Returning to a restaurant at which you have previously had a wonderful meal is sometimes a dicey prospect. The stakes (I so wanted to type steaks to be punny but I wouldn’t subject you to that) are already so high that any mistake will be highlighted and memories of amazing meals past easily forgotten.

So it was with a little trepidation that I accepted an invitation to return to Middletons on Bridge Street, Peterborough to sample their new Spring 2018 menu.

I knew there was only 1 real choice of companion for this endeavour, my brother Steve (aka Steak King). His love of meat is the stuff of local legend.

steak king

The New Spring 2018 Menu

Looking at the menu it wasn’t instantly clear which were the new additions. Help was on hand in the form of our enigmatic waiter, Mark. After a short tour of the new menu we learned that as well as a few new meal choices on the main menu such as the spicy chicken wings, a big focus had been put on introducing some fabulous vegetarian options such as the Goats Cheese and Veg Tart which looks very tempting. There is also a vegan option which is the Pesto Gnocchi. I cannot emphasise enough how much I enjoy Gnocchi so this was great news for me. 

Another new feature at Middletons is that hey have now introduced a Gin Bar to the drinks menu.  It features 10 carefully selected gins, ranging from well-known brands to more up-and-coming flavoured varieties. Steak and Gin, does it get any better than that?

What we ate

Something I like about Middletons is that they do like to keep you hydrated. A bottle of complimentary water is usually with you soon after being seated and they are very good at replenishing it without being asked. 

For starters I chose the Chicken Liver Paté. I really love paté but it isn’t something I would think of putting together at home so when I see it on the menu I am always keen to order it. It was a really generous portion which arrived with plenty of warm sourdough and butter. 

Steve had the Mussels which were as he put it “spot on” and which arrived with a good supply of sourdough and freshening wipes. 

 

For my main course I opted for the Seafood Mixed Grill which consisted of Sea Bass fillet, salmon fillet, chilli prawns, calamari and lemon all served alongside my choice of side which on this occasion was new potatoes (I was at least trying to be vaguely healthy). It was all really lovely and just the right portion size. I especially enjoyed the chilli prawns and the sea bass – extra points on the crunchy sea bass skin. It was a tasty alternative to steak.

Steve ordered the steak (of course) and after next to no deliberation decided on chips to go with it. His steak came with a field mushroom and tomato and was beautifully cooked – I don’t believe I have ever been disappointed with my Middletons steak, it’s what they do best. 

We both really enjoyed our meals. I must admit that thanks to Middletons set menu I have returned more times than I can count. With masses of choice and 3 courses for £9.99 (even on a Saturday!). As well as the option to not only book your table online but pre-order your food too. Well, you can’t really argue with that. 

Our meal was paid for in exchange for an honest review. 

 

This is a collaborative post.

It’s fair to say that I am not really a royalist but I do like them. Especially Harry and William. But especially Harry. I admire the work he has put into the Invictus games and I think he seems like a pleasant bloke. Meghan is going to make a great addition to our Royal family too what with her work as a UN advocate as well as other work supporting various charities. They make such a good match!

I work with lots of couples as part of my day job creating personalised cake toppers – you can read more about that here. 

One of my favourite moments in the process of making the toppers is when I first see what the bride will be wearing.

Of course whatever Meghan decides to wear will look beautiful (have you seen her!?) and I cannot wait to see it! I might even have a go at making a topper of them!

On Saturday, the day of the Royal wedding, I will be settling down to watch it on television with Bess, my daughter. I quite like the thought that some day this will be a marker in our history. In her history.

wedding table

Perfection is in the planning

If you are planning a little party of your own or are looking for a gift for a wedding this year, Amazon Handmade’s new Wedding Shop has got you covered. Just click on this link to find your perfect gift: www.amazon.co.uk/handmadewedding  

I really like sourcing things from small sellers. As a sole trader myself I know how much that support counts. When you buy something from a small seller you really are helping them to put food on their table. Amazon Handmade is a great website for finding those kinds of sellers and they have a vast array of wonderful gifts.

wedding cake bunting

This personalised Prosecco glass is the perfect gift for anyone who likes their bubbles. You could even splash out on a pair of them for the happy couple.

I believe I am correct in saying that as a British person I was (like all British people) instilled with a love of bunting at birth. We all love the stuff. This Cath Kidston print bunting is exactly the sort of thing to wibble the stiffest of upper lips and as such it makes an excellent gift choice.

Confetti is a big deal. A lot of venues now either try to discourage or in some cases have banned the use of paper confetti. This confetti however is made from biodegradable rose petals. A must for weddings this summer and it smells divine too!

Bess does love a crown. I blame myself for the most part. Elizabeth is rather a regal name after all. We love this Princess crown headband and I have a feeling it will be in use on Saturday and long after.

Who doesn’t like to feel like a princess – especially when the newest of ours has such a clear passion for making young girls feel empowered. 

 

Last year Col was finishing year 11 and looking for something to do for the summer. I happened across a post on social media showing teens getting stuck in to some outdoorsy activities. In the post, the teens were smiling. Actually smiling! Teens!

As any parent of teens can confirm, this is most unusual and as such it caught my eye. I read on. The post was an ad for a scheme called NCS and as it turned out, that post was about to become a big deal for our family.

