Relaxed Family Dining At Bill’s Restaurant, Cardiff Bay

I first visited Bill’s in Brighton just after my wedding in 2011.  I loved the eclectic mix of oils, olives and kitchen accoutrements and the simple, yet inventive menu with dishes you’d cook yourself at home. Fast forward 6 years and Bill’s has become part of the UK dining landscape with two branches in our home city of Cardiff, one in the centre and the other in Cardiff Bay.  We were delighted to be invited to dine at Bill’s Cardiff Bay restaurant.

Bill's Cardiff Bay Restaurant from the outside

We visited Bill’s Cardiff Bay restaurant last weekend.  Situated in the old Pilotage Building where Woods Brasserie used to run, the place has that slightly off-kilter feel that its town centre sister branch has.

Bill's Cardiff Bay Restaurant - an outside table

Caitlin and Ieuan outside Bill's, Cardiff Bay

Whilst the space is brightly lit and airy, there are lots of nooks and crannies to sit in, should you want some privacy.

Inside Bill's Restaurant, Cardiff Bay

On a dark and rather dismal Saturday night, Bill’s was lit by candlelight for its Candlelight & Cocktails promotion, however, our mission was, as ever, to feed the kids and get Ieuan out of his near-permanent state of ‘hangry-ness’.

Bill's Restaurant Cardiff Bay - interior - candlelit table

This has become more noticeable since he started playing football for Penarth Town Under 9s.  Caitlin is less worried about food as long as there’s ice cream and she has her lip balm with her.

Caitlin is 10 in November and Ieuan turned 8 in June so they are at an age where the children’s menu is often too small and the adults’ too big (or too expensive!).  Portion size is always a good test for us – as is the range and size of drinks on offer.

Partial shot of Bills menu

We’re not big on starters but are huge fans of olives so ordered some Giant Green Gordal Olives (£2.95).  These were plump, juicy and, mercifully, stoned. Mat decided to indulge his passion for calamari which came nicely covered in breadcrumbs with a tangy garlic mayo. Unfortunately, he failed to convert Caitlin and me to his cause.

In any case, the kids were happy with their Crispy Corn Tortilla Chips which came with nice fresh hummus and carrot and cucumber sticks.

Children’s lunch and dinner are served from 11:45 am and is priced at £6.95 for three courses to include an apple or orange juice.

Montage of starters at Bill's Restaurant Cardiff Bay

Both kids opted for an off the menu drink choice of orange juice and lemonade.

For our main course, Mat chose the lamb burger (£14.50) with whipped lemon feta, sweet chilli sauce, roasted red peppers, rocket, cucumber, red onion and tzatziki all served on a sesame bun with fries.  Mat added Smoked Streaky Bacon as an optional extra (£1.55).

Bill's Restaurant - lamb burger

The burger was tender, not overcooked and the bun was filled to bursting.

I chose the Bill’s Hamburger with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a secret sauce served in a sesame bun with fries (£10.50).  Now that the nights are drawing in (as my dad would say), I find the lure of the burger hard to resist and this one did not disappoint.  I would have liked a little extra side garnish but everything was piping hot and juicy.

Bill's Restaurant - Hamburger

Caitlin had Steak, Chips and a substitution of a side salad instead of peas.  We were impressed by the size of the flat iron steak she received.

Bill's Restaurant - children's steak and chips

Ieuan had Cod Fish Fingers with Fries and a salad instead of peas.  I have no idea what my kids have against peas but they won’t be swayed.  This does mean we would appreciate the option of baked beans but understandably, most restaurant chains try to encourage kids to at least try a vegetable or two which isn’t covered in tomato sauce.

Bill's restaurant - Ieuan eating cod fish fingers

The portion size was perfectly adequate, although I’m not sure Ieuan made much headway into the salad as usual.

That just left room for dessert and coffee for the adults.  Caitlin chose a Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae and Ieuan chose the Scoop of Ice Cream with a Bill’s Wafer. This was the one course where the kids agreed the portion size could have been bigger (no surprise there!).

Caitlin & Ieuan with their ice creams at Bill's

I chose the Banana & Honeycomb Cheesecake with Vanilla ice cream (£6.25) which the husband shared. The cheesecake base was nicely moist and the banana was a great complement to the ice cream.

Bill's restaurant - Banana & Honeycomb Cheesecake

Coffee rounded off a very relaxed evening and we had only to wander across the road to the multi-storey car park which, if you’re now as unused to wearing high heels as I am, is a blessing.

We really enjoyed our meal at Bill’s Cardiff Bay restaurant.  The kids’ menu is good value for money, although we would have liked to see a wider choice of drinks and possibly a double scoop of ice cream.

So what did the kids think?

Caitlin loved ‘everything’, but especially her steak – and the ice cream sundae. She loved dressing up with her mum and the candlelight made the whole experience quite special.

