Launch of Chelsea Garden Party

The launch of the exciting Belfast Chelsea Garden Party took place last night atThe Chelsea Bar, Belfast. It was a wonderful evening which took place on the first-floor private function room. On arrival, there was a Prosecco/drinks reception whilst there was live music being played by 5 members of the Belfast Ukulele Jam group, who were dressed in bright, colourful shirts to match the sun-drenched room!!
The 30 of us were then seated at very well laid out tables and were served a selection of delicious canapes, being Caesar salad on crisp bread, chicken satay skewers with hot and sour sauce and teriyaki beef. The first two I had and were delicious and I hear the beef was good too!! There was also a selection of white and red wine served throughout the meal. My wife liked the Sauvignon Blanc!!
For the main course, we were served a truly exquisite dish. It was Irish Corn-Fed Chicken with Abernethy butter mash, Black pudding Bon-Bon, spring vegetables and wild mushroom and truffle veloute. The chicken skin was a subtle yellow colour and succulent and moist, the mash was light and fluffy and the vegetables added some contrast and sweetness. The black pudding tasted very good and again was light and had a crunchy outer skin. The wild mushroom veloute was very earthy in flavour and complimented the dish superbly.
The staff were very attentive and Terry, the manager, came over and chatted about the food and the Garden Party.
The Garden Party will be held at the Drumglass Park aka Cranmore Park, on the Lisburn Road just up from the Chelsea. It will be held on Saturday 1st June from 2-8pm. The cost is £5 per adult and kids go free. There will be music, food, drinks, craft stalls, family activities and a body and soul area. Hampers and Bench packages are available from The Chelsea Bar- we were presented with one such item which contained a small wheaten, a wedge of Irish cheese, a tub of coleslaw, a chicken skewer and a large chocolate brownie, which I shall be tucking into very soon!!
The Chelsea Bar, along with Hardy’s VR and Mud House wine are presenting the Garden Party. Music on offer will be provided by the Ukulele Jam (who practice on Tuesday at The Sunflower Bar), Ulster String Quartet, DJ’s and finale by Brian McVeigh & Friends. Local businesses will be showcasing their services such as yoga, massages, therapeutic activities, holistic goods and Henna by the International artist Binder Tohani.
There will be lots for kids to do too like flower crown making, dream catchers, garden games and Playball NI. There will be pampering for little doggies too. Feel free to bring your picnic rugs, boxes and plenty of sun cream!!!

Huge thanks to Michelle and The Chelsea Bar for arranging and organising!!


Chocoholics delight!!

This is for all you chocoholics out there!!! Yesterday lunch time, my 10 and 7 year old girls, several other excited chocolate loving adults and children arrived at Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory in East Belfast. Aunt Sandra’s will be having live demos at Friends’ Goodwill Music Festival 2019 which will be held in Larne on 11th and 12th May (check links for details).

All we were told was to not have eaten any lunch and to have lots of fun. Aunt Sandra’s is a family run business now into its fourth generation (Michael). The original shop was opened in the 1940’s by Willie. Aunt Sandra joined in 1953 and handed it over to Jim and David in 1989. Michael took over this year.

The store is synonymous with all things sweet, chocolate and the famous Yellow Man, which The Hairy Bikers came for!!

Veruca Salt from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory has also been a visitor and she presented some excellent paraphernalia which is on display.

Onto the show and chocolate fun. Uncle Jim was our host and was full of (jelly) beans!! He presented his show with great enthusiasm and had us all participating. He went through the history of the store and made us pay attention as there was to be a quiz at the end!!!

Our first task was to make a chocolate bar in the shape of a ginger bread man and decorated with sweets being mini mallows, jelly beans, smarties and milk chocolate buttons. Suffice to say the kids and a good few adults were busily scoffing!!

We then made a chocolate pizza, again decorated as above and with addition of honey comb dust!! To finish off we had marshmallows dipped in warm, melted milk chocolate…..

By now the kids and adults were starting to feel the effects of the sweets and chocolate!!! Jim gave us our quiz and presented us with big red dummies for the kids and lollipops for us!! The best bit was that we got to take our chocolate marvels home to eat!!!

Also available are Wonka bars and bags/boxes of honeycomb and Yellow Man.

You can also take part in the story telling and the chocolate making experience by booking your party at Aunt Sandra’s, ranging from £8-12 per person up to maximum of 25 persons. This is a great place for kids parties (finger food is included depending on which party you book).

Pay them a visit for a cuppa, a snack, some sweeties or the parties, and check out the Friends’ Goodwill Music Festival 2019 .

Thanks to Michelle and Uncle Jim for the magic!!!

Game of Thrones – The Touring Exhibition

Game Of Thrones fever is certainly here, what with the final season 8 airing on Sunday 14th in the US and Monday 15th here and the Game of Thrones- The Touring Exhibition opening tomorrow (11th April) at the TEC .

I was honoured to be invited to the Press Conference/ Q&A and to have a look at the Exhibition- believe you me it was well worth it!!

At the press conference was Mr Jeff Peters from HBO, Robin from GES who built the Exhibition, Michelle Clapton who was head of Costumes along with three stars being Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark) and our own Ian Beattie (Meryn Trant).

They all talked about their time filming GOT, the hospitality of the locals, the beauty of the scenery and sights of Northern Ireland, the professionalism of the crew, other cast and supporting cast. Indeed they were all sad to have finished filming GOT.

Then after a bit of mingling and coffee and pastries it was our turn to enter the Exhibition…..

Once we stepped into the Exhibition we were met with banners and props and a short synopsis of GOT story on screen.

Then there was a map of Westeros and family trees….

