Monday, 19 September 2016

Treasured By Seema: Forever Unique's New Collection Launch at Menagerie Manchester


A few weeks ago I got to experience Manchester's new Mengerie Bar & Restaurant on New Bailey Street on the outskirts of the city centre.

Officially launching the following day, we got a sneak peek of the new venue, getting to experience it first - all the name of fashion!

The brand new venue played host to Manchester-based global brand, Forever Unique and the unveiling of the SS17 collection; Treasured By Seema Malhotra.

Seema Malhotra is Forever Unique's Design Director and also a star of  ITV's Real Housewives of Cheshire.

The event was filmed for the programme (which, even though I don't watch it, I can't wait to see!) so the lure of the TV cameras, stars of the show present and the new opulent setting meant there was a massive amount of buzz around this launch.

There's been a lot of hype around the the opening of Menagerie. With the promise of an 'immersive' dining experience or 'culinary theatre' as they put it, presumably achieved by attractions such as women dangling from chandeliers to pour your champagne and cocktails garnished with a burning £20 note...

It all sounded a bit ostentatious to me. I'm all for glamorous, slick bars if they have substance behind them but this one was beginning to seem a little gimmicky.

Fortunately, my premonition was wrong. Even though the place is undeniably decadent - step up to the main bar, covered in gold leaf and towered over by a gold statue of Greek God Hermes and tell me otherwise - it's not as intimidating as it sounds.

Every corner of the venue has surprising and interesting little touches; it's incredibly Instagrammable - and I mean that in the best way!

As stylish as the Menagerie is, it's surprisingly not without that substance I was talking about. Throught the event, we were able to sample some of the drinks and food, in the form of canapes, on offer. The modern American-inspired dishes at Menagerie are incredibly flavoursome and well-presented if what we were served is anything to go by. Having seen the full menu, it's also pretty reasonable price-wise too.

After getting suitably sparkled by the amazing girls at We Are Beautiq, we took to our seats for the SS17 catwalk show - didn't I mention that the bar has a built-in retractable catwalk?

The new collection matched the tone of the evening perfectly, exuding glamour and exclusivity. With Forever Unique's trademark high level of detail and embellishment in a fresh spring colour palette, Seema says;

"I wanted to create a collection that would create memories, that’s why I called it ‘Treasured’. Each piece screams luxury - they have been hand-crafted with a lot of attention to detail, so it’s something a woman would invest in and treasure for life."

Unfortunately, we weren't able to take any photos during the show but we were able to get up-close-and-personal with the fabulous AW16 range.

Have you visited the Menagerie yet? I don't know about you but all this sparkle has got me in the mood for party season!


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Review: Bodylab Total Protein Powder For Women


A little health and fitness review today! I recently got the opportunity to try BodyLab's Total Protein Vanilla Shake*.

I was excited to try BodyLab's products as they are created especially for women. Their range of protein-packed formulas don't contain any added creatine - which means they don't promote the building of bulky mass, or play havoc with your hormones.

I'm currently on a bit of a pre-wedding health kick so adding in an extra protein source to my daily routine amongst my increased level of exercise gives a great boost to my efforts.

Heralded as "simply a unique blend created with plant-based compounds to help you burn through excess body fat, get lean, and feel amazing" and endorsed by none other than abs-of-steel goddess, Jennifer Lopez, I was ready to begin!

To fully disclaim, I've been mostly using these shakes as meal replacements for a quick breakfast or lunch. To make them more filling, I've typically been blending the protein powder with a milk substitute like almond milk, hazelnut milk or coconut-based milk. My go-to brands for these are the Alpro and Almond Breeze varieties which are typically available in most big supermarkets.

I found this protein powder fairly sweet (as opposed to some others I've used previously like Juice Plus and Purition) so I found that I only needed to use the unsweetened versions of the milks. At only 80 calories a shake (if made simply with water), it's great that sweetened additions aren't needed.

I like to mix up my shakes so I often like to blend them up with fruits too. Bananas are always great and I've recently liked picking up frozen berries too. The frozen raspberries I've used below are from Aldi - they are a great alternative to fresh ones and it means you can use them whenever you like with no wastage!  

I find it best to put the raspberries in first and leave them in a little of the almond milk (or water if used) to defrost slightly; it just makes them a little softer for blending. I use the Magic Bullet for my shakes - it's made by the same people as the better-known NutriBullet. It was much cheaper and though it's not quite as powerful, it does come with lots more useful attachments. I have no complaints whatsoever about it and would definitely recommend it to a shake or smoothie newbie!

Something else I like to add to my shakes (though it didn't go into the one above) is an almond butter for a slightly nutty taste (and peanut butter isn't my thing). My favourite has to be Pip & Nut's Almond and Coconut Butter. You can definitely taste the coconut which also adds a nice sweetness - I got mine from a health food website but I'm sure I've since noticed it in some supermarkets and high street chains so I'd definitely recommend looking out for it.

