Sam Pearce BBC Breakfast interview

Sam Pearce of the multi-award winning Eastthorpe Hall and The Potting Shed Spa talks to BBC Breakfast about the importance of customer service.

Don’t Forget the Pancakes….

As you may have noticed, there’s a very special day coming up soon,.. an annual celebration, special to the hearts of folk across the nation. No not Valentines Day, Valentines Day is stupid. This is something way more important, something much more worthy of celebrating,… something a lot tastier!

I do have a terrible confession though. Much as I love pancakes,.. I can’t make them. I do ok with pretty much every other kind of cake… but my pancake attempts are always horrific. So much so that I invariably make an excuse to visit my dad on pancake day, so I can bury myself in his perfectly round, perfectly light, perfectly treacle-covered creations!

There’s nothing more likely to encourage me to practice, practice, practice like a new kitchen gadget though, and I was determined to hone my pancake-making skills in good time for this years big day!

The Breville Traditional Crepe Maker is actually brilliant for idiots like me that can’t work their way around a simple frying pan. The crepe maker is essentially a heated non-stick plate, with a small rim so that -in most cases! – you can contain the pancake batter in a tidy fashion. It also comes with a wooden ‘t-stick’ spreader for full and even coverage across the plate. Just pour the pancake mix onto the heated plate and leave to cook for a couple of minutes before flipping over to cook on the other side.

I know that if I can manage this, there should be no good reason why I cant do exactly the same thing in a frying pan. But I can’t. I don’t know if its the pressure of being expected to do fancy flips or what, but I’ve never managed to make a half way decent looking pancake before. Just a couple of practice runs on this and I had things that actually looked and tasted like pancakes!

Once I’d managed the perfect pancake (or, if not quite perfect yet – at least cooked and round-ish), ’twas time to top it. I’m usually a golden syrup girl through and through but I’d got through so much of the stuff on my ‘practice rounds’ that I just couldn’t face anymore – so out came the gorgeous lemon squeezer and sugar shaker from the At Home with Ashley Thomas range (available at Debenhams).

There’s a lot more that can be made with the Breville Crepe maker than just pancakes – it comes with a recipe book full of great omelette suggestions, and I have all my ingredients ready for tonight’s quesadillas – but mainly I’m just overjoyed at the prospect of putting together a great pancake feast on Tuesday for the kids (from whom I like to believe I’ve so far kept my shameful failures a secret!)

Now I just need all your best filling ideas!

*Items provided free of charge to help me develop basic life skills.

Milkshakes and Waffles at Rakkaposhi, Bradford

As a sweet lover, it’s not escaped my attention that new dessert cafes and ice cream parlours are popping up in Bradford faster than I can count. As a ‘responsible parent’, on the other hand, it’s not often I can justify going our for just dessert. On occasion,… exceptions have to be made!

Despite the near limitless choice for such tasty treats in my hometown these days, ’twas Rakkaposhi that we headed to for refreshment. Not only had they been tempting my with photos of their amazing milkshakes on twitter all week, but it’s conveniently located just behind Cineworld, making it an easy post-movie stop off! (Only a stones throw from the Broadway shopping centre too, for refuelling after those exhausting shopping trips!)

The place is a sugar-lovers dream, with very little in the way of ‘real’ food to speak of – no sandwiches, no chips, not a toastie in sight. Instead the menu is full of thick creamy milkshakes, luxurious sounding ice cream sundaes and generously topped waffles. The closest thing they have to ‘savoury’ on there is the range of herbal teas!

And while I’m not usually one to turn down tea, it’s the milkshakes that had got me excited about my visit so it was naturally where I looked first – quickly settling on a ‘Billionaire Shake’ made up of Ferrero Rocher and stracciatella ice creams, Ferrero Rocher chunks, milk chocolate and caramel sauces, and topped with a very healthy (or unhealthy, depending on which way you look at it) serving of cream and hazelnut sprinkles!

It was every bit as delicious and indulgent as it sounds, and worked perfectly as a refreshing beverage and decadent dessert – it would definitely been a struggle to finish this alongside anything else on the menu!

