This month: Celebrate Bob Marley’s Birthday

If you live in Winchester like me, you won’t have been able to miss the latest edition to its restaurant scene, the brightly coloured Turtle Bay! I attended its recent launch party and I think it’s fair to say the folks of Winchester gave the Caribbean restaurant a very warm welcome. Here’s a few pics from the fabulous launch…

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With the restaurant now well and truly open, this month Turtle Bay Winchester is commemorating Bob Marley’s birthday on 6th February. This means the entire month of February is dedicated to all things reggae. Plus, they also have a special 4-course Valentine’s menu for £25 and a special singles offer too (No Woman/Man No Cry).

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As well as a musical celebration of Bob Marley and reggae, Turtle Bay also has Marley-inspired Cocktails – ‘Marley Mojito’, ‘Jammin’’, ‘Buffalo Soldier’ and ‘One Love.’ Yum! There’s even a two-for-one offer on these special cocktails too. I’ll definitely be popping in to make the most of Marley month!

If you’re not already tempted to book a table, here’s some mouthwatering shots of the food on offer…

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Alpine Eating

A few weeks ago myself and a few companions set off on our annual pilgrimage to The Alps, shaking things up a bit this year and choosing France over Switzerland. Thank goodness we did make this change as our usual destination of Zermatt was pretty much snowed-in. Val D’isere was experiencing heavy snowfall too – but thankfully we managed to get out there most days.

Skiing was limited though thanks to lift closures and high avalanche risks. This naturally meant more time for eating and drinking. Being in the French Alps I was quick to tuck into a tartiflette, my favourite treat of mostly potatoes, bacon, cream and cheese.

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I also managed to tuck into crepes, chocolat vinnois and vin chaud. But the main agenda was cheese, cheese and more cheese…I actually had so much I’m sort of off it right now (can you OD on cheese?!). An individual (but still very large) raclette all to myself was quite a feat of cheese consumption, even for me! I also indulged in cheese fondue and cheesy croissants for breakfast, so definitely on a break from dairy right now.

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Our hotel Aigle des Neiges was a lovely cosy place with a roaring fire and delicious cocktails on the menu. It’s a good thing too, some nights while we were away a curfew was imposed so the streets could be cleared of snow safely at night, meaning we were glad of such cosy, boozy surroundings!

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Our favourite spots for food while out there were La Casserole, Restaurant les Tufs and Chez Paolo for pizza.

I hadn’t been to Val D’isere for 10 years, so it was like new with a few hazy memories of places here and there. And while my heart is most definitely in Switzerland, there’s something to be said for France and French cuisine. Plus it’s great being able to understand everything a little better (I have a good basic grip of French, but struggle with the Swiss-German spoken in Swiss ski resorts). The amazing convenience of the Eurostar ski train to Bourg Saint Maurice is a huge bonus too (just don’t expect to get any sleep on the overnight train!).

On the left above is Val D’isere in 2018 and right is Val D’isere in 2008. The big difference is helmets – why didn’t we have them 10 years ago?!

Anyway, farewell for now France, can I suggest you get more heated ski lift seats please?

 

 

Coming Soon: Turtle Bay

January in Winchester is looking up thanks to the forthcoming opening of Turtle Bay. The Caribbean themed restaurant will officially open on 21st January 2018, creating 50 new jobs.

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Artist’s impression of Winchester’s new Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is all about celebrating the lively, colourful and delicious experiences that the Caribbean has to offer and I think it’ll be a great addition to Winchester’s food scene. Located at the top of St. George Street, where Toni & Guy used to be, there has been an £800k investment in the 3500 sqft site. The end result will be a brand new 166 seater restaurant, which I’m told will be a vibrant, quirky, beach-shack-inspired ray of sunshine! How fabulous – I can’t wait to see the transformation.

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Artist’s impression of the new Turtle Bay’s interior

Turtle Bay’s signature dishes include jerk chicken and curry goat, but there’s plenty for all palates to choose from including a new burger menu, salad selection and a great collection of dishes for vegetarians, vegans and gluten free diners.

And, let’s not forget about the Caribbean cocktails! The Turtle Bay beach shack bar features over 40 hand-picked Caribbean rums.  These are all used to create classic cocktails with a Turtle Bay tropical twist, as well as a magnificent mix of signature cocktails too. Better still, the whole list of cocktails is available ‘two for one’ during Turtle Bay’s happy hour. This lasts from opening to 7pm and then starts up again 10pm till closing time throughout the week – count me in!

2017: A food filled year

2017 has been a food filled year, packed with celebrations, with three weddings (including my own), and several special birthdays. It’s hard to pick the best foodie moments of 2017 but here are just a few in no particular order…

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

This was the most wonderful wedding gift from the Digital Blonde team, what an experience it was. The drinks and delicious little canapes to try as soon as we arrived were fabulous. We enjoyed a lovely long lunch with wine and a cheese course too. I loved hearing detailed descriptions of all the cheeses (local ones and classic French ones) and of course, they were all heaven to eat. The food was exceptional, if you get the chance Raymond Blanc’s restaurant is so worth it – just make sure neither of you drives there! We made this mistake and really regretted it. The team at Le Manoir also sent me a beautiful signed book too – the icing on the cake for this amazing foodie memory.

