A Tour Of Vapiano Ahead Of The Manchester Launch

Oh Manchester, we are in for a treat. Vapiano is coming and I got the chance to visit three of their restaurants in London for a sneak peek of what to expect.

IMG_5464 IMG_5466

Our first Vapiano experience was at the bright and airy Bankside restaurant. Floor to ceiling glass windows and a bright London sun made for a lovely and relaxed atmosphere.

Vapiano have over 150 restaurants, in 29 countries, across 4 continents and it is not hard to see why. Their ethos is a relaxed dining experience; you are given a card as you walk through the door and you pick a table. Have a look at the menu and make a choice before you go to the right cooking station to order. Your food is cooked to order whilst you wait. Extra garlic? Extra chili? No problem, the chef will cater to your personal taste before scanning your card to add the meal and passing you your food to go back to your table with to enjoy.

IMG_5467

 

The whole experience is seamless and, for a lunch time, the restaurant was packed! I loved that people came and sat at our table without question and chatted to us about their day. Many would expect the self service style to mean that the quality isn’t there. So let’s see what the food was like.

IMG_5472

We started with the anti pasti platter which is monstrous for £10. The buffalo mozzarella was creamy and light with a lovely citrus flavour whilst the homemade pesto brought out the creamy flavours even further. The bruschetta topped with tomatoes was also excellent with the bread just toasted rather than being hard like many others are. The tomatoes were light with a good kick of salt and garlic to provide the perfect topping.

IMG_5475

IMG_5474

IMG_5470

My absolute favourite dish was the strawberry and spinach salad priced at just £6.50. Creamy goat’s cheese mixed with nutty pine nuts, juicy fresh strawberries and light spinach are topped with the sweet yet zesty raspberry maple dressing. They really should sell this dressing to go… I need more of it in my life and it really would bring any dull salad to life. The dressings and sauces are all made in house daily by the talented chefs who are trained rigorously on each of the different cooking stations in turn.

IMG_5466

 

Each restaurant has an impressively aged olive tree inside with this one growing out of our table. You will also find fresh herbs on each table that you can tear off to enhance the flavour of your meal if you so wish.

IMG_5476

Next we visited Vapiano Soho to try the main courses. This restaurant is more like what we can expect in Manchester. Set over 2 floors the atmosphere is a little less ‘hustle and bustle’ and somewhere you could easily spend a few hours enjoying a good bottle of wine.

There’s an impressive selection of pasta and pizza which are cooked to order in record time. It takes just 3 minutes to make a simple pasta dish compared to 8 minutes for a pizza. As with the dressings the pasta and pizza dough are all made in house daily and you can pick what style of pasta you have to go with your sauce. There’s also spelt pasta available.

IMG_5477

The salsiccia con ficci with the delicately chopped figs throughout a rich tomato sauce was paired beautifully with deceptively spicy italian sausage. The pasta cooked al dente was beautiful and the sprinkle of optional cheese just finished the dish off with a creamy bite. A beautiful combination.

IMG_5481 IMG_5479

The scampi e spinaci with its gently cooked prawns, punchy pesto and spinach was also a hit with the group who loved the creamy finish the light sauce gave. Another one we will be eagerly awaiting coming to Manchester.

We did try the pizzas but unfortunately I didn’t get any images. The bases are wonderfully crispy with some amazing toppings. We tried the crudo e fichi with prosciutto, fresh figs, honey, tomato sauce and mozzarella. We were concerned that the honey would make the pizza too sweet but it added a lovely floral note and the very small sprinkle of cheese enhanced the flavour rather than drowning it in cheese. Just exquisite.

Onto Great Portland Street for our ‘dolci’ which are served in small or large jars making them super quick to serve. At £2.25 or small dessert and £4 for a large they are ridiculously reasonably priced so we tried a few!

20150515_153623

The tiramisu is the lightest I have ever tried. The thinnest of sponge layers helps and the light spike of liqueur keeps things smooth without being too rich.

The panna cotta is also light and not too gelatinous making it a delight to eat with just the right amount of vanilla to flavour this creamy pudding.

