Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Nina Eats (and drinks) - Barker Tea House

When I heard a tea house was opening in Cardiff I sang a hallelujah.  Slowly there are some great coffee shops creeping onto the Cardiff scene and Barker Tea House is actually the sister institution to Coffee Barker which is one of my favourite places in Cardiff.  The arrival of Barker Tea House has been highly anticipated and it finally opened in January.  My friend Ellie came to visit me in Cardiff so of course we couldn't pass up on the opportunity to visit!

We went for the afternoon tea which was £17.50 per person.  We were allowed to choose our own tea to accompany all our goodies.  There was a massive choice of teas (70 to be precise) which was a little overwhelming and could be hard for those who don't have any tea knowledge.  But the staff are very helpful and will help you pick a tea if you're stuck.  I wanted to try something new and went for a flowering tea called 'Celebration' on recommendation of one of the staff members.  It was an interesting, it was a very delicate tea which at times got overpowered by all the tasty treats we were given.  Probably would have been better to go for a solid Earl Grey.  

Our huge stack of food arrived and we nearly died at how much there was! The sandwiches were lovely, neither Ellie nor me ate the salmon one so that was sadly lost on us.  The scones were on point, the cream was clotted as well so that was an extra point there.  The cake on my tier was salted caramel and we also got little chocolate truffles.  Neither of us could finish our tiers, so we were given boxes and had some very happy people back at home who were happy to receive our leftovers.

Barker Tea House do two different types of afternoon tea as it turns out, one that is the afternoon tea we went for and the other is 'luxury afternoon tea' which comes in at only £6.95 which I really want to try next.  It would make sense to share one afternoon tea, there was just so much food I felt like we barely made a dent in it!  It was just an all round lovely experience.  The atmosphere is just wonderful, Louis Armstrong and other jazz was playing as we munched away and drank our tea.

I can't wait to come back to work my way through their tea menu, the choice is just mind blowing.  I highly recommend going for high tea, or even just for a cup of tea to soak in the beautiful surroundings.  The owner have put in so much work and the tea house is the perfect accompanying sister to their original coffee house.  Well done!

Price: ££
High Street Arcade, CF10 1BB Cardiff
Opening times: Monday to Saturday: 08:30 - 17:30 Sunday: 10:30 - 16:30
Telephone: 029 2034 1390

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Monday, 27 January 2014

I walked with you once upon a dream

New Look Pink Coat
New Look Pink Coat
New Look Pink Coat
Coat: New Look
Shirt: Urban Outfitters
Trousers: New Look
Shoes: Astrix - Topshop
Faux Fur stole: H&M

Is it a bit of a fashion blogger cliché to own a pink coat? If it is I really don't care.

I picked this coat up on the weekend on the spur of the moment when New Look were having a 20% off for students.  I knew I'd regret it if I didn't and the offer ended on Sunday so I'm glad I seized the moment.  The weather has stayed grey and cold and this pink coat adds that much needed pop of colour in my wardrobe.  It instantly lifts my mood and it feels incredibly luxe. People don't believe me when I say this is New Look.  Like I've said before New Look are really knocking it out of the park at the moment!  It's incredibly soft and the shape is great. For reference I picked this up in a 12 and it fits perfectly but it's still roomy enough to wear a jumper underneath.  I'm thinking of some fluffy jumpers from Primark? I really feel like the worst kind of fashion blogger spring summer cliché.  

I wore this outfit to have afternoon tea with one of my besties from uni Ellie (who also has a blog you should check out and follow), which I can't wait to show you!

More soon!

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Friday, 24 January 2014

Being a Homebody

When I googled 'homebody' the definition that I found says that a homebody is 'a person who likes to stay at home, especially one who is perceived as unadventurous.'  Now I am the first to say that I am a massive homebody but would like to say that being a homebody doesn't necessarily mean you're not adventurous.  I like being out and about and experiencing new things but what I love most about it, is coming home at the end of it.

I love spending time with my friends and doing things but home really is where the heart is.  I love the comfort of cranking up the heating (heating bills be dammed I will not live in a freezing house), making a cup of tea and lighting a scented candle.  I worked for a bar for a year and saw some right sights so the idea of going out and 'clubbing' on a weekend generally fills me with some mild dread.  I go out maybe twice a month? I got all the partying out of my system in my first year and seeing as I've signed up as an organ donor I feel I should keep my liver in the best condition possible.  Staying in just seems safer and more fun (for the time being I get my second hand embarrassment by watching What Happens in Kavos and Sunny Beach).

