The Tipsy Vegan – Norwich’s newest vegan treasure!

Tucked away in Norwich’s historic lanes there is a palpable energy floating from the open door of 68-70 St Benedicts Street. A retro speakeasy plays the nostalgic sounds of 20s and 30s swing jazz and the mouth-watering menu enticing us in is exclusively vegan. Servers with big smiles, bow ties and braces welcome us in and we immediately fall in love. This celadon green vegan tavern of delights, which has us excited before we’ve even eaten, is The Tipsy Vegan.

With different menus for different meals there’s no danger of a dull day here! Our visit fell on a Saturday brunch-time, which meant cooked breakfasts and light bites. Having decided to share our plates again we opted for a perfect pairing of the Irish breakfast and the Mexicana Hash, two gloriously colourful dishes both bursting with flavour.

The breakfast comprised of rich and flavoursome leek & herb sausages, tofu bacon, colcannon fritters, baked beans, scrambled egg, sautéed spinach and sourdough toast, all of which were some of the most superb substitutes we’ve tasted! We’re all about the flavour, and big fans of being presented with food we don’t need to uptip a shit load of salt and pepper onto and The Tipsy Vegan well and truly nailed it! The highlight of this plate though was arguably the scrambled ‘egg’ made from tofu. Gone are the days of tasteless cubes of dense sponge that resemble a cheap Lego knockoff rather than food. Tofu will never be the same for us ever again. We felt a touch of sadness after finishing this delicious breakfast so thank you ever so much Tipsy Vegan for altering our tofu-prejudiced minds!

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The Mexicana Hash was equally exemplary – a hearty heap of sautéed potatoes, chorizo, black beans, red & yellow pepper and a gorgeous velvety avocado cream. From the perfectly cooked and seasoned potatoes to the ever so slightly spicy and meaty chorizo, every mouthful was a full on assault on the taste buds.

Excelling in food is one thing. For a dining experience to be truly memorable, all of the elements must be done correctly and that brings us onto the drinks menu! Our pick was the ‘Can’t Beet Kombucha’. This dazzling blast of liquid joy is comprised of kombucha (known as the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese), freshly pressed beetroot (yum!), carrot, apple and ginger and was the perfect accompaniment to such beautiful food. Our 8 yr old sidekick (Evan) was fascinated to see a real bartender in action, who in addition to performing perfectly for our camera slipped Evan a few extra blueberries, much to his delight!

As sweets were not available with the brunch menu when we visited (they are now offering cakes & muffins at lunch and brunch!) we decided to make a return trip solely to sample their desserts and were blown away by what we encountered! The chocolate and salted caramel tart is in the running for our dessert of the year crown and even now still gets a fortnightly mention whenever we discuss our love of all things sugar based!

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The delicate yet firm pastry is the perfect vehicle for the thick layer of luxuriously rich & decadent salted caramel and dark glossy chocolate topping. These folks aren’t shy with the salt either (that’s a good thing!) so pack away any fears that you may have about your sodium intake and blood pressure and surrender to what can only be described as a dance of flavours. That savoury salty edge lingers in the background, hovering on your lips, and just as you start to become aware of it on the sides of your tongue it melds with the extravagantly honeyed sweetness of the caramel to create the kind of harmony normally reserved for 60s girl groups.

Evan was also equally thrilled with his portion of homemade mini donuts with more salted caramel and chocolate dipping sauces! We also successfully stole a nibble of these doughnuts and they were indeed heavenly.

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This is how happy the Tipsy Vegan desserts made us!!
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The complete array of incredible vegan/ dairy-free desserts on offer at The Tipsy Vegan!

The Tipsy Vegan is one of those captivating treasures that is currently setting the standards on all fronts in Norwich. Not only are they serving some of the most innovative, delicious vegan food we have ever tasted, but the staff are amazing too! We fell in love with manager Aimee & waitress Flossie and defy you to find any warmer, lovelier ladies!

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The effervescent Aimee & Flossie ❤

This vegan nirvana is a shining star, a wonderful example of how good vegan food can be and if we were planning to show any meat eating acquaintances how good a plant based diet could be, we would head straight to the Tipsy Vegan every single time.

