Giggling Squid Christmas Menu 2017

It’s that time of year again, time to sample Brighton’s festive food offerings, starting with a favourite restaurant of mine, Giggling Squid. I love the idea of Thai Food for Christmas as it’s just something different – certainly not a whiff of turkey and stuffing here! Their Christmas Menu came out on 13th November so we headed down to the Hove restaurant to give it a whirl. The Christmas Menu is at both lunch and evening times and is a three-course set menu priced at £20.95 at lunchtime or £29.95 in the evening, this also comes with a glass of prosecco.

Last year we tried the Christmas Menu at the Brighton Giggling Squid but as this year we were with Violet, the Hove branch is so much more accessible for pushchairs as it’s all on one level! Plus eating out at lunchtime is so much easier these days too. How times change! The restaurant has natural rustic feel which is authentically Thai, it was actually really busy when we arrived I managed to snap the above photo right at the end of our meal at a rare quiet moment.

When we arrived there seem to be quite a bit of confusion over the menu, the staff did not seem to know much about the Christmas menu as it had only just launched so excuse some of the dishes are not from the ‘official’ Christmas menu, this can be seen online here.

Of course, all good Thai meals should start with a giant bowl of prawn crackers. The best part? V is allergic to shellfish so can’t have any! Win.

For starters, I had the Thai Grilled Aubergine which on the menu says it comes with a fresh, tangy chilli sauce, that should read ‘seriously spicy!’ sauce, even the waiter who was Thai himself said he struggled to eat this one. I so actually love spicy foods though – but it did put me to my limits!

V went for the Corn Fritters with Sweet Chilli Sauce, a firm favourite of ours. Deliciously Thai, something I would usually always order myself.

Our main courses actually arrived at the same time as starters, V going for the classic Pad Thai with tofu – which was delicious (I wanted to steal it all, basically I had food envy most of this meal)

I went for the Cashew Nut Stir Fry with rice – which sadly, I thought was pretty bland and certainly not special enough for Christmas lunch.

Onto the deserts, the Christmas offers sound rather delicious, with options such as Prosecco and Muddled Berry Cheesecake, Honeycomb Semi-Freddo with Thai-spiced Star fruit. However, sadly these options weren’t available on our visit, so we chose the Mango & Passionfruit Cheesecake and the Warm Molten Chocolate Cake.

Sadly, as lovely as the deserts were both of them were still frozen in the centre, plus the ‘Warm’ Chocolate cake was actually served cold, so it was a massive disappointment – especially as they actually look really good and the flavours were perfect. I loved how the Chocolate cake was spiced with a hint of chilli, if it was warm it would have been divine!

We finished up with some coffees, served with a mint chocolate which is always a lovely touch.

All in all, another meal that was a disappointment at Giggling Squid. It’s such a shame as I actually really love the restaurant, but both times we’ve tried the Christmas menu, it’s fallen flat on it’s face. Maybe I’m just expecting a bit more, when you pay for a Christmas set menu, you expect a touch of sparkle, something special, don’t you? This is very standard food I’d expect on a normal lunchtime.

This hasn’t put me off going to the Giggling Squid though, honestly they do great food and I think their ‘normal’ menu and Thai tapas is delicious, so if you visit, I’d stick to what they do best!

Click here to read my review of the Giggling Squid Christmas menu 2016 

Autumnal Soup with Cully & Sully

To me, there is nothing more autumnal than a big bowl of soup with a large crusty roll on the side. Being off on maternity leave during the autumn season, I had visions of me making home made soups by the gallon – my kitchen sides ladened with root vegetables, pumpkins and winter squash (all bought from our local organic shop of course!) however it turns out maternity leave isn’t quite like that! Once the 4th load of laundry is done for the day, I’ve got myself up and dressed, the baby dressed (numerous times) and the dog walked – I’m left feeling like I need a slightly easier option by lunchtime. I recently discovered a lovely brand of soup called Cully & Sully, who offer a comforting soup with that tasty homemade flavour but with the ease of a quick pop to the shop and a zap in the microwave. I also love that as a vegetarian, they have lots of flavours to chose from too so my choices aren’t too limited either.

We have got into a little routine of late, we go out for a morning walk to get some fresh air, sometimes we take the dog, sometimes we go to the park or kick the Autumn leaves, but our trips out always involve a trip to the village bakery for fresh bread on the way home, that smell just draws me in from a mile off. They produce loads of different types of bread, all baked on site so I’ve been trying them all (why not!) I just love experimenting with different flavours, working out which soup works with different breads, to complement and bring out each individual flavour.

