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I have been waiting to visit Peace & Loaf ever since I arrived in Jesmond.

In one of my first weeks at Newcastle Uni I was sent off to interview, Dave Coulson, the restaurants head chef for JesmondLocal.  Coulson is not only a lovely man and a great first interview but was a finalist in Masterchef in 2010 meaning he has a pretty extensive and impressive foodie CV.  Since that interview, I’ve been itching to go and has since spent the last few months begrudgingly walking past the doors of P&L as I head to the gym.  A few times I’ve been tempted to run in for a secret meal on my own.   Who wouldn’t rather swap a sweaty gym session for a feast of mammoth and epic proportions?  Screw the bikini body.  

Finally, after months of waiting patiently (read: months of nagging) this weekend my dad conceded and we headed over to Jesmond Road for a little taste of heaven.

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Canapes galore!

Coulson is a bit of a maverick.  The menu at P&L is a bit of a mix between classic dishes deconstructed or with a bit of a twist.  It’s exciting, it’s certainly different and he does it bloody well. His signature dish on Masterchef was a deconstructed chicken pie which my dad and I were lucky enough to have the  opportunity to try in the form of a pre-meal canapé.  I would have definitely ordered this if it was on the menu (which changes regularly) so heres hoping that next time I visited, it is!

After umming and ahhing about what I was going to have I eventually chose the Scallop, Pea and Pie from the normal dinner menu and then the Pressed Pork Belly, Pork Rillette, Creamy Mash and Apple for my main from the Prix Fixe just to be awkward!

What strikes you first when you’re dish arrives is the arrangement.  The placement of every component has been thought out and it creates a bed of organised chaos where each ingredient gets its fair share of air time.

The meaty scallops were served with a generous amount of pea puree (don’t you just hate it when there isn’t enough puree – #FirstWorldProblems) while the pie was a little revelation in itself.  Beautifully soft pastry with just enough bite with a (presumably) sausage filling which complemented the scallop without overriding its flavour.  Ooo-errr.

P1010114My dad went for the Lamb Breast, Broccoli, Wild Leaks, Wensleydale and Black Olives.  Minus the Wensleydale.  The man doesn’t like cheese!  Yes, cheese!

The Holy Grail of all foods.  Madness, I tell you.  

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Our meal – rather unexpectedly – came with an amuse bouche of beetroot and granola.  Now, I’m just going to say it straight, I wasn’t a fan of this, but this is most likely because I am a fan of neither of its components so I really can’t be a reliable judge.  You’ll just have to let me know what you think instead!

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Next came the piggy main…

My pork was succulent, not dry at all and the pork belly had perfectly cooked crackling on top which wasn’t too thick or tough!  I’ve really got into mash at the minute and I’ve got into the habit of buying those microwave tubs that you can get from supermarkets with cheese on top, but of course this was a cut above those and was perfectly creamy.  My dad went for the slightly healthier option of Salmon with sea vegetables.  This is meant to come with garlic risotto but as my dad isn’t a fan of garlic (I KNOW!) he swapped the stodge for a side of broccoli.

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While I wasn’t planning to get dessert, I can never quite say no to the offer of the dessert menu and since we were celebrating…well actually we weren’t celebrating anything but why not!  

I actually rather belatedly taught my dad the premise of ‘YOLO’ during the dinner, so perhaps this dessert can be put down to a Drake inspired yolo outburst in the form of massive calorie consumption. I’ll just blame Drake when my jeans don’t fit then, yeah?  Not my fault at all…

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Behold, Newcastle’s most luxurious brownie!  Admired the world over! 

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Peace & Loaf was great!  A relaxed atmosphere, aesthetically pleasing dishes and fantastic food with a bit of a twist at great value.  Coulson has definitely gained a fan and a foodie follower in me!

Maybe one day I will make a detour to P&L while I’m on my way to the gym, YOLO afterall…

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Today was one of those days where you plan to organise your life, but your resolve is quickly broken by food and friends.

This morning was spent in the library trying to make sense of my next assignment while the afternoon was reserved for a lunch and light hearted chatter with Emily and Zoe, two of my course mates.  Zoe, Emily and I had organised to meet for a quick lunch at Quilliam Brothers, a quaint little tea shop which sits on the corner of Newcastle University’s main campus.  The perfect meeting place for studious students, Quilliam’s serves Newcastle’s widest ranging variety of teas as well as classic northern stotties, soups and a delightful array of cakes and brownies.

I opted for an Indian chicken stottie and a pink lemonade from Fentimans while Emily and Zoe both picked the soup of the day, butternut squash.

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Stottie perfection

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Just when things looked like they were wrapping up, we quickly spotted the opportunity for further procrastination and grabbed the nearest board game near us.  Vowing to play just one quick game of Snakes and Ladders, we soon broke our promises and found ourselves still sat in our seats three hours later after moving onto Scrabble with the remenants of a caramel brownie, carrot cake and some chocolate fudge cake sat next to us.

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Masters life.

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I’d actually never played a full game of Scrabble before, so I was technically still learning today.

