Rowton Hall Hotel, Chester

Type:  Accommodation

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Date of visit: October 2013

Web link: http://www.rowtonhallhotel.co.uk/

 

Price (2/5)

We visited the hotel using a gift voucher.  The standard room rates at the time of our visit were £135 and this did not include breakfast.  Personally, I would not pay this full amount for a room at this hotel as I felt this was a little overpriced.

 

Facilities (4/5)

The hotel has a medium-size main car park with an additional overflow car park (however during the rainy season this may be difficult to access).  The outside of the hotel was quite impressive and in keeping with the surroundings.  The reception, dining hall and other rooms downstairs were well presented.  The hotel had spa facilities but we did not have an opportunity to use them as every time we visited the spa reception it was unmanned, so we could not make any bookings.  This happened throughout our two-day stay.  There was also a bar with a comfortable seating area and a good sized dining room (where breakfast was also served).

The room that we were allocated fell short of the high expectations the main building had set for us.  The room itself was of an adequate size and comprised of a double bed, storage units, desk and a table, a side table with comfy chairs, small TV and an en-suite bathroom.  Whilst the room itself was tidy there were some areas that had been missed by the cleaning team – including a cob web right next to the tea and coffee tray and a few other insects that introduced themselves during our stay.

The bed itself was very comfortable and had an array of pillows!  I was impressed with the biscuits that were provided on the tea and coffee tray and also that there was enough milk and coffee/tea bags for more than a couple of drinks each.  These were replenished each day (including the biscuits!).

The bathroom was a good size with a shower/bath, toilet, storage, sink and heated hand towel rail.  The shower was quite powerful – which was definitely a plus.  Interestingly, the bathroom had a TV encased in a unit, I assume for those who like to watch TV whilst having a bath.

 

Location (3/5)

The hotel is in Rowton, Chester and is located on Whitchurch Road.  It is accessible by car (and helicopter!).  The main rail station is around 3 miles from the hotel.  The hotel is located off the main road which makes it quite and relaxing, however, it also makes it unsafe to walk back to the hotel in the dark after a stroll, as it is along a country lane.

 

Food/Drink (4/5)

We had dinner at the hotel on our first night and breakfast both mornings of our stay.  There was a set menu for the dinner and whilst it was a little more expensive that we would like to normally pay the food itself was delicious.  We had a steak and a pan-fried chicken dish for the main followed by stick toffee pudding.  Both courses were served quickly, the food was filling and of a high quality.  The breakfast was also served from a menu but you could choose your items, however, I am a fan of beans with a full English and these were not offered at this hotel.

 

Service (4/5)

The staff we encountered were friendly, professional and welcoming.  The waiters for the evening meal were well-presented and professional in their service.

 

Summary

I would recommend a visit to the hotel to use the facilities, such as the spa or to dine, but not their accommodation.  I felt the room was not large or clean enough to warrant the price it was set at.

Spice House, Leeds

Type: Food/Drink

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Date of visit:  July 2013

Web link:  N/A

 

Price (4/5)

The prices at Spice House were comparative to other curry houses within Leeds.  They had an offer on a Thursday night for £9.99 which was quite tempting.

Facilities (3/5)

The restaurant can hold around 50 guests at variously sized tables, which were well-spaced.  I much prefer the layout when there is generous spacing between the tables as I do not always wish to hear the conversations taking place between other guests.  The décor was average, it was neither enticing nor was it in need of an emergency make over.  The facilities were clean and the aroma – as I find with many restaurants that specialise in serving curry – was mouth-watering.   There appeared to be no separate bar.

Location (3/5)

The restaurant was located in the Halton stretch of Selby Road, Leeds and was easy to spot from the main road.  The decorations outside the place were not the most attractive as it did appear to look like a takeaway at first glance and not a restaurant.   There was no car parking but the restaurant was accessible by several bus routes.

Food/Drink (3/5)

There menu offered all traditional curries as well as a few dishes that I had not come across at other restaurants.  The Chicken Pakora starter was different to versions of the dish that we had eaten at other places – the chicken pieces were covered in what tasted like a bread-crumb style coating and that did affect the taste for me.  They were served with a good portion of salad, however, it was mainly made up of lettuce and not much more.

The mains were a good size and were very hot, however, they were both full of onions.  One of the dishes we ordered was a traditional korma and this is the first time I have seen it being cooked and served with onions.  This was a little off putting as not everyone likes onions and a portion of time was spent sifting through this dish to remove the onions.  The dish itself – onions aside for one of the party – was nice and very filling.

Service (4/5)

We were encouraged to book our table in advance but I do not think you would need to as it was quiet when we arrived.  If you have a large party you may wish to book to avoid disappointment but I think you could get a table if a small party turned up without booking.

We were shown to our table immediately upon our arrival and the wait between courses was very short.  The staff in the restaurant were courteous, kind and helpful.

Summary

I have my favourite places to go for a curry and I whilst this restaurant has not quite made it onto this list I would visit again and try different dishes to see how their various curries are cooked and served.

TRESemme Platinum Strength Range

product-largeAs a BzzAgent I am completing a trial of the concentrated rinse out treatment which is part of the TRESemme Platinum Strength range. I am going to see if this product, over the course of a few weeks, help restore strength to my hair which can feel like it needs a bit of support after being subjected to the hair dryer and straighteners on a regular basis (not to mention the products I use in my hair to tame it). I will update this blog page at the end of the course of treatment with my comments and recommended whether I would use the product again.  If you have already used some of the Platinum Strength range I would welcome your feedback!

You can find out further information on this product at their website: http://www.tresemme.co.uk/Products/Platinum-Strength.

Thoughts Before Using the Product

As my hair is thick, curly, frizzy and often unruly I regularly have to use products and the hair dryer/straighteners to make it acceptable to bring out into the public, in my opinion.  I am hoping that this product will help restore the life back into my hair and make it feel healthier.  The course of treatment will last a few weeks and I will report back on how it goes.

 

The Skyliner Restaurant, Leeds

skyliner_mainlogoType: Food & Drink

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: March 2013

Web link: http://www.theskyliner.co.uk/

Price (4/5)

The Skyliner had several options available which included several special offers at certain times of the day. For example, we took advantage of the Early Bird which was available on Thursdays and Fridays where your dish included a special fish, chips, bread and butter and a pot of tea for £9.50.  There were other offers, such as the Senior Citizens meal on a Monday and Tuesday lunchtime (£5.50) or the Sunday Evening Lite Bite (£7.95).  The prices were comparative to other fish and chips restaurants that we have visited.  There are occasional vouchers on the deal websites for Skyliner for those of you with an eagle eye.

Facilities (3/5)

The Skyliner is both a takeaway and a restaurant, which means that the restaurant area was slightly smaller than other restaurants but the atmosphere was friendly and had a close family-feel to it.  The tables are not too close together but at the same time there is not a large amount of room either.  I would suggest that the venue was more accommodating for intimate, smaller parties.

The walls are decorated with humorous and interesting signs and pictures that add to the calm and friendly atmosphere.

Location (3/5)

The restaurant was located on Austhorpe View in East Leeds, just off of the Ring Road Halton before the roundabout that leads onto Selby Road.  If you have not been there before you may actually drive past it and have to go round the roundabout again to get there as it is the last exit on the left before the main roundabout.  There was a small amount of car parking outside the restaurant but you may have to park in the nearby streets when it is busy.

