On New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay I suppose I should say, now that I am living in Scotland), we had family staying at our flat. With my messy cooking style, making dinner for just the two of us can be a challenge in our smallish kitchen, so we needed to find an easy way to cook something tasty for lots of people. That’s where the Teppanyaki Grill came in. It is essentially an indoor BBQ – a temperature controlled hot plate which lets you grill your food safely indoors in a more exciting way than using the grill in the oven! It was much more sociable than being tucked away in the kitchen but, be warned, it gives off enough smoke to set the fire alarm going! We decided to go for some simple marinated chicken as this was our first attempt at using the grill. We used some of the Tabasco table sauces as marinades which worked fabulously and the flavour really came through (on another note, the Chipotle and Bourbon Tabasco sauce makes a really tasty and easy flavouring for pulled pork…).
The Teppanyaki grill was great fun to use and I bet we will be using lots more of it, especially during the summer as we have no garden to BBQ properly in! It is also super easy to clean up once you’ve finished coooking. We got our grill from Domu and at the moment it is on sale for an amazing £16.99! Definitely worth it!
Last month we spent my birthday weekend at the Macdonald Houston House near Edinburgh. The main building is an impressive 16th century Tower House and the hotel is equipped with a spa, a 2 AA rosette restaurant and a very cosy bar. Although slightly dated, our room was massive, spotlessly clean, with an extremely comfy bed. I was also pleased to find that the room was snug and warm as I really feel the cold, so am a little wary of old buildings!
After checking in, we had a quick explore of the hotel and gardens before I headed off to the spa for a facial. I really do love a facial and as I don’t have them often it was a real treat. The waiting room was lovely and relaxing with scented candles and bubbly spa music and the facial itself was amazing. My therapist was lovely and put me at ease – I am usually a little nervous at the start of a facial as it is a bit weird having someone prodding your face! Within ten minutes I was more relaxed than I had been for months and I think I even drifted off for a while!
With my skin all preened and feeling very soft, we headed to the bar for our dinner. The bar is in a snug room with the thickest walls you’ve ever seen and a roaring log fire to keep it toasty. We both ordered a burger and a glass of wine and continued relaxing. The food was fantastic and just what we needed after the drive down to Edinburgh and the strenuous (!) facial!
Next morning, after the excitement of opening birthday presents was over, we had a hearty breakfast in the restaurant before catching the train into Edinburgh. The train station was just a fifteen minute walk away with regular, direct trains into the city. All day we were looking forward to that evenings dinner! We hadn’t remembered to book the Jeremy Wares restaurant in the hotel in advance so we ended up having to eat incredibly early, I think around quarter to 6, as that was the only slot available when we checked in! There was no way we were going to miss the chance of eating in the 2 AA rosette restaurant – we would have taken any time slot they gave us! The meal was totally worth hurrying back from town. The service was impeccable and food was delicious. Everything was cooked to perfection and we really enjoyed the whole experience.
We’d definitely love to visit the hotel again. It was such a relaxing weekend and we both managed to completely switch off which was nice as we had been so busy for what felt like months beforehand!
A few weeks ago I was treated to afternoon tea at The Marcliffe Hotel on the outskirts of Aberdeen. The Marcliffe is a well known hotel up in Aberdeen, being the only 5 star hotel in the city. It really is a gorgeous hotel (I haven’t stayed overnight but have been for dinner and was super impressed!) but is unfortunately closing before Christmas due to the owner retiring.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were shown into the drawing room where we sat on comfy, squishy old fashioned armchairs in the bay window. Glasses of chilled champagne were brought over to us as we browsed the menu to choose our sandwiches and teas. We went for some forest fruits and some honey and camomile tea. When the food arrive it looked delicious on the tiered stand and I was excited to see that there were 4 whole cakes each! The sandwiches were nothing special to be honest but everything else tasted fantastic. I even managed to forget about my camera, I was so distracted by the food! The scones were amazing, still warm from the oven and served with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Finally, the selection of cakey things was really good – a light but creamy strawberry tart, some sort of mascapone and orange concoction, a gooey chocolate brownie and a lovely moist lemon drizzle cake.
The food and drink was wonderful and the afternoon was made by the staff who were friendly, attentive when they needed to be but not standing too near or watching us which always makes me feel uncomfortable! We had a lovely relaxed afternoon and I would really love to go back. I might need to take a day off work though to do that as we booked this all the way back in February to get a weekend booking, everyone seems to want to visit before it closes! It is such a shame that the hotel is closing – hopefully we will be able to squeeze in another meal before it shuts its doors.
