See the light

Light fantastic: So wonderful to see Durham City lit up in dazzling display by Lumiere Durham, the UK’s biggest outdoor festival of light.

Back in Durham for the fifth time, Lumiere sees artists from around the world illuminate the city in delightful and surprising ways, with 28 light installations to explore.


The festival, which runs for four nights until November 19, shines a light on this beautiful historic city. And there is so much to see. Where to start… with lots of layers and flat shoes.


We began at the iconic Durham Cathedral. The captivating bellringing/light artwork, ‘Methods’ by artist Pablo Valbuena, transforms the interior and exterior of the ancient building. Teams of bellringers activate lighting effects within the building with the chimes of each bell. Clever stuff this.

Another must-see is the cathedral cloister, currently filled with thousands of illuminated flowers for the Entre les rangs artwork. Watch the ‘blooms’ light up when you add the flash on your camera!


Captivating artwork ‘Frequencies’ by Finnish artist Kari Kola meanwhile transforms the river landscape into a dreamy wonderland of sound and light. Walk a little further on and see the animated ‘Our Moon’ piece by Hannah Fox, projected onto the façade of Durham Castle. This moon blinks, smiles, frowns and twitches and is a beguiling piece.


The bright and cheerful Dome and Arches in the focal-point Market Place is a colourful piece popular with children, while the interior of St Oswald’s Church is lit up in ethereal fashion, thousands of hand-blown glass pieces depicting the birth of light in the universe.

The last Lumiere Durham, held in 2015, saw 200,000 people descend on the city for the festival. This year it looks like that record will be broken. Catch it while you can.

Man Ray for NARS Holiday 2017 collection

Pretty as a picture: We’ve been sampling some of the bold and bright goodies from the new Man Ray for NARS Holiday 2017 collection.

The striking colours and tactile packaging, adorned with gold lips, capture some of the artist’s avante-garde wit. Born Emmanuel Radnitzky in 1890 in Philadelphia, Man Ray was known for his photography.

nars2The collection, which went on sale last month, includes the oh-so-glam Off Limits Photogloss Lip Lacquer, £22, in Shimmering Fuchsia. This is not as scary a shade as it looks! It’s saturated in colour but delivers high shine. It is absolutely stunning – and the great thing about NARS lip lacquers is the paint-like effect – so it has genuine staying power.

NARS Fetishized Blush, in Pink Grapefruit, £23, is again not as scarily bright as it looks. Used sparingly, it actually delivers a natural-looking colour that flatters a variety of skin tones. It’s glittery, which we’re not hugely keen on, but the shade works and adds a pretty pop of colour. Nothing more than you’d expect from the brand famed for its universally-flattering and cheekily-named Orgasm shade.

nars3NARS Debauched Duo Eyeshadow in Black Violet and Smoky Charcoal with Red Shimmer, costs £25. This dynamic duo is perfect for more dramatic smoky eyes. Both colours are beautiful either on their own or used together for layering and smoky effects.

nars4The collection also includes Velvet Eyeliners, Glow Highlighter, lipsticks, eyeshadow palette and gifting sets.

French fancy

Dining review: Cote Brasserie, Newcastle

Inspired by the brasseries of Paris, this quality chain serves up authentic French classics – so it’s great to welcome a new Cote Brasserie to Newcastle city centre.

Amid a plethora of Italian pizzeria chain restaurants (decent though some of them are) it’s good to add some French flavours to the mix.


We’ve been to the Wimbledon branch before, and new Cote bistros and brasseries are popping up in cities up and down the country.

It enjoys a central location in Newcastle, being housed in the former Barclays Bank on the corner of Grainger Street and Market Street.

Good quality, reasonably-priced classic French dishes are the order of the day. The menu features everything from steak frites (thinly beaten-out minute steak with frites, garlic butter and green salad, £11.50), moules frites and Breton fish stew to spinach and mushroom crepes.


And as for starters, the fougasse, £5.25, giant leaf-shaped garlic bread topped with parsley and sea salt, is a must for nibbles with a glass of Kir Royale, £4.95.

We popped in one Saturday lunchtime and took a cosy booth near the door, where large picture windows flooded our table with November sunshine. It’s a sprawling restaurant with tables set over two floors, high ceilings, focal point bar, patterned tiled floor (which my daughter loved) and marble tables, with thick linen napkins and solid cutlery.

We took our time deliberating over starters. Would it be French black pudding, French onion soup, smoked salmon or steak tartare…

My choice of crab mayonnaise, £8.50, was like a main course serving. I piled the fresh sweet crab – peppered with diced cucumber, red onion, avocado, capers and tarragon, on top of slices of toasted sourdough. Super fresh and tasty, there was a plentiful amount of this fishy starter.

