“From the start I knew I wanted to make it amazing” 

Carpenter Simon Clissold talks about how he helped make Pause Cat Café a perfect kitty sanctuary.

When Simon first saw the café it was nothing but a “shell of bricks” and he knew it was going to be a mammoth job. As well as standard renovation, there was a lot of work to be done structurally, in order to meet the health and safety regulations around keeping animals in areas where food is served.

A former boat-builder and owner of Scallywags, a local floor restoration company, Simon has a passion for working with reclaimed wood. He got creative with leftover timber and always aimed to get the most out of his materials. He is most proud of the café’s fascia, which he crafted out of old floorboards. Rather than using expensive cedar wood – the original plan – the reclaimed wood cost him just £150.

Simon standing outside Pause Cat Cafe

He used a mixture of wood he had in stock, donated materials and old furniture. The cute little kitty doors were actually made from regular doors!

Little wooden cat door

Simon came highly recommended to Jaya and though he admits the work was very stressful at times, he says he thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some very long days – up to 18 hours! –including one particularly memorable one.

“I ended up falling asleep at about 2 in the morning and didn’t wake up until people started coming in at 9am,” Simon laughs. “So I got up and pretended I’d just arrived as well!”

“I wanted the cats to be able to get around the whole café without having to touch the floor.”

Perhaps the café’s most striking feature is the incredible maze of bridges, walkways and stair cases for the cats to get around on.  A lot of thought went into their design and Simon wanted them to be neat and symmetrical. “I like the contrast of the disorder of the reclaimed wood and the order of the clean designs,” he explains. “The whole look is very organic; all the shelves support one another and it almost looks as if they are growing out of each other.”

The cat bridge The cafe interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon used a lot of wooden dowels as supports, which he bought for £1, and even got creative with a rolling pin, which he used to support the spiral staircase.

Rolling pin staircase support

A lot of work went into the back of house areas as well, including individual bedrooms for each of the cats.

Petrus' bedroom

The cat flap to each bedroom is activated by its cat’s own microchip.

While he admits he’s more of a dog person, Simon has grown to love the cats. “They all have very different personalities – that’s something I didn’t know about them at first.” He even very kindly named one of the cats, Petrus.

Petrus

“Petrus was the name of my grandmother’s dog, so I like that it has a family connection. I’ve named a boat Petrus as well.”

 “It satisfies my creative side.”

Simon’s passion project is carving beautiful end-grain chopping boards, which he plans to sell online very soon. He has a range of designs, his favourite being this Escher inspired “3D” chopping board.

Escher chopping board

He also carved and generously donated one to Pause, featuring a beautiful dark wood inlay of the café’s logo.

Pause Cat Cafe logo chopping board

He’s done such a fantastic job that I think we can forgive him for being a dog person!

You can find Simon’s work here – www.scallywagsfloors.co.uk – and buy his chopping boards here: www.geekmagnifique.co.uk/shop.

Now I’m going to start this post by saying that I’m not a vegan, so a plant-based raw café wouldn’t be my usual choice. However, I’d heard such good things about Sukha Lounge (in particular, their hot chocolates!) that I had to give it a go.

Located next to Yoga Lounge, Boscombe, Sukha Lounge has exactly the relaxing, peaceful vibe you’d expect. The owner, Juliette, is warm and welcoming, and her passion for her food shines through.

Naturally we started with her famous hot chocolate and it did not disappoint! Made with cacao nibs, dates and almond butter, it’s hard to believe a hot chocolate so smooth and indulgent is completely dairy-free.

We were torn between the colourful array of salads on offer, as well as the sumptious all-day breakfast options, so we ordered ourselves a bit of a feast!

Fresh, crunchy and flavourful, the spring rolls were a personal favourite, and the pancakes topped with peanut butter and berries were a definite hit as well.

What surprised me the most was how much variety there was. We were spoiled for choice and each dish was simple, but full of great texture and flavour.

And then there were the cakes. Oh, the cakes. We tried a selection, including lemon cheesecake, banoffee pie, chocolate and raspberry cake and quite honestly, the most delicious apple tart I’ve ever eaten. Each one was indulgent, rich and impossibly creamy.

Last up I had a matcha latte, something I’ve been very keen to try for a while. Creamy, comforting and with an interesting seaweedy flavour, I could see how it might be an acquired taste, but I loved it.

