Sponsored Video: It’s a Snacking Revolution

We like our snacks, especially on a Saturday night. Family nights in front of the TV at the weekend are a low cost treat that Erin really enjoys, and a nice way for us all to enjoy some family time. We may be watching TV but there’s plenty of conversation about the singers on X Factor or the dancers on Strictly – depending on how we are feeling we may also score them all out of ten, Erin loves to play judge! We always plan our Saturday night snacks well in advance and are usually a mix of healthy and ‘treat’ snacks. Some of our favourite healthy snacks are; grapes (sometimes we freeze them), carrot sticks and poppadums with homemade masala papad. We’ve also been taste testing some of the latest gluten free and healthy snacks available to buy, more on that soon.

Ella’s Kitchen have started a snacking revolution with the help of some pint sized snack fans. Check out the video below. Kids love eating in small bite sized portions so I think it’s great to promote this as a healthy way of eating. Erin’s favourite dinner when she was small was a ‘picnic tea’, we’d include lots of fruit like grapes and strawberries as well as mini sausages, a yoghurt and breadsticks, it was easy for me and she loved it.

Now that Erin is older I am trying to pass on my love of cooking to her, and have been teaching her how to make some healthy snacks of her own. She enjoys making dishes like chicken pho and samosas, not everything we make is healthy but it’s always tasty!

Visit Ella’s Kitchen for ready made healthy snacks

Featured post in association with Ella’s Kitchen

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Rapunzel at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre

One of the fun things about being a parent is being able to share new experiences with your children, but also to have new experiences yourself. Ballet is not something I’ve ever been to see in the theatre so BalletLORENT Rapunzel was a new experience for us both.
Rapunzel
BalletLORENT’s Rapunzel have reinterpreted this fairytale popularised by Disney into a show that is as much for adults as it is for children (a word about its suitability for children below).

You are probably familiar with the story, the parents forced to give up their child, the witch who takes her from them, the woman the child becomes, and the prince who discovers and rescues her. The music is by Doctor Who composer Murray Gold, and the costumes by Michele Clapton, award-winning Costume Designer for Game of Thrones.

The age guide for this production is 7+ and I think that’s a fair assessment, children who are used to theatre will enjoy it very much. There are some scenes that move at a slower pace and younger children or those that get bored easily may struggle a bit.

When I said to Erin that it was ballet she was intrigued, I think in her head ballet is tutus and ballet shoes so she was surprised by how they were able to tell the story (in particular the angry parts) through the music and dance.

We really enjoyed this, and if you are looking to provide a range of theatre experiences to your children then I think this is one that can really bridge the gap between children’s shows and those aimed at adults.

The Making of Rapunzel from balletLORENT on Vimeo.


Further details on tickets and pricing here.

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On Board Oasis of the Seas: Our Stateroom and The Boardwalk

During the summer we took our first family cruise to the Caribbean. I always find with holidays that you never fully appreciate how amazing they were until you get back. Weeks, or more usually months later you start having little flashbacks. I’m reminiscing today, our cruise was nearly three months ago – long enough for me to start to appreciate just how good it was.

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Our stateroom with balcony, plenty of space for the three of us.

Cruise 2

The rock climbing wall on The Boardwalk

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The Boardwalk with restaurants, shops and attractions.

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Erin wishing to be Big.

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The Carousel

The Boardwalk was an area I wasn’t familiar with before going on Oasis of the Seas, the smaller Liberty of the Seas didn’t have a boardwalk. We all loved it as it had a different feel from other areas of the ship, it was pretty busy when we were on board as lots of people were enjoying the World Cup on the big screen. If we are lucky enough to go back on Oasis I’d definitely want to see the aerial water show which we missed out on this time.

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Burger, Edinburgh

I’d already had my eye on a visit to Burger well before I was invited to review it. There’s a branch located beside one of my cafe offices, I poked my head around to look at their menu a few weeks ago and it looked right up the husband’s street.

We were invited to review the new Burger restaurant at Shandwick Place. The idea behind Burger is straightforward no nonsense food and excellent value money. They are a brand new business that have their first outlets in Edinburgh but I expect they will want to expand pretty quickly, they are onto a winning formula.

