Girls’ Night

Cheers: Suzan, Gail, Heather, Helen and Kellie.

Anyone who reads the blog regularly may know about the ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ afternoons that I enjoy with my sister Gail and my oldest friends Heather, Helen and Suzan. Whilst our lunchtime dates are often in the company of three little ladies (Lucy, Rachel and Ruby), who are the newest members to the group, mummies and aunties alike thought we were long overdue for an adult only catch up.

I first came across Yum, on Stranmillis Road, Belfast, when enjoying the pre-theatre menu before a trip to the Lyric Theatre with my culture buddies Andy and Mark. The cosy atmosphere, fab food and special offers made it the perfect spot for a catch up with the girls and so we booked a table for last Friday night. When we arrived we were shown to our table by the lovely Louise, who, although clearly swamped as the restaurant was busy, was welcoming, friendly and professional. After looking over the menu it was hard to ignore the exceptional offer of a 3 course meal for 2 plus bottle of house wine or 4 beers for £42. As there was five of us, we had a slight predicament, however this was quickly remedied by the quick thinking of Heather: both Heather and Helen and Gail and myself ordered the three courses and a bottle of wine, whilst Suzan ordered two courses for £15.95. As Helen and Suzan didn’t want three courses each, they split a starter and we shared the two bottles of wine between the five of us – simples!

The menu is bursting with delicious sounding options and we were spoilt for choice. I opted for the Crispy Asian Sesame Chicken, Sticky Asian Sauce & Napa Salad to start, which was colourful, flavoursome and had a lovely spicy kick. For mains I wasn’t alone in thinking the Daube of Beef, Garlic & Rosemary Dauphinoise Potato, Crispy Root Vegetables & Guinness Jus sounded amazing as four of the five of us ordered it! The beef was tender and melt in the mouth whilst the potato was moreish and I simply could not get enough of the Guinness jus. Although after two courses I was starting full, I could not say no to the cheesecake of the day, which on Friday was one of my all time favourites, Oreo. Served with a luscious dollop of ice cream in a brandy snap basket, this really was the perfect sugar rush to end the meal.

It was too early to call it a night and so we headed to House bar, which is about a five minute walk from Yum, for a night cap.  As we reminisced about the nostalgia of our youth as well as swapped stories about the shennanigans the little ladies get up to, I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of our first full throttle girls night in two years. There is nothing like fine food, good drink and the best friends in the world to put a glow in your heart and a smile on you face. Here’s to the next one!

Posted: 22/08/2017


Celebrating: From Hong Kong to Belfast

The gang back together at Molly’s Yard. Picture courtesy of Gavin and a nifty selfie stick all the way from Hong Kong. 

In any large group of friends, there is always that one person that acts as the glue that keeps everyone together. Our human shaped Pritt Stick is Aaron Sloan.

I have known Aaron since I was about 20 years old having met him through my uni friends Suzan and Adrian (the same two people who are also responsible for introducing me to Keith, when he was Burchy, long before he was the husband). Aaron is the sort of person that people are drawn too; he is the most genuine, friendly and witty person you could have the pleasure of meeting. Over the years he was always instrumental in arranging nights out, get togethers and general shenanigans which ensured that our ever expanding group of friends met up for revelry, giggles and merriment on a regular basis. However, Aaron then got swallowed up by the travel bug.

After several jaunts to distant lands he eventually settled in Hong Kong and found the ying to his yang: Charlene. Since they have been together, we have had the enjoyment of getting to know Charlene, both when she has travelled back to Northern Ireland with Aaron and when Keith and I visited them in Hong Kong almost two years ago (which is without a doubt one of my favourite ever holidays!). From the get go she has just clicked into the group like a missing puzzle piece; she is funny, beautiful and smart and it’s indisputable that her and Aaron are the perfect match, so no one was surprised when they tied the knot last year. Whilst the ceremony took place in their adopted home of Hong Kong, they flew into Belfast last week for a ‘Norn Iron’ style celebration.

