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 www.bistroromano.co.uk



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. http://www.corinthia.com/hotels/london/

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.

Cocktails & carbs

Hip new cocktail bar and restaurant, The Laundrette, has spun into action from its new home in Newcastle city centre.

The new kid on the block occupies prime position on the corner of Westgate Road and Pudding Chare, beneath the smart Vita Student accommodation complex.















We had a sneak peek inside and sampled some of the culinary treats on offer, prior to the restaurant opening its doors to the public this week.

Inside, it’s contemporary with cosy booths, an open-plan kitchen, high ceiling and exposed pipework, with big picture windows letting in lots of natural light through the day. It’s got a relaxed feel with a warm ambience – and certainly dishes up competition for other bars and eateries in the vicinity.


The main menu offers everything from ‘small load’ mussels, wild boar meatballs and fritto misto, to crowd-pleasing pizzas and burgers to salads and ‘full load’ chicken and fish dishes. Main of sea bass fillets with wilted spinach and wine and lemon caper dressing, and comfort food dish of divine truffle mac n cheese come highly recommended.

Signature cocktails include the best-selling raspberri flossi, topped with a ball of candyfloss, refreshing rhubarb gin smash, and the ‘bubble bath’ sharer, complete with two straws.


The Laundrette, which also has branches in Chorlton and Manchester, is open from 10am through to midnight every day.


The Kingslodge Inn, Durham City

Dinner at The Kingslodge Inn in Durham City was just what we needed one Friday night after a busy week spent running around, metaphorically spinning plates.

It’s a characterful, cosy pub-restaurant with rooms, just a stone’s throw from Durham City centre and all its visitor attractions. It’s located in a tranquil spot less than a mile from the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. We like the fact that it’s so close to the mainline train station too!

king5My daughter and I were in search of hearty, comforting pub food – which is exactly what’s on the menu. The former coaching inn is part of The Inn Collection Group and home-cooked food is served from 7.30am until 9pm.

The restaurant is rustic in style and welcoming, with exposed brickwork, comfy club chairs covered in tartan fabric, wooden floors and tartan carpets.

We took a corner table at the back of the restaurant which offered privacy but a great vantage point of the dining area.


The dinner menu is full of crowd-pleasing dishes such as steak and ale pie, mussels and fries, burgers, steak and chicken dishes, salads and handmade flatbread pizzas. That day’s chef specials also included king prawn and mussel chowder, and homemade corned beef brisket with mash, greens and gravy.

My crab cakes starter served with lime and tomato salsa and salad, £6.95, were so good… some of the tastiest miniature crab cakes I’ve tried. Three small but perfectly-formed morsels, these were piping hot, freshly-made and crispy on the outside giving way to soft sweet filling of herby crab.

My daughter opted for king prawns starter which came in a terracotta dish half-filled with garlic and chilli sauce, £7.95. The prawns were plump, juicy and plentiful and the salad garnish fresh and perky. She dipped into the sauce daintily, shall we say… If she’d consumed the entire contents of the bowl, it would certainly have had a hefty kick!

It’s worth mentioning, the portions here are seriously generous… so do leave plenty of room for dinner.


I opted for a main of salmon and king prawn skewers, £14.95, served on a bed of couscous with chopped house salad. Two skewers were generously loaded with soft salmon chunks and prawns, and came with a small pouring jug of garlic butter to drizzle over. This was a tasty, extremely filling dish and after filling up on the fishy delights I couldn’t do justice to the mountain of couscous and salad, delicious though they were.

My daughter’s choice of Kingslodge Inn beef burger, £11.95, smothered in sweet red onion marmalade, came with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, side of chips and coleslaw. She also opted for a portion of onion rings (these were beautifully crisp). The meat was succulent – chargrilled on the outside and slightly pink in the middle.


After a much-needed rest we turned our attention to desserts. My choice of sticky toffee pudding, £5.95, was an excellent one, this date-filled soft spongey creation a sweet treat to be savoured. Amping up the calories, it came with a moat of butterscotch sauce and scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Across the table, chocolate brownie, £5.95, served with vanilla ice cream, was the dessert of choice. First choice would have been crepes with strawberries and vanilla ice cream but she hadn’t left enough room… The brownie was a touch on the dry side, and slightly confusingly came with a serving of butterscotch sauce, but nevertheless, she still demolished most of it.

