Gin Supper Club At The Atlas Bar With Langleys No8, Saffron and Hoxton Gin

The biggest thing I miss about living in Castlefield is my old local. Atlas Bar was where I sweatily had a celebratory glass of wine following completing the Manchester 10km, it was where I met friends on a whim and also where I first tried some of the newest gins to hit the market. With over 185 gins available, and counting, I’d be interested to meet anyone who can’t find one they haven’t tried yet. Last week saw their popular gin supper club feature Langley’s No8, Saffron and Hoxton gins paired with dishes prepared by head chef Ross Parker so I thought I’d pop along and see what I will be missing out on.

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Dave Marsland aka The Drinks Enthusiast was our host for the evening and kicked things off by introducing Langley’s No 8. The gin is only 2 years old and was picked by the owners of the brand as their favourite of 12 different options hence where the ‘number 8’ in the name came from. It’s not an exotic gin but all the ingredients are British making it a real home grown one. Served with a grapefruit twist to emphasise the grapefruit within the gin there is a heavy burst of citrus when sipped with the tonic yet it is sweet on the nose.

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The starter served with Langley’s No 8 was a mackerel ceviche. The chilli and lemon brought out the sweetness in the gin beautifully with the mackerel light and fresh to balance the flavours of the dish.

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Onto our next gin and a different one at that. Saffron gin is, not surprisingly, made with saffron as the most dominant flavour but there are also notes of juniper, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel and fennel to name just a few. The saffron gives the gin its golden colour but also adds a delicacy to the drink. When Dave asked the group what they could smell on the nose the room was pretty silent. I think most felt this was because they didn’t want to sound stupid with their suggestions until Dave pointed out that this gin has no overly dominant aromas on the nose.

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Served with the softest ossobucco I think I’ve ever tasted and a beautiful risotto still with plenty of bite the dish helped to bring out the saffron notes in the dish and the bitter orange flavours in the gin.

Last was a curve ball of a gin – Hoxton. Made with grapefruit and coconut it smells like the Malibu and pineapple of my youth. It is surprisingly creamy on the palate and a bestseller at Atlas Bar although I’m not sure it is something I would drink on a regular basis. Ginger and tarragon are also used to make the gin to deepen the flavours and to take away some of the sweetness that would be present without.

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Served with an inventive rum-baba with grapefruit and coconut Chantilly the gin on its own with the dessert didn’t work. The flavours were too similar leaving just the alcohol of the gin behind. With the tonic, however, the gin takes on an almost floral note. The dessert itself was surprisingly light, I’m just upset there weren’t any leftover to take home in my bag for breakfast the next day.

You can catch the next supper club at Atlas Bar on 21st July with Pinkster gin. Contact them now to reserve your place, I’ll see you at the bar.

Whilst I was invited to this event as a guest and not asked to pay,I was not asked to write a review.

Giveaway – Win Two Tickets To The Coronation Street Tour

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting The Coronation Street Tour a few times but two times stand out in particular. I got to watch Ed Sheeran sing live to me from Carla Connor’s living room as part of an intimate crowd for Key103’s 40th Birthday. I then got to go behind the scenes to see the new sets they have introduced to the tour:

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The tour is a great day out and you can spend as long as you want on the cobbles taking pictures in all the iconic places from the show. Coronation Street really is a Manchester institution and it won’t be here forever, the tour is only with us until December 2015.

But this post isn’t to reminisce… the lovely people at National Holidays, who now run coach holidays to Coronation Street: The Tour have kindly given me 2 tickets for the tour to giveaway! You can enter below.

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These tickets were kindly provided by National Holidays, who run coach holidays to Coronation Street: the tour’

National Holidays on Facebook | National Holidays on Twitter

This prize is for 2 tickets to the tour only. Transport not provided. National Holidays will honour the prize. 

Discovering My Spirit Animal

We’ve all done it. We see a friend post what Disney character they would be or, from some questions they have answered, how many children they are going to have in their lifetime. They are a great time waster and can get a little addictive if you have enough time on your hands. When More Than asked me what my spirit animal would be I thought it would be good to see what one of these online quizzes had to say based on the answers I gave.

