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    An Afternoon of Indulgence at The Woodspeen, Newbury

    For me, Sunday is an oxymoron of emotions. I get overly excited by the prospect of eating my body weight in food, whilst slumping on the sofa in front of my latest craze on Netflix. However, I also always feel that dark cloud of Monday morning lurking over my shoulder.

    Therefore, last Sunday, I decided to shrug off my Monday morning blues by pushing the boat out, going against the Sunday vow of ‘thou shalt not wash’ and heading over to sample a new restaurant/cookery school in Newbury, Berkshire for lunch with a couple of family friends.

    Opening in October 2014, The Woodspeen is an infant in the culinary world.

    However, boasting a Michelin star chef, fresh, locally sourced produce (including, from the likes of our lunch guests from the Two Cocks Brewery #diningwithroyalty) and a cosy, friendly atmosphere, The Woodspeen is a restaurant in its prime, which I have no doubt will continue to excel even further over time.

    On arrival, we were greeted by an array of smiley staff and a cosy bar area.

    After swiftly inhaling a crisp glass of prosecco and a couple of bowls of homemade chicken flavoured popcorn and sage and onion crisps (YUM), we were led through to our table.

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - My Culture Craving
    The restaurant’s decor reminded me of a chalet come, greenhouse.

    With a vaulted wooden paneled ceiling, fur-lined chair covers, woven shaggy mats, rustic exposed brick walls and a pot of tall green foliage, which sprouted as a centre piece from the sleek, grey flooring, The Woodspeen’s unique and retro decoration was on point and created the perfect ambiance for our afternoon of indulgence.

    After studying the mouth-watering menu, which was handed to us on, what my Dad (an ex-teacher), compared to a school clipboard (it was, in fact, a lovely touch), we were ready to order… and EAT!

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Bread - My Culture Craving
    My sister and I decided to share the confit duck cake, which came with a smooth pate and the cauliflower cheese risotto to start.

    Apologies for the lack of photo, apparently I was too excited to get ‘started’…

    This was then followed by a delicious amuse-bouche of pea and mint soup with sun-dried tomato and a cube of deep-fried lamb…

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Soup - My Culture Craving

    How cute are the bowls!? ^^^

    I then went for the venison, accompanied by pave and faggot and bacon, cabbage and creamed potato for main…

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Main Course - My Culture Craving
    And the oh so naughty, tiramisu with coffee ice cream for dessert…

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Pudding - My Culture Craving
    Every single one of my courses were divine however, the real showstopper of the meal was… dum dum dummmm – the gravy, which accompanied the roasts.

    It was, lick your plate and the gravy boat, scrumptious (if anyone from The Woodspeen is reading this and would like to divulge the secret ingredient, that would be muchos appreciated!)

    This restaurant offers up fantastic service and fresh, beautifully presented food, both, in unbeatable surroundings.

    If you are in the Newbury area, make sure you pop into The Woodspeen for a pint of The Two Cocks Brewery finest, whilst taking in the remarkable view, which encircles the restaurant.

    Oh, and of course, for a gravy boat or two…

    Brunch at The Riding House Cafe, London

    Brunch is my new-found favourite meal of the day.

    Waking up with the wonderful thought that prosecco and pancakes await my arrival, makes getting out of bed on a Saturday/Sunday morning that bit more tolerable.

    So, when one of my friends organised a brunch date at The Riding House Cafe in London, I was chuffed.

    After reading great things about it online as well as, drooling over The Londoner’s images of breakfast smoothies in cute milk bottles and scrummy fry ups, I couldn’t wait to check it out for myself…

    Once we’d weaved our way through Oxford Street’s maze of shops, we headed towards The Riding House Cafe, ravenous and raring to eat.

    The restaurant boasted a rustic blue, brown and white colour scheme. With its bare brick walls, rollicking white tiled bar, rugged wooden, banqueting tables and vibrant, squishy blue bar chairs, Riding House Cafe balanced quirky character and trendy, modern decor, perfectly.

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Restaurant - My Culture Craving

    Along with its crisp colour scheme, the restaurant also offered splashes of unusual embellishments. From ornate, dusty blue lamps that lined the bar to a mishmash of retro fittings, which were sprinkled throughout the restaurant, The Riding House Cafe was a feast for the eyes… and of course, for the taste buds!

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Table - My Culture Craving

    As we snooped over the other customers’ shoulders, getting more and more food envious by the second, we were handed the humongous menu.

    Offering up everything from eggs benedict and rock oysters to spiced poussin and giant hash browns, here, there is a dish to satisfy any possible craving under the sun.

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - My Culture Craving

    After much consideration we went for a bottle of prosecco and a couple of mounds of grilled halloumi to start (gotta settle those weird cravings) and then shared the buttermilk pancakes, lobster lasagna and giant chorizo hash brown, for main.

