by Fiona Duncan-Steer

Recent Posts

Ayurveda Massage With Alana

Ayurveda Massage With Alana

Alana Sheils is a specialist in the art of Ayurvedic massage and clearly radiates her passion for this 6000-year-old well-being healing system. A trained aromatherapist, Alana has moved into the world of Ayurveda and says, “I prefer to focus mainly on Ayurvedic massage now, as […]

The Lost City Adventure Golf

The Lost City Adventure Golf

My recent visit to this Nottingham based family attraction was nothing short of fun, fun fun! I took my mum along for what was an afternoon was tasty food, impressive cocktails and adventure golf located in the basement of the popular Cornerhouse complex in Nottingham […]

Turtle Bay Nottingham Launch New Menu

Turtle Bay Nottingham Launch New Menu

You might assume that Caribbean restaurants often offer a limited menu choice for vegetarians, given that traditionally Caribbean cuisine tends to lean toward the more meatier options, (My late Grandmother who was born in Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica),  wouldn’t hesitate to cook with pig foot, goat/mutton and season her famous gungo soup with gammon,  complete with roly poly dumplings (my favourite).  Therefore I’m so pleased to see that Turtle Bay restaurant have done a great job in bringing West Indian food  more so into the mainstream, making this beautiful cuisine more accessible to all, offering a wide range of dishes for both meat, fish and vegetable lovers alike.

On my recent visit, I made the effort to sample some of the new dishes recently launched to the already vast menu.  What I like is the strong authentic theme that runs throughout the venue, with splashes of colour on every wall, memorabilia of well respected reggae artists donning every spare space and the sounds of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and other classics playing through the sound system.  All of the above quite obviously  runs into the menu itself and therefore the food, which is clearly made with both love and soul.

With cocktail names for example such as One Love and Reggae Rum Punch (quite lethal may I add!) it was easy to get carried away and forget you were sat in a Nottingham restaurant and not at a beach bar in Montego Bay.


Cocktails were our first priority and bonus- it happened to be happy hour- Bahama Mama’s all round!  For those with a sweet tooth this particular cocktail would be your dream. Containing Koko Kanu coconut rum (one of the sweeter brands), banana liqueur, pineapple juice, grenadine and bitters (Vegan) – quite literally a Summer holiday in a glass.

To start, my veggie dining partner and I opted for the Sweetcorn Fritters and Crispy Okra. Wow the fritters were a delight – just the right amount of spice with a kick (hot pepper sauce) and  great with an extra of mayo on the side. The Okra (or ladies fingers as they are sometimes known as) were a new one on me in the way they were served crispy coated with panko and served with mango mole and jerk mayo; of course the jerk flavouring has to find its way in there somewhere and I’m pleased it did.


For main course there were so many options, but in the end I went for one of my favourites – Callaloo – a collective of leafy green vegetables originating from West Africa, which was paired with chickpeas, tomatoes, garlic and scotch bonnet for the Caribbean kick it needed to build a flavoursome curry.  Being a fan of spice but spice not being a fan of me, I checked with the waitress Michaela (who was great by the way) how hot it was and her response- “not as hot as the aubergine curry”, that was my mind made up.  The Chickpea & Callaloo Curry it was.   It was a hot and spicy dish  I may add in the end,  but then as I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice in general- for most it would have probably been just right.  Sweet plantain took the edge off and it was all served with rice in an authentic stew pot with lid- a nice touch.


My dining partner went for a more milder option on the spice front- the Hallo Halloumi which came in a grilled burger form with Portabello mushroom, lettuce and tomato in a toasted bun- a generous size and very tasty.

Dessert was a difficult decision- why?  Because they all sounded amazing!

Sticky Toffee Pudding with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream won the toss, along with a new one on the menu- Grilled Fresh Pineapple, served with rum caramel and coconut ice cream.  I tell you I would literally revisit again just for this dish- all the flavours of the tropics in one light and simple dessert – divine!

