The Pint Shop in Cambridge is close to my heart for many reasons. As a local food lover, this is a fantastic place to enjoy a beer from their huge selection of ales from all over the world, as well as more local selections on an ever-changing chalkboard of dreams. If you love beer, this is the place for you… it's certainly been the place for me over the years to enjoy meeting my cousins or friends for a quick pint, either in their cosy bar or outside in the seclusion of the walled beer garden at the back. The Pint Shop is also where I "cheers'd with my good friend Cat when I became newly single and signed up a big client back in my self-employed days. I also adore it, as it's where I took the "Bearded One" for our very first Cambridge date three years ago, so it holds very special and happy memories for me ♡ But, recently there has been a revamp (inside and out; with a new dining room upstairs in the main building, as well as a cover added to the beer garden, speckled with soft fairy lights) and I was invited by the Pint Shop team to pop in and sample their new menu… how exciting. Taking advantage of the recent celebration of three years together, I took my bearded man-friend to tuck into the new menu and enjoy a few drinks to toast the weekend. I've never dined here on a Friday night and it's a special place at this time of day, 8pm and it was buzzing… the tables surrounding us were filled with couples, groups of friends, new acquaintances and work colleagues, it was an eclectic room full of diners and the conversation bouncing off the art-covered walls got us in the mood, joining in with the conversation and, hopefully, adding to the buzz. I don't know about you, but I find there's nothing worse than being surrounded by silent diners when you love talking about such random stuff over a meal… I loved that everyone was enjoying their own little worlds that you could discuss the most obscure topics and nobody would bat an eyelid, we had a great time. The Pint Shop promise you "Meat. Bread. Beer" and that's what you get… a really wide selection of everything, there's something for everybody. Even the vegetarians and vegans amongst you, they cater for everybody on their menu, which is fantastic. I have vegetarian friends myself, so it's a place to bank next time we need somewhere that will cater well for everyone. We enjoyed ordering various dishes and sharing them, it's the best way to try different things and I highly recommend doing the same… there's far too much to miss if you don't go with somebody willing to share. For starters we opted of the iconic Pint Shop pork & fennel scotch egg, complete with runny yolk - this is a must for anyone new to this place, they are just perfect in every way - light, perfectly seasoned and very more-ish! We also picked the gin cured trout with buttermilk pancakes, sour cream and sweetcorn relish - this was one of my favourite dishes of the evening! I would say simplicity is key here, they almost tried to style the dish here by twisting the trout into a beautiful heap in the middle of the plate, but it hadn't quite worked, the pancakes were slapped on the side and it came with a bowl of delicious sweet relish to make a mouthful sized savoury treat - every bite of this was better than the first, so tasty. I don't normally go for fish dishes, but I was drawn to the Pint Shop curry, so ordered a king prawn tikka served with garlic naan, rice and a peanut chutney. I personally don't like hot food, I'm a lightweight when it comes to heat, so asked our waitress if we could have it as a mild curry. She made us aware that this is pre-prepared so couldn't be altered, a real shame, as I found it super spicy. I expected the peanut chutney to cool it off, but it did quite the opposite, it was very hot and even my dining partner (who can take a lot of heat) found it super hot. Thankfully the prawns were mainly on the rice and not in the curry itself, so I managed to eat around it. Not my favourite dish, but very aromatic and lot's going on within the dish, it was beautiful. Beardy ordered the Lamb Loin Chops from the charcoal grill, served with crushed potatoes, rainbow chard and spring onions. Now, this was truly delicious, the lamb was cooked beautifully and as simple as the dish was, it was the true winner or the main courses. Alongside his food, he supped on a Saltaire Brewery South Island Pale New Zealand Pale and a De Molem Brewery 'Hugs & Kisses' session IPA - both equally as refreshing as the other. I can't pretend to know how to review a beer, but these guys know their people-pleasing beers! Don't just settle for beer here either… the gin selection is HUGE and you must try their gin cocktails, they are just beautiful. Non-alcoholic cocktails are on the menu too, so drivers and tee-totalers get the royal treatment equally. I enjoyed the 'Hard Lemonade' made with Portobello Road gin, house lemonade, elderflower and bitters, as well as a 'Rhubarb G & T' made up of Warner Edwards Victoria Secret Rhubarb gin, Aperol, orange bitters and topped with a tonic - both were beautiful and have inspired me to get more creative with my own homemade cocktails in the Pubshed™️. Of course, the old 'dessert stomach' comes in useful at this point in a meal… we were full, but with the offer of 'Jack's Gelato' Ice Cream Sundaes, we weren't going to be defeated by the