The amazing prices and quick service means many officer workers pop into Vapiano for their lunch. Even if you don’t have time to eat in you can take your food away in branded Vapiano containers for no extra cost.

When it comes to paying you scan your card on the way out, pay your bill and take a handful of jelly babies which await you as you leave each restaurant. Surely we’re all children at heart.

The Manchester restaurant is set to be just as spectacular. Hosted in our iconic Corn Exchange you can expect a 100 year old olive tree, an indoor terrace as well as an outdoor seating area overlooking Exchange Square.Having toured the 3 London restaurants I can’t wait, it’s going to be epic. I’ll see you at the pass.

Thanks to Vapiano and Down at the Social for introducing me to the concept. All food was provided for review purposes.

Restaurant Revisited – Black Dog Ballroom, New Wakefield Street

The last time I visited Black Dog Ballroom I was pleasantly surprised by the food on offer. When invited back I was intrigued to see if they would live up to my expectations.

The menu has had a revamp with more pizzas and burgers to tempt you as well as some lovely looking salads. Knowing how filling the starters are from my last visit we decided to start with some nachos topped with chicken.

IMG_5378

Unfortunately they were a bit cold and the chicken was a little dry but the guacamole had a good garlic hit. The portion size was generous and would have been perfect as an early snack with drinks.

IMG_5379 IMG_5381

Onto the mains and we both went for burgers, me the bacon and him the Graceland. The patties were overdone with some charring on the buns making them a little dry. The absolute star of the show was the chilli peanut butter. Just enough chilli to give it a bit of heat without overpowering the peanut butter itself. Gorgeous and something I need to try at home. The bacon was towering and served with fries that were pretty standard but tasty none the less. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Something that some places are struggling with at the moment.

We were too full for dessert but the vibe for an early Thursday evening was relaxed and chilled so we hung around and people watched with a few drinks. There were groups of lads playing pool, a few couples out on dates and a large group knocking back shots. As they got louder we decided to depart but for early food and drink it is a great choice, especially with the decent student discount. I’ll be opting for a lighter salad next time.

We dined as guests of Black Dog Ballroom and weren’t asked to pay for our meal.

 

Supporting Mental Health Awareness Week with Simply Health

When Robin Williams sadly passed away I was absolutely horrified and shocked by some of the comments on my social media timelines. Some people just couldn’t get their heads around the fact that he was a rich, funny, successful guy with a family and a big house. What on Earth did he have to be depressed about? Therein lies the stigma, depression doesn’t choose to affect people who are struggling or have come on hard times. I really hope Robin’s death can help people who are struggling in silence to get help. To talk to someone, anyone, about how they are feeling and what they are going through. To get some help.

Mental health still has this stigma in society. And it isn’t just depression, it can affect different people in different ways. Other people suffer anxiety, heart palpitations, worry amongst many other things. So for Mental Health Awareness Week I partnered up with Simple Health to bring you a week of positive tweets.

Screenshot_2015-05-18-22-28-45_resized

My life is pretty hectic right now. What with going through a house sale, the troubles I’ve had living in my flat and other stuff that I won’t bore you with, life can feel a bit tough. I try my hardest every night to reflect on what the day has brought and empower myself to wake up the next morning and promise it’ll be a good day. I find thinking in a positive way really can help to bring on a positive mood. There’s only so much you effect you can have on outside factors but at least this way you are starting on the right foot.

Screenshot_2015-05-18-22-29-07_resized Screenshot_2015-05-18-22-30-05

I am the least flexible person you are likely to meet and have a really weak core so always thought yoga was out for me. Then I tried Bikram which is a form of hot yoga. The moves start for beginners but then gradually move up to advanced level. This means you can see what your body can do but not feel pressured into being able to do something you can’t straight away. The heat means you have to concentrate on your breathing much more than you would normally and this is so relaxing for me. It’s not cheap but it is definitely worth it. The energised feeling I have when leaving the studio is like nothing I’ve experienced before. I leave my negative thoughts in that room.

You can find my other tweets for the week on Twitter or take a look at the #SHHealthyMinds tag for thoughts from other bloggers. And please try to get support if you need it, however that support may look. Be it a yoga class, a chat with a friend or a visit to a counsellor. There’s also lots of supportive guidance and advice on Mind’s website.

