Events

Giving The Gift Of Lush This Christmas

Posted on 4 min read

 

Hands up who’s purchased a large proportion of their Christmas gifts in good ol’ trusty Lush this year?!

I don’t think I can name one distinct place that is the be all and end all for pleasing the whole family more than the kingdom of extrovert interactions, potent scents, transfixing tinctures, and a giant lifesize bubble waiting to happen (just imagine how much fun it’d be if there was ever an overflow leak, seriously.)

Receiving an email in my inbox for the Leeds Lush events on the run up to the festive season always evokes cheer and warmth in the deep pit of my stomach and I don’t think I can officially release that excitement until I explore the territory of a real life Winter Wonderland with endless choice and a wishlist the size of my entire existence.

 

This year, it really was representative of an authentic fairytale. We were whisked in to twinkling lights surrounding the darkened room with a glass of fizz on arrival and an introduction to the jolly range of treats they have to offer this celebratory period. Live music, friendly chit chat, an array of colours to flood our senses, and plenty of swirling suds as we test out the products. You really can’t ask for better when those spirits are intentionally lifted high with some joyful pampering.

From decadent bath bombs, to bubble bars, to shower gels, to soaps, to scrubs, to oils, to jellies, to massage bars, to body lotions, to shampoos and conditioners, to festive themed skincare, to lip luxuries, to the sparkliest of highlights – there was everything on hand ready to be swiped up and treasured, whether that was lone or wrapped up in a present box with a bow to finish because if you don’t receive at least one Lush gift set from your gran, is it even the 25th December?!

 

There were some new favourites and some old relaunches; the traditional ones that never go out of style (Snow Fairy, Lord Of Misrule, Golden Wonder, the puds and the starry wands, I’m looking at you!) and I pretty much came to the conclusion Lush need to stop releasing dreamy ranges for me to inevitably indulge in otherwise I will be soaking in the bath for the rest of my life, opposed to being, you know, an actual functioning adult.

Although it is the whimsical designs that draw me in instantly when I enter a Lush store, there were some seriously freshly captivating stock that appeased my tastes.

The Christmas Sweater was a starter. It was everything Christmas should involve; a spicy, winter warm scent, ingredients to succour to your relaxing needs on those ice cold nights, and an engraved reindeer to go with. Literally just a fluffy hug in the shape of a bath bomb.

The Christmas Cracker Bubble Bar that not only looks the part but foams and fizzles to perfection!

The Golden Pear Soap that smelt absolutely divine, balanced on the right side of fruity and festive.

The bath oils, the miniatures, and the exclusives – in particular, Star Light Star Bright, D-Tree, and Magnificent. The buttery texture is beautifully soft and soothing, and the smell is to die for. Think chocolate orange without the eating part!

And then of course there’s the developments of solids in the form of everyone’s beloved gels, lotions, shampoos, facial oils etc. You can now have two options; regular bottled, or plainly naked, meeting their ethical mantra even further. The Berry Berry and Santa’s Christmas additions to the shower gels are gorgeous, especially when there’s hints of cinnamon in there!

It’s been a few weeks since I attended the introductory event and I’m sure now there’s been some more products released for the final call up to Christmas (check out the site itself if you want to grab the last of your shopping, or if like me, you’ll be waiting till the Boxing Day bonanza begins, then what a good shout!)

 

 

We finished off our evening fabricating our own bath bombs (which was strangely a success for me for once in my sorry life!) and cosied up in the spa which I’ve talked about before on ze blog. Only this time, we spent a good half hour learning all about the new Karma treatment whilst witnessing it first hand and being blessed with an unwinding arm massage demonstration.

Let me tell you, in my 24 years of breathing, I have never pined for something in action so bad. The passion and dedication from the therapists is one thing, but a full body massage in synchronisation whilst you’re laid out drifting off into another world with Indian music and spicy scents to bask in, is another. I was harmonious just watching so I can’t imagine how incredible it must feel to be cleansed both physically and spiritually in a full hour of heat, comfort and euphony.

Santa, you know what to bring me on your one horse open sleigh!

