opening them and closing them a few times just for our own amusement we started to look through the huge variety of dishes on offer.  Part oriental, part grill, the menu at The Rabbit Hole is a fantastic feast for the eyes and we struggled with decisions as we carefully read through what was on offer.

Dining at The Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club

Appetisers first and Simon opted for the Duck Pancake (£12.50) which came served on a massive plate that almost took over our entire table.  He was feeling very smug about his choice as he created his own pancakes stuffed full of tender sliced and spiced duck, spring onions the most delicious sticky hoi sin sauce.

I would have had a large amount of food envy if my dish hadn't been just as good!

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club

I decided to order the Crispy Pancake Rolls (£8.00) which were so deliciously crispy I decided to take advantage of the fact that no one could see me in the dark, pick them up and dunk them straight into the accompanying Sweet Chilli Tangerine Dip.

Filled with soft noodle, beansprouts and shiitake mushrooms they were, without doubt, the best crispy pancakes I have ever had!

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club - Starters

After a brief pause it was time for the main event!

I decided to order the Weeping Tiger (£25.00) from the "Off The Live Fire" menu - served with steamed rice and Thai dipping sauce, my dry aged sirloin stake was marinated in tamarind and garlic with a delicious hint of palm sugar. It tasted completely different to any steak dish I've ever had before, although a popular Thai dish it's not something I've ever had the chance to order and I really loved the oriental twist.

Simon had Cantonese Fillet of Beef (£17.50) with spiced onions and classic hoi sin sauce which he ordered with a side of Jasmine Steamed Rice (£4.50) His portion was absolutely huge and the massive dish of rice seemed to be never ending. Despite having a very large appetite he couldn't quite manage to finish it all (despite me doing my best to help out!)

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club - Main Dishes

Whilst certainly not the cheapest night out in the North East, dining at the Rabbit Hole in Durham is worth every penny for the truly opulent affair and we both agreed it was one of the best meals out we've ever had. We wouldn't hesitate to go back and this time we quite fancy the idea of booking an overnight stay in Durham and making a real evening of it.

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club

Find The Rabbit Hole at

17 Hallgarth Street

0191 386 5556

We received a complimentary meal for two in exchange for this honest review.
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