PRODUCT REVIEWS: New for November

Propercorn Smooth Peanut & Almond*
I love everything about Propercorn. The brand, the packaging, the graphics, the interesting flavours and the reasonably guilt-free nature of it. Although you'll often find a pack on my desk, I jumped at the chance to try their new Smooth Peanut and Almond flavour. If you like nut butters, then this really is for you, a grown up flavour that is not too sweet, rich and decadent with a velvety smooth texture. Dreamy!

I noticed the big sharing cases on their site too which would be a fantastic gift for me for your popcorn loving friend.

Most Wanted Wines*
I've been to too many wine events and been sat next to a "wine bore" for a painful evening. Urgh, so old hat. But Most Wanted Wines, and their striking modern branding (cracking website too), wouldn't appeal to these members of the stuffy old boy's club. 

Although I do want to learn more about it, this is "wine without whine", for people like me who love a glass (or three) of decent wine but don't want the fluff or pretencion that comes with the sector. MWW takes the effort out of searching for good bottles by offering a streamlined selection of decent wine at an affordable mid-price (around £10).

What notes did they have? Did they have an aftertaste of jasmine, apricot or meadow grass? Who gives a toss! All you need to know is that I thoroughly enjoyed both the Albarino and the Pino Noir and so will you. Available from these retailers.

Simply Ice Cream*
We all know there's ice cream and then there's ice cream right? Such a simple product that depends on the quality of ingredients used to make it something special. Simply Ice Cream sent me a selection of flavours to try out and I was hugely impressed. This could be the richest ice cream I've tried. And I mean in a good, decadent way, not a sickly over the top rich way like some brands (I hate Ben and Jerry types with bit of cookies etc in).

This is award winning ice cream for grown ups and little ones with discerning palettes. I like that Simply have a range of styles from the classic (vanilla, strawberry), to the on trend (brown bread, salted caramel) to some very unique and seasonal flavours (apply crumble and Christmas Pud). My favourites were the Lemon Curd, Heavenly Honeycomb and the Stem Ginger and Marmalade. I also am a big fan of sorbet which they also do, the Lemon was also very good.

All made in small batches by hand from their base in Kent, you can find Simply Ice Cream in select Waitrose and John Lewis shops and independent shops/cafes/restaurants. Hunt them out here.

Caffé Nero Gift cards*
Caffѐ Nero who are launching an iconic range Christmas Gift Cards featuring designs selected from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s famous archive. I don't normally post items like this but thought the designs were particularly appealing for a gift or stocking filler for the coffee lover in your life.
The cards can be loaded and topped up with any value from £5 - £100 and are available in-store and online.

*I was sent samples to review. Thoughts and words, as always, are my own.

REVIEW: Flank, Brighton

No one else in the city is quite embracing the nose-to-tail concept as well as Flank and now we have a heightened consciousness of food waste, it really is the time to rediscover cuts and parts of meat we have previously been disregarding. After all, it's the cooking and knowledge of preparation that transform ears, cheeks, heads, jowls and the like into something rather extraordinary.

But before we get to the food, can we talk about the illustration on the menu for a bit? It's one of the nicest designs I've seen for a while. By illustrator Lloyd Stratton, you can't tell, but it's made up of thousands of tiny dots. Perfect in its intricate nature as it reflects the precision, detail and care of the food here.

We started with a small plate of pickles; one cured overnight and one pickled for two months. Simple and the ingredient as hero. The play between the different texture was interesting but a pretty plate of pickled carrots it was.

There was plenty more to talk about with the starters though. The house made sausage was a good introduction to the ethos here. The pig's head and trotter meat was well seasoned and had a pleasant texture from the slow cooking. It was matched beautifully with a spiced, roasted apple puree and an intense pork jus reduction.

Although quite tiny, the black pudding dumplings were rich and velvety. The peach puree was a surprising contrast that worked very well along with a tiny dot of vibrant green nettle puree. Again, the jus, this time made from hogget, was stunningly deep flavoured and decadent. Both starters were perfectly balanced and a really impressive start to the meal.

