Tuesday, 2 December 2014

November Recap

It feels like just yesterday that I was taking down the Halloween decorations, and now the Christmas tree has just gone up!

Plenty of baking occurred in November in the form of birthday cupcakes for my brother-in-law's 30th birthday party. Ferrero Rocher cupcakes with a dark chocolate ganache, and Guinness gingerbread cupcakes with a Baileys mascarpone topping. Pretty grown up cupcakes for me, although I haven't retired the edible glitter just yet.

Lots of walks in the morning sunshine to burn off the calories were then obviously needed. I spent a lovely weekend with my mum and brother down the caravan in Fontygary. Unfortunately the clouds weren't playing ball with my camera, but the sea air was all that I needed anyway.

Cold nights and blustery days mean only one thing. Comfort food! The first thing I run to when the nights draw in is a good old carb-tastic cheese and potato pie.

Washed down with my new favourite find, Tesco's Finest Salted Caramel Irish liqueur!

Like any good Welsh girl, I also managed to make it to two of Wales's Autumn International rugby games! Very excited that I got to see Wales v New Zealand, and witness the Haka, even if the result didn't quite go our way. Lunch at the Jazz Club, Cardiff was fantastic beforehand too. Brilliant pre-match atmosphere and a good selection of beers on tap, what more do you need on a match day?

Poached egg starter, on a chunky slice of black pudding, tomato and a drizzle of hollandaise was beautiful. I could have eaten this forever, and in fact I was enjoying my food so much I completely forgot to take any more food photos. Bad blogger.

Mr P and I also got tickets to the final game of the series, South Africa. Which we won, 12-6! We had an awesome day full of beer, bratwursts and Boks! Especially South African Santa!

After all that excitement I'm looking forward to chilling out over the Christmas period. In between the shopping, wrapping, partying, decorating...

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Miller & Carter, The Hayes, Cardiff

Last Sunday, the husband and I struck up a bargain. He'd buy me lunch if I hung around with him at Cardiff Comic Con for a few hours. Pretty sure I got the better end of that deal, seeing as wandering around the Comic Con ogling cosplayers and spotting minor celebs is always a bit of fun.

Once we'd had our geek fill over at the Motorpoint Arena, we made a beeline for Miller & Carter in the Hayes, Cardiff. This restaurant has been open for a few months, but this was the first chance we'd had to dine here, and my first visit to any Miller & Carter establishment. Taking over the old Habitat unit, it's a huge open space, and in prime position on The Hayes.

Two things were clear from all my friends recommendations, big fat steaks and the onion loaf were the order of the day.

3pm on a Sunday afternoon, the restaurant was not even half full, however we were told we had a twenty minute wait. Not a problem, we went to the bar to get a drink. Five minutes later, we were in the middle of being served when our table became ready. Rather than take us to our table and then bring us our drinks, the waitress stood with us for ten minutes while the barman made our drinks, and then had to remake them because they were incorrect. Slightly awkward.

We were led upstairs to the mezzanine level, and chose a table overlooking the open kitchen area. After seeing the size of the meals being brought through, we decided to skip the starter and go straight for the main event. I ordered the 14oz T-Bone (may as well go all out...) and Mr P had the 12oz sirloin.

The prices on the outset might seem a bit expensive for steak and chips, the T-Bone at £21.95 and the sirloin £21.75, but you really do get an enormous amount of food. This includes the steak, chips, a sauce, a slice of the onion loaf and a wedge salad. We were so full after our meal, that dessert was definitely out of the question.

The steak was faultless, cooked to order (medium rare of course) and perfectly tender. The parmesan and garlic wedge salad was a really nice cooling crunchy side touch, and a decent size portion of chips on the side. Our salad arrived with our main, but it seemed other diners received theirs as a starter. Not entirely sure which, if any, was the correct way of serving, but no choice was offered to us.

I've got to be completely honest, I'm not at all sure about what the fuss over the onion loaf was all about. I was actually expecting a slice of a bread loaf, but it seemed to be just a big greasy mass of onion. More like an onion bhaji instead of a bread loaf, except soggier. Not the biggest fan of that.

I'd definitely recommend the beef dripping sauce though, a potent and beefy stock like sauce, it was just right to enhance the steak. the bearnaise however, was just too overpowering and buttery for us both.

I've got to give M & C credit for their range of 'mocktails' too. As I was driving, this time I was stuck with a virgin mojito, but it was prepared with the same love given to a normal mojito, and at £2.50, a nice change from the obligatory driver diet coke.

All in all, we had a lovely meal. It completely filled us up on a cold Sunday afternoon, for a reasonable price. The steak is what they're all about, and the steak is what they do well. A few little tweaks around the outside and it'd be wonderful. I'm not sure if it's somewhere I'd go for a romantic night out, as the food is too heavy and it's not a very private layout. The entire building is one big room, with a mezzanine level, but there didn't feel very much space between us and our neighbours.