Edinburgh

I ordered one of the specials (the menu changes every two weeks), a burger topped with pulled pork. On the side a portion of fries and two dips, chipotle lime and orange pop barbecue.

The husband ordered a double bacon cheeseburger, and fries topped with chilli.

The food was without fault. The brioche buns are made locally, while the rest of the food is freshly prepared at a local kitchen before being cooked on site. I’m not a massive fan of burgers, I find them dense and difficult to digest. This burger was juicy and only enough pressure applied to keep the meat in a patty shape, it was moist and tasty….it was perhaps the best burger I’ve ever had actually. The pulled pork wasn’t shredded to within an inch of its life, it still looked like pork and instead of a sickly sweet bbq sauce it had been cooked with proper spices. It was really good.

Edinburgh

The dips are worthy of mention – they too were freshly prepared, and it makes so much difference to something out of a squeezy bottle.

As we tucked in, we were already discussing the other menu items we would come back and try (the Chicken Katsu burger and the Hot Dog, to name two).

Edinburgh

Before we left, Hayley the manager brought us some tasters of their homemade ice cream and sorbet. We tried lemon posset, dulce de leche, blackcurrant and blood orange – they were all delicious but the husband grabbed the lemon posset and there was no way he was getting another look at the blood orange sorbet. It was the perfect way to end our lunch. A few things, done very well is Burger’s aim. It’s mission accomplished as far as we were concerned.

Move over Rascals and Wannaburger, there’s a new boy in town!

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Easy Lamb Dopiaza

Easy Lamb DopiazaThe second part of my Scotch Lamb challenge (the first part) was to create a dish from diced lamb. I’ve been cooking quite a bit of Indian food recently, I’ve never attempted a dopiaza before but it turned out pretty close.

Dopiaza means ‘double onions’, the base of this curry includes softened onions and then a second batch of chunky fried onions at the end.

It’s pretty difficult to go wrong with this because the longer you cook the lamb the better it will be, just remember to top it up with water so it doesn’t dry out. Ours was on the drier side so just adjust to suit your own taste.

Ingredients

Diced lamb
Tin of chopped tomatoes
2 x onions
2 x cloves of garlic
Fennel seeds
Cumin seeds
Coriander seeds
Garam masala
Turmeric
3 cardamom pods
Red chilli
Malt vinegar
Sugar
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

1. Brown the lamb, set it aside in a pot with a lid suitable for the oven.

2. Slice one onion and fry on a low heat with a glug of olive oil and two teaspoons of vinegar. The vinegar will help them brown.

3. Slice the red chilli and add it to the pot. Grind the rest of the spices with a pestle and mortar.

4. Add the onions the pot. Use the frying pan to fry out the ground spices with a bit of olive oil. Add in the tomatoes and season to taste, use a little sugar to sweeten if required. Add to the pot along with three cardamom pods.

5. Cook on a low heat (160) for at least a couple of hours.

6. Chop the second onion into large chunks and fry off on a high heat, a few burnt bits will only add to the flavour. Add these to the pot and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with your favourite Indian accompaniments

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LG G3 Review

image(1)The mobile phone market has become a little crowded of late. The two big brands are Apple & Android with the new Windows phones playing catch up. Traditionally if you wanted an android phone, Samsung were the major player. After receiving the new LG G3 to review, I started to ask why? Why have I never considered LG as a realistic alternative to Samsung? Sure, the likes of Sony & HTC have always been around but LG? They only make TV’s, don’t they?

When I unpacked the G3, the first thing that struck me was the size. It’s massive. Coming from an iPhone, I’m used to a compact design so the large screen took a little getting used to. The size does have a huge upside however. The new quad HD screen is a masterpiece providing crystal clear images on the 5.5 inch display. If you use your phone to watch Netflix for example, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the sharpness and clarity of the images.

LG G3 1The operating system (Android 4.4 kit kat) is really easy to use and more intuitive than other android phones I’ve used. It has the usual App options available through the Google Play Store. It also has a unique way to unlock the phone in the form of Knockcode. Rather than using a PIN number or a pattern code you can tap a sequence on the screen which is quite fun but not always successful.

