How I Kept It Welsh

For so long it was my dream to move to Cardiff and 2 years ago I achieved that dream and made the move from Reading to start my new job here. It’s been the best couple of years of my whole life and I have made the most amazing friends who I am going to be very sad to say goodbye to when I start my new job in Reading in a couple of weeks.

When I started looking back at the things I’ve had the chance to do since living here it made me realise just how lucky I have been to have so many opportunities to get involved in exciting things.

So these are the highlights of my time in Cardiff…this is how I spent my time… Keeping It Welsh!

Welsh Flag

Welsh Varsity is a grudge match of epic proportions. Cardiff vs Swansea it’s all or nothing!

Varsity 2013 was the night I met the beautiful Ieva! On a night out a couple of months after I moved to Cardiff, Ieva was bartending at what used to be Pica Pica. I stayed until closing and she came out partying with me for the rest of the night. We ended up in Live Lounge and I acquired a Varsity t-shirt from a random man in the street!

This year Sarah and I actually went to watch the match at the Millennium Stadium. There was such an electrifying atmosphere with all the rivalry banter and drunken shouting. As it’s typically a student event we thought we would feel a bit out of place but there were plenty of other ‘gatecrashers’ and we drank so much cider that we just made friends with everyone there.

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Cardiff Retail Awards 2013 was the professional highlight of my career. With the awards ceremony taking place on my birthday I was excited to say the least and knew there was some really stiff competition in our category. We had a champagne reception and a beautifully cooked dinner and then as the awards came around it was my turn to go on stage and find out my fate. Beating out several other retailers including John Lewis; they announced that my store had won Best Customer Service in Cardiff which was an absolute dream come true and was so rewarding after all the hard work myself and my team had put in.

Retail Awards

St David’s Shopping Centre put a call out for entries for their new blogging team in early 2013 and having just started up my own blog properly I jumped at the chance to get involved. I sent off a mock post to them and got an email the following week saying I had been chosen to be their resident Food & Drinks Blogger. I’ve been to so many amazing restaurants and met some outstanding people including some of my fellow resident bloggers Steph, Joshwa and Eve.

Blog Events

Photography was always something I’d been interested in but always felt unless I really knew what I was doing and had a top-notch camera that I had no business trying to showcase my photos. Over the last year however I have posted many of them on Twitter and had so much positive feedback that it’s really encouraged me to keep going.

Photography

In May this year I was given the massive responsibility of holding the ‘keys’ to Cardiff on the ‘Cardiff Is Yours’ Twitter account. I spent a week tweeting about where I liked going and what I was doing and essentially shared ‘My Cardiff’ with everyone. It was a pleasure to have the chance to get to know so many people through it and I was able to write a blog post for the masterminds behind ‘Cardiff Is Yours’  and also one for Citysocializer.

The one and only Jamie Laing…

Back in October last year I attended the Student Lock-In where I interviewed the one and only Jamie Laing from Made In Chelsea. As a die-hard fan of the show I was pretty much incapable of shaking while I was talking to him but he put me at ease and answered the questions I had for him. We didn’t talk for very long as he had a queue of people waiting to meet him but it was still amazing fun and he’s such a great guy!

Jamie

When I first moved to Cardiff I was finding it difficult to meet people outside of work so I joined Citysocializer which is essentially a local social networking group. Throughout my time with them I became a Community Host and helped to build up the Cardiff base to a team of almost 15 hosts with on average 4 socials every day. Some of the highlights for me were hosting the Halloween party last year, Mexican Night at the flat which I share with my flatmate (who I met through CS) & the Valentines Mingle at Vodka Revs which saw over 30 single Citysocializers descend for cocktails.

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I’ve been to some amazing gigs since living in Cardiff but my favourites have to be Our Last Night (Clwb Ifor Bach), Daytona Lights (Buffalo Bar) & Young Kato (Clwb Ifor Bach). They are both great venues and I had the chance to mix with all of the bands once they had finished. I ended up doing shots with the lead guitarist from Daytona Lights…Total hottie!

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I have made some of the most exceptional people living in Cardiff and have friends for life in them! Whether it’s a been a fellow blogger, people I’ve dated or my flatmate they have each contributed to making me the person I am today.

