Local Leeds

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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Emmerdale Studio Experience

Posted on 9 min read

 

If you would’ve told me my two worlds – the deeply invested in a 7pm soap side of me and the supposed adult who likes to post my thoughts, feelings, and adventures online side of me – would have collided during my blogger journey, I’d have looked at you with nothing but bemusement perched upon my face. But it seems nothing is impossible as a fair few weeks back now my dream event was advertised alongside many other people informing me of my idealisation (which I had to laugh about). Of course I jumped on the opportunity as quickly as possible and was kindly invited along to step in to a tour of the behind the scenes action whilst secretly trying my best to not expose myself to a bunch of people who definitely don’t dedicate their evenings and entire life to this programme (says the person who shamelessly kept shouting out the answers to the questions asked, ahem.)

 

You’ll probably be well aware of my love for Emmerdale by now so you could say I was a little excited to get an insight into the storylines; the stunts, the characters and all the extras that make the show what it is – especially straight after the week of special episodes that absolutely blew my mind and connected me even further into the pool of fictional drama. It’s not just the fact it’s a local pride I’ve admired since I was a little un, it’s the personal impact it’s had on my life this year. It’s a mad concept to think I wouldn’t know my now best of friends without this soul-stirring soap and I wouldn’t have had so many happy times that are only just beginning, so to spend my time exploring the depths of the exclusive event with just a fraction of them made it even more memorable.

 

The tour allowed us to get up, close and personal with each of the various stages as they were on display to manifest their individual input into creating a final masterpiece. It really did make me realise just how much hard work, effort and graft must go into the entire production for just one single half an hour episode. It made me appreciate it, too – because whilst we’re sat relaxing on the sofa at home being entertained by the delivered structure of the scenes; the actors, the directors, the producers, the writers and the rest of the dedicated team are probably on their way home after another busy day of performing the ongoing portrayal and professionalism that keeps us gripped.

 

The First Stage – introduction, storyboards, costume department and dressing room:

To start the expedition (after me, Hannah, Char and Katie had a quick catch up and geared up our giddiness in the cafeteria beforehand) we were taken as a group to a darkened room and a cinematic screen ready to gain a summarised view of the best of Emmerdale over the years. Of course we were already well aware of the spectacle showcasing and the stories that have lead on to many praises, awards, and the eventual recognition they deserve – but it didn’t stop us low key squealing over our favourites. After the short video, we then headed next door to receive an intuition on how the storylines are planned out. It was interesting to have a clear view on how the ideas are proposed via storyboard briefing, doodling of the characters and their positions, and even miniature scales of the incidents ahead. It made things a lot more realistic to mind. Moving forward we then moved to the costume department where recognisable outfits such as wedding dresses and suits were paraded, along with an entire collection of wacky colours, designs, and accessories each linking to the distinctive personas. It isn’t all easy and good to go, though as each and every piece has to be prepared before worn – whether that be muddied, rained on, made baggier and scruffier or prim and proper. Not in the slightest bit surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to identify whose was whose!

Following on from costumes we were lead to the dressing room where not only were we informed of how much precious time and precise power goes in to the appearance of the soap-stars, we were also let in to a few secrets. I wasn’t even remotely shocked to hear the boys take longer to get glam than the girls. I could almost hear the loud mutters of the chattering cast as they admire themselves and over indulge in luxuries, especially when their interactive faces appeared in the mirror.

The Second Stage – the signs and the props:

Transporting down a corridor filled with shelves upon shelves of iconic items that bring back a recall of nostalgia and define the representation of a character and their many layers definitely added to the fun of the game. We were able to get a proper feel on how the objects are used and what they’re really made of (of course the hazardous objects, the lethal bricks and the presented food were made out of pure foam) but we also found Emmerdale tend to hold on to the irreplaceable history of materials, such as a photo of the late Shirley Stelfox and Valerie Pollard‘s charity box.

