Tag: review

The Moseley Decline into Commercialisation, part 2 – Prezzo

You may remember a while ago (in what actually turns out to be more than “a while” when I looked back at previous posts) I wrote a review about Pizza Express in Moseley (where I live), which had caused great controversy by arriving in what is traditionally a very “independent” area and daring to lower the tone of the village into high street chain territory (!!!) My conclusion was that they hadn’t done a great job, and I wouldn’t be in a rush to return. Which is why I’ve been putting off going to Prezzo, which opened at a similar time.

I’ve never been to a Prezzo before, but last week curiosity got the better of us so, armed with Tesco vouchers for “free” food, we decided to check it out.

Wow!

When expectations are low it’s not difficult to surpass them. I had honestly pre-judged Prezzo on the standards set in my head by Pizza Express, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The restaurant is large – it used to be a Halfords service and MOT centre which I used to use, so I’m familiar with the space and location.

There’s an attractive outdoor terrace and a big interior which has industrial elements, lots of light, lots of mirrors, cosy intimate booths, small tables, good lighting and an open kitchen area to the rear. The décor is really well done, the whole place has a high end feel that I hadn’t expected.

We were greeted warmly, shown to our choice of table (it was late-ish on a Thursday evening so not very busy) and given menus. Prezzo has an Italian focus so there are lots of pizzas and pasta dishes, alongside some chicken and fish and a range of side dishes too. The kind of place where there’s something for everyone.

I ordered an Aperol Spritz to drink ( a new find of mine!) and the husband ordered a Negroni.

I nipped to the loo and when I got back the husband regaled me with one of the best acts of customer service I’ve ever known in a restaurant. After delivering our drinks, the waitress returned to ask if everything was ok, and the husband said he wished he hadn’t ordered a Negroni, because he didn’t like it (he’s never tried one before). The on duty manager came over and told the husband to order another drink of his choice, and that he wouldn’t be charged for the Negroni. He didn’t want our visit to be spoilt by a bad decision. How amazing is that? (I was all for drinking the Negroni as well, but apparently that would have been bad etiquette).

Next came the food – starters of crab cakes for me (delish, with a tangy garlic mayonnaise for dipping) and giant meatballs for him (also delish, made from a mix of veal, beef, pork and pancetta; oh and how we laughed at giant balls, we’re nothing if not immature).

Main course was a “posh pepperoni” pizza from the Prestigio section of the menu for the husband (crisp, light, fresh and oh so tasty) and Chicken Calabrese for me, with a side of truffle fries which were new to me, and an absolute taste sensation.

Neither of us had any space for dessert, but were both in agreement that we’ll most definitely return. We spent £40 in vouchers on food (which, with Tesco’s clubcard boost was only £10 worth of points) and £13 cash in addition, plus a healthy tip for such great, friendly and welcoming staff.

Great experience, that has made me very hungry whilst writing this post!

Are you a Prezzo fan?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x (more…)

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16 great things from 2016

I’m probably right on the wire of what’s an acceptable time to still be talking about last year (we should be looking forward, not backwards, yada yada yada) but I’ve seen this post on a few blogs I follow and thought it would be a nice way to look back with some fondness on the year that will go down in history as the worst in my life so far (cheery, no?)

So, here – in no particular order (apart from the first one!) are 16 great things that happened to me in 2016!

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1 – The wedding of the year

The last weekend in October will remain a highlight for many many years to come; as we celebrated the marriage of two of our closest friends. As well as it just being all round amazing, I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid and got to wear the most stunning dress. The day was just the culmination of months of anticipation, planning, get togethers and love. It was perfect the whole way through. Read about it and see pics here.

2 – My first guest post

I was asked by the lovely Estelle from Estellosaurus to write a guest post to be featured on her website. It was truly a surprise and an honour that someone liked my writing enough to put it out there on their own blog, so thank you!

3 – Discovering the Everything 5 Pounds website

This might sound ridiculous, but when did that ever stop me?! One of my work friends introduced to me this website and it’s become a semi addiction. I’ve had loads of stuff so far for not much money, and what’s not to like about that? (anything to indulge my shopping passion)

4 – Eating snails

A bit of a strange one, but when I was in Lyon I tried snails for the first time and REALLY enjoyed them!  I didn’t expect to at all, so it was a nice surprise and something of a personal achievement, if only for the conversational value and seeing some people’s reaction!

