Reflections of the Sunflower festival

The 2017 festival is over and my family and we are home, all cleaned up and washes on and in our warm beds. Time to reflect on the day.

It was a long day, started wet and finished wet and had some violent thunderstorms and then hot, dry weather, then thorms and that was the order of the day….but it did not deter the hard core festival goers. This was our first really muddy festival and it was a really long day especially for my 9 and 5 year old girls-who remarkably had the stamina and lasted the whole day. There was plenty for them to see and do (kids zone, cinema, food, stalls and bands).

For the adults there was plenty to see, do, eat, listen to, drink and partaking in holistic therapies. It was wet/hot/muddy and this added to the fun,well you have to have fun. The food offerings I really enjoyed were:

1. Streetdogs Hot Dogs and dirty chips!!
2. Donut coned ice cream
3. The cheese bread

Also was lucky to try some real tender BBQ pulled pork. There were many good things and a few tweaks will make next years even better. Block out 27-29th July for #sunflowerfest18

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Day 3 Sunflower Festival 2017

All roads leading to Tubby's Farm for last day of @SunflowerFest what you gonna see, what you gonna do and what u gonna listen too?!?! Remember bring ur tickets/wristbands wellies and have lots of fun!!! #SFF17 lots of great food in offer like Streetdogs Boojum Belfast Wolf & Devour Tapitas #crepes #festival #music #fundayout

Wedding at the Ballygally Castle Hotel

My wife and I attended our wonderful friends wedding nuptials at The Ballygally Castle. This is a delightful hotel with lots of character and dates back to 1625. It is part of the locally owned and run Hastings Hotels.

On arrival we mingled whilst waiting to enter the Kintyre Ballroom for the wedding registration ceremony. The room was well decorated and the ceremony was short and well conducted. After the pictures we retired to the hotel lobby and had drinks whilst the room was prepared for the dinner.

This gave us time to explore the hotel and learn about the history. There is also a Game of Thrones door in the hotel. The bride and groom looked super!!

The weather was kind and we were able to take a walk in the well manicured and mature gardens, which sported a river flowing into the sea and various other features.

By now we had built up a healthy appetite and it was time to be seated and tuck into a very well cooked and presented 5 course meal. For starters there was a lovely Caesars Salad then Butternut squash and sweet potato soup served with a warm soft wheaten muffin. The first two course were amazing and set the standard for the mains. For mains we both had the chicken, potatoes and vegetables. The chicken was succulent and vegetables al dented and mash was perfect. Service was exceptional and staff very attentive and professional. For dessert there was lemon tart and profiteroles, again an amazing sweet. After the cake cutting and speeches we had our coffee and cake in the lobby.

Ballygally Castle is famous for the resident ghost, so we went to the ghost room to see if we could spot her…….and we…….. didn't see or feel her!!!!! Maybe you will??

Finally the evening entertainment started and the DJ played a wide range of tracks and we danced for a while, relaxed, chatted and thoroughly enjoyed it!!! After a snack of fish and chips it was home to relieve the babysitter!!!

The Story of Mama Masala

In 2004 two young Punjabi guys came to Northern Ireland. Dilbagh made Londonderry his home whilst Gagan 'Pal' Singh Jaidev his cap down and made Glengormley his home. They had a passion, a dream, a vision and most of all they had fire in their bellies!!! They both got straight to work and Dilbagh worked in The White Horse Inn and Pal in The Thunderdome, where he became manager.

They had a dream of one day having their own business.They worked hard, gained valuable experience and made lots of contacts and later friends within the industry with suppliers, designers, staff and, of course customers. So in 2014 they had the opportunity to buy the going concern and original Mama Masala in Londonderry.

Mama Masala was certainly a breath of fresh air in the Londonderry eating scene. It was one of the first Dual cuisine restaurants i.e. Indian and Italian…and I sampled this first hand BFM dines at Mama Masala. This heralded a breakthrough in the Indian Restaurant scene and was instrumental in their future venture. This was also a fantastic learning experience and one in which their combined vision was formulated and refined.

The boys were itching to open up a newer, more specifically designed and personalised restaurant in the greater Belfast area. In 2017 opportunity came their way. The Royal Thai in Glengormley (a favourite of mine) came onto the market and it was duly snapped up in March.

They, along with designer and project manager, Scott Willis Designs, then started to put their thoughts and ideas and dreams and ambitions onto paper. Slowly but surely the last 13 years of ideas, wants, dreams and desires slowly began to take shape and Mama Masala Glengormley was conceived.