I was surprised to see pork tender loin on the menu as it's quite a clean, tidy cut, but it was beautifully cooked and still succulent with a smoked bacon broth. The purple potatoes were a nice addition and the side dish of greens were slightly caught in the pan, giving them that charred tastiness I adore.

An enormous Ox cheek, meltigly fell away and was a robust flavour hit. But actually the vegetables were equally good, the pan fried kale exceptional and the spicing of the root vegetables spot on. (Griffiths is talking of opening a plant based eatery at some point and if the touches here are anything to go by, I'm going to be very excited about the launch of it.)

This is no ordinary pub food, the dishes here are a celebration of British produce, refined and inventive, without resorting to trends of dusts, foams and dehydration. They also list what the bloody hell ends up on your plate too rather than that nauseating fashion of listing three ingredients. If I wanted a surprise, I'd buy a Kinder Egg.

The only thing that jars slightly for me is the location. The last time I stepped foot in this pub was a good decade ago and things sure have smartened up, but still, I'm just not sure if The Royal Sovereign is the best environment for food of this level. But don't let that put you off, be it in a pub, shed or coal bunker, I seriously recommend you come and discover what Flank is all about.

Chef Tom Griffiths is all about the big, big flavours but they are surprisingly delivered with highly considered elements and delicate detail to each dish which is what makes Flank a cut above the rest. I'm sure with his passion and vision, we'll  be seeing Griffiths create some of the most stand out food in Brighton, hopefully with a plant based and a fish based restaurant to add to his portfolio. One to watch.
Flank at The Royal Sovereign
66 Preston St

I was invited to review Flank. Words and opinion, as always, my own.


From the silky black packaging and intricate metallic detailing on the labels, The Tea Makers products exude quality and luxury. Although there is a time and a place for a good cup of PG, I have really been enjoying proper, loose leaf tea lately. With the sheer volume of choice, trying different blends is a really enjoyable sport too. TTM are a very good place for niche blend, be it flowering, rare, aged or monkey picked (yes).

I can't recall ever trying Oolong tea. The curled balls of leaves, dried in the sun then twisted and rolled, are very distinctive and oh, my...I'm hooked. The Taiwanese Jin Xuan (Milk) Oolong was so refreshing, yet delicate with a slight floral note of jasmine and apricot. Due to the production it is understandably pricey but worth it.

Even the English Breakfast tea was an enormous leap in flavour from supermarket brands.

Although the individual black tea caddies are attractive in themselves, a selection box makes for an impressive gift. Mine included Organic Chamomile Blossoms, Iranian Whole Rose Buds and Rare Ceylon Silver Tips. I always go for a silver tip if I'm having a decent afternoon tea and it's nice to enjoy it at home too. Pale and delicate, it is the most prized of all white China tea, picked from the first leaf buds of spring when still tightly furled, hence their silver colour.

Initially I wasn't sure about the "magic" Tea and Coffee Maker / Infuser they had included, thinking it to be a gimmick item but I've used it almost continuously since I unpacked it. Sure, the leaves look pretty in the transparent jug but I've been after something functional to infuse loose leaf tea for ages. A teapot and hand held strainer is a faff at your desk, the ball infusers always leak leaves. This brews the tea then automatically filters it directly into your cup when you place it over it. It's just a simple valve but by far the cleanest, easiest way I've tried so far. Love it!

I've really enjoyed trying these and instead of mindlessly glugging down a mug of tea, the quality of these blends have made me take a proper break in my typically frazzling days to carefully prepare and then savour them.

Although I take my food seriously, I've always seen tea as a commodity item but  the tea makers have shown me that quality should exist in all corners of your kitchen cupboards.

