29 October 2015

Turtle Bay, Huddersfield

I'll admit that when I think of Caribbean food, the fist place that springs to mind isn't Huddersfield. In fact, it's probably safe to say that the Yorkshire town wouldn't have made it into my top ten. But I'm always happy to be proven wrong, and so with an open mind and an empty stomach I popped along to nosy round Huddersfield's newest exciting food spot, Turtle Bay.

If you aren't already familiar with Turtle Bay, I'm sure its only a matter of time. Though it's been a few years since the first branch opened, the slow and steady drip of new restaurants has turned into a wave of openings nationwide. This new Huddersfield branch follows a recent opening in York, and comes before an upcoming arrival in Leeds.

Despite the new residents only getting the keys to the building the day before our visit, they'd done a bang-up job of making the place homely. Though unfamiliar with the building in its previous incarnation, I was assured by those more familiar with the place that the transformation was incredible - the place is warm, colourful and full of character, with an effortlessly cool, laid-back Caribbean vibe.

To go along with that laid back Caribbean vibe is a very impressive list of laid back Caribbean cocktails to try! I spent my evening happily sipping the Reggae Rum Punch, but there's going to be so many more available and all on a 2-for1 happy hour between 11.30-7pm and 10pm-close every day! If that's not enough,  the impressive array of Rum varieties available should convince anyone this is a top spot to do some drinking!

We were lucky to meet Turtle Bay's Development Chef, Colin (that's the guy who comes up with all the scrummy recipes!) who was happy to tell us about origin of the restaurant, explain the development of the recipes, and show us some of the special ingredients used to make the food so darn tasty! It was a lovely experience to hear first hand about how much thought goes into each of the dishes, even if he did make a few of us a little nervous with his tales of excess chillies!

Not too nervous, thankfully, to actually try some of the  beautiful food that's going to be available from Turtle Bay. When I told people I was going to be spending my evening at a Caribbean restaurant the one dish mentioned most by jealous people was Curried Goat, so I was pretty excited that this was on our evening's menu - especially being a goat virgin (as it were). Goat is super lean and very tasty, but not something you commonly find served in restaurants. In fact, Turtle Bay are the only place serving this particular meat on the high street, so you know you are in for something a bit special.

There's definitely a reason this is one of the chains top-selling dishes, it was absolutely sublime. Hot, but make-you-feel-all-warm-and-fuzzy hot rather than melt-your-face-off hot. This will definitely not be the last time I eat it!

The other biggest seller at Turtle Bay, the thing I was most excited about trying, is their amazing Jerk Chicken. The chicken is marinated for a good 24 hours before being grilled to spicy perfection. The goat curry was hot, but this was HOT! My lips were tingling and my tongue burning and I couldn't get enough of it!

There was dessert too, in the form of an amazing rum cake and coconut ice cream. This was so good I didn't even remember to take pictures before I'd devoured the lot!

We were even given a lovely basket of sauces to take home, to help replicate that Turtle Bay feeling. These are the exact same sauces you'll find as part of your on-table condiments in the restaurant, and they're all rather brilliant (though that Aunt May's Bajan Pepper Sauce is NOT for the faint-hearted!) Sadly my cooking skills aren't quite up to scratch to I might stick to Turtle Bay for Caribbean food, and keep the sauces for spicing up my more pedestrian kitchen efforts (which means I'll just dip my oven chips in them,....)

Turtle Bay opens on King Street in  Huddersfield this Friday (30th October!) and looks like it'll be a great addition to the city. I heartily recommend a visit if you are at all local, and if you aren't then it can't be too long now until there is one near you - be excited!

24 October 2015

Degustabox September 2015

 I know I say this every month, but this latest Degustabox delivery is a doozy!

My favourite things in these boxes are usually the sweet treats, and this one was no exception. I was very giddy to come across the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, these things are magical! I'd generally champion British chocolate over American any day of the week, but that all changes when peanut butter is involved - its an area sadly lacking in our nations output (ooh unless you count the peanut butter chunky kit-kats which are, frankly, marvellous!), but it's always lovely to come across!

The raspberry marshmallows from Mallow and Marsh were the first things to be polished off from the box. I LOVE marshmallows and these were really delicious, denser that the supermarket variety but still light and fluffy. One of the guys at work loved his taster so much that he ordered a whole bunch more!

With chewy sweets, it's always the black ones that are the best - with the red ones not too far behind (though I reckon special mention goes to the greens, but that's beside the point!) so these packets of Maynards Wine Gums and Bassetts Jelly Babies are brilliant!

It's nice to be able to completely avoid the rubbish orange ones!