Our Wedding Day

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This is made up of quite a few little foodie moments that combined to make a very memorable occasion. The first of these was being presented with a new gin to try by the Cabinet Rooms after emerging from the registry office as a newly married couple. I guess that’s what happens when you book your wedding on World Gin Day, next door to Winchester’s first festival of gin!

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A huge shout out has to go to Hotel du Vin in Winchester, where we held our wedding reception, the food they dished up was incredible! We had an indulgent afternoon tea, complete with candy floss and enormous warm scones. The canapes received high praise from everyone, especially bacon wrapped prawns. The cheese trolley was spectacular too and the mini fish and chip cones were a hit. Our guests certainly were well fed!

We had a delicious cake baked by a family friend too – can’t wait to get the little bit I have left out of the freezer to tuck into at Christmas!

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All wedding pics by Maddie Waters Photography

Avocados everywhere in California

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Anyone who knows me knows I’m an avocado obsessive. I’ve loved them since before they were cool. So I was very happy with the abundance of gorgeous green avo-centred dishes out in California! I think my highlight was avocados on toast for breakfast in the penthouse restaurant at the Huntley Santa Monica, looking over views of LA.

Sky high dining at Hutong (The Shard)

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This was a fab foodie moment enjoyed with the Digital Blonde team, right at the very start of 2017 as combination Christmas and leaving do. Enjoying delicious Chinese food, with a glass of Champagne and spectacular night time views of the city was pretty magical.

Switzerland 2017

I don’t think I could pick a favourite moment from this trip as the food and drink in the alpine town of Zermatt is just so good. It’s definitely my happy place, fresh air, gluhwein and hearty (cheesy!) dishes that you actually feel you like you semi-deserve after a day of skiing. There was the gluhwein on our last day after coming down quite a scary slope successfully, a perfect lunch time Rosti or some of the best chocolate ever from the little chocolate shop opposite the station. Going here is always a treat for all the senses.

Kyoto Kitchen

I do love the food at Kyoto Kitchen, it’s fresh, delicate and delicious. We’ve had some fabulous meals here this year, with amazing recommendations from the owner Miff,  plus beautifully made gin and tonics or Sake to pair with. It’s always a fun and memorable experience dining here.

The Afternoon Tea Awards

What a brilliant occasion celebrating all things afternoon tea! I was lucky enough to be invited to these amazing awards by sponsor Newby Teas. It was great to see the winners unveiled and of course to sample the afternoon tea offering from the Grosvenor Hotel. I met some lovely journalists and fellow bloggers too, all whilst sipping bubbles and enjoying the full range of teas from Newby.

Thank you 2017, here’s to 2018…

2017 really has been a bumper year of food, fun and (alcohol-fuelled!) celebrations, it’s a wonder I can get into any of my clothes. I loved almost every minute of 2017, it’s going to be a tough year to top. So I’ll just say that I’m hoping for a slightly healthier 2018!

Trends, tastings & tipples at The Restaurant Show

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Each year in early October the The Restaurant Show takes place, with The Bar & Pub Show running alongside it (as well as Conscious Hospitality and the Catering Equipment Expo). These are trade events for the hospitality sector and I’m lucky enough to get to work on them. I say lucky, because although it’s hard work, it’s also amazing seeing and trying some of the latest food & drink trends. It’s a full on few days but I always come away excited about what I’ve seen and tasted. Here are a few of my favourite finds…

Poetic License Distillery

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Only 1000 bottles of the Elderflower & Gooseberry Gin are made, so it was a treat to try a little sip at The Bar & Pub Show. I tried it neat at 10.30 in the morning – that’s how committed I am to the cause! A lovely gin that I hope to see in pubs and bars soon.

Masons Yorkshire Gin

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Sticking with the Gin, I was also thrilled to discover one which combined my other passion in life…tea! Yes, Masons Gin add loose leaf Yorkshire Tea (around 4KG of it!) during the production process to get this uniquely refreshing gin. I was a little bit more sensible and sampled this with some Fever Tree tonic – I can’t wait try some again soon!

Sorvinesse – The Wine Sorbet Company

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Savignon Blanc Sorbet anyone? Yes that’s right a sorbet made with real wine, just a little so that it can still freeze. A little wine is all that’s needed, these taste just like wine but a fraction sweeter. Available in both red and white wine – these wine sorbets are a UK first! I highly recommend Sorvinesse to restaurant owners, wine sorbets would make a lovely light way to end a meal.

Botonique

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It’s not all about booze, I absolutely loved Botinique – a soft drink for wine lovers. It’s fair to say I’m not a soft drinks fan, I tend to see them as just pointless sugar…If I’m not drinking I’ll just have water. However, Botonique has totally changed my opinion here. It was complex and refreshing and serving it in champagne flutes, has sophisticated, enjoyable feel. I could see myself switching to it during a night out. It was created by a wine connoisseur, who didn’t enjoy soft drinks either but knew she needed to cut down a little on the wine. It’s been described ‘a soft drink with all the pleasure of wine’. I really hope pubs and restaurants start stocking up on this, it’s a great concept and very enjoyable.

