Category Archives: Reviews

Wine Reviews for Normal People (Title TBD)

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I read somewhere that in order to become a wine connoisseur; you have to go to a school that specialises in teaching students about notes, bouquets and food pairings, along with other very important information. I imagine, that makes you qualified to be on Saturday Morning Kitchen telling people what to throw in their gullets with their posh meal. The people I’m writing reviews for are people more akin to the type of person I am; a multiple bottle kinda girl whilst sitting in front of my television, before breaking into song at whatever Disney film has to be stuck in my head.

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I am writing these reviews for the person who likes to come home after a long, hard day and forget the day by pouring multiple large glasses and eating hula hoops, before stumbling through their hallways to bed and zonking out, waking up the next day with a distinct fog wrapped around their heads like an invisible, fluffy hat. This is how most normal people drink wine and if you don’t drink wine like this, then you have no place here. Please leave.

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There are no real rules to this wine reviewing, but I do encourage you all to join in by commenting or emailing and I’ll throw them in one of my reviews! I am going to review whenever I can be bothered, really and I can’t imagine that any of them will really be the same, but as a normal human, I don’t really know how to review wine, so if that’s what you are looking for, again, you have no place here. Please leave.

A guide I will try to follow will be as follows:

  • Label – what does it look like? Photo and a small description of why I chose it. Did it jump out from the shelf or was I intrigued by the logo or something else?
  • Price – was it a bargain or full price?
  • Store – very important, in case I, by some miracle, inspire you to buy! (If so, let me know!)
  • Colour – red or white, we don’t do rose in this house as an Italian wine Coinoisuer once told me that it is a bastardisation of red and white wine and I don’t really like upsetting Italians, bastards, or wine being disturbed unnecessarily unless I really want to slum it and offend an an entire nation (for example, if someone buys me rose wine as a gift, I will still drink it)
  • Sweet or dry? That’s important because if I’m going to tell you to buy this wine and you hate dry wine, you’ll think I’m a right bastard for not informing you first.
  • How many glasses does it take before you feel a little popped? I drink out of very lage glasses, so I can’t really do this very well, but whatever, these are my reviews and I do what the hell I want.
  • At what point do you start finding people you don’t usually find attractive on television attractive? Suggestions for ‘sexy once drunk’ television humans are more than welcome. Sex Blog of Sorts suggested Kevin McCloud.
  • Food Pairings – weekend drunk snacks like oven pizzas or takeaways with loads of grease on them being my formative choices, alongside blocks of cheap cheese, salted peanuts and potentially chocolate.
  • At what point do you start feeling overly emotional and the need to swill your wine glass, spilling contents to convey your emotions?
  • At what point do you start off on a massive speech, then go off on a tangent because you forgot what you were talking about?
  • At what point do you interrupt anyone or anything happening around you to sing loudly along to Disney songs?
  • At what point do you start feeling ridiculously horny and start showing off your cleavage?
  • At what point do you feel so proud about your cleavage do you send a picture of said cleavage to both of your parents thanking them for creating you so well? (yes, I did do that. It had a figurine of Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z wedged in between)

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These may be relatively bizarre points, but I’m trying to remember my feelings/behaviour/opinions when drunk. Feel free to comment, email or tweet me your own suggestions, send me a picture of the wine and a small anecdote as to why you’re drinking: Sorrow, loneliness, you want to trick someone into sleeping with you… Only proper reasons, you understand.

I’ll post my first review as soon as possible and Brain, I know you’re reading this, so if you’d like to fetch home some wine following my helpful wine guide, I would appreciate it and also be very grateful that you’re actively supporting my blogging pursuits. I will take no wine as a signal that you don’t love or support me. See you soon!

