30 October 2016

A mini break to Milan

I love a mini-break. Give me 4 or 5 days in a city over 2 weeks on a beach any day. I love exploring and there's no better way than to do this than with your friends. Mini breaks are the perfect bonding opportunity so when the flights from Belfast to Beragamo opened with with Ryanair, I booked straight away. The flights were super cheap - I think it was little over £100 or the two of us. Admittedly, we did not book cases (an over sight on the shopping front) but we managed just fine with hand luggage.

I was a little concerned about flying to Beragamo as I knew this was a) not in Milan and b) we had to travel to the city centre & we speak no Italian. However, there are plenty of buses outside that take you to Milan's Central Train Station for around €5 single.

We stayed in The Square Hotel as this was located about  5 minute walk away from the Duomo. If you are like me and are fussy about hotels, you will find that Milan is expensive. However, if you are used to going to Dublin & staying in 4/5 star hotels, the price is proper comparable. Our room was huge - a bit like a New York loft and the breakfast included was fantastic. The hotel also had a huge rooftop restaurant & bar which was such a joy to just chill at. 

If you are thinking about going to Milan you need to be shopper. There's everything from the coolest Zara I've ever been in to Gucci that has a coffee shop attached - of course we had to stop and have a snack for Instagram purposes alone! We visited la Rinascente - the most amazing department store I've ever been in. It is super high end but not pretentious. We spent about 4 hours just wandering around! The department store also has a lovely restaurant that over looks the Duomo. The Duomo (Milan Cathedral) is also worth a visit. I found it very moving - it was so grand but so silent. We also did the ascent to the top of the Cathedral where you literally stand on the roof - trainers or flat shoes recommended as the stairs are very steep!

We actually visited Milan during Fashion Week and expected it to be crazy but it is a surprisingly chilled out city. It's really easy to just walk around & wander and find little gems.

Admittedly, the food we had was a little lack lustre - but let's be honest, you go to Milan for the shopping, not the food. 

Would I go back to Milan? Yes I would. There's a lots of galleries & museums we didn't get a chance to visit and it was our first visit (plus hardly anyone I knew had ever visited!), it would be great to go back to explore a little more!
17 October 2016

Bull & Ram

t's been a long time since I went to a new restaurant where I had a good feed. It's a very Northern Irish thing to want to go somewhere and leave stuffed but it is our way. I was recently asked to come and review the Bull & Ram in Ballynahinch. I live about 45 minutes away so despite the jaunt, I jumped at the chance as they had just won three YES restaurant awards plus had an outstanding review from Jay Rayner in The Guardian.

Two things sold me before I visited - the mention of the interiors and the steaks. The Bull & Ram is located in what used to be an old butchers - the tiles depict farm animals and the stunning high ceiling looks so modern (but it actually is the original ceiling that they found behind 2 false ceilings!). The restaurant has massive big shop front windows that wouldn't look out of place in any cosmopolitan city. I wanted to go to try out their steaks, sourced from Hannan's meats in Moira. In fact, most of their menu is locally sourced. I'm a huge steak fan - no matter where I go in the world I will always try a steak. I've come to the conclusion that we do have the best meat in the world in Northern Ireland - nothing on foreign soil ever tastes as good as our stunning home produce.

I visited the Bull & Ram on a busy Friday evening with my friends. The restaurant is cosy, seating just 70 covers. I would recommend booking if you fancy making the journey down like me. There were couples, groups of friends and people of every age enjoying the atmosphere. They also have an extremely extensive wine list that also includes artisan wines hand picked by their amazing team. The Bull & Ram is headed up by Kealan McMichael. He has worked extensively in kitchens across Northern Ireland including the much loved Poacher's Pocket. His choice of location & building seems to perfectly match the beautifully selected menu on offer. 

The menu is so good that I had quite a time actually picking from it! The menu isn't huge or complicated - everything just sounded so good! They also have a list of daily specials based on what is in season - duck and mushroom were the call for October. Based on another review I read, I picked the French Onion soup. I'm a bit of a French Onion soup connoisseur - it is something so simple that SO many places seem to get wrong very easily. The best soup I ever had was in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas... that was until I went to the Bull & Ram. BEST FRENCH ONION SOUP... in the world! It was so satisfying and homely. My friend had mushroom soup (which she said was lovely but had deep food regret after tasting my French Onion soup). For mains I chose a 40 day aged fillet steak. Fillet is always my cut of choice and it was delicious - truly living up to my belief that we have the best meat in the world. I tried both mash & the beef dripping chips. The chips were outstanding - I could quite probably eat those and the French Onion soup everyday for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. My friend is a huge fan of duck and picked a special they had on the menu which she really enjoyed. 