For more tips on positive thinking have a look at the Simply Health website.

Simply Health and I have made a donation to Mind in support of National Mental Health Week. 

Fight Night at Grosvenor Casino, Didsbury

It took me until the tender age of 32 to first enter a casino, but when I did I did it in style. In Las Vegas. I think the fact they are housed within hotels and you can see the gaming tables when checking into your room makes things a little less daunting. I was adamant I was going to have a little flutter, and little it was! I literally budgeted $30 a day on gambling although I did come away $40 better off. I was so proud of myself! So when the lovely people at Grosvenor Casinos invited me over to watch the much anticipated Mayweather v Pacquiao those casino nerves weren’t there. Mostly because I’d already been in a few casinos but also because this wasn’t about gambling, it was about a sport I’ve gotten into a lot recently – boxing.

You may remember my post about Pink Collar Boxing and how they are changing the face of boxing for women. Ever since I’ve taken up boxing training with the Primal Academy and the fitness benefits have been incredible. My arms are shaping up like no other exercise I’ve done before and I ache in muscles I didn’t know existed. So to watch a huge fight like this knowing the physical strength it takes was actually quite exciting.

20150503_041425_resized

Grosvenor Casinos are the biggest chain in the UK with three in the Greater Manchester area. I lived in Cheadle most of my life so can’t believe I had never been to the casino on the Parrswood centre. I expected, for the location, for it to be quiet but it was bustling even when we arrived at 11pm at night. I also expected the prices to be steep with it being a casino but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the drinks prices were lower than those in the City Centre. A bonus all round! The food is pub grub style but also reasonably priced. We got to try some too…

20150503_022858_resized 20150503_023131_resized

Please excuse the poor photographs, the lighting was dreadful although for the time of the fight this was welcomed. We were seated in a VIP room to watch the fight where there were no windows so it was strangely comforting not to see the sun rising outside as the fight was coming to an end! The chili nachos were my favourite with a good heat and the wings still had a lovely crispy skin. The edamame beans needed seasoning as they were a little bland but nothing a good glug of salt and a dip wouldn’t cure. Don’t get me wrong, the food isn’t top end but it is perfectly acceptable for a quick bite to eat.That said the calamari was actually nicer than one we had recently at a pricey restaurant in the City Centre. Soft and tender with just enough coating to give a light batter. Really good and something some of the top players could learn from.

20150503_041354_resized

The VIP rooms are a great way to relax and watch sports. We obviously watched the fight but there are plans for more sports to be aired here and Grosvenor Casino Didsbury was one of the only places in the immediate vicinity to show the much anticipated boxing match. The fight itself was a little clinical and I honestly thought Pacquiao had done better than the judge’s score cards said. But what do I know. All I know is I had a thoroughly enjoyable time and I would certainly consider coming here in the future to watch other events.

 

 

Restaurant Review: Cane and Grain, Northern Quarter

Three different levels, three different atmospheres, one venue. Those Black Dog and Liars Club guys have high ambitions! Cane and Grain has been open nearly 12 months but for some reason is one of those places I don’t visit very often. Thankfully they invited me back in to try their new menu and to see what I have been missing.

IMG_5075 IMG_5073

The first floor bar and rib joint was our home for the evening above the busy skater style bar. The speakeasy style is a particular favourite of mine and it was lovely and calm compared to downstairs. Taxidermy decorates the walls whilst leather plush seating is contrasted with copper tables and stools. Slightly different to the norm around these parts but certainly welcomed.

IMG_5060

Bourbon is the favoured spirit here but, not being a huge fan, I chose the Bloomsbury Tale to start. Served in a dainty tea cup was Tanqueray 10 gin, citrus, tea and ale syrup, rhubarb and clove cordial. The flavours are much more delicate than they sound and this is a beautiful drink to sip whilst perusing the menu.

Speaking of the menu there is an American theme with ribs, burgers and wings as the main features. It doesn’t really fit the style of the bar for me, not as well as the cocktail menu does that’s for sure. Not perturbed we ordered and patiently waited.

