Food Friday :Carluccio’s Newcastle Review

Food Friday :Carluccio’s Newcastle Review

Where : Carluccio’s Newcastle (89 Grey Street, Newcastle, NE1 6EG 01912 302148)
When : Wednesday 1stJuly 6:00
Who : Me, MadameGourmand + Baby Gourmand
Cost : £33


On a dark, rainy Wednesday in Newcastle, Daniella and I took ourselves off to Newcastles latest foody mecca, Carluccio’s. Now housed in the old NatWest bank on Grey Street, Carluccio’s is in a prime spot for theatre goers and still on hand for shoppers and workers. Carluccio’s had opened on Saturday 28th July.
If you aren’t aware, Carluccio’s is an international chain of artisanal  restaurants owned by world renowned Italian chef Antonio Carluccio. Established in 1991, the word has spread around the UK and as far flung as Dubai and Kuwait.

Without a reservation, we were promptly seated on a table for 2, with thought having been given by the host for Baby Gourmands pram. Passing the ‘greeting’ area, you’ll see a host of deli items to buy, from bread to cheese to the biggest meringues you have ever seen (£1.95!). The restaurant was busy, so I’d recommend booking.

The décor inside is very light and airy, with a modern feel. There’s no forced faux Italian décor, just modern, clean and simple. The dining area is in an L shape with a small bar and the deli counter at the intersect.
Once seated, our drinks order was taking quickly, as well as being prompted to take the olives and bread tin for perusing the menu. The olives were marinated and served in a cute coffee cup. No toothpicks or olive picks were offered and we had to ask the server to bring us something to fish them out of the oil. The bread tin, my favourite part, was delicious with a great mix. The Raisin and fennel bread was a standout. I had initially thought it was dotted with olives, my surprise when I had the sweet hit of the raisins mixed with the liquorice taste of the fennel. Delicious!
After a few hurried prompts to order, we finally settled on the set price menu. We opted for 2 courses for £9.95 on the Menu Fisso, with an option to add an extra course. Most of the menu was very reasonable and comparatively priced but the fish was quite expensive, let’s just hope the general public of Newcastle get on board with this! There is a gluten free portion of the menu also.
I chose the Bruschetta to start. Warm tomatoes served on a ciabatta slice with dressed green leaves. The tomatoes were slightly bland. The addition of a sprinkle of salt helped but I lacked a good twist of black pepper (which I wasn’t offered, nor could I get the servers attention. No pepper on the tables). Despite it feeling a little bland, the combination was very nice. The ciabatta was slightly greasy, which you could see it pooling when cutting, but with the tomatoes and dressed leaves on top, it cut through any greasy taste.  The portion size was just right. Filling, but not skimped on.


For main, we both chose the chicken Milanese. The chicken was served with a dressed salad and lemon wedge. The crumb on the chicken was delicious and cooked to perfection. The meat retained its moisture and flavour. While the chicken and salad was a nice light choice, I think it could have benefitted from perhaps a light tomato based sauce or an accompaniment as it was lacking something. I wouldn’t want to say dry, but just missing something.

Quality wise, I cannot fault the starter or main, with tidy, simple, presentation and good value for money on the set price menu. In other restaurants, different classes are offered, such as pasta making. I hope these come to Newcastle too, they’d be interesting!

After our meal, Daniella ordered a black coffee. We waited around 25 minutes for this to arrive which was a little disappointing.
We did observe a few things while visiting Carluccio’s. This could indeed be attributed to it being a new open but worth bearing in mind.
    • Rushed to order, then slow service there in


  • The bill was incorrect by quite a large amount. As were all the tables around us. Check your bill carefull!



  • Despite the waiting staff, we stood 10 minutes waiting to be served at the deli counter, which is right next to the door. Possibly not the best impression to give customers entering



  • Disabled toilet, the used toilet brush was just dumped on the floor without a holder. Very off putting, especially for a mid course visit.



  • If you have a pram or wheelchair or require more space, it might be best to book a table and let them know, as quite a few of the tables were tightly packed.
  • The staff aren’t quite on the ball with either geography or what to say to customers. After the server advising all the baked goods are made very locally, we inquired as to where and I was told it was, again, very local to serve all the local Carluccios. On mentioning that there wasn’t in fact another branch for a considerable distance, we were advised the baked goods came from a unit in Liverpool to serve Aberdeen (Local?), Liverpool (Local?) and Manchester (Local?).