I was sent these products to review. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

PROJECT: Craft beer/real ale advent calendar plus free printable advent number tags

Because I'm clearly going in for the Wife of the Year Award, I thought I'd make Mr GF a beer advent calendar. Plus, he's pretty much single handedly building our loft conversion...the man deserves a beer. I've also noticed over the last few years he's been enjoying trying a few different bottles every week and muttering something about wheat beers.

I know craft beer/real ale advent calendars exist (as well as this fabulous whisky one) but really, who can't buy and wrap 24 bottles of beer? I'm even giving you my designed tags for free to print off! I always think time is more valuable than cash so this would be appreciated by any beer lover (also works for wine!).

As the craft beer craze goes from strength to strength and the interest in real ale rises, there are a few places in Brighton to buy boutique brands of beer. Most off licences have a small section (my tiny local offie had Brighton Bier, Harveys, Dark Star, Hepworth and Arundel). Plus supermarkets are cashing in on the trend and stocking a bigger selection. Waitrose and Sainsburys have great offers at the moment and stock local breweries and Lidl have a decent range of standard and visiting brands.

Trafalgar Wines
Misleading shop name, they have an amazing selection of beer, I think over 500. I love the no fuss nature and the store owner is so helpful. They have been stocking craft ale waaaaaaaay before it became hip. Not a lumbersexual in sight.

It's here I  purchased the beautiful bottle of Wiper and True Plum Pudding porter which I have selected for the 24th slot. (The label has also been designed by one of my talented design friends too.)

Bison Beer 
Beards and tats and a colourful shop full of trendy niche labels. You can also get a custom designed growler (American beer vessel equal to 1.9L) which would be ace for the 24th.

Harveys Brewery
These guys have been around for 200 years and may not be the coolest but are decent and local. Their shop in Lewes is always worth a visit. And their Christmas Ale is a must at this time of year as well as their porter and stouts. Proper.

Free printable advent calendar tags
Click here to download
You'll also need: Christmas wrapping paper, cello tape, ribbon, 2 sheets of printer friendly card.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Bluebird Tea Co. Christmas hamper

The Christmas cards are starting to appear and you may have even heard your first Crimbo song in the shops. Love it or hate it, time to order the turkey, dig out your reindeer jumper and sort out gifts is right around the corner.

I've still yet to meet someone that doesn't appreciate hampers. But they don't have to be really expensive and fancy. The Christmas Selection Gift Hamper £50  from our own Brighton Bluebird tea co is fun and full of their gorgeous tea blends that taste as good as they look, full of vibrant, good quality (and sometimes fun) ingredients. Already having won me over to rooibos and herbal teas (trust me - these are a million times better than the dust in teabags you get as standard), they are also making quite a name for themselves for seasonal blends.

Their Gingerbread Chai has become a year-round favourite. With a base of rooibos, it's spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and ginger and softened with mallow flowers. I also love the luxurious silk teabag format too. Joining it is another full size carton of the Snowball loose leaf blend with Coconut, Chocolate and Mini marshmallows and pretty red cornflowers.

The Christmas Cake bauble sold out in a single day last year. It must have been the sparkly snowflakes. And I have never seen a tea with spruce needles in it. This tea screams Christmas like Noddy Holder and is one for the sweet toothed.

New for me is the Mulled Wine Tea Cocktail Bottle and the first item I had to try (ok, ok I'm a wine lush).  They run tea cocktail classes from their store and great to see invention with tea, there's no reason why you can't cook or make other things with it (try my Bonfire Toffee tea poached pears).

Also included with this particular hamper is an In-Cup Infuser Basket, Christmas Bluebird Tea Mug and Limited edition Tote Bag.

They also have a full range of hampers and stocking fillers. The tea filled Christmas baubles are really pretty and perfect for colleagues, teachers and acquaintances as well as the individual cocktail bottle kits. For those you really love though, the blending kits, experience packs and themed hampers are a great idea for an alternative gift.

