Festive Tipples: What To Drink At Christmas Part One

Welcome to part one of my festive drinks posts – I’m covering wine in this one, and I’ll be talking about spirits and cocktails in my follow up!

The question of what to drink with the dish of the day isn’t surely at the top of the list when it comes to party planning on Christmas Day – which is why it’s handy to have a couple of no-brainer options under your belt. Whether you’re the host or a guest, picking up a bottle of red and white to go with the meal is a sure fire recipe for success!

To pair with turkey and roast ham, pick up this Giesen Sauvignon Blanc for £8 from Majestic and Sainsbury’s – a pretty damn good price for a sweet, versatile white with gooseberry notes! This is the perfect bottle to pick up if you’re only bringing one with you – because turkey or chicken is sure to be on the menu. I also reckon it would be a great gift as well, especially if you pair it with a handwritten note with serving suggestions on it!

If you’re having darker roasts like duck or game (and we’re having duck and partridge this year!) you should check out Château Labadie, 2009 The Wien Society, £10.50. With its medium body, it’s a great partner for roasted meats of all kinds, making it a great way to spread a little Christmas cheer at the table. Rich and decadent, with a velvet mouthfeel, this went down a treat when we taste-tested it at my parents’ house for Sunday lunch!

But you know, mulled wine makes Christmas – yet I rarely drink it on the day. Instead, it’s served before carols or after a long snowy walk, to redden your cheeks and steam up your glasses. Huddled over a cup of mulled wine, inhaling the wisps of cinnamon and orange, snuggled in the candlelight with a cosy blanket over your knee – this is what Christmas dreams are made of! I absolutely love these super little sachets c/o Hotel Chocolat – bundles of festive joy you can chuck into the pot like a big witches brew, to steam and seethe while your guests arrive! Who needs scented candles when you’ve got these babies to hand?!

What tipples will you be serving with the big meal this year?

Samples of the products mentioned were provided as PR samples, all text and photos are my own.


Got Your Advent Calendar Yet? My Favourite Picks For 2016!

If you haven’t picked up your advent calendar yet – don’t worry, there’s still time! While some of the more popular calendars are sold out, there are still some fantastic options out there. Here are my favourites, still available to purchase!

Yankee Candle Advent Calendar, £21.49

Available from Amazon, this calendar contains 23 tea lights plus one votive for Christmas Eve. Even though there are 24 different slots, there are actually only seven fragrances, which are new for this year. The calendar is double sided, so you can get tealights from both sides of the calendar!

Inside are All is Bright, Festive Cocktail, Christmas Cookie, Macaron Treats, Snowflake Cookie and Star Anise & Orange. You’ll get around six hours of burn time from these, and 15 from the Christmas Eve votive! Check out this list on the Yankee candle page for information about all of the scents.

Check out this link to pick up the advent calendar now! It’s a great way of filling your house with some incredible, festive scents!

Ciate Mini Mani Month, £50

I get a Ciate advent calendar every year – I just can’t resist! This year, the new thing seems to be advent calendars made of boxes, rather than cardboard door, and I love it. It’s so much neater than the windows, and it’s like opening a present every day in December!

Inside is not just plain nail varnishes, but a nail file, toppers and nail treatments as well! I love getting these because it gives you a chance to try colours you might not have tried before – and I also like to have a variety of colours on hand for fancy dress parties as well. Sometimes you can find an unexpected favourite in a colour you wouldn’t have tried before – or you can get the perfect match for an outfit for a party! Face it, it’s basically a treasure trove.

I really love the layout and design on this – and the colour scheme of blue, purple and gold with the London skyscape images. Ciate is such a great brand – you know these formulas are going to be long lasting and easy to apply. Inside this calendar, there’s four new and exclusive shades, plus one full size bottle on Christmas eve.

Cheeky Advent Calendar, £50

As an alternative to the Ciate nail calendar, how about this one from Cowshed featuring 24 different colours from the Cheeky range? If you’ve had the Ciate calendar for a few years in a row, you might want to branch out and try something a bit different, which still focuses on nails.

The colours here look really bright and vibrant, and I can’t wait to try out a new brand for my nails. (I love the teal and hot pink colours!) Check it out here.

Marks and Spencer Beauty Calendar, £35 (with £35 spend)

This is probably the one I’m most excited about – with contents worth over £250, this is probably the best beauty calendar on the market.

The M&S beauty hall has seriously gone from strength to strength over the past few years, and this calendar contains a fantastic selection of products from all across the range, including makeup and skincare.