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I’ll definitely be spending some more afternoons in Quilliams, wasting my precious hours tasting all the cakes on offer and broadening my board game repertoire (next is Cluedo)!

Work is gearing down in preparation for the Easter holidays, however with 7 deadlines in May, I’m getting a head start on all the work that will inevitably catch up with me.  This week is going to be a bit hectic with meetings, lectures, packing and a few other exciting things all happening within the space of 5 short days but I’ll be heading home on Friday for a few short days of R&R at home, before heading to London for a week of work experience with the ladies at LOOK magazine again.  I’m excited to head home as it’s my birthday (on the 30th, hint hint) and I’ll also be waving my brother off as he starts his new life in New York and of course, I’ll be spending some time with this little delight:

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Love of my life.

Have you got any exciting plans for Easter?

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You all probably know by now that I am in a committed relationship with food.  The best thing about being in love with food is the variety.  No two meals need be the same.  You can wake up next to Tony the Tiger, take lunch with Uncle Ben, go for a romantic dinner with Jamie Oliver and finish the day by watching a good film with those two lovely lads, Ben & Jerry.  Whatever your mood there is a meal to suit it and food never answers back, steals the covers or leaves towels on the floor.  What more could you want?

Now, don’t get me wrong, our relationship is great – even if it does occasionally cause my favourite jeans not to fit – but food can sometimes be an expensive partner to keep, so when I heard that NE1 would be hosting a Restaurant Week with some of the top eateries in Newcastle offering discounted meals, I was on the case straight away.

Cafe 21 is one of the premier restaurants in Newcastle and is usually a little bit out of my student budget but thanks to Restaurant Week, Emily, Zoe and I were swapping a medium chicken with peri peri chips for some posh grub – so posh we twice had to google what some of the words meant.  

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Pre-dinner stroll by the River Tyne 

For Restaurant week, Cafe 21 was offering a 2 course meal for £15 and a 3 course for £20, bargains.  As a starter and main kinda girl I opted for the Pheasant terrine with Pickled Young Vegetables to start followed by the Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Pork, Braised White Cabbage, Bramley Apple and Black Pudding Mash with crackling for my main.

Now, don’t get too disheartened, the Pheasant Terrine won’t be the next Kate Moss of the food world as it doesn’t give good face but lets all remember that it’s the taste that matters and although I would have appreciated a bit more spread the terrine definitely tastes better than it looks.  Trust me. 

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Bad Instagram photos happen to us all, guys. 

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Being a recently converted pork fanatic after years of abstinence, I just had to try Cafe 21’s piggie offering.  The shoulder of pork was a huge juicy portion with lashings of black pudding speckled mash which is possibly my new favourite thing ever.  I know black pudding isn’t for everyone but I cannot get enough.  I love it so much it hurts.  

After a sneaky extra pudding of chocolate and banana ice cream, we headed out into the night for cocktails and some crude conversation.  My NE1 Restaurant Week experience was stellar and I will definitely be returning to Cafe 21 when I’m feeling a little bit flush.  My love for food didn’t break the bank this time, but watch this space.  

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Hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas and New Year!

This post is a bit belated – bad blogger – as the seasonal grub on offer meant that I was in a partial food coma for the majority of the festive season.   Alas, I’ve now recovered and have regained the ability to write again!

This year, the Ayre family headed to Newcastle to spend Christmas with the extended familia.  As is tradition, Christmas morning was spent walking along Tynemouth beach preparing ourselves for the mammoth task of unwrapping presents and the traditional Turkey dinner which lay ahead.

Tynemouth beach is undeniably beautiful and is even better on Christmas morning as  hundreds of people bring their dogs out for walks along the sandy stretch.  As a dog lover, I adore seeing our canine friends having the time of their lives on a beach chasing each other.  

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After our bracing walk, we headed back to the hotel (The Vermont in Newcastle city centre) for the inevitable unwrapping of presents!  Nowadays, although I do like receiving a well wrapped package, I prefer a spot of money to bolster the bank balance and to spend in the post-Christmas sales so I was grateful for a bit of moolah.  I did end up spending my new funds on a looovely Sandro coat which I found in the Selfridges sale in Manchester and have been wearing ever since!

We quickly stashed away our presents to play with later and got ready to head out for Christmas dinner.  I wore one of my favourite purchases this year, a tartan suit from Topshop which I endlessly scoured both stores and eBay for before acquiring it!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, so you’ll have to imagine me wearing an outlandishly patterned suit.

We picked up my Grandma on the way and headed out to Matfen Hall in Northumberland with rumbling bellies.  We’ve visited Matfen Hall on Christmas Day several times now and I’ve loved every single meal I’ve had at the picturesque hotel so was more than excited to return to the old haunt for some spectacular grub and a few glasses of wine along the way!

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Once we’d had a couple of glasses of champagne, exchanged greetings and presents with our cousins we slipped into our seats ready for the six course meal which was ahead of us.

First of all, came an amuse bouche of celeriac and black truffle soup with some white truffle oil on top for good measure.  As always, I was eager to start so I abandoned all blogger senses at the first sight of food and forgot to take a picture.  Apologies! 