Olive Oil is a great kitchen staple and I've already got a couple of uses about of this bottle from The Olive Shop, one of this months 'Degustabox Discoveries', and I'm sure I'll get many many more before the bottle is done with!

I'm not historically a cider drinker, but then the best things about these boxes are that they give you the chance to try things you wouldn't usually go for. So in the spirit of adventure, I opened up the pear one last night can confirm that this is indeed, good cider!
The Kents Kitchen Posh Noodles were my lunch yesterday - at only 242 calories a pot, and super easy to make, these make a very handy office meal. The flavour was a little lacking for me - if something says spicy on it I want it to be spicy - but they were grand quality, none of that horrible powdery taste or anything!

While I don't think there's a real substitute for a 'proper' breakfast (one you eat rather than drink!), sometimes these things just aren't practical and it's nice to have a convenient back up! These 'Up and Go' breakfast drinks are actually pretty nice, as well as being filled with protein, fibre and wholegrain oats so definitely make a decent alternative!

I'm pretty tired,... like all the time. Anything that can give me more energy sounds brilliant! The Complete Energy Bites are supposed to increase endurance, alertness and energy. I'm supposed to be in training this month (more on that later!) so these could hopefully give me a bit of a much needed boost!
You know I love tea. I do generally like my tea hot, but as I said earlier, it's nice to get these boxes to try new things! The Sweet Sally American Southern Tea was definitely intriguing. I adore the lovely label, and the tea was interesting - there was something about it that reminded me of apple pie? - but it's not something Id buy a lot. I guess I just like my tea more 'English' than 'American!

A Degustabox subscription will set you back £12.99 a month, a heck of a bargain since the value of the products inside is always more than this, and some of them would be tricky to track down! for an extra good bargain, you can enter the code BLDEG15 to save a whopping £6 off your first box - there's really no reason not to!

21 October 2015

Making ASPACE your own

It's always around this time of year that my mind turns to decorating the house. I think it's because the worsening weather means my usual preferred weekend adventures become a little more... well, cold and damp. Not only does that give me more time in the house to actually get stuff done, but spending more time in the house makes me realise how much there is to do!

Take my son's room, for example. The boy is just shy of 10, and it was only this morning I realised he still has Mickey Mouse on his wall. That means the picture, something that is relatively easy to remove and replace, is out of fashion by a good five years or so. As you can imagine, we have trouble fitting a lot of his big clothes into his baby drawers! Yup, much as I'd love a nice fresh room myself, I think the big lad with the little boy's room definitely gets first priority!

I set the young chap a challenge to design his ideal room, so I had some ideas of what to work from, and this is what he came up with:

It's surprisingly a lot more realistic than I'd feared - some of the ideas he came up with while describing what he wanted really had me worried! I don't know if his imagination was tamed by his artistic ability, or if he figured that if he didn't go too crazy he might have more chance of getting it how he wanted!

Unfortunately I think creating this room exactly as it is here - lack of space in the tiny room is a bigger problem than some of the actual ideas themselves! I have, however, been browsing the accessories from ASPACE to find a few bits and pieces that can help update his room without me having to completey move house!

They have some GREAT things, but my absolute favourite were the Marvel Superhero art deco style wall canvas pictures*. There's a whole range of them and it would be awesome to have the full set but we started at the beginning with the First Avenger, Captain America. These are so handsome that I'd definitely have them on my own walls if I could get away with it, but they'll look great on my son's wall. They're pretty big (as you can see, roughy vampire-sized!) so one will definitely make a big impact on the look of the walls!

We will get working on swapping out the baby furniture soon, but for now at least we can ditch Mickey Mouse! 

* Item sent free of charge.

18 October 2015

Afternoon Tea at the Bradford Hotel

The ongoing search for Afternoon Tea has given me a great excuse to spend as much time exploring this wonderful county of Yorkshire as possible, but sometimes .. sometimes you don't want to go searching out Afternoon Tea, sometimes you want to pop somewhere nearby to gorge yourself on tea and cake, so you can head straight home for a post-treat nap. Not just me, surely?

Anyway, with such lazy-afternoon thoughts in my head, I pointed my way in the direction of The Bradford Hotel to check out their tea offerings. I've not set foot inside this place since it's  Hilton days - I used to go down all starry-eyed for their semi-regular Bradford Bulls events when I was a youngster. I probably wouldn't have even thought of it as a place for afternoon tea had I not spotted it on Groupon, but once I knew it was an option it made sense to head on down at the next opportunity!

It seems like we weren't alone in not thinking of The Bradford Hotel or mid-afternoon treats - despite visiting on a Saturday afternoon, we were alone in the restaurant. It's not a bad-looking set up at all, and the charming gent serving us was a real gem, so its a shame the atmosphere was lacking a little (though the decision to have the TV on in the background did strike me as a little odd in terms of creating ambience!)