pudding course. Between us we tucked into The Caramelised Banana Split with vanilla ice cream, fudge sauce and topped with almonds, as well as a tall glass of 'The Malt teaser' with malt ice cream, a thick chocolate fudge sauce and blondie crumbs - both were awesome, don't miss dessert here if you can help it! At £6 / £6.50 each, these were fairly priced, almost too big to finish… almost. I love the little details here. The foam heart on our coffee, the artwork you can not only enjoy, but can actually buy if you want to, the tiny tea lights lighting your meal (although tricky to get good photos in this light haha), the simple silver cutlery and white linen napkins on bare wooden tables and the excitement of a beer being wiped off the board once the keg has been emptied - there's lots going on here, it's a great place for a date or a night with family and friends. The only drawback here is that the toilets are upstairs, so with an injured ankle, this was a tricky situation. There is a disabled toilet downstairs on the ground floor, however on entering I swiftly walked straight back out as couldn't stomach the state it was in, it was filthy. It's a real shame, they definitely need to keep more on top of their facilities, I'm not sure how the upstairs lavatories were, but I hope they were in a better state than this one. We had been invited to see the new dining room, but weren't seated in here. Instead, we were in the main dining area on the ground floor behind the bar, so can't comment too much on the revamp, but from a quick peek upstairs to look, it is a very simple yet stylish dining room. We will definitely be going back in the near future to try out more dishes - their Sunday roast is well and truly calling my name! The Pint Shop has recently expanded to our opposing University town too (controversial haha), so if you are headed to Oxford, you'll find a similar menu to get stuck into there. Have YOU been to The Pint Shop? I'd love to hear your thoughts below in a comment. www.pintshop.co.uk Read my "About Me" page 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 – This visit was complimentary following an invitation from 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:email@example.com All images © 2017 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Monday, 9 October 2017
** Please be aware that this is a very honest and open thought process for me, it's not advice plucked out of nowhere, this is based on my own feelings and experiences - I hope it helps just one person to realise they are not alone ** When you have a bad day, it's easy to feel lost, worried, scared or upset that with all the "friends" in your life, why do you feel so alone? I've recently realised that this thought process can be an unnecessary feeling. I've recently thought about it this way and it's helped me to overcome some of my own personal lows. I guess it's normal to feel low/anxious/depressed and I, like many others, feel these lows, but have never been open so publicly about them before. I just want people out there reading this to know, it's normal, everybody is going through this feeling at some point in their life/lives. Personally, I've had strong feelings of being "pushed out" in various elements of my life, which has been tough and draining, something I've found extremely hard to cope with and move on from. In a world where everybody has hundreds, even thousands of "friends" on social media, it seems to be questioned as to how many of these people are indeed your friends. Social media does make it easy to become a "social" butterfly (or anti-social in most instances) with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc at our fingertips. I've been sat in a room full of people many times over the last few weeks/months and everybody has been sat on their phones staring at their screens instead of treasuring the rare moments we have of being physically together. I've done it myself over the years, I'm guilty of having done this too, I'm no angel. But I'm starting to notice it more, which in turn, is making me want to switch off more. So many people tell me that they can't stand sitting in a bar or a restaurant waiting for somebody and not looking at their phone to 'busy' themselves. It's no wonder when I hear of more and more people who have become anxious or depressed, possibly down to how lonely they feel, even when seemingly surrounded by friends. Do me a favour, take a look through your social media friends lists and tell me, honestly, how many do you see physically, spend 'real' time with and actually 'know'? For me, well… let's see. Facebook. I currently have 385 friends. In reality, how many of these 365 people do I actually call my true friends? Or do I see and properly know closely in "real" life? Family Members - 29 Colleagues - 14 Real Friends - 6 Wow. This really took me back. Six people in my life I can call on when I need to see somebody physically, grab a hug, try a new restaurant with or indulge any other social fancies I may have. That leaves me with 316 random people, who (don't get me wrong), I like and have met in person one way or another along the way, but I don't ever really see or communicate with. Now I can start to see why I feel physically lonely sometimes, the reason I question why, with all the people 'in my life' do I feel so depressed or