Usually, I just go by which local bread is available on the day as I visit a small village bakery, but here are some suggestions of Cully & Sully soup flavours and bread pairings that I’ve tried that work really well….. 

  • Vegetable Soup – serve with a thick slice of Brown Crusty Loaf slathered in butter for a classic, homely and comforting dish.
  • Pea and Mint – serve with Sourdough. The slight sourness creates a great contrast to the sweetness of the peas, it’s the best combination!
  • Potato and Leek – best served with stilton croutons, adds a rich burst of flavour with a crunch
  • White Winter Vegetable –  serve with warm garlic bread for the ultimate comfort food.
  • Tomato and Basil  – The lightest of the soups, deserves a lighter bread – serve with focaccia for the perfect pairing.

Just writing this has made me hungry for my lunch already, so I think I know what I’ll be having! My absolute favourite is the Pea and Mint with Sourdough, so I hope the bakery has some in stock!

Cully & Sully soups are available in Tesco stores across the UK – give them a go 🙂

Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer with AO

It looks like Christmas has come early in our household (and on the blog, this is my second Christmas post and it’s only the beginning of Nov!) I opened the door last week to find the postman standing there with a rather large, rather heavy box for me, of which even he, a big burly postman struggled to lift. We both pushed and pulled the box through my door together with confused expressions on our faces as to what it could be. Opening the packaging I saw a gleaming bright white Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer and yes, I can definitely confirm – it’s amazingly heavy, but what a surprise to wake up to on a chilly and grey Thursday morning!

So, you might be wondering where this amazing surprise parcel came from? Well, a few weeks back I chatted with the lovely people at AO.com, who had organised a Secret Santa project for bloggers in the run-up to Christmas. Our challenge was to pick each other a gift from the top ten most popular products predicted this Christmas and surprise each other with an early present!

So, I paired up with one of my fabulous blogger friends, Lauren (who writes Scrapbook Blog) to chose each other a gift to receive. It was so difficult to chose, although I had a pretty good idea on what Lauren would like as we’ve known each other a good few years now!

After a few days of excitedly texting each other every morning saying ‘Any news?’ Lauren told me that a parcel had arrived for her! She couldn’t believe her luck as I managed to guess her dream product from the list (plus, I was quite relieved that I’d chosen well too!) Head over to her blog to find out what I chose for her!

However, a few more days passed for me and there was no sign of my AO delivery – what a tease! My day soon came though and let’s just say…. she was worth the wait.

Now, I have a tiny confession to make at this point. As much as Lauren had my gift choice spot on – I had always wanted a stand mixer, there was a slight spanner in the works here in that I don’t actually know how to bake! So as fabulous as this gift was, I did feel very out of my comfort zone giving it a go. However, I have been saying for years that I’m going to teach myself how to bake, so I’m taking this as a sign that it’s my time to learn and a new and exciting hobby is about to begin.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better product to give me a head start as a new baker either, could I? Plus, the Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer looks absolutely stunning on our kitchen worktop too! Also, let’s face it, if it’s good enough for the contestants on The Great British Bake Off – it’s good enough for me.

Opening the box, included within the kit was:

  • kMix Stand Mixer in Cool White
  • Beater
  • Dough Tool
  • Whisk
  • Spatula

There is everything you need to get going and make your first cake! Luckily, V is a dab hand in the kitchen so that evening (we were too excited to wait!) we made our first cake using her Grannies traditional recipe, which I have to say turned out a treat and I felt on a roll with baking already! I could get used to this…. (and maybe so will my waistline)

The Kenwood kMix does everything you want it to and more when it comes to baking – the incredible 1000W output means it’s one powerful beast that whips your ingredients into shape in no time at all – with the beater perfect for creating light and fluffy cakes, the whisk allowing you to create delicate buttercream and more for your creations. I haven’t yet made bread but the dough hook looks like a handy tool to save all that effort with kneading too.

The kMix also has multi-speed functionality, which is really handy to have total control over your recipe and also to avoid covering the kitchen in cake batter (luckily a tip I was told BEFORE using my mixer was to start off slow!). The kMix does come with a splash-guard though too, so don’t worry too much about any mess.

One of the best features of the kMix is the large, glass mixing bowl – fully transparent, so there is no need to peek over the top at your mixture, you’ll have a full view during the whole process of creating your cake.

The kMix just feels powerful, luxurious and a breeze to use. The attention to detail is just second to none, plus it’s good to know it’s a trusted British brand we all know and love too.

