Two Birds Gin – a review

This review is a bit late. I actually first experienced Two Birds gin in October after the lovely Morgan Rees bought me some as a present (October 10th for those wondering when to send gifts). Then I started my blog and got distracted by other gins and unemployment and new job and working all bank holiday weekend in Liverpool. But a conversation with my manager prompted me to get my act together and do this. Plus I was scared because I have so little left and I’m dreading the moment when it runs out 😦

So. Two Birds. Another small batch gin, this one made in batches of around 100 bottles in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. As well as their London Dry gin, they also make a Vodka and Absinthe (plus some fun flavoured Vodkas depending on the season). This is the bottle that started my love of pretty designs on bottles.

(Note: the bottle doesn’t normally come with a polka dot bow. This is Morgan’s version of wrapping and I enjoy it too much to remove it)

The bottle is a screw top so whilst you don’t get the satisfying noise of a cork popping out the bottle, it is much quicker to break your way in (an important factor in my gin drinking life). The smell from the bottle is dry with the juniper coming through as the predominant note. I did the standard mixing it with water to release the botanicals and, unusually for the gins I’ve been drinking recently, you don’t get a hit of citrus. It tastes smooth on the tongue, no nasty screwed up faces ensue when drinking. It leaves a warm lingering tastes in the mouth and the dryness comes through leaving you wanting more.

Time for the G&T test.


For the test I’m using Tesco Low Calorie Tonic Water. This isn’t to be sniffed at. Tesco do a great range of tonics from normal tonic water to some flavoured with cucumber, jasmine and elderflower. They also do a great bitter lemon, and they are 4 for £1.50. And, most importantly of all, it isn’t Britvic.

Moving on. It is reminiscent of the Blackwater No.5 Gin in that it is smooth and fresh as you drink it. Whilst it doesn’t have the big punchy characteristics of some other gins, the smooth quality makes it very quaffable (it is seriously running low in the bottle). I usually love a citrus garnish but I don’t feel this needs it. Quite dry on the tongue (a good point in my books), Two Birds leaves you wanting more. I imagine it would work well in a cocktail or as a good base to any mixer as the simple flavourings would allow any added flavours to come through.

The gin is made with four botanicals (and juniper) which helps to explain why there is less going on, but bottled at 40% and a 70cl bottle setting you back a mere £28, I think this is a good buy. This gin will be great as an everyday G&T but it is special enough to feel like a treat. Plus look at the bottle. How beautiful will that look on the shelf filled with fairy lights (the current fate of all my empty gin bottles).

You can order Two Birds spirits from their website here, and you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for daily rantings and gushes.

Advertisements

Tarquin’s Gin – a review

I spent most of March unemployed. This meant I was pretty bored and feeling a bit down. So my Dad decided he would try to cheer me up and sent me a present. A box bearing the marks of Southwestern Distillery arrived. Underneath a mountain of packing chips was a bottle of Tarquin’s Gin and a card.

IMG_4982

IMG_5013I had mentioned this gin to my Dad before as he lives down in Falmouth and I knew it was made nearby. Only after receiving the gin did I look it up – it is made 36 miles from his house. Good local gin. For those that don’t know, Tarquin’s Gin is made by Southwestern Distillery in Wadebridge on the north(ish) coast of Cornwall. They make their gin in batches of no more than 300 bottles at the time, each bottle corked, sealed, labelled and waxed by hand. Each bottle comes with a unique batch number and information about that batch’s individual tasting notes. The key botanicals in play here are hand-picked Devon violets and orange zest. These aren’t my favourite things in the world so I’m a bit cautious about what I’m about to drink.

IMG_5016Now the best part – drinking it. Peeling off a wax seal is one of the most satisfying feelings. The first smell that hits you is a strong citrus note – good start in my books. I pour out a measure with an equal amount of water. It smells like flowers, the citrus notes dropping off for the violet to come through. It smells quite sweet, which I’m not used to experiencing with a gin. I take my first sip. It’s very easy on the tongue for want of a better phrase. It doesn’t taste harsh or too strong (bottled at 42%). The zest comes through at the front of the mouth, giving way to the aromatics. It’s one of the most flavoursome gins I’ve ever had, there’s lots of tastes going on in my mouth. To quote my brilliant notes that I wrote: “Good hit to it. Definitely drinking gin. Not so powerful it’s overwhelming.” I clearly have a career in drink tasting ahead of me.

