Review: The Post Box, Ponteland

‘I’m happy to just sit in a cafe and watch people. It’s my favorite thing to do, for sure’ – Zoe Kravitz

Because I spent the best part of my childhood growing up in Holland and Belgium I like to obnoxiously consider myself as ‘European’ rather than ‘British’ despite the fact that most of most personality traits actually sway more towards the american super friendly, super positive vibe. You know, the kind of person who uses super as an adverb. In fact there’s a running joke in our family that when we were little, while I could be appeased with some blue ice cream, my brother would ask for a cappuccino.

Anyway, point being, I love a cafe and one of my biggest dreams in life is to live somewhere that has a small, quaint, quirky cafe in walking distance that I can go and blog from every Sunday. When I dream, I dream big. Sadly there’s isn’t one quite on my door step however a short drive away from us in Ponteland is the gorgeous small, quaint, quirky Post Box.

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We visited at around 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and it was the perfect amount of busy, enough people to give it enough atmosphere but still plenty of seats left. There was a great mixture of clientele too, some cyclists in need of nourishment, families with children and couples ignoring each other reading the paper.

The menu is extensive with sandwiches, fresh soup, jacket potatoes and a favourite of mine; the all day breakfast. At the front counter there’s also a wide range of freshly made cakes, scones and tray bakes including gluten free options.

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We were only in the mood for some coffee so had a cappuccino and a gingerbread latte respectively and in the name of science and research I sampled the coffee and walnut cake – which was delicious. The perfect mixture of soft moist sponge and buttery icing without the coffee taste being too over powering.

 

They’ve got the shabby chic decor down to a tee and I love a lot of the local art that adorns the walls. It’s interesting to know that they open on a Friday and Saturday evening as a night cafe where they serve nachos, cheeseboards and a small but perfectly formed dinner menu all based around having a glass of wine and sharing food with your mates.

 

The one sting in the tail? It was almost £9 for two coffees and a slice of cake, which means my meagre bank balance couldn’t afford a trip every week, however this Ponteland; the home of the gillet and ‘ladies who lunch’ so i’m guessing their overheads go someway to explaining the pricing structure.

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The Post Box definitely earns a spot as one of my favourite cafes in the area and i’m excited to go back and see what their evening menu is like. If only they could consider relocating to the end of my street that would be ideal…

 

Elliott’s Kitchen, Wylam

‘I like to be able to sit in a cafe and watch the world go by and observe people’ – Sophia Myles

There’s a lot of negativity on the world at the moment. Even on Facebook and instagram there’s people eye rolling at their so called friends who are at the gym or posting their slimming world meals. There doesn’t seem to be much bigging each other up anymore.

So let me buck the trend and take a moment to gush about our amazing friends Jill and Phil Elliott who after what feels like years of near misses have finally fulfilled their dream of owning their own cafe. And what a cafe it is.

Jill and I have been close friends for over 15 years when we worked as barmaids together at our local pub in Cramlington (she taught me everything I know about alcohol). She married professional chef (and all round lovely bloke) Phil is 2009 and they’ve been great friends to us ever since.

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Elliotts Kitchen on Main Street in Wylam is everything you’d want in a cafe and more. In fact to just call it a cafe is doing the a disservice. Phil has honed all his years in the professional catering industry to create a fantastic gastro cafe serving not only your regular coffees and traybakes but ever changing lunchtime specials like quiches and runny scotch eggs. All freshly made on the premises with local produce.

We visited at about 2.15pm on a Saturday and it was just nicely busy after the lunchtime rush, enough people in to create an atmosphere but even free tables to get a good seat. The decor inside is minimalist but classy, big windows letting the sun stream in and light wooden furniture and fittings.

We only went for coffee and cake; a latte (made with Italian coffee) and slice of rocky road for me and a pot of Earl Grey and a date scone for Dave. Both treats were a decent size (there’s nowt more frustrating that a small scone) the rocky road was stuffed with fluffy marshmallows and not to over powering with sickly chocolate, so you don’t have to worry about your kids bouncing off the walls after a slice. Two drinks and two sweets came to around £8, which isn’t unreasonable, particularly for Wylam.

