Sunday 31 March 2019

My March Days

It's been a jam packed month for me, mostly because it's my birthday month and wow do I love to drag it out - I have been skipping about like some kind of Birthday Princess with Simon eye rolling behind me trying to explain that birthdays only last a day not four weeks.  I will be sharing more about my birthday and our trip to Manchester in a blog post coming soon but in the meantime here are a few other things that I haven't shared on the blog this month.

My Style 

It's been a few months now since my Style Code with Helenlee and it's something I still get messages and questions about all the time. I can honestly say that lady has changed my life! Thanks to her I've completely changed my wardrobe, have saved myself a fortune on clothes and am finally wearing things that flatter my figure. I still can't get used to the compliments - I posted this photograph on my Instagram and couldn't believe how lovely everyone was about my new high waisted jeans. This whole outfit is something I never would have worn before meeting Helenlee and I honestly can't thank her enough.

My March Days - Style Code

Cafe Royal Refurb 

My month began with a visit to Cafe Royal in Newcastle to celebrate their recent refurbishment. They invited me over for a few drinks and a nose but if I'm being honest I spent a fair bit of my night gazing at this amazing pile of scones and resisting the urge to bury my face in them and pull out one from the bottom to see if they all toppled over (it's incredible I get invited anywhere really isn't it?) The evening was a welcome reminder that I really don't go to Cafe Royal enough so I'm hoping to revisit very soon to indulge in some breakfast and a cake or two.

My March Days - Cafe Royal

North East 

I got this beautiful compass pendant from Missoma for my birthday. I chose it because it symbolises direction and purpose but when I put it on for the first time Simon pointed out that the compass points to the North East.  How did I not notice that? So obviously it now has a whole other meaning and I love it even more. Yes I'm so cheesy, but I can't help but feel all mushy about the fact that now the North East will always be close to me, even when I'm away from home.

My March Days - Missoma

Brunch at Cole Cafe and Deli 

When we had a cheeky Monday off work I knew I wanted to head somewhere we hadn't been before and as the sun was shining it seemed the perfect time to head to the sea for a delicious breakfast on the coast at Roker. Cole Cafe and Deli is the cutest little place and what it lacks in tables (there are only a handful!) it more than makes up for in the quality of its food and great personality. I devoured the Banana Smash (£3.00), Simon enjoyed the Homemade Granola Bowl (£5.00) and we spent the morning getting to know the regulars and making friends with all their dogs. It was a real find and we can't wait to return.

My March Days - Cole Cafe Roker

Roots Farm Shop and Cafe

I'm always keen to find beautiful places to break up our car journeys, it's a constant battle with Simon who is very much a fan of staying on main roads to get to our destination faster. Our last trip to North Yorkshire I managed to get him to stray a short way from the A19 for a lunch stop at Roots Farm Shop and Cafe near North Allerton.  I had the best cheese scone followed by a huge lemon meringue pie and a mooch around the farm shop which saw us returning to our car with a bottle of gin and a packet of very fancy biscuits. That's a very successful lunch stop if you ask me.

My March Days - Roots Farm Shop Darlington

Birthday Tea at Cafe 21

My lovely friend Sam treated me to Confectioners Tea at Cafe 21 in Fenwick for my birthday and we had a lovely afternoon chatting and ploughing our way through a stand of treats. I have to admit I'm never overly fussed by sandwiches on an afternoon tea and much prefer the sweet stuff so it was so nice to have a fully loaded selection of cakes and scones.  For some reason I always forget there's a Cafe 21 in Fenwick so it was a great rediscovery.

My March Days - Cafe 21 Fenwick

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

Saturday 30 March 2019

5 of the Best Walks in North East England

Whilst I could never claim I'm an expert in hiking (we certainly don't have any gear and we tend to start whinging after the first mile that our legs ache!) I love getting out and about in the North East of England on one of the many walks we have in the region. With endless countryside to explore there are so many choices when it comes to picking a walk in the North East - from coastal exploring to hiking in the hills, these are 5 of the best walks in the North East!

The 5 Best Walks in the North East

1. South Shields to Sunderland Coastal Path

This was the walk that truly surprised us, I had no idea that the coastline at South Shields was so beautiful! Following the coastal path the walk takes you past some stunning views before reaching Souter Lighthouse, the perfect place to rest your feet (and indulge in a scone!). Stroll through wild flower fields to Whitburn and eventually you reach Seaburn, Roker and (if you're feeling particularly energetic) you can end your walk in Sunderland. We've been known to walk and walk and walk for hours on this route when the sun is shining.

