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Out and About: Review of The White Swan, Birmingham

The White Swan in Edgbaston is a very well-renowned establishment in these leafy suburbs of Birmingham. I’ve spent many a happy hour there either having a drink or two, or dining with friends and family. I last went there in the summer before my daughter had started solids – since then, we tend to stick to less refined places as I’m sure other diners would not want to witness the complete carnage meal time can be with an 11-month-old.

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When I was invited to check out the place following it’s recent refurbishment, I was intrigued to see the changes that had been made. Not that there was anything particularly obvious that needed updated, but it never hurts for places to have a refresh every now and again.

Roping in my mother-in-law for a spot of babysitting, my husband and I headed off for an adults-only lunch. While we absolutely adore our daughter, there is something nice about just having a few hours to chat and relax, without the need for the constant entertainment of a little one. It was also lovely to head out of the door without having to make sure I had my giant mum-bag filled with toys, nappies, wipes, snacks, and all the paraphernalia required for even just two hours away from home.

Arriving at the White Swan I was pleased to discover parking is now free again. For a while you had to pay to park (only a pound I think, which was refundable with a purchase in the pub) but as someone who never has change, I found this to be a bit of a faff.

We were shown to our table which was in the corner of the restaurant, so I had a good view of the refurbed space. The new decor is very chic while also feeling homely. Overall, a great new look.

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Onto the food. As it’s not very often we get to slow down and take our time over our food, we went for 3 courses. I started with deep fried brie, which was delicious. Oodles of gooey cheese wrapped in crispy panko breadcrumbs, with an apricot and cumin chutney which offset the buttery richness of the brie.

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I followed up with the lobster and crab fishcakes teamed with a side of sweet potato fries. On reflection I didn’t really need the fries as the fishcakes were filling enough, although I still managed to tuck into them as they were cooked beautifully – super crispy with a sprinkling of parmesan. The fishcakes were very tasty, perhaps a bit heavy on the potato for my liking, but very enjoyable and I would have them again.

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When it came to dessert I was pretty stuffed so I opted for one of their mini desserts with a coffee. I chose their chocolate brownie with a decaf latte, and personally I think it’s still a generous portion. I was also pleased the decaf latte was enjoyable, as decaf coffee drinks can sometimes be a bit tasteless compared to a fully caffeinated version.

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I was happy with my choice but I do have to say my husband’s dessert was a showstopper. Being a chocolate lover, he was instantly drawn to the melting golden chocolate orange bomb. It’s teamed with praline ice cream and chocolate popping candy, and the server pours hot Belgian chocolate sauce over the bomb at the table. It is spectacular to watch it melt and reveal the inside of the chocolate bomb! The perfect food theatrics without being too pretentious. I didn’t manage to get a before shot, but here it is in all its melty glory.

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Having had the lobster and prawn pot followed by a steak, James said this was his favourite course. While it wouldn’t have been for me, I can see why he loved that dessert so much.

To sum up, we had a lovely meal; good food in a relaxing and welcoming environment. I really liked the new decor and look forward to visiting again soon.
Sarah

Thanks to McCann Erickson for inviting me to sample the menu at The White Swan, where food and drink were provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. As always my reviews are honest and are not influenced by the provision of free products. 

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Baby-friendly Chicken Casserole

At nearly 9 months Phoebe has certainly become more adventurous with her food, as well as dropping more of her milk feeds so she is hungrier for solids. As I mentioned in my Vonshef slow cooker review, I want to get her used to eating the same as us so once I’m back at work we can all eat together. It will also be easier if I can just prepare one meal for the three of us instead of two different meals.

So I put together a baby-friendly chicken casserole recipe based on my previous experience and some ideas I found in a slow cooker recipe book. It’s very low in salt so it is ideal for babies up to a year old. I didn’t try Phoebe on this until she was over 8 months, but each parent knows their own baby best and can judge when they are ready for something like this.

These quantities made two good dinner portions for me and my husband, a smaller portion for Phoebe and a leftover portion which was another lunch.

