Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Festive Afternoon Tea at the Vermont Hotel

Earlier this month I attended a festive edition of the blogger cake club, kindly organised by Chloe. For the Christmas special she booked us in at The Vermont Hotel in Newcastle. This is a posh hotel hidden away in the centre of Newcastle. I can say this as I got lost trying to find it, it's hidden in plain site. All I will say is look up and you'll see the sign, don't make the mistake I did and walk down to quayside and back. At least I worked off a bit of cake before I'd eaten it!

The Vermont Hotel Festive Afternoon Tea - Newcastle

We'd all decided before we got there that we'd don our cheesy Christmas jumpers. As I'm known for gingerbread men, that's the jumper I had to go with! The seven of us, all in our festive best, were seated in the Redwood bar which was very cosy and elegant.

Soon after we sat down our food came and there seemed to be loads of it, they even gave us all a glass of mulled wine to accompany it. What was brilliant about this afternoon tea was that they brought us as much tea as we wanted! This is what us bloggers, and I'd have to say us British, love! There were plenty of yummy sandwiches including a festive brie, bacon and cranberry one. Everyone had two scones each and then a plate FULL of desserts. I didn't get chance to try them all but the ones I had, which included a chocolate mouse and a chocolate truffle, were definitely satisfying.

The Vermont Hotel Festive Afternoon Tea - Newcastle

The Vermont Hotel Festive Afternoon Tea - Newcastle

The Vermont Hotel Festive Afternoon Tea - Newcastle

The Vermont Hotel Festive Afternoon Tea - Newcastle

During our afternoon tea we exchanged Secret Santa presents. At first it was very tense to see if the person I'd bought for, Shivani, liked her present then I was nervous to see if I would like mine! Everyone has that feeling don't they? Just in case they don't like their gift. It's safe to say I LOVED my present from Kayleigh, she got it spot on with my gingerbread themed gifts. She gave me a knitted gingerbread man for the Christmas tree, a gingerbread bath bomb and a ginger spiced candle! Perfect presents for the gingerbread obsessed. Just in case you are wondering, Shivani seemed to like her gift which was a mug shaped like a camera lense. She likes taking photos so I thought this was a quirky but relevant present. I also got her a chocolate S from Amsterdam.

The Vermont Hotel Festive Afternoon Tea - Newcastle

Overall it was a brilliant afternoon with a superb afternoon tea which I'd recommend to anyone for £14.95 as it was great value for the amount you get. Although this was the festive afternoon tea in sure their normal one would be just as good! I can't wait to see what amazing places Chloe picks for next year's blogger cake club!
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Christmas Tag


The lovely Lisa tagged me in this festive post and as it is Christmas soon I thought I best get answering!

1.What is your favourite Christmas Movie?
I love all the modern films like Elf, The Grinch who stole Christmas and Arthur Christmas. I never really got into Home Alone, Santa Claus the movie and all the black and white ones. When I was old enough to buy Christmas films, that's when I started to pick my favourites. My absolute favourite has to be Elf.

2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
Definitely Christmas Morning! Who opens their presents on Christmas Eve?! I like to do it on Christmas, it feels much more special. The only presents we get on Christmas Eve are our new PJs!

3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?
I don't think I have a standalone Christmas memory really. I just enjoyed getting together with all the family at Christmas, opening presents and eating food! Our family were never the type to play games and hang around at Christmas so we always used to go home not long after food!

4. Favourite festive food?
Roasties. Do they count? Roasties are my absolute favourite on a roast dinner! I could happily eat a plate full of these with stuffing and gravy and be a very happy girl.

5. Favourite Christmas gift?
Again I don't think any specifically comes to mind when I think of my favourite gift. My sister and I have received some great presents over the years including lots of dolls and gaming consoles which were great at Christmas. As I get older gifts become more functional or sentimental which I like, although I would like toys....

