Category

Food

Category

Alfresco Dining with HomeSense

Recently a few friends and I enjoyed fun, food and frolics by the sea at the Sidmouth Folk Festival. The weather was glorious (before it took a grey turn for the worst the following afternoon, in typical British summertime fashion) so we enjoyed our first evening by the coast sat in the garden with bubbles, sangria, and one helluva fabulous feast!

Bean, Couscous and Feta Salad

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Eating healthy can sometimes be difficult, especially after the holidays (chocolate, anyone?) but it’s a lot simpler than you may think. It’s all about balance. 

When I’m trying to fight the fat I try and choose healthy salads, especially now the weather is brighter and getting warmer, as they don’t take much time and effort but fill you up with nutrients you need. Salads to some people conjure up a boring and not so tasty image, but hopefully I will be able to convert you non-salad lovers to this recipe. I’m also cutting back on my bread intake, which if you’re anything like me would usually find difficult (I usually like a piece of bread and butter next to my salad) but 3 days in and I don’t miss it, hoorah!

Perusing the shelves of Waitrose a couple of days ago, I spotted the 2 for £3 salad pots. Now, I usually avoid these as they tend to be full of nuts and beans and ‘superfoods’ that don’t really appeal to my taste buds, but I decided to give them a try. I’m so glad I did because it’s become a firm, flavorsome favourite – here’s what I did…

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What you will need:

Edamame Bean Salad*  (Adzuki and edamame beans with fresh peppers & coriander)

Roasted Vegetable Couscous *

A handful of baby spinach

2 tomatoes, cut in half

Feta cheese

Balsamic Vinegar

I used a third of each salad pot as I wanted to make a couple of lunches from it (and in case I didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be a waste of food), tossing the two together in the oriental soy dressing that comes with the bean salad and placed it on the bed of spinach. I cut up some feta and crumbled it over the salad, drizzling over a teaspoon of balsamic.

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Edamame beans are low in fat and calories and high in protein and fibre – as well as other essential vitamins and nutrients you need – so just having a handful of these in your salad will do you plenty of good. Couscous also has several health benefits, as the potassium helps to regulate blood pressure.

I can’t begin to tell you how delicious this is and how quick it was to throw together. Even my mum enjoyed this (hold the couscous for her), and this says a lot.

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If this doesn’t take your fancy then perhaps this beetroot and cream cheese salad may entice you more.

Baby spinach, cucumber, tomato, baby beetroot and two Laughing Cow cream cheese triangles thrown in – quick and easy, and most importantly very tasty!

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Let me know if you like these recipes and link me to any healthy recipe posts you think I should try next.

Have a lovely weekend 🙂

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*Available in other supermarkets, but the Waitrose ones are delicious!

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Côte Brasserie, French dining in Cheltenham

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As a Cheltonian born and bred I’ve seen restaurants come and go, but when Montpellier Brasserie closed down last summer I was disappointed. Their food and cocktails always raised a smile when I visited and I held fond memories of the place, but I was intrigued to find out who would replace this local dining spot.

Côte is a French chain inspired by Parisian bistros, putting together ‘authentic brasserie dishes with a modern twist‘. From steak to seafood and salads, there is something for everyone to enjoy and I couldn’t wait to tuck in and try what is on offer. Officially opening in Cheltenham on Monday 13th April, myself and a friend got to sample some of the delights a couple days early.

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Lunchtime on a Saturday: the atmosphere was lively in an informal yet elegant setting. Friendly faces greeted us as we entered (and departed), the service was efficient and we didn’t have to wait long before our drinks and complimentary nibbles were served. Supervisors were on hand to prompt some of the staff to ensure customers were happy, monitoring the room for further improvements, something that will probably be present for the coming weeks whilst they settle in to their new surroundings. Our waiter was lovely and he was extremely attentive and the quality of the dining experience shone through, even before food reached our stomachs.

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We enjoyed a bowl of juicy olives and crusty bread whilst perusing the menu, offering plenty of choice for most appetites. Whilst Sam chose the Boudin Noir as his starter (French black pudding with caramelised apples, poached egg and a frisée salad), I went with an old favourite – calamari.

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I was conscious not to fill up on too much fresh bread (despite how tasty it was) in fear of ruining my two courses. Thank goodness I did as the portion of calamari was particularly generous! I’m used to sharing this dish in other restaurants so on average I would expect 6-8 pieces between two people, but there must have been 10+ pieces in this cute little pan of breadcrumbed squid! As my stomach started to shrink I felt like I had been eating a main course, so left the final few pieces for Sam to finish off. Dare I say it it might be the best calamari I have ever had! I would recommend this as a sharing dish though, unless you are feeling particularly ravenous.

