Reviews

Celtic Manor – Newport, Wales – July 2012

I visited Celtic Manor on Saturday 28th July with my boyfriend and parents for my dad’s birthday.  We took advantage of a special offer and we stayed in a Deluxe room with had a balcony for £134.  The hotel itself isn’t the most attractive of buildings but it does command a presence when driving on the M4 from England.

The room was lovely – the décor is a little dated but I think that’s the general look and feel of the hotel which does add an element of traditional charm.  We were on the 9th floor and so the view from the balcony was amazing – we overlooked the Forest Jump but couldn’t hear any noise so it was very peaceful.  The room had all the normal facilities tv, safe, mini bar etc although I did have to request a hairdryer from reception and go and pick it up.

When I called to book the rooms I told the hotel that we were visiting for my Dad’s birthday and in his room on arrival was a birthday card and a small box of chocolates which was a nice touch.

We were told that we wouldn’t be able to check in until 4pm but we arrived at 2pm to make the most of the facilities and we were able to check in, which was great and meant that the stay seemed longer.  After checking in we went to the RooftopGarden and had lunch from their bbq menu.  We had to clear our own table and it took a while to be served our drinks despite there not actually being anyone else waiting to be served. We ordered 3 chicken kebabs and 1 burger which were £5.25 each and unfortunately we were slightly disappointed.  The pitta bread on the kebabs was very dry as there was no sauce and it lacked any real flavour.  It filled a hole but I’m not sure I would go there again.

After lunch we headed over to play a round of mini golf.  It was fairly busy and we had to wait to start each hole but it was great fun.  There’s a choice of 9 or 18 holes and if you go for the 9 hole option, there are 2 courses to choose from.  The courses aren’t the most exciting but it was great for some family fun.  The weather was also lovely which really helped.  After this, we went for an afternoon drink out in the sun which again was very relaxing.

There are loads of things for children to do and it does seem to be catering for families with younger children. There is also the golf course and world class facilities here but we didn’t use them as we had no avid golf players within our group.

We were all keen to use the spa facilities so we donned the swimwear and visited the pool, sauna and Jacuzzi.  We went during family time when children are allowed but the number of children in the pool was minimal and so it was still a very relaxing and calming hour.

In the evening we were joined by my brother and sister in law and we had dinner in the Olive Tree restaurant.  We paid £32.50 each for a buffet style dinner and it was lovely.  The starters varied from soup and salad, to cold meats and cheeses.  For main there was beef curry, duck, chicken and fish.  And for dessert there was an amazing range of cupcakes, tartlets, mousses, panacotta, fruit and a cheese board.  We all went back for 2nds for most courses.  The waiting staff were attentive and filled up our glasses regularly and cleared away our place all throughout the meal.  We never had to ask them for anything, they were always on the ball.  The restaurant has a really lovely atmosphere and it’s full of different types of groups – birthday parties, romantic couples, families etc – no-one bothering each other but all enhancing the slightly buzzy atmosphere.

In the morning, the breakfast is a similar style to the dinner where you can eat as much as you want in the buffet. The range of food was vast from fruit with yogurt and cereals to full English breakfast and pastries.  Teas and coffees are served to your table.

Check out is at 11 o-clock and the lifts are very busy during this time. After waiting for 10minutes to get a lift, we decided to walk down to reception.  It wasn’t that bad and on route we saw that a lot of people had the same idea.

Overall our stay in Celtic Manor was lovely and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to have a spa or golf break. I think the standard room rate is very high so I would only visit again on an offer.
 

Ping Pong – Westbourne Grove – Dec 2011

My boyfriend and I went to Ping Pong in Westbourne Grove on Friday night and we had a lovely relaxed evening.  The atmosphere, the food and service were all great in an environment that’s very enjoyable.

From Bayswater tube (Circle Line) it’s about a 10 minute walk although there are plenty of other buses / tubes you could use.  It’s on a fairly busy street so I imagine parking would be quite difficult.

On entering the restaurant there was no queue and I was greeted by the door staff who were friendly and helpful. My boyfriend was waiting for me in the bar area – which had a nice atmosphere and attentive bar staff.  We wanted to sit here for a while and this wasn’t a problem, and we were told that our table was ready for whenever we wanted it.  We were at the restaurant at 6.30ish so it was pretty quiet but I was still impressed that they didn’t rush us at all.  The tables are very close and you can find yourself eaves dropping on the conversation on the next table so a little more space between each one would be nice.