The evening kicked off with drinks and nibbles in the wonderfully unique Molly’s Yard which offers quality food, local beers, a superb setting and professional service. When we arrived I was delighted to see Aaron and Charlene as well as so many friendly faces I haven’t seen in (gulp!) years (probably since Aaron and Charlene’s last visit to Belfast!). It was awesome to catch up with the loveable BFG that is Adam and his epically cool wife Orla; Gavin and Lynsey, who have been setting the standards of kick ass parenting for the group since they had their little dude six years ago; the ever smiling Ryan and his adorable wife Helen, who I feel a kinship with over our shared love of social awkwardness; the effortlessly glam and super sweet Sheila and her new beau Stuart; and Dave, who not only has a wicked sense of humour but is also partly responsible for the name of this blog as he’s always referred to me as wee/little Burchy whilst Keith, of course, is the OG Burchy. As well as the mates I haven’t seen in a while, it was nice to get out with old friends and new parents Suzan and Adrian (and of course baby Ruby) as well as Johnny and Hilary who were enjoying a night off parenting duties. It was also nice to meet new faces, in particular Charlene’s parents who flew in from San Francisco, and her brother who made the trip from New York, to not only meet us all but to also explore all Belfast has to offer.

After the reception at Molly’s Yard came to a close we headed to the Barking Dog where the drinks continued to flow and good food was enjoyed by all. We had an amazing space to ourselves and so once the meal was done and dusted, there was dancing, a bit of a sing song and just generally good craic into the wee hours.

As the celebrations came to an end, I can honestly say it was no surprise that so many people would turn out to celebrate (in legendary style) the union of Mr & Mrs Sloan, who, even though they live so far away, continue to act as the glue that keeps bringing us all back together.

The Reunion 

Bronagh and Kellie – we got back together.

Sometimes it’s not always easy to make true friends in the work place; making the transition from colleagues to friends can be tricky. However when I joined Ulster Tatler many years ago, I didn’t have that problem when I met Bronagh. We bonded over Green Day, a love of books and Jared Leto. Over the years Friday night cocktails became a regular occurrence. More thought went into birthday and Christmas presents. And we eventually took the final step into establishing a fully fledged friendship: travelling to a different country together (you know you must really like someone when you get to that point!).
After over a decade working together, Bronagh started a new job two months ago. Whilst I was devastated to lose my ‘work wife’, I was delighted she found a new challenge she wanted to explore. And although we no longer see each other every work day, we have vowed to ensure we get a ‘cocktail night’ in the diary at least once a month. 

Friday was our most recent catch up and so the mission was set to find somewhere amazing for dinner as well as an epic spot for some dancing afterwards. For food we went to the French Village Cafe & Bistro on Botanic Avenue. The family run business, which also runs a wholesale bakery and patisserie on Montgomery Road as well as French Village Patisserie & Brasserie on Lisburn Road, Belfast, has made a name for themselves for producing homemade baked goods, and so when we visited we knew dessert was on the cards, even before we were seated. 

After a look at the menu it was clear that French Village offer a selection of main dishes that sound just as tantalising as the desserts. I was tempted by the Dexter beef burger, however after a guilt trip from Bronagh about how cute Dexter cows were, I opted for the chicken and chorizo hash served with peppers, onions, spinach and sautéed potatoes. After it arrived, I appreciated the guilt trip because the chicken and chorizo hash was not only beautifully presented but it was bursting with an amazing array of flavours. To be honest, my mouth is watering now just thinking about it again. 

Chicken and chorizo hash.

After cleaning my plate it was time for the hard task of picking a dessert. They all sounded delicious, but there was no way I could resist the warm salted caramel brownie. It was gorgeous; the combination of flavours and textures worked superbly well together to create a dish that was rich, decadent and completely satisfied my sweet tooth. 

Warm salted caramel brownie.

If you haven’t been to French Village Cafe & Bistro before, I would whole heartedly recommend it. As well as a quality selection of dishes and professional service, the venue, which exudes a rustic charm and eye-catching decor, is also BYO making is the ideal spot for a catch up over a bottle of wine.

French Village Cafe & Bistro.

Once our stomachs were fit to burst, it was time to find a destination to dance off some of the delectable calories. We decided to go to Howl, the Friday club night at Love and Death on Ann Street. It was £5 entry, and the door staff had me thinking we made the right call, because not only very welcoming but one of them had on a t shirt of the legend that is Ron Burgundy – he’s kind of a big deal don’t you know! Our first impressions were confirmed when we got into the club. The club opens from 10pm – 3am and whilst some DJs wait until later in the night to play the good songs, we danced from the minute we arrived until it was time to go home. From the Chemical Brothers to Prince and Black Box to Paul Simon, there was a real mix of music but I loved it all! 

As well as good tunes, the staff were friendly and the venue also offers a range of drinks offers making it the perfect spot, especially during those periods when pay day seems like a long time away! 
From start to finish I had the best time. With good food on the menu, the opportunity to dance until I could dance no more and especially getting back together with my ex work wife, this is what Friday nights were made for. 