The National Citizen Service (NCS)

In a time when a lot of what we see in the news are stories of division and intolerance and violence between people, bringing together young people from different backgrounds for a unique shared experience has never been more important. NCS was established in 2011 to help build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society

This year more than 100,000 teenagers from different backgrounds will come together in common purpose on NCS. The two to four week programme which takes place during the summer holidays includes a week of outdoor team building exercises, a residential week at a university where teens can learn life skills, a community based project to encourage our young people to be more active within their local area and an end of programme celebration event.

 ncs celebration

In a nutshell, the programme:

  • Puts young people through a series of challenging activities to take them out of their comfort zones and develop their strength of character
  • Provides a progressive journey that hands over more responsibility to young people as the programme progresses and develops leadership skills necessary to succeed in the workplace
  • Enables young people to connect with their communities through social action. 

teambuilding

What’s the catch?

So as I was reading through the list of what was included and all of the benefits I had this niggle that it was going to cost an arm and a leg. I was wrong. 

NCS is amazing value for money. The whole experience including food, accommodation and travel costs just £50 and bursaries are available on a case by case basis. Support is also provided for young people with additional needs.

If you have family time planned already over the summer then worry not! NCS is nationwide so there are many dates to choose from. It’s easy to register your interest online and NCS will be able to find a time to suit your family. 

ncs

Our experience

Col got so much out of joining the 400,000 young people who have already taken part in the NCS programme. He was incredibly anxious about the first day but by the end of the first week he was really into it. 

Time spent with his peers, concentrating on upping his self esteem and getting to know not only many new friends but to get to know himself too was so important for him.

As a parent I think it is one of the best things Col has ever done. I saw a change in him right away and it was definitely a change for the better! I would urge other Mums and Dads to consider registering their child – I wish we could do it again but this is a one time only deal.

ncs first aid

Even though NCS can only be completed once, they are really focused on providing a way for previous participants to keep that mindset of social action. There is a section on their website dedicated to this and they even have an Action Day on March 17th where “Grads” can come together to bring social change to their local communities. 

I believe that encouraging our young people to consider their responsibilities to their local community is massively important and the NCS programme mentality will ultimately lead to a better country for all of us. This is an important initiative and anything that gets our teens out of their bedrooms and off their consoles has to be a good thing, right?

 REGISTER

 

nc yes

 

This week I was offered the chance to try out the Alienwork quartz watch. Happily the email landed in my inbox just as I was attempting to find a present for Cols upcoming 17th birthday. What’s even better is that I was offered an extra one to give away to one lucky reader! Result!

I chose the black on black design with a Milanese style strap and decided that it would be the perfect gift for 17 year old Col.

The Watch

The watch arrived quickly (I love Amazon Prime) and came packaged in a felt wallet with button detail. I thought it made a nice change from a box and would come in handy for travelling and such. I have nabbed the wallet for keeping jewellery/make up in my handbag.

The watch itself is surprisingly good quality. It has a really slimline and lightweight design but it does feel like it would withstand life on a teenagers wrist quite nicely. I chose the black design which Col absolutely loves but I did notice that it’s not the easiest to read in dim lighting.

mens watch

Because Col is a bit of a rake I was a bit worried that perhaps the watch strap might be a bit loose for him. Luckily the strap is adjustable. It fits him perfectly and will continue to as he grows. Col loves how smart the watch looks and I agree, it is understated but really stylish.

For an RRP of £32.22 (and currently on sale for just £20) this watch has exceeded my expectations. I would definitely recommend it as a fabulous unisex gift. You can find them here

 

Win an Alienwork Quartz Watch #4

When I was asked whether I thought my darling offspring would be up for coming along to an Easter event I knew it wouldn’t be a hard sell. The opportunity was one I suspected that they would jump at the chance to attend. I was (as ever) right.

Along with Jaymee and Sabina we enjoyed an evening of some serious (ish) chocolate sampling. Here is a small selection of what is on offer for you this Easter at Queensgate, Peterborough

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat is one of my most favourite shops in Queensgate at the moment. I love their seasonal ranges and Easter is no exception. Bess said she loved the Elizapeck Chocolate eggs (£6 each or 2 for £10) and I thought the Egg on Toast was a great buy (£2)

Carluccios

Ok so setting aside that I always forget that Carluccios has a shop in the restaurant (I blame baby brain – he is 3 so I will be milking this excuse until I can no longer) I was really impressed with what they have to offer! We loved the Half Dozen Chocolate Hens’ Eggs (£10.95)

Lakeland

Kids love marshmallows. I don’t know what happens to us as we grow older to make us forget how good they are but marshmallows are manna for (most) children. Lakeland have a lovely big jar for £6.

John Lewis

John Lewis can always be relied upon to deliver the goods and this Easter is no exception. I absolutely loved the hanging eggs (£2.50). So pretty! Moose adored the chick basket (£3.50) and was thrilled to be able to take it home. He has been carrying it around ever since and I know it will feature heavily on Easter Sunday.

M&S

I really love the M&S Easter range this year and was lucky enough to get a guided tour of one of their new stores – you can read about that here

My favourite is the burrowing bunny egg (£15) but I also loved the hand painted eggs and the Percy Pig egg (who doesn’t love Percy?)

What Did The Kids Think?

Bess was really impressed by the visual impact of the Butlers easter egg from John Lewis (£12.50)

Moose hasn’t left his chick basket alone yet but he also really liked the fill your own carrot crackers from John Lewis (£10). We all agreed they were a really unique idea.

I think I might be a bit addicted to the City Chocolate Caramel Bunnies from Hotel Chocolat (£6 for box of 16)

I think if this was a democracy then John Lewis would take the top spot but luckily it’s not. Hotel Chocolat are my winners for creating such cute characters as Elizapeck.

Thanks for having us Queensgate, we had an eggcellent time!