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Source

The online quiz I completed said I was a deer and I actually scoffed. I was expecting something much stronger such as a lion or a tiger. I then realised that I’m not that strong, not really. I come across as confident with loads of self esteem but the opposite is actually true.

The deer wasn’t an animal I knew an awful lot about but I have really enjoyed reading about its traits and identifying with them. Did you know they are known for being sensitive and highly intuitive? These are two traits that I can really relate to. I may not show my sensitive side regularly but I’m soft and care for people deeply. Too deeply sometimes and people can take advantage of that. My intuitive side overcome that though and I have a real ‘gut feeling’ mentality. I don’t trust easily and if I get that gut feeling early on, before my sensitive side kicks in, I block people out quite easily. The deer also moves quickly and trusts its instincts. This is something I can do but if someone gets too close to my sensitive side I struggle to push back and run from danger.

The deer is vigilant and able to change directions quickly. I am really adaptable to change and find it easy to finish something that isn’t working before moving on the next challenge. The biggest trait of the deer I can relate to is their ability to regenerate and be in touch with life’s mysteries. Like most people I’ve had ups and downs, highs and lows. I’ve been low and struggled to deal with certain situations but I always bounce back stronger, happier and more determined.

So when I thought the deer was a bit of a wimpy animal to have as a spirit animal I have to say how wrong I was. I can’t think of better traits I’d want to have than being soft and gentle yet strong and determined. What’s yours?

In collaboration with More Than. 

 

 

Feel Good For Summer With Weight Watchers – New Products Review

If you know me ‘in real life’ you will know that I once lost a lot of weight with Weight Watchers, 6 stone to be precise. In hindsight it wasn’t the healthiest way for me to lose weight in the fact that I ate very little to see the numbers I wanted to see on the scales combined with lots of cardio exercise. Not surprisingly I put a lot of the weight back on and embarked on a healthier way of looking at my life. Clean eating where possible, more weights to build lean muscle and less looking at the scales to get the perceived magic number. That said I am a firm believer in ‘each to their own’ and if a point counting diet works for you then so be it. Before I review these Weight Watchers products please promise me that you will eat plenty of fresh vegetables, protein and healthy fats as part of your own journey – fat isn’t the enemy and I’ll write about this at some point as it is something I am passionate about.

Weight Watchers have been touring the country with their Feel Good cafe and were in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens between 11th-14th June showing passersby how they can still lose weight without giving up the things they love. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it down to the event so they sent me some of their new products to review.

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The Weight Watchers ready salted crisps aren’t new as I have certainly had these before. The packets are pretty small but if you are following a portion controlled diet this is a good option because, let’s face it, most of us can’t just stop at a couple. They are bit more crunchy than normal crisps due to the reduced fat but they taste ok, a bit dry, but ok.

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I’ve also had the Weight Watchers fibre flakes with raisins, sultanas and apples before. To be perfectly honest, as I try to be at all times, they aren’t actually that bad. I don’t eat a lot of cereal but the fruit pieces sweeten things up a bit in what is ordinarily a bowl of bran flakes.

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Onto the stuff that is certainly new to me and it starts with a bigger biscuit range. The custard and bourbon creams are a twist on the usual with just 1 biscuit topped with a little cream rather than the usual sandwich biscuit. Not surprisingly this makes them pretty dry but they are sweet if you are looking for that fix.

The digestives are quite thin compared to regular chocolate digestive biscuits but the chocolate is fairly thick. The chocolate mini rolls are actually quite nice. The cake is fairly dry but the cream sandwiching it together helps to make it moist and a thick chocolate coating gives that sweetness again.

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Lastly we have some sauce and pasta. These are a good way of getting lots of veggies into your Weight Watchers diet as the sauce sachets can be bulked up with fresh vegetables of your choice. The pasta is wholewheat too so the healthier kind if you are going to eat it anyway.

There’s still time to visit the Feel Good Cafe if you are near enough to Victoria Square in Birmingham where they will be in situ from 24th-27th June. You could also win your own Weight Watchers hamper on Facebook.

