Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Marcliffe (Aberdeen): Review

It was my graduation that first introduced me to the mesmerisingly enchanting hotel that is The Marcliffe. I had heard so many wonderful stories about this picturesque place, somewhere that comments like 'outstanding quality' and 'undeniably the best food in Aberdeen' seemed to be common place. As a treat, we'd booked to go for lunch after my graduation from RGU just a few years ago, and I can truly say that  it was the first time I had been totally blown away by any food offering.

Flash forward a few years now, I was lucky enough to be invited for an overnight stay with dinner and breakfast - working with a lifestyle magazine from time to time definitely has its perks - and to say I was bursting with excitement is an understatement.

Aberdeen's only five star accommodation, I knew I was in for a treat at this prestigious North Deeside residence.

Packing our bags (yes, the trusty old boyfriend was coming along) we headed along to the hotel around 3.30pm to check in for the evening. As always, the staff were extremely friendly, and the concierge even helped us with our bags. We were directed to the The Floors suite, a spacious haven with lounge chairs and a huge bed with slippers and robes awaiting our graces. Not only was the room gorgeous, I immediately fell in love with the bathroom tiles. A deep, dark marbled green, I felt myself drowning in its beauty.
Relaxing in the room a while, we spruced ourselves up and headed down to the dining room conservatory restaurant. Initially, we were seated in the drawing room and invited to place our drinks orders whilst browsing the dinner menus. 
It's hard to miss the baby grand piano nestled in the corner of the room, showered in photographic memories of VIP guests who have graced these halls over the past 25 years. Cocktail and beer in hand, we toasted to an evening of good company and excellent food.

Leading us past the open-kitchen and into the dining room we settled at our table and decided on our choice of breads. Moments later our first course was served. Succulent West Coast scallops for me, and Ribble Valley Scotch quail's egg for my other half. The food melted in our mouths and tasted extremely fresh. Never have I tasted scallops quite like those, and to this day, they are still the best scallops I have ever experienced.
Polishing the first course quite promptly, a quick wine top up was executed and then we were straight into our mains. We had both opted for fillet steak (medium rare for me, and rare for Calum) with the addition of a tiger prawn cooked in garlic butter nestled on top of my perfectly cooked steak. Accompanied with a side of fries, salad and peppercorn sauce, there were clean plates all round - a sign of two very satisfied diners.
Eyes bigger than our bellies, but recognising we were full, we decided on something light to finish. One scoop of homemade sticky toffee pudding ice cream for me, and affrogato al caffè for Calum.
Hunger pangs no more, we waddled back to the room, ready to spend some time enjoying the tranquil surroundings in our soft robes and slippers, before drifting off to sleep.

The most enjoyable part of being in a relationship with a man who works offshore, has to be the early rises. With Calum booked to be heading up North the next morning, it was an early start for us both. As much as I would have loved to indulge in the breakfast offering, we were up so early the breakfast wasn't even open yet - not to mention we were still full from the evening before so any additional food would probably been wasted on us. Waving The Marcliffe, and the friendly staff goodbye, we headed off into the horizon (seriously, it was that early) leaving the warmth and beauty of The Marcliffe behind us...
  For Now...

Just Julia


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Cereal killer Cafe (London): Review

I bloody love breakfast. And I bloody love cereal. So what do you do when you've got less than 48 hours in London? You travel as far as you can to get the best damn bowl of cereal money can buy, obviously.

Located in the quirky/hipster/unconventional borough of London that is Shoreditch, you can find The Cereal Killer Cafe, the worlds first international cereal cafe. With over 100 types of cereal on sale on sale - trust me, you're not stuck for choice - and with endless toppings to add to your cereal, and 30 different varieties of milk, there is literally something for everyone here - be that for what I couldn't really class as a healthy breakfast, or a late afternoon snack.

Walking into the cereal speakeasy, which dons an impressive selection of limited editions to some of the nations most-loved cereals, nostalgia kicked in. Gone are the days of finding a free spoon in your rice krispies or the numerous collector Tony the tiger figurines. Kids these days don't get to experience these defying moments of beating your sister to finding the toy - even thought this usually just consisted of me raking through the unopened box until I found it. That my friends, is one the benefits of being an early riser.

Turning to the wall of cereal, I was genuinely amazed at how many types of cereals there are, I wanted them all.
With an abundance of choice, it seemed an impossible task to decide on which cereal to pick, never mind which toppings you'd like. Eventually, after buying some time joining the long queue, I settled on chocolate hazelnut Krave topped with party rings, freeze dried marshmallows and crispy M&M's - all part of a stable diet and of course, a healthy breakfast. Oh, and white chocolate milk to accompany too...yum!