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Christmas Crafting with Viking

Posted on 4 min read

christmas crafting
#vikingartyparty

To say I attended my first festive event back in October (#VikingArtyParty – check the hashtag for continued calibre content) you’d think I’d be fully on board with Christmas and all its associates but now with just one week to prepare, I feel less wired than I did when I was sipping mulled wine, eating gravy doused sandwiches, and getting nifty with arts and crafts with the best bloggers in town.

Ironically, it was one of the warmest days so it did feel a little odd walking in there on full Elf mode; however after celebrating the snowy season in skillful style I left with a sparkle of merriment and a different mindset to the one I usually carry when it comes to getting utterly creative for the yuletide joy.

I’m so quick to just go out and buy on impulse, whether that be for gifts, decorations, stocking fillers, the whole load, just because it’s easier to stick my hand in my pocket and reach for money instead of originality and innovation – but what hours of crafting and grafting taught me is that you can think out of the box, you can muster up your own folksy themed mementoes – whether that be for under the tree or round the table – and you can behold a prized handmade possession that no one else will have which makes Christmas that extra bit special.

#vikingartyparty

During our afternoon of artsy designing we all partook in three separate activities from three separate expert workshops that resulted in a piece to take home at the end of it… even if it did mainly consist of failing on my part because I am incapable of succeeding in tasks until I’ve practised for days on end.

First up, was some Christmas cracker making from scratch with the lovely Jane from Tea and Crafting (and some instructional guides to go with). Built up with glitter paper, scissors, toilet roll tubes, sticky dots, and ribbon – all resourceful essentials you can pick up from your local convenience store – but something that can be made into a glitzy masterpiece adding detail to something ordinary and ready to pack with goodies that suit your tastes. Simple but effective. It’s amazing what you can produce from some cutting, sticking, folding, rolling, and tying! The miniatures would be perfect for placing as trimmings on a small tree or taking into the office for your annual party.

#vikingartyparty
#vikingartyparty
christmas crafting
Next up was some seriously impressive and goal worthy calligraphy from the fabulously talented and considerate, encouraging, and patient with a novice like me – Joyce from ArtsyNibs. Calligraphy is a dexterity I’ve always wanted to learn and grasp, especially with the fancy lettering becoming more and more tasteful on those dreamy Instagram feeds that ooze inspiration.

It’s actually A LOT harder than it looks. Admittedly I found it difficult not just because I’m left handed but because said left hand is also numb, painful, and lacking grip 24/7. However, once I got the hang of finding the angles and pressuring the pen’s density from bold to light depending on the alphabet choice it became more fluent and flowing and I was soon swishing strokes at my own pace.

I think this was my favourite pursuit, not only because it was cathartic to the senses but because it can be constantly developed at home thanks to the black point and metallic pens we got to keep for ourselves. It’s such a charming way to add personality and flair to your Christmas cards, tags, envelopes, and whatever else you fancy experimenting with. It really does add that unique, homespun aspect!

christmas crafting

Lastly, we got stamping till our heart’s content with some block printing lead by Maddie from Tea and Crafting. All you needed was some average stationery supplies, a blank magazine file, a gluestick, paint, and foam pads to make stencilled templates.  I underestimated how much mess mine would make by going with an intricate design opposed to a no-nonsense quick one but nevertheless it was so much fun – I almost felt five again (just with a little more adult knack!).

The best thing is, you can make it your own, based on your individuality and your quirks – not just for Christmas, but all year round, too. Saying that, the Christmas tree and star-like prints would be a delightful addition on your desk for some extra ornamentation!

#vikingartyparty

After getting my hands dirty (and I mean seriously dirty, I think I was still finding specks of red paint down my nails a week later) it made me want to strive for the blueprint prototype and it influenced me to go searching for other methods of crafting you can try out and present to either yourself or your loved ones. Just a few of my most desired examples include Christmas Watercolour, Crochet to stitch a fabric garland or a knitted jumper, Hamper Making (something I almost always try implementing into my Christmas gifts on a yearly basis), Bauble Making, and even Origami. It makes a wonderful pastime, is different from the generic shop bought goods, and can even become a full time hobby!