IMG_5061 IMG_5063

The spam fries came served in a spam can which I thought was a fun quirky take and tasted surprisingly good. I’m not a fan of spam in general but these were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Fatty salty goodness. The rib tips BBQ sauce was delightful. Sticky and rich, just the way a good rib sauce should be. The tips themselves were juicy although there was a fair bit of gristle to work through which isn’t the most ladylike way to eat a meal. That said, when was eating any kind of rib ladylike.

IMG_5067 IMG_5066

Speaking of ribs my friend ordered the beef variety and was slightly horrified by the addition of a crispy onion topping. This is the guy who can find the tiniest bit of diced onion in a burger so this was a lot for him and his onion phobia to take. Unfortunately the menu hadn’t stated that onions were part of the dish and it certainly wasn’t something I was expecting. Not being one to complain and thankful for a thick layer of bourbon sauce he managed to scrape most of it away to get to the meat. Once there he found it falling off the bone and tender yet slightly dry. The chips were the same. Slightly overcooked so dry inside but nothing a dunk in the rib sauce wouldn’t sort. The bourbon sauce was great, sticky and rich with a gentle kick.

I went for the deep south burger. The southern fried chicken was juicy and soft, perfectly seasoned partnered with jack cheese and spiced slaw. The brioche bun added a needed sweetness to the burger which worked really well. My fries were also slightly overdone but that’s to be expected when ordering together!

IMG_5069

The stars of this show were the sides. The tater tots with their creamy mash centre were hard to leave even when full. The truffled mac and cheese had a lighter sauce than others I’ve tried but this worked really well. Large truffle shavings gave a lovely earthy flavour that can sometimes be lost where too little is added. A big thumbs up from me!

Overall we had a lovely meal and the drinks are first class. I’m just not sure if the two go together or if the food menu is unique enough for the location. The ground floor bar has more atmosphere with an impressive ale selection and the second floor has it’s own identity with the Liars infamous tiki vibe. The first floor is a genuinely welcome calmness, it just needs to find its identity. I’m sure it will with a few tweaks, don’t miss out. It is just behind a secluded door on the left as you walk in. Escape the hustle and bustle for a while…

Review: Baked With Love Manchester

When it comes to dessert I am definitely an expert. I’m pretty sure there isn’t one I don’t like and I got very excited when we went to Lille and bought giant meringue type delicacies from Aux Merveilleux. They reminded me of macarons but twice the size. They were also much lighter and more delicate than the macarons I’ve tried before… until now. Let me introduce you to Baked With Love.

20150423_115116_resized 20150423_115158_resized

These little treasures are made in Manchester by self taught bakers. They use natural flavours to create these beautiful macarons that are currently available in 12 flavours.

20150423_115303_resized_1 20150423_115228_resized_1

They arrived through the post without a breakage in sight and I was humbled to hear that they can be frozen. It did, however, make me laugh that Baked With Love thought I’d need to freeze them. I think I had demolished the whole box in less than 3 days!

20150424_114544_resized_1

Vibrantly coloured these French style macarons are lightly crisp on the outside with a soft and chewy shell to hold the light filling. The colours are incredibly vibrant and perfect to send either as a gift or as a favour at your wedding. My favourite flavours were cherry bakewell with a light fruit layer to give a different texture and the white chocolate and raspberry. The centre was so light and creamy I think, had the box been all this flavour, I’d have been guilty of finishing them off in one sitting.

You can order via their Facebook page or they are now available to buy from Epicerie Ludo either individually or buy the box. I’ve heard rumours of cocktail flavoured varieties… I think I’ll need to stay out of Chorlton for a while. My waistline says so…

Item sent for review purposes.

Recipe: Spiced Rum Milkshakes Featuring New Lactofree Chocolate Dairy Drink

The sun is out, the birds are singing and the beer gardens are filling with happy people enjoying a tipple or two whilst catching the rays. Unfortunately for me I am tied to my laptop trying to get a college assignment finished so I had to improvise. Thankfully Lactofree sent me their latest product to try so I had the perfect excuse for a play.