At our table, the waitress was friendly and checked that we’d been before and knew how to order.  She also informed us of the seasonal specials and advised us to choose between 4 and 5 dishes each. We choose 9 dishes and an extra sauce platter:

  • Crisp potato cake – fluffy potato with Soya beans and a crisp coating
  • Duck spring roll – duck, cucumber and spring onions in crisp pastry with hoi sin sauce
  • Prawn Toast with sesame seeds – prawns on toast with a hint of garlic served with fish sauce
  • Roast pork puff – honey-roast pork, puff pastry, glazed with honey
  • Chicken rice pot – chicken cooked in coconut milk, water chestnuts, mange tout with a hint of chilli
  • Chilli pork tender loin – pork fillet rubbed with chilli marinade
  • Braised duck rice pot – slow cooked ducked in a rice sauce, with coconut rice
  • Spicy chicken dumplings – chicken, vegetables, chilli, translucent pastry
  • Beef dumplings – slow cooked beef, hint of chilli topped with a sofa bean, wheat flour pastry
  • Sauce platter –  sweet chilli, lemon & basil and tamarind & cashew nut with black vinegar

The pork tender loin was definitely our favourite dish. The flavours were amazing and left you wanting more.  The 2 rice dishes were quite big and I don’t think we needed to order both as we couldn’t eat everything and we left these.  We weren’t aware that sauces were put on the table as standard so we probably wouldn’t have ordered the extra sauces but they were yummy nonetheless.  The service was good and our food came out at perfect intervals.  The only bad point was that we ordered a drink which didn’t arrive so we had to ask again.  But they brought us this drink straight away so it wasn’t a problem.

The menu is varied with meat and veggie options as well as fried, grilled and baked dishes.  At about £4 per dish it could be quite an expensive meal if you’ve got a hearty appetite but the food and overall experience is worth it.  For our 9 dishes, the extra sauce platter and 4 large Tsingtao’s (640ml), the bill came to just under £70 (including the 12.5% service charge). We did have 2-3 slightly more expensive dishes which increased our bill slightly. At £35 a head, it might be too pricey for some, especially for a mid week “quick bite” but if you remove our alcohol and don’t order so many / such expensive dishes then I think you could have a great meal and evening for about £25 per head. It’s a lovely place to eat with a good atmosphere and I would definitely recommend this Westbourne Grove Ping Pong restaurant.

If you’ve eaten in any of the other Ping Pong restaurants and would like to be a guest blogger please send me your review at gastrogiddy@gmail.com.

Bit of a strange review for me – Sophie Paterson

A slightly different review for me but I wanted to tell you about an amazing singer – Sophie Paterson –  I saw in The Eagle on the Askew Road in Shepherds Bush.  We went there on a Sunday evening for quick drinks and ending up staying for much longer as Sophie’s voice captivated both myself and my boyfriend.  Her cover songs were brilliant but all had a different take on the song and her own music was great too.  She has a very soulful voice and would recommend popping in one Sunday evening to see her play.

Listen to her music here http://www.myspace.com/sophieepaterson

McQueens at Shoreditch – August 2011

My boyfriend and I went to the Secret Rendezvous at McQueens at Shoreditch last week.  We had a Living Social deal and for £89 we had 1 cocktail on arrival, a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne, a 5 course meal followed by circus acts – we had a hula girl, a burlesque act and an aerial ribbon act. The website also says they have live and up and coming bands so there’s a full mix.

The location is great and only about 5 minute walk from Old Street tube station.  It’s also not far from Moorgate (Hammersmith & City line) as we got the tube home from here and it was only about a 10 minute walk.

On arrival we went straight through to the restaurant as the bar was a bit busy with no-where to sit.  There was no-one at the door, but a waiter was nearby and showed us to our table.  Unfortunately no-one took our coats and bags (and we couldn’t see anywhere to put them) so we kept them with us.  This wasn’t a problem as we had loads of room around our table but could have been slightly annoying if we’d had a different table.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is very calming and relaxing.  Each table has enough room around it so you don’t feel the people next to you are on top and you, and the décor is fabulous.  All this creates the perfect atmosphere.

