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…A Bottle of Sauce

Dining Out

Our travels often take us past the greeny-grey pub on the corner of Ambrose Street and Clarence Street; in its former guise as The Quaitch, we kept on walking but recently we were intrigued to see some building work underway. A quick bit of Twitter and Instagram stalking led us to The Bottle of Sauce… and boy are we glad it did!

A mere £500,000 refurbishment later and the transformation is remarkable. Stepping inside, there is an L-shaped bar with industrial brick walls, a huge copper beer menu and a fun neon Dodo, the logo of their parent company. Don’t stop there though… continue to explore and you’ll find a cosy snug, a trendy private dining area for up to 12 guests and a games room complete with ping pong and table football (why don’t more places have these? So much fun for a drunk night out or a lazy Sunday afternoon).

Our favourite area was outside though…a large courtyard bordered on one side by folding glass doors leading into a canteen dining area. There is a DJ booth ready to pump out the latest local sound and you can see the chefs beavering away in front of the awesome authentic wood-fired pizza oven. In the summer, I predict this being one of the top Cheltenham spots with beats, burgers, beers and BBQ.

 So having firmly established that we love the surroundings, what does The Bottle of Sauce have to offer for the discerning foodie? Think 48hr proved sourdough Neopolitan pizzas, dirty dirty burgers and wings (I tried the kimchi buttermilk chicken “Mother Clucker” and my mouth is still watering), as well as a tasty selection of sides and salads. It’s exceptionally good value and they have some brilliant half price lunchtime and Monday evening offers that make it even cheaper. Ludicrously cheap in fact, given the high quality of the ingredients used.

Fear not if you are just after some lubrication; there is a well curated selection of craft beer and cider (Arctic pale ale anyone?) and the cocktails are both unusual enough to make you want to try them and delicious enough to make you come back for more; Sarah’s espresso martini was a particular highlight. They even have their own infused rum which will change regularly.

If you haven’t worked out that we love it by now, you’re probably distracted and singing Christmas songs. We’ll just finish by saying we’ve already planned to squeeze in two more visits before Christmas. Hopefully we’ll see you there, ping pong bat in hand!

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…An exciting new venue in Cheltenham

Dining Out, Food, Out and About

Have you heard the news?

The hugely exciting and eagerly anticipated new Cheltenham pub opening, The Bottle of Sauce, is on a search for its soundtrack, and they need YOU!

Opening in late November on the corner of Clarence and Ambrose Street, after completely transforming the building formerly home the The Quaich pub, this hip new watering hole and eatery is on a mission to introduce the next big thing in DJing to the Cheltenham scene.

If this sounds like you, you are invited to upload your playlist to SoundCloud using the hashtag #TheBottleOfSauce – but be quick, you only have until 5pm on Friday 18 November.

Listeners and members of the public will then be able to vote for their favourite playlist by searching the hashtag and liking their favourite. DJs will be in with a chance of winning a bar tab worth £100 and, really excitingly, their playlist aired during the pub’s launch weekend. What a fantastic opportunity!

The winner will be announced on Monday 21 November and will be the playlist that receives the most likes.

So what are you waiting for? Get uploading now!

As well as this, the all occasions hot spot will also be combining two of mine and Adam’s favourite things: craft beverages and a street food inspired menu, including dirty burgers, wood fired pizzas and much more. We cannot wait!

www.thebottleofsauce.com

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…Giffords Circus

Out and About

Whilst the world has been mourning the Great British Bake Off packing up their tent for the last time *seriously how am I going to get my weekly cake fix?*, us Cotswoldians fortunately have our very own magical big top; home to the quintessentially British Giffords Circus.

We left it late this year, waiting until their final homecoming show at Fennell’s Farm in Stroud to join the sold out crowd; tightly squashed onto the wooden benches, gooey wood fired pizza in hand. Without further ado, Tweedy the Clown began bumbling around the crowd, his pet iron Keith in tow, making everyone yee-hah, clap and cry with laughter at their antics (incidentally the last circus clown I met as a child made me cry for real so Tweedy is a pleasant, child-friendly change!)

