Thursday, 28 September 2017

Restaurant Review: Tony's

Tony's is our 'go-to' restaurant. Midweek birthday? 'Let's go to Tony's'. Need to get out of the house for an hour on a Saturday evening? 'Let's go to Tony's'. Meeting up with friends? 'Let's go to Tony's'. You get the picture!

Tony's is situated on a little street in the middle of Penarth, so it's within walking distance or a five minute drive away from where we live.  The restaurant used to be in a different location and my husband remembers it fondly from his childhood/teenage years, but it closed for a few years and re-opened in the town centre. The first time I visited Tony's a couple of years ago, we were offered free starters as the manager wanted opinions on some of their signature dishes. I immediately knew it was my kind of restaurant! The starter was amazing, in case you were wondering... I'm salivating at the very thoughts of it.

I nearly always order the Combination pizza for my main meal which comes with ham, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and mixed peppers. I'm not even going to try to describe how good it tastes (I'd be a terrible food blogger), except to say that it's just as good as all the authentic Italian pizzas I've ever had! Praise indeed, I hear you say. I did stray from my trusty pizza and ordered a bolognese on one occasion, which was also really delicious and a very hefty portion. However, I did slightly regret not ordering the Combination as I love it so much. The dough is amazing, the crucial cheese to tomato ratio is always perfect, and the combination of toppings is just spectacular.

We usually have a Diet Coke each when we go to Tony's, but I have been known to splash out on a cocktail or a glass of wine on a couple of special occasions. Everything is very reasonably priced, including my fully loaded pizza which is one of the more expensive items on the menu at £12.50. A meal for two easily comes in under £35 which is a great price for such an authentic and good quality experience. We're nearly always served by the same staff members, and they're equally as polite and attentive every time. Although we usually book a table if we're going with a group of people, we tend to just walk in when we go on a weeknight or early on a Saturday evening as the restaurant is generally quiet at those times. I'd expect a little restaurant of this quality to be packed all the time, but I'm not complaining as it allows us to be spontaneous and pop in at short notice.

Have you ever visited Tony's? Make sure you give it a try next time you're in/near Penarth!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

My bow-tiful Mickey ears

Believe it or not, I didn't start wearing novelty Mickey ears until my fourth trip to Florida in September 2016. Although I'd vaguely thought about buying the official Disney ears at the parks on our previous trips, I always decided to spend my money on something else at the last minute. I hold Instagram (particularly Sarah's beautiful account) entirely responsible for the change of heart!

After suffering from serious ear envy and seeing lots of amazing designs on Instagram, I bought two pairs of ears from Bel at Closet Geek Site for our September 2016 trip. Bel has a massive array of ears on offer which made it a difficult choice, but I finally decided on Tangled ears and classic Mickey and Minnie ears. I was in love as soon as they hit my doormat and I couldn't wait to wear them to Walt Disney World.

I loved wearing these Mickey ears in the parks as they're so unique and, more importantly, very comfortable! I didn't see anyone else wearing anything remotely similar to the Tangled ears during our holiday, and the Mickey and Minnie fabric turned out to be very unique too. Even Minnie herself was impressed when I met her at Animal Kingdom!

When we started planning our inevitable trip back to Florida in April/May 2017, I started browsing Etsy for more ears and decided to treat myself to a few more. As I was so impressed with the purchases I'd already made, I bought two more pairs from Closet Geek Site. The Pluto and Donald ears were a custom-made order, and the fabric for the Mrs Potts and Chip ears only came in a few days before my holiday so Bel kindly made sure that they arrived in the post just in time!  

As you can see, these themed ears are great for character interactions. For someone like me who's actually slightly apprehensive about meeting characters, they make a great talking point and take away some of that initial awkwardness. Pluto got very excited about my Pluto and Donald ears, as did his accompanying cast members! 

I also discovered a new seller before we went on our latest holiday so I bought a couple of pairs from Luby and Lola. Lola's ears are so pretty and glitzy with dozens of possible colour combinations, and it was really difficult to narrow my choices down to just a couple of pairs. These beautiful baby pink and baby blue ears were perfect for our evenings out as well as for our busy days in the parks - fit for a princess! 

In my world, it's never too early to start planning for your next Disney trip. I've already bought one new pair of Cruella de Vil ears from Closet Geek Site for our holiday to Walt Disney World in May 2018, and will most likely buy a few more in the next few months! 

Where do you buy your Mickey ears? Do you have any recommendations to share with me?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Celebrating our third wedding anniversary

My regular readers (hello to all three of you) will already know that Neil and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. I've already blogged separately about a few of our anniversary celebrations, but we managed to fit loads in this year so I thought I'd write a post to summarise what else we got up to.


We were determined to make the most of this anniversary as I was in the middle of my cancer diagnosis nightmare on our second wedding anniversary. I had an urgent MRI scan on the actual day of our anniversary last year so it wasn't going to be too difficult to improve on that! My parents kindly took us out for a meal in the evening as they'd accompanied me to the hospital in the afternoon, but that was definitely the only saving grace.

The weekend before our anniversary, we visited The Making of Harry Potter studio tour in Watford. I'd had a difficult couple of months and Neil had been insanely busy in work, so we both really needed this long-awaited weekend away. We had a great time and I blogged all about the studio tour here. After spending the whole afternoon at the studios, there was a conveniently placed TGI Fridays right next to our hotel so we had a lovely meal and cocktails there on the Saturday night. I think a good old Jack Daniel's burger might be on my 'favourite meal ever' shortlist!

