A blogger weekend in Sheffield, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

Mo and I had a weekend break with Mercure last year in our home town of Manchester and we had loved it. So I did actually have high expectations for once.

When the time to set off actually came, it had been a long day at work. Mo and I were both shattered and our moods had started to deplete. The road to Sheffield was jam packed with roadworks and cars… not quite the scenic route we had in mind.

But things started to look up as we entered the city…

My first major observation, there are a lot of brown tourist signs. There seemed to be so much on offer in the area, I’ll admit I was a little surprised. We learned later in the weekend that you’re only ever fifteen minutes away from the great outdoors if you live in Sheffield. Pretty impressive.

We easily navigated our way to the NCP, making sure to admire all the beautiful buildings that lined the main street. Just a two minute walk from the Arundel Gate NCP car park and you’ll reach the fabulous Mercure St. Pauls Hotel, our resting house for the night.

 

The hotel

Ok, so the few Mercure’s that I’ve come across over the last few years have been quite unattractive from the outside, but I learnt from my first visit that you should never judge a book by its cover. And that definitely holds true once you walk into the Mercure St Pauls. It’s not bad from the outside but just how sleek and sophisticated it was on the inside really took me by surprise. The main restaurant and bar area sits side by side with the spectacular Winter Gardens, creating an urban oasis type of space.

 

 

Everything from the creative light diffusers to the steel nature inspired wall art, it was fabulous. There was so much natural light and space?

 

 

Oh, the space! It was open plan and they had done a great job of the floorplan. On Saturday there were families, there was a wedding, QPR football club were having breakfast and there was us bloggers, we were all there co-existing in this big open space and it worked?

 

 

The room

Ooh, it was so comfortable! good sized bed, very clean, modern, minimalist…

My favourite part was the bathroom, if I’m honest. There was a large tub, also a separate large walk-in shower – both rain and hand-held options (the dream) and amazing White Company ‘Noir’ toiletries!!!

 

 

As this was a bloggers trip, we did have a number of lovely little treats left for us too. Jelly beans went down a treat with the family when we got back, chocolate made for a great pre-dinner snack, but I’ll be honest the best thing they left for us in the room was an information pack on the sights and snippets of history of Sheffield. It was really interesting! (Check out my post on the sights of Sheffield for more)

 

 

There were a lot of neat little things we noticed about the room – I loved the aux lead for music, sockets by the bedside, nespresso machine and pillow mist! For ultimate relaxation ūüôā

 

 

The facilities

Unfortunately, Mo and I couldn’t stay too long at the hotel so we didn’t get to enjoy all the facilities. We did get the chance to have a quick nosey round. There’s so much to see! I couldn’t actually believe how much was going on all in one weekend. As we walked towards the spa and fitness suites there was a corridor of meeting rooms… all being set up for different events. They all looked spotless, professional and the staff, well they looked completely calm and in control. I didn’t take any pics of the facilities, mainly as we didn’t actually get the opportunity to use them so it would be unfair for me to comment. Something to save for next time…

 

The food

It was good. Ok anyone who serves grilled halloumi as a starter is usually onto a winner. Again, I had high expectations for the food as the meal we had at the Mercure in Manchester was delicious. If I had one criticism, it was that my butternut squash risotto portion was far too large and not quite as punchy in the flavour department as I would have expected. Mo’s order of pan-fried cod loin however, was exquisite. The white fish wasn’t overcooked, it wasn’t over seasoned and the crushed new potatoes it perched on was divine. A truly great all rounder dish. By the time rhubarb and polenta cake dessert arrived I was too full to stomach anymore, but I had to have a taste, if anything to decide whether or not I liked rhubarb. I’ve never been a real fan but this gingery spiced sponge was a dessert I would happily re-order.

 

 

Breakfast the next day, was exactly how every good hotel breakfast should be. Lots of options, fresh tea and coffee but the best part was having a window seat to the Winter Garden of course. It was like our own private garden view.

