Sunday 15 December 2013

Expo Lounge

I always get a bit panicky when people suggest going for tapas, for fear that it won't fill me up.

So when a friend decided we try the tapas at Expo Lounge for lunch today, I was a little hesitant.

It's silly really because every time I do have it I love it, and am always waaay too stuffed.

Expo Lounge opened in July this year and it's been on my radar to try for months.

It was busy (good sign), but not overcrowded or too rowdy so we nestled down at a table by the window.

At £3.25 per dish, the tapas section is reasonably priced and more than extensive. We chose eight dishes (I know, don't). Your tapas also comes served with warm, crusty sliced ciabatta so don't forget to ask for some balsamic vinegar to dip in.

Patatas bravas. Sometimes this dish can go a little slimy but our potatoes were light inside with a crisp shell, and the relish was punchy.

Spanish chorizo in red wine & garlic, and prawns with sun blushed tomato, chilli & red pepper.
The sauce in the chorizo dish was incredibly rich, but not in a sickly way, in a really really good way. It was quite a thin jus so it was perfect for coating the ciabatta in. I think the prawns were my least favourite dish, but I have to be in a certain mood for prawns so probably not best to judge. Again, the sauce was great: chunky and full of flavour.

Pan-fried halloumi, courgettes & peppers with a rose harissa dressing.
Really light and 'zingy' - the halloumi was taut and flavoursome, rather than bland and squeaky like it sometimes can be.

Sweet potato and basil falafel with cumin and coriander yoghurt. 
This was the first dish I tried - gorgeous. Not too crumbly, but not too densely packed.

Lamb and mint koftas with tzatziki.
I love lamb & I love tzatziki and this dish didn't disappoint, but I would've liked the lamb to have been a bit bigger!

We also ordered roasted sweet potato and butternut squash with goats cheese and this was one of my top three. I'd never think to put goats cheese with a root veg but it worked really well.

The rest of the menu offers your usual; burgers, salads, 'dogs' etc, although I did spot a fruity looking Jambalaya and something called Lounge Dirty Baked Beans which sounds like an insane hangover cure.

I didn't realise but these guys have 'lounges' up and down the UK, so if there's one near you make sure you pay a visit! There are six in Bristol so I'll definitely be paying one of them a visit when I'm next home. 


Friday 13 December 2013

The Cabbage Soup Diet: part II

*** UPDATE: April 2015 ***

Naturally, as this is my blog the content is, as you'd expect, to be 100% my opinion. I'd say though, that opinions and views on things can change, especially as you educate yourself on a particular subject, learn and enhance your understanding of things - which is most definitely the case with healthy eating.

Therefore, I wouldn't recommend that anyone tries this diet for more than the seven days, or expect to be able to go on this diet every time they want to lose weight. It's not maintainable and certainly isn't too healthy for you, not to mention being very restrictive and anti-social. I wouldn't do this diet again.

The soup however, is pretty nutritious (full of vegetables), so it's a recipe I'd incorporate into a clean lifestyle.


As I write this, I'm eating a Christmas sandwich with chunky chips at The Met so the diet is officially OVER people. And I lost 6lbs!

I really wasn't expecting to lose so much but it just goes to show the effect that changing your eating habits and cutting out crap can have in such a short amount of time.

Do you want to know how I got on after part one?


Food: Your soup with beef & tomatoes & 8 glasses of water
(you can have chicken or fish instead of beef if you like)

I had my soup for breakfast and did all I could not to think about food. It was Sunday and I had nothing planned - which was a big mistake because it meant that I ended up just thinking about food. Very rumbly tummy.

I pottered about as best I could and watched LOADS of Christmas films on TV. I had two bowls of soup for lunch (the good thing about the diet is that you can eat as much soup as you want so I've been taking full advantage of that rule). 

Going out to buy my steak was definitely the highlight of my day (I know, sad). I chose a 21 day aged rump steak and bought a vine of tomatoes to go with it. I fried it up and seasoned to taste, popping the tomatoes in the oven for twenty minutes before hand. It tasted amazing. Best day of the diet so far. 


