MPW loves PA

On a warm Thursday evening in the centre of Newcastle a plethora of ‘food-a-holics’ got together and sampled the wares of a very talented chef named  Paul Amer at his home in Marco Pierre White – Fenkle Street, NE1.

Being made suitably dizzy from parking on floor eight of Grainger Town Car Park* it was just a five minute walk to the destination for the evening .

MPW had a happy atmosphere, staff and diners happily taking and finding out about about each others days. A semi private area (behind a curtain rather than a door) is where the story unfolds and we 12 diners sit and gorge. Sitting down with a glass of Chardonnay new and old faces alike up and share stories.

It was now time for the main character to appear and for us to find out more. Paul an animated character ran through his menu and fielded lots of our questions and he was calm and unfazed. His passion for food was apparent and good presentation is something he’d love to feature even more in the menus. Dipolmacy is a good trait witnessed in this resturant’s main man.

Before the food even arrived the tables were adorned with baskets of bread and olives. With bread as a downfall it’s best to atleast TRY to stay clear of the bread but my will was weak. For the olives no holding back was required, they are greatly loved and healthyish.

The food on the evening was plentiful.

Course one features both field and sea in the formation of Rillette of smoked mackarel with lightly pickled vegetables.

STARTER

Pleasing on the eye the course was full of flavour and was extremely well balanced. The mackerel was rich and needed something to lift it and Paul thought of something that has never adorned a savoury dish when I’m cooking…a blackberry. Who knew they go so well with fish? This is definitely banked and to be used in future.

Slow roasted tomato soup with basil pesto was on offer for course two.  Mr. Amer please don’t judge but when reading this menu the wonder of of how you would to top the ’57 Varieties’ sprung to mind. You took the gauntlet without realising it and won by a landslide majority. The soup was utterly delicious, creamy, smooth and thick in texture. Mopping in resturants may be considered a little uncouth but the hunk of bread called out to be dunked.

SOUP

LIGHTLY CURRIEDCourse three was a lightly curried smoked haddock risotto.

If this course was deconstructed into curry, haddock and risotto a definate appeal would be there but married together alas didn’t work for me.

The word ‘lightly’ definitely needs to be removed unless the person who made tonight’s offering was a little heavy handed.

Also is there really enough space on a tasting menu for two fish dishes?

 

Move over fish and hello meat.

 

 

 

 

Course four featured slow cooked belly pork, vale of Mowbray black pudding, pommes puree and roasted cauliflower puree. An excellent coupling of flavour and textures. The asparagus was a nice surprise. The crackling was a little well done but nice and crispy. Paul could this be one of the dishes that requires a presentation upgrade?

MAIN MPW

Desert time come with Course five in the form of Raspberry & Passion Fruit Panna Cotta with mini meringue, raspberry sorbet

Wow! I DON’T as a general rule ‘do’ dessert but my heart did a little leap. Panna Cotta can be done so badly but not today, the texture was perfect and the balance with the sorbet worked so well. The meringue was nice but a little bit of a gooey centre never hurt anyone. Overall this was the star of the menu.

Yummy!

Footnote 1: Thank you to Emma Wright (Sales & events co-ordinator) and Rachel Kershaw (MPW Newcastle Ambassador) for the invitation and I’m glad to be back. Having turned down every food review invite since Nov 2016 my welcome back to food blogging was definitely selected well.

Footnote 2: I’m not sure if it’s because I’m over forty, suffered from gallstones or because I usually have a small child in tow but I always like to check out the ladies. These ones get a thumbs up especially when Elemis is their hand wash and hand cream of choice, I’m a sucker for a British Brand.

* There is limited parking at the restaurant and on Fenkle Street. The restaurant is also only five minutes from the nearest train/metro station. Grainger Town car park is part of the Alive after Five scheme  which equals free parking after 5pm Monday – Saturday

I was invited by MPW to review the Paul Amer menu. All thoughts are my own.

Rosebery Hotel

It’s birthday time again and whenever our birthday falls on a week night we always choose to stay within an hour of home. Some may find this a little odd but we both love the North East. For just one night we relinquish the title of mummy and daddy and embrace being Suzanne and Richard.

SO was it daddy or chips (Durham of Newcastle)? We opted for chips and headed into one of our favourite suburbs – Jesmond. We are well versed in this area with still having a flat in the area (which we moved out of to become ‘serious adults’ back in 2010.)

