A Stress-Free Sunday Night Dinner with La Belle Assiette

I love getting my friends and family over for dinner.  You know me, I’m a right Monica Geller; “I’m always the hostess!”  It’s stressful, but it’s the kind of stress I feed off of (literally!).  I love setting the table up, deciding what cook for everyone and then serving it up.  But more than anything else I love having all my favourite people around my kitchen table.  My only problem with the whole hosting game is that I’m constantly having to leave that table to go check on the food, top up drinks and then… ugh, clean everything up.  I keep having to disappear in the middle of one of my Dad’s stories, or the latest TV and movie tip-off from my brother and that, my friends, is the worst part of always being the hostess.  Sometimes it’d be nice to just sit at that same table and soak up a Sunday night dinner with the family without having to actually serve it myself.

I thought I’d have to win a Grammy or the lottery to be able to hire a private chef, and since my singing’s only shower-worthy and I can’t remember the last time I won anything on the lottery – I thought I was way off.  But it’s actually more affordable than you’d think!  La Belle Assiette is a website that allows you to hire local chefs and caterers to come and serve a meal in your home with prices starting from as little as £39 a head.  Chefs call up and discuss the menu with you beforehand – taking into consideration any special dietary requirements or fussy eaters you might have – and then they buy all the ingredients, cook the meal and – better yet – clean up afterwards!  So, when an email popped into my inbox asking whether I fancied opening up my little kitchen for the night to local chef, Manveer Holloway, how could I possibly refuse? 🙂


I’m a bit possessive of my kitchen – I always kick people out when I’m cooking, so I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to be like having a stranger come and use my cheap old pans and crusty oven (I did have a panic the night before that nothing was chef-clean enough and scrubbed until my arm almost fell off), but Manveer was friendly and professional right from the get go.  He arrived a few hours before dinner to set up and prepare the food and got right down to it!  I could just sit back and wait for my guests to arrive.  But I didn’t do that, it felt strange not mucking in!  So I went and had a chat with Manveer instead, asking him about his experience in the catering industry and the six months he spent working on the tiny channel island of Aldernay.

The meal kicked off at eight with some bread and olives on the table, followed by a starter of Tikka Marinated Chicken, pickled cue and courgettes (which were absolutely stunning) and mint raita.  And for my Mum, who only eats fish and vegetables; wild mushroom arancini, pea shoots and truffle oil.


When Manveer called me a few weeks before the meal to discuss the menu, he suggested rump of lamb for a main course.  Now, I’m not normally a huge fan of lamb, but I knew that Sunny, my Dad and my brother would be all over it – so I said yes!  Turns out, I hadn’t really given lamb a chance because the lamb Manveer cooked was absolutely delicious! Accompanied with rosemary and garlic mash, pea and butternut puree, fresh leek and red wine sauce it was probably the nicest Sunday Dinner to ever grace my kitchen table!



While we feasted on lamb, my Mum polished off a fillet of seabass with sauteed potatoes, spiced tomato sauce, tempura broccoli and cauliflower florets.  I was amazed how Manveer perfectly timed two very different meals, cooking the fish to perfection while keeping the lamb tender.

To finish off, we had a deconstructed lemon tart with candied lemon peel, limoncello jelly and earl grey syrup (which I loved so much I had to try making myself!).  While we all ate and chatted, Manveer worked hard to get the kitchen back clean and in working order.

What can I say?  The whole night was a total treat from start to finish!  If you’re looking to host a dinner party with a difference then I’d definitely check out La Belle Assiette – your guests will be nattering about it for months!

Massive thanks to La Belle Assiette and Manveer for such an amazing evening – and to Anna from Exposure for the photographs (it was so nice to dig into a plate of food without me having to photograph it first!).

Have a great week everyone! 

