Category Archives: In Review

Anything that I feel like contributing two cents to. Fashion and beauty reviews.

In Review: The YMCo, Harrogate

ymco harrogate
The Yorkshire Meatball Co. – or, The YMCO – sounded like my worst nightmare until I visited their website.

I urge you to take a look. It deserves an award.

Telling patrons that they’re a “speciality Meatball Bar leading the fight against average, tasteless, meatless meatballs”* pretty much dissolved each and every reservation I had. And thank goodness it did: I wouldn’t call myself a ‘meatball woman’, but I’m more than happy to call myself a YMCo woman.

Kicking things off with a naughty glass of their Yorkshire Iced Tea (hello, gin!), my dining partner and I decided to share their Yorkshire Platter as a compromise for wanting each and every one of their starters. As you can see, we were not left unsatisfied. The long cutting board was furnished with pressed York ham hock terrine, a selection of fresh local cheese, a ‘shot’ of soup (a starter in itself!), a hard boiled hens egg, pickled onions, dressed leaves, flatbread and roasted garlic mayo. With balls to come, it would have been impossible for us to finish…but we tried our very best.

The main portion of their menu focuses on the idea of ‘Balls’ (your choice), ‘Beds’ (veg, mash, greens, et al), and ‘Blankets’ (sauce), all of which my companion couldn’t ignore. He opted for the ‘Hot Balls‘ (hand-rolled meatballs with a hint of chilli pepper), root veg (roasted in olive oil with fresh garlic), a complimentary Yorkshire pudding (you can choose not to have one, though I’m not quite sure why you wouldn’t), and Herby Ketchup (fresh tomato and herbs). You better believe he licked the dishes clean.

I was slightly jealous until my ‘Naked Bals‘ arrived 2.7 seconds later. Their ‘Naked’ concept comes with no blankets or beds; instead, a bed of salad and toppings to compliment your choice of Balls. As I couldn’t ignore the haddock, chorizo and parsley Fish Balls, my ‘meat’ was balanced atop a large pile of watercress, avocado, raspberries and lime. With a Birdie Ball ‘Taster’ (just £2 for a ball on a small, lightly toasted brioche bun!) on the side, I was engulfed in a mushroom pesto blanket delirium.

To date, I have not had a more filling, delicious, and affordable lunch in the North. My only regret is not leaving room for their cheesecake balls.

* It must be mentioned, I believe they’re selling themselves short on the ‘meatless’ – I’ve seen rave reviews for their veggie balls.

ymco harrogate
ymco harrogate
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In Review: Staying Cool Apartments, Birmingham

staying cool birmingham
When looking for somewhere to stay the night before I ventured off to The Gadget Show, I kept clicking back on the the tab that housed the website of Staying Cool Apartments in Birmingham. Though it wasn’t the closest option suggested for proximity to the NEC (about 15 minutes by train), it’s location was nothing to be snubbed; in The Rotunda, it is practically piggybacking the Bullring. That, on top of five star reviews? You better believe it was booked post haste.

Sincerely, I could not have had a better experience.

Zipping towards the top of the cylindrical building, I felt myself smiling as soon as I entered the room. Though the space is ‘just’ a studio, the interiors are bright, light, trendy, and all illuminated by floor to ceiling windows that give you an exceptional bird’s eye view of the city.

While a lot of hotel rooms feel like someone else’s space, Staying Cool is kitted out with everything you would possibly need in your own home. For long-stays? Gargantuan and paraben-free beauty supplies, a washing machine, Monopoly, Scrabble, a pack of cards, coffee table books, and more. I particularly enjoyed the fact that I was provided fresh oranges for the juicer as well as a pack of Urban Coffee Company house blend for the cafetiere.

Before venturing out to explore the city for a few hours, I unpacked my things, cracked the windows, and checked my vibrating phone to find a text from the front desk wishing me a pleasant stay and any help if I needed it. Such sensational customer service – especially when followed by a tweet – is just one of the factors that separate Staying Cool from the rest of the pack.

As two of my best friends travelled up from London to spend the evening (and utilize the oven and wine glasses) with me, we were all as enamoured as each others. The views. The location. The bed (!!). The service.

I am quite literally in a hurry to return (maybe to their apartments in Barcelona next time, eh?).

staying cool birmingham
staying cool birmingham 16
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In Review: Betty’s Afternoon Tea, Harrogate

bettys afternoon tea
Betty’s in Harrogate is somewhat legendary. When I moved up North, everyone who had foodie advice to share would throw Betty’s into the mix; afternoon tea at Betty’s was an inevitability.

Arriving to the Imperial Room in a mini harem of lovely ladies (the only way to ‘do’ afternoon tea), we were immediately taken by the atmosphere. As you sweep past Betty’s omnipresent queues, walk up the stairs and into the reservation-only Imperial Room, you are wrapped up in the seamless warmth of their live piano player’s little ditties.

With high-ceilings, chandeliers, and views of Montpellier Gardens, the ambience is like nowhere else…but you do pay for it. More on that later.

Deciding to kick the afternoon off with a glass of champagne, I took quasi-ladylike sips as we perused the extensive tea menu. As each of us came away away with a different choice – floral, English, fruity, et al – we were surprised to find each new tea as delicious as the last (though, for me, Jasmine Blossom is always victorious).

