Longhorns @ Jesmond

Since opening its doors last year, Longhorns Barbacue Smokehouse has become a favourite among Newcastles foodies. Offering up a wide selection of meats, Longhorns prides itself in its Texas roots and British-only beef.

It was only a matter of time before they branched out, and it couldn’t come quick enough. Diners were dying to break out of the teeny-tiny restaurant space and be able to enjoy good ol’ Texan grub without having a queue of people staring at them or being elbowed in the face on the way to the bar. Where better to open a new premises than the thriving city of Jesmond, home to the copious students and ‘trendy’ Newcastle folk.

Tucked away on Mosely street, you have to be careful not to miss it. Look out for the sign and follow the arrows, until you turn a corner and find that your eyeballs are suddenly assaulted by a bright red sign with horns:

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Something I was relieved to see when enterting Longhorns was the size of the new restraunt. Compared to there Newcastle sister, this place has to be double the size, with more seating, and the bar separate from the kitchen – I can’t even imagine how annoying and sweaty that must be for the staff! This meant that we miraculously got a table on a busy Wednesday night (payday, the footy was on AND it was student night. It was literally a miracle).

The main difference in their Jesmond branch has to be the order of service. Over in Newcastle, you’d have (probably) queud for a good half hour, been seated, browsed the menu, THEN had to get back up to order your drinks from the bar-kitchen, THEN back up to order once you’d decided on your food.

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Love a good jar.

Like Newcastle, you can see the effort that’s went in to the overall ambiance of the place. With their wooden tables, Texan themed décor and a drinks menu that accentuates their roots, it’s clear that everything here has been chosen for purpose.

Service was exceptionally slow, and by the time we were served our meals they could have rode in on a live cow and I’d have chowed down. It was understandable though, since as I’ve mentioned, it was a busy night. Let me tell you though, I felt FULLY prepared to take on the board.

One of the main perks of reviewing a restaurant is that you get to be a bit of a greedy cow, and mask it under the excuse of ‘wanting to sample it properly’. Baring this in mind, I ordered the Taster Platter: A BBQ Board stacked high with their signature ‘badass brisket’, an andouille sausage, SIX chicken wings, Memphis hog butt, seasoned fries, and their BBQ beans served in an enamel mug. And that wasn’t even one of the challenges (we’ll come back to those)!

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Holy crap!

As you can imagine, I didn’t know where to start. The fries were seasoned beautifully, but I always have to remind myself not to fill up on chips when there’s so much more to offer. Out of all the meats though, I’d say that the Andouille sausage was my personal favourite. Packed with flavour – and the skin was left on, bonus! Newcastles resteraunt presents their brisket in a pulled form, whereas Jesmond preffered to leave it in chunks. Regardless, as soon as you put fork to meat it absolutely fell apart and was true beefy goodness. I’d say the chicken wings were just above average, you can’t really go wrong with wings as long as there’s plenty of meat on them (there was) and they’re heartily seasoned (they were). It was my first time trying the hog butt, and although I couldn’t get out of my head that I was literally eating a pigs arse, I couldn’t deny that it was completely mouthwatering and flavourful. Plus, I found out later that it comes from the back of their neck. There are two types of beans on offer, the three-bean chilli and the milder BBQ beans. I went for the BBQ, and although the sauce was very tasty, I’d say that this was my least favourite item on the board, coming with a weird tangy taste.

Longhorns offers two sets of challenges: The TexAss Torture Challenge and the Breaking Badass. As it goes, I’m not sure how successful a title containing the words ‘ass’ and ‘torture’ could be for making someone want to eat. Apparently the challenge lives up to its name though, where the brave/foolish person must consume 12 wings smothered in Longhorns signature hotsauce in 30 minutes or under.
The Breaking Badass is different: with one hour to complete, a BBQ board is piled with EVERYTHING off the menu and lots of it. Complete either of these challenges in the allotted time and you’re face goes up on their ‘wall of fame’ and you get a T-shirt. Worth the hours spent crouched over the bog as hellfire spits out of you? Debatable, it’s a really sweet looking T-shirt.