Read more about our South Shields to Sunderland walk here

Best Walks in the North East - Sunderland Coastal Path
2. Craster to Dunstanburgh

This walk is one of our favourites in the North East because it's flat, so easy, only 2 miles and yet offers some of the most stunning scenery in Northumberland. This route is perfect for a hot Summer's day when you don't feel like rushing anywhere and fancy enjoying a bit of a stroll rather than a hike. The walk starts in the beautiful harbour village of Craster (perfect spot to grab some lunch) and leads you to Dunstanburgh Castle - a bird lover's paradise and a great place for adventures and picnics.

Read more about our Craster to Dunstanburgh walk here

Best Walks in the North East - Dunstanburgh

3. Sycamore Gap at Hadrian's Wall

There is so much of Hadrian's Wall that we are yet to discover and one day I would love to walk more of the Wall and perhaps explore the lesser known parts. Of course, if it's an iconic walk of Hadrian's Wall that you're wanting it doesn't get more special than Sycamore Gap. It may not be the longest walk of the Wall but it certainly still presents a fair amount of scrambling up rock style challenges and rewards you with some truly breathtaking views of Northumberland.

Read more about our walk to Sycamore Gap here

Best Walks in the North East - Hadrian's Wall

4. Hareshaw Linn

A nice simple "follow the path" route (which I have to admit is sometimes our favourite kind of walking) Hareshaw Linn. The walk takes you through fairytale ancient woodland before eventually reaching some pretty breathtaking rock formations deep in the woods and the stunning waterfall of Hareshaw Linn. A lot quieter than the very popular High Force Waterfall it's a great place to sit for a while and appreciate one of natures true beauties.

Read more about our walk to Hareshaw Linn here

Best Walks in the North East - Hareshaw Linn

5. Whitley Bay to Seaton Delaval

This walk offers some great views of our favourite stretches of the North Tyneside coast. Our route follows the coastal path from Whitley Bay, past the famous St Mary's Lighthouse and onto Seaton Sluice. With plenty of places to stop along the way (whether you fancy a bench sit down or a pint in the pub!) if you want a great leg stretch you can walk all the way to Seaton Delaval Hall.

Read more about our Whitley Bay to Seaton Delaval walk here

Best Walks in the North East - Whitley Bay
I'm celebrating English Tourism Week and have teamed up with some of my favourite North East bloggers to share 25 reasons to visit the North East of England!

If you'd like to read more about places to visit check out these posts:


Tuesday 26 March 2019

Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea - Mother's Day at the Union Rooms, Newcastle

I don't know about you but when it comes to planning presents for Mother's Day I'm beginning to run out of ideas. How on earth do you even begin trying to find the perfect gift for the most important woman in your life? If, like me, you are completely fed up of buying flowers and chocolates for your Mam then this year you might fancy treating her to something a little different. How about Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea at The Union Rooms in Newcastle?

Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea - Mother's Day at the Union Rooms, Newcastle
The ultimate Mother's Day treat, what Mam wouldn't love to enjoy an afternoon of gossip over delicious glasses of pink gin and a fully loaded cake stand of treats? At the weekend I popped into The Union Rooms ahead of the big day for a little sneaky look at what you can expect!

Confession time first, and I'm sure you're all going to disown me for this, I have never been to the Union Rooms before! Yep, I'm one of the few people that never ventured through its historic doors back in its Wetherspoons days to enjoy a cheeky tipple or two - I have no silly stories, no crazy nights out and no idea at all about what the Union Rooms looked like before its eagerly anticipated makeover.

Union Rooms, Newcastle

The Union Rooms plays a pretty major part in Newcastle's great history, first opening as a gentleman's club in 1877 with some pretty famous faces from North East history being members. I should imagine those walls have some stories to tell and really it was about time I finally got myself through the doors to explore one of the Toon's most iconic buildings.

The Union Rooms reopened at the end of last year after a major redevelopment and, leaving their Wetherspoons days far behind them, with a new emphasis on good quality food. I had everything crossed as we settled down for afternoon tea, this needed to be brilliant - I mean you don't want to be treating your Mam to something rubbish do you?

Afternoon Tea - Mother's Day at the Union Rooms, Newcastle

Exploring The Union Rooms for the first time I couldn't believe how many different areas there are to eat and drink in. The bar was buzzing with a live musician just taking to the stage (you'll find live music there every Sunday afternoon), I spotted a pizza oven in the restaurant and the Snug and Library are ideal if you want to chill out.

My Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea was served in The Library, a beautiful room filled with comfortable leather sofas, shelves loaded with books and an ornate fire place - the perfect location to treat your Mam to a relaxing afternoon, I also think that "taking afternoon tea in the Library" sounds pretty special and very fancy!

