Sunday 30 March 2014

Afternoon Tea at Harrods

A few weeks ago, I was asked to go and review afternoon tea at Harrods. We didn't actually have a trip to London planned, but decided on a whim to pop down over my birthday and check out what was on offer at the iconic London store. 

Afternoon Tea is taken in the Georgian Restaurant, which is on the fourth floor. We managed to locate it without too much trouble (that place is seriously like some sort of Labyrinth - without talking worms), and we were seated promptly despite the fact we were ridiculously early. Everyone around us seemed to be having exactly the same thing, which felt a little odd in all honesty. 

Service is efficient and prompt, but lacked the warmth we have enjoyed at similar places - formality does not need to mean spiritless service. We have been to restaurants with three Michelin stars where the charm of the Maitre d' is as memorable as the dishes we ate.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods
We picked our teas; an Afternoon Special and Assam Gold Rush, as a platter of preserves was delivered. There was a thick strawberry jam, rose petal jelly and thick clotted cream.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods
Within a few minutes our triple tiered afternoon tea arrived. Although this looked magnificent, we were given very little explanation of what it included. It did look fairly self explanatory, but it's always nice to be told.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods
The finger sandwiches included roast beef with sweet onion relish, cream cheese and cucumber, egg and cress, smoked salmon and a prawn and lobster brioche roll. Between us, there were a few of these that we weren't keen on, but that was just personal preference. We both liked how Betty's in York give you a small sandwich menu to choose from, therefore solving the problem. The flavours that we did like were lovely, and perfectly sized. The beef and onion ones were delicious.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods
The platter came with both plain and fruited scones, both of which were still warm from the oven. They were by far the best part of the show. The rose jelly was a pleasant alternative to standard strawberry jam, but it was nice to have the choice of both.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods
The cake layer included a lemon meringue tart, raspberry macaron, iced fruit cake, chocolate hazelnut delice and a mille-feuille Napoleon. They may have been small, but boy did they pack a punch! All were beautifully finished and topped the afternoon tea stand off magnificently. I think my favourite had to be the mini lemon meringue tarts.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods
Buy a Gift offer this package at £59 for two people, which is about standard. Afternoon tea is a bit of a treat, a decadence that we rarely indulge upon unless it's a special occasion. I think this would be a lovely gift for someone who can easily access central London. What's particularly nice about the service they offer is that if you do buy it for someone, and it's not really up their street, it can be exchanged for any of their other experiences instead. I stuck with the afternoon tea, as the segway rally wasn't really for me...

Disclaimer: I was given a voucher to cover the cost of afternoon tea by Buy a Gift. I was under no obligation to write a review or tell porkie pies of any sort. This is my honest opinion.

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Saturday 29 March 2014

Peach Bundt Cake

Peach Bundt Cake
'So the labyrinth's a piece of cake, is it? Well let's see how you deal with this little slice...'

This month's cake club theme was The Land of Make Believe. As a child I was obsessed with the film Labyrinth - yes, I still know most of the script and yes, I am proud of that fact. I was only ever going to make a Poisonous Peach Cake (sans poison) for our meet up. That moment where Hoggle hands Sarah that peach... I'm still like 'nooooo!'

What made this month even more special is that my childhood best pal Jenny joined us. I dread to think how many times we watched Labyrinth, Grease and Dirty Dancing in my bedroom. I even managed to source a replica worm for the top! I also found a legitimate excuse to wear my 'You remind me of the babe' Bowie T-shirt - I looked BAD ASS (or either one of those words singularly). I added a little swirl to the centre of the cake so it looked a bit like a Labyrinth too...
Peach Bundt Cake
Ok, so you don't have to be a fan of the film to make this cake, you may just like peaches. Yes, I also now have that song in my head. Not sure what I'm banging on about? Click the link. It's my pleasure.

