Hands up if you’re a fan of dim sum? I bloody love it so when I was invited to Royal China in Baker Street to try their lunch menu I was all over that email.

As the bloke works in London and we very rarely get lunch together, I thought it would be perfect to meet him, so being the kind wife that I am, I invited him along. I know, I’m all about the love. It was a little romantic break in the day after the low of coming home from Amsterdam!

I absolutely love Chinese food, if I get the option of choosing what we eat, 99% of the time it will be Chinese, so I was really looking forward to visiting one of the best restaurants in town.

Located a short walk from Baker Street tube station and a few doors down from Royal China Club, which, is *mega* fancy by the way. Celebrities and very expensive food – don’t make the mistake of walking into the wrong place! Saying that, inside Royal China is hardly un-fancy (is that a word?) the decor is amazing, fresh flowers, beautiful tables and incredible service, it is completely unlike any Chinese restaurant I’ve ever been to before.

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So, we made our way to our table, the place was packed for 1pm on a Tuesday lunchtime which is always a good sign, but at the same time, fairly quiet which was quite strange (another sign of seriously good food?) and had a look through the menus. We wanted to try as much as possible and there was so much choice, some I wouldn’t want to try, such as chicken feet, I’m sure they’re a delicacy but it’s just not something I could do. What we did choose was incredible.

Pork & Radish Dumpling
Beef Dumpling
Pan Fried Gyozas
Prawn Dumpling Salad
Iberico Sausage Buns
Chicken Siu Mai
Crispy Curry Duck

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Not bad for two of us eh! Especially as each portion comes with three of each…!

It’s hard to say which was my favourite, every dish was just so good, but if you forced me to choose, it would probably be the crispy curried duck and the gyozas, I could have eaten all six by myself!! The sausage buns are, so hard to describe! Sweet, fluffy, filled with amazingness, just nothing like you’d expect them to be! I know, my descriptive powers are fabulous aren’t they?

Most dishes were around £5 each which is a really good price anyway, but when you consider the quality of each dish, it’s even better. We were stuffed, we had more than enough for a lunch setting, but we wanted to try as much as possible, I would imagine it would be around £15/£20 per person for a lunch with a drink, which is bloody good value for such amazing food.

One thing I’ll point out, chopsticks (obviously) are standard in the restaurant, but the size of some of the Dim Sum made that quite challenging. I thought I was being my usual, clumsy self, watching everyone using them with style until I spotted a table behind me using forks….! Next time I’ll be requesting one for myself!

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If you ever find yourself near to Baker Street (or one of their other locations in Harrow, Fulham, Canary Riverside, Queensway or even Singapore) and you want to try out probably the best Dim Sum ever, then you have to visit Royal China. You won’t be disappointed.

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¡Olé! Feeling in the mood for some Mexican cuisine? As the culinary powerhouse of the Americas, it’s no surprise that Mexican food is enjoyed all over the world. While there are a growing amount of Mexican fast food outlets across the UK, they often offer overproduced and underprepared fare, leaving your thirst for Latin dishes with a lot to be desired.

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Never fear, though. You can often get a tastier, cheaper and healthier experience by rustling up your own grub at home, and Mexican fare is no different. So the next time you’re hankering for Mex cuisine in a hurry, look no further than these three delicious offerings from the land of tequila and tacos.

Lime and coriander pork tacos

Using a BBQ pulled pork recipe as the basis for your dish, you can garnish with the other ingredients and wrap up in fluffy flour tacos or crunchy corn shells as per your preference. The acidity of the lime mingles with the freshness of the coriander and the heat of jalapeños to produce a taste sensation that’ll have you and your family screaming for more.

The best thing about this dish is how quickly it can be rustled up. Of course, the pork itself is more of a commitment and will take the best part of an afternoon to produce, but once that’s ready you can be eating your tacos in a matter of minutes! A black bean sauce, spiced with cumin and cayenne, makes an excellent side dish.