You will need:

  • 6-8 portions of chicken, dependant on your appetite. I used one and half chicken breasts for my husband as he’s not that keen on other cuts, and for Phoebe and I, I used 6 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 large potatoes or 4 smaller ones
  • 200g pack of mushrooms
  • 1 onion (I personally prefer red but white would do fine)
  • 250ml of chicken stock – I used a Boots stock cube suitable for babies, which contains limited salt
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp of mixed herbs, alternatively you could use 1 tsp oregano, 1 sprig of rosemary and 1 bay leaf
  • Optional 1 additional stock cube

What to do:

  1. Peel the carrots and slice into rounds. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks; if using a large potato then about 6 chunks will be fine, smaller ones can go into three or four pieces.
  2. Chop the onion into small pieces and cut the mushrooms into halves.
  3. Add the vegetables to the slow cooker, spread along the bottom of the pot.
  4. Put the chicken pieces on top and then cover with the stock. Add a bit more water if necessary.
  5. Add the herbs and the tomato puree.
  6. Put the lid onto the slow cooker and if you have an auto setting, then switch to this. If not, use high if you have 6-7 hours to cook your casserole, or low if you have around 8-10 hours.
  7. Leave your slow cooker to do the work.
  8. If you want to thicken up the sauce at any point, you can mash one of the potatoes into the juice, or use a teaspoon of cornflour.
  9. Once your casserole is ready, remove a portion for baby. If you want to, you can then add the normal stock cube and cook for another hour. I would highly recommend this as it does add to the flavour; the baby stock cubes are fine but a little blander than we are probably used to.
  10. Serve in bowls and enjoy the hearty meal.

I hope this helps you on your weaning journey. What is your baby’s favourite meal?
Sarah

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Reviews: VonShef slow cooker

I’m well aware I’m becoming a bit of a bore on my blog, talking about how things are different in our household since having our daughter. But it’s so true! One thing that is certain is I have less time to prep and cook elaborate meals. While ready meals and ‘slam in the oven’ food was super helpful for the first few months with a newborn, for me it was soon time to get back to home cooked fodder.

I’d been toying with the idea of getting a slow cooker for a while, as I imagined it would help me cook healthy and tasty meals with ease. Also now Phoebe is on solid food, I wanted to get her eating what we are having sooner rather than later, so once I go back to work we can all eat together without me having to make two different meals.

With this in mind, when I was kindly offered the Vonshef 6.5l electric slow cooker to try out, I jumped at the chance. The 6.5l version is a good size for us, as the plan is once I am more experienced with a slow cooker I can cook larger portions and freeze half for another day.

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I’d always imagined slow cookers to be clunky and old fashioned, but the Vonshef version I have is rather stylish. Not that my kitchen is particularly modern or very well co-ordinated, but the slow cooker certainly doesn’t look out of place sitting on the work surface. If you had plenty of cupboard space you could pop it away when not in use, but with our limited kitchen storage I’ve decided to just leave ours out.

I like that the Vonshef cooker has fast, slow and auto settings. The first time I used it, I fiddled around a bit too much and kept changing it from slow to fast, so the next time I set it to auto and let the cooker do the hard work. This will be perfect for when I am back at work as I won’t be here to mess with it all day!

My first two cooks in it have been chicken casserole (you can read the recipe here). To make life easy for myself, I prepped my vegetables the night before I was making my casserole once Phoebe had gone to bed, and then in the morning just popped everything into the slow cooker. It cooked everything beautifully; the vegetables were soft but not falling apart, and the chicken was tender and moist. My husband loved the casserole and my daughter tucked in as well, which was lovely to see as it was her first taste of chicken.

Something to note is that as I was making a portion for my 8-month-old, normal stock cubes are too salty for little ones. I used a Boots baby stock cube to start with, then once I had taken out a portion for her, I added a normal stock cube and left it to cook for another hour or so.

The slow cooker is pretty easy to clean too, what I would say is don’t leave it too long before you wash it out though as it will be harder work. But with a good scrub the pot and lid came up nice and clean, ready for the next use.

For anyone who wants to cook homely meals with ease, I would definitely suggest investing in a slow cooker. And, having tried it for myself, I can highly recommend the Vonshef electric slow cooker. It does everything you need it to, and with a price tag of just £34.99 you can’t go wrong.

For more information you can view the slow cooker on Domu’s website.

