Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Brunch at the Fino Lounge - Whitchurch, Cardiff

Ever since the Fino Lounge opened in Whitchurch six years ago it has been the place my friends and I meet. We love the Fino and yesterday we went for brunch/lunch for a catch up. I had a breakfast dish from the new menu and it was so good I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

The Lounges are a chain of cafe/bars that have grown from the original Lounge which opened in Bristol in 2002. I love the idea behind them, there is something for everyone. They describe themselves as being  "informal, neighbourhood food led cafe/bars open all-day everyday where families, friends, and locals can come for a coffee, a drink, or something to eat in a relaxed comfortable environment". I find there are plenty of occasions where the Fino (or any other of the Lounges) would be a suitable place to go.

As I mentioned earlier this week, there are plenty of really nice places to go for a coffee in North Cardiff. The Fino is one of them. The interior is really cool (I feel a bit naff using that word, but that's what it is!). There's a mix of tables with benches and mismatched chairs and sofas. The walls are covered in vintage-style patterned wallpaper and a selection of interesting photos and mirrors. I love looking around at the walls whenever I'm there as there is always something I haven't noticed before. I've been to another couple of the Lounges and they are similarly decorated and all have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Also they really feel like they have a character and personality, not just something created in an office that could exist anywhere like a lot of chain restaurants and cafes.

The Fino Lounge has a lovely, bright upstairs area with big windows that are opened in the summer. Its a great place to hang out. I don't want to say too much about it as no doubt it will feature quite a lot in future posts. I don't think I can understate how often I go there! Here's a link to their website if you want to find out a little more.

Yesterday I met up with some of my friends for lunch. We were going to meet in the morning and after having a little look at the menu several of the brunch dishes caught my eye. After we changed our meeting time to the afternoon I decided to take advantage of the fact that they serve brunch all day and ordered something new that has been added to the menu recently (they tend to change their menus several times throughout the year) called The Mexican.

Chorizo, peppers and chili in a tomato sauce with a toasted muffin topped with guacamole and two poached eggs. It was good. Really good. So good I can't stop thinking about it.

I don't really know what else to say about it apart from that it was one of the best breakfasts I've ever had (even though I ate at 2pm) and it will be really hard to ever try anything else from their menu. It was pretty hot so I would advise steering clear if you can't stand spicy food but I loved it. A beautiful balance of flavours and perfectly poached eggs. It was absolutely delicious.

My friends thought their food was delicious too. Two of them had a firm favourtie, Lounge Eggs (a toasted muffin with poached eggs, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce) which they both enjoyed.

Another friend had the Halloumi and Muhammara Dip Panini (right) and the other one had the Twisted Chicken Club Sandwich (below). They both really liked their food and I can vouch that the chicken sandwich is good as I had it at the Arco Lounge last week. It was really flavoursome with a lot of different elements in it but not too complex that all the ingredients were lost (although when I had it there was very little guacamole which I was a tad disappointed about). Sometimes you can't beat a good old sandwich!

We all enjoyed our food and the new additions to the menu are very welcome (although we wish they would bring back the meatball panini!).

If you recommend anything from the new menu then please leave a comment below!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Coffee#1 - Whitchurch, Cardiff

I've gone home for a few days to relax after the end of my exams and decided to catch up with some friends over a coffee. Luckily there's a few really nice local places that we can meet at and yesterday we decided to go to Coffee#1.

Coffee#1 first opened on Wood Street in Cardiff in 2001 and has since grown to have 40 stores across South Wales and the South West of England. They place great emphasis on the quality of their coffee and have a huge selection of other drinks and food. For me, the quality of food and drink on offer is the most important thing when I'm deciding where to go for a coffee. I'm not opposed to big chains (I'm a bit of a Costa addict) and I do enjoy visiting independent caf├ęs or coffee shops that are individual to a particular area, but as long as they all provide great food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere, I'm happy. Its great to see a brand grow from my home town and enjoy so much success and I can see why it has caught the attention of so many coffee drinkers.