5 – True friendship

2016 was a crossroads for me, with some friendship disappointments and hurt. On the plus side, it made me realise just how amazing other people in my life are and brought us even closer through shared experiences and supporting each other.

6 – Instagram

I bloody love Instagram! I like nosing at other people’s photos, I like collating my own photos, and I love chatting to like minded people about clothes and all sorts! Instagram is one of my fave social media platforms. You can find my instaprofile and follow me here!

7 – A new Greek holiday destination

In July the husband and I travelled to a new (to us) destination on mainland Greece, not knowing if it would be as good as our absolute favourite place. But it was just amazing and we had a fabulously relaxed week. You can read about it and see pics here.

8 – Rediscovering our favourite bistro

A late entry this, from my birthday on 20th December, but we went back to a local restaurant which used to be our absolute favourite, and remembered just how much we loved it, They had some problems a couple of years back and closed for a while, and we hadn’t been back since, but it was just as fabulous as we remembered.

9 – Family time

In the midst of losing my Dad in September, I’ve spent some precious family time saying goodbye to him, grieving him, remembering him and loving him. It’s a strange great thing to come from something so horrible, but there it is.

10 – My (almost) half sleeve tattoo

I never ever thought I would have as many tattoos as I have, and when I made the decision to extend my shoulder tattoo earlier this year it was going to just be a quarter sleeve, no lower than t-shirt sleeve length. But I kind of got carried away and it’s now almost a half sleeve, oops! I love it though, and have no regrets whatsoever (good job really, what with it being permanent!)

11 – Inside the Basilica de Notre Dame in Lyon

Our trip to Lyon, as a whole, wasn’t as good as hoped (bad weather and May Day closures being big contributors amongst other things), but the inside of the Basilica was an absolutely jaw dropping moment. It’s one of the most detailed and ornate buildings I’ve ever been, and there was so much to look at and take in. I’m not religious in any way, but I felt quite emotional and overcome with it all. Amazing. You can see lots of pictures here.

12 – A day trip to Chester Zoo

This was just ace. Watching the giraffes for ages was my personal highlight, but the whole place is incredible; very well done, lots of space for the animals, and an all round great day out. Read more about it and see pics here.

13 – Our electric barbecue!

Another slightly odd one, perhaps, but we’re not allowed to have barbecues on our balcony as ruled by the management company, so the discovery of an electric barbecue by the persistent husband brought our world of outdoor eating back! We had some lovely summer evenings in our little space in the sky, and some yummy food too.

14 – Our friends renewing their wedding vows

In August some friends of ours renewed their wedding vows and invited us to share their celebrations in a ceremony and garden party at their home. We had such a wonderful day of love and laughter, which brings a warm glow whenever I think about it. Read more about it and see some pics here.

15 – Coming to the joint decision to move house

Over the years there have been times when the husband has wanted to move but I haven’t, or the other way round. 2016 was the time when both our mindsets aligned, and we decided that yes, we’re ready to leave our flat and move into a more grown up home with a garden and more space. It’s mega exciting and became a huge focus for us at the end of the year as we look around and decide what kind of home we want and where.

16 – The husband

Sorry for the soppy ending but it’s true – the husband was my rock through such dark and difficult times. It wasn’t always plain sailing and it hasn’t been all hearts and flowers (we can both be somewhat challenging, me way more so) but ultimately I know he has my back and will support me, and that means a lot.

Have you done a post like this, or a yearly round up? Leave me your links, I’d love to have a nosy!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Gig review – Biters in Wolverhampton

Sometimes a band comes along that you’re genuinely excited about – that you’re grabbed by right from the off. For me, this year, that band is the Biters.

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I’ve only been aware of them for a couple of months (although they’ve been around for a while), but their current album – Electric Blood – is everything a rock ‘n’ roll album should be, and more.

So I was very excited to hear they were touring.

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Less excited when I found out it was on a Wednesday, in Wolverhampton.

a) Wednesday – well, say no more. School night. No drinking or partying or really throwing yourself into the occasion because you have work the next day (not that I need a drink to have a good time, but y’know).

b) Wolverhampton. Despite it’s pretty close vicinity to Birmingham, it’s a bit of a ballache to get to.

There’s also the small matter that it was less than two days til our holiday, nothing was packed and some of it wasn’t even washed yet.

But still.