Ieuan’s take on the evening was that it was “awesome” and he loved the grown-up crispy batter on the fish fingers and of course the ice cream.  “I’d move in there”, he said solemnly, “imagine being able to have all your favourite foods all the time”.  Can’t think where he already gets that…

Big thanks to the staff who were lovely and attentive, despite the restaurant being full to the rafters on a Saturday night.

I’m hoping to find a babysitter so Mat and I can return to enjoy some cocktails by candlelight!

Bill's cocktail menu

For more information go to www.bills-website.co.uk.

*We were invited to dine as guests of Bill’s, Cardiff Bay.  Read more of our restaurant reviews here.

Time For G & Tea At Park Plaza Cardiff This National Afternoon Tea Week

It’s National Tea Week from the 14th – 20th August and the sound of cups clinking on saucers and the tinkle of pastry forks is likely to resonate through many a hotel.

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea at Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff

Afternoon Tea is one of those posh traditions which was introduced to the country by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840.  Anna found, quite reasonably in my view, that since dinner in her household wasn’t served until the fashionably late hour of 8 pm, she needed something to keep her going around 4.

Given our hectic lifestyles and the constant struggle to keep up with friends and family, afternoon tea is a great way of spending an hour or so in their company whilst eating beautifully prepared sandwiches and cakes. What’s not to like?

And the afternoon tea has been updated and made even more indulgent by the Park Plaza Hotel in Cardiff by the offering of the Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea.

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea - interior of Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff

Gin lovers will know that Hendrick’s is a distilled Scottish gin infused with rose and cucumber, as well as flowers, roots, botanicals and seeds from the world over.  It has a uniquely refreshing taste and the folk at Hendrick’s seem to revel in oddness and the unusual.

It’s totally fitting that a special afternoon tea should have been devised in its honour and one Sunday, the Husband and I went to test it to see if we could be converted to a tea with not a shred of caffeine (save in the gooey, chocolatey, coffee cake).

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea at Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff

I always like walking into gleaming Park Plaza reception.  It’s usually calm but today the restaurant was absolutely buzzing.  We were ushered into one of the booths in the Laguna Bar where we were greeted by the very affable and incredibly helpful George.

I should mention at this point that, it being the school summer holiday, Caitlin and Ieuan were with us and on strict instructions to be on their best behaviour.  (No we didn’t give them gin).

George explained that our ‘tea’ would be the Hendrick’s Elderflower Collins, served in an elegant Hendrick’s teapot and cups and saucers.  The cocktail – tea is made from Hendrick’s Gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, Maraschino liqueur, Lemon juice & soda served with sliced cucumber.

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea - pot, cups and saucers

The flavour is light and elegant with the delicate perfume of the elderflower which nicely balances the cucumber flavour of Hendrick’s gin.  It didn’t have a strong alcoholic ‘hit’ but it certainly revived us.

You can order the more usual tea beverage is you prefer and there is a selection of teas, both traditional and herbal, and coffee to choose from.

The food is served on a gleaming cake stand topped with two miniature lime jellies.  It’s quite a show stopper – quite enough to stop the kids in their tracks and start demanding a swop for a chicken goujon (no deal!).

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea Cake Stand

There is:

A selection of finger sandwiches (Severn & Wye Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Dill & Cream Cheese, Free Range Egg Mayonnaise & Cress, Home Roasted Ham.

Freshly Baked Warm Sultana Scones served with Cornish Clotted Cream & Strawberry Preserve

Lime Jelly topped with mint & cucumber Chantilly cream

French macaroons

Chocolate Opéra gâteau

Strawberry tart filled with champagne pastry cream

George gave us his helpful suggestion to follow the sandwiches with the jelly as a palette cleanser and then return to the scones, French Macaroons and Chocolate Opera gateau, ending lastly with the strawberry tarts.

Everything was light and fresh – from the variety of breads used in the sandwiches to the subtle taste of the lime jelly.

The scones, dusted with icing sugar were warmed and light as air without the often present cloying ‘baking soda’ taste which sometimes coats your teeth. (I’ve eaten a fair few scones in my time – it’s my Cornish ancestry).

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea Cake Stand

The Chocolate Opera Gateaux were squares of moist chocolate and coffee topped with a macaroon. The coffee taste was dark and strong which contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the macaroon.

Lastly the strawberry tartlets were light as air with a delicate champagne flavoured cream.

All of the food complimented the Hendrick’s ‘tea’.

I must admit that when I saw the cake stand arrive I wondered if we would be able to eat it all but, as afternoon teas go, the Duchess of Bedford would have been very happy with this one.

The Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea costs £21.95 per person but this National Afternoon Tea Week (14-21 August), Park Plaza Hotel Cardiff is offering a 15% discount of any spa treatment and use of the spa facilities at The Laguna Health & Spa

Personally I fancy a Laguna Hot Stone Back Massage and an Elemis Superfood Pre-Radiance facial.

To book an Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea, you can either book online or telephone 02920 111 103. Afternoon teas are served daily in the Laguna Bar from 1.00 pm until 5:30 pm.

*Mat and I were invited to sample the Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea as guests of Park Plaza Hotel Cardiff

Review: Finding Iggy & Friends At Las Iguanas, Cardiff Bay

I have to confess I haven’t eaten at Las Iguanas for years and was a bit unsure what to expect.  Back in the 90’s (!) I remember lots of guacamole and refried beans.  Plus, there was now the additional challenge of two decidedly fussy eaters to consider.

Mat, Caitlin & Ieuan outside Las Iguanas Restaurant, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff
It’s July so obviously we have an umbrella & this is Ieuan’s “feed me now” face

Lured by the promise of one of the new limited edition collectibles from Aardman Studios, Iggy & Friends and the fact that kids eat free this summer when the adults choose a main course from the A La Carte Menu, we decided to try something other than pizza for a change.

Ieuan and Las Iguanas cocktail promo board at Mermaid Quay, Cardiff
No that is not a strawberry milkshake Ieuan

Las Iguanas in Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, is set on the corner of a run of restaurants and commands a great view over the bay and the crowds milling to and fro.  It is bright, airy and decorated in a kind of Brazilian feel with lots of wood and warm colours.

Interior of Las Iguanas Restaurant, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay
The restaurant was already full of lots of families with young children

When we arrived on a Saturday lunchtime, the place was already buzzing and we were given a great table right by one of the floor to ceiling windows.

The light, airy interior of Las Iguanas, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff

There is certainly plenty of choice.  In fact there is so much choice, it took us a good while to decide what to have. Luckily our server, Kasia, was friendly and patient, particularly when explaining to Ieuan that the cocktail he’d spotted with fresh watermelon in the glass was alcoholic and not served to 8 year olds.

I always think that kids menus can be a little unimaginative and our two are at the difficult age when, at 9 and 8, their appetites don’t always match the portion size of either the adult portion or the child’s. You are then faced with either ordering an extra side or an adult pudding to compensate.

No such problems at Las Iguanas.  The ‘Ninos Meal’ costs £5.90 and includes a main course, dessert and a drink.

The children's menu at Las Iguanas
The children’s menu

The kids’ menu has a number of vegetarian and one gluten free option (the Wacky Tacos) and in among the usual children’s favourites there are a fair few ‘different’ choices – for example they can have a ‘Crazy Quesadilla’ which is a tortilla, folded, chargrilled and filled with a choice of cheese and cherry tomatoes, chicken and cheese or garlicky chilli, thyme mayonnaise and melted cheese, served with corn chips.

Although there is a lunch menu served until 6:30 pm each day featuring smaller versions of some of the A La Carte dishes, the Husband and I opted to eat off the main menu to take advantage of the kids eat free offer.

There is LOADS of choice – and at various levels of spiciness.

We had some Peruvian Botija Olives (in a herby marinade) whilst we made our selection.

Peruvian Botija Olives at Las Iguanas

Whether you want a Taco Plank (tortillas served with various toppings), a selection of Tapas, steak or chicken from the grill, burgers, Mexican classics, Brazilian dishes or salads, there really is something for everyone.

Sample menus from Las Iguanas
Just some of the wide range of menu options

In fact, I’d say Las Iguanas is not really a restaurant you can fully experience in one sitting.  The Husband is already planning to return to try the Tapas.

I chose Blazing Bird (£13.50), half a succulent spicy chicken kept nicely moist by a tangy barbecue sauce, served with my choice of curly fries and a creamy slaw.

Blazing Bird half chicken at Las Iguanas restaurant
Blazing Bird

The Husband had fajitas with marinated steak strips (£17.50), freshly cooked to order in a mix of spices, onions and peppers.  It came sizzling with guacamole, grated cheese, soured cream, jalapenos, roasted tomato salsa and wheat tortillas.

The steak was lovely and tender and nicely complemented by the selection of spicy accompaniments. The four tortillas made it a very generous portion.

Steak Fajitas at Las Iguanas
Steak Fajitas

Caitlin chose Cod Bites – battered cod chunks with a creamy mayonnaise dip and fries, whilst Ieuan is going through a ‘cheeseburger phase’ and opted for the beef burger in a toasted buttery brioche bun, topped with melted cheese and served with fries and a ketchup dip. The portion sizes were certainly generous for our two.

Caitlin and Ieuan enjoying their kids meals at Las Iguanas
t’s safe to say the kids enjoyed themselves

The Husband finished his meal with coffee but I tried the Maracuya Mess (£5.00), layers of passion fruit mousse, berry compote and crushed meringue.  The kids opted for a Strawberry mini milk ice lolly and Raspberry Jelly.   Just enough after all we’d just consumed.

