30 June 2015

Pan Asian Afternoon Tea at Sakana, Manchester

There are few things I love as much as I love Afternoon Tea, and much as I will never tire of mini sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and the most delicious of teeny tiny cakes - sometimes it's nice to have something a bit ..... different. With that in mind, I jumped at the chance of Sakana's Pan Asian Afternoon Tea when I saw it pop up on one of those cheap voucher sites.
Sakana Manchester afternoon tea
We toddled along to the wrong side of the Pennines with tasty Asian treats in mind and settled down to peruse the tea menu. While I'm usually inclined to opt for a slightly boring black tea to accompany the food, Sakana's impressive tea menu was way too good for that and I went instead for a more thematic Jasmine tea. It was delicious and very nicely presented but no where near as pretty as the boyfriends flowering tea, so I've shown you that here instead!
tea menu sakana manchester

I'll admit, I hadn't really given a lot of thought to what a Pan-Asian afternoon tea would consist of, but I expected it to look pretty cool and I was not in the least bit disappointed when they brought the cake stand over!

japanese cake stand
The friendly and enthusiastic waiter did happily explain what everything was but unfortunately the notes I made were on my now defunct old laptop and as this was a little while ago now (again due to laptop hold-ups!) I'm working as best I can from memory so I do apologise it I'm a bit vague on what things are!

sakana manchester roti roll

We attacked the roti wraps first, these were filled with duck and pomegranate and chicken and *something* (I did warn you it might be a bit vague!) These made a really tasty change from the traditional finger sandwiches - especially the yummy duck ones!

asian afternoon tea
The sushi, on the other hand, is not really something I was looking forward to. It's probably really uncool to admit this, but I just don't like sushi. I don't get it. It's not for me. To be fair, I don't even like the most boring of fish. I don't like battered cod from the fish shop. I don't like tuna. So the chances of me liking this were not that high.

afternoon tea with sushi
But I tried, I did try. It's still not for me though. I even tried poking the fishy bits out and just eating the rice/veggie bits but it was hard to escape that overpowering fishiness. I'm sure for those that like fish, that like sushi in particular, would have loved this. And it really was nice to try something different and I'm sure it was exactly as it should have been,... but no, it's still not for me.

manchester sushi restaurant
The top layer of cakey goodies made up for all the difficulties I had with the previous layer though. This was an exquisite little selection of Asian inspired sweet treats and were alone well worth the visit. The little green square at the back there was a matcha tiramisu - I love matcha in desserts as you can tell yourself you are being healthy while devouring cake, a great bonus to an already lovely little treat. The fruity mango cheesecake was light as a feather but full of flavour and the brown sugar tart (the one that looks like a block of fudge topped with biscuit crumbs was a sweet, caramel-y revelation. I can't begin to remember what was in the little pots, but I remember it was good!

manchester sakana desserts

A couple of classic afternoon tea items did make it onto the menu, as the cake stand came laden with a pair of macaroons - though not in the most traditional of flavours! The green one was a wasabi macaroon, a very interesting choice and though I can't say I strictly enjoyed it, I definitely couldn't not eat it all either! The other one was a less unusual flavour (coconut, I think?) and was perfect - pretty big for a macaroon, but with that slightly crisp outer shell and gorgeously gooey inside,... the perfect way to finish off a very interesting afternoon tea experience!
The weird thing is, I can't find any mention of this afternoon tea anywhere on the Sakana website, but trust me, it is a real thing! I'm sure if you wanted to try it out they'd be more than happy to point you in the right direction if you contacted them though, I found the staff to be very helpful on my visit! In fact, despite not really enjoying a whole third of the afternoon tea, I really enjoyed my time at Sakana and would definitely return - if only to check out their exiting sounding cocktail menu!

27 June 2015

My Little French Riviera Box

Ok so I'll admit to begin with that this months offering from French subscription box heroes My Little Box isn't exactly my most exciting new delivery. That honour goes to my shiny new laptop that means I can now do things like write blog posts without nearly tearing my hair out, woohoo! My Little French Riviera Box isn't too far behind though!

My Little French Riviera Box

The retro-look sunglasses designed by Sarah Lavione were a very welcome thing to find in the box! I'm a bit rubbish with things like sunglasses - I tend to never be able to find a pair when I need them so an extra pair means I'm more likely to be able to track them down! These are really stylish and will hopefully come in very handy over the summer!
My Little French Riviera Box Sunglasses

The pair of planters was a slightly more out-there inclusion, but they are pretty cute and will invariably come in handy for something, even if it's nothing plant-based... these could be used to hold any number of small items and extra storage is always needed!

