by Fiona Duncan-Steer

Recent Posts

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 […]

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 […]

Relax & Revive with Chloe

Relax & Revive with Chloe

Mobile beauty therapist Chloe Wellington has recently launched her new brand Relax & Revive to Nottingham, offering a range of treatments including massage, facials, waxing, tinting and spray tans to name a few and I recently had the luxury of one of Chloe’s massages and facials  in the comfort of my own home.

Bringing with her, her own couch and products Chloe is ESPA trained and also has training with Laura Mercier in makeup, so really is qualified to offer you the full works should you require a party package for a special occasion or simply a restorative experience of relaxation and revival.

Chloe’s persona is one of complete positivity and calmness, with a wonderful aura surrounding her it is impossible to be around her and feel down heartened, as her own personal aim is to ensure every person she encounters feels uplifted and happy.


One of the current packages on offer combines a 30 minute facial with a 30 minute back massage, finishing with a 30 minute file and polish on the toes – amazing!

My facial included a cleanse, exfoliation, toner, eye cream, facial massage (my favourite part), a mask was then applied and left on for 10 minutes, where in the meantime I was delighted to receive a hand and arm massage (a scalp massage can also replace this if desired).  After the mask has worked its magic, heated mitts are used to remove the products from the skin,  finishing with a face moisturising cream suitable to your skin type.

Chloe also likes to complete her facials with a nourishing lip balm.

Another major plus point is that most of the products used are 98-99% plant marine extract based- something that is personally important to me in supporting ‘no nasties’ brands.

For the back massage, grape seed oil was used (almond oil is also another option) with the mission to deeply nourish my skin and the technique focused on areas of tension, as well as offering a relaxing experience all round.

Finally my toe nails were professionally shaped and bought to life with the colour of my choice which this time round was a nice seasonal plum polish.

This package is designed to relax the inner you, leaving you feel re-generated and I certainly felt that, melting into the couch, during the whole hour and a half treatment.

I would most certainly recommend Chloe and have already booked in for my next relax and revive experience!

Relax & Revive treatments can take place in your own home or in Chloe’s treatment room at home where she is based in Bingham, Nottingham.

For more information or to book call or text Chloe: 07557 686 010 or find her on Facebook under Relax and Revive.

Head Of Steam- A  Dog Owners Heaven

Head Of Steam- A Dog Owners Heaven

If you are a dog owner/lover or even in the slightest bit interested in the canine mutts then head down to Head Of Steam (see what I did there) where they have cleverly combined the enjoyment of beer and man’s best friend within one lovely […]

La Piel

La Piel

La Piel – meaning ‘skin’ in Spanish is the newly launched brand by Anne Turner- Harrod of Nottingham, an experienced therapist specialising in natural, organic and holistic treatments using products containing only essential oils and paraben free ingredients. I recently visited Anne at her new […]

De Vere Orchard Hotel & Bramley’s Brasserie

De Vere Orchard Hotel & Bramley’s Brasserie

Bramley’s Brasserie pays homage to the history and origins of the famous Bramley apple, as the story goes that its location at the Nottingham University Park in Beeston, is where twelve cloned trees are situated, derived from the original Bramley apple tree based in Southwell, which is still there today.  The original tree was saved from honey fungus by biologists from the University in 1991, who then cleverly managed to nurture more in their park and as such have named the brasserie- after the famous tree.

I have always admired the architecture of the newest hotel in Nottingham-De Vere Orchard Hotel  owned by Nottingham University and operated by De Vere group, who house Bramley’s Brasserie and so when they recently launched their new menu, I had to revisit…

The hotel and restaurant are light, fresh and open upon first impressions, making use of natural daylight wherever possible.  A warm welcome was  received from the front of house team as we checked in and were directed to the lifts.  Our room – modern and contemporary with the obvious orchard/apple theme running through as a mural of a large tree runs through each room from the ground to the top floor- very clever.

After unpacking, we relaxed and noticed a lovely welcome dish written in chocolate with a miniature cake, strawberries and a personal welcome note from the general manager- nice touch.

Dinner was booked for 8pm, so after freshening up in the eco-friendly bathroom (the hotel was Awarded with ‘Best Sustainable Venue’ at the CHS 2017 Awards) we made our way downstairs to Bramleys to sample the new menu.  Our table gave us a good view of the whole restaurant which is a good size and attracts all kinds of demographics of diners from those on business dining alone to couples, to groups and for a Monday evening there was a noticeably good atmosphere.

To start, we scanned the nibbles & starters section and opted for Goats cheese with truffle, served on toast with apple and pickled walnut salad and a thyme and honey dressing- this was a piece of art on a plate- very pretty and tasted delicious with the perfect combination of flavours.