Five-layer dip with spicy wedges

Mexican cuisine is blessed with a variety of delicious dips: guacamole, salsa, refried beans… why settle for just one? This easy-to-follow recipe combines the best of all worlds by throwing together the conflicting and complementary flavours of garlic, lime, cumin, beans, corn, avocadoes, coriander, jalapeños and cheese in a dip to wipe the floor with all others.

As for the spicy wedges, they couldn’t be simpler. McCain Mexican wedges come ready-made with just the right amount of spicy seasoning, meaning that all you have to do is throw them in the oven for under 20 minutes and then enjoy alongside your exotic dip. As such, this meal is perfect for parties, fiestas and get-togethers and embodies the true spirit of sharing present in Mexican fare.

Mexican bean burgers topped with salsa and lime yoghurt

Calling all vegetarians! If the dip above didn’t whet your appetite, these simple yet succulent bean burgers certainly will. The BBC has an unbeatable recipe that produces flavoursome burgers, packed to the rafters with nutrition and good stuff, but which retain their moisture through the delicious condiments on top. The cooling effect of the yoghurt will perfectly complement the spiciness of the burgers induced by the inclusion of chilli powder in the recipe, meaning that you’ll never want another McDonalds again!

Two servings per person should be enough to satisfy even the larger appetites, but you might consider combining these burgers with the wedges and dip above for a thoroughly filling feast.

image via Jamie Oliver

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Usually on Sundays the AG’s can be found on the sofa, watching films and generally being a bit lazy. It tends to be the only day of the week that we’re all together for the whole day and we like to make it (as often as we can) a day where we all get to recharge our batteries. The kids need a lazy day just as much as we do. I used to hate Sundays, it was always the start of the working week, in a job I didn’t want to be in usually, ferrying the kids around all over the place and just in the way of the following Friday! Now though, it’s different, because I’m happy doing what I’m doing, but that’s a whole other blog post!

Last Sunday however, we got dressed (shocker!) and made our way to a Harvester restaurant in Haywards Heath to try out their menu. I can’t remember the last time we went to a Harvester, I’m sure it was as a kid, and I remember it being all about burgers and ice cream.

Well.

Let me tell you, that’s definitely changed! We were a bit early so we had a quick drink in the bar area, hello lovely glass of dry white, and the kids had a go on the teddy grabber machine, then we were shown to our table, with colouring pencils, activities for (both it would seem) kids and the menus. Where there was a whole load more than just burgers to pick from! We picked some starters (I wish kids menus came with starters) individually and they were bought to use on a sharing platter so we could try each others. Much to the dismay of my daughter and husband it would seem! They both went for grilled halloumi served with grilled watermelon and I went for firecracker prawns.

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Main course arrived, H (like her dad) went for the *biggest* burger ever, the nacho burger, hubs went for “I want it all” combo – says it all no? C had southern fried chicken, chips and peas and I had the salsa chicken and pepper stack. Oh my god. So good. I could literally eat that every day. Plus, the sweet potato chips were to DIE FOR. I’m not even kidding.

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By the end of the main we were so stuffed. On top of the food we had the choice of the unlimited salad bar and refillable drinks, but, because we were out out, pudding had to be done. This is where I remember Harvester being all about the knickerbockers, and they still are in a way (who’s going to complain about that though, seriously!?) there was still other options. A build your own sundae for C, lemon blizzard and rocky horror for me and H (kind of a smaller knickerbocker) and warm, American, silver dollar pancakes for the bloke. After this – hands up, I couldn’t finish the pudding – we literally and figuratively could have been rolled out of the restaurant. The amount of groaning coming from our table was ridiculous, it sounded like we’d run a marathon not eaten a three course meal!

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The whole meal, from service, to presentation, timing, taste, everything was spot on. It was loud enough for families to not feel like they had to shush their kids, but not so loud you felt like you were in McD’s at half term. The waitress and hostess, Natalie and Rebecca were both lovely, and we will definitely be back there, next time for one of their breakfasts…..!

PR Review but, as always, all the words and opinions are my own! 

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All the “How to be a good parent” books stress how important it is to get babies and children into a routine, so that they feel secure and settled and they know what to expect. However sometimes it’s good to mix things up a bit and give kids a bit of a fun surprise!