My French Riviera Box Planters
And then for the beauty products! The My Little Boxes usually come with a couple of lifestyle items and a little bag of beauty products to go with them. This month, packed in a sweet seaside-themed cloth bag, are a sea salt scrub from the brands own range, a gorgeous blue nail polish and a Kerastase blow-dry treatment. I don't really blow dry hair but hopefully this will still help keep it in good nick anyway!

Blue Beauty Products French
The nail polish is such a perfect colour, this deep sea shade is right up my street and I can definitely see this adorning my finger nails for many sunshiny days to come!
Loved By Sarah Lavoine Nail Polish
I do love the My Little Box offerings, I think they're such a lovely balance of useful items and that something a little more unexpected, they always put such a smile on my face! You can subscribe here for £11 + postage (£3.95) per month - treat yourself!

18 June 2015

Lucky Dip Club - Vintage Village Fete Box

I've been after one of the Lucky Dip Club boxes for so long now, ever since I saw them on Ally's blog months and months ago. The problem is they go on sale at 7am on the first day of the month and you have to be fast - - and I'm not very fast at 7am! Still, eventually luck and timing and all those things were on my side and I managed to get my hands on a box - and what a box! 

Lucky Dip Club May Box

May's box had a theme of 'Vintage Village Fete' - home made lemonade, tasty ice creams and pretty floral crowns, beautiful for summer days! The box came with an adorable card with these cute sunshiney illustrations....

Lucky Dip Club Village Fete

...and a set of temporary tattoos with the same cheery designs. Little Miss clocked these when I was taking the pictures and I've promised she can coat herself in them to her hearts content once she breaks up from school!

Lucky Dip Club Tattoos

This is the third 'charm of the month', and while it's a shame I've missed the previous two - I'm very pleased to have received this one! Isn't it dreamy? Plus it does come on it's own little chain so I don't need the other charms, I think it's just grand on its own! 

Lucky Dip Club Charm Of The Month

And while we're on cute ice-cream accessories - how gorgeous is this? It's a brooch. That is an ice cream cone. With my name on. I love it! 

Personalised Accessories

The last item is a beauty - this stunning May Day floral crown from Crown and Glory. I remember wanting one of their pretty products years ago and now I have one, woo! 

Crown and Glory Lucky Dip Club

Though once again I think I might have a little competition for it - and it probably suits the little lady more than it does me.

Flower headband crown and glory

Maybe I should get her her own subscription! I'd have to be quick to get another one though!!

If you fancy one yourself, and are ready to set your alarm for it, you can grab one here - It's £20 for a one-off box, or £15 a month if you bag yourself a subscription!

17 June 2015

Smelling Sweet with Ted Baker

On my holiday to Wales earlier in the year, I didn't take any beauty products. Not one. No make up, no cleanser, nothing. This was not me refusing to bow to the pressures of a patriarchal society, or deciding to have a 'week off' from being my usual polished and primped self (shush you!), it's just that I packed everything like that into one bag - and forgot to take it.
Sugar Sweet Ted Baker
After surviving a whole week on a pack of face wipes, a cheap supermarket shower gel and a hand cream I stole off Simone, I was determined my next holiday would be spend in a haze of perfectly pampering products, and when I saw the new Sugar Sweet range from Ted Baker I knew I had found the ones!
Violet bath products

Yup, after my week of family-friendly basics, I wanted something luxurious, something indulgent, and mostly, something girly, something sweetly scented and pretty. I couldn't really have asked for more!

Rose Gold Bath

As well as the beautiful packaging - beautiful blooms on a soft mint green background with elegant rose gold accents - the scent is scrumptious. The Fruity Floral Mint range has top notes of violet (pretty much my favourite scent, ever), with a sweet vanilla, patchouli and amber base. There is a Soft Floral Pink version, with jasmine and neroli on a base of patchouli, sandalwood and musk that sounds pretty delightful too, but I was drawn more strongly to the violety minty ones!

