Monday, 30 March 2015

Hoar Cross Hall Luxury Spa Resort - Review

Hoar Cross Hall, Luxury Grade 2 Listed Spa Resort and Hotel, located in the heart of Staffordshire is probably the best known and most revered spa in the Midlands. I have heard friends talk about their visit to Hoar Cross Hall,  how fabulous the different steam rooms and facilities are and how relaxed they felt after visiting. I've heard all about the luxurious the treatments and how grand the rooms and the Italian gardens are, so this place has been on my "must visit place for 2015. When I saw a spa package deal on Secret Escapes earlier on this year I thought Christmas had come early. The spa package, for £200 included breakfast lunch and dinner and overnight stay for two people, which is some discount, considering the usual price for this package is  £160 per person. I booked this deal for a Monday night stay as I wanted to fully explore the spa on a relatively quiet day. 
On the day of my overnight stay, my expectations remained high and the driveway leading up to the spa was incredibly impressive. I felt I was approaching Downtown Abbey, so grand and regal was the imposing buildings and vast the land, I had a glimmer of what it would be like to be the lady of the manor.

Image courtesy of Hoar Cross Hall
There are two entrances to enter the spa, one for overnight stays and for day spas. As my nan and I were staying overnight, we enterd via the overnight stay entrance, as we entered we were greeted by beaming friendly staff, grand Italian chairs and fresh fruit. The following day, I spent time near the day entrance, which was equally grand with beaming staff, fresh fruit and Italian furniture. My only thought is that there were two separate entrances as the spa is located on lower ground level alongside the day entrance and the overnight spa entrance is nearer the bedrooms. Check in times were at 2pm and whereas in other hotels you can request to check in earlier, the sophisticated wrist band that we were given meant that the rooms could not be opened for check until 2pm. The spa access was granted from 11am and luggage could be held in storage which was handy as we arrived at 1pm. During check in, I was informed that tours of Hoar Cross Hall estate were available, but I decided to pass on this tour. 

Spa
There are two main areas for spa use: both areas have two beautiful 26 meter pools.  The first area has a steam room and sauna, jacuzzi with an adjourning relaxing lounge are I spent time briefly in there when visiting the steam room. I observed an aqua class occurring there, which looked like a lot of fun. I spent the majority of the time in the hydrotherapy section, where there was two powerful jacuzzis which operated on a 15 minute on and off basis. In the hydrotherapy section, there were four other spa sections; a back section, a foot massage section, power jet and the cold plunge which was only for the brave. The large swimming pool also has a cave style section, which although looked interesting I did not venture in there. I spent the first and following day mainly in the jacuzzi area I found this the most relaxing and I'm in love with the jacuzzi. The photos that I have taken are quite limited due to no photographs to be taken in the spa (I do hope they forgive me!), but I have also included some from their website. 
Spa area.

Image courtesy of Hoar Cross Hall.

Image courtesy of Hoar Cross Hall.


Treatments
There is a range of treatments available from manicures, pedicures, hair treatments, to facials and full body massages. I initially planned to have a hot stone back massage, but due to a recent horse riding accident, I had to give this plan a miss. My nan had a First Element Facial, which uses natural mineral products to address your needs and concern, resulting in a revived and rebalanced complexion. My nan spoke highly of how relaxing and revitalising this facial was and stated that I must have a facial the next time I visit the spa. The treatments range from £35 - £100. 

Food
I had high expectations of the food at Hoar Cross Hall, not because I was dining in a regal stately home, but because of the rave reviews friends have spoken about the gourmet culinary experience. As we arrived at 1pm, we ordered lunch from the champagne bar a chicken club sandwich and Staffordshire beef burgers, hand cut chips.
For the evening meal, there was a 3 course set meal. We ordered a pear and walnut salad and prawn and crab ravioli for starters, I felt the prawn and crab ravioli was nice but he sauce was lacking something. For the main courses we ordered the T Bone steak for a £6 supplement with homemade chips and the leg of lamb. The steak cooked medium, a perfect pink, succulent texture and the crispiness of the chips. My nan reported that the lamb was succulent, lightly seasoned and came of the bone. For dessert, I chose the passion fruit tart with a peppered meringue (the dessert name sounds oh so Michelin) and my nan chose mandarin cheesecake which having a mouthful I found this not to sweet, perfect creamy texture. The following day was breakfast and after a hearty evening meal, I decided to go light with granola jars and watermelon juice for breakfast. My nan chose the full English, which was reportedly traditional and delicious. For lunch, there was a buffet with a variety of hot dishes such as lamb stew, jacket potatoes, mini tarts and vegetables. There was also a selection of cold dishes of roasted vegetables and hummus, and a selection of cold salads. 