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Christmas Wish Lists & Man Crates;

For anyone who really knows me, I’m not a huge fan of making Christmas lists. I used to when I was little, when I wrote letters to Santa and told him how much I loved him, begging him to bring me great gifts and also the occasional secret that no one else knew about, but I felt confident in sharing with a total stranger who I only ever spoke to once a year. When I realised that I was effectively writing to my parents, I promptly gave up and refuse to do so, as punishment for their deception for the first portion of my life. However, with exactly one week to go before the most wonderful time of the year, I decided that I would create my own festive wish list for anyone who is looking to buy a gift for the indecisive, wine and/or gin-o-holic in their lives. Also, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for your very own man human, then you have definitely come to the right place. Welcome!

One of the most awkward things about buying gifts for me is that I never tell people about things that I want until they’ve all bought things for me and I happen to be browsing the net for something that I really want. I’ve done the same this year and have found some things that I’d really love. A lot of people have difficulty finding things for me because I am not very girly, but also extremely, extremely girly and love receiving girly gifts. You see the frustration I can potentially illicit…

My Christmas Wish List:

p6547_column_grid_12One of my favourite movies is Back to the Future and I’ve been looking for a really amazing print that isn’t the usual movie poster, which everyone and their auntie seems to have! Firebox have this amazing print (and many more) for £24.99 sans frame. The thing I love about this is that it’s a pretty important piece of the film, but also really unique in the sense that who really wants a poster of a fake movie newspaper in their home, instead of an awesome still of the thunderstorm or maybe the Delorean? Me, that’s who!

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Something both my boyfriend and I have both wanted this Christmas is without a shadow of a doubt Dylan’s Basement Tapes on Vinyl. We are obsessed with Dylan and have various of his albums on Vinyl, but one of the goals we desire is owning all of them on vinyl so that we can truly show off how awesome and superior we are. So, I believe if I opened this on Christmas morning, I could show my boyfriend that I really am quite a deal better than him! Yay!

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My signature scent is Alien by Thierry Mugler (so if you have an innate desire to stalk me, now you know how I smell. Merry Christmas!) and even though I have an overwhelming abundance of the stuff thanks to my boyfriend buying me a giant bottle as a surprise on the same day I bought myself a giant bottle as a surprise, I will be horrifically disappointed if I don’t receive this on Christmas Day! I like to smell delicious all year round, so an abundance of the stuff that makes me smell good is a great idea, no?

That’s the end of my Christmas wish list… I really am the best woman ever because my Christmas wish list is so tiny. Which also makes me very difficult to buy for, because if I really did only get three things for Christmas off everyone who supposedly loves me, I’d be bitterly disappointed and would get far too drunk and throw the turkey on the floor. So, mother, if your’e reading this, go shopping, yeah?

Christmas Gifts for Him:

I finished buying my Christmas gifts for my boyfriend in October, which just goes to show how excited I am for this time of year! But, I really wish I’d come across Man Crates before now! I love the idea of a manly crate to be given to a man over Christmas and I really wished I’d seen this for both my boyfriend and my dad way before now as I know they would love them. Unfortunately they don’t ship to the UK, but for my American readers, feast your eyes on their website!

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For my boyfriend, I would definitely need to buy him this NFL inspired Man Crate, currently $89.99 which boasts four personalised pint glasses of your desired NFL team (There isn’t the Arizona Cardinal option, so I am going to choose  the Jacksonville Jaguars because he saw them in London last month and they were the team he supported. But, if you’re reading this Man Crates, send a Arizona Cardinal option our way in time for June 2nd (Birthday)! They also come with amazing wooden coasters, each with a separate number and a bottle opener, which isn’t only ingenious, but super convenient too! No NFL/beer inspired gift would be complete without some game time snacks, so they come with an array of snacks: Jalapeño popper popcorn, flavoured sunflower seeds, corn nuts, peanuts in the shell. For everything that comes with it and the fact that it comes in a care with a laser etched crow bar (HOW AMAZINGLY AWESOME?!).

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For my dad, I would definitely choose this. He is notoriously terrible to buy for and if it hadn’t have been for my equally geeky/dorky boyfriend choosing his present this year, I would have gotten him some aftershave and something dad-like and generic, which doesn’t fit my dad’s personality at all. This would be a great choice for him given his love for all things spicy. I have made chilli for him that has been so spicy that I couldn’t eat it, but he has eaten it all and not even broken a sweat, so one of my life missions is to blow his face off with heat (I love my dad, just to be clear) and I think this would be an excellent way of achieving that sadistic life time goal. Thanks, Man Crates! This is $69.99 and comes with the above, which are all spicy and cheesy snacks.