That’s where the idea of breakfast for dinner comes from. Whenever you go to a hotel and have a buffet breakfast, there are always exclamations of surprise about what people around the world have for breakfast – they often look like lunch! For example, Brazilians love slices of meat and cheese, and it seems that that the Japanese often have fish, rice, and soup for breakfast. So this is the opposite, and instead of having lunch the midday meal for breakfast it’s going to be the breakfast meal in the evening. Next time you’re looking to mix it up, try one of these favourite treats:

Porridge

For a super decadent seeming but healthy version, cook your normal porridge oats with coconut milk, or add a swirl of coconut cream on top. Dry fry a handful of pumpkin and sunflower seeds until they pop (they taste like a kind of nutty popcorn) and serve on top of the porridge along with raspberries, blackberries or other delicious fruit.

Bacon and Eggs

A full English breakfast is a real treat but actually quite time consuming to prepare, so doing it in the evening might save you running around too much. The meal is high in protein but low in vegetables and fibre so serve it with brown bread toast and make sure the kids have had their five a day already in lunch and snacks!

A smoothie

To counteract the full English and get back the track of healthy breakfast dinners, try a smoothie. A handful of soft fruit whizzed up with yoghurt is delicious, and you can amp it up by adding oats and powdered vitamins, probiotics etc. Alternatively swap the yogurt for silken tofu or avocado – sounds dubious but the result is both delicious and filling.

An omelette

An omelette is quick to put together and high in protein. To add some extra vegetables you can serve it with a salad on the side. This is easily customized for picky eaters, as you can quickly add cooked chicken, cheddar cheese or whatever each child prefers to the middle.

A coffee dessert

We know breakfast isn’t complete without your cup of coffee, but drinking coffee last thing at night isn’t the best idea! So we suggest a coffee dessert like this cappuccino mousse to fill that gap. Splitting one espresso between four gives you coffee flavour without any hyperactivity!

The advantages of turning meals on their heads like this isn’t only to have the kids talking about what a crazy mummy you are next day at school. Most of these options are quite light, so instead of having something that’s hard to digest sitting in your tummy last thing at night, you’ll hopefully sleep better and hopefully spring out of bed refreshed in the morning, ready for your dinner!

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On Saturday the man and I escaped the hustle and bustle of normal life and took a drive up to Scarborough to stay at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel. Having never been to Yorkshire I was looking forward to the drive (without kids, driving can be quite relaxing!) and getting a good blast of fresh, country air.

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It took us a good five hours to drive from Surrey, not helped by the long sections of roadworks that meant we had to do 50mph for about an hour and a half and the awful, awful rain that practically slowed the M1 to a stop! Once we arrived though, it was like entering into another world. It’s set amongst 17 acres of gardens in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and it is so peaceful. Even listening to the wind howling around it still felt a million times quieter than everyday life. The fact that there was zero phone signal added to the whole escape feeling. We had no choice but to switch off and just enjoy the moment.

We checked in and were shown to our room, one of the honeymoon suites, which was quite literally, bigger than our first flat. We had our own lounge, a huge master bedroom with the biggest bed we’ve ever slept in (what’s bigger than queen size?) and the most amazing bathroom known to mankind. I kid you not. The bath was big enough for the bloke and I to lay in together and the waterfall taps filled it in minutes, which was a good thing as I was planning on spending a lot of time in there! Double sinks (adds to home wish-list) and a massive power shower, I could have quite happily stayed in the bathroom the entire time, but we were booked in for afternoon tea and we weren’t going to miss that – it’s one of my favourite treats and it doesn’t happen nearly enough! We were due to have it at 2.30pm but because of the traffic we weren’t there on time, so the lovely receptionist rebooked it for us for 3.15pm giving us time to arrive, unpack and find our way around without rushing.

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Afternoon TeaRS

We were seated in the bar area and even though there were a few people in there it still felt private and cosy. We got comfortable in our little armchairs and had good, strong, Yorkshire tea in a beautiful white tea set, with beef & horseradish, ham & mustard and cream cheese & cucumber sandwiches, freshly baked scones with jam and cream (not clotted cream which was a first, but it still worked!) and a selection of amazing cakes – lemon cheesecake, profiteroles, chocolate and pistachio sponge and lemon meringue, all in little bite-size portions. Heaven!