Lunch in the champagne bar.

Set menu for dinner.


Dining room area.

Breakfast and lunch.

Bedrooms
The bedrooms were also a beautiful feature of the package, each room is named using a princess or countess title which added to the regal element of the spa package. The standard room features a double bed or twin bed, Italian sofa, chair, television, dressing table and stool. The bathrooms were light and simplistic. Complimentary shower gels, body lotions and shower caps.  The majority of the rooms have views of the Italian gardens. I was in love with the Italian furniture and design throughout the rooms such as the curtains and the bedding. 
Bedroom.

Staff
All the staff were incredibly helpful, from the waiter to the receptionist to the handy man. No-one walked past without saying hello, which I feel is important. I just fell in love with the grounds and the beautiful decorations.
Vase.

Overall: This is a fabulous spa break in the heart of Midlands if you desire rest and relaxation.

Disclaimer: I paid for this via Secret Escapes, I was not asked to write a review, but thought I would share how fabulous this spa is. 

xxx

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bank Restaurant Review.

I haven't been to Bank  restaurant for a good few years now. I first discovered this restaurant after visiting with an ex, one Saturday evening many moons ago. I vividly remember that the starter that I ordered was amazing (duck rolls, not like what you get an all you can eat Chinese restaurant) and in my opinion, an overpriced chicken and coconut curry. Although I visited a few years ago, the fact that I remembered the menu, means that the restaurant made a positive impression on me. The location, located in the trendy Brindley Place attracts the trendiest of crowds and for  some is the place to "be seen".
I fancied an impromptu visit to Brindley Place and after visiting the nearby Ikon Gallery, my cousin and I took our seat to dine Al Fresco on the comfortable heated sofas outside with blankets and outdoor heating, I was instantly sold. As we visited at lunchtime, we ate from the Quick Lunch menu, which is more affordable than the main menu. For £15 you receive, sourdough bread and oil and two courses. For my starter, I chose Potted Beef and Piccalilli and my cousin chose Chilli Squid, Thai Herbs and Noodle Salad. The Potted Beef and Piccali was rich, luxurious and delicious with sourdough toast. My cousin stated that Chilli Squid was delicious, which I promptly took a squid piece, which was was crunchy on the outside, tender in the inside and I loved the texture of the chewy squid and spicy chilli.
Bank restaurant - image from the website.

Sourdough bread

Cocktails. 

Potted Beef.

Chili Squid
There was a considerable wait for our main courses: Fish and Chips and Steak and Chips. After 40 minutes of patiently waiting for our main course to appear, I enquired whether the dishes were on it's way and I was informed that the mains were not sent through to the kitchen as the waiter forget to press the send button, brilliant! So after another 15 minutes (a whopping 55 minutes in total) our main courses, arrived. The Fish and Chips was the BEST fish and chips I have ever eaten, the batter was crisp, tasty and well seasoned, the fish was beautifully cooked, tender and moist in the inside. The chip were delicious, much more than chips placed in the deep fryer, I suspect they were twice fried, they were crisp and fluffy in the inside. My cousin spoke highly of her Steak and Chips, which was beautifully presented.
Fish and Chips.

Steak and Chips.

Steak and Chips.
I refrained from ordering a dessert as I was so full from eating my main course, my cousin, however had other ideas and ordered the malteser chocolate sundae. I managed to have a mouthful (I rarely show such restraint) and it tasted amazing, I had to take out my phone to ensure that I didn't take the sundae away from her. 
Malteser sundae.
Overall, this is a wonderfully located location, a trendy and glamorous restaurant, offering exceptional modern European food. I so wanted to give this restaurant a 5 star rating as the food was amazing, location perfect and the restaurant is beautiful. However, due to the mishap with the mains, Bank restaurant gets a 4.5 star rating from me.