Food/Drink (5/5)

The menu offered a fantastic range of food and drink with starters, salads, mains and a range of sides available.  We found it hard to choose!  All the mains were served with chips or salad depending on how healthy you are feeling.  There was also the 16oz jumbo haddock for £10.95 which looked enormous and I am not sure we would have been able to eat that in one sitting.

The portion sizes were very large and the fish was absolutely delicious.  The chips were tasty and the bread and butter was soft and yummy.  The food was filling and very satisfying and I could tell that the other diners in the restaurant agreed by their pleased expressions.  The Skyliner comes close to serving the best fish and chips I have had in Leeds – they have competition with Coe’s Fish & Chip shop (Cross Gates) and Nash’s Fish & Chip Restaurant (Leeds City Centre).

Service (4/5)

You cannot pre-book for The Skyline at the moment, which could be a slight problem if you go in the evening when they are busy as the restaurant area is not very large. We had to wait approximately 10-15 minutes to be seated on our last visit, however on a previous visit we were seated immediately. The meals themselves did not take long to arrive after ordering, which is fantastic. The staff were very friendly, though often busy.

Summary

For those of you living in East Leeds or the surrounding area I would highly recommend a visit to The Skyliner.  The high quality fish and chips will leave you feeling full and satisfied!

The Sound of Music, Leeds Grand Theatre

Type: Entertainment

Overall rating: 4/5leafletsm

Date of visit: March 2013

Web link:  https://www.leedsgrandtheatre.com/

Price (5/5)

The show was excellent value for money with tickets starting from £11.00 and various offers of two for one tickets for certain shows and seats.

Location/Venue (4.5/5)

(This section is taken from another recent review of a performance at the Grand.)

Leeds Grand Theatre is a magnificent venue and is perfect for large-scale productions, musicals and performances.  Built in the 19th century and designed by architect George Corson the interior design is breath-taking and extravagant.  On your way to seat your seat you feel the grandeur ooze from the building with its red carpets and wonderful decor.  The chandelier that hangs over the main hall needs a special mention as it is a beautiful masterpiece.

The Theatre is on New Briggate in Leeds City Centre and is easily accessible by public transport with it being a short walk away from both the bus and rail station.  There is no dedicated car parking but there are several pay-and-display and NPC options around if you choose to drive.

View/Seating (3/5)

Our seats were in the Upper Balcony and we had an excellent view of the stage.  We were able to see all the performance and could hear the live band who provided the fantastic music for the performance.  The seats were comfortable in general, but as the first act was quite long we welcomed the break to stretch our legs.  However, we did have some young children in the row behind us who became quite restless and started fidgeting towards the end of the performance, which unfortunately did distract us from the show as they decided to kick our seats a few times.

Performance (4/5)

The Leeds Amateur Operatic Society (LAOS) presented a delightful performance of the classic Sound of Music and featured several of the popular songs from the film.  They added a few new songs but I do not think they were necessary as the original songs were enough to keep us entertained.  The performance followed the original plot of the lives of Maria and the Von Trapp family.

There were several fantastic performances from members of the cast and in particular I was impressed by the actors who played the children in the Von Trapp family.

Set (5/5)

There were several set changes and the props used were suitable and provided support to the scenes being performed.  The costumes were excellent and the Von Trapp children looked fantastic in their matching outfits.

Summary

This was an excellent show which stuck to the main plot of the original film and allowed you to sing-a-long in your head to the tunes.  I would highly recommend the LAOS rendition of this film for those who have yet to see it.

Indigo Restaurant, Bury

logoType: Food & Drink

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: December 2012

Web link: http://www.indigobury.co.uk

Price (3/5)

The prices at the indian restaurant are on par with those of similar restaurants in the region.   Indigo has a 2-4-1 offer on a Monday as well as offering a take away service.   Visit their website (link provided above) for more information on the deals and offers available.

Facilities (4/5)

The main dining area can cater for large groups and there is a separate private function room that can support private parties.  The tables are spaced nicely in the restaurant area, however, the shape of the room allows sound to travel and you could often hear the conversations of any louder groups seated nearby, but it did not spoil the evening.  The tables were large enough to cater for the different dishes, which is always a requirement when having a curry.  The room was nicely decorated and was very welcoming.  The are two bars, with one situated in the main dining area.

Location (4/5)

The restaurant is located on Manchester Road, Bury, and it can be easily spotted from the main road.  There is a medium-sized car park to the rear of the restaurant for customers.

Food/Drink (5/5)

The food is prepared by the award-winning Chef, Shamsu Miah.  The starters were of a good size and the spices the dishes were cooked in were simply delicious.  I had the mixed starter and I was pleased with the quantity and quality of the dish.  A range of mains were ordered by the party, which included Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma, Chicken Dopiaza.  The dopiaza was an ideal portion to compliment the tasty starter and was just as delicious.  With a side of boiled rice I was very happy with the quality of the food – there were many empty dishes at the end of the meal.  A wide range of drinks were also available.

Service (4/5)

The meal was pre-booked due to the size of the party, however, the restaurant had not set the table for the number of our party and had to quickly add another small table – we were a very large party.   In the time that passed during our meal the restaurant filled up and I would recommend pre-booking a table, particularly on a weekend/evening, to avoid disappointment.

Upon arriving we were quickly shown to our table and we did not have to wait long to be served.  The starters arrived very quickly however the mains took a while to arrive after we finished our first course.

The staff were friendly and helpful throughout.

Summary

I would highly recommend a visit to the Indigo restaurant in Bury.  The quality of the food was excellent and the staff were friendly and helpful throughout our visit.

The Hobbit Hotel, Sowerby Bridge

picType:  Accommodation/Food & Drink

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Date of visit: October 2012

Web link:  http://www.hobbithotel.co.uk/

Price (5/5)

We visited the The Hobbit Hotel with a deal voucher from one of the popular discount websites.  The deal included a two night stay in a double room with a three course meal on the first night and breakfast on both mornings.  The standard room rates were reasonable should you wish to visit the Hobbit.

Facilities (4/5)

From the outside, the hotel compliments its surroundings and looks like an inviting and welcoming bed and breakfast.  There was sufficient car parking adjacent to the hotel for those who were using the facilities.

The main entrance led directly into the bar/dining area where we were warmly greeted by the manager.  We were shown to our room, which we assumed would be a standard double sized room.  We were pleasantly surprised to be ushered into a large room which with a four poster bed and an en-suite bathroom.  The room was very clean and there was sufficient wardrobe space for our belongings.  The bed itself was very comfortable and it would be easy to spend several hours relaxing on the soft mattress.  The room had drink making facilities and a television.  There were, however, a few lights that were not working in the room.

The bathroom however was slightly disappointing after the grandeur of the bedroom.  There were no toiletries, the shower was lukewarm at best and the plastic toilet seat was not the most comfortable.

The hotel had a main bar area which was also set up as the dining area for breakfast and dinner.  The room was large, clean and well presented.  There was also a separate room for hire which was used to host events such as Murder Mystery nights.

Location (3/5)

The hotel was located in Sowerby Bridge on Hob Lane and if you are unfamiliar with the area I would advise having a hard copy map available as your SAT nav or phone signals may get lost on route to the hotel.  The view from the hotel is breath-taking as it looks out over Sowerby Bridge. This is a hotel for those want some peace and quiet as it has an ideal setting for the out-of-town experience.  The area is quiet and there is not much traffic.