20150426_182519_resized 20150426_182544_resized

The Lactofree chocolate dairy drink has only been in the shops since 20th April so is a brand new product to the range. As with the other products in the range it is suitable for people who are lactose intolerant as well as vegetarians. The chocolate flavouring somes from UTZ certified cocoa which is sustainably farmed.

I expected the drink to be thicker and richer, more like a milkshake. It is true to its description though and is a chocolate flavoured drink that isn’t too sweet with a subtle chocolate flavour. I used it to make these delicious spiced rum milkshakes that ‘summer’ up the classic rum hot chocolate.

20150426_183609_resized

Spiced Rum Milkshake – Serves 1

Ingredients

300ml Lactofree chocolate dairy drink
50ml Rum (I used Appleton Estate VX which added a lovely sweetness)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon (I used cinnamon bark crushed
Ice
Mini Marshmallows (optional)

Method

Pop all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. I used the Nutribullet which crushes the ice with ease making the drink thicker and frothier. Top with the mini marshmallows if using.

20150426_183630_resized

 

I think this is a great addition to the Lactofree family and I’ve got everything crossed that they introduce new flavours. Banana would be amazing! Have you tried it yet?

Products supplied for review purposes.

Health Review: Monkey Nutrition Primal26

Last week I reviewed some chocolate protein from Go Nutrition so this week I thought I would stick with the theme but try some from a different company. I had heard of Monkey Nutrition before but never thought to order from them. Their website is black and very simplistic which I always interpreted as a masculine thing. Not being the most confident of people this put me off a bit until they offered to send me some protein to try and see if they could change my mind.

monkey 2

See what I mean by the packaging? That said I do love the monkey design and how it features on both the protein packet and the shaker. The shaker is a large one and has a flexible spiral blade in the lid which creates a cyclone effect to mix the protein. I really like this and found it blended the powder really well. I always thought the whisk ball shakers were superior but I won’t be looking anywhere else for a shaker in future. This one is only £4.99 to buy which is an absolute bargain as the main bottle is great quality.

monkey 1

I decided to try the Primal26 protein powder in velvet chocolate. This protein is a pure whey protein isolate sweetened with stevia. For the chocolate flavour they use organic cocoa to keep the flavours as natural as possible.

There are lots of benefits listed but I find these ones to be most relevant to me. I do find if I take too much protein I can trigger my IBS symptoms and I can honestly say that hasn’t happened when taking this protein. I also love that is contains 26g protein per serving, no fat, no sugar and just 1g carbohydrates so perfect for those following a ketogenic diet plan.

So what does it taste like? Well it mixes a lot easier than the Go Nutrition paleo protein. I take mine with water straight into the cyclone shaker and it mixed smooth with little fuss. I really like the flavour as well. Because of the natural sweetener it isn’t overly sweet and the chocolate is quite subtle meaning it isn’t too sickly. That is the last thing I want after a heavy workout session.

When it comes to the benefits I’m not sure I have been taking it long enough to really say whether it meets its promises but I do feel better from taking it and find my muscles recover more quickly with less DOMS the next day. Less pain is always a bonus for me. You can also buy it in vanilla and strawberry flavours, I think I’ll be trying that one next time.

Product sent for review purposes.

Rum Club at Revolucion De Cuba with Appleton Estate

For various reasons it is a while since I have been to Rum Club at Revolucion De Cuba. Other things have taken priority but not last week! I was especially happy that the highlight for the month is Appleton Estate who make my favourite rum ever, VX.

appleton 1

We kicked things off with a Mai Tai made with Appleton Estate VX and a taster of the rum on its own. I really love this stuff as anyone I have talked rum to will know. It is a blend of different aged rums up to 10 years and is made in old Jack Daniels barrels. Whilst the barrels are thoroughly cleaned there is a slight smokiness left behind which lightly flavours this rum. It is also sweet with heavy vanilla on the palate whilst caramel and toffee come through on the nose. I got very drunk one New Year’s Eve cuddling a bottle of this stuff and still love it despite the hangover.

Onto the 8 year old which is sweeter on the nose with a creamy note that some felt was like Christmas pudding. This is spicier on the palate thanks to the extra 3% ABV and less smooth. I am still a fan though as I find rums aged to this time frame have a lovely light quality.