I came away from Sukha Lounge feeling calm, relaxed and most importantly, full! The food is healthy and delicious, and the atmosphere warm and inviting. The simple, stripped back decor is complemented nicely by a few quirky pieces of furniture and soothing music helps to turn the cafe into a little oasis.

Vegan or not, you should visit Sukha Lounge if you want wholesome, delicious food served in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!

The lovely folk at Franco Manca Bournemouth very kindly invited me to attend their press event recently. Being a MASSIVE pizza lover, how could I say no?

We were welcomed at the door by lovely staff, who offered us a drink from a selection of wonderful sparkling wines, beer and the most delicious homemade lemonade I’ve ever tasted.

We were seated shortly after and from this point we enjoyed what I can only describe as a constant stream of food brought to our table.

We sampled amazing meats, focaccia bread with homemade pesto and burrata so good I’ve had dreams about it since.

The burrata of dreams!

Then we moved onto the main event: the pizzas. All Franco Manca pizzas are made with sourdough and fresh, simple but delicious toppings. We tried so many it’s hard to say which one was my favourite, but if you’re a fan of goat’s cheese, I have to say the goat’s curd is divine.

The wine was flowing freely as well, with the highlight definitely being a biodynamic (no, I had no idea either) sparkling red. I’ve never tried anything like it – smooth and mellow yet refreshing, with a light fizz. Wonderful.

Thankfully, we had a little break before dessert, at which point we had a go at making some pizzas ourselves. The chefs guided us through the process and it was great fun to have a go at picking our own toppings and use the giant paddle to put our pizzas in the oven.

The fab Kirsty having a go. Check out her vlog of the event here.

I pull some lovely faces.

The gorgeous Emma with her pizza creation!

My finished pizza.

Dessert was a wonderful selection of cakes, including tiramisu (an Italian favourite!), chocolate and hazelnut cake, and my personal favourite, a lemon and rosemary semolina cake served with natural yoghurt and honey. The perfect balance of sweet and tart, it was a great way to end what was admittedly a very rich meal!

I felt thoroughly spoiled as the drinks continued to flow and we enjoyed coffees and Limoncello, a cheeky digestif.

Cheers!

The service was wonderful and the food was honestly incredible – I would highly recommend! I also loved the simple, modern decor of the restaurant, with its beautiful, open kitchen offering you the chance to watch your food being freshly prepared.

Bournemouth’s Franco Manca is attached to Debenhams, and one quirky feature of the layout is that they have a door leading straight into the menswear department!

Everything, from the staff to the music, lent itself perfectly to the chilled, friendly atmosphere, making this not only a delicious, but thoroughly enjoyable dining experience.

Find your nearest Franco Manca here!

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bournemouth Gin Festival recently and I had a fab time with my lovely friend Amy.

The Art Deco glamour of the Pavilion Theatre and the soulful music of pianist Dan Burnett made the perfect setting for sipping on gin cocktails and eating street food.

Taquitos

I must admit I was a little bit overwhelmed by the vast selection of gins, and wandered around the room unsure of where to start. In the end we were tempted by the cocktail bar, and the awesome Sean mixed me the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever had.

  

Sean very kindly sent me the recipe for the Rhubarb Rumble. 

All you’ll need is:

50ml (double shot) of Edinburgh rhubarb and ginger liqueur
50ml Advocaat
50ml good quality, clear apple juice
A dash of rhubarb bitters and a squeeze of lemon.
Shake well and garnish with a rhubarb and custard sweet!

If you’re wondering what Amy had, she tried a Tipsy Rocket – a lovely sparkling cocktail that would be perfect to serve at a garden party or summer wedding!

All you’ll need to make this is:

50ml Adnams Copper House Gin
50ml good quality apple juice
Squeeze of lemon
Shake well together and pour over ice. Pour (from a height, I’m assured this isn’t just because it looks cool!) 25ml of crème de cassis directly into the glass and top off with a generous glug of Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon wheel and two plump blackberries.

Next up we decided to have a couple of cheeky G&Ts. I tried a Welsh gin called Dà Mhìle. “This one has seaweed in, seems right up your street” – Amy knows me well!

I can’t say it was particularly seaweedy (seaweedesque?) but it had a lovely flavour. We were given a pairing guide and I was really impressed that each gin came with its own recommendation for both tonic and garnish.

