Post Box Ponteland – Afternoon Tea

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Post Box Ponteland has been open for a couple of months now, I went along on opening day for breakfast (read about it here) and was hugely interested in what Alex & Hayden had in store for the future.

My friend was home from London for the weekend so I took this opportunity to get us booked in at Post Box for Ladies Afternoon Tea (they also offer a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea). Tea, cake and a good old chin-wag was definitely on the menu!

It wasn’t too busy when we got there so we had a few tables to choose from, I always look for the one with the best lighting. We managed to get a nice window table, perfect for photos! The waitress came over and we ordered an afternoon tea to share. There was a bit of confusion over what came in the afternoon tea but that was sorted out pretty quickly. My friend doesn’t drink tea so ordered fresh orange juice. Unfortunately they didn’t have any orange so she had squash instead.

The stand arrived, full of delicious looking items!

Salmon and ham & pease pudding finger sandwiches

Salmon and ham & pease pudding finger sandwiches

YUM

YUM

A different angle :)

A different angle :)

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I love the little milk bottle to accompany the pot of tea, it’s the little touches that make the difference :) I got two and a bit cups of tea from the pot which was more than enough to wash down the cake!

Here are some better pictures of some of the food, I tried to keep my plate as crumb free as possible while I took the photos – I should have just asked for another plate. I’m silly.

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Really liked the little salad and chopped up gherkins that came with the sandwiches. Again, small touches.

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This was AMAZING

This was AMAZING

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Here are a couple of photos of the cosy interior, love those cushions.

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We were so full we couldn’t actually finish everything, so we got the rest of the cake packed up to take home. Everything was delicious, the sandwiches were filled generously and tasted really fresh. My favourite was the meringue with cream – the meringue was perfect and chewy, I savoured every bite. The scone was great too, we both agreed the homemade jam was particularly delicious!

Post Box is now open Friday and Saturday evenings as a bistro with an evening menu (check it out on their Facebook page – lots of delicious looking options to choose from) and they have an alcohol licence too. They also have live acoustic music fortnightly on Saturday evenings which must be lovely. I’m really happy to see how things have evolved in a few short months, Hayden, Alex and the team have certainly been busy.

I said it last time and I’ll say it again, I’m so happy they’re here, I’ll be back soon to sample the evening menu.

Have you been to Post Box Ponteland yet? Would love to hear what you thought if you have!

 

A week in Nice, France

Last week we travelled to Nice for the week, I’m not going to write a full post about our time away but I thought it’d be nice to share some photos :)

If you know me, you know about my love for France. I studied French at university and have spent 1.5 years living there, I spent a year in Aix en Provence as part of my degree and then in 2010 I worked in Paris for 6 months. The last time I was in Nice was 15 years ago and this was my husband’s first trip to France, so we were both really looking forward to it. Needless to say, it did not disappoint! The gorgeous weather, delicious French food and lack of schedule to keep to was exactly what we both needed.

We did venture out of Nice, not very far though, to Cannes and then to Monaco, both were lovely but we wanted to get back to Nice to explore the old town more and spend time lounging at the beach!

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Hope you’ve enjoyed the photos, I’d love to know where you’re off on holiday this summer!

 

St Mary’s Inn – Stannington

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St Mary’s Inn, Stannington, isn’t far from the A1 but (wonderfully) still feels a bit like the middle of nowhere – if you ignore the new fancy housing estate immediately surrounding it of course! The last time I visited was in November, the week it opened. I got very lost because I stupidly followed the sat nav, not the directions I was given. I was panicking that I would have the same issue this time, but actually, it’s only 15 minutes from my house and very easy to find!

When we arrived, I wasn’t surprised to see that it was relatively busy, with people in the bar, the outdoor courtyard and restaurant area. We got seated in a different area than last time, it was much brighter which made me happy.

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To start we both ordered the Potted Pork with House Pickles and Sourdough (£6.50).