    Words  cannot describe how delicious the creamy, fruity, sticky, fluffy stack of pancakes were, so I’ll just show you instead…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Pancakes - My Culture Craving

    It gets better…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Pancake - My Culture Craving

    The lobster lasagna was a new discovery for me, and one, which I hope to devour again soon…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Food - My Culture Craving

    And the giant hash brown with chorizo, mushroom and poached egg was a yumtastic triumph…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Hash Brown - My Culture Craving

    This cafe really does offer up a bit of everything.

    Whether you are looking to have a casual bev after a long days work (or in the morning… no one’s here to judge),  an extravagant three course meal, an indulgent, boozy brunch or a few tapas to nitpick at, whilst enjoying some of their wacky cocktails, you can find it at all at The Riding House Cafe…

    Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

    Have you ever been to The Riding House Cafe? What were your favourite dishes? Please comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know :)!

    A Night at the Theatre

    Watching a play/musical in London should be at the top of everyone’s UK bucket list.

    With The West End’s chaotic potion of bright lights, excitable crowds, historic buildings, garish, luminous billboards and buzzing bars and restaurants, this area of London is a feast for the senses, before you’ve even set foot in one of its mesmerising theatres.

    This weekend, I was lucky enough to tick the ‘watch a musical in the West End’ box off of my bucket list (woohoo) as my family and I went to watch the upbeat, smash hit musical, Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre.

    As we approached the theatre in a hurried fluster (we were running a little late…), I still had a chance to admire the intricate detail of its exterior. Decorated in complex carvings,  Romanesque pillars and the iconic ‘Mamma Mia’ posters, which are strewn across London’s buses and tubes, we just about had time for a quick pic before rushing inside to get a glass of vino before the show begun.

    Inside, the theatre was just as stunning. Embellished in meticulous gold carvings, squishy royal red chairs and antique mirrors, which exaggerated the size of the theatre as well as, the animation of the performance, it was awe-inspiring and reminded me of a cute, antique dolls house.

    Then, it was time for action.

    The set was simple. Using a  hypnotizing blue backdrop to imitate the ocean and a collection of  rustic white ‘buildings’, the set transported me straight out of the dolls house and instantly onto a remote Greek island.

    Oozing eccentric costumes, an incredible orchestra, outstanding vocals and choreography and a contagious energy, the performance was a melody of hand clapping, drink spilling, feet tapping FUN, which I couldn’t recommend enough!

    Leaving the Novello Theatre on a musical (and wine) high, we sang and danced our way to our next stop – the Big Easy Bar. BQ. Lobstershack.

    A Night at the Theatre - Big Easy - My Culture Craving

    Offering up a cool, quirky atmosphere, live music, their all-important novelty ‘Big Easy’ bibs (see below) and HUMONGOUS sized portions of high quality, scrumptious food, our meal here, was the perfect end to a perfect night at the theatre.

    A Night at the Theatre - Big Easy - My Culture Craving

    A Night at the Theatre - Big Easy Food - My Culture Craving

    Have you ever been to watch a performance in The West End? If you have, what did you see? Would you recommend it? Please comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know :)!

    Being a Food/Book Worm at Boulevard Bookshop, Hastings

    Last weekend, during my visit to the seaside town of Hastings, I got the pleasure of experiencing one of the coolest restaurants I have ever been to!

    Being an English graduate, I love books and being an over-indulgent eater, I love food. Therefore, when my friend told me that she had booked us a table at a Thai restaurant… in a bookshop, I was one happy bunny.

    Nestled down one of Hastings’ old town’s side streets, Boulevard Books is cute in every sense…

    From the outside, it disguises itself as an ordinary, iconic bookshop. With dusty secondhand books cluttering the windows and shelves upon shelves of ancient novels crying out to be flicked through from inside, Boulevard Bookshop oozes so much mystery and character that I would go in within a second, even without the promise of scrumptious Thai food.

    On entering the bookshop, we were greeted by a collection of dining tables, which were adorably tucked into cubbyholes amongst the abundance of bookshelves. Each table was embellished with its own unique, Thai-inspired throw and the chairs and cushions were a mishmash of different shapes, sizes, materials and colours – adding to the disorderly yet, cosy feel of the restaurant.

    Boulevard Books, Hastings - Table - My Culture Craving

    Our table was surrounded by shelves and shelves of old, literary classics (which you are allowed to buy/read at the table, if you wish) and was already laid out with menus, wine glasses, prawn crackers and two heavenly, Thai dipping sauces – it had such a comforting and homely atmosphere, that I almost forgot not to slurp my wine and eat with my elbows on the table!