Would you consider getting a slow cooker?
Sarah

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Foodie Finds: Christmas Gift Guide for Foodies

I’m well aware that Christmas is fast approaching and even though I haven’t bought, prepped, or planned a thing, I still wanted to put together some Christmas gift guides. Being a food blogger, I naturally started with a gift guide for foodie fans, but this year as I’m now a mum I’ve also put together a separate toys gift guide.

If you’re anything like me, and are yet to think about presents let alone buy them, then perhaps my suggestions for gifts for foodies will give you a helping hand. They might even provide inspiration for what you’d like on your own list this Christmas.

I’ve included links purely to try and be helpful so you can find a retailer if you want to buy any of the items, they are not affiliate links or at the request of any of the companies listed. Prices are RRPs, but I’m pretty sure some of the items are cheaper (particularly those found on Amazon).

Without further ado…

Brr Ice tray – Black and Blum – £10

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When the clock strikes Gin and Tonic o’clock, it’s always handy to have a supply of ice ready to go. Freezer bags and trays can be a bit of pain to use, so why not opt for something easier and more fun! The Brr ice tray is easy to fill, load into the freezer and decant individual cubes of ice. Fill up the bear until the water escapes from his back, then pop him into the freezer on his feet. No more worrying about spilling the water or struggling to just get one cube or two rather than the whole tray.

Sandwich box – Black and Blum – £31.95

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While this is a bit pricey for a sandwich box, it is pretty special. The antibacterial bamboo lid doubles as a chopping board so you can prepare your lunch on the go. The sandwich box is a good size which holds different size sarnies including bagels and rolls.

Ombre mugs – Root 7 – £9

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You can’t go wrong with a good mug, especially ones as pretty as these from Root 7. There are three vibrant colours available to brighten up any kitchen. My particular favourite is this totally tropical Flamingo colour, which would be a lovely ray of sunshine on those grey winter mornings.

Coffee canister – Coffee Gator- £30

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Coffee has made such a resurgence over the last few years; we must all know someone who takes their coffee drinking seriously. For those who always have a fresh supply of coffee beans, storage is important. The stainless-steel coffee canister from coffee aficionados Coffee Gator offers the perfect solution – stylish and practical. The one-way valve protects the coffee beans from the air, which would oxidise them and impedes the flavour.

Any sharp pro – Aydya – £17.49

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Blunt knives can be a real hindrance when it comes to kitchen prep. This handy gadget from Aydya, the Any Sharp Pro, rejuvenates knives hands free, which makes its very safe. Just give the knife a few light strokes through the Any Sharp Pro and the knife will be super sharp again. It’s also surprisingly compact, so can be kept out of sight in a kitchen drawer or cupboard until needed.

Ion8 Slim – Aydya – £9.99

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As a new mum who likes to get out and about when I can, having a supply of water with me is important, particularly when I’m out with my daughter in the pushchair which is good exercise! For those on your gift list who are on the go, and would benefit from ready access to water, this water bottle from Ion8 is the one to plump for. This slim bottle is perfect for carrying with you, with extra grip for when you’re multitasking (for me this means pushing the pushchair one handed whilst drinking!). It’s comfortable and doesn’t drip like some water bottles. In addition, it’s BPA free.

8 bit chopping boards – The Fowndry – £19.99

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As a big gamer, and a foodie, how could I not include these chopping boards which combine my two loves? For those who love to game and cook (obviously not simultaneously), look no further than these 8 bit chopping boards from the Fowndry. Inspired by the Nintendo’s iconic cartridge, control and game boy, these fun and funky chopping boards are crafted from laser-etched bamboo.

I hope these have provided some inspiration and food for thought (ahem). Happy shopping and merry Christmas!

If you’re looking for some gift ideas for a 6-12 month old, then head over to my gift guide for the little ones in your life.
Sarah

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Family Time: Christmas Gift Guide for 6-12 month olds

The amount of choice available for Christmas gifts for little ones is staggering, with so many options out there. I personally think toys are always a winner, as babies grow so rapidly and newborn toys are quickly outgrown.

One of my favourite brands for our daughter has been Hape, who make and sell beautiful toys that are fun, developmental, and many are manufactured in stylish and sustainable wood. I’ve therefore selected from their range for my gift guide as I can attest to the quality of Hape toys, as well as the enjoyment my daughter gets from them.