Isigny Sainte-Mere

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I always love the stand from Isigny Sainte-Mère, a French brand consisting of two complementary dairy cooperatives. It’s absolute cheese heaven and I was delighted to come across a fondue cheese, which is actually a blend of three different cheeses! It’s sure to make the perfect fondue! I am certainly fond of fondue, it’s not something you see much of in UK restaurants but it’s firm favourite on a ski trip.

Y3K

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I sampled Y3K’s delicious Cookie Mousse Cake, a real American indulgence! It’s made with America’s two favourite cookies – chocolate chip and Oreo – I can see this being a hit in casual dining chains and family friendly restaurants. Yum!

Pel Waste – Baby Jaws Glass Crusher

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This is an ingenious, compact glass crusher that can reduce glass waste by up to 80%. This is obviously meant for the bars and pubs – but with the amount of wine we get through in my household I could really do with this at home!

Aperol Spritz – by Campari

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Aperol has obviously been around for a while, but it certainly seems to be enjoying a moment right now. On my recent trip to Sardinia, literally everyone was drinking it every night it the hotel bar. I’m seeing Aperol Spritz on more and more UK drinks menus too. Their stand at The Bar & Pub Show was a bright bold orange display, that you just couldn’t miss. Cheers to them for their amazing stand and fab free samples!

These were just a few of the brilliant finds and foodie brands I got the chance to chat to at the show – for more check out the shows’ Twitter feeds @barpubshow and @restaurantshow or browse exhibitors on the show websites. If you’re in the industry, I highly recommend a visit next year!

 

Sunny Sardinia

I’m not long back from a week in Sunny Sardinia, where in all honesty, eating, sunbathing and sleeping where my main activities. I’m not even joking. Although our hotel did have some wonderful free yoga classes, which I managed to find time in my packed schedule for a visit to.

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While hotels in the region (and often Italy generally) aren’t always mega luxurious, this doesn’t really matter when it’s this beautiful…

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Stunning views were everywhere in Sardinia and even a terrible photographer like me took some lovely shots capturing the island’s beauty. The beaches in particular were perfect and with temperatures in the 30s, we were very glad of the sea breeze and the cooling waves.

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Sleep came easily in a canopied bed that made me feel like a princess! Obviously, it’s a mosquito net to keep those nasty little bugs out (of which Sardinia has plenty!) – but it does look rather pretty doesn’t it?

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Seafood, pizza and pasta made up much of our diet on this trip, well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it? I had a few salads for good measure, but when in Italy, this is what it’s all about…

Tiramisu…had to be done!

A special thanks to Colin & Olatz for this treat of some local bubbles on our first night!

There’s nothing like a late August/early September holiday to make you really feel the difference in seasons on your return. Now we’re back in England, the tan’s fading and the weather’s turning. It’s easy to give into the blues but secretly I’m rather looking forward to winter (and Christmas!!!)…bring it on! 

The Afternoon Tea Awards

I was lucky enough to attend second annual Afternoon Tea Awards at  London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, thanks to the event’s fabulous sponsors, luxury tea company, Newby Teas.

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As if that wasn’t exciting enough the awards were presented by author and star baker, Martha Collison and hosted by AfternoonTea.co.uk (a brilliant website for afternoon tea recommendations).

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Newby Teas welcomed us with gorgeous tea-filled goody bags and a chance to sample all their blends. There were also bubbles from Lanson and of course, some delicious afternoon tea treats. I think it’s fair to say it was certainly the best awards ceremony I’ve ever been too!

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The awards are set up to recognise the best in afternoon tea and tea service, from some of the UK’s best hotels and restaurants. A team of expert judges anonymously call in for afternoon tea and look at all aspects of the experience for each prestigious venue (how can I get this job?!).

So, where are the best of the best places to enjoy tea and cake?

Afternoon Tea Award Winners 2017

  • Best Traditional Afternoon Tea – Hotel Café Royal
  • Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea – Mirror Room at Rosewood London
  • Best Themed Afternoon Tea – Churchill Afternoon Tea at The Wellesley
  • Best Children’s Afternoon Tea – Millennium Hotel London Mayfair
  • Best Tea Service – Fortnum & Mason

There were also several venues who received a highly commended accolade, including local hotel Lainston House (see the full list here).

Newby Teas

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The team at Newby Teas are no stranger to awards themselves, they actually have over 100 awards, making them the world’s most-awarded international brand in high-end luxury tea. So naturally, I was keen to try their range and I’ve steadily been working my way through the goody bag. I have to say I am loving Newby Teas’ Milk Oolong blend, which is a yellow green in colour with a natural sweetness and creamy aroma of caramel. I’m also enjoying the green tea and earl grey blends.

Thank you to Newby Teas for the invite to the awards and to AfternoonTea.co.uk for putting on such a fabulous event.

***All the fabulous photos in this post were supplied by AfternoonTea.co.uk***

 

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