Thankfully my young companion was more than willing to ‘take one for the team’ and eyed up the arriving waffle with glee! No wonder either, the piles of fresh cream, mini marshmallows, chocolate sauce and pretty sprinkles would surely appeal to the child in all of us. Now, I know I just said that I’d have struggled to finish a full dessert along with my milkshake, but there’s always room for ‘testers’, and I did have to have a little forkful to report back on the dense, gooey texture of this unusual but delicious waffle (handmade in store!) Just a forkful though!

As well as it’s handy location, Rakkaposhi is open late (’til midnight on Friday and Saturday, 10pm other nights) making it so much easier to find a time to visit! You can find the full menu on their webpage, and can follow them on twitter here, but make sure you are prepared for the mouth-watering pictures you may find!

The Potting Shed Spa

If you saw Hayley’s review on Tea Party Beauty last week, then you’ll already be aware of, and excited about, The Potting Shed Spa. Even before Hayley’s post went up I’d been won over by her cute twitter pictures and warm words of praise and was eager to check out the adorable looking gardening-themed spa for myself. After a particularly traumatic morning at work I threw myself at their mercy and they kindly managed to squeeze me in last week!

I was more in need of an hour of quiet and relaxation than I was any particular treatment so allowed myself to be guided in the direction of the Deluxe Pedicure – an hours worth of soaking, filing, massaging and polishing for my feet, with a bonus scalp massage – sounded perfect!

I arrived at the spa in Batley, West Yorkshire ready for my appointment, and was so excited to have a good look around – this place is amazing, stunning, beautiful, extraordinary… there’s just not enough words! Instead of cold and sterile, like I imagine many spas to be, this place was so welcoming, so warm and cosy that I felt right at home in no time. To aid my general feeling of well-being, I was swiftly offered a cup of tea – always a good thing to happen – and soon found myself in my comfy, hot-water-bottles chair with a hot mug of The Potting Shed’s signature lemon ginger and honey tea. It’d be worth a return visit just for this sweet and soothing concoction!

I was pointed in the right direction of an impressively huge collection of available polishes. I’m useless so forgot to actually take note of my selected shade but it was a lovely shiny purpley Essie polish that’s still looking shiny and new a good week and a bit later!

The manicure was exquisite – the lovely therapist even managed to work around my ticklish toes without getting cross with me for squirming (or if she did, she hid it well!), she was an absolute gem and I wanted to take her home, especially when she did my scalp massage, oh my, it was heaven!

I never wanted it to be time to leave, so it was really nice that after my hour was up I didn’t have to vacate my cosy seat straight away, I had time to ‘come round’ a bit into the real world and let my prettily painted tootsies dry off. It was nice to not feel like I was being booted out once my paid-for time over was up – just another small addition to the welcoming and relaxing atmosphere of the place.

Still reluctant to be on my way, I gratefully accepted a mini-tour around the rest of the spa – a quick peek into the treatment rooms has definitely increased my interest in spending some quality time in one on my next visit (because there will be a next visit!). In fact there are so many amazing sounding treatments that it’s hard to know what I want next – you can see their treatment list here and I’m sure you’ll be able to understand the conflict I have! Plus how cute are some of the treatment names and descriptions? They make the, er… ‘landscaping’ of the ‘lady garden’ sound as pleasant and painless as tea on the lawn!

It’s these cute details, as well as the care and attention that has gone into the design and decoration of The Potting Shed spa that make it such a unique and special place. And something this unique and special is bound to gather a great deal of attention, as demonstrated by the large amount of awards this place has picked up. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if you look at it that way I suppose you could argue that the owner of this fab little place should be pleased that it appears competitors are,… well, we’ll go with ‘borrowing heavily from their aesthetic’ (though I’m not sure how welcome this form of flattery is!), but while people can replicate an idea or a look, that passion to create something original and new is not something that can be faked or forced. It’s that passion, that deep desire to provide a really special and unique experience, rather than the gnomes and watering cans, that really make The Potting Shed Spa the outstanding place that it is. Though I do also really like the gnomes. . .

I definitely plan to get back here as soon as possible – next time I just want to book in for the whole day but I’m not sure that’s even vaguely practical! I’m sure the odd hour two will go down nicely though!

You can say hello on twitter and on facebook, and any other details you might want -including a handy online booking system – on the website. If you are anywhere nearby though, I definitely recommend getting yourself booked in as soon as possible!

The Judges Lodgings, York

Last year, on one of my ventures into York, we’d called into Judges Lodgings for food and had been very impressed with the delicious food as well as the cheery service and atmospheric venue.