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Bye bye Tipsy Vegan. Until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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❤ Tofurei, Norwich ❤ Vegan cake heaven & much, much more!

We will always smile when we recall our introduction to the tastebud tingling pleasures of Norwich based Tofurei (pronounced tofu rye). Having been informed in a different restaurant that they themselves had run out of vegan desserts, we were advised in the nicest possible way that it would be best if we vacated that particular establishment immediately and head towards nearby Tofurei as their vegan cakes are ‘amazing’ and there was a chance of them imminently running out as well! They were right. Tofurei cake IS absolutely amazing, and luckily for us, they hadn’t run out!

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Beautiful illustration of Tofurei shop front, on display in the shop!

Tofurei can be found on Pottergate in the Norwich Lanes and seems right at home in this wonderful maze of idyllic streets , exploding with character and bustling bohemia. It would be a disservice to refer to this little indie as just a vegan coffee shop, as it is in fact a one-of-a-kind micro soya dairy producing their own tofu and soya milk!

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Making doughnuts onsite!

Their cakes alone could easily make Tofurei a daily destination. With a rotating cast of mouth-watering flavours there will always be an insanely tasty sweet treat to satisfy everyone’s palate. During our five day Norwich visit we did indeed visit Tofurei daily (!) and managed to sample Turkish Delightful, Salted Caramel Peazelnut, Triple Chocolate, Citrus & Blueberry, and a silky smooth chocolate orange cheesecake. All of these marvellous creations showcased the deftest of touches when it comes to baking. The sponge was light, moist and fluffy, bursting with flavour, and topped with a delicate layer of pretty icing, creating a perfect cake -icing ratio.

We generally eat a lot of cake and the more we eat, the more critical we get. We’re on a mission to discover the best vegan cake so our standards are high. Tofurei truly exceeded our exceptionally high expectations and are now the benchmark for all the other vegan cake we try!

In addition to their exceptional cake, Tofurei also serve exceptional locally produced coffee, courtesy of The Little Red Roaster. Livi managed to get her double decaff espresso fix complete with chestnut praline syrup, a perfect accompaniment to the cake!

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Coffee heaven with an array of deliciously unusual flavoured syrups, like Chestnut Praline & Toasted Marshmallow!

For those of you who like to live your lives on the move there is a veritable plethora of both sweet and savoury take away options. ‘Soysage’ rolls, freshly made sandwiches, crisps and chocolate are all available for your snacking pleasure. All tasty and all plant based! On a hot day they also do their own whippy style soft-serve vegan ice-cream, which we’re gutted to have missed, but their drinks fridge is stocked with beautiful bottles of different flavoured soya milk all year round! Quite simply, whatever the occasion, Tofurei have got you covered.

The icing on the cake for us is the story behind Tofurei. In their search for a premises, they came across the council-owned one they now inhabit. Numerous other businesses had in fact outbid them, but Norwich City Council were keen to find a business who would bring something unique to the area. Tofurei’s intriguing proposition of a micro soya dairy truly impressed the powers that be and they were awarded the building over the highest bidders! Victory of the underdog. We salute you Norwich City Council!

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We will say this only once, no trip to Norwich is complete without multiple trips to Tofurei (and we’re not even sure that ‘multiple’ is sufficient). Happy snacking!

**Cake photos courtesy of Tofurei**

 

Roots and Fruits, Leeds – a colourful, tropical vegan haven❤

Keen to continue our search for high quality vegan food on a sunny Sunday afternoon, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon the Grand Arcade, a small but beautiful vintage style arcade that was home to our next choice of eatery, Roots and Fruits!

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Roots and Fruits, Leeds – photo from their website

This splendid cafe has been operating in Leeds for over 20 years and has always put the ever-changing tastes and preferences of its clientele first. Thanks to customer feedback, its already wonderful menu now offers a greater choice of vegan food (yay!), less dairy and less fried food. We were thrilled to discover its doors were open for business on a Sunday, as so often establishments don’t like to take this risk.