Deciding that I shouldn’t just drink straight gin, I mix a new drink with some tonic – because the real test of a gin is how it works as a G&T. To quote my rather brilliant notes again, “lovely stuff”. A hint of palma violets (can be added to the list of drinks that taste like sweets alongside Southern Comfort and Lemonade). My batch (104) has the tasting notes of candied oranges, and there is certainly a hint of it at the back of the throat. Not so much it is overpowering – which is good because (as we all know) I’m not an orange fan. But this tastes nice, the bitterness cuts through the sweet violets and balances quite nicely. It produces a very distinct flavour which, on first tasting I wasn’t super keen on. But I always believe in giving things a second chance, and once I had got used to the taste I found myself rather enjoying it.

Aside from the taste, the other thing that makes Tarquin’s Gin unique is that they have launched Taste with Tarquin.

IMG_5014IMG_5015

To celebrate the unique tasting notes of each batch, they played with Apple’s FaceTime code so we can have a chat with Tarquin (sort of). I tried calling when I first tasted the gin but couldn’t get through. On my third attempt the call connected. Then the connection dropped. Twice. But once it finally worked it was good fun. It starts with Tarquin talking about Southwestern Distillery and what makes them different. Then you battle with voice recognition software to tell them your batch number. Tarquin (who, by the way, is rather beautiful) finds your bottle, pours a glass and tells you – well, pretty much what it says on the bottle. He told me my bottle tasted of orange. He wasn’t wrong. Then you have a chance to leave a video message. I think I accidentally left one going “your gin tastes like sweeeeeeeeeeetiiieeeeesssss thanks!” You’re welcome Tarquin.

IMG_5047

Slightly disappointing FaceTime adventure aside, it’s a bloody good gin. If you’re into floral, aromatic gins then this is for you. According to their website, Tarquin’s isn’t available in Brighton yet, but is widely available around Devon and Cornwall and some places in London – you can find stockists here.

Southwestern Distillery are also on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’ve enjoyed my ramblings, you can hear more from me on Twitter or see more of my shoddy photos on Instagram.

Blackwater No. 5 Gin – a review

A few weeks ago I made a wonderful life choice that my bank account doesn’t quite agree with. I signed up to Craft Gin Club, getting a premium, craft gin delivered to my door monthly (well, I get it every 3 months because I can’t quite afford the £40 fee every month). I was very excited when they tweeted a photo of a van packed full of boxes, and even more so when I received my edition of Ginned! which said more about the gin I was about to get to taste.

As some background, Blackwater Distillery is based in Ireland, on the banks of the Blackwater River (unsurprisingly). Their gin (Blackwater No. 5) is new, the first commercial batch came off the still on February 9th, and is the first craft gin to come out of Ireland.

Let’s start with the bottle. What a beautiful bottle it is. The picture you see through the bottle depicts the 90 degree turn that the river makes. The design is simple yet so effective. I currently up cycle my nicer (empty) alcohol bottles by filling them with fairy lights, but that’s not going to happen to this one. Once this is finished and I’ve finished sobbing about my loss, this will sit as it is, the stunning label standing as decoration on its own.

Now I’ve finished nerding over the label, let’s move on to the gin. And oh what a gin it is.

So I returned to my pretentious tasting method as first demonstrated in my review of Brighton Gin. I added equal amounts of gin and water to a cup to release the aromas. The first thing I can smell is the juniper and citrus notes. It smells very clean – and most importantly for my untrained nose, no nasty sharp alcohol smells (something I haven’t missed since my student days of Asda value vodka. Even the thought of that brings back bad memories). The first sip is very smooth. Just the simple taste of juniper and citrus. They claim that they have liquorice botanicals in it, which I can’t taste but I’m fine with that as I’m not a liquorice fan, but there is a satisfying tang at the back of the mouth.

After a few sips I felt I should make a G&T to really test it/not just drink straight gin all evening. I had run out of Fevertree tonic so plumped for the solid Schweppes and a lime wedge for good measure. It made one of the best gin and tonics I’ve ever had. The coriander tastes come through more clearly when mixed with the tonic. It’s clean, smooth and simple. Exactly what a G&T needs to be. I love the citrus taste (I usually make gin and bitter lemon at home because I’m an old lady). Very drinkable. Worryingly drinkable as I can see an evening disappearing into that bottle with no problem at all.