As I already aluded to, the only thing I don’t like about Man Crates is that their items must ship to a US address, which is a bit awkward for me as my address is definitely a UK address, but for US readers or anyone who has an address in the US and would happily ship to me, then it’s great. I also think Man Crates will definitely be one of those sites that eventually expand over seas and we’ll see it advertised on “Gifts for Him” TV shows, but I hope you will all remember where you read about it first!

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The Paedophile Next Door

Last night, Channel Four aired The Paedophile Next Door, an hour long documentary that highlighted the concepts of paedophilia as a sexual preference. In the show, we saw victims, health professionals and one paedophile discussing their experiences and opinions on the matter. For me, it was incredibly harrowing and very difficult to watch, but I managed, with tears in my eyes and a hand over my mouth in horror, to get through the documentary. Some of my views were immediately aired on twitter – as is always the way – the bitter sting of the show still digging into my sides and I ended up having a debate with one of my very best friends, Sian, about it. Now, with the immediate visceral reaction having subsided, I feel that I can, perhaps, review the show in a more… hopefully, neutral manner. Although, I’m quite happy to admit that I am not sure if I’ll manage. We’ll see.

The show addressed paedophilia as a legitimate sexual preference as well as a mental health issue that could be classed as an affliction and we, as the audience, were pleaded with to listen to reasoning and admit that not all paedophiles should be vilified as that encourages them to attack, instead we should be nurturing and encourage those paedophiles to admit their sexual preference and mental health problems and receive the help they deserve – this is something  that is already done in Germany and the show’s main topic, Eddie, admitted that he would also like to seek help for his affliction. Personally, I think the show did a poor job of arguing their point, which I reitertated on Twitter. Whether or not people deserve help is neither here nor there, if paedophiles want help, then great, but surely history regarding sexual preferences dictates that you can’t change who you are?

What does that say about the LGBT community who have fought for years and years to attain social equality? We STILL don’t offer social equality to this community and in an enormous amount of countries – including our own – there are still a great amount of people excluded, murdered, beaten up and vilified for their sexual preferences… but this isn’t classed as a mental illness? Why? Because it isn’t – loving someone of the same sex does not make you mentally ill, identifying as a female when you were born a man does not make you mentally ill; we’ve fought for the equality of all of these people and that love has no gender, that in 2014 we should not be adhering to the heteronormative, biblical solution to love, marriage and procreation. It can’t be beaten out of you, it can’t be changed through therapy, you can’t be sent off to a straight camp and come back loving pussy when you’ve spent a life time sucking cock – we have covered this; it’s inherent, it’s in your blood: you are who you are, that can’t be changed. So why are paedophiles any different? Offering them therapy isn’t going to stop them from being paedophiles and wasting money on offering them comfort in the fact that it’s okay to be sexually attracted them to children is dangerous. If a homosexual can’t be turned straight, or a straight person can’t be turned gay, how do you turn a paedophile into a non-paedophile? You can’t.

Attempting to normalise paedophilia is tantamount to saying that it’s okay to be attracted to children and I honestly think that is beyond wrong. Firstly, children don’t have the mental grasp on life to be able to give consent and think that it’s okay for a grown man or woman to sexually abuse them. Being attracted to children as young as five, or children who can’t even draw or walk or crawl is not okay and I am rather disgusted that there is an attitude that we want to help these people; they are not okay and no amount of therapy will make it okay for someone to fancy kids as young as new borns, which was mentioned on the programme.

