19 October, 2014

Review: Ox Pasture Hall - A Stunning Wedding Location - Part 3

While strolling around the beautiful grounds after breakfast, we came across the beginnings of a wedding. A videographer was on site and members of a wedding party were assisting in setting up some handmade extras as clearly instructed by the bride. Taking in the scenery it was clear to see why this wedding couple had chosen Ox Pasture Hall for their big day. With their own dedicated wedding venue to the side of the main building, its spacious enough to cater for a large wedding party, and the team are flexible enough to allow you to add your own details in order for your wedding to be a personal one.

Given the awesome-ness of the day with autumnal light shining beautifully, I was snap happy, flicking between automatic and manual mode with ease. Lets take a moment to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.

Another lovely aspect about staying at Ox Pasture Hall is that dogs and cats are welcome and every now and again you would spot one out for a stroll with their own. Along our mini walk, we met Benny, a member of the wedding party and who we learned had a vital role to play in the wedding too!. While you may think having pets on site could be a negative aspect to staying there, I found it added to the sense of home and as dog lover, I was happy to say hello to a few along the way.

Overall, we had a fantastic stay. Relaxing, refreshing and enjoyable, I was sorry to check out later that morning. Without a doubt, Ox Pasture Hall is set among some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever visited, but to top off a perfect stay with incredible food, it has to be said that all staff members there went out of their way to make our stay more than comfortable. Friendly, diligent and attentive, they were the real jewel in the crown.

The one night stay with meals was provided and paid for by Ox Pasture Hall. An invite to stay and dine does not always result in a positive review, however on this occasion I was more than happy with the stay and service received and I would be happy to return to Ox Pasture Hall for a paid stay.

16 October, 2014

Review: Ox Pasture Hall - Fine Dining & A Hearty Breakfast - Part 2

I knew from the get go, we were in for a treat. Having viewed the menu in advance, I was excited. Robert and I have been to our share of fancy restaurants over the years, some with the pretense and glamour of a Michelin star but the Ox Pasture Hall menu proved to be a culinary gem, set deep in the heart of the countryside. Their menu looked well thought out, serving foods in season and it read mouth watering-ly delicious. 

Their courtyard restaurant is simple, yet pretty and the waiting staff quickly attended to us both, ensuring we felt more than welcome. Within minutes of being seated we received an extensive wine menu. We opted for a Pinot Grigio, a firm favourite among the two of us. Browsing through the menu, there was more than one starter I wanted to try so Robert and I made a truce of opting to pick something each so that we could try each others.

Robert selected the Yorkshire Coast Fishcake with pea puree and a soft poached egg, while I chose a duck starter which included a Confit Duck Salad, Duck Liver Parfait and Cherry Sorbet. On receiving our starters, we were struck by the finesse with which it was assembled. Presented to perfection, it seemed almost a shame to get stuck in, but we did. There were not enough complimentary adjectives to describe how delicious my food tasted. The marriage of duck and cherry a perfect one and the entire dish so more-ish and perfectly executed, I could have eaten it twice over.

Roberts starter looking just as appetizing, tasted delicious The fishcake, not one bit overcooked tasted sweet and wholesome and was complimented by some beautiful green pea puree and the perfect poached egg which proved to be runny when dived into. Poached eggs in particular are a favourite among the two of us and a perfect poached egg is often hard to master.

For our mains, I opted to chose a lighter meal and selected Oven Roasted Cod with Chorizo Ratatouille, fondant potatoes and red pepper coulis. Robert chose the beef which was composed of a mini Beef Fillet, tender Brisket of Beef, creamed mashed potato, a mushroom duxelle, baby turnip and carrot. Again, the presentation of each meal was faultless. Just like Roberts fishcake, my fish mains was cooked to perfection, breaking away with each mouthful and poke of a fork. The chorizo and red pepper coulis added a bit of spice and kick, nothing overpowering, just complimentary.

Robert requested his beef to be cooked medium rare and it was cooked just as he likes it and just as requested. Upon tasting his, I was a little jealous I didn't choose it myself. It was delicious, absolutely delicious. The beef fillet and brisket were full of flavour and very tender. The creamed mashed potato was the stuff dreams are made of and the mini vegetables tasted amazing in their own right. Between the starters and mains, the flavours from each meal were simply stunning and a real treat for us to both enjoy with Robert commenting that the beef was probably one of the nicest he had ever tried.