Mother's Day at the Union Rooms, Newcastle

Important things first, the Pinkster Gin which I had never tried before. A British Gin made with real raspberries it is absolutely delicious and yep I do now need to buy myself a bottle for home to add to my ever growing gin collection! For someone who loves Gin so much I can't believe that this was my first ever Gin Afternoon Tea, it definitely made a very welcome change from the standard pot of tea and made it all feel a little bit special.

If your Mam loves gin she's going to love this!

Mother's Day at the Union Rooms, Newcastle

When the tea stand was placed in front of me I was very impressed with how it looked. It was really colourful (my pet hate is a beige cake stand!) and fully loaded with treats.  There was so much food, I didn't know quite where to start so decided it'd be best to work from the bottom to the top.

The Sandwiches were the first tier to be attacked and I was very impressed with how fresh and squishy the bread was (I always do the "squish test" when I'm having an afternoon tea) and how packed out the fillings were. The sarnies were completely stuffed with fillings including St James Smoked Salmon, Dil & Cream Cheese, Coronation Chicken and Wiltshire Ham with Grain Honey Mustard. I tried desperately hard to polish the lot off but I was already getting full and I needed to save myself for the sweet stuff.

Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea Union Rooms, Newcastle

Scones up next and I really loved that they were served with Pinkster Gin Jam such a nice added touch and it really took the theme of the tea to the next level. I'm not going to confess to you exactly how much gin jam I slathered onto the scones but it was definitely more than I really needed, it was just too good and was perfect with the thick clotted Cornish cream.

Pinkster Gin Jam Afternoon Tea Union Rooms, Newcastle

Of course, the very best part of any afternoon tea has to be the top tier, devouring an entire plate of cakes is always a joy! The sweet treats offered a great variety to choose from and I almost managed to make my way through the whole lot.

Particular highlights for me included delicious miniature apple doughnuts, macarons and a very indulgent chocolate brownie (I recommend you save that one for last, it's great to finish with!)

Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea Union Rooms, Newcastle - Cake

Having never been a 'Spoons girl I very stupidly thought that The Union Rooms would still have the same cheap chain pub vibes so I was over the moon to discover somewhere that's most definitely the kind of place that Simon and I want to be. No longer a Wetherspoons, it's under new ownership and has a wonderful atmosphere, attentive staff, delicious food and great quality drinks. It's a complete step away from what it was before and personally I think that is only a good thing!

If you're yet to try the new look Union Rooms I highly recommend giving it a go and, if you're wanting to treat your Mam to something special in Newcastle this weekend, you know where to head!

Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea Union Rooms

What you need to know:
  • Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea will be served at The Union Rooms on Mother's Day, Sunday 31 March
  • Afternoon Tea costs £19.95 with a glass of Pinkster Gin or Prosecco or £15.95 on its own
  • To book a table contact The Union Rooms on 0191 261 2226
Find The Union Rooms at:

48 Westgate Road

0191 261 2226

I received a complimentary Pinkster Gin Afternoon Tea in exchange for this honest review

Monday 25 March 2019

A Luxury Overnight Stay at Crab Manor at the Crab & Lobster, Thirsk

*This is a collaboration with The Crab & Lobster

A few years ago Simon and I were invited to our friend's wedding reception at The Crab & Lobster.  After having a good nose around their website I was so excited about seeing their quirky decor, trying the incredible looking food and seeing if the rumours about a hidden beer tap were true. But then my husband had a nasty running related injury so we had to cancel our plans and, if I'm being completely honest I'm not sure I've ever forgiven him!

A Luxury Overnight Stay at Crab Manor at the Crab & Lobster, Thirsk
So when the opportunity came up for us to enjoy a luxury overnight stay at The Crab Manor, the Crab & Lobster's very fancy hotel, I put us both on an exercise ban (any excuse!) and had our cases packed and in the car before any bad luck could befall us.

When you've been waiting years to visit somewhere the expectations are pretty high and to say I was excited when we pulled into the carpark at Crab Manor would be an understatement. I practically skipped through the doors, completely over the moon that we were finally getting the opportunity to visit this beautiful place. First impressions? What a beauty!

Luxury Overnight Stay at Crab Manor at the Crab & Lobster, Thirsk

All of the rooms at The Crab Manor are themed, allowing you to travel the world without leaving British soil. Ever fancied a trip to Dubai, a visit to the Seychelles or a stay in Lapland? Crab Manor gives you a real taste of some of the world's most beautiful locations and as soon as you step through the door you really do feel like you're on holiday. Crab Manor is a pretty magical place and definitely the kind of staycation that allows you to escape real life, we had a lot of "are you sure we're in North Yorkshire?" conversations.

We were booked in for an overnight stay in one of Crab Manor's luxury suites, The Hermitage, a Russian themed room with all the trimmings - and then some! As we stepped into the suite and threw our bags on the floor we were absolutely stunned. We've stayed in some pretty special rooms but I'm pretty sure this had to the most luxurious and definitely the largest.