Thanks so much to the lovely Jennie for organising this event, thanks so much to the team for generously gifting us with our own present box, thanks to Matt for allowing us to use his candid photography in our posts, thanks to Lambert’s Yard for the sublime catering, and most of all thanks to the crafty specialists for broadening my horizon when the spirit is lacking!

Are you a DIY person?! I’d love to see and hear about some more inventive ideas!

#vikingartyparty
#vikingartyparty

 

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A/W Trends With British Vogue

Posted on 6 min read

I’d say sitting front seat with a glittery chocolate strawberry, fruit on sticks, and a fresh smoothie at a Vogue event in collaboration with John Lewis over at the exquisite side of Leeds that makes me feel more affluent and superior than I actually am, is most definitely a peak of my blogging experience.

 

A few weeks ago now I was invited down to a group conference with the lead fashion experts discussing the newest, upcoming trends, what’s hot and what’s not, the key pieces you need in your capsule wardrobe, and the tips and tricks on how to seasonal style like a pro. Ellie, the fashion feature editor of British Vogue was our talker for the evening and was on hand to showcase her favourite autumn/winter transitional garments she’d picked up whilst racing round the second floor of womenswear like she was on supermarket sweep (the ideal dream, tbh.)

 

Separated into sections, she guided us through the six lead building blocks into creating an everyday staple assemblage, along with an insight into what she’s personally digging and some sage advice on what buoyancy to opt for regarding your individual tastes and body shape. To my satisfaction, Ellie was all about that autumn dressing, favouring corduroy and cashmere, coats and boots, deliciously thick jumpers layered on top of flowing dresses and body swamping scarves over flimsy dresses and summer sandals. I vigorously nodded in agreement at this statement, happy to hear there’s someone else who feels the same way I do towards the fashion down low in the colder months.

The highlighted trends were all about wearability, comfort and investment but without taking away the simplistic sartorial sophistication. It was all about understated pieces with a twist, those you can experiment and expand with and the variety of essentials that are bound to carry you right through to next year and beyond.

 

THE RIGHT COAT

I don’t know about you but as soon as October hits the hunt for the perfect coat is first of priorities on my list. This year is particularly lavish, with patent leather, brocade, those chunky borg and teddy textures you can throw over night or day and the traditional fur being all the rage, but what is high up there with the finesse is checks; from houndstooth to windowpane, Prince of Wales to tartan and your ordinary heritage checks – it’s the must have statement this winter not just according to Vogue but everywhere you turn. An asset you can pull out like an old friend and style up with strong versatility; bringing instant polish to jeans and a sweater at the weekend, or over a black shift dress for work. Those longer lengths work to your advantage with a mini skirt and boots!

 

SILK

Perfect for the upcoming party season and thankfully still bang on trend carried right through from summer to the autumn catwalks. Picking out a silk dress, a skirt, or a blouse you are constantly going to reach for throughout the year is ideal for e.g. a slip dress you can pair with a roll neck through the day and whip off at night. British weather is unpredictable even in the wintertime so to have that minimalistic covering to either wear alone or layer up is handy. Ellie pointed out that the yolky yellow colour is currently in the spotlight (proved right by the audience basing their outfit around the shade) so that’s a super flattering colour that works profusely to look out for whilst shopping.

 

A CEREAL HUED SWEATER

A classic neutral toned jumper is a must have this autumn/winter; paired with the timeless styling of ribbed fisherman and polo neck structures you’re on to a winner. Stepping away from the black and navy that can often wash you out and the brighter colours such as green and red, the more inventive plain shades are on the horizon and you can afford to delve into the beyond.  It’s named ‘cereal’ for a reason, think on the spectrum of oatmeal, biscuity beige, bran brown and even a lighter cream and you can’t go wrong. Both softer on the skin and the complexion, and tremendously trend-resistant!

 

A BLANKET COAT

Or otherwise known as the coatigan. As Ellie said; Notting Hill style dressing is back in full swing, just a little less 90s. A blanket coat is the secret weapon in many a well dressed woman’s wardrobe no matter what their age. Understandably they may feel a little too lumpy but they’re easily preened to suit you distinctively. Vogue says the key to styling a coatigan is to look for tailored, slim shapes that don’t swamp the body, preferably double faced (without a lining) – and to cinch with a belt if everything is looking a little on the bulky side.