My ideal Friday night is spent on my sofa with a cup of tea, or if I'm feeling adventurous a glass of wine, a film and reading through some of my favourite blog posts.  I always make sure I have nice things around me in my living room that make it cosy, it makes it hard to try and drag myself to bed once I decide to turn in.  It's comforting to have stuff around you that makes you happy. Company and cuddles are also appreciated, ideally in the form of a kitten or a corgi but a girl can dream.  Fluffy socks and nice smelling moisturisers are also a must! Rain outside is also a nice addition for the atmosphere.  I'm working my way through some old Disney films at the moment, I still need to see Frozen so maybe that will be my next Friday night!

Are you guys homebodies as well? What would your ideal Friday night be?

More soon!

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Monday, 20 January 2014

2014 Goals

Every year I make resolutions and don't find myself sticking to them which just leads to more guilt.  This year I'm just going to set myself some tasks that won't go about drastically changing my life but should overall just lead to feeling better and being more productive in my life.  This is probably slightly late considering that we are almost already at the end of January (ALREADY?!) but better late than never right?

 1. Read more and step away from technology.
I don't go anywhere without my phone and in the evening when I decide to go to bed I usually take my laptop with me to do some last minute browsing or to watch an episode of a show.  This usually leads to hopping from link to link or watching four episodes instead of one so my sleep really isn't the greatest.  For 2014 I'm going to stop taking my laptop to my bedroom, it can stay in my study or the living room.  It has been reported that using electronics such as laptops and iPads before sleep is actually bad for your health so I'm going to replace my internet surfing and bad reality TV for some old fashioned book reading.  I think it'll help me wind down in the evenings and should make my sleep better, plus I have so many books just sitting unread on my bookcase because I'd rather watch another episode of RuPaul's Drag Race.  For shame.  So this year I want to rediscover my love of reading that's really died in the past years, hopefully it'll lead to all around better sleep and getting me back on the path of being a well read individual.

2. Work hard
Again I say this every year and every year my expensive Moleskine just doesn't get used.  However, this year I'm in my final semester on my Masters (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN SO QUICKLY?) and I'm applying for jobs left right and centre.  To keep an overview of my life I need to use my trusty little diary more often.  My job hunt hasn't been going as well as I hoped so I also plan to keep working hard and hopefully find a job that I enjoy or if not enjoy, then at least one that will lead to some sort of career in my chosen field.

3. Take time to enjoy the little things
With life being hectic I think it's so difficult to try and enjoy the smaller things in life like a clean house and pretty flowers.  I'm quick to neglect keeping a tidy house but they say a tidy house is reflective of a tidy mind so that might be why?

What are your goals for 2014?

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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Nina Eats - The Gusty Goose

Apologies for being slightly MIA recently, I've been back in the UK for a week but had an exam and an assignment deadline all due the beginning of this week.  Once that was all done and dusted it was time to celebrate with some good food and a nice glass of wine.  The restaurant of choice was The Gusty Goose.  And what a good choice it was!

Haddock amuse-bouche
Venison steak with sea salted fries, fried egg and vegetables
 Wild mushroom, sun blush tomatoes and walnut linguine 

We got a complimentary amuse-bouche which was some kind of haddock paste on a little crunchy cracker.  Neither my date nor I like fish but we gave it a try anyway.  I surprisingly enjoyed it, it's good to try something new once in a while.  For main my date went for venison steak and I hit up the other end of the spectrum and went veggie on recommendation of the waitress.  The venison steak was delicious and cooked to perfection.  The portion was quite generous and getting a venison steak for £14 is pretty impressive.  The chips were also on point.  My linguine were great, I would have liked my pasta to be a bit more 'al dente' but I pretty much like my pasta uncooked.  It was a really nice seasonal and had lots of different types of mushrooms.  As you can see our plates were just short of being licked clean.

For dessert I had the berry eton mess and my date had the brownie.  Both were excellent and it was a struggle for me to even finish my dessert, it was misleadingly filling.

Our bill, including a glass of wine for me and beer for my date, came to £40 which I thought was great value for our money.  I'm not a massive fan of the decor, the brown sofa wallpaper wouldn't have been my first choice, but the food makes up for what the decor lacks.  There aren't many tables so the atmosphere is cosy.  The menu is also based on seasonal ingredients so it's perfect for the cold rainy nights we've been having.  I'm looking forward to seeing the menu change for spring and summer.  If you're a Cardiff local then I can't recommend this place enough.  The restaurant is a nice addition to the Cathays dining scene which is normally dominated by kebab shops and fast food places.  Happy days, I'll be back for more.

Chocolate and amaretto brownie
Winter berry eton mess 

Price: ££
145 Crwys Road, Cardiff CF24 4NH
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am to 21:30 Sunday 9am to 17:00
Telephone: 029 2022 8523

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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Taking a Trip | Part 2

After our rather adventurous start into what was meant to be a quite and calm weekend getaway, we crawled out of our tent the next day into bright sunshine and saw what we hadn't seen when we had arrived at dusk the day before.  Pure white sand stretching out for miles along the crystal blue sea.  What makes this place so special and what consolidates it as our favourite place to be is that on the left side you have the Indian Ocean and then if you look right you are camped along side a huge lagoon that is home to all sorts of birds including flamingos.  We pretty much had paradise to ourselves.