Crieff Hydro is spread over 900 acres of countryside just outside of Perth. You can stay in the hotel itself or in one of the self catering lodges in the grounds. A couple of months ago, my mum and stepdad drove up from Cardiff and we met them at Crieff Hydro for a relaxing weekend. Our lodge was stunning with fantastic views of the hills from the big windows. I really liked the colourful blue boards on the outside of the lodge and also the cosy heated floors in the bathrooms! There are lots of things to do at Crieff but we opted for a weekend of doing very little. On the Friday night, we were picked up from our lodge by the site mini van (which anyone can use by calling reception) and were driven the few minutes over to the main hotel where we had a cocktail in the piano bar followed by dinner in the Meikle Restaurant. The food was fantastic and the staff were really attentive and friendly. After a lazy Saturday morning, we dug out our rain coats and took a walk through the countryside to the nearby Famous Grouse Experience in the Glenturret Distillery. The Glenturret single malt is the main whisky used in Famous Grouse. Despite living in Scotland for almost two years now, this is the first distillery tour I have been on and I found it really interesting – especially the story about Towser, the distillery cat, who apparently caught 28,899 mice throughout her life!
Apart from this outing, the rest of the weekend was spent catching up, cooking together, playing boardgames and watching Eurovision! We had a lovely weekend at Crieff and felt so relaxed that we didn’t want to leave. I would love to stay for longer next time so that there is more time to explore and also try out the spa…..
The Country Candle Company are based in Wiltshire, England where they create beautifully scented and packaged candles. I have two of their candles from the Celebrations collection. The Tonka Bean and Vanilla one is my favourite – it also has hints of cinnamon and clove so is a gorgeous Christmas candle without being overly Christmassy, if you know what I mean! The Black Pomegrannate scent is also lovely – it is fruity and reminds me of summer. I think the packaging is really cute and am suprised at how good these candles are as they are so reasonably priced – just £5.99 for a candle that burns for around 20 hours. The Country Candle Company have lots of collections on their website, all well priced and with pretty packaging – I have a long list of ones I want to try next!
I’ve just finished reading The Foster Husband by Pippa Wright. I’ve read a book by her before called Unsuitable Men which I quite enjoyed. This one was in the same sort of style – easy to read, fast moving with a bit of humor thrown in. I kind of wish I had saved reading this until I went on holiday as it would make the perfect book to read on the beach!
Last weekend I had the chance to visit the Intercontinental London Westminster to indulge in their Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea with Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne. The menu has been inspired by the flower show and the room was decorated with gorgeous flower displays. When we arrived we were shown to our table where our waiter introduced himself and then left us with a glass of bubbly to choose our tea. There were so many to choose from including black teas, white teas, green teas, flowering teas and herbal teas. In the end we went for the White Peony described as “Delightfully refreshing, rounded and full-flavoured with sweet and fragrant notes of melon” and the Taiwan Li Shan – “Highly floral complex and refreshing with a glycerous and wonderfully creamy texture”. I wasn’t too keen on the Taiwan Li Shan but the White Peony was lovely.Once we were settled with our teas the first plates of foods arrived. The bottom layer was a selection of finger sandwiches – the beef and horseradish ones were so delicious we asked for seconds – and the middle layer was a blackberry Eccles cake and slice of fruit loaf each. The top layer was by far the most exciting and looked so pretty! Every perfectly formed cake/pastry tasted divine and looked so beautiful I just had to take photos of all of them….
1. Lavender and strawberry tart
2. Jasmine and jivara mille feuille
3. White chocolate and orange blossom shot with pistachio crumble (this was exquisite!)
4. White chocolate marshmallow teacake infused with White Peony tea
5. Raspberry macaroon
6. Violet éclair
After we had finished the cakes and pastries, a plate of freshly baked scones arrived with Devonshire clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam and lemon curd. Again, these tasted amazing! Even though we were feeling full from all the food and champagne we both managed to squeeze in two scones topped with masses of cream and jam.After another glass of champagne, we were brought the finishing touch – a glass teapot containing one mango and one raspberry mousse lollipop and a white chocolate butterfly. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful afternoon! The service was faultless and our waiter couldn’t have done more for us, explaining what was on each plate and topping up our champagne whenever it looked as though we might finish a glass! The atmosphere was relaxed, with a live harpist in the background, and even though there were lots of staff ready to help, they weren’t hovering near the tables making us feel as though we were being watched all the time. I would love to go back to the Intercontinental and would definitely recommend the afternoon tea if you are looking for something special to do.