Another selection amongst the rest were a number of sign posts created specifically for Emmerdale village and their imaginary town centre – Hotten. Our tour guide told us she’s had people swear it’s a real place in Yorkshire in which I had to giggle because if you’re anything like me, a Leeds reside, you’ll recognise the locations as they film in supposed courts, hospitals, shops and outdoor settings. Walking down this part you’ll also be enlightened of a small fact that they still film at the old building in a studio almost next door for all the medical and police scenes (I mean I already knew this but it doesn’t harm to pretend you had no idea and certainly haven’t caught the coach driving up the road to drop the cast off.)

The Third Stage – the sets, lighting and editing:

I wouldn’t be lying if I said this was the highlight of the experience for me. Not only were we stood in front of and visualising a preview of the interior sets that grace our screen every week day (which look way more widespread in person) but we were also given the chance to have all hands on deck and put our skills to test; adjusting the positioning of lighting, camera angles, and even getting to record our own message on the sofa of Smithy Cottage, all using modern technology. It was eye opening to the audience who only see the perfected composition on television, especially being let in on all the hidden antics such as gathering at the top of the stairs because there isn’t actually an upstairs and Samantha Giles (Bernice) taking a peak at her script as she goes to pick up a brush in the salon, just as the shot changes. You truly do feel as though you’re part of the package in those five minutes of scouting.

If there’s one room I was glad exists, it was the legendary Dingle house; the dysfunctional family with members all over the country that you can’t help but adore despite their many illegal crimes, mishaps, punch ups, integrated relationships, and bad luck, because really they all have a soft side and nobody messes with a Dingle. It was just as pictured on screen; sporadically messy and mismatched, well lived in, an authentic farm house with ornaments that have told a story over the years and even knitted blankets handmade by the public – of which they were eventually bombarded with and had to stop asking for! I wanted to jump in there and pour myself a drink with the stove on listening to the pigs grunting in the back yard, but I was soon brought back to reality. It’s not real, Bridie.

 

The Fourth Stage – the village and the stunts:

If you weren’t to know, the actual village is based in the country, on the classic Harewood Estate that screams out aesthetic nature but of course we were inside so only a downsized replica of the constructed houses and workplaces were spread across the miniature street. Although the imitation didn’t compete with the actual surroundings, the backdrop of blue skies and fields along with the stonework and exact details had a similar effect – and it didn’t stop everyone from posing outside the signature Emmerdale welcoming sign.

As we strolled through we were then greeted by another room filled with features that enforce those special effects that amplify the intensity of a scenario. We were able to sit in front of a huge wind machine and experience the craziness of the unpredictable and purposely dramatised weather, along with watching another short video explaining why the weather makes all the difference to how a clip is played out and how it’s crucial to match the weather with the predicament. This was then followed on by the high class stunts that Emmerdale are famous for, the ones that are still honoured and discussed with adrenaline years down the line for e.g. the underwater Woolpack siege, the helicopter crash, and more recently the multi pile up car crash. These are the ones that take the most developing but which get the pulse racing and that was proved right after the end of another back stage video unravelled by the man himself, Duncan Foster, the scaled helicopter beside us blew up and scared us half to death (here’s your pre-warning).

 

The Fifth Stage – The Woolpack and the shop:

Saving the best last, the tour was ended where all Emmerdale residents end up after a busy day of over the top tragedy – the pub. It was honestly quite surreal being inside the famous Woolpack and sat in places some of my most idolised characters have intertwined and made their mark but enjoyable at that. The dingy, cosy feel is very much present and as we sat beside the bar nibbling on the totally Yorkshire themed refreshments given out (beef and turkey Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash, and fish and chips, anybody?) I felt right at home. We even had a photo opportunity to take on the role of landlady and pull a pint of our own, and just as we couldn’t embarrass ourselves any further we decided to reenact moody Aaron Dingle slumped at the bar to which Danny Miller actually went ahead and acknowledged over on Twitter. Yes, this really is my life. Oh dear.