Just like the Ciate calendar, the items are contained in small boxes which are opened every day to reveal the present – some of which are full size items! To purchase the calendar, you first need to spend £35 in the beauty, home or fashion departments. If you don’t want to spend the £35, then don’t worry – you can buy the calendar for £250… (Yeah… no. I had absolutely no difficulty whatsoever picking up £35 worth of bits and bobs in store – the monogrammed glasses were pretty amazing for a start!)

There are some available online but I saw loads in store too.  So, don’t buy one for a rip-off price on eBay before you’ve checked to see if your local store has stock…

Hotel Chocolat Calendar, £12.50 (c/0)

Really though, it wouldn’t be Christmas without an advent calendar filled with chocolate! And if you want the best, you have to go to Hotel Chocolat – my favourite chocolate shop on the high street!

The Hotel Chocolat advent calendars come in a variety of flavours, including dark, white, caramel, and milk. Check them out here. You can even get a couples version for £26 which is such a lovely idea! Hotel Chocolat makes such gorgeously high quality chocolate, and the pieces are just the right size to be dainty yet satisfying.

So, those are some of my favourite advent calendars this year – all tried and tested by yours truly. Have you picked up one for yourself? Let me know what you selected in the comments!

Dining at WestQuay: Wagamama, choccies, and samples galore!

Today I popped down to WestQuay for the launch of their revamped upstairs dining section, and a look at their cooking demonstrations – and to try some samples, of course! Earlier in the day, celebrity chef Aldo Zilli was on hand for some demos, but I caught the later cooking displays from the team at Wagamama, who made some delicious Asian-inspired dishes.


The team put together a variety of dishes, and being a greedy pig I got to try all of them!


This is the goma wakame salad, which is a new dish on the autumn menu this year – a nice, refreshing dish with a toasted sesame seed oil and vinegar dressing. IMG_6064

Chilli squid, which is one of their starters – delicious, crispy and spicy!


The squid is seasoned with sea salt and shichimi, which is a Japanese red chilli. It was served with a vinegar-based chilli, garlic and coriander dipping sauce. IMG_6069

I really liked this dish! Nom! IMG_6071

This was chicken and prawn cha han, which is usually served with miso soup and pickles (incidentally, my favourite Japanese breakfast!). It’s not usually the kind of thing I order in restaurants because it’s not really exotic, and seems a little plain, but I really enjoyed this – it was very savoury and the special Wagamama dressing they poured on really gave the rice a great flavour. I also loved the addition of the prawns and the egg.


This was the chicken and prawn Wagamama pad Thai, made with rice noodles, chicken, prawns, egg, beansprouts, garlic, ginger and chillies. I was surprised by the addition of mint, but it was actually a really nice addition that gave it a fresh taste.

There were also some samples from other companies at WestQuay, who all got a chance to come and give a little pitch about their products before we got a taste. IMG_6074

This lovely lady was from Hotel Chocolat, and dispensed samples of Raspberry Smoothie, a delicious milk chocolate truffle with a raspberry creme filling (made with real raspberries!).


It was actually really delicious – I don’t usually go for fruit-filled chocolates, but this wasn’t too sweet or artificial tasting at all. Well, of course it wasn’t, it was made with real fruit!

These two girls were from Harry Ramsden’s and hilariously, neither of them liked fish… A good advert for the diversity of the menu, I guess?


Either way, Sara was happy because they gave out free chips (and she’s allergic to fish, so I guess proves Harry Ramsden’s really is more than just battered cod!).


We also took a wander upstairs to check out the new Dining area, and I have to say, I was really impressed with its makeover!


Maybe it’s just because I love the Christmas decorations, but it looks really good up there! Actually, it’s not just the deccies, the furnishings and design is much nicer than it was before – very contemporary and in keeping with the newer, higher end brands that have set up shop now.


Even older brands have had a new look, and Cafe Giardino looks great in its new home under the stairs – making way for Ed’s Easy Diner in its place (which still hasn’t opened yet!).

We’re so cosmopolitan now we even have a Mexican place, Tortilla.


My husband will be pretty happy about that! They even do margaritas (not that I’ll be having any of those – tequila and I don’t get on!).


All in all, I was really impressed with the new look and brands at WestQuay – I never usually eat in the food hall but this will definitely tempt me back – although what it’ll look like on a Saturday at lunch time, I dread to think! But for now, with the Christmas decorations and cool new tables and chairs, it looks pretty inviting, don’t you think?