Monday 28 March 2016

Sometimes I feel like I'm in Barcelona..

Fresh fruit juices in la boqueria market - I had plantain + coconut milk... it was delicious.
First up, this post is lengthy one because: there are too many amazing places not to mention here and, a 3 day weekend turned into a 5 day holiday thanks to the French airstrikes.

The trip was made even more special by the fact that James surprised me and said we were going away to our fave spot in "Portugal", so I'd packed for the beach... it only dawned on me (thanks to doctored boarding passes and being so late I didn't have time to think about the departure gate), that we were flying to Barcelona as we were at the gate.

Naturally, as an organised control freak, I was panicking at this stage, thinking (read: accusing) James of looking at the wrong gate number. In fact I was marching up to the front desk to find out exactly where our gate was before James blurted out that we were in fact flying to BCN, and not only that... but he'd organised it with the other halves of some of my closest best friends from Uni, so we were all out there together!


After an early alfresco continental breakfast of cappuccinos and croissants on a lovely boulevard, we had a quick walk around the neighbourhood before heading over to the apartment to meet everyone.

Our Air b'n'b host Alex recommended we try Vinitus for a lunch, a tapas restaurant on the same street as our apartment. It was fantastic. A decent bottle of red cost nine euros, and the tapas menu was extensive and very well priced.

Favourites included the cod with honey and aioli, crispy camembert, ham egg + rosti potato and the textured chocolate pudding.
Cod with honey + aioli, + crispy camembert @ Vinitus, Barcelona

Iberian ham & egg rosti

Because we hadn't seen in each other in a while (in fact we hadn't been together since the wedding in Thailand), it ended up being quite a drawn out affair with more wine, beer, and a seemingly endless supply of Tapas being summoned to the table to fuel our chatter.

We meandered back up to our apartment - I'm annoyed as the pictures just don't do this place justice! It was in a beautiful building with a large winding staircase leading you into the huge apartment space (four bedrooms, four bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a dining room and open plan kitchen) - we were all blown away. Seriously one of the nicest places I've ever stayed in. It was absolutely vast but in a homely, arty way. Having coffee each day on the balcony was the absolute dream, I'm telling you!

There's more on air bnb here.

The owner, Alex, was great - really top bloke with a great sense of humour, full of brilliant recommendations and very accommodating. If there's 6 or more of you going, you should definitely check this place out. Carrer del Consell de Cent is about a five minute walk away from the placa de catalunya and an amazing location for bars / restaurants and tourist attractions.

We walked everywhere.

I love exploring on foot because you see so much of a city - I definitely appreciate a place more if I've walked around. We were walking around 20,000 -30,000 steps a day, so sensible footwear was a must.. As luck would have it, as well as flip flops for 'Portugal', I'd packed my newest pair of trainers - it was really fortunate actually; the team at Clarks had got in touch a few weeks before asking if I'd like to review a pair of their women's trainers - I'll be honest, at first I was a little skeptical as my memories of Clarks shoes conjures up the back to school days with my mum or dad pressing down on my big toe to see how much room for growing there was, and the chore of having my feet clamped in the measuring apparatus.

Anyway. These were no chore to wear. They were so comfy and haven't rubbed at all, despite me wearing them for five days straight for over eight hours at a time. I'm really impressed with the design - it's a collaboration between Clarks and fashion designer Christopher Raeburn. I love the heel loop tab and the texture of the nubuck (leather).

How nice are they?!

On Friday evening we happened to stumble across something called the VanVan market at the port. It was a gourmet food and drink festival celebrating old vehicles, and tours round in convoy.

Burgers, burritos, waffles, cheese, churros and more, the smells from each stall were amazing. We drank red wine, soaking up the atmosphere and listened to a live band before walking into the Gothic Quarter.


Running in Barcelona was a great way to explore at pace (and burn off some of the excess tapas / sangria!). I did a 5 and a 6 mile run here over the five days and what I found so beautiful about running was the variety of the terrain. From our apartment I ran down the busy placa de catalunya, down the infamous las ramblas, along the port and up to the beach, mixing bustling boulevards with wide open spaces, pavements and sand.

