Monday, 27 June 2016

LET'S TALK: Taking A Break


At the moment, it's safe to say I'm struggling a bit.

I've had A LOT of changes in the last 7 months. One of my oldest and closest friends had a bad accident (she's now doing a little better) and my parents separated.

These two changes were huge for me. Caitlin and I have been friends for over 20 years. She's the mother of the group, the reliable one, the clever one - she's everything a person could be. She's the best person.

My parents had been married 27 years. It's all I've ever known. My childhood home is all I've ever known. My dad and I have a stronger relationship now than we've ever had. My mum and I have crumbled. She's not interested but that's another story for another day. Let's just say, I've had my heartbroken twice in my lifetime - by my first love when he left for university and didn't speak to me for over a year. The second, by my mum. Who, to be honest, I can't even call my mum anymore. The person she has become is certainly not the person that raised me and one of the people I'd consider to be my closest and best friend.

So, in a sense, over the last 7 months, the two people that would be the first people turn to in crisis, I can't.

For Caitlin, her focus and everybody else in her life's focus, is that she put all her strength and energy into getting better. I haven't and wouldn't burden her with this. She's aware but all we want is for her to stay on track and progress with her recovery.

The person I used to be able to call my mother has turned her back.

Thankfully I have several incredibly close friends to turn to, the most supportive dad there is and a boyfriend that, despite his tough love approach, has helped me stay afloat through all of this more than he will ever realise.

Over the next few months I will be moving twice - my family home has now been sold and within the next four weeks, will no longer be my family home. Although, I no longer call the three of us a family. My dad is my family and I know that he would never, ever let me down in any way shape or form.

I am also going to be moving out of my Northampton home. My housemate is moving to Bristol and I'm not sure I really have many options at the moment.

I am hoping to live with my dad once things are sorted, but that's all pending right now.

In all honesty, I don't know how people can really afford to rent alone. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not on the worst wage in the world but forking out £650+ on rent for a decent place in the Midlands with council tax and bills thrown on top of that is steep. Not impossible but very tough.

So right now, I'm struggling to focus whole-heartedly on things.

This post is just to say, I guess, we all have our struggles. I've always used Unorganised Chaos as an online diary, a place for me, my thoughts and my memories. One day I'll look back on this time in my life and I'll see that quote above and I'll smile. I'll smile because it will have been the truth - the future will be bright, not just for me but for Caitlin, for my dad. By that time the negativity in our lives will be gone or at least almost faded.

This post is to assure people that everybody's highlight reel on Instagram or Facebook is just that - it's   the good part of our lives, not the behind the scenes bits - the sad bits, the nasty bits.

This post is to say, I'm taking a break to work on staying afloat, on processing these last few months and sorting out these loose ends that are fast approaching.

I'm doing this with my little army of heroes, the ones that haven't left my side - the ones that have shown their true colours during this time, the ones I can rely on.

I'll still post when I can as I've got a few recipes, restaurants and trips to tell you about but I can't promise how regularly these posts will reach you.

One thing I've learned - things are completely out of our control sometimes but it's about dealing with situations the best way you know how, with the best people you know and, one day, in the end, things will work out. When one door opens, somewhere down the line, another one opens. And behind that door might well be something way better than before.

xo

ATE AT: The Old Bridge Hotel, Huntingdon


I'm very lucky living in the Midlands...a sentence many would be unlikely to say. But, hear me out.

Living in the Midlands (well, basically the South - 50 minutes from London) means having access to not only to the wide array of brilliant restaurants in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leamington, Leicester...BUT, I have the luxury of Cambridge and Oxford not too far away. Huntingdon, part of Cambridgeshire, is about 40 minutes from my house and I have at least one definite reason to make that journey there.

I was invited to a friends 70th birthday lunch at the Old Bridge. This friend, well, he doesn't do bad food. Nor does he do bad atmosphere, bad décor or bad company.

I'll be honest, I wasn't entirely sure where Huntingdon was on the map, but I knew it wasn't far away and I couldn't resist an opportunity to try somewhere new.

I was kinda hoping it wouldn't just be Sunday roast options as I'd had 10 days of eating carby, heavy food in Italy and fancied something lighter - I was in luck.