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It was delicious, I’d certainly order it again. The pork was mouth-wateringly good and the sourdough was perfect, especially with the pickles. I could have done with a few more pickles (I’m a pickle fiend). I was dining with my friend (from France), who informed me that this is served with gherkins in France. I wouldn’t have said no to a gherkin or two :)

For mains we went with the Ribeye Steak with Béarnaise sauce with Fries (£16) and the Aberdeen Angus Cheeseburger (£10.50) with Bone Marrow and Parsley Fries (£3.50).

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Both were good choices and we enjoyed our meals, especially the Bone Marrow and Parsley Fries which I would definitely recommend ordering! So much flavour. Julie’s steak was not as rare as she’d hoped for and she was a bit disappointed with the Béarnaise sauce, it was almost foamy.

For dessert, this Chocolate Brownie Sundae (£6.50) was calling my name and did not disappoint although I nowhere near finished it. It tasted even better than it looks. The rest of the dessert menu looked fantastic and there was a delicious sounding yoghurt panna cotta on the specials board, which I would have ordered had I not already set my sights on the Sundae!

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The service was as good as my last visit, staff were attentive, friendly and helpful but not overbearing. We had a few people serve us, including Victor Castro, the General Manager,  who was busy throughout our visit, chatting to diners whilst serving.

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Private dining room

Private dining room

Love this guy created by sculptor Gary Tiplady

Love this guy created by sculptor Gary Tiplady

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This is where I sat last time

This is where I sat last time

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I really enjoyed driving out to St Mary’s Inn, I love the ambience and cosiness (who doesn’t love a wood-burning stove?) of the place as well as the attention to detail with the furnishings. It’s also really nice to go somewhere out of the city centre for a change (with no parking traumas). The menu has plenty to choose from and has recently changed, you can check it out here.

Have you been to St Mary’s Inn yet? I’d love to know what you ordered and what you thought! If you’re thinking of popping in, I’d recommend calling up to book beforehand. Next on my list is the Sunday Lunch which I’ve heard great things about.

* Our meals were provided free of charge for review purposes, but as with everything on my blog, my opinions are 100% honest.

Jesmond Food Market

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Jesmond Food Market takes place on the 3rd Saturday of the month, from 10am-3pm, on Armstrong Bridge overlooking Jesmond Dene. The launch last month was a huge success, with many stalls selling out very quickly. I was busy that day but pencilled 16th May in my diary immediately, to make sure I didn’t miss out this time around.

The monthly food market is being run by Anna Hedworth (who I’ve talked about on my blog a few times. Here and here), Food Newcastle and Jesmond Residents Association. I went along with two friends today, we got there at around 11 and it was already bustling! It was also pretty blustery and looked like it might rain. It did rain. We got soaked but took shelter under some trees for a few minutes until it slowed. While we were at one of the stalls we overheard someone saying they thought today, like last month, was going to be a sell-out too. The people of Newcastle LOVE a food market, clearly!

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We’d already decided to head for lunch after the market, otherwise I would have had a pizza from Pizzette, a crêpe from my faves (La Petite Crêperie) or some delicious barbecued meat in a bun from Longhorns. Papa Ganoush were also there, whose food I LOVE, but I had chicken shawarma in flatbread from them last week (delicious)! Coffee from my favourite coffee place in town, Ouseburn Coffee Company, was a must. I managed to convert two more coffee drinkers (well, I bought them a cup of coffee and that was that). After having a good nose around and taking photos, I ended up buying some cheese from Northumberland Cheese Company, a French boule from Olivia’s Artisan Bakery and a pack of sausages from The Northumberland Sausage Company. On the way out we stopped at Di Meo’s for an ice cream, even though we hadn’t eaten lunch (or breakfast).

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Elodie's Crêpes

Elodie’s Crêpes

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Jesmond Dene

Jesmond Dene

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Americano. Latte. Flat White.

Americano. Latte. Flat White.


Right before the rain

Right before the rain

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The Northumberland Sausage Companu

The Northumberland Sausage Company


Charlotte's Butchery

Charlotte’s Butchery


Best coffee in the toon

Best coffee in the toon

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hello

Hello


salted caramel ice cream in an oreo cone!

