Date night at Pier Eight, The Lowry

Date night at Pier Eight, The Lowry

Date night at Pier Eight, The Lowry

Most people won’t know that The Lowry is where John and I spent our first date – it’s our best kept secret, albeit unintentionally. On a cold, frosty Sunday morning, back in 2013, we nervously strolled along the quays until the warmth of The Lowry enveloped us and there we sat; two people pretending to observe its namesake’s paintings, making small talk and stealing fleeting glances at each other. I look back with fondness and remember that feeling of nervous excitement. Because of this day, over four years ago, The Lowry holds a special place in my heart.

When we were offered the chance to review the pre-theatre menu at Pier Eight – The Lowry’s restaurant and bar, before watching Cabaret, John and I earmarked the evening as date night. As we’re marrying next year, it’s unsurprising that date nights are becoming few and far between so primed for an evening of nostalgia, I chose the dress I wore on our second date and we set off to make our 5.30pm reservation.

Named after its address on Salford Quays, Pier Eight offers a contemporary and modern dining experience and its waterside setting overlooks Salford Quays and its impressive Millennium bridge. On arrival, we were seated next to the window, which must be the best seat in the house during the summer months, but on a dark autumnal evening I asked to move inwards to a seat with better lighting. It was fortunate that I asked early. We were accommodated at a central table, and whilst in the process of choosing from the menu the restaurant filled with pre-theatre diners, just like us, chatting excitedly about the plot line of Cabaret.

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Aperitif

As designated driver, there was to be no aperitif for me so I asked my waitress about the selection of soft drinks on offer.  She reeled off a list of the usual suspect, but then continued to offer soft drinks such as Fentimans and Fever Tree. I chose my favourite, Fentimans’ ginger beer. If I thought the soft drinks menu was extensive, the gin menu offered well-known gins such as Tanqueray and Gordons but also, craftier  gins such as Sipsmiths, Hendrix and Ophir. John chose his favourite combination: Tanqueray with elderflower Fever Tree.Pier_Eight_The_LowryTo start

With five options, the starter menu provides plenty of choice. I eventually decided to be adventurous and try something new in pressed confit chicken & duck, lentil dressing, warm rye crumb with a mushroom ketchup. John opted for seared scallop, pancetta, pork dumpling, caramelised cauliflower puree, crispy sage and apple sauce because he’d simply never tried them before and wanted to choose something different.

When our food arrived, I was not only impressed by its presentation but with the variety of flavours and textures. The rye crumb was an intriguing inclusion, providing a crunch alongside the velvety confit. John was equally as impressed with his seared scallops, but not before he captured his starter – proving his weight as an Instagram husband-to-be. He was surprised at the taste of scallops, saying they were meaty not rubbery and would definitely choose them again.

Pier Eight The Lowry

Main

For our main course, we both chose the lamb rump with sweet potato, Savoy cabbage, onion puree and lamb jus with a side portion of chips. Again, when our food arrived, the presentation impressed us.

The lamb was cooked to perfection in that it was hardly cooked at all. Rare enough to be flavoursome, but not oozing blood all over the plate. John compared the look of the sweet potato to an eighties’ croquet, but it was soon gone. Surprisingly, so was the Savoy cabbage – when I cook it at home, it gets pushed around the plate. High praise indeed. Wonderfully hearty and comforting, the main was my favourite dish.

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Dessert

I was instantly drawn to Grandpa Greene’s ice cream with vanilla waffles, I think after such a rich starter and main course I was seeking a classic flavour palette. Again, presented beautifully but I found I was chasing the ice cream around its silver dome.  A mixture of favourite flavours, the ice cream went perfectly with the waffles which contained only the slightest hint of vanilla.

John chose peanut butter and raspberry cheesecake with a peanut cluster, which he thought was a strange combination of dessert flavours at first, he found the taste slightly strange to begin with but soon developed a taste saying he could eat it again. Nice try, John. It’s no surprise that this was John’s favourite course.

