Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Date Night With Manchester Printworks


As we've just seen Valentine's Day come and go, I thought it'd be a good time to talk date nights!

With the wedding fast approaching, we're (attempting) not going out as much so when we do decide upon a little treat, it's nice to get the most out of it.

The Printworks in Manchester city centre recently invited me* to the complex to experience a classic 'date night' there.

Now, The Printworks isn't somewhere I'd immediately think to go on a date (to me, it used to conjure up first year students and stag do's) but after a little investigation, I found that they recently added Busaba, a brilliant Thai chain, to their culinary line up and having had a great meal their at one of their popular London restaurants and the promise of watching the fantastic La La Land at the Odeon afterwards, I was sold!

My first impression of the Manchester Busaba branch was that the atmosphere was actually better than the one I'd previously visited in London! The decor at Busaba is contemporary and stylish - and this one felt a little more intimate than I'd found before. In London, the restaurant I went to was made up of more casual, larger 'sharing' tables where you sit with other diners; this one seemed to be well suited to couples and smaller groups. Better still, we were given a fantastic table on the top floor by the window, looking out onto the hustle and bustle of Manchester's night-time centre.


We perused the drinks menu and I knew immediately that I wanted to try a cocktail before any food arrived. Fancying something a little different, I went for a Lychee Martini - I wasn't disappointed!

Chris decided to try the Saison beer, a pale ale brewed especially for Busaba by the Hop Kettle Brewing Co. with hints of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fresh ginger and tamarind, giving it a really unique but subtle Thai flavour.

We were both really impressed with the beer and I quickly moved onto drinking it too! It complemented the food so well and we were a bit gutted that you could only get your hands on it at Busaba - it was that good!


There were loads of dishes we could've chose to start but we finally agreed on the 'Fragrant Fried Chicken' and the 'Thai Calamari' (which I'd heard loads of good things about).

The fried chicken was beautiful; really juicy with a lightly spiced, crispy coating. It paired perfectly with the tangy lemongrass and chilli dipping sauce on the side.

The Thai Calamari was even better! It looked totally different from what I expected - coated in ginger and green peppercorns, it came as meaty chunks of calamari as opposed to the rings that most might be used to. It had a crispy texture delicious flavour thanks to its sticky glaze. I can see what makes this one a favourite among regular visitors of Busaba!

Main Course

I decided that for the main, I was going to try one of the 'Bangkok Specials' - a collection of new dishes, created in line with emerging trends in Thai food.

I opted for the 'Drunken Beef Flat Noodle', a dish made up of slow cooked beef chunks and thick, flat rice noodles. Oh my, this was so tasty. The flavours were like a Thai yellow curry but it felt all the more satisfying with the thick, tasty noodles and richness of the beef - real comfort food.

Chris went for the 'Tamarind Grilled Duck', sliced breast meat with Chinese broccoli, tamarind sauce and sticky rice on the side. The duck was beautifully cooked with a slight pinkness but with sticky, chargrilled edges and that gorgeous sticky sauce.

We would've loved to stay for dessert but it was almost time for our film!

Film: La La Land at the Odeon

I was really looking forward to this one. I'd heard rave reviews from friends but was having a hard time in convincing Chris to go, he hates musicals...

I told him that if he wanted to join me for the meal, he'd have to watch the film too! And guess what? Mr no-musicals loved it (as did I)!

It's The Oscars tonight and I'm fully expecting La La Land to secure several Academy Awards (I'm predicting Emma Stone for Best Actress!).

Polka dot dress - Joanie Clothing

I thoroughly enjoyed our date night at The Printworks, I'd forgotten how much fun an old-fashioned 'dinner and a movie' date was!

When was the last time you did 'date night' properly?


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Roses are Red: Romantic Wrap Dress & Market Days


As it's Valentine's Day, I wanted to post about this romantic look featuring a red rose print wrap dress from Joy.

Not everyone is such a fan of Valentine's. Personally while I'm not a fan of the commercial side, I really like the sentiment it can bring out and I think anything which prompts a bit more expression of love and makes people appreciate and celebrate the love they feel for others is fine by me!

Valentine's Day will now forever be of a greater significance to me as on this day last year, I got engaged! It's now just five months (tomorrow) until we get married which has come up soo quickly.

Fedora hat - Primark
Floral wrap dress - Joy the Store
Boots - Topshop

I wore this for a stroll around Altrincham market on a crisp Saturday morning.

I think this is the first time I've posted about the market. We moved to Altrincham in May last year and I honestly feel so lucky to be able to stroll up the road and find all this on my doorstep!

When we moved, we were looking to move somewhere a little nicer (we'd been living in Manchester student central a.k.a Fallowfield for nearly five years!) where it was easy to pop out for a nice drink or meal. I was a little dubious about moving further out of the city but with us being at the end of the tram line, going into Manchester city centre is just a short ride away.

I'm a big fan of a market in general - but Altrincham's is next level! It's won various awards and has put this little South Manchester town firmly on the map.

