Sunday 30 December 2012

Magic & Sparkle

So, Christmas was pretty incredible then. Lots of pink gin, amazing food, drinks with friends, quiet time with my family, perfect presents (clever boyfriend got me an iPad mini, the little treasure!), plenty of laughter and lots of love. Utterly magical.

I hope yours were just as lovely.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Sunday 23 December 2012

1 Year

Last Sunday The Soldier and I celebrated one year together. Not-too-coincidentally, the last year has been the best year of my life. I've never laughed so much, felt so loved or felt so consistently happy as I have during the last 12 months. Not to make you all feel terrible nauseous or anything, but he really is the best thing that's ever happened to me. 

We celebrated with smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, a lazy morning in front of the tv and then a night at Didsbury House. Utterly blissful.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


Wow. It's been a while! In my defence, I've been away rather a lot recently. In fact, I've only spent one weekend at home in the last five weeks. Bristol, London, Belfast and Edinburgh have all been visited and enjoyed but I'm so looking forward to spending some time in my glorious home city this weekend.

This post might get a bit long and, in all honestly, it's more for me and my own memories than anything else. I have plenty of other posts in the pipeline so fingers crossed I'll actually get a few minutes spare to write them up this weekend.

But, without further ado, the reasons why I've been so absent recently...


In November I took a little sojourn to the West Country to visit the beautiful Abi and to see a few sights. Those sights included an epic wine tasting, the delicious dinner afterwards in a wine cellar, cocktails at Browns that tasted exactly like the strawberry cream Quality Street, AMAZING Eggs Royale at Boston Tea Party and far far too many hours spent on National Express coaches.


In late November I jumped on a train to London Euston and spent a wonderfully festive day with Sammy. We coveted the pretty things at Selfridges (that Ashish dress is my spirit animal), had the most incredible afternoon tea at The Chesterfield and then had a little wander through the Christmas markets on the South Bank. Oh, and there was the small (HUGE) matter of being asked to be her bridesmaid over dinner that night. Cue a lot of squealing, a few tears and a lot of grinning from ear to ear. There may also have been a cheeky trip to Meatmarket before I caught the train home on the Sunday. Oops.


A couple of weeks ago The Soldier and I descended on Belfast for two amazing days in his lovely home city. We stayed at The Fitzwilliam again and loved it even more than last time, which I didn't think was possible. Highlights included lunch at Bubbacue (SO GOOD), delicious cocktails at The Merchant Hotel and lots of time spent at the Christmas market eating big sausages and drinking hot booze. Oh, and I finally got to take a trip to St George's Market and meet the lovely Claire. I can also confirm that her Lily Pink Bakery cupcakes are out of this world. Soldier boy and I may or may not have eaten two each for breakfast. Ahem.


The last stop on my magical not-so-mystery tour of the UK was Edinburgh, for the lovely Kate's hen do. 17 of us stayed in a magnificent penthouse apartment, with some fairly special views. There was alcohol, a LOT of food, too many laughs to mention and surprisingly few penis-themed decorations. Marvellous. That beautiful tree in the photograph is in Jenners. Glorious.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

The Restaurant Bar & Grill, Manchester

Recently I was invited, in conjunction with Manchester Confidential, to go and sample the delights on offer at The Restaurant Bar & Grill, on John Dalton Street in the city centre. Despite having walked past the building on countless occasions (my hairdressers is just a few doors down) and, despite working about five minutes away, I'd never even considered visiting for a meal. Maybe it was because of the unassuming entrance? Or maybe it was because I thought it was a bit old fashioned? Who knows. Whatever the reason was, consider me proven utterly wrong and actually rather sad that I've been missing out for so long!

We chose to dine on the alfresco Terrace, with its glorious heaters* and the promise of blankets if we got a bit chilly. We ordered a bottle of Moko Black Sauvignon Blanc to begin (I always like to begin, and end, with wine, where possible. And drink it in the middle too) and some delightful little bread rolls with a glorious dipping oil arrived. That stuff was amazing. I kind of wish I'd kept it so I could have dipped ALL my food into it. Not the dessert. Obviously. Anyway, it was lovely. Coriander (which I normally despise), chilli, finely chopped onions and just delicious.

Before I go on, I must comment on the size of the menus. They are HUGE. And clad in leather. The small handed amongst us (me) did struggle slightly with them but, then again, the two sips of wine had gone straight to my head by this point. In my defence, it was 1pm and I was suffering from an extremely debilitating cold. Honest.

The Soldier opted for the Thai spiced fish cakes to start, while I went for the chilli squid. I can never not order squid when it's on the menu. These were a lovely start to the meal. The coconut and lime leaf dipping sauce that came with the fish cakes was addictive and I think The Soldier was more than a little miffed when I tipped half of it onto my plate. Then again, when he starts writing a blog that gets us invited to meals out, then he can complain. Anyway, both dishes were perfectly seasoned and tasted incredibly fresh. Just lovely.