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Credit: Gem Hall

By the way, for those of you who have yet to experience the Giffords’ magic, this is no ordinary commercial circus. Giffords was established by Nell Gifford and her partner Toti in 2000 as a traditional village circus, with their close-knit circus “family” painting their own sets, training their animals and creating ever more imaginative shows at their farm.

This year demonstrated just how strong the troupe is; Nell was diagnosed with cancer towards the end of last season and therefore had to rely heavily upon everyone else to make the tour work. Needless to say, they did a wonderful job under the circumstances.

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Credit: Gem Hall

To say thank you for the support they have given Nell, Giffords generously donated the final show’s proceeds to Maggies, a wonderful Cheltenham-based charity who run a cancer drop in centre; Nell spoke passionately about the friendly chats, advice, support, and plentiful tea and biscuits that she received. An amazing £6500 was raised through the deep pockets and kind spirits of the audience, which Maggies have decided to put towards exercise classes to reflect the active and physical nature of Giffords.

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Credit: Steven Kaack

Back to the show, and it kicked off properly with a trained chicken taking centre stage. I’ve never thought of chickens bring trainable before but somehow Giffords have achieved it to hilarious effect. I rapidly found myself immersed in this year’s colourful Wild West story, ‘The Painted Wagon’ with all of the usual Giffords’ acts making an appearance including high flying acrobats, horses jumping through rings of fire, and Bibi and Bichu, jugglers extraordinaire.

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Credit: Andrew Rees

Sadly this was Bibi and Bichu’s last show after an incredible 14 year run with Giffords, as they plan to focus on the launch of their very own show, Circus Abyssinia. Their last performance was enthralling and they will be sorely missed, but we really can’t wait to see what they dream up on their own. No doubt it will be as fast paced and gasp inducing as ever. Break a leg guys!

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Credit: Steven Kaack

Whilst it would be easy to focus on the death defying performances, Nancy Trotter Landry’s quick wit and singing provided a brilliant counterpoint as compere, moving on the storyline and dragging the audience (literally at times) into the proceedings. Combined with Tweedy’s slapstick interventions, the show passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye and it was over all for yet another year. The traditional song and dance in the ring, energetically accompanied by the awesome house band, seemed like a fitting celebration to close the year’s tour, with performers encouraging children and adults into the ring to join them for a hoe down.

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Credit: Gem Hall

As the winter nights start to draw in, I am sure the Giffords’ family are hard at work on Fennell’s Farm, dreaming up next year’s spectacular. No doubt it will surprise and delight the Cotswolds and beyond once again; roll on summer 2017 when Giffords will be only big top in town.

Tickets are already selling well for 2017 so make sure you get yours soon!

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…Malvern Autumn Show

Dining Out, Food, Out and About

Where oh where has the summer gone? It seems like only a few weeks ago that we were enjoying glorious sunshine at the Royal Three Counties Show in Malvern, but the leaves are starting to go rusty on the trees and the sun is starting to set on a jam-packed year.

So with that in mind, what better way to get our Autumnal groove on than to hit the aptly named Malvern Autumn Show? We were lucky enough to be invited along on the Sunday for a seasonal celebration full of ginormous vegetables, cute animals, vintage nostalgia and much more.

It doesn’t matter what they say – size really does matter! Or at least it does if you’re one of the exceptionally green fingered folk entering their monster marrows, supersize squashes or colossal carrots into the Malvern Autumn Show. I’ve dabbled at growing my own veg but I could probably hide my entire crop behind just one of these world record beating behemoths. There were plenty of talks on offer with the experts though so maybe you’ll see me back here next year – green fingers crossed!

If the prize vegetables formed the show’s main course, Anton Du Beke made for a well matched side dish, waltzing his way into the tent and kissing every lady in his path, Sarah included! There was a degree of hysteria from most female members of the audience as Anton regaled us with stories of his childhood and his time on Strictly Come Dancing. One lucky lady even got a free dance lesson as Anton generously offered some expert coaching (and gentle ribbing) to a man struggling to lead his partner. For those of you wondering, he sadly does walk rather than dance everywhere, but it was great to see a true entertainer on the stage and hopefully he will do well this year with his celebrity partner, Lesley Joseph. He assures us that he has big plans if we keep them in *hint hint*.