Jesmond has a plethora of hotels from the tatty and dilapidated to the sleek and for our choice this evening ‘unique’. The Rosebery Hotel  has been receiving guests for around one hundred years and has been within the current owners, Janet Stansfield’s family for the last 40 years.

First impression – so then it’s not every day you see a bed in a garden but right from the start The Rosebery was out to make an impression. Whether you think it’s a good idea is simply down to taste but I truly embraced the ‘flower bed’ shocking pink and very in your face.

Flower bed

Parking – was a doddle with no permits or time constraints in place which is VERY unusual in Jesmond. We gave Janet a tinkle and we were welcomed by the lovely lady in a rather ta da way which we loved.

Her indoors –  Janet had had a busy day as she is well underway a whole hotel revamp and renovation of the hotel and she’s doing a mighty fine job (if you are a purist and want traditional Victorian interiors then this is NOT the hotel for you).

JS has an acute eye for the antiquities, curios and upcycling genius. She is a self confessed skip lover as am I (remember people always ask before you take)  and she let us into some places she sourced from but a lady has to have some secrets so I wont be telling you all here. Her design prowess doesn’t stay in her establishment but she’s been let loose on our tv screens too in Your Home In Their Hands – watch an episode with Janet in here .

The tour – We had a tour of as many of the available rooms as possible and we were even shown some that were occupied (the guests didn’t seem to mind). Each of the rooms had a different slant, some we liked, some we loved and some we weren’t so sure of. Janet let us in on her future room ideas and they are suitably luxurious.

A little tipple and an olive or two – a great touch is a drink on check in. With a lovely drinks trolley who wouldn’t say no to a G&T? This was teamed with a copious amount of lovely green olives.

Our room – room 18 – This room is a twin room and HUGE replete with two double beds so for us it was a happy bed and huffy bed (thankfully we didn’t need the huffy bed), en suite and a dining area too.

fabric-and-wallpaper

Our beds were ballooned filled with confetti too. Chocolates and perry to we really were spoilt, ‘Happy birthday Richard’.

Room 18 was most definitely cluttered but not in a bad way. Like many of the rooms they start with an inspirational wallpaper this one is Birdcage Walk by Nina Campbell.

The en suite was so pretty to look at. The turned wood on the footings of the bath was a simply work of art and sourced locally too. The mirrored, tiles, pale blue background and bathroom unit adorned with perfume bottles was perfectly curated. The only thing missing was a shower and I’d maybe strip back the toiletries.

bathroom

Our evening – I wanted to stay locally in Jesmond or in my new favourite restaurant in Sandyford, Harissa   but as it was Richard’s birthday it was his choice and he wanted to head into Newcastle city centre so we jumped in a cab and in 10 mins we were on Grey Street enjoying an evening as a couple. We couldn’t stay out too late as it was a school night though. Back to the ranch we headed at 11 bells.

Sleepytimes – we’d already chosen the ornate blue bed to sleep in but we had to heat the room as it was a little chilly but it soon warmed up. The bed was so comfortable that I was off to sleep very quickly and knowing I wouldn’t be awoken during the night was such a treat we’ve only had one other night away since Luke was born and that was at The Lowry in Manchester when he was three months old.

Richard didn’t sleep as well as I as he was worried about not waking up in time and the fridge was a little loud too.

Breakfast: This was an in room affair with a lovely selection of carb tastic treats (some of local supplier French Oven so we are told). I was a little surprised at the conserves not being local too this would be a welcomed accompaniment  but understand it’s not easy to do everything.

Breakfast

The croissant warmer did what it said on the tin and the juice kept nice and cold in the fridge. We got though a pot of tea and coffee and really wished we had more time to savour the comfortable silence that 10 years of coupledom affords you.

Time for work: When the devil did the road that leads from the Coast road to Jesmond Dene House close? It was definitely open when I was pregnant….. we had to do a detour to get to my work, thank goodness for sat nav!

A couple of things about the hotel.

1.      It’s dog friendly but doesn’t smell of dog and they can supply you with the cutest of dog beds.

Little dog bed

2.     Janet often has long term residents at the hotel. Some just like it others have it as their bolt hole whilst their loved one has treatment at the Freeman hospital. Some patients even come to the hotel to get away from the hospital and visit their beloved in nicer surroundings.

A little Q&A from myself to Janet

Q.        How does the old management feel about the (fantastic) changes?

A.        The old management love the new changes and pleased to see the building remain as a hotel, with it’s 100 year history of being a hotel    continue, rather than being converted into flats and loosing it’s aesthetic and charm.