Bank on Urbanspoon
xxx

Friday, 20 March 2015

Crunchy Nut Chicken

I'm such a big fan of Lisa Faulkner's The Way I Cook cookery book, the recipes are easy to make and taste delicious. This recipe, in it's original form was cornflake chicken which immediately caught my eye when I brought this book. I amended the original recipe and used crunchy nut as it was the only cereal I had at the time. Apparently coating chicken in cornflakes and rice krispies was in vogue in the 1980's he decade I was born, but by the time I was a little older, it was a dish no longer in fashion. I was puzzled why would anyone coat chicken pieces with cereal, but as they say, don't knock something until you try it. I found using the crunchy nut added a moerish sweet element and was a healthier alternative of one of my favourite dishes, fried chicken. I think this dish is fab for children and for grown ups who want a quick and tasty meal. 
Here is how my Crunchy Nut Chicken turned out:
Crunchy Nut Chicken

Crunchy Nut Chicken pre cook.

Crunchy Nut Chicken
Recipe for Crunchy Nut Chicken.
Ingredients
Serves 4-6
Olive oil
250g crunchy nut cornflakes
1 egg
50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
125ml milk
1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
8 skinless chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks or a mixture)
sea salt and pepper
salad and garlic, mayonnaise, to serve.

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4 and lightly grease 2 baking sheets with olive oil.
Pour the crunchy flakes into a large sandwich bag; seal and then lightly crush with a rolling pin. Pour into a large flat dish or roasting tin and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, flour, milk and cayenne pepper until smooth. Put the chicken pieces into a bag with dusting flour and plenty of salt and pepper. Seal the bag and shake to coat the chicken evenly.
Dip each chicken piece in the egg and milk mixture first and then roll it in the crushed cornflakes, making sure each piece is evenly coated.
Lay the coated chicken on the prepared baking trays and then transfer to the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve with a side salad and some garlic mayonnaise.

xxx

Monday, 16 March 2015

Hotel Chocolat: Rocky Road to Caramel Easter Egg, Review & Giveaway.

Easter Sunday will be celebrated Sunday 5th April 2015 and many households throughout the country will be indulging on an Easter Egg. I've been doing some research on why Easter Eggs are the shape that they are, apparently (well according to Wikipedia), the egg celebrates Jesus's empty tomb, I'm sure there are other explanations for why we have Easter Eggs, t but I'm more than happy to go with that explanation. Easter eggs are loved by children and adults alike and although I am nearing towards the 3-0 landmark, Easter is not the same without an Easter Egg. As I've become older, I've rejected the "bog standard" Easter Egg's that are sold in well-known supermarkets and at a cheaper than chips price. As a lover of gourmet chocolate, I have in the past eaten a more luxurious brand of Easter Egg and why not, if I am going to indulge, I may as well do it in style. 
I have been fortunate to review several products from Hotel Chocolat over the last few months and jumped at the chance to receive the gorgeous and beautifully titled: Rocky Road Caramel Extra Thick Easter Egg. Described as an extra-thick Easter egg with milk and caramel eggshells which are packed mellow chocolates, one egg having 40% milk chocolate with cookies, puffed rice and chocolate chunks and the other egg in a caramel-milk, this is the ultimate chocolate egg for chocoholics for connoisseurs of chocolate. I desperately wanted to wait until Easter weekend before I sampled any of this fabulous chocolate, but unfortunately I only lasted a few days.
Hotel Chocolat Rocky Road Easter Egg. 

Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg.

I can say that the chocolates in each egg are divine, rich, decadent, smooth and velvety. I loved each bite of the egg and how thick, rich and moreish the Easter Eggs were. I know how much the readers of my blog adore chocolate, so I am excited to share that the lovely people at Hotel Chocolat are giving one reader a Rocky Road to Caramel Easter Egg to keep, happy Easter.
To be in with a chance of wining this product, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter.


  • Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter
  • Leave a comment on my blog (This Is An Essential Requiremnt). For additional entries,  follow me on Instragram, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, Google + and follow Hotel Chocolat on Twitter. 
  • All entries will be checked and verified.
  • Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random.
  • The competition will run from 16.03.15 - 29.03.15
  • Winners will need to respond within 2 working days (to ensure you will receive this for Easter).
  • Hotel Chocolat will dispatch the items.
  • The competition is open to UK residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

xxx

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Rum and Raisin Cheesecake

Finally, a post which is sweet, but not a cake. I am challenging myself this year, to at the very least, not bake a cake so often and explore other sweet bakes. This is the first of a non-cake sweet bake: Rum and Raisin Cheesecake. If my memory is correct, this cheesecake was made by Jo Wheatley from Season 2 of The Great British Bake Off. I loved the combination of rum and raisins in-cooperated in a luxurious, rich and delicious cheesecake. This recipe has been on my bake list for 3 years (I know its such a long time), so one lazy Saturday, I had a sudden change of heart and instead of making my usual chocolate cake, I decided on making this cheesecake. 
I feel as though I have slightly robbed myself as making a cheesecake was incredibly easy and for relative simpleness, the results are beautiful. I loved the slight ferociousness that the rum brought to this cheesecake, alongside the sweet and plump raisins, made this a wonderful dessert. I had to tear my way from the cheesecake after the third slice .......
Here is how my Rum and Raisin Cheesecake turned out:
Rum and Raisin Cheesecake.

Rum and Raisin Cheesecake.


Rum and Raisin Cheesecake.


Rum and Raisin Cheesecake in the making. 

Rum and Raisin Cheesecake baked.
Recipe for Rum and Raisin Cheesecake.

Serves 6 -8
10 digestive biscuits
50g unsalted butter,  melted
600g full fat cream cheese
2 tbsp plain flour
175g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
285ml soured cream
40g large raisins,  soaked overnight in 2tbsp rum,  then drained.

1 x 20.5cm spring clip tin,  greased;  a baking sheet.

Method
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas 3. Crush the biscuits in a food processor,  then mix with the butter.  Press onto the base and halfway up the sides of the prepared tin. Bake for 5 minutes,  then cool.
Using an electric mixer on low speed,  beat the cream cheese with the flour,  sugar,  vanilla,  eggs,  egg yolk and half the soured cream until thoroughly combined.  Don't let the mixture becomes frothy as this will spoil the creamy, even texture of the cheesecake. Stir in the raisins reserving a few for decoration,  if you like. 
Pour the mixture into the tin on top of the biscuit base. Set the tin on the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Stir the remaining soured cream,  then carefully pour it over the top of the cheesecake. The top will still be fragile so if you need to spread the soured cream,  do this gently.  Bake for a further 15 minute or until the cheesecake is set but still slightly wobbly in the centre.
Remove from the oven and run a round bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the cheesecake. Leave to cool in the tin,  then cover and chill overnight before unmoulding for serving and scattering with the reserved raisins. 


I am sharing this recipe to a couple of blogging challenges, the first from Ness at JibberJabber this months theme is It's In The Book  and I was very inspired by the Great British Bake Off Book. 

I'm also sharing this with Jac from Tinned Tomatoes who hosts a monthly challenge Bookmarked Recipes , this months these is vegetarian and vegan bookmarked recipes. 

Dom from Belleau Kitchen  who is hosting a new monthly challenge called Simply Eggcellent, this month's theme is just to use a recipe that contains free-range eggs, which my cheesecake does, so qualifies.
xxx

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Guest Post: Mona from Alexia Foods, One Skillet Italian Sausage Pasta.

 Hi everyone, this is Mona. I am so happy to contributing to Food, Glorious Food! I started to read Charlene’s blog around 2 years ago, when I was just starting my Masters degree in United States. Her recipes have been giving me lots of spirit and warmth.