Pier Eight The LowryPier Eight The Lowry

Too full to fit in your dessert? An interesting quirk of pre-theatre dining is that you can enjoy your desserts, cheeses or ice-creams with drinks or coffees during the performance interval – you just have to let your server know. This is something we didn’t choose to do, but during the interval, I wish we had!

Service

We chose three courses from the pre-theatre menu, at a price of £27 per person with a £5 supplement each for the lamb rump and felt this was good value for money. We found our waitress to be friendly, informative and attentive, but not overbearing. Our plates were quickly taken away and the service was extremely efficient, any breaks between courses was at our own choosing. We wouldn’t hesitate to return, or recommend it!

Location: Pier Eight, 906 The Quays, Salford, M50 3UB. For the pre-theatre menu, you can book your table when you select your theatre ticket by visiting The Lowry’s website, here.

Interested in seeing a show? Read more of my posts featuring The Lowry: The Wind in the Willows and Jane Eyre.

*We were invited as guests to review Pier Eight The Lowry. As you’d expect, this does not change our opinion.*

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A London launch, hazelnut lattes and the end of autumn #Little Loves  (#4)

A London launch, hazelnut lattes and the end of autumn #Little Loves (#4)

Life is busy, hectic, chaotic – these are the words I’ve found myself repeatedly typing in emails, this week, to friends, colleagues and fellow bloggers (albeit the latter with a shared understanding and sense of camaraderie). I’ve only myself to blame. This autumn, I decided to throw myself back into blogging and with it, Manchester blogger events. Combined with work commitments, it’s been utter madness! I’m learning to embrace it and to simply, go with the flow – life will catch up, eventually.

With this in mind, there’s plenty that’s brightened my world in the two weeks since my last Little Loves post: afternoon tea on a narrowboat, discovering red wine as a complete beginner, visiting bridal shops, #LOTD x Louise Thompson’s fashion launch at STK, Manchester blogger meet up and more. So, without further ado, here’s my last two weeks in review:

Read

Tin Man. This week, I finally finished reading Tin Man by Sarah Winman and how I wish I could read it afresh. As I closed the book, I felt saddened that the protagonists of the story had lived their lives loving each other, but unable to be together. Novelist, Matt Haig, perfectly describes the book as ‘dripping with tenderness.’ I’m hoping to read, ‘When God was a Rabbit’ next, when my library reservation arrives. Have you read either?

Zest of Alice. In particular, her post entitled ‘Establishing Relationships and Expectations with Brands‘ from blogger and digital marketer, Alice Fairweather. Waiting for my 6.10am train to depart from Manchester Piccadilly, I stumbled on Alice’s post via twitter and, working in a similar field, I was interested to read Alice’s view. I nodded along in agreement: establishing relationships is about being polite and showing a genuine interest in a brand.

Watched

Cabaret at The Lowry Theatre. John and I have recently discovered a shared interest in theatre, so when we were offered the opportunity to watch Cabaret, we knew it would make the perfect date night. Neither of us were aware of the plot line and we were intrigued to discover the show is set in the heyday of pre-war Berlin. Will Young shines in his role as the flamboyant Emcee and is curious to watch. Cabaret is funny and poignant, in equal measures.

Heard

Knuckle Puck. You know how excited I’ve been for their upcoming tour? Well, it’s been cancelled! In mourning for what could have been, I’ve sorrowfully listened to home-made films of their previous live shows over on YouTube.

The crunch of leaves. Arriving at London’s Euston Station, late afternoon, last week, we decided to walk the thirty minutes to The Strand. Dusk was falling and as we were to be in London for less than 24 hours, I bought a roasted hazelnut latte and stomped through the leaves enjoying the last remnants of autumn.

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Time. I wish. Swiftly moving on…

Wore

Bodycon. For the first time in my life, I bought a bodycon dress to wear for the #LOTD x Louise Thompson launch at STK, in London. After seeing the collection, I knew the event was to be a glamorous affair and with the help of a friend, chose this black midi dress from River Island. Since losing weight, I’m trying to wear different styles but I still can’t quit dark eyeliner flicks teamed with red lips.