My favourite vendors at the market have to be Honest Crust (the BEST wood-fired pizzas), Wolfhouse Kitchen (where the dreamy lattes and hazelnut chocolate cannolis above are from), Merri (for cute illustrated stationary) and Chloe Robinson Flowers.

Have you visited the market - which stalls are your favourite?


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Review: Oh You Pretty Things! Afternoon Tea at the Trafford Centre


I had a fabulous little day out a couple of weeks ago - and at the Trafford Centre no less!

Usually the Trafford Centre on a weekend would be an absolute no go. I like to avoid stress and crowds on the weekends wherever possible, so the idea of pushing past crazy shoppers, hearing the cries of shrieking children and being blinded by artificial lighting isn't really my idea of a great time.

Did I mention that I'm getting married this year? (sarcastic lols) Well I've been dying for an opportune moment to be converted to the ways of Jo Malone, after hearing (and smelling) wonderful things from friends. As getting married seems to be a license for spending too much money on frivolous things (*cough*), I thought it seemed like a good time to splurge on a 'bridal' fragrance and so with one of my bridesmaids in tow, I booked in at the Selfridges Jo Malone counter.

We had the most fabulous Bridal Consultation appointment with the lovely, Kerry who picked out a number of fragrances for us both to try and gave us hand and arm massages, plus a glass of bubbly. I really loved their approach of trying to find a 'fit' by asking about your likes, dislikes and general personality. I was genuinely massively impressed that Kerry hit the nail on the head with the first fragrance she suggested for me! Walking out with a new perfume and smelling, frankly, incredible - we were ready to eat!

I'd been asked to try out Oh You Pretty Things* - a new champagne and cocktail bar on the top floor of The Orient and so it seemed like a good idea to turn our appointment into a fun girly day out.

For those familiar with the Trafford Centre, The Orient is where the Food Court is located - probably the busiest part of the whole centre in the early hours of the afternoon!

Feeling relaxed from our appointment at Jo Malone, stepping into the OYPT bar was in fact, the perfect transition.

The bar distinctly feels like it's very much for 'grown-ups'. There are a lot of family-style restaurants dotted around, even on the upper floor but OYPT feels like a real oasis away from the hustle and bustle.

Sitting down on the modern chrome and cream bar stools, I found myself wondering where else in the Trafford Centre could you go for a nice glass of prosecco or a great cocktail?

We were there to try OYPT's signature Afternoon Tea - a steal I would add at just £19.95 for two, or £24.95 with the addition of prosecco.

We started with a pot of tea, before the main event was brought out.

For the price, we were seriously impressed!

There was definitely an ample amount of food for the two of us. The sandwiches were a good size and well filled (I hate it when you get an afternoon tea with just one or two teeny sandwich each!).

The mini cakes on the top tier were also pleasant and the fresh berries were a nice addition too. I wasn't so sure that the handfuls of Japanese rice crackers really belonged but the whole thing was great to nibble at while chatting.

The scones were great and came with a huge pot of cream and jam each. A scone covered in cream and jam is always the highlight of any Afternoon Tea for me!

We also tried a couple of cocktails from the drinks menu and I can highly recommend the Candy Floss Martini, an infusion of raspberry vodka, butterscotch schnapps and Chambord - topped with a piece of real fluffy, sugary candy floss.

While OYPT's Afternoon Tea isn't the best I've had and is unlikely to stand up to those you might get at a fancy country hotel, for £19.95 for TWO (that's less than a tenner each!) you seriously can't go wrong. I might add that I've often paid more than that for something beige, hurriedly thrown onto a plastic tray in the downstairs eating area...

If you find yourself at the Trafford Centre with a friend or two and fancy a great drink and a bit of tranquillity, I would highly recommend the Oh You Pretty Things bar - the staff were absolutely superb too!


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Restaurant Review: Autumn/Winter Menu at Jamie's Italian, Manchester


I was recently invited down to the Jamie's Italian, Manchester branch to try out their latest Autumn/Winter menu*. As a huge fan of Italian food and having yet to try out one of the Jamie Oliver franchises - I jumped at the chance.

The Jamie's Italian in Manchester is located on upmarket King Street in a huge listed building and former old bank. The chain was founded by Oliver in 2008 - which took me aback a little as I still consider it quite a new line of restaurants! All the more reason that I finally tried it...

Ideally located, we popped into nearby All Bar One for a quick glass of wine before our booking; it was the perfect crisp and freezing cold winter evening and I was more than ready for a warm, comforting pasta dish.

Despite Jamie's Italian having proudly sat here apparently for several years it was incredibly busy, even for a pre-Christmas Saturday. We weren't able to sit down right away (despite being on time for our booking) though we enjoyed the atmospheric bar area with its grand high ceilings and rustic charm.

We were soon taken from our bar table to the dining area and were given a decadent velvet upholstered half booth area near the kitchen. With low level lighting, the dining area has a real cosy yet grandiose feel.

