Thursday, 31 March 2016

Delicious food and dazzling theatre!

I wasn’t too sad to return to work on Tuesday after a lovely Easter break, because I knew I had a great evening planned. Dinner with my wonderful mum at the newly opened Bella Italia in North Street followed by End of the Rainbow at Theatre Royal Brighton.

We indulged in Bella Italia’s new menu. 3 courses plus bread is truly extravagant for a Tuesday evening but we wanted to make sure that we got the full Bella Italia experience ;)

I had the Gamberi to start and my mum had the Calamari. Both were delicious and we couldn’t let the garlic/chili sauce that came with the prawns go to waste so we ordered some caramelised onion bread to soak up the rest!

For mains we both had pasta. We were both very impressed with the selection of meat free dishes on the menu. In the end mum ordered Pasta Capra – a tomato based pasta with vegetables and goats cheese. I had the Pollo Limone Siciliana – a light, tangy and still creamy pasta. At this point we should have stopped. But the desserts that were coming out looked far too tempting to say no. So we ordered the tiramisu and the Big Tony!! The picture below pretty much sums up how delicious they were!! I wasn’t lying when I said we indulged.

Luckily we didn’t have far to waddle over to Theatre Royal Brighton. We arrived just in time to get to our seats and see the stage come alive with the sounds of Judy Garland.

This production is set in 1968 when Judy returns to London for her much-needed come-back tour. She arrives with her soon-to-be 5th husband Mickey and long term friend and pianist Anthony. The next two hours of theatre are both hilarious and poignant. Lisa Maxwell who portrays Judy Garland captures Judy perfectly. We learn that Judy had a razor-sharp wit about her; she was able to laugh at herself and at others and she loved to argue. We see the vulnerable, tragic, self-destructive side of Judy and of course, through Lisa Maxwell’s very impressive voice, we hear those songs that made Judy famous all around the world.

If you haven’t booked tickets at Theatre Royal Brighton yet, please do. You will see why End of the Rainbow has been a hit on Broadway and the West End as you are drawn in to Judy’s turbulent relationships with the people around her and ultimately the demons that have haunted her since she was a child.

Amazing acting, singing and comedy make this a must-see show.


End of the Rainbow
29th March - 02 April, 7:45pm eves, Thurs & Sat mat 2:30pm,
Theatre Royal Brighton, New Road, Brighton, BN1 1SD

Bella Italia 
165 North Street, Brighton, BN1 1EA

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Warning: Blog post contains delicious content, proceed with cutlery

We once again hand over the reigns to our guest blogger, James Sharp...

Now you've been given some time to get over my shameful confession posted here earlier this week, I feel like it’s time to tell you how I went about rectifying this. 

Well, there’s a first time for everything, so after having procured the suit from the fine gentlemen at Gresham Blake (which you can read about here) Charlotte and I popped on down to The Coal Shed in Boyce’s Street to strike off another thing from my bucket list. 

After arriving promptly at 6pm, having our coats taken and being seated, Charlotte and I had a chance to study the décor as well as the menus handed to us. It becomes obvious that The Coal Shed naturally does a lot of things ‘right’. What they do right is hard to explain, and most likely part of the charm that keeps people coming back, but I’ll give it a go. 

First through the door, the Coal Shed awaits...
For starters, (intended) the décor is comfortable and inviting. The lighting is warm and cosy, which I found relaxing, and the staff emulated this in their professional yet friendly attitudes. Sophie, who looked after us all evening, was not only polite, friendly and warm, but also knowledgeable about the menus and only happy to offer suggestions. This proved to be quite eerie when three of her suggestions were matched with what Charlotte had intended to choose. (I still believe to this day they set me up, and some descendant of Jeremy Beadle was going to bust out of the kitchen at any moment.)

The service went above and beyond still, because from what I can ascertain they had something you never appreciate until it happens. Timing. The menus and suggestions and jokes weren't forced and didn't drone on. The courses were prepared, served and slid onto the tables with practised hands. (I actually thought the tables were too small, I was wrong there as well!) Recommendations were brief and to the point, requests were handled efficiently and best of all, there were no sudden interruptions with ‘How is your meal?’ while you have the first forkful poised three inches from your lips. 

By now you’d have thought I’d be on to the food. But guess what: nope. See, the food is only a part of it, and you’re naturally going to expect it to taste amazing, but without the concerted efforts between the front of house staff, the kitchens and everyone in between, it simply wouldn't work. It was amazing to watch and be a part of, because unless you’re actively looking out for it, you never even notice it. You’re left with your company to enjoy your evening and that adds so much more to the experience, with both the food and the company! 
The salmon
Jacob's Ladder (Does not contain an actual ladder)
Onto the food we go. For starters, Charlotte had the Jacob’s Ladder while I opted for the slow-roasted salmon. I was offered some of the Ladder to try, but as I was saving my first steak experience for the actual steak, I politely declined. Every man is aware of those food ‘offers’ from friends, and while Charlotte did generously offer, she devoured the whole thing at about Mach three when I opted out. Except the bone it came on. My salmon was neatly arranged with bok choi, truffle and miso créme fraiche. I've never been one of these food experts, talking about how the flavours compliment each other to provide a culmination of oral fantasia, but oh my god. If I were the chef who prepared that dish, I’d be strutting around the kitchen like some sort of herculean god, high-fiving everyone within distance to assert my truffly dominance. It was about this time during the evening I realised I became fat on the wrong foods. A galling moment of realisation that was. Sadface.
No description necessary. Just look at it.
Our main course however, was what I was waiting for. With more guidance from Sophie, we opted for a sharing steak. That’s right. 700g of prime rib, medium rare steak graced the table with a small selection of sides. Placed between us, the steak had been thickly sliced and presented in a way it seemed to say ‘please eat me’. I then told Charlotte to leave and that if she had any urgent business or something else to attend to I would forgive her. 

