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.

Partners in Wine do The Split Chimp

‘Prosecco: How classy people get shitfaced’ – Unknown

Diamonds, dachshunds and my good self (ahem) are all proof that good things come in small packages.

I’d first clocked Newcastle’s first micro pub, The Split Chimp, when we walked past on the way to the Spoiler Shop Steamer last September and always had it in mind to try. And try I did when Dave and I went for a few pre Bowling for Soup bevvies. It was then I noticed that they do bottles of prosecco for £15. So i thought to myself, who do I know that likes £15 bottles of prosecco?! Partners in Wine assemble!

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l-r Ruth, me, Ang, Steph & Mum

It’s not called a micro pub for nothing; it’s pretty teeny inside, but that’s what I love about it. Especially on the cold snowy February afternoon we visited. It sounds like an estate agent cliche to describe somewhere so small as ‘cosy’ and ‘homely’ but that really is true of the Split Chimp which is built into one of the railway arches directly underneath Newcastle Central Station. It’s set over two levels though so is actually twice as big as first meets the eye when you walk in. Most importantly, there’s not a fruit machine or plasma screen in sight.

We arrived at about 2.30pm on a Saturday afternoon and there were only a few people in at that time so we took advantage of the benches and beer barrel tables at the front of the pub by the window, after all it’s a known trick that restaurants always but their best looking people in the window to draw more people in, and what real ale pub doesn’t want a gaggle of giggling lasses drinking prosecco in the window?! Surely we’re they’re perfect demographic!

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Panoramic view of the whole downstairs – with Ang & Steph of course acting perfectly natural

It wouldn’t be a complete review without highlighting what else they have on offer, and of course their big selling point is super trendy hipster drink du jour; real ale, usually 4 cask ales ( at around £3.40 a pint) which rotate every fortnight or so. I happen to know from some mild twitter stalking that owner and ex paramedic Mark travels the world (most recently Lanzarote) looking for new ales to bring to the beer swilling connoisseurs of the North East. They also do wine by the pouch (£3.50 for 250ml) a variety of bottled lagers and beers and some really tasty bar snacks (the peanut butter pretzels are one of the nicest things I’ve ever put in my mouth).

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If all that on offer wasn’t enough they also have a (very) small pavement licence so if it ever stops raining for 5 minutes or the temperature rises above 5 degrees, you can enjoy your drinks outside. Special mention has to go to the music being played; we heard Squeeze, Level 42, The Police, The La’s and The Cure over the 5 hours (don’t judge – we sipped our 5 bottles of prosecco and large glasses of wine very responsibly) we were there, which, if anyone knows my musical history, could have been right off my own ipod. In fact if they’d played some Backstreet Boys I’d have moved in.

I’ve always wanted a favourite pub that wasn’t a Wetherspoons and I think the Split Chimp has definitely 100% taken the place of the Five Swans. Their prosecco is only £2 dearer, and if we’ve proved nothing else it’s that you don’t have to be a bearded hipster or flat capped octogenarian to enjoy a real ale pub. Oh and if it looks like you’re there for a session they get more prosecco out the back to chill for you – that’s service!

Contact Details:

The Split Chimp
Arch 11, Forth Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE1 3NZ
Twitter: @SplitChimp
You can find out a little more about the PiW Gang here

 

If Carlsberg did Wedding Dress Shops….

Try everything on, even gowns that you don’t think you’ll love. You might be surprised and fall in love with a gown that you weren’t drawn to at first’ – Reem Acra

I reckon, even the girls who say they’re not bothered about getting ,married have once in their life given a passing thought to what their dress would look like if it ever happened. In the melee that is to become arranging a wedding, it’s pretty much the one thing that bride doesn’t discuss with her betrothed.

Before I got married myself, the only time I’d ever set foot inside a wedding dress shop was with my sister in law and she’d already picked her dress and just wanted reassurance it was the right one (it absolutely was!). So when I made my appointments and lasso’d together my mum and Ang, I wasn’t really prepared for the onslaught of tulle, taffeta and tutting that was to follow. Despite their lovely plush white smiley appearances, wedding dress shops are truly terrifying places and all the myths about them you see on telly are completely untrue, I wasn’t offered a glass of champagne in any of them!