Nichola + I blew away the cobwebs with a slightly chilly run and came back ready to attack brunch.

We'd heard about Cosmo through Alex. A cafe-cum-contemporary art space, it was brilliantly edgy and just hipster enough to feel like I was back in the northern quarter in Manchester.

Brunch was fab, too:

I opted for 'Munch': toasted bread with oil and salt with avocado, egg and salmon, a cappuccino and an orange, carrot, apple and ginger juice.

I'd definitely recommend this place for brunch or coffee. It was bustling with groups of friends and young families - we were only sorry we couldn't sit outside!

After fueling up on that it was time to get touristy, including a trip to the Sagrada Familia, ascending one of the towers and creeping slowly back down its narrow, winding staircase. Despite not being overtly religious you can't not feel a sense of sublime inside; it's without a doubt a must-do.

Beautiful La Pedrera
For dinner that night, we walked around for ages (maybe an hour?) to try and find somewhere we all wanted to eat, weaving in and out of side streets in the Gothic Quarter and reaching new levels of hangry.

Kate's friend had recommended Palosanto and it was pure chance that we stumbled across it in our time of need.

I'm so glad we did. I had the best patatas bravas I've ever experienced. The atmosphere was great; groups of friends sat at high, long tables and waiters rushing back and forth with hot plates and jugs of sangria.

We followed suit...

James + I shared; patatas bravas (so, so good - crispy potato skin, fluffy inside, with a hot sauce and a garlic aioli sauce)

Iberian ham, olives + tomato, salt and oil on bread (this bread was a common occurrence in BCN in all restaurants, and it was a winner with me!)

Chicken wings (sticky soy sauce was greeeattt).

Spicy peppers (these were ridiculously moreish and amazing when you got a large salt crystal with one)

Egg + potato (I've never eaten so many egg / potato / ham combinations as I did last week - this simple dish works brilliantly and was a firm favourite).

The fried aubergine with honey was insane and I urge you to get this if you ever go.

I can't decide between Vinitus and Palosanto as to which was my favourite tapas restaurant - Vinitus was great and we liked it so much we went twice (and also because it was so close to our flat), every time we walked past the place was so busy. Palosanto was definitely the right place to eat on a Saturday night.


In my book Sunday's are made for chilling and that's just what we did; after a breakfast of waffles and fresh juices we ambled along avenue diagonal down to the beach to relax...

Barcelona has everything - a busy city feel, a palm tree lined port, a beach, bars, history, art, architecture, amazing food, I could go on... It's the ultimate destination for a getaway - city or beach break!
Fresh fruit at la boqueria

Places we couldn't go to but really wanted to:

  • Brunch + Cake - we tried three times to eat here but the wait was too long, the queue was always out the door with groups of people waiting outside. The reviews sound great and the photos look incredible - if you ever get in, let me know how it is!
  • Green + Berry - I spotted this little jaunt on a walk to Av. Diagonal, but unfortunately didn't have time to stop. Looks like an amazing place for juices, healthy lunches to go and vegan treats!

Barcelona really reminds me of Nice, I felt so at home after a few days. It was one of the best trips ever, a top weekend! Thank you James + the boiz for surprising us.

Sunset @ the Princess Negresco


Monday 14 March 2016

#WEFitness + Half Marathon Goals

Usually when I've written posts about setting goals, I talk about myself; what I'm trying to achieve, why I'm trying to smash it and what I hope I'll learn from it. Tonight though, I wanted to post something a little different.

This post isn't about my goal, it's about my sister's.

She ran the Bath half marathon, with her friend Sam, on Sunday.

This has been even more of a challenge for her because, despite never having run that distance before, she's not long started in a job that requires a three hour round trip commute daily, meaning fitting in a training schedule hasn't been easy.

The team behind the #WEFitnessGoals campaign asked me if I wanted to be involved in their fitness motivation campaign, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to spread the motivation love and pass on some goal-setting!

The team sent such a cute package to keep motivation levels up and to inspire people to keep up their fitness regimes, including the cutest hoodie with frankiesweekend printed on it <3, a Happy Jackson water bottle and fitness to-do planner.