Luxury Suite at Crab Manor at the Crab & Lobster, Thirsk

Not knowing where to explore first my eyes eagerly darted between the personal lounge area with its plush green sofa and mirrored panels, the delicious looking roll top bath sitting on the most beautiful black marble floor and the golden throne sitting in the corner before Simon and I just descended into childlike giggles - was this really our room?  Having never been to Russia I've always imagined its palaces and houses to be very opulent and The Hermitage suite definitely didn't disappoint.

Luxury Suite at Crab & Lobster, Thirsk

My favourite part of our room (other than the complimentary drinks in our mini bar obviously) had to the huge gold bed, offering us the lifelong dream of living like Royalty, if only for the night. I was tempted to put my PJs straight on and turn in for the night, but with the sun beating down on our outside terrace I decided to go for the swimwear instead and enjoy the afternoon on our private terrace!

Luxury Room at Crab & Lobster, Thirsk
All of the rooms at Crab Manor have access to the communal courtyard Sauna and Hot Tub with the Luxury Bedrooms and Suites all having their own private hot tubs. Our hot tub was perfect for two and we popped open a bottle of fizz and sunk into the warm bubbles to chat about life and dreams whilst enjoying the Spring sunshine. I don't know why but Simon and I always seem to have our very best conversations when we're in a hot tub. We sat under the water until we both turned into prunes and after a quick visit to our sauna it was time to head inside and get ready for the evening.

Luxury Room and Hot Tub at Crab & Lobster, Thirsk

The cheeky little note left in our room hinted at the location of the infamous hidden beer tap along with our own pint glass that we were encouraged to fill if we could find its secret location (yes the rumours were true!)  Simon has always fancied himself as a bit of a detective and confidently strolled into Crab Manor to find the beer tap, tapping and prodding a few panels and book shelves as he made his way round. It wasn't long before we found it and filling the glass up with a nice refreshing beer we made our way into the lounge to relax before our food.

Complimentary snacks are served in the lounge at Crab Manor between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm every evening and never ones to turn down food we found ourselves some comfy seats and filled up on snacks with our drinks, unable to resist the temptation of the cheese straws even though we knew it wasn't long before our evening meal.

Lounge at Crab Manor

Evening meals are served in the Crab & Lobster restaurant, a few minutes stroll from Crab Manor through the most beautiful gardens. I'd heard so many great things about the award winning food at the Crab & Lobster so knew that we were in for a treat. Walking through the doors into the restaurant we couldn't believe how much there was to look at - it was an absolute treasure trove of hanging trinkets, beautiful antiques and the slightly strange and unusual. I'm pretty sure you'd spot something different each time you visit.

We were lead to a cosy table in the corner, dimly lit by candlelight and the perfect spot for two. If you're looking for somewhere seriously romantic for a date night the Crab & Lobster definitely ticks every box.

Crab & Lobster, Thirsk

Despite the outside of the Crab & Lobster looking like a pub, this most definitely isn't your standard "pub grub" - the food is all freshly prepared with a wide variety of gourmet dishes, fresh seafood and local fare and the price definitely reflects that. Whilst it certainly isn't a cheap night out, the food is worth the price and if you're an eager foodie it really is a must visit.

We decided to skip starters (always got to save room for dessert!) and skipped straight to the main event. Simon opted for Roast Prime Aged Fillet of Beef served with Garlic Roasted Flat Mushrooms, Roast Shallots and Hand Cut Chips (£36.00) and I went for Chargrilled Prime Ribeye Steak Roasted Chicken Cream served with Wild Mushroom, Pancetta Green Peppercorns and Frites (£28.00).

We both chose to have our meat served rare and both dishes were perfectly prepared with plenty of flavour. I don't often order steak when I'm out and about as the price tag can put me off but when I'm enjoying dishes that are this good it really does make me appreciate that great quality food is worth every penny you pay.

Crab & Lobster Menu, Thirsk

We were both excited about dessert and despite beginning to get a little full couldn't resist placing an order. I opted for Warm Pear and Almond Tart with Pear Ice Cream and Stem Ginger Custard (£9.00) and Simon went for Baked Alaska served with Tutti Fruit Ice Cream, Crystalized Fruits and Creme Anglaise (£9.00).  Absolutely delicious and we both agreed that this had been one of the best meals that we'd had in a long time.

It's been a while since a meal has left us that full and as we finished the last few bites we realised that we were suddenly incredibly tired and really needed to call it a night. Very thankful that we had a room for the night, we rolled our way back to our suite and crashed into our decadent golden bed, our eyes closing the second our heads touched the pillows.