The gin is currently listed on the Blackwater Distillery website but it isn’t available to order so I can’t encourage you to buy it quite yet, but when this comes out, get one. I think this gin will suit all palettes – except possibly those people who enjoy the strong alcohol flavour of a drink. But for those that want a lovely, uncomplicated drink to sip on in an evening, this is it.

If this is the standard that I will be getting with every delivery, then I would love for someone to fund the monthly subscription for me (and buy me a drinks trolley as our kitchen is overflowing…)

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter and see more of my terrible photos on Instagram.

Stockholm shenanigans – part two

If you missed part one, here it is.

So, when you left me I had stuffed my face with Salmon after a day of excitement with an old boat and the Abba Museum. So it was with full stomachs that we retired to hotel to pass out.

We awoke, refreshed, early the next morning and once again breakfasted on some of the best granola I’ve ever eaten and headed out for a free walking tour of Stockholm (thought we should try to learn something whilst we were there!). We went with Free Tour Stockholm and had the wonderful Australian Ryan as our guide. He was really nice and remembered where we all came from and had spare hats and gloves in case anyone was cold. The week before we went (remember, we went in December) some Australian girls had been there in flip flops. Fools. Note: whilst this tour is definitely worth going on, if you go in winter make sure you wear warm socks. I couldn’t feel my feet by the end of it. But back to the tour, fun facts I learnt:

1) Stockholm means ‘log island’ – back in the day a tribe got invaded and they carved out the biggest tree they could find and filled it with their gold. They pushed it out to sea and said “wherever this lands will be our new settlement” and it (conveniently) wove it’s way through 60km or something of archipelago and landed on what is called Gamla Stan (old town). And so Stockholm began
2) The H&M global headquarters are a very boring looking set of offices. Also, there are 8 H&M’s in one square.
3) The story behind Stockholm Syndrome is awesome but fairly long but basically inept bank robbers held people hostage for a few days with wire around their necks that could have killed them, when they got out the hostages formed a human shield around the robbers to prevent the snipers from killing them. Swedes are good folk.
4) The architect that designed and built half of the Royal Palace burnt down the other half before fleeing the city. He then returned with plans to rebuild it and got the job.
5) According to our tour guide, so I’m not 100% certain how true this is, Alfred Nobel’s wife cheated on him with a mathematician so there will NEVER be a Nobel Prize for mathematics. Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Peace (and Economic Sciences), yes. Maths, no.

And many more. I don’t feel I do Ryan justice. He was much better. Trust me.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2015/01/img_0050.jpg

Speaking of the palace, the tour conveniently finishes across the bridge from the Palace so across we meandered and wandered into the changing of the guards. Swedish guards have very snazzy white boots. And do NOT like people standing too close to them. Entry to the palace is 150 SEK which is about £12.50 and you get to see the Palace, the Treasury and a museum that we didn’t go into (oops). The Palace itself is an odd combination of cold, stone staircases and luxuriously decorated state rooms. Whilst it was interesting to look around, you don’t see as much as I seemed to in Buckingham Palace or in Prague Castle. The Treasury was nice as it is deep underground (note: lots of spiral stairs) so it was lovely and cosy warm. The Swedish version of the Crown Jewels are basically lots of swords and crowns, good for the Game of Thrones fans.

After the castle we wandered around Gamla Stan and stumbled upon a small Christmas market selling sweets, waffles, sausages, Glögg, wooden horses and more. Sadly, we couldn’t find the Garlic bar that I was so desperate to go to, but we had a nice walk as the sun set through the streets. I finally felt rather Christmassy.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2015/01/img_0035.jpg

Now to dinner. Oh my. We were recommended Rolfs Kök (yes it is pronounced how you think it is and no that’s not what it means, it means kitchen), and Trip Advisor reviews cemented this. We booked a table (good thing we did as we got the last table at 9pm) and headed to The Flying Dog for a pre dinner drink. We had walked past this pub a few times and they claim to be a part of the craft beer revolution. Dan, ever adventurous, went on the barman’s recommendation of one of the beers on tap, I asked for a cider and got a Somersbys. Apparently that’s a good cider in Sweden. The bar itself was nice and had a huge range of beers on taps. Were I a beer drinker, I’d be able to give a better review, but alas I am not so I shall skip to what I know. Dinner.