Our bill :
Olives – £2.65

Bread Tin – £3.65
2 Menu Fisso – £19.90
Sparkling Water – £2.35
Still Water – £2.35
Coffee – £2.10
Total – £33.00

Would I return? Yes. But not for a little while, to let them get in to the full swing of things. I will visit the deli counter again though! The bread, cheese and olives looked amazing! Mm!
Have you been to a Carluccio’s before? What do you think?


Twitter | Facebook | GFC | Hellocotton | Bloglovin | Bloggers

Eat in or eat out?

Eat in or eat out?

Hello Lovelies,

Eat in or eat out? 

More couples now fine dining at home 

Fine dining at home has been on the rise for the last four to five years. In fact, it can be linked really to the economic problems we have all been facing. With job security a worry and the ever increasing prices of food, utilities, insurance and just living in general means people have not had the same amount of free cash in their pockets each month.

The future of restaurants
Restaurants offering good value or ones that are seen as destination restaurants are still doing well but there has undeniably been a massive rise in the number of people simply diverting their cash from eating out to eating at home, having great food and drinking fine wine thanks to the fact is costs a third of what you would pay in a restaurant.

Supermarkets are cashing in on the trend

All the evidence is there. The premium supermarkets have been offering the dine in for £10 offers, giving couples access to good quality, easy to cook meals with wine and dessert for less than the cost of one starter at many restaurants. Many supermarkets have also been seeing a rise in the sales of other fine dining classics – scallops, panna cotta, casserole beef, whole ducks – all the food normally associated with wanting to create a premium eating experience. And with that comes the desire to ‘sit up’ and not eat off a tray in front of the TV. Couples have been searching out for a new range of cutlery sets here in the sales in order to create a fine dining experience – but just one at home rather than in a restaurant.
Supermarkets have also been reporting a further shift in some consumer buying patterns with some people trading up to more premium cuts of meat or products now that they are staying in. Higher quality wines such as Chateaunuef-du-Pape and Chablis are seeing huge increases and these are not the types of wine that you quaff on a Wednesday night but normally associated with food.

For anyone with a knowledge or interest in the food industry, you’ll know that restaurants of course charge a high premium for their food and with a little practice you can replicate your favourite recipes at home for a fraction of the cost. So you can in theory ‘eat out’ at home a lot more often, which when everyone is skint, it’s a great weekly treat!

It is not only the big chain supermarkets that seem to be winning with the increased business. Smaller, independent stores are also reporting an increase in sales. With cheese, charcutierie and olives high on the list of most often bought products we may be witnessing a fine dining revolution at home but it is still a relaxed, less formal affair.

The food and wine may well be premium in quality but the atmosphere being created is far more relaxed than the dinner parties of yesteryear. The two of you are as likely to eat up at the kitchen island (though it is probably made of solid walnut or beautiful granite) than to tuck in at a dining table these days. A sharing dish such as a fantastic whole baked Vacherin cheese into which you can dive with sour dough sticks or warm new potatoes is more likely to be your starter. Relaxed, informal and comfortable are the buzzwords of dining at home. After a hard and most probably very long day at work coupled with the ubiquitous commute home many couples just want to relax and eat some decent food together.

As I was a chef while studying, I have a true love for food, as you can probably tell from my waist line eh! I take great pleasure in serving restaurant quality food in my own home, whether it is a snack platter for lunch, a family meal or Come Dine With Me style dinner with friends. I find the key to giving your food a restaurant, luxe feel is with the right crockery. Trust me, you can eat beans on toast or a take away from really nice plates and it increases your enjoyment. The same way a gourmet feast served on paper plates would kill the vibe!

John Lewis have a great selection of kitchenware and it’s quite often the first place I look if I am after an interesting dinner service, quality cutlery or an unusual serving platter. With a great range of prices, and celebrity design ranges such as Jamie Oliver, Cath Kidston and Emma Bridgewater, you are spoiled for choice.

Here are a few of my favourites from the current selection on offer at John Lewis

JamieOliver Dips + Bits – Great for decanting store bought or home made dips or serving olives and small nibbles
JamieOliver Big Dog Bowl – I love the name of this one, great for putting in the middle of the table for a help yourself casual meal or just a big bowl of popcorn in front of the TV having a budget cinema night!

RobertWelch Cutlery set – I personally have a set of ‘every day’ cutlery that gets slung in the dishwasher without a second thought, then for special occasions, I was gifted a very high quality cutlery canteen which again, I feel if you can stretch your budget to it, really makes the difference when enjoying a posh meal in the house! A good cutlery canteen will last for most of your life time so consider it an investment, like a good set of pans!