One glance at the menu and we decided it would be remiss to not start our visit with a couple of fresh smoothies. Livi opted for the tantalizingly mouth-watering combination of mango, carrot, ginger, chilli, cinnamon, chia seeds and honey whilst I (Alex) plumped for dare I say it, a more conservative combination of apple juice, mixed berries, ginger and chilli. It’s worth pointing out that out of 11 possible smoothie components, Livi managed to cram 7 of these into one glass!

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Berry smoothie and Mango, carrot & chilli & chia etc etc smoothie

We were well and truly spoilt for choice when it came to ordering. Livi’s eyes invariably drift towards anything sweet and spicy on a menu, so the Jerk Jackfruit with Caribbean spices had her name on it! My stomach was telling me that it’s never too late for a full English breakfast and I’m not the kind of guy to ignore his stomach.

The super colourful Caribbean spiced jackfruit was quite literally a party on a plate! A huge mound of jackfruit, yam, plantain, sweet potato and fresh salad leaves were accompanied by a rainbow mango salsa, a superb vegan cheesy sauce and a creamy, textural coconut sour cream. Stuffing the tortillas with these exotic contents and devouring each and every mouthful was indeed, as the menu points out, a truly tropical experience!

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Spiced Caribbean Jackfruit – a truly tropical experience!

The all-day breakfast, traditional but with a twist, was equally superb. It comes complete with perfectly pan fried mushrooms, our all-time favourite type of egg (expertly scrambled), spinach and nutmeg, and two of the tastiest vegan sausages we have ever had the pleasure of eating. The homemade chipotle beans were a welcome twist on the classic and have single-handedly converted the manner in which we will view pulses. From now on, if you happen to be a purveyor of the humble baked bean you’re going to have to try harder before you fall behind.

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Traditional English breakfast with a twist & all star chipotle beans!

The icing on the cake, quite literally, was their extensive selection of desserts. Never content with just one, we ordered the banana chocolate loaf as well as 2 portions of churros. Yes, vegan churros! The cake, which despite being super rustic in appearance, tasted like a little piece of heaven, and the cinnamon sugar encrusted churros dipped in thick, rich hot chocolate were simply sublime! So sublime that we couldn’t resist a second visit the following day!

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Dessert heaven – Vegan churros and chocolate + banana loaf

For those of you on the move, Roots and Fruits have a handy takeaway service (for all their food) plus a fabulous array of treats available for snacking on the go. These include: marshmallows, pumpkin seed butter and locally produced chocolate. All vegan btw!

Since starting to explore dairy-free and vegan food we’ve discovered a real sense of community within this corner of the world, with many vegetarian and vegan cafes displaying unparalleled warmth and hospitality. Roots and Fruits is no different! Owned and operated by the delightfully warm and welcoming Kay, every customer is made to feel as if they are being invited into her home.

This brightly lit haven has a clean and tidy contemporary aesthetic with high ceilings and a simple red, white and green colour scheme, providing a spacious feel and relaxed dining experience. Kay also happens to be a supporter of the local art scene, allowing artists to showcase their work on the walls on a monthly rotation.

We were blown away with every aspect of Roots and Fruits. This isn’t a restaurant that has simply come along for the ride, following a trend and stumbling onto a few nice ideas along the way that happen to work together nicely. Roots and Fruits is a culmination of two decades worth of hard work, listening to customers, careful and highly imaginative meal planning, exquisite (yes exquisite!) food, wonderful staff, tasteful decoration and the most charming proprietor you could ever hope to meet. It’s the complete package for us. Here’s to another 20 years.

 

Chilli Shop, Leeds – a fiery fiesta for the foodie in you!

For all seasoned chilli lovers tired of bland and limited supermarket ranges, there can surely be no greater thrill than to be confronted by a wall of 150+ different bottles of chilli sauce. Situated in Leeds city centre, Chilli Shop has positioned itself as the go to destination for anyone who happens to be planning an assault on their taste buds! With over 50 tasting samples in the shop and cream crackers for dipping, what’s not to love?! With such an extensive range on offer it will come as no surprise to discover that there is a chilli sauce, and most importantly a heat level, to suit all palates.