My daughter opted for prawn gratinee, £7.95 – the king prawns in white wine, garlic, chilli and tomato sauce were deemed delicious. And the topping of toasty morsels of garlic and parsley croutons added texture and crunch.

We found the staff very attentive – everyone we came into contact with was welcoming, helpful and smiley. Staff seemed well trained – and it’s good to feel the love!

The restaurant has only been open two weeks and is proving hugely popular already. There’s also a small outside pavement area where shoppers were enjoying coffees and hot chocolates.

For mains, there was a choice of November specials, including bean stew with confit duck wing and Toulouse sausage, and weekend specials, such as Cote burger in brioche bun, and half roast chicken, as well as the a la carte menu. Again, a lot to choose from and we took our time deciding.

Light mains included the likes of tuna Nicoise, chargrilled salmon, and meat and fish dishes such as beef bourguignon, roast duck breast and fish parmentier. Grilled dishes included Breton chicken and rib-eye, sirloin and fillet steaks with a choice of sauces.

In the end, I opted for roast seabass fillet, £15.95, two slim fillets, delicately flavoured and carefully cooked, served with braised fennel, in a luscious moat of creamy calorific Champagne beurre blanc sauce with chives and tomato concasse. The sauce was well-seasoned – just a touch on the salty side though. A rich and filling dish, which my daughter dipped into (the buttery sauce was a big hit with her). A side of frites, £2.95, which we shared, were light, crisp and perfectly cooked.

Her main of risotto vert, £10.95, was equally substantial, the rice with all-important bite, and packed with greens – broad beans, green beans, courgette, baby spinach, asparagus spears and pesto, mint and rocket. It was a flavoursome dish and incredibly filling.

From a choice of 11 desserts, featuring classics such as crème brulee and tarte au citron, we opted for praline crepe, £6.25, and tarte fine aux pommes, £6.25. My apple tart was freshly cooked and utterly delicious. Finely sliced apples were sweetly caramelised and the puff pastry base beautifully crisp, the tart topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and light dusting of icing sugar.

Across the table, chocolate and praline fold-over crepe with caramelised banana slices and scoop of crème Chantilly was a treat for the sweet-toothed – and every mouthful was savoured by my daughter.

We finished with a latte, £2.85, and cappuccino, £2.65. We’d lingered a couple of hours over lunch and it was nearly 4pm, but the restaurant was still buzzing. The new kid on the block has made a good first impression.

Cote Brasserie, 120-122 Grainger Street, Newcastle, NE1 5AF.



Igloo with a view

Adding a touch of sparkle to an evening out, Coppa Club, at Tower Bridge, London is the hip new place for eating, drinking, meeting and unwinding.


It overlooks the River Thames, and is a cool place for dinner with its backdrop of twinkly night lights lining the sky. The recent opening of the new outdoor ‘igloos’, dome-shaped pods kitted out with fairy lights and fur blankets, are proving extremely popular… with reservations difficult to secure. They’re now mostly booked out until the end of 2017 – but a limited number are kept aside for walk-ins.

The chic and contemporary styled restaurant is home to a focal-point bar, wooden interiors, cosy fireplace, and a raised floor area, creating a more intimate setting for booths, at the opposite side of the bar. Dramatic views of the stunning London Bridge from the restaurant add to the atmosphere.

Peach bellinis, rather reasonably priced at £5.95 a glass, make for the perfect appetiser. The all-day menu, which includes breakfast/brunch options, offers a wide range of no-fuss European food, including classic crowd-pleasers – from pizzas and pastas, to sirloin steak and burgers.


Main of classic penne carbonara (£11.95) did not disappoint, with its luscious creamy sauce and pasta with just the right bite. To finish, a soft but rich, flourless chocolate and almond cake was utterly delicious, served with orange crème fraiche, for a hint of tang.

Wake up and smell the coffee

A wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment at 1901 Caffé Bistro in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.

This cute and characterful vintage-style eaterie is housed in a church hall, dating back to 1901, and adjacent to Jesmond Methodist Church on St George’s Terrace.

buxom lips

It’s something of a retro charmer with cavernous interiors and high ceilings.

Inside it features an eclectic but charming collection of vintage knick-knacks, sink-into-me sofas and parquet flooring. It’s the sort of space that invites you to linger.

caffe bistro 1901

We enjoyed freshly-made home-made cheese and fruit scones, £2.30 each, and substantial bacon sandwich with creamy lattes. They offer a tempting selection of home-made cakes such as Victoria sponge, sticky orange and almond cake, and fruity flapjacks.


Pictured alongside our lattes are velvety soft Clinique Pop Lip Color in Melon Pop shade and shimmery Buxom lipgloss. Buxom is the sister brand to bareMinerals and is new and exclusive to Debenhams in the UK.