Food: Soup, with beef (again) & any veg you want

I cheated with breakfast this morning and had a banana. I was off to the gym really early and didn't have time to cook any courgettes & mushrooms (what a shame...).

I snacked on carrot batons (sans hummous today!), and ate my soup for lunch. I'll be honest with you, I was getting sick of the stuff by this point. BUT, my dad was coming up for dinner and I knew just the place.

If you haven't been, The Grill on New York Street is lip-lickingly delicious. They do juicy steaks, crisp & fluffy fries, seasoned veg and plenty of full bodied red wines. My idea of heaven. I need to do a proper review post on this place when I'm not on a diet because it's soo good.

Obviously, I couldn't get the chips, the sauce, and definitely not the wine, but I was willing to compromise. 

I went for naked rump steak (again) and French green beans. Dad also persuaded me to have some wine, deeming the diet ridiculous and that I could "bloody well watch him drink the wine alone", so I caved. It affected me more than usual and after three glasses I was well on my way! Time for an early night....

DAY SEVEN (the last day!)

Food: soup, plus brown rice & vegetables

I gymmed it again this morning so had another banana. I know it kind of defeats the point of not eating certain food groups but I wasn't prepared to work out on an empty stomach. I weighed myself and was so surprised to see that I'd lost 6lbs! 

I could tell I'd lost a little bit, especially on my arms, shoulders and tummy but almost half a stone was an amazing result.

It felt so good to eat a carbohydrate at lunch. I'd cooked aubergines, courgettes, peppers & mushrooms up the night before (with a splash of soy sauce, shh!), and mixed it in with the rice so it tasted fantastic.

I wasn't able to eat my soup for tea as I had to work really late, so I kind of just stopped the diet then. I was happy with the result, felt good, and to be honest... wanted some chocolate!!


  • Good for a detox - you'll feel cleansed after it
  • It's also really good in terms of making you think about the food you're consuming and why we eat certain food groups. I'm definitely more snack-conscious now too.
  • It makes you realise the difference between boredom snacking and hunger (and helps cure cravings the former)
  • You can lose weight fast so it's perfect if you want to slim down for an event
  • It lets you get creative with your food
  • It's only seven days!


  • Er, the name? Are they trying to put people off on purpose?!
  • It can be expensive, especially if you need to buy a blender
  • You need lots of distractions (that don't involve restaurants and bars)
  • You need to find an empty social week in your calendar
  • I got so sick of soup by the end

I'm pleased I did this. I wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoyed it whilst I was taking part, but I didn't find it awful. If you are going to do it, I'd recommend doing it with a friend for that added motivation.

Have you done the cabbage soup diet

Saturday 7 December 2013

The Cabbage Soup Diet: part one

I’ve never followed a ‘fad diet’ before. Instead I’ve always tried to eat healthily, go to the gym (…and inevitably binge from Thursday night to Sunday). So why, I bet you're thinking, did I decide to follow the Cabbage Soup Diet two weeks before Christmas?

I wanted to try and lose a few pounds before the festive fun really kicked in.
I figured that if I’d lost a few pounds in time for Christmas then it would negate some festive weight (basically trying to do my January-self a favour). A friend from work introduced me to the concept and we decided to battle it together.

Grab a cup of (fruit) tea and let’s delve into my diet diary…

  • Soup will form the main basis of your meals for seven days 
  • You eat one (or two) other food groups alongside your soup, and it's different every day
  • No alcohol (you're on a detox silly), or any other drink other than water or fruit tea

Sounds simple, yes?

Before we start, I’ve got a confession to make. I haven’t been eating cabbage soup (it sounds rank). Instead, I’ve been blending, roasting and mixing all the vegetables under the sun.

“So, you’re not doing the cabbage soup diet at all then?” has been the confused, standard response I’ve been getting from people. Well, technically not, but it's the liquid element of the soup that's the most important thing, so it still works in principle. And it’s much, much tastier.