It was good to linger a while over coffee and tea afterwards as we timed our departures just right for the train.

The verdict: honest, comforting, filling pub food enjoyed in a cosy setting. The restaurant had a good buzz to it and a warm ambience the evening we dined. We’d definitely do it again as an end-of-week treat.











Light and shade…

Sea views: What do we have here… not only a gorgeous Bobbi Brown delivery. The ‘Beach’ Eye Shadow Trio offers a lasting memory of summer with its bronzey, sandy, sultry shades.

bobbi3It’s from the Bobbi Brown limited-edition Peace Love & Beach collection, which includes three eyeshadow palettes, nail polishes and glow highlighter, and is inspired by sun, surf and sand. We managed to get hold of our ‘Beach’ trio just in time, it seems. 🌊🌊🌊 But they are still on sale in John Lewis.

It features Tiki metallic shade, Sandcastle sparkle shade and Sunset shimmer wash finish. Our favourite is the Tiki but all three shades are extremely wearable and as with all Bobbi Brown eye palettes these ultra-fine powder shadows offer great pigmentation and are long-lasting. Between us, we have about ten eye palettes (from mum’s beauty writing) so know a thing or two about Bobbi Brown products!

bobbi4It’s a solid little palette too with a rustic, jute-style canvas covering, embossed with the Peace Love & Beach logo. The only downside is it doesn’t come with a brush. The trio palette is priced at £27.


The ‘Peace’ trio of sparkling, ocean-inspired shades also looks fabulous, as does the Love trio in warm, sandy shades perfect for beach-vibe lustre.

Face time

Good foundations: A long-time fan of bareMinerals foundations (in particular their iconic Original Foundation powder) we’re pleased to report the brand has just released a new liquid foundation in the UK.


New BAREPRO Performance Wear Liquid Foundation SPF20 is a quality foundation that offers excellent natural-looking coverage.

Billed as makeup so pure you can sleep in it (not that we’ll be doing that…), the new formula offers 24-hour wear. It’s good to know it’s also heat, humidity, water and sweat-resistant and when we tried it out it was indeed long-lasting and wonderful at blurring out imperfections.

It has a creamy consistency, is comfortable to wear and offers a matte finish. In true bareMinerals style it provides the all-important coverage but skin can actually still breathe through it.

A tricky task picking one out from a shade chart of 30 – without seeing and testing the product – but the shade we chose (Silk 14) was spot on. It blended into the jawline, melting away, leaving no tell-tale demarcations!

BAREPRO Liquid Foundation and Luxe Performance Brush

It launched last month in Debenhams stores, bareMinerals boutiques and online – but is now available nationwide in department stores across the UK.

The 30ml bottle is priced at £29. Launched alongside it, their Luxe Performance Brush, £24, in synthetic fibres, is gorgeous and just made for the softies of this world! bareMineral brushes aren’t the cheapest but they are incredibly long-lasting and superb quality. This one is super-soft, dense and designed to mimic the shape of fingertips for easier application around the nose and eyes.


Heat is on

 Urban Decay’s Naked palettes are seriously hot property and with this summer’s latest release of the hotly-anticipated Naked Heat eyeshadow palette, all eyes are once again on UD.

We own a few of the palettes from this hugely-popular range, which include the Naked Palette Original, Naked Palette 2, Naked Palette 3 and the Naked Palette Smoky – and now new kid on the beauty block, Naked Heat. We also love the Ultimate Basics palette.

We’re thrilled to receive our sample palette of Heat from the lovely PR folk at UD. It’s been good to see for ourselves what all the fuss is about. ‘Heat’ contains 12 colours in a sunset-shades palette featuring everything from terracotta, sienna, rose gold, bronze, and burnt oranges and reds in matte and shimmery finishes. It’s a departure from their palettes full of warm browns and smoky shades but a welcome addition nevertheless.


We can report it is still excellent quality – in keeping with the rest of the range. That all-important velvety texture, super pigmentation and staying power (especially when used with eyelid primer first) are all part of the package.

We particularly like the Lumbre and Ember shades – and although some of the bolder brighter shades may be a little tricky for us (Mum!) to pull off for everyday… there’s something for everyone.

Available on counter and online at £39.50. www.urbandecay.co.uk


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