I didn’t want to leave the premises but eventually all good things must come to an end and it couldn’t have finished at a better place than David’s shop linked in with the gift shop with a massive range of merchandise made for any Emmerdale fanatic. I told myself I wouldn’t spend unnecessary money but this is me you’re talking about. I ended up buying the snuggest fleece you have ever known along with some shortbread and a postcard and then I was given some more treats in the goody bag so generously gifted to us.

Thank you so much to Nikki for organising the event, I had such a blast and wish I could do it all over again (in fact, I’ll definitely be booking another trip sometime soon). It’s well worth the visit and with Christmas coming up – it would make the ideal present for your avid Emmerdale fan like moi. For tickets and more information on the attraction visit: http://www.emmerdalestudioexperience.co.uk/.

Apologies for the majorly long post straight after an unintentional blogging break. I’ve been struggling with balancing my pain with my workload lately and although I was eager to blog and get writing, I’ve been stopped in my tracks more than once. Hopefully this will be me getting back on track, now. Hope you all have a lovely weekend and happy Friday!

Bridie x


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A Winter Walk with Bon Prix

Posted on 4 min read

 

A few weeks back now (in fact, a whole month back) I was reintroduced to a local gem that defined the identity of tranquil nature in all its exposed glory. I was so kindly asked along to a photoshoot hosted by Bon Prix and arranged by the lovely ladies Jennie and Alice of Search Lab, in Roundhay Park – a place I’ve spent many of memories in but not quite grasped the hidden beauty of – to take part in showcasing this season’s collection of coats and boots by the popular brand.

 

The weather for the day was perfectly matched with the autumn/winter feel aimed to be created in the heart of style. It was a crisp, dry afternoon with a haze of sunshine ready for us to explore the park from top to bottom – skilled photographer on hand, outfits provided, individual bloggers becoming a grouped team – and all we had to do was work our magic (or in my case, awkwardly pose as told to, hoping the photos turn out at least half decent erasing any signs of those uncovered flaws without the power of the delete button). I was quite nervous to start with, having not been familiar with this kind of occasion, but it turned out to be a fabulously fun adventure spent with a lovely bunch of bloggers and a quiet stroll round the open space filled with happy children, loved up couples, dog walkers, and surprisingly no extreme starers wondering why on earth we were hovering round one area until someone decided to move away from the set up shot.

 

 

We certainly weren’t deprived of locations to surround ourselves in; upon every stride we came across a picturesque place that would make the ultimate backdrop. From the golden leaf coloured concrete, to beneath the fallen bushes and underneath the featured trees, to the admiration of gentle flowing streams, of a duck’s habitat in the form of a huge lake, upon concealed bridge tops and even just naturally wandering the linked pathways with everything green and totally Yorkshire in the distance. We probably got ahead of ourselves as we reverted back to childhood throwing all our energy into hand shimmying and playing amongst the leaves (hello, double chin) but that’s what made the whole experience amusing and memorable. We could enjoy the environment and embrace the peaceful, scenic views with freedom knowing full well we have a couple of hours to just escape the ordinary and take advantage of the blogger life.

 

 

Split into two separate groups of four; Gabby, VictoriaSophie, and I were all assigned distinctive outerwear and accessories to add to the effect, even if we did end up lusting over the opposed pieces of clothing. I was handed over a faux sheepskin camel coat with a real luxurious feel (seriously it was so soft and cosy) paired with some basic biker boots that luckily were strong enough to carry me through the muddy patches as we toured the grounds. My second combination was a classic red number that certainly acted as a statement, some black suede boots that granted my tastes delightfully and a floppy black hat to complete the masterpiece. I used to be addicted to my fedoras and bowlers and it’s been a while since I’ve worn any kind of headgear so it was nice to familiarise myself with them again, and it even brought back my original love!

I felt super comfortable in both choices and as the day progressed (and as I adapted to how friendly, professional and reassuring Matt the photographer was) I became more comfortable and relaxed in myself, too. I felt confident and all dressed up ready for action which settled in with the atmospheric vibe of what a winter walk in the park should be about.