However, for a little escape from the hustle and bustle of Cardiff and to provide some serious sustenance for a day out shopping, it's just the ticket. I'm sure we'll be giving it another go over the Christmas period.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Celtic Manor, Newport

For my anniversary present, my husband booked us a meal and an overnight stay at the Celtic Manor, Newport. Surprisingly, although we live pretty much up the road, we've never actually stayed overnight before, and I was extremely excited to see what all the fuss was about.

We couldn't actually stay for our anniversary, as a certain President was in residence, so we popped in once they had reopened. If it's good enough for Mr Obama...

As soon as we checked in, we raced to our room to get comfy and see the views from our balcony room. We were pleasantly rewarded with amazing views over the front of the hotel, and the golf course.

What a lovely little terrace! We weren't expecting such a large balcony, and it was in a beautiful position overlooking the green and the crazy golf course. The outside space was huge, and sitting outside sipping at something sparkling made me feel like I was in a little Italian courtyard, and not just 5 minutes from the M4.

After wandering around the huge expanse of hotel, we dolled ourselves up for dinner. We were given a choice between the hotels restaurants for dinner, and we decided upon Rafters. This restaurant is sat in the middle of the golf course, in the Twenty Ten clubhouse, which was built when the hotel hosted the Ryder Cup. The hotel provides a shuttle bus between the resort and the restaurant, and it's a short but pretty journey taking in wonderful views over the golf course and the Usk Valley along the way.

We were also lucky enough to see the most beautiful sunset over Sugarloaf mountain in the distance, but my fingers weren't snappy enough to capture it. You'll just have to go and see it for yourself.

Dinner at Rafters was excellent. Chilled out atmosphere meets fine dining, we had such a lovely evening that I got carried away with my food and wine and didn't get an awful lot of photos. Fortunately for your bellies, I did get a few foodie shots in.

The duck hash consisted of a lovely crunchy croquette outside and flavoursome duck on the inside. Complimented by a tangy sauce and some salty bacon mouthfuls, this was a wonderfully tasty dish to start the night on.

Mr. P had the "Triple cooked short rib of beef", which was out of this world. I didn't get a picture because I was too jealous. I'm not normally fond of having the same thing as each other, as I like to share as much of the menu as possible (greedy), but I still regret not having the beef.

However, I cannot fault the lamb that I chose at all. Served perfectly pink as I like it, with asparagus and a chunky slice of a thyme potato gratin. It's just that it's not the same after trying the beef. Promise me you'll have the beef if you go? So good.

One course I did however win on, was dessert. "Rafters Knickerbocker Glory" anyone? You can't go wrong with an old school pudding.


The honeycomb ice cream is creamy and sparkles on your tongue, before you fight your way through a thick disc of chocolate to the fruit and cake centre. Needless to say, I didn't make it to the bottom, but I gave it my best shot.

Once we'd given our food time to go down, or at least once we could move again, we jumped in a minibus back to the resort in time to chill out in Merlins bar. This fabulous little bar made me feel like I'd just stepped into Mad Men, in the best kind of way. Live piano music in the background and the most incredible cocktails.

Ranging between about £11-£14, they aren't cheap, but they are fantastic, and worth every single penny. The barman who makes them is mesmerising to watch, and I was extremely jealous of his cocktail corner.

The service by every single staff member we met at the Manor was top notch, and made us feel very special. On learning it was our anniversary, one of the bartenders brought us a glass of champagne each to celebrate, whilst we waited for our cocktails in the queue.


Somewhat blurry the next morning, we filled ourselves up on the breakfast buffet, packed our bags and headed down to the spa to try and shake the fog. A vigorous swim, lazy hot tub and a steamy sauna later and we were fighting fit.

Even enough to take on the dragons...


Not quite ready to leave just yet, we meandered around the grounds until we came across the crazy golf. Having barely picked up a real golf club before, this was a perfect way for us to join in the golf atmosphere without having to be any good.

There are two 9 hole crazy golf courses, one is a normal crazy golf theme, and the other a teeny tiny version of Ryder Cup holes. I take it all back golf, I'm sorry, I didn't realise it could be so much fun!


Eventually, we conceded defeat and headed on up the road back home. The Manor made us feel like we were miles away from home, and one night is just not enough to see everything there! It's somewhere you can spend a whole weekend at least without realising it. We didn't even manage to make it to the shopping mall, the high ropes or the extensive gym and classes!

We'll be back. Even if it's just so I can try that rib of beef...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Postcards from Tenby

I love a spontaneous adventure. We're a pretty indecisive couple sometimes, what film to watch and where to eat can take hours. This year however, we've become pros at just deciding that we want a holiday, so we're going on one.

Which is how, after a bit of a moan to each other on a Thursday lunchtime, we ended up in a lovely little B&B (Sunnybank, for those interested) with our toes in the Tenby sand by Sunday afternoon.

Tenby is one of our favourite places. It's home from home. Especially this place...