After my Fat Hippo escapades, you’ll already know that I love to talk a big foodie-game, but when it comes to putting it away I’m WEAK and can barely manage an average portion. In my defence, this was no average portion, so I only felt, like, 7% stupid for asking staff to put my leftovers in a doggybag.

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I mean sure, the sign creeped me out to no end, but I imagine this would be a great spot to enjoy a late lunch with friends on a nice day.

This is my pet peeve with a lot of restaurants these days. Why is it when you take home your extras, they automatically throw your chips away? YOU DON’T KNOW ME, OKAY? You have no idea if I like day-old soggy chips. I do, as a matter of fact, and the next day while I tucked in at my desk, I was vastly disappointed. Hurt, actually, is a better descriptor. You hurt me, Longhorns.

Overall, it’s a big-fat-juicy-yes-dipped-in-BBQ-sauce from me. Always a fan of the Newcastle branch, I love that they’ve got rid of the annoying niggles like space issues and queing to order with the Jesmond site. I expect it won’t be long until there’s a Longhorns in every town, and that’ll be just fine by me.

Have you been to the new Longhorns yet? Let me know what you thought in the comments below, or on Twitter at @dimmickhead!

REVIEW: Kaspas Newcastle

I am absolutely a desserts person. It’s difficult to find somewhere in Newcastle that veers away from the typical sticky toffee pud or apple crumble, so when I heard that Kaspas was opening a store in my home town, I could already feel the sugar rush.

Situated on Clayton Street, directly across from the O2 Academy, Kaspas seems to already be a popular haunt for its Geordie residents. Arriving at around 4pm, it was full to capacity. This WAS due to the fact that almost all of the tables are booths though, which makes for awkward limited seating. The wait wasn’t long too long, and we got to peruse the extensive menu while we waited.

By the time we were seated, we were practically drooling with excitement, made worse by every desert coming out of the kitchen looking so delicious. Directly facing the door was an extensive array of ice creams and gelatos (the bubblegum looked especially good), which you could mix and match.

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Credit: Kaspas.co.uk

Never one to pass up a banoffee-anything, I decided to go for one of their famous bannoffee and Nutella waffles with a side of vanilla ice-cream.

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Banoffee & Nutella american waffle with vanilla ice-cream, £5.50

You can see for yourself that the presentation was near flawless, and the smell coming from it was too much that I almost tucked right in without getting a picture.

I can only assume that the ice cream was Mr Whippy, which was fine by me. The waffle really was something else; smothered in a gorgeous toffee sauce, it had the was the perfect balance of not too cakey, yet not too crispy. I was also surprised at the sheer size of it, especially for only £5.50!

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Take a look at the rest of our orders:

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Make Your Own: Waffle with chocolate M&MS and Nutella, with an M&M base and ice-cream (6.50)

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Cappuccino and Oreo ice-cream, bubblegum gelato with a chocolate sauce and sprinkles (weird combo, but whatever floats your boat)

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The M&M peanut american waffle with an M&M base + whipped cream, £6.50

The only thing that didn’t settle well with me was the overall ambiance of the place. Being a quirky desserts place, I’d imagined either an all-American theme or bright colours and comfy chairs. Instead the whole place was decorated in a garish hot-pink and black, with hard booths. Booming out of the speakers from the moment we walked in were various RnB tracks, which hardly puts you in mind of a sweet dessert place.

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Still, I really cant recommend this place enough. It’s the ideal stop for something different and sweet. Never suffer through mediocre sticky toffee pud again.

Have you been to Kaspas yet? Let me know what you thought in the comments below, or on Twitter at @dimmickhead!

NCL Restaurant Week: Miller & Carter

Oh Restaurant Week, how I do love thee.

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, the 3rd to the 9th of August means only one thing to the Toon’s dwellers: amazing scran at a fraction of its normal price!
Hosted by NE1, Restaurant Week is when over 70 eateries in the Newcastle area offer a deal for £10-£15 per person. There’s always so much variety on the types of food, so it’s really something everyone can enjoy.

I’ve been in Paris since the start of the week (blog post coming soon!) so I feared that I’d have to miss out this year. However, it involved food so I insisted that the other half and I drag our groggy, jet lagged bums out of bed and hit the Town.