    Boulevard Books, Hastings - Thai Food - My Culture Craving

    The menu offered up a selection of tasty traditional Thai starters and mains including tom yam kai (a fragrant Thai soup), som tum ma mung (a vibrant Thai style salad) and panaeng nua (to name but a few)…

    I went for the salad to start, which was light, flavoursome and fresh and for the chicken mussaman curry for main, which was authentic and delicious.

    Boulevard Books, Hastings - Food - My Culture Craving

    Although the presentation of the food wasn’t quite up to Masterchef standards, the dishes rusticity only made them that bit more unique and wholesome.

    And at the bargain price of £13 for both courses and the fact that you can take your own alcohol (at a £2 supplement charge), you can’t go wrong with a  visit to this charming and homely restaurant.

    Make sure you book a table before you go as it gets very busy (especially at weekends) and don’t forget to pick up a bottle en route!

    Feed your inner geek (literally) and head down to Boulevard Books!

    Have you ever been to Boulevard Bookshop before? Or, do you know of any other cool, quirky restaurants, which are worth checking out? Please comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know :)! 

    On Top of the World at The Varsity Club, Oxford

    Last weekend, as it was one of the gal’s birthdays, we decided to act like the 23 year old sophisticates we are (hmmm…) and head to a bar in Oxford for a few civilized cocktails and a good ol’ chinwag.

    After hearing rave reviews about The Varsity Club, a four-storey cocktail bar situated in the heart of Oxford, boasting eclectic, quirky decor, scrumptious cocktails and a lavish rooftop bar with impressive views across the city, we were sold and booked ourselves a table.

    When we arrived, we weaved our way up the mountain of stairs (gym sesh at its finest… with vodka at the end of it) and were greeted by a cosy yet, buzzing cocktail lounge.

    With its rustic bare brick walls, mood lighting, vintage-style chairs and tables and atmospheric tea light candles flickering in old jam jars, the bar’s shabby chic furnishings gave it a warming and homely feel.

    The Varsity Club, Oxford - Bar - My Culture Craving

    We couldn’t wait to kick back on one of their plush sofas with a delicious cocktail in hand.

    Serving everything from the traditional martini and mojito to the slightly more riskayyy ‘sour’ (your choice of spirit mixed with egg white and maple syrup… urghhh) and lychee and chilli sling (check out the menu here), each cocktail is carefully mixed and embellished with its own adorable garnish.

    From cute, colourful flower petals and perfume (my friend swears she saw a barman squirt perfume in her drink…) to dainty, pearls of sugar and flaming, seeded passion fruit, each cocktail has its own special finishing touch.

    Despite the cocktails being more than desirable, the rooftop bar is definitely The Varsity Club’s unique selling point! With its pretty, twinkling fairy lights, stylish seating area and fabulous views, it’s the perfect place to sink a few Coronas on a summer’s afternoon as the sun slowly disperses behind the silhouette of Oxford’s stunning historic buildings.

    The Varsity Club, Oxford - My Culture Craving

    The Varsity Club is also home to a coffee shop (downstairs) and a club (first floor). Meaning you can start at the bottom and make your way up as the day goes on… coffee to start the day, Varsity cooler and tequila to finish…

    If you’re a little strapped for cash (cocktails are around £8-12 each), head over and sample the rooftop bar and cocktails during happy hour (Monday – Friday 5pm – 7pm).

    They also serve a wide selection  of food (the menu sounds YUM) and host a ‘pongathon’ every Tuesday (count me in!!).

    If you’ve ever been to The Varsity Club, what was your favourite cocktail? Please comment, Tweet or Facebook me to let me know :)! 

    Also, please don’t forget to pop over and give my Bloglovin’ page a like :).

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset

    Dorset is renowned for its impressive scenery. Therefore, what better way to explore its idyllic countryside and coastline than by whacking on your wellies and venturing out into the great outdoors.

    This morning, as soon as my friends and I spotted the clear blue sky and beaming sun, we wrapping up warm and headed towards Dancing Ledge in Purbeck.

    A country bumpkin’s hilly haven of luscious green grass, squelchy muddy puddles, rugged rock alcoves, imprinted with archaic fossils and a breathtaking view out to sea, Dancing Ledge is the perfect place to walk your worries (or hangovers) away!

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - My Culture Craving

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Scenery - My Culture Craving

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Coastline - My Culture Craving

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Fossil - My Culture Craving

    After doing a spot of rock climbing and defeating the VERY steep and slippery hill, which stood between us and our car, we rewarded ourselves with a cosy pub lunch overlooking Corfe Castle.

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - View - My Culture Craving

    The perfect end to our adventurous day in the countryside…

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Seaweed - My Culture Craving

    If you ever find yourself in Dorset, make sure you put aside some time to unearth this beautiful corner of the county.