My knowledge of a healthy lifestyle has changed since my Weight Watcher days so these wouldn’t be something I would buy but, like I said, each to their own. Just make sure you eat these products in moderation with lots of fresh food and exercise.

I was sent these products for review purposes.

Coconut Water With A Conscience – Introducing Buko Organic Coconut Water

We’ve all heard the health benefits of coconut water. Ever since the hottest celebrities were seen drinking it the popularity of coconut water has sky rocketed and there are loads of different brands out there to try. I tried Vita Coco a few months ago and was recently sent some Buko to try.

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Buko organic coconut water is made with 100% pure coconut water lightly pasturised to ensure it stays fresh for longer. Buko wanted to create a drink that wasn’t just healthy, they wanted to create a drink in the most ethical way possible. Their coconuts come from GMO free farms in the Philippines where the workers are paid a fair price for their crop and the crop is produced with no pesticides or fertilisers. In order to give something back to the farmers and the forests that provide the coconuts they work with charity Cuipo to help preserve the rainforests. For every bottle of Buko organic coconut water sold a donation is made to Cuipo protecting not only the coconut palms but the amazing things that are our Earth’s rainforests. They are more important to our planet than people realise and you can read about Cuipo’s work here.

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Buko organic coconut water has nothing added so tastes like most other pure coconut waters. I’m not the biggest fan and it needs to be ice cold for me to drink it. That said I am a convert to using it in place of milk in my morning smoothies. It adds a lovely lightness to my drinks and doesn’t overpower the taste of the fruits that I have added, the perfect way to make a summer post workout drink.  And with health benefits such as aiding rehydration, cleansing the skin, helping with digestion and improving circulation it would be rude not to give it a try.

You can buy Buko organic coconut water online and 8 330ml cartons cost £15.92.

Product sent for review purposes. 

 

It’s All About The Base At Ask Italian

With so many Italian restaurant chains out there at the moment it can be difficult to stand out. Whilst I am a huge fan of the local trader it can be difficult to get friends to places they haven’t heard of at times. Ask Italian took their pizzas by their crusts and decided to do something to stand out, a national pizza flair competition with the final in Manchester. I popped along to see how the finalists got on and to try their new sourdough based pizzas.

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Judged by Ask’s Head of Learning and Development Sarah Gribbon, MEN Writer Emily Heward and Celebrity Chef Theo Randall via Skype (a very strange experience!) the champion on the night was local entry Hemant Mistry! Well done to him. Not only does he win the title of ‘pizza flarer of the year 2015′ he also wins a cookery masterclass at Theo’s restaurant and an overnight stay with is partner in London. Perhaps I should enter next year…

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It really is all about the base at Ask Italian and their newest type, sourdough, gives a grainier crust with a slightly tangy taste. I really liked it but I know others at the table weren’t so sure and found it a bit too dry. Toppings wise the steak on the ‘rump steak tagliata’ was wonderfully rare and soft. The chilli was a little too much and took over the taste of the salsa verde but top marks for trying something a bit different. The ‘carne’ with luganica sausage, pork and beef ragu, spinach, fontal cheese and smoked prosciutto was good with plenty of toppings and a real meat fest.

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Unfortunately the pasta dishes were a little disappointing. The ‘ravioli marittimi’ filling of crayfish, crab, salmon and ricotta was a little too blended and needed a bit more bite. The pasta was the same, a bit too soft and cooked al dente would have given it more texture. The sauce was rich and creamy but there wasn’t enough of it meaning the flavour was lost and the whole dish a bit dry.

The ‘linguini con frutti di mare’ was the same story. Not enough sauce and the pasta overdone yet the squid, mussels, clams and prawns were freshy and light. A real shame as it could have been a great dish.

The new Ask Italian has taken over part of the old Kro site on Piccadilly Gardens and with Zizzi and Pizza Express as neighbours, it will be a tough crowd to draw in. The sourdough pizzas are worth a try though and the large space means there is likely to be a table available at most times of the day.