Feeling more confident, a few days later I decided to put the kMix to the test and make a chocolate cake, by myself. I was all alone in the house too, so it was just me against the mixture, with google as my only best friend….

It turned out AMAZINGLY! The Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer made things SO simple, the recipe I followed just stated to pop all the ingredients into the mixture and blend, so the kMix did the hard work and I just watched it all come together. I then went on to make a chocolate buttercream icing too as I felt so inspired by my first two bakes. If I do say so myself, the cake was delicious, something I didn’t think I’d be making for a long time of teaching myself to bake. I’m so inspired, I can’t wait to get making treats aplenty in the run up to Christmas!

So, if you love the sound of the kMix and want to add one to your Christmas list (do!) then take a look at AO’s website here, where you can find the Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer for £399, plus – if you wait patiently for Black Friday (24th Nov!) you might be able snap up a bargain too!

Don’t forget to check out Lauren’s post and find out all about the Secret Santa present I chose for her too.

Big thanks to AO for having me for their Blogger Secret Santa Challenge – I’ll pop you a slice of cake in the post! 

Review: Afternoon Tea at Patisserie Valerie Brighton

I do love an Afternoon Tea – There is something decadent about working through the layers whilst copious cups of tea and wiling away an afternoon. So, a couple of weekends ago we headed down to the newly opened Patisserie Valerie in Brighton. I always think of London when I see Patisserie Valerie, so knowing I have one close to home now is too exciting (or dangerous!). Funny enough, I actually did a brunch review last year, when this property was Baker & Spice, so when we turned up looking for the new Patisserie Valerie I had no idea they’d taken over that very spot. Thinking back, I don’t think Baker & Spice ever really took to Brighton, seeing as we are overwhelmed with great brunch cafes already so I can’t say I am surprised. I think with Patisserie Valerie, being an established and well-known chain will have more of a chance of survival in an oversaturated area as it is.

The venue is ideal for Brighton’s changeable weather, with indoor and outdoor seating plus a suntrap conservatory.  It was a sunny day so we sat in the bright and airy conservatory area to watch the world go by, but also have a little bit of privacy with a baby who’s newfound love is to bang her hands on the table, scream for no reason and grab everything in sight!

The Afternoon Tea itself is one of the best value for money in Brighton – at only £25 for two it’s very reasonably priced, many places charge this per person! I was eager to see if it would live up to it’s competitors, or if the quality would be reflected in the lower price.

The Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea includes:a selection of finger sandwiches, mini quiches, scones with jam & clotted cream all topped off with a selection of mini cakes and accompanied by a refillable pot of tea. You can also add a glass of Prosecco for an extra £5. As we are both Vegetarian, we asked for the veggie option. I was completely impressed that we were also advised which cakes contained gelatine and given options to replace them as this is often overlooked as a vegetarian. One of the cakes we couldn’t have so they gave us a full-sized Apple Tart in it’s place!

Needing an extra caffeine boost with a baby who just wants to sit up, crawl, look at everything, touch everything we ordered coffee’s instead of tea which they were able to swap with no extra charge.

The first course – the savoury layer was fine for a vegetarian option and did the trick for a quick lunch, but I wouldn’t say they were the most interesting sandwiches I’ve ever eaten!  They were tasty and fresh but the fillings were quite basic, fillings such as egg mayo, cheese, humous – I think they could have been a little more inventive on this front, maybe the meat sandwiches are more interesting. One of our sandwiches just had some spinach leaves in with a slick of mustard – an interesting combo, I skipped that one.

I wasn’t too disappointed in the savoury course, in my heart-of-hearts I’m just there for the cakes. I just like to act like I’m eating something sensible by entertaining the savoury course. As soon as we were done I was more than excited to move on up a layer, to the traditional scones with clotted cream and jam.

The scones were clearly freshly made and baked to perfection – with a generous serving of clotted cream and as many pots of Bonne Maman jam as we could manage.

Lastly, onto the cakes section – my favourite and I think this was the best part of the whole experience. Eclairs, Victoria Sponge, chocolate gateaux and a carrot cake were on our selection – plus we had our full sized apple tart on the side (where we replaced one of the cakes for containing gelatine). By this point we were getting rather full so we did our best but most of them came home in a little box with us to enjoy later. The staff were helpful in boxing them up for us and gave us a nicely wrappy ‘doggy bag’ as we left!

One of my only criticisms of the experience was not anything to do with the food, but I thought the restaurant itself wasn’t great for accessibility. To use the toilets there is a flight of stairs and to get to the baby change there are two flights of stairs! I negotiated my way down the stairs with a wiggly baby and change bag and it wasn’t the safest of options and I think someone who hasn’t had a baby had obviously thought that was a good place for the change table!