The Sleepy Vegetarian



Harts does it again with their brand newly launched limited edition 6 course tasting menu

Harts does it again with their brand newly launched limited edition 6 course tasting menu

Prestigious Nottingham hotel and restaurant Harts recently celebrated their 20th anniversary year and with the success of two previous tasting menus on top of being awarded two AA rosettes for culinary excellence, a third menu was inevitable. Devised by head chef Dan Burridge, the six […]

Holiday Inn Nottingham

Holiday Inn Nottingham

Holiday Inn Nottingham have recently been busy refurbishing some of their suites and launching a brand new menu to their in-house restaurant Eaton’s , so I checked in to check it out… First impressions of their new executive suites were extremely positive, I was delighted […]

Eastwood Hall

Eastwood Hall

Eastwood Hall, located just off junction 26 of the M1, Nottingham is a popular wedding and events venue, though I recently discovered isn’t just available for special occasions, but also has extensive conference facilities, a spa, restaurant and several hotel rooms.  I recently went to investigate…

We were welcomed by Brett on reception, who checked us in and directed us to our room, which was modern in design with all the basic amenities and to my delight a bath with overhead shower.

We decided to explore immediately and wandered the hotel to be greeted by Matt, who explained he would be looking after us during our afternoon tea at 3pm.  We took this on the casual sofa’s in the lobby area, where we were able to people watch, as a wedding was also taking place in the area.


A selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes with of course our choice of tea was served and we packaged up the remaining uneaten cakes to take back to our room having been defeated.

We then decided to hit the pool/spa area, signed in at the spa reception as hotel guests (which is included free of charge during your stay) and chose our lockers in the changing rooms ( a pound is needed for these, which you get back at the end). The pool is a good size, so we swam a few lengths and then enjoyed the bubbling hot Jacuzzi,  probably out-staying our welcome slightly, but was relaxing all the same. Finally we decided we couldn’t leave without trying out the sauna and steam room, a few minutes in each is all that was needed.

Showered and changed we retreated back to our room to enjoy a glass of Prosecco before dinner.


Matt who previously looked after us during our afternoon tea, was also there to greet us for dinner and was extremely attentive and polite, stopping to chat to us between main course and dessert.

The menu in the restaurant is simple but has a good selection, so we started with the Tomato & Basil Soup, which was clearly homemade, thick and tasty, served with a bread roll and plenty of butter.

My dining partner chose the Mushroom Ragu & Goats Cheese, served on Parisian toast with rocket leaf- a good sized portion was delivered.

For main course being vegetarian, I was defaulted to the  Mushroom Risotto, being the only option on there for myself- usually in this scenario I would request an alternative option, however decided to go with it and was pleased I did as it was full of flavour and a generous portion I was unable to finish afterall.

I’d have liked to see more vegetarian options on the menu, however we improvised for my dining partner who is not keen on risotto and so requested the Cumin & Maple Roasted Heritage Carrot & Avocado Salad as a main course ( advertised as a starter) to which they happily obliged.  She then went with a side order of fries and peppercorn sauce for dipping. The salad was colourful and artistically presented on the plate and the fries and sauce were a welcome hot addition.


For dessert we decided to share an Eton Mess, which arrived prettily in an oval dish, with lashings of cream, chewy meringue and strawberries, just how it should be. We also enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco alongside dinner in the vibrant and busy hotel restaurant.  Usually hotel restaurants in my experience can be relatively cold and desolate in atmosphere, but I was pleasantly surprised by how energetic it was and this enhanced the experience for us.

After a satisfying three courses, we retreated back to our room, where we enjoyed a peaceful sleep and awoke next morning to revisit the restaurant for a cooked breakfast.  Continental options were also available, – the usual cereal options, juices, fresh fruit platters etc..however the cooked English style breakfast was calling our name, so we went with scrambled egg and baked beans on toast with a couple of hash browns thrown in for good measure.

We checked out shortly after, driving down the country lane back to reality, having had a pleasant stay indeed.