She told me no. 

Neither of us spoke much during the next thirty minutes it took to tear into that steak. Look at the picture, then back to me. If that doesn't look like the tastiest piece of meat you've ever laid your eyes upon, then I'm telling you: It is and was! The problem with having a steak so good is that now picking up some cut from a supermarket meat counter holds no appeal… I want it like this all the time. (I kinda want another one as I'm writing this, to be honest.) 
The area to the right of the table is for your meal enhancers
The sides: A roasted garlic bulb, beef dipped chips and seasonal vegetables went with the chimichurri sauce and the garlic and herb butter for added flavour and choice. Regardless of your tastes there are sides and options for pretty much anyone, so letting you pick and choose how you compliment your steak is a neat touch. I think we both went a tiny bit overboard, but I wanted to have a serious reason to eat as much as possible and was not disappointed. We enjoyed our meal with a bottle of Australian Red, which complimented the steak well and there was water readily available to cleanse your palate should needs be! Sadly, there was no room for dessert. 
The petals give you 100% of your recommended daily flower
But after a few minutes, there miraculously was! Funny how good food does that, eh? I took the Praline Parfait, while Charlotte dove upon the Espresso Mousse. You can see them in the images above and below. My desert had the added bonus of being on a cool plate and also having little purple petal decorations. I ate them, too! We were also fortunate to try a little dessert wine, which is sweeter and more fruit-orientated. Mango and pineapple hints were tasted and enjoyed, but sadly at this point we were beyond full to have anything more! We left sated, and happy, leaving behind nothing but empty glasses and clear plates. 
Espresso, ice cream and those bobbly bits. Everything Charlotte loves.
If there were only one more thing I’d recommend, it’s that you book a table in advance. There is limited seating and while our reservation was for 6pm, numerous people got turned away at the door while we were there. You do not want that to happen to you or your stomach. 

Many thanks go to Charlotte for having me along for the ride, Sophie for her flawless performance that made the evening so much better and the rest of the staff, with their focused, attentive attitudes and professional yet warm demeanour. And to me, for eating about 400g of steak and wanting to break that record soon! 

Until next time! 

The Coal Shed 
Address: 8 Boyce's St, Brighton BN1 1AN 
Phone: 01273 322998

Opening Times:
Monday to Thursday: 12-4pm, 6-10pm
Friday to Saturday: 12-4pm, 6-10:30pm

Monday, 21 March 2016

Brighton man admits one crazy fact you will not believe!

Today we hand over to guest blogger, James Sharp, who has a shocking confession to make.... 

Hello once again, dear readers.

Usually, when you come across a blog posting from yours truly, you’d find some informative, interesting and mildly amusing text about a wonderful adventure I've had in the marvellous city of Brighton. For this small piece, however, instead I bring to you something much more serious: a confession.

I've never eaten a steak.

Shocking, isn't it? Almost to the point of disbelief. I could go into this a bit further here, maybe explain myself or try to justify my situation so you could at least feel a bit of sympathy towards me. But I'm not going to. I'm well aware of the effect it has on people I confide in. The open mouth, the glazed-over expression, the quiet mumbling in the corner of the room as a solitary tear rolls down their cheek.

Instead I shall give you some time to process that critical piece of information, and next time around (when you've fully recovered) I'm going to explain the journey I've faced along with a very tasty and mouth-watering solution.

So stay tuned for the next installment, where the lovely Charlotte Barrow and myself pay a visit to The Coal Shed, a steak restaurant tucked away in Boyce’s Street, where all will be revealed.

What sort of culinary mysteries will be revealed inside?

The Coal Shed 
Address: 8 Boyce's St, Brighton BN1 1AN 
Phone: 01273 322998 

Opening Times
Monday to Thursday: 12-4pm, 6-10pm 
Friday to Saturday: 12-4pm, 6-10:30pm Sunday: 12-4pm, 6-10pm 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Gangsta Granny - giggles galore for all the family!

Currently my daughter's favourite book is Gangsta Granny so when we found out that a new stage production was coming to the Theatre Royal Brighton for a pre-West End run we simply had to go!

For those of you who are not familiar with David Walliams' book; the story revolves around Ben who each week dreads going to visit his cabbage-loving granny while his parents go to their dance classes. However when Ben discovers a biscuit tin full of jewellery everything changes...

As with any adaptation of a beloved book there is always a certain amount of trepidation over how it will be handled. Will the story be as funny and heartfelt on stage as on the page? Well, with a huge sigh of relief I can happily tell you that - yes it is. The production stayed true to the original story while also adding something new with some fantastic dance routines during the set changes.

The whole cast were great but in particular Ashley Cousins and Louise Bailey (Ben and Granny) who had us giggling the whole way through. So if you are looking for an outing for the whole family to enjoy then Gangsta Granny is the ideal choice as it is both funny & heart-warming. And don't forget to buy the book as well!

Gangsta Granny 
Theatre Royal Brighton until 6th March