While we were enjoying our afternoon tea, a couple were sat at the table near us looking through a wedding brochure and I have to say, if we were getting married now, I would love somewhere like Ox Pasture for the whole thing, ceremony and reception. It would be an amazing wedding venue, it was stunning in January so I imagine it would be just as, or even more beautiful in the summer months.

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Once we had finished our tea, we decided to have a walk around the grounds, snap some pictures and take in the scenery. It was absolutely freezing, us Londoners are always complaining about the cold weather, but ‘up North it’s a different kind of cold! I think we managed about 30 mins before the lure of the bath was too much for me, so we made our way back to the room for another cup of tea and a very long, very hot soak.

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I had taken my own bath oil with me as I’d read a few reviews where they’d commented on the lack of bubbles provided so I was all set for a good long bath. We asked for a couple more towels because there were only two large ones and I have a lot of hair, which were sent over in minutes. After an hour or so reading my glossies and telling the husband how much I loved the bath, I had to physically extract myself before I wrinkled away. Only to put myself into the huge walk in, power shower to wash my hair. It was a hard weekend. I know.

We’d booked to have dinner at The Courtyard Restaurant at 8pm so we had plenty of time to enjoy the room, watching trashy TV, reading mags and chatting. It’s amazing how quickly you can reconnect with each other when there are no other distractions like emails, texts, kids….! It’s only when we get away and spend proper time together do we realise how much of a laugh we have, how easily we get on and how much we enjoy each others company. It’s so easy to get caught up in ‘he doesn’t do this, she always does that’ stress, running around and passing each other on the stairs Mon-Fri that it’s a real treat to just stop and remember why we married each other!

We made our way to the restaurant and were seated at one of the tables, I loved that all the two seater tables had seats next to each other rather than opposite so the romance could carry on!

Having heard amazing things about the food we were both looking forward to dinner and we weren’t disappointed! As the only restaurant in Scarborough to have been awarded 2-rosettes for culinary excellence and be recommended in the Michelin guide, you know the food will be as amazing as the surroundings. The menu is very traditional with a modern twist and has an emphasis on local produce, every single course was delicious as well as stunning to look at.

We started with the Goats Cheese and Beetroot Tart & Ham Hock Terrine, followed by the Pork Trio and Beef Brisket, we also sampled Chicken Roulade and the Butternut Squash Soup which was gorgeous. I wish I had gone for the soup now! Dessert had to be chocolate for me and cheese for him! The Yorkshire Cheese Board and Chocolate Trio. Wow! Just wow.

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We had a couple of glasses of wine and then made our way back to our room where we snuggled up on the sofa with a blanket and watched CBB, before, you guessed it, having another bath! It had to be done. We then crawled into bed and had probably one of the best nights sleep we’ve ever had.

The next morning we were treated to yet more amazing food (the theme really should be ‘amazing’ for this post!) fresh croissants, hot tea, orange juice and a bloody gorgeous cooked breakfast, sausage, scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, mushrooms and black pudding. The husband threw some toast in as well for good measure.

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Once we’d finished it was time to pack up and head home to our babies. We decided to make a quick detour to have a look at the famous Scarborough and I was surprised by how pretty it was. It was quite busy for a Sunday morning, which made the peace of Ox Pastures Hall which was a mere 15 mins away, even more special.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay while you’re visiting North Yorkshire, Ox Pasture Hall Hotel has to be top of the list. Luxurious, comfortable, friendly, quiet and relaxing all rolled into one. The staff were so friendly and open, I don’t know if that’s a northern thing or not, but they could teach the London hotel staff a lot, nothing was too much trouble for them, they were chatty without being over the top, just really lovely people who made the stay even more perfect.

Thank you to Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for such a wonderful stay!

We were given a complimentary stay at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in order to write this review, but, as always the opinions are all my own.

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