I get that there are paedophiles out there who have not sexually assaulted children and that’s fantastic, good on them, I don’t mind their existence, that’s not what I’m saying, but as with every sexual preference, there has to be an outlet somewhere, so what do they do? Think about having sex with children? Okay, that’s fine, but which children? The ones who live next door? The ones who he sees going to school every day? What about child pornography? That’s readily available, surely? Yes, of course, but we’ve already covered that children can’t give consent, that to be involved in sexually graphic photographs or content is not consensual; an adult has, at some point, exercised their ultimate control over a child and forced them to do that, so surely by watching the porn, paedophiles are only perpetuating the abuse of the poor child in that movie or photograph?

Of course, things like this are broad generalisations, but the fact that there is a counter argument out there suggests that it isn’t okay normalising a sexual preference by brandishing it as a mental illness. We can’t accept that, as a society, it’s okay to call paedophilia a mental illness, but we cant call homosexuality a mental illness (quite rightly, mind). Sexual preferences are not mental illnesses and it’s not something that any amount of therapy will correct. It may stop someone from offending, but it might not… Then who do we blame? We blame ourselves… and is that okay?

I would really love to hear people’s opinions on this, because as you can see, my arguments are emotional and for the most part visceral – I simply do not agree with normalising paedophilia or supporting them in any way, but as with my debate with Sian, I would love to hear other points of view, so please send comments or emails or anything and I am more than happy to discuss it with any of you.

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The Hop and Cleaver: A Review

Where: The Hop and Cleaver
When: 11th November 2014
Party: Two
Doris star rating: 5/5

Recently, I won a competition on Twitter to visit The Hop and Cleaver to sample their Halloween limited edition donut burger. As someone who has never won anything, I was overjoyed and booked my table for me and my boyfriend to go as soon as I was free. I was a little apprehensive about the idea of a glazed donut and chicken burger, but I’d visited The Hop and Cleaver before for drinks and it wasn’t until I left, slightly wobbly after a few glasses of their amazing Pinot Grigio (again, I can’t remember the name, I’m sorry if we have any wine aficionados reading my blogs!), I slammed my drunken finger into the menu board outside and yelled “Oh look! FOOD! We should come back here!” and so when I won the competition, I was more than a little overjoyed.

If you haven’t been to The Hop and Cleaver before, it really is a beautiful building; it looks relatively archaic, rustic and cosy, which feels a little bit like you’ve gone back in time and as you walk through the entrance and up the stairs to the bar, you realise there are various areas which you can move around in and enjoy different changes of pace as the night proceeds, which is lovely. Last night we were sat at the back of the building, which boasted amazing concrete tiles (original, I’m guessing!), wooden beams throughout; the back wall had a leather booth the entire length of it with small tables in front and chairs that looked like they’d been reclaimed from an old school – it’s beautifully cosy and a really lovely place to sit in. I also loved the tables that were reserved had slate plates on with the times of the reservations written on in chalk – it perpetuated my feeling of being in a really old school room; I felt really nostalgic as I was sitting there.

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The staff were extremely attentive and really polite – they were all really beautiful too which was unnerving; where do these types of restaurants find these effortlessly stylish and attractive humans? Anyway, they were so nice; a lovely girl took our drink order and gave my boyfriend two samples of their own brewed ales, the paler of the two which was really nice, but the darker tasted a little more like coffee. He chose the one I didn’t like because he’s selfish and I had a large glass of Pinot Grigio – the glasses were amazing, coincidentally – and we looked through the menu for our meals. I should also add that one of the guys we spoke to was so nice and told me that I didn’t have to choose the donut burger from the menu, that I could have anything I wanted and that it would be free, which I thought was a really sweet touch from them and probably because I’d posted this tweet:

2014-11-12 09.38.10It was a joke, but I felt really bad about it when they offered me anything else from the menu! My attempts at being funny were obviously not well received; but it was so sweet of them to offer me an alternative! But, I’d won the donut burger and I was definitely going to give it a go; I had to, I am too chubby and too much of a fan of glazed donuts, deep fried chicken and melted cheese not to try! We were also offered a free cocktail, which was really nice; before 7pm they have a 2 for £10 cocktail deal on which I was pretty excited about, but unfortunately the cocktail that arrived was a bourbon and coffee cocktail, both of which I don’t like. My boyfriend said it was absolutely divine, though, but because he was driving he couldn’t have both his pint and a cocktail, which was unfortunate!