The birthday boy had hired out one of the rooms so we were in this gloriously decorated room (which I failed to get a photo of!), we were served teas, coffees and Prosecco upon arrival and chatted for an hour or so before being seated to our grand table.

I set my eyes upon the menu and was thrilled to see a variety in dishes - not just roasts; fish options as well as a pasta option!

I had firmly made my mind up on a starter within 10 seconds of seasonal asparagus. I went for the asparagus, hollandaise and poached egg. At least half of the table (a table of 25) went for the crab croquettes, which I'm told were delicious.

The asparagus was cooked to perfection, the hollandaise is number two on by best ever hollandaise chart (nobody will ever beat beetroot hollandaise at Friends of Ours) and the egg was spot on.

For main, I decided on the seared tuna steak (served rare) with baby kale and grilled potatoes with lemon and crème fraiche . Again, beautiful. The tuna was cooked better than I've ever had before, the flavour of the kale wasn't overpowering and the potatoes were cooked with a soft inside and a very slight crunch to the outside - just how I like 'em.

All of the mains looked amazing, I saw a few with venison (apparently amazing), a beef roast (again, amazing), a few people with lamb. Opposite me sat a pasta dish; really tasty filling and al dente, just how it should be.

All in all, an incredibly happy table after the first two courses.
For pudding, I really couldn't decide and, unfortunately, I think I chose wrong (even though it was delicious). I went for the cheesecake with roasted apricots. Don't get me wrong, it was really really good. The cheesecake was the perfect texture, the apricots were okay but didn't completely wow me. But I mean, what do you expect from an apricot?

The other thing I wanted, the strawberry pavlova with basil ice cream. YES, basil ice cream. Sounds great doesn't it...well, that's what I wanted. I tried my friends next to me and the basil ice cream was incredible. Like seriously incredible. So, I had dessert envy, big time. Don't let that put you off the cheesecake though, it is really tasty. Just, the basil ice cream was on another level.
We finished off with teas, coffees and chatter before all heading in our different directions home.

We were made to feel incredibly welcome by our waiter (whose name I've rudely forgotten) and other staff we encountered while dining. The décor of the place is absolutely beautiful, a mixture of country home and estate house with a dash of modern thrown in. It's really hard to explain, but it's just got this great vibe to it - relaxed but an upmarket place to go.

The best news? A three course lunch is only £39. Which, for the quality of food, is an absolute bargain.

I'm already planning my next trip there to see what the rest of the menu is like!

Shout out to Hannah too - we've followed each other on Instagram for a while now and her parents actually own the place (which I didn't know!) It's a real credit to them, such a great place.

xo

Monday, 6 June 2016

VISITED AND ATE AT: Bank Holiday Weekend in Brighton

I love love LOVE Brighton. This is only the second time I've been. The first time was last April with some of my food blogger friends and I fell in love with the place. It's a typical seaside town BUT it has quirky independents - cafes, restaurants, shops, juice bars - I love the Laines. I love the atmosphere. And I particularly like the gin pub we went in). Brighton is always a lot of fun, whether you're going down for the food, the sunshine (we got very lucky with the weather!), the shops or the (sometimes questionable) nightlife.

We drove down on the Saturday, after spending Friday night at Ferguson's. Saturday bank holiday driving was MENTAL. It took us over 4 hours to get there (for a 3 hour journey). We were grouchy and just wanted to be by the sea. But, we got there eventually. We stayed at a trusty Air B&B and I would 100% recommend you stay here too. The location was perfect - minutes away from the seafront, a 15 minute walk to the shops/centre and a really quiet home away from home.

We arrived, unpacked and decided to head out for food. By this point we were starving and I'd already scoped out where we should go. Luckily for us, Franco Manca had just opened the night before. I've never made it to the London ones despite wanting to go for AGES. So with only a 20 minute wait for a table, it seemed too good to be true. We sat down, ordered a few bottles of red, some olives and garlic breads between us while we browsed the menu. Ems and I went for the ham, wild mushrooms one, H and the boys had meaty, peppery ones.

