There's not much I want to waffle about right now... Life is amazing, because I've made sure it is. That is the one biggest achievement to come out of this year, I have got out of my life what I have put in and I'm trying to think more positively in everything I do and enter into - it seems to be working! Here's to a HUGELY exciting 2015 (eek, 2015?!) and to even more amazing experiences for the year ahead. I had written an extensive "What Miss Sue Flay Did" post for the last 12 months, as I did last year... however, I think my roundup in images will make it easier to scroll through before you, my lovely reader, heads off for Xmas celebrations yourself. So here is my year, in a nutshell, in images. It's not everything I did exclusively, but these are some of my most favourite elements of my 2014 - I have some very exciting blog plans for the new year, including a new networking opportunity for Cambridge-based bloggers at "Blog Cambridge", so watch this space! If you are new to my blog, please do take a read through my extensive wafflings here! How has your year been? What hopes/dreams/goals do you have for next year? Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about the simpler things in life!
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Recently, I was invited to not one, not two, not three, but four hotels in one afternoon to sample their festive Christmas menus. This was the ultimate in luxurious afternoon tea tours with Nudge PR and Keith from AfternoonTea.co.uk - a national booking site for one of my most favourite of British offerings. Earlier in the summer I also enjoyed an unusual afternoon tea with these guys and the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus, just another wonderful offering in the world of afternoon tea in London, should you need something a little out of the norm for your own celebrations or requirements. For this Christmassy tour we started out in Mayfair, meeting at Browns Bar & Brasserie, before moving on to the Chesterfield Hotel, London Hilton on Park Lane and finishing off at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. If you have a hankering for something a little different over Xmas and New Year, then these four beautifully creative afternoon tea menus are just the ticket to satisfy your cravings. For Christmas afternoon tea menus, these were all surprisingly so different, each one completely unique to the last, it was such a great afternoon and the goodie bags allowed us to take the leftovers home to enjoy with friends the next day - even better. Here, I share with you the four menus and some photos from our walking tour of these fantastic London hotels, each one highly recommended by Miss Sue Flay: Browns Bar & Brasserie: Browns Mayfair is set in a building that was originally Wells & Co, a gentlemen's outfitters; it is believed that Winston Churchill once was fitted here. It is from here that Rudyard Kipling penned many of his novels and it is believed that The English Tea Room was the inspiration for Agatha Christie's 'At Bertram's Hotel'. Here, the Afternoon tea is continuously replenished at no additional charge, so you certainly won't leave hungry! AFTERNOON TEA IN THE ENGLISH TEA ROOM A Selection of Finger Sandwiches Including: Smoked salmon and creme fraiche Egg and watercress Cucumber and cream cheese Fruit scone, served with strawberry jam and clotted cream A Selection of Mini Cakes Including: Salted caramel profiteroles Victoria sponge cakes Browns winter cherry Almond Eton mess Your choice of large loose leaf tea. As of the 29th November, Browns Hotel will be serving Festive Afternoon Tea at £47.50. Enjoy a glass of Ruinart NV with your Afternoon Tea for £57.50 or perhaps a glass of Ruinart Rose for £61.50. On Christmas Day, Ruinart Festive Afternoon Tea will be served from 12 noon at £67.50 per person On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, Ruinart Festive Afternoon Tea will be served from 12 noon at £62.50 per person A CHAMPAGNE AFTERNOON Afternoon Tea plus a glass of Mercier Champagne £26 for two (Add an extra person for £18) A MOST UNUSUAL AFTERNOON Afternoon Tea plus a glass of Hendrick's and tonic with a slice of cucumber £24 for two (add an extra person for £17) All allergies and requirements catered for with 48 hours notice. The Chesterfield Hotel: The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel is a luxury hotel ideally located for Afternoon Tea when shopping in Piccadilly, Bond Street, Regent Street or Oxford Street. They are very proud to have received a special 'Award of Excellence' from the UK Tea Council in recognition of outstanding quality and consistently high standards of tea service in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Their Afternoon Tea is served in either their Conservatory (or candlelit at night, of which we enjoyed, just stunning!), which is flooded with natural daylight, set against the backdrop of the garden and fountain, or The Butler's Restaurant which is warm and intimate and provides a quintessential British dining experience. WINTER WONDERLAND AFTERNOON TEA Selection of Homemade Sandwiches Roast turkey with cranberry mayonnaise on white bread Honey roast ham with Cheddar cheese and tomato chutney on onion bread Scottish smoked salmon