Tickled pink


Glisten up: We’ve been sampling some of the colourful lines from the stylish new Man Ray for NARS Collection including the Off Limits Photogloss Lip Lacquer, £22, in Shimmering Fuchsia.


It is a much more wearable shade than it initially appears. Rich in colour with high shine, it’s a very pretty pink number – and the paint-like effect on application makes it long-lasting.

And also, how lovely is this plush blush in Pink Grapefruit shade, £23, which although bright, is very flattering if used sparingly!

We also like the range’s tactile packaging, adorned with gold lips, in a nod to artist Man Ray’s avante-garde wit.


Café culture

Lunch review: Café Bowes, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham.

The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle is a sight for sore eyes when you turn through the gates into the grounds, and like my daughter, see it for the first time.

The stunning French-style chateau houses outstanding collections of European fine and decorative art. It’s also the perfect spot to be indoors on a gloomy drab January day as you can browse treasures aplenty.

Feast your eyes on magnificent paintings by the likes of Canaletto, El Greco and Goya and see the famed 18th century silver swan automaton, and tuck in to lunch whilst there.


The acclaimed Café Bowes is a simply decorated, bright and airy dining space and we were shown to a comfortable window seat offering calming views of the leafy grounds. The café was half full on the lunchtime we visited, one gathering enjoying a late festive lunch, with a hum of convivial chat in the background.

The cafe serves up homely, quality fare, featuring locally-sourced ingredients, such as delicious breads from The Moody Baker in Barnard Castle, fish from Hodgson’s, dairy produce from Acorn Dairy and drinks from Fentimans and Black Paw Brewery.

The café’s tempting scones, and an array of cakes and slices, are tantalisingly on display at the central counter, and the first things you see as you walk in.

In addition to a lunchtime menu, breakfast, light bites and afternoon tea are available. We were after hearty and sustaining fare to put a winter-warming lining on tums on a grey day.

A piping hot skinny latte, £2.75, for me, and Fentimans Rose lemonade, £2.75, for the youngest daughter, were savoured as we took a look at the menu.

Lunch offerings included the likes of home-made soup, and sandwiches such as Yorkshire ham and pease pudding, smoked salmon and cream cheese, both £5.95, and mozzarella, rocket and sun-blushed tomato in ciabatta, £6.50, as well as Yorkshire rarebit, £7.95.


The younger daughter is a big fan of warm, gooey goat’s cheese so she made a beeline for the Mediterranean goat’s cheese dish, £7.95. This consisted of delicious creamy grilled cheese, forming the centrepiece of a well-presented plate, surrounded by plentiful colourful roasted veg – red, orange and yellow peppers and courgettes among them. The dish was artfully drizzled in sticky balsamic vinegar and was accompanied by a side plate of Moody Baker date flatbread, and a serving of homemade hummus.

It was incredibly filling and very satisfying, every last mouthful polished off.


I opted for Café Bowes chowder dish, £8.95, a piping hot bowlful of good stuff – natural smoked haddock, tiny sweet prawns, sliced leeks, cubed potatoes, flatleaf parsley and accompanying delicious warm brown crusty roll. This was the perfect winter warmer, and smelled delicious; the generous chunks of smoked fish and leeks in creamy broth was rich and filling. The seedy roll was perfect for dipping in the sauce too.


Staff were attentive, helpful and friendly, and knowledgeable about local sourcing and daily specials too. They were industrious, cleaning tables thoroughly, but had time for a chat and we never at any point felt rushed.

After a suitable break, we walked up to the counter to take a closer look at the cake offerings. Although they had a number of desserts, including Christmas pudding and tempting-sounding cheesecakes on offer, the daughter had her eye on the Daim bar cake, £2.95, a sweet concoction of creamy and crunchy contrasts, which she very much enjoyed.


The Victoria sponge – three decadent layers – and Black Forest gateau looked incredibly tempting – as did the huge home-made scones. In the end, I opted for Hummingbird cake, £2.95, another triple sponge indulgence, with sweet banana and pineapple flavours and cream cheese frosting. It was a moreish confection – and even though I was full two-thirds through, I persevered…


After lunch, we took another wander round the museum and browed the Josephine Bowes – The Woman of Fashion exhibition, the lady in question being a driving force behind the museum’s creation. We also enjoyed exploring the artwork featured in the New Light Prize Exhibition. Established in 2010, it celebrates and promotes Northern art, supporting both well-known and emerging artists. I particularly loved the life-like portraits of actor Sir Tom Courtenay by Isobel Peachy.



Carluccio’s, Newcastle: Menu festivo dinner review

An evening spent in the warm environs of Carluccio’s sampling the menu festivo was just what was needed one freezing cold, dreary Monday evening.

The smoothest Sicilian red wine and a cosy table for the night ahead savouring the festive delights on the menu, helped get us perfectly in the mood for Christmas.