  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g plain flour 
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml peach fat free yoghurt 
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp peach cordial
  • Orange food colouring
  • 500g icing sugar 
  • 1 tbsp peach cordial 

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray and dust with flour.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Pour the yoghurt and peach cordial into a jug.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt mix. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
  9. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  10. Put about 6 tbsp of the batter into a bowl, and dye orange.
  11. Pour half of the plain batter into the prepared tin. 
  12. Spoon in the orange layer.
  13. Cover with the rest of your plain batter.
  14. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  15. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.
  16. When the cake is fully cooled, mix the icing sugar with 3 tbsp of peach cordial and enough water to make a runny icing. Tip the lot over your cake - it will trickle down the sides to cover the whole thing.
  17. Worm optional... 

Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

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Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - The Land of Make Believe...

Clandestine Cake Club
Stars in your eyes, little one, where do you go to dream, to a place, we all know... the land of make believe...

Now I've got you all singing that absolutely storming tune, I'll tell you all about today's cake club! After two years of different themes, it can get pretty tricky trying to think of new ones that aren't too hard to bake for. I'm all for people ultimately being able to bake whatever they like, but our varied themes also allow for a bit of creativity. 

Despite having a 'down with the kids' image (oi, mouth...) I am a little partial to a bit of cheesy pop music - The Land of Make Believe by Bucks Fizz being one of my all time faves. As I hummed it in the shower whilst washing my hair, it came to me... what a brilliant cake club theme! I asked our members to remember the magic from their childhood. It could be a song, story, film, anything from that time when your imagination was the only game you needed. 

Last March we were due to go to Suzanna's in Blackrod, but we got snowed off! It felt only right to have another bash this year. Once again, Suzanna and her team welcomed us with open arms. We drank so much tea that at one point we were using every teapot in the house!

I love how everyone interprets our given theme in different ways, and no two cakes are ever the same. Despite losing almost half our attendees to viral nasties, last minute Mother's Day commitments and whatnot, we still managed a pretty impressive spread. There were ten cakes in all, each with a special meaning to their baker. They included:
  • Narnia Bundt Cake
  • Teddy Bear's Picnic Honey Cake
  • Eat Me, Drink Me Gingerbread Bundt with Ginger Beer
  • Exhibit (A) Layered sponge with Dulce de Leche
  • The Fairy House
  • Bruce Bogtrotter's Cake - Chocolate with Popping Candy
  • Hoggle's Poisonous Peach Bundt Cake
  • Fairy Wishes Spiced Raspberry Cake
  • Bucks Fizz Cake
  • Aint No Party Like a Care Bear Party Cake
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
If this looks like something you fancy, why not join us? It's not a competition, and the main aim of us meeting is to eat cake and have a natter. Whatever excuse you have in the back of your head, forget it. There are new people joining us every month, and you'll never be left alone - quite the opposite in fact! If you're interested in finding out more, pop on over the the Clandestine Cake Club website. We'll also be at the Manchester Cake and Bake Show to answer your questions from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th April. 

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Sunday 16 March 2014

Serendipitea, Chorlton

Serendipitea, Chorlton
I have a list. Serendipitea in Chorlton has been on said list for a some time. It's not a place I venture to often, but a couple of weeks ago I found myself alone on Beech Road. No, I hadn't come over all 'Wizard of Oz', but I did have a couple of hours to kill. 

It was my blogging pal Bacon on the Beech who first recommended Serendipitea after stumbling across it whilst shopping on Beech Road. Just as its name suggests, I imagine most people accidentally find this pretty little place whilst perusing the other shops. There's no shortage of places to stop for a cuppa along this road, but Serendipitea feels a little different. 

Inside is a mixture of modern and pretty vintage finds. The now quintessential mismatched china is right at home with the fresh roses, upturned crate tables and the quirky floor tiles. It only opens at 11am on Sundays, but if you find yourself a little early, nip into to Epicerie Ludo across the road for fresh bread, pork pies and some rather pungent cheese. 
Serendipitea, Chorlton
I had hoped to try some of their fresh baked scones but I must have been a bit early. They are baked daily and the lady who was serving was also making these later in the morning. Damn it.

