Sunday, 19 August 2018

It's Not Goodbye. Just Goodbye for Now


You might notice that it's been some time since my last post. That's not necessarily unusual; in the almost nine years I've spent running my blog, not once have I ever had an 'official' break, though I've had plenty of intermittent quiet posting periods.

The time for a real break however is now. There's not one specific thing that's drawn me to this conclusion, more an accumulation of thoughts which have left me feeling that a little time away from this corner of the internet would do me some good.

One contributing factor is time. Holding down a full time job and blogging alongside it is hard. Up until recently, I only ever found this hard work rewarding; that what I got out of it was worth the graft. Now? It's become more like a second job.

To lay things completely out there, I rarely post about things that I want to anymore due to the time I have available. Too many posts are on a 'have-to' basis because I've been offered something in return. Of course this is commonplace in blogging but the balance has just swung too far into an area I'm uncomfortable with. I have only ever posted about opportunities or products that I'm genuinely interested in and I always try to give an honest view - though that said, there's this horrible unspoken understanding in blogging that even if you feel negatively towards something you are reviewing in a post, you must tone those feelings down, neutralising your true opinion. In my posts, I've always tried to balance any negativity with the positives and while I feel I've maintained honesty and integrity, there have been many instances where I've typed out negative sentiment before deleting it and replacing it with something less harsh - after all, I was 'invited' or 'given it for free' so what gives me the right to be so blunt? So much of this goes on in blogging and it's spread to bigger, more commercial areas of the internet - and further afield.

This takes me onto the second biggest factor in this hiatus. When I scroll through my social feeds, I'm inundated with product placement. Teeth whitening, weight loss, gym equipment - you get the picture. These products aren't exclusively being peddled by bloggers either. It seems now that anyone can become an 'influencer', with terms like 'Instagram Blogger' and 'Social Ambassador' being bandied around. As someone who studied journalism and got into blogging through my love of writing, it's sometimes difficult to see this shift in the industry. It often feels insincere too, even for someone like me who has firsthand experience with brands gifting 'influencers', it's often hard to know if a product is truly recommended by the person discussing it or not. I don't like to generalise but within this new wave of social-only influencer accounts, many are based around looks - take a girl with a great figure who has mastered the art of the selfie and thus has racked up scores of followers who aspire to look like her. It's all fine in principle but with the rise of photo editing apps and the curated nature of platforms like Instagram, it becomes difficult for many followers (particularly young girls) to identify those blurred lines between online perceptions and reality. As someone who once had very little self confidence, so much so that it developed into an eating disorder, it deeply concerns me that so much of this content is consumed by impressionable young people who grow up watching their friends lives through the often rose-tinted window of social media. Even as someone who I would say, understands better than most what goes on behind the scenes of being an influencer - including my awareness of the darker sides like buying followers, the use of bots for engagement and the editing apps used to give the users that perfect appearance that their followers double tap for - it all still affects me. It's often hard to not to compare yourself to others and their perfect appearances, interesting lives, scores of fun-loving friends and seemingly endless funds for fancy meals, expensive cocktails and worldwide travel.

With this, I will be unfollowing accounts that spark negativity - though I realise this is likely not their intention. I have also made my Instagram account private; I'm putting things back in my control and taking away some of that pressure to create content for the affirmation of, in most cases, complete strangers. I'll be trying my best to post content that simply brings me joy and not worrying about arty angles, hashtags and appeasing the algorithm.


On a lighter note, I've really enjoyed doing my more foodie posts and hope I can return to that. I'm actually currently going through food intolerance/IBS diagnosis at the moment and figuring that stuff out makes eating out harder which is another reason for this break.

I also have other things I'd like to pursue and dedicate some time to. One of these being a bridal inspiration Instagram account (you can follow this @oneofakindbride). This is something I wanted to do following my wedding last year. I'd love to grow it into a blog and potentially onto even bigger things - but I need to give it some love and attention and unfortunately, this blog was getting in the way.