We didn’t stay for lunch, although judging by the smells from the kitchen perhaps we should have! Their manu changes regularly if not daily and an example of some things they’ve had on recently are spiced parsnip soup, aberdeen angus shepherds pie topped with swede & potato mash, beef onepot served with onion bread & parsley dumpling and stilton and mushroom tarlets. Not to mention sandwiches and a different cake of the day.

Of course it’s easy for me to be bias, they’re my mates after all, however to be honest I think that just means I’d be more brutally honest if i didn’t think they were quite up to scratch (or at the very least just not say anything at all!) but I honestly honestly am super impressed and proud, not only in the hard work and sacrifice Jill and Phil have made but in the genuine quality of the food and the menu.

If you want a boring croque monsieur then go to Cafe Rouge. If you want quality, locally produced homemade food with a quirky twist. Go to Eilliott’s Kitchen!

Address: Main Road, Wylam, Northumberland NE41 8AQ
Phone: 01661 852422
Facebook: Elliott’s Kitchen
Twitter: @foodmatters07

 

Ringtons – So much more than Tea

‘I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake’ – Lewis Black

I can vividly remember the first cup of tea I ever had. I was trying to get something off the top shelf of a wall unit (hey it was the 90s) in my bedroom so stood on the bottom self to do so and only realised what a bad idea that was when I started falling backwards pulling the whole unit on top of me. Thankfully I was relatively unharmed apart from the shock, which my mum swiftly gave be a cup of hot sugary tea for. And i hated it.

I also remember the first cup of coffee I ever had. It was in 2007 in New York with Patricia and we were both intent of playing as real a game of Sex and the City as we could so we got some iced coffees to strut over to the Empire State Building with. And I hated it.

I was happy to let the tea thing go, it seems to come with some kind of faux nationalism, fixer of all problems that makes me cringe and as someone who didn’t even live in this country for the first part of my life, is something I struggle to jump on board with. Coffee however was something I was desperate to like, I wouldn’t consider myself a European, nay an adult, nay a human until I liked coffee. So thank heavens for Starbucks and their super milky lattes which contain no more than 2 coffee beans per cup, i gradually weaned myself onto the black stuff and i’m now pretty much a caffeine addict – the stronger the better.

I was having a particularly crappy Monday at work back in January when I arrived home to a lovely hamper full of goodies from North East Tea legends Ringtons. I’ll admit I opened the box gingerly, wondering if they were trying where other had failed in converting me over to team Tea. Thankfully, although they had sent some of their classic teabags and some herbal fruity tea, they’d also sent some of their Traditional Blend Filter coffee. And some yummy biscuits and toffees. They were ever so slowly bringing me round to their way of thinking.

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Being the professional single couple on the go we usually reserve our coffee indulgence to weekends, opting for frozen instant stuff we take to work. So thank god when we did sample a cup from our cafetiere it was well worth the wait. When you predominantly drink instant coffee, treating yourself to a decent cup really makes all the difference. The traditional blend is smoky and full of flavour without feeling migraine inducing, and you don’t have to use a lot to get a full cafetiere, so a bag lasts a long time. Pair with some of the chocolate brazil nut biscuits  (which are heavy on the chocolate, heavy on the nuts and heavy on the crunch) and it’s a match made in heaven, not to mention pretty good Saturday morning spinning class fuel. Hubs was chief tester of the teabags and they got a resounding thumbs up!
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I’m normally a fan of a biscuit unless it’s chocolate so it’s usually out of sheer desperation I’ll eat anything else but the Ginger Snaps and Creamy Shortbread were also top quality, so good in fact that I soon regretted taking them into work to share and the locusts on my team had them polished off by 11.15am. Gannets. What was nice though was it sparked lively debate about Ringtons as a company and the fond place it seems to sit in every north easterners heart. Everyone, it appears has a Ringtons van story (for those who aren’t familiar one of the things that set and still sets the company apart is that they hand deliver their wares by car or van – a quaint personal touch that is nice to see hasn’t been killed off by the digital age)
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After indulging myself on all the goodies, even the loose leaf tea, which we discovered brews very nicely in a cafetiere if you don’t have a strainer, I was concerned I was now a Ringtons addict without sufficient funds to support my habit. So I was please try surprised when I checked out their website to find their prices are actually very competitive. Sure you can get some Asda smart price bourbons for 50p a pack, but they’re Asda smart price bourbons. Think Chips Ahoy or Tesco’s finest triple choc cookies and you’re in the right ballpark of quality. Special mention also goes to the Smooth & chewy butter toffee which served as excellent little fat bombs for Dave’s long runs.
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Despite building their empire mainly on tea, they’ve expended well to accommodate the ever changing market and now offer an array on non tea related products including over 15 different types of coffee (beans, ground and instant) coffee syrups as well as hot chocolates, cakes, preserves and crockery. I’ve got a very close eye on their Triple Chocolate Cookies and their chocolate mallows with their rich blend roast coffee to wash it down with!

