Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Food Review: Festive Afternoon Tea at Hyatt Regency Birmingham

It's officially feeling a little bit like Christmas. The John Lewis advert has aired, the German Markets are back in Birmingham and this little invite popped into my inbox.

Festive Afternoon Tea Tier - Gluten Free 

Situated on Bridge Street, just opposite Symphony Hall and the NIA, the Hyatt Regency is offering a Festive Afternoon Tea for a limited time only from 1st-31st December.

A stunning hotel, the main entrance hall is a grand glass roofed atrium complete with water features, columns and marble.

This stetely setting is where we took afternoon tea and along with Lil Miss Chickas and Emily from Emily's Recipes and Reviews, we sat down to take in a very English experience.

When offered a choice of tea, coffee or mulled wine, I opted for coffee first before the main event. We were then sold on the mulled wine and took a little to try in our authentic copper mugs.

Mulled Wine is served

Then, in perfect synchrony, the afternoon tea tiers arrived, three tiers of cakes, scones and sandwiches.

Plain and Raisin Scones with Clotted Cream

As a gluten-free foodie, I did share my dietary requirements with the hosts before I came, and was so pleased that they could accomodate me for the afternoon tea. However, when the food arrived I could see that this wasn't just a quick fix, there was real effort that had gone into creating a gluten free feast that rivalled the gluten-full option.

A trio of desserts

Not only did I get six mini sandwiches in 6 different flavours, I also had two types of gluten free scones and three gluten free petit fours.

This was no hastily assembled gluten-free solution, but a carefully thought about and arranged selection of cakes that included gluten free pastry and had been made from scratch.

Here is the menu for both the standard and gluten free Festive Afternoon Tea:

As is tradition, I started off with the sandwiches, moved onto a spicy scone and finished off with 3 desserts, yum!

Spiced Apple in a shotglass

The desserts were my favourite part of the meal and the Vanilla Sponge topped with chopped crystallised ginger and plums was light but festive. The Chocolate Orange Truffle on a shortbread base was rich in flavour, but airy in texture thanks to the delicate mousse and topped off with a fresh mandarin segment for added zing. Finally, the Spiced Apple with Calvados whipped cream in a shot glass was heavenly. I love to feel like I'm eating something healthy but tasty, and the fresh apples were finished with some luxuriously decadent cream.

Spiced Apple and Calvados Shot

I cannot thank the chef enough for creating such a thoughtful and flavoursome afternoon tea.

What better way to ease yourself into Christmas with this indulgent afternoon tea? Whether you make a day of it or want to break up a busy day of shopping, why not sit down and relax at your leisure in this stunning setting?

With thanks to everyone at the Hyatt and Natalie for hosting the tasting.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Event: A Beautiful Fairytale at Harvey Nichols

Last week I took a trip to Harvey Nichols for the Beautiful Fairytale event, a chance to try out some new products, meet representatives from some of the brands stocked in Harvey Nichols, and take a look at the store in the midst of the Mailbox redevelopment.

Myself, Ting from The Ting Thing and Elle

Outfit post alert: Dress and Shoes - New Look / Bag - Whistles

One of the highlights of the evening was the chance to win £500 to spend on shoes by guessing which shoe was hidden under velvet. Sadly I didn't win but it was fun to try!

The Shoe Competition

The Winning Shoe

Myself and Ting from The Ting Thing quizzed experts from brands including SantaVerde and Dr Jacksons and tried out the healthy drinks from Plenish.

Plenish Drinks available here

SantaVerde skincare available here

There was also a chance to spin the wheel and pick an extra prize with every purchase. I managed to resist but Ting and Elle took a spin and won both times! The gifts were fantastic and they won a Life candle and luxury body cream.

Spin to Win!

We also got to enjoy some themed drinks such as pink gin and tonic in mini milk bottles and treats from the sweet cart such as macarons, love hearts and chocolate mousse.

Ting from The Ting Thing

Heart Shaped Macarons

Love Hearts in Jars

Drink Me Pink Drinks

Pink Drinks only

Sweet Trolley

There was also time for dressing up fun and we raided the box and had our picture taken by the professional photographer on hand (the pictures below were taken on my camera, the first picture was taken by him).