 

After finalising the last shots, testing another round of possibilities and somehow getting on to the subject of disastrous Tinder dating, me and the girls said our goodbyes to the people that made the encounter possible (and sent a huge thank you to Jennie and Alice for carting our case load of stuff around with them wherever we ended up), we finished off the day with a delightful champagne afternoon tea at the gorgeous and utterly British Roundhay Park mansion all generously courtesy of Bon Prix themselves. The food was amazing but proved too much for my defeated stomach. I wish I could have managed to eat every carefully presented sandwich, quiche, scone and sweet desserts that made my eyes pop and mouth water but alas not. It was most certainly appreciated, though and amongst the gossiping and the wine drinking, it gave us all a chance to catch up and bond blogger style.

I had such a fantastic day and relished in every moment. Now I’ve been blessed with a brand new coat of my choice that has become my staple for snugness and my very own Bon Prix lookbook established to keep which is always a bit bizarre seeing my face in. I’ve never felt so honoured to be associated with such a well put together campaign and it’s definitely spurred me on to up my fashion game, so watch this step.


Have you shopped at Bon Prix in this progressing autumn into winter season?


Bridie x


 

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Pastille Beauty’s 3rd Birthday Celebrations

Posted on 4 min read

Up until last week I hadn’t attended a blog event in a good couple of months so to become reacquainted with an invite to 3rd birthday celebrations at a popular Leeds’ salon surrounded by lashings of prettiness, I’ve never felt so honoured. I’ve always heard so much great feedback from Pastille Beauty Bar, a place of pleasure and pampering located in the award winning Granary Wharf development (or as I call it, the posher part of Leeds) yet – to my shock horror – I’d never stepped foot in there for any treatments.

 

Greeted with friendly smiles, a glass of sparkly fizz and white walls that are instantly a hit with any blogger determined to accomplish that perfect shot with the natural lighting at a flattering angle, I knew I was in for a thrill. I mean the mention of the word tea party alone sounds persuasive enough but when it involves the indulgence of cake and you’re guaranteed to come out of there feeling alive and glammed up, it triples in significance. There were various activities going on from local businesses who had joined in the fun in the couple of hours I was there and never was there a dull moment to be seen.

Nails starting with their forte, we were all lucky enough to be given the opportunity to choose our nail shade made up of some of my favourite collectors; OPI, Essie, Morgan Taylor etc, for our complimentary dash manicures. If I’m truly honest it couldn’t have come at a better time because I was in real need of some nail tlc. A file, a buff and a nonchalant natter with the lovely girls on hand, later, I had glossy orangey red nails that matched my clothing choice, ushered on compliments and which made me feel as fresh as a daisy. Once I’d left my chair ready for the next person I also had a browse at the nail art on display and there were so many amazing, stand out designs that made me want to make my trip a regular occurrence (I’ll definitely be heading back there for some speciality styles!).

 

Cakes – in eye view from my entrance was the best looking dessert arrangement I ever did see, all made especially by Sugar Crush Bakes for the event. The feast was made up of white chocolate rocky road, lemon curd mini scones, mint brownies, lollies, a fanciful cake and much more – including some squeezed lemon juice and winsome paper cups and straws. Not only did they appear too delightful to eat, consisting of a whirl of bright colours, vintage themed platters and burnished perspective but once eaten they were extremely appetising and fed my sweet tooth with just one bite (along with the urge to devour a dozen more). Sugar Crush cater for all sorts; weddings. baby showers, tea parties, you name it, their culinary talent is endless. I’d highly recommend, not only for the presentation but for the modern taste that’s making me hungry just thinking about it. Mmmm.

 

 

Jewellery – jewellery that is out of the ordinary and unique to an individual is my guilty pleasure, especially when it’s created with such care and thought. Christina from Sweet Designs had a stand to showcase her fabulous pieces made from nail polish painted and sealed within the moonstones to mould an array of effects, along with the pendants that had compressed newspaper or magazine cut outs embedded. She was also offering an immediate service to produce a ring that would match your mani for the day. Silly me didn’t have any cash to hand but I did take a card and I’m certain I’ll be purchasing one of her eloquently innovative works of art soon enough.