After receiving a bottle in our goody bag, I decided to experiment with the famous Sheffield born relish, splashing it here and there to see what it worked with. Personally I enjoyed using it as an additional topping to my breakfast egg and bean tower (worked a treat ūüėČ )

 

 

Afternoon tea was very grand indeed. Showcased on a very unusual, very large display case. Let’s be brutally honest, afternoon tea is not going to be wildly different unless you’re opting for a themed one. It’s usually easier to say what’s wrong rather than what’s right. And in this case, I had nothing to really complain about. Maybe that I’m not really a fan of any type of fruit puree and it was atop of one of the desserts? I did end up liking that actually, so ignore that comment. Ok maybe the only thing I wasn’t happy about was that the scone had raisins and I am not a fan of raisins.

(Yes, yes I can feel you reading this and scolding me for expecting scones to not have raisins)

 

 

The location

Wow, what a great location! Car park was close by, easy access from the motorway and we were able to walk straight out and see the sights. After a good night’s sleep, part of our adventure was embarking on a walking tour. I originally wanted to include what we saw in this post but I thought instead I share some highlight photos and instead wrote a separate one on all the fun you can find in this city.

Two of the bloggers on the tour with us were Sheffield locals, and it was so nice to hear them speak so passionately about their own home town. There was a real sense of pride in what their city could offer us (they also had a lot of knowledge on its history between them) it made Mo and I feel all the more privileged to be able to visit and appreciate it.

 

 

The verdict?

All in all this was probably one of the best blogger weekends Mo and I have ever had. Not only were we treated to a relaxing nights stay in a great city, but this experience had introduced us to some really awesome new friends. As we get older and as Mo and I have started attending many more networking events, we have met lots and lots of new people. But it’s only very rarely that you bump into folk that actually become great friends. We were so fortunate to have randomly sat with two bloggers that turned out to be just that. We got on so well we were the last ones left at the meal… and probably amongst the last few in the hotel lounge after we were moved on. Sight-seeing on Sunday introduced us to more new friends and again so did afternoon tea.

New friends for us, obviously means I also have new blogs to read and I of course recommend you check them out too:¬†The uber-trendy Oli at Suede and Symphony (I’ve been following Oli for some time); Tracey, naughtyfortydiaries, who claims she’s in her forties but doesn’t look a day over thirty and David, at dktravelpix who’s photography skills are truly spectacular. We also got to know local lass Sue had us constantly yearning to know more about the citys history and Olivia made for fab company during afternoon tea, as we exchanged tales of our travels.

I can’t actually think of anything to complain about on this trip and I genuinely think Mo and I will return to Sheffield one day, if only to lace up our walking shoes and venture to the countryside in the outskirts. I’d happily pick the Mercure as our base though, can’t think of a more perfect place for an apres-hike massage.

Memories are only memories if something memorable happens. I’m always grateful that even when something goes wrong on a trip, Mo and I are able to laugh and embrace it as these are the moments that truly make great tales. But sometimes having everything go right can make an even greater one.

So, a blogger weekend in Sheffield they said, and fun it well and truly was!!

 

 

*** Thank you to the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel for arranging this fantastic weekend and taking such good care of us. Of course as per usual all opinions are completely my own and no pictures have been filtered, in fact all were taken using my phone camera and haven’t had any adjustment. ***

 

Have you ever stayed at a Mercure hotel? Where else in the UK would you recommend for an unexpected city break? 

 

 

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the-perfect-secret

 

Beach? England? We actually have plenty and some of them aren’t all that bad. As a child I often frequented the most popular ones, Southport, Blackpool, St. Annes etc.

This year for our annual ‘Ben Nevis trip’ back in May, my sister found us someplace new to try.

(fyi it wasn’t Ben Nevis, my dad has simply named our trip after the destination of our first group holiday last year, you know just to confuse matters).

Anyway… this new place, it was really something. Well first of all, we had no expectations. No idea what it would be like. The weather forecast wasn’t looking too great and none of us had even heard of this Yorkshire town all the way on the other side of the Pennines.