Husband has this band ticked for good things, and I had a heavy sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) so we said “fuck it” to the practicalities, and off we trundled.

The Slade Rooms is a great venue – a big wide stage so you can see plenty of what’s going on, a good size gig room, ace sound and a big bar too. My favourite of the Wolverhampton venues I think – much more geared up towards a rock gig than, say, the Wulfrun or Civic Hall.

We weren’t bothered about seeing the support band, as is often the case, but arrived in time to catch them. And am I glad we did! Shock Hazard are a 3 piece from Norwich and they were great! The singer played lead guitar like he was in a full house at Wembley – a great frontman throwing himself around the stage, getting into the audience and, at one point, climbing up to the top of two big stacked amps (I actually said out loud “this isn’t going to end well” which probably wasn’t the reaction he wanted!) The band themselves look pretty mis-matched; a curly haired crazy rock god in the making, the bassist who looked like he’d be better suited in This is England 90, and the drummer who was so skinny he barely looked capable of lifting the sticks. But together they were amazing – tight, loud, fun to watch. It was a great opener.

And then came The Biters. They didn’t disappoint. Right from the off they kicked ass. Musically brilliant, vocally brilliant – loved them. 4 guys from Atlanta Georgia, this was their debut UK tour and I really felt for them – they deserved better. Wolvo on a Wednesday night is not going to go crazy, regardless of how fantastic you are (they were) and they deserved a bigger, better crowd. The front man actually said at one point “what do I need to do to get you guys going?” But what they were doing was just fine by me. Guitar riffs with a 70s flavour, singalong chorus’ and the kind of drums and bass that you can’t help but stomp along to. Singer and guitar player Tuk has the coolest style – all punky hair and skinny jeans and he’s a funny guy too; interspersing their songs with tales from the tour and home, and having some fun with members of the audience. But the music was the absolute star of the show, as it should be.

Highlights of the night for me were 1975 and Low Lives in Hi Definition, but really it would be wrong to put them out their as favourites because everything was so freakin’ good!

At times sounding like Thin Lizzy (never a bad thing!) with a distinctive vocal that makes them instantly recognisable, their songs are varied in tempo and style, but all with that inimitable 70s rock ‘n’ roll attitude that to me embodies all that I like about rock music.

If they do get as big as husband predicts, I’ll be honoured to say I saw them in a small venue in Wolvo on a Wednesday night.

But next time, if they could play a weekend date, the crowd might actually engage and show them just how great they really are!

Stupidly, I deleted all my pics (noooooo!) so here’s one courtesy of the husband.

Biters singer

And here is “Low Lives in Hi Definition”

Check ’em out!

 

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Restaurant review – Loch Fyne, Knowle

On Friday night we went out for dinner with my mother in law, for her birthday. She’s rather a fussy eater, so it’s rare we go to restaurants – usually opting for a nice pub meal instead – but somehow I persuaded my husband and he persuaded her that Loch Fyne would be a good choice, because fish is one of the (only) things she does like.

Having never been to a Loch Fyne before I was looking forward to something different. I know it’s technically a chain restaurant, but the prices are certainly higher than most chains, and it’s not very often you get lobster on a menu – chain or not (well, certainly not at the places I frequent!)

I always used to say I didn’t like seafood – fish and chips aside – but my tastes have definitely evolved as I’ve got older and I have to say that the mussels at my local Moroccan restaurant, cooked in chilli, is one of my favourite meals. So I was looking forward to eating at a seafood specific restaurant where they (you would hope) know their stuff.

The restaurant itself is lovely. Whitewashed walls, lots of wood – I’d describe it as high end rustic. The fish is on full view in refrigerated displays; a good sign of freshness and openness with nothing to hide. Similarly there is a wide window into the kitchen, which again inspires confidence. Lighting is subtle. The tables are ever so slightly too close for my liking, but commercially it obviously makes sense, as the restaurant was very busy.

Service was prompt and well delivered, even though the waiter had such an effected delivery it sounded like he was auditioning for local radio (small things, I know).

I ordered the starter of tempura prawns with chilli jam.

Loch Fyne tempura prawns

It was a good choice. The tempura batter was light and crispy, delicate and not overwhelming of the juicy prawns. The portion size was good, and the salad and chopped fresh chillies gave a nice texture contrast. The chilli jam was very spicy; not one for the mild of tongue, but for me it was perfect.

Husband and mother in law had scallops with haggis.