Q.        Have long term guests welcomed the changes?

A.        Long term guests love the changes, as prices have not significantly increased, only slightly, so actually offer better value for guests money in a more stylish and unique environment.  Guests appreciate all the care and love that goes into the rooms, common parts and exterior and do get the humour behind the quirkiness.

Q.        What is your favorite room?

A.        My favourite room is room 5, as it’s vast, very light, quiet, has a beautiful      restful ambiance about it and you can see into Jesmond Dene, plus it has amazing wallpaper in Wisteria by Jocelyn Warner.

Q.        Does your furniture sourcing dictate the room theme or does theme come first.

A.        Depends what size, light, features are in the room and of course, what I can source for nearly next to nothing. Room 18, where you slept, the   fabulous oversized statement bed, I spotted at a vintage fair and it was horrible. But after a bit of TLC and imagination, guests have a fabulous, sumptuous king size bed to relax and get cosy in :)

We had a wonderful stay and a top tip is ‘BOOK DIRECT’ as Janet adds 30 percent to cover costs when booking through third parties.

Rates start from £40 and full rate prices can be found here

Thank you Janet for a fabulous stay.

*Accommodation was provided by the Rosebery Hotel, 2 Rosebery Crescent, Jesmond, Newcastle NE2 1ET in exchange for a fair and balanced review. All opinions are my own (and H2B’s when I let him have input).

Topher McGrillis

I’ve always loved stories by Roald Dahl, I wish I could have jumped into his brain and listened to the whirring of the inventive musings. We are all so lucky that he put down on paper his thoughts and generously shared them with the world.  I simply can’t wait to share one of my favorites stories with Emily my six year old daughter.

My lovely little lady can watch Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp) and Matilda on loop but this is her first experience of the grasshopper, centipede, earthworm, spider, ladybug, silkworm and glow-worm of James and the Giant Peach. What’s even better is that it’s on stage rather then screen at one of Emily and my favorite places, Northern Stage.

Dahl’s first novel for children tells the story of a lonely little boy named James. He escapes in a giant peach after a magical encounter and finds he’s capable of much more than he ever imagined.

Director Mark Calvert says,

James and the Giant Peach is a massive show which deserves to be on a massive stage, so for the first time in Northern Stage’s history we’re using both of our stages combined into one huge space to tell one story. It’s so exciting to be working on this scale, taking the audience on an epic adventure that deals with being lonely and discovering how important friends and family are, which is not a bad tale to tell at Christmas time.

Adapted for the stage by David Wood OBE and directed by Mark Calvert (who first introduced me to Northern Stage with 40 Babies back in 2009/2010), this new Northern Stage production has been designed by the ever-inventive Rhys Jarman (Institute, Gecko£), with original music inspired by big bands and swinging Broadway musicals of the 1940s and 50s.

 

Recommended ages 5-11 years with a running time of two hours (including interval). The production runs until Sat 31 Dec so why not book your ticket here . We’ll be posting our review soon but keep an eye on twitter and instagram for photos of our evening.

james

First time Acupunture at Jesmond Natural Health and Fertility Clinic

Month by month the migraines were getting worse. It got to the point that I’d be in bed at least sometime each month, unable to see properly, squiggly lines jumping around my right eye, feeling sick, slurring and mixing up my words and unable to drive. On top of that my periods are no longer regular. Once a 24 -25 days cycle, they’re now 21 to 34 days apart.

Resulting in a heady mix of migraine nastiness each and every month.

Of course as women we all know about “The CHANGE.” At 39 it wasn’t totally inconceivable that I could be early menopausal. Ladies, have you ever heard of Peri-menopause? This is the name for the stage that is the run up to the menopause (which you’ve reached after your last period). When women talk about going through the menopause, they’re experiencing the changes that can last a decade or more until actual menopause.

I set about reading article after article, and headaches / migraines were mentioned so frequently, that I came to my own conclusion that there had to be a link between my periods changing and the migraines I was suffering. Oddly, my biggest problem with it wasn’t that they were actually happening or how poorly I felt, it was how it was affecting me at work. Running my own business means the impact of taking any time off is massive, but time off each month? Unthinkable.

Anyway, I altered my diet, drank more water, tried different foods at different times and did a bit more exercise, all of which helped me feel better but did nothing for the migraines. Stubborn as I am, I couldn’t face the doctor just yet; I made do with off-the-shelf migraine tablets.