 

KNEE HIGH BOOTS

The main focus on the catwalk was the extra hardcore thigh high boots but knee high boots are a step down if reaching those extremes doesn’t take your fancy (I know I definitely wouldn’t be able to pull them off… or pull them up for that matter). Just over the knee or knee high boots are a great alternative to ankle boots and a way of injecting some modern elegance into your daily attire. Leaning towards a slouchier cut rather than skin tight is the best approach as it’s kinder on the ankles and knees and balances the proportions of a chunky knit and a slim silk skirt better. You don’t have to just stick with black, either, there’s plenty of light toned choices out there to vamp up the achromatic.

 

WILD CARD ACCESSORIES

Last but not least, it’s the final touches you add to boost the vivacity in a well put together outfit to stop it from becoming repetitive. It’s easy to become stuck in a black rut as the light fades (not that there’s anything wrong with that but it’s fun to mix it up sometimes) and often enough an accessory or two can be the ultimate decider and an easy compromise if you’d rather keep the majority of your look understated. Mixing and matching with accessories gives you a chance to add splashes of the season’s key brights to your wardrobe through the power of shoes, bags, jewellery, hats and whatever else fits your individual style.

 

Ellie picked out a fresh, grass green bag from Kin by John Lewis to pair with the grey checked coat and it was visibly obvious how well the contrast worked – it just enhances the excitement. Another option is in the shoe department, a pair of metallic silver boots with a cone heel (two more popular trends this season) would elevate jeans and a silk blouse for the evening or if flats are more up your street then embellished trainers that still look cool and retro without the typical Nike and Adidas are an effortless substitute.

 

Jewellery is still an important catwalk story and more specifically the frosted rhinestone kind that follows up till Christmas to implant some sparkle into those festive occasions; specifically the perspex and acetate styles that are back on the agenda. Huge earrings are everywhere at the moment and the bigger and bolder the better. I’m absolutely loving tasselled and drop earrings at the moment and it’s something I wouldn’t ever think , so it just goes to show how it’s worth taking that risk! The motto for this year is: don’t shy away from letting esoteric designs act as sartorial ice-breakers.

I was kindly given a gift voucher for John Lewis in my goody bag to help towards my winter wardrobe construction and I can’t wait to get properly started with these six objectives in mind!

 

Have you started your A/W shopping yet?

 

 


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Tune In, Switch Off, & Relax with Joy

Posted on 3 min read

 

Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. That’s what the dictionary defines but it also deemed true in actuality, on a crisp Wednesday evening in Leeds city centre a few weeks back. I remember paying numerous visits to the old Joy store in The Light back when I was a teen; the quirky tea dresses and the tongue-in-cheek gifts being right up my street – and with a timely tour of the modern version I discovered nothing has changed since it moved over to their bigger and better Northern flagship store. The brand has kept its signature niche of glamour and edgy clothing tailored to suit playful personalities (think vintage style Cath Kidson meets Urban Outfitters) and quite frankly, with all its glory, it is just a great big bubble of joy.

 

I was invited to enjoy a general laid back, informal event at JOY by the lovely Jennie and its aim for the night was to bring bloggers and members of the public together to see the commodities on offer, meet the old and the new, retrieve some great content and contacts, discuss ideas for future events and best of all – have a mingle, grab a drink, browse the collections, get your nails done and even participate in some yoga ran by a professional instructor (which I didn’t take part in due to my extreme clumsiness and lack of physical strength and posture but the music running through the grounds alone was enough to hypnotise the soul).

 

 

A delicious fruit smoothie and a glass of prosecco, lots of friendly faces and a warm welcoming saw me through my couple of hours spent roaming and admiring both upstairs and downstairs of the store. Laid out carefully and faultlessly were the array of arrangements that drew you in by their appearance, the fresh autumnal shades, and lots of unique pieces you wouldn’t find on the ordinary high street. For me, it was the dreamy homeware that won me over; from printed photo frames, to my beloved copper, plenty of cacti and influential reads – all carrying that retro theme that made me want to burst out into the house recruiting scene faster than the non-summer that’s mulled into September. But then there wasn’t just that assemblage that caught my eye, there were the floral prints, the wrap dresses, the stripes and best of all – a matching red crab handbag and purse. Very designer-esque with an affordable price tag!