#clinique #buxom #bareminerals #melonpop #beautyblogger #bbloggers


Legend in its own lunchtime

Restaurant review: Bistro Romano, Cleadon Village

A last-minute change of plan saw us eating out at Bistro Romano in Cleadon Village, instead of the Happy Organic café directly across the road. Both establishments are owned by a section of the Minchella family, a famed name in these parts for their family ice cream business.

We were in the vicinity that day, and to be fair, we’d have been happy lunching at either eaterie. But a decision to have a more hearty substantial lunch – a ‘set-yourself-up-for-the-week’ affair – made us opt for Romano’s.


Bistro Romano is owned by Romano and brother Paolo, while Romano’s daughter Luisa runs cool café, Happy Organic, with its relaxed healthy-eating vibe.

Romano’s in Cleadon has been going strong since 1999. And it has a very good reputation for its fine dining Italian offerings.

The Monday lunchtime we were dining there was a smattering of diners – but enough noise and background chat to make it a convivial atmosphere. Our seat by the window, with the sun streaming in, helped lend a holiday feel to lunch.


The interior is fresh and contemporary, with parquet flooring and smartly-laid tables dressed in crisp white linen table cloths, with fresh flowers. Walls of framed black and white photos of the family, captured through the generations, are a talking point.

There may not be pizza on the menu, somewhat of a novelty for an Italian restaurant, but that’s not a bad thing. We chose from the a la carte menu – although there was a light lunch menu too – and spent far too long dithering over possibilities. Glasses of delicate Mannara rose made it all the more tricky to focus. This was to be a leisurely lunch, we decided!

romano 5

Starters include the likes of oak-smoked salmon, scallops, and Parma ham and melon. Mains include everything from sea bream, sirloin steak, braised daube of beef and roast chicken supreme to pasta and risotto dishes

A selection of warm breads (delicious focaccia and seedy wholemeal among them) with excellent quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, set the ball rolling in style.

To start, I chose the four cheese and leek tart with dressed leaves salad, £7.50. A great choice this, the pastry was beautifully buttery and crumbly, the cheese filling rich and flavoursome. It was a very generously-sized portion – and a tasty new addition to the menu. Across the table, my husband’s choice of deep-fried king prawns in beer batter with mixed leaves and tartare sauce, £11.90, was another top-notch dish and like a meal in itself.

The beer batter encasing the prawns was incredibly light and crisp, Moretti the brew of choice, I’m told.

My main of spaghetti carbonara, £10.90 – always a measure of a great Italian restaurant if they can get this classic dish right – was spot on. The sauce enveloping the pasta, which was cooked with just the right bite, was rich, creamy, and well seasoned, pancetta morsels cutting through the creaminess, making it all very moreish.

My husband’s choice of baked salmon, £19.90, with tomato-based sauce, sauteed potatoes and asparagus spears was an equally accomplished dish. The meaty piece of salmon was soft and moist, and the sauce which included capers, garlic and anchovies complemented it perfectly, without overpowering the salmon. A little more pricey, admittedly, but for cooking of this quality you really don’t begrudge it.


Quality ingredients were used in every dish – all of which were generously portioned. The skillful cooking shone through and every dish was attractively presented too, so everything looked so appetising.

We dipped into each other’s desserts. My choice a warming autumnal gooseberry and apple crumble surrounded by a moat of crème anglaise. This had a crumble base and sides and perfectly tangy fruity centre. I highly recommend. While, across the table, Minchella’s own Turkish Delight ice cream with chocolate sauce, was deemed a hit. And it really did have that delicate rose flavour.

This was a lunch to start the week in style – and ditch all thoughts of diets… It was all done with the greatest of care – and a big serving of Italian flair.

Bistro Romano, 63 Front Street, Cleadon Village, Sunderland SR6 7PG. Tel: 0191 519 1747



London calling

corinthia_spaThe stylish five-star Corinthia Hotel is the last word in luxury, as Katharine Capocci discovers on a shopping/spa break in London

If you’re thinking of a quick break in London for a spot of shopping combined with seriously good spa time, then the centrally-located five-star Corinthia Hotel could prove just the tonic.

corinthia exterior

The stunning spa hotel, situated in tranquil Whitehall Place, just around the corner from Downing Street, and a short stroll from Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, combines grandeur with heritage.

The Corinthia is a pretty special place – a hotel with the definite wow factor. It’s the second time I’ve stayed and is fast becoming one of my go-to luxe hotels in London. A-list visitors include the likes of Colin Firth and Victoria Beckham, along with the well-heeled ubiquitous Made in Chelsea stars.

What I love most about the Corinthia is the beautiful Victorian building it’s housed in. It has a grand hotel feel and dates back to 1885 but combines traditional grandeur with modern freshness.