In these past few weeks, I've turned down opportunities that have landed in my inbox and it's felt so liberating to not have anything on the horizon and having to worry about my 'next post' and gathering content for it. I've lived in the here and now and had a lot of fun. I've just celebrated my first wedding anniversary with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New York with my husband and last weekend, hopped over to Amsterdam on an impromptu trip with some of my best friends. It crossed my mind during both these trips that they were brimming with blog post content - but this quickly washed over with a wonderful sense of relief when I realised that I could enjoy and treasure each moment, sharing what I chose to share on my platforms without thinking about what might be 'blog appropriate' shots to capture. I feel much more content (I love the subtle semantics that change the meaning of this word!) and for the time being, this is how I want to continue living.

So with that, it's not goodbye - just goodbye for now!


Friday, 29 June 2018

Restaurant Review: Pier Eight at the Lowry, Manchester


An unexpected restaurant on the cards today - Pier Eight at The Lowry theatre!

The Lowry is a well-established theatre and arts venue at Salford Quays. Since its opening, the landscape around it has changed so much with the birth of MediaCity, home to huge multimedia companies like the BBC and ITV. In the past few years, MediaCity has become very much its own destination in Manchester, rather than just somewhere you might head to for work.

Despite all the great bars and restaurants that have sprung up in the area (like CAU, Grindsmith Coffee and The Alchemist), it's not somewhere I really consider even though it's super easy for me to get to on the tram.

I've been to The Lowry before but I didn't realise it had its own restaurant! Invited to check out their latest menu*, I was glad I'd chosen such a beautiful sunny day to visit the idyllic waterside location!

Pier Eight Restaurant at The Lowry
The Lowry Manchester Restaurant
Pier Eight The Lowry Restaurant Bread Tomato Butter
Pier Eight The Lowry Restaurant Bread Tomato Butter
Pier Eight The Lowry Restaurant Bread Tomato Butter

Pier Eight is on the ground floor of The Lowry, open to the rest of the building which gives it a welcoming feel. With huge windows overlooking the water and modern colourful accents through the restaurant, it has a bright and airy feel.

The menu is small and focused around fresh, quality British produce, executed with modern flair.

We hadn't eaten much through the day so were eager to get stuck in! We started things off with the home baked breads, served with tomato butter and ordered a lovely bottle of Portuguese Chianti.

Pier Eight Manchester Starter
Pier Eight Manchester Starter Seared Salmon


For the starter, I chose the crispy pork belly, with pickled grapes, pine nuts, carrot vinaigrette, fennel and rye.

The pork belly was lovely and crisp, with really good flavour. There was a lot going on with this dish but it came together really well. I loved the grapes paired with the vinaigrette and puree (though I'm not quite sure what this was!).

Husband went for the seared salmon, with shaved fennel, apple, radish, dill buttermilk sauce - not something he'd usually go for! This dish was really tasty and light - perfect for a hot day!

Pier Eight Lowry Manchester Beef Fillet
Pier Eight Lowry Manchester Salford Quays
Pier Eight Restaurant Lowry Manchester
Pier Eight Lowry Manchester

Main Course

On to the mains!

When we arrived, our waitress told us that there was only one Beef Fillet dish left, so Chris was quick to get this one ordered! The grilled beef fillet was accompanied by braised beef cheek, courgette noodles, spiced aubergine and new potatoes.

I tried some of this dish an can confirm it was great! The beef fillet was quite obviously a quality piece of meat but the real star was the melty, flavoursome beef cheek! The herbed potatoes went perfectly with this too.

Now, my main comes with a bit of a disclaimer. I ordered the gnocchi with pesto, cherry tomato, parmesan and olive oil but had two different versions of it!

I love gnocchi and have it quite a lot. The first image is the first dish I received and I ended up sending it back - something I've never done before! The gnocchi was really hard and the dish in general just tasted bitter and overdone. As I was reviewing our meal, I wanted to let the staff know rather than having to speak negatively about the food.

