Tag Archives: food and drink

Tasmania | What to see & do when visiting sleepy little Hobart | Australia

14915668_10153918773132617_6088979687817940244_nTasmania is one of the most easily skipped parts of Australia for backpackers who are more often drawn to the commercialised party of the East Coast or the big city life of Melbourne and Sydney. Many know nothing about Tasmania, I certainly didn’t realise it was a separate island until I actually arrived in Australia. But I knew almost straight away that the West Coast of Australia and Tasmania would be real highlights for me when exploring Australia. Don’t get me wrong, there are some special sights to see along the East Coast but it is very much about partying and I think it is a shame so many never travel beyond it. When I returned on my second year visa, it was my absolutely priority to get myself to Tasmania as soon as possible, my tax back from the previous year was sitting in my account waiting to be spent and how better than on a month in Bali and a Tasmania road trip?14907078_10153918772997617_1715679100688056958_n

Flights and job-hunting

Flying into Hobart, I was excited for the crisp, clear air and the stormy skies after the last month in humid Bali and sunny Cairns. Flights to Tasmania are some of the cheapest I have found in Australia, I actually paid less than $100 for my flight from Cairns via Sydney, and landed in Hobart which I used as my base for the next few weeks. I originally arrived with hopes of finding work and staying over Christmas before returning to Melbourne, but friends I made in the hostel assured me it would be harder than expected to find work and I was best off just travelling then working in Melbourne. The farming season had been delayed in Tasmania due to the weather so those hunting for raspberry/strawberry picking work or cherries, were hanging around in the hope something would turn up. Hospitality work was hard to come by as there just weren’t enough jobs for those looking and it always helped to know someone who could get you in. I personally would really recommend just travelling Tasmania so you can get the most out of it as it actually costs very little to have an amazing experience compared to other parts of Australia.14955928_10153918765567617_1970551983302675658_n

Where to stay?

In my view there is only one hostel even worth mentioning in this section – The Pickled Frog. Within minutes of arriving it became one of my absolute favourite hostels ever, not just in Australia. It was full of the most friendly and relaxed travellers I have ever met and many of them were there long-term to work so they made the place feel like home. Some were just about to set off on road trips around the island, others had just come back, either way, they were a wealth of information about what to see and do. The hostel was a pretty old building with creaky floors and two huge dogs, it had charm and character and all centred around a huge living area with couches and tables to relax on and hang out with other travellers. The kitchen was huge and was a great place to meet new people and cook up a feast before sitting in the living room to play cards all night and drink beers from the bar in the reception.14993574_10153918765507617_1387576738760546505_nSituated at the top of Hobart city, you can’t miss the hostel which has been painted bright green and it is easy to get the airport shuttle to right outside the door. A bed in the hostel came to between $26-30 a night depending on the size dorm you went for – I always stayed in six bed dorms which were perfect as I wasn’t a fan of the bigger dorms downstairs. Even better, you get a lot of great freebies for your money as the hostel provides free trips to Mount Wellington, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see Tasmanian devils. Trust me, staying in this hostel will make your Hobart experience!14938406_10153918768517617_7172613571368688482_n

Top 5 things to see and do:

  1. Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) – it goes without saying that you HAVE to experience this freakishly fascinating collection, you won’t come out the same! Highlights include the wall of vaginas and the machine that makes poo.
  2. Mount Wellington – get the hostel bus to the top and take in the views before walking back down. It only takes about two hours to walk down and get the bus back to the hostel but it’s a lovely stroll through forest trails.
  3. Salamanca markets – packed full of local produce including fruit, cheeses and smoked salmon, and soundtracked by talented buskers and musicians, it’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.
  4. Discover the flavours of local producers by spending day visiting them by car/bus and sampling wines/cheeses/beers/ciders/chocolate. I actually had one of my best dates ever doing this with a guy I met down there.
  5. Walk around the city – it’s so small that you can easily walk the Tasman Highway bridge and make it to Battery Point to marvel at the quaint homes, antique stores and enjoy a beer all in one afternoon.

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Why I fell in love with Hobart

Hobart has a real charm that other parts of Australia lack, perhaps being English it was the quaint, older charm the city had that won me over. I loved the way everything had a real history and seemed from a time long before the modern skyscrapers of the cities. The solid wooden bars seemed like they had a story to tell, the musicians were quirky and brought unique talent to the table. The lifestyle was slower and more appreciative than the busy bustle of Melbourne or Sydney, less focused on partying and more on appreciating the great outdoors, and when it came to that, Tasmania had a lot to offer. Everyone knows from this blog that I am a total party animal, but there is another side to me, that country girl from the UK who loves getting outdoors and active. Tasmania was a perfect place to do this and so when I was in Hobart, I used my time to plan a road trip around the rest of the island – I’ll be blogging about how I planned my trip at a later date.14908393_10153918768602617_7371877092977412756_n14980664_10153918773242617_260356493879465716_n

Have you been to Hobart – what was your favourite part? Can you recommend any things to do/places to eat at?

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London | A bittersweet trip to the Caribbean with Cottons

imageI’ve had people ask me before whether I really like things as much as I say in reviews, whether I’m just sugar-coating because I got to eat or stay somewhere for free. I can’t help but laugh when I hear this, because anyone who knows me well will agree that’s it’s almost impossible for me to hide how I feel about things, and lying just isn’t in vocabulary. I’m always honest and have just been lucky that so far I’ve never really had a bad experience when I’ve reviewed products or places, but that doesn’t mean I would hide it from my readers if I did. I actually had my first disappointing experience at a restaurant review a few weeks ago and wanted to make sure I shared this with you, because my blog is about life – the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating and no editing out the bad bits, just honesty about my experiences so that perhaps they can help you to plan yours.imageYou guys will already know I went on a little weekend jaunt to London a few weeks ago when I stayed at the gorgeous Mandeville Hotel – find my review here – well I actually went to London because I had a series of restaurant reviews booked in. Lucky me, I love food and I love visiting new restaurants so this is a serious perk of running this blog, and I wanted to make sure I squeezed them all in quick before I head back to Australia. The first restaurant review of the weekend was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, and sadly it was the most disappointing. Cottons Rhum Shack and Restaurant in Notting Hill was where we were headed and I was looking forward to a night of Caribbean cuisine and rum cocktails. It was a cute little restaurant with all the colour and character a Caribbean restaurant should have and the Rhum Bar looked like a fabulous place to sip on a cocktail. So what was the problem?imageWell, from the second we walked in the door, we just didn’t feel very welcome. The service sucked, big time. The staff barely looked up when we came in and just seemed like they couldn’t be bothered to chat to us or welcome us as we went to our table. It took about 15 minutes before anyone even came over to ask if we actually wanted any drinks or if we understood the menu, I could understand if they were busy but this was a quiet Sunday night. For me, the service really makes a restaurant – whether it’s a fine dining or a budget chain, the level of attentiveness can turn an average dinner into a really lovely evening. As someone who has worked in hospitality across pubs, restaurants and bars, I know full well how much it sucks to work the Sunday shift when perhaps you’re tired or hungover from the night before, but that doesn’t mean you offer lower quality service. It’s always so important to remember that each customer who comes in is paying for top quality service and food and I just didn’t feel like that was a factor in our meal.imageWe indulged in rum cocktails – I went for the Wild Tiki which was spiced rum flavoured with Maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, pineapple, kafir and lemongrass. It was delicious, like a slightly more exotic Pornstar Martini. While my friend went for the Reggae Rum Punch – going for Wray and Nephews rum mixed with fruit juices – always pretty tasty. The cocktails were a real highlight of the night because I’m pretty picky about the quality, I hate when you get a cocktail and it is just watered down juice. Then our dinner arrived, I’d ordered the Spiced Coconut Seafood Casserole which was packed full of clams, squid, crab and red mullet, annatto potatoes and was served with scotch bonnet rouille. It was fantastic, the coconut flavour was absolutely delicious and I loved the mix of seafood as I’m a big fish fan. But my friend was left rather disappointed by the Montego bay Jerk Pork and Ribs – he actually ordered off the Caribbean Classics menu so we expected that to a lot better but there was a real lack of meat served. As someone who has worked in a Caribbean restaurant and who loves the food, he was pretty disappointed with his meal.imageIn the end it was a pretty bittersweet evening, while the cocktails and my dinner were good, my friend’s meal and the service on offer left a lot to be desired. I personally wouldn’t eat there again, if I fancy Caribbean food in future I would probably try to track down a different restaurant. It’s a shame because the restaurant was in a great location in Notting Hill and had most of the ingredients to be a success but it just didn’t quite make it. Here’s hoping the staff were just having an off-night, but having someone walk off as I started to place a drinks order wasn’t a good sign. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has eaten at one of the Cotton’s Restaurants and whether you enjoyed your experience – please leave a comment below and tell me about it.