I have to say though, the biggest achievement for me has been this… my own blog. Something I started as more of a journal when I first moved here has now become an outlet for my passions. A place for people to read what’s hot and what’s not and actually want to know my opinion. It’s amazing to have such an influence and I have been presented with exceptional opportunities to attend events which has helped me grow my blog and develop my writing style. What began as a humble WordPress page is now a fully fledged ‘.com’ and my reviews can be found on sites all over the internet which I never thought would happen.

Cardiff…you have been amazing!

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My Cardiff

As many of you know I have landed myself an amazing new job, however it’s in Reading which means I will be leaving Cardiff in a couple of weeks time.

Cardiff has introduced me to so many hidden gems so I thought it only fair to share my absolute favourites with you all and a few photo memories from my adventures in these wonderful places!

Breakfast

Cafe Pure is by far the best place to grab a healthy and super yummy breakfast.  They have lots of options to choose from and has fantastic views overlooking Cardiff Bay. They pride themselves on their ‘clean-eating’ options and make the most amazing healthy, fruity and fizzy drinks in the summer.

Cafe Pure

Lunch

The Deck is my Cardiff Bay haven! Tucked away down a small road opposite Cardiff Bay Police Station they serve up meals that taste ‘just like mum makes it’. Everything from comforting lasagne to the Mother Omelette stacked with various toppings. I always popped in for their famous bacon & brie baguette with cranberry sauce. They are also the best place in Cardiff to get cupcakes and brownies, with different flavours every day.

NY Deli is my guilty pleasure for a day when I just don’t feel like being healthy. This small cafe nestled in High Street Arcade offers up the most amazing selection with everything from bagels to hoagies. My favourite is the Richie Parks Special; mountains of salt beef and pastrami stacked on top of a layer of sweet gherkins with lashings of French mustard…mmm!

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Richie Park’s Special at NY Deli

Dinner

Gourmet Burger Kitchen was a place I had never heard of before I moved to Cardiff… I’m so glad I discovered it though as it has everything that I look for in a brilliant restaurant. Superb staff, banging tunes, delicious food and of course great value for money too. GBK make the most refreshing Strawberry milkshakes and of course you can get grilled halloumi as a side dish so naturally this was going to be a winner for me.

GBK

Cocktails

Cosy Club is my favourite place to drink in all of Cardiff! The prices are a little on the steep side but when you try the concoctions on offer you will be pleased with every penny spent. My two signature favourites have always been the Lemon Drizzle Cake and the Cherry Bakewell… No these aren’t cakes, they are drinks, but my oh my they taste like alcoholic, liquidised cake…Mr Kipling would be proud!

Cosy Cocktails

Salt is another place I love drinking in as it’s so close to my flat in the bay and the flavour combinations in their cocktails are just crazy. From their espresso martinis to the candy-tasting Jolly Rancher there is something for everyone here. They have spectacular views of Cardiff Bay from their rooftop terrace which is a lush setting to sit and eat dinner in the summer. It’s also a great place if there’s a large group of you, with the option to reserve an area upstairs. They have brilliant live music nights too, be sure to catch ‘Salvation’ playing there.

Salt

Sarah and I on New Year’s Eve

Nightlife

Peppermint is the place to be on Mill Lane! With cool decor, cheap drinks deals and varied music across two floors, it’s always the best bar on a Friday or Saturday night. It can get very busy in here but that just adds to the atmosphere. Their outside seating area is beautiful to enjoy in the summer and they always put on great entertainment throughout the year and on key dates such as the Six Nations.

Brewhouse is the best place for live music in Cardiff in my opinion. Spread across a large venue on multiple levels it’s a lovely place to grab something to eat and listen to chilled musicians during the day, but by night it turns into a hive of energy with the dance floor full every night. Check their website before you go as they always have great deals on food and drink that you can take advantage of.

Live Lounge had to be mentioned! Simply because it’s a rite of passage to go there at least once during your time in Cardiff and it’s the place to end your night. Open until 4am, people pour into this venue already completely intoxicated but that’s why it makes for such a great venue. Everyone is in such a good mood from their night out that everyone is just really friendly to each other. There is nothing pretentious about Live Lounge, quite the opposite actually; but the music and atmosphere can’t be beaten on a night out in Cardiff.

