Belfast & Northern Ireland

Over the New Year’s weekend we took a trip to Belfast for two nights, stopping en route in Kildare Village for a coffee and some energy balls at Joe’s.

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And later at Banbridge Outlet, where we shopped and then ate at Linen Hill. I had the green Thai chicken curry with rice and a side of sweet potato fries  (gluten free bread came with the dish). Fresh, tasty, lively restaurant with good meal deals for the cinema next door.

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After checking into our hotel, Ibis Hotel Queens Quarter, we freshened up and made our way to the SSE Arena for our first ever ice hockey game! It felt like we had been transported to the States when we got inside – there were cheerleaders, flame machines, you name it! The entertainment before and during the game really contributed to the atmosphere as 3 periods of 20 minutes made for a pretty long game for newbies to the sport! Nonetheless – GO GIANTS!

By the time we got out of the parking and traffic (be warned – patience is essential here!) I was extremely hangry and it was now just after 10pm which meant most decent outlets were closed. By chance we took a drive and stumbled across Camile Thai on the Lisburn Road. After having one Thai curry already that day I looked for another option and the only gluten free one available was the Thai beef salad – which if I’m honest, I wasn’t that keen about. But I ate my words (and the salad!) when it arrived because it was really tasty! I also had a side of edamame and E had some noodles.

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Next morning, I snuck out of the room early to indluge in my healthy-café-visiting addicion at Raw Food Rebellionalso on the Lisburn Road. A small, relaxed café with friendly and helpful staff (101 questions Emma!). I chose the Classic RFR Porridge made with gluten free oats cooked in coconut milk with swirls of peanut butter, topped with roasted peanuts, maple syrup, cinnamon and chopped banana. In other words – to die for! I also had a really good turmeric latte and I brought back a hazelnut milk latte to the sleeping beauty 🙂

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Fueled up we headed off on our Black Cab Tour. This is a must-do! We learned a lot about our own history and the current day situation visiting various areas around the city and signing the Peace Wall.

After our cab tour we visited St. George’s Market later that day which was really nice for a short wander around. Live music and the natter from all the stands gave a fun, lively vibe to the big, open space. We shared some Indian vegan and gluten-free pakoras and I bought some Suki dark cocoa tea.

We ventured around the city for the rest of the day and drove out to see the Titanic museum, which is very costly to visit so we just took a stroll nearby.

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We stopped by Bullitt Belfast for some tapas style snacks around 4pm and it was buzzing! (Taking into account it was New Year’s Eve). I liked it’s tucked away courtyard setting, their cocktail menu sounded delicious but we just stuck to food. I had the Cauliflower steaks with harissa and sunflower tahini while E had Beef short rib fritters also with sunflower tahini and a side of chips. Definitely just snack size and pricey snacks but I like the ingredients and imagination used for their dishes. Bar staff were unfortunately though a bit rude.

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To cap off the night and to ring in the New Year we made a booking at Home Restaurant. They have a vast menu selection and cater really well to those eating with dietary requirements, be it gluten free, vegan, vegetarian or else wise. Service was seemless and the staff were superb. However it was a very expensive meal for the quantity and quality of food we got – £84 sterling for 2 starters, 2 mains and 1 dessert, no drinks? It was nice, they had some fabulous-sounding options but I definitely wasn’t leaving raving about it or dying to go back.I did very much so enjoy the vegan dessert though but even my partner commented how I must still be hungry after my main course as portion size was small.

Pictured below is a starter of tofu, another mango and beef salad starter, a curry and quinoa main (not pictured steak main) and a vegan panna cotta. (Dishes from a special New Year’s menu so I don’t have exact menu descriptions – must have been the free bubbly that had me distracted!) 😉

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Finishing off a great trip to the North was a noteworthy brunch at Established Coffee  followed by a coastal road trip to Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and the Giant’s Causeway. Definitely a few bucket lists ticked that day!

If you haven’t been Belfast and the North of Ireland should definitely be put on your 2017 travel list. 

For more pics and to keep up with my travels, follow me on Instagram @thecinnamonfiend !

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Manchester

A few weeks back I flew to Manchester for a short but sweet over-night visit to get some Christmas shopping out of the way.

I was a bit disappointed in a busy city not to find more raw and vegan options but I did find some little treasures that I will share with you.

First stop on our trip was a stroll around the funky Northern Quarter – we came across a super cute cat café there but my other half refused to go in! So instead we had breakfast at Fig + Sparrow. A really quirky design shop and café with lots of healthy and food intolerance catered-for dishes.

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We both chose the beetroot, caraway, fennel and split pea with wheat-free bread and an almond milk latte.

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After some retail therapy we came across Mexican-joint Wahaca for lunch. I picked the Chicken Tinga tacos – poached and shredded chicken thigh in a sweet & smoky chipotle & tomato sauce; while E had a British Steak Burrito and we shared sides of Green Rice and Black Beans as well as Sweet Potato chunks (which we ended up ordering a second portion of because they were BOMB! love these!).

Mexican wouldn’t be my favourite cuisine but I actually really enjoyed this meal for a light but tasty mid-day filler, plus the outdoor seating was an added bonus, that although a chilly day, with the sun out it was just fab!

