Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant

Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant When I tell people that I've just had a fantastic meal in The Library, I can honestly tell you that I've received some funny looks... Who goes to the library to eat their dinner? I can assure you that this library not only has shelves of books, but serves superb wood grilled food in the very centre of Norwich City - it's my new favourite venue for a client coffee meeting or equally for dinner with friends. The Library is the only restaurant in Norwich with its own wood grill, burning through 4 tons of local fruit wood each and every week - if you're looking for a tasty and sustainable meal, this is a great choice. Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant This atmospheric venue used to be decorated with pea green walls and plastic-covered shelves, but has since been revamped in a modern, elegant manner to create a relaxed vibe during the day (almost church like with its high ceilings and colourful artwork adoring the walls) and a romantic candlelit atmosphere of an evening. With free wifi on offer, afternoon tea options and a tapas-style lunch menu on the tables, this is the perfect venue for a light bite or a pre-event meal when visiting the City. Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant The owners, Nigel & Jayne Raffles are the masterminds behind local restaurants such as St Benedicts Restaurant, Pinocchio's and the Pulse cafe bar and their passionate team are very much part of the family. Nigel, having previously worked at La Gavroche, loves charcuterie work, making his own sausages for this meat-rich menu and the care that goes into the seasonal specials is well thoughout. The Norfolk and Norwich subscription library was formed in 1886, with the original subscription fees being £1.00 for ladies and £2.00 for the gents. In 1898, a fire broke out on Dove Street, reaching the library within just an hour, gutting and destroying the interior and contents of this building. It was later restored at the cost of £1,719 and reopened in 1914. The library has encountered a new revamp with the last few years, boasting original features and a slightly different way of enjoying the mezzanine views whilst tasting some deliciously tempting food and drink as you do. Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant The Library also have two stunning private dining rooms, up to 30 people seated or 60 people buffet style, which are perfect for smallish gatherings, even a small wedding celebration. To look up from the main street below, you'd have no idea these beautiful rooms within a Grade II listed building were even here, just amazing. I have actually visited this venue twice in recent weeks, once with a group of friends on a night out and once with my bearded friend for a relaxed evening meal - both times were very different experiences. With friends, it felt very relaxed, we had pre-booked our food a few days in advance to ensure a quicker delivery and I had enjoyed a rare Sirloin steak with a pint of Redwell Steam. With the bearded one, it felt a lot more intimate at our table of two, with a buzz around us, as well as below us. It still felt like there weren't many people around us - the tables were spaced perfectly and we didn't feel "on top" of other tables, it's an equally great venue for a date night. Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant There's so much on the menu, with much of it being gluten free too, so we decided to order various dishes on our own date night so that we could dip in and share a few of our favourites. For starters we went for the crispy poached egg with ham hock terrine, piccalilli purée and pea shoots (£6.50) and the "Whiskey in a Jar" home smoked salmon (£6.50) with Beetroot coulis, marinated cucumber and croutons. The whiskey was a little strong for my liking, but I'm not big on this particular drink personally. The poached eggs, however, were soft in the centre and my fave starter of the two, it was actually a fairly large starter, so be sure to make room for your main if enjoying this one yourself! Again, we shared our mains...too many to choose from not to try a few options if you love your food! Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant They serve everything from wood grilled salmon fillets, steaks, ribs, lamb chops, even mussels or burgers, as well as vegetarian options - it took us quite a while to decide on our order. We chose the "Juicy Lucy" mozzarella stuffed burger with caramelised onion, chunky hand cut chips and large crispy onion rings (£12.95) as well as the coffee smoked beef rib with fondant potato, celeriac & rosemary purée and glazed carrots (£13.50). I was told that a pint of Noble which went perfectly with my meat feast - I do like a pint, I must admit. Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant The meat served here is locally sourced through P.J. Roofe catering butchers, the fish through Sam Cole Fish Merchants and Howard & Son Fishmongers and the fruit, vegetables, herbs, dairy, pulses & nuts through Peter Easters fresh fruit and vegetables. Everything, where possible is locally sourced and hung, ensuring that their suppliers are just as passionate about the food as the team here at The Library. You can see my video of this visit here: [youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TloWXn3_BKw[/youtube]   If you like a cocktail or two, then why not take advantage of their 2 for 1 offers every day between 5:30pm and 7pm - Espresso Martini anyone? With the likes of "Spoon" playing on their playlist, I'll be heading back there very soon - this is a favourite band of mine, an American band who neither of us had ever heard being played in the mainstream... or within a restaurant before, both nodding in excitement to it as we dined! Our fantastic waiter smiled, admitting it was his own personal playlist of which we loved, this is a restaurant with personality and attention to detail. Norwich Spotlight: The Library Restaurant www.thelibraryrestaurant.co.uk MSF Miss Sue Flay logo Green Brush Please note - This visit was complimentary following an invitation to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:hello@misssueflay.com You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge" here. If you liked this video, you can view my other video reviews here!  All images © 2015 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Traveling Solo - How I Coped

Traveling Solo - How I Coped I recently wrote a blog post on how to enjoy traveling alone, following some eager research to fill the nervous gap between being here in the UK and flying out to the USA alone for the very first time. I thought I would let you know how it went in reality - as giving tips prior to doing something is all well and good... This is the real stuff, the nitty gritty (not too gritty I hasten to add)! It was my very first time on a long haul flight, I've never been to the USA (even though it's been a dream destination for many many years) and I've most certainly never flown alone before. You can see my little video of my travels here:  [youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3I1ktcRsjd8[/youtube]   Not only was I flying alone on my outbound journey, but also coming home too - eek, scary for somebody who finds "doing London" a bit of a challenge sometimes all the time - I'm a bit of a country bumpkin! So, I kept a journal (thank you SO MUCH to Cat at The Teatime Treatery for my fab birthday gift!) throughout my journey and I cannot believe just how much I LOVED every minute of my trip, the scariness soon disappeared and the excitement came over me as soon as I left my front door. Traveling Solo - How I Coped I can't quite believe just how much travel was involved over the 3 weeks I had planned, including many modes of transport I hadn't even considered would be taken on... in fact, here's a run down of the modes of transport I encountered whilst on my epic road trip - it went something a little like this: ▽ Car ▽ Taxi ▽ Coach ▽ Airplane (Heathrow to Toronto) ▽ Airplane (Toronto to Orlando) Traveling Solo - How I Coped ▽ Shuttle ▽ Private Car ▽ Stretch Hummer Traveling Solo - How I Coped ▽ Private Coach ▽ Golf Buggy  ▽ Mini Bus ▽ Polo Trailer Rollercoaster Back of a truck ▽ Horse & Carriage ▽ Hearse (yup, really!) Traveling Solo - How I Coped ▽ Airplane (Orlando to Toronto) Airplane (Toronto to Heathrow) ▽ Coach ▽ Car And breathe! Traveling Solo - How I Coped Wow, there was a lot of travel involved, ok, not all solo (I met my bearded friend and his lovely family & friends out there for my adventures), but the flying was alone both ways and I'm so stupidly proud of myself for taking this step. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be, in fact, it was peaceful and the time flew by as I gave myself the time to unwind, watch films, read a book and blog as I soared through the air and wandered restfully around the terminals. I loved every minute.  