Because I’m a creature of habit, and since leaving my student status behind it’ll be a long time since I can afford a good steak dinner again, I opted for the second time in a row to visit Miller & Carter, a steakhouse with a true upper-class feel.

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(Miller & Carter Steakhouse, Newcastle. Photo credit: PubExplorer)

Based in the heart of Newcastle’s city center, M&C was offering two courses for £15. To get the full experience, we decided to cheat the system a bit and shared a starter and desert.

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(Chargrilled chicken wings in a smoked chipotle and honey sauce. Usual price: £5.50)

Although the glaze was to die for, with the sweet honey working so well with the smokey chipotle, I’d be the first to say that over a fiver is a bit pricey for the sake of three chicken wings that didn’t have too much meat on them to begin with. They were accompanied by a blue cheese dip, which was really delicious.

NOTE: Last year we shared some nachos, and I’d definitely recommend them. Fully loaded, fully delicious. 

Looking through other reviews on Trip Advisor and their personal Facebook page, I wasn’t surprised to read about slow service and rude staff. Believe me, I know waiting tables is a hard job and I totally feel you, but when you’re paying for a pretty pricey meal in what I’d describe as a classy restaurant, it’s not too much to expect service with a smile or not to have to wait almost 45 minutes for a starter. We’re talking mid-day too, so it really wasn’t busy.

The whole point of my return though, was because you genuinely can’t beat a M&C steak. Like literally, the staff could smack me over the face with a cow’s leg and I’d probably not even notice if I’d had one of those babies in front of me.

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(Rump 8oz steak. Usual price: £13.95)

The steak comes with a parsley butter that melts and drips throughout the meat, giving it that extra bit of flavor that you didn’t even know you were looking for. For £13.95, you really can’t complain about value for money on this one, as it comes with a side of seasoned fries, a side salad, a steak sauce of your choice, a gorgeously crispy onion loaf and, erm, half a lettuce round (but we’ll get to that).

Everything is totally packed with flavor, and it’s one of those meals that, even though you’re busting at the seams, you can’t bear to stop eating. I’d have asked for a doggy bag, but my boyfriend wouldn’t let me it’s not that type of place.

But, M&C, can we talk about the lettuce? What’s the deal?
Their steak dishes are all accompanied by a ‘lettuce wedge’, which is basically half a round of iceberg lettuce for which you can choose a topping for (I went for garlic mayo and parmesan). Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to have it there, but I guess I don’t really ‘get’ it. I wouldn’t like to imagine how much lettuce this wastes, as nobody likes those big white bits, do they?.
Anyway, maybe it’s all part of the art of steak and I’m just a clueless culture-tramp.

The decor goes for understated elegance, which puts you at ease in the big space. I was also extremely fond of the hilarious cartoons on the stairway to the bathroom, which I won’t post because it’d spoil the beef-bantz.

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To finish, we shared some classic sticky toffee pud with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
11824039_10206736058615694_329771169_n(Sticky Toffee Pudding. Usual price: Not on menu. What’s that about?)

Although I don’t think you can particularly naff up STP, I loved their elegant take on the desert. Expertly laid out, the pud was just hot enough to go perfectly with the ice cream, which tasted very clotted (no ASDA brand here, ta’ very much), and the whole thing was drizzled with a toffee sauce.

Some items were a bit on the pricey side, but it’s not like you’d opt for a steakhouse when you’re on a budget.
Although we waited around an hour and a half for the meal to come full circle and the service was tepid at best, I can confidently say that their food was top notch, and I’ll be back come next Restaurant Week.

But not before, cuz’ I’m not made of money. 

[REVIEW] : Fat Hippo

I’ve been wanting to visit Fat Hippo (Jesmond) for literally two years now, but there’s always been an obstacle. Most of the time, this obstacle is the well known first-world relationship problem that two grown adults can’t agree calmly and rationally where to eat on any given day.

This Sunday though, the God’s were smiling down on me, and we were both in the mood for some high-cholesterol burger havin’.

We started off with sharing Nachos. Now, I believe that Nachos can go either way, they either improve your quality of life by 30% or they ruin your day – there is no in between.

[CHILLI CHEESE NACHOS, £8]
Luckily, this was the first. Look at those nachos.  Look at them. I mean for God’s sake, those nachos are as loaded as a gun (which is loaded). These people don’t care that this is a starter portion, because these people want you to be happy. They even included chilli, which just proves hands-down that these are some kind of world class nachos.

