Restaurant Review: Hula Juice Bar, Edinburgh

 photo 2014-06-19133846_zpsca93462d.jpgI’ll be totally honest with you, this is one of my favourite places. Ever. This may sound like an over exaggeration, but it really, really isn’t. I’ve had some wonderful moments with my boyfriend in this little cafe, chatty lunches, romantic brunches, and more than one cake stop. Its only downfall is that it’s in Edinburgh, and I live in the Midlands. Needless to say we visited virtually every day on both our holidays to Edinburgh and I have no doubt we’ll continue to do so.

 photo 2014-06-19124453_zpse373bd43.jpg photo 2014-06-19124447_zps92a1745e.jpgThe menu isn’t exactly varied, but its got enough variety to keep everyone happy (especially in the juice department!), and they will happily make changes to menu items – although only for dietary requirements during busy periods like the Fringe. I’ve tried a couple of the juices and smoothies and although I have my favourites, none of them have been bad.

 photo 2014-06-19130601_zpsfb30a92e.jpg photo 2014-06-19130537_zps0fd4262e.jpg photo 2014-06-19131039_zps270c5d86.jpgMy favourite meal there has to be lunch – or the soup with cheese and toast to be precise. They generally do two different soups a day, one is always vegetarian, and there’s generally one that is gluten-free. My favourite? The Potato & Haggis. Its smooth apart from the Haggis-y lumps, not sweet (a huge problem with soups for me) and with a great pepperiness. Great in the August rain or the June heatwave. And the cheese on toast…I think the photo just says it all! It’s amazing, though the bread itself is gorgeously oaty. Needs to be tried to be believed! I’ve had other gorgeous soups (Mushroom & Stilton springs to mind) and my boyfriend really enjoyed his photographed here, I think it was Courgette and Pea.

 photo 2014-06-21095517_zps5b7e4b3f.jpg photo 2014-06-21095539_zps1c8a21f3.jpgWe’ve also visited for Brunch, which was delightful. Not so delightful was paying the bill at 10.20am and realising we still had to pack and be out of the apartment (the other end of the Royal Mile) by 11am… We both ordered porridge. Bananas, honey and cinnamon for him. Chocolate and chilli for me. Both combinations were great, but I loved mine. Sweet, rich and the perfect amount of spice to wake me up, I have to create a similar recipe! I was daring and went for a green juice – the Tah-ti Kicks – and really enjoyed it. I’m definitely going to try converting myself to green juices!

 photo 2014-06-21150932_zps22c6b153.jpg photo 2014-06-20145234_zpsab6887c6.jpg photo 2014-06-21190140_zps833cdd73.jpgNow, I can’t review Hula without mentioning the cakes. They do a fab selection baked daily, and every time I’ve noticed vegan and gluten-free options. Will had a fabulous looking Vegan Fruit Slice (I didn’t get a look-in), but I generally stick to the brownies. I wasn’t convinced about the Oreo Peanut Butter concoction – both elements were fine on their own, but together it felt a bit confused. The Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie was something else. It was absolutely glorious. So much so  I bought an extra to eat at the top of Arthur’s Seat and another for the train journey home. I’m contemplating baking my own. Or I will be doing as soon as I can afford ingredients!

 photo 2014-06-19133901_zps9367f090.jpg photo 2014-06-19124518_zps9ce46b36.jpgThe prices are reasonable, not the cheapest but the quality is definitely high, the atmosphere is amazing, and unless it’s Fringe its generally not too crowded. It’s definitely my favourite place in Edinburgh, and I highly recommend you visit! Now I’ll be off to crave another Nutty Professor…
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Would you like to see a Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie Recipe?

 

Review: Summer Satchel from Yoshi*

You all know how much I love my satchels, so I was delighted when I was offered a Yoshi satchel to review. This wasn’t a company I had heard of before, but I’d seen one of their Coral satchels in the window of a local leather shop and fallen in love with the colour. After deliberating sizes I decided on the 14″ Belforte* (£65.00).

 photo 2014-06-16160119_zpsfc9e96af.jpgThe colour definitely didn’t disappoint when it turned up (bonus points for the company – it was the best packed satchel I have received, loads of bubble wrap, and a gorgeous cherry-print dust bag too) as its summery, bright and very feminine, but not quite as neon as it looks on the site. I fell in love with their Pale Green colour too, so I can only imagine how gorgeous this looks like in the flesh!  The one complaint I do have about the colour is that it isn’t particularly even – there’s a few little black specks on mine. I actually don’t mind them, it makes it look less perfect so I’m less pretentious about using it (with my main satchel I was paranoid about it until it received its first slightly scratch – five months in!).

 photo 2014-06-16160133_zps493afc61.jpgI find the leather quality to be high, although it is a little thinner than my others. Its definitely a lot more flexible, which is great as I can stuff a cardigan in there for chilly evenings, but despite the thinness the straps haven’t taken any noticeable battering during the first few weeks of use. I’m going to be doing a satchel comparison post soon, so you’ll be able to see more closely what I mean!

