Restaurant Review: SuperStore – Northern Quarter, Manchester

On a recent girlie day out we ventured into the Northern Quarter and over to Sugar Junction for afternoon tea (which you can read about HERE if you missed it). As always afternoon tea,or lunch as it were, turned into drinks and then we all started feeling peckish again. Being on Tib Street it made perfect sense to call in the newly opened Superstore and see what the fuss was all about.

The décor is very ‘New York’ with steel and brick merged with wood. There is a long canteen style table in the middle of the dining area too which is great for a big group or more social dining. Fresh festive arrangements adorned the tables and it has a lovely, light ambiance. So far so good…

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As usual we ordered some cocktails first and Charlie went for the ‘do you want a bag with that?’ whilst I chose the ‘breakfast mojito’. Initially the bar staff said they couldn’t make Charlie’s drink due to being out of Hendricks gin. Charlie, being the gin expert, recommended trying it with Martin Millers instead and the staff were happy to give it a go. The drink was lovely and refreshing from the cucumber whilst the Martin Millers really did work, even the bar staff agreed. My breakfast mojito was also good; thirst quenching, citrusy and light. Just what I needed.

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Whilst waiting for our food we couldn’t take our eyes off these gigantic filled meringues… the cupcakes looked particularly impressive too with bourbon biscuits towering aloft their buttercream. When I got home I tucked into a box of chocolates I had been bought for Christmas and was so impressed I googled the brand, having never heard of them before. It only turns out that they are made by the same people! West33 are responsible and, oh my, if the chocolates are anything to judge on you need to try these bad boys. In fact they are probably worth a return visit for me, I need to try them.

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Charlie went for the tempura battered cod served with chips, wasabi mushy peas and chilli tartare sauce (£10). I thought it looked a little pale and I’m not a huge fan of food being piled on top of each other. How do you get to the chips without risking throwing the fish across the room? Charlie assures me it was delicious with just the right amount of wasabi in the peas to provide a little heat without overpowering their flavour.

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Lisa made most of the table jealous with her pulled chicken biryani served in a poppadum basket (£9), it really was a sight to behold. I thought it would be a little on the dry side having no real sauce but the chicken was juicy and Lisa polished it off no problem.

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Cheryl chose the fish finger sandwich with chips from the special sandwiches board (£6.50) and the moment it arrived I wished I had ordered it. Thick slabs of fish golden crumbed in a crusty baguette, wow, it looks awesome and apparently tasted so. A real bargain for the price too, I was expecting something much more plain and bland than this.

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Finally I went for the super lamb burger (£9) with a side of fries (£2.50). When I ordered the burger I was asked if I wanted fries and I found it a little odd that it didn’t come with them. When my burger arrived I was a little disappointed that the fries were really treated as a ‘side’ and more like they were always going to be part of the meal. I’m not averse to sharing food and I would have wanted something I paid extra for separate from my main course so I could share more easily.

The lamb burger was sweet and juicy but I’m not sure about the onion bhaji on top. It was huge and rather dry. For this to work perfectly for me it would need more onion and to be thinner so it crisps up more. I loved the idea though and the cucumber raita was the perfectly fresh accompaniment.

We had no room for dessert otherwise I would have inhaled one of those giant meringues! The dessert menu also looked good and overall I was really impressed with Superstore. They are still fairly new so I expect small changes will be made to make it perfect and, to be fair, they’re not far off. Friendly staff, attentive service, quirky menus and a relaxed dining experience. You can even pop downstairs to their convenience store where you can pick up some goodies to carry on your night in the comfort of your own home. What more could you ask for?

*Thanks to Charlie, Cheryl and Lisa for the loan of their pictures.

Superstore on Urbanspoon

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Dry January Challenge from Brita

As a bar reviewer for 4ManchesterWomen I am regularly out on the town trying new bars, setting them challenges and judging cocktail competitions. So when an email from Brita popped into my inbox challenging me to go dry for the month of January I actually laughed. Me? NOT DRINK for 31 whole days? Surely that is impossible? I mean, I don’t drink in the house very much but I do so much out and about that it would mean I would have to give up. There would have to be a very special reason and something to keep me busy in the month so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out.

Brita knew this would be really difficult for me so have set me a series of experiences over the next month that will take my mind off alcohol and show that I can have just as good a time without it. They are keen to promote good hydration and with my pledge to get healthy again in 2014 I am completely on board with this. Brita have highlighted five key reasons why most of us drink:

Taste: The main reason the majority of us drink is the taste. I adore a good cocktail and will really miss these in January. Brita want to prove that there are lots of other drinks out there without alcohol that taste just as good. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Socialising: Many of us drink with friends and enjoy the social aspect it provides. Brita want to prove that you don’t need alcohol to have fun and time with friends. I think this will be the hardest part of the challenge for me as I love spending time with my friends and don’t know what it will be like if they are all drinking!