It was great to have an excuse to look around Harvey Nichols ahead of the £50m Mailbox revamp when the store will take on 45,000 sq ft in time for a 2015 opening.

A big thank you to Harvey Nichols for hosting the event.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Starbucks Red Cups launch at Selfridges Birmingham and London #RedCups

For some it's the sight of the Coca Cola advert, for others, the first decorations in the shops that herald the beginning of the Christmas season.

I know, however, that the thing that most bloggers in particular eagerly await is that first sighting of the Starbucks Red Cups.

I was lucky enough to start celebrating early and join Starbucks, Selfridges Birmingham on 24th October for the Red Cups pre-launch. 

This year, classic Red Cups favourites Eggnog Latte, Toffee Nut Latte and Gingerbread Latte are back on the menu, with Honey and Almond Hot Chocolate joining the Red Cups family for the first time.

It's confession time from me; I wouldn't normally try out anything as fancy as this if I were to stop off for a drink and I'd usually go for an Americano or Espresso. However, everyone deserves a treat now and then so I dug in and got to try out two drinks, the Gingerbread Latte and Honey and Almond Hot Chocolate.

The Honey and Almond Hot Chocolate is made from hot chocolate with the addition of almond syrup, chocolate whip, honey and mocha drizzle. To tie in with Selfridges' theme of "A touch of gold" this year, this was also topped off with gold sprinkles! To save a few calories and simply because I'm used to drinking soy, I chose a soya milk base but still said yes to the creamy whip.

I adored the Honey and Almond Hot Chocolate with it's rich, smooth taste, sweet but not too sweet base and that decadent chocolate whipped cream and mocha drizzle on top. I could drink this every day, but instead I'll be ordering this on my next shopping trip.

Next I got to try the Gingerbread Latte. Again, I went for soya and you cna always go for skimmed milk and leave off the whipped cream if you're after a lighter version of the drink. The latte tastes like a gingerbread biscuit with ground nutmeg on top. I found i to be a lot lighter than expected and that's the beauty, that you can personalise your drinks and ask for more or less syrup to be used depending on your preference. 

I also got to take away the famous Starbucks tumbler, this year made in gold.

So what do think, which drink is top of your list to try? The Red Cups launch nationwide on 4th November (but the gold sprinkles are exclusive to Selfridges!)

A big thank you to Clare for having me!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Benefit Bling Brow launch and Brow Bar Experience

When Benefit's Global Brow Expert, Jared Bailey, made a pitstop in Birmingham to launch Benefit's Bling Brow set to a bunch of beauty bloggers, I went along to meet the pros and talk brows.
Held in Staying Cool apartments in the Rotunda, Jared Bailey and Lisa Potter-Dixon, Head Make Up and Trend Artist for Benefit welcomed us in with champagne and macarons.

Hailing from San Francisco, Jared was an absolute riot and great company, as well as a font of brow and beauty knowledge.

As well as hosting a brow Q&A, we were treated to an eyebrow tint and shape too and got to watch as blogger brows were transformed into marvellous masterpieces.

I managed to take a few snaps on my phone before I had to rush off but the Benefit gals were kind enough to invite me back instore for a Benefit brow experience as I couldn't stay long.

I was booked into Debenhams Bullring and the Benefit counter was heaving when I arrived! Girls and ladies of every age were booked in to have a brow tint, shape and wax and I couldn't believe how busy they were! Apparently, they usually have two girls on counter doing brows.

These pictures are seriously unflattering but I had to give you an honest look at what we were dealing with brow wise and I had purposefully left my brows to grow out before my appointment.

First off, marks were made on my brows as per the Benefit Brow Mapping technique nicknamed the Benefit Arch. The first mark is a line from dimple of the nose straight up to the brow. The next mark is made by drawing a line from the edge of the nose through the iris or the eye to find the perfect arch. This is great for lifting the eyes! Lastly, mark 3 is made by drawing a line from the edge of the nose through the outer corner of the eye to the brow; this has an eye opening effect.