How was your Cotton’s experience? Can you recommend any other Caribbean restaurants in the UK?

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London | A RustiKo Italian feast in Soho

imageGoing out for dinner has always been one of my favourite things to do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s street food in Bangkok, a luxury three-course meal in a fine-dining restaurant or a stuff-yourself-silly night at the local steakhouse. I’m always open to trying new foodie experiences and I’d always much rather that than a night of partying, money much better spent if you ask me! Especially when it comes to supporting independent and local businesses, I’m not really one for chain restaurants and would always much rather eat at restaurant that isn’t mass-producing its food. Give me fresh, local produce and a creative means of cooking any day. It’s not just the food – although that is a huge part of why I love it – it’s also the social experience of trying new foods with friends or loved ones, of sitting around a table and eating together. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to meals, growing up it was always the one time of day my family all sat down together with no TV or other distractions to eat and catch up on what we had all been up to. When you’re living such busy and different lives, I think it’s important to really take this time together. As a backpacker, getting to know people always seems to be done over dinner and a few beers, eating together is once again the thing that brings us all together of an evening.imageLondon is a city full of chain restaurants and well known brands, but for me, this just doesn’t do it when I have a weekend away. I’d much rather peruse the food markets and explore quirky little restaurants with a lot more personality for a bit of a unique experience. I was invited along to review RustiKo Soho, a new independent Italian restaurant in the heart of Old Compton Street, just a stone’s throw from some of the best theatres in London. As we walked up to the restaurant, we were excited by the cosy look of the place, the quirky, candle-lit interior, and a funky blues playlist we could hear muffled behind the windows. I was promised “the vintage Soho experience” from an evening there and I can’t say I was disappointed, we were made to feel so welcome from the second we stepped in the door. The size and the decor gave it such a friendly vibe, more like you had hired out the whole venue for your friends than the formality of a restaurant. Every bar stool was already taken by those enjoying the fantastic range of prosecco, classic and twisted cocktails, as we were escorted to our table. I loved the rustic vibes of the restaurant, it was just my kind of place and I could only imagine the other levels would deliver more of the same.imageOne glance at the menu showed me we were in for a treat as we struggled to choose our favourite dishes, there was so much choice and so many of my favourite dishes. Despite having limited numbers of dishes on the menus, every single dish on there sounded fabulous and there was definitely something for everyone. The waiters were incredibly helpful with suggesting wines to go with the dishes and offering recommendations for combinations of dishes. In the end, we started with the garlic chilli shrimp and polenta chips to start, with some garlic pizza bread. It was the first time I had tried polenta chips but they were delicious, and the garlic pizza bread was a huge hit with that super melty, delicious cheese. My favourite had to be the delicious garlic chilli shrimp – one of my favourite dishes to have as a starter – I was so impressed by the flavours and spice, it was perfect and I’ll definitely be ordering that again.imageFor our second course, we spent ages choosing our dishes, but in the end we couldn’t resist the lobster linguine and the gnocchi. Now gnocchi is a dish that I’ve had a lot of disappointment over in the past, I’ve had the sad looking potatoey lumps slapped on a plate several times and decided it wasn’t for me. But finally, we tried a gnocchi that was tasty and had the perfect texture, the dumplings were cooked in a tasty mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and basil sauce that was perfect for my vegetarian sister. The absolute highlight was my lobster linguine, a dish that I have loved for many years, I couldn’t resist seeing the chef’s take on it. This time it was half a lobster cooked with cherry tomatoes, spring onions and a brandy sauce, even now as I write this my mouth is watering at the memory. It was a deliciously rich dish full of flavours, but the chef had combined them so perfectly that they didn’t overtake the delicate taste of the lobster. It’s a fine balance and there’s nothing worse than a seafood dish that overpowers seafood with strong flavours, the brandy was a perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed with the quality of the food, and the portion size, we were left stuffed and couldn’t even manage dessert!imageWatching the other patrons, I couldn’t resist peeking at their food and was excited at the sight of the juicy steaks, the light pasta dishes and the small plates (piattini) that were perfect for sharing. The couple next to us were loving their meal and really recommended the dishes, particularly the rib-eye. Showing the diversity of Soho, the restaurant was filled with a real range of people, it really showed how it was perfect for all occasions whether it was a family meal, a romantic dinner for two, or cocktails with the girls. Even better, after dinner, we were taken downstairs to explore the newest addition to the restaurant, the newly-opened basement bar, The Shed. With a real vintage Soho feel, the bar is a perfect place to relax with a drink after dinner, or to spend an evening with good friends. Just a small bar, it has a really exclusive feel as you walk down the spiral staircase to see cute wooden seating, bookshelves and quirky little decorations. I loved the swing music soundtrack and it went perfectly with the amazing look of the bar. There were already a couple of groups down there enjoying a few drinks and I noticed, that although the place felt busy and bustling, it was never so loud that we struggled to hear each other. RustiKo had managed to find a perfect balance between atmosphere and the foodie experience, and the result was just lovely. It really was the rustic Italian experience nestled in the streets of Soho, and I can’t recommend this hidden gem enough. Book your table now.image