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Having had our appetites thoroughly whetted by the beautiful food displays, we headed into the maze of food stalls to find some nourishment. After a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide which one of the many delicious snacks we really wanted, Sarah settled on a gooey pepperoni pizza, and I demolished a pierogi stuffed with sausage, apple, sage and cider, with delicate lavender and lavish turkish delight ice cream for pudding to ensure we had a nicely balanced meal *oops*.

After lunch, we strolled waddled towards to the animal area where Sarah got very over excited by the huddle of wagging dogs ready and willing to be petted, whilst I indulged my fondness for the permanently puzzled looking alpacas. There were also plenty of pigs, goats, sheep, horses and cattle on offer for the more conventionally minded.

Having dragged my small human away from the fluffy chaos, we ventured into the vintage village and plant stalls for some shopping. I am not the world’s biggest fan of shopping but there were enough unusual and interesting stalls on offer to keep me engaged and Sarah certainly enjoyed herself. For those with kids, there were also plenty of activities to keep them occupied from vintage funfair attractions to archery lessons.

We definitely enjoyed ourselves and can’t wait for the next Malvern show to roll around. After a short period of hibernation, it will soon be time for the Spring Festival again.

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…Afternoon Tea at the Malmaison, Cheltenham

Dining Out, Food, Out and About

Whilst I’m the first to admit we aren’t exactly experiencing the best of the ‘Great British Summer’ this year, it is a fact universally acknowledged that there is nothing more quintessentially ‘summer’ than a good old British afternoon tea.We have built a tourist empire on it, and rightly so.

Earlier this month, Adam and I were invited to take afternoon tea with a twist at the Malmaison in Cheltenham. As you may already know, The Malmaison chain now occupies the former Montpelier Chapter; a grand building in the town centre with an interior that just oozes luxury and style.

We were greeted by a friendly waitress and shown through to the Orangery, which is a beautifully light space, although perhaps a little hot on the day we visited – if you are particularly warm blooded, I would suggest asking to sit elsewhere.

The Malmaison does not disappoint on choices, with three different afternoon tea options to tempt a variety of tastes – classic, champagne and cocktails.

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Adam and I both opted for the Cocktail Afternoon Tea; as self confessed gin lovers (read: snobs) we were intrigued by the Hendrick’s G&Tea on the menu. Consisting of Hendrick’s gin, St Germain elderflower liquer, blackberry and elderflower tea syrup, lemon juice and tonic and served in Hendrick’s literary themed china, this cocktail tasted like an English garden, looked sublime and really did live up to my expectations.

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I really loved the premise of the cocktail, so much so that I attempted to recreate it twice over with some of the fantastic local brands available to Cheltenham dwellers currently residing in the Lewis liquor cabinet, substituting in Sibling Gin and Cotswold Dry Gin (on separate occasions), Chase elderflower liqueur, local blackberries, homemade tea syrup infused with Bottlegreen elderflower cordial and finished with Bottlegreen tonic – A-MAZ-ING!

We also opted for a pot of the hot stuff – probably a good idea as Adam was driving – and selected traditional breakfast and Afternoon Darjeeling to accompany our feast – and what a feast it was…

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The afternoon tea offered a twist on the traditional;  instead of sandwiches, we feasted on mini burgers, chipotle chicken and avocado wraps and hot smoked salmon and creme fraiche wraps – a welcome change from the cucumber sandwiches which seem to come as standard with many afternoon teas.

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We followed this with a selection of sweet treats including the traditional fruit scones with jam and cream, salted chocolate brownies, lemon and polenta cake, strawberry and vanilla pavlova and a rhubarb posset – the latter of which delighted me – I flipping love rhubarb!

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The showstopper, though, was the frozen berry smoothie served in a mini milk bottle with a tiny straw – it tasted as good as it looked – truly scrumptious!

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Adam and I left the Malmaison with very full bellies and big smiles on our faces  – I would certainly recommend the afternoon tea, especially if you are looking for a twist on the traditional treat with family or friends. The only disappointing factor for me was the lack of local products on the menu, but this is somewhat understandable for a chain, and by no means a deal breaker.