Eventually, we made our decision on the menu and ordered. Can I just say that it was so hard to choose – everything sounded absolutely amazing – but eventually I decided on accompanying my donut burger with some ribs that were cooked like chicken wings (I KNOW!) and my boyfriend chose the jalapeño poppers and 14 hour slow roasted brisket. As two people who adore food, we were on tender hooks with excitement.

Our starters arrived and we both looked at each other, our eyes alight with excitement; it looked so good. The ribs I’d ordered looked dangerous – three huge ribs battered in something that tasted utterly amazing on a bed or mixed salad and the jalapeño poppers looked just as amazing. We’d decided to share, so I got to sample both.

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The ribs were, admittedly, hard to eat; they were really hot, but it’s not something I minded. The batter they were in was absolutely gorgeous and the sauce on the top was beautiful. I only ended up eating one because it took me so long to eat just the one that my boyfriend graciously offered to eat the other and I got to eat the poppers. They came with this amazing sauce, which is apparently a whiskey sauce with a ‘secret’ ingredient, which I am convinced is chocolate – it was bizarre, but an amazing accompaniment to the bite of the jalapeño. In short, they were fantastically messy, super scrumptious and starters I’d totally recommend. Coincidentally, a couple sat down beside us and ordered a bag of chicken wings to share between them both and they looked amazing, so I’d also recommend them!

Our mains came not too long later, which was much cause for excitement. The donut burger looked absolutely hazardous; I could almost feel the calories screaming at me, the recent weight I’d lost was right there on the plate, greeting me like an old friend. I couldn’t wait to eat it. My boyfriend didn’t trust it, because it was a mixture of sweet and savoury and I have to agree; I usually hate food that is a mixture of the two, but I have to admit… it was amazing. From the picture you can see that there was a full glazed donut on the top, a chicken wing, fried chicken breast, melted cheese, gherkins, salad and half a donut on the bottom. It was surprisingly nice; it didn’t taste as sickly as I’d imagined and the glazed donut actually accompanied it really, really well! I made a decision that the person who came up with the donut burger had to be a pregnant woman who was having some bizarre cravings in the middle of the night, in which case, I honestly believe that there should be a restaurant made somewhere, where the menu is entirely created by a team of pregnant women having cravings. I’d definitely eat there, they’re clearly geniuses.

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The brisket also looked absolutely amazing and the beef was melt in the mouth soft, a really beautiful piece of meat. It came with two large door stops of bread and two sides, of which you could choose a variation, but we chose beans and sweet potato fries, which were also beautiful. My boyfriend couldn’t eat it all, because he isn’t a giant food bag of a human like I am, but he absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone.

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Something else I really loved about The Hop and Cleaver was that the food was clearly freshly made and sent out as soon as it was ready – not sat under a light until someone eventually meandered in to take it out; the service was prompt, everything was made to an extremely high standard and the portion sizes were extravagant – possibly too big, but I don’t think the type of people who order donut burgers are really bothered by things that are too huge! I certainly wasn’t.

After the meal, I regretted my decision to wear high waisted jeans and I honestly felt that as soon as I stood up one of my buttons were going to pop and hit a member of staff in the eyes, but luckily it didn’t. However, I did feel that I would never feel pangs of hunger again and that elasticated waist lines would now be my fashion item of choice – it was huge but a really wonderful, decadent mid-week treat and definitely my first choice in Newcastle for burgers from now on. I’m at the time of the year where I start planning birthday meals and nights out with friends and I really think that The Hop and Cleaver have won that competition: I can’t wait to go back.

If anyone from The Hop and Cleaver are reading this – thank you so much for last night, I really, really enjoyed the burger and can’t wait to come back and enjoy some more amazing wine and probably some more ribs and chicken; beautiful food, amazing restaurant and wonderfully polite and friendly staff. Thank you very much, I’m so glad I was the winner!