The town of Halifax is nearby and you could walk there if you were feeling energetic – the hotel is situated near the top of a hill so a walk into Sowerby Bridge or Halifax requires some steep climbing at certain points.  Appropriate footwear is a must.

Food/Drink (5/5)

We ate at The Hobbit Hotel on both days, including two breakfasts and two dinners.  The three course meal that was included in the package was delicious and between us we had the sausage and mash and curry dishes, both of which were filling and appetising.  On our second night we ordered from the bar menu and we found this food to also be pleasant with good portion sizes.  We also did not have to wait too long for the food to be served.

There was a large range of drinks served at the bar and these were reasonably priced for a hotel.

Service (5/5)

The staff were friendly and helpful during our stay.  They went to a great effort to make all the guests feel welcome and provided and excellent service.  During our stay the power grid shut down for the local area and we were impressed by the calm and professional manner in which this was handled by the staff, given this was an unexpected event out of their control.

Summary

If you are seeking a peaceful couple of nights away where you can experience pleasant surroundings, friendly staff and excellent food then I would highly recommend a visit to The Hobbit Hotel.

East Restaurant, Pudsey (Leeds)

Type: Food & Drink

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Date of visit: August 2012

Web link: http://eastrestaurantleeds.co.uk/

Price (4/5)

We visited East on a voucher which included a starter, main and cocktail at a good price.  The standard prices on the menu were on par with other restaurants with similar dishes.

Facilities (3/5)

The restaurant had a separate waiting area for diners, which included a stylish bar.  We were invited to wait here until our table was ready and we were away from the hustle and bustle of the restaurant activities.  The main restaurant is to the rear of the building and was large enough to house several parties at any one time.  The tables are equally spaced but I would recommend a table at the edge of the room as those in the middle seemed a little too close to each other, just my personal preference there.  On our visit the restaurant was quite noisy but that was due to the fact that there was hardly an empty table in sight – they must be popular to have a full restaurant mid-week.

Location (3/5)

East is located on Richardshaw Lane in Pudsey, Leeds and is easy to spot along the main road.  There is car parking at the rear of the building, however, the spaces are limited and we found ourselves parking in the marked out parking bays on the side of the road.  If you live locally I would recommend walking or a taxi to avoid having to search for a parking space.

Food/Drink (4.5/5)

The menu hosts a variety of options, including something for the non-curry lovers out there.  A wide selection of starters is complimented with a good range of main options and sides.

The starters we ordered included the chicken pakora and machli tikka.  They were delicious however I was a little disappointed at their size as they felt slightly on the small side compared to other restaurants where I have had the same starter.   However, the mains more than made up for this. The quantity of the mains was just right and the quality of the food was very high.  Our party indulged in the chicken dopiaza, bhuna and other dishes.  The dopiaza was quite creamy but yet also spicy – just the right level for someone like me who likes a medium curry.  Those in the party who had the bhuna compliment the dish and would recommend it – they also noted it was slightly hotter than other bhunas they had tasted.  Another member of our party had a curry that was recommended to them by the waiter – they were very happy with the dish and said it was delicious.  We topped all this off with some rice, chapatis and a family size garlic naan, the latter of which was quickly devoured by three of the party as it contained just the right amount of garlic.

The meal was completed with a round of cocktails.  The driver in the group entertained the Safe Sex on the Beach and a variety of alcoholic cocktails were had by the rest of the party.  All of which were enjoyed thoroughly.

Service (2/5)

Our reservation was made for 7.30pm but it was nearer 8pm before we were shown to our table.  It was busy, but I do not like being left waiting if you have booked a table for a specific time.  Restaurants need to be able to meet to the agreed time of a meal (they wouldn’t like it if we decided to turn up half an hour late).

Due to the number of people in the restaurant we were left waiting again for our meal – about half an hour before we received our starters. However, I must say that once our starters were cleared away the main was there within minutes.

We had different waiters see to us throughout the duration of our visit.  This may be a small point, but I like to have consistency in our server but I appreciated that it was quite busy in the restaurant.

Summary

The food was delicious but we had to wait to be seated and to be served, which are two things which do bug me.  However, I have to appreciate that they were really busy at the time.  I would recommend giving East a visit which it is quieter to sample the lovely mains.

Flamingo Land, Malton (North Yorkshire)

Type: Entertainment

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: August 2012

Web link:  http://www.flamingoland.co.uk/

Price (3/5)

There are several deals available on the internet if you wish to buy a ticket with a discount.  There are often 3-4-2 and 2-4-1 deals – you just have to search to find them.  Our party used a buy 3 full price get 1 adult ticket free deal and a discount related to an organisation we were involved in.  Normal adult prices are £25 for a day visit, which ends up being quite an expensive affair if a family wishes to attend.  Comparatively, Alton Towers on the day price is £45 per adult and Lightwater Valley is £16 (prices taken from their website and correct as of 05 September 2012).

Location/Venue (4/5)

Flamingo Land is located in Kirby Misperton, Malton in North Yorkshire.  It is clearly signposted from the A169, though beware that if you arrive at this road anytime past first thing in the morning you are likely to be queuing for a good half hour/to an hour to get to the resort.  There is more than sufficient car parking, including a very large overflow car park.  I would recommend driving as the resort is not easily accessible by public transport.

Rides/Attractions (5/5)

The resort is divided into two sections – the theme park and the zoo.  (There is also the option of staying at the holiday resort if you wish.)

The theme park has extreme, family, kids and scenic rides and there are over 8 sections to visit, from the Children’s Planet to Metropolis.  There are six extreme rides and a 4D cinema.  As you walk around the park you can visit various shows, such as the bird show where we saw some exotic and beautiful birds on display.  As with most theme parks you need to pick which rides to queue for otherwise you will spend most of your day queuing! (I would advise checking to see if you can see the front of a queue before joining it – we made this mistake and spent 40 minutes queuing for a ride that was over in under a minute!)

The zoo and conservation area is home to dozens of beautiful and magnificent animals.  You can adopt an animal, have hands-on experience with some of the animals and even be a zookeeper for a day.  The zoo itself could take up your entire day if you were determined to see all the animals and shows.

Summary

There are rides to suit all levels of bravery at Flamingo Land.  The children will look the animal enclosures and there are plenty of activities, events and shows to keep you occupied for a full day.  I would recommend a visit, but I would advise you wait until you can get your hands on some of the offers and vouchers available to save yourself some pennies.

Phantom of the Opera, Leeds Grand Theatre

Type: Entertainment

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: August 2012

Web link:  www.thephantomoftheopera.com

Price (2/5)

The tickets we bought we £27.50 for a seat on the Upper Balcony.  These were amongst the cheaper ticket prices for the showing.  At this price, you would have to make sure it is a production you really wanted to see.

Location/Venue (4.5/5)

(This section is taken from another recent review of a performance at the Grand.)

Leeds Grand Theatre is a magnificent venue and is perfect for large-scale productions, musicals and performances.  Built in the 19th century and designed by architect George Corson the interior design is breath-taking and extravagant.  On your way to seat your seat you feel the grandeur ooze from the building with its red carpets and wonderful decor.  The chandelier that hangs over the main hall needs a special mention as it is a beautiful masterpiece.