Have you been to RustiKo – how was your experience? Can you recommend any other independent restaurants? What’s your favourite Italian dish?

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Falling back in love with lamb at The Orange Tree

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Scorched king scallops and crispy ham hock

There’s been a lot of big posts on the blog of late and I think it’s time to take it back to one of my biggest loves – FOOD! Anyone who knows me will say how much I like my food – people are often shocked by the amount I can put away. But what is more important to me than quantity, is quality. I would always rather have something cooked from scratch, something with all natural ingredients, preferably local, and something delicious than a plateful of greasy crap. I know everyone says that, but I actually mean it. Of course we all have our days when only a takeaway will do, but after being raised in a house where everything is cooked from scratch I find I seem have have significantly less of these cravings than my friends. So for someone who is more than a bit of a foodie, this restaurant review was a long time coming!

I’m lucky enough to live just a short distance from the North-Norfolk coast, one of the most beautiful locations in the country, which is packed with gorgeous seaside towns, quaint old-fashioned pubs, and plenty of amazing gastro pubs. Working at the paper, we are always hearing about awards given to local pubs and restaurants for their fare and one name that comes up time and time again, is The Orange Tree at Thornham. We have wanted to go there for years and have heard so many amazing reviews and recommendations, but it is one of those things that has always been forgotten and put off to another date. Randomly, boyfriend decided to surprise me with dinner at this lovely little restaurant last weekend and I just couldn’t resist sharing our amazing meal with you.

Barbecue teriyaki and sesame pork fillet with satay

Barbecue teriyaki and sesame pork fillet with satay

We started with a refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio which happily washed down our amazing starters. I had scorched king scallops, crispy ham hock with aloo gobi, black curry salt, mango sour, white chocolate and cauliflower purée (first picture). This dish was an incredible mix of flavours and I think you’ll agree the presentation was stunning. I loved the combination of the curry salt and the ham hock, and the purée was very tasty. Mark had barbecue teriyaki and sesame pork fillet with satay, kohlrabi & apple rèmoulade, nuts and seeds (second picture) which was a really delicious dish – even I enjoyed a taste and I’m not usually a big pork lover, but the satay was fantastic. Both were the sort of dishes you really want everyone to experience, but you know it would be heartbreaking to share.

The restaurant itself was lovely and really cosy, with just enough tables to make it feel busy, but not so it was too loud. It was fully booked when we arrived, so we were glad we had booked a table, and they put us on a lovely one in the corner, right by the window. I was surprised to see a few families in there as I wouldn’t have thought of it as the typical place for those with young children to head, but then we realised you could also order off the bar menu, which offered a more casual meal.