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Miller & Carter: A Review

Where: Miller & Carter
When: 7th November 2014
Party: 6
Doris Star Rating: 3/5

Last Friday, we dined out for my boyfriend’s (Brain. Not a typo, an affectionate nickname given to him due to his fondness of Pinky and the Brain) brother-in-law’s birthday, who decided earlier in the week that he wanted steak. I took to Twitter to ask any fellow foodies or food bloggers if they had any suggestions for an amazing steak. The usual MPW and Café 21 were mentioned, as well as some other places further afield, but eventually we decided to try Miller & Carter, which we saw on Trip advisor; a relatively new restaurant that, according to its website, specialises in steak – brilliant.

Give its location, I was under no illusion that it would be impressive inside (located where The Lodge used to be); it’s a grandiose and incredibly tall building and if the space had been used well, it would definitely be an impressive, impacting room – which, of course, it was. The décor complemented the room extremely well; lots of dark woods, rustic furniture with splashes of colour throughout. The bar area was located downstairs to the right hand side of the building, with a small area for waiting guests / people who aren’t dining, which is where we waited, on red leather chairs, for our table to be ready. We enjoyed a few rounds of drinks before we went for our meal – I drank a few (large) glasses of Pinot Grigio, which was utterly divine; I didn’t ask the name of it, so I don’t know, but I am also the person who tends to find every glass of Pinot she drinks perfect, so I might not be the best judge of character on that one! I have to admit that I did find it a little bit too loud and I had to move closer to Brain’s mother in order to speak to her; but I am guessing that a three story building with music playing loudly over the bar is what you can expect from a thriving restaurant at dinner time on a Friday night!

When we were seated at our table, thankfully, the restaurant seemed to get a little quieter and we couldn’t hear the music over our chatter, so it was more enjoyable. The table was beautiful, if not a little overcrowded I felt by the sheer amount of glasses on our table, which, unfortunately, weren’t removed until half way through the meal. There were some gorgeous centrepieces, though, three large golden candle holders which again, slightly too large for the table, but beautiful none the less. We all looked through the menu, which consisted of starters, of course lots of steaks, burgers and there was also a fish menu too. I am not sure of the vegetarian choices, because I didn’t look, but I imagine they have some vegetarian options on there (or maybe not, who, as a vegetarian, wants to go to a steak house?).

I’m afraid the service wasn’t great, but that wasn’t for lack of trying. Our waitress, Anya, was absolutely lovely and was extremely helpful with the questions we had about the menu, but I think it was a little too much – it wasn’t just her, from the other waiters we spoke to and experienced, it was a little too much service, which I’m assuming led to the mistakes that we encountered – a desire to over please doesn’t really make up for the mistakes that we encountered during our evening, I’m afraid, but I can’t blame the waiting staff themselves for that kind of thing, but perhaps an oversight in training staff?

Myself, Brain and his brother in law all ordered starters, but unfortunately only Brain’s arrived – which meant that he had to eat without us and when we asked for our starters, we were told that we didn’t order any, which wasn’t really very nice, so we ordered and off they went to get ours. Service was prompt, though, I have to admit. Brain ordered scallops which I tasted and they were very lovely, but not worth the price tag (also because of their expense they weren’t accepted on the free starter/dessert voucher they offered anyone who signed up to their newsletter!); there were only three of them spaced out on a plate with a really small amount of salad and what seemed like a thimble full of sauce cautiously dribbled over them. Nice, but again, not worth the price tag. I ordered the pork belly strips, which arrived and were scrumptious; pork belly was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth, even the barbeque sauce was beautiful and the salad accompaniment was lovely.

We ordered more wine, a bottle of merlot for the table, which was the eventual choice of the birthday boy, who went through three different kinds of wine before he chose the merlot. He asked me to taste them all, which I found really lovely, but he didn’t like them, so we landed on merlot. It was divine, nice and fruity, but I think I would have preferred the dry rioja to accompany my steak – perhaps a personal preference, I’m not sure!