The Theatre is on New Briggate in Leeds City Centre and is easily accessible by public transport with it being a short walk away from both the bus and rail station.  There is no dedicated car parking but there are several pay-and-display and NPC around if you chose to drive.

View/Seating (4/5)

Our seats were in the Upper Balcony, front row and to the right hand side.  They were excellent seats as they allowed us a perfect view of the full stage, the chandelier (which was used to wonderful effect during the performance) and we had good access to the facilities.  If you want a have a good view of a performance but still pay for the cheaper seats I would recommend purchasing a ticket for anywhere in the Upper Balcony section.

Performance (5/5)

The performance from beginning to end was breath-taking and energetic.  There was everything you could hope for in a musical – excellent acting, singing and dancing.   The range and pitch of some of the operatic leads was simply amazing.  John Owen Jones’s portrayal of the Phantom was particularly stunning and his voice was mesmerizing.  Katie Hall’s depiction of the lead female, Christine, was very good but was overpowered by the brilliance of Jones.

The music was superb and chilling throughout – particularly the familiar notes that accompany the epic theme song of the piece.  The orchestra that accompanied the performance certainly did Lloyd Webber’s musical justice.

Specific sciences will stay etched in my memory, including the closing of the first act which – without giving too much away – was shocking and brilliant.  It left the whole audience gasping and wanting more.  My personal favourite scene had to be the visit to the lair – for want of a better word – of the Phantom.  Excellent visual displays combined with magnificent vocals sent chills down my arms.

Set (5/5)

The set was outstanding and cleverly adapted for the stage at the Grand.  We were invited to watch a continually changing set with stairs appearing from walls and I must mention the glorious chandelier.  The Grand Theatre is home to a beautifully stunning chandelier that was included in the performance of the opera.   The sights and sounds that came from the chandelier were spectacular and I do not wish to spoil this for anyone who is yet to see the performance…I would recommend you keep one eye on that chandelier!

Summary

An excellent performance with a stunning set display and magnificent performances.  A must for lovers of musicals!

Bispham and Cleveley’s Kitchen, Blackpool

Type: Food & Drink

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Date of visit: August 2012

Web link:  N/A (but you can Google the restaurant to find further information/reviews)

Price (5/5)

I was pleasantly surprised at the prices on the menu relative to the quantity and quality of the food.  The meals were excellent value and we did not end up leaving with an empty wallet!  Some restaurants that specialise in fish and chips have on occasion set their prices up by a couple of pounds (and more) for a simple fish and chips meal – at this restaurant this was not the case.

Facilities (4/5)

The large restaurant had both and indoor and outdoor seating area, which was perfect for the glorious sunshine that we were experiencing on our visit.  (Not so great with the local wildlife – the seagulls are huge and occasionally like to undertake a military manoeuvre to steal a chip – you had to be alert!)  The restaurant could easily cater for larger parties.  The restaurant was moderately busy when we arrived but we did not struggle to find a table for our large party.

Location (4/5)

The restaurant is located on Red Bank Road, Blackpool.  It is easily accessible and there a public transport links and car parking available within a short walking distance.

Food/Drink (5/5)

The menu had a large variety of options available and catered for those who may not like fish and chips.  I ordered the haddock and chips and was pleasantly surprised at the large proportion and excellent quality of the meal.  (You had to order peas separately, so make a note of this is you like peas with your fish and chips.)  The fish was not too heavily battered and the chips were just right.

The menu also offered a range of drinks and desserts.  The desserts were in a display cabinet and you could choose which serving you wanted.  I liked this idea as often you can order an item and after they all arrive wish you had made the choice of dessert the person next to you ordered!

Service (5/5)

You seat yourselves at Bispham’s & Cleveley’s and you order and pay at a separate counter inside the restaurant.  Despite the large number in our party we were quickly served with our meals which were all hot and tasted delicious.  No issues whatsoever with the service provided.

Summary

If you have not been to Bispham’s & Cleveley’s I would recommend a visit next time you are passing through or are near.  High quality food combined with a wide-ranging menu and competitive prices makes this a must for lovers of fish and chip restaurants.

The Hound Dog Hotel, Blackpool

Type:  Accommodation

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Date of visit: August 2012

Web link: http://www.hounddogblackpool.co.uk/

Price (5/5)

The rate for a ‘standard’ room (without ensuite) on a Friday or Saturday during the high season was £21 per person – this included breakfast (correct at time of posting). This was an excellent rate and for a few pounds more you could secure an en-suite room.  Our party opted for the standard rooms without the en-suites and we took over the top floor of the Bed & Breakfast.

Facilities (4/5)

Blackpool has an abundance of Bed & Breakfasts but luckily the Hound Dog Hotel sported a very bright yellow front wall, which made it easier to find.

The saying in any seaside city with regards to parking is that if you find some, park your car and do not move it!  Street parking is very limited and this B & B, like the majority, did not have any private parking.  There are, however, many car parks located within a close walking distance.  If you are only staying for one night you do not mind paying the overnight parking charge.

The entrance hall lead into a combined seating and dining area which is nicely decorated and suitable for families.  There was wireless access and you had your own key to the front door to come and go as suited you.

Our party used three bedrooms and each were a different size.  The first bedroom slept 3 – a single and bunk bed;  the second slept 4 – a double and a bunk bed; the third slept 5 – a double (with a single bunk bed on top) and a bunk bed.  It was a shame that all the couples could not share a double bed, but we were a large party.  All rooms were clean and nicely decorated and were a good size.  Each came equipped with suitable wardrobe space and drink making facilities.  As these rooms did not have en-suite bathrooms they all had a sink.  The beds were comfortable – if a little noisy (springy) when it came to turning over as you slept – but they were more comfortable than some beds I have experienced in other accommodation.

There were two bathrooms available for our party to use on the floor.  The first bathroom had a shower and toilet, the second had a bath, toilet and shower (which was unfortunately not working).  Both bathrooms were clean and well presented.

Location (4/5)

The Bed & Breakfast was located within a very short walking distance of the beach and amenities in Blackpool.  It is also easy to find from the main roads and when you are finding your way back after a walk to the amusements.   There are several other guest houses on the street and this unfortunately was a little problematic when it came to trying to get to sleep.  The B & B we stayed in did not accept stag or hen parties – which I thought was an excellent idea – however, other guest houses on the street did.  This led to it being extremely noisy when we tried to sleep and whilst there was nothing the owners could have done about this it was a little frustrating.  However, by choosing to go to Blackpool we were aware that wherever we stayed it was likely we would see (and hear) several stag and hen parties.

Food/Drink (5/5)

Breakfast was included in the room rate.  Cereals were available and the owners provided the option of a cooked English breakfast, made to order.  The food was fantastic and I was particularly pleased that we were asked which items we would like (being a slightly fussy eater).  We could not have had a nicer breakfast.

The B & B does not have a bar licence but you are encouraged to bring your own alcohol to the hotel.  I quite liked this arrangement and we found ourselves enjoying the evening with a few drinks in the reception room, with the owners of the hotel.

Service (5/5)

The owners of the B & B were extremely friendly and they bent over backwards to ensure you have a comfortable stay.  We were welcomed to the guest house with a cup of tea/coffee and a friendly chat.