It was with great sadness then that on my last few visits to the city The Judges Lodgings were closed for refurbishment.

But thankfully, refurbishments don’t take forever, and all the new works have been completed! I learnt that last weekend would not only give me my first opportunity to visit, but that to celebrate their grand re-opening there was also 50% off food! It was all the excuse I needed to head on over.

The place is looking lovely for its new makeover – not lost any of its old Yorkshire charm but is looking distinctly lighter and brighter. Little miss was hugely impressed with the doggy cushions and I think one or two of these from empty tables might have found their way to our seating area (apologies to whoever had to put these back in the right place after we left!)

A selection of board games was a nice touch, giving the kids (and adults!) plenty of distracting entertainment while we waited for our food. A very tense connect four tournament ensued!

We visited on a Sunday which was a smooth move as it meant a Sunday Roast was available in addition to the regular menu items. I couldn’t resist the pull of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and ordered myself one of these. It was completely amazing. The beef was up there with the best I’ve ever had – so juicy and tender, it was an absolute joy. The crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside roast potatoes were just as impressive, and I don’t think I’ve ever meat a Yorkshire pudding I didn’t enjoy!

Little miss got a kids version of the roast dinner (though it came with a full-sized Yorkshire pudding that she refused to share!) and we got a generous amount of vegetables to share between us. I didn’t get a look in with the cauliflower cheese as the kids devoured it between them in no time. I was left all the green beans though!

Being newly-opened, they hadn’t quite got their children’s menu organised when we called in, but were happy to provide child-size portions of any of the main menu dishes. Little miss polished off all her dinner in no time, and the little fella seemed to enjoy his fish and chips just as much. We also had a adult-sized gammon which I am assured was amazing too!

I’m always excited by dessert though, and after everyone I was with quickly declared they were having the Sticky Toffee Pudding I thought I’d be the odd one out and try something different. In the end it had to be the Strawberry Daiquiri Eton Mess – strawberries infused with Bacardi and lime with meringue and whipped cream. Once again, amazing. It was so sweet and creamy that I struggled to finish it all – but somehow I soldiered on! It was very special and delicious!

I can gather from the smiling faces and empty bowls that the sticky toffee pudding went down very well too!

I’m really glad to have this place back on York’s food scene. They also offer rooms if anyone is looking for somewhere to stay in York, it’s right in the center and I can only imagine how good the included breakfast would be!

The Judges Lodgings is one of Thwaites Inns Of Character – you can find details of their other inns here, and I’ll look forward to visiting some of the others in the future if any of this one is anything to go by!

Cross View Tea Rooms, Richmond

A couple of weeks ago we found ourselves in Richmond, where I was able to manage another tea place of my Yorkshire Tea Trail list (convenient, no?) It was a surprisingly busy Sunday afternoon and we were lucky the Cross View Restaurant & Tea Rooms could squeeze us in on the promise we ate quickly, as the table was booked for not long after!

It deed seem like a popular place indeed, though it was quickly apparent why – as well as a tasty and good-value menu, the place was adorable and the staff impeccably lovely, always taking time out to chat to the (mostly older) customers despite being busy – I can imagine this in itself is a large reason for many local repeat visits! I particularly liked the inclusion of the list of local suppliers on the back of the menu so you know where everything has come from!

First things first so once we settled down into out seats we ordered a nice big pot of tea to drink while perusing the menu! The menu covers small snacks and sandwiches as well as full meals. My tea-buddy had already set his heart on gammon but I knew I wanted something cakey and wasn’t sure I’d appreciate it after a big meal like that,..

..So I just ordered a cheese and ham baguette, which came with chips and salad. It was plenty big though! Not that I’m at all complaining as it was completely delicious – warm (as you can tell by the melted cheese!) and crusty and full of the juiciest ham and tastiest cheese.

The chips were grand too, just a little handful as a nice accompaniment. I’m terrible at eating the side salads though – I do actually really like salad but I’m not keep on coleslaw or any kind of salad dressing which you nearly always get all over everything. I really should remember to ask for it without the gloopy extras but I never think of it ’til it’s too late!

T’other half was very happy with his gammon, and the little taster I managed to pinch confirmed that it was indeed lovely! He reckons this is one of his favourite places that we’ve visited on the trail so far!