Joanie Clothing. Oh. My. Life. 40% off? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve worn Dina Dinosaur since my trip to Sheffield and after seeing the collection up close at their Christmas event, I couldn’t say no to bagging my favourite pieces from this season at almost half price. Investment pieces. To make my point, I wore last season’s tartan Clara dress to a wine tasting evening last night. Still love it.

And lastly…

I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend! I’ll be spending time in Liverpool, mainly to help a friend with her Gothic jewellery stall at the Winter Arts Market which takes place in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, and also to visit The White Closet to continue my hunt for the perfect wedding dress.

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I’m linking up with Morgana’s Little Loves

Join the World – 24 Hours in Sheffield

Join the World – 24 Hours in Sheffield

24 Hours in Sheffield

When it comes to planning a short break, I’ll be the first to admit that my first instinct is to travel in Europe and, if you don’t believe me, this year I’ve travelled to Lisbon, The Algarve, Calpe, Altea, San Antonio, Ljubljana and Lake Bled (the latter, multiple times for ‘wedmin’). It’s only in the past month that I’ve started to travel in England and more through necessity; London with work, then Falmouth to choose my wedding ring. Curiosity piqued, when I was recently offered the opportunity to ‘Join the World’ and discover England, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. And so, I spent 24 hours in Sheffield with Erica and Visit England.

For those who are as geographically challenged as I am, Sheffield is England’s fourth largest city and is located in South Yorkshire which, surprisingly, is only an hour and a half’s drive from Manchester. Criminally close. With Google Maps on, A Day To Remember on the stereo and with a tank full of diesel, I set off to meet Erica  in Sheffield at ‘Brocco on the Park’, our boutique hotel for the first night of our three-day trip.

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Brocco on the Park

As soon as you step through the door, it’s easy to see why Brocco has been awarded the Good Hotel Guide Editor’s Choice accolade. Designed with an eye to Scandinavian minimalism, each of its eight rooms are named after birds. Arriving at midday, I met Erica in her room, helped myself to a coffee from her machine and settled in for a long, overdue catch up. It’s hard to believe it had been two years since we’d last seen each other, when I was happy to oblige Erica with her request to experience Manchester’s street art and Christmas markets.

With a knock on the door, it was time to leave Erica’s and view my room: the Nightjar’s Nest. Again, another large and spacious Scandi-haven with a king-size bed, coffee machine and sofa to boot. Oh, did I mention free cake?Brocco_RoomBrocco_CakeBrocco_on_the_ParkLocation: Brocco on the Park, 92 Brocco Bank, Sheffield, S11 8RS

After a coffee in the comfort of Brocco, we decided to stroll into the centre of Sheffield, down Sharrowdale Road, a road with cafes, charity shops, eateries and of course, adorned with street art until we reached our first destination, Sheffield’s Winter Garden.

Sheffield Winter Garden

Although the Winter Garden is one of the largest, urban glasshouses to be built in the UK in the last hundred years and its luscious greenery made up of over 2,500 plants was the main reason for our visit: an impromptu photo shoot. Leaves, greenery and the perfect lighting – tell me a blogger who could resist? We made it our first stop before the light fell. Stepping inside the glasshouse we were greeted by teenagers, couples and families and of course, plants, plants and more plants stretching up to the ceiling. Smaller than we expected, we completed a loop of the gardens before putting Erica’s new lens to good use (much to the amusement of the watchful public).Free to enter and open all year round, the Winter Garden provides perfect refuge right in the centre of the city.

Location: Surrey Street, Sheffield, S1 2HH

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Sheffield_Winter_Garden

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Kelham Island

With tired feet, we decided to jump into a taxi for the next part of our visit – Kelham Island. Literally, an island, just outside of the centre of the city and  . Surrounded by the River Don and formally an industrial area, Kelham Island has undergone a period of regeneration and now plays host to food markets, brewery and a damn fine pizzeria. Not forgetting its roots, Kelham Island hosts its own museum to provide the eager visitor a glimpse into Sheffield’s industrial past.