No meal is complete without dessert and while I initially looked through the menu I spotted a creme brulee, but no ordinary brulee a raspberry one. I decided to give it a whirl. The raspberry creme brulee arrived bright and pink with a mini raspberry milkshake on the side and a lovely crumbling shortbread biscuit. Initially I found the dessert to be very sweet, but none the less I really enjoyed it. Robert found himself ducking into it on more than one occasion. For his dessert, he picked the Caribbean cocktail. A mini selection of desserts, he was gifted with a coconut panacotta, mango rice pudding, passion-fruit sorbet and a mini pina colada. It looked like a party on a plate, full  of sunshine with each element tasting as sweet and fruity as the next.

The service from all the waiting staff that evening (with another special mention for Alan!) was excellent. Tentative but not overbearing, all members of staff ensured that not just Robert and I, but that all guests that evening were very well looked after. With full and happy bellies, we made our way back to our room to dive into that king size bed for a night of deep sleep.

In the morning, we woke up slowly, as you do on a lazy Saturday. Making our way to breakfast, the morning presented us with the most beautiful light frost and sunshine. A perfect, crisp autumn day showing Ox Pasture Hall in the most amazing light. Breakfast was served in the same venue as the night before and we tucked into the usual spread of cereal, fruits, pastries and juices before both ordering a full Yorkshire English.

Our waitress for the morning brought us some hot tea and a selection of toast and I was more than a little excited to try the mini pots of jam and honey left on our table. I don't know what it is, but I have a soft spot for those little pots and combined with some butter and a croissant and its a little piece of weekend heaven. Our hot breakfasts arrived and choosing poached eggs to accompany our breakfast, it was hearty, hot and perfect to fuel us for the day ahead. The black pudding in particular was some of the nicest I personally had ever tasted and dipped into my gooey eggs, I was one happy lady.

One of the loveliest aspects of our breakfast was enjoying it in some bright autumnal sunshine, watching the last of the frost glistening on the grass, drinking deep into our cups of tea and consuming all the colours of the outdoors. The final part of our stay and review shares the gorgeousness of the scenery and the preparations in progress we viewed for a wedding taking place later that day! We also took the opportunity, given the perfectness of the morning, to take an extensive walk of their grounds. Trust me, I never felt so camera happy.

The meals supplied on the evening and morning were provided and paid for by Ox Pasture Hall. An invite to stay and dine does not always result in a positive review, however on this occasion I was more than happy with the meals and food supplied and service received and I would be happy to return to Ox Pasture Hall for a paid stay.

14 October, 2014

Coffee, Cake and Chats - Making Friends as an Adult - Part 2

Nearly a year ago, I wrote this post about how hard it can be to make friends as an adult. I don't just mean the 'you've turned 18 and can legally vote' type of adult, but the 'you have full time job and lots of responsibilities' type of adult. You have your core group of friends from childhood that have seen and supported you through thick and thin but what do you do when you don't live near them. What do you do when you're actually a long train trip or even a plane ride away?

Moving to Manchester a year ago I found myself in this situation. The only people I knew was my boyfriend and his best friend who had also moved here a few years earlier. I had no choice but to make it on my own. I had to through myself out there and find a few like minded souls interested in taking me under their friendship wing. 

The obvious idea was to search for groups and communities of people with similar interests and hey presto, membership into the Manchester blogger community began which one day lead to the following tweet last July. "I'm so happy to have found another Irish blogger in Manchester!" - I may have squealed a little. A fellow Irish blogger was reaching out to me the way I had been trying to reach out to others. That tweet lead to a reply, which lead to more tweets which lead to private tweets and then, ultimately a few texts and then a meet up over the August bank holiday. Meeting initially on Twitter, my boyfriend was a tad wary, I even had to show the other persons blogger as proof she wasn't a cray cray murderer!

The tweeter and non cray, cray murderer in question, the lovely Breige (could she sound more Irish?) from Co.Clare from the blog A Rare Opal. Funnily enough, our reasons for coming to Manchester were crazy similar. We had both decided to move here due to our boyfriends being offered places on graduate schemes and we both moved over around the same time of year back in 2013, and we both found a little solace on the Manchester Blogger Facebook page. 

Opting for the ever popular Sugar Junction, we met up and clicked straight away, chatting about the transition from Ireland to England, how it's impossible to get a decent bill paying phone (we have no UK credit history, so no one will give us a bill phone!), and the differences between Irish and British banter and humor in the workplace. FYI, even though Ireland is only a 40 minute flight away, the cultural differences can be very apparent (and funny!).

I think we both thought we would chat for about an hour or two but our conversation went on for a staggering six! Lots of coffee and cake was consumed and it felt more than great to properly connect with someone, to make a new friend and just have a chat and a laugh. Making friends as an adult in a new town or new country doesn't happen over night and it's certainly not always easy, but thankfully, a year on, thanks to my first UK job and blogging, I can add a few new lovely friends to my list. 

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