Summary

The B & B was good value for money and is the ideal play to stay in Blackpool for a few nights.  I would recommend this B & B to anyone who needs somewhere to stay close to the amenities of Blackpool and values friendly hosts who serve up a good breakfast.

Mumtaz, Leeds

Type: Food/Drink

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Date of visit: July 2012

Web link:  http://www.mumtaz.co.uk/

 

Price (3/5)

The menu prices were a little steep for some options so I was very grateful that we were using a voucher on our visit.  I suspect that this higher price was attributed to the décor (which I will describe in more detail below).  One thing that I cannot stand is a service charge, which Mumtaz put on their bills.  I am very much of the opinion that if I have a good service I will provide a suitable tip to the waiter/waitress. (This visit, in my opinion did not warrant a big tip based on service.)

Facilities (5/5)

The extremely large venue is well designed to support larger parties – something which many restaurants do not seem able to handle.  The welcome mat wished us a ‘Terrific Tuesday’ which I thought was a very nice touch.  The ceilings were adorned with lavish chandeliers that were quite breath-taking.  The restaurant had an ‘expensive’ feel about it from the flooring, to the tables and layout. There was a separate waiting area which allowed you to take in the beautiful surrounding prior to being seated (which included a lovely baby grand piano).

I was happily surprised by the large spaces between the tables as another grumble of mine is not being able to have a little privacy whilst having a meal if your tables are too close to the neighbouring party.

Location (3/5)

Mumtaz is in Clarence Dock which is a short walk from Leeds city centre.  There is no designated parking for the restaurant but there is some pay and display parking nearby.  There is a bus route that goes by but it is not a main bus route.  You are more likely to walk from the city centre to get to this restaurant.  The restaurant overlooks the Leeds-Liverpool canal and can be a good view – weather permitting of course.

Food/Drink (4/5)

The menu had a good range of food and I noticed several vegetarian dishes.  There were several options for starters.  You did not get poppadom and a pickle tray unless you asked (and paid) for them.  I must admit that for me part of the enjoyment of going for a curry is the free pickle tray.  It is the little things that please me!  This will affect the mark for this section.

The starters included the masala fish which was quite a large dish!  It was delicious and the only other comment to note is that it was quite hot – hotter than most masala fish I have previously had (they are a favourite of mine).

For the mains we had the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Karahi Chicken.  The portions were slightly less than other restaurants but the quality of the food was very high.  You choose the spiciness of your dish so we both ordered medium, but as we quickly found out the ‘medium’ at Mumtaz is a lot hotter than mediums elsewhere!  Our mouths felt like they were on fire and that did spoil the food, which was actually delicious.  I advise those who normally have mediums (like Tikka Masala) to go for the mild option when visiting Mumtaz.  That, or have a LOT of water ready!  The meal was accompanied with some lovely boiled rice and a delicious garlic naan.

Service (3/5)

We pre-booked our table in anticipation of the restaurant being busy.  When we arrived is was about half full and the empty tables became quickly occupied during our stay.  This is a place where I would recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.

Upon arrival we were waiting for only a few minutes before being shown to our table.  However, the wait between then and our order being taken was quite a while – a little too long.  We had to get the attention of one of the waiters as it actually felt like we had been forgotten because there was another large party at the venue and all the waiters seemed to be concentrating on serving them (which did annoy me a little). The staff were friendly but they did seem a little pre-occupied with the large party.

I was impressed with the bottle of water that was brought to our table at the beginning of the meal.  It was pro-active and anticipatory and I liked that as I nearly always end up asking for a jug of water when I go for a curry.

We did not wait too long for the starters or the main. However, I felt like we were forgotten again because when the main came out our empty starter dishes were still there are the waiter had to go and get new plates.

Upon finishing our meal we sat and waited to pay for our bill, which had been placed on our table at the start of the visit – I quite like this.  We ended up waiting for about 15 minutes before we caught the attention of a waiter who informed us that we needed to pay at the reception.  I wondered how long we would have had to wait before someone told us this as it was out first visit.

Summary

The quality of the food was without question but I would advise on going for the milder meals for those who cannot handle the heat.  I would not pay full price for a meal here as I have visited other restaurants where the quality is a high but the final bill is not.  If you have a chance to visit on a voucher or offer I would recommend it.

Mercure Hotel, Bingley

Type:  Accommodation/Food

Overall rating: 3/5

Date of visit: June/July 2012

Web link:  http://www.mercure.com/gb/hotel-8334-mercure-bradford-north-hotel/index.shtml

Price (3/5)

We found the hotel through a discount and deals website which offered two nights with breakfast for £79 (normally priced £302).  The normal price is quite expensive and from my experience of the facilities, service and overall experience I would not pay full price for a room at the hotel.  The price scored is based on the amount we paid and the deal we were offered, otherwise it would have been lower for the normal price.

I will go into the food and drink experiences in more detail under the ‘food/drink’ section, but the prices for the food was quite high – too high I would suggest.  The drinks were reasonably priced in the private bar.

Facilities (3/5)

The hotel had a historic feel and the décor was grand and stunning, including the outside grounds that accompanied the hotel. The hotel has over 100 modern rooms and well as several meeting rooms/reception rooms that could accommodate large events. I came to the conclusion that the hotel was a popular wedding venue as three weddings took place in the space of two days. The place was definitely lively for the majority of our stay!  One wedding party thought it would be a good idea to set off celebratory fireworks in the main courtyard at about 11pm – which I’m sure would not have been welcomed by some of the other guests who were trying to sleep.

We did not see all of the hotel grounds as it was very large, but the main guest area included two separate dining rooms, a breakfast room and a private bar which was open all night to guests.

The standard double room was clean and of an adequate size. It came with standard hotel room features such as a television, wardrobe and tea and coffee making facilities. As a bonus it had a trouser press and ironing facility. The bathroom was modern and clean but I feel I need to comment on the toilet. When flushed, the toilet seemed to take about ten minutes to refill the cistern and it was very noisy whist it did so. You definitely were not able to go quietly to the toilet in the middle of the night as your flushing action could wake up half the floor!!

The bed was extremely springy! I like to be able to turn over in the night without fear of waking anyone else in the building up. I’ve only ever slept in one bed as springy in my life. Luckily, the springiness did not affect the comfort of the bed, just the amount that I felt comfortable moving!

The toilet and bed have brought the overall mark down for this section.

Location (4/5)

The hotel is in Bingley and is easily accessible from the motorway and by public transport.  For anyone wishing to visit on the 760 Leeds-Keighley bus route the hotel is right next to this line.  The hotel is located on Bradford Road and is two miles from Bingley Railway Station – it is easy to see from the main road.

It is within walking distance from Bingley (approximately 30-40 minutes) and there are several parks and walking routes for you to explore.

The hotel is accompanied by a very large car park and you would not struggle to find a spot. Even when the weddings were taking place there were still enough parking for all the guests.

Food/Drink (3/5)

Even though we had booked a table for our dinner in the hotel we had to wait approximately ten minutes to be seated as our table was not prepared. I thought this might indicate that the dining hall was busy, but it was not. Whilst having our food I noticed that there were a few tables that were not re-set or cleared award by the waiting staff during the couple of hours that we were eating. This brings me onto a very minor point, which is that normally if you are not using the wine glasses on your table to waiter/ress would remove them to allow for more room but unfortunately this was not done for us. Whilst this is not something to complain about on its own, combined with other little instances it supported the initial observation I had that the hotel was either understaffed or under trained.