Rose Gold Body Spray
The body wash was great for a hot holiday, cutting through sun cream, sweat and swimming-residue equally and leaving me feeling fresh and clean (something of a miracle in those high temperatures I'm just not used to!) 
The body spray is truly a hero product - as fresh and sweet as the body wash, but with the convenience of being able to chuck it in my bag for an on-the-go spritz. I've basically lived in a cloud of this since then too, and have barely made a dint in it, making it excellent value for it's £7 price tag.
Violet Ted Baker
These are not the only products in the collection either - there's a body soufflĂ© and bath bubbles that I need to get my hands on, amongst others - definitely all you need for a luxurious summer! The range should be easy to track down too, as it's all available in Boots!
* PR items sent for review

12 June 2015

Road Trippin'

I was asked recently about road trips and my first reaction was 'hells yes, I love me a road trip!'.... but the more thought of it I realised that it's not necessarily true. I really like going places, I don't always like the actual getting there!

road trips

I'm not a natural driver - evidenced by the number of times it took me to pass my test (no I'm not telling!), I have no real interest in cars,.... I know they say it's about the journey, not the destination - but whoever said that surely never spend 3 hours stuck on the M62!

I love spending my weekends exploring, but I seem to have my area down to a north-of-Sheffield, south-of-Ripon window. There are a number of places outside this area I would love to visit, but I've been putting them off because I can't quite to commit myself to the drive! 

I lived in Southampton for three years, as it's where I went to Uni - but haven't been back to visit in years and years. When I used to come home for visits I always took the train which wasn't too bad but these days it's hard to justify the train costs for four of us Vs the fuel costs for my teeny car. Would love to re-visit some familiar haunts and see what has changed since I left!

One of the guys at work holidays in Cornwall, twice a year. He's always coming back with beautiful photos, fantastic recommendations, and tales of dreamy cream teas. It looks beautiful.... but it's SO far away!

Fun road trips

A few weeks ago we popped down to Legoland for the weekend - it was a fair old drive but not actually too terrible, and completely worth it for the fun we had, Maybe it is worth leaving my driving comfort zone! Age UK have put together a list of helpful tips for long distance driving for when I next set off to some far-flung destination (and by far flung I mean like Bath, not like Bali).

Where do you recommend I go? 

10 June 2015

Summer Menu at Gusto

On the evening that I'll be telling you about, I had a discussion over dinner about the difference between' eating out' and 'going for a meal'. I eat out a fair bit - quick Nandos before the cinema, pub food while out and about. It's less often I go for a meal - this might involve dressing up a bit, it certainly involves more than one course, and is equally about good company and good food. One of my favourite places to go for a meal is Gusto in Cookridge, Leeds.

Gusto Cookridge Summer Menu

I've been here a few times and was delighted to be invited back to try out their new summer menu. My 'good company' for the evening was my awesome brother, who came with my on my very first visit to the restaurant and was eager to return!

The warm evening and sunlight still pouring in through the windows at the time of our visit left us feeling very summery, so one of the new seasonal cocktails seemed like just the thing. I opted for an Elderflower and Peach Martini (peach puree, elderflower liquour, Grey Goose, lemon and gomme) - doesn't that sound like the most delightfully summery drink ever? It really was too - light and bright and very tasty! Little Bro went for a bottle of Peroni Red, which he enjoyed very much.

Summer Cocktails Leeds

The amazing array of starter options left us with some big decisions to make, and we decided that ordering two that we both liked the sound of and sharing was the best way forward. Out first choice was the Bruschetta with sweet pepper compote and goats cheese. Generally anything with cheese makes me really happy, and this was no exception - the tartness of the goats cheese and the sweetness of the peppers making for a wonderful combination - rich in flavour but still light and fresh.

Gusto Starters Summer

Our second starter was the small sized portion of Oven Baked Gnocchi, with spicy salami, caramelised onion, red pepper and tomato (a number of dishes - pastas, salads etc - are available as both starters and mains). I'd had the other gnocchi dish on a previous visit and it was honestly one of the nicest things I've ever eaten so I definitely wanted to give this one a go. While I didn't love this one quite as much as a stand alone dish, it couldn't have been more perfect to share alongside the bruschetta. Be warned though, that spicy salami really does have a bit of a kick to it, you might want to make sure you have a drink handy!