  • A blender. You can't do this without one. I picked one up from Clas Ohlson for £19.99 and I think I'm in love. 
  • A heap load of fresh vegetables. You're probably going to stock up at least three times.
  • Fruit teas (these Strawberry, Cranberry & Raspberry teas from Sainsburys actually taste like juice, unlike others).
  • Motivation. IT'S ONE WEEK PEOPLE. Just seven days of your life. 


Food: your soup, plus any amount of fruit except bananas.
It’s Wednesday and I’m on my way to work. I’m a little worried because as you know, I love a hearty breakfast. But armed with my plums, blueberries and grapes I’m willing to give this a shot.

11 am: It’s ok. I haven’t passed out from hunger and I’m still functioning at work. Plus, snacking on grapes whenever I want makes me feel a little bit like a Roman empress – without the robes or servants.

Lunch: Excited to try my soup. I used a WHOLE onion in just one blender batch though, so it tastes waaaay too oniony (mental note for the next batch). Feel disgruntled.

By about 4pm all my fruit has gone, but on the plus side I don't feel too hungry. 

Go to the gym as normal, come home, have my soup again.

Climb into bed feeling like this:


FOOD: Your soup, plus any amount of vegetables. In the evening have a jacket potato with butter.

Woke up this morning wanting to do this:
I feel like an absolute wazzock heating up sautéed courgettes and mushrooms in the office microwave for breakfast but whatever, all in the name of health. It doesn't taste too bad, but at 8.20am, it’s not what my tummy wanted (sorry gut).

Lunch: today my soup is much better.

I’ve been snacking on carrots and I can’t keep it from you any longer – I bought a mini pot of reduced fat hummus (I know, send me to hell). But it’s fine, as it kept me going till dinner.

Went to the gym as normal and then got to DEVOUR a baked potato with a generous helping of Lurpak. Melt in the middle and ooze around carby, lovely goodness. It was great. Who knew potato was so good with just butter?!


FOOD: your soup, plus any vegetables AND fruit (except bananas)

Today feels like you've rediscovered food because you can have fruit and veg. I think this diet is great for making you appreciate different food groups so I’m going to work happy knowing that I can have both.

I’m definitely getting better at this soup malarkey too because today’s lunch was (if I say so myself), really nice. I had loads of fruit and herbal tea too so left work feeling motivated and cleansed.

It’s tough now though because it’s Friday. There’s a cinema trip on the cards and I LOVE popcorn. After my soup for dinner I stocked up on dried mango and chewy banana to take to the cinema and I didn’t eat a morsel of popcorn (I don’t know how...) You’re technically not allowed bananas on this day but screw it, whatever.

FOOD: soup, plus only bananas and skimmed milk.
Ok so this is where it starts to get weird. I blended together banana and loads of skimmed milk for my breakfast. It was a really nice smoothie but didn’t fill me up so I had another one. You can have up to 8 bananas and 8 glasses of milk.

I went about my usual business for a Saturday, and made some insanely tasty soup (recipe to follow).

This is where I’m up to. I’ve just finished my soup and had another (thicker, more banana-y) smoothie for pudding. I also added one teaspoon of peanut butter because it’s a Saturday and I went wild (I’m totally eating another as we speak hehe).

I’m over half way through now though!

How do I feel?
It feels good! It’s tough; I’ve definitely felt more tired and lethargic and you need lots of distractions (I went shopping every lunch break oopsie!). But overall I feel detoxed, healthy and cleansed.

Have I lost weight so far?
I’ve definitely noticed I’m less bloated, and around my shoulders, arms and hips I definitely feel more toned. Bring on the next 3 days!

Have you ever done a similar diet? Any tips for a first timer?
I’ll post my soup recipes and tips in the next installation!


Saturday 23 November 2013

Dog Bowl

I've eaten at Dog Bowl a few times since it opened but never bowled there. In fact, I haven't been bowling for about ten years, when me and my friends thought rocking up at Hollywood Bowl sans parents on a Saturday was the coolest thing ever.

Forget Hollywood Bowl, Dog Bowl is the coolest bowling bar around. Last Thursday I finally swapped my boots for bowling shoes and got ready to be slated by friends at my appalling inability to get a strike.