The dinner menu was varied and there was something to suit most tastes. We opted for a burger and pizza dish as well as some bread-based starters. The portions were more than adequate and the quality of the food was excellent. The menu was quite expensive and that has affected the overall rating in this category. We did not have to wait to long for the food but I was disappointed to find that my burger had cheese on it. I know that many of you might wonder why I am making a fuss about a bit of cheese – I am because I do not like it and it was not on the meal description on the menu. In fact, I purposefully did not choose some dishes because of the cheese content so I was not pleased when my burger arrived covered in cheese. Luckily, it was in a kind of blob that removed itself easily!

A buffet breakfast was included in the room rate and the usual breakfast items were available, including some particularly large hash browns! Due to the wedding the previous night there was a large number of people who turned up for breakfast. We timed it perfectly, however those behind us in the queue were not so fortunate and had to wait a little while to be seated. I noted that there were several empty tables but the staff were unable to reset them to keep up with the demand. The food was good, though it took a while to help myself as we had to wait for the plates to be restocked.

For the second morning we were not so fortunate with our breakfast experience.  When we checked in the previous day we were informed that breakfast was served between 7am – 11am, what was not highlighted was that breakfast was only served until 10am on a weekday, which was our second morning.  We turned up at half past ten to find everything packed away and no breakfast was available.  The staff offered to to send someone to take our order but as the buffet breakfast was included in the room rate and we already experienced the expensive menu prices they had to offer, we declined the offer to order some food should we have to pay for it.

There was a private bar open all night for guests.  The bar was quiet and was not open to the wedding parties that were taking place in the adjoining rooms and I quite liked this privacy.  We spent a few hours there watching sports and sampling their drinks – which were nice and reasonably priced.

This category lost marks for the service, the absent second morning breakfast and the expensive menu.  The food itself was of an excellent quality but it is the whole package experience that makes up the score.

Service (2/5)

The Reception Staff were friendly and welcoming upon our arrival and explained the facilities and that dinner and breakfast was available. We had a welcome call when we arrive at our room to ensure it met our needs – this was a pleasant surprise.

On the whole the staff were friendly, however, you could sense how busy they were and it showed in their body language and flustered faces. During breakfast the staff were rushing around trying to seat guests and clear the tables at the same time, including the guests having to wait around 10 minutes for new plates to arrive to have breakfast from the buffet.  These items have lost a few marks from this section.

Under the ‘Food/Drink’ section I have gone into further comments about the service we received during breakfast and lunch.

Summary

Overall we had a pleasant experience at the Mercure Hotel, although I do not think I would make a return visit unless there was an enticing offer.  Unfortunately, I cannot see us making a return visit for the fully priced rooms.

Frankie & Benny’s, Leeds

Type: Food/Drink

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: July 2012

Web link: http://www.frankieandbennys.com/

Price (4/5)

We arrived in time to pick up the offers available on the lunch menu where all the dishes were £5.95.  This is about an average price to expect for having a meal at that time of day and the main menu prices are what you would find in most restaurants.  Frankie & Benny’s often have various deals and offers available, including a current discount of 20% off the total bill when 2 main courses were bought from the main menu.  There are also some good breakfast offers to be had.  I would recommend checking their website before having a visit.

Facilities (4/5)

The restaurant was large and would hold several large parties at any one time.  The bar was separate to the dining area and if you wish for just a drink you could have that in a separate area.  The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed with an accompaniment of upbeat American songs playing on the sound system.  It has a very family-friendly feel about it.

I am a fan of booths and seats which are not chairs, a bit random I know but I find them a lot more comfortable.  Most of the dining seats, from what I could seat, were booth style.

Location (4/5)

This particular restaurant in the Frankie & Benny’s chain is located in the Crown Point Retail Park (Leeds), just off Hunslet Lane/Great Wilson Street near the old Tetley Brewery site in the city centre.  The retail park has a large car park, however, there is a time limit for how long you may park in the car park.

It is easily accessible by public transport links and is a short walk from the Leeds Rail Station.

Food/Drink (3/5)

There are several menus to choose from which means something for everyone.  We opted for the lunch menu and I pleasantly surprised that there were a number of dishes I could choose from, given that I am a bit of a fussy eater at times.  I opted for a pasta dish whilst my partner had a very lovely looking burger (of which I stole his red onion, I have a thing for red onion…).  The pasta dish was nice and there was plenty of it, however I was let down by the lack of meat in the pasta.  The dish was advertised as having contained chicken, bacon and pepperoni but all I could find was a few small pieces of chicken a couple of slices of pepperoni and I don’t think there was a single piece of bacon.  Which was a shame, as the meal itself was very nice.  That had to bring this mark down I’m afraid – I like to receive what I have ordered.  In all fairness, the burger, I’m told, hit the spot and was accompanied with an interesting tasting sauce.

Service (4/5)

There was no need to pre-book as the restaurant was not full, but it was a Monday just after noon so I would not expect it to have been.  We were seated within minutes of arriving and the staff were ready to take our order as soon as we were ready.  We did not have to wait long for our food either as it came within minutes of ordering.

The staff were friendly, though we did have to ask twice for some sauce to accompany our meal – I think the original waiter we asked got distracted.  However, this did not deter from the enjoyable experience.

Summary

I would recommend a trip to this Frankie & Benny’s for anyone who has yet to visit.  I recommend the lunch menu and I am keen to explore the other options with another visit.

Ferrands Arms, Bingley

Type: Food/Drink

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Date of visit: July 2012

Web link:  http://www.ferrandsarms.co.uk/

 

Price (4.5/5)

The menu offered two meals for £10 (or two sandwiches/paninis for £8) all day every day.  You will find similar offers in most public houses for food but it is still a good offer nonetheless.

The drinks were reasonably priced and we sampled their hot drinks, with a pleasant surprise as to the quantity of tea/coffee we were given.  Proper sized cups!

The bar staff offered to start a tab which we quickly accepted.  The only thing I would say about a tab is that sometime you forget how much you have spent!  Luckily, we are pretty okay at mathematics.

Facilities (4/5)

The pub was recently refurnished and offered a large space with plenty of tables (variety of sizes/shapes too).  The pub also had a pool table and several large flat screen televisions showing the latest sports. We visited during the day on a Sunday and there were around a dozen other people in the pub – just about right for the atmosphere we were looking for.

We were sat next to a fake fireplace which was very interesting and I had to stop myself from staring at it.

The pub was also child friendly.

Location (4/5)

The Ferrands Arms is on Queen Street, Bingley, and is in amongst many of the pubs and bars of the town centre.  It is easily accessible by car or public transport and whilst there are some nearby parking spaces I would be recommend you come by foot or public transport.

Food/Drink (5/5)

The menu was moderate and had a selection of options that would suit most diners.  We opted for the ever popular fish and chips and a gammon steak.  The fish was delicious and I was pleasantly surprised by the large amount of tartar sauce that accompanied it – more than I needed.  What has boosted this section of the review was the manner in which the staff were happy to amend the meal to my awkward request – I am not a fan of mushy peas and this is what came with the fish and chips, however, upon asking if they would mind substituting this for garden peas the barman happily obliged.  We also had the gammon steak which I am told was amazing and I am sure could have been eaten again in quick succession.

