Category Archives: Travel Blog

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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Review: Almost Famous Burgers, Manchester

almost famous burgers manchester
Sometimes I really hate reviewing food.

Not that I’m ungrateful (far from it!) – I simply have a problem sitting down to start blogging after a tough workout and healthy breakfast, only to develop an insane craving for a dirty-as-they-come burger.

I think my mouth is throbbing. And I’m blaming Almost Famous.

This restaurant is so wrapped up in burger hype that I felt it be sacrilege not to order one…or two…with loads of fries…and crack wings….and cocktails. Ahem.

Though almost all of the burgers on Almost Famous’ menu start with a double cheeseburger base, each and every one is met with a flurry of – slightly insane – toppings. My best friend couldn’t take his eyes off of the River Phoenix; the double topped with bacon, BBQ fried onions, frazzles, baconnaise, chipotle ketchup, BBQ sass, and fresh chilli. With the trifecta of bacon (and bacon-esque) toppings on offer, it sounds much more sickly than it actually is. Somehow, the high-low mix of ‘ingredients’ like fresh chilli and Frazzles worked.

Jumping off the deep end, I went for what I was most intimidated by: the super saucy Baddaboom. While this burger was topped with just one slice of bacon, the other ingredients (chorizo, onions, marinara, famous sauce, frenchs, parmesan, and chilli) maxxed out all available space inside the garlic butter brioche. Beautifully so. The chilli and chorizo added another dimension to what I’m sure is a disgustingly calorific food mountain.

Deciding to share some ‘Winning’ fries (heavily house seasoned skin-on and sweet potato fries) in between bites of their ‘Crack Wings‘, I was in Americana heaven. The wings come in ‘Suicide’ (HOT!), ‘Redneck’ (BBQ) and the soy-based ‘Pho-king amazing’ sauce. I went for the latter, and fell in love with the asian sensation (I’m positive the sauce had some sriracha in it).

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about Almost Famous was ordering at the bar. While I don’t expect much ‘service’ from any restaurant I go to, I have had low-key table service at restaurants/cafes that cost less than half as much. Waiting ten minutes to order food, another few minutes for cocktails to be made, and then having to carry them – and a purse – back to the table? It prevented me from ordering more drinks. It’s a disservice to an otherwise awesome establishment.

Note: Like all good burger joints in this day and age, Almost Famous has a no booking policy that means two hour waits are not uncommon on a Friday or Saturday. If you can’t hack a queue, don’t think you need to write it off. Lunchtimes are still buzzy (but queueless), and a Thursday evening visit will keep you in a happy food coma until the weekend arrives.

almost famous burgers manchester
almost famous burgers manchester
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Throwback Thursday – Vintage 747 Lounges

Airplane Piano Bar
There are some absolute gems in the Boeing archives and – though I have always loved flying – I would trade any of my in-air memories for a shot at experiencing a 747 flight in the 1970s.

While the 1930s Boeing Clipper had everything from a powder room to a dining room (pictured in black and white, below), things got phenomenally jazzy in the Seventies. In the vintage American Airlines 747 Coach Lounge Commercial below, NBC’s Chet Huntley pimps out the airline’s Wurlitzer piano bar while The Fonz offers a fellow traveller a light…

It’s all very smooth…and very Don Draper.

For First Class, the Boeing 747′s small upper deck was turned into a cocktail bar in the sky; all Martinis, steaks, and ultra-modern swivel chairs. On Continental Airlines, there was even a pub.

Please take a moment to listen to Waltz of The Flowers while you receive a tour of the Boeing 747 100 Series’ First Class deck…


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The John Rylands Library, Manchester

john rylands library
This is The John Rylands Library in Manchester.

A library. (I KNOW, RIGHT?)

Stumbling across it by happy chance, The Manfriend and I spent a good hour exploring every nook and cranny of the Deansgate-situated neo-Gothic establishment.

Though a collaboration with Manc’s biggest university means it is now named The ‘John Rylands University Library of Manchester’, the initial opening in 1900 was an extravagant memoriam dedication – to John Rylands – from his widow, Enriqueta Augustina Rylands.

The space is magical and the collections that it features are sans pareil. We’re talking medieval illuminated manuscripts, a Gutenberg Bible, personal papers of John Dalton, French Revolution Broadsides and more; The John Rylands Library a treasure trove.

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john rylands library 23
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