To their credit, they did quickly get another gnocchi out to me. The chef said that due to it being pan-fried, it was as it should be but they would make the replacement dish without pan-frying it and as more of a 'traditional' gnocchi in their words. The two were honestly worlds apart; my new dish featured soft, fluffy gnocchi and the pesto tasted so much fresher - it was beautifully done! In my honest opinion, the dish is better without being pan-fried. At the least I think they should state this on the menu.

Pier Eight The Lowry Manchester
Pier Eight Lowry White Chocolate Parfait


Dessert was a difficult choice as there were so many good looking options! I eventually settled on the lemon mille-feuille with pistachio ice cream and raspberry meringue. The pastry was perfectly light and flaky, the custard rich and tasty and the raspberry meringue gave it a sweet and sharp interesting element - I loved it!

Chris chose the caramelised white chocolate parfait with toffee apple, oat biscuit and crème fraîche. The parfait was sweet and creamy and the toffee apple accompaniment took it to another level!

Despite the hiccup with the main, it was a wonderful meal. I never expected such quality food from an in-theatre restaurant! The waiting staff also deserve a mention as they were so attentive and lovely.

As there was a show in progress during our visit, I felt the atmosphere was a little lacking as it was so quiet. I would definitely dine here again however if I was seeing a show; the pre-theatre menu is great value too at just £29 for three courses!

Have you considered dining at The Lowry?


Friday, 8 June 2018

Restaurant Review: Blue Pig, Northern Quarter, Manchester


A restaurant review from Manchester city centre today - and not another new venue that's sprung up either...

If you're familiar with Manchester, you'll have undoubtedly come across The Blue Pig before. This pretty blue traditional-looking pub sits in the heart of Manchester's Northern Quarter, close to the market side of the Arndale centre.

Not necessarily known for food previously, other than maybe a quick bowl of chips or a Sunday Lunch, The Blue Pig have relaunched their food and drinks menu with a fresh new take on pub fare! With this NQ stalwart under new management, I was happy to oblige when asked to visit to check out their new offerings*.

The Blue Pig pub Northern Quarter
The Blue Pig NQ New Menu

The new menu is perfect for grazing (my favourite kind of eating!) with their main 'Deli Menu' centred around charcuterie boards.

With a menu packed with a huge selection of cured meats and cheeses, artisan breads, pate and terrines, seafood and small plates - and all reasonably priced - this was right up my street.

We were treated to a 'tasting' evening to sample the new menu, trying a mix of some of the hero items, expertly paired with complementing drinks too.

Negroni Bramble at the Blue Pig NQ
Pork Crackling at Blue Pig NQ
The Blue Pig Northern Quarter Cocktails

To whet our appetite, we started with a cocktail: the Negroni Bramble - a refreshing mix of Tanqueray gin, Lillet and Pampelle grapefruit liqueur.

This was paired with pork crackling with fennel and coriander. This was incredible! I love pork crackling and you could tell some effort had gone into this. We were told that this was made with the Sunday Roasts at the weekend. It was so tasty and crispy - and huge!

Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Manchester
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig NQ
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter

Next up was the best bit for me - cured meats, cheeses and crackers!

This board was amazing; piled high with salami, extra mature cheddar, red Leicester, homemade fennel crackers, pickled vegetables and chilli jam.

You could taste the quality in all the components. The fennel crackers and cheeses in particular were really good.

Accompanied by a large glass of Spanish house red, this was definitely my favourite course. You can't beat cheese and red wine!

Tasting Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter
The Blue Pig Manchester Vegetarian Food
The Blue Pig Manchester
The Blue Pig Northern Quarter

Continuing our feast was another sharing board! This time stacked with nibbles from the Small Plates and Seafood dishes.

The biggest eye-drawing item on the board has to be the vegetarian scotch egg! Created with a runny duck egg in the centre, sat atop ginger and rhubarb jam and encased in a beetroot falafel shell. As beautiful as this looked, it just wasn't for me - I think I love real scotch eggs too much! I found the beetroot falafel a little bland but the egg in the centre was gorgeous.

The board also featured feta-stuffed crispy olives with romesco sauce. I actually don't like olives but the beautiful sauce, creamy feta and crispy coating made these just about okay which is a big win for me!