Gusto Leed Gnocchi
After sharing the first course, we headed our separate ways for the main courses - he chose the summery sounding White Crab, Chilli, Garlic and Fresh Lemon Spaghetti. My general dislike of seafood meant I pretty much left him to this one, but it sounds like a perfect selection of flavours for a light meal on a hot day - there's something about this dish that screams 'al fresco dining by the sea'. He did make a point of saying how perfectly cooked the pasta was though - I think his exact phrase was 'bob on'...

Summer Dining Leeds

My main was the Pan Fried Chicken Breast, with spiced lentils, 'nduja salami, and tomato dressing. I would have usually considered spiced lentils as more of a winter dish than a summer one, but as I'm far from an expert I thought I'd bow to the superior knowledge of the folk who put the menu together and to our lovely waitress who recommended this dish highly. They know what they are talking about! The chicken was glorious - tender and tasty - and the spicy lentils actually worked perfectly.

Gusto Leeds Summer Meals

We had a couple of side dishes too - asparagus with red pepper oil, and baked rosemary and garlic potatoes. This was actually my first experience with asparagus, and having nothing to compare it to can only really say it was 'ok', but then I am a bit rubbish with vegetables! My dining buddy was a fan though and ate the vast majority of our shared portion to himself!

Side dishes gusto cookridge leeds

After this it was nearly time for dessert - but not before another cocktail! This time it was the Grape and Cherry Spritz - fresh grapes, cherry preserve, Ketel One and lemon, topped with Prosecco. This was crisp and refreshing - a great palette-cleanser between courses!

Grape and Cherry Spritz Gusto

Eton Mess is pretty much my ultimate supper dessert so it's usually my first choice if I see any variation of it on a menu. The one available from Gusto at the minute is a gorgeous Strawberry and Passion fruit Mess. This was another taste triumph as far as I'm concerned - the zesty passionfruit giving this English classic a tropical twist!
Gorgeous summer desserts
My brother, who isn't usually must of a dessert person, got all giddy when he read the words 'Flaming Baked Alaska' - his dessert was doused in rum before being set alight. Unfortunately you can't see the flames in any of the pictures but it was pretty dramatic when done right in front of us! I pinched a bit of the gooey meringue, which was delicious, and the rest of it seemed to go down a storm with the guy with no sweet tooth.

Rum soaked dessert

Another amazing meal at Gusto that has only helped cement this as one of my 'going for a meal' go-to spots! Special mention goes to the starters - unusually, my favourite course of the evening, thought to be fair it was all pretty brilliant! I definitely hope to get back and try a few more dishes (and cocktails!) before the menu changes again, but I have faith that the next seasonal shift will be just as impressive!

*Meal provided free of charge in return for review.

8 June 2015

Holiday Packing with George

Since I'm massively disorganised, I'm finding myself with a list of 'before I go on holiday' posts to write retrospectively now that I'm back! My last minute panicking about where I was actually heading to meant that I didn't have my clothes in order long before heading off (for those interested, the passport did turn up, phew!) but thankfully some new arrivals from George made my decision making easier!
george asda

You may recognise the extremely summery print from this post when I rambled on about how much I loved the dress. In a surprise move (a surprise to me at least) I actually decided I needed the skirt more (as my wardrobe already consists of mainly dresses, so I don't actually have anything to wear tops with!) It has the same gorgeous print and holiday feel as the dress, but pairing it with the equally sunny t-shirt means it's easier to keep delicate shoulders out of the sun!
yellow blue outfit
The only problem with the T-shirt is I apparently don't own a single bra that isn't complexly visible through it, so for that reason (amongst others) there's no holiday outfit pictures - but by some miracle of sunlight I managed to hide it on a recent day in the park - so you at least get an idea for what I was going for!

summer outfits

A bargain at only £8, this stripy dress is an absolute gem - perfect for lazy sunny days as its so comfortable and relaxed. Teamed with the long cardigan to fend off any chill it's also perfect for less exotic UK days out, like this one to Bradford's Industrial Museum.

 george asda dress stripes
Speaking of chilly days, my favourite thing about this Lemon Print Dress is how easily it can be worn with tights, boots and a cardigan on cooler days as well as on its own for a more summery look. Actually, I lie - my favourite thing about it is how cute it is, but the other thing is a bonus!
lemon clutch bag
Big thanks to go the lovely folk at George for taking the hard work out of holiday packing - they really do have amazing things for every situation! I have another holiday coming up soon so I will make sure I keep an eye on their New In section to get me kitted out!

* Promotional items provided free of charge