Through an event I was running for Sparkle Communications, I met Louise and Laura from Jesmond Natural Health and Fertility Clinic. We were starting to work with them on their Digital PR and Marketing plan and, in the course of conversation, I told them about my migraines. The clinic provides a comprehensive range of treatments including Acupuncture, Reflexology and good old massage, and the team have undertaken specialised training in Fertility, IVF, Pregnancy and Pain management.

This service opened up old hurts; my one and only round of IVF failed. But sitting with Louise and Laura, there was something about Louise’s no-nonsense approach “I can cure them for you” that made me take note (and eventually cry with relief that someone ‘got it’). Being honest, until we all met, alternative medicine has never had a place in my life but as Louise has a BA, PGDip Acu and MBAcC it’s safe to say she knows more about Chinese Medicine than I do.

But when someone sits in front of you and resolutely says that they can help, it’s got to be worth a try.

After an introductory session to find out about my migraines and lifestyle, Louise got stuck in! The image at the top is of the first time I received acupuncture. The tension was so bad in my shoulders and neck I yelped as the needles were inserted, and the pressure in the front of my forehead grew at an alarming pace. After 30 minutes or so, when the needles were removed and I got up to get dressed and I’ll never forget that my head felt like it could fall right off my shoulders. It was so incredibly strange. Something had definitely happened. The next day, I spent in bed. I was head-achy, emotional, exhausted.

Me in month 3 acupunctureThe next session was just as exhausting. And I do mean exhausting. What ever was happening was wearing me out. But the tension in my shoulders and neck was different. I felt different.

In the first two months, I suffered a headache. I also suffered incredibly itchy skin on my back and legs for a couple of weeks. That was odd. But it passed (and Louise invested in some hypo-allergenic needles for me) I’d had four or five acupuncture sessions. But in month two, even though I felt rotten, I took tablets and stayed at work. No bed for me. That was a major improvement.

In month three, after  six or seven sessions of acupuncture, I didn’t have a migraine. At all. And you can see the difference in my body’s reaction to the needles. No angry red skin. I don’t feel any discomfort from the needles now, unless I am super tense in my neck or the base of my skull.

I can say, with certainty, that acupuncture is making a difference to me in my life. I understand that it helps release the tension in my neck and shoulders, which is turn makes me feel better. And I know that last month was the first month I’d been migraine free for years. I was sceptical for many years about alternative therapies. Now, because of the actual difference it is making, I am open to exploring these methods of staying healthy that have been used for thousands of years.

And Louise, Laura and the team are wonderful, lovely ladies whose only aim is to help us feel better. I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Nic x

For further reading try the British Acupuncture Council and 34 Menopause Symptoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need a Little Help: Half MoonIt’s week two of the Easter holidays for one half of the Sofa Stories team and the other half has a lovely birthday coming up. Here’s how I’m spending my week.

Monday: Pirates and Princesses: Crook Hall & Gardens, Frankland Lane, Sidegate, Durham, DH1 5SZ

Visitors are invited to follow a quest for treasure around the gardens and join in swashbuckling activities led by the Crook Hall Pirate. There will be treasure hunts, pirate games and pirate ship designing.

Tuesday: Need A Little Help: Northern Stage,  Barras Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE1 7RH *

Joe and Ella are a great team – they make each other laugh, help each other out and tackle all the chores their busy lives throw at them. But one morning things begin to change when Joe gets all tangled up and Ella has to do things alone. What will Ella do now? Will she be able to continue as before, or will it all get too much? If only she had a little help.

Wednesday: Surprise date with Momar Red for Emily and work hat for mummy (yes I’ve returned from maternity leave and yes I hate it!!!!)

Thursday: Hall Hill FarmLanchester, Durham, DH7 0TA

We have an annual pass for Hall Hill farm which was £106. It’s a great way to spend the day, petting animals, tractor rides, donkey rides, indoor play barn, crazy gold and bouncy castle too.

WWT

Friday: Washington Wetland Centre , Pattinson, Washington, Tyne and Wear, NE38 8LE

We are going to head to the WWC to take a look at The LEGO® brick animal trail. The awesome models include a gigantic otter, super-sized crane and humongous goose and will form a fun trail for children (and big kids!) to take part in; inspiring them to build a better future for nature.

Discover just how many LEGO bricks have been used to make the massive creatures and enter a competition to win your very own LEGO kit.

Saturday: Miss Nicola Little’s birthday celebrations possibly at Wheelbirks or just at her delightful love filled home!

Sunday: No plans yet.

Suz x

*Reviewing for Northern Stage Newcastle