Confidence Booster: Some people find drinking boosts their confidence and allows them to be brave in situations where they may be uncomfortable. Brita want to show that there are other ways to build confidence without the need for a drink.

Relaxing: After a long and stressful day at work it can be so easy to sit in front of the TV with a nice glass of wine. It really helps me to unwind but, to be honest, I don’t find I need it. I think this aspect will be the easiest for me to give up but Brita want to show there are other ways to relax and unwind.

For the Buzz: Some drink for the buzz although I don’t so this shouldn’t be difficult for me. Brita have some alternative adrenaline pumping activities lined up for this month!

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To start me off on the right path in terms of hydration the lovely people at Brita sent me a Marella jug and a fill & go bottle. The jug fits in my fridge to help me enjoy cold filtered water (I wrote about cooking with Brita HERE) and the fill & go bottle has a filter inside the lid meaning I can drink filtered water on the go. I absolutely love this idea as it means I can stay hydrated at work and at the gym without having to search for a filtered water machine.

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Isn’t it cute? I love the pink accents on the lid, it will go with my gym kit so I’ll be colour coordinated too! It’s a 0.6 litre bottle meaning I know once I’ve drank 2 bottles full I’m well on my way to drinking my recommended daily water intake. It is also BPA free meaning it doesnt have that horrid plastic taste that so many water bottles have.

Brita also sent me a hamper to help with the five reasons people drink, it’s amazing!

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As you can see there are lots of things to help me relax and pamper myself as well as things to help keep me motivated and healthy throughout January.

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I have Zumba for the Wii so these weights are perfect to use with that. I also have a fair few fitness DVDs that use weights and I normally use a few tins, now I don’t have to! Now I’m all settled in my flat I’m going to start the Little Black Dress workout with GymCube.com so these will come in handy. The iTunes voucher means I can download some new workout music as I find I struggle to stay in the gym for long without some motivational tunes. The WellWoman vitamins will help me to detox and stay healthy too. I can’t wait to use the face mask in the bath when relaxing. Instead of a glass of wine I’ll be reading my book whilst it works its magic on my skin.

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There’s a real haul of skin treatments and I was most excited about the Fake Bake tanning butter. I’m rubbish at fake tanning but this looks a lot easier to use than other brands and smells amazing! There’s also a Collection mascara that I haven’t tried before. I do love a new mascara so I’ll be reviewing this soon. There’s also some L’Occitane hydrating face cream and hydrating face mist, a body spray, Lush rose jam shower gel and Sanctuary Spa body butter. I can’t wait to have a mammoth pamper session! I’ll keep you up to date with my progress and the experiences that Brita send me on. I’ll also be challenging my favourite bartenders to create me some amazing ‘mock’tails that may prevent me from missing alcohol so will share these too.

Thanks to Brita for such an amazing hamper and for supporting me so much in the start of, what will be, a very difficult month. Are you going dry for January? How are you going to keep yourself motivated?

‘Try’ of the Week: Beauty Basics – Moroccanoil Vs Aldi Carino Miracle Oil

I’ve been using Moroccanoil for quite some time ever since it was recommended to nourish my dry curly hair. I got a 25ml bottle for Christmas last year and I have only just come to the end of it, great value I thought for £13.45. That was until I read some rave reviews about the Aldi Carino miracle oil at a ridiculously cheap £3.99 for 50 ml. So how do they measure up?

Packaging

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To look at I was shocked by how similar the packaging is, they have used exactly the same shade of blue and orange with black and white writing in the same amber bottles with the same brown bottle screw cap. The Aldi Carino oil has a clear stopper in the top to shake the oil out in drops rather than free pour like the Moroccanoil. I actually prefer the free pour idea as I find it is easier to manage the amount of product when dispensing. I’ve not tried to get the stopper out of the bottle yet but I’m guessing it shouldn’t be too difficult to do and, being the only real difference, it is worth trying for the price saving.

Product Quality

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The Moroccanoil is on the left and Aldi Carino miracle oil is on the right. You can clearly see a colour difference and the Moroccanoil is a lot thicker in consistency than the Aldi Carino miracle oil. That is where the differences end though, they both have the same sweet scent and feel the same when warmed up in your hands. They are both distribute through my hair evenly and easily.

The Verdict?

