Holy Crepe! Crepeaffaire is now open in Newcastle!

‘It’s hard to imagine a scenario where someone would say no to pancakes’ – David Levithan

I’m sure there are people in the world who’s only experience of the humble pancake is what they have once a year on shrove Tuesday, or possibly those thick American monstrosities you get in hipster diners, however during my meagre 35 years on this earth I’ve experienced quite a love affair with the Crepe. I grew up in Belgium, meaning Crepes and Pain au Chocolate weren’t just something you had once a year or when you visited Patisserie Valerie. They were something you had every Saturday morning when you went to the local market. So make no mistake, I’ve had some of the best crepes around so when Crepeaffaire invited me and Davy along to their new shop in the swanky Greys Quarter in Eldon Square, you can bet the Mons Monkey I was down to try!

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Crepeaffaire have recently launched their Indulgence menu which means not only can you get the classics like Banana, Nutella and Lemon & Sugar, they’ve upped the ante and added combinations like Banana, Rum & Raisin, Fererro Rocher and Salted Caramel. If all that gooey deliciousness doesn’t float your boat they also do a wide range of savoury crepes which are much more lunchtime appropriate, if I weren’t there purely for the sugar hit I’d be all over the pesto and mozzarella.

Last time we were in Florida we visited Waffle House for breakfast where I had pancakes with chocolate and peanut butter – a perfectly normal choice I thought. However the family at the next table whose waistline and IQ stats where are polar opposite ends of the spectrum loudly expressed their disgust as they tucked into their artery clogging quadruple bacon and maple syrup 15 pancake stack. As such it took the shine off and I didn’t really enjoy my last pancake experience. So with their contempt in mind, and ever the rebel, I confidently ordered the Belgian Chocolate – because revenge is best served 3 years later on a different continent.

Dave, being the healthier and more sensible of the two of us ordered a salmon and cream cheese crepe, which let’s be honest is pretty standard and hard to get horribly wrong. His crepe had the a right balance of both ingredients and a hearty sprinkling of Dill in top for good measure. My Belgian chocolate was exquisite and made with real Belgian chocolate not sugary, watery sauce you get in some places.

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We also had two fruit smoothies each, which were pretty yummy, if a little heavy on juice rather than actual pureed fruit. There were plenty of drink options to choose from though; all hot drinks come with free refills all day every day and you can even get a beer or a glass of prosecco if you fancy (which in itself id pretty fancy!)

We were both pleasantly full after our lunch which isn’t something that can always be said with crepes. I like how they have savoury options which are more healthy than the sweet ones if you don’t want to fill yourself with carb and sugar or want to have a lunch top in between shopping.

Prices start from a fiver and as it’s Crepeaffaire Newcastle’s 1st Birthday week the store will be randomly handing out 10 free crepe vouchers a day to purchasing customers. On 23rd November 2017, all customers purchasing a crepe after 5pm will receive a glass of Prosecco on the house!

Find out more at www.crepeaffaire.com

*we received complimentary food and drink in return for an honest review

Hotel Du Vin’s new Bistro

‘Seafood was always my favorite food. I mean, lobster? Come on!’ – Adrian Peterson

If being a July birthday has taught me anything (and it hasn’t) it’s that dare to utter the word ‘barbeque’ and it’s guaranteed to rain. I swear every time I try and arrange a birthday cookout we end up popping bubbly in the conservatory and grilling all the meat in the oven.

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So imagine my delight when the day of Hotel Du Vin’s summer barbeque and launch of their new bistro, the weather gods were obviously looking favourably upon me for a change and the sun made a very welcome appearance!

Hotel Du Vin has always been one of those places that have been on my radar to visit for a lifetime but for one reason or another have never quite made it. The Ouseburn area has always been a favourite of mine; close enough to be walking distance from the Quayside but remote enough that it has a quirky laid back vibe of its own. So suffice to say I was honoured to be able to attend their Bistro launch with some of my favourite blogging girlies for a little mate date.  Katie and I arrived a little early so had and had a drink in bar, which is a fab mixture of classy and cosy with lots of stylish dark wood and comfy arm chairs to recline in whilst enjoying a chilled glass of wine.

Once out on the terrace we were treated to some summer cocktails (the strawberry margarita was a particular favourite of mine) and some live music whilst they fired up the BBQ.  As is a full bbq all with locally sourced Northumbrian meat there was a seafood market cart jam backed with dressed crab, crab claws and lobster as well as a fresh Lindisfarne Oyster boat. I mean, with Brexit just around the corner it’s reassuring to know that with these delicacies on our doorstep, we’ll probably be ok with locally sourced food!