Our lamb and pork mains

Our lamb and pork mains

Our mouths were watering as we watched other peoples’ mains being brought out, with a salmon special also catching my eye. But shortly after, our waitress headed over with two stunning dishes both trailing rich aromas of barbecue pork and Moroccan spice in their wake. I found it pretty difficult to conceal my excitement, which was a pretty big thing for me. An incident with some rotten lamb last Christmas – cheers Tesco – has meant I haven’t happily eaten the meat since, but after a meal at The Orange Tree, I am firmly back in love with lamb.

My dish is pictured at the top – at least most of it is, I struggled to fit the cous cous in the frame! I ordered rump of salt marsh lamb with aubergine kofta, spiced vegetable tagine and rose water Israeli cous cous and all I can say really is WOW. This dish was a perfect combination of Moroccan flavours, the stunning blend of spices in the tagine set the kofta and cous cous off a treat. I reached the end of the dish and wished I could have eaten it all over again! Mark’s dish was duo of Blythburgh slow roasted pork belly with seared bbq loin, smoked potato pie, wild mushrooms, 62° poached egg, caramelised onion purée and truffle jus. This fantastic combination of the smoky pork and potato flavours, mushroom and the truffle jus created a light but flavoursome dish – and again, I was impressed at how much I liked it for someone who is not much of a pork lover. We both cleared our plates – absolutely stuffed but refusing to waste even a morsel.

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Pear, caramel and chocolate brownie

It seemed rude not to take them up on a dessert, but already full, we decided to share the pear, caramel and chocolate brownie with caramel bavarois, textures of pear, caramelized puff pastry, chocolate sauce and mascapone sorbet. A very rich dish, we were glad to have shared one as it provided just the right amount of sweetness to round off the meal. I adored the use of pear and caramel with the brownie, and I love sorbet, so it was a perfect dish for me. Mark really enjoyed the brownie, but left me the pear to enjoy as he wasn’t a big fan of the texture – but I was pretty happy about that! It was an amazing meal and the staff were really welcoming and friendly, it had the aura of a country pub with the dining experience of a five-star restaurant.This family-owned business describes itself as “a stylish, contemporary dining pub that serves award-winning food, from top quality local produce in a laid back, ‘unstuffy’ environment.” And I have to agree, if you like an informal and cosy setting combined with a fine dining experience, look no further than The Orange Tree. You won’t regret it. Don’t believe me? Take note of all the amazing awards they have won:

  • Dining Pub of the Year, The Good Pub Guide 2013, 2014 and again for 2015.
  • Finalist In The Chef Of The Year Awards, 2012 EDP
  • Winner Of The Great British Seafood Pub Chef Of The Year Award.
  • One Of The Top 20 Dining Pubs In The UK, Eat Out Magazine.

Check out the website, and pop in next time you’re passing. You can even stay there and make a weekend of it!

Have you been to The Orange Tree – what did you think? Can you recommend any other fine dining pubs you think I’d like?

Ab Lucy sign off

Benji’s gives us bloggers food for thought at Jarrolds’ launch

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Gorgeous canapés on offer

Food – for some it is merely part of surviving, of living from one moment to the next, and fuelling all your endeavours along the way. For others, it is a constant quest for new mouth-watering flavours and alluring aromas to tempt the palate and excite the senses. As a bit of a foodie, I’m always searching for a new lip-smacking experience and as you can imagine, I was in my element when the team at Jarrolds department store, in Norwich, invited me along to join them for their food blogging event to mark the opening of their new bistro restaurant, Benji’s. Offering a whole new dining experience that is a step above that of the other three restaurants and coffee shop within the store, the restaurant has a fabulous menu designed to entice even the fussiest of eaters. The restaurant has such a sophisticated feel and the fine decorative touches really make it feel warm and welcoming, as well as exclusive and a real treat.

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The starter platters really did have something for everyone!

