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

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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

 

We Are Your Friends

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Today is National Best Friend Day. I did not realise this was a thing but what a fabulous thing to celebrate. However, I would not say I only have one best friend; I am very lucky that I have several.

Not to sound super sappy but the husband is my BFF. We have the same daft sense of humour and whenever I am wound up, he knows how to talk me down – well, unless he’s the cause of my mood! No matter how angry I am about a situation, he can generally have me laughing in no time, especially when he makes fun of my culchie accent.

My sister, Gail, in the words of Meredith Grey and Christina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy, is ‘my person’. When I need a shoulder to cry on or someone to plot revenge with, she’s the person I always turn too.

My friend Helen is my oldest friend. Whilst we are now older and wiser, ok maybe not wiser, whenever we get together we revert to our childhood selfs. It’s amazing to have someone who you grew up with and someone who you have so many memories with. She bought me a fridge magnet once saying: “You will always be my friend, you know too much!” It sums us up perfectly.

A lot of girls have a ‘work husband’ but I have a ‘work wife’. Bronagh and I are like a married couple. Whilst we may bicker and fight now and again, we are always a team and always have each other’s backs. She’s also my cocktail and dancing partner – Friday’s don’t get much better.

Then there’s my ‘sister from a different mister’. Frankie was my sister’s mate long before I had the pleasure of meeting her. However after a visit to Geordie land I got to meet the lovely Francesca – and we got on like a house on fire. Since then she is part of the family. We are often plane hopping to see each other and I am currently on the count down to her next visit to NI at the end of the month.

Every girl needs a boy best friend – I have two! Alan is my brother-in-law. We can literally talk until the sun comes up, whether it is simply shooting the breeze or putting the world to rights, we never run out of things to rant about! The other is Andy, he is my partner in crime when it comes to randomness. He gets my obsession with the Lonely Island and he introduced me to Babymetal. We are incredibly silly when we are together and have even got our own handshake.

Finally, although they are my parents, two of my bestest friends ever are my mum and dad. We are a tight family and one of my all time favourite things is to go back home home and hang out with the rentals. My mum has the most fantastic and mischievous sense of humour. We have so much in common and can talk about anything and everything. She is also the most caring person ever and I admire her so much. My dad is a legend. We do our best bonding over bacardi. He helps encourage me to push myself, to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. He also taught me how to change a fuse and the DIY basics, I am now a proper wee Bob the Builder.

So, these are some of my favourite people. So this National Best Friend Day, I want to tell them how awesome they all are and how lost I would be without them. Whoever you BFF is, be sure to show them your love today and always!

Posted: 8/6/2016