Loch Fyne haggis and scallops

Obviously I had to try some, purely in the interests of research. It was delicious. The haggis was tasty and flavoursome and the scallops were perfectly cooked.

So far so good.

Mother in law was delighted to see dressed crab and French fries on the specials menu, as it reminded her of her youth, and is also simple and unfussy food which suits her palate. For a fussy eater she certainly didn’t leave much!

Loch Fyne dressed crab

Husband went for the whole lobster. Having only ever eaten lobster tail before, his face when the waiter brought over the “tools” was a picture! But it was served in two halves, making it much easier to eat. Served simply with fries and mayonnaise, he declared it a resounding success – succulent and juicy.

Loch Fyne whole lobster

I had struggled to decide on a main course, purely because there were lots of things that appealed to me (not least the belly pork, but it seemed a bit daft to order meat in a fish restaurant), eventually settling on lobster spaghetti. Unfortunately I found it to be disappointing. The sauce, which showed so much promise on the menu, was pretty bland. There was none of the expected richness of brandy, or flavour of tarragon. It was just a rather ordinary cream sauce. There was not a lot of lobster meat, just the odd flake here and there. The dish was garnished with the empty lobster shell, seeming to indicate half a lobster’s worth of meat in the dish, but I’d doubt that, The pasta was well cooked, but that’s hardly a compliment at restaurant level! At £19.99 it totally under delivered.

Loch Fyne lobster spaghetti

Would I go back? Yes. The ambience was lovely and the food was most definitely fresh. There’s other stuff on the menu I’d like to try, and the starter was an absolute hit. Being a chain restaurant there are often mid week discounts to be had, making it more palatable on the wallet too! But I’d definitely avoid the lobster spaghetti.

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Makeup review: Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless Mascara

Oh – the pleasure / pain of a new mascara! Dramatic eh?! But oh so true! When you get a shiny new mascara you tend to realise how dried out and past it’s best your previous one was (just me then…) And, more importantly, how wet a new one is! I’ve been using this new (to me – I think it’s been on the market for a while) Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless mascara for 3 weeks, and still I manage to get spider eyelids and smudgy bits (perhaps says more about me than the mascara).

Anyways…

I really like this mascara (that bit should probably be at the end – it kind of sums up the whole review). But here’s why I like it.

Aesthetically, I like the tube. It’s a good tube. Angular so its easy to hold and doesn’t slip out of your hand. Good colour. It’s easy to spot in my make up bag as there’s nothing else that colour in there.

Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless Mascara

The brush is made of small rubbery fibres rather than a brush brush. Ever since I first came across the comb style applicators a few years back, I haven’t gone back to a brush, You just don’t get the same coverage. This brush easily wriggles right down to the roots of your eyelashes and gives good smooth coverage all along the lash.

Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless Mascara brush

And the colour. Yes it’s black. But it’s a good black. Very black. Not wishy washy black.

Now, the mascara contains “Grow Lash Complex + Fibres”. I don’t know what that means, but it seems to suggest your eyelashes are going to look bloomin’ great when you use it. That they’re going to be longer than with other mascaras. And whilst I don’t have any actual evidence (how do you measure your lashes? Is there an eyelash ruler I’ve missed out on?) they’re certainly looking better than in a while. I’ve always had good eyelashes (not a CV worthy statement I know, but still a boon to one’s appearance) but recently they’ve been looking a bit weedy and rubbish. Some shorter than others and a little bit sparse. But this mascara has done great things for them.

Eye wihout.Eye with

I also find it doesn’t smudge, flake or end up in a pool under my eyes by the end of the day.

To bring this full circle, I really like this mascara (didn’t I say that a few paragraphs of waffle ago?) And yes I would repurchase. Especially if I can sneak it onto the weekly shopping bill when I’m whizzing round Sainsbury’s (I didn’t do that, husband, if you’re reading).

It retails for around £8 in the usual High Street places.

(and also, how freaky is it seeing my eye close up like that?!)

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Hotel Review – Cotswold88, Painswick

Sometimes just being away overnight, like we did this weekend, is all it takes to feel like you’ve had a good break. A change of scenery, travelling somewhere, seeing new places – it can make a normal weekend feel like a mini holiday.

It’s also really easy to pack for!