Now about that pizza flaring… I’m off to prep the dough…

I was invited to Ask Italian as a guest and was not asked to pay for my food.

New Menu Launch At Rosylee – Review

I regularly get asked by friends where they should go for something to eat or drink. When asked I always respond by asking questions, something people regularly find weird. There are just so many amazing places in Manchester that specialise in different things, it would be impossible to recommend somewhere just on ‘it’s a good place to eat’. More recently a friend was struggling to find somewhere unpretentious to get married so I armed her with two places to try; Rosylee and Elixir. She loved both equally and really struggled to make her decision. So much so that she told me she hated me several times for a few weeks. In the end she chose Rosylee and had an amazing time.

Rosylee have since launched a new menu developed by new group executive head chef Chris Byron. Chris comes with over 25 years experience including previously working at The Belfry and Thwaite’s Judges’ Lodge where he won 1AA rosette. The new menu focuses on locally sourced ingredients with many of the dishes being cooked in their £10,000 Inka grill which brings you that unique BBQ taste from state of the art charcoal oven heated to 400 degrees.

Chris is also going to be playing a key role in, what has been described as, a new food venture in the Northern Quarter as well as rolling out current brands around the UK. I’m guessing the former may be THIS and I, for one, am very excited at the prospect of an all American diner in the Northern Quarter.

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Anyway enough waffle and onto the meal. We kicked things off nicely with a ‘Rosylee fizz’ which is a mix of King’s ginger and St Germain elderflower liqueurs, lychee and pomegranate topped with prosecco. Lightly fruity they were the perfect appetiser as we perused the menu. There’s so much to choose from we needed a fair bit of time to decide but orders placed we eagerly awaited our first course.

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I started with ‘mussels of the day’ which I thought was a cracking idea. We’ve all seen ‘soup de jour’ but this is a bit different and in a very good way. A great sized portion of freshly steamed mussels were piled in a lightly spiced and fragrant sauce dotted with rich pieces of chorizo served with a chunk of fresh bread. A really satisfying starter and at £4.95 a bargain. I’d happily sit out on the terrace area with these in summer and a good bottle of white wine.

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Anoushka chose the scampi and tartare sauce which was a much smaller portion, although this was the reason she gave for me not getting a taste. I’m told the prawns were fresh and juicy whilst the batter was light and crisp. They were gone in seconds amidst much ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’. Looks like I’ll have to try them for myself next time.

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Onto mains and Anoushka, having just returned from New York that morning, chose the 10oz flat iron steak with a side of peppercorn sauce and salad. She was advised the only serving option was medium or well done although I’m not sure if this was just for this launch night or if that is all the time. That said what arrived was a perfectly cooked medium rare, bordering on blue, steak. It was exactly how she had asked for so that made for one happy lady. There was no gristle to be seen and the Inka grill gave the steak that lovely, slightly charred taste. It looked incredible as, yet again, I didn’t get near it. One thing I did try was the peppercorn sauce which was slightly thinner than the style I am used to but this works well for a summer menu and the lightly peppered creaminess also worked on my chicken.

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I also went for a dish from the Inka grill choosing the chicken skewers with a dandelion and burdock glaze, cauliflower cheese and hand cut chips. Unfortunately the chicken was cold but the meat was soft and tender, still juicy and lightly charred for that BBQ taste. The dandelion and burdock glaze was sweet and surprisingly tasty however I was expecting it to come already on my chicken, more like a marinade than a dip which it appeared to be. The chips were a delight and just like the kind my Grandma used to make in her deep fat fryer. Lightly seasoned they were light and fluffy with a crispy coating yet unevenly cut just the way hand cut chips should be. I was disappointed by the cauliflower cheese which was one floret in a pot with the tiniest smattering of cheese on top. I’m used to cauliflower cheese swimming in a creamy cheese sauce and this was very dry. I love how the menu allows you to choose your sides rather than having them picked for you. At £3 a serving though, the cauliflower cheese seemed a bit steep if you were having it separately.