I was more than happy with this. It was absolutely delicious. The toppings were full of flavour and the base was perfect. I will 100% be back for one of these babies. Following on from this, H and I shared some ice cream. We then thought it would be a great idea to order three rounds of shots (limoncello and grappa). The staff were fantastic and even gave us the shots for free (which is SUPER nice for a group of 6!)

We went to a pub round the corner (I forget the name, it was opposite a tacky Wetherspoons) and Ems and I drank Hugo cocktails  - Prosecco, apple, mint and elderflower - they were beeeeautiful. We stayed here for a while before heading off and doing something VERY touristy. We grabbed a few cans of beer and a bottle of Prosecco and drank on the beach until the early hours. You know what? I loved it. It was so peaceful (surprising for a Saturday night, especially on a Bank Holiday).


The next morning with a few sore heads, we had a bit of a lie in before heading The New Club. Now I'd been here last April with the foodies and it was a bloody disaster to say the least (COMPLETELY unseasoned avocado is NOT my thing). A year and a bit on, they seem to have sorted their shit out a lot more. I went for the same thing but as it now had basil pesto with it, I figured it had got to be better. And it was. The crusts of the sourdough were definitely a little overdone but it was miles better than before. The boys had fry ups, Ems had a veggie breakfast - all said they were impressed.



We had a little wander up the beach front with our friend Chloe (who is now a Brighton local) and went onto the Pier (which I hated, too touristy...I know that's what it's all about!). We wandered around a few shops before ending up in a cool little pub. The Office (on Sydney Street) currently hosts an impressive 25 gins behind the bar with all the old favourites plus a few new ones I'd never heard of. I think it's only just recently that they've decided to focus on gins, I could be wrong? They also did a few ales/beers so the boys were pretty happy too. AND they serve food, Thai food. We had some calamari and spring rolls and they were delish! I mean A GIN PUB. What is better than that? We stayed there for a while, H got shat on by a bird...it was all quite comical.

We'd decided that evening to head to Wahaca. I'd heard really good things about the other locations and I LOVE Mexican food. We all went for some tortilla chips, guac and salsa to share. The boys tried the pork scratching, which actually didn't look so bad. I had multiple Mexican Mule cocktails (amazing), the others drank a mix of cocktails and beer. Mains-wise, two of the boys had a few bits from the Mexican tapas and the rest of us went for burritos. I opted for the pulled pork. Overall, I was bit disappointed. It was too spicy for me. I could tell that the flavours were really good but the kick of the spice afterwards was just too much for me. To make up for it, H and I shared ice cream (again!) this time the salted caramel. AMAZING! Cannot recommend this more. So if you took out the main, everything else was great. All of the others thoroughly enjoyed theirs though so it's just me being a total wuss!

From here, we went to the East Street Tap. Such a cool place! The music was great, the atmosphere was on point for a night out AND it wasn't too busy. In all honesty, I expected Brighton to be waaay busier considering it was Bank Holiday weekend. We were all flagging a little bit after the night before and with a 10am Air B&B checkout, we figured being slightly sensible for once in our lives was fine.


After a slightly longer snooze than the night before, we checked out and headed over to The Breakfast Club. Both Ems and Chloe had never been (and the boys didn't care where we ate all weekend as long as the food was good and there was meat on their plates!). I love the Breakfast Clubs - the food is always consistent, the music is always cheesy and it's just a nice experience eating there. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table, again, I was amazed it wasn't busier! We were seated in one of the booths upstairs and left to browse the menu.

Ems and the boys went for the All American Pancakes, Chloe had the Berry Pancakes and I went for my standard Eggs Florentine with a side of bacon (I always have this at TBC...boring I know!). We had a pitcher of orange juice and a coffee each and it felt like the food didn't take too long at all.


Everybody was very full and very happy with their breakfast so I was pleased that my restaurant suggestions had gone down well. From here we had another wander around the Laines, grabbed a few Ben's Cookies for the car journey back and a juice from 42 Juice.

I loved our weekend in Brighton. Of course I did, it was all involving tasty food and gin! I can't wait to go back to Brighton, I'd even live there if work would let me!

Tell me what your favourite things are to do in Brighton - food, bars, shops - I want to hear all about it before I go back!xo