I settled for a Beech Road Afternoon Tea, which is a blend of precious first flush darjeeling and black Kenyan teas. I love strong tea so this was just perfect: just enough clout without being bitter.
Serendipitea, Chorlton
Since scones weren't an option, I plumped for a caramel and walnut blondie. Yes, this looks rather unassuming, however this little slice had the fortitude of a three course dinner. I think I managed just over half!  The depth of this was bob on - any thicker and I am sure it would finish off most rugby players.
Serendipitea, Chorlton - Blondie
There wasn't a huge amount of cakes to choose from, but it was a Sunday when I went. Others included a large slab of Dime Bar cake (remember the armadillo advert? No? Just me then) and rocky road.
Serendipitea, Chorlton - Cakes
I'd say Serendipitea is the kind of place to go if you're looking for a mid-shop pit stop rather than a 'lunch and a slice of cake' kind of gaff. They don't have a food menu per se, but I did notice that they have started doing afternoon tea now. I think I visited on a day where there wasn't as much choice, as when I headed over to their Facebook page (their website isn't up and running yet), I saw a much better selection.

If you enjoy a nice cup of tea, a slice of cake and an hour or so people watching, you'll love it.

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Sunday 9 March 2014

March's Calendar Cakes Challenge - Spring into Action!

Calendar Cakes Challenge
I love spring time. Bulbs popping up and birds singing remind me that the dark mornings and chilly evenings are almost behind us for another year. At this time of year I'm craving fruity bakes with zesty flavours, bright colours and pretty florals. Bye bye fleece, hello frocks!

This month I want to see your springtime inspired bakes. This could range from decoration to what ever makes you feel a little more energised. 

Entry Guidelines: 
  • Post your entry on your blog and include the ‘Calendar Cakes’ logo
  • Add 'Calendar Cakes Challenge' as a label on your post.
  • Add links on your post to your hosts Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes.
  • Link to your blog from here using the Linky tool below. It's dead easy...
  • If you don’t have a blog you can still join in, just share the picture online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr etc), right hand click on it and copy image URL or link address. Add this to the Linky et voila! 
  • If you're on Twitter, tweet us a link to your post @dollybakes and @lauralovesbakes - otherwise we won't see it! Use the handle #CalendarCakes.

Calendar Cakes Challenge Rules:
  1. You can enter as many times as you like. Bake to your little heart's content.
  2. It can be your own recipe or one you found elsewhere (please just state where you found it).
  3. You can use old posts as long as you update them with the 'Calendar Cakes' logo and link back (see above).
  4. If you want to enter your bake into other challenges too then please feel free.
  5. You must submit by the last day of each month.
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Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke

Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke
When we were about 18, my husband and I used to go to the Yew Tree Inn for a bit of a treat. No, I wasn't a child bride, we got wed several years later... It always felt very extravagant, especially on our measly student wages. We loved to push the boat out and have our favourites; fillet steak with red wine jus and stilton, and the same cut with peppercorn sauce. They had the whole package of candle-lit tables, good food, decent beer and crackling fires.

The Yew Tree may even be credited to us opening our minds to new foods. We once went on Valentine's Day and had their set tasting menu. Neither of us had the balls to tell the waiter that we didn't like parts of the menu, so we just tried it all - and loved every mouthful.

We never fell out with our friends at the top of Dill Hall Brow; we just discovered a whole new world of dining elsewhere. In 2010, proprietors Cath and Paul Taylor moved on to the Cherry Tree in Blackrod, which is a slightly more laid back affair. This is the first time we have been back since the new owners took over.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke
First impressions were good. The dusty, flattened wine bottles have gone, and the pub area has been treated to new upholstery which is sympathetic to the building's nineteenth century heritage. The restaurant too has been lovingly restored, and feels modern with a country cottage edge.