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Chilli Shop categorizes its products on the expected scale of 1 to 10. Working our way up this ladder of heat we sampled an impressive array of truly delicious sauces.

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From the milder Jamaican ketchup and Chipotle Pepper Paste, to the slightly hotter Orange Pulp Habanero and Apple Chipotle Bourbon BBQ, right up to the 8/10+ Chilli Jam and fiendishly fiery 10/10 ‘Satans Sweat’, we munched our way through chilli drenched crackers.  For the adventurous, there’s no limit. Make the leap up to a ’10’ and if you can stomach that, there happens to be the curiously graded 22 out of 10 Hot Headz ‘Killer Hot Sauce’ waiting for you, boasting the world’s hottest hybrid chilli as its main ingredient!

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Had it not been for our limited supply of cash we would have bought half the shop. Our whittling down process was both incredibly tough and thoroughly enjoyable, as we gleefully eliminated the sauces one by one by tasting each one again!

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One of our mutual favourites was the outstanding Green Habanero and Cactus chilli sauce, placed snugly in the 5 out of 10 heat category. It possesses enough hellfire for the hardened spice junkies as well as enough depth of flavour to encourage those more conservative family members to get involved in the action. Quite simply, it is hot but not excessive, clean tasting, ever so slightly citrus-like on the nose, herby and if you can believe this, refreshing in the most curious way. This masterpiece lasted us approximately three days and popular opinion estimates that Alex consumed 96.9% of it. So far he isn’t denying this.

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Our stash!! Yes, the Green Habanero pepper sauce has been photoshopped on, cos Alex ate it all before we could take a photo!

Livi loved the Luchito Smoked Chilli Honey the best – a sticky, sugary, spicy glaze intended to amaze! It will enhance, add sweetness and heat to whatever meat (or veg) your heart desires and happens to serve quite delightfully as a marinade for chicken wings too!

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Chutney aficionados are also well covered with a handful of spicy treats graded for your convenience. There’s ‘serious’, ‘very serious’ and for the truly committed amongst you (who possibly doubt whether Chilli Shop is that serious about chutney) there is an ‘extremely serious’ option to set your mind (but not your heart) at ease. An intriguing selection of chilli chocolate, ‘Ass Kickin’ popcorn and curry sauces fill out this spice paradise and for the patient amongst you there happens to be a choice of seeds and chilli plants ready to lighten your wallet.

20562610_10155739981835406_124002078_nCustomer service is always a big deal for us and Chilli Shop rounds off their outstanding selection of bottled joy with another shining example of what it can and should be like. Coran was fantastically polite and helpful and willing to discuss at length all things chilli related with us. Plus, he was patient when fielding what were no doubt some rather rudimentary questions about the difficulties of growing chilli plants! We are now slightly more confident that Alex is equipped with the required knowledge to make a success of his newly purchased lemon drop chilli pepper plant!

Our experience of their online service has mirrored that which we witnessed instore and if you are unable to make it to Leeds we highly recommend you check out their online range in the meantime. All of our blog related queries have been answered in the most friendly and helpful manner imaginable, leaving us in no doubt that this is one of those retailers who really deserve your hard earned cash, be it in the real world or online! Chilli Shop is, without doubt, a shopping experience way beyond the usual in-and-out variety, and one that gets a permanent place on our ‘favourites’ list.

Global Tribe Cafe, Leeds – a vegan purple paradise ❤

In a world of homogenous cities frequently boasting nothing but identical chain shops and restaurants we were delighted to stumble upon the independent Global Tribe Cafe. It’s not every day we walk past a purple shop front in a city centre and it was this brightly coloured, cheerful façade that caught our attention.

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Global Tribe Cafe in Leeds city centre – vegetarian & vegan – photo: leeds-list.com

Fortunately for us and dairy-freers/vegans everywhere, this café seems to be doing a great job of fighting the good fight for independents and has been thriving since it opened in 2012. This purple sanctuary (yes, its insides match its outsides!) serves fresh, innovative homely food inspired by their holistic philosophy – food to nourish the body as well as the spirit. 