lonely from time to time? It's because these people aren't in my life… not really. Don't get me wrong, I love my actual day job, I have an awesome boyfriend who I'm about to celebrate being with for 3 amazing years and I have some close friends who are there when I need them... and hopefully vice versa when they need me. And I mean that. I felt very low last week and one of my best friends I could ever ask for made it better by firstly sending an unprompted (she didn't even know I was feeling crap at the time) card through the post from her and her little girl that simply said "Jo is Brilliant" and it brightened up my day a million times more than she will ever know! She also met me for a day of walking around Cambridge, taking geeky photos, eating good food and catching up - it was the. best. medicine. My "online friends" can be just as useful as my real friends, so don't ever push them aside because they have their uses too - I learn so much from my social media buddies. They entertain me when I need to lighten my mood, they inspire me with their own posts and when I recently admitted on my Instagram account that I was feeling very low, they helped with tips to perk myself up. And their advice worked, I actioned so many of their tips and it helped me get through a crappy few days sat at my desk, not being able to physically be with the "real" people in my life. Then I booked myself a glamping break with some of my favourite people and enjoyed an impromptu weekend escape to the coast for some serious relaxing, it was perfect and just what I needed. These online people can be just as important as our "real" friends, we just need to realise that not every one of these people will be there physically to drink wine with you or give you a hug when you need it… and that's ok. My favourite time of day? When I can go home to my kind, supportive and loving boyfriend. He's my best friend (as cheesy as it may sound) and I have the most fun, best discussions and feel my most relaxed self in his company. This is what I live for, as well as spending time with our close friends together to unwind. That's what gets me through the week and makes me want to put down my phone and give the attention this time deserves. We just need to realise, that the more we sit on our phones/ipads/laptops, the more lonely we are making ourselves. And do you know what? It's no bad thing to learn how to enjoy your own company. You can't let yourself down on plans, you can go anywhere or eat whatever you like when you are spending time with yourself, you can enjoy whatever genre of film takes yourself at the cinema. Find out what you love and have some "go to" plans when you are starting to feel that you can't do the things you love without others... you can, you just need to learn how to feel comfortable in your own company and stop relying on others. Again, it may be cheesy to some, but I started doing this a few years ago and it worked miracles for me whilst I was single - I still do it now too, I love doing things alone sometimes, it's great fun! Do you agree? Do you have the same feelings on the subject? I'd love to hear from you. If you are having feelings of depression or anxiety, please do take a look into Mind or Samaritans for further advice or support. Read my "About Me" page 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 am in no means obliged to blog or write about this topic, but I simply choose to share my thoughts with my readers. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2017 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Monday, 18 September 2017
Disclaimer - This post is not for my vegetarian/vegan fans, I'm very sorry, but if easily offended, you may wish to move onto my next blog post. This September saw my third visit to Meatopia, a meat lovers' paradise, right in the heart of our capital. Meatopia just celebrated its fifth year at London's Tobacco Dock in Wapping and for the third year I have visited, it truly didn't disappoint. I had been raving about it for well over a year now to my food-loving colleagues, so my lovely boss joined myself and "the bearded one" for a day of meat-eating, beer-drinking, sun-soaking fun in the big smoke… literally! This is the smokiest place on earth (well, other than perhaps beside a volcano!), floor to ceiling - two floors plastered with barbecues and fire pits where the best chefs and food producers from around the world get together to create some of the best barbecue you will EVER enjoy. It's a place for the big names in BBQ to show off, it's the rock 'n' roll world of meat and fire. This event has become legendary, having been founded in the US by the late Josh Ozersky and brought to the UK by chef Richard H Turner of Hawksmoor, this festival offers high quality and ethically sourced meat, all cooked over ethically sourced wood and charcoal. Combined with an eclectic mix of live music and entertainment, there is something for everybody over the course of this 3 day event. What we did find slightly baffling this year, was they went a little against what they stand for at Meatopia. They have always maintained the same answers to questions such as: Is this event suitable for people with disabilities? (a) As long as they are vegetarian, yes. Or Will there be any vegetarian dishes? (a) Um… no. However, this year they had chef Yotam