Oysters is definite the marmite of the seafood world; you either love them or hate them however it’s well documented that I’m a huge lover of marmite so am equally a lover of oysters too!  Smothered in tabasco sauce I could have eaten me about a million and a half of those bad boys! I didn’t though – they’re not all that well known for their stomach lining properties after all!

 

Thanks to Katie from www.ladyfromatramp.co.uk so use of her pictures

I could go on and on about the juiciness of the prawns or the succulence of the meat but to be honest, it’s probably just best you head along and try out their new bistro menu for yourself. The currently do a particularly good value al fresco summer set menu for £17.95 for two courses or £20.95 for three. If you’re particularly lucky, and happen to pick the day that summer falls on this year, you may even be able to treat yourself to a seat outside!

Contact:

Allan House, City Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2BE
Tel: 0191 389 8628

The Kingslodge Inn – Durham

‘I much prefer very small dinners with close friends’ – Tom Ford

One look at my Instagram feed and and you’ll know how much I love my food. One look at my twitter feed and you’ll know how lazy I am. So when It comes to going out for dinner Dave and I inevitably go to our old favourites on our door step or in the centre of Newcastle. However as I’ve already mentioned, we’re trying to broaden our horizons this year and try out new places.

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Just a 5 minute walk away from Durham train station The Kingslodge Inn really couldn’t be more central however when you arrive it’s quite set back from the main street so feels like you could be in the depths of the countryside. Snapped up by the Inn Collection Group (named best leisure business in the Northumberland Business Awards in 2015) in early 2016 what was the Kingslodge Hotel is now all revamped with a swanky new refurb, new restaurant and 2 new additional hotel rooms (ranging from £95-£125 per night).

We visited on a sunny Thursday night and there were plenty of parking spaces in the sizeable free car park. We were greeted with a warm welcome and taken to a nice booth on the top level. I never visited before the refurb but was impressed with the decor which looked suitably cosy and an inviting. I’ve always been a fan of tartan wall paper for that Scottish Highland feel and the pictures of local landmarks dotted around were a nice touch.

The food menu was extremely impressive – it’s always a good sign when you can’t decide what to go for, it all looked great! Over a pint of Ale (Black Sheep was all that was available) and a glass of wine we finally settled on our choices; Antipasto for Dave and Black Pudding topped with Poached Egg, Bacon Pieces and Peppercorn Sauce for me, I simply can’t resist anything with a poached egg on top!

The food was beautifully presented, and portion sizes weren’t too big or too measly. The basil oil in Dave’s antipasto was a nice twist and my black pudding had an excellent spicy flavour (without being overbearing). The bacon was super crispy – just how I like it however the egg could have done with being cooked a few second more as the white was a little runny , still, it’s better than being overcooked.

For mains Dave originally wanted to go for the Sirloin Grill however they were all out when we visited so plumped for the Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb instead. I, being a massive fan of Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America, was really intrigued to try the Hot Meat Dip in Warm Ciabatta as it’s not something you often see on menus in the UK.

Although my sandwich wasn’t ‘dipped’ as is customary in the states, it did come with it’s own gravy boat with which to smother it yourself, which in fact is better as you can then add as little or as much (as was my case) as you like, and it makes it a little more civilised for eating with a knife and fork! It came with chunky chips and a dressed salad, both of which were delicious. Both were good mansized portions, Dave’s lamb was off the bone and a tasty, chunky piece of meat, which came with mashed potatoes and veg – a slightly healthier option since he’s again in training for his next ultra marathon.

We’re normally the type of couple that just settles on a liquid dessert however I’d had a beady eye on the chocolate brownie since before arriving and the serving staff had been leaving us ample time between courses to ruminate over our drinks and let our food go down so we were feeling strong enough to tackle the dessert. Dave went for the cheesecake of the day which was White Chocolate and Raspberries and I stuck with my original choice of Warm Chocolate Brownie.

My brownie was everything I dreamed it would be and more! It was extremely gooey and chocloatey and warmed through enough that it melted the vanilla ice cream nicely but didn’t taste burnt. Dave was slightly disappointed with the cheesecake as it was more on the moussey side rather than the solid New York style which he prefers but said it tasted good and was served in it’s own dish rather than in a slice which was a nice change. Portions again were really good – you really feel like you’re getting good value for money.

