Review: Sway – Verses from the Vault 1&2

‘Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness’ – Maya Angelou

Music is undeniably one of my biggest passions which I don’t get chance to wrote about nearly enough. That’s my own fault really because I don’t listen to as much new stuff as I used to. I’m in my mid 30s now whilst I still listen to radio 1 to keep up with what the kids are into these days I pretty much know what I like and stick with it. I’m nothing if not loyal

Every now and then an artist comes along who changes the way you listen to music. For me, UK rapper Sway is one of those people. I’d been of fan of the track Saturday Night Hustle he did with Lemar in 2008 and then the song Level Up released in 2012 which still remains on my running playlist to this day.


His 2015 Album Deliverance very quickly earned a spot on my top ten albums of all time so needless to say I’ve been itching to hear some new material.

Praise be to the rap gods that Sway released Verses from the Vault volumes 1 and 2 and as the name suggests; whilst not strictly an album of new material,  it’s actually 2 albums of previously unreleased material. So, new to me, and that’s all that counts.


One of the things I love most about Sway, and artists like him (namely Childish Gambino) is that their content isn’t your stereotypical ‘money cash hoes’ that you might expect from someone from a rap/grime artist from North London. It’s much, much deeper than that. In fact, the only thing Sway really boasts about, is his work ethic. And in a country of zero hours contracts and ‘discouraged workers’ being at an all time high, is that something we should really be criticizing someone for?

Had I not known (and it not being glaringly obvious from the title) that this was a collection of previously unreleased songs of yore, I would have firmly and happily believed that Verses from the Vaults was a brand new album as it stands up valiantly next to Deliverance. The albums are split between Sway’s two heritages; volume 1 a tribute to his Ghanaian roots and volume 2 a nod to his London upbringing.

Stand out tracks for me are King, a beautifully articulated dedication to Michael Jackson,  Mirror, a dedication to his daughter (I’m guessing) which in these times of misogynistic american presidents and clubs of elitist British aristocrats perving over waitresses, is refreshing to hear and Topboy, partly because it’s mostly clever lyrics against a very simple beat but mostly because he references Rugrats. Which is my all time favourite cartoon. Ever.

If you haven’t heard Sway before it’s hard to describe his style because he’s not really anyone who can be pigeonholed. Some tracks like Still Speedin from Deliverance and Prince from Verses from the Vault 2 wouldn’t be out of place in Chase & Status set (or on the A list on Radio 1 in my opinion) yet there are songs like Never Enough (from Verses from the Vault 1) which are so lyrically intricate that you have to stop everything you’re doing to take it all in. For me Sway has always been the perfect gym or sun lounger album. And by that I don’t by any means that it’s throwaway music. What I mean is it’s music you want to listen to when you can really devote your time to the poetry with no distractions

Honorable mention has to go to instrumental track Letter which, even as one of life’s lyrics girls, even I can see that this piece of music should be on a film soundtrack without delay.


If this is the quality of stuff that Sway just has in his back pocket that he was saving for a rainy day then it makes me so excited to hear brand new material. Perhaps he might even be inspired to write a song about the palest and blondest girl in England being his biggest fan? Or at the very least let me to sing the hook to Level Up when does the live shows he’s promised me later this year…..

You can download Verses from the Vault from Apple Music and Spotify now – do it!


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.


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.


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.


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…


More Bottomless Prosecco at Newcastle’s No28

‘I enjoy a Prosecco. It’s bubbly; it’s fun’ – Danielle Schneider

About 18 months ago one my favourite bars in Newcastle started a Bottomless Prosecco offer and the classy ladies (and gents) of the toon rejoiced! Since then the offer has gone from strength to strength with the bar being jam packed almost every Saturday and Sunday and while other bars have since followed suit with similar offers, No28 remains the original (and the best in my opinion).

When we originally visited back in July 2016 the offer was two hours of free flowing fizz and a choice of thai inspired tapas however since then they have introduced their own in house burger kitchen; Meat: Stack and as such the deal has changed slightly to now involve a burger and beef dripping fries (but still two hours of free flowing fizz – hurrah!)

