Recently, I received quite possibly the best email ever. No, not my Hogwarts acceptance (I’m still waiting), but an invite to La Piccola on Holdenhurst Road, to sample their bottomless Prosecco brunch. I was promised 90 minutes of sumptuous Italian food, washed down with as much Prosecco as I could throw down my gullet. Ideal, no?

Salad

A simple, but delicious, caprese salad. The deep-fried tortelloni – amazing!

This glorious offering is available to book between 12 and 5pm every Saturday and features decadent charcuterie and cheese platters, a Cicchetti section of small plates including calamari and gnocchi (both sublime!) and, of course, plenty of pizza.

I’ve been to La Piccola before, for a standard à la carte meal, so this was a nice change. It was a great way to sample lots of different dishes, and the sociable ‘tapas’ style setup was perfect as there was a large group of us.

The restaurant has a really lovely, classic Italian feel, with rustic decor and green chequered table cloths. The staff who looked after us were all knowledgeable, friendly, and more than happy to have their photo taken!

As a vegetarian, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of choice I had. Naturally, I demolished the cheese board, and enjoyed wonderful grilled vegetables, along with a fab choice of meat-free pizzas.

I honestly didn’t feel like I was missing out at all, except for the charcuterie board – cured meats are my main temptation as a vegetarian! If you love simple Italian food done well, I would definitely give La Piccola a go.

What happens when you dine with bloggers!

 

I’ve never really enjoyed having any sort of facial treatment. Having always struggled with problem skin, facials have often felt clinical rather than luxurious. I’ve never looked in the mirror afterwards and thought my skin looked radiant, or felt like the facialist has taken the time to understand my skin and tailor the treatment to tackle my problem areas.

So when I was offered the chance to have a skin scan and bespoke facial at HI Therapies, I was definitely intrigued.

The reception area

Make up display

The salon, based on Charminster Road, was lovely and airy, and I felt instantly welcomed.

When I went into the treatment room I was greeted by Shelley, the Environ consultant, who asked me questions about my current skin care, as well as any concerns I had. Then it was scan time, and I had stick my face into this rather terrifying looking machine!

Skin scanning machine
It was obviously fine – I just had to close my eyes while it took a few snaps of my skin. I went through the results afterwards with Shelley, which I found really interesting.

The scan revealed areas of oil, bacteria and UV damage. Warning: super sexy photos below!

Using these results, Shelley talked me through the products she was going to use for my mini facial, and drew up a personalised skin care regimen. She was really knowledgeable and answered all my questions. She too struggled with acne when she was younger, so it was nice to swap stories and hear her experiences. Also, her skin looked incredible, so she was definitely a glowing advertisement for her products.

The facial itself was really relaxing, and left my skin feeling tingly and refreshed.

Facial

Shelley used sound waves to help the products penetrate deeper into the skin.

Verdict: The whole experience was really enjoyable and felt much more personalised than treatments I’ve had in the past. Afterwards my skin felt moisturised but not oily and, the following day, my blemishes were less angry looking. I would definitely consider having similar treatments in the future, and trying out some of the products Shelley recommended.

You can book a treatment at HI Therapies here.

Find out more about Environ here.

In case you don’t know this about me by now, I’m sort of obsessed with food. That’s why I’ve not only eaten at most of the restaurants in Bournemouth, but I’m fairly certain I’m qualified to share my recommendations.

Without further ado, here are my absolute favourite places to eat in Bournemouth.

Pizza

For pizza in Bournemouth, you absolutely can’t beat Da Mario or Baffi. Da Mario is run by a lovely Italian family and their pizzas are just out of this world. The restaurant itself is quite small and simple, but you’re always guaranteed a warm welcome, friendly service and incredible food. Great for a casual dinner with friends.

Baffi is a bit more stylish, with stripped back industrial decor and romantic lighting. As delicious as their main courses are, be sure to save room for a dessert pizza – they are sensational.