The food was that delicious that we decided to treat ourselves to a dessert.  An apple pie and sticky toffee pudding later and we were completely full.  But it was all very delicious and I would happily go there again (and again).

Service (5/5)

No pre-booking is required as it is a pub, you just turn up.  Upon arriving we were quickly greeted by the barman who was serving on his own, but did a wonderful job considering this. We set up a tab and were asked to choose a table and he would come to take our order.  We were being treated as if we were in a restaurant, but it was a pub.  The barman was friendly and helpful, including when I asked for peas substitute.

During our stay he offered to get us more drinks, which we accepted.  Only once did we have to go to the bar and that was to order our desserts.

Interestingly, the pub had a ‘word of the week’ – the word for this week was abibliophobia…quite apt for those reading this right now.

Summary

A great place to have a pub lunch or a few drinks with friends.  Excellent service and a good traditional pub menu.  Highly recommended if you are visiting Bingley.

Mercure Hotel, Bingley

Type:  Accommodation/Food

Overall rating: 3/5

Date of visit: June/July 2012

Web link:  http://www.mercure.com/gb/hotel-8334-mercure-bradford-north-hotel/index.shtml

Price (3/5)

We found the hotel through a discount and deals website which offered two nights with breakfast for £79 (normally priced £302).  The normal price is quite expensive and from my experience of the facilities, service and overall experience I would not pay full price for a room at the hotel.  The price scored is based on the amount we paid and the deal we were offered, otherwise it would have been lower for the normal price.

I will go into the food and drink experiences in more detail under the ‘food/drink’ section, but the prices for the food was quite high – too high I would suggest.  The drinks were reasonably priced in the private bar.

Facilities (3/5)

The hotel had a historic feel and the décor was grand and stunning, including the outside grounds that accompanied the hotel. The hotel has over 100 modern rooms and well as several meeting rooms/reception rooms that could accommodate large events. I came to the conclusion that the hotel was a popular wedding venue as three weddings took place in the space of two days. The place was definitely lively for the majority of our stay!  One wedding party thought it would be a good idea to set off celebratory fireworks in the main courtyard at about 11pm – which I’m sure would not have been welcomed by some of the other guests who were trying to sleep.

We did not see all of the hotel grounds as it was very large, but the main guest area included two separate dining rooms, a breakfast room and a private bar which was open all night to guests.

The standard double room was clean and of an adequate size. It came with standard hotel room features such as a television, wardrobe and tea and coffee making facilities. As a bonus it had a trouser press and ironing facility. The bathroom was modern and clean but I feel I need to comment on the toilet. When flushed, the toilet seemed to take about ten minutes to refill the cistern and it was very noisy whist it did so. You definitely were not able to go quietly to the toilet in the middle of the night as your flushing action could wake up half the floor!!

The bed was extremely springy! I like to be able to turn over in the night without fear of waking anyone else in the building up. I’ve only ever slept in one bed as springy in my life. Luckily, the springiness did not affect the comfort of the bed, just the amount that I felt comfortable moving!

The toilet and bed have brought the overall mark down for this section.

Location (4/5)

The hotel is in Bingley and is easily accessible from the motorway and by public transport.  For anyone wishing to visit on the 760 Leeds-Keighley bus route the hotel is right next to this line.  The hotel is located on Bradford Road and is two miles from Bingley Railway Station – it is easy to see from the main road.

It is within walking distance from Bingley (approximately 30-40 minutes) and there are several parks and walking routes for you to explore.

The hotel is accompanied by a very large car park and you would not struggle to find a spot. Even when the weddings were taking place there were still enough parking for all the guests.

Food/Drink (3/5)

Even though we had booked a table for our dinner in the hotel we had to wait approximately ten minutes to be seated as our table was not prepared. I thought this might indicate that the dining hall was busy, but it was not. Whilst having our food I noticed that there were a few tables that were not re-set or cleared award by the waiting staff during the couple of hours that we were eating. This brings me onto a very minor point, which is that normally if you are not using the wine glasses on your table to waiter/ress would remove them to allow for more room but unfortunately this was not done for us. Whilst this is not something to complain about on its own, combined with other little instances it supported the initial observation I had that the hotel was either understaffed or under trained.

The dinner menu was varied and there was something to suit most tastes. We opted for a burger and pizza dish as well as some bread-based starters. The portions were more than adequate and the quality of the food was excellent. The menu was quite expensive and that has affected the overall rating in this category. We did not have to wait to long for the food but I was disappointed to find that my burger had cheese on it. I know that many of you might wonder why I am making a fuss about a bit of cheese – I am because I do not like it and it was not on the meal description on the menu. In fact, I purposefully did not choose some dishes because of the cheese content so I was not pleased when my burger arrived covered in cheese. Luckily, it was in a kind of blob that removed itself easily!

A buffet breakfast was included in the room rate and the usual breakfast items were available, including some particularly large hash browns! Due to the wedding the previous night there was a large number of people who turned up for breakfast. We timed it perfectly, however those behind us in the queue were not so fortunate and had to wait a little while to be seated. I noted that there were several empty tables but the staff were unable to reset them to keep up with the demand. The food was good, though it took a while to help myself as we had to wait for the plates to be restocked.

For the second morning we were not so fortunate with our breakfast experience.  When we checked in the previous day we were informed that breakfast was served between 7am – 11am, what was not highlighted was that breakfast was only served until 10am on a weekday, which was our second morning.  We turned up at half past ten to find everything packed away and no breakfast was available.  The staff offered to to send someone to take our order but as the buffet breakfast was included in the room rate and we already experienced the expensive menu prices they had to offer, we declined the offer to order some food should we have to pay for it.

There was a private bar open all night for guests.  The bar was quiet and was not open to the wedding parties that were taking place in the adjoining rooms and I quite liked this privacy.  We spent a few hours there watching sports and sampling their drinks – which were nice and reasonably priced.

This category lost marks for the service, the absent second morning breakfast and the expensive menu.  The food itself was of an excellent quality but it is the whole package experience that makes up the score.

Service (2/5)

The Reception Staff were friendly and welcoming upon our arrival and explained the facilities and that dinner and breakfast was available. We had a welcome call when we arrive at our room to ensure it met our needs – this was a pleasant surprise.

On the whole the staff were friendly, however, you could sense how busy they were and it showed in their body language and flustered faces. During breakfast the staff were rushing around trying to seat guests and clear the tables at the same time, including the guests having to wait around 10 minutes for new plates to arrive to have breakfast from the buffet.  These items have lost a few marks from this section.

Under the ‘Food/Drink’ section I have gone into further comments about the service we received during breakfast and lunch.

Summary

Overall we had a pleasant experience at the Mercure Hotel, although I do not think I would make a return visit unless there was an enticing offer.  Unfortunately, I cannot see us making a return visit for the fully priced rooms.

Dirty Dancing, Leeds Grand Theatre

Type: Entertainment

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: June 2012

Web link:  http://www.dirtydancingontour.com

Price (4/5)

The ticket we bought were only £20 which for the experience of the night was a good deal.  These were some of the cheaper tickets and as usual there was a range of prices available, depending on where you wished to sit.  Better view, higher price.