I find I have to use slightly more of the Aldi Carino miracle oil to get an even coverage in my hair but I’ve not noticed any difference in quality. My hair still feels soft, manageable and easier to comb through. I thought it might feel greasy but it really doesn’t and my hair has continued to grow so fast from switching to this product. Most curly girls will tell you their hair gets to a certain length and then just starts to break. Since using both Moroccanoil and Aldi Carino miracle oil my hair is longer than ever. My colour also seems to last longer and stay fresh looking. Perfect for the damage done at this time of year with central heating and bitter cold winds, I don’t need anything else to protect my hair. Yes I prefer the consistency and the way the Moroccanoil dispenses but, for a £10 saving and double the amount, I’ll be sticking with my Aldi Carino miracle oil.

Have you used either of these products? What do you think of them?

Review: Afternoon Tea at Sugar Junction, Northern Quarter

You may remember Charlie and I visiting Sugar Junction on Tib Street for the launch of their new cocktail menu (if you didn’t you can catch up HERE) and we loved it. So much so that we decided to get some of our favourite girlfriends rounded up for a Christmas get together and an afternoon tea.

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We had reserved a table for 10 so were seated downstairs at a cosy table big enough to seat us all but not so big that we couldn’t chat, just perfect. I opted for the Prosecco with my afternoon tea which arrived in a beautiful vintage crystal glass. I also chose a tea and went for ‘pucker up lover’ which is a fruity floral blend of hibiscus flowers, rosehip, strawberry, apple, rose petals, elderberries and orange blossom. I love the vibrant pink hue of the tea and the fruity scent it had that wafted through the downstairs of the tea room. Once our tea had been served our afternoon tea was brought out to us.

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This is a stand for 3, isn’t it huge? I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t even try the pretty mince pies on the top layer. I was so stuffed after the sandwiches, scones and cakes! There was a great selection of sandwiches and I loved the barms option instead of dainty fingers. Much more Northern if you ask me even if you do call your barm a bap. I had brie and cranberry (a great amount of filling but I would have liked the brie to have been rested outside of the fridge for a little while so it goes gooey) egg mayonnaise (very tasty with a good amount of egg and just enough mayonnaise to bind it together) and beef (good, a basic sandwich but done well) but there was also smoked salmon with cream cheese on offer. The scone was the highlight for me, it was slightly flatter than normal and I loved this as it meant the centre was slightly denser yet still fluffy. We had plenty of cream and jam to share around for the scones that was also topped up regularly, a lovely touch. The macaron was firmer than others I have tried but had a lovely orange chocolate flavour, I noticed these went from most stands very quickly so were a hit with most of the table! I wasn’t a fan of the brownie though. It was also firm and I am a lover of a gooey brownie… something slightly wibbly with an intense chocolate flavour. These tasted like a flourless version and were quite heavy, a bit too much for me. That said, I ate it after everything else so I’m not really surprised I couldn’t manage it all!

The service was impeccably attentive and the staff are happy to provide whatever you need, considering both floors of the tearoom were full I found this amazing. The staff really are a valuable asset to Sugar Junction and are the main reason I will come back time and time again with friends and family. Well them and the amazing cakes and cocktails…

Beauty Review: Area H2O Shampoo and Conditioner for Coloured Hair

Ever noticed how the condition of your hair changes when you go on holiday? I mean, yes, some of this is to do with the sun and chlorine but did you know the water is different? I’ve always been really careful to use SPF protection on my dry coloured hair and very rarely use the pool yet I still find I suffer from unmanageable hair abroad. With this in mind did you know that we have different types of water throughout the UK? No wonder shampoo and conditioner brands get such different reviews from bloggers, the type of water you have may affect the effectiveness of the product you are using. Not to worry though because Area H2O have the answer…

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Area H2O have created a product range following extensive testing on our water supplies that has been designed to work with the mineral properties of the water type in your area to your advantage. The metal ions in your water can react with your shampoo causing mineral deposit to cling to your hair leaving it fly-away and dull. Area H2O shampoo and conditioner is designed to attract these ions away from the hair leaving it more manageable, smoother, shinier and less fly-away. A grand statement no?

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I was lucky enough to win a Twitter competition so selected the products for coloured hair and for my area’s water type. The AreaH2O website has a diagram of the UK so you can check what type of water you have in your area but it isn’t the most detailed. I used the United Utilities website which is much more user friendly and finds your water type based on your post code. I always thought I lived in a hard water area but it turns out the majority of the North West of England has very soft water.

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Firstly the shampoo… it has a lovely fresh scent and a fairly thick clear consistency. I found it didn’t lather up very well at first, like an SLS free product although this isn’t SLS free, but worked through my hair better on the second rinse.

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The conditioner is thick and was easy to distribute through my hair. I usually like a product to leave my hair feeling silky smooth afterwards and I didn’t get that with this product but when I left my hair to dry naturally I noticed immediately was how light my hair felt. It didn’t feel weighed down in the slightest and had a lovely shine, something I struggle with having dry curly hair naturally. I found my hair was still fly-away but it is fairly thin so this is to be expected.