The atmosphere is buzzing, the music is right up my street and the cocktails are fruity and exotic. Plus, the bowling lanes have disco lights on!

I went for the Big Kahuna, it was di-vine.

Somehow, I managed to get four strikes (four!), but still lost, by a long way. I'm blaming the rum in my cocktail.

There was no question as to whether we'd stay for food or not.

The boys both had 5 piece fried chicken (which has an amazing lemony taste) and comes with creamed potatoes, gravy and thick, white bread. I went for Cajun chicken fajitas. The peppers were sizzling & the chicken had just the right amount of spice. They're served with amazing home made avocado, sour cream and salsa. I'm all over sweet potato fries at the minute so naturally the greedy girl inside me ordered these as a side - the photo above doesn't do them justice but all you need to know is that they were salty, crisp on the outside, soft inside and incredibly moreish.

The guys at Dog Bowl sent me their latest video, this time it's about bowling shoes - because, no matter who you're wearing, what you're sipping, or if you've rocked up for a first date... You've gotta wear the shoes! It's really funny - yes to those edgy hipsters at 0.29!

What 'tribe' would you be from the video?

Dog Bowl is open from 12pm - 3am on weekdays and from 10am on weekends.
  • It's £6 off peak per person per game
  • At peak times it's £8 per person per game (from 6pm onwards Monday to Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday)
  • It's just £4 after midnight 7 days a week
Check out their website for more details. 

Sunday 17 November 2013

Running Routes: my favourites in Manchester

When I was at school I hated running. I don't know whether it was my fourteen-year-old self's stumpy legs, teenage apathy or laziness, but running & I just didn't get on.

Fast forward a good few years, 2 half marathons & the Men's Health Survival Race later and I love it.

Fitness benefits aside, I think it's such a good way to explore your surroundings; it's invigorating, empowering and great for stress relief (and it's FREE!). There's nothing quite like the feeling of taking your trainers off after a really tough run.

When I'm 'in training', not hungover on a weekend morning or just need to get out of the house, these are my favourite running routes in Manchester.

West Didsbury & the River Mersey

This route is 5 miles and the perfect week night track (I wouldn't go alone when it's dark though - it's quite isolated.)

Chorlton Water Park

One loop round the lake is about a mile, so as long as you don't mind seeing the same thing over and over, you can track your miles pretty easily. The ducks and wildlife make a really nice change of scenery from road markings and traffic lights. It can get a bit busy around lunchtime on the weekends though, especially when the sun comes out.

I do this route for 7 miles, so it's perfect if you want to push yourself a little bit.

Fletcher Moss Gardens & the River Mersey

I discovered this on a 10k run yesterday morning. WHY have I never been to Fletcher Moss Gardens before!! Amazing! So many random gardens, tennis courts and woods, it's lovely. I'd imagine it would be great on a summer's day.

I was really in awe when I saw this boulevard type trail. Sounds silly, but it reminded me of something from a fairy tale. I ran through it to find myself back on the river bank in no time....

Do you have any favourite routes? I'm always looking for new trails so let me know if you've got a favourite..

PS sorry about the fuzziness on these pics - most of them are taken mid-run and on my phone!


Saturday 16 November 2013

Breakfast Time: Crazy Cow Cafe

You know those people who can't face food first thing in the morning? Yeah. I'm one million percent not one of them.

I wake up ravenous and my tummy doesn't stop grumbling until I've finished my last mouthful. I go through cereal boxes on a weekly basis and I don't think there's anything I wouldn't try once for breakfast.

It's not often I eat out for breakfast but I've had my morning feed twice recently in The Crazy Cow Cafe in West Didsbury, and each time has been lip-licking delicious.

James had a salmon, cream cheese & rocket bagel washed down with a cappuccino

I had honey porridge & a latte.

We went really early so were the only people in there (catching the worm and all that).

The staff are always so friendly and there's a real 'neighbourhood' vibe to it. If you're in the area, check them out. They do lunches too. Annoyingly, they're not open on a Sunday... so you'd better get your fill of Illy coffee on a Saturday!