Our meals arrived, two beef wellingtons, one beefburger, one fillet steak and two 180z rib eye steaks. Which, unfortunately for our waitress, was wrong: I didn’t order the fillet steak that arrived at my table. When she took the orders, I asked for the 180z, but I didn’t want it the medium rare that it was advised, she sat down and asked me why I wanted that and I told her because I prefer rare steak and whenever I’ve seen medium rare steak it’s always well done; so I go for the rare, so that if it’s medium rare, it’s not as bad as having it well done. She told me to go for the fillet, but I remained resolute: I wanted the rib eye. I’d never had one and 180z sounded awesome. I ordered this with peppercorn sauce and a parmesan and garlic wedge salad. They took the steak back, apologised and allowed us a free round of drinks and left me with my chips, my wedge salad and my wine. When they arrived with the correct meal, I was told that I could have my steak for free due to the confusion, which was fine by me. Unfortunately, they didn’t remember the sauce that I wanted, nor did they ask me which sauce I had ordered initially, so I was left with something that tasted pretty awful and didn’t compliment my steak at all, which was again, rather disappointing, but the steak was beautiful and cooked rare, rather than medium rare, so it was an acceptable trade off. I also ended up stealing Brain’s beef dripping sauce he got to go with his steak which was the unhealthiest thing you could imagine, but tasted so SO good.

Overall, admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Miller & Carter, but understandably, with new restaurant, they have to find their footing before service is as enjoyable as the food. Whilst I did enjoy the food, I don’t think it was worth the hefty price tag and I don’t think a free steak makes up for the sheer amount of mistakes that were made during the meal. As a restaurant that is located in an area of Newcastle that boasts plentiful amazing restaurants (including Marco Polo around the corner), I think I’d definitely think twice before going back there. The food was nothing to complain about, but like I said, it didn’t make up for the service I received when I was there.

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Caffe Vivo: A Review

I’ve decided to start writing reviews of the restaurants I go to. I am an avid cook and am constantly looking to expand my portfolio of home made goodies (so perhaps see some cooking hints and tips in the future?!) and my boyfriend and I eat out a lot and a lot of our socialising revolves around eating with friends, so I thought what better way to expand my blog than to review the fine restaurants that Newcastle and beyond have to offer? My first restaurant review is Caffe Vivo, located on Newcastle Quayside!

Where: Caffe Vivo
When: 1st November 2014
Party: 6
Doris Star Rating: 5/5

A few months ago, my boyfriend’s dad booked tickets for the whole family to go to The Sage in Gateshead to watch The Cleveland Philharmonic Choir perform The Carmina Burana, which we were all very excited about, so as it dawned closer to the time, we decided that a meal and a few drinks were on the cards before we went to watch the show. The choice was Caffe Vivo, which was quite exciting to me as I’d never been before.

My boyfriend (who I call Brain, so if anyone from the restaurant is reading this, it’s not a typo, it’s an affectionate nickname given due to his adoration of Brain the maniac mouse from Pinky and the Brain. I know, I’m really lucky…) and I were the first to arrive at the restaurant and were seated quite close to the front of the restaurant, near the window. Some people hate being sat near the window and depending on where I am, I do too, but the street that it’s situated on is relatively quiet and it does allow for a lot of people watching, particularly from behind the empty wine crates and two indoor trees that decorated the window! The décor, incidentally, is really lovely and the restaurant has a lovely intimate feel to it, despite it being quite a large room. As I said, our table was next to the window and because Brain and I were there first, we got to sit on the lovely, long booth type seat facing the room. The table was nice and long, filled with glasses, which were luckily removed and even though it was quite a big table, it still felt cosy when the rest of our party arrived.

Image: Trip Advisor

The menu was extensive, but not in a manner that suggested that the menu was too large; there was a main menu, a specials menu and a fixed price menu, which I think was for guests who were dining early (which we were, given our Sage tickets). Myself and Brain ordered from the specials menu for our main and main menu for our starter and everyone else either dined from the fixed or the main menu. We ordered drinks: the usual, beer lime and soda, diet cokes and a bottle of house red wine for the table to share, as well as jugs of water for the table. The house red wine was beautiful; silky and fruity, with a hint of oak, that wasn’t too overbearing, overall it was something that you could happily drink by itself, rather than with a meal, which I tend to enjoy!