There are a good selection of main dishes from pizza, to burgers from the grill, mussels or even chicken tikka kebab.  We went for Slow cooked duck served with spiced red cabbage, root vegetable rosti, crispy kale and celeriac and as a vegetarian I decided to go for something new in the Lincolnshire Cheddar Potato Cake, served with a fried duck egg, roasted vegetables, truffle and veggie parmesan (I checked) which was pretty spectacular in flavour and a good sized portion I sadly wasn’t able to finish.  It’s worth noting that the vegetables were cooked just how liked them – roasted with the right amount of seasoning and the poach duck egg – a bonus although I passed this onto my dining partner on this occasion.  For me it’s important that our restaurants shop and support local suppliers and offer a certain amount of locally sourced produce within their menus- it’s always appealing and sets them apart from those who don’t do so and Bramley’s succeed with this dish.

By the time dessert came around we were satisfied, but decided to go for it anyway and share Treacle Tart served with BOTH clotted cream and vanilla ice cream– what a treat!  Although I could only manage two or three spoonfuls this was just delight and certainly a memorable dish I would like to indulge in again on my next visit.

The wine list is good quality and substantial within the Brasserie who also offer a lunch menu as we discovered after checking in earlier that day and finding ourselves ordering a sandwich and fries to keep us going- again a nice selection of lunch options on here including the popular fish finger sandwich which went down well with my guest.

Breakfast the following morning included a good selection with the much welcomed English breakfast, as well as toast and preserves, cereals and continental options. I liked the fact that soya milk was already out on display without having to ask and gluten free options were also available.  Healthier options like yogurt and fruit were also aplenty and there was a real buzz at breakfast which was refreshing.

The service at Orchard Hotel and Bramley’s Brasserie is friendly and tentative, the venue itself, light, clean and contemporary and the food – tasty and well presented  with a broad offering.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this venue and look forward to revisiting again in the Summer.

Fiona Duncan

The Cornerhouse Experience

The Cornerhouse Experience

Nottingham’s Cornerhouse could strongly be classed as the entertainment hub of the city and has long been a popular destination for all ages, offering various eateries, bar and leisure facilities and fun for all the family… My most recent visit included lunch at Wagamama- a […]

The Botanist West Bridgford – New Vegan Menu

The Botanist West Bridgford – New Vegan Menu

I was delighted to discover that yet another Nottingham restaurant has launched their own separate vegan menu – something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime of struggling with very limited choice over the years when dining out… Of course I took the opportunity […]

Las Iguanas Nottingham

Las Iguanas Nottingham

Popular South American restaurant Las Iguana’s in Nottingham recently underwent a refurbishment and as such decided to host a VIP re-launch and menu taster to celebrate…

Las Iguana’s has always been one of my favourites de to its ‘out of town’ feel, exotic interior and good food and it was great to see what they had done to the place- it sure looks a lot brighter than before and a little more contemporary in design.

We were shown to our table by the window and offered menus, with the option of a separate vegan/vegetarian menu- good start.

Drinks were ordered – a raspberry mocktail for my driving dining partner and for myself- a trip to the bar to make my own cocktails!  La Caipirinha cocktails were the cocktail of the evening and being as they are the National cocktail of Brazil, this was a great shout.  We sat around a table and ere guiding by the very knowledgeable in-house mixologist step by step- 6 wedges of lime into the glass  with three spoons of sugar- yes three! Mash it up to release the juices and then top the glass with crushed ice- finally pour on the Cachaca and at 38% volume this is not for the faint hearted but tastes absolutely divine and very refreshing- a real holiday drink.

Dinner consisted of two courses- to start Calamares – deep fried squid in crisp cayenne & cassava crumb with aioli and I opted to try something completely new – Dadinhos  – a Brazilian favourite consisting of crispy cheesy cubes served with a sticky chilli jam- delightful.

For main course my dining partner was tempted by the Havana Club & jerk BBQ pork ribs – covered in a sticky rum glaze, topped with a crispy onion and chilli, served with slaw and fries and again I went for one I had not tried here before- Veggie chilli – With butternut squash,  sweet potato and chickpeas braised with spiced tomatoes and served with spring onion rice, soft wheat tortillas , soured cream and pink pickled onion.  (gluten free versions are also available).  This was a mammoth portion that I could only get 50% through, but tasty all the same.

All in all, our experience was a pleasant one- a great atmosphere in the restaurant and tasty food with all the right kind of flavours you’d expect from a South American restaurant.

The Sleepy Vegetarian 

Phantom Of Love @ Byron’s Brasserie, Colwick Hall

Phantom Of Love @ Byron’s Brasserie, Colwick Hall

Byron’s Brasserie is an absolute hidden gem within the beautiful historic Colwick Hall-  the ancestral home of Lord Byron himself- A relatively intimate sized restaurant with a traditional style cosy bar area, Byron’s staff always offer a warm welcome and a tentative service throughout which […]

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