What I Did: Cardiff Bay Beach

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And so the heatwave blazes on here in Cardiff (it’s set to get up to 27° again later on this week – phew!) which is great because it means there’s plenty of chance to get out and enjoy all the summery things on offer in the city in the weather they were actually intended for!  Case and point: The Cardiff Bay Beach Festival, which runs every year from July to early September.  It’s moved from its usual spot on Plas Roald Dahl right in the heart of The Bay to a bigger, breezier spot up by The Barrage – a genius decision as it means there’s plenty more to see, do and eat!  I popped down on Saturday evening for a drink and stroll around the funfair, and thanks to the beautiful weather and even more beautiful sunset it really felt like I was on holiday somewhere far away.  Hello Cardiffornia! 🙂


If I hadn’t stuffed my face at Vegetarian Food Studio earlier that day then I’d have absolutely filled up on the Milkshakes, Halloumi Fries, Candifloss and Churros on offer – but I was full, so I had a sunset slushie instead 🙂








Have a great week! 🙂

What I Did: The Volvo Ocean Race Cardiff Stopover

I’ve got to be honest, I’m not that bothered about boats.  I’ve manned a boat maybe three times in my life, and none of those voyages were particularly successful.  Two of them involved getting tangled in some pretty thick pond weed under a willow on Roath Park Lake, and the other time was on honeymoon when Sunny decided that he wanted to try a two-man kayak.  Honestly?  I was absolutely knackered from rowing before we’d even made it out of the dock and whinged the whole way round (“Can we pleeeeease go back to the beach now?”).

So when Sunny suggested we pop down to Cardiff Bay to see the Volvo Ocean Race Stopover, I agreed to go on the proviso that we’d have our own stopover in Compass Coffee for breakfast Cronuts. 🙂

Sunny went for the Eggs Hebredian (Eggs Benedict with some added juicy black pudding), I had the Sticky Toffee and Custard Cronut and can confirm that it was 👌👌👌



After breakfast we walked over the Barrage towards The Boatyard.  I didn’t know much about the actual race before I got there, but it’s been running since the seventies.  Back in October, the boats weighed anchor in Alicante and set off on a nine month race around the world, with stopovers in just twelve cities.  And this year, Cardiff was picked as the stopping port after the tiring Atlantic leg.  Unfortunately, the boats hadn’t actually arrived when we were there on Sunday (they came in very early on Tuesday morning after being slowed down by some bad weather – welcome to Wales!), but there was more than enough to see and do (and eat!).  They’re docked in Cardiff until the 10th of June, when they’ll set off for Gothenburg.  While they’re here there’s plenty going on in and around The Bay, including workshops, demonstrations and a couple of races on Friday the 8th and Saturday the 9th of June (you can find out a bit more about what’s on here).


Despite being “not bothered about boats” the workshops and stalls were actually really interesting – particularly the Volvo Building; you can learn more about the race, the boats and how bloody hard the teams work during each leg.  You can also hop into a replica of one of the actual racing boats, and even attempt to dock one using a simulator.  Lots of cool stuff to do.  We got down there at about 11 in the morning and before we knew it, it was pushing 4!


As well as the stalls devoted to the race, there were also a few flying the flag for Wales (including some fab local food stalls), like Visit Wales, where you can try out a Virtual Reality version of some activities and experiences on offer around the country – like rocketing down the side of Snowdon on a Zip Line and diving with dolphins. 🙂





I’ll never complain about rowing around Roath Park again!  Definitely worth heading down to Cardiff Bay and checking out the Stopover while it’s in town – the boats are shipping off on the 10th of June.

Have a great weekend! 🙂

What I Did: Paddling Pools and *Bistrot Pierre

High five for Friday!  Hope you’ve had a lovely week, whatever you’ve been up to.  Hands up who’s excited about tomorrow’s royal wedding?  Up, down, up, down?  I wasn’t bothered at all, but I got really into Suits early this year and now I’m kind of… interested.  “Interested” is probably the most excitement you’ll get out of me on this one, but the more I read about Meghan Markle, the more I really like her (…I’ve been trying so hard to separate her from Rachel Zane).  Have you seen the video of her speaking out against sexist advertising when she was just 11?  She also used to blog (aside from “The Tig“, she’s also rumoured to be behind “The Working Actress”) and side-hustled as a calligraphist, and – let’s get trivial, shall we? – she and I share the same first name… which we don’t go by.  It’s Rachel, in case you’re wondering. 😉

Anyway, I want to see the dress so I’ll be tuning in for a bit at least.  So, other than stalking the soon to be Duchess of Sussex, what have I been up to?