The 13 mp camera on the G3 is also a big step up from other models on offer, using a laser to pinpoint what you are photographing and auto focus on that. The front camera us also high quality, in case you’re partial to the odd selfie.

The G3 also boasts the Qualcomm Snapdragon quad processor so it’s more than capable of standing up to the demands of browsing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Using the Google Chrome browser the internet is also rather speedy, especially if you have a 4G connection. With all these new, faster and more powerful options you would think battery life would suffer but I found the opposite to be true. The battery lasted longer than any other phone I’ve owned (well, except my old Nokia which lasted a week on one charge, no matter how much Snake you played). In the never ending quest for longer battery life, LG have taken a huge leap forward.

The only drawback I found with this phone was the way it felt in your hand. It has a metallic looking back which looks great but is actually plastic and because of this, the phone feels less premium and well made as handsets such as the iPhone or the new HTC ONE M8. This is a small drawback however, in what is otherwise a fantastic new phone.

So if you’re in the market for a new phone the question about LG shouldn’t be why? It should be, why not?

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Lamb Loin with Lemon & Mint Dressing

Last year I attended a Scotch Lamb cookery class at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School, I enjoyed it so much that when I was emailed about doing something again this year, I jumped at it. This year’s challenge was a little different; come up with two different recipes with two different cuts of lamb. I’m not much of a recipe follower so this was a perfect challenge for me.

The cuts I chose were lamb loin and diced lamb, you’ll need to wait to find out the fate of the diced lamb.

Now I’m not going to pretend this is complicated, it isn’t in the slightest. This is simple tasty cooking that anyone could do, because frankly I have no cookery qualifications – I am anyone.

First off I gathered together my ingredients..

Scotch Lamb 1

Lamb loin, new potatoes, fresh mint, garlic, lemon, spinach and lamb’s lettuce, olive oil, butter, sea salt, pepper….and what you can’t see in the picture because I forgot, a bit of sugar.

Get your potatoes on to boil, they will take the longest at about 35-40 mins.

Scotch Lamb 2

Season your lamb with sea salt and black pepper and roll in a bit of olive oil. Always oil the meat instead of the pan, prevents sticking or something like that.

Seal your meat fat side down on a high heat, once browned, turn it over and do the other side. This adds flavour, but also stops the meat leaking juices once it’s in the oven.

Pop it in a roasting tray and into the oven. I put it in at 200 for about 15 mins to serve pink. The best way to cook meat is by learning to tell when it’s done by touch, because of course all meats and ovens vary. The Finger Test is described well here with illustrations, once you’ve mastered this you won’t need to worry too much with cooking times for smaller pieces of red meat like this.

Scotch Lamb 3

While your potatoes are boiling and your meat is roasting, make your dressing. Grind up a large handful of mint with a half teaspoon of sugar (you can adjust the sweetness at the end) and a teaspoon of sea salt, and the juice of a lemon and a good couple of glugs of olive oil. Give it a good stir and add a twist of pepper and some extra salt or sugar to taste.

Make a paste with three garlic cloves (two if you don’t like things too garlicky) and a large pinch of salt.

Take your meat out of the oven to rest, it will take at least ten minutes. If you don’t rest it, you will end up with juices everywhere and if you’ve cooked it pink that can be a bit unpleasant.

Scotch Lamb 6

Drain the potatoes and add a generous scoop of butter, crush with the back of a fork. Add your garlic paste and make sure it’s stirred through evenly. Put a lid on the pan to keep them warm.

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Slice your meat and arrange on a plate.

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Drizzle over your dressing and serve with your accompaniments.

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Disney On Ice Is Coming To Scotland

Disney On Ice celebrates 100 years of magic is coming to Glasgow’s Braehead Arena – 26th September – 5th October.