Over all we had a lovely meal at the Kingslodge Inn; the staff were great and knowledgeable about their menus, the food was cooked to a very high standard and offered options you don’t regularly see on your average pub menu. Prices were really reasonable and very competitive to other places we’ve visited around the North East. It also have lots of vegetarian options and is dog and child friendly! It’s definitely encouraged us to be a bit more adventurous rather than sticking to the same old haunts around Newcastle.

This was a collaborative post but all views are our own.

Review: Fattoush, Newcastle upon Tyne

‘Lebanese mezze, Cantonese dim sum and Basque pinchos have all evolved over years and are designed to make sense together’ – Yotam Ottolenghi

You just need to scan through my Instagram account to know that there’s nothing I love more than shoveling food in my gob.

We try and go out for dinner together at least once a month, or whenever we can afford it really (or if the diet allows). As we weren’t  at work the next day, we decided this week to do something totally crazy and venture out for dinner on a Tuesday night (I know, I know, we’re simply bonkers!)

My boss has been raving about this place for months and months. He’d already given me some good tips in Ernest and The Broadchare so I trust his judgement. Hitting up Westgate road on a dark February evening however didn’t fill me with too much confidence and although I love the new Lebanese gaff Bake One in Gosforth,  I was dubious about trying Fattoush.

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Despite it also being a take away the interior is pretty welcoming. Despite it being so early in the week there were a smattering of families and other couples, which was reassuring. It’s nothing fancy but has plenty of roomy tables and big black comfy chairs. We were greeted warmly and sat down immediately and offered drinks. It’s probably best to mention at this point that Fattoush doesn’t have an alcohol licence so it’s purely softies, which didn’t matter to us being a Tuesday night but thought it best to make it clear. I’ve heard they run a BYOB system but whether that’s true or not I’m not sure, I didn’t see anyone there drinking when we were there – But it was only Tuesday night.

Being very much Lebanese rookies we were a bit overwhelmed by the menu, which is split into starters, mezze, mains, sandwiches etc so we asked our waitress for some advice; who explained that the flat bread, chilli and garlic dips were on the house, so after what seemed like a further hour and a half deliberation we settled on a a Tabouleh dip, a shawarma salad (shawarma is the Lebanese version style kebab meat you see in  takeaways; but not rank) and two mezze dishes of deep fried lamb meatballs and more shawarma meat in hummus. A veritable feast I’m sure you’ll agree!

I’m not sure what I was expected but I didn’t expect to enjoy what we had s much. The fact it’s also a take away put me off a little bit but I needn’t have worried because everything we had was gorgeous. Everything tasted unbelievably fresh, even down to the bread and dips (which we were regularly asked if we wanted replenishing – which we were regularly agreeable to). The shawarma was definitely the highlight; dodgy backstreet elephants leg this is not, both lamb and chicken meats were tasty and succulent despite not being seasoned with much at all. Portions were sizable; I think along with all the bread and dips you can have you really needn’t order too much, we left with considerable full tummies and only £22 lighter for the whole meal.

When we were finished we were offered some traditional mint tea on the house seeing as the deer in headlights look on our newbie faces must have pulled at the heartstrings of our lovely waitress. That was a great end to a lovely meal. Service was very swift and friendly, they have very much adopted the Wagamama style of serving of just bringing things out as they’re ready, not that that bothers us, we’re happy for a conveyor belt of food to just keep on coming indefinitely!

With so many Italian restaurants, pub-cum-steakhouses and gourmet burger joints popping up all over the place, Fattoush really is a hidden gem if you fancy something different. If you can get over the fact it’s possibly not located in the most salubrious part of town, I think you’d be hard pushed not to come away full and happy (albeit ready for a glass of wine!)

 

 

 

 

 

Why you should take Trip Advisor reviews with a pinch of salt

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth’ – Marcus Aurelius

Years and years ago back in the 80’s and 90’s, when you wanted to go on holiday the process was this: pootle along to Lunn Poly get a handful.of brochures, try to decipher the price grid at the bottom of the page, flick to the back and find out there are no flights from Newcastle to that resort, start search again, realise you’ve been looking at prices for 7 nights not 14 (you wondered why it was so cheap!). Pick a hotel you like that’s close to the beach (a rule of thumb is that if it’s 100m away then Linford Christie can get there in under 10 seconds). Then decide where you want to go based on the 3 professionally shot pictures available and hope for he best. And 9 times out of 10 it all worked out fine.