But onwards we went, to explore this Victorian seaside town known as Saltburn by the Sea. As we drove towards the coast, the roads wound up the cliffside until finally the sea came into view.

And what a view.

 

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Have you been here before? Have you even heard of it? I’ll be honest, the moment I laid eyes on the place, two things went through my mind: There was hardly anyone there! Forget the hen and stag do crowds of Blackpool and the chaos of Southport, this stretch of sand was almost empty, so peaceful with just the odd family dotted around enjoying the last half of the afternoon.

The second thought that crossed my mind was how am I going to stop myself from telling people about this place. How can I stop myself from promoting it, help it keep its humbleness.

 

 

Well that went completely out the window when I saw this months travel linkup topic as when I think of my perfect moment here in the UK, I think back to that afternoon.

I was surrounded by my closest family members, some sat on the benches looking out over the sea, others attempted to wade through the (freezing) cold water and the rest of us were taking advantage of the sea breeze and perfecting our kite flying skills.

Bliss.

Sorry, perfect bliss.

 

 

A perfect … ??

It could be a perfect moment, a perfect destination, a perfect storm, a perfect slice of cake…

How to link up your post

Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th November), add it to the link up widget below on either Angie’s, Emma’s or on our lovely co-host Jamie from Ink + Adventure’s blog.

There are no rules ‚Äď just check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved, make a few comments here and there and tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love (use the hashtag #travellinkup).
The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers ‚Äď as long as the post is relevant!

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Last week we had a situation which meant me swapping my party-in-a-car-commute for public transport and a countryside brisk walk to get into work for a few days. The first day, in true Manchester style it absolutely chucked it down. I was soaked, but not deterred. As the days went on the weather got better and by Friday it was absolutely glorious! I watched the sun rise from the comfort of my train window seat and literally skipped all the way to work once I hit Cheshire. Walking along the grass overgrown embankment, not a sound or person in sight. The sun was peeping out the air was chilled but fresh Рperfect for walking. I felt completely uplifted. Liberated even, I was in the BEST mood.

It reminded me how much I adore being outdoors. A lot of my most recent posts have been about local experiences and North West adventures rather than far away distant travel, but that’s because we actually have quite a lot going on for ourselves here in the UK.

Back in 2007, my dad dragged a couple of friends and me out for a very chilly February walk in the Yorkshire Dales. Our first rambling adventure, the first of many. I had never done anything like it in the past, had no idea what to expect but it started a trend that has carried on up until this day. We climbed Pen y ghent that day. We got lost, some of us fell over, waded through mud, made new wildlife friends and generally had a wonderfully memorable day.

 

 

Ever since then, whenever dad and I have needed a bonding session, to the hills we go! My dad, ever the acronym creator started labelling the trip as FD day (father + daughter) a trip¬†that has grown into FDsquared (father + 2xdaughters), FDS (father + daughter + son-in-law) and so on…

No two walks are ever the same, and each one comes with its own challenges and misfortunes – both of which make great stories. Couple of years ago we attempted Ben Nevis, but alas the weather conditions weren’t great so dad didn’t make it up with the rest of us (it still kills him now that he didn’t do it, sorry dad!). The tough conditions also put me and Mo off wanting to go on a walk for some time.

 

 

However earlier this summer I felt that it had been far too long since dad and I had ventured out into the great British countryside and we scheduled in a fairly easy walk to get us back into it. Mam Tor was to be the next FDS day out.

Not quite the easy walk we had planned, as per usual we managed to a) get ourselves lost and b) in the process found ourselves scaling some tricky route with no clue whatsoever what we were aiming for, or what Mam Tor even looked like!?!?!

Trekking Britain states the following route for reaching the top:

  1. Take the route out of the back of the car park up the steep and rather large steps. The path turns right and ascends towards Mam Tor.
  2. After around two hundred metres of ascent the path reaches the minor road that passes over the col between Rushup Edge and Mam Tor.
  3. As the path meets the road you will see a gate on the right hand (eastern) side of the road, walk through the gate and ascend the steps of the well laid path that takes you to the summit of Mam Tor.