We had a set menu so didn’t get to choose what we ate but they do serve a range of dishes from steaks and lobster to fish and chips and burgers. Our set menu was:

Starters

Crayfish Bisque

Pan searedMarylandcrab cake

 Angus Beef Carpaccio with Chilled Lobster

Saladleaves citrus infused virgin olive oil

Main Courses

Aromatic Baked Seabass

With oyster fritter served on Saffron infused parsnip

Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Roasted Shallot

Truffle potatoes, shaved Parmesan, sautéed caps, and garlic comfit

Dessert

Slow baked New York Cheese Cake

Devonshireclotted cream

I wasn’t a massive fan of the crayfish bisque but my boyfriend was so that’s more of a personal thing.  The other starter and main dishes were fabulous and a really generous size.  All the dishes were perfect together and the flavours within each were divine. My only criticism of the meal was the dessert – which was a bit too dry.  It also tookabout 20mins to arrive which in comparison to the service of the other dishes was very slow.

The service was good and our waitress was knowledgeable but it would have been nice to see her smile a bit more.  One other small point is the toilets – they have toilet attendants so if you don’t like them (as my boyfriend doesn’t) it could be a bit annoying.

After our meal we went into the bar to see the acts. They perform around you so you can still enjoy your company which is great.  We managed to get a sofa after about 15 minutes as people generally seem to leave after one or two acts. The service at the bar was good and the prices reasonable too – for a pint of lager and glass of red wine it was around £8-£9.  They serve a large range of cocktails with prices ranging from £7.50 for more standard mixes up to £25 for a more exclusive mix (Martell Cordon Bleu and Grand Marnier flamed and served with caramelized berries!!)

We had a really lovely evening here and would definitely recommend a visit.  But if we hadn’t have got the Living Social offer then the evening would have cost £200 (as opposed to £89) and I’m not sure it’s worth that much.

Restaurant review – Lola & Simon – August 2011

 

Went to Lola & Simon on King Street in Hammersmith / Chiswick and had a lovely evening.  It’s a lovely Argentinean restaurant with great food, great service and a perfect atmosphere.

We walked from Stamford Brook tube which took just under 10mins. RavenscourtParktube is slightly closer and you can also get the 190, 267, 27 or 391 – they all pretty much drop outside the restaurant. You can park outside on a single yellow line for free after 6:30pm during the week, after 1.30pm on Saturdays and all day on Sundays. If parking outside of these times you can pay and display on nearby streets.

The outside is lit up with small fairy lights, which is a great touch.  The restaurant has a mezzanine area but we were downstairs looking out the front windows, which is great to people watch (if the company gets boring J).  We went on a Wednesday evening about 8pm so it was fairly quiet (3-4 tables) but there was still a nice comforting atmosphere. I imagine on weekends it gets very busy so booking is probably advisable.

At first glance the menu looks quite limited but after spending some time looking through it there were 2 or 3 dishes that I wanted to try.  We didn’t go for starters but the table next to us had the sharing platter for 2 which looked amazing.   I was very jealous!!

For mains we ordered roasted free range chicken supreme served with lentejas (a lightly spiced Argentinean stew of puy lentils with chorizo and vegetables) and MilanesaNapolitana (flattened Argentine beef, crumbed, briefly fried and topped with homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese) served with mixed herb and baby leaf salad with green beans, radish, cucumber and red onion and a side portion of chunky fried to share.  The food was lovely.  I’d never tasted anything like the beef before and would definitely recommend it.  The chicken was tasty and really juicy but I think the beef won out of the two dishes 🙂

The service was perfect.  Our waitress gave us information on the wine I ordered as it was a blend.  She wasn’t too fussy but was very attentive and topped up water, gave us the bill etc without us having to ask.

The wine list is quite extensive if you want wine by the bottle and ranges from £15.50 for a bottle of Argentinean Syrah / Malbec up to £69 for a bottle of Martinborough Pinot Noir.  Wine by the glass is slightly more limited with a choice of 3-4 per colour.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant.  For £40 we had 2 mains, 1 side and 1 large glass of wine so it’s quite expensive for a quick mid week meal but the food, atmosphere and service is worth the treat.