To round up our day in the city, that evening we stopped by Joe & The Juice situated in Debenhams in the city centre (and now also at Kildare Village, Ireland); to people watch and get over the 4 p.m. slump with some coffees and a Squirrel Sisters snack bar I had picked up in Boots. 

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We went to the AMC cinema that night so dinner was skipped in favour of some major snackage (*tip: pick up bits in the grocery stores located just outside/across the road and you will save a fortune – they are ridiculously over-priced inside!)

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Day two’s eating began with a late brunch in Giraffe, Trafford Centre. Both of us choosing the Pulled Beef Brisket Skillet served with peppers, skin-on potato cubes and a fried egg. I also had the Giddy Giraffe smoothie (minus the lime cordial) which had papaya, banana, mint and orange. So refreshing!

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We wanted to enjoy a nice dinner before catching our evening flight so mid-day I grabbed a coffee at Pret-a-Manger and some raw bites in Selfridges. They stock well-known blogger Deliciously Ella’s new energy balls so I grabbed some varieties of these to try as well as stumbling across a fabulous lady from a cafe called The Garden Hale selling raw and cooked vegan/healthy cakes and snacks in their food hall. I took some energy balls for the energy home and a slice of banana bread which I had for breakfast the next day, warmed up and it was divine!

As we were in the Trafford Centre for the day shopping, we chose to dine at Bill’s for dinner. E had the vegan Wild Mushroom Soup for starters which he absolutely raved about and Steak for mains while I had the South Indian Fish Curry . Light and tasty with  basmati rice, prawns, cod and coconut.

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Not a bad two days eating – maybe not as healthy as I would like or as I would normally eat but such is life and I think it’s great to realise that you still can enjoy trips like these and that there is always perfectly acceptable options to be had without feeling like crap at the end of it!

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Portugal

At the end of September  I decided to flee Ireland for a rejuvenating mini break to Bura Surfhouse in Lagos, Portugal for a four-day surf, yoga, wine  retreat.

With three of my favourite things rolled into one holiday I was boarding the plane to Faro airport before I knew it, where I was shuttled by a Greenbus transfer on arrival to the surfhouse (€30 return ticket for a 2 hour journey, organised by Bura).

Bura itself, I was surprised to find is more a modern villa rather than hostel with private rooms available or shared 6 bed dorms, a swimming pool, a bar, recreational areas, a spacious living area and a kitchen.

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Just by reception was The Events Wall where daily meals were listed as well as the best bars, places to eat, see, party, surf, walk, etc.

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As I had arrived on an early flight, I decided to go explore and check out Lagos town. Descending on the town from the coastal walkway I immediately noticed how historic it is.

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Old ruins are free to walk around with art exhibitions on display inside and the town itself is made up of cobbled streets and colourful buildings.

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As I had been up early travelling my belly was now calling and one of the first places I stumbled upon was a gorgeous little tapas restaurant called Meu Limao. On the waitress’ recommendation I chose the chickpeas, meatballs and coconut prawns – which were a hands down winner. A little pricey but very tasty.

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I rambled around the cobbled streets a bit further before heading back to the surfhouse to lie by the pool and meet the other guests for a BBQ. Free beers were provided and it was a nice time to get to know everyone around the communal table outside.

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The first 3 days of the retreat consisted of 8 a.m. starts and being picked up by our surf instructors from Extreme Algarve for the day. We would drive 45 minutes to Arrafina beach as at the time of our trip that was where the best waves were and we would spend the day at the beach surfing and tanning. The instructors are really fun and friendly and they cater for complete beginners to advanced surfers and the waves were huge when we were there!

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Acaí bowls at the beach café
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Lunch provided each day at the beach

We would get back to Bura around 5pm each day which gave us another hour by the pool and bar before freshening up for rooftop yoga at 7.30 p.m.

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Our yoga teacher Miri was so sweet and by the time we would finish at 8.30/9 p.m. dinner would be served and we would spend the night chatting, playing music and just hanging out in the common areas.

Our last day was slightly different in that we had the morning free, so the girls and I went exploring, shopping and got our nails done as well as enjoying an authentic Portuguese lunch before meeting back at Bura for transport to a local organic vineyard for wine tasting.

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Lunch at Al Forjna
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Seabass with tomato rice

The vineyard is run by a Frenchman who gave us a personal tour before sampling their four different organic wines with cheese and nibbles. I loved the fresh fig trees – pity the season was already over though!

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Monte de Casteleja organic wine

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That night to finish off our trip a few of us went for dinner together in a local seafood restaurant at the marina called A Barrigada.

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All in all it was such an invigorating and uplifting couple of days and I returned refreshed and with a renewed sense of mind, body and spirit. I also met some pretty cool people and I have to hand it to Bura and their staff who went above and beyond to cater for my food intolerances making sure no matter what the menu offered they made it suitable for me.

Breakfast consisted of fresh fruits, tea, coffee, toast, eggs, cereals and pancakes with soya milk and wheat free bread provided for me while below depicts the some of the dishes we ate over our four nights, including homemade burgers, risotto and chicken parmigiana.