We got back from Watford early Sunday afternoon and spent the rest of the day with Jessie as we'd missed her so much while we were away. We initially didn't have any plans for the bank holiday Monday, then Sophie and Bryan invited us over for a barbecue which fitted in perfectly with our plans for the long weekend. The sun was shining and we spent a relaxing few hours talking, laughing, eating, and drinking wine (and some fruit juice).

Bank holiday Monday came and went all too quickly, but luckily we both had a few more days off work. The day before our anniversary, we went for afternoon tea in one of my favourite places in the world - Pettigrew Tea Rooms. I can't believe it's been over three years since the first time I visited there on my hen weekend... I must have been about 25 times since then! As always, the food and service was amazing and it was the perfect way to continue our anniversary celebrations.

To make the day even better, we managed to get a family selfie after we got home from our afternoon tea! We'd been trying to get Jessie to pose for a photo with us for days and she wouldn't cooperate, so I've decided she must have wanted to give her humans a nice anniversary gift. Or perhaps she was just tired and couldn't be bothered to be stubborn on this occasion...

On the day of our anniversary itself, we exchanged cards and gifts when we woke up. As leather is the symbol for the third wedding anniversary, Neil bought me a pretty leather bracelet from Pandora. This grey bracelet has been on my wishlist for a while so he chose very well, as always.

After going out for an obligatory hot chocolate in the afternoon (well, hot chocolate for me and coffee for him), we took Jessie for her evening walk then got ready for our meal at Etc Penarth. We had a really special evening with exquisitely instagrammable food which I blogged about here. As it was a rare opportunity to get dressed up, I wore my new white dress (sale bargain from New Look!) and my perfectly matching New Look shoes and Kate Spade bag. Colour coordination makes me happy, just in case you didn't know that already.

When we got back home after our meal, we settled down with a drink and watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We're slowly making our way through the films again after visiting the studios... the second one is arguably the weakest film but we couldn't possibly leave it out.

I think you'll agree that this year's anniversary beats last year's, hands down!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Restaurant Review: Etc

We visited Etc in Penarth for the first time last week to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. We wanted to try somewhere new, unique and highly recommended, and Etc ticked all those boxes!

The restaurant was very quiet when we arrived at 6:30pm and we were seated straight away in a secluded spot next to the window.

Etc is a very small restaurant with a decadent black and gold interior, from the light fittings and the wall hangings down to the menus and candle holders. I'd read in a couple of reviews beforehand that the decor was 'too much', but I thought it was really classy and nicely done. And, crucially, it's very instagrammable! There were a few black and gold balloons dotted around so I assumed they were in preparation for someone's birthday party, but it turns out that they're all part of the restaurant's general theme. 

I'd already studied the innovative menu in great detail beforehand so I knew exactly what I was having to eat. However, it took a little longer to decide on my cocktail as the drinks menu was very extensive! I eventually settled on the Spiced Ginger Mojito, and Neil had a glass of Pinot Grigio. 

Although my starter was listed as a Small Plate on the menu rather than as an actual starter, I knew I absolutely had to order it as soon as I read the description. I chose the Chicken Satay which was mouth-wateringly described as 'peanut butter chicken infused with honey, coriander and chilli served on a bed of egg noodles'. Seriously, who wouldn't choose it with a description like that? 

As you can see, the 'small plate' was a decent portion size for a starter and it was so delicious. I usually struggle with taking meat off skewers (there was an embarrassing incident a few years ago when I accidentally flicked a piece of chicken across a crowded restaurant), but the meat on these skewers was lovely and tender. The egg noodles had a slightly nutty tang too and were just the right texture - not too chewy! 

After consuming this amazing starter, I was very excited about the prospects of the main course. I chose the vegetarian version of the Pineapple Upside Down dish which was made up of pineapple basmati rice with mixed peppers, chilli and coriander served in a pineapple shell.

Imagine my delight (and the speed in which my phone camera appeared) when this beauty arrived on our table! This portion was huge, bearing in mind that the pineapple shell was hollowed out and entirely filled with the tasty rice concoction. There were big chunks of pineapple included throughout and the delicate flavouring of the rice was divine. I'm not usually drawn towards dishes made up entirely of rice, but this one definitely didn't disappoint. 

We were both pretty full after our starters and mains but we decided to force some dessert down too as it was a special occasion (and because, let's face it, we love food). I went for one of my favourite desserts in the world - Vanilla Panna Cotta. This particular panna cotta came served with fresh strawberries and raspberries, and drizzled with a raspberry coulis.

Just like the other two courses, the presentation of the dessert was exquisite and the taste wasn't bad either. Although I've been very spoilt with my previous experiences of panna cotta as I usually order them in Italy, this one measured up very well compared to my authentic Italian desserts! 

This was one of our more expensive meals together at £75. Just to recap, this included two alcoholic drinks, two starters, two main courses and two desserts. It's obviously not somewhere we'd visit every week, but I thought it was perfect for a special occasion and well worth the money for such a lovely experience and amazing and out-of-the-ordinary culinary delights. The staff were friendly and attentive and the atmosphere was perfectly relaxed, just what we needed for our anniversary meal.

Have you ever visited Etc? What did you think?