I’ve loved having a more summery-coloured bag for sunny days, its added an extra something to my outfit and as its more smallest satchel it means I’m carting much less rubbish around! Huge thanks to Yoshi for sending me this satchel to review (remember, all opinions are my own, and I’ve not been paid to write any positive comments) – they have some lovely satchels and clearly follow seasonal trends so I definitely recommend keeping an eye on the site. I’ve been informed their AW/14 Collection will be launching in the next few months so I’m keeping my eyes peeled…
Do you have a summer bag?

Restaurant Review: Pork & Co, Canterbury

 photo Shop_zpscb5c96fc.jpgRight at the beginning of the year I remember reading a (Daily Mail, guilty pleasure!) piece about a pulled pork shop that had had to change its slogan due to avoid offending people of the nearby Cathedral. I must’ve been tired or hungry when reading it, as I was completely oblivious to the fact that this shop was in fact due to open in Canterbury. I’m actually pretty distraught as it opened close to exam season (no chance of getting into town then!) and this year, when I’m out on placement as of July and won’t be in Canterbury *sob* until September 2015. Or rather, I hadn’t planned to be, but I think visits to friends and a certain Pork Shop may now be on the agenda…

 photo Pork_zps672be255.jpg photo Cob_zpsb1499cd1.jpgPork & Co really one have one regular thing on their menu, and that’s their Pork Cobs (or Rolls, Buns etc, I’m from Leicestershire and they are cobs!). They are pretty pricey, but the £5 includes a meat stuffed, gravy soaked, apple butter spread cob, and a topping of your choice (I recommend black pudding). Don’t quote me, but I think a slab of crackling is also included, but this may count as your topping! They do occasionally offer another choice – Beef Brisket. At £6 for a Brisket Cob with slaw, its even pricey, but this is definitely my favourite. I also struggle to finish it, so it’s well worth those pennies! Both meats are tender, incredibly flavourful, and just wonderful.

 photo Sauces_zps78c18957.jpg photo Eggs_zps1aba3abc.jpgI highly recommend the hot sauces too! Espeically with the scotch eggs…

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Also available are a variety of sausage rolls and pork pies. I have to say I am particularly taken with the sausage rolls, they are rich, meaty and the pastry doesn’t fall apart and get everywhere (I’m looking at you, Greggs!). The fennel flavour is subtle, but they are really delicious. I’m not sure I can think of an excuse to visit Canterbury soon, but I sure am trying!

 photo Crackling_zpsd615c901.jpgOf course, any Pork shop isn’t worth it’s crackling if they didn’t sell pork scratchings. Now I have two little secrets to tell you;

  1. I went into Pork & Co around an hour after my last exam, devoured a Brisket Cob, and bought five bags of pork scratchings. The guys in the shop laughed. It was pretty embarrassing. But…
  2. I don’t actually like pork scratchings!

Something about the texture just don’t get on with me, but my parents and boyfriend love them, so every time I’ve visited the shop I’ve bulk-bought scratchings. Nearly caused an issue travelling home, as bags in St Pancras were being randomly checked by sniffer dogs… If you’re a scratching fan, I’d highly recommend these. I really wish I liked them!

 photo Slaw_zpscb94e737.jpgI highly recommend Pork & Co if you’re ever in Canterbury – it’s truly a hidden gem! Please note that all of the photos in this post were taken from their Twitter feed, I’ve tried to use only ones they have posted by if I have inadvertently stolen anyone’s please contact me and I will remove it or credit/link the rightful owner!

 photo Pigs_zps776edf3b.jpgBack to the pork…it’s delicious! Moist, meaty, and incredibly messy to eat (don’t wear white, you have been warned…). One of the best things about it is that all the pigs are raised by the people behind Pork & Co themselves – whilst I don’t particularly enjoy looking at the pictures of the pigs (I find them really, really cute!) its lovely to know they are having a brilliant quality of life, and I think that really shows in the quality of the meat. Let me know if you visit Pork & Co!