First off, their wine list is huge. I would go as far as to say ridiculously huge. Pages upon pages list wines by country and grape variety. I ignored this and went for a Pamplemousse Royale aka champagne bitters and grapefruit liquor. Much like my lemon elderflower earlier in the holiday it was beautiful and in a glass so clean that there was just one stream of bubbles floating up from the very centre of the glass above the stem. The bitters and the grapefruit meant it was dry and sour but the champagne evened it out to a wonderful drink. I would recommend this place just on that cocktail.

We wanted some ‘traditional’ Swedish food so shared a starter of brawn of reindeer with cheese and lingonberries. Reindeer, both a beloved Christmas animal and a tasty tasty meat. I’ve never been so happy to eat a symbol of my childhood. The creamy cheese with the lingonberries offered different textures and flavours with the meaty reindeer. The waitress was really nice and helped us with recommendations, bought us bread (four little rolls on a skewer with a bowl of salty butter and a little wooden knife) and checked if we wanted drink top ups and if we were enjoying the food. The layout of the restaurant is rather clever, the walls are covered in hooks for coats, hats and scarves and the tables are designed so an extra piece of wood can be inserted to make the tables suitable for groups of four or, as the couple next to us did, those ordering the sharing platter.

Our mains arrived promptly after our starter plate was cleared. Mine: red wine braised ox cheek with truffle and puréed potato, his: pork sausage with fried potatoes and vegetables in a creamy sauce. I had never had ox cheek before, I was being brave and trying new things, and it didn’t disappoint. I tentatively put my fork in, with images of a lump of fatty chewy meat ahead of me only for it to fall apart on impact. It was tender and juicy, the sauce was rich and the puréed potatoes with truffle were so good I nearly cried.

I nearly cried in a restaurant.

Boy had no complaints about his meal (although I have rarely heard him complain about any food). His sausage (excuse the innuendo) was huge, spreading the length of the plate and more. The potatoes and veg were plentiful and – a very important fact – the vegetables were no mushy. Nothing irritates me more in a restaurant than over cooked vegetables. The meal, with the cocktail and drink, came to about £80 but I think it was worth every penny. Even now, nearly a month later, I am still dreaming about that reindeer and ox cheek. Stuffed t’brim, we staggered back to the hotel to fall into very happy food comas.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2015/01/img_0032.jpg

Day four. Final day. We’re nearly done I promise. Our flight wasn’t until 8pm so we went down for breakfast as late as we could and left our bags in the left luggage room. They offer lockers, but sadly everyone else had been more prepared than us and filled them up earlier. Check out consisted of throwing a key into a box. Done. And we wandered. Long story short, I threw a strop because it was cold so we walked across to Södermalm to a photography gallery. Despite my bad mood, it was really good. ‘In Full Light’ by Herb Ritts featured famous models, actors and singers, ‘Daughters’ by Lisen Stibeck showed women aged between 16 and 25 from around the world and Adi Nes’ exhibition on narratives looks at men in contexts of recreated biblical scenes and the army. Well worth the walk (only about 20 minutes but by this point it was around -1 degrees so it felt a lot longer). We decided to brave the public transport getting home (because of my strop) which was super easy. Self service ticket machine at the entrance to the station, show your ticket to a man at the gate and get on train. Lots of seats even on a weekend and really fast. I feel you’ve mastered a holiday when you’ve mastered the public transport. We got the train up through the city and got off next to Flippin’ Burger. This time, we only had a 10 minute wait (much better). The Swedes have really nailed customer service, we were given English menus when we sat down and the staff all spoke to us in their fluent English (seriously, everyone speaks really good English). Two burgers (one flippin and one cricket) with fries, a cider, a coke and a milkshake came to 480 SEK so £40. Which, yes, is expensive, but a Byron burger with fries will set you back £11, and this was better than Byron. They cook their meat so it’s still nice and pink and juicy (correct) and the chips were salty and moreish. I’ve never had a burger with jalapeños and cream cheese before and I was again dubious about my choice, but once again was pleasantly surprised. Cream cheese should just be on everything. Go here. Maybe book ahead or go at 5pm on a Sunday, but go here.