6. Favourite Christmas scent?
Can I say the Christmas Eve candle from Yankee Candles? Absolute fave! If we are talking general smells I would say like festive spices like cinnamon and ginger.

7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?
Every year whilst I lived with my parents I would get new PJs when I came out of the shower. They would appear on my bed like magic! Now we are in our own house this Christmas, we are continuing the new PJ tradition but I think we will start our own of having a snacky party tea and watching Christmas films. I can't wait!

8. What tops your tree?
Well this is the first year I've had my own tree to decorate and I've decided not to have anything topping it. I couldn't find something nice enough and I think it looks great without. Maybe next year I will find something that can go on it.

9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always wanted but never received?
Ooh I have no clue! Maybe a slushie maker? That isn't very extravagant though is it!

10. What's the best part about Christmas for you?
I really like when everyone comes together to see each other for that one day out of the year. I don't often see my extended family so it is nice to see them all in one place for Christmas. P.S I also love the FOOD!

...

Thanks Lisa for the tag and as it is nearly Christmas I will forgo the tagging as I think I'm a bit late for it!

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas has arrived in our home!

Christmas is now just over a week away and I am getting totally excited. This is the first Christmas that will be spent in our first house. We've had to buy all our Christmas decorations in to ensure it could be as festive as possible. I've put little bits of Christmas throughout the downstairs of our house.

As you would imagine, there is a lot of gingerbread! I've bought a couple of decorations in the run up to Christmas but had a few from last year that friends and family bought as presents. The one with our names on was given to us last year by my Mum, it is so cute and such a special, unique decoration. When I pulled them all out to put on the tree, I couldn't believe how much gingerbread there was! I'm so pleased with how my tree came together. Mum was always into white and silver decorations, where as I have gone all out traditional red, green and gold. I love it, it's so festive!

Christmas House Decorations

Christmas House Decorations - Gingerbread

Christmas House Decorations - Gingerbread Personalised

Christmas House Decorations - Gingerbread

Christmas House Decorations

Christmas House Decorations

Christmas House Decorations

Christmas House Decorations

Christmas House Decorations

As well as the Christmas tree I've added festive tea lights holders, gingerbread houses on the fuse box, a cuddly Santa on our phone table, tinsel to the banister and some twinkly lights in the front window. There are lots of little bits to ensure our house looks festive! I'm so pleased with how everything looks and I don't think I could fit another Christmas themed item in the house, well except stockings and santa sacks on Christmas day!

Do you like our decorations? Have you posted about yours? Link me!
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Monday, 8 December 2014

Degustabox November Review

If you haven't heard of the Degustabox, where have you been? I've seen many people blogging about the joys of receiving this monthly subscription box. Each month the lovely people at Degustabox put together a package full of exciting new foodie products that are in the shops or are soon to arrive. You certainly get your money's worth as for £12.99 inc delivery you receive from 9 products up to a hefty 14! Below is November's box of goodies!

Degustabox UK November 2014 Monthly Subscription Box Contents

Degustabox UK November 2014 Monthly Subscription Box Contents

Degustabox UK November 2014 Monthly Subscription Box Contents

Kettle Chips - Salsa and Mesquite £2.19
Kettle Chips have brought back two of its most loved flavours as limited edition for Christmas! I've already eaten half of my bag of Salsa and Mequite to myself so I can tell you they are very nice! A little on the spicy barbecue side in taste but certainty morish. I would have loved to have received the other pack also which was Stilton and Port as I think that would have been a strange flavour to try!

Cool Dawn Recovery £2.98 for 2
These drinks claim to help prevent a hangover when you've had a night out on the town. I tried one of these after I'd been out for a drink and I really didn't like the taste as it contains liquorice which I am not a fan of. I like the idea that these drinks will make you feel much better in the morning and that they are made with herbal ingredients but they are not for me!