I was sent the Christmas Selection Gift Hamper to review. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

REVIEW: Kouzina, Open Market, Brighton

There's food that wows technically and for originality, and then there's food that's just glorious to eat. Kouzina is in the latter camp and for me, I'm more than happy eating the this sort of food. Perched in the spruced up Open Market, the offering of this Greek gem is simple; home-style, sunny, filling food served with a smile. Staff are happy for you to peek under the ironware lids at the stews, meats, vegetable casseroles and classics like Moussaka and rich soutzoukakia (greek meatballs). They also have Spanakopita, the famous spinach and feta pie, made with homemade filo, which is nothing short of heroic as it's such a pig to make.

My kid loves it here. Raised on Italian food, it's not far off what he's used to but different enough to be interesting for him. I ordered us a mezze plate which included a selection of their salads, good quality olives, grilled halloumi, proper feta, sausages and dips. One heck of a feed for me and a toddler. I should have ordered a platter for one but somehow, somehow, we polished it all off.

The plump seftalia pork sausages were also delicious, served with a classic greek salad, tzatziki and grilled bread. With my design studio nearby, I've had lunch here a few times, usually going for the mezze but have also tried the moussaka and spanakopita and always thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

I also like what they have done with their interior. As homely as a metal, purpose built unit could be with raw wood panels and little quirks like the colander lampshades. It somehow suits the food.

Kouzina celebrates simplicity, and at the moment where everyone is tweaking and complicating food, it's a welcome break, ideal (and affordable) for a working lunch. And also, although Velo at the Level has now changed hands (thank goodness), it seems there is still enormous room for improvement. So if you are in the park with the kids and need to refuel, you're best coming here for fresh, honest, family friendly food.

A proper Brighton hidden gem.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Harrods Christmas Hampers

So I may not be the biggest fan of Christmas, but I DO like a Christmas hamper, with all their luxury ribboned promise, glitzy packaging and indulgent contents.

I got a taste for them when Mr GF worked in the city and was often gifted them (yep, that was him on a tiny foldable cycle making his way home with a full sized wicker hamper Gaffa taped to his back). And the year we got a £300 cheese hamper practically made me believe in Santa (and high cholesterol) again. Now he works in the public sector, we'd be lucky to get a box of Roses *sigh*.

Harrods, the emperors of high quality luxury, are certainly a good place to start for hamper shopping. They have an eye (and mouth) watering collection, up to £20,000. (If my boss is reading this, then here is the direct link to purchase it, you're welcome and thanks in advance.)

Slightly more affordable would be this one, a traditional selection of festive biscuits, conserves, tea, coffee and a Christmas pudding, suitably called The Christmas Carol. Unwrapping the huge hat box was half the fun but once inside, the smart packaging of the products was also impressive. 

But a hamper isn't just the packaging. It's about balance. A perfect selection of goods to dive into across the season. First out was the Christmas pudding, matured for 9 months, which was rich and decedent containing whole nuts, cider, brandy, sherry and rum. Obviously, to supplement the alcoholic kick, we added a hefty dollop of the brandy butter. Festive spirit ok? (I would like to say that I haven't been eating the brandy butter neat out of the jar since, but Father Christmas puts a black mark against liars.)

Equally good were the light, crisp Honey & Clementine Biscuits that had a very subtle golden sparkle to them. I may have wanted to see a little more glitz but I suppose reserved and elegant was the baker's brief.

The Spiced Pear and Madagascan Vanilla Jam was my favourite of the conserves, slathered over thick toasted brioche it was practically a dessert for breakfast. The subtly spiced tea was a Christmas chai really and something you would want to drink past the festive period. The spiced coffee was also really enjoyable.

I though this was a well put together selection and the cherry on the top was the shiny, red glass bauble for the tree. 

I do personally prefer wicker baskets for the packaging, mainly because I find them useful to store all my junk the kids toys in) and I suppose they are more environmentally friendly because of this. But the Harrods hamper did look smart with lots of paper textures and a beautiful foil blocked gold design. I can't think of anyone that wouldn't be impressed to receive one.

For the full range visit

I received this hamper for review. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.