Maracuya Mess and kids desserts at Las Iguanas Mermaid Quay, Cardiff

The kids were introduced to Iggy and Friends designed by Aardman Studios. Iggy, is Las Iguanas’ mascot and he and his Latin pals; Tumble the Tapir, Banana the Llama, Mick the Jaguar, Mischief the Monkey and Santiago the Sloth, were all named by diners in a recent competition. They have now come to life as 3D collectibles, each with an unmistakably ‘Aardman’ expression.

Iggy & Friends Aardman collectibles from Las Iguanas
Collect Iggy & Friends

There are six toys to collect and younger visitors (suitable for the over 3s) will be able to choose one character each time they enjoy a meal from the Iggy & Friends menu from 22nd July while stocks last.

Caitlin & Ieuan outside Las Iguanas Mermaid Quay, Cardiff bay

And don’t forget that kids eat free if the adults choose from the A La Carte Menu.

 

We really enjoyed our meal and are looking forward to returning.  I’ve never seen Ieuan clear his plate so quickly.

 

More information:  www.lasiguanas.co.uk.  Book online or for the Mermaid Quay branch

tel: 02920459165.  Email mermaidquay@iguanas.co.uk.

 

*We were invited to try the new kids menus by Las Iguanas.  All thoughts and experiences are, as usual, uniquely ours.

Hack Your Home On Tour: Scientific Fun For Kids From The Royal Institution

The Royal Institution Lecture: How To Hack Your Home on Tour 

Professor Danielle George

Monday 13th March 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm 

National Museum of Wales, Cathays Park, CF10 3NP

When I was in school, our science lessons were decidedly low tech and uninspiring.  Back To The Future it was not.  More a cloud of chalk dust, bunsen burners and strange smells.

Every year, my dad made my sister Sarah and I watch The Royal Institution CHRISTMAS LECTURES in the hope to get us enthused and the programmes were always much more fun and grown-up than our school lessons.

Credit: Paul Wilkinson

And now kids of all ages have the chance to indulge their inner science geek and experience the magic of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES in our home town of Cardiff.

I’m sure you are aware of the impending arrival of smart meters to help us measure and better control our energy usage.  And there are already numerous smartphone apps which let you switch your heating or lights on or off.  We are bringing science in to our homes and daily lives more and more and at an increasing rate too.

Professor Danielle George, an Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at The University of Manchester, is currently presenting “How To Hack Your Home on Tour”, an exciting and inspiring event which will show how you can use your creativity and imagination to engineer amazing things.

Professor Danielle George:  Credit Paul Wilkinson

You’ll learn the simple scientific principles which underlie much of the modern world whilst watching a host of hacked robots perform amazing musical feats and witnessing everyday objects being turned into something wonderful – even a loaf of bread!

The lecture is suitable for all ages but particularly for ages 10+.

As a mother of a daughter, I think it is incredibly important to get girls interested in science and thinking about a science-based career.  And Professor Danielle George is certainly a bit of an inspiration!

 

How to buy tickets

You can buy tickets here and tickets are buy one get one free.

How to get involved with The Royal Institutions

Families in Cardiff area can get also involved with Ri programmes by becoming members of The Royal Institution and on the Ri website you can also find some great simple science experiments you can do at home.  You can also connect with the Ri on Twitter @Ri_Science.

Ticket giveaway


I also have 4 tickets to give away.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and my usual terms and conditions apply.  UK entrants only and the giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Wednesday 8th March.

Please note attendee names and email address must be provided no later than Friday 10th March.

This looks to be a fabulous fun event and Caitlin, Ieuan and I will be there to learn as much as we can.  We hope to see you there too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck.

A Hobbis Family Halloween

We love Halloween and this year it was made all the more special by seeing the burning of The Wicker Man at St. Fagins (National Museum of Welsh Life) on the Sunday.

Wicker Man St Fagins Cardiff, Halloween 2016

 

When the wicker man burns you are supposed to make a wish and the crowd were asked to scream as loudly as they could to repel evil spirits for the forthcoming year.

 

Caitlin at Wicker Man Burning, St. Fagins, Halloween 2016

 

Ieuan at Wicker Man burning, St. Fagins, Halloween 2016

 

Hobbis Family at Wicker Man burning, St. Fagins, Halloween 2016

I love decorating the house and the kids were on red alert for trick or treaters but this year we only had 2.  I know lots of people really don’t like this tradition – particularly since it can be scary for the elderly, younger children and pets but it is nice when you find fellow Halloween enthusiasts!