Lindt - Lindor My Melting Moment £3.25 for 5
These are basically a version of the Lindt balls you get around Christmas but in a more accessible form. What I mean by this is that if you want some Lindt chocolate you can have one of these, rather than buying a full box of the balls! These are a firm favourite and I was sure to share these around at work rather than being greedy and eating all five to myself.

Kent's Kitchen - Fajita Flavour Shot £1.85
These flavour shots are a quick way of jazzing  up diced meat or prawns. Coming in different types including BBQ, Thai Green and Hot & Spicy these gel shots seem like a brilliant way to make some tasty food. I haven't had chance to try these yet but I think they are a really good idea and I definitely will be using them. As I have the fajita spice one I can't wait to have a Mexican night!

Branston  - Tomato Chutney £1.50
Branston have brought out two new chutneys just in time for Christmas. With a caramelised onion version and a Mediterranean tomato one, these are sure to get you running for something to smother them on. Again haven't had a chance to try this but I am sure it will get eaten over the Christmas period. Tomatoes are my favourite and I can't wait to try this with some cheese and crackers!

Pip Organic - Apple Juice £3.00 for 2
These were both consumed pretty swiftly as I had one and my boyfriend had the other. We both felt they were very refreshing and had a lovely real apple taste. I'd recommend these but I think they are a little pricey for how small the bottles are!

Montano - Apple Cider £2.79
This cider is made only from the apples grown in the foothills of the Trentino region of Northern Italy. It sounds very fancy but as I am not a lover of apple cider I have passed it along to a friend.

Holy Cow Indian Curries £3.38 for 2
Oh how I love a good curry! Holy Cow Indian Curries are made with natural ingredients, no artificial flavours or preservatives, suitable for vegetarians and those who are gluten intolerant! We received a Rogan Josh version and a Korma one. We tried the Rogan Josh curry and it was super easy to use and very tasty! I can't wait to cook up the Korma version as I am sure that will be just as nice!

Drink Me Chai sample
Lots of people have been talking about Chai latte and tea so I'm glad I've been sent this so I can try! I'm very excited to have it as the winter months get into full swing!

Following this I definitely think I'm going to commit to receiving Degustaboxes every month. I love the surprise of not knowing what you are getting until it comes. There is always something new that you might not have bought in your normal shopping but now have the chance to try.

If you'd like to join me in signing up, the stars at Degustabox have provided all my lovely readers with a discount code to receive £3.00 off your subscription box! Enter VQLS9 when registering for your box to get your money off.

Have you tried Degustabox before?

*Sent to me for review - all opinions are honest and my own.
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Monday, 24 November 2014

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Another place that was recommended by the blogging community for food in Manchester was Almost Famous Burgers. Although I was still quite full from dinner I knew that I couldn't pass up a burger and fries. The place was quite dark and gloomy but very trendy with graffitti on the walls, metal pole room separations  and even a giant gorilla.

The menu is limited but you are bound to find something you like if you are in to meat, specifically burgers. I went for a River Phoenix burger which was a double cheeseburger with bacon, bbq fried onions, frazzles, baconnaise, chipotle ketchup, redneck bbq sass and chillies but I didn't have the chillies! Matt went for the Butter Blood and Bleu burger, a double cheeseburger with rare flatiron steak, chorizo, chillies, grilled onions, peppercorn and bleu cheese sauces and mustard mayo. We accompanied these monsters with a mix of normal and sweet potato fries.

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

Almost Famous Burgers Restaurant Review, Manchester

These burgers were outrageous, both very juicy and full of flavour. The combination of stuff, although piled high and hard to get your chops around, were exceptionally well put together with great complementing tastes. I cut mine in half to tackle whilst Matt decided to get his knife and fork out. Our fries were sprinkled with a bit of spice and when I asked for ketchup they only carry spicy ketchup. There was no relief for me!

I wish I had had more room to finish my burger as I made a poor effort. It was a great burger joint that I'd revisit but it still doesn't knock my favourite off the top spot.
Have you been to Almost Famous Burgers? I hear they've opened in Leeds too!
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Friday, 21 November 2014

Books I've been reading...

