hotel chocolat blogger dinner
As part of my digital PR agency, I have launched a new service so entertaining I almost feel like it shouldn’t be called a service: blogger dinner parties.

The first event (of many!) was in partnership with Hotel Chocolat’s celebrated Leeds restaurant, Roast + Conch. The evening brought a bevy of carefully selected blogger babes – from all niches – together for an evening of hilarity and chocolate.

Mostly chocolate.

We kicked #BlogChocolat off with introductions over Prosecco-swishing glass-clinking and settled in for a private chocolate tasting masterclass, courtesy of Hotel Chocolat’s very sweet and very passionate master chocolatier, Dan.

After learning not to scoff the sweet stuff (at least temporarily) and grilling poor Dan on the health benefits of chocolate (you’ll be pleased to find out a lot of Hotel Chocolat’s ‘lighter’ chocolates are as healthy as your supermarket ‘darks’ based on their natural cacao content!), we headed upstairs for dinner.

Like every visit prior, the ol’ R and C didn’t disappoint.

Though we all went for a variety of courses, not a single plate of food was left un-Instagrammed. My own beautiful starter – cacao gin cured salmon in a tart apple-radish-endive salad (served with white chocolate horseradish dressing) – packed the tangiest of punches.

Then, among a cacao-infused sea of curries, fish, meats, and veggies, my main stole the show. A few of us ordered the medium-rare chopped rump steak burger with aged cheddar, cacao beer-braised onions, potato chips, and creole chutney, and we were all swooning, tweet after tweet.

Though we were all too stuffed to attempt dessert, I made a note for my future orders (I’m coming for you, Prosecco-poached new season rhubarb, white chocolate cheesecake, spiced biscuit, and cacao pulp sorbet extravaganza) and took the ladies down to the bar for truffle nibbles and cocktails.

Our delightfully intimidated bartender (imagine: 10 big personalities armed with SLRs and camera phones) then talked us through their latest cocktail previews, Hotel Chocolat’s incredible homemade cacao syrups, and poured us all a few drinks to cap off the night.

All in all, an evening I’ll never forgot.

hotel chocolat blogger dinner
hotel chocolat blogger dinner
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illamasqua makeup
Fact one: I have a love affair with Illamasqua. Fact two: I haven’t worn makeup for over a month (while recovering from eye surgery).

With the all clear on cosmetic application and a birthday party rolling ’round, it only seemed sensible to pop into the Victoria Quarter’s Illamasqua store in Leeds for a play.

After being taken upstairs to their ever-so-glamorous makeover room, my appointed MUA – Charli Butterfield (Charlixo, to fellow Instagrammers) – got straight on to stealing my heart with ‘holy grail’ recommendations and her general loveliness.

Over the hour, we harped on about tattoos, the magic of Illamasqua’s Furore pigment (used in the finished look), our shared girlcrush on Alex Box, and the woes of looking ten years younger than you actually are.

When the final look was revealed, I made a personal vow to return to her chair for every and any big event ahead. Then took an unreasonable number of selfies.

Every time, Illamasqua. Every time. :’)

illamasqua makeup
illamasqua makeup
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oil can cafe carding shed
As a vintage lover, my little perusals around West Yorkshire have proved to be explorations of high reward. This past weekend, the Manfriend and I sat-navved our way through Hepworth with the hope of arriving at the reclaimed warehouse that now serves the public as The Carding Shed.

From floor to ceiling, The Carding Shed is a pandora’s box of vintage motors and memorabilia;it may only be a wanton step into bygone days for me but it is a trip (or literal drive) down memory lane for many of its patrons. A mesmerising oasis for anyone with a penchant for retro wonders. So mesmerising, in fact, that it took me two hours to notice the vintage clothing shops – e High Society Vintage Clothing and Retro Shed – nestled in its sidelines.

Decidedly, our distraction for the day was food and automobiles. The latter resulting in a lusty affair with a scorpion-topped 1969 Fiat 850 Abarth. The former providing a chance to settle in and appreciate the atmosphere, but not much more.

Though we initially set out to enjoy the Oil Can Cafe’s afternoon tea, we were quickly deterred by a singular ‘festive’ afternoon tea option (far too rich-sounding for our tastes) and a list of £7-ish sandwiches, therefore opting for a cream tea (tea or coffee with a scone, cream, and jam) and a cheese & pickle sandwich to share.

The scones took fifteen minutes to arrive, were cold and tough, and arrived an additional fifteen minutes prior to a sandwich plate that warranted no more than two minutes to put together. The value comes in the sandwich’s size and sides (coleslaw, potato salad) with the choice of ‘build your own’ pickle jars, but did not warrant such a wait.

Now, I refuse to write a dishonest word and try to avoid less-than-wow reviews, so while it pains me to not be able to give The Oil Can Cafe the highest praises, I am hoping the gastronomy and service were hiccups that will improve with time and support.

On my inevitable return to The Carding Shed, I will simply settle for a china teacupped coffee, homemade cake, and exuberant use of my credit card.

oil can cafe carding shed
oil can cafe carding shed 5
oil can cafe carding shed 7 View Post

hotel chocolat
The menu read:

Ten years ago the founders of Hotel Chocolat bought an old
1745 cacao estate in the Caribbean called Rabot. The cacao
and the culture were the inspiration for this menu.

A dinner celebration with the Manfriend’s family wasn’t intended for review, but the second the Anglo-West Indian faire from Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant – Roast + Conch – hit the table, all bets were off.

I mean, if tuna tartare with cacao guacamole, lime-ginger dressing and crispbread doesn’t do it for you, nothing will.

The other half went for my old flame, the Not-So Scotch Egg, while the others swooned through bites of their new Yorkshire Pudding starter (filled with rare-seared parkin-spiced
beef, white chocolate mash and cacao red wine gravy) and a crispy duck confit potato cake (served with braised red cabbage, and cacao-orange sauce).

Whipping the SLR out was a nessecity.

For the main event, all three men couldn’t resist the chopped rump steak burger (served with aged cheddar, cacao beer braised onions, french fries, creole chutney and crisp dry cured bacon), and I can’t say I blame them; a single bite and I was making a date to return for one of my own. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy my own main, of course. My crapshoot order of pork faggot meatballs (bucket listed) was an elegant surprise; alongside pork belly, crisp dry cured bacon, cacao beer braised onions, white chocolate mash and roast jus. I was delighted with what could have easily turned out to be an unpleasant choice, just as the Manfriend’s mumma was with her Caribbean ‘fish run down’ (though the market fish used changes by the day, the light coconut curry and vegetables would be a flavourful friend to any white fish).

As indulgences go, we were all a tad overwhelmed by the idea of solo treats and opted to share the BAFTA dessert (50% milk chocolate mousse, cacao beer caramel, roasted mixed nuts, and almond dacquoise) and sticky toffee and cacao beer pudding (with insanely moreish cacao-infused whipped cream) between us.

Roast + Conch is a divine treat for chocoholics and foodies alike. Praise Cacao Jesus.

hotel chocolat
hotel chocolat
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life in leeds
I have experienced something of a learning curve while adjusting to life in Leeds.

Not to spoil my latest vlog (below) or anything, but now that I am ten months in, I thought it would be a good idea to employ the most Yorkshire-y Yorkshireman I know to help me share the lessons learned.

…you’ll learn how to speak Yorkshire ‘n’ all, petal.