We visited on a chilly Sunday to celebrate a family birthday, and were welcomed by cheery staff and roaring fires.

Roasted red pepper soup: A generous portion served with warm crusty bread. Well seasoned with a peppery kick.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - Soup
Sunday roast - beef: Thick sliced beef, decent roasties and a whopper of a Yorkshire pud. My only criticism was that the vegetables were a little under-seasoned, which was soon rectified with table salt.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - Roast Beef
Pork belly served with sweet apple mashed potato, cider gravy and sauteed cabbage: Cleanly presented with a nice little baton of crackling. The recipient of this dish noted plenty of meat without too much fat.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - Pork Belly
Fish and chips: A popular choice amongst the group. Home cooked chips with a large battered piece of haddock. Job done.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - Fish and Chips
Fillet of cod served with chorizo and buttered cabbage, mashed potato and lemon butter sauce: A slightly lighter option than the fish and chips, but still very filling.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - Cod
Sticky toffee pudding: A decent wedge of pudding served with ice cream and butterscotch sauce. Surprisingly light too.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - Sticky Toffee Pudding
White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake with vanilla ice cream: The only thing that would have made this better would have been the addition of fresh raspberries on top. Otherwise, perfect.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - White Chocolate Cheesecake
Chocolate orange cheesecake: Home made once again, this was described as the essence of Terry's. Again, very light in texture.
Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke - Chocolate Orange Cheesecake
The food is very different to the Yew Tree of old, although I'm sure I spied one of the original chefs through the open kitchen. The lady who served us was friendly, and stopped for a little chat regularly throughout the meal to ensure we were all having a good time - without being intrusive.

If you enjoy country walks or eating outside whilst overlooking beautiful scenery, you'll love the Yew Tree. It's in an absolutely idyllic location which boasts views over the beautiful Rivington countryside. We went on a bit of a damp February afternoon, and the log fires were just as appealing as the al fresco space is in summer. I'm sure we'll be back.

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Thursday 6 March 2014

Giveaway - Afternoon Tea for Two at Harrods

Buy a Gift
I love to visit London. The restaurants, the tea shops, the vast amounts of cake on every corner... It's a food lover's paradise. I have a list of places I want to try, and generally cram so many of them into one trip that we leave wondering whether that pain in our feet is fatigue or gout...?

One of the experiences on 'the list' is afternoon tea at Harrods. It's an institution. I always manage to squeeze in a quick trip, which generally involves dragging my husband round the food hall then landing in LadurĂ©e

Imagine my excitement when those fun loving folk at Buy a Gift asked me to go and review their afternoon tea experience? Even better... they want me to give the same experience away to one of you lovely lot! Eyes on the bedazzling prize everyone... 
Afternoon Tea for Two at Harrods
This rather elegant tea for two includes finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream and sweet English fancies from the Harrods patisserie, all complemented by an extensive menu of unlimited fine world teas and a whole world of class.

I'll be off to sample the goods at the end of this month, so expect to see lots of photos...

How to Enter
  • Simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below.
  • To be in with a chance of winning you must complete ALL the mandatory fields, and then can move onto the additional entries if you want to increase your chances of winning.
  • All entries will be checked and verified before a winner is announced.
  • You can increase your chances of winning by Tweeting on a daily basis.
  • Rafflecopter will pick two random winners.
  • The competition runs until midnight on 31st March 2014.
  • Please see the Terms and Conditions on the Rafflecopter widget for the rules and more information.
  • Please feel free to share this giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Saturday 1 March 2014

Kitchenette, Manchester

Kitchenette, Manchester
Last night my husband went to a beer festival, so I was home alone with the cat. After four back to back episodes of Modern Family, I was well and truly bored. I found myself planning today's little trip to Manchester, but fancied somewhere new for lunch. The Manchester dining scene is exploding at the moment, so there are always new places to try and updated menus to sample. Then I stumbled upon Kitchenette.