If you’re thinking of a lone retreat or a getaway with other young, interesting, like-minded people I think one of the programmes on offer at Bura is right up your street.

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Eating My Way Around London – Part II

Every time I visit London it grows on me a bit more. It’s fun, it’s lively and it’s awe-inspiring to see the number of young entrepreneurs, particularly women, running successful and exciting new businesses. Case in point – possibly my favourite café ever – 26 grains in Neal’s Yard. It’s no secret I’m a porridge lover and 26 grains is the holy grail of porridge. Now not to be misled, they also do pancakes, waffles, smoothie bowls, eggs and other savouries (all packed full of superfoods), but for me I’m always going to go there for the porridge passion!

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Nordic Spice: Coconut milk oats, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, seeds, raisins, coconut yoghurt, banana & maple.

Left: Almond milk oats, blueberry compote, seeds, toasted coconut, strawberries, almond butter & amaranth. Right: Almond milk oats, matcha coconut ice-cream, cacao crumble, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, amaranth & popped quinoa.

A new arrival since my last visit to Neal’s Yard was Salad Pride, another healthy haven with Insta-perfect, edible flower embellished salads as well as a selection of sugar-free treats.

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While you’re in the vicinity it would be a shame not to stop by Neal’s Yard Remedies. I love their huge wall of superfoods and neat little Tincture bar at the back of the shop.

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Venturing away from my Neal’s Yard Sanctuary I visited the beauitful Kensington area for the first time and sough out Juice Baby. Specialising in cold pressed juices, raw salads, smoothies and the reason why I was there – dairy-free Almond Crunch ice-cream 🙂

A short ten minute walk from Juice Baby is another café worthy of a visit, The Good Life Eatery. The only downside to this place is if you’re dining alone they have no wifi and no real view either so bring a book! I had their Lean Machine bowl with brown rice, baked sweet potato falafels, roasted vegetable ratatouille, kale and omega seeds. 

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Ok so I wasn’t only eating my way around London – I also drank my way a bit too! 😛

As I was visiting for a friend’s birthday, in true ladies of leisure style, we booked a rooftop table at The Boundary in Shoreditch, tucking into a cold shellfish platter and sipping on some bubbles if you don’t mind! A cute place with nice good views and blankets and heaters provided on those cooler evenings.

Following said night of wine and some stronger liquids the following day we set out for the Saturday Broadway Market where my eyes definitely were bigger than my belly and I nearly had to be rolled home! The selection of delicious foods was over-whelming and there truly is something for all tastes. We chose Hanoi kitchen – be warned this has to be one of the most ungraceful bowls of food to eat on a public street with poor chopstick skills and a hangover!

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Hanoi Kitchen; Bun Noodle Pots (gluten free on request) – Vermicelli noodles, lettuce, pickled carrots, beansprouts, fresh herbs, crispy shallots, peanuts and spicy tofu.
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Quirky café Tiosk at Broadway Market and two of its just as quirky customers.
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Muesli with poached pears, coconut yoghut, berries, seeds and coconut flakes from Tiosk café at Broadway market.

As we were making to leave the market we spotted a second vegan-packed market area that’s almost hidden in a small courtyard on the left hand side at the park entrance to the main market area.

And little did I know the best dish of the day by far was hidden in here, despite how unassuming it looked! I in fact had no intentions of buying this curry but once handed a free taster at Makatcha I was soon opening my purse and handing over my cash for a box of their chicken rendang. I would put it down as one of the tastiest things I have ever tried and I’ve tried a lot! The box consists of Pulled chicken in a Rendang base served with rice, veg, peanut sauce and achar but they also had beef and vegan options available.

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As a long time follower of Deliciously Ella, the healthy food Instagrammer turned cookbook author, it was a no-brainer to check out her first café, The Mae Deli, located a short walk from Hyde Park.

On the day we visited it was jam packed and extremely hot and humid sitting downstairs which took away from the enjoyment of the experience a bit plus I was served a warm smoothie after they ran out of ice, which had to be sent back, but our lunch was hearty and tasty. My only critique on that front would be the soft, cold-served falafel – as a huge falafel fan they gotta be hot & crunchy!

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Sun-dried tomato falafels, kale, sweet potato & chickpea curry, brown rice, lentils & curried cauliflower

After a number of days of healthy salad lunches and lots of trekking around I was craving a wholesome warming big bowl of something and Thai red curry always wins my heart for that so while in the Notting Hill area we dined at Market Thai and it ticked all those boxes. Honest, tasty food.

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Thai red curries times two.

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Then before bidding adieu to London and my dear friend we went for once last hurrah at Giraffe in Spitalfields. Always lots of options for every kind of diner.

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The Classic burger & The Soul Bowl with chicken, brown rice and a fried egg (plus a sneaky side of sweet potato fries!)

If you’re a foodie and you haven’t been to London – you crazy. Get yo ass on a plane A-SAP! 

