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


Figure it out

Go figure: We like the lightness and subtlety of this Italian Summer Fig fragrance mist from The Body Shop. The fresh, green, fruity scent has a light touch and has seen Mum through the summer months. It also smells more expensive than you’d probably expect! It is quite literally summer in a bottle 🌞

The eau de toilette mist blends the scent of Italian summer fig with hints of rose and amber. Being a fragrance mist, it doesn’t last long so you need to top up every few hours, or alternatively, layer with other Italian Summer Fig products to build the fragrance.


The Serenity Spa, Seaham Hall hotel, County Durham

Comfort zone: A spa day at The Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall hotel in Durham was just the tonic I needed. A frantic few weeks fretting over kids (admittedly these ones are all but grown-up) and the day-to-day stresses of a hectic lifestyle had left me feeling wound-up and really rather jaded.

So a chance to unwind and completely chill out on a mum-and-daughter pamper day was just the pick-me-up I needed.

Seaham10And if anything is guaranteed to transport me to my comfort zone it’s a trip to five-star Seaham Hall with its striking cliff-top location overlooking the Durham Heritage Coast.

Built in 1791, this luxe Georgian boutique hotel oozes character and charm. It’s a sight for sore eyes – set amidst 37 acres of beautifully cultivated landscaped gardens. I’ve been a regular visitor here over the years, writing for the features pages of regional newspapers and lifestyle magazines, and it never fails to impress.

A day off the treadmill in the award-winning Oriental-themed spa is always a serene experience. I find work and domestic hassles magically melt away after a few hours spent here.

I was trying out the new Autumn Rewind package which includes spa use from 9am to 5pm, two-course meal in the pan-Asian Ozone restaurant and sixty-minute treatment (either a Serenity Signature massage or Sundari Prescriptive facial). Oh, decisions, decisions…

Seaham11After a cup of reviving iced raspberry tea and a quick change into robes and slippers, my daughter and I could feel ourselves unwinding. We mooched about, dipping in and out of the 20-metre pool, outdoor hot tubs, jacuzzi, hammam, steam room, sauna, hydrotherapy pool and zen chill-out room. (I must admit we side-swerved the fitness suite and chilly plunge pools!)

We especially loved the outdoor hot tubs – warm, snug and giggly in our bubbly cocoon – with the cool air surrounding us. The spa’s new salt sauna is a favourite too and the dry heat just sooo soothing. And sat in the jacuzzi in the steamy hammam, staring at the twinkly ceiling, we were perfectly at home.

We also liked that the spa wasn’t too busy on the day we visited through the week – we even had the hot tub, sauna, pool and hammam completely to ourselves on occasions.

In keeping with the healthy, wellness theme, lunch in the pan-Asian Ozone restaurant, set within the spa, was fresh and wholesome. Sat in robes and slippers, we took in the garden views as we munched on a tasty two-course lunch (choose from main and either starter or dessert).

Ozone_Resturant_6395Prawn stir-fry with rice and sweet soy-based teriyaki sauce with white onions, and oyster and enoki mushrooms was delicious. The prawns were plentiful, the rice cooked to perfection and the sauce a warming mix of honey sweetness, garlic and warming ginger.


My wok dish of pan-roasted salmon in teriyaki sauce with crisp Asian salad was also a plate of wholesome appetising ‘does-you-good’ stuff. The mounds of beansprouts mixed with green, red and yellow peppers and the odd sliced red chilli was healthy and filling.

seaham4Dessert of coffee and mango cheesecake – more of a deconstructed trifle-type offering in a jar – was an innovative take on the regular cheesecake and a deliciously creamy concoction. Banana fritters drizzled in hot chocolate sauce, with accompanying banana ice cream were deemed a big hit by the daughter.

It’s hard work all this relaxing and I was ready for a snooze by the time it came to my Prescriptive Sundari facial. After a consultation, it was decided fine lines and rehydration were my key concerns (among many). My excellent therapist Tisha most certainly had her work cut out.

Feet were first cleaned and gently dried in a welcome foot ritual before I hopped on to the heated bed for a sixty-minute zone out…

Using the most exquisite smelling products from the Sundari range, Tisha got to work with cleanser, toner, exfoliator, massage, mask and serum. Skin felt super-clean, soft and hydrated by the end of this superb rejuvenating facial. While the mask was applied she incorporated the most wonderfully de-stressing massage – knots in the neck and shoulders were worked on and scalp gently massaged. I can highly recommend.

Afterwards, relaxation time on the heated beds in the zen lounge overlooking the tranquil grounds, a cleansing raspberry sorbet to hand, is a must. We really didn’t want to face the real world after such a pampering day…

Autumn Rewind package, available from September to November 30, 2017, costs £99 per person, Sunday to Friday, and £110 per person on Saturdays.

Seaham Hall, Lord Byron’s Walk, County Durham, SR7 7AG. Tel: 0191 5161400. For more info on the hotel and spa offers, visit: www.seaham-hall.co.uk



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