Hope everyone had a lovely weekend and enjoyed Mad Friday. Sober one for me obviously but made easier by the fact we spent the weekend in one of my favourite places – Newcastle. We left our annual trip to see family a bit late this year but as with most great cities, December is an amazing time to visit with the streets bustling, Christmas markets galore and the bars and restaurants full of people enjoying Christmas parties.
After a relatively easy drive down with Nicky, my Mum and Stepdad, the first stop was Pani’s Cafe at High Bridge – an authentic Sardinian eatery doubling up as a cafe and a restaurant. Everyone else was drawn to the lunchtime menu of Italian style ciabattas served with fries but I was craving a very large salad and the Primavera hit the spot. A fresh mix of green leaves, roasted vegetables, olives and croutons finished off simply with a dressing of balsamic and olive oil – delizioso! I also had to try a cannoli after seeing them on Bake Off a few weeks ago. A mini pastry filled with Nutella style cream was the perfect end to a lovely lunch.
Next stop was of course the Newcastle city centre institution of Fenwicks – a local department store whose windows transform into a winter wonderland every Christmas. This year the theme was Paddington Bear. It is amazing how much more magical it all seems as a child but it still adds some festive spirit to the city centre.
We then made a quick trip to Hotel Chocolat and of course came away with some goodies!
After some downtime in the hotel it was time to head out on the toon! First stop was Brewdog for some craft beer goodness, good ol non-alcoholic Nanny State for me. It’s serving me well so far. The only non-alcoholic beer that is actually worth drinking.
Dinner was an Indian feast at Rasika down the Quayside – an area of Newcastle not to be missed with a great selection of bars and restaurants all within easy walking distance of each other. We started with chicken pakora and mixed kebab for all four of us to share followed by a chicken tandoori Zal Jhul for me – a spicy sauce with garlic flakes, crushed red chillies, garam masala and fresh coriander. Although full of flavour, this dish was just a touch on the hot side for me and I had some major food envy over my Mum’s choice of a Sri Lankan curry, a dish with just the right amount of kick and creaminess from coconut. After the meal it was time for a nightcap in the hotel and then early bed.
The next day started with a brisk walk around the freezing cold town followed by a coffee and cake stop at Costa. It was then time to don the Christmas jumpers and join the family for lunch at Cafe Rouge – a French chain restaurant.
Ordering off the Christmas menu, I opted for the butternut squash and sage soup, the beetroot and goats cheese tart and the creme brulee. As is often the case with a chain restaurant, the food was slightly underwhelming with the creme brulee being the highlight. After a lengthy lunch involving lots of flowing wine and conversation, it was time to retreat to the hotel for some chill time before another night on the town.
Dinner on Saturday night with my Mum and Stepdad’s friends was at one of my favourite chain restaurants, Zizzis. After lots of pregnancy induced snacking before dinner, I opted for a lighter dinner sharing a garlic bread with the hubby and then for the chicken and prosciutto salad. Although the garlic bread was really tasty and not too overpowering with garlic, the portion was far too big for two people. Luckily with 12 people at dinner, there was plenty of takers for the leftovers.
The salad of torn chicken, avocado, roasted red onions, mixed greens, sun dried tomatoes, croutons and a lemon and rosemary aioli was so fresh and delicious and just the right amount of food for my now bulging pregnant belly – two days of almost constant eating was finally catching up with me! The night was filled with great conversation (so much so that no pictures were taken!) and catch ups and was the perfect end to a fabulous weekend of festive fun and food.
Our next visit will be very different as we will have Baby Boy Aiken joining us but he will no doubt get lots of attention and I might be able to enjoy a glass of wine or two! For now, back to reality and the last week before Christmas and a lovely break from work!