Fiona Duncan-Steer


My First Tea Ceremony With August Moon

My First Tea Ceremony With August Moon

August Moon Tea located in a tiny penthouse hidden gem of an oasis in the heart of Hockley, Nottingham provides you with the opportunity to experience an ancient ritual practice, traditional Chinese tea ceremony. I was recently invited to experience my very first Chinese Tea […]

Brunch With Gusto

Brunch With Gusto

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Italian restaurant Gusto in West Bridgford.  A relatively new arrival to Nottingham that I have heard nothing but good things about and having visited for dinner at Christmas time, where I was able to appreciate the stylish, […]

The Jubilee Conference Centre Hotel & Spokes

The Jubilee Conference Centre Hotel & Spokes

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the spectacular newly built conference centre and hotel complete with on-site restaurant,  situated on the Jubilee campus of the University of Nottingham.

Location wise this hotel is spot on and to describe it as a hidden gem is not far wrong best described as an oasis of green and water situated smack bang in the centre of a university campus with essentially what are super contemporary educational buildings surrounding it.

The view from the many windows of the new hotel; designed for both families and visitors of the students, but also open to the general public is one of beauty, overlooking a large pond with wildlife including ducks and Canadian geese amongst many others I’m sure.

A large fountain to the centre of the pond circulates the water and acts as a pretty central focal point to enjoy whilst sitting outside with a coffee from Spokes- their on-site restaurant and cafe, aptly named after the old Raleigh factory situated nearby which is a proud local heritage point.

The coffee in Spokes incidentally is particularly good- as they use 200 Degrees- a popular brand throughout Nottinghamshire, they also offer a full breakfast, lunch and evening menu, which we had the pleasure of sampling during our stay.  My initial thoughts on Spokes were that it was solely a cafe, however its evening menu does offer some tasty dishes including stone-baked pizzas, mushroom stroganoff, various healthy salads served with chicken or halloumi, as well as meat and fish dishes.

They also have a bar license and so we were able to enjoy a glass of wine with our meal and the service was with a smile and friendly light chat, which always enhances any dining experience.

My dining partner and I decided to go for the mushroom stroganoff and a margherita pizza, with which we also requested a few extra topping for, including chilli’s/peppers/mushrooms and they happily obliged even though slightly off menu.

To start we also went with the soup of the day which happened to be a vegetable/tomato based broth served with bread and oil and the halloumi salad served with capers.  We decided against a dessert on this occasion so as not to over- fill ourselves, but had we have done so there were several homemade cakes on the counter to choose from, so I look forward to a return visit – perhaps in the daytime to enjoy a hot chocolate and a slice of cake!

Check -in at the hotel was friendly and efficient, our room on the first floor was an impressive size- almost a suite style with a large bed, flat screen TV on the wall in the ‘living area’ with seating and a desk.

The bathroom had a bath to my delight (always a treat of mine when staying in hotels as I don’t own one myself) and miniature toiletries were provided.  We were also given a kettle and drinks facilities.

The bed was super comfortable and what I really liked was that everything was brand spanking new, so it felt like we were almost experiencing it all for the very first time before anyone else.

What I noticed was the light, airy corridors to the hotel, due to the vast amount of windows in the building, all overlooking the pond view and wildlife and this is what makes for a relaxing and delightful stay in what I can only describe as a city central oasis.

Not many would think to stay in a hotel based on a University campus, but I urge all to visit this impressive hotel and would recommend it to anyone visiting Nottingham wanting a good quality and very affordable overnight escape or accommodation.

Breakfast is also a must, with a selection of continental and full cooked options, we enjoyed fresh juice, cereal with dried fruit, along with beans and egg on toast with quite possibly the nicest cooked golden hash browns I have ever eaten at a hotel breakfast.


A bit of history…

Originally the hotel operated as a teacher training centre (with accommodation) for about 10 years. The University now own the building and De Vere manage it on behalf of the University of Nottingham, which is the same as the Orchard Hotel).  The University have been running the building for over 2 years  and opened it to the public. Spokes opened in September of 2017 and are doing very well – continually adding more bicycle art work to the interior.   If you know anyone who is looking to donate any retro bikes, they will certainly take them!

De Vere Jubilee Conference Centre – open daily with 24 hour reception.