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Whilst the invention of Trip Advisor is on the whole a great thing, you can get honest reviews from past patrons on the things that the brochure wouldn’t tell you like how flirty the staff are or how often your loo roll gets replenished. I often contribute myself, especially if I’ve had a particularly good experience as people only tend to post reviews if they’re complaining.

Over the years though I’ve learnt that you really do have to take what you read with a pinch of salt because like everything, holiday and restaurant reviews are subjective and people’s yardsticks are different. A couple used to 5 star luxury aren’t going to rate the Red Lion in Benidorm very highly and the Chavingtons from Liverpool are probably going to want to go for chips after their 8 course meal in a Michelin Star restaurant.

I’ll give you some examples from some recent holidays we’ve been on. This one from a hotel we stayed at in Atlanta:

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The bit at the bottom about the breakfast? Well we stayed at that hotel a mere two months after this Joe Charlie and let me tell you that all they offered for breakfast was bagels, muffins, donuts, cereals, toast, jams, fruit, cooked eggs, grits, waffles, juices, milk, tea and coffee. What the hell kind of breakfast do you expect for £40 a night you greedy pelican?!

Or this one from our recent stay in Greece:

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Poor Anna (who can I add for clarification will be in her late 40’s at best so the ‘old lady’ comment is very harsh) We couldn’t have had a more different experience. When we arrived we were greeted warmly, she was full of ‘sweeties’ and ‘darlins’ and showed us to our room immediately, then invited us down to the bar for a (complementary) welcome drink and some lunch. Now, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the chirpiest person in the world at 5am so could possibly excuse her a little lax with the pleasantries however the opinion of this reviewer and mine differs so drastically it makes you wonder whether Anna has some kind of psychotic split personality. Or (more likely I suspect) one of us isn’t being honest/and or way too harsh on someone you’ve just gotten out of bed! All the stuff about the pool being dirty as well is rubbish, I watched it with my own eyes being cleaned every morning.

Some people just seem to expect something for nothing. It’s always the budget or bargain hotels that seem to get people nit picking because they ran out of coffee one morning or they had to wait 20 seconds to check in. If you want all that fuss and ‘Ah Mrs Newman we’ve been expecting you’ type stuff then (first of all go back to the 1950’s) you need to be prepared to pay for it. Obviously manners cost nothing, and as a basic rule everywhere should be welcoming and clean as a bare minimum.

I also think it’s important to note that (most) hotels or restaurants aren’t run by robots, so there’s inevitably going to be loads of room for human error. Can you honestly say hand on heart that you’ve never made a mistake or forgotten to do something at work? To me it’s not about the mistakes that are made, I imagine for example that housekeeping staff are under immense pressure to get the rooms turned around in double quick time, therefore from time to time you may end up in a room with the previous guests dirty towels still on the towel rail. You at least have to give the hotel chance to rectify the problem first.

On our second night in Greece I woke up at 1am in a massive pink sweaty heap of gyros and retsina because we had no air conditioning in the room. I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until the morning to speak to someone about it, I genuinely thought I may sweat to actual death if I stayed in there. So I woke up the hubs (much to his disgust – a full on Disney Parade with marching band could route through our bedroom and he wouldn’t wake up so a little heat was nothing), and we trotted down to the bar to ask if they had any mobile AC units or fans we could borrow. Less than 10 minutes later (and after a complimentary shot of Peach Schnapps while we waited) there was a massive electric fan waiting for us outside our room. So am I going to log on to trip advisor and complain about the fact the room had no air conditioning in 30 degree heat? No I’m not because the service we got despite the problem was great!

People love to complain at the end of the day so bear in mind what you’re reading is probably only half the story, the people who had a great time are less likely to post a review. We’ve had some of the best stays and service in places that didn’t score highly and some of the blandest meals from places with 5 stars and everything in between. Trust your own judgment, check the nationality of the person writing the review (this will tell you a lot about their standards) and read between the lines to see what it is they’re actually complaining about. If it’s that they had two pillows when they normally only sleep with one, is the hotel really going to be that much of a hole?!