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Philippines

Well this post has been a long time coming – *blushes* – but better late than pregnant so here it is! 😉

After a not-so-smooth journey to getting there, having to fly 24 hours later than planned – take note: there’s a reason low cost airlines are low cost. My word of advice, avoid traveling with Cebu Pacific from someone whose learned the hard way. Not only do they overbook flights (by up to 100 passengers!) but their customer service and manner of handling the issue was really disappointing. Adding to that is the 9.5 hour flight time from Dubai to Manila with no in-flight entertainment or complimentary meal/snack and the temperature on the flight being close to Baltic! *LOL. OK – rant over*

First up – Where did I go & What did I get up to?

Once in Manila I transferred terminals to hop on my next flight from Manila to Boracay. It’s important to make sure you have sufficient transfer time between flights as Manila airport is crowded and baggage collection and moving terminals is a slow process.

The trip to Boracay though is short, approx. 1 hour and the airport is tiny but it makes it very convenient for hopping off the plane, grabbing your bags & heading on your merry way.

Again I flew here with Cebu Pacific and on board cabin crew were selling transfer tickets for Southwest Tours at a slightly reduced price, or their offices are located directly opposite the airport when you exit, which for 400 pesos allows you to be taken by mini van to the ferry, covers some local community/nature fees (can’t really remember this part), the ferry ride across to Boracay island and then mini van transfer to your accomodation. Very convenient, very easy.

Then – Aloohhaa Boracay!

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Time to kick back on the white sandy beaches and relax – or get up to some fun activities such as helmet diving, zip-lining, cliff diving at Ariel’s point or dressing up as mermaids for a beach photo shoot (I kid you not).

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Boracay is one of Philippines most popular tourist destinations so if you’re looking for a place to party in the evenings & sleep on the beach in the mornings this is your place

If visiting Boracay make sure you get to Spiderhouse to watch the sunset, this well known restaurant & bar fills up by 3/4pm daily for it’s view and chilled out vibe. You can even jump down from the cliff side restaurant into the sea below. Pizza seems to be a popular order for food here but I they also have healthier options, as you can see in the first picture below. The beach before you reach Spiderhouse also has a great buzz and an awesome DJ in the evenings and we got a gorgeous meal of fresh shrimp and coconut rice there on our first night. Plus that beach is amazing – like all of Boracay’s beaches!

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Dinner at Spiderhouse – Grilled fish & veg
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Sunset at Spiderhouse
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Enjoying dinner on a beanbag on the beach
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The beach walk-way to Spiderhouse

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After 3 nights in Boracay we left for Cebu, again flying with Cebu Pacific. We were met at the airport by our tour company who took our suitcases to our hotel and transferred us to the ferry. However, with traffic what should have been a much shorter journey ended up in us narrowly missing our scheduled ferry and instead having to wait almost 2 hours for the next boat, which is then another 2 hour ferry ride to Bohol so give yourself enough time for this.

What we saw on our very short trip to Bohol was beautiful – vast farm land on one side and turqoiuse waters on the others. Due to time restrictions to get us back in time for the last ferry, our tour company sped us around the island to visit first the Tarsier sanctuary (for those who don’t know these are tiny nocturnal chinchilla-like animals) and then to Chocolate Hills which is an area of topographical interest, appearing brown in summer when the sun scorches the earth and green during the rainy season., before heading straight back to the boat. Friends of ours did stay a night here though and thoroughly enjoyed it, there is island hopping excursions and a night-time firefly tour that they took part in and recommended.

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An interesting snack found on sale at the Tarsier sanctuary & at the ferry port

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Off the ferry and back in Cebu we stayed the night at The Dragon’s Inn (very low cost, no breakfast included, Wi-Fi only at reception, really only a place to rest your head but there were a few more hotels on the same road that had breakfast included that I would imagine are similarly low cost but slightly better options).

6 a.m. the next morning – yes these early mornings were become a habit – we were collected by a tour guide (all of which we found through Google searches and enquiries by the way!) and set off on a 3 hour journey to Oslob. On arrival we were provided with breakfast of mango and sticky rice then we proceeded down the road to the Whale Shark diving centre – you can dive or snorkel here but snorkeling would be best recommended as the whale sharks spend all their time up at the surface of the water looking for food thrown by the diving centre instructors. Don’t worry these huge guys are vegetarian but really impressive to be within touching distance of. How ethically correct it is remains to be seen though.

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After our whale shark encounters we went a short distance to Tumalog waterfalls which you can walk to in five minutes from where the coach drops you or you can take a motorbike ride with you of the waiting drivers.

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After our activities we were taken back for lunch by the beach.

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Fresh fish and pork dishes are the most common dishes in the Philippines, served always with white rice

By chance, one of our friends happened to inquire about a sand-bar she had seen on Instagram which we then learned was only a short boat ride away. Deciding it would be a shame not to go see it when we were so close, we hired a boat and agreed to pay our coach driver for the additional over-time we would be (which between 7 of us worked out at approx €6 each in total!).

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Our private boat awaits!

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The Sumilion sandbar itself is public property but the island it leads into is a private 5* resort only for guests so we just had some fun, soaked up the sun and got some nice snaps on the sand before sailing the short 10-15 minute journey back. (Heads up – check what time the tide is in/out before you visit or you might not get to see the sand bar!)