I was dining with my elder daughter – and between us a mix of assorted exams, assessments and deadlines meant we’d earned a night off.

We took a table in a quiet, intimately-lit spot. The interior was looking suitably festive with a backdrop to our table of festive garlands, giant baubles and fairy lights.


Carluccio’s is sprawling inside with two distinct ground-floor sections and a deli area, where shelves are laden with all manner of sweet and savoury delights. There is also a private dining area upstairs.

We were having an early dinner but the place already had a convivial feel to it with a number of small Christmas work gatherings sat at tables.


The Christmas menu offers two courses for £17.95 and three courses for £20.95 – and with a choice of four starters, six mains and four desserts, there is plenty to choose from.

While we deliberated, we nibbled on a selection of breads – delicious home-baked soft focaccia, seeded bloomer and crackers, and ciabatta, all of which we dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar; along with a selection of mixed olives and tangy giant green Nocellara olives.

It’s easy to forget the simple pleasures of nibbling on a basket of great fresh breads. A cocktail or two to hand helps too. For the daughter, a Disaronno marmalade sour, £7.50, with punchy clementine flavour, and for me, lemon spritz, £6.95 – a refreshing citrussy blend of limoncello, limonata and prosecco.

We agreed we’d go back soon – if only for the bread basket and olives with a glass of vino – it was that good.

For starters, I opted for mushrooms and kale served on toasted ciabatta – a substantial starter, the mixed mushrooms having a great garlic and chilli kick.


Across the table, starter of antipasti was going down a treat – this platter of goodies included baked ricotta, Sardinian flatbread, salami, paper-thin prosciutto, peppers, balsamic onions, caponata and green olives. It was a feast of pick-and-mix treats – especially good were the creamy ricotta and prosciutto. Our attentive waiter (who was really helpful) explained the platter was made up of foods from all of the Italian regions.

We talked about the recent passing of Antonio Carluccio, godfather of Italian cooking, who founded the chain some years back, and how we’d both met him when he came to Newcastle for the restaurant’s launch. A wonderful chap – full of good humour.

For mains, the daughter’s choice of lobster and crab lasagne was a very good one. What a filling dish – layers of creamy ricotta, spinach and tomato sauce oozing between lasagne sheets, peppered with sweet morsels of crab, lobster and crayfish. The dish came topped with garlic and herb breadcrumbs. Just divine.

My choice of saltimbocca di pollo, flattened chicken breast, wrapped in prosciutto, and topped with sautéed mushrooms, was full of flavour. It’s a dish I haven’t had in a while but the chicken was really enhanced by the rich Vin Santo sauce. It came with a portion of delicious rosemary and garlic cubed roasted potatoes, which my daughter couldn’t resist.

Both great dishes, cooked well and attractively presented. The portions were so substantial we couldn’t do them justice… but we did try.

We savoured our mains with glasses of vino – the most delicious Sicilian red for me, a Mandrarossa tipple, darkly spicy, but velvety smooth, at £5.20 a glass. While my daughter sipped a glass of crisp dry Gavi, Via Delfini, £6.50.

Dessert options included a limoncello mascarpone, which I was tempted by, and rum and raisin gelato, but my daughter was after something chocolatey. And the rich dense chocolate torte served with a pool of tangy raspberry coulis, was just the decadent treat.

My choice of Carluccio’s chocolate panettone, fluffy sweet bread drizzled with Vin Santo syrup, and served with vanilla ice cream, was a fitting finale to a very good meal with all the festive trimmings.




Go with the glow

Highlight of the week: Receiving our review samples of Bobbi Brown goodies – perfect for the run-up to Christmas. In particular, this Moon Glow Highlighting Powder sees us basking in its warm glow… The superfine silky powder comes in a highly-reflective Champagne gold shade and instantly lights up skin.

Just remember, a little goes a long way… so use sparingly for a touch of radiance on the cheekbones or décolleté. The mix of three pearl-infused shades delivers an ultra-flattering, golden glow that we love. We also like the expensive feel of the red and gold compact-style packaging with mirror – it is solid with a satisfying snap shut! Priced at £36.

New Bobbi Brown Nourishing Lip Color is an oil-infused goodie that’s richly conditioning – offering colour and shine. Available in 16 shades, it’s the super-emollient modern take on lipstick. Ours is in a subtle Blush shade – a neutral pinky-brown, ideal for daywear. Priced at £24.

BB Nourishing Lip

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Liquid Liner in a choice of new shades, including Forest Sparkle and Baltic Blue Sparkle, with its brush-tip liner allows for easy precision application. Our sample in Carbon Black adds plenty of definition to eyes and you can be as bold or as subtle as you like. Once applied, the liner is indeed long-lasting, durable and offers fade-free wear all day. Priced at £24.50.

All three are winners from a well-respected brand that does a great line in hero products.

BB eye1



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. https://www.cote.co.uk/restaurant/details/Newcastle



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


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