Everyone receives a warm greeting as they enter the cafe which instantly made us feel like a small part of a community. Affable and attentive staff are a key feature here. All questions and queries were answered patiently and enthusiastically, making us feel like welcome guests, not an inconvenience. The open kitchen, which in some restaurants can be overly noisy and disruptive, created just a gentle buzz and contributed to the sense of community. Perhaps it is the nature of the food being prepared. We are after all dealing with an imaginative vegan and vegetarian menu being prepared conscientiously by people who believe in and love the food they are creating. It is truly heart-warming to see people cook what they love, and smiling whilst they do it.

We opted for our time honoured strategy of ordering two different dishes and sharing them between us. Always intrigued by the various attempts at meat substitution we went for the veggie sausage sandwich and the burger, both of which were a real delight. The sausages were a delicious meat free alternative, rich in flavour and served on hearty wholegrain bread and accompanied by a clean fresh side salad.

The Mexican spicy bean burger was a must for us, with a mutual adoration of all things spicy and neither of us being too shy about the consumption of pulses! One of the real eye openers where vegan food is concerned is the creativity on display when it comes to replicating the classic beef burger. All it really takes is an open mind as there are options galore and the Global Tribe Cafe’s offering of a mixed bean patty loaded with mouth warming spice, expertly seasoned and topped with jalapeño peppers was a delicious treat. Cajun spiced potato wedges and a refreshing raw slaw completed the dish.

Onto dessert and we were certainly spoilt for choice! We selected a trio of homemade strawberry ice-cream, carrot cake and the intriguing proposition that was chocolate and lavender cake! The vegan ice-cream, an exciting offering due to its rarity, was light and fresh with a delicate natural sweetness from the strawberries. Free from all the artificial colours and sweeteners found in supermarket brands, we were really impressed and felt super inspired to start making our own frozen desserts when we got home. It’s exciting to think about what we can achieve with a stack of fruit and minimal sweeteners and we have the Global Tribe Cafe to thank for that.

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Global Tribe Cafe – Strawberry vegan ice cream, fruity & delicious!

Now as for the carrot cake, this was so good we felt compelled to return a few days later for more supplies! It was possibly the best cake we tasted during our stay, and we ate a lot of cake! Overloaded with the flavour of sweet carrot, this cake was fluffy and super moist, balanced perfectly against the textured topping of seeds and chopped nuts. It was decadent to the extreme and truly was a slice of heaven.

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Vegan carrot cake – best cake in Leeds!

The chocolate and lavender cake was also delicious – divinely chocolatey with a generous helping of lavender lingering in the background and an oozy chocolate centre. All three desserts were a testament to the ability of the chefs at the Global Tribe Café – culinary heroes who have created an awe-inspiring menu of both sweet and savoury delights. We now deeply regret not trying their raw cheesecake, flavour and colours of which vary weekly, and their golden milk (tumeric, coconut oil, black pepper and ginger warmed with almond milk and sweetened with maple syrup)!

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Vegan chocolate & lavender cake

The Global Tribe Cafe is an absolute must for any vegan visiting Leeds. It is the real deal as well, marrying knowledge, skills, passion and customer service of the highest level. All this is brought to you in a space full of bohemian ambience and a real sense of genuine community spirit.

 

The Hairy Fig, York – culinary shopping heaven!

Slightly off the beaten track in York city centre we stumbled upon Dickensian delight The Hairy Fig. Self-confessed ‘purveyors of fine fodder’ this magical little deli with even tinier hidden café is an absolute must for any foodie in York. Vintage wooden boxes & dark wooden shelves are stocked to the brim with locally sourced quality foods as well as Mediterranean & Mexican delicacies. Savoury speciality foods include British & continental cheeses, pate, truffles, truffle oil, truffle honey, hams and salamis. Sweet treats include chocolates from around the world and one of the biggest collections of liquorice we’ve ever seen!

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With its original pane glass windows and wooden frames painted cheerfully in bright turquoise, The Hairy Fig’s deli shop front is deliciously enchanting. Huge bundles of rusty red dried chillies and bulging bags of onions hang in the window, boxes of fresh kumquats and French chestnuts lie at your feet, all enticing you in.

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The original deli opened in 2008 and quickly expanded in ’09 to a bigger shop next door. Inside the walls are sumptuous red and lined with dark wooden shelves, Victorian apothecary style, with dark wooden floorboards. This old-fashioned interior creates a truly historic ‘Harry Potter-esque’ atmosphere – stepping inside The Hairy Fig is like stepping back in time.

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Most impressive was their selection of unique aged balsamic vinegars ranging from 12 to 100 years, all available ’on tap’. Balsamic creams, dressings & glaze in a wide array of mouth-watering flavours lined the shelves in vintage glass casks, creating a bewitching display reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or the sensory laboratory of olfactory genius Jean-Baptiste in Perfume. Flavours included cranberry, sundried tomato, apple, blueberry, mango, lemon, red bell pepper and blood orange. Yum!

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Now as a liquorice lover (Livi, Alex hates the stuff!) their luscious collection of liquorice stocked in 25+ jam-packed vintage jars was a sight for sore eyes! Shiny black gems of gorgeousness in so many varieties is not something you come by very often in England, so to see a collection including Livi’s favourite Swedish chilli & cherry liquorice was just too damn exciting! (Sweden on the other hand is a liquorice lover’s dream destination – think liquorice ice-cream, Marabou ‘Black Salt Lakrits’ chocolate, and thick, shiny salted liquorice dessert sauce!!) The Hairy Fig’s extensive assortment included sour & salty liquorice toads, liquorice and caramel twists, yellow citrus liquorice, salty skulls, Dutch honeycomb liquorice, sugar free & gluten free liquorice and chocolate covered liquorice. Now that’s a lot of liquorice!

Tucked away in the back is a tiny little café with 4 or 5 tables seating a maximum of 11 people! We were lucky enough to grab a vacant spot and sample some of their beautiful freshly prepared food. If memory recall is correct, we were on a cake mission (as always!) but upon seeing the specials blackboard with ‘Fresh figs baked in Honey & Chocolate Balsamic with Mascarpone’ we were sold! Other offerings were Strawberry & Vanilla Cheesecake and a Quince & local Bramley & Blackberry crumble. Our dessert was impeccably tasty and the perfect accompaniment to our coffee and hot chocolate on a cold & blustery November day in York.

The Hairy Fig promises floor to ceiling quality produce in an ‘exciting, quirky shopping environment’ and they absolutely deliver to their word. Visitors are transported to another world once over the threshold and will find it impossible to leave empty handed! There is something for everyone in this sensationally stocked shop so we urge you to swing by and enjoy the magic✩•*¨*• .

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We stumbled upon The Hairy Fig as we finished exploring the medieval Merchant Adventurers Hall, and noticed this pretty little alley with “THE HAIRY FIG” & “CAFE” signage on the right!
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This is the main entrance from the other side – photo credit: https://rovinglights.wordpress.com

Tower Guest House, York – boutique B&B bliss ❤

A recent trip up to a cold wet York promised and delivered many lovely surprises on a daily basis, none more so than the Tower Guest House, our delightfully beautiful, boutique B & B. This charming establishment, run by its equally charming and accommodating owners Tony and Diana Brennan, was originally a Victorian era family home. It has since been modernised and converted into a truly unique boutique bed and breakfast, with each room decorated in its own distinct style. Since our stay, Tower Guest House have deservedly scooped the ‘Best B & B in York’ accolade at the Visit York Tourism Awards 2017!

