Monday, 30 May 2011

A night out on the vouchers!

As regular readers of the blog will note, I am quite a fan of the restaurant voucher. Vouchers themselves have been around for many years, but in the last two years it has been markedly less seasonal. Previously vouchers were available only at slack times in the year, like just after Christmas, but now you can find a voucher somewhere any time of the year. I think it's a result of people in general choosing to spend less of their cash.

So armed with my vouchers where did we go?

First, dinner. I had buy-one-get-one-free tapas at La Tasca. In Nottingham it is quite a cosy restaurant. The atmosphere was warm and lively too. We had friendly waiting staff. The dinner consisted of 10 dishes between the four of us and a pitcher of sangria rosé. Ten is about as many as you can comfortably squeeze on the table! The various plates were all good, however it did lead to the question......if tapas plates are generally served to even numbered groups of people why are some not divisible by two? It takes sharing to a whole new level chopping three croquettes into four portions!

Post dinner we all had coffees / hot chocolate and a variety of chocolate themed puddings. The melt in the middle puddle pudding was pleasant with a delicate spiced chocolate orange flavour, chocolate brownies were rich and gooey and I had a huge pile of profiteroles. Each dessert was comfortably large enough for two to share.

After a voucher-tastic dinner what better than a free cocktail? I thought the offer was almost too good to be true but it was definitely worth a try. Free mojito at pitcher and piano just for registering on their site, you get a code and take it in to the bar. Even on a busy Friday night with the bar area like a poorly organised rugby scrum the voucher codes were duly accepted and our lovely cocktails dispensed. No less impressive for its use as a bar, the converted church is a wonderfully vaulted venue for drinks.

The rating
La Tasca offers a bustling restaurant great for a catch up with friends. Pitcher and piano on a Friday is loud, and busy, exactly what you would expect of a city centre bar on a Friday night!

The summary

Food: Spanish style tapas dishes, create your own mix.

Price: two courses, sangria and coffees for four £55 with my lovely vouchers.
Link to vouchers:

Atmosphere: wooden floors and basic seating, lively, warm and chatty environment.

La Tasca

Pitcher and piano

Saturday, 21 May 2011

I've found it!

A while ago when out I was too full for a pudding. I know - unusual!

On the table there was a little card advertising a mini pudding and a cup of coffee. I had one - it was great, just enough pudding and a smooth milky coffee. The trouble is I forgot where this was.

Ever since then I have been trying to find out where it was, and this week we've done it!

It's Pizza Express Hockley, Nottingham. The King Street Pizza Express doesn't do it as we've looked there before.

So this week's voucher was courtesy of Tesco. You can swap your points for restaurant vouchers. They cover food, and you only pay for drinks so it can be free if you want it to be.

I had my favourite pizza, the Fiorentina. It's got spinach and an egg on top. The Sicilian lemonade is also good, still, tart and refreshing. It's a good change from over-sweet soft drinks. For afters, a lovely coffee with dough balls and.......Nutella spread to dip. Unusual, and possibly a bit like Marmite in that I think you either love it or hate it. I love it!

The rating:
A reliable option, the food is always tasty and a consistent standard, the Hockley location is more refined and much quieter than it's King Street cousin.

The summary:
Food: Pizza, done well.

Price: Free! Well, nearly. Pizzas are usually around £8.

Atmosphere: Modern, light and airy restaurant with attentive staff and adult clientele. Quieter and more intimate than King Street.

Pizza Express Hockley

24 Goosegate
Tel: 0115 912 7888

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Gourmet burger kitchen is a fairly recent addition to Nottingham, having been around in London for some time. There's often a deal on in the voucher tables, so this week I thought it worth a try. The deal was two burgers for £10, not bad. 

You choose your burger, either light or classic size, and my voucher included most burgers - just not the create your own topping ones. I had a cheese and bacon burger - cooked medium. As the burgers wandering about looked fairly sizeable we went for a large chips to share.

What was a wonderful discovery for me, as anyone who has read my OK Diner post will realise, was the lovely milkshakes on offer here!

The burgers were great, big, moist and yummy. My advice is to only share a regular chips, though, as we struggled to finish them.

We did note that the pesto and mozzarella burger was a pestorella burger, which sounds like some kind of disease. Lets hope they never do a salmon and mozzarella burger......

The rating:
A definite recommendation! Good food, good milk.

The summary:
Food: Tasty, well cooked burgers.

Price: Around £8 for full price burgers. Meal for 2 with voucher was £22.

Atmosphere: Relaxed, canteen-style. Not sure why there were shoes on the wall though!

GBK Nottingham

Unit 10 Trinity Square, Nottingham, NG14AF
Phone: 01159 474167 Fax: 01159 242322

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Recent diversions - the sewing machine

Right, now that I have caught up on my food-related posts I will explain my recent diversions from blogging. 

My husband bought me a sewing machine for Christmas. I have therefore been learning to sew. Just so you get the idea here, I have not even looked at a sewing machine since I was about 14, and in my term of home economics I managed to do half (yes, half) a patchwork cushion cover. In my school you had to queue up for the iron and then share a sewing machine so none of it could ever be described as quick. To be fair we did also do some free machine embroidery, but still it's not a lot of experience.

It turns out that there are loads of blogs out there which help with learning to sew. I have also joined Burda, who have an online sewing community, and Made by Rae's lovely tutorials have also been great.

So, whilst I haven't been blogging I have sewn (with my own fair hands!)....