For my main I chose the Salmon Fishcakes, a favourite dish of mine, with a baby spinach salad, dill, a wholegrain mustard sauce, and a side of French green beans to compliment the meal. I was slightly full from the starter but found it easy to demolish most of the main course, the only thing I didn’t care for were the number of capers on my plate – perhaps an ingredient that should be mentioned on the menu. Sam ordered the roasted duck breast with gratin potato and a griottine cherry sauce, and after trying a mouthful of the tender duck I look forward to ordering it on my next visit.

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We were offered more drinks and handed the dessert menu. Everything sounded scrumptious! It’s a shame I felt so full up because the Praline Crêpes sound amazing, I will definitely be ordering this next time. We went with a coffee instead to end our lovely lunch with, and before we knew it it was time to leave.

From the decor to the service I was impressed with the experience and leaves you wanting to try more – great quality food for excellent prices.

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Will you be visiting?

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Jamie’s Italian, Cheltenham

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When I was approached by Jamie’s Italian a couple of weeks ago to review their restaurant here in Cheltenham, I leaped at the chance. As a lover of Italian food and a fan of Jamie Oliver’s I was looking forward to sampling some authentic cuisine with the rustic touches I know it is famous for.

We had a table booked for 7.30 on Tuesday evening and as we arrived on the dot we were greeted with a friendly smile within seconds of stepping through the door, I stated my name and we were swiftly taken to our table. The room was filling up slowly so it had a lively yet relaxed environment, perfect for a couple of friends catching up for the evening (nothing worse than having to shout above the noise to be heard).

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The restaurant is a former County Court with original features including the jury box and judges’ table, it’s a pretty impressive place to eat your lunch or dinner – whether you are dining with friends or family, it’s a fun experience for all ages. Situated in the centre of town with bars and restaurants including Bills, Copa and Slug and Lettuce on the one side and the Everyman Theatre on the other, it’s a great location and easy to find.

Once we were comfortably seated and our coats were kindly hung up for us, our waitress for the evening brought over the menus and took our drinks order. We decided on a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc to wet our appetite and were well informed about the Specials dishes. We studied the menu and decided on sharing two starters – the Cured Meats Plank for one and the Artisan Bread Basket.

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The plank boasts four types of cured meat, including fennel salami, aged prosciutto, piccante and mortadella. Served with a mini buffalo mozzarella, pecorino (thin crisp music bread) and chilli jam, a wonderful selection of pickles and olives and a delicious helping of kale slaw. Laid out on two tins, an idea Jamie himself picked up during a stay in Italy, the food was at eye level to us so it was much easier to see the contents on the plank aside from looking extremely well presented.

The bread selection was the perfect accompaniment, with homemade focaccia, ciabatta, sourdough, crackerbread and grissini sticks – served with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic and a tasty olive tapenade.

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The flavours of the bread, meat and accompaniments together were fantastic and I couldn’t fault any part of it, aside from there wasn’t enough kale slaw – it was delicious!

We chose to order our mains once we had consumed our starters, the menu has such variety we just couldn’t decide! After a lot of ‘umming and ahhing’, we eventually chose The Jamie’s Italian Burger with a side of Funky Chips and the Lamb Chops Scottaditta.

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When our mains arrived we were impressed with the presentation, especially with the lamb chops. My friend was given a separate plate to dish up the meal her own way, which included a flavoursome trio of herby red onions, toasted nuts and yoghurt with a side of posh polenta chips. I sampled a mouthful of the lamb and it was tender and flavoursome, something I would definitely opt for next time.

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The beef burger was delicious! With the mortadella, balsamic onions, tomato and smoked mozzarella (I removed the pickles and chillies), the combined flavours worked perfectly together. The rosemary and garlic chips were incredible, chunky and fluffy on the inside, the perfect chip – they are extremely garlicky though, so perhaps not the best choice if you’re on a date…

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I couldn’t finish all of my meal as it was so filling but that’s not a reflection on the food, just my small stomach. I always regret leaving anything behind, and an hour later I was craving those chips again!

We resisted dessert, as much as we were eyeing up the Epic Brownie, I opted for a cappuccino instead to round up our lovely evening. I was impressed that the cup of coffee tasted so authentic, it was like being back in Italy.