 

 

Dresses – finally there was a genius movement in the corner that proposed a dress hire service suited to your preferences. Borrowed Couture allows you to rent a designer dress for up to three days at the fraction of the retail price. It’s brilliant for those of you (like me) who don’t go out often so don’t own that many desirable dresses but fancy a step up from the same old, and ideal for those impulsive buyers (once again, like me) who purchase one and then end up dumping it in your wardrobe never to be seen again. This way you don’t get a waste, you just get some seriously eye catching, dreamy garments that you can hand back at the end of an event you wowed at.

I had such a splendid time at Pastille; being in the company of lovely ladies, pleasing pastel interior, and silver foil balloons that are enough to make an instagram lovers’ eyes pop was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon. Abra and Erene – the kick ass founders of Pastille – put on such a fantastic event filled with entertainment and support and I even went home with a goody bag filled with kind treats that I can’t wait to use. Thank you so much for inviting me along, girls. I’m planning my next trip as I speak.

 

Have you ever visited Pastille? Where’s your favourite place to appease in some me time?

 

Bridie x

 

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Cielo Blanco Leeds: The New Menu Launch

Posted on 5 min read

 

“Why the hell have I never thought to come here before?” – no word of my lie, that was my first thought a couple of weeks back as I entered the restaurant I so quickly disregard during my regular Trinity shopping trips. Even before the food arrived I knew this was gonna be one of those unforgettable dining experiences as I strolled past the beautiful outdoor terrace and into the vibrant, lively atmosphere where I was shown to the large table at the back set out immaculately ready for the lucky samplers of the evening (VIP style at its best). There’s plenty of places in Leeds with the familiar indoor setting but Cielo Blanco is definitely on the higher end of the scale. Their interior is flamboyant retro meets traditional and cultural, with striking designs, printed tiling, exposed brick walls and funky, industrial features – plenty of prettiness to meet the eye, and perfect for someone who loves a backup of Insta photos to grace your feed with a pop of colour  (like me, obvs). Not to mention, having first class access to the view of the outdoor balcony where I was seated; the pride and heart of Leeds in sheer view. Already I felt comfortable, zoned and in the mood for some bladdy good grub!

 

 

My brother was my occupant for the night (gotta repay his contribution to my blog photo taking with the gift of a plus one, right?) but I soon started chatting away with the rest of the geared up guests. I can’t be sure but I think I was only one of three bloggers invited so if I didn’t already feel privileged, that certainly trebled my status. Before the first stage of our prepared food was brought to us, we were given a choice of fruity cocktails to tingle our tastebuds – and that they did. There was an alcoholic option of Pink Grapefruit and Pineapple Margarita and a non alcoholic refreshing fruit drink but it didn’t stop there with an innovative list from tequila based to the extravagant and unique type such as an Avocadorita. Yep, it really is as simple as it sounds – a cocktail with avocado as the main ingredient.

 

We were also given the low down by the friendly staff and the creators in charge of what to expect from the launch of the new menu, inspired by invigorating travels to Mexico. Their concept is to shape a diverse menu that fits around the exciting markets and street food scene of the country known for its fun fiestas. Think modern and simple food with a twist, the feast sharing experience we were about to savour made up of fresh, zestful, new dishes and menu of old time favourites!

 

 

As the banquet was underway, we began with a warm up snack of tortilla chips teamed with a melted cheese chorizo dip, home-made guacamole and house salsa which was nothing but unbelievably delicious to the point of indiscreetly scooping the rest of the contents out with a spoon. Soon after we were then presented with small, appetizing dishes of Mexican style tapas – from the substantial specials such as tostadas, classic soft-shell tacos and crispy, fried corn tortillas generously filled with a mixture of foods significantly different to my usual everyday choices, like black bean, goat flautas, chicken tinga and chipotle steak, to the lighter options of warm butternut and pepitas salad and a natural tomato and watermelon dish. Both were thoroughly enjoyed with compliments against the balance of distinctive flavours and tasty textures – some spicy, some subtle.