My boyfriend (the sort to copy a winning combination) also opted for the hazelnut Krave and added Oreo biscuits, party rings, and crispy M&M's too, topped off with banana milk.

Venturing downstairs, I was intrigued to see what childhood memories I could captivate in this underground cereal fantasy. The stairs were narrow, leading to a treasure trove of cereal memorabilia. Flashback to my bedroom circa 1995 being surrounded by lost but never forgotten brands, I was embracing my inner 90's kid, and my god I was in my element. Come to think of it my 101 Dalmatians wallpaper didn't seem to make an appearance, although I was kind of glad about that...
Spying a seat - or should I say an empty bed for that matter - we settled down and let loose on the milk. I tucked into my medium bowl of cereal, savouring every sweet, sweet mouthful. My other half delved into his large bowl, only coming up for air when he needed to add more milk. 

For a minute, you could almost forget that you're sitting in a cafe, on a randoms bed, chowing down on a bowl full of sugar - there was nothing healthy about this breakfast, but when you're holiday it's all about indulging - that's what everyone says, right?

It is a little strange to think I'd basically shared a bed with so many other strangers who had experienced the very same feeling of euphoria on, however, when there's a life size poster of  one of your hero gladiators, Jet, staring you in the face, you kind of just get caught up in the moment.

The interiors took me straight back to my childhood. A Spice Girl wannabe, I reminisced over all of the toys you used to get in your cereal for free (ah those were the days) and loved seeing all of the old branding for many household names. Never did I think cereal could be so fascinating...

Being the standard tourists we are, it was a definite must-visit for breakfast from me. I love quirky eateries like this, and although it wasn't the healthiest, most nutritious breakfast we've ever had, we were going for the experience, for the thrill of picking out your own cereal and topping it with as much sugar you could get your hands on. 

Yeah ok it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity to visit. Life is all about making memories and experiencing new things, as well as eating pretty delicious cereal too.

From American cereals, to outrageous pop tart flavours, to a stacked hot chocolate which is bound to leaving you full for days, to cereal cocktails, these guys know how to put the fun back into cereal, and give us a real taste of nostalgia when we need it most.

I'll definitely be back for a bowl.

The funniest part about this post? Guess who just finished a bowl of cereal...

  For Now...

Just Julia

Beer @ The Barn - The drinks you need to know about...

It's only a few weeks until Beer at the Barn kicks off at Woodend Barn and I don't know about you, but I'm very much looking forward to raising a glass to another year of awesome festivals in Aberdeen.

An avid lover of a good drinks selection, Beer at the Barn, which is organised my MFGF Events - the guys behind Banchory and Inverurie  - always boasts a pretty generous drinks offering. From Scottish beers, to English ciders, to everything in between, they cater for all tastes, and have even created their very own bespoke tonic with Summerhouse Drinks especially for the festival.

The event takes place over two days and runs from Friday 10 to Saturday 11 of February 2017. A scaled down version of the outdoor summer event, the indoor winter festival boasts three sessions with fantastic live music taking place throughout the sessions.

A Beer at the Barn first, this year will see the addition of prosecco to the drinks list which is a welcome addition for those who aren't the biggest beer fans I can imagine.

I've been lucky enough to get a sneaky peak into the drinks offering these guys will be serving up, and boy are you guys in for a treat...

All the beers (and ciders):
  • Fierce Beer - if their Cranachan Killer is available, DEFINITELY try it out. Their newly launched Tropical Twist sour is also pretty bangin' too, but I'd highly recommend trying out these guys - love their pack-a-punch full of flavour brews!
  • Six Degrees North - these guys do some pretty awesome Belgian beers, and they're from Stonehaven, what's not to love!?
  • Deeside Brewery - handcrafted beer brewed in Royal Deeside.
  • 7 Brewing - coming locally from Durris, these guys brew up small batch, traditional craft ales.
  • Alchemy Brewing - an Edinburgh brewery turning grain into gold. I've heard their sour cherry black IPA is worth shouting about.
  • Black Isle Brewery - all their beers are organic meaning they must be good for you, right? They'll also have a gluten free one for everyone to try too.
  • Cromarty Brewery - highly recommend Rogue Wave and Happy Chappy 
  • Top Out - a small independent Edinburgh based brewery brewing unconventional beers - sounds perfect for BATB.
  • Beavertown - these guys have some pretty neat artwork on their cans - here's hoping they're beers are just as funky!
  • Thistly Cross Cider - OH EM GEE, gimme all their ciders right here, right now...especially their strawberry and elderflower flavours!
  • Pulp - an English cider company, I'm looking forward to trying their cider out - it's rhubarb flavoured!