Overall, I really liked Body Lab's shake! The vanilla flavour is subtle and sweet - though not too sweet; nor does it have that really fake chemically sweetness that some powders have.

Even though at 80 calories (without the calories in the milk), I found these shakes surprising filling! A shake like this one for breakfast easily kept me going until lunchtime - even after a workout!

I often make a big shake and might drink half for breakfast and put it the fridge and have the rest for lunch. I did find that these didn't keep so well and sometimes 'split' after being in the fridge. Though I'd say most protein shakes are best made fresh each time and this isn't the ideal thing to do anyway.

Overall, I really enjoyed trying these shakes and think that packing 15 grams of protein into an 80 cal, great tasting shake is pretty impressive work. I was worried that the product would taste a bit 'fake' as it's not marketed as a 'natural' product - however after looking at the ingredients, they are surprisingly free from nasties.

I'd definitely recommend BodyLab products to any women looking to introduce a little protein boost into their health and fitness routine!

Do you use protein shakes alongside your workouts? What's your favourite brand?


Thursday, 25 August 2016

MyBag's Pre-LFW Party at The Alchemist, New York Street


Last week I got to know some beautiful handbags from one of my favourite online retailers a little better.

MyBag invited a few of us Manchester bloggers down to The Alchemist on New York Street in the city centre to see some key pieces from their latest collection.

The Alchemist is renowned in Manchester for its amazing mixology -  I've certainly had some of the best cocktails in town there! 

The drinks on the evening did not disappoint, as we were greeted with the most gorgeous refreshing cocktail on arrival - Peaches and Cream, which came with a side of prosecco. I'm a big fan of the similar but more well-known Pornstar Martini, even though I'm not keen on pineapple, so this peach-based drink was a dream. 

Above: the beautiful Chyaz and Lauren demonstrating the pour

Surprisingly, the food at The Alchemist was just as good as the drinks! We were treated to some exciting and delicious canap├ęs which included pulled pork bon bons, skewered chicken and cheese quesadillas.

I'd never actually think to head to The Alchemist for anything other than cocktails but after checking out their menu, I'll definitely be going back for food - the brunch options sound especially appealing.

The Bags

Oh, the beautiful bags.

The main event of course was getting to check out some of the beautiful pieces on offer from MyBag. 

The spread of brands carried ranges from indulgent heavy hitters like Karl Lagerfeld, Lulu Guinness and Aspinal of London; to more affordable luxury from the likes of Grafea, The Cambridge Satchel Company and Ted Baker.

The bags on display had a decidedly transitional feel, in pretty shades of pale pink and deep burgundy. Rich burgundy is one of my favourite shades and is perfect for Autumn - my favourite season! 

While I could quite happily see myself carrying any of the stunning bags on display throughout the evening, my absolute must-have would have to be the classic Lulu Guinness lips clutch.

I'm a massive Lulu Guinness fan (my last visit to the store resulted in me having to prise myself away with just an umbrella) and while I already have a patent zip top clutch, I'd love to own one of the designer's trademark lips box clutches.

This one is in a beautiful dark red with a matte finish - the perfect pairing for an Autumnal makeup look!

Which piece is your favourite?



Sunday, 24 July 2016

Restaurant Review: Trying new Dishes at Wagamama, Manchester Spinningfields


So while I'm usually all about discovering new and exciting restaurants opening in Manchester, sometimes it's great to rediscover old favourites.

I've always loved Wagamama as a go-to for a tasty, authentic and inexpensive lunch stop off but I must admit, I'm a little guilty of repeat ordering my favourite dishes every time I go (hello Chicken Kare Lomen...).

So lucky I was to be invited into the Manchester Spinningfields restaurant* a few weeks ago to try out some of the latest options to hit the Wagamama menu.

Some people may be put off by Wagamama's set-up - you tend to sit on large benches with other restaurant-goers, your order is handwritten on your paper place setting and the food comes out as and when ready.

I actually find the whole experience refreshing; there's nothing fake about it. You can see the food being freshly prepared and promptly brought over (rather than sitting under some lightbulb in a chaotic kitchen for 20 minutes) and the whole casual dining experience suits me down to the ground.

The authenticity of Wagamama runs through all the extras too. I'm a big fan of imported beers but unless you're somewhere specialist, the only Asian beer you're likely to find on the drinks list is limited to an Asahi.

Wagamama's drinks menu is pretty impressive and, given the nature of my visit, I decided to try something new - a Lucky Buddha beer. The beautifully-shaped (*read* Instagram-worthy) bottle is pleasing enough but more than just looking pretty, it's a refreshing and crisp lager which has quickly become a favourite of mine!

Chris enjoyed an 'Iki' (which I can also vouch for being great) and with a recommendation from our waitress, I also decided to accompany my beer with one of the new 'Super Juices'. All named in relation to their benefit, I went for 'Power'; a mix of spinach apple and ginger. I was a bit sus as I'm definitely not your typical green juice drinker but it was actually a welcome surprise. The kick of ginger was great and definitely a nice palette cleanser between courses.