 

 

By this point, once the entire dispensed plate was cleared, I was both overwhelmed with the mouth-watering choices and surprised by my own daring delves. As amazing as new menu launches are, the element I get the most thrill from is stepping out of my comfort zone, trying foods I’d usually turn my nose up at and discovering actually, I enjoy these exclusive nourishments more than my dull diet back home. My usually bland stomach was already starting to podge but the sharing platters were next up which meant I had to make the room somewhere! Before the main highlight of the Mexican showdown, however, we were blessed with some stuffed jalapenos which turned out to be a lot hotter than I first imagined but after a gallon of emergency gulped water, they went down a treat.

 

The sharing boards were a breath of fresh air, both appealing to look at, neatly presented with clear attention to detail and obvious effort gone into the creation. As their signature boards are now updated it produces further variety. There was a great selection to adhere to the preferences of everyone ranging from meat, fish and vegetarian. As the cuisine was served randomly in our groups of four, it was hard to quickly grab a relish of each one but I just about managed it. The meat boards contained an assortment of barbacoa chicken, reared belly pork with cumlin crackling, marinated baby back ribs topped with side orders and dressings which were all succulent, melt in the mouth and cooked to perfection masterpieces. On the fish laid salmon and other fresh fillets and in front of our section graced the vegetable based options; Mexico city corn on the cob, enchilidas verde, potato and herb flautas, frijoles negra & crumbly cheese, confit tomato sopes and some quinoa superfood tacos. Once again, the sensual flavours shone through and I was introduced to yet more yumminess I was blissfully unaware of.

 

 

I could have stayed all night in the laid back, chilled out, yet classic location but unfortunately had to dash not long after the final orders (and quite frankly, if I ate anymore I think I would have burst). Apparently I missed the round off of the night with a customary paleta (otherwise known as a grown up ice lolly) and a shot of tequila but I’m sure my glutted belly and my woozy-not-the-slightest-bit-prone-to-alcohol head was thankful for a rest.

 

It was hard to pick a favourite from the adequate selection, I really didn’t think I’d be so open to trying such a miscellany but I enjoyed every sufficed amount of food so kindly given to us and my judgemental perception was confirmedly challenged and switched. Cielo Blanco certainly delivered their informal social eating ethos in just a couple of hours, allowing that dining al fresco brought indoors to an envisioned hot climate they aim to please with. Both my brother and I were super impressed, and we walked out of there with a serious regret of missing out before we ventured here, a long lasting impression and an intention of heading back as soon as can be. Thanks to everyone on the independent team who ensured we had the full Mexican Street Food Experience, it was an absolute delight!

 

Have you ever eaten at Cielo Blanco? Isn’t it just incredible? The new menu is now widely available so if you’re ever in Leeds, I couldn’t recommend a visit to an unwinding Mexican heaven after a long day, enough.

 

Bridie x

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My Yorkshire Blow Dry Experience

Posted on 5 min read

 

I get to visit some pretty awesome places courtesy of this little online empire of mine but an hour and half of my time spent on leather seating staring back at my illuminated reflection is without a doubt the most elated I’ve been to get home and write up all the positives that made last Wednesday a cheery day indeed. I was lucky enough to be booked into Yorkshire Blow Dry – a brand new blow dry bar exclusive to Leeds, located slap bang in the heart of the city – readily available to treat you to the ultimate pampering experience for any occasion. As I was already in town for a later food tasting event (which was another exquisite encounter may I add) I decided it’d be the perfect opportunity to have my mane tamed, refreshed and transformed before I head off to eat my own body weight in Mexican food. Pure bliss!