No sooner had we been given our menus, I accidentally flung my glass of wine all over Chris and the poor chap who was half of the couple next to us (who were lovely - he took it really well!). The waiter insisted that I told him what I was drinking, despite me insisting that it was completely my fault, and promptly brought both of us a top up free of charge which was a really nice gesture.


We love traditional antipasti so opted for one of the 'famous planks' of the meat variety; a generous board made up of cured Italian meats, buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, olives and more.

Shortly before this arrived, we were presented with two cans of tinned tomoatoes. These appeared while I was away from the table and apparently came without explanation. Ourselves and our now acquainted table neighbours mused over what an earth these could be for some time before all became clear and the starter arrived!

The plank was certainly plentiful and appetising enough to make pausing for photos before digging in quite the task!

The meats in particular were of really good quality and very enjoyable, especially the fennel salami and schiacciata piccante. The chilli jam with thinly sliced wedges of pecorina was really tasty too!

Main Course

I struggled to choose a main as there were loads of dishes I could happily have picked; closest contender being a squid ink pasta which was one of the specials of the day.

Having read that all the pasta was made freshly on site, we both chose from that section of the menu - even though the grill and pizza menus sounded equally as tempting!

I chose the humbly titled Spicy Sausage Penne, a pasta dish in a pork and fennel ragu with ‘nduja sausage, breadcrumbs and parmesan.

I was left a little underwhelmed by this one. I was hoping that the pasta would be drenched in a rich ragu sauce but it was much lighter than I expected. I was also hoping for a bit more spice given the dish's name but though favoursome, I didn't really get any heat at all. It was a big portion though and certainly filled me up!

Chris played it safe with the Lasagne but oh my god, this was incredible - serious food envy was experienced! The ragu in this dish was really really rich and tasty, made with 12 hour slow-cooked Oxtail and Chianti. It was heavenly and one of the best lasagnes I've tried - I need to go back for the whole portion!


Already very full but unable to resist a glance at the dessert menu, we decided we couldn't pass one up.

I had to to go for the completely indulgent Molten Chocolate Praline pudding - a melt in the middle warm chocolate sponge, served with ice cream and praline pieces.

There's little that could turn me off a dessert like this and while it wasn't the best molten chocolate pudding I've had, it was beautifully rich and chocolately and the praline flavour of the sauce made this a little bit more interesting.

Chris chose the Tiramisu Pavlova, an Italian twist on a British classic which probably best sums up the concept of the resataurant. The spot on meringue was rippled with a subtle coffee favour and topped with chocolate ice cream, hazelnuts and chocolate sauce. Delicious!

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Jamie's. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into the look and feel of the restaurant, as well as the dishes - which I would describe as rustic, fresh, flavoursome contemporary Italian comfort food.

The best part? The service. Despite how busy the restaurant was, our waiter was so attentive and friendly and couldn't do enough for us (he didn't know I was reviewing the meal either!).

I would definitely recommend Jamie's Italian for dependable, hearty Italian fare served in a beautiful classic yet contemporary setting.

Have you visited a Jamie's brand before?


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Review: Hair Makeover at RCNQ Manchester


Today I'm reviewing* a new salon - not new to Manchester, as this creative space has been occupying the Northern Quarter for three years BUT even though I'm a bit of a hairdresser-hopper, I was yet to try RCNQ.

RCNQ is a small, friendly and innovative salon on Hilton Street in the heart of Manchester's Northern Quarter.

I booked in for a cut and colour and it couldn't come soon enough. I haven't had my hair professionally coloured for well over a year; in which time I've DIY'ed green dip dye, box dye brown, box dye purple, home bleach lightening and box dye red! The result? A patchy, brassy, faded mess! See below...

I discussed my options with the lovely, Helena - RCNQ's resident Colour Director, so I felt in safe hands!

After all the experimentation, I decided that I should go back to basics. I knew that by July next year (when I get married!), I just want to have a natural shade so I decided to opt for a nice all-over brown base colour. With Helena's help, I chose a gorgeous cool dark chocolate shade.

The lovely staff at RCNQ kept me refreshed with endless cups of tea whilst my dye developed.

Another thing I loved about the salon was the products used (which is really important to me). RCNQ use Bumble and Bumble hair products which I was really pleased about. I'm already a fan of the Thickening Spray so I was excited to try some of their other products.

Cut-wise, I decided to go a little shorter. I went for a bob with my usual side parting, sloping into a slightly longer shape at the front.

Are you ready for the before and after?

I'm so pleased with it! I can't believe how even the colour is, considering the mess that exists underneath. It came out very dark initially, but after a couple of washes, it's mellowed out to the perfect dark ashy brown above.

Rob (owner) and his team should be very proud of this salon, it's actually unlike any I've visited in Manchester. It's not a faceless chain, everything feels carefully curated - right down to all the people who work there, who all have individual style and seem to get on more than just coincidental colleagues. There's no boring small talk about the weather and holidays here either, just genuine and interesting conversation from people who care.

If you're looking for a new salon in Manchester, I'd highly recommend RCNQ and better still, they run a 25% off discount for all first visits!

Have you been to RCNQ before?

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