I was very jealous of Amy’s drink. She tried Poetic Licence’s Picnic Gin, garnished with strawberry and served with Fevertree elderflower tonic. It was basically summer in a glass.

I didn’t actually realise Fevertree did so many different tonics, and I absolutely loved the elderflower one. A lot of people don’t like the strong taste of normal tonic, so I think this is a lovely alternative.

I was drawn to the fab stand for Brockmans Gin (seriously, they have the sexiest branding EVER!) and ended up having a great chat with the lovely Pip, who gave me a sample of their delicious gin, infused with blackberry and blueberry. It was light, fruity and a perfect summer alternative to regular gin.

I’ve been a big fan of Conker gin for a while now. They’re a Dorset-based company and their gin was the first one I actually really enjoyed. So when I saw they were launching their own coffee liquer I was so excited.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Conker describes it as ‘espresso-driven’ rather than the usual sweet or creamy coffee liquers most people would be familiar with. It would make an ideal gift for any coffee-lovers in your life and I imagine it would make a lovely Christmas-time tipple.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with Scandinavia, so obviously I had to try a Swedish gin. This (right) was Ragnarok, paired with regular tonic and garnished with…dill of course! Smooth and light, the delicate flavour of the dill complimented it surprisingly well.

The most triumphant moment of the night was, without a doubt, when Amy and I decided to try out the photo booth. Believe it or not, this was the best photo we managed (and we took A LOT!).

If you’re a gin-lover (and even if you’re not!), the Gin Festival is well worth checking out. Just make sure to eat a big lunch first – it’s impossible to make your way round the room without being lured in by the cocktail bar, or offered loads of free samples!

Those of you who are local to Bournemouth may be familiar with the veritable Valhalla of sugary treats known as American Fizz on Wallisdown Road.

Dave and I have been known to spend far too much money on American sodas (root beer for him, grape soda for me), Twizzlers, and Pop Tarts in every flavour under the sun.  They also have tonnes of amazing savoury snacks, condiments, and of course the indescribably delicious Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese.  If you haven’t tried it, trust me, it’s MAGICAL.

I mean, just look at it. ALL the heart eyes.

This gif should come with a NSFW warning. It’s basically pornographic.

This time I picked up some of my tried and tested favourites, as well as some new things.  And then proceeded to roll around on the sofa like a walrus and eat my yearly allowance of fat, salt and sugar in one evening.  Good times!

haul

Grape Crush

Now I’m normally more of a Twizzler kinda gal, but much like the shelves of Doose’s market after movie night at the Gilmore house, American Fizz was a Twizzler AND Red Vines-free zone.  Not to be deterred I went for these, swayed largely by the fact that they were grape flavour.  Seriously, why do we insist on having boring blackcurrant as a flavour in the UK?  Grape is so much better, sort it out UK candy manufacturers!  These did not disappoint.

Pancakes and Maple Syrup Jelly Belly Beans

I’m always a big fan of Jelly Belly beans, but these were in a league of their own.  My new favourite jelly bean flavour?  The maple kind. (And no, I will never stop finding that dog video hilarious).

Maple Bacon Pop Tarts

Um…so I don’t really know what to say about these.  I couldn’t resist buying them out of sheer curiosity and they (perhaps not surprisingly) were absolutely disgusting.  I’m pretty sure even the dog in that video would not be a fan.  Kellogg’s, I have some serious questions.  Namely, whose idea was this, and what were they thinking?  At any point did no-one think that perhaps bacon flavoured icing was a step too far, and maybe it was time to put a stop to the madness?  Did anyone except me actually buy these?!  Answers please!!

evil taste

Swedish Fish

I’ve always been curious to try these.  Their website assures me that they “taste like fruit, not like fish,” which is good to know, and their slogan is the delightfully nonchalant “try some if you want.”  I do want.

Combos

These are hands-down my favourite American snack.  We bought the pizza ones (the best flavour, IMO), but we also grabbed a pack of the Buffalo Blue Cheese (which sadly didn’t last long enough to make it into the photo!).  Eat these NOW.  Thank me later.

happy eating

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts

Kellogg’s, you are forgiven for your bacon-flavoured atrocities.  These are sublime.

clap 

Are you a fan of root beer, or do you (like me) think it tastes like Listerine?  What are some of your favourite American snacks?  Is there anything I should definitely try next time?  Let me know in the comments below!