They had literally only the exterior skin intact….everything else was ripped out and replaced with new, state of the art services (new gas,electricity and waste), infrastructure, fixtures, fittings, hardware, decorations, heating, lighting and plumbing-in short absolutely everything!!!



Due to the nature of the works the design process had to be fluid and accommodating. SWD really had the finger on the pulse and made sure everything ran smoothly. The slated opening was to be June but had to be pushed back due to complexity. This demonstrates how the proprietor/designer had to be flexible.



As can clearly be seen everything was stripped back to a bare shell and built from scratch. The designer had the confidence to realise the vision exceptionally well.

The goal of the design was to make a dual cuisined, ultra modern Indian and Italian restaurant, using vibrant colours, smart use of natural and modern mood LED lighting, trendy fashionable upholstery, flooring, wall coverings. This would reflect the Indian and Italian genres.


As can be seen from the above the Name logo matches the Londonderry restaurant, the colours are distinctive, the statue of Ganeshji is significant as its auspicious and placed at the entrance and is a sign of a blessing and the Buddha also shows the Indian influence. There is also a lovely collage of spices with the Namaste hand greeting.

In the main restaurant there are several different wall coverings, my favourite being the picture of the Taj in Mumbai. The flooring has also different designs which breaks up the restaurant and is a great design feature when accompanied by the differing wall coverings and seating arrays i.e. free standing Tables (round, square, rectangular) or booths. The mood LED lighting is also very modern and works well.

The VIP opening was on Sunday 9th July and was busy. Alas on the night of 10/11 July, after 1st full day of trading, disaster struck in the shape of deliberate Arson!!!

The public support and rallying around by the community, friends and suppliers soon had the restaurant fixed and cleaned up and back in business. Phoenix had truly risen from the ashes!! The desire, ambition and determination of Pal, Dilbagh and the Mama Masala team was very evident and they have roared back like true Punjabi Lions!! I'm really looking forward to tasting the food!!

Pictures above are from the reopening.

This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader

#designingforfuture

Sunflower Festival 2017

The Sunflower Festival 2017 is about to start!!! Roll on Friday 28th July and its all roads leading to Tubby's Farm just outside Hillsborough for three days of fun, food, frolic and music!!

There will be loads to do and I got a sneak preview and it's looking fantastic. There's lots for all age groups to see and do. The Bliss zone will have a strong emphasis on natural products and holistic therapies as well as Henna.

There are seven music stages catering for all tastes. There's also a theatre and a cinema using the raw outdoors as its backdrop. I'm especially impressed by the food stalls on offer including Streetdogs, Ramen on the run, Pizza Pod, Wolf & Devour and Boojum to name but a few. They are around the edges of the impressive looking main stage.

Of course the festival has lots of sun flowers, novel tents, bars, woodland features…… so get your tickets, bring your wellies and waterproofs, and have lots of fun and get down to nature…it promises to be fun. There's so much to explore-what will you find?

Revolucion de Cuba hits Belfast!!

The Revolucion de Cuba has arrived in Belfast with a bang!!!! This is number 15 in the UK and the first on the island of Ireland. Revolucion de Cuba first started out around 2011 so is relatively new but is right up there with its compatriots!!!

It's home is in the premises previously occupied by Cafe Vaudeville and let me tell you it is totally different!!

It's very relaxed, bright and has a definite holiday/relaxed feeling about it. It's been dubbed as the Cuban Cocktail Rum Bar and Tapas Restaurant. I was excited to sample the non alcoholic cocktails and the tapas and a main course with my youngest daughter!!

The menu is as authentic as one would get in Cuba/ a Latin American country. All ingredients (meat/veg) are sourced locally and freshly made not from frozen.

David the General Manager (and long time friend) explained to me the ethos behind the concept and his meticulous selection process (which included many phone/Skype and personal interviews). He was explaining that the idea was to have a relaxed entertainment experience which includes drinks, food and dancing.

The drinks include alcoholic and non alcoholic cocktails, 60 different rums and a fully stocked bar. There are also cocktail master classes.

The food has a very relaxed dining feel to it and the kitchen is called the Cantina. The main attraction is the freshly made Tapas, large plates, burgers, burritos and sandwiches along with sides and of course tacos.