 Following these points, my brows were waxed into a perfect arch.

Here's the best bit - as you're on counter and yes, you will look a little red, Benefit will cover up any redness and fill in your brows for you as part of the Brow Bar experience. Unlike other salons etc where you're left to walk out looking a little flushed, Benefit will have you party ready in minutes.

I headed back to the counter to have my brows filled in using Brow Zings in Dark. A combination of powder and wax, we used both on my brows to fill them in and create an even, polished finish.

I was so impressed with the Brow Zings that I purchased my perfect shade, Dark, and took home this fab little kit. As well as the wax and powder, the compact also includes a mirror, mini pair of tweezers and two brushes to help you get the perfect arch at home.

I also got to try out a few other products such as Watts Up and the new Push Up Liner.

As well as Brow Shaping and Tinting, from 1st November Benefit will also launch the Bling Brow service. For a limited time, you can visit a Benefit counter to have your brows blinged up! From £4 for one brow or £8 for two, you can have a Touch of Bling (3 Swarovski crystals under the outer corner of the eye), Over the Top Bling (floating bling above both brows) or Big Time Bling (crystals over the top of the brow). Even better, theres a huge choice of colours from Light Pink to Green to match brows to outfits over the party season.

A big thank you to Jazz at Benefit, Jared and all the guys at the event for having me as well as the Benefit Debenhams Bullring team!

Bling Brow launches nationwide on 1st November, just in time for Christmas and New Year.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Event: Birmingham Independent Food Fair

You may remember back in 2013, the team behind Dine Birmingham hosted an event called Future Foodies at Hotel La Tour.

This year, the event was back in a slightly different format and new name; Birmingham Independent Food Fair.

Saying exactly what is on the tin, the event is a celebration of Birmingham's Independent food scene, something which I'm passionate about. There is an absolute wealth of independent restaurants, cafes, producers and suppliers in the city and it's surprising to many when they realise just how lucky we are to have so many great venues to choose from.

For a small entry fee, foodies were able to come in and try out 8 samples from any of the traders including food and drink. Once you've tried out some of the food on offer, you could purchase anything from bread to paella or chocolate from the stand of your choice.

Don Diego giant paella

Le Truc samples

Le Truc stand 

My favourite sample - the Le Truc goats cheese with beetroot and caramelised nut brittle

Some of my favourite samples came from Le Truc, where I got to try out this amazing goats cheese popcorn. A piece of goats cheese, flavoured with some secret ingredients and served with beetreet, rocket and a caramelised nut brittle, I couldn't get enough of this! I also loved the chocolates, particularly the fruity truffle from Henley Chocolates and the fantastic wheat free South East Asian cuisine from Hibiscus Grove Food Co. I also had a chat with Alok from Soul Tree Wine and had a mini education in wine tasting which I really want to improve on!

Peel and Stone loaves - my favourite picture!

Squisito stand

Wandering around the Millennium Point venue, I tried out some fantastic food from Le Truc, Henley Chocolate, Kneals Chocolates, Don Diego and The Authentic Tapas group and there was plenty of choice.

BAKE cupcakes

BAKE Peanut Butter Cake - YUM

Henley Chocolates - Passionfruit flavour I think but gorgeous and fruity!

Henley Chocolates - Truffles

I was lucky enough to be able to attend as a blogger and access the VIP area where Hotel La Tour had put on a champagne breakfast and canapes later on in the day. You may have even seen my tweet! The hospitality of the Hotel La Tour team was gracious, super friendly and extremely professional, definite 5 Star service! I also bumped into the beautiful Chloe from Gastonomic Gorman and had a quick snap as well as a chat.

My tweet! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter

With Chloe from Gastronomic Gorman 

Hotel La Tour VIP Area

Hotel La Tour VIP Area

I took my camera and tried to capture the atmosphere for you guys, hopefully you'll be able to see how busy it was and it only got busier as I came in pretty early. My favourite picture is of the loaves of bread from Peal and Stone. Like it?

Did any of you go the Birmingham Independent Food Fair? What did you think?

Big thank you to Ahmed from Dine Birmingham for having me :)