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At £25 a head for the cocktail afternoon tea, and £17.50 for the classic, the Malmaison  offers a touch of luxury at great value – we certainly enjoyed ourselves and hope to return again soon.

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…Livestock Festival (Review)

Out and About

Sarah and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Livestock Festival, taking place near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. You can read our pre-event thoughts and find more details about the event here.

So, having spent the weekend in the shadow of the Malvern Hills, did the event live up to the hype? Well, for a festival in its second year, I have to say that we were impressed. Over 4,500 people took part in the festivities, with mostly glorious sunshine, a feast of food, and acts like Chesney Hawkes, Reef and The Fratellis getting the crowd bouncing.

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For music fans, the daytime and early evening were jam-packed with local and up and coming bands, with plenty of haybales to relax on in the sunshine. As the sun went down over the Malvern Hills, the big names came out to play, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. The Fratellis, Reverend and the Makers and Reef were all hugely popular and got the crowd up on their feet, singing and dancing to their greatest hits. My personal highlight though was Chesney Hawkes.

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Although I love Chesney Hawkes’ classic hit, The One and Only, I must confess that I didn’t know many of his other songs beforehand. Nonetheless, I soon found myself singing along with the rest of the crowd as he seamlessly segued from his own songs into popular chart favourites, including Mr. Brightside and a wonderful rendition of She’s the One, dedicated to a young couple who had gotten married the day before. He also took time out to selflessly invite festival goers onto the stage to tackle the #22pushups charity initiative, currently taking social media by storm to raise awareness for veteran suicide prevention. Chesney was challenged to take on the feat by Olympic Boxer, Kelly Morgan, but was unable to take part due to a back injury and therefore rallied the Livestock audience. We met him backstage and he was completely professional and a really lovely guy….Chesney, you are officially The One and Only!

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We were quite surprised at how much space there was for camping. The website did say there was a lot but it wasn’t until you drove in along the top of the festival fields, past the giant Hollywood style “Livestock” sign, that you could see the huge space laid out before you. Having been to other festivals previously where people were packed like sardines, it made a pleasant change to see plenty of room for kids to run around and people to have a bit of personal space.

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Not that you needed to hide in the campsite because the festival had plenty of activities on offer for kids and grownups alike, ranging from inflatables to dodgems. Hidden along a fairy light festooned corridor of trees, there was a Woodland Stage featuring acoustic sets and some cool DJ beats. We took the time to enjoy some refreshing Wobble Juice cider and get our faces glittered up by the sparkly Boho Boutique.

There was also a great selection of food on offer ranging from wood fired pizzas to  burgers to battered halloumi. The prices were all fairly reasonable too, at least when compared to other events we have attended recently.

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All in all, we had an awesome time and can’t wait to see who they have headlining next year. Perhaps we’ll see you there?!

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…Livestock Festival (Pre-Event)

Out and About

Read our post-Livestock Festival review here.

So, Adam and I have been lucky enough to be invited to what looks set to be one of the biggest and best festivals in the South West this summer. Yes, that’s right, we are off to Livestock Festival next weekend, and we are just too excited not to share a little bit more about it with you all.

This year, Livestock has gone ‘fancy’ with a farm inspired fancy dress theme for the Sunday, and we can’t wait – with previous fancy dress successes including Wall-E (a seriously big mistake for a tightly packed house party) and a giant hedgehog (which Adam was wearing when we first met) we are going all in, hoping  to win the coveted ‘Best Dressed’ title. As well as a fancy title, the winner will win tickets to next year’s Livestock Festival – how fab is that?!

Sunday also sees Livestock welcome, especially for you and me,  my very own personal childhood crush Jason Donovan to the stage as headline act. Seriously, I wanted to marry Jason when I was about five years old; I even had a dance routine to Especially for You, a dress (a net curtain and a peg which I called my ‘getting married’) and would demand my poor mother danced with me whilst I sang to a recording of the Royal Variety Show performance. My Dad even filmed it – what a diva! So with that in mind, I would be completely lying if I said the prospect of seeing Jason perform my ‘getting married’ song doesn’t make me slightly giddy with anticipation!

As well as my hero Jason, the one and only (sorry, I can’t help myself) Chesney Hawkes will also be storming the stage on Sunday night with his stonking smash hit. Did you know it was the 20th most successful single of the entire 90’s? Me neither!