Have you found any ‘hidden gem’ eateries nearby?

Baking: BakedIn Carrot Cake*

 photo 2014-05-10164427_zps2d39daa5.jpgI was recently offered the chance to receive and review a cake mix from BakedIn. As some of you may know, I’ve just finished my second year of university with a very stressful few weeks of exams and despite my love of cake I simply had no time to bake…so I jumped at the chance of reviewing this! I received a Carrot & Walnut Cake mix, which I was happy about for two reasons – one, I love carrot cake, and two, this version didn’t contain dried fruit.

 photo 2014-05-10164420_zps8c8ceae9.jpgThe box this comes in is pretty big, at least twice the size of your usual packet mix – to be honest I was a bit taken aback by the size! It does however contain a big which makes up a pretty big portion of the contents.

 photo 2014-05-10164520_zps9cc629eb.jpgThe box contained a good amount of sachets of ingredients – however adding things in at different times made it feel a lot more involved than a packet mix. Whilst this would be great for baking with children, I don’t think it actually saved much time as opposed to just making from scratch – especially as the longest part of making a carrot cake is grating the carrot cake!

My boyfriend wasn’t overly impressed with the tin – it was very difficult to line with the greaseproof provided, and I found the tin to be so thin/weak it buckled when trying to put the cake in the oven, and I actually ended up putting it inside another tin as I was scared it would split. To be perfectly honest I’d prefer a kit half the size (so it fits in a store cupboard for emergencies!) without the tin.

 photo 2014-05-10165254_zps28554298.jpg photo 2014-05-10165323_zps421980cf.jpg photo 2014-05-10165540_zps2f12e1a0.jpg photo 2014-05-10165636_zps5dbc73e8.jpg photo 2014-05-10165803_zps54560ca1.jpg photo 2014-05-10170022_zps1edce90d.jpg photo 2014-05-10192523_zps85cb8c56.jpg photo 2014-05-10193020_zpsc99e56b0.jpgMaking the cake, however, was pretty straightforward following the recipe card. The only slightly dodgy moment was with the icing – I’m not sure that this would ever go ‘light and fluffy’  but it tasted good!

 photo 2014-05-10194315_zpsdfd17005.jpgThey say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I have to say this cake did taste good and was demolished by a combination of housemates and family pretty quickly! It was light, satisfying, tasty, and definitely not dry. A little messy as the frosting never really set, and I would have preferred more cinnamon, but other than that I’d happily use this mix again. After receiving this to trial, I also won one of BakedIn Brownie Mixes in a giveaway hosted by Jen from Looks & Lifestyle, so I’m looking forward to trying that out!

Do you recommend any cake mixes?

 

Review: Initial Impressions of Cut Make Trim*

CutMakeTrim photo 2014-04-08084902_zps246e48c9.jpgI was recently contacted by the lovely Alice on behalf of British company Cut Make Trim, and was delighted to be offered the opportunity to review a product of my choice. As you all know I am a huge satchel fan (I own my custom sized massive one, which I’ve blogger about a few times, as well as another from the Leather Satchel Co which I actually won in a competition and really should post about) so I immediately accepted the review opportunity, and not-so immediately placed an order.

Having some experience of satchels I know what size I wanted to go for (15″ to fit A4 – the company also offer 13″ and 11″ as well as an interesting barrel-style satchel. Choosing a colour was far more difficult, in the end I went for ‘ranger‘ which I expected to be either dark brown or black. I was secretly rooting for it to be black, so was very excited when it was. Delivery was quick, and the ordering process was very simple (expected, given there are no customisation options). I must admit though that I was a little put off by the fact that the company themselves never answered a query I sent before placing my order.

My impressions with the satchel so far? I am very impressed with the buckle straps, as they are a lot thicker than my other satchels and do feel a bit more substantial. The rest of the satchel is made up of a thinner leather, and it is a lot more flexible than my Leather Satchel Co offerings. I’ve found I can much more easily squeeze a coat inside this satchel. One thing I will say is that if you are a little shorter than average be prepared to go and get extra holes added in the strap – it reached below my knees! The quality is definitely good, though I found that the edges are a little sharp and a lot more pointy than anything I am used to – they’ve laddered a few pairs of tights and added a few bruises (though having said that, my oversized satchel causes huge bruises for the first few weeks).

