I tried The Croft for the first time a few weeks ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. They have a lovely menu full of vibrant salads, wraps and the most incredible cakes.

They also make fantastic coffee and wonderful smoothies. As soon as Bournemouth was treated to its first rays of sunshine, I cooled off with a lovely watermelon, strawberry and apple smoothie.

Smoothie

My two favourites, the sweet potato and beetroot salads, are both bursting with colour and flavour (though of course I had to add a cheeky bit of halloumi to mine).

Sweet potato salad

Beetroot salad

If you’re feeling more in the mood for some carbs, their fries are absolutely divine! My absolute favourite thing from there though, has to be the chocolate orange gluten-free polenta cake. It’s moist, it’s sumptuous, it’s moreish – all those unsettling words that for some reason actually sound alright when you’re talking about cake.

Cake

Their menu is packed full of tasty, healthy options (and a couple of indulgent treats as well!) – I highly recommend. It’s probably a good thing I don’t work round the corner from them anymore, if only for the sake of my bank account!

Takeout box

 

If you’ve read any of my other food related posts, you probably already know that I’m a massive fan of the Urban Guild group of restaurants. In fact, two of them get a mention in my guide to the best places to eat in Bournemouth, and I was lucky enough to take a pizza making class at Urban Reef last year. Spoiler alert – I was very bad at it!

Naturally, I was thrilled when I was invited to review the menu at Urban Beach. Dave and I popped along and had ourselves a lovely date night. We started out with some cocktails (I can highly recommend the French Martini), before ordering our three sumptuous main courses.

French Martini

Starters were a tomato and asparagus salad for me, and some delicious crab for Dave.

Tomato and asparagus salad
The salad was vibrant, fresh and bursting with flavour.

Crab meat starter
I must admit, I was very jealous of Dave’s crab. It had a wonderful fresh, delicate flavour that was perfectly complemented by a lovely rich sauce.

The only thing that left me slightly disappointed was the lack of choice for vegetarians. On the specials menu there was no vegetarian starter at all. Even on the main menu, my options were fairly limited. Luckily I eat fish, which gave me a bit more variety.

EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention that there is actually a separate veggie and vegan menu. I guess this means I’ll be going back there soon! All in the name of research, of course…

Onto the mains. I had the sea trout in lobster sauce, while Dave had the Beef Wellington.

Sea trout

My mouth is watering just thinking about this dish. The fish was moist (a tiny bit more rare than I’d usually have, but lovely nonetheless) and melt-in-the-mouth, while the black rice and lobster sauce rounded out the textures and flavours perfectly.

Beef Wellington

I didn’t try Dave’s, but the beef looked like it was cooked perfectly and the whole lot disappeared pretty quickly, so it’s probably safe to say it was a winner.

Even though we were both very full by this point, we somehow managed to squeeze in some dessert (I know, what a hardship!).

Dessert ended up being my favourite part of the meal. I ordered sticky toffee pudding, which is not normally something I would go for, but it sounded too delicious to pass up.

Let me tell you, it was absolutely incredible. And the toffee sauce? I wouldn’t mind taking a bath in that stuff. Honestly, I could drink it as a beverage. I shouldn’t, but I definitely could.

Sticky toffee pudding

Chocolate fondant

Dave had the chocolate fondant, which tasted as amazing as it looked. Seriously though, that plating!! Gordon Ramsay would approve, for sure.

Verdict: As always, Urban Beach did not disappoint. The atmosphere and service were both excellent, and the food was divine. I would have liked to see a bit more choice for vegetarians, but quite honestly, with a sticky toffee pudding that good, they could offer a bowl of gruel as the veggie option and I probably wouldn’t care.

Book here.

Places to eat in Bournemouth

I’d wanted to visit the Lush Spa for absolutely ages, so Dave very kindly treated me to a massage for my birthday. I love firm, deep-tissue massages, so he chose one for me called The Good Hour.

According to Lush’s website, 

“A firm pair of hands rings out tension in time to the music, stretching and straightening you on the tide. Sea shanties fill the air, low and haunting before a gentle crescendo, always tempered by the steady pressure of your therapist’s hands grounding your body.”

Sounded good to me!

When I arrived, my massage therapist, the lovely Jo, ran me through the different products she was going to be using and let me choose the scents I liked. She also let me pick a bath bomb which I dropped in a jug of water to create mood-setting mist – so cool!


The room looked amazing and I loved the nautical theme, though I must admit I was a little unsure about the idea of 70 minutes of sea shanties. I ended up loving the music though – so much so that I’m planning to get the CD for whenever I have a pamper night at home. It’s certainly more interesting than the standard spa music you’d usually expect. The massage complemented the music perfectly and Jo’s hands moved in time, adjusting the pressure to match the lulls and climaxes of the songs.

It was quite intensive and focused on specific areas of tension, which for me was my neck and shoulders. Jo worked out the knots by applying pressure with her fingers and holding them there, before releasing quickly. I’ll admit, this was slightly painful, but I could feel it having an effect almost straight away.