Salted caramel ice cream in an oreo cone!


chocolate ice cream in a salted popcorn cone

Chocolate ice cream in a salted popcorn cone

Overall I loved the variety of things to choose from, there were a lot of bread stalls (all of which were busy!), I would have liked to have seen more veggies/flowers but they’re the only things I can think of. I was meant to write this on my feedback form but it started raining and we ran away to get shelter.

It feels like this has been long overdue, I’m so glad it’s here now! Thank you organisers, I’ll definitely be back regularly and recommend it if you’re in the area. The next one is Saturday 20th June! 

Were you there last month or today? Let me know what you thought!

Café Royal – Afternoon Tea

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Last month I wrote a review of Café Royal, the place I had originally wanted to be my first blog post but I chickened out of taking any photos, because I was a scaredy cat. This has been one of my favourite places in Newcastle since my lovely friend Heidi introduced me to it back in 2003.

I’ve eaten breakfast, brunch and lunch there on countless occasions, stopped for a coffee or a pot of tea and a slice of cake after traipsing around town on a busy Saturday afternoon, but I’ve never been for afternoon tea… Until now!

Afternoon Tea is served from 2.30-5.30, Monday-Friday and costs £25 for two with tea or coffee and £30 for two with Prosecco. We opted for tea and coffee, this won’t surprise anyone who knows me. My mum (who is incidentally a veggie) was my dining companion and I was very interested to see what would be on the menu for her. She’s not a fussy vegetarian, she just appreciates it when there’s an effort made for veggies, rather than a cheese or egg & cress sandwich.

We were shown to a table upstairs (I’ve never sat there before) and I was very happy to see there was a nice little spotlight in the ceiling right above my chair – no dark photos.

Our menus were laid out in front of us so I thought we had to make some choices but was informed we got one of everything on the menu. At this point I realised I was pretty hungry. There were a few things on the menu that I was excited to try, things I’ve not eaten a lot, like smoked trout, crab and blue cheese.

Mum’s menu looked great too, I could tell she was impressed before the food had even arrived – that’s quite some feat, seriously.

Now for the food photos!

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Wild mushroom, red pepper relish & goats curd granary roll

Wild mushroom, red pepper relish & goats curd granary roll

Pickled beetroot, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Pickled beetroot, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Spiced crab & coriander tart

Spiced crab & coriander tart

Caramelised shallot tart tatin with mordon blue cheese

Caramelised shallot tart tatin with mordon blue cheese

Courgette, feta & coriander pancake

Courgette, feta & coriander pancake

Smoked trout, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Smoked trout, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Chorizo, manchego & romesco on toasted focaccia

Chorizo, manchego & romesco on toasted focaccia

Caramelised onion & mature cheddar scone

Caramelised onion & mature cheddar scone

Raspberry scone

Raspberry scone

Lemon & passion fruit custard tart

Lemon & passion fruit custard tart

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Chocolate & Earl Grey cake

Chocolate & Earl Grey cake

Coconut & mango rice pudding with pistachio

Coconut & mango rice pudding with pistachio

I realise there are a lot of photos but the food was so well presented, I got carried away. It happens.

My absolute favourite savoury item was the smoked trout, horseradish cream & beetroot blini. I’ve never (knowingly) eaten trout before, it was delicious – not too smokey and just perfect, paired with the horseradish cream. SMOKED TROUT. Who knew?! Mum’s favourite was the courgette, feta and coriander pancake.

The trio of desserts were little morsels of decadence. It’s too hard to pick a favourite, not that anyone is actually asking me to do that, but if I could eat one right now it would be the lemon & passion fruit custard tart. The coconut & mango rice pudding with pistachio was mum’s favourite. She had left the chocolate & earl grey cake until last and said she was too full to eat it, one second later I heard her say ‘ooh it’s not too chocolatey and you can really taste the earl grey’.  Delicious.