The finish is definitely the biggest selling point of this bag. I can’t comment on their more ‘regular’ leathers as this is completely different – it’s matte and almost pre-scuffed. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and it looks unusual. I have a feeling this will last well too, as any additional scuffs and marks will just blend in nicely. If you want a satchel that looks preloved and almost vintage, I’d definitely recommend this style.

CutMakeTrim photo 2014-04-08084914_zps771f171b.jpgYou can order online here, and they’re also sold in Covent Garden Market on certain days. I’m hugely thankful for the opportunity to review this satchel, and I think I’ll be doing a few more posts comparing my bags – I also have a post planned on showing you the (small amount of) wear and tear two terms has caused my oversized original satchel.

What do you think of satchels?

Restaurant Review: The Red Lion, East Haddon

RedLion

A few weeks ago I visited this lovely country pub for my boyfriend (and his dad’s – December/January is an expensive time for me!) birthday. We ate over a Sunday lunchtime, although didn’t go for the ‘Sunday Lunch’ option as a full menu is always available as well as one roast joint.

For clarification – I was not invited to dine by the establishment, and have received no compensation for this review. All opinions are entirely my own and that of my dining companions. Images are from the restaurant’s website, as I didn’t want to use my camera at a birthday dinner. I did email asking for some photos, but the restaurant is understandably busy so I’ve just taken what I could find (after asking for permission of course!).

I was impressed immediately by the very warm welcome. We rang ahead to warn them of my tomato allergy, and on arrival I was given an annotated menu, with things I definitely couldn’t have crossed off, things that were definitely safe ticked, and items which could be altered also marked. This was definitely THE best allergy response I’ve had, so hats off to them! I was also seriously impressed by the use of local ingredients – they even just locally grown/made Northamptonshire oil for frying.

The restaurant/pub itself is very cosy. Smallish rooms (around 5-7 tables), with a lovely gas stove which I was lucky enough to sit directly in front of. I loved that the tables were big though – our table for four was large enough to spread out, which we were thankful for. I hate places where you are all crammed on a teeny table!

We were allowed plenty of time to make our choices, lingering over the bottle of red we ordered. No idea what it was (whilst I enjoy a glass, I’m not a wine expert at all) but it was rather good.

To start, others ordered the Battered Tempura Prawns, and the Scotch Egg. I went for a Duck Leg Hash.

Red Lion Egg

My hash was delicious. The idea of gravy and egg together isn’t one I’d have thought of, and to be honest even having eaten it the thought makes me want to vomit slightly. But it was delicious, and something I’d order again if I felt brave enough. If I was to be critical, it did lack duck – I’d have liked a little more for texture. Everything was perfectly cooked, with a wonderfully runny egg, and properly thick and meaty gravy. It was a massive portion though!

The verdict on the prawns was high praise – crispy and airy batter, a nice spicy and tangy sauce, and a good crunchy salad.

However the biggest case of food envy for the whole table was the scotch eggs. Perfectly crisp and perched on a punch mayonnaise dressing, they looked amazing. They looked even better when cut into, vivid yolk (the sign of good quality eggs) bursting out. I’d never had a proper Scotch Egg before, but I’ll look out for them from now on. I only had a bite, but I’m already craving another…

Onto mains, and the other three in the party all ordered the Slow Cooked Red Wine Beef, whilst I went for the Confit Pork Belly.

I didn’t try the Beef (it being one of the firmly crossed out items on the menu) but it was highly praised. According to others it was rich and melting tender, although one did comment it could have done with a kick or tang to the sauce. We were so impressed with this dish we are preparing to buy Ox Cheeks (the cut used) to make our own version.

My pork was, unfortunately, a rather mixed plate. The pork itself was delicious, and one of the best flavoured and textured bits of belly I’d eaten. The crackling wasn’t so good, and was in fact chewy to the point I was worried my mouth would stick together. Bacon-y vegetables were perfectly cooked and tasted delicious, once I picked out the burnt onions. Not sure if the burn was deliberate or not, but I’d prefer my veg without it. Having said all of that, I really did enjoy the dish – I think the quality of the rest of the meal may have made me slightly picky! And I was suffering food envy as I spotted the Roast Sirloin and Homemade Yorkshires over the other side of the room…

Despite already being full, we finished the meal properly with desert. I went for the Bailey’s Creme Brulee, and other choices were the Ginger Cake and the Doughnuts.