They don't call it the most important meal of the day for nothing, kids! Eating breakfast can help stop you reaching for quick-fix sugar hits later in the morning, and will give you the energy you need to tackle the day ahead.

I also eat loads for brekkie. The way I look at it, you're better off having a big breakfast rather than a huge supper - that way you've got all day to burn off all the calories!

I'm loving porridge at the moment, it's so warming and wintery. I've been squeezing honey on top and sprinkling cinnamon all over it (I trick I learnt from Anna.)

What are your winter food staples?

Sunday 27 October 2013

The Lakes

Last week was shit.

I came down with tonsillitis and haven't felt that wiped out in who knows how long.
After a few days of not being able to talk, eating Ben and Jerry's (sore throat remedy, ahem), not parting with my duvet and keeping my eyes glued to Downton Abbey (why have I never watched this before! So much scandal!!), I started to feel a bit better.

Which was good. Because James & I had planned a weekend away in the Lake District for our three year anniversary! Now, before you think I'm going to get all soppy on you, picture this:

I'm wearing joggers, scoffing percy pigs as we trawl up the M6 on Friday eve. It's hardly the picture of star-crossed lovers.

Anyway. We got to Oakbank House late on Friday and went straight up to our room. After a hearty complimentary breakfast the following morning we scampered off down to the lake shore to see what the craic was.

I think it's safe to say Lake Windermere is one of those places that doesn't need the sunshine for you to appreciate its beauty.

We decided to give the big ferry a miss and decided to explore the lake sans captain (aka we rented one of those tiny red motor boats in the photo above.)

It was wet.

But fun! The boat didn't go very fast at all, which was good 'cos you got to see all the little islands and boats moored around the harbour at your own pace.

Which, when I was 'driving', was slow.

It's tradition on holiday to go to the pub before midday in our eyes, so we headed off to the Hole in t'Wall to take shelter from the rain and get a little squiffy by the log fire..

As it was just after 11am, no one else was in the pub. Unperturbed, we nursed our med'cin. On the way out we passed a few fellow pub-goers who looked a little sheepish edging in through its old oak doors before midday. I think our red wine smiles gave them the confidence they needed. Hic.

We pottered around the village trying to decide where to eat that evening...

(FYI Vinegar Jones do amazing chips & mushy peas and Pasty Presto next door claim to sell 'the best Cornish Pasty' - bit ambitious seeing as we're at the other end of the country but James enjoyed his all the same..!)

In the end we settled on Indian. Anyone that knows us two will appreciate that we take Indian dining very seriously.. (not a bad word shall be said about West Didsbury's finest The Great Kathmandu). So we went in with high expectations.

Mela was really, really good. I had a sizzling dish involving spiced mince, chicken tikka, onions and chilli in a rich tomato sauce and James had a pretty decent lamb balti. A bottle of tempranillo later we paid up and moved on to another bar. It didn't quite beat the Great Kathmandu (represent), but it's well worth a visit if you like Indian food - you'll need to book though as we found out (the hard way!)

On Sunday we made friends with the locals:

Now, I've never been a fan of the swan. Elegant, yes. Graceful on water? Sure.
Sneaky bendy-necked creature that would peck you 'till it hurt and laugh (if he could) whilst doing it? Absolutely.

However, these beautiful beasts were on their best behaviour - despite pecking our feet just a little hard (I'm on to you, goosy), it was quite cute.

How menacing does this guy look?

They soon got bored of us when the duck feed ran out, so we put on our walking boots and got stuck into a big-ass country walk.

I just had to take a picture of the walk's official name. It sounds like the title of an X-rated film - I can say that despite the mud, things didn't get as dirty as Cockshott Point...

After all our exploring, the hearty full English 'grill up' we'd had for breakfast was long forgotten and we were in desperate need of a food fix.

Cue, cream tea.

On our return we stumbled across an old steam train railway line which was up and running - how Beatrix Potter is this..

Two fingers up to tonsillitis! The trip was just what the doctor ordered, I'm definitely going again - any recommendations?

How was your weekend? x
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