I was lucky, no delays either way, no issues, plain sailing - whoop! So, were my tips in my previous blog useful when it came to traveling alone? Let's have a quick recap and I'll let you know! Traveling Solo - How I Coped ▽ Pack less than you think you need - I took a big suitcase weighing 19kg and a carry on case weighing 9kg, along with my handbag full of stuff I *thought* might be needed for my journey... half of it I never used, as the insight entertainment was so good! I bought my shampoo & general toiletries out there so I didn't have any leaking issues and this saved on space not bringing them home too. ▽ Glow with confidence -  There wasn't one delay or issue encountered, I sauntered through each and every airport gate with my head held high, making it look like I had every confidence in what I was doing. The last leg of my journey was the scariest, as I forgot where my baggage reclaim area was on landing in Orlando, but I am a VERY professional "people watcher" and I spotted the guy from the row behind me on my plane, so I followed him confidently and found my bags... and my AWESOME bearded friend with a hand-made "Miss Sue Flay" welcome sign at the arrivals gates *swoon*. Traveling Solo - How I Coped ▽ Keep hydrated & freshen up where you can - I drank water everywhere I could - the great thing about airports? Water fountains everywhere and in the US, huge water bottles to take on the flight. If you ask your flight attendant, they will also bring you cups of water, so there's no excuse. I also made sure I didn't indulge in the dodgy plane dinners (one was rather suspect, so I ate the salad and kept to my pre-packed nuts & dried fruit to keep me going until landing) and I applied face and hand cream every few hours to keep me refreshed. I couldn't sleep on the plane though - far too excited en route and past exhausted on way home (in fact, from leaving the US to arriving back in the UK, I didn't sleep for more than 50 hours - eek!) ▽ Treat yourself - I blogged, I read books, I ate what I fancied, I watched so many films I lost count - I was in my own little bubble and I loved every minute of it. I urge everyone to try flying alone just once and tell me they didn't enjoy the "me time". I even enjoyed breakfast at The Perfectionists' Cafe at Heathrow (This is inspired by Heston Blumenthal's "In Search of Perfection" TV series) for a delicious poached eggs & bacon with muffins and a huge pot of tea - mmm. Traveling Solo - How I Coped ▽ Offer a friendly face and people will want to chat to you. It's so true, I chatted to all of my travel companions on my flights and had some fascinating conversations with them all. One gentleman had been flying from India to Toronto and had some great tea chat in store for me and one old man on my return journey had just had the holiday of his life with his grandchildren - he had even been micro lighting in Florida and swimming with sharks - I loved hearing everyones travel stories and I would urge everyone who finds themselves sitting next to a stranger to strike up a conversation. One of my fellow travellers even kept an eye on me at one airport after our flight to make sure that I kept safe - she was very sweet. ▽ Don't take chances, I didn't leave my baggage unattended, even when popping to the loo or stretching my legs on the plane, I always had my bags with me. When visiting the loo in an airport, take all cases, even if it might feel a little awkward to be ramming a wheeled case into the stall with you - better to be safe than sorry. I had some very special items in my carry on that I just couldn't afford to lose if I left my case for a couple of minutes, I'm trustworthy to a point, but I was alone and half way around the world - I wasn't going to ask a stranger to hold my valuables... Would anybody honestly?! Traveling Solo - How I Coped  Wear lots of layers - on my way out, I was frozen - it was windy and wet in London and the flight was a chilly one. I took off my shoes, popped some comfortable jersey socks on, had my cardigan on over my shirt and jeans, wrapped up in my complimentary blanket and I was cosy. On the way home, I was baked, so hot on the plane I just couldn't sleep, so layers are one life saver when it comes to flying, don't chance it! ▽ Social media is a great tool for keeping you company at the airport. I managed to connect to free wifi in most places and it kept me entertained and was a great way to tease my followers with my journey. I shared sunsets and sunrises, airport geekery and kept updated with what was going on as I went - hurrah for technology! Traveling Solo - How I Coped In fact, I'm ready to fly again - where are we headed? Shout out your suggestions, I'm all ears...   MSF Miss Sue Flay logo Green Brush   Read my new "About Me" page here! You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge"and other Secret Stays & Reviews here. See more of my travel videos here and more of my food review videos here. Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general! Please Note - I paid my own way on this occasion and I am in no means obliged to blog or write about my experience, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions or to discuss an independent review or "Secret Stay", please do email: hello@misssueflay.com Traveling Solo - How I Coped All images © 2015 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Cambridge Spotlight: The Cock At Hemingford Grey