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Ieva & I at Live Lounge after Varsity 2013

Healthy Living with Rizopia

The lovely people at Rizopia sent me some of their products to review a little while ago and this week I finally managed to get some time in the kitchen to create my healthy masterpieces. Their range includes only 100% Natural Organic brown rice pasta.

I started with a vegetable lasagne and used their Gluten-Free brown rice lasagne sheets. I added so many vegetables it was ridiculous! There were mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, courgettes, peppers, with garlic, onion and paprika to add some depth of flavour. I also put a fine layer of cheddar cheese in between each layer of lasagne just to hold it all together.

The healthiest lasagne I’ve ever made and it was gorgeous! The pasta tastes even better than the regular stuff I buy from Tesco and knowing that the whole dish was probably half the calories of a normal one made it that much cheekier! The texture was soft but still a bit firm, like a really good kind of chewy and the nutty aftertaste sold it to me.

Lasagne

The second dish I made was using their brown rice Fusilli twists. I cooked the pasta as normal, drained off the water but kept a little bit to add back into the pan with the drained pasta. I then added my box of passata until it was stirred through and then added a handful of frozen garden peas just at the end so they were still a tiny bit crunchy when I bit into them! I topped the dish off with just a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese.

tomato pasta

This is an amazing dish to make if you want to plan ahead as you can make a big batch and freeze it for later, although this is what I have when I’m in need of comfort food and isn’t going to help your route to healthy eating if you have it every night.

Rizopia pasta is so good that it has been NHS approved and is available on prescription for those who suffer from Coeliac disease

For more information visit http://www.rizopia.co.uk

Summer Tapas at Cosy Club

Anyone who knows me well, knows there is only one place in Cardiff I continually return to time and time again and that’s the hidden gem that is Cosy Club.

A discreet hideaway, it’s perfectly positioned in a central location with a great view across the main shopping street in the city.

Cosy Club is like a grown-ups’ social playground…Whether you’re grabbing brunch with a friend, booking one of their wine tasting sessions or curling up on the sofas for an intimate date it’s the perfect setting.

I recently went there for dinner with my friend Jack and we might have spoilt ourselves just a little bit.

We opted for a starter each… I had the mushroom bruschetta & Jack went for the Goats cheese pearls with sun-blushed tomatoes and black olive tapenade… These were just so scrummy!

Cosy Starter

We decided that we simply couldn’t choose which tapas dishes to go for…so we went for all of them! The only 2 we didn’t try were the ham hock and the herring as they had run out.

Mini Cumberland sausages with a sticky, wholegrain mustard & cider sauce– 10/10 WE LOVED! If I had my own Last Supper, this is what I would serve.

Crispy potatoes with pesto mayonnaise-9/10 Lush flavours, crunchy texture, creamy mayo!

Honey glazed shredded 5- spice pork– 9/10 A party in your mouth with each soft, gooey piece

Watermelon & crumbled feta with black olives, mint & extra virgin olive oil– 9/10 The naughtiest salad you’ll ever have… Going to make this at home!

Chorizo braised in cider– 8/10 Mouth watering texture, scrummy sauce, could’ve eaten a whole bowl of this

Mushroom rarebit made with their guest ale and mature cheddar– 8/10 Just like mumma makes it!

Home cured raspberry salmon with a raspberry vinegarette– 6/10 Lush salmon, bit too much fruit…

Grilled courgettes, red peppers & roasted vine tomatoes with a walnut & parsley pistou– 6/10 Superb flavours but this dish deserves to be served warm!

Mini fish fingers with tartare suace– 8/10 Always a winner for me… Gotta love anything mini

Houmous topped with spiced sultanas and chickpeas– 10/10 Made us feel very festive, I want to smother this on top of everything I eat at home.

Sweet potato and basil falafels with cumin & coriander yoghurt– 6/10 We are not falafel people, but we tried them and loved the aromas that came from within.

Pulled chicken poached in buttermilk and ginger with fennel & apple coleslaw– 7/10 Bit too much slaw, not enough chicken but blimey the chicken was good!