 


 

As I ventured I wasn’t just able to admire the shelves and rails packed with clothes, accessories, furnishings and even a selection of novelty birthday cards, I was able to capture the ambience of the place whilst interacting with plenty of babes left, right and centre and that made the experience even more pleasant. I ended the night having a sparkly makeover and a giggle with the skillful Nails Inc team, where the smell and look of coffee was transferred onto my nails (crazy, right?!). There was plenty of positive feedback from the night and I’ve already told myself I must make it more of a norm to head down to Joy for a splurging shopping spree or two. Whether you’re searching for an outfit, looking for the perfect gift, holiday shopping, or set on bringing a room to life for ornamental purposes – this is the place to be and I’m sure the photos alone show why! My Instagram is about to become a whole lot more tasteful.

 



 

Huge thank you to Jennie, the Joy team and the lovely ladies at Nails Inc, I’ll 100% be back and can’t wait for more JOY fun to unfold!

 

Have you joined the Joy propaganda? There’s talks of a similar event happening in London due to the success of the Leeds introduction so keep a close look out for future occasions!

 

Bridie x

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Heal Spa Harrogate: The New Place To Be

Posted on 4 min read

Healing. It takes time, it takes patience, it takes strength and it takes caring for yourself tentatively. With the newest spot in the tasteful town of Harrogate that process can be made easier to manage as it mixes beauty and relaxation with health, medical and wellness treatments. Heal Spa not only looks as though you’ve stepped foot into an interior dream but it provides the enriching therapy designed to rejuvenate your body into a dreamlike state!

 

I took a truly traditional Yorkshire scenic train ride from my hometown of Leeds and visited the hidden paradise beneath the cobbled streets of Montpellier Gardens a couple of month back now and it still remains to be one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had in this fortunate blogging world. From stepping foot into what represented a luxurious botanical retreat filled with delicately displayed greenery at every circled space, to a contrast of brick and planked walls, gaudy floor tiles and a wooden staircase that lead to the second section of beauty stations ready to fulfil your every need. It had it all.

 

Heal tick off your standard beauty treatments – nails, hair, lashes, brows, waxing, podiatry and chiropody, facials, massage – but deliver it with their own unique concept. Upon arrival of smiles and warmth, I was taken straight over to the nail bar beside the fetching (and extremely insta-worthy) exposed window for my complimentary manicure and whilst chatting away in general with the lovely Christy as she worked her magic with a neutral nude shellac, I also learnt about the ethics the founders are widely passionate about. Firstly, it’s their clinical cleanliness and practical guidelines. Heal adhere to strict hygiene and medical requirements whilst pampering their clients, sterilising every piece of equipment and carefully choosing to ensure you’re in the safest and most caring hands which definitely puts your mind at rest. Secondly, it’s the way they commit themselves to independent businesses, give back kindly, and contribute to the local community. To hear of their support not just for self-reliant companies but to the ordinary people of Harrogate really warmed my heart. I was told they often hold nights to cater for the homeless, to treat them to something special, and it really was a testament to how friendly, inviting and spirited the entire team are.

Throughout my short stay at the spa this point just kept being proven right. I was introduced to Oliver, top podiatrist and creator of Heal who toured me round and offered to take a look at my feet to get rid of the dry skin I so desperately need to be more on board with moisturising and then I was lead back down to have a detailed talk with Heal’s cosmetic partners, Comfort Zone and Kevin Murphy haircare. I stood testing, wittering, and photographing, all the while being educated on the important philosophy they bring – that being environmentally friendly, cruelty free and rational in their strategies does not mean you have to sacrifice quality.

Comfort Zone, a certified vegan brand, offer a wide range of enhanced treatments using the most efficacious ingredients to further develop the already existing services at Heal. They work simultaneously together to provide a high quality remedy that both cares for your skin, diagnoses skin problems with the latest snazzy technology, gives an in depth skin review and helps ease your mind of life’s burdens with their famous de-stress therapy techniques. As I was given some tailored advice and guided through the products presented so attentively and fabricated so incredibly, I soon realised this is undoubtedly the sort of natural, earthy, innovative stuff that’s worth exploring. I’m definitely considering booking an appointment with them when I fancy a proper regime to kickstart my cells!

