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: ¡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. 👌

🙂 🙂 🙂


DSC_0066

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! 😉

What I Did: New Kicks and Cocktails at the Celtic Manor

DSC_0058

Happy Friday everyone!  Here’s another What I Did post, this time all about what I got up to yesterday.  It was a long one, which all started with Bungle barking at 5.30am.  I’ve got no idea why he’s waking up so early at the moment, but it’s driving me nuts!  Apparently a Golden Retriever in Australia holds the world record for the loudest bark and I can bloody believe it.  Once Bungle’s awake he barks and barks and barks until one of us crawls out of bed and goes downstairs to see him – and at the moment, that’s happening most mornings at the arse crack of dawn.  *sigh*  He’s such a brat!

Look at that innocent face.  Ugh!  🙂


After breakfast (and Bungle’s morning walk), I got dressed.  I put on my cosiest jumper (it’s been absolutely freezing in Cardiff this week!) and decided to give Benefit’s *Bad Gal Bang a road test.  The verdict?  Well, I applied it at 9am, absolutely loved the lift and volume that it gave my stubby little lashes and was amazed that they stayed in place right through until 11pm when I took my makeup off (Apparently it’s capable of lasting 36 hours, but honestly who on earth wears mascara for 36 hours?!).  I was able to avoid clumpy, tarantula eyes because the wand is easy to manouvre; so big tick on that one.

Now, it claims to be smudge proof, but alas I was panda’d up as usual by the afternoon, and I did have quite a bit of smudging by the end of the night under and above my lashes – so wah-wah on that one.  Buuuut, the lift and volume you get is pretty epic.


I popped into town to run a few errands… aaaaaand – like a Magpie with a one track mind – ended up in Skinny Dip looking at all the shiny, pretty things, and then H&M, where I bagged a new pair of trainers for £9 in the sale.



In the afternoon I worked on my book (fuelled by some fresh Welsh Cakes that I picked up from Bakestones in Cardiff Market), and then after dinner, Sunny and I drove up to the Celtic Manor.  I’ve passed by it so many times in the car on the way to and from London  – you can’t miss it towering over the M4 on the hillside near junction 24 – and I’ve always wanted to visit.  So I was very excited when I was invited along to the launch of its brand new cocktail lounge; The Mulberry.



Decorated with gold paint, dark marble and plenty of velvet, it was like stepping between the pages of The Great Gatsby, and the cocktails didn’t disappoint either.  Far from a bit of ice, fruit juice and gin shaken together, The Mulberry‘s cocktails are like a performance in a glass.  For example, their champagne cocktail, the Candy Floss Royal comes straight up with a cloud of pink candy floss in a martini glass, which melts when you pour over the muscat and champagne mix. And their Tom Collins?  They aerate it at the table with Laughing Gas.  Actual Laughing Gas, you guys.


I took my brand new Skinny Dip clutch out for a spin, which looked very much at home in the glitzy surroundings 🙂

Time to check in with Bungle.  My Mum and Dad bought us one of those Pet Cams for Christmas and it’s seriously amazing!  We’ve got it set up in the kitchen so every time we go out we can check in on Bungle and see whether he’s sleeping (unlikely…) or getting up to mischief (more likely!).  Last night he spent most of the time lying on his bed looking sorry for himself, poor guy. 😦  It’s nice to be able to check in with him and see whether we need to hurry back to him or can stay out a bit longer – plus, we can actually talk to him through it if we want to (…which he hates!  It really confuses him!).

Hooray for the weekend! Have a good one, whatever you’re up to! 🙂

What I Did: Hotel Indigo Launch Party

DSC_0093 (2)

Last night I was invited along to the launch party (as well as a little snoop around the rooms) of Hotel Indigo; a brand new boutique hotel that’s opened up right in the heart of city centre, just off Queen Street.  Not only was it fab night with live music and fancy grub (courtesy of the rooftop Marco Pierre White Steakhouse), but the hotel itself is stunning (it’s a blogger’s dream!), with little nods to Welsh culture, language and history are dotted throughout the reception area and the rooms.  Such a cool place to stay if you’re up for a weekend away in the Welsh Capital! 🙂

“The minute you walked in the joint… ba-damp!”

If you’re on Queen Street, it’s definitely worth taking a turn down old Dominions Arcade to see the new murals and pop into the cosy reception area of Hotel Indigo for a cup of coffee.  The walls are covered with Welsh iconography; from framed pictures of corgis, poetry by Dylan Thomas, daffodils, sheep… you name it, it’s up there (…except for a Love Spoon!  Get on that pronto tonto, Hotel Indigo! 😉 ).  There’s also a few hints at Wales’ past, with the caged canary and lit mining helmets behind the front desk a little tribute to King Coal.






I absolutely loved these quirky plates with Max Ernst-esque engravings and old Welsh sayings.  My Welsh is a little rusty guys, but I think this one means, “Every bird loves the sound of its own voice.”






The launch party moved up into Marco Pierre White’s Rooftop Bar and Steak Restaurant – including a terrace with views right across the city. 🙂


Couldn’t resist jumping into the photo booth with some fellow Welsh Bloggers: Leanne (The Globetrotter GP), Laura (Side Street Style), and Kacie (The Rare Welsh Bit). 🙂

Such a great night!  If you ever fancy coming to Cardiff for the weekend, then definitely check out Hotel Indigo for a taster session in Welsh Culture 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone! x

The Vegetarian Food Studio

In case you didn’t know, my mother-in-law is Indian (…Gotta be careful what I write next, I know she’s reading!  Hey Mum!).  Before I met Sunny, I could probably count on one hand how many times I’d eaten Indian Food.  I just didn’t get it, but then my only experience of the stuff was sloppy school dinner curry (Which had raisins in it…?  What even?  That still wrecks my head!) and the tinned curry my Dad used to buy.  Fast-forward ten years and it’s hand on heart some of my favourite food (…not that I had much choice in the matter!).

My mother-in-law knows good Indian Food (particularly Vegetarian Indian Food as a strict veggie herself) and isn’t afraid to speak up when she’s served something that isn’t up to snuff.  So, when she came down to visit a few weeks ago and we decided to take her to one of the top-rated Vegetarian restaurants in Cardiff, I was a little nervous.  Also, as a meat eater who’d never set foot in a Vegetarian Restaurant before, I wasn’t sure what I’d even order.

Honestly?  The only criticism we had was of ourselves – that we hadn’t visited sooner!  Sometimes it’s hit and miss with Indian Restaurants, a bit of a balancing act; the food can sometimes be too spicy, or not spicy enough, or too oily, or too expensive, or lacking flavour.  But the food at Vegetarian Food Studio was spot on and very reasonably priced – and the service friendly.  The menu was absolutely massive, with plenty of choices and meal options.  I quickly picked out a couple of favourites (Channa – chickpeas – and Aloo Parantha – a potato stuffed flatbread), while Sunny picked out a couple of childhood favourites and when they came we weren’t disappointed in either the portion size or the flavour.  Yum!  No wonder this place takes evening bookings for four weeks in advance!

They also offer takeaway food – including Indian sweets and light bites.  Definitely worth checking out if you’re Vegetarian or a fan of Indian Food. 🙂




Vegetarian Food Studio
115-117 Penarth Rd, Cardiff CF11 6JU