But let's not worry about that too much, on to the tea! The sandwich section was fairly steady away in terms of fillings (cheese & pickle, ham, egg mayonnaise and tuna mayonnaise), but they were plentiful - two of each filling apiece for the pair of us was much more generous than I'm used to! These were fine, but lets face it - the sandwiches are always the least interesting part of an afternoon tea!

No, the cake layer is much more interesting! We were presented with a mini Victorian sponge, cream-filled chocolate cake, and a delightfully moist and flavoursome carrot cake. Though there was nothing particularly ground-breaking in terms of inspiration here, each of the cakes were just really really well done (which is much more important!)

The éclair was my favourite - SO MUCH CREAM! - and the carrot cake won over the Mr who had previously declared that carrot cake was 'just wrong'. Fortunately he didn't actually realise what he  was eating until he announced it to be delicious, and had no choice but to admit how wrong he'd been!
Sadly, the good news couldn't continue with the scones that were just painfully dry. I know I'm a bit of  a scone fusspot, but the generally more forging mr agreed - these were quite difficult to eat, even with lashings of jam and cream, and washed down with gallons of (or at least a cup of) tea. It's a real shame, but edible scones is definitely a deal-breaker for me!
Overall, this was an afternoon tea with good points and bad points.... honestly, if I were to recommend a Bradford city centre afternoon tea to anyone, I'd suggest the one at the Great Victoria instead. But that cake plate was good enough for me to not write this place off altogether, and I'd definitely consider a re-visit in the future!

11 October 2015

Intergalactic Bathing with Lush

It's been a while since I've done a bath post, as I've been working through a cupboard of old favourites with very little new to say.  At the recent Hull Bloggers Event though, I finally managed to get my hands on a couple of the new Lush products and I did promise that I'd give them a little write up as I went through them, so here we are!

The ladies from Lush Hull who were running the stall on the day had a few of the new bath bombs for sale on the day, but I'd limited myself to just one and it didn't take me long to settle on Intergalactic. Why this one, you wonder?

One of the lovely lushy ladies informed me that the scent of this bath bomb was based around the imagined scent of Guardian's of the Galaxy's roguish hero Starlord (the ever-delightful Chris Pratt). Now if I'm honest, I don't imagine the cheeky space-defender smells so squeaky clean and minty fresh... but I don't imagine a 'manly sweat bath bomb' would be quite so appealing....

...and I was happy to take the excuse to spend my soak daydreaming about the delectable intergalactic adventurer while surrounding myself with the refreshing aroma of peppermint, with touches of grapefruit, vetivert and cedarwood oils. As well as the gorgeous smell, this sure is a handsome looking product - both in it's dry form as the galaxy-ball, and the twinkly-stars-in-space final effect of it in the water!

I absolutely loved this bath bomb. This was the first occasion in ages that I was really excited about my bath (yes, I do realise how sad that sounds!), and it's really renewed my enthusiasm for sparkly soaks and pretty new products - and has definitely made me want to pick up some more of Lush' newer offerings as soon as possible!

5 October 2015

The Great British High Street Awards - Bradford's North Parade

 I was really proud this week on discovering that Bradford's own North Parade had made the shortlist for the Great British High Street awards, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to show you around!

North Parade has been transformed over the last few years - from an admittedly run-down and pretty empty stretch of road, to the city's coolest place to hang out. A bundle of bold entrepreneurs working hand in hand with the local council have really breathed new life into this end of town and it would be amazing to see them rewarded for their efforts!

I don't think it's too bold a statement to suggest that the opening of The Sparrow four or so years ago marked a real turning point in the fortunes of North Parade, and quickly built a strong reputation for it's friendly atmosphere and fine selection of beers. Those more familiar with our neighbouring city of Leeds may be familiar with it's input via the much loved Bundobust.

The Sparrow is by no means the only place to get a decent drink on North Parade these days, even if it remains my favourite. At the Record Café you can use your ale to wash down a nice meat-and-cheese plate, and pick up vinyl records at the same time. I'm pretty sure they have a very decent gin menu too, if that's more your cup of tea (glass of booze?)

The Beer House always looks plenty busy on a weekend evening but most of my visits have been through the week when it's a little quieter and I can sit down and eat their great food - my favourite Roast Beef in Bradford (don't tell my dad!)

Al's Dime Bar is the opposite - I've never popped in through the week despite promising myself I would, but this place is party central on a Friday or Saturday night and well loved for their amazing cocktails!