The Cock Hemingford Grey This week I was invited by the lovely Jessica Donnithorne at Cambscuisine to join the team at The Cock in Hemingford Grey for their staff summer menu tasting session. Cambscuisine are the brand behind some of our favourite meat-based restaurants in Cambridge such as Smokeworks, St John's Chop House, The Tickell Arms, Cambridge Chop House and the Cambridge Dining Company. They have some exciting plans afoot for a second Smokeworks this summer and they are keeping their lips firmly closed on any location info or finer details - exciting! The Cock is their pilot venue, having been open since 2001 and I got to join Will Findlay and his close-knit team of chefs (including George & Fabiene) and waiting staff to sample their new seasonal menus. I was also joined by Pina at One Two Culinary Stew, a fellow blogger so I was in superb company for some food geekery. Will has been Head Chef at The Cock since 2006 and his fresh ideas and passion for locally sourced ingredients is addictive, I felt like a part of the team and got to chip in with my own thoughts on the dishes and help with any suggested additions or changes throughout - what an honour. The team carry out these tastings in order to get the service team familiar with every dish, making them truly knowledgable when it comes to customer questions throughout service. I'm aware that this is probably the norm for most pubs and restaurants, but it's been a while since I've seen such a friendly team that get on like a family - it was like being around a table for a family celebration, it didn't feel business-like at all, the atmosphere was inspiring. The Cock Hemingford Grey What can you expect to order at this picturesque village pub/restaurant? Well, if you simply want to visit a local village pub for a beer garden experience, you are welcome to enjoy a bar snack and a pint whilst soaking up some rays in the garden or curled up by the fire. However, you can also expect to sit in their restaurant and enjoy a high end dining experience - minus the huge price tag. In fact, the prices are more than fair for the quality of dishes in front of me this week - I was mightily impressed and I'm truly not just saying that, I had no idea just what they had to offer! Most of the dishes are also gluten free too, you won't be disappointed as a coeliac, there's no dull options here! A starter can range from between £5.50 - £7.50 and a main can vary between £11.50 - £20 (or if you fancy the Beef Wellington Sharing platter, rem, WOW!) then you can pay £48, £24 per person and you are in for the Wellington of your life. The À la Carte starters include the following dishes: ▽ Fried truffle gnocchi with caramelised onion puree, pickled wild mushrooms, garlic oil & rocket Soup of the day (changes every few days) ▽ Smoked brie with pickled apple and roast grape salad with sage pesto ▽ Duck parcel with sweet & sour cucumber, sesame, spring onion & soy dressing (My personal fave!) ▽ Seared pigeon breast, radish & baby gem fricassee, black cherry gel ▽ Cold smoked pork fillet, piccalilli puree, soused vegetable salad ▽ Rabbit & black pudding terrine with carrot jam, mixed leaves The Cock Hemingford Grey  The À la Carte mains include the following dishes: ▽ Asparagus, pea & truffle risotto with rocket, parmesan & truffle oil salad ▽ Rosemary & garlic polenta, watercress, radish and chilli jam ▽ Lamb rump, pea & mint puree, confit potatoes, black pudding, chantenay carrots & red wine gravy ▽ Guinea fowl supreme with rosemary potato bake, asparagus, mushroom puree, wilted spinach & madeira sauce ▽ Braised spiced pig cheek & belly faggot with Mouli, carrot & red cabbage slaw, coriander Miso broth ▽ 9oz Sirloin steak / 14oz Butler steak with hand cut chips, herb roasted tomato & Cafe de Paris butter ▽ Beef Wellington to share with Lyonnaise Potatoes, salt baked carrots, buttered greens & port sauce Best advice to avoid disappointment?... Book your table before you go, or else you WILL be disappointed! The menu changes every 3 months or so and the fish menu and pudding menu will all change within the next few weeks too - I cannot wait to find out what they have in store! You can see my little geeky video of this tasting afternoon here! [youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4eWe0h9Yhc&spfreload=10[/youtube] www.cambscuisine.com MSF Miss Sue Flay logo Green Brush   Please note - This visit was complimentary following an invitation to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:hello@misssueflay.com You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge" here. If you liked this video, you can view my other video reviews here!  All images © 2015 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.