with cream cheese on brown bread Free range egg mayonnaise and watercress on basil bread Cucumber and cream cheese on white bread Freshly Baked Homemade Savoury and Plain Scones Served with Cornish clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam Selection of Festive Pastries and Cupcakes Mulled wine macaroon Christmas tree chocolate pot Cranberry and vanilla cheesecake Snowman cupcake Yule log Festive fruit tart £34.50 per person £41.50 for Champagne tea - Additional glass £12.00 / Bottle £59 Magnum £118 Vegetarian and gluten free afternoon teas also available. Little Elves Afternoon Tea - £12.50 per child Peanut butter and jam sandwiches Scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam Cupcakes, hot chocolate or tea London Hilton on Park Lane: Treat yourself to London Hilton on Park lane's delicious festive Afternoon Tea, led by Head Chef Alexandre Derouck, Podium Restaurant & Bar offers a relaxed atmosphere and is the perfect base from where to explore the many local attractions including Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, world famous Harrods & Selfridges. FESTIVE AFTERNOON TEA Sandwiches Forman's smoked salmon with horseradish Honey roast ham with Pommery mustard Prawn cocktail with baby gem lettuce Cucumber, cream cheese, chives Egg, cress Scones Freshly baked chocolate chip Plain and raisin scones Praline chocolate spread Clotted cream, strawberry jam Pastries Yule log made of chocolate Candied Cranberry cupcake Miniature fancies Ginger bread man White forest gateau Candied chestnut parfait Mandarin and spice curd in glass Mulled wine macaroon Harney & Sons fine teas selection of loose leaf teas £36 per person or £46 with a glass of Pommery Champagne. Valid 2nd December - 5th January. Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park: This isn't a usual "Christmas" menu, they are in fact celebrating all things "Paddington Bear" with their most stunning afternoon tea menu. PADDINGTON AFTERNOON TEA Sandwiches Slow roasted Norfolk bronze turkey with sage and cranberry Smoked salmon tartar with creme fraiche and dill Cotswold egg and mustard cress St Tola goats cheese, roast pumpkin, red onion confit Portland crab and crayfish fondue on brioche Wiltshire cured ham and air dried tomatoes Pastries Find my Teddy brownies... (Crunchy brownie, Banana compote, jivara milk chocolate Chantilly) Pack your suitcase (Caramelised cinnamon and java pepper ganache, muscovado and chocolate sable) My favourite rolled marmalade sandwich (Rolled sponge, orange marmalade, candy ginger chantilly) Paddington pots (Saffron honey brule, pear and quince compote) Cakes and Scones Carrot cake Christmas cake Cranberry and plain scones Priced at £48 per adult and £28 per child, this is a luxury tea served in The Rosebery. This venue is just a few steps from Knightsbridge Tube Station and a short walk from Kensington Palace. Thank you so much to Gen & Keith (and to the hotels themselves for their hospitality) for the invitation to join this tour, they know me all too well - there was not a chance in the world that I would have said no to this experience and I'm thrilled to have been a part of this mini afternoon tea adventure. Visit www.AfternoonTea.co.uk for deals, offers & suggestions on afternoon tea offerings across the UK, should you be stuck for inspiration. Please note - This event was complimentary, following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:email@example.com All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
It's no secret that I love dining out, especially when it comes to afternoon tea and other such sweet treats, so when I was recently invited to try out something a little different to my usual mealtimes, I simply couldn't resist. I'm no stranger to Hotel Du Vin in Cambridge, having hosted some of my dining and etiquette workshops (such as "Dine Like Downton" with my co-host, William Hanson) in the past and this venue always lends itself well to an afternoon of indulgence. Hotel Du Vin is an elegant chain of boutique-style hotels in locations such as Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Newcastle & York, amongst others - 15 others in fact. Each hotel has its own unique character, styled around the architecture, history and location of the building itself. Each hotel hosts their trademark bistros, of which serve French classics with a British twist and their bars serve the world's best wines, spirits and even cocktails to add to the glamour of their surroundings. I'm yet to stay overnight with Hotel Du Vin, but from the look of their stunning bedrooms and suites, this is a brand to connect with in 2015 for a stay to add to my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge... The reason for my visit on this occasion was to sample their brunch menu, one of which I've heard fantastic reviews on in past months, but hadn't yet had the chance to try out for myself. I was also enjoying a lazy weekend with a new bearded friend, so it felt right to show him the sights and sounds of Cambridge, my home city, offering him some of the more famous views of Cambridge as we passed them in my car. I had originally planned for us to hop on a bus from home so that we could take a romantic walk around the colleges and across the river, however, the