Kitchenette has spawned from the Mud Crab chain responsible for Mud Crab at the Grinch over the other side of town, and the Felicini's chain. Owners Neil Lawrence and Ged Lynch have kicked Manchester Felicini's to the kerb, and opened the slinky new Kitchenette in its place. The food is a wonderful hybrid of American-Asian delights, specialising in steamed hirata buns. It sits about a minute's walk from Oxford Road train station, so is really easy to get to as well. 
Kitchenette, Manchester
First impressions were good. Outside is a little quirky, but inside is a smooth operation. The first level houses a small seating area which overlooks the busy Oxford Street, then some swirling metal stairs lead down to the main bar area. This is an elegant space with a large wine and spirit collection. The staff were attentive, and all to eager to welcome us in from the cold.

Then follows a more intimate dining space with brown leather booths and soft lighting. Beyond that is the main dining room, which is a mish-mash of table sizes, all with a decent view over the Bridgewater Canal. Right at the end of the restaurant is a glasshouse style construction. Apparently the walls can open up in the summer for a more al fresco feel.
Kitchenette, Manchester
My poor husband was horrifically hung over, so I wasn't sure he would be up to the challenge of sampling the menu, but a shot of espresso later and he was on his way to feeling human again. He looked a little green whilst I sipped on ginger beer... I had originally ordered a strawberry milkshake, but I was a little disappointed with it. It was like flavoured milk rather than the thick, ice cream based shakes I'm used to. 
Kitchenette, Manchester - Drinks
Fried Chicken - hot cajun spices and house BBQ sauce: These tasted sensational! The milkshake misdemeanour was forgiven in seconds. They were spicy with a decent crunch, without a hint of dryness.
Kitchenette, Manchester - Fried Chicken
Breakfast in a bun - sausage, bacon, fried egg and cheddar cheese: Apparently a miraculous cure for hangovers! Paddy went from creature to fighting fit in about three mouthfuls. We both agreed that this tastes like a decent version of a Sausage and Egg McMuffin. Odd. Well they do claim to be high class junk food...
Kitchenette, Manchester - Breakfast
Beef brisket chilli with cornbread, grilled cheese crust, sour cream and tomato salsa: There is enough chilli here to feed at least two people. It's all meat! I would have preferred the cornbread to be of the fluffy cake-like variety, but only because the main itself is very filling. Thank heavens for the refreshing tomato salsa! I was furious with myself for leaving any of this because it was absolutely delirious.
Kitchenette, Manchester - Beef Brisket Chilli
Mac n cheese: The quintessential side dish. I find this is a good barometer so order it pretty much anywhere that has it on the menu. Nothing to do with me being a proper porker. This had quite a mild cheesy taste, but a good breadcrumbed crust.
Kitchenette, Manchester - Mac n Cheese
Today's fresh doughnuts with cinnamon and melted chocolate dip: I was sold on cinnamon really. I'm sure they were cooked fresh that day, however they had been kept in a fridge, so were very cold. These type of doughnuts need to be warm... think Pleasure Beach...
Kitchenette, Manchester - Doughnuts
Lemon and Yuzu Meringue Pie with toasted rosewater marshmallows and pistachio crumbs: These rose flavoured homemade marshmallows were to die for, as was the thick lemon and yuzu curd beneath them. I felt like pig of the week after eating this. The only weird thing about it was a lack of meringue...?
Kitchenette, Manchester - Lemon and Yuzu Meringue Pie
I have to admit that Kitchenette was considerably better than I had predicted. In all fairness, they've only been open for two days, so I'm sure that some of the points I have raised will be ironed out over the coming weeks. The staff were great, and we left feeling utterly stuffed.

This place will gather mass appeal if they make a few tweeks. I can see it being as popular with the pre-theatre diners as it is with the 'down with the kids' students. No-one else in the city is successfully providing the same fusion of styles, which will make it popular with friends who have different culinary tastes too. We'll be back for that fried chicken...  

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