The sides (eaten first as starters) we chose were a mix of old and new. Our long-time favourite is Wagamama's Chilli Squid, crispy fried with a chilli and coriander dipping sauce on the side - perfect as always.

Next up was Tori Kara Age, a side which I believe is a menu stalwart, though we'd never tried it previously. These seasoned bites of crispy chicken were served with a soy-based sauce on the side. After dipping them into the sauce (and enjoying them that way, I might add), our waiter spotted us and corrected us as to the rightful manner to eat the dish - tipping the entire sauce pot over the chicken pieces and waiting a little while for them to soak up the flavour. We admitted that he had a point! They were delicious and we'd definitely order them again.

Our third and final side was the newly added Duck Wraps. Crispy Duck with Pancakes is an all-time takeaway staple of ours so we didn't need much convincing to order this one. Beautifully shredded pieces of duck were served with cucumber, spring onions and thin Asian-style pancakes, ready for assembling. The hoisin sauce with this dish is given a tangy twist with an added cherry flavour - yummy!

For mains, we opted for two completely new menu items; Grilled Duck Donburi and Steak Bulgogi. Chris' duck dish was first out the gate; tender pieces of duck served in a teriyaki sauce, on a bed of sticky rice with all the trimmings, topped with a fried egg and kimchee on the side to boot.

The food envy didn't last long as my Steak Bulgogi shortly followed; a beautifully pink, sliced sirloin steak sat on top of soba noodles, with spring onions, kimchee and a tea-stained egg. The whole dish was stunning, especially the steak which was absolutely perfect - not a feat I've come to expect from non-steak-renowned restaurants.

Despite being absolutely stuffed (we'd usually order a max of two sides which is plenty for us) our brilliant and attentive waiter persuaded us to try a dessert - something else we'd never ordered at Wagamama.

Faced with more delicious options than expected (the Coconut Mochi Ice Cream and Banana Katsu are now on my must-try list), we decided to share a portion of the Mini Cakes for a bit of variety.

These little bite-sized portions of passion fruit cheesecake, white chocolate and ginger cheesecake and chocolate fudge cake were incredible; so much nicer than I'd expected. Each one was so rich and full of flavour - even though we were full to bursting by this point, they were a perfect end to an amazing meal!

Have you got a favourite dining spot that's long overdue a re-visit?


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Wedding Planning: Wedstival'16 at Capesthorne Hall


So a little update on the wedding planning!

We're still yet to book a date/venue, though that's something I definitely want to lock down in the next couple of months.

Still in the gathering ideas phase, it's great to visit a variety of wedding fairs to get inspiration from a wide range of suppliers and venues - I always think that seeing what's not 'you' at these sorts of things helps inform what you do want as well.

I'd already been to the National Wedding Show in Manchester earlier this year, as well as a quirkier fair held at Victoria Warehouse (a really cool, industrial venue with lots of scope to do your own thing).

As a bride to be, there are a great many accounts and sites that fast become your favourites for wedding inspiration. For me, one of these is the Brides up North site, particularly when it comes to venues and local suppliers.

When I saw them advertising 'Wedstival'16', I knew it would be right up my street; even though it was being held at super posh (read expensive) venue, Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire, the promised festival vibes and outdoor aspect really appealed as something a little different. Chris had yet to experience a fair so I coerced him into coming along - it is his wedding too after all...

Capesthorne Hall was insanely beautiful. Every room was dripping with chandeliers, red velvet, gold and baroque detailing. Swoon.

Admittedly and unsurprisingly though, it definitely was not us. We feel we are actually on the cusp of sorting a venue - more on that to come!

Onto the outdoors.

We loved the festival set-up at the event (that is, until we got trapped in the marquee after a spontaneous torrential downpour - I was wearing sandals, sunglasses and no jacket...)

The grounds were set up with hay bales, cute stalls and food carts, as well as an amazingly decked out tent from Big Chief Tipis.

We found lots of great suppliers in this area, including a flowers and decoration company, a couple of great photographers, a vintage jewellery brand and a fantastic bridal boutique which is based in Altrincham where I live, yay!

Though we've not booked anything yet, we're definitely getting somewhere with planning. We've seen a few venues and think we know where we want it to happen and the time of year, so we're definitely moving in the right direction.

I'm desperate to get a date booked in so the rest of the planning can commence. I can't wait to start making things and collecting decorations and I know my bridesmaids are desperate to get going on my hen do! I'd say my tastes differ from the average but my girls know me pretty well so whether it's at home or away, I'm confident my send off into marriage will be memorable, unique and mind-blowing in equal proportions!

My next steps will be dress shopping and beyond which is both terrifying and exciting!

Are you planning a wedding? Let me know how it's going!

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