For dessert we enjoyed a range of things from ice-cream to white chocolate creme brûlée. The brûlée was incredible - it tasted like a melted milky bar without being too sweet. Another menu stand out item!

The service was fab at the Bull & Ram - a really welcoming & polite team. Overall, I had a really great experience. The Bull & Ram is everything you want a Northern Irish restaurant to be - delicious, value for money, filling and friendly.

And the ultimate conclusion - would I drive the whole way to Balynachinch to eat at the Bull & Ram again? You bet I would..... just for the French Onion soup alone! 

For more information on the Bull & Ram, please see their website: 

For reservations, please ring 028 97560908. 

Many thanks to the team for a beautiful meal & their hospitality. 

16 October 2016

Forestside Cookery School

A cookery school in a shopping centre? On first saying this, it might sound like a crazy idea but when you factor in free parking and ease of access, it's actually a genius idea (Plus, the Dunnes Stores in Forestside is fantastic... I went and bought a few things before my class..... Oooopps!). 

Chef Stephen Jeffers is the brain child behind this fantastic new venture. Located upstairs in the shopping centre (you grab the lift beside Sainsburys), the Forestside Cookery School is a beautiful hidden gem. The fit out of the cookery school is stunning - light colours, funky prints by Rory Jeffers and Smeg appliances (I have a life long obsession with Smeg fridges!). Local supplier Musgrave MarketPlace NI is supporting Stephen in his new endeavour by providing locally sourced ingredients for many of the cookery classes. Plus, the school also has a fun Cookery Shop were you can stock up on ingredients on your way out! 

The school runs classes practically every night of the week ranging from Asian to a Sunday Roast. There are also visiting expert chefs who specialise in things such as sushi if you want to learn how to make your favourite rolls! The school also is great for private parties and work team building days. 

Stephen Jeffers himself is a powerhouse. I really took to him when I met him a few years ago when he headed up another cookery school. He's a man who has really lived life - from working in some of Belfast's best restaurants to eventually owning them. His passion for cooking comes from working in restaurants since he was 16 and now he wants to give back these skills & knowledge to a new generation of budding chefs. 

At our particular class, we made a stunning salmon dish for starter. The whiskey smoked salmon from Musgrave MarketPlace NI was absolutely incredible, as was the fillet steak used for the main course. Stephen makes you feel like the cooking is easy, especially as you are assisted by two lovely Forestside Cookery School members (who also do the washing up for you!). I felt I learned so many new skills - chief among them that you oil your steak and not the pan.... who knew? A tip for life! 

The best bit about the experience is eating the food you have created with such a sense of pride. There is a really simple & fun sitting area where you enjoy your food accompanied by some outstanding wine.

The Forestside Cookery School experience is one not to be missed - it's fun, something a little bit different and a great laugh. I highly recommend it for a birthday present or team building exercise. I know I certainly can't wait to return and learn more new skills. Stephen can also create a private class for you if there is something special you want to learn or would like a family day out to create some classic heirloom recipes! 

To book your class, visit 

14 October 2016

Belfast, I still love you

Many thanks to Liam Scott from Scotty Photography for the photographs. Check out his work on his social channels. 

Two of my best friends moved away this year- one to the Middle East and one to Wales. These were two of my friends who formed my core friendship group - the type of friends you can phone when you get a flat tyre or crying in the middle of the night. It has been a hard adjustment realising I can't just stop at M&S, buy some buns and drive to their house. 

It seems to be a real trend this year that people are moving away, whether that's for work, love or simply because they are fed up. This feeling of being fed up with Belfast seems to be a huge wave amongst people my age. I'm 24 and I get it. You think the grass might be greener. I spent my whole university years here - all five of them; four at Queen's and my Master's year at Ulster University's Jordanstown campus which is close to my house. Moving away was never an option for me - my best friend was staying to do nursing at Queen's and I would be across the street doing Politics. We have always gone on fabulous holidays so the idea of travelling or seeing the world never really phased me - I've seen parts world with my mum & my friends.