Fat Hippo’s menu isn’t particularly full, especially the starters, but I’d say that there’s something for everyone here.

Now onto the real reason you came here:

[FAT HIPPO BURGER W/ TRIPLE FRIED HANDCUTS] This burger. Let me lay some truth on you about this burger.

THIS BURGER had two beef patty’s, smothered in two different cheeses (unspecified, but delish), a slice of chorizo and streaky bacon, topped with two onion rings as big as my fist and as wide as a Sophie Kinsella novel.

Also take note of those two gorgeous, ripe gherkins on the side. Quality. Seriously.

Now, I’m a real Geordie gal with a real Geordie gob, but even I couldn’t get my mouth around that burger. Wouldn’t you agree that that’s what makes a real burger? It should be something you can see as a challenge – The Fat Hippo burger was my Everest.

So did I conquer my Everest? Did I throw caution to the wind, and get down to this carbo-load an aggressive manner?

Well, I tried. I truly did,  but I was not woman enough. I let our side down. I didn’t even get through half of my burger before I was seriously considering giving up.

Alas, food this good should never go to waste, so you better believe I got that baby ‘to go’ and polished it off a few hours later, lying on the sofa and watching The Office. Remember, it was the tortoise that won the race, after all.

If you held a gun to my head and demanded a complaint, I guess I’d say that there was a lot of grease involved. To he point where it was running down my fingers, and my takeout box had a good 3mm of liquid in the bottom by the time I got to it. However, you do not go to Fat Hippo for low-fat scran. If you want healthy, go to… Erm… Wow, I genuinely cannot name a healthy restaurant. Nudo? Sushi’s healthy, right? It’s just rice and fish. Whatever, I love meat and cheese. Deal with it.

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Update: it’s been ten hours and I’m still so full. I have a theory that you could lose weight from eating Fat Hippo everyday, because that’s just one meal. One meal a day, no hunger pangs? Up yours, Weight Watchers.

#THINGSTODO: Alnwick Gardens + Castle

It was such a beautiful day yesterday, so instead of the BF and I honoring our favorite past-time of slothing about on the sofa and having a Netflix binge, we decided to get up and at’em.

ALNWICK GARDENS
I’d never been to Alnwick before, so we settled on taking a trip to the famous gardens and castle (some of Harry Potter was filmed there, FYI).

As soon as I walked through the gates I was absolutely in awe: I’m not one to care too much about the history of a place, but I DO like to look.

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The whole place looked like it was plucked out of a fairy-tale. Coincidentally, the latest exhibition was ‘A Garden Of Fairy-tales, and the whole theme was based around Sleeping Beauty and the dastardly Wicked Queen. It’s up to YOU to stop her! Ok, so technically, it’s up to people under the age of seven to stop her. My boyfriend and I are both over 20, and you better believe we still joined in.

Hidden throughout the gardens were pieces from different fairy tales; from Cinderellas glass slipper perched on a pumpkin to Belle’s enchanted rose. Maybe we lacked the childhood wonder, or eyes just aren’t as sharp as they used to be, but we found a grand total of three:

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It’s such a huge place, with so much to see and do. On top of the Fairy tale event, we got to see The Poison Gardens – yes, it’s just as scary as it sounds. Encased behind protective barriers are some of the most deadly plants known to man. From berry’s that will kill you within hours, to class B drugs, you’ll find yourself questioning anything you’ve got in your back garden.

ALNWICK CASTLE
Once we’d had our fill of the gardens, we took a short walk across to Alnwick castle. Personally, I wasn’t too bothered about visiting, but since we had time to waste we dragged ourselves along. I’d happily go back and slap my past-self in the face with a handful of berry’s from The Poison Garden, because it was the highlight of the trip.

For me, the main attraction was that my bae Daniel Radcliffe had, at one point or another, breathed in the air around me. Sorrynotsorry, he’s hot. Walking through the arches though, I was really caught off-guard by the hugeness or the place, and it was really stunning. Walking through the courtyard we noticed people (young and old) were messing around with broomsticks. I was with my people.