Incidentally I completely agree with the quote above. I was convinced I knew my body type better than anyone else and wanted a high necked lace detail gown with a fishtail bottom and sleeves. What I went for was a strapless chiffon number which gathered at the hip! So you really do need to try on lots of different styles to find what really suits you. For the most part my experience with wedding dress shops was positive albeit exhausting. However there are two things that stick in my mind that left a sour taste in my mouth; the pushy sales people and the bitchy fellow brides. One shop I visited in particular were trying to push a £1500 dress on my buy upping the discount I could have if i ordered it that day. I knew it wasn’t the one but no matter what anyone says, price is a massive factor for most brides, so the prospect of having 35% off was tempting. What if I didn’t find a better one and I’d missed my chance? I think there’s a tendancy to play on these weaknesses which I don’t think is fair. After all when you would ever spend over£1000 on a dress for any occasion? It’s a massive amount of money to part with without having a good old think about it?

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The dress I eventually went for….

I also hated the bitchy sideways glances I got from other brides. One I remember in particular looked at me with eyes filled with the fires of hell when I asked to try on a dress she’d already dismissed. She was clearly of the belief that she didn’t want it, but didn’t want anyone else to have it either.

So needless to say my experience of wedding dress shops is somewhat limited. Fast forward a few years and I’ve been accompanying Steph on her quest to find the perfect dress. We’d gone to all the usual boutiques in Newcastle which I think most new brides start in but the search was fruitless, although it did give us an idea of the style she wanted. The dress quest went on hold for a few weeks while I went on holiday and upon my return she mentioned a new place by the Metro Centre she wanted to try called Wed2B. The name alone made it sound like some kind of cheap online mobile phone company – I wasn’t awash with excitement I must confess. However, never let it be said I’m not an excellent friend.

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Web2b market themselves as offering high quality low price designer labels. The most expensive dress they sell is £449 so I was imagining a large soulless warehouse with racks upon racks of dresses and brides fighting in the aisles over a £100 Vera Wang. How wrong I was. Granted the outside isn’t much to look at but inside is as nice if not nicer than any bridal boutique in town.

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We were greeted on reception and talked through the process. Basically all the dresses are sorted on rails by size and you get to pick 4 of a time. You’re then taken to the changing rooms with one of the assistants. The dressing rooms are gorgeous; carpeted and spacious with little platforms built in outside to get a full view once you’ve tried your dresses on. Michelle, who was helping us (Michelle) was one of the nicest wedding dress salespeople I’ve ever met, she wasn’t pushy in the slightest and was more than happy for us to um and ahh over our choices and go back trying on things more than once.

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Because the area outside the changing rooms is communal, you get to mingle with the other brides trying things on, which I think in snooty boutiques would have warranted the snide sideways glances but everyone here was lovely and we chatted away with all the other brides, their friends and mums. It’s always and of approval from a stranger, sometimes even more so than your own friends and family. One of the winning factors for me was undoubtedly that you’re allowed to take pictures, in fact they actively encourage it. There were some places in town *cough*Mia Sposa*cough who threatened to kick us out because they caught us trying to take a sneaky picture. We were there on a Sunday afternoon so there was no wait but were told that Saturdays and Sunday morning are extremely busy and you could be waiting for up to 2 hours to try your dresses on. It’s probably also worthwhile to note that if you want to try on a further 4 dresses, you go to the back of the queue again. You can’t make appointments so you do just have to take pot luck as to whether they’re busy or not, on a plus side though you don’t feel rushed because their next appointment has arrived.

The dresses are all off the rack and sold as seen, hence them being so cheap. They have some recommended seamstresses that they work with and all the recommendations are based on customer reviews so are trusted suppliers, you are of course welcome to get it altered if you need to, by anyone. If you find a dress you think is the one you can either buy it out right there and then or you can pay a £50 deposit and they will hold it for two weeks for you, in case you want o have a think or come back later with someone else. The £50 is non refundable but if you do decided that the dress they’ve held for you isn’t the one, you can transfer your £50 onto any other dress from them (or bridesmaid dress) so you don’t feel like your arm is being twisted too much.

They were fab! If i’m honest I wasn’t expecting much since they sell off the peg dresses but I was totally wrong! The dresses were all really good quality I really couldn’t tell the difference when wearing them between them and the ones from the boutiques. The staff were amazing too. They totally knew their stuff and gave me loads of advice that no-one in the boutiques did like how a dress could be tailored to my tastes by a dressmaker. I’m so pleased we went in to give it a go. I am completely sold and couldn’t recommend them enough! – Steph (the Bride!)