My two favourite items were the tempura jerk prawns with citrus mayo and the Asian pork bon bons with pickled mooli and wasabi. The jury's out on which dish I favoured most - both were delicious. Did I know what mooli was? no (it's a type of radish, by the way); did I care? Absolutely not, it complemented the sweet and tender pork bon bons perfectly. The prawns were also awesome; lightly battered with great seasoning and a bit of a kick and juicy inside!

The Blue Pig Northern Quarter Lemon Curd Collins
The Blue Pig NQ Lemon Curd Collins
The Blue Pig NQ Chocolate Fondant
The Blue Pig NQ Chocolate Fondant

Last but by certainly no means least - dessert!

Our dessert was paired with a superb cocktail - the Lemon Curd Collins. Created with Ketel One Citron, Limoncello, real lemon curd, vanilla syrup, orange bitters and a splash of soda, it was both refreshing and sweet - the perfect palette cleanser. I'll definitely be back to order a round of these!

Then the pudding, oh the pudding. A classic chocolate fondant is one of my firm favourites and this one was wonderfully rich and gooey on the inside as it should be. The perfect size too to top of our tasting evening.

All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with The Blue Pig's new menu - I never expected to find food like this in such a setting. I'm ashamed to admit that I would have happily walked by The Blue Pig previously and would never consider visiting for something to eat but the quality, care and thought that's gone into their new menu is incredible.

There's so much on the menu that I know I'll love so I can't wait to go back, especially as everything is so reasonably priced - like their all-day charcuterie and cheese board offer of any 3 for £7, or 5 for £10. It's the perfect sharing lunch option for a catch-up with friends over a few cocktails!

Have you ever visited The Blue Pig for food and would you go back for this new menu?


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Bongo's Bingo - Manchester's Most Fun Night Out?


Coming at you with a review that's a little different today!

I was kindly invited down to Bongo's Bingo* at Manchester's Albert Hall so that I could share my experience with you lovely lot.

So what is Bongo's Bingo, exactly? Well, I'd say it's a cross between a rave, bingo hall gaming and a risqué comedy show - throw in alcohol, rowdy crowd-participation and even a box or two of Coco Pops and you've got yourself a fun-filled night!

This time I popped along after work on a weeknight so it was ever so slightly less raucous (only slightly!).

Bongo's Bingo Albert Hall Manchester
Bongo's Bingo Albert Hall Manchester
Bongo's Bingo Albert Hall Manchester

Firstly, it has to be said that the Albert Hall is just the most stunning venue. The Grade II listed Wesleyan chapel has been lovingly restored by the folks behind neighbouring venue Albert's Schloss and still retains a lot of the original features, like the amazing stained glass windows.

Pleasantries aside, time for bingo! 

Night Out Bongos Bingo

 So what went on? The night saw several dance-offs, a glow stick-filled interlude and of course, loads of off-the-wall prizes - which on the night included a life-size cut-out of daytime TV king, Phillip Schofield; a huge inflatable dinghy and a Henry Hoover! Of course there were also traditional prizes like cash and even a holiday up for grabs too!

It's difficult to capture just how fun Bongo's Bingo really is. Looking back at my photos, I've missed confetti cannons, balloons, mass singalongs, table dancing and shouting profanities at total strangers (absolutely necessary and encouraged for the faux-winners!) - all I can say is that I was too busy joining in!

The night is absolute mayhem from start to finish but it's completely brilliant.

Bongo's Bingo in Manchester
Manchester's most fun night out

Crazy, chaotic and a whole lot of fun - Bongo's Bingo is an absolute must do. I guarantee that your face will hurt from laughing at the end of the night!

You'll want to book tickets so be sure to check out the upcoming dates in Manchester - and great news for anyone outside of the city, Bongo's Bingo tours the country so it's likely there's an event close by!

Have you been to Bongo's Bingo or is it something you think looks like fun?

© The Quick Red Fox - Manchester Fashion, Food and Lifestyle Blogger, UK | All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig