WALKABOUT - Reading {Review}

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Exterior of Walkabout Reading
Walkabout Reading
A few weeks ago I was invited to review an Australian style bar called, Walkabout. You all know how much I love food, so there was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity. Of course I invited my restaurant review partner-in-crime, the lovely Lisa of United Cakedom! I wasn't 100% sure whereabouts in Reading this place was, but Lisa is a local so she's always great at directing me to where I need to go. Honestly I was a little surprised to find this place tucked away down a side alley, it looked amazing, and despite being well hidden there were a fair few people there.

Interior of walkabout Reading
Beach bar Interior
Once inside I was surprised to see that the interior looked much more like that of a bar at the beach, it almost felt like we weren't even in Reading anymore. We were seated in a very comfortable booth, and had a very good view of the entire bar, which I always enjoy as I love to people watch. Failing that though there were TV's plastered everywhere playing some football game or another, which a fair few groups of friends had clearly come to watch. Personally I'm not a fan of watching sports in bars, however that didn't put me off at all. The atmosphere in Walkabout was great and you could tell that everyone was enjoying themselves, and the whole place felt very relaxed.

Picture of my mocktail, the Virgin Aussie Sunset
Virgin Aussie Sunset
In Walkabout it's standard that you would go up to the bar and order your food, which would then be brought up to you by the server, very much what you would expect from this type of place. However we were very lucky to have a server come over and take our order so that we never had to leave our booth. Whilst we were navigating the menu, we decided to order a few drinks, of course I rarely drink alcohol anymore so decided to go with a Virgin Aussie Sunset, which included; passion fruit puree, pineapple juice, orange juice, vanilla syrup and grenadine. It came in a lovely tall glass, garnished with some passion fruit, and it was absolutely delicious. This was super refreshing and sweet, and was exactly what I was expecting when I ordered it. Lisa decided to be more adventurous and went for something called a Jaffa Can, which had Vodka, Kahlua, and Triple Sec all poured into a Sanpellegrino Aranciata can, which she very much enjoyed.

Picture of cutlery holder
Interesting cutlery
Once we placed our order our server brought out our cutlery and I was pleasantly surprised at how it was delivered. This may seem like a really small and silly thing to highlight, but it's something that I hadn't seen before and it was a nice touch. Basically the cutlery is delivered in a small cardboard sleeve, with a bright and colourful design and quote on it. Now I don't know about you, but normally when I go to a pub or a bar for food, either you have to get your own cutlery, or the server that brings it out just chucks it all into a pile in the middle of the table for everyone to fight over. This idea, whilst simple, definitely made me smile!

Parmi burger with fries
Parmi burger with fries
Once we had properly settled in we went right ahead and ordered our food. I was stuck between two meals and was struggling to decide. Lisa was once again more adventurous and decided to go with the 'Roo Burger' which is made with actual Kangaroo imported from Australia. We were told by our wonderful server that it has a particularly gamy flavour, which unfortunately I wasn't brave enough to try. I instead ended up going for the Parmi Burger, which is a breaded chicken burger with ham and cheese sandwiched together, and topped with salsa, which came with standard fries. This burger was humongous and every bite tasted better than the last. If you know me then you will know that burgers are one of my favourite foods, and I can be very particular about them, and this burger certainly didn't disappoint!

Roo burger with Sweet Potato fries
Roo burger with Sweet Potato fries
Lisa's Roo Burger also looked and smelled amazing, and she was very pleased with it. She decided to go with sweet potato fries with hers for a change, and honestly when they arrived I took one look at them and was so jealous! Thankfully Lisa is an amazing friend and she let me help myself to a few of hers and honestly I was blown away. Sweet potato fries are my favourite and normally they can be a bit soggy (but still delicious), but these fries were so crispy, it was unreal! Hands down the best sweet potato fries I have ever eaten, how ironic that I didn't even order them...

picture of my Gigantic Freak Shake
Gigantic Freak Shake
Once we were done with our main courses, our thoughts turned to dessert. The item that immediately caught my eye was the Freak Shake, it sounded jam packed of stuff and had so many different elements and each one sounded more delicious than the last. I decided to go for a single, but if you are wanting to share with a friend then they do offer the same dessert in a larger size. As you can tell from the picture above this dessert is full to the brim and it includes; vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge milkshake, a Nutella rim covered in Smarties, a wedge of chocolate fudge cake, a cookie, candyfloss, chocolate sauce, a flake, and mini marshmallows. When it came out I couldn't stop myself from smiling, my inner child was bursting to eat this! To be honest I struggled to finish the dessert, I soldiered on and ate as much as possible, but I have to admit, it defeated me. Our kind server managed to find me a takeaway box though so I was able to at least bring home the rest of the fudge cake for my boyfriend to try...

I left Walkabout feeling very full, both physically and emotionally from such a laid back and enjoyable meal. If you are looking for a place to go and enjoy some beverages with your mates, and maybe to experience some interesting food then Walkabout is definitely the place for you. You can check out Walkabout's full menu here.

**I was invited to review this restaurant and in return was given my meal and drinks for free, however all opinions in this post are my own**
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McDonald's Restaurant Revolution {Didcot} | AD

Sunday, 23 July 2017

McDonald's Didcot
McDonald's Didcot | via

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a blog event at a recently refurbished McDonald's restaurant in Didcot. I must say I wasn't 100% sure what to expect from the event, but it was actually really fun! You may already know that McDonalds is undergoing a refurbishment which is set to completely change the way we order, and dine in their restaurants, if you haven't not to worry! This is what the event was all about, to show us around both the front of house, and the kitchen so that we could see what changes have been made, but also why these changes are good. So here I am to tell you all about the awesome new changes that they have made to make our lives easier! Firstly we were split into two groups, to make our tour easier, my group started off with the front of the restaurant, so let's start there...

McDonalds new self serve kiosks
McDonalds new self serve kiosks

One of the biggest, and most noticeable changes in the new restaurants is the new self service Kiosks! These are touch screen and are really easy to use, everything is clearly labelled and easy to see, they even have a little button which you can press if you are a child/disabled and need the screen to be smaller so you can easily see/reach everything.

McDonalds new self serve kiosks
McDonalds new self serve kiosks

We were taken through how to place an order from start to finish, so that we could really get used to how they work. The best part about these new kiosk's is that you can completely customise your burgers, so if there is only one thing you dislike you can take that out, or if like me you are really picky, you can just make it plain! What this means is that you can make sure that your order has been placed 100% accurately for every detail you want, meaning there is no confusion at the till point, or embarrassment if like me you get shy about a long custom order. There are of course still till-points available if you would rather place your order that way, but having both options is helping McDonald's to give customers more options, and reduce queue times. Once you have paid for your order and it is placed you are given a receipt with an order number, and there is a screen above the collection point which shows you when your order is ready to collect. At that point you just take your receipt up and then take away your food.

New digital menu's at McDonalds
New digital menu's at McDonalds

Another big change with the front of house area is the new digital displays, which along with looking amazing, allow the restaurant to easily display specials to customers. I'm sure you all are used to seeing the big menu displays at McDonald's, and if you ever saw a breakfast change over then you'll know that staff had to manually flip over the displays to show the change over. Now they are digital they automatically switch over at 10:30 without the staff having to struggle with them. Although probably the coolest thing about the new digital screens is that they support animation, meaning that the menu can be living, so it can sweep across to display specials, as it has in the photograph above, or it can simply add a little twinkle next to a certain item to draw the eye to it.

Tablets for customer use
Tablets for customer use

Looking around the new restaurant it is easy to see that the focus really has been placed on creating a greater customer experience. This is especially seen with the addition of a new tablet bar, at which there are several tablets that are for customer use. There are options to surf the internet and even some games on these tablets for your children to play whilst you enjoy your food. Throughout the restaurant there are even charging stations for people to sit and work on their laptops if they like, or even simply charge their smartphones.

New drink preparation area
New drink preparation area

The final change we really spoke about in regards to the front of house area is all about the way in which staff will serve the customers. Before the member of staff at the till would take your order and then go and make your drinks/compile the order. Now there is a dedicated team who deal with all of the drinks and ice creams for the orders, so the till server can ensure they are giving you their undivided attention. Not only this but there is also a new 'table service' so if you wanted when you order, either at the till, or the Kiosk, you can tell them which section of the restaurant you are sitting in, and they will bring your food over to you no problem. Along with this the staff member delivering your food carries with them at all times extra straws, napkins and sauces, just in case there is anything you require further once they deliver your food. Meaning that if you don't want to, you shouldn't need to get up at all. That's not all, there are dedicated front of house staff, whom along with ensuring the front of house is kept clean, will now provide a higher level of service by checking in with customers to make sure they don't need anything else, or just to provide some friendly chat to make customers feel more welcome.

Being put to work in the kitchen
Being put to work in the kitchen
After we were done with the front of house, we got shown around the back. Starting in the staff room we were given our own hats, aprons, badges, and hairnets of course so we could get ourselves prepped for our 'mini shift' in the kitchen, we actually got to keep the hats, aprons and badges which I was really excited about because the aprons is this cool denim material, best believe I will be wearing this around the house. Then we were shown the chiller to dispel some of the most common McDonalds myths such as, 'McDonalds uses powdered eggs', after having a look around the chiller myself I can ensure you the eggs are very much real. Then we entered the kitchen and washed our hands thoroughly, a very important task considering we were about to make our own Big Mac burgers! Believe it or not the buns don't come in pre-toasted, they are freshly toasted when a burger is made, and they toast in 17 seconds flat... How crazy is that?

Making a Big Mac
Making a Big Mac
So to make a Big Mac of course you start with toasting the bun, then you place the bottom bun in the right side of the case, the top and middle buns go in the left. The famous Big Mac sauce goes on both the bottom bun and the middle bun, followed by onions, and lettuce on both, I was being a bit stingy with the lettuce so I had to keep adding more and then two pickles on the middle... Then you open the meat trays and place one patty on the bottom, one on the middle, you lift up the entire middle section, place it onto the bottom and then close the lid of the case, which flips up the top bun, and everything should be in place!

Me with my handmade Big Mac
Me with my handmade Big Mac
Here I am looking pleased as punch with my Big Mac, needless to say it DID NOT look like the ones in the adverts, (pictures to follow)... It was great fun getting to actually make something in the kitchen, but this was definitely the best way to show us possibly the biggest change McDonalds have made, and that is all about how they prepare/cook the food. So previously all of the burgers were batch made and completely finished and placed on a 'run' at the front of the kitchen, by the tills. Granted they were only allowed to sit there for 15 mins or so, but still 15 mins of a hot burger sitting on all of the salad meant that you could end up with a slightly soggy burger, still delicious, but maybe a little soggy. Gone are those days with the new kitchens! You may not know but for as long as I can remember McDonalds would batch cook their chicken products and leave them in these little warming drawers, only getting them out when an order was placed. It goes without saying that these were not left for hours and hours and were replaced if sat too long. Well now the same goes for the meat. The burgers are batch cooked and then the meat is set inside warming drawers until the burgers are made up. When an order is placed the burgers (and only the burgers) appear on the screen for those on that side of the kitchen, then they go through the entire process, just like we did, making the burgers fresh. This means that you get a completely fresh burger every time you come. The meat in the drawers isn't allowed to sit there any longer than the recommended time, and they all have their own individual timers, which alert the staff to when they have been sat too long. If the timer goes off the leftover meat is binned and fresh is made. It certainly makes me confident in the freshness of the product I am eating!

My Big Mac vs. The Advert
My Big Mac vs. The Advert
Once we were done in the kitchen we got to sit, and whilst we were waiting for the other group to finish, we got to sit down, eat our Big Mac's and ask any questions we liked to the Managers of several restaurant's in the area. I thought it would be really funny to show you what my big mac looked like next to one from the advert, needless to say I won't be getting offered a job in the McDonald's kitchens any time soon. What my Big Mac lacked in looks it definitely made up for in taste, and having not eaten a big mac for a good six years at least it was very satisfying. Although our food tasting did not stop there, we were all invited to try the new Signature menu, which consists of three new burgers with thicker patties; The BBQ, The CLASSIC and The SPICY. Every single person decided to go for the BBQ with their own alterations, I basically had mine without salad, and we even got them as as meal. Whilst we were sitting one of the managers kindly gave us all the gold stars to fill out our badges so that we could become honorary crew members, its amazing how excited we all were by these little stars!

The BBQ Signature Meal
The BBQ Signature Meal
The signatures come in their own stylish black packaging, and if you order a meal you even get a black container for your fries, which I am a big fan of, it just looks so sleek. The burgers come in a beautiful striped wrapper so that you can hold your burger without getting grease or sauce all over yourself. The BBQ burger that I chose comes with BBQ sauce, bacon, cheese and then the items I chose to remove were lettuce, red onion and coleslaw. All of the signatures also come inside a Brioche bun, which if you've never had a burger on brioche, I recommend you do so right away, as it's hands down my favourite way to eat them! The big difference between the signature burgers and the regular is the thickness of the meat, and that is what makes them a stand out burger for me. Being thicker means that whilst you get a nice crisp coating on the outside, the inside of the meat stays really juicy, and is probably hands down the nicest burger I have ever eaten from McDonald's. The BBQ signature has quickly become my go-to order whenever I go to a newer McDonald's!

Once we were fully stuffed and had finished having all of our McDonald's myths busted, we slowly made our way out of the restaurant and home, I say slowly because I was so full I could only move slowly, but that's the best way I can think of to leave a McDonald's, with your belly full and a big smile on your face...

A big thank you to McDonald's in Didcot for hosting this event and being so gracious, if you are ever in that area I highly suggest that you pop in for yourself as all the staff there are lovely!

**This is a sponsored post for McDonald's and as such I have been reimbursed for my time and travel expenses, However all opinions within this post remain my own**
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The Real Greek - Reading {Review}

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Photo of the restaurant front
The Real Greek, Riverside Reading | via

It feels like it's been a long time since I went to a blogging event, in fact it's been about a year since my last one! However when I saw the invite for 'The Real Greek' a brand new restaurant on the riverside in Reading, I knew I had to attend. So I shot a message over to my friend Lisa over at United Cakedom, and thankfully she was totally up for being my plus one.

Tonia Buxton
The lovely Tonia Buxton | via
When we arrived we were seated and it wasn't long before we were greeted by the lovely Tonia Buxton, who pulled up a chair and began talking us through the menu. Tonia, for anyone who doesn't know, is THE woman to talk to about Greek food in the UK, she even presented a TV series called 'My Greek Kitchen', so we knew we were in good hands. Before this experience I had never actually eaten Greek food ever, a fact which Tonia was blown away by! She talked us through some of the staples of a Greek meal, before mentioning a special promotion they have at the moment with real Greek watermelons. They imported watermelons directly from Greece and have used them to create three special dishes that will only be available for a month, one of which was a very interesting combo of watermelon and feta which we we decided to try. Tonia even helped us place our first order in to the waitress, which I welcomed as I had no idea where to begin. She certainly made me feel very at ease, especially when I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the food, (spoiler alert: I loved it).

Small plates of food
Little plates all stacked up!
I must say one of the things I really liked the most about the food is that it is all small plates that you can share. So it means that if (like me) you are a little fussy sometimes you can order something with a friend that you can try, but you know they will eat if you don't enjoy it. Also the plates come stacked on these little stands kind of like how you'd expect afternoon tea to be served, which is very practical considering how many plates you are likely to order with the food being so delicious!

Our first round of dishes
From top left to bottom right: Flatbread, Tzatziki, Green Pea Fava, Watermelon and Feta.
We started off with some flatbread with various accompaniments including Houmous, Tzatziki and Green Pea Fava. Whilst I haven't really eaten Greek food before, I must admit that I had of course tried Houmous, I mean who hasn't? I enjoyed every single one of the dips with the flatbread, but I must say my favourite had to be the Tzatziki, it was so refreshing alongside the other dishes that we sampled later on in the meal. We did try hard not to immediately fill ourselves on all of the flatbread, but it was very hard not to with it right in front of us. Along with our flatbread came the watermelon and feta salad which was one of the specials. Honestly I'm not that big a fan of watermelon personally, so I knew this dish was never going to be a hit with me. I tried both the watermelon and feta on their own, and then together as intended. I can see why this dish was put together, it makes sense, the saltiness of the feta with the sweetness of the watermelon, they compliment each other well, but it just wasn't to my personal taste. If you are a big fan of sweet and salty combinations then this dish is definitely one for you. On the plus side this dish helped me try something brand new, Feta cheese! I know I can almost hear the gasps, I had never tried feta, I don't have a reason, I just hadn't. Now I have I can honestly say I will never look back...

Another point I absolutely must mention at this point is the service. I've never been to a restaurant with friendlier waiting staff, and they often anticipated our requests before we even asked. Lisa managed to drop her fork, and before we could even turn to ask for a clean one a member of staff was straight over to the table with a fresh one for her. I think they did an amazing job of striking the balance between being attentive but at the same time leaving us alone to enjoy our meal. I will certainly be comparing service everywhere else I go from now on to this experience.

Our second round of dishes
From top left to bottom right: Prawn Saganaki, Pork Belly, Falafel, Caramel and Pecan Cheesecake.
After we had overdone ourselves on the bread we had our other dishes delivered. I don't eat seafood but Lisa was very keen to try the prawns, which she said were delicious. I myself ordered the pork belly, a dish that I often enjoy at home, and also some falafel which was another Greek dish I had yet to try. I can hands down say that the pork belly was the best that I had ever eaten, and for me was the stand out dish of the evening. I've never had a pork belly the just melted like butter in my mouth, it was incredible. Lisa was laughing at me because I said I wanted to marry the pork belly, honestly I was only half joking, that's how good it was! The falafel was also delicious but unfortunately greatly overshadowed by the pork for me. What I liked the most about the falafel was that it was so crispy on the outside, but the inside was really soft and chewy, my favourite combination of textures in a single dish. We did also order some of the Med Chicken, (rosemary marinated chicken thighs), in a food induced haze, and when it arrived we struggled through it, and it didn't disappoint.

Finally somehow we managed to muster a bit of a second wind so that we could sample a dessert each. Lisa went for the Greek Filo Custart Pie, and I went for the Caramel and Pecan Cheesecake. Cheesecake for me is probably my favourite dessert and one I often default to as I know I am bound to like it. I am so glad I continued my pattern and settled on the cheesecake because it was delicious and also unlike any cheesecake I have ever had. Whilst the cheesecake itself was definitely sweetened I would say not as much as others I have tried, and as such the cream cheese was still detectable, which when paired with the sweet caramel was to die for. I have a very big sweet tooth and I can happily say that it was satisfied with this dessert. At the end of the meal when we were completely stuffed the staff even offered to box up the leftovers for us to take home, I let Lisa have them as I'm not a great fan of the same food the next day!

All in all I would consider my first real Greek dining experience a success, and I can't imagine having done it anywhere more perfect that at 'The Real Greek' in Reading. I had a fantastic time with some amazing company, and I couldn't recommend the food highly enough, especially if you've never had Greek before! Feel free to visit The Real Greek's website to see if they have a restaurant in your area... Also a massive thanks to my good friend Lisa of United Cakedom for keeping me company and helping me scoff the food!

** I was invited to review the restaurant and was giving this meal experience for free, however all opinions stated above are my own **
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The Great Bloggers Bake Off - Week Six - Paul Hollywood's Fougasse

Monday, 3 October 2016

Photo of my finished Paul Hollywood's Herb Fougasse
Paul Hollywood's Herb Fougasse
We're over half way there everyone! Can you even believe it? This week was yet another first in Bake Off history, Botanical Week. Now when I first heard about the theme for the week I was a little sceptical, but then I got very excited. I had originally wanted to make a lemon and lavender cake inspired by my favourite Yankee Candle, but I couldn't get hold of culinary lavender in time, so I had to quickly come up with a plan B. Sorry Paul but yes, your Fougasse wasn't my first choice bake... Having said that, now I've finally eaten some Fougasse I can confirm that it is very tasty indeed.
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The Great Bloggers Bake Off - Week Five - Mary Berry's Bakewell Tart

Monday, 26 September 2016

Picture of My finished tart!
My finished tart!
With the release of this post I am officially half way through the Great Bloggers Bake Off! I feel like we've only just begun, and that there should be a tonne of weeks left, in reality we have five more... With that being said let's continue to enjoy Bake Off and the blogger version with my submission for week five, a copy of Mary Berry's Bakewell Tart.

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The Great Bloggers Bake Off - Week Four: Cinnamon Sugar Churros

Monday, 19 September 2016

Photograph of my freshly baked Cinnamon Sugar Churros w/ Plain Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Cinnamon Sugar Churros w/ Plain Chocolate Dipping Sauce
 Few this week has flown by and once again I didn't have very much time to get a bake done. However I am adamant that I will take part in this Bake off for the whole 10 weeks, so I persevered and ended up making Cinnamon Sugar Churros with a Plain Chocolate Dipping Sauce. It's no secret that I am a massive fan of cinnamon sugar, actually it might be because I don't think I have ever mentioned it on my blog before... Oh well, the point is I LOVE cinnamon sugar, so it was a no-brainer for me that I would do Churros. If you would like to know how to make these beauties then keep reading!

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The Great Bloggers Bake Off - Week Three: Nutella Star Bread

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Photograph of my finished Nutella Star Bread
Nutella Star Bread
How is it already week three of the Great Bloggers Bake Off? Time seems to be moving really quickly at the moment, every time I blink another week is gone. As always week three on the bake off was Paul Hollywood's domain, bread week. This is always a week that I dread, normally my bread bakes don't go too well, this week however everything seemed to fall into place!
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