Australian haircare brand Kevin Murphy aren’t a brand I’d initially heard of but are certainly a brand that left an impression on me! To begin with I sat down with an expert and was proposed to their online scheme that allows you to find the most appropriate products for your hair type. It didn’t match that well for me, but straight from the horse’s mouth tends to always be the best solution! We came to the conclusion getting rid of brassy tones whilst keeping my hair sleek and adding some volume whilst keeping it its usual shape, was for me so in my delightful goody bag I was given a sample of the Blonde Angel shampoo and conditioner duo to try and it really has been a life saving rescue for someone who can’t always afford to have their roots touched up. It keeps my hair fresh, vibrant, super soft and shiny, leaving it in tip top condition. Designed to deliver nothing but performance, strength and longevity – they really are the definition of hair colour with a heart.

In all honesty, I could talk about Heal positively until I have no words left. I walked out of there feeling inspired, happy, and of course with pretty nails to flaunt which was a bonus. It’s one of those places you’d recommend to anyone of any age; as it gives off such uplifting, classy vibes with a cosy, liberating essence and comfortable, relaxing surroundings. The staff were always on hand to inform, to demonstrate and to accommodate to whatever I would’ve liked – even those little extras they really didn’t have to offer but did so out of generosity and enthusiasm. But it was nice, as it allowed you to have a personal touch you don’t really get anywhere else. They were busy getting prepared for their opening night yet still they couldn’t do enough for me so thank you, Heal, for inviting me down and for giving me a reason to travel to one of my favourite parts of Yorkshire on a more regular basis!


If you’re local, get yourself down there. Splash out and indulge in your deepest desires, because whoever needs an excuse for that?

Bridie x

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Two Days, Two Press Dinners: Iberica and Browns Leeds

Posted on 9 min read

My little ol’ blog brings me some superb opportunities and sometimes they all happen in the loop space of a short period after a dry patch on events. This happened almost a month ago, now (doesn’t time fly by before you can even keep track?!) and it really was a treat to the taste buds for someone who’s so much more open to the experience of new food ventures. One week, two press dinners, two beautiful locations in my much loved hometown, and plenty of time to discover fresh favourites, meet up with some lovely bloggers, chat to some passionate, aspiring individuals and soak in the essence of what made each restaurant distinctive in disposition.

First up, was Iberica – the most formal of the two. A traditional Spanish cuisine providing not only food that oozes culture through their established tapas but an absolutely stunning building located in the listed antique Hepper House, perfect for any celebratory special occasion and that real classy feel you may desire on an evening out. The hanging chandeliers, the printed walls, the circular staircase, the high ceilings, the ‘most Instagrammable toilets in Leeds’, and the separate dining spaces with their own hosting function really give off an authentic ambience. The ground floor holds the main restaurant area which is extremely aesthetically pleasing on the eye, along with a downstairs wine bar (La Bodega) and nibbles area, followed by the grand private rooms upstairs which offer the best kind of banquet quality.

 

 

We began the evening in the basement; a cool, laid back hang out where you’re surrounded by the contrast of a variation of ageless wines and culinary meats on show with the modern dream of marble tables and rustic, wooden decor. Both making you feel like you’ve stepped down the cobbled street of a Spanish village rather than in the city centre of Leeds! The absolutely delicious samples on offer consisted of a selection of cheeses, thin sliced Serrano and Iberico hams, and two lots of bread; Trio de Jamones aka toasted bread with tomato, and simple crusty bread with olive oil; all served with a glass of crisp cava. As a bread fanatic these were the perfect appetisers and if it wasn’t for my tendency to bloat, I could have eaten the lot. They may be basic sounding but it doesn’t give the mouthwatering flavour justice. The cheeses all varied in strength and the meats unique in value!