I love the variety & combination of things on the menu. I also love the thought that’s been put into this afternoon tea, it’s not like anywhere else I’ve been. There’s nothing wrong with those afternoon teas of course, it’s just refreshing to see something entirely different.

Exciting news… I’ve been informed by head chef Gavin that they’re launching High Breakfast very soon, an afternoon tea type of concept for breakfast – this could possibly be my favourite thing ever. Keep your peepers peeled for news on when that’s launching!

I really enjoyed afternoon tea at Café Royal and I’ll definitely be back (let’s be real, I’ll be there for brunch in-between afternoon tea visits), if you’re looking for a new place to try afternoon tea I think this is just the ticket. Make sure you call up and book beforehand! Would love to hear what you think if you go or have already been.

* This afternoon tea was free of charge for review purposes, but as with everything on my blog, my opinions are 100% honest*  

Anna Hedworth – The Grazer

I first met Anna the week she opened her amazing new venture Cook House (in 2 adjoining shipping containers!) back in August last year. I popped along with my mum for breakfast, you can read about that here.

Anna started out by writing a food blog, The Grazer which has become, in Anna’s words, her ‘food-life journal’. In addition to running Cook House, which serves breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, Anna also runs her own dining events from supperclubs to pop-up kitchens and markets. Cook House is also home to a small Food School programme. As part of the Food School, I saw Charlotte from Charlotte’s Butchery break down a full lamb, which was amazing.

Anna has been featured in Marie Claire, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Living North to name a few and has been shortlisted for too many awards to mention. Busy girl! I was chuffed to bits when she kindly agreed to take some time out of her hectic schedule to feature on my blog.

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1. Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get started with The Grazer?

I started writing The Grazer in 2011, I began it as an online archive of recipes that I made and enjoyed. I still use it as that myself, looking things up on it when I want to cook, so from my point of view it is very useful! Other people seem to think so too which is nice, and it currently gets about 10,000 views a month, so hopefully people find it useful and cook from it, which was always the idea. Sometimes people send me pictures of things they have made from it and I love it! It has led to all kinds of other food projects since I began too, such as my seasonal Graze markets, starting supperclubs, working with the National Trust and loads of other interesting people…

2. How did Cook House become a reality – how long was this in the making?

In my head I have been planning it since around the time I started my blog, but it was always a bit of a pipe dream. I still had a lot to learn and financially opening a restaurant is a huge undertaking, which I couldn’t afford. In reality it was last February that I decided to leave my job in architecture and set up in the shipping containers on Ouse street. It was a way of starting out that didn’t cost much and didn’t involve huge overheads and suddenly it all just fell into place. I left my job in May and opened in August. Then people actually came, which was a relief! The cafe has a steady trade, of people working in and around the Ouseburn or people coming specifically to visit me, and the supperclubs are hugely popular, I have bookings well into the year now.

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3. You change your menu daily – what’s been the most popular Cook House lunch so far?

People seem to like pretty much everything I’ve put on so far, thankfully. Things like game terrines and potted meats are popular, and the salt beef bagels; they go down a treat. The salads are popular too, I make 2 or 3 hearty imaginative salads everyday, which I think you struggle to find elsewhere. People love the homemade cordials too, especially the ginger one.
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4. Your blog, Cook House, supperclubs, pop-up kitchens, markets, food school – how do you manage to fit this all in and still have time for friends/family?

Well I do struggle, I work hard and a lot of hours but I enjoy it and I want to be successful at what I do so it’s worth it. Since opening Cook House I’ve had a lot less time to socialise, but luckily people can come and see me at work and have lunch, and my friends and family love eating and drinking so it all works out ok!

5. What advice can you give to budding food bloggers – where should they start?

With reading, other well written blogs, and books in general. The importance of really good writing is overlooked sometimes I think. A blog might be chatty and quick and daily, but it still needs to be informative and well written. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are all hugely important in my eyes. Lovely pictures too, I think good photography makes a huge difference to a blog. I looked at lots of other blogs and websites before I began mine, taking note of which sites I liked and why and then incorporating those ideas. I love Recipe Rifle at the moment, a very entertaining good read…

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6. Tell us about teatime at Anna’s – what’s your favourite thing to cook?