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Our waitress was extremely knowledgeable and efficient, continuously informing us throughout the evening on the food and thoughts behind the presentation of the courses which was a really nice touch to the experience. A far cry from your usual Italian restaurants, Jamie’s is a warm and inviting dining experience for most foodies.

You can check out the menu here and book a table for yourself – there is even an easy way to choose your meals according to your dietary requirements!

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The Vine, Thai Food in Cheltenham

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Last week one of my girlfriends suggested going to The Vine for dinner, somewhere I had never been before in Cheltenham but had heard plenty of great reviews about.

The restaurant has a pub vibe which gives it a very laid back and relaxed environment. It was around 6.30pm and it was already starting to get busy so I would definitely advise booking a table in advance. We happened to grab a table on a whim towards the back of the room so it was slightly quieter. We sat down and perused the menu, Sidonie had been before so I asked her to recommend dishes (she knows I’m a wimp when it comes to heat and spice). There was a 2 courses for £7.50 special offer so we decided on doing that and ordered a couple of extra starters to share too. You have to make your order at the bar so if you prefer table service, this probably isn’t the restaurant for you.

Wine and spicy prawn crackers set the evening off to a good start.

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We had a giggle and a gossip whilst we waited on our starters, but we didn’t have to wait long which I was impressed with. We had ordered the vegetable spring rolls and prawn toast as part of the specials deal, as well as the Thai pork dumplings. Served with a small salad, each dish was delicious and the flavours tasted ‘authentic’ – something that is promised in the menu. The dim sum were my particular favourite, but I have my eye on trying the Thai fishcakes next time!

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Onto the next course!

The menu boasts a huge variety of dishes to choose from so it took some time trying to decide. I have wanted to try the Pad Thai with chicken for a long time and I’m always tempted by it when I see it on the menus in other restaurants. Sid chose the Thai green curry, which she requested to be ‘mild’ as opposed to hot that it was labelled as. Unfortunately the chef didn’t get the memo and it came out packed with a lot of heat! Luckily the portions are large and I shared some of my meal with Sid – one of the perks of ordering food you both enjoy.

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We both have a sweet tooth so had to order a pudding each, naughty but nice! I chose the chocolate fudge cake and Sidonie chose Glouy tod, Banana fritters in coconut and sesame seed batter, drizzled with honey served with vanilla ice cream – yum! 

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Here are Sid’s thoughts on The Vine...

I always enjoy going to The Vine – I like the atmosphere, music, candles etc. It’s good for meals with the boyfriend or an evening with friends. I usually get the Thai fish cakes because they are light and delicious, but the Dim Sum was lovely! They could hold on the red chilli in the Thai green curry but apart from that it’s an affordable restaurant for everyone.

As it’s Valentine’s Day coming up, I would recommend it for a first date as it’s not too formal and the lighting, service and music is perfect!

The whole experience overall was good, and I would highly recommend it to others. I’m looking forward to visiting again soon to taste more of the menu, there is something for everyone! You can check out The Vine’s restaurant and menu here – let me know if you take a visit!

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The Lost & Found, Birmingham

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Last weekend during my stay in Birmingham with friends, we were taken to our friend Alyson’s favourite pub in the city centre. The Lost & Found is a classic British restaurant that is situated in a large Victorian building featuring quirky rooms within. The interior is incredible, boasting a ‘library’ and a ‘conservatory’ – an Instagrammer’s dream! (Not to mention extremely Pinterest-worthy).

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You will need to book a table in advance as it gets super busy, especially during the festive period. We were greeted by a friendly waitress who escorted us to our table in the ‘dining room’, where we found this cute Alice in Wonderland style bottle with our reservation tagged on.

As I sipped on my Champagne cocktail, we devoured a board of delicious Polenta chips and marinated stuffed olives.

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In all of the excitement of gossip and giggles with the girls, I totally forgot to take a snap of my main meal. I ordered the Ultimate Fish Finger Sandwich, You will just have to take my word for it when I say that it really was the ultimate sandwich! 

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For dessert I opted for the Cappuccino Crème Brulée, two loves of mine combined. I dipped the hazelnut biscotti into the coffee froth, before reaching the crunchy caramelised topping that was hiding beneath the surface. Yum!

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Despite the service being a little slow (it was a busy Saturday lunch time), I really enjoyed the overall experience. If you happen to be visiting the city, I would highly recommend stopping by here. Good friends and a cocktail required.

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