Getting Taken to Stann and Olly’s

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My name is Chris Caldwell and normally I write reviews for my little website Pastiebap about happenings in and around the Belfast area. I am a genuine Hi-Life card owner and have been for about 4 years, because I love food and I love saving money! It was these 2 passions that met at the cross roads of the good people at Hi-Life. So they are letting me post on their Blog about my experiences in Northern Ireland using their card, what there is to do and general goings on in Belfast and occasionally slightly further afield. Don’t worry i’ll keep it entertaining!

OK I admit it. It was me…but let me explain.  Recently I saw a post on the Hi-Life Facebook asking for recommendation of restaurants to be added to their 2 for 1 card. I had actually forgotten that you could do this. So I quickly sent off a few suggestions. Top of my list was a place that I had seen and wanted to try out, Stann and Olly’s on the Dublin Road Belfast. Sure enough a week later I got an E-mail about new restaurants being added to the 2 for 1 deals that Hi-life offers. There was Stann and Olly’s on the list! This was all the excuse I needed to go.

So I went with my wife last week. We were going to see Taken 2 in the Dublin road Cinema which is right next door. This screening (like for the rest of the week) was sold out, so luckily we had bought our tickets in advance on the Internet. If you go on a Tuesday all films are £3. The film was great, just a big dumb action film, but with local man Liam Neeson as the star and the packed screening it was definitely a crowd pleaser.

After the film we went next door to Stann and Olly’s for a bit of dinner. If you haven’t been before, and if the name hasn’t given it away, it’s homage to the great Laurel and Hardy.  Their black and white films play on rotation of the screens around the walls. The place is kitted out like a slice of Americana. Coloured leather booths and metal rimmed tables, Black and white checked floors and massive milkshakes, a proper themed restaurant. We were shown to our table (a booth by the window) and ordered. Pretty quickly down came our 2 Milk-shakes and 2 Burgers. I had the Malteaser milkshake and the Bacon Cheese burger and my wife had the Chocolate milkshake and the classic chicken burgers. It wasn’t long before we’d finished and were so full that when we were asked about desserts we had to decline. To be honest the Milk shake is like a dessert in itself.

We used the Hi-Life card and so got one of the meals free saving us the guts of £10 in one outing. So between this and the £3 tickets at the Movie House on a Tuesday night we were able to have a night out pretty cheap.

To me that means more nights out. Excellent! Oh and we’ll definitely be back for those desserts next time.

By Chris Caldwell

 

Hi-Life Value

I have had a hi-life card now for about 6 years now. I first bought it when I was searching the web for nice restaurants. I had tired of going to the same old restaurants all the time and was looking for something new. After a bit of reading about it I took the plunge, ringing up to order it and excitedly receiving it a few days later. At the time my “foodie” interests where small but starting to blossom. Having a look through the book I saw so many restaurants I’d never heard of and some types of restaurants I’d never heard of. My mind could only imagine what Mexican restaurants served!! I went to my first restaurant on the hi-life card, a place called ULURUH in ARMAGH. A place I would never have known existed if not for the hi-life card. It was an Australian restaurant, I ate kangaroo. My mind was blown and it was delicious. On that meal we saved about £30. No small sum. We went on to many different restaurants that year and every year since. We have found some of our current favourites through the Hi-life. Most recently we discovered the most mouth-watering Parisian style eatery in Belfast complete with scale model of the Eiffel tower out the front, a brand new favourite. The hi-life card is a great way for people to try a new restaurant for very little, the hope with the customer (and the restaurant) is that they are impressed and return. 99% of the time this is the case. why else would a restaurant offer up their fare at half price if they weren’t confident that it was good enough to warrant a return visit. I’ve tried to work out how much I’ve saved using the hi-life card. It’s tough to work out, but it has been nice thinking through delicious meals we’ve had throughout the years. My parents, brothers and sister have also bought cards and in one place we used 4 cards together saving around £150. But I’ve worked it out to be about £270 a year or £1260 over the 6 years. It’s a staggering sum, but if you eat out only twice a year the card usually pays for itself. Of course every year they add new restaurants and that’s what still excites me, the thought of a brand new favourite restaurant! (well that and saving money of course)

Hi-Life Welcomes La Tasca

We are delighted to announce that Hi-Life members can now get 2 for 1 at La Tasca. The offer is available 7 days a week and is valid until the 10th February 2013.

Their 42 UK restaurants invite you to imagine yourself dining on a sun-drenched Spanish hillside, just as they have since the very first La Tasca Spanish Tapas Restaurant and Bar opened its doors in Manchester’s city centre in 1993. Find your nearest restaurant here.

Since then, La Tasca has served its authentic Spanish cuisine in cities nationwide – from Glasgow to Portsmouth and Bristol to Norwich. Each welcoming bar and restaurant has its own distinctive character. Vivid ceramics, rustic cookware and bright prints and posters bring alive the look and feel of the real Spain. Many also have inviting terraces, where you can eat and drink (British weather permitting!) the very best of Spain ‘al fresco’.


Whether indoors or out, there’s simply nothing more Spanish than gathering around the table to share home-cooked dishes, created with the freshest of ingredients and the passion, pride and expertise of our talented chefs.


*1 card can be used for up to 8 people dining, excludes chef’s specials, sharing paella’s & promotional/set menus. Please book in advance online/phone.

La Bastille – C’est Manifique!

If you’re up the Lisburn road lately you’ll notice something a little bit different. Perhaps even a little bit out of place. The latest addition is of course the 10ft replica of the Eiffel Tower stuck pride of place outside the front of La Bastille and very grand it is too. So we know the place looks the part but does it taste the part? There’s only one way to find out, it’s a tough job but I (quite selflessly) offered myself up for the job.

As I arrived with my wife on a really wet and windy night, we were greeted warmly by Guillaume and were promptly shown to our seats that were right by the window so we could look up and see the Eiffel Tower outside. As we sat perusing the menu Guillaume came over to ask if he could help with anything. My wife explained that she was undecided and so he took the time to help her choose. I must say that the interactions we had with Guillaume and the other server were wonderfully entertaining and worth coming for alone! It kind of hi-lights what’s missing in a lot of modern restaurants, that personal touch. We also ordered a bottle of wine to go with our meal.

5 minutes after ordering our starters had arrived. I had the frogs’ legs in garlic and parsley butter.  The Frogs legs tasted something between chicken and crab and where very tender, the butter lent it a hint of flavour but without being over powering.  My wife had the Brie with almonds encased in a light pastry which was warm and creamy, the almonds adding a touch of crunch against the smoothness of the cheese and the lightness of the pastry.  All in all it was a good start; they whet the appetite without overshadowing the main course.

Next up was the main course, time for some beef! I love beef, I love red wine and I love mashed potatoes so when I ordered Beef Bourguignon nothing could go wrong, right? Thankfully I’m pleased to say nothing did go wrong (I had you going though). The Bourguignon came down in a little cauldron with a fancy scoop of mash. The mash itself was the very definition of smooth, buttery and like velvet in potato form. I’ve honestly never tasted better. The Beef itself was in chunks, with a textured outer and tender inner. Served in a red wine sauce with lardons and onions, the flavour was simple and rich all at the same time and was fused into the very core of every mouthful of beef I took. My wife had roast chicken fillet served with goat’s cheese on a bed of shredded cabbage and bacon with celeriac fondant and a roasting jus. The chicken was tender and flavoursome and the accompanying bits and pieces all worked together to make a wonderful dish.  She ordered a side of Dauphinoise potatoes as this is one her favourite dishes. Usually I find Dauphinoise very stodgy and gooey, these were particularly light and creamy, Fantastique!

After the mains we were both fully stuffed, but I always say that pudding goes into a separate section of your belly, that doesn’t get full with normal food (there is no medical evidence to back this up however) so we ordered desert as well!

Chocolate mousse with a raspberry centre and shortbread base all smothered in a chocolate sauce is very hard to say no to, so I didn’t, and boy was I glad I did. The slight tartness of the berries complimented the rich chocolate mouse and the shortbread gave it that little bit of bite. It was served with a little scoop of Chantilly cream. I didn’t find the need for it, but it was there all the same. My Wife (who is a certified chocoholic) decided she had to get something different and so tried the French Crème Brulee. She said it was so nice that she didn’t even want to try my Chocolate mousse, it also meant I didn’t get to taste it either before it was all gone.

A quick espresso and a flash of my hi-life card later and we got the bill, In total we’d saved over £25. Guillaume and his staff have certainly carved out a little Paris shaped hole in the heart of Northern Ireland and one that we’ll definitely be back for Maybe next time I’ll brush up on my French, it would be nice to be able to say a bit more than just “Tres bon, Merci”.

http://www.labastillerestaurant.com/

Belfast Christmas Market

So here we are in December again, the days are going quicker and quicker and before you know it Christmas is over and we’re wondering where it all went. So it’s important in the mix of all the organising and buying and cooking that you stop and soak up the atmosphere of the season. Where better to do that than the Belfast Christmas market.
Open from 17th Nov right up until 20th Dec the Continental market in the grounds of Belfast City hall is a veritable winter wonder land. Why not enjoy the the German beer tent, have a polish sausage for dinner and take the kids on the merry go round. Santa’s grotto is also open for the boys and girls that have been good this year and of course mulled wine for the adults that have been good too! Some of the culinary high lights include:

• Bratwurst sausages and German beers
• warming gluhwein
• liqueur coffees
• gourmet burgers
• Spanish paella
• toasted baguettes
• waffles, crêpes and Dutch pancakes
• cakes, fudge and sweets
• Continental and Irish cheeses
• exotic meats from around the world.

The Market is extremely well organised with plenty of toilets for use and all the stalls are held in purpose built wooden huts. You can pick up some of you shopping for Christmas as well, some of the handmade goodies that can be picked up include:

• leather handbags, purses and wallets from France
• candles
• jewellery
• ‘smellies’ from Provence
• natural carved wooden furniture, statues, figurines from Kenya
• pashminas and scarves.

The market is lit up beautifully and Christmas music can be heard throughout. Sellers come from all over Europe and beyond to join in the Christmas market in Belfast making it one of Europe’s biggest. It’s a great start to a night out and even better if you’re bringing kids.

Market opening times
• Monday – Wednesday: 10am – 8pm
• Thursday – Saturday: 10am – 10pm (except Thurs 20 Dec when it will close at 6pm)
• Sunday: 1pm – 6pm

Hi-life restaurants near by!
The Market is great to grab some food on the go but if you want to really make a night of it and enjoy some food in a restaurant nearby here are a few that are available on the Hi-life card which of course means saving you some money that can be spent picking up that wooden giraffe in the market ;)
The Apartment is right beside the city hall and with ceiling to floor glass windows means you can overlook the city hall and the market in all its glory.
The Grill Room at Ten Sq is a great spot for some food and is right behind the city hall so you can stop and people watch while enjoying some delicious grub

Bedford Hotel’s Cartland Restaurant has just been recognised with an AA rosette.

The modern British cooking at the Bedford Hotel’s Cartland Restaurant has just been recognised with an AA rosette.

Recently awarded a prestigious AA rosette, the Cartland Restaurant serves modern British cuisine that’s firmly based on fresh, seasonal produce sourced from local suppliers.

It’s open for dinner seven nights a week as well as for Sunday lunch and is part of the three-star Bedford Hotel in St Annes.  The 45-room hotel has been run by the Baker family for almost 30 years and is well located, just a two-minute walk from both St Annes promenade and the town centre.  As well as the main Cartland Restaurant, hotel facilities include a coffee shop, which opens from 10am-6pm every day, and two function rooms which can cater for between 30 and 130 people.

Cartland Head Chef Paul Curran has been at the Bedford for 14 years and diners have a choice between a la carte and table d’hote menus.  A typical evening meal might start with a Lytham shrimp risotto, followed by pot-roasted blade of beef served with spring onion mash and red wine sauce flavoured with rosemary, and then for dessert baked chocolate marble cheesecake.  The kitchen bakes a selection of speciality breads (olive, tomato, fruit & nut, wholemeal and white) and a 23-bin wine list offers plenty of choice to complement the food. As well as the AA rosette, the restaurant holds a five-star food hygiene award while the hotel holds a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.Bedford Hotel’s Cartland Restaurant has just been recognised with an AA rosette.

Hi-life members receive £15 reduction from the total food bill.  For further information please click here

Where to eat in manchester with Hi-Life Diners Club

We often get our vegetarian members asking where we would recommend so this is a great review – thanks……..”The food here is fantastic and the menu is so varied! As a vegetarian, I had a whole menu to myself with things I had never eaten before – not something that happens with Chinese food. My partner had the crabs to start which he said were really tasty and the Weeping Tiger marinated steak for mains, and he would be the first to say if steak wasn´t up to scratch! Lovely little place, but hardly anyone in, so more for a relaxed meal with a friend than a posh one. Would recommend though”

Thanks R Smith for your member comments about the Jade Garden, Manchester http://bit.ly/PrO15b

The Craft Guild of Chefs name finalists for the National Chef of the Year 2012 competition

 

A total of eight very talented chefs are celebrating after they have made it through to the final of the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year 2012, the most sought after title for chefs across the UK.

On Tuesday, 9th October  at The Restaurant Show at London’s Earls Court 2, the 8 finalists take part in a live cook off and will have to showcase their creativity, flare and technical skills in a bid to impress the panel of chef judges including Philip Howard, Angela Hartnett, Atul Kochhar,Tom Kerridge & Mark Sargean.

 

Two of the UK’s top culinary training centres  (Sheffield College and  Westminster Kingsway College ) successfully hosted the tense and highly competitive semi-finals, where 40 chefs battled it out to win their place in the final 8 . The live cook off is sure to be a fantastic event.

Winning the title is an outstanding achievement and the prize package up for grabs is worth in excess of £15,000.
The finalists are:

Hayden Groves – BaxterStorey

Andrew Wright – Restaurant 23

John Howie – Sodexo Prestige

Alyn Williams – Alyn Williams At The Westbury

Joe Mccafferty – Roka Restaurant

Justin Galea – Turnberry Hotel

Paul Dunstane – Restaurant Associates

Paul Matthews – Restaurant Associates

 

 
David Mulcahy,  vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said: “Having had more than 120 entries in the first instance and four live cook offs, we are now a giant step closer to finding the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year 2012. Our final eight now have to knuckle down in preparation for a high profile showdown at the Restaurant Show.
“If the semi-finals were anything to go by, our panel of chefs, this year led by Philip Howard as our 2012 chairman, has a real task ahead with such a high calibre of chefs making it through.”
Howard added: “It’s a great honour for me to not only judge but also to watch winning dishes being prepared. It’s fair to say that this year was a challenge to judge and the finalists are reflective of the high standards seen across the board. There has been some clear talent shining through with dishes full of both vitality and flavour as well seasonality.”

Taste of Dublin 2012 – Delicious and filling!

Taste of Dublin 2012 – Delicious and filling!

Chris from PastieBap is a Hi-Life member.  Read about his visit to Taste of Dublin 2012…

PastieBap headed to Dublin for the weekend to attend Taste of Dublin (a foodie
fest). Visitors to the Belfast Taste and Music Fest which has been held in
Botanic Gardens for the last few years will be familiar with the set up: local
restaurateurs set up tents and sell tapas size dishes of their best and newest
creations to willing punters for the in-house currency of florins.

Day 1 – Thursday

It was dry as we arrived in Dublin after a swift two hour journey from
Belfast, but then the rain came and as we all know in Ireland – when it rains,
it pours! As we began queuing to get into Taste of Dublin we soon discovered
that a bit of rain certainly doesn’t put the people of Dublin off a day out and
some good food.

 

As we arrived on the Thursday we are greeted by probably the world’s
most famous (and certainly the richest) chef, Jamie Oliver. We then watched as
he performed a cooking demonstration (shoulder of lamb) for the crowd before we
headed off for our first gourmet experience.

Becks Vier
Masterclass

We tasted 4 beers and 2 ciders and accompanying foods that went with
each as our hilarious Belgian beer master took us on a voyage of discovery.


Our Belgain Beer Master

One doesn’t usually associate beer being paired with foods, the way wine
is. But here he showed us how different foods can definitely be enhanced with
certain beers. How a sweet food can enhance an amber ale and how a pear cider
can help soften a strong cheese. For being such good pupils we all got a free
pint of Becks Vier as well.

 


Some of the food and drink they
served us at the Masterclass

 

Upwards  of 20 restaurants were represented at the food fest which was situated in
Iveagh Gardens, St Stephen’s Green in Dublin and it was hard to decide where
to eat first. My dad bought some Beef Peng Curry from the Taste of Thailand
stall, which was delicious. I sampled Chang (A Thai beer), followed by ciders,
cheese, yogurt, sausage and prosecco.

 

Kanchi
Dine in the Dark

Next up   we were booked in for Kanchi ‘Dine in the Dark’ where you are served by
visually impaired waiters, in a pitch black room and with your vision
impaired your taste buds are able to fully waken up. This was excellent, we
had 3 courses and a glass of wine. Each course was a dish with 4 tastes and
as we sat there in the dark we tried to pick out all 4. Afterwards in the
cold light of day, the Chef revealed all to us. We got most of them right!
This gives you a real insight, although brief, on how your life would be
affected if something were to happen to your sight. A challenging but
brilliant experience, and the food was second to none.

A Duck Confit and Smoked salmon and
Mackeral

The San Miguel bar was open where you could watch the European football
and sample some of Spain’s most famous dishes – tapas (starter size portions of
any dish). There was a barbecue master class for when (if) the weather gets
better (more about that later) and of course live entertainment – with live
bands such as the upbeat Spring Break, and Smash Hits playing throughout the
four days. This wouldn’t truely be an Irish festival without a little bit of
drink and with West Coast cooler, O’Briens wine, Rekorderlig cider and the
aforementioned San Miguel and Becks beer on hand, the crowd’s thirst was
certainly quenched.

 

We finished the day off with a wine tasting class run by O’Briens wines, where we
tried a presecco, a white and 2 reds as the owner of the wine company, who had
flown from Italy, talked us through each one.

I have to say that the organisation of this whole event was excellent.
We were given free ponchos on the way in, so that even though it rained it
wouldn’t stop us. Numbers looked high and everyone seemed to be having a great
time.

We were lucky enough to attend the food fest on the Friday also, with a couple of
tickets won from a competition run by Hi-Life (thanks), who also had a stall on hand for anyone wanting to pick up the foodie’s favourite two for one dining card.

Check out more  from PastieBap about Taste of Dublin 2012 and other great articles at www.pastiebap.com

 

 

Hi-Life Restaurants scoop TGFG national awards…..

Huge congratulations to both Grenache in Manchester and van Zellers Restaurant in Harrogate for earlier today being named as regional winners in the prestigious The Good Food Guide’s national awards.

44,500 food-loving members of the public put forward their favourite restaurants, pubs and cafés from around the UK for the annual awards. The Good Food Guide award judges have sifted through all the nominations to pick the winners and celebrate some of the best dining experiences around the country.

Grenache in Greater Manchester was named as the North West regional winner in the The Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the Year Awards.

Hussein Abbas, owner of Grenache, was delighted to be named as the winner, saying:  “It’s a fantastic achievement to win the Best North West Restaurant Award. I believe winning this award is a testament to the quality of food and service that my team provides and we are all really proud of the number of customers that voted for us.”

Elizabeth Carter, Consultant Editor of The Good Food Guide said:  “It may be small but Hussein Abbas’s high street restaurant has a big heart and a huge and very vocal fan base totally smitten by the generous cooking of fresh, seasonal ingredients.”

Van Zeller’s Chef & Patron Tom van Zeller was delighted to be named as the winner of the Best North East Restaurant saying:
van Zeller is absolutely thrilled to have picked up such a prestigious award
from The Good Food Guide. In these challenging economic times, my wonderful
team has proved that all the hard work, dedication and commitment they put in
every day is recognised as the very best in the North East. Given that the
award is based on consumer feedback I am particularly proud and wish to say
thank all of my customers who have voted for us.’

Elizabeth Carter, Consultant Editor of The Good Food Guide said: ‘van Zeller is firing on
all cylinders, delivering smart, contemporary dishes full of vibrancy, bold
strokes and ambition. Coupled with an extraordinary attention to detail.

 

Both restaurants are one of ten regional winners rom around the UK, one of whom will go on to be named as the overall The Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the Year. The winner of this award will be announced on 20 June 2012.

Good Luck Guys !!

The ten regional winners are:

-      East of England – Maison Bleue, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

-      London – Charlotte’s Place, Ealing

-      Midlands – The Bluebell, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire

-      North East – Van Zeller, Harrogate

-      North West – Grenache, Walkden, Manchester

-      Northern Ireland – Mourne Seafood Bar, Dundrum, Belfast

-      Scotland – Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow

-      South East – Jeremy’s Restaurant, Haywards Heath, W Sussex

-      South West – The Swan, Wedmore, Somerset

-      Wales – Y Polyn, Carmarthen