Quite recently I've gotten back into reading. Its not that I ever had gotten out of it, but I didn't put enough time aside to enjoy reading. Having read Giovanna Fletcher's book Billy and Me, it was inevitable that I would be reading her second book, You're The One That I Want. Just on an aside as to why I read Gi's books, I totally am obsessed with Mcfly and in turn Tom's lovely wife Gi. Now I'm addicted to her Vlogs and her cute little babba Buzz. I'd really recommend either of these book as they are such lovely books to read, my fave is Billy and Me which she has recently followed up with a Christmas novella.

So as I was saying... After reading You're The One That I Want, I decided it was time to get back into the world of books. I took a trip to WHSmith and picked up some books whilst they were on buy one, get one for £1.99. Of these books I've read three and also one that I had lying around. If you are looking for some books to read in the colder months, here are a few ideas.

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty

The whole of this story take place in a couple of days but you'd never know it with the amount that happens. The story primarily focuses on Cecilia Fitzpatrick and her daily life but there are two other main characters who feature intermittently in each chapter. (i.e one chapter is about Cecilia's life then another character, then another, then back to Cecilia and so forth.) 

At first I was put off by this as I didn't understand what was going on but as you keep reading you realise that these characters are all linked and their lives intertwine. Underneath it all, as stated in the title, there is a dark secret kept by the husband that affects all characters.

I really liked this book as it kept you guessing as to what was going to happen. I didn't have a clue what the secret would be and I didn't know how it would play out. It's really refreshing when you don't already guess the ending. I'd recommend this to people who are interested in chick flicks with a deeper more sinister level to them.

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green


This had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while until I decided it was time to read it. I knew from the movie trailer, that I had to hold back tears to watch, that it would be a sad book. It is about cancer after all. The book follows two young people with a blossoming love that is tainted by cancer. Throughout the book I had so much hope for the two main characters but in the end you know that it is futile and that something will happen. And it did, I won't tell you what but get the tissues ready! This book also features a trip to Amsterdam which is different as you get to read about it through their perspective.

I'd recommend this to anyone who loves a love story. It may be tragic but it is definitely worth a read. After this I watched the movie and as I knew what was coming I practically sobbed the whole way through.

The Hidden Cottage - Erica James


This is the one I've most recently finished. Probably the largest book with the smallest text! It follows a family living in the small town of Little Pelham focusing on the mother, Mia. It is a pretty average story mainly following the daily life of the family including the dad who works away, the son and daughters who live in different locations but come and visit. In the midst of this a new guy moves into town and stirs up some new chatter. The story delves into each of the familys problems and secrets as well as highlighting the different relationships.

Although I don't seem to be selling this very well, it is a lovely book. I do still wish I was still reading it just to be back in Little Pelham with Mia and the family.

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

This again is another love story that I didn't know if I'd enjoy. It was a recommendation from Giovanna on one of her vlogs so I thought I'd give it a go. At first when I started reading I felt that the main character was very much like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, whom I despise because of his constant need to be right and have things his way with no one elses' opinion mattering. I did consider putting the book down but I'm glad I didn't because when it went on he became more relaxed and I grew to like him more and more. When he meets Rosie it is great to see the relationship between them and what adventures they get up to.

This would be for someone who likes a good chick flick/love story but with a difference. I really want to read the second book in this series 'The Rosie Effect' which hopefully I'm getting for Christmas! Fingers crossed!

Have you read any of these books? What do you think? Any you can suggest for me to read based on these?
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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Christmas Fair Haul - Living North Newcastle Racecourse

At last weekend's Living North Christmas Fair I made a few purchase both foodie and Christmas related. I wanted to show you what I picked up and maybe introduce you to a some local companies you might want to look into!