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After perusing their phenomenal photos online we opted for the ‘Rococo King’ room, as Livi insisted on one of the more traditional and opulent rooms for us to stay in! Stunningly decorated with plush furnishings throughout, this room is absolutely fit for a princess (therefore suiting Livi perfectly!). Unlike some hotels, who use well-lit, deceptively flattering photographs to promote their rooms, Tower Guest House’s reality is even better than their photos. One gets the sense that each room has been lovingly and painstakingly put together with the greatest of care and consideration. Each piece of intricately carved white Rococo furniture contributed to the magical, French fairy tale feel of the room and the red cast iron roll top bath was just the icing on the cake. It was so gorgeous we almost couldn’t bear to leave, even if it was to venture outdoors to explore the city!

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Not only was our room exquisitely luxurious, it was immaculately clean as well. No chance of finding any hidden dust bunnies here! Another lovely little touch that really impressed us was a designated space by the door for your shoes, so as to discourage walking dirty, muddy footprints all over the clean carpet. This may seem like a minor detail initially, but it simply made us aware of the respect and care taken in preparing our room. We loved the idea of ‘paying it forward’ so to speak, to ensure everything is perfect for the next guest too!

Each of the rooms is uniquely and impeccably decorated with an astounding attention to detail. The ‘Golden Versailles King’ room is a splendidly sumptuous antique gold haven, with gilded Versailles furniture, genuine leather arm chairs and modern en suite. Livi has her heart set on this one next time by the looks of it!

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If a sunken marble bath is more your thing, perhaps you would like to consider the stunning contemporary Asian themed ‘Samurai Four Poster King’ room? Clean edges, ultra-sharp modern decor and a more masculine energy make this the choice of the other half of Naked Koala!

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We also love the ‘Four Poster with Spa’ room – an elegant delight of a room featuring a rich mahogany four-poster Queen Anne bed as the centrepiece, hardwood floor and purple velvet flock wallpaper. Divine! The super deep spa tub with chromotherapy lighting is also very appealing! (These are just 4 of the 8 exquisite rooms.)

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All too often we see B&Bs and more recently Air B&Bs that are only too happy to take a customer’s money and provide the bare minimum service. Tony & Diana, however, don’t just rely on their beautiful rooms to fulfil their end of the deal. As clichéd as it sounds, it really is the little things that make the difference. From being addressed by our first names (who doesn’t like that?) to being given lifts into town by Tony, every guest is made to feel special. Breakfast orders are completed the night before at the front desk with any preferences noted there and then. There is even a free Netflix account that can be used by guests in their rooms! You will simply not find more courteous, hospitable hosts anywhere else.

A very special mention must go to the hollandaise sauce that accompanied the perfectly poached eggs at breakfast. We have no idea how it was made but it was gorgeously silky smooth and deliciously tasty. We have tried to make it since we returned to Leicester and we have failed. We have failed repeatedly.

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York is a wonderful treasure of a destination that is just perfect for a long weekend. We visited in November and it would clearly be a wonderful place to spend a few days in the build up to Christmas. Whether it is for a shopping trip specifically, or you simply have the desire to wander aimlessly through the maze of cobbled streets that comprise the city centre, no trip to York is complete without a few days in the Tower Guest House. It really is no surprise to us that this little paradise is now officially the best B&B in York.

Life isn’t always about perfection, but the Tower Guest House is pretty damn close to it

The Flax and Twine – a fairytale in York

An amble down the Shambles with its charming cobbles, wonky windows and rickety roofs is essential whilst in York, and not to be missed is the enchanting Aladdin’s cave of vintage treasures that is The Flax and Twine at number 20. With its simply magical, lovingly crafted window displays and its shelves of whimsical knick-knacks and trinkets, this hidden gem is truly a shabby chic paradise, as well as a cake-lover’s dream (it’s also a café!).

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Reminiscent of a Berlin flea market, The Flax and Twine is bursting with deliciously old, weathered items and artisan antiques. It is lovingly and tastefully stocked by its owners with zero tat – just beautiful, high quality pieces. From vintage-style floral umbrellas to delicate china tea sets, sturdy old trunks to ornate rococo mirrors, and pretty fabric lampshades to classic childrens’ games, it is impossible not to spend hours wandering around mesmerised by the sheer beauty and elegance of this yellowed, romantic sanctuary.

