Tuesday, 24 March 2015

It's all about the stay at home date night

I don't know about you but over the last few years Arwyn and I have had to change our date night habits to adjust to our family life. Raising a family can be very expensive and sadly you have to make sacrifices and changes to accommodate it. Before Eva was born we would regularly go out for meals, go to the cinema, go for over night stays etc, you name it we did it. Now everything is just way too pricey to indulge in these luxuries.
We've had to find alternative ways to have date nights, ways to relax and unwind and ways to entertain ourselves. My Voucher Codes recently also found this out and after reading this article Staying in is the new going out, I thought i'd share with you the ways in which we've switched to staying in.

One of our favourite date nights that we used to love was going out for a meal. We are complete and utter foodies. We love all kinds of cuisines and trying new things. Once a month we now have a dedicated meal date night at the house. One of us will normally cook a 3 course meal for the other to enjoy. We always make a big effort and insist upon us dressing as if we were going out. We recently did this for valentines Day last month. It was more of a romantic meal as it was just the 2 of us and it cost a fraction of what it would to have eaten out. 



The cinema was also one of our regular date nights. Now as parents we can never get a babysitter or afford it seeing as the prices have rocketed sky high. We like to rent a movie at home or watch a film or boxset on netflicks. There's something so cozy about sitting on your sofa in your pj's snuggled up infront of the box. We normally go and get some popcorn and we've actually got proper popcorn boxes (which you can buy in most shops nowadays) to put it in. I am also a huge fan of jelly sweets. You would always find me straight in at the sweet counter in the cinema. Again we have bought the proper sweet bags and we fill them with jelly sweets on our cinema nights just to make me feel like I was really there.

During the spring/summer months one way in which we unwind after work is to go and sit on the decking in the garden. This is a great alternative to sitting in a beer garden. We quite often have a bbq with Eva for dinner and then once she's gone to bed we sit down and relax. Sometime we even make jugs of cocktails or pimms. This picture was taken on one of our nights on the decking last year.


We also used to enjoy afternoon tea, but how pricey has that become. Now, when we go it really is for a special treat. I bought a tiered cake stand and for a lunch with a difference at home, I make an afternoon tea. It's very simple to make different types of sandwiches and you can either bake your own treats or buy them. Eva loves to be involved in baking cakes so she too loves this stay at home experience.

Lastly I know it's not related to date nights but a great alternative to a girls day at the spa is to bring the spa to one of your homes. Stay at home pamper parties are becoming increasingly popular. You can get someone in to give you facials and manicures and pedicures. You can also get a hairdresser in to style up your hair. this is a much cheaper way of getting the girls together.

Have you made any changes in your date nights since having a family. Do you look for deals when you are planning on going out?I regularly check http://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk for restaurant and entertainments deals to try and save money. Have you used them before? I'd love to hear of ways in which you entertain your family instead of going out. 

Love kerry x


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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Gordon Ramsay's Maze Restaurant

Whilst in London Arwyn and I were booked in to have lunch at Gordon Ramsay's Maze restaurant. We are huge foodies so as you can imagine we couldn't wait to go here. We are lucky enough to have eaten at restaurant Gordon Ramsay before which is his 3 michelin star restaurant so we were intrigued as to how this would compare. 
The restaurant itself is large and the tables are nicely spaced out which is always great as I hate feeling like i'm practically sat at another person's table.
We knew we were having a tasting menu and decided the easiest way to pick what we were having was for each of us to pick something different. That way we both got to try everything. 
The wine menu came in the form of an iPad. This I thought was brilliant and a real sign of the times. It was very easy to navigate and there were plenty of wines to choose from.




Our first Amuse-bouche was called 'English Breakfast'. When the plate arrived I was unbelievably shocked (in a good way). It presented as a plate of egg and soldiers lying in a nest, however looks can be deceiving in the world of food. Instead of tasting what I thought would be egg I tasted everything you would find on a plate of a traditional english breakfast from bacon to the tomato sauce. I absolutely loved this dish. I love the fact that it played mind games with my senses by not only tricking my sight but also my taste. I never expected a dish like this from Gordon Ramsay but hats off to those that created it as it's inventive, exciting, unique and above all super delicious. This was definitely one of my favourite dishes of the day.



Next up were our first courses. I opted for the Octopus and Arwyn had the Cured Salmon. I loved the way the Octopus was plated. It looked clean, simple and elegant.
The cured salmon was very light and refreshing. The mango puree was absolutely delicious and I'm salivating just remembering how the dish tasted. 