Living North Christmas Fair Newcastle Racecourse Shopping Haul

First off is CAKE! The Pudding Parlour had an amazing selection of cakes on offer including rainbow cake, marshmallow fluff cups and mint aero slices. I chose I piece of chocolate ferrero rocher cake and ate it when I got home. Well I only ate half as the slice I got was so big, I had to eat it in two sittings! The cake was lovely and fluffy with thick chocolatey icing. You could definitely taste in the icing that it was meant to be ferrero rocher as it was distinctively nutty. I've been looking at their website to see where I can get my next fix and it seems that they work on orders but also have a concession in Fenwick in Hexham!

The Pudding Parlour Hexham Chocolate Cake Newcastle

The Pudding Parlour Hexham Chocolate Cake Newcastle

Next up is some fudge I picked up in the food hall. Forever Fudge's stall was packed full of tonnes of different flavoured fudges. I had to come home with some chocolate for me and some vanilla for the boyfriend. Yet to try this but I'm sure it will be yummy!

Forever Fudge - Living North Christmas Fair Newcastle

I picked these two little cheeky chappies up to fuel my gingerbread obsession and continue on with my christmas tree decoration shopping. Not sure which stall it was but they were £4.00 each and such good quality. I can't wait until they can take pride of place on the tree!

Gingerbread People - Living North Christmas Fair Newcastle Racecourse

I came across this amazing business called Magnificent Marshmallow Company who sold a range of gourmet marshmallows. They come in many flavours including coconut, raspberry, cherry, blueberry, elderflower, banana, orange, lemon and peppermint. They are fat free, dairy free, wheat free, gluten free and additive free. The packaging is so creative, I love how they have branded their marshmallows. I picked up a pack of strawberry which was a little expensive at £3.50 but I think they are worth it for the quality.

Magnificent Marshmallow Company - Saucy Strawberry

Magnificent Marshmallow Company - Saucy Strawberry

Last but not least is the two bits I picked up from a local small business based in Middlesbrough, Lots of Loveliness. The stall had a great range of different candle scents from Pintail Candles which come in these cute little paint pots. I picked up the spiced apple compote ready for Christmas and also some little gingerbread people Christmas tags. I'm a little obsessed, what can I say?

Lots of Loveliness Middlesbrough Pintail Candle and Gingerbread Christmas Tags

Have you been to any Christmas fairs recently? What did you pick up? Link to any posts below!
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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

When Halloween and Bonfire night are out of the way, it is time to focus on the build up to Christmas. Recently I've seen upcoming Christmas Fair events popping up here there and everywhere. It seems that everyone with a decent venue wants to get in on the festive spirit. When I was browsing twitter one day I came across a link for Living North's Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse. Although it cost £8 for a ticket (or £6 if you order online before) I thought this would be a good event to attend as it is a well known magazine that is organising it.

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse - Lots of Loveliness

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse

We arrived about 10.30am on Saturday and it was already starting to get really busy. There was a map in the guide so that you could find out what was available to see and where it was. In the racecourse building there were many sections such as the food hall and floors of stalls for Christmas shopping. Lots of great small companies had piled into the fair to sell what they had on offer and promote the great businesses in the North. I even found Middlesbrough's own Lots of Loveliness with a stall packed full of people! They were loving her stock, so was I, I picked up a candle and some gingerbread men present tags.

In the food hall there was lots of lovely local food producers selling everything from pies, chutneys and bread, to flavoured fortune cookies, gourmet marshmallows and massive slabs of cake. I love finding local foodies that I can promote through my blog as I love showing off the North of England and the amazing businesses here on our doorstep.

Overall the event was good, packed with stalls and small businesses but I had two gripes about the day. Firstly there wasn't enough good quality food to eat on the day. Considering the amazing local businesses they had drafted in for the other parts of the day it would have been nice to see some local food vendors. The only food available from the racecourse itself which was expensive and didn't look appetising.