driving rain & howling wind scuppered any such plans - it was a grim day. In fact, this was the least glamorous walk from Newnham Park over to Trumpington Street you ever did see... I was wearing my Sunday best (aka the girliest dress in the world) combined with my neon pink summer shoes & a thin pair of tights - not the best idea when negotiating deep, murky puddles between cow pats en route. By the time we arrived, we were soaked to the bone and I had hair to rival Bridget Jones after her epic open-topped car adventure with Hugh Grant. Oh dear. Never mind. The welcome we received was the warmest around, with a lady opening the door to us offering to take our umbrellas & coats before we made it to the Bistro door... she had spotted us outside and met us before we even reached for the door handle - now, that's service. We were seated in the window at a cosy table for two where we could watch the (miserable, cold & wet!) world go by under our noses and were handed a large menu to peruse whilst we discussed wine choices with our sommelier. She offered to match our wine to the dishes we chose as we tucked into the menu, which I thought was a great touch, as we hadn't yet decided on our mains or puddings... or if we would even have enough room for all of the courses! The Hotel Du Vin Gastronomique Brunch consists of four courses, with the first course being The French Market Table. This is the most heavenly brunch table you'll ever see, it's full, of fresh breads, croissants, fish, grilled vegetables, charcuterie, mustards and cheeses. I enjoyed quite the selection including chicken liver pate, mussels, potted shrimp, dressed crab, smoked salmon, chorizo and a side salad - not forgetting the warm ciabatta and salted butter to nibble on as we nattered. This was a course in itself, however there was much more to come, with the second course being a carrot & coriander soup. As delicious as this was, I felt this might not be necessary, or at least an option within the brunch table. We both agreed that we would have gone back for a second helping at the French Market table in place of the soup du jour, ahem. The soup was carrot & coriander and served in a fairly small bowl, much to our relief - it was just enough if you wanted to eat the entire contents (I managed to save myself for my next courses, so didn't finish the bowl). For the third course, there was quite the menu to pick from, everything from a HDV burger & pommes frites or a steak with béarnaise or peppercorn sauce, through to a goat's cheese, sun blushed tomato & spinach roulade with beetroot relish. I went for the "Roast Du Vin", going for the rib of Aberdeenshire beef with all the trimmings, incuding one large and fluffy Yorkshire pudding, which certainly didn't disappoint the "Yorkie" fan in me, it was perfect. My bearded friend chose the Severn & Wye smoked haddock, served with a mustard butter, hash brown and a runny poached egg, sharing my seasonal vegetable side to add a splash of colour to the dish. Both were cooked beautifully, however by this point we were admittedly rather full, so we slowed right down and enjoyed sampling the glasses of wine that had been matched to our food. We spent hours here, but it didn't feel that way at all, we weren't rushed as we chatted away, the plates were cleared and our food was served without us having to even think about it. In fact, as I write up to review I remain stupidly impressed at how relaxed and professional the service was in this respect, I don't think I can even recall one plate or wine glass being taken away - super sneaky service, I can't fault it. After a lot of
salivating deliberation, we both decided it would be rude not to see it to the end, ordering our fourth course, along with some dessert wines. Because I can never turn down a good French pudding, I had the Apple Tarte Tatin with Creme Normande - it was the best version of my fave warm pudding I've ever had, the pastry was buttery and the apple was just sweet enough, but not too sweet. I hadn't planned to demolish the entire plate, but before I knew it... well... My companion continued the savoury fix with a mighty fine Artisan cheese board, of which hosted a selection of British & French cheeses with dainty biscuits, walnut bread and chutney... served with a port for this course, he was in cheese heaven. After our meal, we sat for some time, letting it rest before even considering a soggy stroll into town to walk off some of the treats. Although it was still raining, we enjoyed the fresh air & some festive lights as we strolled through the market square that afternoon - Xmas is coming! At £24.95 per person for this four course brunch, it's superb value for money and I would most certainly suggest that you visit this hotel only when prepared to take your time - it's not a meal you'd want to rush. The Little Niggles: I would say the soup course isn't really necessary (and I love my food, so this it's usually unlike me to turn away food!) - we would have happily gone back to The French Market Table for a second round in place of the soup, but we were polite and didn't do this to make room for the soup. It wasn't amazing, it was a carrot soup... perhaps as a selection at the Market Table would be a better idea, but a very