Posted: 29/05/2017

Shaken and Stirred 

Clockwise from top left: Romeo and Julep, Bourbon Highball, Ink Street and Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

At the weekend, my mate Bronagh and I had a girls’ night in and decided to do our best Tom Cruise impression with a bit of cocktail making. I have two books jam packed with cocktail recipes, Star Cocktails: Classic Drinks from Classic Movies and the fabulously titled Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist which provided our inspiration for our boozy concoctions. 

First up was the William Shakespeare inspired ‘Romeo and Julep’. The ingredients for this include:

  • 6 sprigs of mint
  • 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 ounce peach schnapps 
  • 1 1/2 ounces Bourbon 
  • 1 can lemon-lime soda

This cocktail was super easy to make. Firstly you had to muddle the mint, sugar and schnapps in a highball glass until the sugar is dissolved. Then add ice, the Bourbon and fill to the top with the lemon-lime soda! That’s it. This was fresh and light and the perfect start to the evening. 

Next up was the ‘Bourbon Highball’, which only required three ingredients :

  • 1 shot Bourbon 
  • Ginger ale
  • Twist of lemon 

To make the Bourbon Highball you pour the Bourbon into a highball glass filled with ice then top up with ginger ale and garnish with a twist of lemon. This was so simple to make but tasted gorgeous – it is perfect for a low-key, end of the day pick me up or an elegant tipple, ideal for a party.

Third, and my personal favourite from the night, was the ‘Dark ‘n’ Stormy’. Giving Bourbon a break, this cocktail included:

  • 2 shots of rum
  • 1 shot freshly squeezed lime juice 
  • 1/2 shot sugar syrup 
  • Ginger beer 

The Dark ‘n’ Stormy required a shaker and a bit more elbow grease than the previous cocktails. To make it you shake the rum, lime juice and sugar syrup in a shaker with ice then strain into an ice-filled glass. This was a wonderfully pale colour with a vibrant and tantalising taste. 

Our final cocktail was ‘Ink Street’, which consisted of:

  • 1 shot whiskey 
  • 1 shot freshly squeezed orange juice 
  • 1 shot freshly squeezed lemon juice 

This recipe again requires you to shake all the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker before straining it into a chilled martini glass. We, however, didn’t have a martini glass so we stuck with the same type of glass we used for the other cocktails. Of the four cocktails we made, this was my least favourite: it was just a bit too tart for me. 

Whilst we might not have the Tom Cruise style cocktail acrobatics down to a fine art, I have to say I was impressed with our cocktail attempts. As well as delicious drinks, we had a brilliant giggle as we were shaking, stirring and pouring our cocktails. I am pretty confident that cocktail night will become a regular occurrence, especially as there are so many recipes we have yet to try. In no time we really will be able to give Mr Cruise a run for his money!

Posted: 03/09/2016

Feeling Social 

The Belvedere Spritz

21 Social has been part of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter for some time now and although I have had many a night out there with friends, I’ve never dined in the restaurant. This all changed on Thursday night when my sister and I decided it was time to arrange a catch up.

When we arrived, even though we were earlier than our booking, we were warmly greeted and shown to a table. Positioned by the window, we had the perfect spot to watch the world go by. Once settled, it was time to order drinks. We both had quite a mental week and so when our waiter, Ruairí, pitched us the Belvedere Spritz cocktail, which is new on the menu, we were more than happy to give it a go. It arrived beautifully presented with beads of condensation dotting the glass; it tasted just as refreshing as it looked. The only down side – it was far too easy to drink!
Gail and I have a bit of a tradition of ordering the breads to share and so our starter was easily decided. The bread was fresh and tasty and perfectly accompanied by oils and flavoursome tapenades. For our main courses we both chose medium steaks served with chips and pepper sauce. Of course this wouldn’t be complete with out a side of red wine and so we also ordered a glass of the Spanish Merlot as well. The steaks were cooked to perfection; pink in the middle, tender and ever so juicy. The pepper sauce had the lovely kick and the chips were wonderfully crispy. There wasn’t a morsel of food to be found by the time Ruairí came to collect our plates. Whilst we were both fit to burst, we only had room for a cocktail for dessert…well that was our excuse for sampling another cocktail from the menu. Gail is a huge fan of expresso martinis and as I haven’t tried them before, I figured no time like the present and so we ordered two of them. I have been seriously missing out, expresso martinis are heaven in a glass if you’re a coffee lover; I will definitely be indulging in these again.
Although it took me a long time to dine at 21 Social, it won’t be anywhere near as long until I return. The interior is modern and inviting, the food is bursting with flavour and presented with care and attention whilst the drinks menu is varied, reasonably priced and the cocktails are mixed to perfection. I also have to say the staff are fantastic. Ruairí was a delight: he was incredibly professional but also warm and friendly, even sharing a joke with us when we realised the name on the receipt showed up as Paula instead of Ruairí.