Cosy Tapas1

Okay…we were so full by this point we contemplated stopping but then we remembered… there’s always room for dessert…hehe!

I went for the Peach Melba Cheesecake which arrived in the cutest jar and tasted phenomenal… nom nom nom!!

Cosy Dessert

Jack chose the Rhubarb, stem ginger and custard fool… It looked outstanding and the heavenly noises Jack made whilst eating it only made it seem even better.

After feeling suitably stuffed we made our way home, but not before saying goodbye to the evening’s host Nathan who always gives you a warm welcome and makes sure you’ve had a great time.

The whole team at Cosy Club always make you feel like one in a million and it’s for this reason that I will continue to keep going back!

If you’re looking for a great deal then head to Cosy Club on Tapas Tuesday and you can get 3 tapas dishes and a glass of wine for £11.50!!!!

http://www.thecosyclub.co.uk/cardiff

 

   

Gourmet Burger Kitchen- The Review

With Mumma Wicks coming to visit me I knew I needed to take her somewhere which would satisfy her fussy taste-buds and Gourmet Burger Kitchen fits the bill. It sits along what I like to call ‘Restaurant Row’ in Cardiff City Centre and has a unique Kiwi vibe which spans across the decor to the food.

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We were greeted warmly by General Manager Jordan and ordered some Halloumi Bites to start and we both had a Strawberry Milkshake. Let me just start by saying that although you may have a heart attack when you see the price of this milkshake… It’s SO worth it! Made using real fruit and thick ice cream it’s possibly made it to my top 5 milkshakes ever!

For our mains I had a Camemburger and mum had a Satay Chicken Burger- NAKED (I will explain this more below), we also shared some skinny fries which came with…wait for it… Baconnaise!

Here was my burger…

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100% prime British beef, Camembert, hash brown, truffle mayo, onion jam, relish and a brioche bun

My only complaint with this burger would be that all the sauce made the bun quite soggy on the bottom, but I overlooked this due to the amazingness of the burger as a whole.

Mum opted for the Chicken Satay… Now let me explain that with any of the burgers you can ‘Go Naked’ which means you can have it bun-less with a side salad instead.

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Chargrilled Chicken, Satay sauce, house mayo, relish, tomato, red onion, alfalfa sprouts & a green salad

The satay was fantastic, if not a little bit too spicy, but combined with relish and green salad it made for a perfect summer lunch.

The skinny fries were gorgeous and yes… they came with a bacon-flavoured mayonnaise with small bacon bits in as well.Image

 

The meal was so good that I sent GBK a message on Twitter… I thought you’d all like to see their response!

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Try not to be too jealous guys… This meal gets a 9 out of 10 from me!

Website: www.gbk.co.uk 

Club Platinum at La Tasca

This week Team Awesome headed to La Tasca for the launch of Club Platinum, their new and exclusive corporate loyalty card.

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We were greeted with Jäger Mojitos when we arrived which were absolutely AMAZING! They were quite sweet but had an incredibly citrusy tang that kept it from being undrinkable.

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Then we moved onto Posh Sangria made using Cava and an Orange Liqueur…

…at this point my head was beginning to spin.

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Bring on the food!

A mixture of continental meats, traditional Spanish omelette and olives kept us all from acting like a pack of ravenous dogs… for a while, but we caved and bought more ourselves in attempt t absorb some of the alcohol.

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The benefits of a Platinum Card are:

–          25% off food and drink

–          Exclusive booking line for members

–          Free rental space for meetings or party

–          Personalised service to organise your company dinner or special event

If you work in Cardiff, be sure to get in touch with the guys at Fiesta Nights by emailing enquiries@fiesta-nights.com

Easter Traybake

So I came across a blog on Twitter over the weekend where Blogger Natasha had made a beautiful Easter Traybake which I simply had to try!

It tastes absolutely beautiful! It took me about 20 minutes to prepare in total and then about 4 hours in the fridge to set. I used Maltesers instead of Mini Eggs as Tesco had sold out… No surprise on Easter weekend!

For the full recipe and ingredients visit Natasha’s blog here…
http://thebarefootbaker.net/2014/04/19/easter-rocky-road-tray-bake/

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