Before our lunch we were treated to moctails of lavender lemonade (daughter) and Shy Mai Tai (me). Both were tasty and refreshing and went well with the complimentary nachos.

We shared a selection of Tapas being: Pork belly skewers, roasted chorizo, honey and lime chicken skewers, mojito prawns and skinny fries. They were all delicious-you have to try them!! The rum sauce adds a sweetish kick to the Tapas.

We then shared a Cuban BBQ glazed chicken served with skinny fries (ours had manchego cheese-yum) chargrilled corn and a salad garnish. The chicken was succulent and the glaze and spices were superb. The corn exhibited a lovely charred taste and the manchego fries were a rather good twist on cheesy chips!! Now I normally don't like food served on a wooden platter but this actually worked very well as it's a relaxed, holiday like setting. Top marks for the food and service. My daughter polished off her ice cream.

The entertainment will include music 7 days a week with a DJ (stage at front) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with live music (band on Mezzanine floor) to closing. The hours are 11.30-22.00 Monday through Saturday for food and slightly later opening on Sunday. There will be music until closing at 1am (12 Sunday). There is a happy hour from 5-7 Monday through Friday which is 241 cocktails and on Sunday it's all day 241 cocktails. The restaurant can seat 134 diners and the venue has capacity for 800 persons. This is the hottest place in town and on Friday 28th the Official Launch party kicks off at 5pm. If you have a ticket you can get a free Daiquiri from the fountain-I've got my ticket!!! All 1000 tickets were snapped up in two days!! Belfast welcomes Revolucion de Cuba!!!

Family dinner at The Loft

My two daughters, wife and I had the pleasure of dining in the biggest restaurant in Glengormley, that is The Loft.

Perched above a row of shops in the busy Industrial area of Mallusk is this fully equipped 120 seater restaurant. When we ascended the stairway and entered the reception area we were amazed at the size!! The kitchen hatch was immediately to our left and at the helm was local chef John Hadden (who has worked in Ballyclare Golf Club, Knags, Sugar Rays and Blue Chicago). John has just introduced a new and very appetising menu……more on that later!!

Further along was the fully stocked bar, with a myriad of wines, beers, spirits and soft drinks and I hear they do cocktails!!


To the right as we entered was the seated reception area (above), where live bands and entertainers will play on busy weekend nights.

We were taken through the dining area and seated in our well accommodating booth, overlooking the car park. The booth was set for four and would have fitted six!!

Chef John's passion for good quality wholesome fresh food showed through in the menu. The Loft serves up breakfast:

Lunch:

John was saying that there will be an express corporate lunch starting soon at £5.95 to cater for the many corporate clients and office workers in the area, who want good quality food, quickly and at a reasonable price.

The dinner menu has old favourites and new:

There were so many dishes that screamed out, "Eat me!!!"
So we decided to take the plunge and order. My two girls had the pork sausages (2 pcs) with skinny fries and freshly breaded chicken strips (3).
My wife opted for the salmon sizzler and chunky chips:
whilst I had the chicken stack:
and we shared a starter portion of breaded mushrooms (4).

We all loved the presentation of the food John served up. The baskets for the kids meals went down a treat with them, the sizzler really sizzled and my stack was well stacked!! The breaded mushrooms were really crispy and served on a simple dressed salad with garlic mayo. The chicken strips and sausages were piping hot, the salmon and prawns were delicious and not over cooked and the chunky chips worked well with the fish. My stack was the best!!! The champ was perfectly cooked with tasty crunchy scallions, chicken was butterflied and succulent, the pepper sauce was reduced well and spot on and the tobacco onions were juicy and moist and not oily!! The portion sizes were big and we all polished the food off, leaving just enough room for dessert:

Kids having mint chocolate ice cream and strawberry ice cream respectively whilst my wife and I shared the banoffee. We were well and truly filled after all this and all for less than £40……because kids eat free on a Monday and Tuesday night!!!

There is BYO on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (can only avail of one offer per order) and Steak Night on a Thursday:

This restaurant is a truly fantastic family friendly place which offers great quality food at very competitive prices. There is also scope for corporate/business lunches with the advantage of having a section able area to the rear which can be used for presentations, product launches, training, conferences, private parties, communions/christening and the whole venue can be used for large parties and even weddings. As can be seen this is a truly remarkable restaurant and we are so lucky to have it on our doorstep. Do call in and try for yourself……watch out for promotions and the new flyer, it will have a discount on it!!!!