Charlotte's motivation to train post-Christmas in the freezing cold part came from running for a charity and not wanting to let them down, and she was determined not to let a long commute curb her exercise regime!

She'd train outdoors around 3 - 4 times a week, combining hill sprints in the rain, to fast paced speed runs at a running club and long runs on the weekend, and managed to smash the half in 01 hour 57 minutes!! I'm so proud and the proof's in the pudding that you don't need a gym or heaps of time to train for and absolutely nail a great finishing time.

Also, cheeky plug, if Macmillan Cancer Support is a cause close to your heart, you can donate to their JustGiving page here - they've smashed their target by over 200% raising over £1,000!

running buddies


Sunday 13 March 2016

Sunday's @ Australasia

I can't believe it was nearly two years ago I wrote about taking my mum to Australasia for afternoon tea (with a difference!). Australasia to me is a really special place to come for food or a few cocktails at the bar. Everything is handled with such precision and delicacy, in my experiences of dining there in the past, I've always thought that you're made to feel special.

Today was no exception. On the warmest day of the year so far, James & I headed down under into Australasia for a spot of Sunday lunch. (NB: I don't think there's any other underground restaurant that could lure me out of the sun (sun! in Manchester... in March!) to sit underground for three hours - which has to speak volumes for the decor.

It's light and warming, everything has such a fresh appeal. Its timeless design means it looks just as new and inviting as it did when I first went in 2012.

If you've read the blog post from the time I took my mum, you'll know their sushi is a winner with me. We began with three starters to share, a ginger + pear bellini (amazing) and beer.

Seared Teriyaki Beef Nigiri 

The beef here was gorgeous and juicy and when dipped in soy sauce was the ultimate savoury start to lunch.

Tuna, Chilli + Mango Californian Rolls

Fruit and fish could seem like a slightly odd combo but the flavours worked a treat together - and it went especially well with my bellini. Really light and refreshing.

What I didn't manage to catch on cam was our host grating fresh wasabi for us - which we got a bit over enthusiastic about (read: mouths on fire)... I'll never learn though, I always think I can handle more heat than I can.

Grilled Black Tiger Prawns

Oh my god. These prawns. This photo doesn't do the size of them justice! They were huge. So meaty and slid easily away from the shell. I'd get these again in a heartbeat.

We spent ages pondering the main courses and in the end decided to half and half it (got to be done hasn't it), and went for duck, and lamb.

Roasted Duck breast with shiitake mushroom croquettes and mango 
[side order: Green bean, cucumber + seaweed salad not pictured]

The duck comes served pink (how I like it), with a slightly crispy skin. The croquettes were perfectly crunchy on the outside and meaty and soft inside - they went perfectly with the puree and mango cubes. The presentation of the dish was faultless and I was trying to eat as slowly as I could to make it last longer. The side salad was a lovely accompaniment here so I'd definitely recommend that.

Rack of Lamb with polenta and Japanese aubergine 
[Side order of sweet potato + rosemary mash not pictured]

I was in a bit of a predicament eating my duck slowly because I could see my half of the lamb dish waiting to be devoured.

I'm not usually one to rave about veg before meat but the aubergine here was the tastiest I've ever had - I find it has a tendency to go sloppy and chewy, but not in this case. Thinly sliced and almost fruity, it went perfectly with the polenta. The lamb was gorgeously juicy and fell off the knife. The sweet potato mash deserves a shout out in its own right because it was fanbloodytastic. Creamy and buttery with rosemary running through it, I definitely had more than half (sorry James).

We absolutely didn't need a dessert or indeed have room for one but naturally, ordered the Chocolate dome with salted caramel and berries. 

You'll have to see this video of this on Instagram because we were too eager and ate it before I could snap a picture. It's a chocolate dome filled with icecream, and then a hot salted caramel sauce gets poured on top and everything melts into this pool of perfection. It was beautiful.

Australasia, clearly, remains a firm favourite of mine for a special meal out, I can't recommend the place enough.

Disclaimer: The team at Australasia kindly invited me to review today's lunch and I wasn't charged for my food or drinks - however all opinions are honest and my own.
© Frankie's Weekend. All rights reserved.