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We’d been told chef Chris Byron has a real sweet tooth so were really excited to see what the desserts had to offer. The menu is fairly classic with sticky toffee pudding and lemon posset having a place. I chose the most different thing on the menu going for the strawberry daiquiri eton mess. Unfortunately I think the desserts had been sat waiting for some time as there was no meringue present in this dish at all and the cream topping had developed a skin. The rum taste was evident though as was a light hint of lime. A bit of crisp and chewy meringue would have made it.

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The brownie had been recommended and was beautifully presented topped with strawberries aside a salted caramel ice cream. The brownie was overcooked which made it dry and bitter in parts but the addition of amoretti biscuits was a nice touch. Perhaps a splash of amaretto would have softened things a little.

It appears the team at Rosylee is also fairly new as I didn’t recognise a single face but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As always with these launches they were busy yet service was with a smile and they certainly tried their best with a particularly critical crowd. Rosylee plans to revamp the bar area as well as the suntrap terrace with table service – the perfect place to try the new drinks menu in particular the 2 for £10 cocktail offer on a Friday. I suggest you get there early as this one is going to be popular with the after work crowd. As for me? I’ll be back on a quieter day to try those desserts again. I mean it would be rude not to right?

I was invited to dine as a guest of Rosylee and was not asked to pay for my food or drinks.

Celebrating 100 Years Of Keep Fit

With exercise high on the agenda for anyone looking to live a healthy lifestyle it is not a surprise to see the amount of new classes and fitness hypes hitting the market. As a trained Clubbercise instructor it won’t shock you that the easy dance moves performed in the dark with glow sticks and disco lights is one of my favourites. I love to combine it with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and boxing circuits. Ever since I watched the girls in Pink Collar Boxing I’ve really got the bug and it is shaping my arms and shoulders like nothing else.

But did you know exercise and keeping fit has been on the agenda for a lot longer, at least for the last 100 years? Stretches were popular in 1910 with jazzercise hitting the scene in the 1970s, and who could forget the start of aerobics with Jane Fonda in the 1980s?

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From a fashion point of view an era I absolutely love is the 1950s. Waist cinched dresses and pretty two pieces, however, meant the ladies were keen to have the smallest waist possible and what better for that than a bit of hoola? Hoola hooping took off so quickly that over 25,000,000 hoops were sold in just 4 months. It looks really easy but let me tell you, it is tougher than you think! I had a quick go at Blog On this year and managed just 10 seconds before the hoop plummeted to my feet. Hoola hooping has developed since the 1950s and weighted hoops are now available in many gyms making it that bit harder for a tougher workout.

I loved this little video snap shotting some of the biggest keep fit crazes over the past 100 years. It’s really interesting to see how they have developed over time and how many are still popular, in some form, today.

You can also read more about the keep fit crazes in this article celebrating 100 years of keep fit. What’s your favourite?

In collaboration with Benenden UK. Images from Benenden UK.

Travel Essentials: Travalo Classic Atomiser Spray Review

When I booked my first road trip I thought it would be a doddle. None of this back packing malarkey for me, we had a fairly big car so could pack ‘real’ suitcases making our travel a lot more luxurious. In reality this isn’t quite the way things panned out as, despite having the space to fill, we still stayed no more than 3 nights in any one place meaning we had to lug about huge suitcases and digging through everything to find what we needed meant things were creased, unorganised and just a general mess. If I had my time again I would at least section my case into compartments making it easier to find exactly what I am looking for.

In terms of toiletries I had packed fairly light, mainly relying on hotel provisions where possible. This worked quite well and I also packed some fragrance samples that I had collected. I was lucky that I already had my favourite fragrances in sample size but some of them are so fiddly! The ones without a spray on just frustrate me but then the spray can be so violent I end up covered rather than misted in my favourite scent. If only my most recent review product had been with me back then, let me introduce you to the Travalo Classic.

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The Travalo Classic is a fragrance atomiser which holds 5ml of fragrance making it perfect to pop in your hand luggage.