We then had our next dishes. I had the Dumpling which was made with lobster, tiger prawns and salmon. The jus/broth it was in was so rich in flavour. I think I finished this dish in less than a minute. This is testament to how much I enjoyed it.
Arwyn had the sea bream which I wasn't quick enough to catch with my camera. It had a lovely hint of ginger to it and as with mine he too finished his pretty quickly.



Our next dishes were our meat dishes. I had the pork belly which came with a miso broth. I am a huge fan of miso so this really made the dish stand out for me. This dish is testament to everything Maze strives to be as it was truly a fusion of French and Asian flavours. 
Arwyn had the duck breast which looked so pretty on the plate. I unfortunately didn't get to try this as he devoured it swiftly.




We were then treated to another amuse-bouche which was a sundae. It was the perfect palette cleanser ready for our deserts. It completely refreshed my mouth and was so light to eat. 

Last but not least were our desserts. Arwyn had the profiteroles that came with a baileys gel and the most delicious ginger ice-cream. I had what can only be described as the best desert i've ever tasted and that was the lime and dark chocolate cheesecake with a hazelnut ice-cream. I am not normally a dessert person and I would always pick a starter over one but this dessert has changed my mind. It felt like there was a party going on in my mouth. it was truly amazing and the lime was so refreshing. 



At the end of our lunch we were lucky enough to be given a tour of the kitchen. This absolutely made our day. We're huge fans of masterchef Australia and particularly love seeing them working in a kitchen. To be able to be given a tour of a working michelin kitchen  was the most wonderful experience. I will have to return and sit at the chefs table. It's my dreaded 30th birthday next month so hopefully I can be treated then.

Overall we loved our lunch at Maze. The atmosphere was great, the staff were very friendly and knowledge and the food was outstanding. It was a true testament to how great Gordon Ramsay is. We can't wait to go again.

Have you eaten at any of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants? Have you eaten at a michelin restaurant before? 

Love kerry x
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Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Grange Hotel Tower Bridge

Last weekend Arwyn and I were booked in to have lunch at Gordon Ramsay's Maze restaurant in London (separate post coming on that asap), so we used this as an excuse to make a weekend of it and have a night away together. Let's face it this is quite often a rarity when you you have young children.
As per usual finding a hotel in London was proving stressful. It's not that there aren't many to choose from because there are hundreds. The chore is always finding a decent one for a reasonable price. I find London hotels very similar to Paris, you pay a lot of money for something that never seems as good as it did in the photos online. 
After hours of trawling we settled on the Grange Hotel Tower Bridge. We originally found it on booking.com for £118 with breakfast but for some reason I thought to look on their own website. I never ever normally do this as you think you're getting the best deal on these search websites. Turns out my luck paid off and it was only £101 for a double room with breakfast when you booked direct with them. What a bargain. Note to self, always check direct first!!!!
We decided to drive up and park the car as the NCP carpark is literally a 3 minute walk from the hotel. This worked out cheaper than the 2 of us getting the train. The car park only cost us £6 for the 2 days we were there. 
The hotel is located in the Tower Bridge area and is about a 5 minute walk from the bridge and nearest tube.
As we approached the hotel both of us felt like a prize pair of idiots after discussing how familiar it all looked. We had stayed here before and ironically it was when we dined at restaurant Gordon Ramsay quite a few years ago. 
When checking in all the staff including reception staff, concierge and bell boy's were very friendly and professional  Nothing seemed to much bother. We were allowed to check in early which is always handy. 
Our room was quite high up on the 7th floor which meant we had a beautiful view of the Shard from one of our windows. The room itself was a really good size as was the bathroom. I particularly liked all the wardrobe space, the huge mirror and the fact that the wifi is free. In this day and age we are always on the internet on our phones so this to me was a huge bonus. I can't bare it when you have to pay for that service.





 

The following morning Arwyn went to use the spa and pool facilities (I just lazed in bed and took advantage of the lie in). He said they were some of the best he's been in. I must admit after hearing this I was gutted I didn't go down. 
We then ventured down to a fantastic breakfast. There was so much choice in the buffet from cooked to continental. There's something there for everyone. You could even order omelettes and things like eggs Benedict. 


Overall we had the most wonderful stay here. It really is a great hotel with friendly, helpful, professional staff who do your utmost to make your stay comfortable and carefree. Don't just take my word for it, have a look at the trip advisor reviews here, Trip Advisor. Make sure you check out their website as they have quite a few hotels in London, Grange Hotels. I am in London towards the end of this month for a fashion blogging event in Shoreditch so I am hoping to stay here again.

Have you ever stayed in a Grange Hotel? Where do you normally stay when you travel to London?

Love Kerry and Arwyn xx

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