Thursday, 30 October 2014

Restaurant Review: The Smoke Haus

I thought I'd take a break from writing about my wedding and honeymoon as I felt like blogging about what I know best... food!

It's been a while since I wrote a restaurant review as we were too busy in the few months before the wedding to visit any new restaurants. We therefore made it our mission to visit a few new restaurants once we got back from honeymoon. After having a quick chat about what kind of food we fancied in our first new restaurant, our first choice was... The Smoke Haus.

I love a good burger and I was very excited about having a big American meal as I'd banned myself from eating such calorific extravagance before the wedding. I love the freedom of not needing to fit into a wedding dress any more! However, I should probably bear in mind that I still have actual clothes to fit in to before I go too overboard...

We turned up at The Smoke Haus at around 3:30pm and were seated straight away. It's a no-frills restaurant with very stark decor, but it still manages to look impressive and inviting. And it's MASSIVE. It actually looks like a posh warehouse inside, but it really works!

Although I was adamant from the beginning that I wanted a big fat burger, I still drooled over the other sections of the menu for ten minutes. Meat, cheese and carbs galore! I eventually decided on a Baby Bertha as it was the smallest burger on the menu and I didn't want to overstretch myself too much. Yes, I can show some restraint sometimes when it comes to food, believe it or not.

However, I did have a sneaky suspicion that it might be messy... the kitchen roll on the table was my first clue. How many times have you been in a restaurant and worn a hole in your serviette because your food is inexplicably messy and they've only given you one measly napkin? The kitchen roll is a fantastic idea!

Our food didn't arrive for half an hour or so, but in fairness the restaurant was pretty busy. In the meantime, we listened to some excellent tunes such as Ash, Foo Fighters and Bon Jovi. The Smoke Haus has an iPhone app where you can choose the music on the jukebox yourself and broadcast it to the entire restaurant! I absolutely love this interactive touch and think it's something more restaurants should adopt. Unfortunately, neither of us has an iPhone so we happily listened to other people's music choices which were very satisfactory. 

When my burger arrived, I immediately knew why the kitchen roll was an absolute necessity... 

More civilized people might have cut up their burger with a knife and fork from the very beginning, but I'm not really one of those people. My eagerness to eat my burger 'properly' resulted in needing to use approximately 11 pieces of kitchen roll. Although I wasn't a big fan of the bacon in my burger, everything else was amazing. I was unsure about the cheesy sauce when I ordered this burger but it was quite mild yet tasty which suits me perfectly. The burger itself wasn't the best I've ever had, but it's certainly in my top twenty (I've eaten a lot of burgers in my time). Even the coleslaw on the side was delicious, and the chips were lovely and moreish as I would expect from any American-themed restaurant. 

We weren't content with just one visit to The Smoke Haus within a month, so we visited again a few weeks ago. This time, I decided to go for the chilli dog. Ta-dah!

Another massive meal... the chilli was very spicy so I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as I enjoyed my burger, but it was still excellent and a LOT of food. 

Would I recommend The Smoke Haus to others? Most definitely, especially if you love big fat burgers as much as I do. It's very reasonable considering the sheer amount of food you get and I really love the relaxed atmosphere. The staff members are all chatty and efficient, and it's a very family friendly restaurant. They also have a bar with lots of choice and an extensive dessert selection, although I've never drunk alcohol or eaten dessert there. I'm always too full... can you blame me after seeing these photos?

The restaurants stationed in this particular Cardiff city centre location always seem to fail and covertly go into administration... we're keeping our fingers crossed that this won't happen to The Smoke Haus!

Have you been to The Smoke Haus yet? How many pieces of kitchen roll did you get through? 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Favourite wedding suppliers #3 - Flowers with a Twist

This is the third blog post in my 'favourite wedding suppliers' series (you can read the first two posts here and here). I'm really enjoying writing these posts as it's a lovely way of reliving the memories from the big day as well as a great opportunity to give something back to my fantastic suppliers.

I started thinking about my wedding flowers very early on in the planning process. I knew from the beginning that I wanted a very simple round bouquet with neutral colours. The cascading bouquets look really beautiful on other (taller) brides but I decided I was too short to get away with one of those... it would have hidden most of my dress! I set up meetings with three florists in early January to discuss my wedding flowers, and this is when I met the lovely Suzi from Flowers with a Twist.