Obviously I needed to finish mine off with a sweet treat, and went for just a classic plain scone with jam and cream (as I remember there was some sort of deal with the tea!), but I was spoiled for choice really . . . they had at least 3 or 4 different kinds of scone alone to choose from! I suppose my ‘plain’ one was probably a fairly boring choice when I could have had one of the grand looking raspberry or cherry ones, but I still thought it was ace! I’m also pretty sure all the scones were Gluten Free too, which I know can be a bit of a deal breaker for many folk!

As well as the scones though there was an absolute wealth of choice in the cake display, definitely something to please everyone!

And we did manage to get everything ordered, cooked, eaten and paid for before the pre-booked table arrived too, so a happy ending for all!

I’d happily recommend a visit to the Cross View Tea Rooms if you are in the area (which you should make sure you are sometime, Richmond is lovely!), but if could be helpful to book in advance!

Afternoon Tea, Malmaison Leeds

It’s not often this year I’ve made time for afternoon tea at places not on the Yorkshire Tea Trail list that I’ve promised myself I’d complete…. but I don’t want to ignore some of the other wonderful tea places the region has to offer. When I saw a deal come up for tea at the Malmaison Hotel in Leeds on Livingsocial it seemed like a great opportunity to drag a couple of my fave local ladies out for cake!

So one wet and windy day a couple of weeks ago I met up with Hayley, Michelle and Jess and we headed to the hotels elegant Brasserie to eat, drink, and be merry!

There were a couple of different options available when booking the deal, and we opted for the fancier version – a glass of champagne each to accompany our afternoon tea!

It wasn’t long before the gorgeous slate cake stands carrying our goodies were brought over – and I was very excited to see the fairly hefty-sized choux buns, mmmm! But obviously, being good girls, we ate the sandwiches first!

The sandwich selection was egg mayonnaise, smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber, and ham. I can only speak for the latter two, as I’ve mentioned before my dislike for both salmon and egg mayonnaise (which of course you always seem to get with these things!), but the ones I had were really good.

The low lighting, while very pretty and atmospheric, did cause a slight problem when it came to sandwich identification – I’ll never forget the look on poor Hayley’s face when she realised the ham sandwich she’d taken a bite of was actually salmon – looks like I’m not the only one not keen on it!

The scones were adorable . . . which is my friendly way of saying they were tiny. They were really good though, a perfect sconey consistency and texture,.. just ‘petite’. I’d have been more bothered by this is we weren’t all stuffed by the end of the session but as it was I don’t think we quite finished everything so really can’t complain! The amount of clotted cream we were given wasn’t what I’d call generous either though…

But soon enough it was time for the cakes! Always my favourite part, and this little selection didn’t disappoint! There were two of the little brownie fingers each (more than enough to make up for mini-scones!) and they were rich, moist and delicious! I’m not quite sure what the little tart was, some kind of gooey nutty thing? Really good, whatever it is! But as expected when I first saw the stand, it was the chocolatey pile of cream, barely held together by soft sweet choux pastry that was my favourite. It seems almost cheating that you can pretty much make anything amazing by filling it with fresh cream but it works for me!

One of the best things about visiting the Mal for afternoon tea, besides the cream-filled cakes, is the convenient city centre location. I’ve visited a whole bunch of lovely afternoon-tea serving hotels this last six months or so but very few of them would be so easy to get to without access to a car. Definitely one to consider if you fancy a treat in the city!

Ringtons Tea and the Blogger Holiday

It will probably come as no surprise that when we planned the Blogger Holiday, one of my main concerns was making sure we had a good source of tea.

Thankfully the lovely folk at Ringtons kindly sent us not only a fab stash of teabags, but some amazing biscuits to go with – after all, holiday tea isn’t really holiday tea without biscuits!

When I went to go make the first pot of the weekend, I noticed that the Ringtons packet said the contents were ‘two cup tea bags’, so I thought I’d test this claim by just using three bags in our six-cup pot. I can only say that I was hugely impressed by the result which was tasty and delicious – it certainly didn’t feel like I’d been tight with the tea!

It probably goes without saying that the biscuits went down very well, but I’ll say it anyway! We received a great little selection of Ginger Snaps, Triple Chocolate Cookies and Rhubarb Crumble Cookies, that were all delicious – and I don’t even like rhubarb! Sadly the chocolatey ones vanished all too quickly, but we managed to keep some of the ginger snaps about all the way to Sunday evening where they made a tasty addition to our home made sundaes!