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The show features more than 60 unforgettable Disney stars that span the decades, a sing-along score of award-winning Disney music, stunning choreography, elaborate sets and beautiful costumes. With Mickey and Minnie leading the fun, the show includes breathtaking skating numbers, devised by an award-winning choreographer who created the skating segment for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Disney On Ice Glasgow

Complementing the fabulous skate sequences are countless memorable Disney musical classics, such as “A Whole New World”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, which bring everyone’s favourite memories of Disney to life on ice.

Lion King

Outfitting this cast was a huge challenge for the show’s costume designer with dazzling designs ranging from Mickey’s Marching Band, to the “It’s a Small World” dolls, to the stars of Mulan and Finding Nemo.

Finding Nemo

The design team, who have worked on numerous Broadway productions, have bought a magical, theatrical feel to the on-ice experience. Skaters weave around and bring to life the “It’s a Small World” sequence, amidst sparkling floats that turn into a radiant light parade and a blanket of snow and an avalanche fall as Mulan battles the Huns. Another highlight is when a giant present is opened to reveal Buzz Lightyear, as he is first introduced to everyone’s
favorite toy cowboy, Woody and his pal Jessie.

Disney On Ice Celebrates 100 Years of Magic eye-opening facts and figures:

Hours it takes to set up the production – 10 -14
Hours it takes to tear down the production – 3 – 4
Full time crew members who travel with the production – 5
Number of countries represented by the cast – 10
Number of male performers in the production – 23
Number of female performers in the production – 24
Number of yards of fabric used to make the costumes – 1,300
Number of costumes in the show – 160
Number of different paint colours used on the props – 102
Weight of set – 8 tons

Tickets are available now from Ticket Master

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The Elphinstone, Biggar

My heart sinks when I see a menu that runs to several pages and has a dish representative of food from each of the continents. I was immediately concerned by The Elphinstone’s menu, how would any chef be able to pull off that wide a repertoire? I was going to find out though..

The Elphinstone
I bravely ordered my first dish, Mushroom and Spring Onion Onigiri. This Japanese dish was served with a hot and sour sauce. Two large balls arrived. On the outside a cripsy panko breadcrumb, inside a soft mellow ball of rice and finely chopped mushroom and spring onion. It reminded me a bit of the Italian arancini. They were good, and they went perfectly with the dip which was indeed hot and sour.
The Elphinstone
A good start.

Alex chose a platter of Deep Fried Seafood; cod goujons, mango shrimp in panko breadcrumbs and scampi. He said it tasted really fresh.

Two out of two.
The Elphinstone
For the main courses we stayed firmly in our own continent. Alex chose the homely Beef with Yorkshire Pudding. The beef was melting into the gravy and all the vegetables were fresh and tasty. The most surprising thing at this point of the meal was that everything had been homemade, there had been no cutting corners – not what you’d expect from such an extensive menu.

The Elphinstone
I chose the Fillet Steak with a peppercorn sauce. It’s not a dish I order regularly, but I really fancied it, and it did not disappoint. My steak dinner arrived on a platter; the steak was charred on the outside and juicy pink on the inside, the chips were hand cut and deep fried, the onion rings were crispy and sweet, the mushroom and tomato skewer was a really nice addition. The peppercorn sauce was the best I’ve tasted, packed full of flavour (a wishy washy peppercorn sauce is so disappointing). It was quite simply the perfect steak dinner. Everything was as it should be and I savoured every mouthful. When I crave a steak dinner again, I will be heading straight down the A70 to Biggar and The Elphinstone.

The Elphinstone
After the massive high of the main, my own dessert was a bit of a disappointment. I can’t be sure but I think the Toffee Roulade may have been the one dish of our meal that had been bought in.

The Elphinstone
Alex definitely won the dessert. The Sticky Toffee Pudding and locally made ice cream was a clear winner. I know what I’ll be ordering next time.

The Elphinstone was a real surprise. The menu may be eclectic, but the chef pulls it off. I’m really looking forward to trying some of the other dishes now to see if they are as good, if the other diner’s plates were anything to go by (yes I did have a sneaky look) then I think the answer to that is yes.