2 pumpkins, Hobbis Family Halloween 2016
The Husband and kids did a great job of the pumpkins this year

 

Skeleton in hat and shoes, Hobbis Family Halloween 2016
Mr Bones announced he needed a holiday

 

Hobbis children with Nain Brooks, Halloween 2016
The kids with my mum, Kay

 

Ieuan in Grim Reaper fancy dress, Halloween 2016
Ieuan as the Grim Reaper

 

Caitlin in gothic bride fancy dress, Halloween 2016
Caitlin as a gothic bride

 

Linda Hobbis in Zombie Bride fancy dress, Halloween 2016
I’m a zombie bride

 

Hobbis children with Taid and Nain Brooks, Halloween 2016
The kids with my parents, John and Kay.

I always think it’s important to take every opportunity to celebrate the yearly events in the religious calendar or those times which were marked by rites and rituals by our Pagan forefathers.  Life goes by so fast and it’s good to make some memories, isn’t it?

When you’re an older mum, like I am, you are very conscious of the passage of time so these times have an additional significance.

Did you celebrate Halloween?  What are the events which mean the most to you?  I’d love to know.

Celebrating Roald Dahl Day

Today is the 100 year anniversary of the birth of beloved children’s author Roald Dahl and it is Roald Dahl Day in his honour. We have a special fondness for him here in Cardiff, of course, as it is his birthplace (Llandaff).

Ieuan as Willy Wonka

Our local schools are celebrating by allowing the kids to go as their favourite Dahl character and even the staff are getting into the act.

“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” – Roald Dahl

So which Roald Dahl character would you be?

Willy Wonka – Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
Miss Trunchbull – Matilda
The BFG – The Big Friendly Giant
The Twits
Mr Fox – Fantastic Mr Fox?

Caitlin as Matilda

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.” – Matilda

For me, the outright winners are the Oompa Loompas and possibly Mike TV, a great warning to our screen-obsessed kids that there are consequences to too much TV watching.

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray
Go throw your TV set away
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall…”
– The Oompa Loompas

A sentiment which should surely be echoed around all our schools today.

Theatre Review: The Hunting Of The Snark at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Last night Caitlin, Ieuan and I attended the press night for the Sherman Theatre’s brilliant new production in association with Alice House and RGM Productions, “The Hunting of the Snark”.

Commissioned and directed by Gemma Colclough,  The Hunting of the Snark is a new adaptation of the Lewis Carroll poem which is a tale of adventure, bravery and, most importantly, family. 6 actors took to the intimate theatre space that the Sherman Theatre is renowned for and transported the audience to a world of incredibly odd creatures, songs, fun and outright silliness.

The Boy – Kate Spencer

In the tradition of all the best moral tales, the characters are known by their type or role – with the exception of  Steve, who produced the sound track to the show with the help of a guitar and drum.  There was The Bellman, The Butcher, The Baker, The Banker and his son,  The Boy.

The tale links them all together and they travel to Snark Island to hunt the mystical creature which has been recently spotted after a hundred years.  Do they capture it and take it back with them to sell?  Is the Snark all that it seems?

An enormous discovery is certainly made by one of the characters and it changes lives for ever – but that’s all I’m going to tell you.

The staging is simple but brilliantly effective.  At one point the moon appeared and Ieuan gasped.  The songs are witty and full of enough adult references to get the parents laughing and there is plenty of slapstick silliness for everyone.

The Butcher – Polly Smith

The show runs for approximately 75 minutes and this may be slightly too long for very little ones but it was just right for Caitlin (nearly 9) and Ieuan (7).

They loved it so much Caitlin asked to go and see the show again and Ieuan has not stopped talking about his favourite character, the hilarious Bandersnatch, ever since.

The Bandersnatch – Neal McWilliams

Given that The Hunting of the Snark was written by Carroll in 1874, the cast have done a fabulous job of bringing the poem bang up to date and creating a really memorable show.

Here’s what Caitlin and Ieuan had to say.

Caitlin

“The Hunting of the Snark was awesome.  I enjoyed it so much.  I really enjoyed it because it had an adventure and the characters were amazing.  When I danced in the Lord Mayor’s Show it was scary and I thought the actors were very brave.  I would really love to see the show again.”

Ieuan

“My favourite part of the story was when the Butcher tried to catch the Snark. The funniest part was when the Bandersnatch turned up and did funny poses.  He sang a song about himself and I also liked it when the Jub Jub bird stole the Banker’s trousers”.

The Hunting of the Snark runs until Saturday 30th July with tickets at £9. You can book online or telephone the box office on 0292064 6900. The Sherman Theatre is situated at Senghennydd Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 4YE.

And, this Christmas The Sherman Theatre is bringing to life another classic in The Borrowers. Directed by Amy Leach (Associate Artist; Dukes Theatre, The Egg and Shakespeare Schools Festival). Their Christmas production for 3 – 6 year olds and their families sees the return of co-production partners, Theatr Iolo, in Hans Christian Anderson’s, The Emperor’s New Clothes / Dillad Newydd yr Ymerawdwr.