After a leisurely breakfast at our rickety camping table that still stands fairly solid considering we bought it in the 90's, we waited for the low tide.  As you can see in the pictures once the tide retreated a sandbank popped out.  It means you can technically walk miles into the sea but only ever be in water that is midway up to your leg.  I'm going to be honest, I love the sea but I'm terrified of what lives in it.  As I was blissfully wading through the water looking for corals my dad told me to watch out for stingrays.  Of course the minute you're warned of something you start stepping more cautiously.  Before dad's wise words I was recklessly putting my feet down without paying any attention to what I was stepping on.  But as my life will have it, two minutes after my dad warned me, I put my foot down and stepped on something squishy.  Yes a stingray.  Quite a big one.  I screamed and screamed but thankfully I only scared the stingray and he swam away speedily and I didn't get stung by his long tail (it's not as funny as it sounds remember Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter?).  I got out of the water pronto and decided that tanning on the beach was probably the safest option.

We whiled the rest of the afternoon away, I finally took the time out to do some reading.  I started working my way through a modern retelling of Austen's Sense & Sensibility (mixed feelings so far) but then dad, my brother and I set off to do some off road driving.  I don't actually have my licence yet but I've gone driving with my dad before.  Driving off road was so much fun and a great experience, especially in a massive 4x4.  Dad kept a firm eye on my steering and made sure I didn't hit the break when I meant to accelerate.  Successful driving lesson.  Then before the sun started to set I made the most of the tide coming back in to collect some beautiful shells to take back to Cardiff with me.  They are such beautiful reminders and souvenirs, I will miss Oman so much when I go back to the cold and wet in Wales.  Having the shells I found scattered around my flat will bring a smile to my face and will always remind me of this crazy trip!  I was so impressed with how many beautiful big shells I found.  I have so many I'm considering giving some away as gifts.

This time when the sun set we were all prepared.  The limes were cut, the gin was chilled and we took our camping chairs right up to the edge of the beach and sat down with our drinks waiting for the main event.  It was beautiful.  A little note, if you look closely in the last photo you can see a tiny white ball in the sky - that's Venus.  The sky once you're away from all the light pollution in the city, is amazing.  Once the sun is gone and the stars come out it's just breath taking.  You forget how many stars come out, it looks like fairy dust scattered across the skies and they shine so bright.  We were really spoilt.  

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Saturday, 4 January 2014

Nina Eats - Lebanese food at Al Jood

The other day my mum realised that I hadn't actually left the house in days, so on her way home she rang me to say we were going out for dinner.  I wore make up for the first time in about a week and actually brushed my hair.  Success.  Nothing like the prospect of eating out to get you motivated.

We went to probably one of my all time favourite restaurants in Muscat: Al Jood.  Al Jood means generosity in Arabic and it's certainly applicable for this amazing little place.  I'm not going to lie, the decor really isn't up my street at all and there's a big flat screen TV playing Arabic, Lebanese and Bollywood music videos at full volume (which actually do have some kind of charm I have to say) but oh my goodness is the food AMAZING.  It's simple, freshly made with fresh ingredients and served fuss free.  It feels as if you've been invited into the home of an Lebanese family, it's got a very authentic feeling and doesn't give itself any airs and graces.  

We opted for a selection of mezze.  We of course couldn't have mezze without hommus, and I think hands down this is the best hommus I have ever eaten.  We also loaded our pitta bread with baba ghannoug (a version of hommus but made out of roasted eggplant rather than chickpeas) and had helpings of fattosh/fattoush which is a bread salad.  To satisfy my carnivore brother we also ordered some lamb kibbeh (wikipedia describes them as 'torpedo-shaped fried croquettes') which I had never eaten before but they were extremely delicious.  It's always great to try out new things and find a new favourite.  We also of course had to eat falafel, the ones I normally eat are shaped in little balls so getting them in a donut shape was a revelation to me.  They were so tasty we ordered two plates worth of them.

I tried to make a push for desert (I was dying to have some authentic baklava) but my food baby was telling me otherwise.  Next time.  Our whole meal including drinks came to a measly £17.  You really can't complain, we certainly didn't as we dragged our full bellies back home.

If you so happen to be in Muscat you can find Al Jood in the Al Khuwair part of town, I'd give you more details but the restaurant doesn't have a website and it's located on a road called 'Street 39', not sure how helpful that is.  Once I'm back in Cardiff I will have to find a replacement Al Jood, I can't go for too long without Lebanese food.  Have you guys ever tried any? You really need to!

More soon

Here's an example of the kind of music that was playing in the background on the TV, I think you'll understand what I mean when I say these videos are oddly appealing.

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