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Available in 10 bright colours they are also super stylish and super easy to fill without wasting your perfume as the refill is a little like the way you would fill an old fashioned gas lighter. Just take the spray off your perfume bottle, push the Travalo Classic base onto the bottle and hey presto, a couple of pumps and it is full ready to take away. With the festival season in full swing the Travalo Classic is a great way of taking just enough fragrance to keep you covered for the weekend but not take up vital room in the tent too. In fact, Travalo Classic has a really light mist rather than a spray so you can squeeze 60 sprays out of each 5ml bottle. You can also clearly see how much is left with the indicator window on the front.I apologise the state of my nails in the photo!

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Atomisers aren’t new to the travel world but I really like this one. The finer mist means it is more reliable than my samples and I can take my favourite perfume without relying on what samples I have at any one time. You can get yours online or from Debenhams for £12.50 each or £25 for the gift set which contains 2 atomisers and a leather carry case.

Item sent for review purposes.

Restaurant Revisited: Bill’s Manchester Review

It is lovely visiting and reviewing new restaurants but one of my favourite things is going back after a while and seeing how they have grown. I first reviewed Bill’s back in September when it was new to Manchester albeit it not new as a restaurant concept. With an updated menu for the summer we popped back in to see how they were settling into our great city.

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Settled with a refreshingly long cocktail Charlie and I spent a fair while perusing the menu before totally handing ourselves over to the recommendations of the wait staff. The menu itself feels more streamlined although sticks to its British Mediterranean fusion with fresh flavours throughout.

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The mini Cumberland sausages with a honey mustard glaze were sweetly sticky which cut through the fattiness of the sausage itself. The perfect nibble and something I would always gravitate towards on a buffet.

My absolute favourite was the crispy crumbed halloumi with its lightly melted cheese centre and, as described, crispy outer. The garlic mayonnaise accompaniment had a great kick of garlic that was welcomed, no ‘touch of flavour’ with this one and it complimented the halloumi beautifully.

The spiced tortilla chips were light and crispy yet in huge pieces which I really liked. It meant they didn’t break up so easily when scooping out the dips, of which, the fresh tasting tzatziki was my favourite. I got very little of the guacamole as Charlie is a huge fan however it was spiked with garlic and lemon with lots of chunks still remaining.

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The wait staff recommended the green Thai curry so I decided to go with what they said especially considering they got the starter so right. Soft and juicy chicken chunks and crunchy vegetables are served in a light and fragrant sauce, sticky rice and a generous slab of warm piadina bread. There’s a light creaminess to the sauce but it isn’t heavy like other Thai curries I have tried. This combined with the lightly crunchy vegetables makes it the perfect summer dish and I’ll certainly be coming back for it again.

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Charlie chose the English rump of lamb served delicately pink advertised as being served on a lamb and lentil moussaka. I was under the impression moussaka was a layered potato dish and this was more of a dahl style dish although the flavours worked well together. The caper salsa dressing finished it off nicely with the freshness cutting through the fatty flavours of the meat.

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The side dishes were particularly exciting to me especially the kale chips. Every fitness lover’s dream these are dressed in olive oil, vinegar and a grind of salt making them incredibly moreish whilst being delightfully healthy to the clean eater, as was the broccoli. Spiked with chunky pieces of chilli to add a little heat with sesame seeds to add a bit of toasty flavour the tenderstems were a great accompaniment and we didn’t even eat them with cutlery, slightly embarrassing but too good not to.

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Onto dessert and I couldn’t resist the warm cinnamon mini doughnuts. Cooked perfectly so light and fluffy on the inside with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, they were served with a fairly thin chocolate sauce which coated them well without being too thick and rich.

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Charlie went for the lemon meringue pie cheesecake in a glass with a lovely buttery crumb base, zesty and sharp lemon curd filling and a poppy seed speckled meringue. The meringue was the winning element for me, I love a poppy seed and this was a lovely change to a regular meringue topping.

A lovely afternoon was had and I love the chilled out atmosphere at Bill’s. It is perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch or an informal date especially whilst it is separated into different areas. Sit by the window and watch the world pass by, it is worth it.

We dined as guests of Bill’s and weren’t asked to pay for our food or drinks. 

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