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That night after getting back to Cebu we took a taxi to the nearby Ayalla mall for dinner. There is loads of restaurants and shops here to choose from and we were actually quite surprised how up-market and modern it is in comparison to everything else we had seen on our travels and in the surrounding area.

The next day we were leaving for the airport again so I grabbed a “Buko juice” or coconut juice to you and I, from a vendor across the street. We also got our driver to stop at a fruit stall en route – I always love how they display their produce.

Leaving Cebu we were bound for El Nido – voted one of the world’s ten most beautiful islands. We flew direct from Cebu to El Nido which takes less than an hour and arriving to El Nido airport is worth the trip alone! The runway is practically on the beach and once you disembark you are greeted by singing locals, a tethered cow on a patch of greenery and your luggage which arrives on a table from a Vengabus style wagon. Absolute comedy gold. Plus while you wait for said Vengabus there are complimentary juices and local snacks!

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Tuk-Tuks are waiting to take you and your luggage to your hotel/hostel

We stayed at Zeniya’s pension in the heart of the town and couldn’t recommend it enough. The staff and owners were so warm that it felt like home for those few days. Each morning breakfast is served outside your room and there is a juice/smoothie bar across the street too.

Booking tours is easy as there are so many stalls and locals wandering around advertising. We had heard of a sunrise trek up Turar mountain/cliff that overlooks the town and found a local guide willing to take us so the next morning at 4.45 a.m. he met us at our hotel and off we set. Little did we know at the time how difficult the climb would be and that only a week or two previous to this there had been a bad accident involving a tour guide and a tourist and the trek had since been banned! Just as well we didn’t know though as we scaled sheer cliff face in the pitch dark (if you do decide to brave this trek – bring a head torch or phone with a torch as we would have been lost without them – and snacks!). Exerting so much energy in the early hours coupled with the heat, many of us felt sick and light headed so snacks and water were a blessing, paired with multiple pit stops. Eventually, feeling a little worse for wear, I am proud to say we made it to the top just in time for sunrise!

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View from the top!

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Yep that’s what we climbed!

After such an early start it was time for some R&R so I went for a massage in a little place our hosts recommended down the road (everything is maximum 5 minute walk away here) which was €8 for an hour full-body.

In the afternoon we went to El Nido zip-line – which if I had to choose between Boracay zip-line and here I would choose here. We chose to do a two-way zip-line with a combination of sitting and ‘superman’ style to take in the views from all angles. Finishing on Las Cabanas beach we settled in for some drinks and dinner to take in the sunset.

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Our next day was spent island hopping (we chose a combo of tour A & C as recommended to us by friends) which includes 5 different locations, kayaking, snorkeling and lunch and lasts the entire day (8 a.m. – 5 p.m).

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With the end of our trip in sight we spent our final day at Cove Beach resort where some friends were staying, which is approx. 20 minutes outside of town and is completely secluded and peaceful. The perfect way to end an action-packed holiday!

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(We flew from El Nido direct to Manila to catch our flight to Dubai)

Tresind

Located on the second floor of the Nassima Royal Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, Tresind is a self-called “modernist Indian fine dining restaurant” that I have been eager to visit for some time now. My family and I are big Indian food fans, so with my folks and my sister in town it was the perfect opportunity and boy was it worth the wait!

Arriving for our reservation at 7 p.m. to an empty restaurant was a little worrying yet these worries were soon dismissed as by 8 p.m. almost every table in the house was full and remained that way for the entirety  of our meal. A few tables even had turn-overs during that time and most of the diners during our visit were Indian themselves which is always a good sign.

Upon making our reservation I had advised the restaurant about my food intolerances (no wheat or dairy) and they were most accommodating. Once seated, the head chef came to speak with me about what options he could offer me from the á la carte menu while my parents and sister chose the eight course tasting menu which consisted of 13 mini dishes.

I have to say that even though I wasn’t eating all of the dishes on the tasting menu the theatrical side of their preparations (especially those done at the table) and presentation was so enjoyable even as a spectator. Foodie or not, I would highly recommend choosing the tasting menu option which at 375 AED I think is fantastic value for the quality and quantity of food provided.

To kick off we were served an amuse bouche of a pani puri – a traditional Indian street food, but deconstructed and reinvented, prepared “science lab” style at our table. Designed to be ate in one bite, the spoonful was a burst of sweet and spicy flavours with textural interest thanks to the nuggets of crunchy chickpeas.

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Although I will feature some photos of the tasting menu I won’t comment on them seeing as I did not taste them. What I did taste first however was a beautifully presented tamarind dressed melon salad, sent compliments of the chef, before my  chosen starter of scallops arrived. I adore scallops but often they are a small dish for a big price. This was not the case here though with four plump scallops served alongside a rich peanut and chili sauce.

For main course I ordered the coconut fish curry – the fish was cooked perfectly so that when touched with my fork it fell away easily. The thick sauce and accompanying appam (a rice flour pancake with a steamed egg in the centre -something I was thrilled to see on the menu, bringing back sweet memories from my Sri Lanka trip last year!); soon had me realising that my eyes are bigger than my belly!

Some pictures of the dishes offered on the tasting menu are shown below.