It's so picturesque, and such a jewel on the Pembrokeshire coast. Everything seemed to gleam a little bit brighter in the September sunshine. 

Two nights by the sea is the cure for all moans and groans! We were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunshine filled weekend, with temperatures in the early twenties and nothing but a few candy floss white clouds in the sky.

Looks like someone else wasn't ready to go home either...

These few days away for our anniversary were full of nothing but walks on the beach, lazy drinks overlooking the sea and huddling by the fire by night. Is there anything better?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Scaring Myself Silly

Down at the National Diving and Activity Centre (NDAC) in Chepstow lives a 700 metre long zip wire, suspended 70m above the 80m deep flooded quarry. It's one of the fastest zip wires in the UK, reaching speeds of up to 40 mph.

Now I hate heights. Terrified. In fact, I'm not even that fond of going fast. Thrill seeker I most certainly am not.

So, this is why, when the opportunity to ride this zip wire and raise money for Macmillan came up a couple of months ago, I jumped at it along with a few of the ladies from the office. What better way to raise some money for a very worthy charity than to scare yourself absolutely witless?

The next few months went by in a flash, and as we raised money through our Just Giving site and via sponsor forms, I had the occasional 'I'm so scared' moment, but didn't allow myself to give it much thought.

On the morning of the Zip Wire, the 6 of us made our way up to the top of the quarry. And that's when it got scary. There is no way on earth I would have gone through with it if we hadn't raised the money that we already had, as I was having a right big wussy moment.

A friendly guy told me as he harnessed me up that in five minutes I'd be at the bottom, begging to have another go. I didn't believe a word he said. All of a sudden, there was just enough time to be clipped in, pulled back, and without so much of a 'ready?', we were off.

I screamed like a girl. I'm not even ashamed of it because I'm that much of a scaredy cat. After a few moments though, the wire levelled out, and I managed to have a little look around at the views, which were pretty impressive.

In a blink of an eye, it was all over and I was being unharnessed and on my way back to the group! Whilst I didn't quite have it in me to go and have another go, I spent the rest of the day feeling pretty smug with myself and conquering my big baby fears!

In all, our team raised over £1,200 for Macmillan, and the entire event over £14k, which is incredible. We more than doubled our target, and raised so much more than we expected.

So here's a really big THANK YOU to everyone of my friends, family and colleagues who donated to such an amazing cause.

(P.s. the just giving page is still open for a short while, so if you feel inspired enough to make a donation, here's the link)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Cider, Tea, Rum and Crab

On our last day in St Ives, we finally ran out of luck and the clouds and drizzle crept back in. What’s one to do on a day like this?

Visit the cider farm of course!

We huddled back into coats and hoodies and set off to Healey’s Cyder Farm, just outside Newquay. Here, you can wander in and out of the small barns on the farm and poke your nose in on all the busy worker bees bottling and packing the lethal ‘Rattler’ cider.

I couldn’t help but get distracted by all the animals dotted around to pet and dote on…

But the Mr found something else to coo over…

We jumped on the back of a tractor trailer to take a tour of the orchards, and spotted a few other furry beings.

No, not those furry beings.

All that bumping and jiggling around on the tractor had made us hungry however, so we snuck back to the café to sample one very Cornish delicacy that we hadn't yet managed to wolf down.

Cream Tea!

After all agreeing that clotted cream was most definitely meant to be on the bottom, we dusted off our crumbs and headed back for a mid afternoon snooze.

Led by our stomachs once again, we headed back into town to try one place which has been on my radar ever since we decided on our trip. The Rum and Crab Shack.

The name pretty much sums it up. The food revolves around a number of seafood dishes, everything from a spicy gumbo to a whole lobster, and everything in between.

The drinks menu is unrivalled by anything I’ve seen before. There is a set menu dedicated to all the rums available, split into categories such as light, dark and overproof etc. It almost sounds like a challenge to try each one…maybe next time!

For those not quite ready for a rum, there are a number of craft and speciality beers both on tap and bottled, and of course a number of cocktails. I had to try a mojito at the rum shack, after all!

Being my birthday treat weekend, as soon as I saw the menu I knew I was going all out. Steak and ½ lobster for me please! I look pretty happy with it, eh?

Unfortunately the lighting (and maybe the rum) didn’t help my amateur photography, but just look how juicy this steak was!

Everything was cooked to perfection, I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful! The lobster was so meaty and covered in a lovely light butter, and the steak was, quite honestly, the best steak I've ever had in my life. It's going to take one heck of a steak to beat that bad boy.

Being a bit of a veg freak, I loved the fact that the salad was such a main feature of the dish, rather than being an afterthought. It's such a pet hate of mine when a really excellent dish is let down by some wilted leaves from a supermarket bagged salad. But don't panic, there were chips too.

Everyone's food was just as huge as mine, so there wasn't a lot of room for dessert, especially after the morning's cream tea. A digestif however, is always a good idea!


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