Sounds simple right?

Well we didn’t do that. We started at another car park, climbed some crazy mini hill, which nearly gave us all heart palpitations because we underestimated its steepness.

 

 

We then struggled to agree on what path to take as none of the ones we saw corresponded with our map and no-one wanted to take responsibility for getting it wrong. And basically, instead of gradually ascending the well laid path to the summit, well we decided to climb up the ditch on the other side.

 

 

All in all it turned out how every FDS day should, we had hours of laughter, lots of bi-polar Mo behaviour (he can never decide whether he loves or hates walking), plenty of confusion and the most important part of all… quality time with my old man.

Every single walk we have taken together has been momentous. Everyone we have taken with us, even with the ups and downs, they’ve always enjoyed it enough to want to join in on the next.

Being outdoors is a special kind of feeling. I know like many of us these days, I can easily get carried away with the digital world, so when I do get the opportunity to venture out into the open air, it really helps me focus.

If you’ve not given rambling a go, well I urge you to try it at least once. Get out, take the right kit and enjoy! you won’t regret it!

oh but if you do regret it, feel free to blame my dad ūüôā

Maybe not today though – Happy Birthday dad! thank you for being my number one fan and always forcing me to take time out LOL x

 

Have you spent a day¬†out in the Great British countryside? Is rambling your thing? What’s been your favourite walk?¬†

 

 

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Dough Manchester restaurant and food review jet set chick

Dough Manchester Review

 

I am a bad, BAD blogger.

I have been writing for over a year now on new places I’ve discovered. New places I’ve seen, stayed and places I’ve enjoyed eating and socialising at.

BUT –

I have not dedicated any blogspace whatsoever to the places I visit that are all time favourites and have time and time again never let me down.

Bad, bad, blogger.

Let’s write this wrong. (get it? bad joke I know, couldn’t resist)

 

First up: Dough.

In the heart of the Northern Quarter, Dough Pizza Kitchen is one of my firm favourites.

 

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We’ve been for family meals, date night, friends night, last-minute-don’t-know-what-we-want-to-eat night, it’s a restaurant that caters to all occasions. Whether you’re dressed up all fancy or super casual you will never feel out of place.

There’s an open kitchen to the left as you walk in and the decor inside is simple and modern. There’s no real theme, no over the top opulence it’s simple and comfortable.

And that’s perfect because this is a place to relax, have fun and most importantly eat some bloody¬†good food.

You’d assume this is now the point where I bombard you with really fine looking pictures of beautifully decorated plates, artistically angled shots that include¬†cocktails and candles…

Well I’m not.

This is what you’re getting.

 

 

Empty plates.

Let me explain.

We have been here many, many times. We know exactly how good this food tastes, the consistency here is superb. So the minute a¬†dish lands on the table we’ve already anticipated the look, the smell, the taste.¬†No sooner has our waiter/waitress let go of that plate, we are all over it. There is simply no time (or desire for that matter) to pause for a photo shoot.

Ok, I felt bad, so the last time we went I made sure to take at least some pics:

 

 

I really struggle to think of a time or a dish that has disappointed us. Ever.

What makes Dough even more amazing – is it’s variety of options for all types of diners. The menu clearly labels gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian options. It’s so easy to read, no fancy code or squinting for the fine print (Dough if you read this –¬†might I suggest introducing¬†halal options?).

 

 

When I was faced with the challenge of eating only gluten and dairy free, Dough was my first meal out and they really set the bar high. I had the gluten-free Arabiatta Рmy first try at a GF pasta and it set me at ease and made me realise I can cope with the new diet I was taking on Рand I can actually enjoy it.

Oh and the dairy free ice cream that’s on offer for dessert? It’s divine!!¬†Even if you’re full, make room! Order a scoop of plain old vanilla¬†just to try it. My sister nagged me about it for months and after my first taste, I totally understood what she meant. Made with almond milk, it’s not overly sweet, the vanilla is laced through perfectly and it’s a great end to an evening. In fact, every evening should end with dairy free vanilla ice cream. And it is made in-house.