We can’t wait!

Fun In Wales This May Bank Holiday

If you’re lost for something to do this on Monday, why not check out one of the great guides below.

You’re sure to find an activity you’d like to try.

Just click on the links.

21 Things To Do This May Day Bank Holiday Weekend

As usual, Walesonline.co.uk have a great guide. From Dylan Thomas’ poetry in Laugharne to falcolnry in the Black Mountains, there’s something for everyone.

Dylan Thomas Boathouse Laugharne - things to do May Day Bank Holiday 2016 - motherdistracted.co.uk
Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse At Laugharne

#FindYourEpic with VisitWales.com

Wales is such an amazing country.  Just click on the link about to find a wealth of events near you, from seeing archaeological treasures such as mummies and even Indiana Jones’ hat and whip at Cardiff Museum, to learning about artillery warfare in Newport or what about a deep sea fishing trip in Ceredigion?  No excuse for spending another day buying bedding plants at your local DIY superstore….

Cwmcarn Forest - things to do May Day Bank Holiday 2016 - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Beautiful Cwmcarn Forest

Events in The Valleys

There’s never a dull day in the Valleys.  What about going on the International Dawn Chorus Walk in Cwmcarn Forest on 1st May or the Annual Nantgarw China Works Antique Fair on the 2nd?

Cadw

Cadw’s bank holiday fun includes the Company of the Raven at Kidwelly Castle where you can try your hand at archery, or you can Dare To Meet The Dragon at Caerphilly Castle and be captured by this mythical monster.

Caerphilly Castle - things to do May Day Bank Holiday 2016 - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Majestic Caerphilly Castle

The National Trust

Why not learn to play croquet at Dyffryn Gardens,  walk through wildflower meadows at Lanlay or explore the 17th-century beauty of Tredegar House with its wild and flamboyant history?

Or there’s the Mother Distracted weekend guide for any time of year.

Caitlin & Ieuan at Dyffryn Gardens - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin & Ieuan at Dyffryn Gardens

Let me know if there are any events I should add!

Have fun!

Best Guides To What’s On In And Around Cardiff This Easter

If you’re lost for something to do this Easter, why not check out one of the great guides below.

Source: Flickr: Barnley Moss
Image credit:  Barnley Moss

You’re sure to find an activity you’d like to try.

Just click on the links.

Easter Activities In And Around Cardiff – mumsintheknow.co.uk

A great list of Easter Holiday activities, from lambing to egg decorating.

18 Awesome Easter Activities happening in South Wales over the bank holiday weekend – walesonline.co.uk

A list of activities (some free) happening between April 3 and 6, as well as during the wider school holidays for the whole family.

Caitlin on picnic rug - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin enjoying a picnic

Family Easter Holiday Roundup – visitwales.com

A great list of local places to visit.

Events in The Valleys

What’s happening in our Valleys communities over the bank holiday break.

Easter events at Cadw

A list of those Cadw sites hosting Easter events, including Easter Egg hunts.

Ieuan at Raglan Castle - Easter Events Cardiff 2016 - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan at Raglan Castle

Easter Fun In Wales with the National Trust

Or there’s the Mother Distracted weekend guide for any time of year.

Caitlin & Ieuan at Dyffryn Gardens - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin & Ieuan at Dyffryn Gardens

Have fun!

Review: Treat Your Valentine At Beefeater Grill

Now after a certain number of years with your partner (months if you’re a celebrity), the romance may well fade slightly and, come Valentines Day, the onus is on the least romantic partner to pull their socks up and prove that they still know how to show their loved one a good time.

Beefeater Walston Castle Wenvoe

If you are a parent and the number of babysitters in your area is somewhere in the region of zero to one, this rekindling has to be done with the kids in tow.

Outside the Beefeater Grill Walston Castle
Ieuan is still firmly in his Harry Potter phase

Luckily for the Husband, we were invited to review our local Beefeater Grill, the Walston Castle in Wenvoe in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Menu outside Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Conveniently situated next door to a very reasonably priced Premier Inn, the Walston Castle is just a stone’s throw from Dyffryn Gardens (National Trust) and just a short drive away from Cardiff and Cowbridge with its designer boutiques and shops.

Founded in 1974, Beefeater is one of those brands that has been around for so long that I suspect it may not always be first choice when thinking of somewhere to eat, particularly given the competition from other food chains like Cafe Rouge, Prezzo, Zizzi and the fast food companies.   It had been such a long time since we had eaten at a Beefeater, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

The large car park is well sign-posted and it is possible to park close to both the hotel and restaurant entrances – always a bonus if you have prams or wheelchairs to think about.