With our final meal in our bellies, we made the last trek back to our hotel to collect our luggage, got on the bus and trundled back to the airport. Fare thee well Stockholm you were lovely. I will definitely be going back. But maybe in the summer.

My that was long. Thanks for sticking with me. If you would like shorter bursts of chat, follow me on Twitter and for more of my wonderful photography, I’m also on Instagram.

Once again, Dan takes better photos than I do and his Instagram is here

Stockholm shenanigans – part one

Happy New Year!

Yes I know I’m a little late but two weeks of gin and junk food have left me a bit poorly and rubbish so I’m only just getting round to writing this post, despite being in Sweden nearly a month ago. Also, spoiler alert: this will be quite a long post. I don’t blame you if you get bored but I’d recommend sticking it out until the end. Then read part two.

Back in mid-December I naffed off work for a few days and travelled to Stockholm with the boy for a few days of sunshine. Well. By sunshine I mean about 3 hours of daylight and temperatures around 1 degree. Take it as a given that for four days I was colder than I’ve ever been, despite wearing three pairs of tights, extra socks, long sleeved top, t-shirt, cardigan, jumper, jacket, coat AND hat AND scarf AND mittens. Dan however, survived four days with an unbuttoned coat and no hat. Freak.

So, at /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2015/01/img_0023.jpg5.30am we awoke ready for our adventure. Brighton to London Gatwick courtesy of National Express. Gatwick to Arlanda airport with Norweigan Air (standard bottle of Prosecco in the air was £6).

First impression of Stockholm at the airport – clean, empty and efficient. The bus to the city stops right outside the airport exit and was distinctly easier to find and get on to than when I went to Barcelona in October. The bus ride into Stockholm takes around 45 minutes and is, quite frankly, a little lacking in beautiful scenery. I’m not sure what we were expecting (the Northern Lights appearing at lunch time perhaps) but we were uninspired by the buildings and trees that lined the motorway (basically, Swedish motorways are the same as British ones). Anyway, after an easy ride we arrived at the central bus/train terminal and made our way to our hotel.

We had chosen to stay at HTL Kungsgatan after lots of positive reviews on TripAdvisor and a basic google map search of attractions seemed to put it in a good location. Their website said they were a 5 minute walk from the bus terminal which we took to mean it would be a 15 minute walk but we were wrong, this was literally two minutes around the corner. We walked into the warm and welcoming entrance and checked in easily with the iPads at the entrance and registered my iPhone app to work as a key (I was incredibly excited by the fact I could open our door with my phone). Now, all of the reviews (and their own website) say that the rooms are small but functional and are basically just a bed in a room with all storage space above and under the beds. I don’t know what kind of prize we won, but somehow we ended up in the wheelchair accessible room and it was HUGE. We had tons of space. Most excitingly (because we are basically children) was that our beds (two single beds pushed together with two single sheets and two single duvets) had remote controls so we could tilt our heads/feet up. Whether this was purely an advantage of a wheelchair accessible room or if it is in all rooms I do to know, but I do know that we enjoyed playing with them. Our TV had a few English channels (playing a mixture of Phil Spencer: Secret Agent, The Great British Bake Off series 1 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and featured AirDrop so we could stream things on my iPad and play them through the TV. Seriously – if you’re easily impressed by technology this hotel is the place to stay.

That evening, we set off to explore. By evening, I mean around 3pm but it was already dark so I’m sticking with the term ‘evening’. We wandered back towards the bus station and headed over the river onto Kungsholmen (for those that don’t know, Stockholm is made up of an archipelago of various islands) and found the city hall and a tribute to Alfred Nobel which led to a discussion about whether the Nobel Prizes are Swedish (they are, and more about that later). That night we tried to eat at Flippin’ Burger only to be told there was an hour and a half wait, so we ended up at a frankly unmemorable Italian place which served alright pizzas (I’d say where we ate but I can’t remember, and I wouldn’t recommend going). We did find some illuminated reindeer though so it wasn’t a waste of an evening.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2015/01/img_0038.jpg

We ended back at our hotel and stayed in the bar for cocktails. Now this I would recommend. We might have spent £36 on four cocktails but they were lovely. The boy went for ‘Orange Vanilla’ which, unsurprisingly, contained orange juice, vanilla liqueur and rum. If you like orange, it’s the thing to go for. Mine, the ‘Lemon Elderflower’, was much more to my taste and was made up of cava, lemoncello and elderflower liqueur (the yumminess makes up for the unimaginative names). Dry but fizzy, it was exactly what I wanted after a day of travelling and exploring in the cold and dark. Bonus: you could actually taste the lemon AND the elderflower.