We also tried the 12 year old which is much darker in colour with vanilla and oak on the nose. The oak carries through to the palate with much heavier smoky notes than the VX. The smoke was a bit much for me and I wouldn’t choose this rum to drink on its own.

Appleton Estate are currently undergoing a rebrand although their roots are still firmly in Jamaica specifically the Nassau Valley. Since 1749 the Nassau Valley has provided the perfect climate, water and cane to combine creating these unique rums and some of the most distinctive flavours on the market.

Appleton 2

A rum club is never complete without some sort of silliness. We’ve worn ponchos, cowboy hats, you name it. This time our entertainment came in the way of Jamaican flag cocktail sticks which were promptly placed in my hair. This came from the Jamaican Me Crazy cocktail special but you can also get an Appleton Collins, Old Jamaican or a Montego Mai Tai for the rest of the month. I recommend you try them all…

This event was available for all to attend and I paid for my Jamaican Me Crazy cocktail. Others and the rum samples were complimentary.

Crazy Pizza Fun With Crazy Pedro’s Part-Time Pizza Parlour

Good pizza is hard to come by in Manchester city centre. Being such a big city you would expect somewhere to have got it spot on by now but I am yet to find it. So when the guys at Crazy Pedro’s invited me in I wasn’t really expecting much.

Crazy Pedro’s Part-Time Pizza Parlour is brought to you by the brains behind Liars Club and is located on top of it. Open from noon until 4am serving pizza throughout as well as the largest Mezcal selection in Manchester, Crazy Pedro’s is a light and airy bar ideal for watching the world go by.

20150411_121859_resized 20150411_123452_resized

The ceiling is papered with random posters which I love especially this one, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a truer saying.

The cocktail list is short yet sweet featuring a number of margaritas as well as other unique drinks. I chose the dizzee mezcal containing Pedro’s party mix, oaxaca, mezcal, ginger, grenadine, lime, pineapple and apple in a plastic cup decorated with sweets and an American flag. A fruity mix that certainly packs a punch with the mezcal giving it that authentic earthy smokiness you get from no other. A few more of these and I’d have been dancing on the tables, although I get the impression that is welcomed here. They sell pizza all night until close and also have takeaway option meaning you can get piping hot pizza when you really need it.

20150411_130348_resized

The pizzas couldn’t get any more authentic with an Italian chef making and preparing everything fresh. The base is made to a traditional Italian recipe whilst the toppings have an American twist with names like fried chicken & waffle and Kingston rock. The salami is sliced in house too which I thought was a lovely touch.

I was lucky enough to get behind the counter and make my own pizza under the watchful eyes of the chefs. The dough had already been proved so it was about shaping it in the unique way they do here so the base was nice and thin yet still with that slightly raised crust around the outside. Suffice to say I was pretty rubbish and needed a fair bit of help but I got there in the end! I made their eggs and bacon all dayer (smoked bacon, scrambled egg, mozzarella and HP sauce) yet was very cheeky and demanded a couple of slices of salami on top… well they had painstakingly sliced it, I wanted to see what it tasted like!

IMG_20150411_151121

20150411_130728_resized

I thought I did pretty good? Taste wise you can’t go wrong. The base is thin and crispy with an amazing range of toppings to suit anyone. The chicken and waffle was a favourite with the sweet chewy waffles contrasting with the salty cheese and fried chicken. So different and something that really shouldn’t work, but it does.

20150411_131112_resized 20150411_130348_resized

My favourite thing about Crazy Pedro’s has got to be the happy hour. Between 5pm-9pm pizza prices are slashed with a slice costing just £1.50 and a full 16″ pizza costing £7.50. For that price it isn’t even worth turning the oven on. There’s also a great outdoor seating area which catches the sun for most of the day, seriously, what more do you need?

I love that Crazy Pedro’s isn’t trying too hard to be something they’re not. It’s casual, good drinks and excellent pizzas with no pretentiousness and no fuss.

I’m just glad Crazy Pedro’s isn’t closer to my flat… I’d be the size of a small house.

I was invited as a guest of Crazy Pedro’s and wasn’t asked to pay for my meal. 

 

 

1 2 3 38

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookCheck Our Feed