Plonk is a relative newcomer to the street and as such I've not actually made it in at all yet, oops! As their name suggests, there's a big wine focus here but I've also heard great things about a Turkish delight cocktail they do, and the meat and cheese boards look divine!

The street's not only for boozing of course! You know I'm more of a tea and cake girl at heart! Forks is pretty special in that it's a non-profit café owned by The Bridge Project (a charity supporting people affected by drug/alcohol dependence), but more importantly it does great baked goods and a mean breakfast!

Feroni's Coffee Shop and Le Café Bleu round out the café options nicely so you are never short of somewhere to eat!

I love Sing Kee's Chinese Supermarket anyway for stocking up on yummy Asian snacks (a nice international addition to the street, along with Latvian and Polish food stores!), but I'm extra excited about it now the sign has gone up for an upcoming bubble tea café in there!

I've never been to Blues Hair Workshop, but a girl I used to work with went here all the time for her hair cutting and styling and she always had the best hair so I imagine it's pretty good! There's a couple of other hair/beauty option on North Parade too, like Halo who also do waxing, facials and make up as well as hair! The street is also where you'll now find Rob's Tattoo Studio.

There's shopping to be done here too - Threads takes care of all your fancy-pants designer menswear, and there's a great camera shop up there too. I like Boyes for craft supplies and random bits and bobs too!  

You can find out more about the Great British High Street Awards here and vote for who you think you should win (no pressure, but Bradford's entry can be found in the 'City Location' category!), then as a reward for your social activism you should head up to North Parade (ok, ok, your own local high street will do if it's too far!) and treat yourself to a drink/cake/pair of shoes or two! 

1 October 2015

Family Day Out at Diggerland

My boyfriend's friends are often slightly bemused at tales of things he's been dragged to in the name of educating and entertaining the young ones. Many a time have I overheard conversations that run a little like "Yo, are you coming the pub this afternoon?" "Can't dude, I'm at an owl sanctuary".... but none of these family-friendly days out have as inspired as much intrigue and wonder as Diggerland!

family things to do in yorkshire
I don't know if it's an ingrained fondness for favourite childhood toys, or just an ingrained refusal to grow up (which I by no means intend as a criticism!), but there is something about a theme park based on heavy construction machinery that really appeals to a large group of grown men, as our trip proved. Thankfully though, it was just as much fun for the actual children!
rides with diggers
Diggerland, for those not familiar with the concept, is exactly what you might expect - a theme park based around diggers. It's as brilliant as it is bonkers.  Rides, such as the Dig-a-round above and the frankly terrifying-looking Spin Dizzy, are made from modified diggers. In other areas the kids get to drive these machines - actual, real, full-sized things, around set tracks.
kids activities diggerland
And in other areas, the diggers are incorporated into games - little madam was most impressed with herself for completing her game of skittles!
skittles diggerland
Somewhat weirdly though perhaps, my son's favourite bit was using the digger for it's intended purpose, and making a massive whole in the ground. The next time he digs a whole on the beach with his little bucket and spade just won't be the same!
castleford days out
We've all been to Diggerland before a couple of years ago, and sometimes it's only when you return to things that you realise how much has changed in the meantime. On our last visit, the little lady couldn't reach a lot of the controls on her own and had to sit on my knee for most things....
stuff at diggerland
... and now she's off driving tractors and operating diggers all on her own! It's amazing how much she's grown... thankfully the young ones still need me to actually drive them to these places so I'm not completely defunct yet.
kid rides a jcb
Though it is nice to know she's not too grown up for some of the 'littler' attractions!
fun things for kids to do
I, on the other hand, am a great big wimp. I already mentioned my fear at the thought of the Spin Dizzy, but as you can see I didn't look much more confident getting on the Ground Shuttle - in which you essentially sit on a platform at the front of one of the machines before being lifted into the air and driven over some very rough terrain! 'Twas a bit bumpy for someone of my nervous disposition but the kids loved it - although they could just as easily have been laughing at me!  
groundshuttle diggerland
And since I braved that I allowed myself to give the Sky Shuttle a miss - this one lifts you straight up in the air for some great views of the park, but I was happy enough to see it via pictures from the safety of the ground!
high up on a ride
view from diggerland skyshuttle
I'll admit that when we first turned up at Diggerland we (the adults at least) thought 'This will be fun for a couple of hours or so, but along with a lunch stop at the on site café and a quick run around the small indoor soft play area, we were there more than five hours - and probably spent no more than half an hour of that total time queuing! Not many similar places you can say that! We had a great day out, and now the Mr gets to be the envy of all his buddies!
(We visited the Castleford/Yorkshire site but you can also find Diggerlands in Devon, Durham and Kent!)
*Tickets provided free of charge.