Day two we awake refreshed and ready for a day of exploring (breakfast: yogurt, muesli, croissants, bread, meat and cheese. Plus a fresh smoothie every morning. Genuinely worth staying here just for the breakfast). We originally were going to do a walking tour to get us started, but wanted a bit more of a lie in so decided to go for a walk along to Djurgarden to see the Vasa and the Abba museum. We went what can only be described as the ‘scenic route’ and what Google said would be a 45 minute walk took us nearly two hours but it was worth it. Stockholm in the (sort of) daylight is utterly lovely. It looks a bit like they decided to build a city and let one person design it all so it all matches. It is also incredibly clean and, like nothing I have experienced before, was devoid of people. I was in HEAVEN.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2015/01/img_0046.jpg

After a walk past the opera house, the skating rink and the National Museum, we finally made it onto Djurgarden. We decided to get a little lost walking around the Nordic Museum before finding our way into the Vasa Museum. Long story short: One of the King Karl Gustafs decided that he needed the biggest war ship because he was at war with Poland. He wanted two gun decks. The builders said that was a stupid idea. He insisted and so the boat was built. The boat had to sit high in the water to ensure no water would come in through the cannon holes. The day came for the boat to launch, it sailed a total of 1,500m from the shore before a light wind tipped it over (remember, there’s no weight in it because it has to sit so high). As it tips, water comes in the cannon holes. It tips more in the wind. More water comes on board and so it sinks. Bye bye Vasa you lovely war ship. After 333 years under the sea, the wreck was salvaged in 1961 and now sits, pretty much as it was, in a rather lovely building. The museum itself is fairly basic, the ship stands in the middle of the building and as you walk around it you learn about the building of the ship and life in Sweden in 1628, what life was like on a warship and how the boat was built, salvaged and repaired. It’s not incredibly interactive and there were a few bored looking children, but we enjoyed it.

IMG_4439

Just down the road from the Vasa is the Abba Museum. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. As a Mamma Mia addict, I forced Dan to go here. He isn’t Abba’s biggest fan (as I said earlier, freak) but even he admitted by the end that it was awesome. Book your tickets in advance because they charge you a fee if you buy them on the door from a real person, but they also have a computer in the entrance which allows you to book them online and collect them from the machine next to it. As you pass through the turnstile and head downstairs, the sound of Abba reaches you. You walk into a room which shows a montage of interviews, performances and photos from Abbas humble beginnings to the peak of their fame before heading through to a mock festival with bios about each member and how they met and formed their fabulous foursome. There’s a small mention of their first single Ring-Ring before a rather large area dedicated to my favourite city: Brighton. The Swedes LOVE Brighton because it was there, in 1974, that Abba were launched to international fame with Waterloo at the Dome. My favourite part of this room is an excerpt from their diary which states their love of Brighton and how they wish they didn’t have to leave.

The museum is super interactive and designed for us crazy Abba folk. There are points throughout the museum which allow you to scan your ticket and take part in various things: test your memory skills and mix a track to the right levels, record yourself singing one of the hits, get your face scanned and dance on screen as Abba (slightly terrifying when it doesn’t recognise your face and you are a pair of floating glasses on a body) and appear on stage with them. By scanning your ticket, all of your activities are uploaded to the website so you can log in when you are home and relive the joyous moments. It has to be said, I didn’t really know a lot about Abba other than their top hits so it was fascinating learning more about their lives (they live next door to each other) and the costume gallery is something special. They also then have a general history of music part at the end with small pods with video playlists from 1920 to modern day featuring Swedish acts and a room full of instruments that you can play with.