I was a massive fan of the thai tapas (you can read my original review of that here) because it was the perfect amount of food for a snack to break up a shopping trip so i was initially concerned when I heard they’d swapped that out for burgers which with places like Fat Hippo and Byron right around the corner, there’s a lot of competition. HOWEVER these burgers haven’t been voted the best in Newcastle for nothing. They. Are. Delicious.


The menu is small but perfectly formed  meaning you’re not bogged down with loads of choices which are essentially the same thing (I’m looking at you Byron). We went for the West Coast Classic (the original cheeseburger with all the fixings – including their own secret sauce which puts anything Ronald McDonald can produce to shame) with beef dripping fries and our veggie pal had the Southern Fried Paneer and regular fries. In hindsight, these delicious burgers work perfectly with 2 hours of hard drinking and serve as ideal booze soakers – way more than the tapas did.

The ‘rules’ remain unchanged; Due to Newcastle City Council licensing laws the management reserve the right to refuse or withdraw service to anyone they deem too intoxicated, so again as long as you’re not a knob about it, the booze will flow as long as you’re in an appropriate state to accept it.

Bookings are opened up on a 3 month rolling basis and are available on a Saturday and Sunday, however if you’re planning a large party or stag or hen do send them a quick message on Facebook and they’ll probably be able to accommodate! Let’s be honest, you don’t get much for £25 these days and the fizz is as free flowing as you can get – the staff are super attentive and for the whole two hour we were there our glasses were never empty. And everyone know that empty prosecco glasses make the baby Jesus cry.


No28, 27-29 Nelson St, Newcastle City Centre, NE1 5AN
Tel: 0191 447 5590


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!


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.


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

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

Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm

Cornwall is famous for 3 things; pastys, cream teas and cider. My waistline was already full to bursting with the first two so on the last day of our recent Cornish staycastion we found ourselves with a free day so headed to Healeys Cornish Cyder Farm to see if we could get wasted on fermented apples.

I became most aware of the Healeys and and their apple crushing ways when I was given some Rattler on a hen do back in June, which sounds like some underground slang for something illegal however, is merely just cloudy cider, and isn’t too bad at all!

The cider farm itself has varying tour options depending on how much you want to spend or how much you want to see. You can get a fall guided tour around the orchard and the production room on a tractor for about £15, you do a self guided tour for £4 or you can just have a wander round yourself for free (without seeing the orchard or production room). An educated guess lead us to believe cider production was probably nothing more than apples go in, press, press, press, cider comes out, we decided to just walk around ourselves.


There’s certainly enough to keep you occupied for an hour or so too; there’s a non working example of a cider press to see (turns out our educated guess was pretty accurate by the look of the machinery), a cafe serving traditional Cornish cream teas, a restaurant if you wanted something more fancy to eat and a jam making room – they were making sweet chilli and Rattler jam when we were there and it smelt amazing!

There’s also a little farmyard to keep the kids (old and young) occupied with a couple of Shire Horses, pigs, rabbits, ferrets and some super SUPER cute pygmy goats.

The best part of the visit however has to be the gift shop and tasting area, which is completely free (Well, the gift shop isn’t free, you can’t just help yourself to anything in there) but the tasting is and we’ve done enough alcohol tours and tastings in the past to know this is one of the letter ones. It’s very rare that organisations will give away much for free so it’s refreshing to see initiatives being employed to create positive reviews and good word of mouth at very little cost to the company. In short, you very rarely get something for nothing.

The staff dishing out the tastings were all knowledgeable and great fun as they talked you through all the different types of cider they make and how long each one is brewed? Distilled? Matured? (Perhaps I should have gone on that tour afterall) for. You only get a little sample of each but there are quite a few to sample so must have had the equivalent of half a pint by the end.

I’m not entirely sure I would spend £15 for a full ticket, especially if you’re taking the family however the self guided tour at £4.50 wouldn’t break the bank and would certainly keeping the little ones entertained for another hour or so, it’s just a shame they wouldn’t be able to drive you home afterwards!


Address: Penhallow – Truro – Cornwall – TR4 9LW – United Kingdom
Phone: 01872 573356

JustSO release debut album

‘All music is escapism for me, but I like the way that, on a good night, that sense of escapism can be shared’ – Jamie xx

One of the best parts of my job is being able to talk passionately about things I love and discovering new music has always been a great love of mine. Writing this blog has given me many amazing opportunities, and none more amazing than being offered the opportunity to work as press officer for local North East rock band The Longsands after they read a review I wrote of one of their gigs. It helped that I was mates with them at school of course; having an already established relationship made the job so much easier and it was a dream come true for me.

