Clearly I didn’t read the invitation properly, I thought it would be a couple of hours of standing at a buffet nibbling on lovely tapas.
Nope, nope, nope. It was four hours long and a proper posh sit down dinner of five courses. Maybe the clue was in the description ‘exclusive dinner’?! Well, I certainly wasn’t complaining.
Dish after delicious dish came out accompanied with exquisite wine. Each offering colourful and curious and obviously, tasty. In total I counted that we’d been served 14 dishes and we also got involved when the pescatarian on our table got fish dishes instead of meat.
Ibérica is a beautiful, classy and colourful venue – the staff were energetic, helpful and fun – and there was a buzz to the whole evening.
My favourite dish unexpectedy was a pear and spinach salad with feta, pine nuts and pesto. INCREDIBLE. My other top dish was the chargrilled octopus brought out for the pescatarian (he didn’t get much of a look in as we all piled in to try it). It tasted like a juicy steak.
If you get the chance do go and eat at Ibérica – it’s a glamourous fun night out and the food is awesome. And make sure you check out the ladies toilets – they are apparently the most Instagrammable in Manchester I’m still kicking myself for not taking my phone to the loo…
I am particular about how our house looks, I like to keep things minimalist and decluttered and it’s not a good idea to cross me on that.
About a month ago my boyfriend Jamie went out on plant shopping spree. I love the botanical look, so I was delighted until I realised that all of the plants were so huge and unwieldy that they made the house look messy.
I’d had a glass wine and I just couldn’t hold back on my irritation: ‘Jamie, the house doesn’t look streamlined anymore and I don’t like it – we need to do something about those plants’.
Jamie, not best pleased that his generous plant contribution was being attacked retorted with: ‘I find it ironic that someone as messy as you is so bothered about the house being streamlined’. This admittedly was a valid point.
However the tension of ‘plant-gate’ did lead to better things. It got us thinking about how we could declutter the house so the plants wouldn’t look so overwhelming.
It started with a fancy ‘string’ shelving system and a dumping of an unnecessary chest of drawers in our bedroom, which immediately lifted the room.
We loved the changes so much that we started to get high on our new interior success. What could we do next? The minimalist (and rather expensive) shelves did highlight how cheap everything else in the room looked, so an Ikea, John Lewis and garden centre trip later we had some new chic shelving blocks, a dusty pink throw and even more plants than before.
The new improved bedroom
And the decorating frenzy didn’t stop there, we took our fervour into the guest bedroom – giving it the botanical feature wall treatment we’d planned since we bought the wallpaper nine months ago. And then of course, we need a new bright blue lampshade to ‘pull the room together’.
And it’s definitely not over yet – I’ve been eyeing up macrame plant hangers in the Northern Quarter’s Form Lifestyle Store, and all of our sudden our front door looks very tatty, not to mention the mouldy wall in our living room. I’ll keep you posted!
Last night I got to stuff my face with the most delightful vegan street food treats at Jackie Kearney’s book launch.
For those who haven’t heard of Jackie, she was one of the Masterchef finalists in 2011 and is a committed vegetarian.
Her latest book is called My Vegan Travels. Jackie has travelled a lot in South East Asia and picked up a ton of great ideas for cooking vegetarian and vegan food. Her previous book Vegan Street Food was along a similar theme, but her new book is focussed on super simple, comfort food recipes.
I got to munch my way through: shitake mushroom croquettes, bombay veg sandwiches, beetroot and watercress samosas and artichoke torta. All rather lovely. But the icing on the cake for me as a greedy sugar fiend, were the chai doughnuts with raspberry jam and soft pecan cookie ice-cream sandwiches (with a vegan malted coconut and blueberry ice-cream). Scrumptious.
The book looks absolutely superb, so if you want to buy an original Christmas gift for a cooking enthusiast, My Vegan Travels is a great shout.
It was Saturday, and we were heading into town to watch a 6pm film at Home, and fancied a light dinner out beforehand.
After a bit of a sniff about on Tripadvisor, we decided on the Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar. Partly because we’ve both been before and loved it, but also because they have a brilliant Express Menu – 2 courses for £14.95 or 3 courses for £18.95.
4.15pm is an early dinner, but it meant that it was quite a calm, quiet time in the restaurant, which is always rather nice on a busy Saturday in town.
We only went for two courses. Much as I would have liked a pudding, I was fixated on having a tub of ice-cream at the cinema, so held off.
Jamie had a pale ale rarebit with Goosnargh duck egg and I chose Brixham crab cakes. Both were delicious and the presentation was lovely too.
And for mains, I decided to go carb-less with a flat iron steak and a salad and Jamie chose Goan chicken, Asian slaw and chips. I’m not a massive red meat eater, but the steak was a triumph – very melty and tasty. Obviously I had to test Jamie’s chicken too, which was succulent and full of flavour.