 

 

Greeted by two lovely ladies (Leah and Megan), plenty of smiles and a real VIP ‘let me take your coat’ moment – I instantly felt at ease with a warm, friendly welcome; which for me and my rather reserved soul makes life ten times easier… because is there anything worse than an awkward hairdressing ordeal? Thankfully, my afternoon at Yorkshire Blow Dry was the complete opposite. With no fuss involved I was lead straight over to the centre of the room on the feature chairs to choose my desired style but I eventually let Leah – my stylist for the day – decide what she wanted to do with it because A) I’m not the expert here and the experts know best and B) it takes a strong person to tackle and maintain control of my unruly locks so she rightly deserved to hold charge. There’s six blow dry options; the signature Yorkshire Blow Dry creating bouncy and effortless curls, Straight Laced for straight up and down sleekness, Beachy Waves for the messy beach hair that is playful and carefree, The Uptini for mixing things up with a no nonsense up-do of your fancy, The A Lister for that glamorous and voluminous hair and finally Be-You-Tiful, allowing you to lead the way with your ideas put into action. Both Leah and I agreed on some beachy waves which actually was an instant favourite look of mine BUT what I loved about the menu was how receptive it was; you name it, they’ll perform wonders!

 

 

After the initial surprise of the length and the thickness of my hair, combined with some apparent hair envy and some reassurance from me that often enough long hair can be a bane in life – Leah got to work her magic in the shampooing and conditioning process. Obviously, this took longer than your average do so I did suffer with the ol’ stiff neck over the sink effect but it was made entirely better by the most amazing head massage I’ve ever received – much less rough than some of my previous stints. Her hands sunk right into my scalp back and forth in a super gentle movement, repeated a couple of times and I swear my relaxation levels increased by a high almighty amount. If falling asleep was acceptable, I totally would have done without a doubt. She obviously knew just how to balance the positioning to create such euphoria.

 

 

I was taken back to my seat with a freshened feeling once the washing of my hair was done and whilst being made comfortable, hair brushed through and pinned in sections to make it easier, on went the hairdryer along with the barrel brush swiftly gliding. It’s been a long time since I’ve blow dried my hair as I can gladly leave it to dry on its own at home but I was reminded just how therapeutic it can be. In the duration it took to get through every part, we chatted about everything from blogging, to family, food and of course hair itself – that is along with more gushing compliments. Both girls made sure to remind me to always appreciate my blessing of naturally long hair and essentially, I did start to remind myself my hair is an attribute I can savour – especially after I’d seen for myself how beautifully advantageous it can be at the hands of a talented stylist.

 

I knew from the moment I walked in that I was in for a treat but the end result definitely exceeded expectations. Leah was so driven, determined and passionate enough to keep texturing my hair with both the tools and the products until she shaped a satisfied masterpiece with a luxury, classy appearance. With a few more sprays, subtle back-combing and some delicately handled oomph, my mini makeover was complete and I was thrilled – the hues in my hair entwined and the ends of my hair to the point it looked like quality extensions. I don’t think I’ve ever been in awe of my own hair since my wedding themed up-do last year. I just couldn’t stop gazing at the perfectly tousled spirals falling both over my shoulder and down my back and it seemed others felt the same as I walked the streets and posted my mirrored selfie over on social media. It was bouncy curls meets loose waves with a vibrant colouring and beautifully smelling products which also worked wonders on my hair. Not only was my hair indulged, it lasted me a good three days afterwards until I needed to wash again and it stayed softer than ever which for me is a complete breakthrough. Now I need to discover the secret! I can only wish I was as intelligibly qualified.

 

It wasn’t just my hair I was admiring, however, it was the whole atmosphere of the setting. A simplistic scene with minimal interior, oak accents, and a gorgeous chic grey/white colour scheme with a backdrop of their label. As you’re sat having your hair tended to, you can see everything that’s going on around you with the open plan of the salon and it just makes everything feel that more homely. Not only that, but they also offer other cut, colour and extension services ranging in prices, along with packages, group bookings and even HD beauty related add ons. I couldn’t recommend Yorkshire Blow Dry’s express and superior service enough, I’ll definitely be back there for when my hair’s suffering in the need of professionals. As their slogan states: bad hair day, ain’t nobody got time for that. Thank you so much to the team for allowing me to feel a million dollars!

 

Have you ever visited an independent blow dry bar before?

 

Bridie x

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