I’m also so pleased we found this shop. I’m so pleased for Steph that she had such a lovely experience and found her dream dress. It’s weird dress shopping after you get married because styles have changed, and you look at all the new pretty dresses you could have worn. I did feel slight pangs of jealousy that this shop wasn’t around when I got married because it was such a lovely experience. I just need Dave to get working on his time machine so we can go back and have our wonderful wedding all over again!

Shop details:

Wed2b
Units 10-11
Allison Court
Marconi Way
Gateshead
NE11 9YS

Tel: 01914 885232

Opening Times:

Monday – 10am to 5pm
Tuesday – 10am to 5pm
Wednesday – 10am to 5pm
Thursday – 10am to 8pm
Friday – 10am to 5pm
Saturday – 10am to 5pm
Sunday – 10am to 4pm

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/

Saturday at the Steamer

‘I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day’ – Frank Sinatra

It’s the first weekend in September, the mornings are getting darker and cooler. The only good thing about this time of year is that the dog over the back fence no longer gets let out at 6am to do its morning ablutions then yaps for half an hour to be let back in. So what better to do on an autumnal Saturday than hang out at the Boilershop Steamer with the rest of Newcastle’s hipsters and get drunk.

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I heard a lot about the Steamer through Steph who’s been a few times, but I’d never really thought about it, the mix of my ever so slightly acrophobia husband and poorly reproduced street food (I went to a food festival in Bents Park in South Shields recently when the normally excellent Zapatista had a stand and the food was dreadful) doesn’t fill me with much confidence. I’ve often viewed these things the same way I’ve viewed music festivals, everyone else always looks like they’re having a great time but I’m always in the way, or too hot, or can’t see anything, or getting covered in someone else’s urine (ok, I’ll admit I would have been very shocked had that happened at the steamer, but you never know!). But I’m always up for trying new things and in the same way they say you’re never more than 6ft away from a rat in London, I try and never be more than 6ft away from some gin. Off me and my motley crew went.

We decided to go on the Saturday, got thee early as its free before 2pm (shout out to the cheapskates, woop!) and it was already starting to fill up. It was smaller than I imagined. People I know who’ve been before have said that it’s absolutely massive. The Boilershop it’s self though is impressive (the birthplace of Robert Stephenson’s Rocket – fact fans!) and an excellent use of space. We had a brief walk around to see what was there then settled on some drinks (doing nothing to banish any gender stereotypes we went for Real Ale for the boys and Prosecco for the girls). Prices for drinks weren’t outrageous (£3.50 for a pint of ale and £20 for a bottle of Proescco) and you got (albeit plastic) champagne flutes for the fizz, which is always nicer to drink out of than a crappy plastic half pint glass. There are very few places to sit so if you want a seat you need to get there really early and I’d advise if you do get a seat, don’t leave it!

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We stood around people watching for a while, it really was hipster heaven so i’m glad i was wearing my new checked shirt to blend in with the crowd. A game of ‘spot the longest beard’ is always fun after a few glasses of bubbly. It’s worth pointing out though that it’s really family friendly. Whilst there isn’t much in the way of entertainment for kids, there were lots of families there and they seemed to be made to feel very welcome, just watch where you put you feet as there might be a little person below your eyeline right behind you!

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When it came time to have something to eat there certainly was plenty of choice. Some went for pizza, some went for pulled pork burgers, some went for chilli and all of it looked very fresh and decent sized portions. I myself went for some sweet potato fries with sesame mayonnaise which was really tasty, although I wasn’t all that pleased to see them use frozen sweet potato out of a packet, especially for the £4 pricetag. The paying system was something else that bothered me. For drinks you could just pay cash but for food you had to buy tokens which were £2 each. To me it just seemed an excuse to charge more money. For example at the falafel stand where I got my fries, a lamb burger was 4 tokens. £8 seems a lot of money to pay for what it was. Dave’s mexican pulled pork filled taco bowl was 3 tokens and most of the taco bowl was burnt. Value for money, this place isn’t.