 

Whilst we were waiting to move on to the main event we were also given the chance to experiment with the porrón, a traditional, Spanish wine carafe that allows you to make the decision of pouring one end directly into your glass as normal or challenge your skill and drink directly from the spout. I’ve never seen or used one before but was a definite intriguing and comical eye opener. I gave it my best go as instructed and held it up whilst guzzling mid air. I may have spilled water all down myself and unattractively dribbled but at least I learned something new – and it’s a definite step up for hygiene sharing! Can’t see it working out quite the same if it was to be wine instead, though, especially with my alcohol intolerance…

 

 

After the fun we were whisked upstairs to be introduced to our room for the night. The main dining room that is filled with indescribable character. Amazingly spacious with the most alluring interior; a huge banquet table being the prime attraction with large windows, extravagant paintings, candles, and our own individual name tags next to the presentable set up, completing the picture. It carried a sense of home but also flashy originality – certainly designed to impress. The food, of course, was also insanely exquisite and a step back from the safe options of casual food I’d usually stick to. Way different from your average but something fancy I could totally get on board with.

 

Before we began tucking in to the assorted tapas we had a small introduction from the head Michelin-Starred renowned executive chef Nacho Manzano himself for a brief on what to expect and how the highest quality standard is always his aim. The incredible service, friendly greeting and passion from the staff was a continuity all night and you could really tell just how much magic and care the team work on inputting to make their dishes the classiest, tastiest, and best in town.

 

 

Showcasing their spring menu with some of the most optimal, seasonal produce was a three course ordeal and by the end of the night, I was both fulfilled with the delivery and presentation of the dishes and filled up with the satisfying savour! First up we had Baby Carrot Tempura, mixing the vegetable ingredient with a battered, crunchy layer was an absolute winner packing a punch of flavour without overdoing it. The Crispy Cauliflower and Pak Choi was another vegetable addition with that extra tang and was washed down perfectly with the Octopus a la Gallega. I’m definitely not a seafood lover and the texture of octopus is just as chewy as the common stereotype states but I was pleasantly surprised with how vibrant the dish was. Combined with a chargrilled cooking method and a singing sauce, the meaty edge really shone through and I enjoyed it. Ensaladilla Rusa was yet another recipe that changed my mindset. I’m not usually a tuna lover but this was absolutely heavenly, you only detect a hint of the tuna whilst the rest of the soft potato based and somewhat sweet salad gratifies your remaining cravings.

 

 

The second round of food certainly contained some of my favourite dishes of the night. The Croquetas de Jamon were to die for, totally up my street with a crisp, spongy outside and a light, piping hot filling inside, the smoky zest urging you to want more. The Twice Cooked Lamb was incredible, tender and delicious; it purely melted in your mouth straight away without any effort to cut and teamed with the cherry tomato seasoning, gave it top-scoring status. The Roasted Bone Marrow with Steak Tartar may sound strange but it was in fact a perfect combination of fresh mixed with warmth; rich and succulent, served on a baguette with an egg on top. The last two dishes were a portion of tiny Chicken Wings in Canarian Mojo Picon Sauce which made the loveliest end-snack and a definite highlight – Pitu Chicken Rice.  Rice is often bland but this was far from it, wrapped up in bold flavour making it very moreish. What made it more special was the information we were being fed (pay a visit to Iberica and you don’t just get fed with food!). This, along with the croquettas was a certified grandma recipe back in Spain – the team often having to reassure their relatives nothing beats their cooking even if they were telling a tiny white lie. It was a nice touch to hear the personal stories along with the food itself!

 

 

Dessert arrived and it was an absolute delight. It completed the fine dining, finger-licking good experience as the night grew dark (and I began to regret not photographing the room in its natural daylight to capture the heart of the place!). First we had Tocinillo de cielo, a divine custard flan and secondly, we were blessed with Crema Catalana Foam which was a dynamic dream of feathery, meringue style cup based cream. All of this was washed down with a choice of red comerge wine and white contante wine only available within Iberica in the UK and then an almost treacle-like Pedro Ximenez sherry to finish it off entirely.

 

 

I had such a fabulous night and stopped way longer than I thought I would, admiring the spots and waiting for the wholesome food to digest as a treat to my gut. I can’t wait to head back there and have a full encounter of the Spanish phenomenon!