With dinner reservations at Craft and Dough to look forward to later, our first stop on the Kelham Island cultural tour was a swift apéritif at The Riverside. Offering a gin cocktail menu at Yorkshire prices, we couldn’t resist sampling a couple of tipples sat outside by the river’s side alongside a soundtrack of mid-noughties indie dance floor hits. Posting a story on Instagram, my inbox was flooded with pub recommendations

When it comes to pizza, it takes a lot to impress me as I have the spoils of Manchester and Altrincham’s pizzerias on my doorstep. That said, reservations at a pizza joint are not to be sniffed at. Not only do Craft and Dough promise luscious and innovative pizza, it’s served alongside craft beer and cocktails.Dream combination.

Location: Craft and Dough, 1A Kelham Square, Kelham Island, S3 8RY 

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Brocco Kitchen

After a restful night’s sleep, I awoke early but refused to leave the warmth of my king-size safe haven, choosing to spend my time cocooned in fluffy, white sheets reading blog posts. Being on the ground floor, it wasn’t long before I heard familiar chatter as Brocco came to life. Being Saturday, we planned a lazy breakfast at Brocco Kitchen. Whether you choose to eat clean and lean, or indulge your sweet tooth, we found there was something for everyone. Predictably, I chose baked eggs which, if you’ve seen my weekend Insta Stories, you’ll know salmon and eggs is a combination I opt for regularly. Combined with my usual flat white and hearty wholemeal bread, it was the perfect set-up for our day of exploring.

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Sheffield Antiques Quarter

Founded in an area traditionally known for antiques, Sheffield’s antiques quarter is growing to include more than just antiques.  Arriving around midday, it took us a short while to realise we were in the right place: the area looked less than vibrant, until we stumbled on Sheffield Antiques Centre. Deceptive to look at, the centre was like a rabbit warren of antiques and vintage treats, including clothes. While I searched for the perfect piece of mid-century furniture, Erica stumbled on a woollen beret on and a vintage Barbour scarf in complimenting shades of pink.

While I deliberated over whether or not to take home a teak mid-century mirror, we continued to work our way through the centre until we found The Vintage Pantry, a delightful cafe with bunting, rockabilly tunes and chintzy tea pots. It was just like having tea at your nana’s and as such, it would have been rude to turn down a cream tea. Impromptu lunch over, vintage buys snagged, it was time to get on the road to the Peak District.

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Street Art

With our visit to the Peak District firmly set in our itinerary, we fully intended to drive straight there but with so much unseen Sheffield street art I found myself stamping on the brakes and hot-footing it across car parks to snap art that I’d yet to see, even on Instagram. It’s fair to say, John, my street-art loving fiancé was green with envy. It had been over four years since we’d visited Sheffield together, and a lot of the street art we saw then no longer exists. Out with the old and most definitely, in with the new. Never fear, Kid Acne is now here.

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Kid_Acne_Sheffield

Leaving Sheffield, I promised to make my return to this wonderfully vibrant city oozing with character and urban charm. After all, it’s just a relatively short drive from Manchester! A return visit to Brocco on the Park is definitely in order – their staff were warm, friendly and inviting – making it the perfect home from home. Thanks to Visit England for their itinerary which was bursting with ideas and enabled me to join the world in realising the wonder of England once again and also, Erica, the perfect travel buddy. Let’s not leave it so long next time, ey?

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Creature of habit: Wolf Alice, more Tin Man and the start of Christmas #LittleLoves (#3)

Creature of habit: Wolf Alice, more Tin Man and the start of Christmas #LittleLoves (#3)

It’s been two weeks since my last little loves post and I’m hoping the adage ‘better late than never’ rings true. I’ve been living life and trying to find time to write in between (the irony of having a lifestyle blog and being too busy to write about it). The past month has been spent travelling around the UK, attending blog events and completing some urgent ‘wedmin’. Life has been a bit of a blur. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m looking forward to returning to my quiet, cosy life of evenings wrapped up in a blanket, with the fire on.