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I really love the idea of the steamer. I think it’s a great use of space there and there’s a great laid back atmosphere. I like that there’s something for everyone, you don’t all have to order off the same menu or drink the same drinks so it caters for all tastes. It’s something different from just sitting in a Wetherspoons all afternoon. However if you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful afternoon out with your friends then this probably isn’t the place for you. The food is over priced and there wasn’t half the vendors there that were advertised on their website; Longhorns, Papa Ganoush, Fat Hippo and Fat Friars were all advertised as being in attendance but weren’t there (I personally was looking forward to visiting the ‘Hip Hop Chip Shop just for the photo op alone!) so that was disappointing. For me they could also do away with the token system, as it serves no purpose other than an excuse to charge more than if they were accepting cash. Later on in the day they had some live bands on,which is a great idea, and provides a great opportunity to listen to some local bands however with the building because the size it is, they’re were just way too loud and you couldn’t really hold a conversation. Saying that there is lots of outside space as well if you wanted somewhere a little quieter. We left after the first band as we wouldn’t hear a word anyone was saying.

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The steamer is on the first weekend of every month with special events on for bank holidays

The Boiler Shop
Sussex Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear
NE1 3PD

General Enquiries: info@theboilershopsteamer.com
Food Trader Enquiries: riley@rileysfishshack.com
Drinks Trader Enquiries: admin@wylambrewery.co.uk

Twitter: @steamerevent
Intsagram @steamerevent
Facebook The Boiler Shop Steamer

Review: Sway – Deliverance

Music washes away the dust of every day life’ – Art Blakey

I don’t tend to buy full albums all that much these days. It’s not like I listen to physical CDs anymore (apart from in the car) and technology has made it so much easier to download the single tracks you like rather than having to wade through a whole load of album tracks to find what you like. Every couple of years though hubby and I go off on a sun holiday to Greece where we adopt a routine of bed-sunlounger-pub for two weeks. It’s on these holidays that I catch up on all the albums I’ve been meaning to give a listen but haven’t gotten round to yet.

It’s also not often that you listen to an album and are genuinely blown away, and you wonder how you ever survived without it in your life (back in 2012 it was Camp by Childish Gambino which has since made it into my top 10 albums of all time). So good is Deliverance by UK grime artist Sway that I’m posting this review before we’ve even gone on this year’s jaunt. I gave it a listen whilst drying my hair yesterday morning mainly just to check that it had downloaded properly and I haven’t been able to stop listening since.

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I’ve never been a massive fan of grime to be honest. I like most of what Dizzee Rascal’s put out recently, but that’s more mainstream. I’m sure he has albums and albums worth of stuff that wouldn’t be to my taste at all (I’m a pop chick after all) and Lethal Bizzle is good fun when I see or hear him interviewed, but I shamefully wouldn’t be able to name any of his songs. I have however been aware of a few things Sway has done in the past. His song Saturday Night Hustle with Lemar from 2008 was excellent and I’ve written before about how much I love Level Up which was released in 2012 and has been on my running playlist ever since. I’ve followed the build-up to the release of his latest full album ‘Deliverance’ and have seen the good reviews surrounding it (Sway himself is also very hands on with corresponding with fans on Twitter which always scores points with me) so I thought it about time I have it a listen.

Here’s what I thought:

Deliverance Song (Featuring Daniel De Bourg)

Do not underestimate how clever this man is. I listen to a lot of mainstream rap and hip hop and I’ve never heard a song delivered in this way, literally spelling out the story of the song. The way he  replaces letters here and there to form new words and new rhymes is outstanding and must have taken ages to write (well, it would for me at least anyway).  A very impressive and promising start to the album.

Testimony (Featuring Tiggs Da Author)

One thing I love most about Sway and acts like him as they don’t try to sound American, they embrace their English accent and just sound so British. This helps the album start off with a punch which it’s strong African beats in the hook, it’s more of a moody ballad that would be well placed on the soundtrack of a Spike Lee film.

Stream It (Featuring Mista Silva)

Venturing more into grime territory here which isn’t within my music comfort zone I do admit although the chantable chorus makes it difficult for this not to get stuck in your head. Much respect for working music identification app Shazam into the lyrics as well (the song is about the ever changing music industry though, so it works!)