Restaurant review – Sufi Restaurant – July 2011

Went to Sufi in Shepherds Bush on Friday night and had amazing food in a great atmosphere.  On the Askew Road you can get the 266 bus or there is ample parking after 5pm.  From the outside you can see the chef cooking the flatbread in a large traditional oven and as soon as you walk in there is the warming smell of fresh bread.  The restaurant is split into 2 parts – we were in the back but I think anywhere you sit, you can still soak up the atmosphere.

The Persian menu is ranges from kebabs and grills to fish and stews.  The vegetarian dishes are slightly limited with only 2 options. They also do daily specials.  The menu can be a slightly daunting at first with many of the dishes sounding the same but if you take the time to really look through everything, you’ll find what you’re looking for. For starters we went with the combination platter and flat bread which was extremely tasty but quite filling.  For mains I asked the waiter what the restaurant speciality was and went on his recommendation of Chello Kebab Sufi for 1 – which is one skewer of diced tender baby lamb fillet and chicken fillet cooked over charcoal grill with grilled peppers, onions and tomato served Basmati rice.  For £12.30 it’s a slightly more expensive choice but it was amazing.  The meat was tender, the onions and peppers were tasty and sweet and the rice was fluffy.  I would definitely recommend.

The service was great.  Our waiter was friendly and answered all of our questions with patience.  He gave honest reviews of the food and recommended side orders depending on the dish ordered.  The waiter was attentive but didn’t overly bother us.  The food arrived quickly and we ate it just as quickly.

The range of beer is limited serving only Stella in a bottle.  The wine list includes a larger range of red, white and rose although the selection of wines you can have by the glass is limited.  Prices range from £12 up to £38 for a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, Château Fortia ‘Cuvee de Baron’, France 2006.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant.  It’s not the cheapest place you could choose but the food is amazing, the atmosphere is relaxed and the service attentive.

Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – June 2011

Just a very short post to tell you about a lovely New Zealand white wine I bought this week.  Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is a crisp white wine that’s quite tropical tasting.  Goes great with seafood and Mediterranean food but also on it’s own on a lovely summers day.  Really easy to drink and it’s currently on offer at Sainsburys from £8.99 to £6.74 which is a great price for this wine. Would definitely recommend 🙂

Bar review – The Eagle, Shepherds Bush – May 2011

A great pub to catch up with friends. I’ve visited this pub on different days and times and it’s always busy with a buzzing atmosphere. I’ve been here for a drink with my boyfriend, parents, for birthday drinks and even to meet my best friends new boyfriend. If you get there late on a Friday evening (from 8pm onwards) you might struggle to get a seat but sometimes they’ll let you sit in the dining area. But there is standing room and so having space has never really been a problem.  If it’s warm you can use the front area or back garden and there is also a terrace that has heaters for the slightly chillier summer nights.

Every time I’ve been here I’ve had a great time and everyone has always enjoyed themselves.  The bar staff are friendly although sometime it can take a while to get served. There is an outdoor seating area at the front and a massive garden area in the back, with picnic (and swinging) tables. On a sunny day, there are picnic blankets you can use to sit on the grass and enjoy the sunshine.  There isn’t a car park but you can park on surrounding streets after 5pm and all day on the weekends.  The 266 bus stop is right outside and the 237 and 94 bus stops are a few minutes walk.  The nearest tube station is Stamford Brook which is about 15mins walk (in heels!)

The Eagle shows sports and the staff are accommodating to what you want to watch – I asked if they would put on the Wales vs Scotland 6 nations game so they changed the tv nearest to my table but left the rest of the pub watching the football.  There is also live music on Sunday afternoons and Friday night is 80’s night so the golden oldies (Chesney Hawkes / Proclaimers etc) play throughout the night.  The music isn’t usually too loud so you can chat easily with friends.

There is a range of restaurant food which vary from pie and mash and burger to grilled lamb leg and seabass. There are also bar snacks available which includes chicken gougons, chips and fish fingers.  Its reasonably priced with the mains ranging from £10-£17 and the bar snacks from £3-£5.

They have a wide range of lager and beer on tap as well as bottled beer.  The wine selection is good and varied and prices start at £3.70 a glass and £16.50 a bottle.  The Rioja Crianza at £20 a bottle was lovely and got me nicely tipsy!!!

The only down side is that there are only 2 ladies toilets but to be honest there’s never been a big queue when I’ve been there so it’s never been a problem for me.

It’s a great pub and I would definitely recommend.

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