Earlier this year we did just that and went off to the Cotswolds. I had received an overnight stay and dinner as one of my Christmas gifts from ‘im indoors (running out of ways to describe Mr Me on here – maybe I should just stop talking about him) which I was free to book at my leisure. After a whole 4 weeks back at work in the New Year, I was more than ready to get away.

Cotswold88 hotel is stunning. It’s part of the Mr & Mrs Smith hotel collection.

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Painswick – the small village in which it is located – is equally stunning. Dating back to the 11th Century, the village is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Even on a cold January afternoon, with overcast skies and a howling wind, it was a pleasure to be there.

We arrived at the hotel before the advertised check in time and were invited to leave our bags at reception and either explore the village or make ourselves comfortable in one of the hotel lounges. We headed out to a local pub for some lunch and a mooch around the village.

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Everything is built in Cotswold stone.

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Wanting to make the most of the hotel and it’s sumptuous surroundings, we headed back at around 3pm.

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There are quirky touches around every corner.

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Each of the public rooms is decorated individually.

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A large glass of wine in front of the roaring fire soon brushed off the cold walk around the village.

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I loved these light fittings in the bar.

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The staff were incredibly helpful and friendly; I’d expected an element of stuffiness as can often be the case in boutique hotels but that wasn’t the case at all. We were immediately put at ease on arrival and remained entirely relaxed throughout our stay.

Dinner was delicious. I can’t remember the detail so have just checked the website, only to find that the hotel has been sold! It’s currently undergoing total refurbishment and will be closed until Christmas. It will be interesting to see what happens. The new name is “The Painswick“, which it used to be previously. I got the feeling from some of the locals that the extravagant décor was not to their taste, so maybe it’s going back to the traditional look. It was certainly anything but during our stay!

On Sunday morning we had a look around the churchyard – a grade 1 listed building. There are some very old tombs and monuments, and a plethora of yew trees.

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Would I go back? Not to Cotswold88, obvs, as it doesn’t exist anymore! That’s really surprised me, but also disappointed me as we’d hoped to go back in the summer. But Painswick is definitely worth a visit; even if just part of a short stop on a mini tour around the beautiful Cotswolds villages in the area.

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Restaurant review: Cucina Rustica, Birmingham

Cucina Rustica is an italian restaurant in Birmingham, just outside of the city centre near the Jewellery Quarter. I hadn’t heard of it until my Dad mentioned it last week, and last night he took us there for dinner.

The outside is deceptive in terms of size – it looks quite small but opens up inside to a large dining space. Dad had requested a table in the window which is housed in one of 2 booths and was perfect for the two of us, my husband and Dad’s wife. The front area of the restaurant has a more cosy rustic feel, while the larger rear dining area is more modern and stylised.

The menu is extensive and, as usual in a restaurant environment, I turned into Mrs Indecisive for fear of making the wrong choice (I’m always worried that I’ll prefer the look of everyone else’s food and spend the meal regretting my own decision – food is that important). I think I get this from my Dad, who was still deciding on his main course when the waitress was taking our order!

To start, I ordered “Capesante” – gratinated king scallops, parmesan, parsley, garlic butter & shrimps. The presentation was stunning and the flavours were perfectly balanced; I was so excited that I only managed to get a photograph once I’d finished!

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For main course I ordered veal. I know it’s still viewed as a controversial meat by some, but its so rare to see it on a menu that I couldn’t possibly have ordered anything else once it caught my eye. “Involtini di vitello”, to give it proper credit, was veal, parma ham, asparagus, mozzarella, marsala wine. The ham, asparagus and mozzarella was wrapped inside the veal, with a generous helping of deliciously rich sauce. It could have benefitted from a little more cheese for extra gooeyness, but the flavours were great and the side order of saute potatoes I decided on were the perfect accompaniment (and great for making the most of the marsala wine sauce). No picture, I was too intent on getting it in my tum!

The restaurant itself is finished to a very high standard, and our waitress was incredibly friendly, helpful and patient (we spent too much chatting and not enough time perusing the menu when we first arrived). We were served complimentary bread and olives as an appetiser, and drank rose wine by the bottle.

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I rarely go to Italian restaurants, mainly because I always think Italian cuisine is easy to recreate at home (which is pretty dumb and insulting to Italian chefs) and I wouldn’t think of ordering  pasta dish for the same reason. But I’ll definitely dine at Custina Rustica again, and will be keen to try “Fagottini al cinghiale” (wild boar filled pasta with light cream porcini sauce) – how delish does that sound?

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