Crab Manor - Gold Bed

We were so full that the next morning that when we woke up we didn't really fancy breakfast. Pretty unheard of for us and a good sign of a very good evening meal. We just about managed to make our way down to The Crab & Lobster for breakfast time but after a brief look at the cooked menu decided against it and so instead hit the continental buffet table.  I usually can't resist getting something cooked when we're away but we both agreed that on this trip it made a lovely change to actually enjoy the "help yourself" table properly without having to "save ourselves" for a cooked dish. I think going forward we'll probably do this more, what is it about hotel breakfasts that make you feel like you need to have loads of courses?

Despite not being terribly hungry we still managed to polish off some cereal, granola, toast with butter and pastries (which were absolutely incredible!) between the two of us - it was all just too good to resist.

Crab Manor Breakfast

After breakfast there was just enough time for a quick stroll round the gardens at Crab Manor, the perfect way to get some fresh air and a spot of exercise post food. Our quick walk made me really want to revisit in the Summer months, I should imagine it's quite the beauty spot in the sunshine.

Our stay at The Crab & Lobster was over before we knew it and now that I can "kinda" tick Russia off my travel bucket list I can't wait to return to North Yorkshire to travel the world once again - we just need to decided where takes our fancy!

Crab Manor Gardens

Find The Crab & Lobster at:

North Yorkshire

01845 577 286

We were invited to the Crab & Lobster for a complimentary meal and overnight stay at Crab Manor in exchange for this honest review. 

Monday 18 March 2019

National B&B Week - A Night at Forest Guest House, South Shields - Review

* This is a collaboration with eviivo

Some of my favourite childhood memories were created in B&Bs - the excitement of sharing a room with Grandma, the promise of a special breakfast and the chance to experience living somewhere else for a few days. Growing up my family always favoured B&Bs when we went on holiday, my Mum always found the best places to stay and every single experience we had was wonderful - yet I don't think I've actually stayed in one since the 1990s!

For some reason Simon and I have never really used B&Bs and I don't for the life of me know why. So when online booking specialist, eviivo invited us to stay at the Forest Guest House in South Shields to celebrate National B&B week I was excited at the thought of recapturing a part of my childhood I'd forgotten and introduce Simon to the wonderful world of B&Bs.

A Night at the Forest Guesthouse, South Shields Review - Celebrating National B&B Week

Forest Guest House is in the heart of South Shields, perfectly located on Ocean Road which, if you're local, you will know is THE North East destination for the best curry houses. A short stroll down to the seafront, close to the Metro and surrounded by some fantastic bars and restaurants - it's the perfect base for a night away.

We turned up on a blustery Saturday afternoon and were welcomed in by owner Janet who instantly made us feel at home. I'd forgotten what a great personal experience you get when you stay at a B&B - being welcomed in to someones home feels so much more special than checking into a hotel.

Forest Guesthouse, South Shields Review - Celebrating National B&B Week
Our home for the night was "Room One', an executive double beautifully furnished, with a huge bathroom and a little furry friend! How gorgeous is our pal?

Forest Guesthouse, South Shields Review

With such a homely finish to our room, there were so many lovely little touches. We had been left some chocolates (which we greedily ate despite being full after dinner!), enjoyed a fully loaded tea tray, fancy toiletries and Simon's favourite we had a DVD player as well as a TV and a very impressive DVD library in the corridor outside our room.

As soon as Simon saw the DVDs I knew he would have happily stayed in the room all evening, but it's not often we get the opportunity to explore one of our favourite seaside towns after dark so there was no way I was going to let him stay in.

Forest Guesthouse, Ocean Road South Shields

Usually when we go to South Shields we head to the same restaurant, it's one of our favourites and hard to resist but this time we were very keen to try somewhere different and so asked our hosts for a recommendation. One of the best things about staying in a B&B is you get some really great ideas of where to head from locals who know what they're talking about. I was so keen to discover a new favourite!

I was in the mood for Italian so we headed to Da Vinci's a few minutes walk down the Ocean Road, somewhere that we've never paid any attention to before despite having walked past it so many times. It was a beautiful little traditional restaurant with so much character and the best tiramisu we'd ever tasted (we both ordered the same for dessert on the recommendation of our B&B hosts).

As we left the restaurant and walked down the street I was so surprised at how packed all the restaurants in South Shields were, everywhere we passed was full with diners and people out and about enjoying their Saturday evening. I honestly had no idea that South Shields was such a night time destination. We have been missing out!

After our meal we decided to head to Mambos Wine and Dine for a couple of drinks, another destination that came recommended by our hosts. We couldn't believe what a gem it was, gorgeous decor and a very impressive cocktail list.

Mambo Wine and Dine South Shields

Now I'd love to tell you all that we went all out in South Shields but the reality is we made a toast to being "out, out" and then realised it was actually only 6.52 pm, not 10:00 pm like we'd thought. It wasn't long after that we realised we were pretty shattered and the lure of that comfortable looking bed at the Forest Guest House was just too much to resist.