I knew I wanted to go with Flowers with a Twist as soon as I'd sat down with Suzi for five minutes. She was so knowledgeable about what type and size of bouquet I should go for, as well as which flowers would complement my colour scheme. Turquoise was a slightly awkward colour scheme when it came to planning the flowers, seeing as there are no turquoise flowers in existence! I also learnt that there are several different types of roses... that was definitely new to me.

Although I was set on having ivory roses for all the bouquets and buttonholes by this point as I didn't want to add too many colours to the wedding colour pallet, Suzi suggested that I should differentiate my bouquet from the bridesmaids' bouquets by adding a few subtle touches. After seeing a few examples of what I could add to my own bouquet, I decided to go for ivory roses with little turquoise diamant├ęs in my bouquet and smaller ivory rose bouquets for the bridesmaids. I also ordered ivory rose buttonholes for the groom, best man, groomsmen, and immediate family. Suzi suggested that I ordered a fabric buttonhole for my little three year old nephew to make sure it stayed pristine all day, and that I should get magnetic buttonholes for the ladies so that the pin didn't mark their dresses. I would never have thought of either of those factors!

As you can see, the flowers looked really beautiful on the day. They turned up in immaculate condition on the morning of the wedding, 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I definitely wasn't going to have any complaints about items turning up early! The buttonholes were all clearly marked for each person and presented carefully on different pieces of card, not just all together in a box as I'd expected. The ivory roses looked so stunning next to our colour scheme and were a lovely contrast with the bridesmaids' dresses, and the buttonholes were the perfect match for the men's suits. The roses were all so perfectly intricate and I fell in love with them straight away. 

Suzi at Flowers with a Twist was helpful and attentive right from the beginning of the process and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this company to anyone looking for striking wedding flowers and sound advice on the subject. The whole process was very organised (just as I like it if you hadn't already guessed by now), and the final price was extremely reasonable and very competitive. The flowers were all delivered to my front door without a hitch and they stayed fresh all day. Perfect. 

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I didn't follow the tradition of throwing my beautiful bouquet... I was too selfish and wanted to keep it all to myself! 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Favourite wedding suppliers #2 - Cardiff Invitations

Welcome to the second blog post in my 'favourite wedding suppliers' series! You can read the first post on my wedding cake supplier here.

Stationery was an extremely important part of the wedding for me and it was one of the things I enjoyed planning the most as I have an unhealthy love for stationery, proofreading and colour coordination. Although we made a few stationery items ourselves to keep costs down, I knew I definitely wanted beautifully and professionally designed invitations, Order of Service booklets and a table plan. And so the hunt for stationery suppliers began...

I came across Cardiff Invitations' website just after Christmas, a week before I went to a huge wedding fayre in Cardiff Bay's Millennium Centre. I loved their varied and personalised stationery designs and noticed that they were exhibiting at the wedding fayre, so I got in touch to see if I'd be able to chat with them in more detail about our requirements. The lovely Anna got back in touch very quickly and said she'd be happy to speak to us at the upcoming wedding fayre.

When we found Cardiff Invitations' stand and fought past the droves of brides-to-be to speak to Anna, I knew straight away that I'd be happy to work with her and that she'd do a fantastic job. She was friendly, efficient and obviously cared about the little details. Just like me! I needed to be absolutely sure that my stationery was in good hands and I felt confident about Anna's delivery from the beginning. We had a chat about the kind of style and colours we wanted and promptly ordered an invitation sample which arrived a few days later.

The colour of the ribbon was just right for our colour scheme and I loved the delicate fabric on the invitation sleeves along with the little ribbon tab at the top. After making a few amendments to the text which Anna processed quickly and efficiently, we were ready to make our final order. Anna delivered the invitations straight to my front door... that was an exciting morning!

We started discussing our Order of Service booklets a few months later and the same efficient process continued. Sample in the post within a few days, electronic proofs sent back to me within a few hours and a friendly and accommodating service throughout. I really couldn't wait to see the Order of Service booklets as it was so important to me that these were just right.