Venue/Location (4.5/5)

Leeds Grand Theatre is a magnificent venue and is perfect for large-scale productions, musicals and performances.  Built in the 19th century and designed by architect George Corson the interior design is breath-taking and extravagant.  On your way to seat your seat you feel the grandeur ooze from the building with its red carpets and wonderful decor.  The chandelier that hangs over the main hall needs a special mention as it is a beautiful masterpiece.

The Theatre is on New Briggate in Leeds City Centre and is easily accessible by public transport with it being a short walk away from both the bus and rail station.  There is no dedicated car parking but there are several pay-and-display and NPC around if you chose to drive.

View/Seating (3/5)

Our view was from the Balcony and the only complaint was that the seats did have a restricted view and that was not mentioned when buying the tickets.  We could not see what was happening downstage on the far right near the exit for all the performance.  It didn’t spoil what was a fantastic night but it would have been nice to see all the show.  I would advise anyone buying tickets on the Balcony to not buy any under seat number 40 as they, from what I could see, had restricted viewing.  (I’m afraid I could not say about the other ends of the numbers, but 40s and 30s may be the more central seats for that section).

The seats were comfortable, but the arms provided a ‘snug’ fit for those of a curvier nature!  It’s always a good sign if you do not have pins and needles in your bottom after a performance – a sign of a good seat!

Performance (5/5)

The performance was absolutely fantastic.  This is the kind of show where it sticks to what made the film popular – the music!  All the well-known songs from the film were included and the audience were singing along to most of them. The acting was good, the singing brilliant and the dancing, well, absolutely amazing.  In particular, a mention should be given to Nicky Griffiths deserved her own standing ovation for her amazing dancing as Penny Johnson – she can really wiggle her hips and grove to the music.  Amazing.

The plot following the film excellent and even thought the audience knew what was coming up next there was a distinct buzz of excitement.   There were some interesting stage arrangements for the log and water lifts scenes, but these added to the amusement of the evening.

And yes, they did the lift (to a chorus of screaming women in the audience!).

Set (4.5/5)

The set was appropriate to allow the large dance productions to take center stage.  The use of a revolving dance floor was particularly pleasant and the band was housed about the main stage for the audience to see.

Summary

All in all, a fantastic and enjoyable performance – I have not sung along as much for a performance as I did watching Dirty Dancing.  I would recommend anyone to watch this if it is performing near year – if you’ve missed it, get the old DVD out and have a good old sing along …….

Red Hot World Buffet, Manchester


Type: Food & Drink

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: June 2012

Web link:  http://www.redhot-worldbuffet.com/redhot_manchester.html

Price (3/5)

The prices are slightly more expensive than other all-you-can-eat buffets I’ve experienced, but the quality of food more than makes up for the extra expense.  The buffet is at its cheapest in ‘off-peak’ times, which are Monday – Thursday and Friday’s during the ‘lunch’ period where you would pay £8.49 a head.  The most expensive is Friday and Saturday after work.

There are some vouchers out there for places like the Red Hot World Buffet – you just need to be able to find them!

Facilities (4/5)

The Manchester branch has plenty of seating and caters for large parties.  The restaurant felt very lively and the atmosphere was fantastic.  Several parties had happy birthday sung to them by the waiting staff.

The space between the tables was adequate, which meant you did not feel on top of the party nearest to you and you didn’t have to listen to their conversation!

The toilets, tables and facilities were very clean and fresh.  However, there were no baby changing facilities (that we could find).  It is also disappointing when you have to undertake a type of military manoeuvre just to be able to get in and out of a very small toilet cubicle!

Location (4/5)

The restaurant is on Deansgate in Manchester city centre, opposite the Renaissance Hotel.  It is easily accessible by car, train and bus.  There is no car parking attached to the restaurant but there are several multi-storey car parks within walking distance – I would advise avoiding these though unless you are happy to pay extortionate amounts for parking your car for a few hours.

Food/Drink (5/5)

The buffet is adjacent to the dining area and the cuisine is in separate areas according to its origin.  There is an abundance of choice and something to suit everyone – the ideal buffet.  There are live cooking stations which provide fresh made-to-order dishes.  The food was all fresh and the supplies were kept at a high level throughout the meal (which was a feat considering how busy the restaurant was).

This buffet is an ideal opportunity to sample foods you may not have tried before as you can return as many times as you wish to re-fill your plates!

The desserts were divine and there were lots of options – I only just about managed to finish them!

Suffice to say, the party were full at the end of the visit and could not eat another bite.

Service (4/5)

Due to the popularity of the restaurant the party had to book a table in advanced.  I would advise this for anyone planning to go during an evening or weekend to ensure you book a table.  Upon arrival we were immediately seated, no waiting was required.  The bonus about going for an all-you-can-eat buffet is you serve yourself, so you do not have to wait to order!  Within minutes of arriving the party was enjoying delicious food.

The waiting and serving staff were friendly and happy to help.  However, it did feel as if we were being encouraged to leave as soon as we had finished our helpings.  The bill was brought to our table before it was even asked for.

Summary

The restaurant has a wide range of food available to suit all palates – I would advise you book a table if you plan on visiting and ensure you pick a time with the cheaper price!

Amaans, Leeds

Type: Food & Drink

Overall rating: 4/5

Date of visit: June 2012

Web link:  http://www.amaans.com/menu.htm 

Price (4.5/5)

The menu prices for food and drinks were average compared to other curry houses in Leeds. However, Amaans had an offer of having a starter, main, pilau rice, naan/chapatti and tea/coffee/ice cream (ordering before 8pm) for around £10 (the exact price escapes my memory!).  That is an EXCELLENT offer.

Facilities (4/5)

The welcome area is separate from the dining area, which is located on the second floor of the restaurant.  Food and drinks orders are taken in the reception area and you are then seated at your table upstairs.  The medium-size dining area compliments the restaurant as you can enjoy that intimate feeling, rather than feeling lost in a large restaurant.  The tables are a little near to each other, but that did not interfere with the dining experience.  The ambience was pleasant and relaxing and the facilities were clean and tidy.

Location (3/5)

Amaans is located on Dawson Hill, Morley, Leeds.  The restaurant can be missed if it is your first time trying to find it as it is on top of a hill that runs parallel to the main road.  There is very limited parking at the restaurant but there is plenty of street parking nearby.

The restaurant also offers the option of takeaways.

Food/Drink (4/5)

The menu has a range of food available from traditional well-loved curries to new and existing dishes.  The portions were quite large for the starters – which were well received by the group.  The pakora dishes were particularly spicy, which was not expected as such dishes are normally mild at other restaurants.  However, the quality of the food was excellent.  The mains were of a good size and the overall quality of the food was very high.  There was more than enough to share with the giant garlic naan that we received – although it had a little too much garlic on it.  The dishes that are creamier by nature are very creamy at Amaans compared to other curry houses.

The food was very filling and all of the party finished their dishes!

Service (4/5)

You do not have to book at Amaans – we arrived and we were seated within ten minutes, after our order had been taken.  There was just about the right amount of waiting time between dishes.  The staff were on the whole friendly and helpful.  As we left the two women in the group were given a rose each, a nice little touch!

Summary

The food at Amaans is delicious and if you can take advantage of the £10 offer it is excellent value – they also offer to box up any left overs to take away.  A return visit is a must!

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