CF Review: The Bristol Hotel, Bristol, UK

The week before last, I lay my head at The Bristol Hotel for the night. It came about as a means to an end, to tide me over between work (I starting a consulting job with a new digital brand in the spring, so spend 1-2 days a week in Bristol) and a day foraging in Somerset, the following day. It made no sense to drive the 1.5 hours home, only to drive back again the next morning, so I found myself foot-loose and toddler free, with a reservation at The Bristol Hotel.

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a Clifton/Whiteladies Road girl when it comes to Bristol postcodes. Having lived briefly with the OH in the former, 8 years ago. In my working day I never quite make it down to the riverside either, so The Bristol Hotel was a bit of an unknown to me.

It has, rather handily, a multi-storey car park attached to the side of it, that residents get free parking at. In central Bristol you have no idea what a plus this is. I zipped straight in, grabbed my bags and trusty laptop and checked in mid-afternoon. While the hotel will win no beauty prizes from the outside, inside is a different matter… I decided to post a pic heavy review to show you around.

Checked in, I headed straight up to the sixth floor and my spacious river-view room. I quickly holed myself here in my makeshift office (there is free wifi throughout the hotel, as a nod towards the predominantly business crowd during the week) and watched the sunset over the city.

Skipping lunch, I was fuelled solely on the in-room Nespresso machine and the welcome gift from the hotel: buttery shortbread and strawberries with chocolate sauce. Much appreciated.

Work done, and high on caffeine and sugar, I took a wander downstairs to the cosy lounge and read the papers for a while, enjoying the phenomenal people watching potential that only a hotel lobby can bring.


Then took a look at the River Grille restaurant – a beautiful double-height space overlooking the river. I bowed out of dinner a seul, but on the Bristol foodie grapevine I have heard GREAT things about this place…

Back in my room, I thought a bath by myself might only exacerbate my Country Bebe pangs (CB and I still share the tub every night), but it was HEAVENLY. Mainly due to the generous sized Temple Spa products in the bathroom.

Luxuriating in the bubbles, and the silence of not having to sing every maritime related nursery rhyme ever written, I wallowed for a good hour applying every hair and face lotion and potion I could lay my hands on. Bliss.

Squeaky clean, I slipped into the obligatory fluffy robe, padded around in my slippers and worked my way through a list of very overdue phone calls to my best friends. Not the quick mid-week ‘check-in’ when you’re both knackered, but proper hour-long talks.

Suitably brought up to speed on new babies, engagements and work moves I ordered dinner to my room. Namely the ‘naked’ burger with fries and a bucket of Malbec. After a false start (a chicken burger and cold chips) a great sweet and juicy patty arrived, smothered in Monterey Jack cheese and piping hot, crispy matchstick fries. I nursed my Malbec alongside a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad and fell into a deep, restful slumber (note: there is secondary glazing in the hotel and I didn’t hear a PEEP, despite it being a central city-based hotel – impressive).

Up with the lark I opted again for breakfast in-room (I’m not a hermit, honest) and this time I went LARGE:

Not purely out of gluttony I might add, but I was fuelling up for my day’s adventure – foraging in Somerset…

TO BE CONTINUED…

CF Eats: a working lunch and gluten free bread baking

Since my foraging course at Vale House Kitchen last week, I have become *slightly* obsessed with Nettle soup. No, not a confession I thought I’d be making either but imagine a cross between rocket and spinach made into a creamy emulsion with double cream, potato, garlic and stock… it’s amazing. I’ll post the recipe when I make my next batch.

But, when ‘knocking up a batch of homemade soup’ just isn’t feasible, namely Monday-Friday when I am working, I have discovered the brilliant Amy’s Kitchen as a pretty close to homemade substitute that is gloriously gluten-free.

I was sent this tin, the chunky tomato, to try last week. And have since whipped up to Waitrose and filled my trolley with lentil, lentil and vegetable and more chunky tomato – and they’re all organic, too. The chunky tomato is made with cream, so imagine a less synthetic and much less sweet Heinz cream of tomato, that actually has texture and chunks of real tomato in it. Yum.

Amy’s Kitchen is a 25 year old US brand, so hardly ‘new to the market’, but weirdly just hadn’t made it on to my ‘gluten free’ radar. It was founded by a couple in Chicago and sweetly named after their daughter. I like the ‘homely’ ethos as well as the ‘free from’ credentials. Everything is made ‘with ingredients you’d find in your own kitchen’; I love their benchmark that ‘if a child can’t pronounce it, it’s not going in’. Brilliant.

Everything is vegetarian and gluten free, and they also do lactose free ranges. It’s not just soups, there are ready meals, curries and pies, too.

I have begun, just like my mum did when I was little, making batches of bread on a Saturday morning for the week. Just straightforward 400g loaves for now, that slot neatly into the freezer. With my trusty Kenwood Chef mixer and dough hook attachment it is super super simple. Plus, using Doves Farm’s brown bread gluten free flour, and simply following the recipe on the reverse, it is just a one hour prove then straight in the oven for one hour. No ‘proving, knocking back, then second proving’ palaver.