Throughout the weekend you can also see plenty of other fantastic acts – I’ll be reliving some of my favourite uni days on Friday and Saturday night listening to The Fratellis (Saturday headliner) and many a glorious night dancing to Reef’s most iconic song, singing ‘put your hands up…’ at the top of my lungs.  Newly recruited Reef guitarist Jesse Wood, son of Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood and husband of TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton, joins the group to launch Livestock on Friday night as they perform in the headline slot.

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As well as all this, The Woodland Stage will play host to an eclectic array of rising talent, whilst the newly introduced Bloody Mary Stage will showcase comedy and children’s entertainment acts.

With all this action on offer, you’ll need plenty of opportunity to refuel. Not to disappoint,  a veritable feast of foodie options will be available for your delight and enjoyment, including  burgers from The Hungry Toad, freshly prepared pizzas from Just Wood Fired Pizzas, perfect pies from The Pie Factory amongst many more.

Families will have plenty to occupy little ones (and big ones, knowing my husband)  across the weekend with workshops from Time Travelling Toby, Circus Skills sessions, a climbing wall and much, much more. Little ones can also enjoy making real life farmyard friends with pony rides (am I too big to join in?) and Animal Encounters bringing along a menagerie of creatures great and small for children to touch, hold and learn all about.

So what on earth are you waiting for? With something for just about everyone, go book your tickets now! We’ll be in the front row, watching Jason (possibly with a net curtain, in case he wants to marry me…obviously) and having a blast!

Livestock Festival takes place at Manor Farm, Longdon nr Tewkesbury, just 10 minutes from Junction 9 of the M5, from Friday 29 – Sunday 31 July 2016. Tickets are on sale now. Adult tickets are priced from £35 and children’s tickets from £1. Family, camping, glamping and VIP tickets are also available. For the latest updates and to book tickets, visit www.livestocklongdon.co.uk.

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…The White Spoon, Cheltenham

Dining Out, Food

Last weekend, after months of trying to find a free slot in the diary, Adam and I finally made it to The White Spoon in Cheltenham – and my goodness, it was more than worth the wait!

For those that don’t already know, The White Spoon is the first independent venture from Chef Director Chris White and his partner Purdey Spooner (hence the name, The White Spoon). Still in his twenties, Chris has a fantastic chef pedigree -a protégé of Heston Blumenthal and former chef at The Fat Duck and The Hinds Head, this guy clearly knows his food and we couldn’t be happier that he has chosen to bring his own unique (read: delicious and unpretentious) menu to the foodies of Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.

Chris’s style is all about bringing local, seasonal ingredients to the table through a range of dishes which are primarily British in theme, with a few flavour influences from around the globe added for good measure. All the food served up by Chris is made in house, including the fantastic Applewood smoked butter (more on that later). In terms of ambience and atmosphere, The White Spoon is relaxed, welcoming and distinctly unpretentious, yet the interior oozes laid-back contemporary luxe-cool – think reclaimed wood, copper pipe wall lights, stone-effect tableware and a natural colour palette. In short, both the food and the restaurant itself exudes quality and taste.

Adam and I were warmly welcomed into the restaurant by Andy, Chris’s brother, who chatted away to us like we were old friends; I honestly cannot speak highly enough of his obvious enthusiasm for the restaurant and his ability to put his guests at ease. Andy talked us through the menu and left us to deliberate, returning shortly with a jug of cucumber water and a few helpful suggestions. Adam opted for a Cotswold Brewing Company lager, which was suitably light for a sunny Saturday lunchtime, and I had a glass of cranberry juice as I was nursing a bit of a headache.

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So, what did we order? Well, as it was lunchtime we decided to try the set menu. First up, we chose to try the Plant Pot Bread which had caught my attention due to it being served with Applewood Smoked Butter. I love the taste of smoked food – it’s quite simply up there in my top five flavours, and  was not disappointed. The butter, like everything else, is made in house and the taste was phenomenal, particularly when combined with the aniseed flavour from the fennel seeds atop the bread. The bread itself was a pleasure to eat; a golden crust revealed a light and fluffy inside which melted in the mouth. The bread was also served with salted butter, which Adam particularly liked. Even better, the bread was cut to reveal two butter-able sides which meant (as a self confessed butter-piglet) I could indulge my inner glutton on the smoked butter front.