They opened a branch in my area of Cardiff in 2012 not long before I left to go to university. I haven't visited it very much but when I was there yesterday I really appreciated just how nice it is and I know I will return a lot over the summer. Its full of character with plenty of comfortable sofas and armchairs, its lovely and bright and is filled with lots of interesting bits and bobs. A lot of thought is clearly put into the design of the stores and it helps to create a really relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. The perfect place for a catch up with friends.

Every time I've been in the past I've really enjoyed the coffee and yesterday was no exception. I had a flat white (what I usually go for) and it was delicious. Perfect balance between coffee and milk, not too hot and really silky and smooth. Just a great cup of coffee!

My friends had a caramel latte and a strawberries and cream drink (I can't remember exactly what it was called), which they both enjoyed but one of them said the strawberries and cream drink was a little sickly and she was glad she only got the small.

If you're looking for a new coffee place to hang out in or to get a take away from then I highly recommend Coffee#1. Amazing coffee, friendly staff and a lovely atmosphere makes for the perfect place to spend an afternoon with friends.

Its not usually as quiet as the pictures show, we were there until it closed on a Sunday afternoon and I took the photos pretty close to closing time.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Graze Brownie

I'm currently sat in bed feeling unwell and miserable after a horrible exam this morning and wishing I had something chocolatey to cheer me up. The joys of trying to be healthy! I can't say avocado or almonds give me the same feelings of happiness as chocolate does.

But thinking about the battle between healthy eating/joy from chocolate got me thinking about how good the best of both worlds is. I've seen loads of blog posts and recipes making chocolatey treats with substitute ingredients recently (like avocado instead of butter) but I am yet to try anything out. I have, however, had a very good brownie recently which is not hugely unhealthy, only 110 calories and satisfies chocolate cravings. 

It was in my Graze box on Friday and I was thrilled when I saw it after it was delivered to me.

I've spoken before about how much I love Graze boxes (click here to read more) and I think I had the Graze brownie in my first ever box.

It comes in three little slices but is quite rich and delivers a good hit of chocolate. Its topped with chopped nuts and feels like a really naughty treat but is only 110 calories for the punnet. It was just as good as I remembered.

If you have Graze boxes then add this to your send soon list - you will not regret it. If you don't have them then maybe this will convince you to give it a go?

Mmmm brownie...

Friday, 9 May 2014

Perfect Start to the Day

I'm one of those people that gets really hungry in the morning. I never skip breakfast and I'm usually pretty hungry all morning so I need to start my day with something that will keep me full until lunch. For me I definitely think breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I cannot function without it. I'm also one of those people that gets bored quite easily if I eat the same thing too much. Although I love a big bowl of bran flakes or corn flakes (I tend to swap between the two) I've started to get really bored and really wanted something exciting that will help get me up early in order to get a whole day of studying done.

After I made Easter nests a few weeks ago I had loads of Shredded Wheat left over and decided to eat it up for breakfast but didn't fancy it just with milk like it said on the packet, so I've tended to have it with natural yogurt and fruit.

I think this morning's breakfast has been my favourite combination so far.

As I've mentioned before, blueberries have grown on me so much in the last year and they really helped to brighten up my morning. Also, I know pomegranate seeds are expensive (especially for poor students) but they are just so yummy and I couldn't resist buying some yesterday.

This isn't really a recipe, just an idea for quick but more exciting breakfasts than the usual corn flakes or toast. I also find having this for breakfast really satisfying as I never get hungry during the morning.

I used:

2 large spoonfuls of fat free Greek yogurt
1 Shredded Wheat biscuit
A handful of blueberries
A spoonful of pomegranate seeds
And a small squirt of honey to take the edge of the sourness of the yogurt

I think this is the perfect start to the day! Fairly healthy, filling and super tasty - what more could you want from an everyday breakfast?

If you have any other ideas for ways to eat Shredded Wheat (other than just with milk or yogurt on its own) then please leave a comment to let me know, I have a lot left and I don't think my bank balance will thank me if I keep buying blueberries and pomegranate seeds! Happy Friday!