We ended our second day in Stockholm at the rather generically named ‘Barbeque’ restaurant which, whilst the menu isn’t the most exciting, it is cheap(ish) and was opposite our hotel. We were hungry and tired. We managed to get the last table, squeezed in next to three businessmen who seemed to drink a bottle of whiskey each over the course of the evening. I picked the salmon with chili and ginger which came with chips AND corn on the cob AND salad. It was huge. And surprisingly good. The salmon was nice and pink in the middle and cooked perfectly so the flesh fell apart when I put my fork in. The salad was a welcome fresh relief from the chips and corn on the cob, and the marinade on the salmon wasn’t too overwhelming. The boy had a burger (standard) which was about a foot high and whilst I didn’t try any, his clear plate implied a good meal. This was washed down with a double gin and tonic (obviously) and finished with a banana sundae. It was basically the least Swedish meal we could have eaten but it really hit the spot. The meal – the salmon, the burger, dessert, two gin and tonics and a beer came to around £50 which we felt wasn’t bad for the sheer amount of food we had and the surprising quality of the food. Before we went, everyone told us that Stockholm was ridiculously expensive, but we thought that it was no more expensive then you would pay in a Central London restaurant. I’m sure we could have spent a lot more, but as we were budget conscious we did some research and made sure we didn’t eat anywhere too extravagant.

That’s the first half of my trip done, second lot of rambling here.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for more ramblings, and for more photos of Stockholm you can find me on Instagram.

For better photos, you can follow Dan on Instagram

Makara, Hove – review

I don’t want to start this post with a lie so I’m going to be open and say it: I’ve had a few glasses of wine. I also forgot that I am now a ‘blogger’ so I have one photo of my food, and it’s not the food-porn Instgrammed photo you’re all hoping for. But more of that later.

So today was our work dinner. After trying and failing to get into Curry Leaf Cafe, we settled on Makara on Church Road, Hove. I walk past this place twice a day to get to and from work and every day I think “oh, that looks nice”. And that is about as far as it went.

When it got suggested in the office I did as we all do, instantly googled it and read the menu every ten minutes throughout the day trying to decide what sounded best. After a cheeky glass of wine at Blind Busker, we trekked the 10 feet across the road and entered the restaurant. The first thing that hits you is a wall of heat. Then the smell. Oh my that smell. The smell of meat and spice and everything nice. We got seated at our table at the back and ordered some wine (white) and water for the table. The water arrived in the fashionable Kilner bottles that are super trendy and everywhere yet I still want desperately for my flat. Along with the water came some hummus and hot, greasy flatbread that was beautiful on an empty stomach and a glass of wine (I realise greasy sounds like a negative review but I actually mean this in the best way, it was delicious!)

We decided that the best idea for seven people would be to get two of the cold mezze to share plus hot starters. We (I) specifically requested the vine leaves to be included in the cold mezze (6 of the cold starters) but apart from that we left it to them. We got a selection of artichoke (which sadly got nommed before it got passed down to my end of the table), vine leaves, hummus, cacik (yogurt and cucumber), kisir (bulgur with onion and tomato) and more. The vine leaves were minty and fresh as hoped, and the bread went beautifully with the various forms of hummus/yogurt dip. Looking back now as I write this, I should have asked exactly what we were eating. Alas, it is too late. For hot starters we had falafel balls (crispy on the outside and yummy in the middle and served with more hummus), grilled halloumi (which is basically the food of the gods and so can never be wrong or bad with its squeaky goodness) and prawns with garlic and chili (which had a very good spicy kick to them, which when paired with one of the yogurt dressings was a delight).

Our waitress was really nice and attentive despite it being rammed with Christmas parties and couples and groups of friends, our water was always topped up and she was quick at delivering and clearing all of our plates.

About a minute after our starters were cleared, the mains arrived. Never in my life has a main appeared so quickly. As one plate was removed another was placed in front of me. And another basket of bread arrived. This is me at my happiest. After a lot of discussion I settled on Iskander (grilled minced lamb with yogurt and tomato sauce on pita bread cubes with rice and salad) only to be told that they no longer serve that. Instead of throwing a strop I went for my second choice of Ali Nazik (sautéed lamb with smoky aubergine purée with yogurt and garlic, with rice and salad on the side).