So, without further ado, here are the last two weeks in review…

Read

Tin man. I’m still trying to read more of Tin Man, but as it’s usually late by the time I pick it up – I’ve fallen asleep holding it more times than I care to admit. Next week, I’ll be travelling into London again for the final day of Facebook Fast Track training so I’m hoping to catch up on some reading during the early morning train journey.

Blogs, blogs and more blogs. I’d estimate that, in the past fortnight, I’ve visited around 100 blogs as part of the outreach work I’m completing at work. It’s my first task every morning (after making a cup of coffee of course), I run through the list of published collaborations and read each one – it’s a definite perk of my job and one of my favourite parts. 

Watched

X Factor. Here’s where I admit that I’m not a fan of X Factor, but during our stay in the Peak District at East House Country Hotel, Erica and I were faced with an evening in after dinner, accompanied by a bottle of pink fizz. X Factor seemed like the natural progression and surprisingly, it was the perfect girls’ night in. Despite liking alternative music, I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and profess my love of Rak-su. This year, X Factor seem to have axed the novelty acts and put real talent in its place. Bravo. Will I continue to watch it? Probably not, but I’ll be keen to know who wins. 

Made

A start on my Christmas shopping. Finally. I’m genuinely terrified of the Christmas shopping I need to complete this year. Usually, I’ve purchased the vast majority of my gifts by now and around the end of November, I start wrapping. Even with the arrival of Christmas adverts and markets, I’ve bought few gifts and these are for my thrifty Christmas gift box (thanks to finding gorgeous items in a Bakewell charity shop) Ironically, I’ve received gifts with the arrival of my John Lewis Secret Santa gifts which I wrote about this week. 

Heard

I’m obsessed with Wolf Alice (and so is half of the UK, and probably the world). I missed them performing live last Thursday in Manchester, due to a blogging event with Salon Success and Paul Mitchell. I’ve played their new album, Visions of a Life, whenever I’ve had chance: in the car, in the office, in the shower – just to try and make up for the fact that I missed their live show. I’ve just discovered this stripped back version of ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ thanks to Morgana referencing it in her latest Little Loves post – I don’t think I could love Wolf Alice any more. 

Jimmy Eat World. Slam Dunk tickets were released on sale, along with the news that Jimmy Eat World are headlining along with Taking Back Sunday. The teen emo inside of me has relished hours of listening to all of their albums during the commute and whilst I’ve been working

Knuckle Puck. Still. On repeat ready for their UK tour!

Wore

More pinafore dresses. No surprises there. I’ve been wearing more pinafore dresses – they’re comfy and practical (and I can see why toddlers are dressed in them!) This time, I’ve switched up my collection of trusty denim dresses for corduroy. Joanie Clothing sent me their Olive Cord Pinafore Dress in the aptly named colour ‘pumpkin spice’ for my #JoinTheWorld trip to Sheffield with Visit England. I want to start wearing more of my second-hand finds and this is the perfect dress to layer with my thrifted and vintage blouses. 

New pyjamas. On my return from a visit to London, I had over an hour’s wait in Manchester city centre before I could catch my train back to St Helens. Like all right-thinking women my age, I decided to call into Primark and investigate their Christmas pyjamas range. I was not prepared for the sheer influx of themed pyjamas: Disney, Harry Potter and Christmas. I made an on-the-spot decision to invest, and spent the walk back to the train station waylaid under the burden of paper Primark bags. So worth it. 

And, lastly…

You’ll notice there have been some pretty huge changes to the design here and it’s all thanks to Steffany from Haus of Coco who is changing the entire look and feel of Polkadot Pink to bring it more inline with my branding and the topics I write about. It’s a work in progress, but already, I’m really pleased with how it’s coming along. 