Then there was the amount of people. Now don't get me wrong I know I probably went on the busiest day but I almost feel there should have been a cap on the amount of people that were allowed in. It was so hard to look at anything in the stalls for the amount of people already crammed in to it. Then there was the hassle of trying to walk through the aisles, you either got stuck behind someone in the middle of the aisle trying to look at a stall or people just stopping to have a general chat. I get very raged in these situations so I can tell you I wasn't very happy. One more thing that bugged me on the day was that when I got my email through for the tickets it said that because the weekend would be so busy, pushchairs and buggies wouldn't be allowed in and yet I saw plenty of people with these on the day. It reduces the space in the aisles more and then I felt bad for the people who'd obviously got this memo and were carrying around their young babies. They may as well have brought their buggy!

This was a great event with some amazing things to buy. I picked up quite a bit of stuff, that I plan to put in a separate post, so I was very happy that I went because I discovered more local shops that I'd love to visit in the future. If Living North could just have a look at food and the amount of people I'd definitely be grappling to get back next year.

P.s the York version of this is on 14th-16th November at York Racecourse.
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Friday, 7 November 2014

The Body Shop - Glazed Apple Christmas Range Review

Recently I decided to go to The Body Shop to see what their new Christmas ranges were all about. I stumbled across this glazed apple range and was unsure that I'd like it. That was until I smelt it. Then I was SOLD! As the boyfriend was treating me I decided to throw these three in the basket!

I picked up the shower gel (£4), body polish (£10) and body butter (£13). These are three items that I know will get used up very soon! I've used up all my other shower gels in order to buy new ones and I'm so glad these came out when I was in the market for some new ones. In comparison to other shower gels this one is very jelly like but foams up brilliantly. The body butter has quite a thick texture not like some of the ones you pick up that can be quick silky and light. I haven't had chance to use the body polish yet but I'm sure it will be similar to others from The Body Shop.

As for the smell, well it is beautiful. I know I've read some bloggers reviews of this and they absolutely hate it but for me sickly sweet smells like this take my fancy. It almost smells like apple hubba bubba bubblegum. It is just so sweet and yummy I want to smell like this forever.

I've got these three items but the rest of this range is definitely going to be on Christmas list including the body spray, lip balm and bath jelly.

Have you smelled this yet? What do you think?
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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Recently we took a short trip to Manchester in which we made sure to pick some brilliant eateries. One that we chose, that I know you'll all have heard of, is Bill's Restaurant. Lots and lots of bloggers have been recommending Bill's and I've only just had chance to try it. I am happy to report that I love it! Bill's strapline is breakfast to bedtime, so we decided to pop along for lunch.

Inside everything is back to basics and there are a lot of up-cycled items. There were gorgeous pieces of lighting including beautiful chandeliers and industrial down lighters around where we sat. There was lots of yummy items of the menu but in the end I chose a haloumi burger, fries and a pink lemonade float with vanilla ice cream. Matt picked a macaroni cheese with butternut squash and a side of sweet potato fries.

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)
Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)
Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Bill's Restaurant in Manchester (Review)

The burger was lovely. Having it in a sesame bun was just right and it had a little bit of sweet chilli sauce inside with the salad which complemented it perfectly. It was supposed to have hummus and peppers in but they aren't my cup of tea and it tasted just as great without them. Matt enjoyed his macaroni cheese but he said it could have done with a bit more cheese. I'd never had an ice cream float before but I decided that Bill's would be the place to do it. It was so sweet and sickly but also tangy because of the lemonade. I had a good go at drinking it but couldn't finish it all!

The atmosphere was lovely in Bill's and I wish we had one up here, even if it had to be in Newcastle! In Bill's you could also buy some of the items they used in their menu such as jams, chutneys and items of dinnerware such as teapots. We didn't make any purchases as it was our first time but I can imagine after a few trips we'd have our favourite bits that we'd like to take home.

Have you been to Bill's? Do you like it?

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