Upon arrival, we were welcomed with champagne and canapés – a warm greeting if ever there was one – with the intricately designed snacks artfully arranged on platters decorated with flowers. Each platter showcased the fantastic array of flavours evident throughout the menu, with some delicious battered smoky barbecue chicken served with a fiery sweet chilli sauce, plus a wonderful goats cheese and beetroot stack (cheese provided by local Fielding Cottage), and finally some crab towers that were packed with flavour. All of these delectable delights left us wowed by the combination of flavours that perfectly complemented the other tastes. Shortly after the introductions, we were treated to a cooking demonstration by the head chef, who has years of experience working in top London hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. He swiftly whipped up a treat for the nose and the eyes with pan-fried sea bass on a bed of artichokes, samphire and salsa verde, with seasonal vegetables. It smelt absolutely divine, and looked so simple to prepare, although I’m sure mine would not look half as presentable as his. Reflecting the constant changes to the menu, this dish will only be available for a couple more weeks as samphire goes out of season. Using only local produce and producers, the restaurant’s menu is dependent on what is available within Norfolk.

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Myself with Leah of Roots & Toots (left) and Gabriella of La Scarpetta (right)

After the demonstration, we headed downstairs for a look around the deli and home-ware department, both of which had us all drooling over treats – both of the food and kitchen-ware variety! We moved between the shelves, checking out everything from chocolate pasta to parsnip and chilli chutneys, lusting over everything from Emma Bridgewater mugs and egg cups, to Artisan mixers. We were lucky enough to have a demonstration of one of the Sage by Heston Blumenthal smoothie makers, which was so easy to use and made the tastiest ginger, apple, orange and kale smoothies – a perfect palate cleanser before we headed back upstairs for our dinner. On the walk back upstairs, I finally got to indulge in that dream of having a department store closed just for you and yes, I did feel exactly like Topshop’s Chloe Green, it was great to wander around the shoe department without any shoppers in my way!

The amazing seafood starter platters

The amazing seafood starter platters

There are not enough words in the English language to do justice to describing the amazing spread that awaited us back in the restaurant, with multiple platters lined up and packed with the most incredible selection of seafood, meats, vegetarian and even floral treats! I can’t list everything that was there, but you’ll be able to see from the photos the delicious piles of scallops, smoked salmon and mackerel, prawns on the fish platters. On the vegetarian plate, there were various raw vegetables, plus roasted aubergine and peppers, hummus and an onion chutney, with pitta and even edible flowers! Over on the meats platter, there were piles of chicken with peanut and barbecue sauces, mini sausages with a tomato sauce, terrine which went beautifully with an apple sauce and much more. It’s making my mouth water again just thinking about it – and I haven’t even added the photos yet! The food was accompanied by a great range of wines and soft drinks, for those of us who were driving, plus plenty of foodie chat about our favourite restaurants and dishes – thanks for the recommendations guys!

And some of the treats on the meat platters

And some of the treats on the meat platters

Shortly after, the main came out and although we already knew what it was, we once again marvelled at the beauty of the colours on the plate, before tucking in excitedly. It was an amazing dish, so tasty and I would really recommend trying it before it disappears off the menu! I’m a big lover of seafood dishes anyway, but this was a particular treat and I loved the sea bass – one of my favourite fish – with the salsa verde, it really enhanced the flavour, as did the delicious artichokes. It was so lovely to sit round with other bloggers who love food and local produce as much as I do, and how better to finish the evening than with a selection of the very finest local cheeses and chocolates?

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The main event – pan fried sea bass

We had a fantastic talk by Sam Steggles of Fielding Cottage, a family business based in Honingham who create their very own goats cheese, meat and skin care products. We tried two types of delicious cheeses, the Norfolk Mardler and the Wensum White, and I have to say the creamier Wensum White was my favourite, with a texture rather reminiscent of Brie – one of my absolute favourite cheeses. This was followed by one of the creators behind Dolce Momento, a company with a passion for the tastes of Brazil who develop an exciting and varied range of gourmet brigadeiros, cakes and treats. The chocolates were gorgeous in appearance and you really could see why them were such a hit at weddings with such stunning presentation. And the tastes were truly out of this world, with an amazing chilli and cinnamon one, plus delicious milk and dark chocolate treats – all sweeter and gooier than the average ganache thanks to condensed milk, good taste and a lot of love. A perfect end to an amazing evening.