Once inside, we found the restaurant to be spacious, clean and well set out.  There was also some quirky artwork on the walls to give the place a more personal feel.

Artwork Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
Don’t worry it’s true.  Ieuan’s checked.

Ieuan’s first question to Jane, our server, was whether it was indeed possible to eat there until the cows came home.  Cue a discussion about what time cows come home.  Nipping a discussion of modern dairy farming methods in the bud (since we stayed at Hollings Hill dairy farm last summer, Ieuan regards himself as an expert), we took a look at the menu.

Artwork Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

As you might expect, steak is a speciality of the Beefeater, although there are some vegetarian options such as the Veg-Out Burger (£8.99) or the Baked Veggie Enchiladas (£9.79).  We found the menu to be extensive with something for everyone.  You can check the dietary elements of each dish on the Beefeater website which is very handy.

There are a number of choices that are ideal for sharing with your date.  There’s Sharing Potato Dippers (£7.99) – potato dippers with melted cheese, spring onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, sour cream & chive and red onion. Or how about Freshly Grilled Tear & Share Flatbread (£4.49) in Chimichurri, Garlic or BBQ Pulled Pork varieties and the Ribs & Wings Combo (£14.49) – sticky duck wings, spiced chicken wings, bourbon BBQ ribs, chunky slaw and chilli & lime seasoned mini corn on the cob with piri piri and blue cheese dips.

On the basis that foregoing a starter entitles you to dessert the Husband ordered the 8oz fillet steak with chunky chips (£19.49) and a herby Chimichurri sauce on the side.  There is a good choice of sauces, for an extra 99p.

Filet Steak & Chips - Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
The husband was in far too much of a hurry to get to his steak to take a decent picture for me!

All Beefeater steaks are served with half a slow roasted tomato, grilled mushroom, lamb’s lettuce, salad and unlimited triple cooked chips or skinny fries.  There is no excuse for not sharing your chips and a very good excuse for your partner to help you clear your plate.

Each steak is hand-cut each and aged for 21 days and Beefeater trains all of their chefs in their very own steak academy.

I ordered Smothered Chicken Melt (£11.29) – chargrilled chicken breast glazed with smoky BBQ sauce and loaded with streaky bacon and Monterey Jack cheese. It came with triple cooked chips, chunky slaw and a side salad.

Smotherd Chicken Melt - Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

I was also tempted by the Signature Slow-Cooked Beef Chilli (£9.49) – slow-cooked beef in a mildly spiced chilli sauce served on a bed of basmati rice with spring onions, red chillies, guacamole, sour cream and crisp corn tortilla chips and the Oven-Baked Seabass (£14.49) – seabass fillet steamed in a pouch with courgettes and cherry tomatoes and served on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes with a crunchy Greek salad.

For the children there is an extensive Mr Men inspired menu from £4.49 with plenty of choice. There’s also a 16 page activity booklet to keep them quiet whilst you reminisce about your great romantic highlights.

Kids menu Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Caitlin and Ieuan had strawberry and chocolate milkshakes and they both had garlic bread to start.

Milkshakes Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Ieuan eating garlic bread Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

For their main course, Ieuan chose Mr Perfect’s Popin Chicken with chips and baked beans and Caitlin chose Little Miss Trouble’s Tomato Penne Pasta.  I particularly liked that there is a range of items you can substitute the chips and beans for (although good luck with that) such as an option to have mashed potato or peas.

Mr Perfect's Popin' Chicken Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Having cleared our plates we turned our attention to desserts – and there is a fabulous selection – many just right for sharing. The Husband is always wary of sharing a dessert with me because he claims he only ends up with about 20% of the pudding.  I refute this absolutely.

Anyway,  he chose the Raspberry Bakewell Tart with custard (£5.49) – a slice of bakewell with a light pastry base, raspberry jam, pistachios and almond flavoured sponge, served warm with custard.

Raspberry Bakewell Tart Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

I had the Warm Chocolate Brownie (£4.59) – served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Warm Chocolate Brownie Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Both were delicious and I must confess, not a lot of sharing occurred. There is a large selection of sundaes though which are just right for two spoons.

Sundae menu Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

From the Kids’ Menu, Ieuan chose Mr Jelly’s Wobble Jelly and Ice Cream and Caitlin picked Funny Face ice cream which came with mini smarties and strawberry laces.

Caitlin eating Funny Face ice cream Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Caitlin eating strawberry laces Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
Probably not ideal date behaviour

We really enjoyed our meal at the Beefeater Walston Castle.  The food was fresh and was piping hot. The restaurant was clean and the atmosphere nicely relaxing – no blaring disco music to ruin the intimacy.  The staff were friendly, attentive and good with the kids.  (Big thanks to Jane and Eddie).

Our meal came to £75 for 4 which included a sparkling water, a large glass of Malbec wine (I don’t care what the Daily Mail says), two Costa coffees and an extra milkshake each for the kids.

