Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Weekending - Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities. I have spent numerous weekends there - visiting friends, attending the festival, going to a wedding - and every time I visit I always think "next time I'm here, I definitely need to..." I visited for a 3-night stay recently, and here are my highlights...

* We stayed in the Nira Caledonia, which is one of my favourite hotels. The breakfast can be included in your stay and is totally worth the price.
* We had dinners at La Favorita and Wedgwood - the former being a more casual affair serving pizza and pasta, and the latter being perfect for a special occasion (i.e. my birthday!)
* We had lunch at The Grain Store, which has a £12.50 / £15 set-menu at lunchtimes. Absolute steal, especially for Southerners like me!
* We spent Saturday evening at Bond no. 9, which serves delicious and interesting cocktails as well as some cute options for bar snacks (we had haggis bon-bons, of course)
* A couple of times during the weekend we found ourselves in the middle of Princes Street, needing a wine-break away from noisy crowds. On both occasions we made our way to The Balmoral Bar at the Balmoral Hotel - a touch on the pricey side but the drinks are high-quality so you could definitely do worse on Princes Street.
* Even though the weather was a 'touch' on the rainy side, we sucked it up and trekked to the top of Arthur's Seat. Was a lovely way to while away a couple of Birthday hours!
* I've flown up to Edinburgh a few times, but this time it worked out cheaper and easier to get the train. We went up at a popular train time so upgraded to first class (only £20 extra I believe) but stuck with standard class on the way back and kept ourselves happy by bringing a train picnic with us (you can always improve a train journey with cheese and red wine, that is just a fact of life.)

Edinburgh is such a lovely city there is always something to occupy yourself with. Our trip was mainly eating, drinking, walking and exploring, and suited us down to the ground.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

30th Wedding Anniversary

Not too long ago it was my parents' 30th wedding anniversary. Generally my mum and dad are the types to let these sorts of occasions pass without a fuss but, what with this being one of their first anniversary milestones I felt like an adult for, this time I felt it was right to make a fuss!

My initial requirements for the event were relatively simple:

Family Only (plus, and importantly, affordable for all family members)
* Nothing Embarrassing (my Mum is not a centre-of-attention sort!) but still Personalised

Cosy yet extravagant is, I guess, a way you could look to describe the type of thing I was going for!

My family have always been an eating-out type of family. Birthdays are always marked with a trip to a nice restaurant, and so for this it was really always going to be the case that this would all centre round a nice meal. I wanted to be able to make it really clear that we were celebrating a special occasion but without it being obvious to any other diners, and so the search was then on for a suitable restaurant with a private dining room, that would suit a group of 10. In London there are countless restaurants that fit this criteria, ranging from casual to fine dining, so the trick was really to find somewhere that would suit the wide range of tastes and ages in our group. Some of my favourite restaurants in town offer private rooms (Bam-Bou; The Delaunay; Balthazar) but I eventually settled on The 10 Cases, in Covent Garden.

The 10 Cases is so-called because of the wine - they only ever have 10 cases of the wines on their list, and once they're gone they're really, really, gone. The idea behind this is that it means that the wine list will continually stay fresh, in-season, on-trend and interesting - and knowing my family this was right up their street! At the time, and I mention this as I think their menu offerings have changed since, The 10 Cases offered a menu of three options, though they were keen to mention when I initially spoke to them that they would be happy to amend the menu if we needed to cater for any allergies or discuss any preferences with me. The menu choices are only chosen a couple of days in advance, depending on the ingredients available. Although I hadn't visited it myself, all of the reviews I had read of it were positive, and with those in mind I felt they qualified me enough to take the risk and make a booking!

The great thing about The 10 Cases is the fact that you can hire their private dining room (which seats 6 - 14 people) for no charge, and with no minimum spend. We were able to have the room for the entire evening, and I was able to pop in as soon as they started setting up for the evening. We decorated the table with photos from their wedding day (as well as the obligatory 'congratulations' confetti, of course) and then everyone lay in wait until the big arrival. I had a quick chat to our waitress and then my boyfriend and I went to where my mum and dad were due to meet us (they were under the impression it would just be the four of us for dinner), while my sister took control of the ipod dock.

We got to the restaurant and headed downstairs (after some brilliant acting by our waitress pretending to be clueless...) where they were greeted by the dulcet tones of everyone else. They absolutely loved the evening - they loved the fact that we were in a lovely restaurant with awesome food (which it definitely was) but it still felt like a cosy family meal. We all had three courses, a 'few' wines and even some champagne, and it came out at £50 per head.

Ticks all round!


Your Point Is...?

I sit at my desk at work and wish I was somewhere else, somewhere other. To combat this I am constantly planning something - holidays, weekends away, parties, celebrations - you name it, I'm planning it. My wanderlust is so grand that I think I've gained something of a knack for this sort of thing...