Moreover, the service was impeccable.

It’s the value of the food itself that I found a small issue with. At £26.95 (or £33.95 with a glass of champagne), Betty’s afternoon tea is an occasion-only treat for most people…and I didn’t love the food. The sandwiches were standard filling sandwiches. The scones were delightfully light, but not fresh or warm. The cakes – my highlight – were fantastic, but six of them were split over two stands which made for unnecessarily awkward ‘splitting’ situations if you wanted to taste them all between two or more.

To put it simply; I’ve had more creative afternoon teas, with more attention to detail, for less. It’s a tourism legacy – one I’m glad I’ve experienced – but I would advise anyone to indulge in some tea and cakes before going down the full afternoon tea route.

bettys afternoon tea
bettys afternoon tea
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In Review: Trinity Kitchen, April 2014

trinity kitchen april 2014
Trinity Leeds’ Trinity Kitchen is, truth be told, one of the first places that made me fall in love with Leeds. It’s about time I gave it some blog love.

Though Trinity Kitchen has some long-term restaurant spaces secured (PizzaLuxe, Pho, other good noms beginning with the letter P, etc), the area I tend to make a beeline for is the open ‘food court’ right at the back – an space filled with a monthly rotation of street food vans.

At the start of April, I headed down to check out the newbies: Rola Wala, Happy Maki, The Cake Doctor, Fresh Rootz, and Bangwok. Spoilt for choice, much?

After spending far too much time staring at Cake Doctor’s 1979 Ford Transit Mark 2 ambulance and circling around Bangwok’s giant woks, oil drums, and Tuk-Tuk, I sent The Manfriend off to Rola Wala while I ordered Happy Maki’s Hoisin Duck futomaki (translation: wrap). Filled with crispy shredded duck, hoisin sauce, spring onion, roasted sesame seeds, avocado, cucumber, and green pepper, this carefully balanced – and ocean conscious – meal is a treat and a half. (You can sub the duck for tofu, but you’d have to be nuts. Instead, add some wasabi and ginger and get your Happy on.)

Having rather ‘meh’ feelings about Indian curries, I didn’t expect to be as eager to taste Rola Wala’s Coriander Chicken Tikka wrap as I was. Simply, the ‘I could marry this’ look on The Manfriend’s face said it all. When offered a bite, I practically cut it out of his hands.

There is something magical going on in Rola Wala’s wraps. As co-founder Adam explained while spreading all of the toppings across the wrap, the chicken (which is halal) is marinated for 48 hours before being nipped and tucked inside their fresh naan. Even the naan was more than a vehicle for the flavour (which was phenomenally, moreishly spicy). In itself, it was rather tasty.

Balancing sips of Happy Maki’s Berry Smoothie (blueberries, blackberries, banana and almond milk) between tongue-zapping bites of the wrap, I was in street food heaven.

I only wished I had enough stomach space to get through one of the super-stacked veggie plates (from Fresh Rootz) that so many fellow Trinity patrons were gushing over around me.

Completely stuffed to the brim and swearing to return to trial the rest of the Kitchen’s April offerings, we stopped by Rola Wala to give our praise…only to be tempted by Adam’s introduction of ‘The Hottest Ice In The World’. In partnership with Indie Ices, Rola Wala have developed a small pot of mango kulfi with added coconut, lime juice and a pinch of Moruga Scorpion Chilli (the Worlds hottest chilli). It was – obviously – divine.

You won’t spend a better £10 (or less!) anywhere in Leeds.

trinity kitchen april 2014
trinity kitchen april 2014
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Bomb Cosmetics

bomb cosmetics
To get the obvious comparison out of the way from the get-go, Bomb Cosmetics is very, very similar to Lush. While both companies create ‘handmade and natural’ bath products and refuse to test on animals, Bomb Cosmetics are a little bit more kitschy and – delightfully – more affordable.

Each of their products are scent-sational. Ugh, puns…but it’s true. The moment my little box of products entered the house, the smell made me smile. There is something very warm and sweet about each of these bad boys:

First, the Berrylicious Soap Cake Slice. Though I never use ‘normal’ soap (it dries my skin out faster than the summer sun), the ingredients from Bomb’s slices are happy skin approved. There is nothing too revolutionary about the product itself (it cleans), but it’s smell is delicious; like a caramel-tinged Ribena, the Berrylicious smell is all blackcurrants and strawberries and vanilla.

The product I tested next was the Strawberry Daiquiri Intense Lip Treatment. Again, the scent was a dream but I didn’t find myself blown away by the product. ‘Intense’ is a definite stretch. The consistency is no way near as buttery as the taste. Though I am happy to keep it in my bag for a sweet little pick-me-up, I would never think to use it as an aide for dry or chapped lips.

Thankfully, my brand love was reinstated with the use of the Crazy Chic Bath Mallow. The little cupcake-shaped ‘Mallows’ are not only a genius gift, but they are super moisturising, as well. Unlike both bath ‘bombs’ or ‘drops’, the ‘Mallows’ release quite slowly – over five to ten minutes – and create beautifully silky bath water. The Crazy Chic is a blend of a lot of different components (I picked up a lot of ginger blossom, vanilla, lavender, and tangerine) but it balances just perfectly.

I think it might be time to restock my bath cupboards.