All in all, I thought our Afternoon Tea experience was rather lovely, especially for the price of £25 for two people. I wouldn’t say it was the most elaborate I’ve ever had but for the price it was delicious and well worth a visit. If you are looking for something really special or unique there are lots of other places in Brighton like The Salt Room, Terre a Terre or The Grand, but those all come with a different price tag so really they shouldn’t be compared! A lovely experience all round that can’t really be faulted for the price tag – give it a go!

If you are looking for Afternoon Tea in Brighton, see my reviews on:

The Salt Room

The Harbour Hotel

 

Review: Lunch at Bill’s Brighton

Living in Brighton, I’m not sure I know of one person that doesn’t love Bill’s. Being a local brand it just feels part of our city and our Brightonian culture. There is something special about the atmosphere, there is always such a buzz, the food is delicious and it’s a friendly meeting point for many, at any time of the day. Although Bill’s is nationwide now, it actually started close to home just up the road in Lewes, with the Brighton restaurant the first to open after the success in Lewes, so they always seem to me like a small local business.

A couple of week’s ago Bill’s Brighton had a complete redesign – adding a touch more glamour to venue (which was before Bill’s a bus depot!) they now offer 50 more seats, launched a brand new Summer Menu and the best part, a sundowners cocktail menu (which looks amazing!). They had a glitzy relaunch party which I was invited to but evenings aren’t so easy with a little one, so I watched the fun from afar (good old Instastories!) Quite a shame, as I quite fancied a sundowner or two! Instead, I popped into Bill’s for a leisurely lunch, which was much more Violet-appropriate.

The new redesign certainly makes the inside of the venue feel bigger, I love the new decor too – They seem to have found the perfect balance of homely and friendly with a touch of glam. It’s easy to see how the venue can be transformed from a brunch spot to a cocktail bar as the day goes on.  The above snap was a rare quiet moment when we arrived, however within minutes there were people jostling for seats and the background buzz of chatter ramped up a notch or two. There is an extended mezzanine area for dining too, so there is a huge amount of seating now as Bill’s does tend to fill up quickly. Getting in and out with a pushchair wasn’t easy, the mix of dining room chairs and plush armchairs meant it’s a bit of a maze, but during the day most people in there were families, so I think everyone just ‘gets it’ and were more than happy to help me squeeze by.

I met up with my friend Andrea for a catch-up over a Bill’s Pink Lemonade and to see what the new menu is all about, and of course so she could get some Violet cuddles in too.

I haven’t been to Bill’s in a while, but the first thing I noticed is how extensive the menu has become (I swear there wasn’t that much choice before -or is it because I always used to get a fish finger sandwich?). It took me quite a while to decide on what I wanted, I was tempted by options such as the macaroni cheese, halloumi burger, plus of course I was thrilled to see they had the fish finger sandwich still in place – but feeling summery and tempted by a colourful selection of baby kale, pomegranate, asparagus and  watermelon – I went for the Bills Summer Salad with a side of Sweet Potato fries (oh come on, I wasn’t going to be THAT healthy) – all washed down with a classic the Bill’s Pink Lemonade, which is the perfect summer drink, served over ice and strawberries.

Andrea went of the Golden Fried Sesame Pork Dumplings with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce, followed by the Chicken Caesar Salad, which although I don’t eat chicken looked particularly tasty and the chicken chargrilled to absolute perfection.

Sadly, Andrea had to get back to work after her main course, so missed out on the epic pudding menu! Violet had been a nightmare that morning, I’d pushed her all around town trying to get her to drop off to sleep before our lunch as I knew she’d just be overtired, however she didn’t finally give in to a good sleep right to the last minute, so I decided to make the most of it and ordered another Bill’s Pink Lemonade and a Raspberry and Peach Crumble (with Salted Caramel sauce!) to myself, so I sat enjoying the moment of sheer indulgence and peace and quite on my own! It was absolute bliss!

We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch date at Bill’s Brighton and sampling the new menu. I loved the new decor inside, it’s quirky, electric and chic with that buzzy feeling Bill’s always has. The perfect place for anything from brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or cocktails – Bill’s is open from ‘breakfast to bedtime’ and covers all bases under one roof!

Thanks for letting us visit and try out the new menu – I’ll be back soon no doubt to try out the rest of my favourite dishes! 

I was offered a complimentary meal at Bill’s Brighton in return for an open and honest review – all words and opinions are my own