We turned in for the night at 9:30 pm and then slept for 10 hours, something we'd never be able to achieve at home. It was so lovely to have a proper night's sleep and I think we have the super comfortable bed to thank for that.

South Shields B&B

The next morning I was so eager to get downstairs having told Simon over and over that you always get the most incredible breakfast in a B&B I just knew from the delicious smells creeping up the stairs that the Forest Guest House were really going to deliver the best start to our day.

We made our way into the dining room and were surprised to find an open kitchen at the end of the room. It really was like being at a friend's house as we settled ourselves down at our table and tucked into our cornflakes whilst chatting to our hosts, Janet and Peter about anything and everything from the origins of the B&B to the current works on the Metro line and our favourite things about South Shields.

Of course when you're enjoying a night away from home it's perfectly acceptable to have a multiple course breakfast and once we'd finished our cereals we indulged in a cooked breakfast. Simon opted for huge homemade pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and I went for the more traditional English Breakfast. It's not often I'll choose a fry up but I just couldn't resist the local produce on the menu and I'm so happy I went for it because it was really delicious. I was far too full for the pile of hot buttered toast we had on the side but I just had to polish that off to.

Forest Guesthouse South Shields B&B

With breakfast over it was time for us to gather our belongings and return home. We gained so much during our short stay at Forest Guest House and are so happy that we made so many great new discoveries in South Shields and made some new friends in our B&B hosts!

We absolutely loved our break and it was a welcome reminder of how great a B&B stay can be and why we really should be using them more often!

What you need to know:

National B&B Week takes place from 18 to 24 March.  Working with eviivo and the wider industry, B&Bs across the UK are offering guests extra perks such as free champagne on arrival, unlimited ice cream and complimentary afternoon tea.  head to for more information and to book a stay.

Find Forest Guesthouse at:

117 Ocean Road
South Shields
NE33 2JL

0191 454 8160

We were guests of eviivo who treated us to a free night's stay at the Forest Guesthouse in exchange for this review. 

Thursday 14 March 2019

BBC Tours Newcastle - Review

*We were invited guests of BBC Tours Newcastle for review purposes

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of your favourite TV shows? I had always imagined it to be ridiculously glamorous - celebrities, hair & makeup and huge studios and whilst some of that is certainly true I never appreciated all of the hard work that goes into broadcasting the programmes I watch every day until we went on the BBC Tour in Newcastle.

You may not know this, because I only very recently found out, but BBC Newcastle run tours for the public three days a week offering a fantastic chance to see behind the scenes of TV and Radio in the North East. There are two tours to choose from, a children's interactive tour and an adults tour suitable for over 12s.

BBC Tours Newcastle - Review
Simon and I booked ourselves on to the BBC Tour on Saturday morning at 10:30 am and were greeted at the door by Jordy and Tony, our two guides. We checked in, stashed away our bags and in exchange were given passes to wear for the tour.

I instantly felt very cool having a BBC lanyard hanging from my neck! This lasted until around the time I spotted the Tardis in reception and instantly became a super fan. I insisted on throwing on all of the Doctors clothes for a picture in front of it - it'll take a lot more than a BBC pass to make this girl a cool kid!

BBC Tour Newcastle - Review

Once the rest of our group had arrived it was time for our tour to begin. There were around 16 of us in total - a nice amount to move around the building and we started off with a little history of how BBC Newcastle began. It's funny to think now that for many years everything was broadcast from London with no local information available to other regions. Imagine not having a local news broadcast!

Looking along the timeline it was interesting to see what an important part the North East has played in the development of the BBC with many of my favourite shows and TV stars beginning life in Newcastle. My very first introduction to Newcastle was through a children's TV programme in the 90s - Byker Grove, I remember everyone at school trying to copy the Geordie accent.

Walking into the BBC library we discovered how recordings are made and stored and I couldn't believe all the shelves of video tapes and film reels. The archives are incredible and I had no idea how much footage the BBC has to store. Slightly morbid, but there's a little top shelf of the library containing obituaries for all of the key members of the Royal Family so in the event of the deaths of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles or Prince William the BBC can instantly respond.

BBC Newcastle - Review

Next we went into one of the smaller studios to learn more about green screen technology and I got to live out my Harry Potter dreams by putting on the "cloak of invisibility" and turning myself into a floating head drifting above the Newcastle Quayside. This little trick really impressed the kids on our tour but I have to say I had just as much fun disappearing and reappearing in front of the cameras as they did.