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Overall Tresind proved utterly delightful in every way – from their food to the staff who were warm, friendly and well informed that I cannot wait for my next visit and try their new summer menu & you should too! 😉

http://www.tresind.com

 

Zaroob

Last evening I visited Zaroob – a Levant street food vendor inspired restaurant offering wholesome, simple dishes in a brightly coloured, quirky environment set to mimic a traditional Middle Eastern street.

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Given the cool evening that it was we chose to dine outside on the open terrace. The space was filled with wooden chairs, steel tables and plenty of greenery to help blend into the Golden Mile area in which the eatery is located on the Palm Jumeira. One thing I will mention here is that the wooden benches could do with some more cushioning for sitting on in addition to those at our backs as they wouldn’t entice me to stay seated there for long periods of time.

One menu and a pen are provided to the table for diners to ‘tick the box‘ next to their desired dishes. Our waitress Mini was very helpful recommending and explaining various dishes and we ended up ordering quite a feast!

Dishes are prepared in an open kitchen inside and arrive as ready. Our order consisted of a falafel platter, a mixed shawarma platter, beef alayet, puffed eggs, mixed vegetables & pickles, fattoush, hummus with tatbileh and hummus with meat and pinenuts. In hindsight for eyes were bigger than our bellies and this amount of food could have easily fed three or four hungry people!

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The mixed shawarma platter had a generous portion of meat but was a little dry. Personally, I preferred the hummus tatbileh over the hummus with meat and pine nuts – the meat was a bit tough, especially in comparison to the soft stir-fried beef tenderloin.

The fattoush though was fresh, well dressed with crunchy leaves and a good accompaniment to the other dishes. Whilst the falafel was the first dish devoured.

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My dining partner and I both agreed that the beef alayet, (pictured in the pan on the far left below), was the tastiest dish, consisting of stir-fried beef tenderloin in a pomegranate sauce with onions and red peppers.

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All in all, Zaroob offers a fun, casual dining spot for quick and simple Middle Easten dishes at a reasonable price.

http://www.zaroob.com

 

 

 

 

Jordan

Last week, seven Irish lass’ and I set off for a mini-break to Jordan, taking advantage of our U.A.E. National Day holidays.

Arriving late at night into Queen Alia airport in Amman we were met by a nippy 11 degrees celcius and quickly bundled onto our tour bus. We arrived at the 3* Toledo hotel in Amman approximately 45 minutes later and the hotel had kindly extended the dinner buffet until we arrived.

Exhausted after a couple of crazy days pre-departure I decided to skip dinner and woke at 6 a.m. hungry and eager to see what breakfast had in store.

Well, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It was the best breakfast of our trip with a selection of cold cuts, cheeses, breads, fresh herbs, spices, zaatar (oh Jordanian zaatar), olives, falafel, roasted vegetables, eggs – boiled, baked, omelettes – you name it!

Sillily though I had left my phone in my room when I went down to breakfast and was so enthusiastic to dig in that I ate a whole plate of food, then dashed to my room to get my phone, re-created my plate so I could get a snap of it and yes I did eat it all for a second time.. hellooo food baby.

Paleo heaven: pictured clockwise from top is falafel with tahini and fresh herbs, olives, cold cut turkey slices, roasted marrows & eggplant, an omelette with fresh herbs and some spicy chili sauce (centre).
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Tummies more than satisfied we set off to explore the ancient ruins of Jerash, the Amman citadel and the Roman amphitheatre.

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After a morning of walking in the cold and wet and with a 3.5 hour journey ahead of us we were all looking forward to a substantial lunch and we weren’t disappointed with the offerings at Tawaheen Hawa. We enjoyed a traditional sharing style lunch with starters of hummus, moutabal, breads, sausages, salads, etc and a mixed grill main course of barbecue meat and vegetables.

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As we were leaving the restaurant this cute old lady was sat making bread on the ground.

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After our lunch we got back on the bus and drove to Wadi Musa in Petra, where we stayed at  the3* La Maison hotel. Having snacked on the journey our appetites were low so dinner was a bit smaller than usual.

Pictured is carrot and coconut salad, mixed olives, eggplant salad, white fish in lemon sauce with fresh & okra, red cabbage and meatball stew.

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After dinner we took a short walk down to Petra’s visitor centre and enjoyed shisha and drinks in The Cave – a bar located inside a cave; but which on such a chilly night was actually very cosy and modern – they even had NBA on the T.V.!

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At 7 a.m. the next morning we set off to discover the city of Petra, one of the seven modern Wonders of the World. We began our trail by riding horse-back, as was optionally included in our entry tickets, to the ‘Siq‘ or the beginning of the enclosed city.

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We then wandered by foot through the stone walled Siq stopping numerous times to soak up endless information from our tour guide but the moment of awe when we reached the Treasury was next to none.

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Having arrived early we had luckily beated the crowds and were able to get brilliant, clear pictures in front of the monument as on our way back a number of hours later it was extremely over-crowded.

Proceeding on from the Treasury (pictured above right) we climbed 850 steps up to the Monastery (below). You can take a donkey if you don’t fancy the climb, but it’s not that difficult and upon reaching the summit you feel as if you are on top of the world with views that envy the Grand Canyon.