The Husband often visits steak restaurants when working away in London and was favourably impressed with the quality of the steak he received at Beefeater.

Valentine napkins Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
Save money on Valentines Cards – get the kids to make them.

We thought the meal was very good value and we would certainly consider going there again. It’s a great date-night venue. Beefeater Grill is certainly back on our list of places to eat out.

Now if only I could find that babysitter …..

Linda & Ieuan Hobbis at Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Further information about your local Beefeater Grill is at www.beefeater.co.uk.  For the Beefeater Walston Castle, telephone 02920 593896 or you can book a table online.

There is also a reward club where you are entitled to a free meal on your birthday, 5 points for every pound spent and 300 points on activation of the card.

Things To Do With Kids In Cardiff This Weekend

I find that unless I plan something to do in advance, we end up getting up far too late and then wasting the morning – and potentially the rest of the day.  It’s good to kick back at the weekend and spend some quality time together, isn’t it?  But without spending a fortune. If you’re looking for some things to do with kids in Cardiff this weekend, read on. A couple of my suggestions are outside the city but well worth the visit.

Things to do with kids in Cardiff this weekend

Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan

(Free Entry To National Trust Members)

Dyffryn Gardens, St. Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan CF5 6SU

Visitor information is available on the Dyffryn Gardens Website HERE.

 Caerphilly Castle (Free Entry To Cadw Members)

 

For further information about Caerphilly Castle go to www.cadw.wales.gov.uk. 

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, South Wales (Free Entry To Cadw Members) 

Photo courtesy of Cadw

Castell Coch is a 19th-century Gothic revival castle built above the village of Tongwynlais in South Wales.

Treetop Adventure Golf, St Davids Shopping Centre, Cardiff

Mini golf in a tropical rainforest!

Further information is available at www.adventuregolf.com.  

National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (Free Entry)

Further information can be found at www.museumwales.ac.uk/cardiff/.

Cosmeston Lakes Country Park & Medieval Village, Penarth (Free Entry)

The country park has a variety of habitats covering over 100 hectares of land and water and is home to a reconstructed 14th-century medieval village, where costumed guides show visitors around the period furnished buildings.

St. Fagans Natural History Museum, Cardiff (Free Entry)

Bute Park & Arboretum, Cardiff

Credit:  bute-park.com

Bute Park offers an extensive area of mature parkland within Cardiff’s city centre, including play areas and 3 cafes.

Roath Park, Cardiff

Roath Park is a large Victorian park with a lake, botanic garden, adventure playground, cafe and sports facilities.

and if you’re looking for somewhere family friendly to eat, why not choose one of these?

Which attractions would you add to this list?




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Valley Mill Home & Gifts From Wales

GIFTED: As you know, I have spent a bit of time over the summer lurking in Welsh castles such as Caerphilly and Raglan and in the Visitor Centre cum Gift Shop at the latter, I came across a gorgeous range of Welsh products made by Valley Mill Homewares near Neath in South Wales.

Valley Mill makes a wide range of natural homeware products including soy candles, natural soaps, hardwood chopping boards & a wide range of Welsh slate products using a combination of handcrafting techniques.

They can also personalise many of their products, all of which are handmade using materials from Wales.

Their products are ideal for wedding or anniversary gifts, birthdays, christenings, graduations or, by far my favourite type of gift, that little treat you buy for yourself.

And very kindly, Valley Mill sent me some of their natural soaps and wax melts to try.

I was sent the Grapefruit & Fennel and the Rosemary & Lime soaps which both smell divine and you can clearly identify both the scents in each.

All Valley Mill soaps are made with 100% natural shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and castor oil. They have no artificial colours, preservatives or additives, are paraben and SLS free and contain no animal products.

They are made with natural essential oils to get the unique fragrances, and they even use natural herbs to add the appropriate colour.

Other blends include:-  Bergamot & Basil, Orange & Cinnamon, Lavender & Citronella and Tea Tree & Witch Hazel and retail at £4.00 per 100g bar.

I was also sent a lovely little box of Jasmine scented wax melts (in the shape of Valley Mill’s logo) from a new range to complement their range of natural soy wax candles.

The candles have a wooden wick for better scent throw and longer burn times and are hand made in Wales They come in a re-usable heavyweight tumbler with a Welsh Slate cap that doubles up as a high-quality coaster.

All candles come gift boxed and are priced at £16.

Several of their fragrances are ideal for Christmas – there’s “Mince Pie”, “Roast Chestnut” and “Spiced Apple”.  My favourites are “Welsh Cake” and “Bara Brith” (a Welsh tea loaf in case you’ve not heard of it) and yes, they do smell exactly like the cakes!

Valley Mill products are available online at www.valleymill.co.uk.