There have been numerous times when Mo and I have been in the city with the intention of eating at places we haven’t tried yet and their either full, over crowded, wait list too long, not many halal-friendly menu options, whatever the reason… we’ve then ended up at Dough.

And every time that happens we sit down and think to ourselves why on earth did we decide to try somewhere new when we know this place is perfect?!?!

 

Dough – you never ever let us down.

(And I have every confidence, you never will).

 

*** I recently wrote an article for match.com which featured Dough as a perfect place to take out a selective eater – check it out here ūüôā

 

Have you tried Dough? Do you love it as much as¬†I do? What’s your ‘go to’ place to eat in Manchester?

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Things have started to pick up again over the last few months. Mo and I have both been busy; he’s been back and forth to Harrogate and I’ve been catching up with all my freelance work. Our calendars have been filling up quick so I made sure to schedule in date night well in advance.

Instead of venturing into the city, as we usually do, we decided to head South for winter and venture nearer to where I work by the Airport.

Bredbury Lounge and Brasserie has recently undergone a refurbishment and also adopted a brand-spanking new menu by Paul Whitefield.

I’ll be honest, the restaurant isn’t much to look at when you compare it with the themed eateries that seem to be all the craze in the city centre, but at the end of the day, this is of course an out of town hotel restaurant (not some trendy hangout in central Manchester).

One thing that does stand out is how versatile they’ve made this space. The open plan area can cater for dinner, lunch, meetings or even just a social get-together. This was reflected in the diners that were there with us that night, a real mix of both national and international guests.

We picked ourselves a comfy booth at the far end, where we had a full view of the restaurant.

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Todays visit was all about trying out the Brasserie menu. I was in the mood for some real hearty British cuisine and although the halal card narrowed down our choices, there were still a number of good looking dishes available.

First up, hummus and black olive tapenade dip with ciabatta croutes. Ok, so not quite British cuisine, but I couldn’t pass on the chance of indulging with what I imagined was pan fried ciabatta bread. It was a good choice too! Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I have eaten a lot of hummus in my time, I know middle-eastern food like the back of my hand and this particular dip in a Stockport hotel restaurant, was pretty damn good. Like really good. (Well done Bredbury!)

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For mains, we did our usual and ordered pesce dishes; Mo had the classic fish and chips and for me, the grilled salmon steak was exactly what I was hungry for that evening.

There’s really not much to say about these two apart from they were exactly what it said on the tin.

So, after eating every last crumb of the ciabatta croutes and then polishing off my main course, I really did not have any room for dessert.

BUT

Mo pointed out the creme brulee and we just couldn’t say no. It arrived, looked perfect but strangely came with this piece of homemade shortbread. Bit odd but hey, shortbreads pretty un-offensive so we gave it a go and went halves. Now, creme brulee is my all-time favourite dessert, but in this instance I would have given it up for another piece of that deliciously moist, non-crumbly shortbread. WOW. It was a perfect ending to our meal.

Bredbury-Brasserie-3

One thing that really stood out for both Mo and I was the service we received throughout. Our waiter, Jake, was exactly the kind of front of house staff you would want in your business. He was attentive and helpful, as you would expect, but he was also friendly and had a really lovely manner about him. We were both very impressed and to be quite honest, he pretty much sold the evening to us.

If the service across the board at Bredbury is of this standard, I can imagine a stay or event here would run seamlessly.

My top tip for anyone planning a visit, yes, get a starter and a main, but be sure to do the British thing and leave enough space for tea and biscuits at the end!

 

Bredbury Hall Brasserie and Lounge

Osborne Street, Bredbury, Cheshire, SK6 2DH

Tel: 0161 430 7421

 

Thank you to Bredbury Hall for a lovely date night, and special mention to Jake for providing us such great customer service. 

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