Putting the ‘social’ into Belfast, 21 Social is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for quality food, drinks and hospitality.

Posted: 13/08/2016

Happy Birthday Limelight

The Limelight is one of my favourite venues in Belfast; from the regular AAA Saturday club night to gigs from the likes of Oasis, The Undertones, Joe Strummer and the Dandy Warhols, to name only a few, it has been bringing a fab mix of music to the city for years. I started going to the Limelight when I was at uni and since then I have have made so many great memories from nights out spent there. I have even celebrated my birthday there, on more than one occasion, and it seemed only fitting to head there last night to celebrate the venue’s own birthday; it is now 31 years old and going as strong as ever.

If you haven’t been before, the Limelight is a complex made up of three rooms; Limelight 1, Limelight 2 and Katy’s Bar. On a Saturday night, the music is different in each space. Limelight 1 is home to house, pop and hip hop; Limelight 2 (and my favourite) plays a mix of rock, indie and metal; and Katy’s which is a mix bag of treats with a DJ more than happy to play requests. Once in the door you can go between the three rooms and so you are sure to find something you like.

When we arrived last night, we were delighted to receive a voucher for a complimentary drink at the door to marks the occasion. With a Jameson and Ginger in hand, we made our way to Limelight 1. There was already a good crowd even though it was still early in the night; it was clear many of the city’s revellers wanted to toast the Limelight’s birthday. 

What I love most about this club is that there is no pretenses; everyone is welcome, even when they are one of oldest in crowd and clearly clinging to their youth with a death grip, like myself these days. That, and the music. With a super selection which incudes classics, songs that bring me back to uni days as well as new hits, I always have a brilliant night dancing it out with my besties.

So, here’s to the Limelight and 31 fabulous years of bringing music to the music lovers of Northern Ireland – happy birthday!

Posted: 24/07/2016

Time For A Tea Party

Time for tea (and Prosecco), left-right: Bronagh, Gemma, Kellie and Gail

In case you didn’t realise, I am a huge fan of afternoon tea. I keep this passion for finger sandwiches, scones and sweet treats a secret (ahem) but my lovely desk buddy Gemma and work wife Bronagh rumbled me and along with my sister and high-tea partner in crime, Gail, they treated me to the ultimate gift for my birthday: afternoon tea at Ten Square, Belfast.

When we arrived yesterday, we were shown to our table and offered the option of a cocktail, mocktail or freshly brewed tea to kick of proceedings. Gail and I love a bit of fizz so we opted for a chilled glass of Prosecco, whilst Bronagh and Gemma selected the Thompson’s tea, which was served in the most adorable tea pots.

When the three tiered stand was served, fully loaded with all kinds of delectable offerings, it was very clear we wouldn’t be going home hungry – especially as the afternoon tea was also accompanied with a portion of chips drizzled with truffle oil.

After some beautifully cooked chips it was time to tuck into the finger sandwiches. There was salmon, ham and chicken on offer. Unfortunately no one in our party was a fan of salmon so these remained untouched, however the ham and chicken selection was devoured in a flash. Next up was the scones, which were served with dainty pots of jam and lashings of cream. I sampled the cherry scones and although I am not generally a fan of cherry these were beautiful; light, fresh and oh so delicious. The final level of this heavenly experience was all the sweet treats you can imagine. We were spoilt with mini lemon meringues; delicate cups filled with a tart and tangy lemon posset; white chocolate profiteroles; chocolate truffle balls; and my personal favourite, mini dark chocolate tortes.

By the time we were finished, I think it’s safe to say we were all fit to burst. I thoroughly enjoyed Ten Square’s afternoon tea: the food was of a very high standard, there was a brilliant selection on offer and it is very reasonably priced. This is also the only afternoon tea I have ever tried that is served with chips. I love this element as the savoury chips were the perfect antidote if you felt yourself veering towards sugar overload. Ten Square is a beautiful location and coupled with very professional and accommodating staff (our waitress was only too happy to snap a picture for us even though it was busy in the restaurant), this is an ideal spot to relax and treat yourself to all things delicious. However, what really made the experience for me was the fabulous company! Thank you Gemma, Bronagh and Gail for such a perfect afternoon.

Posted: 3/7/2016