We ummed and ahhed for ages over what main courses to order. I basically wanted to try one of everything (greedy) but eventually we both plumped for the 8oz fillet steak, with Colston Bassett stilton butter and peppercorn sauce. Oh, and sides of onion rings and some seasonal greens in shallot butter. Again, greedy. The in-house butcher at RBG ages all the steaks on offer for a minimum of 28 days (some are aged for 35 days) and I can honestly say that it was the best steak I've EVER had. It had a glorious crust that gave way to a meltingly-soft perfectly cooked medium rare interior. Seriously good steak. The chips were chunky, served in a silver cup on the side, and they too were fabulous. The onion rings were out of this world and The Soldier declared that no other onion rings should be allowed to bear the name, paling in comparison as they do. The sauce and the butter? Amazing. Please excuse me while I drool over the following pictures...

By this stage we were groaningly full but, in the name of reviewing, we bravely soldiered on and the dessert trolley approached. Yes, dessert trolley. Does life get any better than having a selection of delicious cakes wheeled right up to you? No, no it does not.

The Soldier opted for the chocolate mousse cake with griottine cherries and I went for the fig and almond tart. Both came served with homemade Malteser ice cream and both were pretty darn wonderful. My tart was rich and sticky and wholly satisfying. The portion of chocolate mousse cake was so huge that I was forced to share it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

We ended the meal with a couple of cocktails from RBG's extensive menu. I went for the Bramble and The Soldier went for a Mai Tai. Both were strong (particularly for early afternoon) and very well made. Highly recommended.

The Terrace itself is such a lovely setting for a meal. Comfortable seats, large tables, a canopy that stops the Manchester weather from chilling you to the bone and just very very well done. All the staff that looked after us were perfectly charming and we left very full, but very happy. Huge thanks to RBG for having us and we'll definitely be back.

*A note on the heaters: they are red. Very red. In turn, they turned all the photographs very red. So whilst my very clever boyfriend did what he could with them on Photoshop, they are not perfect.

Disclosure: The Soldier and I were guests of RBG

Sunday 18 November 2012

Sunday looks like...


I was contacted by the lovely people at Tilda and asked if I wanted to review their new limited edition British Curry Rice, developed by the lovely Dhruv Baker, of Masterchef fame. I was given a few recipes to choose from and I opted for the Salmon Kedgeree, which was EPIC. The Soldier and I thoroughly enjoyed it for lunch today. The rice is lovely and has flavours of coconut, curry leaf and coriander, with a bit of fragrant cinnamon and star anise. Yum.

The rest of the day has been spent fighting off the horrid cold that arrived just in time for the weekend. Typical. The Origins Make A Difference cream has been the only thing that has managed to save my poor face from being red, tight and horrendously dry and it comes highly recommended.

Those ridiculous gummy sweets are courtesy of my lovely American penpal and were consumed while leafing through the cookery books that I got for my birthday. I do love me a bit of Rachel Khoo.

I can't believe that the weekend is almost over! Tonight will mostly be spent trying to deny the fact that it's Monday tomorrow, in front of the television, with that wonderful L'Occitane candle burning. SO Christmassy it hurts.

Disclosure: I was sent the rice to review but received no monetary compensation for this post.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Sunday looked like...

A bit late this week but, in my defence, I was just far too busy eating too much, drinking cider and having an incredible time. Bagels on the train to Leeds, walks around the gorgeous Victoria Quarter and the rest of Leeds city centre, an incredible fish finger sandwich at Art's Cafe, tasty cider at North Bar and our beautiful hotel, 42 The Calls. We went for the 'His 'n' Hers' break, which included a bottle of prosecco, beers, breakfast and some Harvey Nichols shopping vouchers. Perfect.

Not pictured: the absolute mountain of ribs and chicken wings that I devoured at Red's and the barbecue sauce that I managed to squirt ALL OVER myself and my lovely dress (which is from Jovonnista). Eejit.

Sunday 4 November 2012


Today I am 31.

Over the last 12 months I have:
Gained and re-lost 2 stone in weight.
Learnt to let go of people and things that just don't matter.
Revelled in 30 being by far the best year of my life.
Been a bridesmaid for one of my very best friends.
Learnt to appreciate my parents and how wonderful they are.
Gone into credit on my bank account for the first time in 12 years.
Embraced my curly hair.
Worn cat shoes, leopard print and sequins as often as humanly possible.
Laughed. A lot. As ever.
Fallen so utterly in love that sometimes I can't believe it.

30, you were fabulous. 31, bring it on.

Thursday 1 November 2012

October looked like...

If you've never heard of "Photo a Day", then this may just look like an entirely random collection of Instagram pictures but I promise you it's not. The Instagram user fatmumslim produces a list of daily prompts each month and people follow the daily theme and tag their pictures with #fmsphotoaday. It's something that I've wanted to do for a while (mainly because I struggle to see anything through, damn my short attention span) and I finally managed it in October. Hurrah! Some of the photos were definitely last minute "argh, I haven't taken a picture yet today" photos (I'm looking at you Day 29: Moon), but some were slightly more thought out.

Points of note:

Yes, that is my boyfriend making a face that looks uncannily like Robert De Niro. It's one of his main skills.
Yes, my boyfriend's name is Aingeal. Fallen angel more like.
Yes, I take too many pictures of my parents' dogs.
Yes, I do have far too many clothes. That wardrobe contains approximately 1/3 of my clothes. Maybe even 1/4. Oops.

If you want to see photos of my dinner on a regular basis (and WHY wouldn't you?!) my instagram username is clearyourheart and you can see all my pictures on Webstagram, here.