If want some lols on some of Trip Advisors really bizarre reviews this site if worth a visit http://tripadvisaargh.tumblr.com/

Review: Oli & Joes Italian Restaurant, Westerhope

I love Italian food. I love pasta. A refrigerator full of water and Gatorade? Honey, that’s just not gonna happen’ – Queen Latifah

Where:
Oli & Joes
429 Stamfordham Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE5 5HB
Email: enquiries@oli-joes.com
Telephone: 0191 214 5111
Parking: Yes

It’s rare we venture out for dinner on a random Tuesday night but when I’m behaving like a (and I quote) ‘bumface’ sometimes we have to make an exception all in the name of cheering me up. An there’s not much that cheers me up as much as pizza.

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We’ve been meaning to give Oli & Joe’s in Westerhope a try for a while now. It gets good reviews on Tripadvisor and is fairly close to our house (annoyingly, just a smidge too far to walk, therefore have to take the car) but that’s not the restaurant’s fault! We arrived just after 7.15pm on a Tuesday in the middle of the school holidays to find it surprisingly busy, in fact, it was heaving – always a good sign! We hadn’t booked and were asked to take a seat where a table ‘wouldn’t be long’. We weren’t offered a drink while we waited.

About 20 minutes later a few people (who had booked) came in and were seated instantly (which is fair enough – they had booked) and we still didn’t have a table. They were seemingly setting up two tables of four, which we presumed were for more people who’d booked so decided to cut our losses, try somewhere else and come back again when we’d booked a table. As we were leaving (presumably the owner) came out and called us back in saying our table was ready and apologised for the wait. Slightly embarrassing as it really wasn’t a reflection on the restaurant and no one likes being followed into the car park, but no harm done and we were seated.

The place is split into two. What looks like the main restaurant to the right as you talk in, and a few odd tables to the left behind a small waiting area , which is where we were sat. It’s a little away from the main buzz but still managed to have a little bit of atmosphere so all was good! Once we were seated service was swift. we ordered drinks (a pint of draft Peroni and a large white wine for £4.50 each). The menu is your typical Italian fayre, loads of pizza and pastas to choose from, we also saw a table near us ordering the steak which looked massive and really good value for money! With it only being a Tuesday night and the day before pay day we went for the 3 courses for £6.95 option; potato skins and bruscetta for starter and Amatriciana Pasta and Vesuvio Pizza for main.

Starters:
Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Potato skins with garlic mayo

Potato skins with garlic mayo

The portions were good, both were as you would expect from an Italian’s really, there was no choice of dip for the potato skins but I would have chosen garlic anyway so it didn’t really bother me. They were nice and hot and the brucschetta tasted fresh and home made.

Mains:
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Amatriciana Pasta

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Pizza vesuvio

I ordered the pizza vesuvio (pepperoni, garlic and chilli) and I was pleasantly surprised. It was thin a crispy without being over cooked and although at first glance I thought it could have done with more pepperoni it actually it was so tasty it didn’t need it. There was the right amount of chilli and garlic and it wasn’t too over loaded with cheese. 2 thumbs up from me.

Dave’s Amatriciana tagliatelle (Bacon, Onion, Chilli & Tomato) sadly wasn’t as good. It was fairly tasty however if there was supposed to be chilli in it, it couldn’t be detected. The pasta was al dente which wasn’t a problem for Dave but may be worth noting if like me, you prefer your pasta on the softer side. All in all it was fine.but a little blander than it ought to have been.

Desserts:
Chocolate ice cream

Chocolate ice cream

As part of the 3 courses for £6.95 we had two scoop of ice cream each (chocolate – no other flavours were offered) which was perfectly pleasant but nothing to really rave about.

All in all we had a fine meal, the bill came to £21.80, which is very reasonable, but everything was only fine. There’s an element of ‘you get what you pay for’, the food was reasonably priced if you’re ordering off the special menu and the checked table cloths and waxy wine bottle candle holders mean that it’s definitely the lower end of the market – which is great of you want a low-key., family friendly place with bags of personality and atmosphere. What really let this place down though was the service. Aside from the one female waitress and the owner who were stars and very, very on the ball with drinks, orders, attentiveness etc, the rest of the staff were slow and disinterested. We didn’t get offered a drink when we were waiting for our table and Dave was asked if he wanted Parmesan cheese on his pasta ( which he did) and the waiter was never to be seen again so not only was his pasta chilli less, it was now cheese less as well. How difficult is it to remember Parmesan?!

We were really hoping to fall in love with this place, being so local and cheaper than the other Italian’s which is a walkable distance to our house but sadly it didn’t bowl us over enough to spend the extra money on petrol to make the journey. With so much competition in the Italian Restaurant market, they don’t really do enough to stand out from the crowd despite their good pizza though!