Being responsible adults that genuinely care about our self-respect and image, we ran straight for the brooms to take some staged pics. Readers, what I’m about to show you is strictly between you and me. If you ever tell ANYONE about the faces that I’m making in these photos, I won’t be your friend anymore. Do you want to risk that?
Empty warning out of the way, please enjoy our flying adventures:

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Next up was the Dragons Quest. Again, this is specifically set up for children and, again, does this face look bothered?

I’d just like to point out, whoever’s idea this whole thing was is sick in the head. This is for KIDS? I nearly peed myself and I’m a fully-formed adult.

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No trip is complete without a sugar-rush, so on our way out we stopped for ice-cream. Banoffee and honeycomb, thanks very much.

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All in all, it was such a fantastic day, surrounded by beautiful sights and great company.

If you want to learn more about Alnwick Gardens, click here. To go straight to booking, click here.

EXTRAS:

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Taking a detour to the most beautiful and intricate second hand bookshop, Barter Books, I picked up the second volume of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

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I LOVE this place: it’s all old books and filter coffee, with a cute little train doing its rounds on the ceiling. If you’re in the area with some time to spare, I’d definitely reccomend giving it a visit. It’s a five minute walk from the castles exit.

A Granny Trapped In A Teens Body: Why Town Is The Worst

‘Let’s go clubbing this weekend’

Dum dum DUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. This is the one phrase I dread hearing. I absoloutley, positively HATE clubbing.

This is actually a major problem. While my main ladies are having the time of their lives in dirtypop or floobity bop over in Town, I find myself waving them off at the pub, and heading home for a cup of tea and a catch up with my gossip girl box set.

I went to Liverpool for my mums hen weekend a few months back and caught a taxi home at about 12am. I got back to the hotel, seeked out my doritos from the suitcase and spent the rest of the night tucked up in the Premier Inn with my kindle. My 45 year old mother, however, came home at 4am. What’s wrong with me?

Well I’m here to turn you all to the dark side. The very comfy dark side.

Reasons to hate clubbing:

1) The seedy men that thinks ‘no’ means ‘yes, i’m dying for you to rub yourself against my bottom’.

This is my main erk. I’m not the best looking lass you’ll see in town, and in a way this is proved by the copious amount of old men/fraggle-rock-looking-beings that end up buzzing around me like flies around poo. I was in a club once and a man actually tried to get himself off using my backside. He ended up with a drink in his face. Actually, there’s been more than one occasion where a poor man who wanted some midnight luvin’ ended up covered in archers and lemonade when he got a bit too handsy. Not my problem, I don’t know you, don’t touch me.

2) It’s frikin’ freezing.

I live in Newcastle, known notoriously for its cold days and colder nights. God forbid I want to go braless because it will result in innocent bystanders getting their eyes poked out with my massive nipple on.

3) Having to bother with how you look

Urgh. Effort. Urgh.

4) Teeny, tiny bags.

How am I supposed to fit the necessities  for clubbing into a clutch bag I ask you? I need, at the very least, eyeliner, perfume, flat shoes, deodrent, ciggarettes, money, lighter(s), plasters and maybe a hip flask if I’m feeling particularly stingey. Which, lets face it, I usually am.

5) Heels

I didn’t inherit the gene the rest of the women in my family have where they can wear heels from morning to night without getting that ‘OH MY JESUS CHRIST MY FEET ARE GOING TO DROP OFF IS MY TOE BROKE SOMEONE PLEASE CARRY ME’ feeling.

6) *bump* sorry *bump* sorry *bump* f*ck it im going home.

How can you dance when you’re practically a sardine surrounded by other sardines in a club that is a tin for sardines?

So am I wasting my youth? Or am I just destined to live my life as a nanna in a teens body?

Either way, I’m not too worried. I don’t think I’m going to look back at my teenhood when I’m old and grey and think ‘DARN, really wish I’d spent more time wading around nightclub toilets in ankle-deep sewage and freezing my chebs off waiting two hours for a taxi home’.

 

Also, I thought you might enjoy this picture of me, the morning after I DO (occasionally) bite the bullet and hit the town:

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No wonder I always pull the ming-mongs.

 

 

My name is Lauren Dimmick, and I’m a nanna-holic.