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Plus you will be treated to some Jordanian hospitality once you reach the top.

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By the time we arrived back down from our trek we were hot and tired so after a quick lunch at the foot of the Monastery we made our way speedily back to our bus so we could make it to our next destination of Wadi Rum in time to watch sunset.

Swapping our bus for the back of a jeep on arrival, we drove across the desert and watched the sun go down over the same place Matt Damon’s latest movie The Martian was filmed.

That night at our camp site we were treated to a traditional method of bedouin cooking known as ‘zarb‘, in which lamb and potatoes were slow cooked for 3 hours in an underground pit. The result was deliciously tender meat and slightly caramelised potatoes served, as pictured below, with rice, cold salads, hummus and a spicy carrot dip.

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After dinner we took part in some traditional dancing and singing around the campfire before retiring to our huts and enjoying an early morning breakfast of omlettes with zaatar, dates and olives.

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Next on our hit-list, on day three and our final day in Jordan, was the city of Madaba. Taking us 3.5 hours to drive there from Wadi Rum our first visit was a short stop at St.George’s church to see the famous mosaic map, before grabbing lunch of falafel across the road from a little hole in the wall that our tour guide says is the best falafel joint in the city – and of course I had to get stuck in and help make them! 😉

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Falafels and hummus in tow we departed for Mount Nebo, where Moses was said to have first seen The Promised Land and Pope John Paul II deemed an official Christian pilgrimage site during his visit there.

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From here we proceeded 10 minutes to another famous Christian site – the Baptism place of Jesus Christ; where we got to dip our feet in the River Jordan and stand a mere few feet from Israel at the other side of the water!

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Last but certainly not least on our itinerary was  a float in the Dead Sea. To reach the sea you must enter via one of the surrounding resorts – ours was the 4* Warwick hotel and resort. A shuttle bus runs from the hotel and once beach side the staff will cover you in a mud mask (be warned – those guys are thorough!!) before exfoliating it off once dry with the wet sand.

The result? Skin softer than a baby’s bottom.

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Watching the sun set over the Dead Sea was the perfect end to a short but sweet get away.

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Eating My Way Around London – Part I

I recently took a short trip to London to visit some family & friends living there so here is a couple of great places I recommend checking out if you too are headed that way!

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26 grains

So good I went twice! And lucky for me – because I went on a Sunday (end of one week) and again on my final morning which was Tuesday, I got to try out two of their weekly specials!

Porridge I would probably list as my favourite food. Some people laugh at this, others grimace. For many it’s “poverty food” – reminiscent of college days when there is nothing else in the cupboards; but what can I say I just love the stuff! Breakfast or dinner – gimme!! So 26 grains was a no-brain winner for me.

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26grains isn’t the only gem located in the heavenly alleyway of Neal’s Yard, it is  also home to Wild Food Café and Blend & Press.

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Blend & Press sells pressed juices, raw chocolates and treats, raw sambos and a select few high quality food products. While Wild Food Café is dishing up all kinds of delicious raw, vegan colourful fresh foods.

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Sushi-Say

Tucked away in Wilsden Green, just next to Wilsden Green tube station, is this little family-run Japanese restaurant. It doesn’t look too appealing from the outside but I’m told it is always full and a quick Google search will show you it comes highly rated across the capital. For us, it was just a short walk from my family’s home so an ideal first evening dinner spot.

I had boiled edamame and yakitori chicken – grilled on a skewer, to begin. Followed by salted black cod for my main. If you’re very hungry, be warned, portions are small. The food was OK. To be honest, I couldn’t see what all the hype was about.

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Throughout the rest of my trip I spent my time exploring various areas with family and friends. If you can, definitely try and visit over a weekend as we stumbled upon so many great Sunday markets, including Holborn Slow Food Market and many more around Spitalfields and Brick Lane.

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Check out these amazing vegan treats & “love bombs”!

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Brick Lane is really busy but really fun – we even saw a music video being shot as we wandered around in the rain. There is so many fresh food stalls, little markets, quirky shops and eateries – including the most intoxicating chocolate shop and Cereal Killers, the newly-famous breakfast cereal café. There is also great Indian food to be got around here I’m told by a friend in the know.

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(Cereal Killers definitely isn’t the healthiest choice – I saw sugary cereals then piled high with crumbled Oreos and all sorts of toppings; but it’s fun to go in and check out!)

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A sign from one of the numerous food stalls on Brick Lane.

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Old Spitalfields Market is really nice to stroll around and then sit down and soak up the atmosphere from one of the many street food stalls or they have cafés and restaurants too if that’s more to your liking. Including Ottolenghi’s infamously good café just a short walk away.

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Personally, I love street food. I love the communal vibe and supporting people who are out there serving up their fare.

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It was difficult to choose with such a choice and the great thing is everyone wants to give you samples to taste! (You could probably fill up on these alone!)

We sampled some Indian and Egyptian foods before finally deciding on the healthy vegan option! (Surprise surprise  I know – but it was so vibrant and colourful my friends nor I could resist!