All in all it was great value for money and a lovely way to spend a wet and windy Saturday afternoon. The venue is really chilled, unpretentious and classy and I love the large glass windows which look onto the old Smithfield fish markets. I don’t go back to many restaurants, because I always like to be finding new spots to write about, but this place is worth breaking that rule for.
I’d heard so many amazing things about Umezushi, I just thought it would be nice to pop in and have a light lunch on a Saturday. However, Jamie got giddy and decided we should get the tasting menu. I wasn’t going to argue.
This was the tasting menu:
Served with Japanese wine or sake.
We passed a lovely couple of hours munching our way through this lot. I had the Japanese white wine, which was light and appley and very nice. And all the sashimi and nigiri was sublime, really fresh and beautifully presented. The grilled fish was mackerel and again was just exquisite. And our final savoury dish was the ‘steamed fish’ which was another soup, this time with sea snail in! Very delicious. Pudding was sake infused pineapple with a dollop of ice-cream.
The whole thing was a really relaxing, intriguing experience. And I really liked the vibe in Umezushi – a tiny wooden interior that seats about 20 people, under a railway arch near Victoria – it felt quirky and cool. And I loved that the toilet has a Japanese cityscape wallpapered all over the walls. Oh yes, and the staff were very attentive and sweet too.
I’ve spent a good couple of years obsessing over Instagram – it’s absolutely my favourite platform. I enjoy ogling people’s beautiful photos of food, latte art and travel destinations. I also love the friendly, nurturing, community vibe on Instagram. People are more likely to say nice things to you than on Twitter, which feels like a rowdier, more argumentative place.
Having been on a few courses and done a load of experimenting on Instagram, here’s some top tips for you:
Learn to take good photos. This may sound a bit obvious, but Instagram is the most visual social platform and your photos need to stand out to get noticed. Here’s a brilliant article on how to take better photos with your smart phone – I found it super helpful.
Write good captions. Yes, it is primarily a visual platform, but you’ll pack more of a punch if you’ve written something interesting alongside your picture. A lot of people use it almost as a journal, to share little stories from their day, while others use bantery fun captions – the range of writing styles is huge, so pick an approach that’s right for you. I’ve got most inspiration from scouring accounts like Orla and Me, Old Fashioned Sus, Allison Sadler as they express themselves brilliantly and authentically.
Get some Insta role models. As I mentioned above, I have a ton of these. I don’t just seek inspiration from them in terms of how they write their posts, but I look for ideas for how they compose photos, how often they post, who they are following, what hashtags they use and how they use Instagram stories. I want to the learn from the best. Other accounts I love are Alison Perry, Father of Daughters, Phillipa Stanton
Use the photo editing phone app called VSCO. It’s free, but it’s not that good unless you pay for some filters. Instagram itself offers filters and editing tools, but they are a bit clunky and uninspiring. VSCO is more subtle and the filters are great. Because I largely stick to the same filters it gives my feed a more cohesive, consistent look.
Use a planning app. I use Mosiaco (which I paid about £5 for), but I know that there are free apps others like Planoly and Preview. Mosiaco allows me to test out what my photos are going to look like with the rest of my Instagram pictures before I post them. Again, so I can try and aspire to the Insta dream of having a gallery that is well thought out and is following a deliberate colour palette.
I hope these are helpful and if you have any tips for me – do comment below.
I also offer one to one Instagram training, if that’s something you’d find useful, whether that’s for your personal account or for business please get in touch. And here’s my Instagram feed, if you want to check it out.
Last night I headed out to the Con Club to meet my friend Kate for dinner. It was Tuesday night, so a proper meal out felt rather extravagent, but having just got back from my holiday, it seemed like the perfect way to try and distract myself from my post holiday blues.
The Con Club is opposite Altrincham Market and is a gorgeous venue – it’s an old building (1887) that was renovated last year, and the Con Club opened as a restaurant in November. It’s a really trendy, beautiful place now – spacious, high ceilinged, modern and fun.
We arrived at 7.30pm and the place was buzzing! Who knew that Altrincham is the place to be on a Tuesday night? I ordered a Yakatori Beef dish with Asian veg and Kate went for a sirloin steak with fries. We were both very pleased with our choices.
Having just got back from Italy I ordered a Italian wine: Levorato Primativo. It was fruity and delicious. And I felt like I earned myself some brownie points for not staying safe and ordering my usual glass of Malbec. Check out my recent Help, I’m in Wine Rut blog post to read more about my attempts to push myself out of my wine comfort zone.
We both finished off with decadent puddings, I chose a carrot cake with coconut sorbet and Kate opted for a chocolate lava cake with popcorn ice-cream. My carrot cake was excellent, but I have to confess to having pudding envy for Kate’s dessert, which she described as the most chocolately cakey extravaganza she’d ever eaten.
We both had a superb evening at the Con Club, it’s lively, stunning to look at, the food is fabulous, and the staff couldn’t have done enough for us, making us feel very spoilt and well looked after.