 

***

 

Next, we had Browns Leeds, a living legend in the city – I have grown up with this restaurant so to be called into a more informal evening of laughter, great grub, and plenty of cocktails (I mean, plenty!) with four other Yorkshire bloggers to celebrate their brand new refurbishment and seasonal food and drink menu was a pleasure, I couldn’t wait to pay them a visit!

For the entire night we had a posh private dining room all to ourselves with our very own cocktail provider on hand (huge thanks to Steve, an absolute hero, could not fault his efficient service and ability to deal with our independent cocktail making blips with his careful guide, at all!). The room was gorgeous, bright and airy but with a striking, royal feel to it. I didn’t even realise there was a separate zone away from the rest of the public in the Brasserie & Bar area but it really added to the luxury atmosphere – especially with the laid out table, industrial lights and shelves carefully structured with symmetrical lay outs, glass bottles, candles and all the freshly green herbs and colourfully assorted ingredients for our cocktail bonanza.

Talking of cocktails – we! never! stopped! Browns were eager for us to test and trial and even whiz up our own drinks from the taste the season cocktail menu and beyond the main menu, too, and I’ve never known anyone to be as generous. It was a real treat, we were completely spoiled and to make it even better, there wasn’t one I disliked (both alcoholic and non alcoholic!). I’m picky when it comes to cocktails, I tend to stick to the fruity, the vanilla, or the basic mix up of spirits but with these garden themed specialities the unique combinations won me over. As they were being shared and passed down we were able to experiment with the distinguishing tastes and elaborated between the four; Gin Basil Smash, English Garden T&T, Spring Green Sour and Cucumber & Mint Cup. The Spring Green Sour was my favourite, refreshing but with a boost of strong, natural flavour, and strangely… sugar snap peas. But it worked and we ended up having more fun than possible with the pods that were seen in every corner of the room! Not only did the cocktails go down delightfully but they also looked the part so we were snapping away with that geo patterned aesthetic all night.

Moving on to the food, which was just as delicious. It was a more casual affair with the team opting for sharing platters filled with a mix of meats, seafood and bread-style dishes but it was incredibly satisfying, well presented and once again unleashed an appetite for foods I’d usually turn my nose up at as the judge in me is keen to presume instead of trying it out for myself!

It began with two platters; first up the Fisherman’s Platter which I did initially brush away as I’ve already mentioned a gazillion times before, it’s not my thing, but the warm toasted bread and crispy crouton style slices were undoubtedly going straight on my plate. Mmmmm. The rest of the gang seemed to devour the selection of seafood on offer; from smoked salmon, to Devon crab on toast, and to a pleasant surprise – British mussels! Secondly there was the Browns Sharing Plate which once again featured the fish based produce such as salt & pepper squid and prawn cocktail but then there was the rest of the meats which were all tenderly rich and full of sharp flavour; chicken lollipops, pulled pork, pig cheek crostini, alllll the calamari and something which is now a constant craving of mine – beetroot hummus.

The final round contained more or less the same as the starters, just with bigger portions and an added introduction of pork belly bites, an absolute overload of calamari which for a fish-hater like me was notably great, the most delectable spiralled courgette I’ve ever savoured, and then the beetroot hummus revamped on fried bread with squares of feta – my ultimate favourite of the night. Certainly one of those toothsome, stand out snacks that you could never get bored of incorporating into your meals. There wasn’t any dessert but it definitely wasn’t necessary for the feast we had; we left a little tipsy but with a gratifying gut and no grumbles.

I had such a lovely night with brilliant company, accommodating staff and wonderful customer service. They couldn’t do enough for us and we really felt like we were part of the welcoming vibe Browns gives out. It’s not only the ideal place to hold an event due to its quantifiable size but it’s perfect for after work drinks. The seasonal cocktails are all priced at £4.50 which is fantastic value for central Leeds! Thanks so much to the Browns team for inviting me along and giving me a pleasant evening to remember. I’ll definitely be back!


Have you visited Iberica or been to Browns before? If not, there may be one located near you, so check the website and make sure to not miss out!

Bridie x

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