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Afternoon Tea Etiquette: The Basics

With countless ancient castles and stately homes dotting the countryside, there are few better settings for a really good afternoon tea than Scotland. Whether you’re with friends, family or treating yourself to a bit of ‘me’ time, having an indulgent and delicious post-lunch feast is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

Though many of our parents and grandparents were brought up on afternoon tea, these days table manners don’t always come so naturally. But worry not, if you don’t know your cucumber sandwiches from your scones, here’s a quick guide to the basics of afternoon tea etiquette.

Afternoon Tea Out

If you’re planning to enjoy an afternoon tea at one of Scotland’s delightful castles, cafes or stately homes or one of the many famous tea spots in London, your main etiquette focus will be on table manners.

Though the exact requirements will vary between establishments, there are a few universal points to remember. For example, when stirring your tea, don’t let the teaspoon clatter against the side of the cup, instead swish the spoon backwards and forwards until your tea is ready.

Another important point of etiquette is the order in which you eat your tasty treats. In most establishments, it’s considered proper to begin with savoury snacks, followed by scones, pastries and cakes. Whether you decide to place the cream or jam on your scone first is a personal choice and not strictly part of afternoon tea proceedings.

If in doubt, take a grandparent or older relative with your for advice and guidance.

Hosting Afternoon Tea

If you have an elderly relative in a McCarthy and Stone retirement home, they’ll probably be able to give you some useful tips on hosting a successful afternoon tea. If you’re lucky, they may even be able to come along on the day and help you get your sandwiches, scones and cakes laid out perfectly.

As many of the dishes are served cold, it’s easy to get everything ready well in advance, leaving you more time to think about table plans, decorations and finishing touches.

Though afternoon tea etiquette has relaxed a little over the years, it’s still a good idea to follow the basic requirements. From laying your table with matching crockery to making your brew, your older relatives should be able to guide you through the complex world of afternoon tea hosting.

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Afternoon Tea at Melville Castle

Melville CastleIt’s all about afternoon tea at the moment. We were in Glasgow last week enjoying Tea On The Green with John Lewis, and this week we were at Melville Castle. This is the second afternoon tea I’ve had at Melville Castle this year, the first time wasn’t the best so I was invited back to give it another go.
Melville Castle 1
The setting at Melville Castle is lovely, a beautiful tree-lined drive up and large grounds make your arrival feel quite special. The castle itself is impressive, and then unfortunately you find that afternoon tea is served in the bar. It’s a real shame as right next door there is a gorgeous room. I had a peek in, and it looked like either parquet or wooden floor with nice tables (with table cloths) all looking out over the beautiful grounds. At £14.95 for a standard afternoon tea and £19.95 for a champagne afternoon tea I think it deserves to be a little more formal and I don’t feel the bar area really cuts it.Melville Castle 2

Our afternoon tea arrived on stands, they’d gone to the effort of providing gluten free options which I appreciated – especially as afternoon tea is pretty much packed full of gluten so quite a challenge. We had a selection of smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise, and parma ham sandwiches. The scones here homemade unlike our first visit, we did have to ask for jam which seemed a bit odd but it was no issue to the staff who brought us some as soon as we asked (I can’t work out why it didn’t come as standard). The cakes included chocolate brownies and meringues which were ok. The stand out component was definitely the lemon cream with berry compote that was served in a little shot glass, I could have happily eaten a few of them – they were the perfect balance of sweet and sharp, if everything else was at that standard we’d have been really happy.Melville Castle 3

I wish I could end this review recommending everyone reading visit, however I think there are a few things that still need to be worked on. The price does not match the value offered at the moment, in my opinion they either need to price it as an informal afternoon tea in the bar area – we all agreed £9.95pp would be a fair price for this. Or they need to shift the afternoon tea into the next room and make it a more formal affair and offer the value expected for the price charged. If we had paid for our afternoon tea it would have cost around £45, and I think that’s still a bit steep, even with the improvements they have made.