I wish I could say that next week promises to be quieter, but I’ll be travelling to London twice for Facebook training and also to attend the launch of #LOTD’s celebrity collaboration with Louise Thompson. 

Until next week…

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Christmas Traditions to Start this November

Christmas Traditions to Start this November

John_Lewis_Secret_SantaNow that Halloween and Bonfire Night are over for another year, I feel it’s socially acceptable to start getting excited about Christmas and the traditions it brings. We’re right on the cusp of the festive season (already, Christmas adverts are starting to fill our screens) so if, like me, you’re a love of organisation here are some of the Christmas traditions I’m making a start on right now, this November. 

Secret Santa

If there’s one Christmas tradition to love, it’s secret Santa. Shopping for secret gifts, for people you’ve never met or know little about. Blog stalking, listening in on conversations and each with a valid reason – it makes me feel as mischievous as an elf! What’s not to love?

Each year, I sign up for blogger Secret Santas and this year is no different. In stark contrast, I signed up for both John Lewis’ Secret Santa and Someone, Somewhere’s  thrifty Christmas gift swap. 

Starting the festive season early, my John Lewis goodies arrived last week, wrapped in their fabulously festive wrapping and tied in beautiful green ribbon. Before opening my gifts, I was a little apprehensive. My Instagram holds no helpful clues to my taste (unless you plan on gifting me a rustic building) and my blog name features my least favourite colour (clever, huh?) Poor Santa!

That said, Secret Santa didn’t do bad at all (considering I provided zero clues) and I was gifted with useful gifts – thank you. Here’s what was in my parcel:

John_Lewis_Secret_Santa

Pom pom ballerina slippers // Sara Miller Jasmine, Lemongrass and Ginger Candle // Caroline Gardner Hearts Multi Ribbon Notebook // Prosecco Bon Bons

As a stationery lover, my favourite gift is the Caroline Gardner notebook. I’m always scribbling away, whenever I get the chance so it’ll be nice to pull this beautiful book out of my handbag on train journeys, or when grabbing a quick coffee. Who am I kidding? It’s too pretty to even consider writing in it.

I’m sure you’ll agree that John Lewis is a British institution when it comes to Christmas gifting. If you’ve got Secret Santa gifts to buy on a budget, try John Lewis’ Secret Santa category to find gifts under a tenner.

Janet’s thrifty Christmas gift swap is one of my favourite blogger-organised Secret Santa. My box should arrive next month, which means i have around 3 weeks to source some thoughtful yet thrifty finds for my recipient. Thankfully, I have one gift ticked off following a quick visit to Bakewell last weekend. I can’t tell you what it is yet, but I promise to share in good time.

Christmas Markets

Living near Manchester, it won’t surprise you that a trip to the the Manchester Markets is one of my favourite Christmas traditions. I go most years and featured it here in one of the very first blog posts I wrote. The popularity of these markets continues to grow and to beat the crowds, I’ll be visiting just after they open in late November.

However, there is an alternative. If you’re from the North West, you may already know of Bents Garden Centre and the magical transformation it undergoes each year to turn it into a Christmas wonderland. This year, they’ve created their own Winter Food Market in store, transforming their Open Skies Glass House into a small, potted version of a Christmas market. I visited on  launch night and experienced a  delicious pulled pork sandwich and mulled wine. I couldn’t recommend it more, especially if you’re looking for an alternative to busy, city centre markets.

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Alternative Advent Calendars (Forward & Reverse)

Last year, I made an alternative advent calendar for the first time. It was for John, my fiancé, and was nothing fancy but definitely personalised to his tastes. My alternative calendar featured socks and John’s favourite chocolates, socks and chocs. It cost around £25 to make and an afternoon of shopping and wrapping. 

This year, I’ve seen a lot more mention of reverse advent calendars. It’s a simple concept based on the idea that you add an item rather than removing an item. Up to 25 days before Christmas, pop an item a day into a cardboard box and by the end of advent, you’ll have a hamper to gift to someone in need. You can find further information on the Changing Lives website, here

What Christmas traditions will you be starting this November?