The idea was to have a big afternoon tea party one afternoon but though we meant well I don’t think we were ever that organised! Despite all the baking stuff we took wit us I only managed to cobble together one semi-respectable cake (covered in strawberries and cream to disguise the burnt bits shhhhhh!) but can try again next time!

There’s a huge range of teas, coffees, biscuits and other yummy things available from Ringtons and they deliver right to your door! I think I’m going to want one goody boxes every time I go away!

Tea at Lewis and Cooper, Northallerton

After a mini-panic the other week about haw far behind I had fallen on the tea trail, I figured I needed to get my skates on so I pulled out the map to see what took my fancy! I spotted a little cluster of tea spots in Northallerton and, being unfamiliar with the town, thought I’d just head up and see which I came to first!

The first one I came across was Lewis and Cooper, and I was so excited by the prospect of the little tea room upstairs that I even managed to walk past all the delights on display in the downstairs Deli! (The same can not be said for my way out, where I couldn’t bring myself to leave without at least picking up a thing or two!)

I obviously opted for a nice pot of tea – which came with extra hot water for topping up, as well as frequent offers of a fresh pot but I had more than enough to be going on with! I figured since we got there about lunch time I should actually have some proper food instead of just diving straight on in with the cake! I was tempted by the ‘Yorkshire Rabbit’ – an absolutely dreamy concoction of local cheese and other good stuff melted on a toasted muffin. Simple pleasures are often the best and this was a taste sensation, strong and tangy and just a little bit spicy. There’s also the option of having this with bacon which I reckon would be pretty amazing! I also love the fact that I was asked if I wanted any dressing on my salad, instead of them just loading it on regardless. I love a nice fresh salad but I’m really not into dressings and sauces and creams, so it was grand to have the opportunity to eat this unencumbered with unnecessary extras!

The cake selection was amazing – but for me it had to be the Honey and Lavender cake! Huge as it was delicious, dense and moist and served with a little pot of cream on the side. This took some eating after the ‘Rabbit’, but I’m not one to be beaten by cake! Fortunately for me, my tea-companion for the day was so I also got a good taste of the White Chocolate Orange cake at Lewis and Cooper too. This again was really tasty, the sponge itself lighter than my one, but with icing so deliciously sweet that I think I might have struggled to finish the whole thing too – one slice of this to share would be pretty spot on though!

If you are ever in Northallerton I can heartily recommend popping into Lewis & Cooper, and if you can’t make it to the tea room you can always say hello on twitter or treat yourself to some yummy bits from the store!

Soap and Glory’s Girl-O-Whirl and a post-Christmas Giveaway!

A combination of a huge enthusiasm for Christmas and an entire lack of organisation means it’s not totally uncommon for me to buy too many presents. Since most of these are for the kids.. they just receive far too much and are more than happy to do so. But this year I have a present without a home so was wondering if one of you lovely lot wanted to give it one?

The gift in question is the Soap and Glory mega make up set Girl-O-Whirl and not only did these already get distributed to many on my Christmas list but I might have got myself one too…

Anyway, here’s what’s in it!

A closer look, for those interested, reveals six eyeshadows, which I have photographed and swatched very badly:

From left to right we have Minky, Dandy Plum, Black Gold, Vanilla, Wild Blue, and Smokin’ – you can’t really see much of Vanilla, it is there honest, its just the same colour as my winter skin! Minky and Dandy Plum are both quite gorgeous and are likely to become my most used shades.

There’s also six lip glosses that I’ve done an equally poor job of photographing:

Here we have, from left to right, Naked Beige, Guava Rama, Red My Lips, Missing Pink, Perfect Day and Man Trap.

Also in the pack is a Glow All Out Luminizing Face Powder (real pretty lookin’!)…

…. a Solar Powder Multi Shade Bronzer…

….. a Thick and Fast Mascara, and a Sexy Mother Pucker Gloss Stick in Nudest. Oh, and little brushes for the lip and eye stuff! A very busy box!

All the swatches and smudges are from mine by the way, not the one I’m giving away so if you win you get a nice clean unsullied one, I promise!

At the minute you can pick these sets up in Boots for £20, that’s half the RRP, or by sticking your details in the Rafflecopter below and keeping your fingers crossed!