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Eating Out In Liverpool

Whether you’re staying in Liverpool (take a look at the Travelodge in Liverpool city centre if you are), visiting friends or you live in the area, finding the perfect place to eat out while you’re there will always be the icing on the cake. With plenty of restaurants vying for your attention throughout the city and the surrounding area, you really will be spoiled for choice. So why not take a look at a few of these recommendations to give you a helping hand:

Owens Restaurant

Recently recommended by Liverpool food blog ‘Proper Boss Food‘, it’s a restaurant situated just outside the city, has been around for the last fifteen years and its popularity shows no sign of waning. With great service and amazing food served at prices that appear way too low for the quality of the food, Owens is a firm favourite with locals and visitors to Liverpool alike. Choose from delicious starters such as grilled spiced lamb sausages glazed with maple syrup and a sweet chilli jam or Italian style herb roasted wild boar meatballs in tomatoes, garlic and basil. For mains choose from succulent pieces of venison in a damson reduction and rich roasting gravy or pan seared calf’s liver with caramelised onions and a hearty red wine sauce. To finish why not choose a delicious sharing plate consisting of lemon meringue pie, strawberry pavlova, chocolate cake and toffee cheesecake. For just £12 before 7pm and £14.50 thereafter, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s an absolute bargain.

Yardbird

A Southern American style diner in Berry Street that’s getting rave reviews, Yardbird is here to stay. Think cocktails, fried chicken, doughnuts and burgers and you’re halfway there. What you won’t expect however is the quality of the food on offer. The delicious homemade doughnuts carry such unusual flavours as aloe and pistachio, grapefruit campari and lemon zest icing, blood orange glazed vanilla, peanut butter glazed chocolate and even maple glazed bacon! There are mains like fried chicken with biscuits and cayenne pepper sauce or gravy, dead mans fingers in hot buffalo sauce with cheese dip, fried chicken buckets for sharing and amazing burgers, loaded with just about everything you can imagine. With sides of every kind of slaw you can imagine, maple bacon onion rings, padron peppers and buffalo fried cauliflower, the flavour combinations are out of this world.

Panoramic 34

Amazing service, the best view of The Mersey you’re ever likely to see and fantastic food make Panoramic 34 a restaurant not to be missed while you’re in Liverpool. Enjoy lunch for £25, afternoon tea, fine dining or maybe just a few cocktails at the bar in elegant surroundings overlooking the city. Savour such delights as scallops with crispy pancetta and crushed peas or Gressingham smoked duck breast with sautéed chicory and rhubarb salsa, followed by poached wild turbot with parsley purée, compressed fennel and crushed potatoes or fillet of beef, artichoke purée, fondant potato, green beans and confit cherry tomato. Top it off with chocolate tiramisu or tangerine panacotta, plus a cocktail or two, and you have the perfect recipe for an amazing meal.

Liverpool really does have some of the most amazing restaurants you’ll come across in the UK, so make sure you discover your favourite while you’re in town.

Post brought to you by Travel Lodge

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John Lewis Tea On The Green

The run up to the Commonwealth Games has passed me by somewhat, we’ve been busy cruising and camping. Twitter came alight on Wednesday with opening ceremony tweets so I tuned in a little late to see some Scottie Dogs and quite a few crimes against tartan. It all looked like good fun though and on Thursday we were invited to Tea On The Green in Glasgow with John Lewis, I was keen to go through and enjoy the atmosphere.

Even though we live on the train line to Glasgow (not actually ON the train line, obviously) we have never ventured through that way. As we got off the train at central station I was surprised to find how many nice bars and restaurants there were – we need to make more effort to go into Glasgow instead of Edinburgh all the time.

Tea On The Green is a pop up green erected by John Lewis so that visitors to the city can enjoy afternoon tea while watching the Commonwealth Games. We thoroughly enjoyed ours which was helped along by it being a beautiful day, they even catered for me with a stand of gluten free cakes and scones….scones that tasted like actual scones, not some inferior gluten free version. It was a real treat. What I really liked (apart from the scones, did I mention the scones?) was that all the staff at the Glasgow branch had been given the opportunity to volunteer to switch from their usual job to become waiters and waitresses on the green. Our waiter usually works in the lighting department – although you’d never have known!

Tea On The Green is complimentary and open to everyone, book your spot today.

Posted in Reviews, Scotland | 1 Comment