One of my core reasons for starting this blog under this name was my love of Belfast. As a city, we have suffered. But as someone who is 24, I proud to stand here and be part of a new Belfast... a Belfast that isn't known for bullets and bombs but for the Titanic Visitor Centre and a flourishing food scene. It really upsets me that people I know complain there is constantly "nothing to do in Belfast". Usually these are the same people who go to the same nightclub every Saturday night and eat in the same restaurants, week in and week out. There's nothing wrong with that - I can too be a creature of habit. However, open your eyes to the new businesses that are out there for you to support and experience.

The job scene here is definitely improving and it is encouraging to look in the business pages of the Bel Tel and see investment from huge brands and companies. 2016 in retail alone has heralded a whole new range of products available for us as customers.

Belfast is my home and it will always have my heart. Although I know many of my friends who have left for work may eventually come home, it is hard to hear Belfast being run down by my generation. I feel we need to be positive and try something new - head to the theatre, a new restaurant or bar, drive to a different park for a walk.... there's so much to discover on your own doorstep.

Home is truly where the heart is. I challenge you to find somewhere else in the world that has the humour we do, or in fact, the fish & chips, soda bread, veda loaf and tasty treats in general that we have.

Belfast, I still love you and I always will. 
03 October 2016

The Therapy Rooms at the Rosspark Hotel

I'm not very good at relaxing. It's a life long trait. My doctor once told me I was highly strung and needed to calm down.... this advice I have obviously taken on board (not!). I have a really busy brain and taking time out has always been an issue for me. However, my best friend Jayne couldn't stop raving about the team at The Therapy Rooms at the Rosspark Hotel so I knew I had to take some time to go and try them out in order to de-stress!

I hadn't visited the Rosspark Hotel in years - in fact, I think the last time I was there was for a family wedding when I was still at primary school. Located just outside Ballymena and about a 30 minute drive from Belfast, the hotel is easy to get to. The grounds are lovely and I've heard their afternoon tea is outstanding (I'll be going back for this!).

The Therapy Rooms are located upstairs in the hotel. The location is really discreet so if like me, you were rolling up at 7.30pm on a school night with no makeup on, you felt like you where going to a beautiful home away from home. The team at The Therapy Rooms do everything from bridal hair & makeup to LVL Lashes (one of my favourite treatments!) and all sorts of skincare treats. I went to the salon with my mum - she enjoyed a cup of tea downstairs whilst I stepped into relaxation with my therapist Nicole. I was booked in for a facial & reflexology. I had heard reports about Nicole's reflexology and that is was nothing sort of outstanding.

Nicole started out my treatment by assessing my skin. I have some breakouts at the moment so we discussed how we would help to treat these. The Therapy Rooms are a Skinician salon. Skinician is a range made in Northern Ireland. I hadn't tried the rang before so I was excited to experience it in action with a facial. The stand out product for me from the range was the Pro-Radiance Enzyme Peel. This is a treatment in masque form that helps to exfoliate and leave you with a brighter completion. As my breakouts were not active and rather just red marks on my skin, this really helped to calm the redness and smooth out the texture of my skin. 

After my facial, Nicole moved on to the reflexology. I have had reflexology before but this very much focussed on the physical aspects of my health such as stress or IBS. If you have never had reflexology, it is a treatment that involves massaging points on the feet that correspond to parts of the body. Reflexology is a great way to relax and Nicole was fantastic at it. She focussed not only on physical aspects but also the holistic aspect - she was able to pick up things I had been worrying about. I let her work away without saying much until the end when I told her everything she said was correct including that I had bad hips and that I am really hard on myself! I really felt the benefits of the reflexology days following my treatment which was great. The Therapy Rooms also kindly provided me with some Skinician products to take home which I have loved using so far. 

Nicole was the most lovely girl - she had such a calming voice & kind nature. I really do think that therapists make your treatment - it's a bit like customer service in shops. You'll always return to people if their manner is pleasant and they go out of their way for you. I can't wait to return to The Therapy Rooms for my next treatments and I have a long queue of friends who also now want reflexology with Nicole!

Appointments can be booked with the team at The Therapy Rooms on 07720618551 and you can check out more of their work & latest offers over on their Facebook page

Many thanks to Zoe from The Therapy Rooms for organising my treatments. 

*Treatments and products at The Therapy Rooms were provided to me FOC. All opinions are my own.