The salad was cold and fresh and was a welcome change after the richer sauces, the rice was nice and dry and worked brilliantly at soaking up my auberginey-yogurty sauce (which was also lovely and smokey and was a good combination of spicy and creamy). My one disappointment was my lamb. Whilst it was flavoured beautifully with various spices, I seemed to get the fattiest bits of lamb. It was helpfully already cut up into small pieces, but the lamb itself was quite tough and chewy. Which was a shame as it tasted great, but gnawing on bits of fat isn’t my thing.

No one else seemed disappointed with their meal. Indeed someone else had the same dish as me and had no complaints so I am hoping that I just sadly got the short straw with the bits I was served. I was surrounded by lamb kofte, tavuk sis (chicken breast with pepper and garlic – one complaint here. Again beautifully flavoured but was a bit dry. A spoonful of my sauce helped) and lamb chop-esque meals.

Complaints aside, I managed to scoff my whole meal so I can’t have hated it that much. And here comes the one photo that I took.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2014/12/img_0165.jpg

Whilst I wasn’t 100% happy with my main meal, I enjoyed every other second of my meal and would happily go back again to try out the rest of their menu. The only reason I made a fairly quick decision about my main meal was because I had stared at the menu for most of the day. Particularly with the starters, I believe my remark was “I will happily eat every item on this menu. In fact, if you can bring me one of everything that will be great”. This is my first experience of eating Turkish food in a restaurant and it certainly won’t be my last.

I realise this is a fairly shoddy review, but I’m learning. Next time I will hold off filling my mouth just long enough to take a photo. And I will pay attention to what I am eating.

You can read Makara’s menu here and you can follow them on Twitter here.

For more of my daily witterings you can follow me on Twitter and for some slightly better photos of food and gin, I am also on Instagram.

Brighton Gin – a review

I’ve been following Brighton Gin for a while now and have been eagerly awaiting my first bottle. After glimpses and a few delays, Brighton Gin finally launched in shops. As I went to Stockholm. Cue four days of me whimpering over Twitter as the reviews trickled in, waiting to fly home to get my hands on a bottle. Yesterday, after work, I trekked for twenty minutes in the wrong direction to get my hands on a bottle. At £39.99 this is the most I’ve ever spent on gin. I was anxious. I’d heard it tasted of orange. I hate orange. The long walk home filled my head with images of me spitting gin across my kitchen, crying over the first gin I’ve ever hated.

My fears were unfounded.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2014/12/img_0007.jpg

We decided that, for the launch of my blog, we should do the tasting thing properly. We went to Ginmonger for their ‘How to Taste Gin’ notes. We felt slightly like pretentious twats stood in our not-very-fancy kitchen, using my novelty reindeer shot glass from Stockholm as a measure and swirling gin around our cheap wine glasses and sniffing deeply to “carry the fragrances to the nerve ends at the top of your nose”. It smelt like gin (in a good way). Then we took a mouthful.

Tangy on the front of the tongue. Subtle and smooth from start to finish. Previous experiences of drinking straight gin haven’t gone well for me, they usually end with a coughing fit and me claiming that it tastes like a bad idea and nail varnish remover. None of this happened. It was rather delicious. To make sure we weren’t going insane we kept repeating the process. Sip, swill, let it sit on the tongue then swallow. Lovely stuff.

Once that was finished and we were a little giddy from excitement, we added tonic (Fevertree, light Indian tonic). We were worried that it would lose the citrusy tanginess that it had when straight. Our fears were once again unfounded. Mixed with tonic made it a beautiful drink that I could happily have all day long (except I wouldn’t, because apparently it’s not socially acceptable to drink gin all day). It had a very subtle flavour that made it very easy to drink, but kept enough of a tang to make it interesting.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/03d/80895640/files/2014/12/img_0091.jpg

Overall, it is a wonderful gin that is smooth enough to drink every day. I, personally, will be saving this for slightly more special occasions but this is purely a price tag issue. If I were able to afford a £40 bottle of gin as my every day gin I would. But alas, it is back to the Gordon’s for me… until tonight when I have invited another gin lover round to try some.

And if anyone wants to buy me some, Christmas is coming up and I have a large empty stocking hanging over my radiator…

Thanks to Jenny Bernarde for tasting the gin with me and for her second opinions and yummy noises.

You can find out about Brighton Gin here:
Www.brightongin.com
@brightongin

You can also hear my daily witterings about food, drink and general life over on Twitter @jennifermclaren