The whole massage was wonderful, it felt very rhythmic and suited the music perfectly. I felt like she really worked me, kneading out my knots and stretching my muscles. Afterwards I felt like I was in a trance, my limbs felt like jelly and every single muscle in my body felt relaxed. A blissful experience!

The verdict

If you’re a fan of deep-tissue massage and have areas of tension you’d like worked on, then this is quite possibly the treatment for you. I’ve had quite a few different massages but this was by far my favourite, in part because of the wonderful atmosphere of the Lush Spa. I loved the way the whole treatment was more of an experience designed to appeal to all the senses, and the nautical theme, with the mist and sea shanties, was so well done. With every other massage I’ve had in the past, as soon as it finished that was it, but at the Lush Spa I was led to a lovely lounge area afterwards for some refreshments, which I thought was a great touch. The theme carried over to this part too, with biscuits and tea spiked with a little drop of ‘ship’s rum’!

Very generously, I was also given a massage bar to take home. Jo was great, very knowledgeable and friendly, and from start to finish I felt extremely well looked after. Plus, it was nice to have the shop next door to browse afterwards.

Oh, and one last note – the spa had the NICEST bathroom I’ve ever used, filled with loads of lovely Lush products to use. What more could you want, right?

 

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!

I was so excited when the lovely people at Bluebird Tea Co. contacted me to offer me some samples of their lovely new summer teas.  I’ve never been to one of their stores (you can find them in Brighton, Bristol and Tunbridge Wells), but I’ve heard good things from lots of people, including Zoella, who has raved about them in several of her vlogs.  I have to say, after trying some of their teas I can see why!

Never one to miss an opportunity to eat cake, I asked my lovely friend Julie if she’d like to have afternoon tea.  She went all out with lovely finger sandwiches, delicious homemade lemon and blueberry cupcakes and some tasty fresh fruit.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, right?

IMG_20160617_140920

Bluebird’s new flavours include Sangria, Strawberry Split, Red Velvet (OMG!), and Jelly and Ice Cream.  I was kindly given Sangria and Jelly and Ice Cream to try, but the other two sound incredible as well (I’m definitely ordering some of the Red Velvet!)

IMG_20160617_142251

I tried to get a bit arty with the tea leaves, though I’m not sure it worked too well.  But seriously, look how pretty they are!

IMG_20160617_144404

What I loved about the Sangria tea was that you can really see all the ingredients, in particular lots of lovely big chunks of dried fruit.  And it smelled absolutely gorgeous too, very citrusy and fresh.  It contains hibiscus, apple, rosehip, orange peel, coconut, pineapple, cardamom and lime peel.  I could definitely smell the orange and pineapple, and it made me think of summer holidays by the sea, and lovely warm balmy evenings.  I thought it kind of also smelled like jelly babies, but Julie wasn’t so sure!  Both teas can be enjoyed hot or cold, and we decided to try this one hot.

IMG_20160617_145915
IMG_20160617_150829

IMG_20160617_150151 Blue kettle

It had a wonderfully fresh and tart flavour, and really did taste as vibrant and fruity as it smelled.  It wasn’t unpleasantly sour like some fruit teas I’ve tried, and we found it didn’t need any sugar.  Gorgeous, fresh and summery, this one was definitely a hit!  I look forward to trying it iced, I imagine it’s very refreshing.

So next we tried Jelly and Ice Cream, which I must admit I was more excited about of the two.  This one contains Rooibos tea (which I love!), coconut, strawberry, hibiscus, apple, elderberry, rosehip, vanilla, cornflowers and pineapple.  Doesn’t that just sound incredible?!  Smell wise, it didn’t wow me like the Sangria did, but oh my gosh it was delicious!

IMG_20160617_142919

IMG_20160617_142631

We had this one iced, which we did simply by straining the tea over a cup of ice cubes.  It can be drunk with or without milk but we decided to go without.

Oh. My. Gosh.  This was divine.  So smooth and sweet, you can really taste the vanilla and strawberry.  It’s not too sweet though, and like the Sangria, it’s packed full of flavour.  So often I’ve bought fruit teas that smelled wonderful but tasted of nothing.  You definitely don’t need to worry about that with these teas.  I could really pick out all the lovely different fruit flavours, and it was a perfect balance of tart, sweet and smooth, just as you’d expect from jelly and ice cream.  A perfect drink to serve at a garden party or picnic, and a huge thumbs up from me.

After that, our lovely civilised afternoon took a bit of a turn when this little delinquent decided to gatecrash.

IMG_20160617_152037

Meet Mr T, Julie’s pet tortoise! Isn’t he sweet?

IMG_20160617_151926

I had such a lovely afternoon and the teas were a big hit.  There are so many other amazing sounding flavours I’d like to try, so I see a rather large order to Bluebird Tea Co. happening in the near future!  Julie was a big fan as well, and we both agreed that they’d make a lovely gift for any tea-lovers in your life.

Thank you so much to Julie for putting together such a gorgeous and Instagram-worthy spread.  And a big thank you to the lovely guys at Bluebird Tea Co. for sending me my very first blogger mail!  Being sent free tea- I’m living the dream, right?

Check Bluebird Tea Co. out here.