Ottolenghi serving up a delicious looking vegetarian dish (celeriac with grilled cabbage)... Now, as lovely as this popular celebrity chef is, always happy to smile, chat and pose with fans as he serves up his dishes, on this particular day he was serving purely vegetarian food, of which I'm sure pleased some people at this event. But, it did make us question their own meat-rules here… Even he served a beautifully marinated goat dish in 2016 and was preparing a meat dish for this years' Sunday event! We were curious as to why he wasn't adding meat to his dish on festival day. Saying that, this year was the first time they were also serving fish, notably with the ever so friendly and approachable Nathan Outlaw (as seen on BBC's Great British Menu) and his team cooking up smoked mackerel (and truly delicious it was too) so times are a changing… ever so slightly. Meatopia is an expensive exercise, costing around £30 per person for an entry ticket into the event. You then will need to pay for each dish as you order it, each portion being "starter" size allows you to sample lots of different offerings - perfect. To pay for your dishes you need to have a handful of "Meatbucks" - Meatopia have sellers with buckets walking around and each Meatbuck is equal to £5.50 (it used to be £5, but went up this year) and you drop it into a bucket in exchange for your chosen meat dish. As a general rule we buy 10 Meatbucks between us and we share the dishes… that way we get to try much more than if you tried to fit in a full dish per person - it gets quite filling after a while! You can also book yourself into butchery demos, food workshops, live talks (hosted by DJ BBQ himself) and private dining sessions with various suppliers throughout the festival, it's much more than any old food festival. Not only do they have a superb selection of meat dishes, there are plenty of bars dotted around the venue with everything from wine and spirits through to the "Craftopia" hall with local ales to sample and enjoy alongside your food. My top tip if you are a Meatopia novice is that although their website says that the coals will be burning bright until late, if a dish runs out then the stall will close for the day. So if there's something you are desperate to try, get in there and don't leave it until later on - I've learnt the hard way here! You can book yourself an "Early Bird" ticket which gives you access to the festival an hour earlier than everybody else. We did this on our second visit and it didn't make a huge difference to our day, as most chefs were still setting up and getting ready… You don't have to wait too long to be let in on a normal ticket, so I wouldn't panic if you don't get an early bird special, you will still get to experience the best of this festival for sure. The Meatopia Team promise nothing but the best, and that's what you get. Chatting to the chefs around the fires, they are passionate about where their dishes were created, where their meat comes from and they are there to educate you as you go. I'm a firm believer in chatting to each of the teams behind your favourite dishes means you will get much much more out of it as a result… it's so true. Take a gamble on dishes and try new flavours and combinations, it's the perfect place to do so. Meatopia, you are special and we hold a place for you in our hearts. We love this festival and this blog post is my ode to the last few years of visiting one of my favourite annual events in my hectic diary. Each year has been so different, last year being very heavily interactive with the use of my favourite social media platform (Snapchat) but barely any social media coverage or interaction to Tweets this year at all, it varies dramatically which is a shame - fans get excited about Meatopia, so to not have that interaction is a bit of a shame and very noticeable. Don't get me wrong, we've enjoyed taking friends and showing family members our saliva-inducing photos, we can't rave about it enough, no matter about the little niggles, we ADORE Meatopia. This is the best place to sample top quality dishes from chefs you might not usually get to enjoy. In the past three years, I've enjoyed food cooked by John Torode, Nathan Outlaw, Richard H Turner of Hawksmoor, Tom Adams of Pitt Cue, Dan Doherty of Duck & Waffle, André Lima De Luca, Angie Mar, José Pizarro, Francis Mallmann, Michelin-Star chef Niklas Ekstedt, Luke Findlay of Patty & Bun, David Carter of Smokestak and many more! And my boss? He is a convert, well and truly. He will be by our side, most likely with some more of my work family next time! One word of warning. You WILL smell of smoke for the next few days, no matter how much you wash your hair or clothes, that barbecue smoke lingers - so expect looks as you get onto the tube afterwards, you will smell like you've bathed in meat smoke for the last week. Have YOU been to Meatopia? I'd love to hear your thoughts below in a comment. www.meatopia.co.uk Read my "About Me" page 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 am in no means obliged to blog or write about this event, brands associated to it or their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I wish to do so. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:email@example.com All images © 2017 David Spicer & Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.