Do you prefer dining in now or are you still a fan of eating out? Let me know!

Twitter | Facebook | GFC | Hellocotton | Bloglovin | Bloggers


A Spotlight on…… Daniella from Madame Gourmand

A Spotlight on…… Daniella from Madame Gourmand

Hello Lovelies, 

It’s Friday and that means one this… it’s this weeks Spotlight feature!

Today I would like to introduce you to a fantastic blogger who crops up every now and then on my site. The ever rocking Daniella from Madame Gourmand

Madame Gourmand aka Daniella not only runs her mouth wateringly informative and tantalising food blog –, she also has a lifestyle blog, Madame G’s lifestyle over at her .com address too as well as making awesome kitsch jewellery (more about that to come soon!), a mother AND a full time student!! 

Not only is she a kick ass blogger, Daniella has become a very dear friend inside and outside of blogging as we are always on the same wave length, have pretty similar style and when sharing an afternoon tea.. she eats the sandwiches I don’t like!! Chances are, if you find me wandering round Newcastle or at a press event, I’m usually there with Daniella. A blogging partnership in crime!

Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Madame Gourmand….

Q : Tell us a little bit about your blog(s) and why you started it /them 

I write two blogs my first is Madame G’s Lifestyle which is a mix of beauty, fashion and general life, I’ve written many similar blogs over the years but got bored of them in the past, I now treat the blog in the same way I would treat a friend which may sound strange to some people but it means I am free to discuss all issues with honesty. My second blog is Madame Gourmand which is all about my own personal food journey, I post reviews, recipes and general food and drink chit chat.

Q : What is your favourite part of blogging?

I don’t have any one favourite part of blogging, I’ve met some great people who I would never had met without my blog. I never used to read blogs before I started to write my own and I find that not only does it cause me to spend more money on products but it actually saves me money on items that I would have previously bought but now don’t if many of the blog reviews are bad.

Q : What is your least favourite part? 

My timekeeping has probably got to be my least favourite part of blogging, I start off with good intentions and life often gets in the way meaning that although I have lots of things to blog about I don’t actually have the time to write about them. My readers have been very understanding thankfully.

Q : If you could go back to the time you started your blog, what would you do differently?

If I could go back in time I would probably have kept my original blogs and learnt from them rather than starting a fresh one each time over the years.

Q : What advice could you give to new bloggers just starting their blogging adventure?

Read other blogs, engage with other bloggers, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Use social media, it’s a fantastic tool. Try and find a niche, a lot of blogging sectors are oversubscribed and it’s very difficult to find new readership in these sectors.

Q : What’s your shopping style – Budgeted, splurge or frugal? Do you ever shop solely with your blog in mind?
I was a high end splurge spender with a bit of high street splurging thrown in for good measure. Now that I’m a full time student I don’t have as much expendable cash to throw around so with the help from some friends I’m changing my spending habits and budgeting more. I never shop for my blog, I shop for myself, if it fits in with my blog that’s great.

Q : What are your favourite brands and why?

My favourite brands are Makeup: Chanel (I love the packaging and product quality) MAC (The colours are fantastic and it’s cheap) Illamasqua (The colours and packaging draw me in, I can’t go past the beauty stand without making a purchase) Clothing: All Saints (I love the graphic tops and scarves) Urban Outfitters (Great for cheap staples) Topshop (Great for cheap Tops, scarves, shoes and underwear)

Q : Do you take inspiration from the media or do you go it alone and rock your own style?

I prefer to dress in my own style, I take inspiration from people rather than magazines. I still love the rock chick look with skinny jeans and graphic tops for daytime and like to take a Hollywood glamour approach with classic or vintage style dresses for an evening.

Q : What would you say your ‘signature look’ is, whether that’s make up or fashion?

I don’t think I have a signature look (I’m sure my friends will disagree) **I disagree with this – Katie ** in my make up or fashion style, I change my look to suit my surroundings.

Right… now on to the more interesting questions – The personal ones. These are the ones I always wonder about bloggers!

Q : How old are you?

I’m 32 so compared to some bloggers I’m really old!

Q : What do you do? Student? Work? Profession?

I’m a full time student and mother which is a job in itself!

Q : What do you like to do when you aren’t blogging?

When I’m not blogging I like to cook, socialise with friends, read books, watch films, go shopping and my guilty pleasure is playing computer games.

Q : What kind of music do you like?

I have a very eclectic taste in music I like everything from Swing to Thrash Metal, if someone found my ipod they would probably be quite shocked at some of the bands I listen to.