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I opted not to have a starter, but Adam chose the Cotswold Mozzarella and Tomato Tart with Balsamic. As soon as it came out, I instantly regretted not ordering one myself. It was so beautifully presented, with little cubes of balsamic jelly adorning the slate – I could feel my food envy beginning to rise. Fortunately for me, Adam was in a sharing mood and, sensing the green eyed monster in me, offered me a generous forkful of this tasty dish. What a good husband! The tart was possibly one of the finest things I have ever put in my mouth – crisp, flaky pastry, tangy tomato and soft, creamy Cotswold mozzarella with the sharp yet sweet balsamic jelly cutting through it all, without overpowering it. It was insanely good. I think I could eat several of these every day and not get bored (though my waistline might not thank me).

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Moving on to the main event, I opted for the Leek and Cheddar Croquette with Choucroute and Celeriac, which combined the tastiest oozy cheddar with the softness of leek and the tang of mustard seed, all rolled up into the crispiest crumb case- it was heavenly. The addition of the lightly caramelised choucroute and  celeriac gave the dish an extra bite – adding volume and a lighter taste to counter the croquette itself.

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Adam opted for the Confit Pork Ravioli with Roasted Carrot and Bacon Foam; which tasted as good as it looked (I will forever be glad that Adam was happy to share throughout this meal, as I don’t think I could have coped not trying everything). The pasta was flavoursome and cooked to perfection; the pork melted in the mouth. Now, I’m not usually one for ‘foam’ on a dish, but I have to say, this particular bacon foam was really good and worked very well with the ravioli – it was a necessary part of the dish, not just a bit of ‘fluff’ for the sake of it. Adam thoroughly enjoyed it.

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We both wanted to try the Passionfruit Cheesecake with Milk ice cream and homemade Honeycomb, and the Set Toffee Custard with Banana and Vanilla Ice Cream – so we did the only sensible thing and ordered both – swapping dishes halfway though. For me, the mark of a good dessert is not wanting it to end, and quite honestly I didn’t want either of these to. The passionfruit cheesecake combined the tartness of the passionfruit with a soft creamy filling, and when the honeycomb was added to the mix, created a tangy, sweet, soft yet sharp taste explosion – it was THAT good I don’t think I spoke to Adam once during desert, except to ask to swap halfway.

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The set toffee custard was sweet without being sickly, the banana glazed with a thick caramelised toffee ‘glass’ – and the vanilla ice cream was fantastic – though I would have equally loved to have tried this with a salted vanilla to counter the sweetness of the toffee.

Both deserts left us with big smiles on our faces, and to be honest, I couldn’t have picked a favourite if I tried.

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We left with full bellies, contented and happy – not in any small part due to the fantastic service we had received from Andy and his team too. I spied the Sunday lunch menu as we left, which despite my full state, had me practically salivating. There is something incredibly special about The White Spoon. We will definitely be finding more space in our diaries to return very soon.

 

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…RHS Malvern Spring Festival

Out and About

Earlier this month, we were fortunate enough to be invited to attend RHS Malvern Spring Festival, a four day garden and lifestyle event held annually in Malvern, Gloucestershire (think Chelsea Flower Show with a backdrop of rolling hills and fresh, country air).
We arrived on the Saturday mid morning, with the sun blazing and only a few clouds in the sky; we knew we were going to have a great day.

After a swift recce, we headed for the main stage to see baking royalty Mary Berry. The stage was set with an oversized throne made of grass, which was perfect for the Queen of cakes herself. After giving the gathered crowd a warm welcome, Mary and Gardener’s World’s Joe Swift talked about Mary’s role as President of the The National Garden’s Scheme and her fondness for gardening in her own home, before opening up the stage to audience questions.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Adam asked Mary about the growing trend for foraged food as seen on last year’s Bake Off, and increasingly around the Cotswold’s finest establishments, which led into an interesting debate about homegrown cooking and microherbs. Mary also made a little boy’s day, seating him on her lap and asking him about his cooking. It was great to see that Mary is just as warm and passionate in real life as on TV.