Prices are RRP, and most items on this list can be bought online, I’ve included links where I can. As with my gift guide for foodies, these links are not affiliate and are not at the request of Hape, I am just trying to be helpful :o)

Penguin Musical Wobbler – £12.99

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This super cute and engaging penguin toy helps to encourage hearing and vision skills. The wibbly wobbly penguin is fun for little ones, making a lovely jingly sound. Suitable from 6 months, this penguin will surely become a much loved member of the toy box family.

Trail Rider – £99

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Most kids have a sense of adventure and a scooter or bike can really help with their exploration skills. I know Phoebe will absolutely love bombing around on this trail bike, which is recommended from 12 months upwards (we’re planning on buying it for her first birthday). Hape toys are always great quality so I’d be happy that this is sturdy and will keep her nice and safe. It can be used indoors before heading out into the big wide world and exploring the outdoors.

Baby Drum – £19.99

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A drum may not be every parents cup of tea, as let’s face it, it’s going to be noisy! Phoebe already bangs pretty much all of her toys anyway so she might as well have a drum to do it properly :o) This bright and vibrant drum also rolls along the ground and helps to develop hand-eye coordination.

Friendship activity cube – £59.99

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This eye-catching activity cube offers lots of fun and games for babies, recommended from 12 months upwards. There are five different play surfaces, including a ball maze, shape puzzles, turning gears and panels that open and close. Because of the multiple play surfaces, it can help children play together but is also perfect for entertaining baby on their own.

Teddy and Friends Bath Squirt – £9.99

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What’s bathtime without some fun friends to share it with? Teddy and friends will no doubt be a welcome addition to the tub, especially when baby discovers they squirt water. Featuring friendly characters including a blue whale and teddy in a rubber ring, babies will love to have playtime while having a good soak.

Sea animals rattles – £11.99

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If there’s one thing I wish I’d thought about sooner, it would be to have a toy ready to stick on the highchair and entertain little miss while I’m either prepping food or clearing the table off. This sea animal rattle set is a perfect addition to the high chair tray or table to keep your little one entertained (very helpful when eating out too!). The set features the turtle shown in the pic above, as well as a whale and an octopus. They make different sounds and their bright colours are great for keeping babies interested while you grab two minutes to get on with something.

So those are my top picks for toys for 6-12 month olds this Christmas. Hopefully it’s provided some ideas for your Christmas shopping for the little ones in your life.

If you’re also looking for some inspiration for the adults in your life, check out my gift guide for foodies which is also now live on the blog.
Sarah

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Out and About: Afternoon Tea at Rofuto

If you’re a previous visitor to my blog you’ll no doubt have discovered that I, like many people, am rather partial to a spot of afternoon tea. There is something about adding an extra meal in between lunch and supper that appeals to me, especially when that meal is filled with sweet and savoury delights.

So when I was invited to partake in a tasting of the new Japanese afternoon tea at one of Birmingham’s top spots (reputation and height), Rofuto, how could I possibly say no?

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Leaving my little one with my husband for the afternoon, I donned my stretchy jeans ready to overindulge in some tasty treats. Having not yet visited Rofuto, I was impressed with the beautiful Japanese décor, and of course, the view. You really do get a sense of Birmingham’s extensive green space when you’re peering down from the top floor of the Park Regis hotel.

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Rofuto’s afternoon tea comes with the option of free-flowing prosecco, which we were offered upon arrival. It would have been rude to turn it down (ahem) so I indulged in a glass while checking out what was in store on the menu. The prosecco was just the right level of dry for me and the perfect complement to the sweet treats that lay ahead.

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There is also tea and coffee available; I opted for a decaf coffee which was very thoughtfully presented. The coffee arrived on a wooden tray with an individual sugar bowl – lovely not to have to lean across the table to reach for a sugar lump. I’m also pleased to report this was a delicious decaf coffee. Sometimes they can be a bit ropey compared to their caffeinated counterparts, yet this was anything but.