I’ve been cooking a lot of Chinese food recently, from Fuscia Dunlop’s book, Every Grain of Rice. It’s not a style of cooking that I have dabbled in much, but I’m really enjoying it. Dumplings, stir fried Chinese greens, braised belly pork with ginger and star anise and a chicken and peanut dish have all been delicious. I go to the big Chinese supermarket in town and stock up every week or so.
 
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading! Is anyone else hungry now?
 

*Photographs provided by Anna*

Café Royal

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Café Royal will always and forever remind me of my good friend Heidi who introduced me to this hidden gem back in 2003 (I realise it’s very well-known now). I remember being shocked that I’d never heard of it, yet it was so close to Monument (I used to spend all of my spare time & money in Waterstones – which then became H&M and has recently closed down). Thanks Heidi!

When I started my blog last year, I wanted Café Royal to be the first place I featured. Off we went, very early one saturday morning, we ordered breakfast and I just couldn’t bring myself to take any photos (even though I had taken my camera out of my bag). It was already full with hungry diners and when a man glanced over, I assumed he hated me because I had a camera. Paranoid or what?! So a year later, I thought it was time to take some pics! I did get some funny looks, but I never photograph other diners so carried on doing my thing.

Located on Nelson Street, opposite the Grainger Market and a minute’s walk from Monument, it’s always been a favourite of mine over the years. I always turn up with the expectation that I’ll have to wait to be seated. It’s always busy, no matter when I go, which speaks volumes really. It’s an SJF establishment, but doesn’t feel like part of a chain at all. If anyone asks me where to go for breakfast/brunch in town, this is always my first suggestion.

Not surprisingly, I went for breakfast with my friend Julie and as always we discussed our food choices at length so there was no chance of food-envy :) I usually opt for Eggs Benedict/Florentine or Scrambled Eggs… but on this occasion I picked Waffles with Bacon & Maple Syrup and Julie chose the Café Royal Big Breakfast. I fancied a fruity juice as well as coffee so ordered the Berry Nice (I think that’s what it was called) and a Flat White. Tea for Julie. Obv.

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The waffles and bacon were both crispy and delicious and there was more than enough maple syrup (I do worry about running out, there’s nowt worse than a dry waffle). I know this is going to sound odd, but despite really enjoying my food, I wish I’d chosen Scrambled Eggs or Eggs Florentine like I usually do – they’re just so good. Julie’s breakfast looked great, Blagdon sausages, dry cured bacon, fried egg, beans and local black pudding. The toast arrived after I’d taken photos and it seemed cruel to make her wait any longer to eat. The verdict was that it was tasty and filling. The black pudding was softer than Julie’s preference and the beans were very different. I wish I’d tasted the beans – I do love homemade baked beans.

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I hope Fog on the Tyne is available next time I go in!

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Helpful! I usually pick a latte but didn’t feel foamy.

Once you’re seated you order at the till, where there’s a huge array of delicious items to tempt you. I now regret not getting a few things to bring home. Namely, a chocolate florentine and a cheese scone.

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I’ll take one of everything, please.

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Hiya

After realising he'd been snapped in the last photo, I got a full-on pose from this friendly chap!

After realising he’d been snapped in the last photo, I got a full-on pose from this friendly chap!

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I’m most likely to visit Café Royal for breakfast/brunch but lunch has always been brilliant too. I’ve not had the Afternoon Tea yet but it’s at the top of my list. It looks great and £25 for two is fine by me! It’s served from 2.30-5.30pm, Monday-Friday.

I’ve had both great service and average service during my countless visits, but it’s never been bad and I always go back… I love the feel of the place, as well as the delicious food. If you’ve not been, do pop along. If you’re going for breakfast maybe I’ll come with you!  Would love to hear what you think if you’ve already eaten here :)

What should I order on my next visit?