After a quick stop for lunch at one of the many fabulous good stalls, we took a leisurely stroll around the star attraction, the Show Gardens. These professional gardens were so clever, taking simple elements and combining them in captivating and imaginative ways; who knew you could do so much in such a small space?!?

Our favourite was the stunning ROMANTIC GARDEN, set around an Italian courtyard; abundant sea of pink roses were bordered with fragrant Mediterranean herbs, twisted olive trees swaying in the breeze, and towering Cyprus trees adding a sense of  architectural grandiosity. Rustic chairs were laid out for an imaginary wedding with a cute pair of white doves cooing their I-Dos as the sun shone down.

It was very easy to forget that you were in the shadow of the Malvern Hills, and the other gardens compounded the fantasy with beautiful Japanese forests, wood cutter’s cabins and abandoned underground houses to choose from.

The sun then chose to disappear for a while so we took advantage of the undercover shopping and found a wide range of beautifully crafted products from Sam Brown’s buttery leather belts, accented with bold acrylic edging to the adorable Boop Design bud vases, modelled on vintage medicine bottles. Not forgetting the huge variety of plants and products for the more green fingered shoppers, we took inspiration from the ??? garden and bought some of the incredible roses and herbs for our garden.

With the day drawing to a close, we snuck in a few more foodie samples, adding a bottle of the Cheltenham based Sibling gin to our collection, having been won over by its unusual blueberry tones, and the four young and  enthusiastic siblings behind it. Having also picked up a camellia from the enormous Plant Village???, we staggered back to the car with our haul, enjoying a free can of Bottlegreen lemonade and mint, and narrowly avoiding torrential rain.

Whilst we’ve always enjoyed the garden, we’ve never really considered attending a garden show. but having now been to RHS Malvern, we can honestly say that we can’t wait for the next show to roll around, as there really is something for everyone.

With The Royal Three Counties agricultural and countryside show in just a few weeks time on 17-19th June, I’ve got a feeling we are going to be regular visitors to Malvern.

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…Cotswold Candle Company

Home, Style

I love candles, our house is full of them – so when Polly from The Cotswold Candle Company invited me to review one of her candles on the blog, I jumped at the chance!

Like me, Polly from The Cotswold Candle Company adores candles. However, when she became hesitant about the rather high price tag attached to many of the luxury candle brands she decided to do something about it, and embarked upon creating her own brand of affordable luxury candles. It was then that The Cotswold Candle Company was born. You can read all about Polly’s story here.

When choosing a candle, I have a few different criteria that it ‘must have’ in order to put a smile on my face. It must be soy, must smell amazing and as close to the original fragrance of the fruit or flower as possible, but also not be too overpowering or artificial in any way. I also like it to burn evenly too.I am, it would seem, a hard woman to please!

After  much deliberation, I decided upon the White Mulberry candle – something about the name felt special and enticed me in over and above the others.

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The candle arrived beautifully packaged with a black bow, and came with a lovely little handwritten note on a cute kraft gift tag, which was a nice personal touch. For me, the packaging was suggestive of luxury and quality – both indicators bode well for the candle inside.  The candle itself is presented in a glass votive and feels particularly heavy and of good quality. I was also intrigued by the wooden wick.  As you light the wick, it crackles and pops like a fire, which adds a little something special to the experience. It also burns really evenly – something I suspect is in part due to the wooden wick.

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The scent is something else! I honestly haven’t experienced another scent quite as delicate and wonderful as this White Mulberry – it really fills the room without being overpowering, and even my ‘candle-loathing’ husband approves. Woo hoo!

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The Cotswold Candle Co range includes classic scents like Sweet Pea (I almost chose this one – sweet peas were my wedding flowers), White Mulberry, Rose and a Cinnamon, Orange & Clove candle which must surely be a perfect scent at Christmas.  The candles have a burn time of approximately 35 hours and cost £18 each. I think this is excellent value for money for a hand poured candle compared to other luxury brands.

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For me, my White Mulberry candle ticks all the boxes – made of a soy/mineral mix, smells amazing, burns evenly and (something I never thought I’d write about a candle) sounds great too!