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20171027_144020After some lovely time chatting to the other bloggers at the event, the three-tiers of loveliness arrived. You can see on the menu photo everything on offer, which I won’t list as it’s quite extensive. Instead, I’ve picked out a few of my personal highlights:

Coronation chicken bao buns – what a novel idea to pair classic English afternoon tea with a Japanese twist. The bao bun was so soft, it almost melted in your mouth, while the coronation chicken was creamy and flavourful. Definitely a winner for me.

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Avocado nigiri – I love avocado and always have. Sometimes you find that they can be under-ripe in sushi and therefore tasteless, but this was perfect. There was also a generous amount compared to the rice, so you truly got the avocado flavour coming through. I dipped mine into the soy sauce provided, which I really enjoyed as it wasn’t overly salty which I find with many soy sauces. Delicious.

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Mango, coconut sesame roll – As a mango and coconut fan, this was a perfect treat for me. The sweetness of the mango with the bite of the coconut was an absolute delight, like a tropical holiday wrapped up in a dessert. Yummy.

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I also want to pay tribute to the inclusion of the classic scone, which is always a favourite of mine – particularly when smothered in clotted cream. Rofuto serve theirs with strawberry jam or for the more adventurous, lemongrass curd. I again thought this was a lovely twist on the traditional afternoon tea treats.

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I would highly recommend Rofuto’s afternoon tea, especially for those looking for something that little bit different. I thought the food was delicious and so wonderfully presented, which for me is all part and parcel of an afternoon tea. The view, ambience and attentive service are all icing on the (bitesize) cake.

Afternoon tea at Rofuto is £25 per person or £35 per person if you want to include the free-flowing prosecco (go on, you know you want to).
Sarah

Thanks to Tara and the team at East Village PR for inviting me to sample the afternoon tea at Rofuto, where food and drink was provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. As always my reviews are honest and are not influenced by the provision of free products. 

 

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Out and About: Las Iguanas, Temple Street Birmingham

The amount of new restaurant openings in Birmingham is quite staggering. One of these latest additions to the restaurant scene is the new Brummie branch of popular South American chain, Las Iguanas. Birmingham is already home to two branches – at the Arcadian and Resorts World – and the new opening is located on Temple Street in the heart of the city.

Las Iguanas opens at Temple Street, Birmingham.

I was excited to be invited to check out this latest opening. In the main my enthusiasm was because I thoroughly enjoy the food at Las Iguanas (I’ve been to the Leamington Spa restaurant). Also, the fact that this was my first night out since having my daughter in March, and the thought of taking a small handbag with just essentials rather than my huge mum-bag full of nappies, toys and the like, added to my excitement.

The restaurant is housed in the former Temple Street Social and the new décor is very fun, colourful and funky. The tables are well spaced out (I personally hate tables that are crammed in together too tightly) with some booths for larger groups.

Las Iguanas opens at Temple Street, Birmingham.

After arriving at the restaurant and being greeted by very friendly staff, we were seated promptly. The menu was given to us which listed food on one side and cocktails on the other. We got straight into the drinking (although just the one for me as I’m breastfeeding – just pointing out there that I try my hardest to be a responsible mother) with a strawberry caiprinha which was fresh and fruity. There was a definite kick of alcohol, but just the right amount to give me a light buzz without being overwhelming.

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The menu has a great range of cocktails and the majority are 2-4-1 every day, which is an added bonus.

Last time I visited Las Iguanas I stuck to the more well-known Mexican food including nachos and burritos. I fancied being more adventurous this time, so I chose Bolinhos De Caranguejo to start, which are crab, prawn and potato croquettes served with lime aioli. They arrived quickly and were freshly cooked. The potato was light and fluffy, with the crab and prawn adding a delicious uplift to the taste. The lime aioli was indeed as the menu stated, zingy. Even though the croquettes are deep fried they did not taste too oily, which was very welcome.

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My friend went for the Pato Taquito which is roast duck and caramelised onion in a flour tortilla. She enjoyed them, and said that the spicy cranberry salsa served with the taquito was a tasty addition.

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For main course, I plumped for the Halloumi Churrasco Skewers, which were skewers of halloumi, beetroot, artichoke, red onion and pepper. While I’m not a veggie, I do love a good vegetarian dish and often choose the veg option if it looks interesting. Plus I adore halloumi, so it seems a perfect choice for me.