It has masses of period character throughout, from the original restored ballroom, Victorian columns and high ceilings. It started life as the prestigious Hotel Metropole in the 1800s before being taken over by the Government and used as Ministry of Defence offices.

It opened up in its current luxury hotel guise in 2011 – and has 294 rooms including 40 suites and seven penthouses.

My husband and I savoured every moment of what was a flying one-night visit. We’d already hit the shops beforehand so it was with a sigh of relief that we checked in to our executive king guest room. A very comfortable and tranquil base, contemporary in style, with all mod-cons including spacious marble bathroom with under-floor heating, giant bathtub with built-in TV, tropical rain shower and ESPA toiletries.

corinthia front-entrance-night

If you’re after the ultimate in luxury, though, go all out and book one of the two-storey penthouse suites, opulent guest residences built within the soaring turrets of the building.

Dinner in the hotel’s chic Art Deco-style Italian Massimo Restaurant & Bar was an evening to be savoured.

corinthia massimoI’ve dined here during the day when the space is bathed in natural light. By night the restaurant takes on a very different feel, the Corinthian columns beautifully lit by globe light fittings, turning it into a pretty romantic setting. It’s a place to dress up for, and the authentic fine dining Italian dishes are served up with a creative touch.

One of the major attractions at the Corinthia is its impressive ESPA Life spa, housed over four floors. This is where my husband and I were headed after a restful night’s sleep and fortifying buffet breakfast in the hotel’s Northall restaurant.

It’s such a tranquil space and includes 17 treatment rooms, pool, amphitheatre sauna, as well as Daniel Galvin Hair Salon, nail studio and state-of-the-art gym.

The sauna is the perfect winter warmer and my favourite spot, gazing on soothing fires flickering behind glass, as you ward off any remaining winter chills.

Whilst there I indulged in an ESPA personalised facial, lasting 90 minutes. This was seriously pampering – utter bliss, and included a triple cleanse, exfoliation and steam, followed by pressure point and lymphatic facial massage finishing with a facial mask bespoke to my skin. Pricey admittedly, but wonderful!

Afterwards, we spent the morning relaxing in the spa with dips in and out of the pool and a warm-up in the sauna, before chilling out in style on marble heated beds. Sleepy heads, we emerged from our wellness breaks after 30-minute naps. So much pamper time can be so wearing!

Feeling fully rejuvenated, we’d saved our appetites for treaty afternoon tea. And here at the Corinthia they do it in some style.

Champagne afternoon tea in the Crystal Moon Lounge with its soaring dome and bespoke artworks is an absolute must. Be dazzled, as we were, by the glittering ‘Full Moon’ Baccarat Chandelier, made from 1,001 crystal baubles, and a grand focal point.

It’s a light and airy space, overlooking an attractive courtyard. We enjoyed tea with the fizz factor, with an array of delectable dainty finger sandwiches made using artisanal breads, scones and creative fancies.

There was a very knowledgeable tea sommelier on hand to guide us through all the teas on offer too. Do also check out the beautiful floral displays in the lounge.

It was with a heavy heart we checked out as it had been such a treaty stay – and the fact that we spent a full 24 hours in the confines of the hotel was a day very well spent.

Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD. Tel: 020 7930 8181.

Eye on London

A work trip to London last week… and I’m still discovering new places in the capital. I may have lived in London for a year and visited about ten times in the past two years but I’m still uncovering hidden gems.

IETThese include the wonderful IET building (home to The Institution of Engineering and Technology), dating back to the 1880s, at Savoy Place.

A busy day of productive VisitBritain seminars and appointments at the IET, made all the better by being in such illustrious surroundings.

The IET London offices are next door to the Savoy Hotel, on the riverside, close to Waterloo Bridge. A beautiful red brick and white stone building on the corner of Savoy Place/Savoy Street, just before you cross the road to go under the bridge, it’s a striking (nicely understated) spot.

IET1The views from the IET’s third-floor Riverside Room – with its large picture windows and private balcony – of the river and London skyline are imposing.

Nearby Whitehall Gardens on Victoria Embankment, running alongside the River Thames, are an oasis of calm and a tranquil spot away from the hustle and bustle.

whitehall gardens



Eye spy…

Top choice: Topshop’s eyeshadow palette in Golden Aura. Found in one of my sister’s makeup bags, left at home when she went off to uni…

Highly pigmented, these neutral browns are so easy to work with – and they have staying power too, especially when applied on top of an eyelid primer.

topshop palette

Plus, they are generously-sized shadows in sturdy packaging (with Topshop’s signature spotty design). Lots of plus points to Topshop cosmetics, actually. Chief among them, how reasonably-priced the products are in the range.

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