For my starter I ordered the Calamari, which was served with a tangy, spicy tomato sauce. I didn’t find it tangy or spicy, but just a tomato based sauce which was relatively enjoyable, it complemented the calamari well, but I’m not sure if that was just because calamari is so dry it requires a sauce or what. The calamari was cooked to perfection; not too soft, not so hard you feel like you’re chewing on a tyre, just really beautiful. My only qualm, which you can’t really call a qualm as this is something down to personal choice: if you are squeamish about seeing tiny squid deep fried with all its tentacles wrapped in batter; either ask for it not to be included or don’t order it. It didn’t freak me out at all, until I started thinking about it and the more I started thinking about it, the more I started wondering about the anatomy of a squid, so had to give my last piece to Brain, who has no conscience about these things and savoured it gratefully. But, like I said, that’s a personal qualm that I wouldn’t have thought about if I hadn’t actively decided to let my mind wander, so I have absolutely no complaints about quality or anything like that.

Brain opted for pigeon, which I was really angry about given my abject fear of pigeons, but he had never had it before, so gave it a try. I don’t think I’d be too much of a big fan of game meat, but Brain said it was perfect. It smelled really garlicky and the salad that it came with did look appetising, but due to the fact that it was pigeon, I didn’t like it – especially not when Brain put his fork so close to my face trying to get me to taste it, I nearly ended up on the floor sobbing. There was a baby in a high chair way more well behaved than he.

For my main, I decided to choose from the specials board because I heard they were serving swordfish. I have only eaten swordfish twice in my life and the first time was so divine, that it is my goal in life to find as many restaurants in the area to eat swordfish in because it is really the best kind of fish. Caffe Vivo did not disappoint at all – it was the epitome of perfection, in my opinion. As with all of the main dishes, I was also given the choice of two sides. I chose rosemary and garlic roast potatoes and a green salad. When it arrived, it looked amazing and I couldn’t wait to dive in. As I said, the fish was perfection, so much so that I didn’t need a knife and barely needed my fork; it just melted into the fish with absolutely no difficulty and tasted so beautifully and buttery that I could have honestly eaten ten more. The chilli and garlic sauce it lay in was also absolutely perfect (although I could have done with more chilli, but that’s a personal preference). My sides were just as perfect; the garlic and rosemary roast potatoes were cooked beautifully – just the right amount of crispy on the outside and wonderfully fluffy on the inside; neither flavour too overbearing (again, the anti-vampire in me would have loved more garlic!) and the green salad was, well, it was salad, but it had an exceptionally fresh lemon dressing on it, which was divine. It’s something that I would not only definitely recommend, but something I look forward to trying again in the future.

Brain ordered fish stew, which consisted of loads of different types of fish, would you believe?! I can’t remember exactly what was in it, but there was squid, scallops, salmon, crayfish I believe and prawns. Perhaps more, but I can’t remember. I didn’t try it as I’m quite fussy about sauces that taste too fishy, but it was really beautiful according to Brain, who is probably a bigger foodie than I am, so his opinion definitely weighs more.

From what I can remember, other foods ordered were a platter with various types of Italian meats, perfect green olives and sumptuously moreish bread that was enjoyed heartily by Brain’s sister, as well as some amazing meatballs with mashed potato, that I got to taste and, like, everything else that night, was absolutely melt in the mouth, can I have fifteen more of these to take home kind of perfect. I didn’t get to sample Brain’s dad’s dish, which was the gorgonzola risotto – my second choice had the swordfish not been available – but it was really beautiful.

Over all, it was a delicious meal and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back in a heartbeat. If you enjoy Italian food, polite and lovely waiting staff as well as bustling, intimate rooms with simplistic décor, then I would recommend Caffe Vivo, tucked away down one of the side streets (Broad Chare) of our enchanting quayside, it really is a perfect place to go for anyone who wants to unleash their inner Italian.

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