The more I used the products the more I got used to the ‘feel’ of them when in the shower and I am a convert. My hair is easier to style, has less tangles and feels so soft and lightweight that I feel like I’ve had it washed at a salon.

The shampoo and conditioner duo retails at £17.50 but you are in luck if you live in a medium water type area as the shampoo is currently in the Look Fantastic Christmas sale at an amazing £6.99. I might stock up and move…

Beauty Review: Liz Earle Strengthening Nail Colour in Pink Perpetue

I am a huge fan of the Liz Earle range. I first tried Cleanse and Polish when it was only available through QVC and it cleans and clears my skin like nothing else I have ever tried. So you can imagine my delight when they expanded the range to include cosmetics and my Mum, who is also a huge fan of the range, rushed out to buy one of the nail colours available.

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The nail colour promises to be long lasting claiming to last up to 12 days and contains no toluene. True to the Liz Earle natural ingredients ethos you will find the polish is enriched with avocado and borage oils to strengthen and protect the nail under the vibrant colours.

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There are currently 12 pretty colours to choose from including Pink Perpetue which my Mum picked out. I would prefer a more diverse range of colours to choose from as you won’t currently find a striking blue or pastel pink. That said, these are fairly new and the colours available are very fitting to the season.

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The bottle is clean and simple with a large round lid that makes it easy to grip and apply the colour. The brush is fairly wide which I like as you get a decent coverage making for less mess and mistakes. The polish is quite thin in consistency and a lot clings to the brush so it needs a good wipe on the edge of the bottle before using , a little goes a long way here and there is only 2 coats needed for a complete colour wash.

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Pink Perpetue is a hot fuchsia pink that looks a lot darker in the bottle and on the Liz Earle website than it is on the nail. It is a lovely bright pink that is perfect for summer or to brighten up the dull winter days. It’s glossy and shiny with no requirement for a top coat although I did use one after I took these pictures. I found the colour lasted around 8-9 days so not quite the 12 days advertised but then I have been moving house so they have taken a bit of a beating in those 8-9 days! I’m really impressed and for £7.50 they are a lot cheaper than similar long lasting brands. I can’t wait to see what the summer colour range brings

Weight Watchers announce Simple Start plan and a new ambassador for 2014

You will have seen before that I have followed the Weight Watchers plan a few times. The first time I lost nearly 6 stone following the old points system and dropped from a size 18 to a size 8. As my life changed I put some back on and had success with Slimming World and Weight Watchers again. I have a firm belief that you need to do what suits you for your weight loss and if that means you are motivated by following a plan and going to a meeting to be weighed then so be it. I like elements of both plans and this always confuses me when I want to drop a few lbs (*ahem* stone) so I was excited when invited to the launch of a new plan with Weight Watchers.

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And I can announce, and have been bottling it up for 2 weeks, that the new 2014 ambassador is winner of Masterchef 2012 Shelina Permalloo! Shelina has teamed up with Weight Watchers and created some easy recipes we can make to ease the pain of dieting. As an avid Masterchef viewer I had watched Shelina do any number of things to mangos and add a sprinkle of Mauritian spice to her dishes… now I got to meet the lady herself and cook with her! I was in foodie heaven…

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That’s Charlie and I in the middle!

We made turkey patties with a blackened sweetcorn salsa followed by grilled pineapple with mango and lime; I told you see liked mangoes! Both recipes were super easy and really tasty thanks to the herbs, spices and seasoning that was added. I would never have thought to add allspice, chilli and lime to pineapple. It really brought out the flavour of the fruit and gave it a wonderful depth I usually miss when eating fruit. This would certainly encourage me to eat more of it meaning less rubbish! Both recipes are part of the Simple Start plan which is the new addition to the Weight Watcher family.

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Simple Start is designed to help you start your diet in the simplest way. Using the ‘filling and healthy’ ethos of the main plan there is no measuring and no counting. Simply eat what you want from the list of foods until you are satisfied. You also have a list of extra treats and you can have 2 of these per day. Weight Watchers recommend you follow this plan for two weeks to kick start your weight loss but it really is a plan that you can follow long term. There’s lot of food to choose from including lean meats, eggs, fish, rice, fruit and vegetables. You can also use herbs and spices whilst enjoying no added sugar drinks, tea and coffee. Extra treats include a small glass of wine, a portion of reduced fat houmous or a portion of gravy to name just a few. What could be easier? I think Weight Watchers have found a new way of using the unlimited food ethos adopted by Slimming World in a more inclusive and adaptable way. I’ll be giving Simple Start a go in the New Year, who’s with me?

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Thanks to Weight Watchers for providing the photographs and inviting us to the event.