I just about recovered my senses in time for the second course of duck and duck liver terrine which was the perfect warm up to the upcoming fish course of seared fillet of Seabass served with a fennel and saffron compote and salsa verde.  Having upheld that I was not a massive fan of fillets of fish for the last couple of years, I had to concede that this was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating and will now be considering the fish sections of menus far more often.

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The main event was of course the Turkey dinner which came with all the traditional trimmings (the photo is sans pig in blanket as I quickly gobbled that up)!  Although the portion size was just right for me, the men of the table were still pining for some more meat!  Greedy

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Still not conquered, we moved onto the dessert section of the meal which included a traditional Christmas pudding and the final cheese course of a fine stilton.  Although I’m not a fan of Christmas pud, I did give it a try before finally concluding once and for all it is just not for me, fear not, the blue cheese made up it! 

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After defeating five out of six courses, I was well and truly in a Christmas Coma and spent the rest of the evening with family playing with all of our new gadgets and watching all the specials on TV.

Although it is a bit late, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Year spent with those that you love.  Of course, the turn of a New Year is always full of people repeating the old mantra of ‘new year, new me’ and blabbing about their resolutions for the year, although I don’t personally set myself any resolutions I did decide to join the bone marrow donor register!  If you’d like to do the same then please have a look at the Anthony Nolan website to learn how to sign up!

Lets hope 2014 is a good one!

When I mentioned to one of my friends (shout out to Sam) at Reading that I was heading up to Newcastle for a Masters, her first reaction was to excitedly recommend me to head to The Fat Hippo in Jesmond for lunch ASAP.

The Fat Hippo went straight to the top of my to do list however, once I got to University work, library sessions and reading started to get in the way and instead of spending my time tasting the wares of the popular restaurant, I sat inside reading up on Semiotics.  Bore.  However, after two months, I finally persuaded myself and one of my housemates to make a special trip to the Hippo and it wasn’t long before I returned again with more friends in tow.

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Love a restaurant that serves Coke in bottles

Love a restaurant that serves Coke in bottles

The first time I visited I opted for the Italian Job, a breaded chicken burger with mozzarella, pesto and sundried tomatoes which was bloody delicious.  The chicken was soft with a little bit of crisp and although I wasn’t sure whether I was a massive fan of sundried tomatos beforehand, I definitely know I am now.

The Italian Job

The Italian Job

My most recent visit saw me tackle an even bigger beast.  The Fat Hippo’s namesake burger is a huge slab of burgerporn, so delicious that it’ll have you craving for more even when your trouser buttons have popped off.  The thick beef pattie which is just the perfect amount of pink is nestled among cheese, chorizo, bacon, caramelised onions, fat hippo sauce and a mouthwatering mound of onion rings.  Although I did defeat the beast, I was beaten by the accompanying fries which I had ordered with cajun seasoning, they were just one bite too far.  

The Fat Hippo Burger

The Fat Hippo Burger

If you’re heading to the Fat Hippo, be prepared to queue, it’s mighty popular, however, don’t be put off as their service is fast and friendly!  The Hippo also offers great value for money; both times I ate there, I didn’t need grazing for the rest of the day, so you’re practically getting a two for one deal!  Perfect for the economising student in us all! 

If you’re heading into Jesmond then the Fat Hippo should be on your list of places to eat and if you’re in a hurry, they have a takeaway deli which is literally around the corner!  Perfect! 

Top – Topshop (similar here) / Necklace – Primark / Trousers – UO Renewal / Boots – Topshop / Belt – Stolen from my mum / Lipstick – MAC Lady DangerBag – Mulberry (similar here

Yesterday, I was nonchalantly walking around Newcastle city centre when I was asked whether I would like to pose for a photo.  Had the enquirer been a slightly podgy middle aged man with saliva hanging out his mouth, I may have politely declined but as the young lady who approached me looked anything but, I was well up for a bit of public posing.

Dr Marten’s are currently searching high and low for the face of their SS2015 international campaign and this last week, the search was taken to the Toon.  The brand has recently opened a shop on Newcastle’s Grainger street which sells their famous boots and some incredible knitwear from Agyness Deyn’s latest collaboration with Dr Marten and I’ve been tempted more than once to blow my student budget on some sturdy shoes ready for a Geordie Winter.  Although I’m not wearing Doc’s in my street style photo, Sandra Tang – who was heading the Newcastle search – and her crew were looking for those whose fashion sense embodies the Dr Marten spirit and thanks to some tartan trousers, I seemed to fit the bill!  I recently bought these tartan beauties while Urban Outfitters was participating in a student takeover, meaning I got a healthy 20% off the £48 bill!  They’re so comfy and are now part of my growing check wardrobe.  Slave to a trend.  

After having my photo taken I was given a Dr Marten’s canvas bag with a boot keyring inside and a voucher for a 10% discount! No excuses for buying a pair of boots now! 

Thanks to Sandra Tang for allowing me to use the photo!  Check out the other people who were snapped on Sandra’s blog, here, here and here!

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