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The skewers were served with a honey peri-peri sauce, salad and cassava fries. I was pleased to see there was plenty of halloumi on the skewers, with a good helping of the vegetables as well. It was cooked really well, nicely grilled without being overdone. The portion of salad and fries were generous.

My friend had a dish which looked super interesting, called Xinxim (still not sure how you pronounce it). It is a Brazilian dish, featuring chicken and crayfish in a lime and peanut sauce. It’s served with spring onion rice, fine green beans, coconut farofa (Google tells me this is toasted cassava flour mixture) and plantain.

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I was slightly disappointed that while the starters were served about 10 minutes after ordering, we waited 45 minutes after our first course for our mains to arrive. The restaurant was really busy and I appreciate things can get held up, but this did seem a rather excessive wait.

In between courses we went in for our second cocktail of the night, the Citrus Samba. Mine was sans-alcohol, but even without it the taste was crisp and refreshing.

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Overall we had a great evening and the food was certainly very tasty. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit this branch again as the location is ideal, and overlooking the long wait between courses, the food was freshly cooked, thoroughly enjoyable and more interesting than many other chain restaurants. The cocktails are also particularly delightful and the 2-4-1 offering is nice and easy on the wallet (helpful as my maternity pay is drawing to an end!). Non-alcoholic cocktails are also available on the 2-4-1 menu.
Sarah

Thanks to Tara and the team at East Village PR for inviting me to the launch event, where food and drink was provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. As always my reviews are honest and are not influenced by the provision of free products. 

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Review: AQUA Carpatica

I’ve long been an advocate for nitrate-free food (check out my blog post on Unearthed to read more about this) so I was very pleased to be offered the chance to review AQUA Carpatica. This bottled water is naturally nitrate-free and has a low sodium level, which is an impressive boast over other bottled waters. I’m currently breastfeeding, so anything I can do to improve the quality of what I eat and drink makes me feel better about feeding my 5 month old daughter.

AQUA Carpatica is sourced from the Carpathian Mountains, which spread across Eastern and Central Europe. The water source is protected from chemicals, fertilisers, CFCs and other contaminants. Again, very good news for anyone conscious of what they eat and drink.

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With a very impressive background to its production, the next thing on the agenda was to give it a taste test. The water has garnered great reviews and has just won a taste test with Olive Magazine, so I was keen to see whether I shared the opinions of their judges.

I’m happy to report I certainly do. The water tastes so fresh and clean, which I know water should (!) but I find some bottled waters have an unusual aftertaste. Some definitely have the salty taste that AQUA Carpatica avoids. It was very refreshing and easy to drink, which makes it great for keeping hydrated.

I also love the packaging. The glass bottles are really classy and look great on the table, and the square small bottles are lovely to hold and drink from.

Another notable benefit is the price. I’m always a bit wary of healthy products, as I feel the price is hiked up to capitalise on the benefits they offer. Contrary to this, AQUA Carpatica is reasonably priced, especially given its nitrate-free benefits.

  • RRP 65p for 500ml Still Natural Mineral Water
  • RRP 69p for 500ml Naturally Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
  • RRP 79p for 1 litre and £0.99 for 1.5 litre Still Natural Mineral Water
  • RRP £1.09 for 1.5 litre Naturally Sparkling Natural Mineral Water

AQUA Carpatica also naturally contains electrolytes and minerals, including Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium which are vital for hydration during pregnancy. While I don’t plan on having any more babies, I would certainly recommend this to my pregnant friends and blog readers.

AQUA Carpatica is available at my favourite online supermarket, Ocado, as well as Amazon and a number of other outlets across the UK. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys bottled water, or wants an added incentive to keep hydrated. It is a superb addition to the bottled water market and I for one can see it has a great future ahead.

Have you tried AQUA Carpatica? Given its benefits would you buy it over other brands?
Sarah

Thanks to Palm PR and Aqua Carpatica for offering me the products for review. As always my reviews are honest and are not influenced by the provision of free products. 