All the gins:

  • The Teasmith - an awesome new gin. If you're a fan of something a little different I'd definitely recommend this Aberdeenshire beauty.
  • House of Elrick - this gin tastes delicious with a premium tonic and some orange peel and some zest on the rim of the glass. Might just have to go treat myself to one now...
  • Steampunk - their pirate gin is rascal strength - now that could be dangerous!
  • Whittakers - never tasted before, but the pink peppercorn botanical sounds delicious. May have to pair with some fresh strawberries and some cracked black pepper.
Local rum distillers Dark Matter will be taking centre stage on all things rum. Delicious with ginger beer and a sprig of mint.

A selection of prosecco will be available to try out.

Festival tonic:
The festival will also see a brand new tonic which has been specially created for the Beer at The Barn event. Partnering with soft drinks mastermind, Claire from Summerhouse Drinks, the team have created a Earl grey tea flavoured tonic. The tonic water is designed to go with all types of gins and is definitely worth checking out.

Tickets are now on sale here from £17.50.

Session times are below:
Session 1: Friday evening - 5.30pm - midnight
Session 2: Saturday afternoon - midday to 5.30pm
Session 3: Saturday evening - 6.30pm to midnight

For more information on the festival or future events, please visit their website here. And do let me know what drinks you're most looking forward to/try out at the festival once it's over!

  For Now...

Just Julia

Monday, 23 January 2017

Dry January Mocktails with Fentimans Ltd

It's not very often I receive a telegram. To be frank, I think this was the first postal telegram I'd ever received, but unlike most telegrams you may have received back in the day, this one came wrapped up in a picnic basket full of Fentimans Ltd goodies.

Established in 1905, Fentimans has been around for over a century, and has continually been committed to the time honoured process of botanical brewing, ensuring they create the most incredible flavours for their soft drinks. Its ginger beer is the root of the business, the first product Fentimans created, and since then the company has embarked on a drinks journey, discovering different ways to brew its well-known flavours.

The business is a family business, which over the generations, has created 10 different flavoured soft drinks, seven of which I received to try out. With no artificial flavours, sweeteners, colours or preservatives, these soft drinks wee the perfect care package to entice my tastebuds whilst on a new fitness and healthy eating programme.

As well as the numerous soft drinks Fentimans has to offer, it also boasts numerous mixers, pre-mixed gin-based alcoholic drinks, and its own gluten free craft beer. With Dry January in full swing for some individuals, and my lack of gin consumed throughout the month, I decided to put the soft drinks to the test and create some fun mocktails. You can check out some mocktail inspiration from Fentimans below, as well as some drinks I created myself!

Mocktail recipes:

Raspberry Rose Lemonade
125ml Rose Lemondade
100ml Raspberry juice
Sprig of rosemary
Handful of berries for garnish - I chose cherries but raspberries, strawberries or blueberries would also be delicious!

Mulled Ginger Beer and Strawberry
275ml Fentimans Ginger Beer
Handful of freshly muddled strawberries
Sprig of fresh mint
Cinnamon sugar to line the glass (optional)

Lemonade Pineapple Cooler
Pineapple juice
Spring of rosemary and a juicy slice of refreshing watermelon

Cherry Coketail
275ml of  Cherry Coke
5ml Vanilla essence
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Garnish with cherries and lime wedge
I was pleasantly surprised at how refreshing the drinks were, especially the victorian lemonade, wild English elderflower and the rose lemonade. My boyfriend managed to nab himself the cherry cola mocktail which he inhaled, and he also scoffed the ginger beer mocktail down in a oner too. I really enjoyed the curiosity cola too - it was very sweet and tasted completely different to the intensely sugary coca cola society is used to. The taste lingered on my tongue for ages after which I loved, and due to the smaller size of the bottles, it meant I was getting a taster of fizzy drinks during my healthy eating programme without over indulging.

The bottles themselves are very sturdy, and are perfect if you're looking for a quirky twist to make your own mocktails in for friends coming over. Whether you're mixing mocktails or creating cocktails, Fentimans is an excellent addition to any tipple. Enjoy, and remember to drink responsibly.

 I'd also love to hear what you guys mix your Fentimans with...I know a lot of people had mentioned they love adding gin to theirs, but is there anything else you like mixing it with? And if gin is your tipple, what's your favourite gin to mix them with!? 

  For Now...

Just Julia

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