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And they had healthy goodies to sneak in my handbag for later! 😉

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Sufficiently stuffed after Spitalfield’s we then came across The Sunday Up Market in the Old Truman Brewery – which has just as extensive selection of food stalls to choose from. Seriously, my foodie brain and senses were in over-drive wandering around. As full as my tummy was I just wanted to try it all!

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If hipster is your thang. Then you have to visit Shoreditch, a short walk from Brick Lane area. East London is oozing uber-coolness. We stopped by T2 Tea Shop for some fresh hot and iced tea samples as well as checking out some of the neighbouring artisan stores.

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My final market hit-list was Borough Market – however, don’t make my mistake and visit on a Monday, when many of the stalls don’t open! 😦 It was also a very wet morning so my trip consisted of a quick look around the stalls that were open before escaping into Rabot 1745 chocolate café for a soy milk hot chocolate. They use really high quality chocolate, have chocolate on tap and have a very interesting food menu with every dish incorporating chocolate which I would love to try in the future.

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Finally it was time to bid London adieú with a final airport meal in Giraffe in Stanstead airport; Tofu & Squash Laksa.

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See you again soon London! X

Dublin Round-Up

There is some really exciting things happening in Ireland and particularly Dublin at the moment. Every few weeks or months there are new, healthy, hipster and quirky cafés and coffee shops opening up. I have a number of favourites across the capital, some old regulars and some exciting newbies!

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Blazing Salads – I’ve lost count of how many loyalty cards I’ve clocked up in this place! Plus while you’re there you can grab a tub of Nobó (i.e.: the best ice-cream ever!!). Located on Drury St, opposite George’s St Arcade.

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Kaph – the best matcha lattes in town, plus the added bonus of an excellent people watching spot thanks to their location opposite Blazing Salads. Pull up a bench outside or a cushion in the window and have some banter with their fun and friendly staff. Plus they stock Paleo Man Foods paleo treats like Banana & Walnut cake, Chocolate Coconut Brownie & Carrot Cake!

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Staple Foods – with an original location in Temple Bar and a brand new ;ocation on Grattan St, Dublin 2, these guys do hands-down the best vegan Sweet potato soup I’ve ever tasted – scratch that, the best frikkin soup I’ve ever tasted! So many vegan/vegetarian options here and also stockists of Paleo Man Food treats.

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The Fumbally – a little off the beaten track on Fumbally Lane, is always whipping up interesting new dishes in one of the coolest, chilled out venues in the capital. I love their falafel and black sesame milk!

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Fallon & Byrne – located on Exchequer St is where I go when I am seriously hungry! Or don’t feel like cooking and get a dinner to take home. My favourite is the Fish Stew served with your choice of 2 sides.

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Pictures courtesy of @fallonandbyrne & lovindublin.com

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Rustic Stone – on George’s St, works with a leading nutritionist so the entire menu is coded – wheat, gluten, sugar, dairy free, contains nuts, superfoods, – you name it! and there are tons of healthy options. The smell when you walk into the restaurant is also amazing from many diners cooking their own meat or fish on the stone at their tables.

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Brother Hubbard – on Capel St was a regular of mine during my time working in nearby Arnotts department store. I’m delighted to see the guys doing so well and what started as a one-roomed café has now expanded into 2 buildings, 2 floors, an edible garden and a sister café which I’ve yet to visit!

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For some finer dining.. 

Forest Avenue – located on Sussex Terrace was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. My visit was some time ago but it must be mentioned for the level of customer service and standard of food provided. Staff went above and beyond to cater for my dietary requirements. Sourcing wheat free bread specifically for me that night and ensuring no wheat or lactose was in any of the 6 courses of dishes prepared for me. As my companion and I opted to try one of every dish between us there was one fish dish which the chef felt it would be a shame for my friend not to have the dish as was designed with a dairy-containing sauce, so they thoughtfully added the sauce to only one half of the dish allowing me to sample the other half. I love how open yet relaxed the kitchen is and how the chef often brings dishes down to the table.

Forest Avenue Dublin 2014

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The newbies on the block..

These two new-comers to Baggot Street are much too conveniently located between my sister’s house and my agency, Morgan the Agency in Dublin making them the ideal breakfast, lunch – oh and snack stop! on my journeys in and out of town.

Cocu – Order and go style take-out counter with healthy warm and cold salad boxes – think brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, spinach, avocado and all other sorts of goodness. The concept is simple, you choose your base, choose your main then choose your ‘sprinkle’. They also have delicious healthy sweet offerings.

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Pictures courtesy of @cocokitchen

Eathos – 3 words – The Paleo Muffin. Oh gosh. Muffin aside, there are bountiful bowls of salads and plenty of naughty treats as well as a healthy vegan cake. Pricey but one for a treat!

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Pictures courtesy of @eathosdublin

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A little further astray.. 

OK so not technically Dublin but The Happy Pear in Greystones, Co.Wicklow, is only a short but extremely beautiful DART trip from the city centre. The trip alone is worth going to Greystones for! Or hop off at Bray and walk the coast from Bray-Greystones to build up an appetite (approx. 1hr walk). Don’t fancy that? Well you can always stroll on the beach conveniently located next to the station in Greystones.
Happy Pear Greystones

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