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Baking recipe: Chocolate Mocha Caramel Cake

I’m the first to admit that I’m not the best at baking, but I do like to give cakes a go from time to time. This recipe was based on one from my BBC Good Food Cakes and Bakes book. It must have been more of a success than I anticipated as it came second in my husband’s bake off competition at his work. In fact the only reason it didn’t win is because he hadn’t made it himself! Yes, I am a good wife to make his cake for him ;o)

To make this incredibly rich chocca mocha caramel cake, you will need:

  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 100g Cadbury Caramel squares (I used a 200g bar split in half)
    And for the icing:
  • 100g Cadbury Caramel squares (I used the other half of the 200g bar)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
    To decorate:
  • Bag of chocolate buttons

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan oven 160C. Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides.
  2. In a cup or small measuring jug, mix together the coffee, cocoa and hot water to form a smooth paste.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add the butter, sugar, eggs, syrup, flour, milk and cocoa paste. Beat with a wooden spoon or electric beaters (if you have them) until smooth. Break the caramel bars into small sections (I decided to cut each square into quarters) and stir into the cake mixture.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is nice and springy when you press it. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove and place it on a rack to cool.
  5. Once the cake is cool, prepare the icing. Break up the caramel bars and add them to a small pan with the butter and milk. On a gentle hob setting, stir the mixture continuously until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the icing sugar. Leave the icing to cool until it has thickened up enough to be spreadable.
  6. Spread the icing over the top of the cake, not worrying too much if it falls over the sides of the cake. Leave the icing to set. Finally, press the buttons into the now iced cake, covering the top evenly.
  7. You’re done! Admire your work and enjoy :o)
  8. Sarah

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Foodie Family: My Newborn Essentials list

Since having my daughter in mid-March, it’s taken a few weeks to figure out which are the essential products to get me through these first few months. From nappies to wipes, and products to support breastfeeding (which isn’t always easy in my opinion), I wanted to share my thoughts on the brands and baby items that make life that little bit easier.

Aldi Mamia Nappies

These nappies are amazing! They are great value, easy to put on and hold their own during even the worst explosive nappies (sorry for TMI!). I had seen rave reviews of them when I researched nappies while I was pregnant, and can definitely see why they are so popular. We are just about to move onto size 2 from the newborn size, and I’m confident in the ability of the Aldi Mamia nappy to keep my little one dry as she gets bigger.

Waterwipes

I know wipes aren’t for everyone and some people prefer cotton wool and water. Personally I’m not that organised so wipes are a much easier solution for this mama. Waterwipes are a brilliant concept, wipes made moist with just water (99.9%) and 0.1% fruit extract, so their cleaning ability is superb while remaining nice and natural for baby’s soft skin. They have been a firm favourite on our changing table since birth, and the small packs of 10 wipes are perfectly sized for the changing bag or popping in my handbag.

NUK Luna breast pump

I have been experimenting with combination feeding, trying to express a bottle every now and again to give me a break and also let my husband get involved in feeding. The NUK Luna breast pump has made this so much easier; it’s comfortable to use with clear instructions. The two speeds of the pump help with the process and it is very straightforward to take apart in order to sterilise the different parts. I have also recently invested in a set of NUK bottles as little miss seems to prefer the NUK teats to any others we have tried.

Wimmer Ferguson Grasp and Grow rattle

Wimmer Ferguson toys are very cleverly designed for newborns, making great use of black and white images. We discovered this is because newborns only see in black and while during the early days of their development. This Grasp and Grow rattle is brilliant for engaging with little miss, she loves the face on the rattle and it holds her attention for ages. We also have a small mobile for her cot which keeps her entertained for a few minutes while I slip off to make a cup of tea or nip to the loo!

Boppy

My Boppy breastfeeding pillow has been great since my baby girl has got bigger and therefore heavier. The pillow is very sturdy and secure to take the weight of baby, which takes the strain off my arms especially during long feeding sessions. I’m looking forward to using the pillow as my little one grows and can use it for tummy time, and then helping her to sit up.

Vital Baby Aquaint Sanitising Water

This has been a fantastic find for cleaning up after nappy changes, wiping baby items clean, sanitising hands at home and on the go – you name it, this water can take on the cleanliness challenge! With no alcohol or harsh chemicals, this sanitising water is perfect for our skin and sensitive baby skin. We use the big bottles and keep one in the living room and one at our changing station, although I know there are small bottles available for handbags and changing bags.

What have been your best finds for your baby?
Sarah