Q : Happy to be seen bare faced or do you always wear make up?
I always wear makeup even to bed thanks to the Bare Minerals night treatment powder.

Q : What do you love most about beauty and fashion?

I love how diverse the beauty and fashion world is, blogging has alerted me to so many amazing brands that I would never have heard of before starting my blog.

Q : What do you hate most about beauty and fashion?

My greatest hate is the sizing of fashion garments, I yo-yo between a size 12-14 and 18 meaning at my heaviest I can’t buy items from my favourite shops because they don’t make my size, sometimes when I’m a size 14 I need to buy a 16-18 in some stores due to the bad sizing, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. My greatest beauty hate is the fact a number of brands don’t let you try before you buy, I have eczema and sensitive skin and I don’t like paying £25+ for a product that may not work on my skin, having a product tried on my skin at a counter is not enough as it often takes a couple of days for my skin to react.

And finally… the biggy…..
Q : If you had to invest in 1 designer piece… money no object…. would it be a pair of shoes, a handbag or a dress? I want to see pictures!!!

Alexander Mcqueen is my favourite designer and although I own a number of pieces I really need the Serpent Skull Karung Knuckle box clutch which costs a whopping £1150 

So, this week you all met Madame G, my hard rocking amigo, so please go follow both of her blogs!!

As ever, if you would like to take part, please feel free to get in touch with me via the Contact tab at the top of the page.


Twitter | Facebook | GFC | Hellocotton | Bloglovin | Bloggers

Syn Free Salt & Vinegar Crisps

Syn Free Salt & Vinegar Crisps

Hello my slimming world lovelies,

Is it just me or are you all looking super slender today? *wolf whistles*

Not being satisfied with my existing twists on the ‘Dorito’ crisps I made HERE, I have been experimenting with cooking times, shapes, flavours the lot.

I have made a discovery and I wanted to share it all with you!

Now this does come with a warning so please take heed.

Salt & Vinegar Crisps

Make up a batch of plain crisps following this recipe. Bake for 11 minutes without adding any salt or flavours. Just Fry Light

Once the crisps have cooled, sprinkle lightly with J&D’s Malt Salt which is an amazing Salt & Vinegar flavoured seasoning.

It is absolutely AMAZING. Like seriously! As a crisp fiend these have to be the best crisps I have made to date!

Now for the warning….

Each full tub of Malt Salt is 6.5syns for 85g. I average about 0.5g per generous serving of crisps which works out to be something like 0.03syns. Not even anywhere near a full syn right!

So, it is up to you how you count this. You can count it as syn free flavouring or 0.5 syn per portion but either way… 0.5g covers a lot of free crisps so it works out pretty damn good whichever way you look at it. 0.5g worked out to be a good few shakes


Syn Free Chilli con Carne

Hello lovelies,

Mr Tramp is a huge fan on Chilli and usually, for convenience, we admittedly used to use a Schwarz hot chilli sachet mix.

Below is a recipe for a syn free chilli, from scratch and it tastes ten times nicer than the packet.

Serves 2 with rice and ‘doritos’ – recipe found HERE

As always, you can adapt the chillies to your own taste. If you want to bulk out the chilli, a really really tasty addition is a tin of baked beans. They are syn free and very filling. You can compensate for this buy adding slightly less Passata or just the same amount… as always – It’s up to you!

250g Turkey Mince ( or lean beef /quorn/pork)
1 large onion
Mushrooms (add as many as you like)
1 tin of Kidney Beans
500g Passata
2 cloves of garlic
2 hot chillies
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp paprika
1tsp chilli powder (optional)
1/2 pint stock – I use beef or chicken but vegetable works just as well
2tbsp tomato puree
Fry Light
Salt & Pepper to taste

To serve, Crème Fraiche, Coriander leaves & rice


Using Fry Light, fry a diced onion until just turning translucent. Add the finely chopped chillies and fry with the crushed garlic

Add the mince and fry ’til turning golden brown

Add all the spices and warm through but don’t let them stick or “catch” or they will burn and taste bitter

Add the stock in one go and reduce by half. Once reduced, add the tomatoe puree and stir well

Add sliced mushrooms, drained kidney beans and the passata. Season to taste.

Bring to the boil and then simmer slowly until the kidney beans are soft. Around 15 minutes or so

Serve on top of a pile of rice with a dollop of Crème Fraiche on top, it acts the same as having a dollop of Sour Cream. Garnish with coriander leaves and away you go!