That being said, I had a starter, followed by a whole pizza, with a dessert pizza to myself afterwards, like an absolute boss.

Fish and chips

Living in a seaside town, I couldn’t really write a post about my favourite restaurants without including fish and chips, could I?

Without a doubt, the best ones in Bournemouth are from Alfie’s. All the food is delicious and cooked fresh to order. The chips are perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and their batter is nice and light, not too greasy. Definitely give the pea fritters a go.

Sushi

Again, I’ve picked two places. Sushi ‘n’ Roll is a tiny little place on Westover Road, but their sushi is unbelievable. It’s all made fresh to order, there’s a fantastic selection and the price is reasonable too. I would highly recommend the Rainbow Roll and crispy prawn roll.

For more of an occasion, you can’t beat the Nippon Inn on Charminster Road. Again, a great choice of delicious sushi, as well as other lovely Japanese dishes, plus you can choose to eat in the traditional way – at a low table, sitting cross-legged. Note: You will need to take your shoes off, so not the best time to wear boots!

Oh, and I would highly recommend you try the black sesame or wasabi ice cream for dessert.

Thai

Thai food is one of my absolute favourites and in my opinion, the best place in Bournemouth has to be Koh Thai Tapas. Their Tom Yum soup is the best I’ve tried anywhere (it’s ridiculously good, trust me) and because the menu is tapas style, you get to enjoy so many different flavours and dishes. I mean, it’s a way to eat more Thai food, so of course it was always going to be a winner for me. The atmosphere is great and they also serve lovely cocktails.

Other than the soup, I can’t recommend anything else because you just have to try everything. Trust me. Dave and I once ordered so much food the kitchen had to stagger its release because it wouldn’t all fit on our table.

Indian

Winton Tandoori wins, hands down. Dave’s order is a lamb Bhuna and I normally go for an okra curry with cheese naan bread.

Amazing Indian feast!! #manvsfood #lbloggers Great night catching up with friends!

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Dosa World on Old Christchurch Road is great if you want to try something a bit different to your usual Indian. Their speciality is Dosas (as you probably could have guessed), a type of South Indian savoury pancake filled with curry. The food is really good value for money, tasty and filling, and great if you want to try something new.

Tapas

We have a few Spanish tapas restaurants, but the best one by far has to be Tapas Plus in the town centre. The decor is simple, but inviting, and the food is wonderful.

Two words: Fried. Cheese.

Yes please.

Chinese

When we want a takeaway there’s only one place we order from: Mr Rice. They do a great choice of Chinese and Thai dishes, and plenty for vegetarians too. Tofu can always be a bit hit and miss for me, but they cook theirs so nicely that I often find myself ordering it instead of meat.

Other recommendations include the Ha Gow (prawn dumplings – SO GOOD), Massaman curry and their spicy Thai soups. For dessert, you have to get the banana fritters. So freakin’ good.

Vegan

For wholesome and tasty vegan food (and the creamiest hot chocolate), it has to be Sukha Lounge. You can read my full review here.

Steak

The cocktails, food and atmosphere at Funki Griller are top notch. Plus, you can watch your steaks being cooked on a big screen, which is surprisingly quite fun.

Other favourites

Aruba is great for lunch with the girls. It’s right on the beach, does fabulous cocktails and there is something on their menu for everyone.

For really great pub food, fun cocktails, insane freak shakes and incredible desserts, Inferno on Holdenhurst Road is always a winner. They need to bring back their mac ‘n’ cheese toastie though – that beast was incredible!

For awesome breakfasts, you can’t do much better than Starz in Charminster. I always order the Eggs Royale – the poached eggs are perfect every time and they make the best Hollandaise.

Bosca Nova is a perfect brunch spot. They do great coffee, lovely fresh juices and have a lovely selection of delicious choices for vegetarians. You have to try one of their cakes too – they’re sublime!