I’ll wait till I’ve perfected the recipe before I do a full post (it’s getting better with each batch!), it’s made with milk and olive oil so has a dense but moist crumb and a great crunchy crust. It’s delicious with cashew nut butter for breakfast, or here with houmous and soup for lunch. I’m so glad I’ve got a reliable bread recipe under my belt, it was one of my real bug bears about being gluten free, not being able to quickly knock up a sandwich, and now I can!

 

 

Jobs for the weekend: a busy Autumn ‘to-do list’

Blimey, I’ve got my work cut out for me this weekend:

Outside, I will be:

Planting daffs and bulbs various – as well as tidying up the beds, ditching the annuals and dividing and re-homing some of the herbacious perennials.

Planting up various bowls and planters with hyacinths and paper-white daffs ready to bring in for the festive season to decorate the house.

Scooping up windfall apples and pears from my mum’s garden to stew, bake and crumble-ify (it’s a word).

Hunt down some elderberries (see below).

Inside, I’m planning on:

Bottling up my sloe and blackberry and apple gins. All the fruit is in the freezer, ready to go and I’ve just bought some stoppered glass bottles – they’ll make great Christmas presents for foodies.

Making up some elderberry cordial to bottle for winter (it’s packed with vitamin c and a great soothing warm drink during cold season).

Feeding my cake! My first Christmas cake baked perfectly and is now carefully stowed, ready for the festive season. I plan to feed it once a month between now and Christmas with a slosh of brandy. I will be scouring Pinterest for decorating ideas…

Finally deciding on and ordering the new curtain fabric for our open-plan living/dining space – which do you think?

Then there is just the small task of starting to potty train Country Bebe… but that is a WHOLE other post…

Hope you have a good weekend!

CF x

 

 

 

 

30-second review: gluten free 9 bars

So, I’ve been gluten-free for a while now. Not in a militant ‘not a husk of wheat must pass my lips’ (I have no diagnosed intolerance or allergy that could warrant this totalitarian approach), but saying that, now that I’ve been pretty much gluten free for 4-5 months when I *do* eat regular pasta/bread etc it FLOORS me. Like rolling round with gripey tummy cramps, agony. Last Saturday was written off by a croissant. Damn you bakery goods.

Suffice to say, it’s enough to keep me on the ‘gluten-free’ straight and narrow. Not that it’s particularly difficult: I genuinely cannot tell the difference between wheat and Doves Farm’s corn and rice pasta; I’ve perfected a great gluten-free loaf for sandwiches; I swear by Eat Natural’s Buckwheat muesli with homemade windfall (apples or pears) compote for brekkie and I wrote about my ‘go-to’ brands for snacking a while ago.

On that note, I do love a Nakd bar – my handbag, glovebox, desk are scattered with them and they’re pretty much a daily staple in my ‘gluten-free’ diet – but I was sent this little selection of 9bars this week to road-test and a change seemed as good as a rest…

This is the peanut 9bar. They are handmade in North Wales and a simple blend of super seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and hemp, peanuts and erm, golden syrup and sugar. That’s my only bug bear with 9bars, the dollop of refined sugar, because you see they are really rather good. But not good for the waistline with 266kcal, 16.7g of sugar and 5g of sat fats. Ouch.

They don’t actually taste tooth-achingly sweet (even more dangerous!). The pinch of salt balances the sweetness perfectly and I love the carob topping on the fruity one… I quizzed the PR on the sugar content and apparently they are essential as a bonding agent (admittedly they are sticky and chewy and delicious).

I think as an occasional treat, or for the bottom of a rucksack on big days out, they are great and of course, a bit of sugar is MUCH preferred to all the crap and chemicals in junk food – I’m just peeved that I can’t eat them everyday!

 

 

 

A GENIUS Secret Santa gift idea

Ha ha ha. Imagine, you draw your office arch nemesis (everyone has one) in the Christmas party secret santa. Don’t panic, buy this for the perfect passive aggressive present that will convey your distain perfectly.

The W Anchor Mug, £5.95, www.prezzybox.com

CF Christmas: my first ever homemade Christmas cake

Gulp. I’ve gone and done it, I’ve written my first Christmas post.

This year we are taking over the mantle of hosting the Christmas Day celebrations. As a family, we would rather not spend our first year without Daddy in our family home. Understandably. So, we figured by doing everything differently and somewhere new, we wouldn’t constantly be noticing all the places he should be (carving the turkey, at the head of the table etc etc) and give ourselves a fighting chance of getting through the day which, lets be honest, anyone who has lost someone they love will tell you, is all you can hope for the first year.

So, it’s the Mansi household’s responsibility to lay on the festive cheer and I intend to do so in style. First up for anyone’s first Christmas as hostess has to be the Christmas cake.

I am going with the Queen B of baking (aka Mary Berry) on the recipe front – although I have tweaked the dried fruit content to mix things up. I’ve ditched some of the vine fruits and all of the candied peel, in favour of dried blueberries and cranberries. They’ve gone into a huge mixing bowl along with glace cherries (not the neon red ones), dried apricots (non-sulphur please) and a good douse of brandy. They’re quietly getting sozzled in the utility room till tomorrow when the actually baking commences, but I thought I’d get ahead of the game and line my tin.