5 baby bibs (using my own pattern drawn on a bit of paper and made to be a reasonable bib shape on me!)
Baby trousers (a Made By Rae pattern that I played with to make reversible
Baby dress (a version of the Retro Re-do dress by korpfan on Burda)
denim handbag for a little girl (a version of the Jordy bag)
1 felt belt
3 luggage tags
1 post organiser
1 kitchen cupboard organiser
1 cotton top (PJs)
Cotton PJ trousers (bit of a disaster I had to unpick the seams 3 times)
1 felt corsage
Lots and lots of various flowers using the fabric scraps, turns out I hate throwing pretty bits away

In a mild fit of creativity on a long car journey I also crocheted two Pidge scarves, one for me and one for my husband.

Written down like that it looks like a lot of stuff, so I am more content that I haven't blogged for a while. At least its been constructive!

Some pics....


Retro Re-Do dress

Rae's newborn trousers, made longer, with lining and reversible.

My floppy re-cycled denim version of the Jordy bag. I later added some embroidery to jazz it up for my colleague's little girl.

OK Diner - A1 Northbound

Okay, as a treat for me doing lots of DIY work round the house my lovely husband said he would take me out to dinner somewhere different.

We went here....

The OK! Diner on the Northbound A1!!!

What this chain does is re-create a 1950's American Diner that's all neon and milkshakes instead of the generally dreary motorway food joints we normally get in the UK. And for all those technical folk - WIFi enabled!

The waiters / waitresses are really friendly and the BEST part is they do huge milkshakes. It's at least a pint of glorious ice-cream equivalent. One of those and a burger and fires and I dare anyone not to be absolutely full.

Fun, neon and great milkshakes!

They also do loads of other stuff including ice cream sundaes. If you can hold off having a milkshake you could probably manage to have one of the great sundaes instead. I am not sure I ever will, as I LOVE the milkshakes.

OK DIner website even their website has funky music!!

Loving the diner. It's even better at night when the neon signs light up.

Birthday cake

Not really a huge post, but I shared some of my Goddaughter's first birthday cake today. A lovely jam and buttercream sponge.

Yum, yum, yum!

Happy Birthday little one.


Saturday Lunch - The Maynell Ingram

We went to the stock clearance for one of Britain's great coat manufacturers, John Partridge. Their new owners are taking the company forward in a new style so it was an opportunity to grab an original before they disappear. They make really warm, quality waxed jackets. I already had one, which I have worn this winter and have now added two more to my collection. Lovely - all set for winter!

The sale was held at the marquee owned by the Meynel Ingram pub, so we decided to eat in the restaurant for lunch. Before looking round the sale we booked in for lunch in the dining room, we were told by the staff that they were busy so had to move our slot forward a bit, which was fine.

On arrival at the restaurant we were seated, the chairs are luxe and the decor fresh and modern. The menu available was a snack lunch menu of the full mains. For our party of four we had:

Starters; Scallops (served with a risotto, looked lovely) and warm goats cheese served with bread.

Mains: Pie of the day (steak and kidney) this was okay and served with mash and veg, the pie and mash were a bit dry so after asking for gravy this was a tasty dish

Hot pork cob, apple sauce, potato wedges and salad (lunch menu) this was tasty 3 slices of pork and reasonably filling. Served with gravy.

Gammon topped with egg, pineapple and black pudding served with potato wedges. Okay on the meat and toppings but careless potato preparation meant that around a quarter of the wedges were black or green.

Pork with potatoes, nice but skimpy on the serving size. Two small pork steaks and a bit of potato. No real veg included.

All in all the food was disappointing given that the prices were between £9 and £15 for them. The meal was also rather marred by the service quality. Plates were stacked together in front of us before being carted away. Once we had asked for the bill, no-one came to take the money and even when we'd put our coats on to go and pay at the bar the waitress did not move from her position chatting at the bar, where she could clearly see us.

As for having to move our lunch forward due to the massive volume of diners, there was just one other couple in the restaurant.

The rating:
Mediocre, despite what the website says about them winning lots of prizes I have been to some much better country restaurants for a better price. 
The summary:
Food: Careless food preparation, and a lack of thought about accompaniments. When you pay £15 for a main meal, you expect to get more than just meat and potato.

Price: Around £12 for mains, £5 for starters. Meal for 4 was £60.

Atmosphere: Nice decor, nonchalant service.


The Meynell Ingram Arms
Abbots Bromley Road
Hoar Cross
DE13 8RB
T : 01283 575202
F : 01283 575788

A new curry house...The Cumin

Okay so I have been neglecting my blog for a bit, so that means there are a number of places to catch up on!

This one is unusual - a curry on a weeknight. The Cumin is a compact restaurant, which means that you get a very personal service.

We started with poppadums and chutneys, good - but it's difficult to judge a place by them. For mains we had a chicken curry in a creamy tomato sauce and a lamb dish (Saag Gosht). I am afraid I can't remember the name of the chicken dish. It was served nicely in little dishes over candles. We had one rice and a naan bread between us and there was certainly plenty of food. The curries were nicely spiced but not too heavy on the chilli heat. I had a very enjoyable meal.

The host made every effort to make us feel welcome, and the waiter cleared all our food dishes (including little burners) elegantly and all in one journey. I like that, and am always impressed. This is because for my own foray into the world of waiting tables I really was not good at this.

The rating:
Good, definitely worth a visit. 
The summary:
Food: Nicely spiced food, not too chilli hot
Price: Around £11 for main dish curries, diner for two can be got for £15-£20 each.
Atmosphere: Intimate and friendly

The Cumin Restaurant, 62-64 Maid Marian Way, Nottingham, NG1 6BJ. 
Tel: 0115 941 9941