Spokes opening hours:

Monday-Saturday 7am – 9.30pm

Sunday 7.30am – 10am (breakfast) & 6pm – 9.30pm (dinner)

Applause operate De Vere’s loyalty scheme for accommodation

New Chef New Menu At Merchants, Lace Market Hotel

New Chef New Menu At Merchants, Lace Market Hotel

The popular Nottingham city central boutique hotel Lace Market Hotel have recently appointed a new chef who has subsequently revamped their menu with a personalised twist… Chef Luke Holland joins the team taking over the kitchen with his new menu- A Chef’s Life: 1987-2018, with […]

My Diary

Belvoir Castle

Belvoir Castle

Belvoir Castle has been on my list to visit for years and so when I was recently invited for a tour of the castle and gardens this June, I was delighted to accept…

My fiancé and I checked the weather leading up to our Sunday visit and were pleased to see a scorcher of a day was forecast, so we planned a picnic with our new wicker basket, complete with china crockery and napkins – well if you’re going to do it, do it properly!

After checking into the ticket office, we walked through a tree lined pathway, which led to the crossroads to which you could choose which garden/trail you visited – we opted to do ‘The Duchesses Garden’ and a good choice it was to, as this turned out to be our most favourite of them all and the destination choice of our picnic a little later in the day.

The four acre garden (rediscovered in 1970 by Frances, the Dowager Duchess of Rutland) is within a valley with stone steps leading down to a small pond with an elegant statue at the foot and beautiful flowers, plants and trees along the way.  The top of the hill featured an unusual structure- ‘The Moss House’, built in 1818 and restored again in 2014.

We then found ourselves in ‘The Hermits Garden’, a seven acre plot adjoining ‘The Duchesses Garden’, which we were pleased to learn had just undergone a huge clearing, regeneration programme, which is clearly an ongoing project and something we look forward to revisiting in years to come, when it has matured.

After doing a U-turn, we then found ourselves in ‘The Japanese Woodland’, aptly names due to the amount of Japanese and Chinese plants in the area.   As the area is again within a  valley dip, it provides a natural shelter for many exotic plants that thrive there.

A steep walk led us to ‘The Rose Garden’, where for the first time the astounding first sight of Belvoir Castle is awaiting- what an impressive view!

Various statues live in the grounds of Belvoir, including the striking statue of ‘Winter’ by Caius Gabriel Cibber and a further six statues in ‘The Rose Garden’, which amazingly are some of the oldest statues in England and the current roses you see there were all planted by the current Duchess of Rutland- Emma.

The pathway from the rose garden then led us around the castle, offering beautiful views over Leicestershire, eventually leading to the castle entrance…

Pre-booked tours of the castle do take place regularly (timings are all on their website), however we opted to take a leisurely walk around ourselves and there were several friendly tour guides along the way to offer assistance or answer any questions, advising the best route to take to ensure you didn’t miss anything.

Interestingly the family of Belvoir have resided in the castle unbroken for almost a thousand years and is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland.  The land was a gift from William The Conqueror and many works of art and portraits don the walls of past kings and queens, giving you a real feel of history as you wander around the ornate rooms.  My most favourite room was the ‘Elizabeth Saloon’, intended for ladies to reside to after dinner.  With gold gilt, plush cherry red and coral fabrics and extravagantly designed furniture, including of course a chaise longue or two.

It was also nice to see modern photographs of the current family in each room, giving you a real feel for the families who have resided there through the ages. Interestingly the castle was given its French name ‘Belvoir’ meaning ‘beautiful view’ (now pronounced ‘beaver’).

At the end of our tour, we visited the castle gift shop and naturally bought some Belvoir shortbread to take home, however there were also a lovely selection of homemade jams- made by the Duchess herself as well as several country style items on sale.

A tea room can also be found at the end of the tour offering afternoon /cream tea and a selection of refreshments and lunch items.

As mentioned we opted for a picnic in the beautiful surroundings of the Duchesses garden and the weather did not disappoint, we managed to sunbathe as did a few others in the area and thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Belvoir, which most certainly won’t be our last.

Entrance into the castle and gardens on a combined ticket costs just £15 for Adults and £8 for children aged 4-16 (children under 3 are free).  It is also possible to just have garden tickets at a cost of £8 for adults & children are free.

Fiona Duncan, RSViP