BBC Newcastle - Tour Review

I think the most impressive part of the tour was stepping into the big news studio to go behind the scenes of Look North. As the huge doors rolled back and we stepped inside we were all pretty gobsmacked by the huge lights hanging from the ceiling, the cameras and seeing the news desk in real life. I probably shouldn't give away all the secrets, but did you know the offices you see behind the news desk aren't real offices at all? Shhhh don't tell anyone!

The studio was split into three sections. The hard news desk where all of the important headlines are broadcast, the soft news area where guests and presenters sit on comfier sofas to chat and the big screen for the weather. We learnt so many interesting behind the scenes facts and I've come away with a huge respect for the weather presenters who can be given anything from 30 seconds to 6 minutes to do their weather report and quite often have to ad lib to fill the time!

BBC Newcastle - Tours Review

Next was a quick stop to the Gallery where the production team and director sits. The room was completely full of TV screens and endless buttons - I can't even imagine the pressure of being in that room during a live broadcast. Imagine pressing the wrong button and turning out all the lights in the studio by accident?

With BBC Newcastle being a working studio every tour offers a real taste of a working day and as we moved into the radio studios we got to watch the presenters in the next door studio live on the radio. Absolute professionals, I can't imagine having a tour group coming through my office when I'm doing my job - imagine!

We ended our visit in the Interactive Studio where we got to put together our own little news broadcast switching between the news, weather and sport. Such a great moment for anyone wanting a go at being a presenter with a chance to read auto cues and speak to camera before seeing the final piece complete with intros and video clips.

BBC Newcastle - Studio Tour Review

We absolutely loved our time at BBC Newcastle, our guides were so much fun, we learnt loads and I honestly can't recommend the tour enough to anyone. It was so much fun doing something a little different and I left with a huge amount of love and respect for our local TV studio and the wonderful people running it.

What you need to know:
  • Tours take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm
  • Arrival time is 15 minutes before tours start to allow for security checks. Large bags are prohibited
  • Tickets prices up to 31 March 2019 are Adults £10.00; Children £7.50 from 1 April 2019 ticket prices increase to Adults £11.00; Children £8.00 - for other prices please check here
  • The Tour lasts approximately 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Parking at the studios is available on Saturdays but limited during the week. The Studio is a 20 minute walk from the city centre
Find BBC Newcastle at:

Broadcasting Centre
Barrack Road


Tuesday 12 March 2019

A Taste of Branches - Five Course Tasting Menu at Branches, Jesmond

*This is a collaboration with Branches

I have been wanting to visit Branches in Jesmond ever since they opened their doors.  I've heard great thing about their affordable, high quality food and lots of stories about their delicious Sunday lunches. Of course, I've also heard whispers that there's a blossom tree inside the restaurant (and we all know I can't resist a beautiful restaurant interior!)

Simon and I finally made it to the Jesmond restaurant last weekend for a late lunch, very hungry and excited about tucking into their five course tasting menu - it's not often you get the chance to enjoy such a huge feast. Usually when we eat out we manage two courses, so the promise of five made lunch feel extra special.

A Taste of Branches - Five Course Tasting Menu at Branches, Jesmond

The Taste of Branches menu is available for lunch between 12:00 and 14:30 and Dinner 17:00 to 19:00 (until 18:00 on Friday and Saturday) and costs £24.95 per person which is an absolutely amazing price. I don't think you'd find a five course tasting menu that cheap anywhere else and if you're looking for something a bit special without breaking the bank I wouldn't bother looking anywhere else.

We were shown to the most beautiful table underneath the gorgeous blossom tree, I really can't talk about it without mentioning Instagram because it was the perfect photo opportunity - absolutely beautiful and the perfect spot for a romantic lunch for two. The entire restaurant is decked out in white furniture, plush booths and I even spotted a flower arch when I ventured upstairs. It's quite the dining out destination.

Every meal for me nowadays starts with a gin (my gin and tonic obsession doesn't appear to be ending any time soon) and I opted for the Bloom Gin (£9.95) which came with rose buds and lavender, it looked so pretty. I've never tried lavender in my gin before but it worked so well and really added something special to my gin - it's definitely a garnish I'll look to introduce at home in the future.  Simon chose Diet Coke (I'd decided he was designated driver as soon as I read through the gin menu) which we thought was a little steep at £3.25 a glass.

Taste of Branches - Five Course Tasting Menu at Branches, Jesmond

Before I begin with the menu review I do have something to discuss which, although definitely isn't the restaurant's fault, did leave us a little frustrated. I have a mild nut allergy which I mentioned to our waiter who helpfully fetched me the allergen menu. At that point I discovered that a lot of the dishes were marked as containing nuts.