I definitely wasn't disappointed... just look how beautiful it is! I knew the Order of Service booklets would look amazing as I'd already had the pleasure of receiving my striking invitations a few months earlier, but I was still blown away when Anna delivered these beauties the week before the wedding. They were everything I'd dreamed of.

Last but not least, we needed a lovely table plan for our wedding breakfast. I really wanted something stylish which would go with our centrepieces, table runners, chair covers and so on which was why I decided to get one professionally made rather than trying to attempt it myself. I had to suppress a little squeal when I saw my beautiful table plan for the first time...

It matched the other stationery items perfectly and looked so elegant at our wedding venue. I actually want to display it on one of the walls in my new house because I love it so much!  

It's fair to say that I fell in love with all my wedding stationery as soon as I saw it. I loved the colour, the delicate details, the coordination between all the items and just everything about them. Anna ensured that the whole process was stress-free, and it speaks volumes that the stationery was one of the very few things I wasn't stressed about at all from start to finish. 

Reasonably priced, personalised colours and design, efficient service, quick delivery... why wouldn't you choose Cardiff Invitations to provide your wedding stationery? I urge you to give them a try! 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Favourite wedding suppliers #1 - Issy Boo Cakes

Now that the wedding is over and I have some more time on my hands (sometimes), I thought I'd write a few blog posts about my favourite suppliers as a thank you and to pass on my 'wisdom' to other brides.

Searching for decent suppliers can be so daunting when there's so much choice available, and this is something I spent hours and hours on as I wanted to find good quality suppliers at a reasonable price. The internet was both a blessing and a curse when it came to this task! However, I'm so glad I chose all my suppliers so carefully as I was hugely happy with every single one of them.

The first supplier I'm going to blog about. is... Issy Boo Cakes!

Let's face it, everyone loves cake. I love cake an abnormal amount, and so do a lot of my friends, so I was determined to have a wedding cake that both tasted amazing and looked amazing. This resulted in a military operation to find the best wedding cake supplier I possibly could.

I stumbled across Issy Boo Cakes when I was researching cake makers in Cardiff and was immediately struck by the pretty and unique designs on their website. I got in touch with my requirements and the lovely Laura contacted me within a few hours to set up a meeting.

Before I met with Laura, we needed to decide on four flavours so that some cake samples could be prepared in advance. After much deliberating and salivating, we chose rich fruit cake, lemon cake, chocolate mud cake and neopolitan cake. I was pretty amazed when I saw the effort that had gone into the samples...

I was only expecting a few little slivers of each flavour! They were all amazing, but our particular favourite was the lemon cake as the lemon curd buttercream was just beautiful and unlike anything we'd ever tasted before. After these impressive samples and such a positive meeting with Laura, I just had to go with Issy Boo Cakes for our wedding cake.

I knew I wanted a square three-tiered cake with three different flavours, decorated with teal/turquoise ribbons and flowers, and Laura was happy to go with exactly what we wanted. We settled for lemon cake on the bottom tier, fruit cake as the middle tier and chocolate fudge cake as the top tier. We decided to try a different chocolate variety to the sample we asked for as there was so much choice... this proves how much we trusted in Laura's baking skills! We also ordered two dairy and gluten free vanilla cupcakes for our guests with special dietary requirements.

Laura was so organised from the minute we made first contact. The final price was emailed over to me very quickly after our meeting along with a little sketch of what the final cake would look like. Laura then got in touch with the hotel independently to sort all the arrangements for the wedding day which I was very impressed by. I was juggling so many things the week before the wedding and I really appreciated the fact that I didn't need to worry about the wedding cake at all.

On our wedding day, I think you'll agree that the cake looked absolutely beautiful...

I was so pleased with the finished effect, particularly with the sugar roses which matched our colour scheme perfectly. Just look how pretty and bright it is! We served the cake with the evening buffet and everyone commented on how lovely it was. We had positive comments about all three flavours which made me think we definitely made the right choices. The 'free from' cupcakes were also decorated in line with the colour scheme and were really beautifully designed. We were secretly glad that there was some fruit cake and lemon cake left as it meant we could freeze it to enjoy after the wedding! 

I would highly recommend Issy Boo Cakes for your wedding, christening, child's birthday party... whatever the occasion, Issy Boo Cakes will deliver exactly what you need! 

I'm now off to have a slice of cake.