On this front I have garnered the opinion of three sage women (namely the mother in law, grandmother in law and best friend’s mum) all whom have made more Christmas cakes than I’ve had birthdays, and it would seem, have entirely different methods.

I have decided to go with the simplest, as this is my maiden voyage into festive baking, and have simply double lined the base of my tin (i.e. sat my tin on top of two sheets of baking parchment, drew around it, cut it out and sat it in the bottom). Then I’ve made another two that will sit on top of the cake mixture while cooking to stop it drying out. Lastly, I’ve made a collar to go inside, between the tin and the mixture, that stands 1.5inches above the height of the tin. Don’t ask me what this is for, I have no idea.

Ta dah!

So, that’s it for now. Other than costing a small fortune (I’m sure it would have been cheaper to buy one from Fortnums), it seems pretty straight forward.

Famous last words…

 

5 of the best: winter lip balms

I am strongly resisting putting on the central heating as I know it is the beginning of the end for my skin, lips and hair on the hydration front. But it’s not all doom and gloom, it gives me the perfect excuse to start purchasing an array of lip butters and balms to keep stashed in my pockets, glove box, handbag and on my desk, by my bed… I’ve never been precious about having a different lotion and potion for cuticles, lips etc. I find one I like and slather it on to any dry spots I notice at regular intervals throughout the day.

My long-standing loves are:

Balance Me Stellar Face Balm I reviewed this a while ago and whilst it’s billed as an overnight facial treatment I find a good dollop rubbed into raggy cuticles before bed renders them super soft by morning.

REN Mayday balm – this is my desk staple, I love the calming rose scent and it’s great for a myriad of day-to-day skin complaints – I’ve used it on everything from chapped skin to burns and insect bites. A great natural soothing balm.

Lanolips 101 Ointment (above) – I keep this on standby for when serious chapping strikes. I ride my bike pretty much every day, whatever the weather, so my lips, knuckles, nose, cheekbones etc get a real battering come winter. As the name suggests, its key ingredient is medical-grade lanolin; it’s colour/fragrance free with 100% natural ingredients, so it’s a great one to slap on Country Bebe on the back of the bike, too.

And onto my two new(ish) favourites:

By Terry’s Baume de Rose – this launched in 2003, so by no means a ‘new release’ but it is new to me, as a birthday present, last month. It has a creamy, rosey scent (a signature of By Terry products) and yes, it is a luxe purchase (or a very indulgent gift!) but I have been suitably impressed how a quick swipe of this sheer balm and I can feel the softening effects on my lips for hours after. I’ve noticed my lipsticks are going on better too as my lips are in tip-top condition.

The Korres Lip Butters are perennial favourites, but whereas I usually go for the colourless Guava formula, this time I’ve plumped for the jasmine (the pomegranate and wild rose are great, too). I like that it leaves the sheerest hint of colour and the rich buttery texture makes it feel really soothing on the lips.

That’s it! Next up in the ‘5 of the best’ series: winter haircare.

CF Beauty: DIY Rosehip facial oil

This has been on my ‘DIY beauty’ wish list for a while now. A home-made anti-ageing rosehip facial oil. As a huge fan of Trilogy’s nourishing elixir and subsequently Boots’ Botanicals range budget version, rosehip oil is my ‘go-to’ booster for adding a bit of ‘oomph’ for winter skincare. And it seems I’m in good company, as everyone from David Gandy to Miranda Kerr swear by its skin-boosting properties.

With a very haphazard approach, I figured using a known anti-ageing carrier oil, Apricot Kernel (it’s full of Vitamin E), could only boost the effects of the rosehips, so I toddled off to Amazon and bought a litre of cold-pressed oil for around a tenner.

Next up were the rosehips, which I’ve been patiently squeezing each time I walk up my mum’s front path and this week they were just at the right softness. The thing about rosehips is that they are full of omega 3-6-9’s to protect and nourish dry winter skin; Vitamin C and lycopene (like tomatoes, it’s what gives them their red colour) – making them super anti-inflamatory and full of anti-oxidants…. I could go on, but in short – 5 drops of rosehip oil, mixed in with your night cream from Oct-March and you will defeat those wind chapped cheeks, dry flaky patches and even some fine lines and wrinkles to boot.

So, on to the ‘how-to’:

In a large le creuset pan I gently heated my apricot kernel oil, took it off the heat and added my rosehips. To a litre of oil I added 35-40 hips. Their skins split when I added them to the hot oil, allowing the nutrients to seep out into the carrier oil.

I then carefully tipped the oil and hips into a large sterilised Kilner jar and left it to steep for a few days.

It was then ready to strain through a muslin and decant into the 25ml dropper bottles I picked up on Ebay (around £1 each – rosehip oil is photosensitive so needs to be kept in dark glass to preserve its nutrient).

These little shots of beauty elixir will be winging their way into my sisters, mum and girlfriends stockings this Christmas!

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