Red Lion Doughnuts

I didn’t hear much about the Ginger cake, but it was devoured and seemed to go down well.

My creme brulee had the perfect crunchy topping, and was creamy and light. The Baileys was only a light hint, for which I was thankful as it wasn’t as sickly as I had feared. The shortbread served alongside was excellent – really good, short and buttery. I could’ve taken a tin of this stuff home!

The star of the show was the Doughnuts. Served in a brown paper bag, searing hot and with a pot of runny jam, they were amazing. Very obviously freshly cooked (and in fresh oil too!), I can honestly say this was one of the best desserts I’ve ever sampled. Again I suffered from food envy.

I can’t comment on the price of the meal as a whole as I didn’t see the bill, however I felt menu prices were reasonable for the quality – you can view the full menu on their website.

All the way through service remained friendly, and I left unwillingly (though partly because it was cold and wet outside, and I’d fallen in love with the stove). I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch at The Red Lion, and wouldn’t complain if I got the chance to visit again. I’m currently working out how to get to one of their Sunday breakfasts (a full fry up, papers, tea/coffee and Radio 2 for £7 – my idea of a perfect weekend morning!), something I definitely want to experience, so I hope it won’t be too long before I return. Until then, I highly recommend this restaurant (and their Valentine’s menu also looks amazingly good, with plenty of dishes I’d love to sample!).  They also have wonderful looking hotel rooms, the kind I’d love to stay in for a romantic short break, and run a cookery school which comes highly recommend to me. So much to try! Let me know if you do visit this wonderful place – a hidden gem in Northamptonshire!

Have you visited a nice restaurant lately?

Square Meal

Ready Meal Review: Sainsbury’s Chicken & Bacon Pasta Bake

 

 

It’s pretty common knowledge that I’m not a fan of ready meals. Definitely not to live on by any means – I just don’t think they are particularly nutritious, and I also think they are a ridiculous waste of money. That said they do have their place. There are (very rare!) occasions where you don’t have any food in the house, don’t want a takeaway, and just want the comfort of something warm and stodgy. On those occasions I do see the point of ready meals. As long as they are good. To that end, I’m going to add very occasional reviews of any ready meals I eat to this blog. They will be rare because I probably eat one a term if that. But if I can’t persuade you to steer away from them all together, I can recommend ones that aren’t too offensive. And offer tips to make them better.

2014-01-08 19.16.49First up is this offering from Sainsbury’s – Chicken & Bacon Pasta Bake. Not that there was much of a ‘bake’ element with it…

I decided to buy a ready meal on this occasion because I headed back to university in the middle of my Christmas holidays for one night only. We’d also suffered a power cut in the “Storms of 2013” and so I couldn’t rely on any of my ready-frozen meals being safe, so my boyfriend and I opted for a ready meal. We bought two of these pasta dishes (at £2 each, I KNOW I could make something for the same price, if not less, that tastes far better!) along with a garlic bread and a salad. Cheaper than a takeaway, but definitely not inexpensive.

The instructions (we used the oven) were to cook for 15 minutes (lid on, but pierced), then take the lid off, stir and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes.

The stirring part was when I encountered the first problem. It didn’t actually taste of anything except whatever herb that was in there! I panicked ever so slightly and turned to the spice rack;

2014-01-08 19.14.08I stirred in hell of a lot of black pepper, a good lot of garlic powder, and a little onion powder. This lifted the dish right up, but I’ve got to be honest, it still wasn’t great.

After it had finished cooking (including at extra 10 minutes at a higher temperature) it looked like this;

2014-01-08 19.16.32Definitely not what was advertised on the packets…where’s my crispy ‘baked’ top?! I’ve got to be really honest, I reckon this dish cried out for a cheesy topping. If I’d had some, I would have definitely added some!

Having said all that, adding all the additions definitely helped, and along with the salad and garlic bread it certainly made for a comforting dinner in front of a DVD. Would I have it again? Possibly if I was absolutely stuck. Would I rush out and get another one? No, I reckon it was overpriced for what it was, and I’d sooner try something else, just in case there’s something better. Moral of the ready meal story? Add salt, pepper, garlic and onion, and everything will taste a lot better.

2014-01-08 19.18.52

 

Do you have any ready-meal recommendations?