Earlier in the week I popped to Home Bargains for a few cupboard essentials and came away with a £2 paddling pool instead (*eyeroll* it’s always the way, right?).  The weather’s been so lovely that we’ve been out in the garden whenever we’ve had the chance, but – bless him – Bungle struggles a bit in the heat, y’know, due to the fact that he’s off the scale on the fluff-o-meter.  So I thought it’d be fun for him to have somewhere to cool off.  🙂  I kind of underestimated how bloody big he’s gotten though, I should have gotten a bigger one!



French restaurant chain, Bistrot Pierre, sent me an invite a few weeks ago to sample their new summer menu – so I met up with Sunny after work one evening and we hustled over to The Brewery Quarter (just off Caroline Street), excited to fill our empty stomachs with some lovely French Food and mon dieu, did we fill them alright. 🙂

For starter, I had Calamari with a lovely garlic aioli dip, while Sunny opted for deep-fried brie – which I kind of wish I’d ordered – not because the calamari wasn’t delicious, but because why would anyone pass up the opportunity for deep fried brie!?  It was stunning, especially coupled with the spiced pear chutney.  Yum!


I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order an Orangina.  Sunny rolled his eyes and called it “Cheap French Tango” which honestly made me want to throw my wedding ring at him.  I used to drink gallons of the stuff when I went on holidays to France as a kid – and to this day I can’t see a bottle without having a lame Proustian Moment of some of my favourite summers. 🙂

For main I had the Burger Maison which was huge and delicious and came with a bucket of pomme frites (très bonne), whilst Sunny was very happy with his choice of the Médaillons de porc which came with plenty of vegetables on the side (…although he couldn’t help sneaking a few of my chips, grrr).




For afters Sunny bagged a winner again with the Gâteau au miel – a traditional Burgundian Honey cake – which, although it doesn’t look much on the plate, Sunny said was the best dessert he’d ever had and practically demanded that I learn how to make it.   I went for the classic Crème brûlée – I mean you’ve gotta, right? 😉

Huge thanks to Bistrot Pierre for the invite, we had a fantastique time and the food was absolutely banging.  I’d totally recommend if you’ve got a craving for some French fare – it made me desperately want to whizz down to Portsmouth and hop on a ferry to France 🙂  I’ve definitely got my eye on trying one of their gastronomy nights!  You can book a table at one of their many restaurants across the UK here.  I also have a code (LBP8X87H) which entitles each member of your booking group to a free drink with their meal (You can read the Terms and Conditions here). Nice!

Have a lovely weekend guys! 🙂

What I did: ¡April Feria!

Well, while the weather over the weekend was more murky than Mediterranean here in Cardiff (it was absolutely freezing when I went out to walk the dog this morning!), it didn’t stop us from at least pretending that we were in Spain.  On Saturday Sunny and I popped down to Tramshed for its annual Spanish Fiesta – April Feria – a whole day celebrating Spanish music, dancing, and – more importantly – foooooood.  I suppose it’s Cardiff’s nod to the famous Feria De Abril in Seville which lasts for six whole days every year around this time – six whole days of flamenco dancing, bullfighting and scoffing paella.  Well, April Feria only lasted the one day, so, the way I saw it, I had to cram six days worth of paella and churros scoffing into one.  Challenge accepted.

Fair warning; there are photographs of me stuffing my face coming right up… 😉


Inside Tramshed, the main room was fiesta ready – with streamers and lanterns and red carnations, and there were Flamenco Dancing Workshops going on on the main stage.  There was live music and Spanish dancing all day, as well as an after party in the basement of Jacob’s Market.


By far the best thing on the menu though was the paella by Riceminster – three massive pans of vegan, chicken and rabbit (a traditional Valencian) paella.  I’ve tried making paella so many times at home by it always ends up a gloopy mess which I brush off by just calling it risotto instead (oh the shame!).  So it was nice to get schooled by the masters!  Traditionally you’re not supposed to season paella with chilli, just a squirt of lemon juice and I can confirm that the chicken paella was an absolute stunner. 👌

🙂 🙂 🙂


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Also, you can’t go to a fiesta and not have Churros.  Those are the rules!  If you don’t come away licking cinnamon sugar off your lips (or brushing it out of your beard if you’re anything like Sunny) then you’ve gone wrong.




If only the weather had joined in, but then this is Cardiff after all!  Have a fantástico week everyone! 😉