And that’s how you do lunch. #latergram #lunch #avocadotoast #halloumi

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For the chicken lover who fancies a change from Nando’s, Chicken ‘n’ Blues in Boscombe does something called the Mac Daddy wrap – trust me when I say this should swiftly make its way into your face.

If you work in the Lansdowne area of Bournemouth there are a few great places if you’re looking for somewhere to buy your lunch. Naked Coffee does a great selection of veggie and vegan food, plus fantastic coffee. Also, their white hot chocolate is the bomb.

Sands2 is the place to go if you’re looking for tasty, filling sandwiches, soups and jacket potatoes. My favourite sandwich of theirs is the chicken, bacon and avocado. The staff are absolutely lovely too!

For gorgeous cakes and macarons, check out Le Petit Prince in Westbourne.

Lastly, check out Frieda’s Tea Rooms for the BEST red velvet cake you could hope to put in your face.

Because it would appear I’m becoming known as somewhat of a pizza aficionado (finally, my talents are getting the recognition they deserve!), the lovely people at The Wood Oven invited me along to their blogger event last year.

Pizza box

Perfectly situated on Boscombe beach (seriously, you couldn’t ask for better views!), The Wood Oven is part of the Urban Guild group of restaurants. I’ve been to all the others and they are wonderful; I highly recommend the breakfasts and Sunday roasts at the Urban Beach Hotel.

The group’s founder, Mark Cribb, gave a really interesting talk about the inspiration behind his restaurants and three things became clear:

  1. He’s incredibly passionate about hospitality and bringing people together over great food and drink
  2. His menus all centre around great locally-sourced food and home-grown produce
  3. He absolutely loves what he does!

I think that last point is crucial to his success. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing someone talk passionately about a business they’ve built from absolutely nothing, and learning what drives them.

He also went on to explain the reason behind the company’s logo – a pineapple, which is dotted all over their restaurants, menus and marketing materials.

Apparently the pineapple is a well-known symbol of hospitality, though embarrassingly, I worked in hospitality for three years and had no idea! Back in the day, when pineapples were expensive and hard to come by, if a host served one at a party it was seen as a sign of opulence. Their eye-catching appearance soon inspired door-knockers, banister acorns and other home ware – seriously, you’ll start to notice that they pop up everywhere! Even today, you’ll no doubt have seen all manner of pineapple accessories – lamps, vases, trinket boxes. Now it all makes sense!

Mark then handed over to his head chef, who ran us through the basics of pizza making. He also showed us photos of his research trip to Italy. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it, eh?

Pizza chef

I watched and listened as his showed us the best way to knead and stretch the dough. Easy, I though to myself. I’m going to be a pro at this.

Um…it turns out I wasn’t quite the natural I thought I would be.

Several attempts and two balls of dough later, I gave up and decided to embrace my failings. The result:

Say goodbye to boring round pizzas and enjoy a spot of f(el)ine dining with the Geek Pizzafique CAT PIZZA.*

I mean, look how cute! It has herb whiskers and a mushroom nose, for crying out loud!

Sure, the others tasted really good, but were they cat-shaped? Nope.

We took our marvellous creations down to the kitchen and prepared to be pitted against each other in the ultimate test of creativity and culinary aptitude. I suspect I won more points for the former, but really, who wouldn’t want to eat a meowzzarella (thank you, I’m here all week), anchovy, rosemary and pawperoni pizza?

After the winners were announced (shockingly, I didn’t make the top three), we rounded off the evening with a cupcake decorating class, hosted by Urban Reef’s resident baker.

All in all, it was a lovely evening, and though I didn’t win a coveted guest spot on the Wood Oven’s menu, after a playful (and somewhat aggressively rigorous) campaign of harassment on Twitter, I managed to persuade the guys to put my glorious cat pizza on their specials menu.

Winner winner, kitten dinner**.

So, if you find yourself in Bournemouth and have a hankering for pizza, these guys are definitely worth checking out.

* Does not contain actual cat

**Again, I must stress, there are no actual cats in this pizza

 

“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.