Snap Shot (Featuring Sam Garrett)

Taking a look at everyone’s obsession with taking pictures of everything these days (particularly selfies) and the jet set lifestyle. Sam’s vocals blend well with Sway’s laid back style and the electro dancy melody sounds reminiscent of a lot of stuff Calvin Harris is doing at the moment. Can definitely see it being released as a single.

Blow It (feat. They Call Me Raptor & Ryan Thomas)

Another stand out on the album for me, I LOVE the chorus which has a laid back bluesy Aloe Black vibe and is a total contradiction to Sway and Raptors fast flowing aggressive rapping style but it works. Sway sounding at his best on this one in particular. I love the ‘clapping’ break downs in the middle 8’s as well.

Wanna Be (Featuring Ksi)

Even though there’s mishmash drum beats with catchy ‘hey’ chants and  aggressive vocals this is about following your own path and being who you want to be. I’ve always been partial of an a capella rap breakdown where the rapper can keep rhythm even though there’s no music behind them and Sway does that perfectly in this song!

Teach Us

While I love the upbeat funkyness of the verses, I’m not mad keen on the chorus. Not sure what it is, it just grates on me a little, also the line ‘learn me everything you know’ messes with my grammatical ODC,  much as I appreciate it’s just poetic license 😉

Crier

Has great gospel and uplifting undertones, I like the almost nursery rhyme rhythm his vocals on the verse have. The lyrics fit with the rest of the theme of the album and are very positive and inspirational. Possibly an open letter to someone (his son?) as the story reads like a modern version of Just the Two of Us by Will Smith, but a little more articulate and less cheesy!

The Sea (feat. Ms Adams & Jamie Grey)

Wow. WOW! I had no idea that Sway has been diagnosed with cancer (Hogkins Lymphoma) – clearly haven’t been reading his Wikipedia page closely enough. This song is about his diagnosis, treatment and subsequent recovery and is beautiful. For such a tough subject, it’s incredibly uplifting. One of the stand out tracks for sure!

Follow You

Another favourite of mine, and one of the most personal on the album. He talks about finding inner strength and helping yourself out of trouble; following your instincts. Sways vocals come across preachy but not in a judgmental way, in a clam church pastor kind of way. It will definitely be one a lot of people will be able to relate to!

Ain’t Going Home (feat. Mr Bigz & Tony Blaize)

Funky with a capital F.U.N. This is most like the other songs of his I love (Saturday Hustle and Level Up) the chorus is straight out of 70’s old school funk, could easily have been produced by Pharrell. Probably the most poppy on the album so naturally one of my favourites!

Reign Dance

Probably the most ‘hip hop’ lyrically on the album as he talks about preparing to reign supreme but he does it in a self assured positive way rather than trying to make himself look good by bashing other people. The catchy hook of the chorus is about coming together to dance in the rain.

Still Speedin’ (Remix) – Bonus track

This was released as as single a while ago but never hit my radar sadly. It wouldn’t be out of place on a Fast n Furious soundtrack sampling fan favourite Ride on Time. It’s the most dancey on the album and imagine it probably does really well live would do really well live, particularly at festivals or in Ibiza.

Level Up (feat. Kelsey) – Bonus track

I’ve never made a secret about how much I love this song so i’m pleased it’s been included on the album so more people get to listen to it. Sways lyrics are witty with loads of pop culture references and Kelsey’s voice gives it a great electropop edge.

I’d always been a fan of the more positive hip hop in the 80’s and 90’s like Salt n Pepa, De la Soul and Tribe Called Quest and I think this album falls well within that genre. Putting aside the fact that I think he’s so cute I just want to pinch is little cheeks, I genuinely don’t understand why he’s not on mainstream radio. The quality and production of this is as good if not better than anything Tinie (who I also love) is putting out at the moment. For a grime/hip hop artist, I’d say this falls more into the hip hop category than grime (which is fine by me!) and although it didn’t have the immediate ‘oh my god this is the best album ever’ punch that Gambino’s Camp did, after a couple of listens it’s quickly edging its way into my exclusive top 10. Sway has unique rhyming skills and a flow that reminds me of Twista back in the 90’s. The important social commentary and clever articulate lyrics appeal to my natural love of words (I’ve always been a lyric over melody girl) and the fact he’s actually rapping about real things, not just ‘money, cash, hoes’ means even this chubby blonde white girl from Newcastle can get her rhythmless groove on to it!

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.

oli-joes

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!