Today I am going to share with you an easy and comfort food recipe which will have your back in winter – One Skillet Italian Sausage Pasta. As a busy student, the last thing that is going to happen is a run the supermarket in the cold winter. So the best choice for me is always food like dried pasta and tinned tomatoes.  The lucky thing is I never run out of ideas about making a delicious and hearty meal with these ingredients. If you are interested in making this kind of easy pasta dish, stick to the directions below.



Prepare time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Ingredients:
3/4 pound Italian pork sausage
1-1/4 cups water
1 can (14.5 oz each) Hunt's® Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano, undrained
1 cup Hunt's® Tomato Sauce
8 ounces dry penne pasta, uncooked
1/4 cup Kraft® Grated Parmesan Cheese
Directions:
1. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook 5 minutes, breaking apart with spoon to crumble. Drain; return to skillet.
2. Add water, undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce and pasta to skillet; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and cook 15 minutes or until pasta is tender.
3. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Mona’s tip:
Sometimes, I also like adding other vegetables like sweet corns and green beans. One of my favorite food brands is Alexia’s frozen vegetables. They have organic choices, which are healthy and convenient.

xxx

Monday, 9 March 2015

Hotpoint Steam Blender Pt 2, Review.

I've had my Hotpoint Steam Blender for almost two months and I have thoroughly enjoyed testing this kitchen appliance. I have made a variety of dishes in my steam blender, mainly for my breakfast and lunch: I have to credit this applicant for my new love of healthier eating. My first review post I focused on my initial thoughts of using this product, but this post focuses more on my thoughts of the variety of recipes that can be made using this innovative appliance.
Hotpoint Steam Blender
Mixtures
After having this product for almost two months, I love stretching this machine to see what it can do. I've started marking pancake mixtures using the blending facility and found this such a hick way to make the batter for my plantain and coconut pancakes. I found the machines blending facility to be excellent and able to cut through a starchy ingredient such as plantain. I find that blending pancake and batter mixtures far easier now, as all you do is add the mixture in the blender, turn on setting 2 or 3 for around 2 minutes to discover a wonderfully blended mixture. 
Plantain and Coconut Pancakes. 
Steaming
 Many of us enjoy steaming vegetables to ensure that all the nutrients remain contained in the vegetables. This Steam Blender does so much more than steaming vegetables, there is a handy basket which can be used to steam meat and fish separately. This means you can make a delicious a chunky chicken and vegetable soup, for example and place all the ingredients in the steam blender, but separate the chicken from the vegetables. I decided to test the basket facility by making ta chickpea and 2 vegetable soup which surprisingly worked very well and as they say "was a doddle to make". I simply steamed the chickpeas, onions, coconut milk and seasoning and placed the vegetables in the handy basket whilst they steamed separately. Once everything was steamed, I removed the basket, blended the stock and served in a bowl. This method would work when including chicken breasts (thinly sliced and wrapped in foil) and prawns.
Here is my Chickpea and Two Vegetable Soup:
Chickpea and Two Vegetable Soup.

Sweet Potato and Broccoli Soup.

Juices
Another favourite when using this my steam blender is making juices; it's such a healthy way to the start the day. In fact, I'm sure making juices for my weekday breakfast has contributed to my 5 lbs weight loss. I like to in-cooperate a combination of vegetables and fruits, which is always blended thoroughly so you can't taste the vegetables.
Lemon, Ginger and Parsley Juice.

Melon and Grape Juice.

Shakes
For those who love indulgent drinks, the steam blender makes a fabulous milkshake. Although the ingredients for the milkshake is frozen (the ice-cream and ice cubes), blending these ingredients are no problem for this appliance. The results  of a milkshake in my steam blender is a glorious, indulgent and rich shake. 
Coffee and Banana Shake.

Recipe for Coffee Banana Shake, from 1000 Juices by Deborah Gray.
Ingredients
Banana
300ml coffee ice-cream (if you do not have coffee ice-cream, use vanilla and add 2 tbsp instant coffee powder)
2tbsp milk

Method
 Put all the ingredients into the steam blender and process on low for 30 seconds, stir and process on high until smooth and whipped. Pour into a glass and serve immediately.

Makes 1 glass

Disclaimer: I received a steam blender from Hotpoint, I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own. 

xxx
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...