Had we actually lived in York, our home would now be fully furnished with The Flax and Twine’s captivating collection of charmingly battered shabby chic furniture. Alas we do not, and we forgot to ask about shipping opportunities! Livi literally dreams of those drawers and hopes one day she can find something similar.

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Shabby chic drawers of which Livi’s dreams are made!

Each nook and cranny delivers more delightful surprises and up the stairs decoupaged with vintage sheet music is a gorgeous, cosy tearoom/ café serving freshly baked-on-the-premises cakes and scones. The mismatched wooden tables and chairs, chipped paint and fresh flowers make this unpretentious, homely café a perfect oasis from the trample of tourists on the streets outside.

Items on the menu are seasonal and include both sweet and savoury. We shared a warm chocolate brownie and a large piece of carrot cake (pre our dairy-free days!), which were both wonderful. Their current special (summer 2017) is an apricot and St Clements curd scone with clotted cream, which we think sounds absolutely heavenly! Savoury items include a goats cheese Mediterranean tart and a homemade chili.

Once inside The Flax and Twine it is hard to leave. It weaves its magic effortlessly around you and time stands still. Rummaging through treasures in this grade two listed building built in the 1700s was easily one of our favourite ways to spend an afternoon in York and we’d recommend a visit to anyone and everyone. Without hesitation we say it’s better than Betty’s (by a country mile!) so if you only have time for one tearoom, make it this one!

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Toasty two like cinnamon buns, sheltered from a cold northern November day!

 

Camden canals, houseboat dwelling & a really friendly German!

If you love free escapades and beautiful walks we’d recommend venturing along the Regent’s Canal from Camden Lock to Little Venice. Conveniently located at the start of the walk is Camden’s colourful and eclectic Street Food Market, brimming with burgers and burritos, crepes and cupcakes, and satisfying every cuisine craving imaginable – from Venezuelan to Vietnamese, Japanese to Taiwanese, Indian to African. It’s a true feast for all the senses and not to be missed if you’re in the area. But we digress (so easy when talking about food!)  After filling our bellies with savoury and sweet treats we ambled off at snail’s pace along the canal, photographing every inch of the sensational scenery as we walked.

Regent’s Canal whilst meandering through central London feels like anywhere but London. Very easy to forget about the noisy hustle and bustle of streets only minutes away, it is peaceful and picturesque, resembling more of a European city or a conjured up fairy tale than a route through the UK’s capital. With its brightly coloured narrowboats, music boats and smiling strangers, it is truly an idyllic escape.

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We particularly loved our encounter with this spectacularly eye-catching jumble of a boat and its German owner, who sat chilling in his ‘garden’ sipping beer and taking great delight in watching people’s reactions to his masterpiece. In response to our curiosity he informed us that he “started viz vun flower. And zen anuzza flower. And zen all zis shit!”

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He was absolutely lovely and invited us to take as many photos as we liked.

Further down the canal we passed the notoriously odd-shaped London Zoo bird enclosure and some really beautiful bridges.

We then marvelled at the multi-million pound mansions & their majestic reflections in the water, gobsmacked by google’s revelation that they are all in fact privately owned and not public property!

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Probably our absolute favourite bit of the walk was a large section of colourful floating homes, adorned with trinkets and flowers and gleaming gloriously in the sunlight. Each had its very own little ‘garden’ as well, with truly shabby chic rustic patio tables and chairs, birdcages, grow-your-own-veg patches, wildflowers and even a banana tree!

We fell in love with what we learned are Hollyhocks, growing lusciously alongside the canal. Just look at that exploding star in the middle of the flower! Isn’t nature incredible?!

The colours and diversity were just magical….

Some photos of The Naked Koala hard at work, before concluding our walk in the charmingly quaint Little Venice. It was early evening by the time we got there so we missed the floating Waterside cafe opening hours – a restaurant boat serving breakfasts, afternoon teas and freshly baked cakes. If you happen to make it there, do let us know what it’s like! Until then, happy walking to you 🙂

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Weeping willows and obligatory star jumps!
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Mini jungle in central London!

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