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Thanks guys! Looking forward to the next event!

A huge thanks to the team at Jarrolds for inviting me along, I had the most amazing night and loved meeting all the other bloggers. I look forward to more events in the future, but in the meantime, you guys should all get yourselves to Norwich and check out this amazing hidden gem – have fun working your way through the menu and enjoy the fact that you are eating local and supporting local businesses. They’re much more important than eating out at yet another boring, soulless chain restaurant!

Have you eaten out at Jarrolds – what did you think? Will you be checking out the new menu at Benji’s?

Ab Lucy sign off

A taste of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival

photo_2This weekend, I had a rare treat of getting to spend an entire day by myself indulging in two of my favourite pastimes, food and shopping. The boyfriend and I headed to Norwich, where he had an Open Day booked in at the university and I was looking forward to spending a day roaming around the city by myself. It was actually, amazingly, the first time I had headed into the city by myself, simply because I am always with friends, family or with Mark. It’s quite funny really, when you consider what an independent person I am, how little time I actually get to spend alone because I am constantly working or busy with various groups of people. So when I do actually get the chance, I relish every second and really make the most of it.

I had a fantastic day on Saturday, there are a few things that happened that I can’t reveal just yet, but some exciting news is on the way. But there is plenty I can tell you about! Lucky me, as a big food-lover and festival-girl, there is nothing much better than combining two of my great loves at a food festival, and it just so happened that the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival is ongoing at the moment. As part of the celebrations, there have been lots of fantastic events organised across the county and Norwich shopping centre, Chapelfield, just had to get in on the action. The venue was hosting The Great Taste Event on both Saturday and Sunday, with a host of entertainment, cookery demonstrations, freebies and much more taking place throughout the mall. This weekend of foodie fun saw masses of people heading to the shopping centre to enjoy free tastings and samples, cookery challenges, fun workshops, live entertainment and lots of great offers over the weekend.photo_1I spent a brilliant few hours working my way around each station, catching live cooking demonstrations from the head chefs at Wagamamas and Yo Sushi, and getting to taste their creations, while picking up a free recipe book, cards and a wooden spoon. I also took part in a mocktail making workshop where I whisked up a “Norfolk Muddle” a delightful blend of tonic water, strawberries, lime and lavender sugar. I picked up free tasters from Cafe Nero, Wagamamas, Yo Sushi, Hotel Chocolat, KFC, Thorntons, Carluccios, ASK Italian, Ed’s Easy Diner and many more. I also caught a very funny cooking skit called Liver Cottage, which saw two rather entertaining characters cooking up a pie and setting their kitchen on fire. It was amazing to see so much going on around the centre and there were loads of people getting involved and enjoying the demonstrations.photo_2I was also lucky enough to pop over to The Forum and find the regular Farmers’ Market ongoing with lots of fabulous local produce on sale and available to try. I love these markets because you really get a chance to enjoy local produce, and with such great stuff on our doorsteps, I don’t understand why people would feel the need to look elsewhere. They had a fantastic cured meats stall, a stall piled high with cakes and fresh loaves, local creamy cheeses with hints of lavender and apricot, a fantastic collection of jerk seasoning, sauces and marinades created by a guy from London, and a stall with lots of tasty chutneys including a lovely samphire one and a spicy parsnip one. For someone, like myself, who considers themselves a bit of a foodie, it was a perfect weekend full of tips and tricks from top chefs, great foodspiration for future meals and, of course, lots of lovely free tasters.photo_4It’s great to have such fantastic foodie events taking place right on your doorstep, and after missing the main event for the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival at Holkham Hall back in August, I was glad to have the chance to check out a smaller version. I’m a big lover of food festivals, not just for the freebies, but more for the chance to try lots of different and often unusual flavour combinations, while learning from the very best. It really helps with inspiration for cooking dishes of my own and I think it is great the way they encourage people to try different foods and flavours that they might not usually be exposed to.

Are you a big food festival lover – what is it that makes food festivals great? Did you go to the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival – what did you think?

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