Guitarist from The Longsands Stan had always had a side project in JustSO, a more laid back acoustic offering with vocalist Olivia Morley which he managed concurrently with The Longsands but when the boys decided to call it a day in 2017, Stan moved forward with JustSO and started recording their own material rather than just relying on a popular wedding band repertoire.


They’ve now just released their first self titled album full of original material and although it couldn’t be more different from The Longsands back catalogue, on just first listen it sounds like a perfect laid back pop album.

The change in direction (for Stan at least) is a refreshing change of pace and his distinctive voice shines through as he shares 50% of the vocals. As soon I heard his guitar kick in I instantly thought ‘there’s Stan’. His voice melts like butter with Olivia’s who although may vocally lack the power of Beyonce or Adele, she certainly more than makes up for it in soul and reminds me of some of my favourite female singers from the 90s like Paula Cole and Jewel.

The album is track after track of polished classy radio friendly hits with a distinct modern americana vibe. Stand out track from me is Stay, which could have been pulled straight off the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack and believe me when I say I hold the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack in very high esteem!

History hasn’t been too kind to male/female bands however I think JustSO manage to pull off the musical credibility of Fleetwood Mac (without being too mumsy) and the energy of The Beautiful South (without being a bit rubbish). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you heard them on radio 2 in the very near future!

Download the album from amazon and find out more about the band on their Facebook page.

Billy Bootleggers, Newcastle

‘Whiskey will always be a part of my life’ Artie Lange

I’m sure that people who consider themselves to be real pub connoisseurs would want to burn me at the stake when I openly admit how much of a lover of a Wetherspoons I am. Cheap food, cheap wine and real ale, what’s not to love? The problem with Newcastle upon Tyne is that apart from the couple of Wetherspoons they have, and a sprinkling of decent authentic one of a kind pubs(Lady Greys, Split Chimp, Crowne Posada) it’s almost wall to wall swanky champagne bars where it takes an hour to get a cocktail and the only beer on tap is Stella.


Another favourite pub of mine which is neither a Wetherspoons or a long standing staple of the the city is No28, which I visit frequently and was very honoured to be able to try out their Unlimited Prosecco offer before it was launched last summer. Imagine my joy when I found out that they were expanding and adding a sister underground Speakeasy.


Down at Billy Bootleggers, believe me when I say there’s nothing else like this place in Newcastle. A dive bar in the truest sense with its’s dark cubbyhole corners, Americana decor and bourbon whiskey by the jar. The graffiti filled walls when you walk in reminded me on CBGBs in New York (the original dive bar). So far this place is ticking all my boxes, if you pardon the phrase.  The best bar in Newcastle just got even better.

We finally visited at about 10pm on a Friday night and it was nicely busy but not so heaving that you couldn’t get moved. We sought advice from the barmaid as to what to drink as we were just looking for a nightcap before heading home. She recommended their flavoured whiskeys (at 3 for 10) so we went for Raspberry, Cranberry and Banana and they came in really cute little jam jars. Mixers were also available with them if we felt we needed them but they were tasty enough without. The Cranberry was definitely my favourite, I could have drank me a million and a half of those little glass beauties! They also brew their own secret recipe of Apple Pie Moonshine which will be the first thing I’m trying on my next visit.

The band who were playing at the time (who’s name escapes me – I blame the whiskey) were really good, not too loud that they were over bearing and playing a mixture of original material and stripped down covers all with an acoustic rockabilly feel.

The food and drinks menus are totally on brand and there are no bells and whistles. If your sipping whiskey and listening to an Americana version of Billy Jean, do you really want foi gras or hispter kale and kombucha? No, you want hot dogs (from £7) and wings (from £5) and fries (from £3.50) and stuff you can eat with your hands. They have an extensive cocktail menu if bourbon ain’t your thing, along with wine and beer too.


Much like No28, I have a feeling Billy’s is going to be one of those places that I drag everyone along to for some enforced fun. It’s also probably the only place in the city that makes me wish there was no smoking ban; whiskey and cigars. So bluesy!

Billys is open daily from 5pm to 2am with live music at weekends.