With many of the foods being sourced externally the restaurant couldn't guarantee that things didn't have nuts in. Completely understandable of course and something I come across a lot. Usually I confirm that I understand the restaurant has no control over the external food supplier and that there are nuts used in the kitchen and then use my own judgement when it comes to making my order. Branches however take allergies so seriously that I wasn't allowed to order anything that was marked as potentially having nuts in. I can completely understand why, especially given the recent press attention in relation to allergy sufferers in restaurants and the huge risks involved but I found it a little awkward to be told I couldn't order things that I knew I would be fine with.

Taste of Branches - Five Course Tasting Menu at Branches
I'm definitely not going to dwell on it as I do applaud the restaurant for taking allergies so seriously, but as I feel honesty is important in my reviews, I thought it was worth mentioning.

The first course of our five course feast was the one I couldn't help but be very excited about,  the bread course!  As someone who always goes slightly bonkers over the bread basket whenever we go out I was looking forward to my freshly baked warm bread served with whipped butter and the flavoured salt of the day.

The bread was divine, a warm crusty roll with a delicious soft centre which I completely smothered in the delicious whipped butter ...  yes I did ask for another because just having one roll to share on a "bread course" did seem a bit daft!

Branches - Five Course Tasting Menu at Branches

Course two and we had five delicious sounding starters to pick from.  I opted for the Rich Chicken Liver and Mushroom Pate with Black Truffle dressing and Caramelised Onion Chutney. The pate was delicious but really rich so I couldn't quite finish it (as we were only on course two I needed to make sure I left plenty of room)

Branches Jesmond - Five Course Tasting Menu at Branches

Simon opted for the Slow Cooked Crispy Ham Fritter and Hens Egg - Braised Ham with Soft Boiled Hens Egg, Truffle Mayo and House Pickles. It looked absolutely beautiful and shockingly Simon didn't let me try a single bite of it (grounds for divorce surely)? The dish gave me quite a lot of envy so on our next visit I'm going to be sure to order this one.

Branches Jesmond - Five Course Menu at Branches

Course three was an intermediate course which I always love on a taster menu as it's exciting to see what the chef is going to come up with.  We had a lovely light Beetroot and Apple amuse bouche. It is just me who finds extra courses just makes the meal that little bit more fancy?

Branches Jesmond - Five Course Menu
We approached the fourth course with plenty of room left and it was hard to pick between the six main courses on offer. Simon went for the Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Duck Fat Fondant potato, Pickled Mushrooms, Pancetta and Seasonal vegetables. I was watching carefully as he cut into the chicken, I always think the sign of a good restaurant is a well prepared chicken breast and this one looked perfect.

Branches, Jesmond Five Course Tasting Menu

I opted for Tagliatelle Carbonara with Crispy Egg, Wild Mushrooms and Pancetta and although I'm the first to admit that Carbonara wouldn't be something I'd usually get that excited about let me tell you that this really was a Carbonara that was worth writing home about. I've never had anything like it, it was absolutely delicious and truly knocked my socks off. I would quite happily sit in the restaurant and eat endless bowls of it all day long. It was incredible and if you take anything from this review let it be that you need to go to Branches and try this dish!

We got a special little surprise at the table before our final course when a very impressive bit of food theatre appeared. I wasn't sure what was happening to start with as a jug of curious looking liquid was poured on top of our glasses covering the whole table in smoke. For a glorious moment I felt like I was on Top of the Pops. Love a bit of drama with my food so this went down a treat.

Branches, Jesmond - Tasting Menu

Time for the fifth and final course and although we were beginning to feel more than a little full we knew there was no way we were going to be able to resist polishing off the dessert.  I had a dessert that's not usually served on the Taster Menu to accommodate my allergy which I really appreciated. The Double Chocolate Brownie was served with Amarena Cherries, Chantilly Cream and Ice-cream. It was incredible!

Branches, Jesmond - Five Course Menu

The real big finish of the day though went to Simon's Bourbon Sticky Toffee Pudding with Salted Caramel Ice-Cream and Cinder Toffee. It just looked incredible - an absolute mountain of pudding and I just couldn't stop staring at it. It was a real thing of beauty and was the kind of dessert that makes you completely forget that two seconds ago you were feeling very full up. There's no way you could ever turn this bad boy down! Simon is a real connoisseur of Sticky Toffee Pudding and has decided this one now features in his top five in Newcastle (maybe one day I should get him to write a blog post on that?)

Branches, Jesmond
We were absolutely blown away by our meal at Branches, we have eaten in some of the finest restaurants in the North East and the quality of the food was definitely comparable, the only difference being the price! It's not often you find such high quality food at such a reasonable price, we still can't get over the fact that the Five Course Menu only costs £24.95!  The perfect location for a special occasion and, in all honesty, at that price, why bother waiting for something special - just book in now and give it a go!

Find Branches at:

9 Osborne Road

0191 239 9924

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