Price list:

Extra Fresh Tea bags (100) – £3.50
Traditional Blend Filter Coffee (227g) – £3.45
Ginger Snaps – £1.90
Creamy Shortbread Rounds – £1.90
Chocolate Brazil Nut Biscuits – £1.95
Smooth & Chewy butter toffees – £1.60

Th loose leaf tea was sample size but full bags are available on the Ringtons Website

InstaMay

The major reason why Instagram works is that you can follow anyone out there and start following their photos immediately – Kevin Systrom

It feels like it’s been May for a long time and I’m welcoming June and hopefully some warmer weather. Here’s some of my Instagram highlights from May. admittedly there’s a lot of alcohol involved, but there’s not really much else to do in the cold and wet North East of England *coughcough*

My commitment to shopping knows no bounds #noahsark

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Bank holiday wiiiine!

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Pre work breakfast coffee with this little one #citygirls

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Darcy's favourite instagram filter is Mayfair

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Storytime #babysitting

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Once again Newman misunderstands the dress code memo #takethat

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Gatecrashing the Withers family day out

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Last of the big spenders

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Better than being at work! #newcastleraces #giddyup

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The Perfect February Weekend

‘Weekends are special even if your schedule is all over the place. Something tells you the weekend has arrived and you can indulge yourself a bit’ – Helen Mirren

I feel like life’s on a bit of a conveyor belt at the moment, just a constant loop of work, weekend, work, weekend etc. It’s still a good month before we go on our first holiday of the year and whilst the weeks are going quickly, the weekends are flying past at supersonic speed. As far as my weekends have gone recently, I’d say this one we’ve just had has been pretty damn near perfect. It’s made me stop for a second and be thankful for the small things in life that we sometimes take for granted when we’re on that work/weekend treadmill.

It kicked off on Friday night with babysitting our niece and nephew with wine, pizza and reality TV

Friday Night

Saturday morning started off right with a cheeky 12km run knocked out the park by 11am followed by a slap up breakfast at my parents house (scrambled eggs on a marmite bagel with a side poached eggs and some well done toast – which, weirdly is exactly how I like it! – YUM!)

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Saturday night was definitely cause for celebration as we toasted my dad’s retirement from the British Army. Champagne flowed in copious amounts all night!

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L-R: Sister-in-law, brother, dad, mum, hubby, me

All that champagne didn’t make for the most energetic start to Sunday morning I must admit but I did manage to pull myself round, slap on a bit of make up, pull some snuggly boots on and hop on the metro to meet Katie (www.beautyandthebaker.co.uk) for coffee & cake on the Quayside (try saying that 3 times fast!) Funnily enough she was also feeling rather fragile from her drunken antics on Friday night as well so we consoled each other with some chocolately sugary goodness at the wonderful Great British Cupcakery.

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So other than feeling slightly ‘tired and emotional’ this morning, and the prospect that my run outside yesterday morning may have brought on a slight head cold, I would say all in all it’s been a pretty successful weekend all round! Let’s hope the forthcoming week goes over just as quickly as the weekend has as I look forward to a loved up Valentines weekend with the hubby!