tiny niggle really! Final Thoughts: The bistro was very busy, so I would also highly suggest booking your table to avoid disappointment. It's a great option to go for a relaxed & fairly formal meal with friends or family, as a couple, perhaps even as a date (now that I'm back on the dating scene, I'm allowed to say this!) as it lends itself well to a chilled out and lazy Sunday afternoon. Pair your visit with a leg-stretch along the college backs or a spot of shopping and you've found yourself a perfect weekend in Cambridge. The Wines: Here's a list of the wine choices we had throughout our meal, in order of course to help you, should you want to know what we sipped on to get squiffy that afternoon... Please don't judge me on the spelling if I've got these wrong, I don't usually "speak" wine. Whites Albariño, Condes de Alberei - Rias Baixes Spain 2012 Riesling Trocken, DOM, Bischöfliche Weinguter - Masel - Germany 2012 Reds Rioja, Reserve 2008, La Choza - Spain Pinot Noir Byron 2012 - Sta Barbara, California, USA Dessert Muscat de Riversalots - Jean Mare La Sage Quinta de Nouel single vineyard 2007 Hotel Du Vin often have special offers and packages on their rooms and dining, so check out their website and social media pages for more info for 2015. www.hotelduvin.com Please note - This stay was complimentary, following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
I was recently inspired to enjoy some of the simpler things in life (who takes much inspiring to do that anyway?!) after buying "The Simple Things" magazine whilst shopping in Sainsbury's on my way home from a lovely weekend away in Norfolk. This is a gorgeous magazine, full of recipes, home inspiration, travel ideas and beautiful photography, I just love curling up under a fluffy blanket with a cup of tea (and smothering my feet in Vicks Vaporub whilst trying to get over my sniffles) whilst I flick through this magazine - I may have to subscribe sometime soon to make this a semi-regular occurrence! After enjoying the magazine, I headed to their equally stunning website for a nosey and spotted their emergency Xmas gift draw guide... I realised I've been chatting to so many people recently and have seen some stunning gifts & ideas for my own shopping list, I thought I'd share a few of my own ideas with you, my lovely readers! Obviously, it goes without saying, you could purchase this lovely magazine at any time of the year as a little "extra" gift for a friend or family member if they love the prettier things in life - or subscribe them to the mag from as little as £11 - bargain! My gorgeous friend, Alison Appleton designs the most stunning ceramics and as she recently showcased her newest designs at The BBC Good Food Show, I couldn't not mention her. It's no secret that I drink a lot of tea and coffee from various designs by Alison and her range is so beautiful, every household should own at least one set to drink from... Gift prices from £10. Why not treat your foodie gift-receiver to a bespoke trip to Cambridge's own FoodPark at the Northpole? FoodPark is a superb street food collective organised by Heidi White and a whole selection of local food talent. You could create your own gift voucher to include a nosh around the whole site (you might need to set aside quite the hunger!) or why not head down here over the festive period for a more unique al fresco Xmas "meal" combined with some ice skating to burn off a few calories?! Best Xmas celebration/party idea ever for any food lover! With food from as little as £2.50 per dish, there's something for small budgets. How about some Gin tasting at The Ginstitute in London or a bottle of the hard stuff from Portobello Road Gin (£23.95)? The perfect accompaniment to a tonic water & elderflower - ahem! I recently bought this beautiful "Powder" design knitted scarf (£25) from Jarrolds in Norwich, a great department store for something a little more unique. I just adore their kitchen floor - I could spend hours in here! Did you know that Hotpoint actually make small domestic appliances?... Yes, you can tell I've been working with these guys for a bit now, but as fun as the project has been with them at the BBC Good Food Show this past month, I've seen their gadgets in action and they are pretty darn good! You could buy a kettle, toaster, coffee machine, even a food blender to whizz up some Xmassy cocktails?... Perfect. Godiva Chocolates in London are fantastic for handmade chocolates and afternoon tea treats, perfect solution if you fancied putting together a hamper or a one-off treat for your recipient. For the girl in your life (or guy!) who might want an inspiring business book this Xmas, why not purchase #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso? She's a girl who made a name for herself at a young age through her fashion label and I personally really like her story - great blog too! I'm a big fan of Jo Malone scents now that Ive got a whiff for it.... if you want to be a little flashier with the cash, their products are beautifully presented and will be sure to impress! What's in your emergency gift draw this Christmas? Or do you have a generic draw full of spare gifts all year round? Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about the simpler things in life!