As a fan this was mind blowing to see props up close and personal

but even more so to actually get to see the original costumes, which Michelle and her team made to measure, in all their splendour and glory. The amount of time, effort and detail was phenomenal!!

There were two Belfast specific GOT displays which are debuting so I’m not going to cover these as I don’t want to spoil the surprise!!!

For those who want some interaction there are five places were one can interact namely: the Hall of Faces, holding the sword, swinging the sword, climbing the Wall and of course a picture on the Iron Throne!!

The tour lasts about 60 minutes and is definitely worth the £15 entry especially if one is a fan!!! We all got a nice wee goody bag containing a map of GOT locations and an Official Guide Book…..Now can’t wait for season 8………


19th Belfast Film Festival

It all kicks off on the 11th April…..The 19th Belfast Film Festival and it’s bigger and better than ever. Again the official drinks partner is Birra Moretti.

I was chuffed to bits when I received a wonderful basket of fine Italian Fayre, including a four pack of Birra Moretti bottles, last week!!

In this basket of delights were: a bag of crostini, bag of spaghetti, jars of red peppers, red pesto, black tapenade, preserved lemons, bottle of balsamic vinegar, bottle of extra virgin olive oil, Ferrero Rocher chocs and of course the Birra Moretti!!

My good lady will be treated to a fine Italian meal at the weekend!!

The festival opener is the world premiere of the movie A Bump Along the Way at the Dublin Road Moviehouse at 7pm on the 11th April….Alas I cant make that but I’m looking forward to An evening with Aamir Khan on the 16th. The festival closes on the 20th.

I would like to thank Aiken Promotions and United Wines.








Award winning kebab from Sphinx

Yesterday I treated myself and girls to an award winning chicken kebab, chips, chicken goujons, curry sauce and the legendary Sphinx and garlic sauces.
Picture: The Glengormley branch, Kebab Awards
A kebab is traditionally pieces of whole or ground meat, spiced or non spiced, cooked over charcoals with or without vegetables. In Indian cuisine there are the Shish or seekh kebabs (same thing but different spelling), Reshmi, Multani and Shami to name but a few.
In the UK and Middle East the famous kebabs are undoubtedly the doner kebab or kebab stack. Unfortunately here in the UK the doner has the infamy of being a greasy and unhealthy after pub meal made from cheap and fatty off cuts of lamb, chicken, beef and/or pork. If one has had a “real” doner in the Middle East then they know that the UK doner is worlds apart. In the Middle East the doner is usually made form lamb, goat, chicken or beef and it is seasoned and served with salad, sauce and bread. The kebab stack is flattened meat steaks placed horizontally on a vertical skewer and cooked vertically like a doner. The meat is then cut and served with salad on bread.
Picture: from top left, marinade for the steak kebab stack, steak kebab stack, freshly made beef sausages and burgers.
Picture: from top left, marinade for chicken, the chicken in the marinade, chargilling the chicken.

The owner of The Sphinx, Errol, had a vision of dispelling the myth that the doner was a cheap and unhealthy fast food. So he went on a mission to produce good quality kebabs. For his kebab stack he uses fresh Irish fillet steaks (beef so I cant eat-as I dont eat beef), flattened and placed onto and built up on the vertical skewer, just like the Middle Eastern chefs prepare it. In the Middle East the meat is usually goat, lamb or beef. The Sphinx also make chargrilled chicken breast kebabs,which are my favourite. These are made from good quality Irish chicken breasts which have been sliced and marinated before being cooked on a hot gas chargrill. The resulting colour, smells and texture are exquisite and the chicken is moist and delicious. It is served best, in my opinion, with salad and the famous The Sphinx House Sauce in a large flat bread. 

Errol also believes in using the finest, locally produced fresh ingredients. All the chips are prepared from Irish potatoes which are cleaned and chipped on site.

It is a very healthy, tasty and nutritious chicken dish and not the typical “after pub meal”. Indeed it is actually a very healthy and nutritious meal. The Sphinx also do the usual fish and chips as well as the other chip shop favourites and they do gyros, burritos, and kids meals.

Picture: from top left fresh chicken goujons (flash fried), fish and our dinner-large chips, large salad, large chicken kebab in bread, chicken goujons and curry sauce and the legendary Sphinx and garlic sauce!!

The original The Sphinx (opened in 1980, Errol took over in 2005) can be found on Stranmillis Road, Belfast, Antrim Road in Glengormley (2015) and the newest one is on Botanic Avenue (2016). They do deliveries and can be found on Just Eat. Big thanks to Errol and all the staff for letting me behind the scenes!!

Ps the food was amazing!!! I’ve had mine…..question is, when are you going to get yours?

La Taqueria-a true gem

After a long Afternoon walking around town I decided to try out La Taqueria. This is certainly a beacon for the city centre especially around the Primark cordon.

I’ve always threatened to pay it a visit so today was that day! I can remember seeing a picture from FB of a wooden platter with two hugely piled tacos. So I duly ordered this dish- 2 Tacos de choripapas. Basically chorizo, onions, potatoes and cream and I went with scrambled egg.

When it came out it was smaller than I expected BUT on tasting it packed a punch and bursted with flavours….I also tried the trio of sauces and definitely my favourite was the Habanero!!

All in all top marks, great place, menu, staff and ambience and food really was amazing!!

Our Christmas lunch

It’s the 27th December and I can’t believe all the hype and festivities are over!!! So much build up, shopping and money just for one day…..rant over!!!

I wanted to share our Christmas lunch. For starters I served up “surf n turf” with a salad. My wife diligently prepped a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, lettuce and slaw. I prepped the meat the day before. For the surf I used smoked salmon slices rolled up with cream cheese and chives inside, salt and chilli prawns with homemade Marie Rose sauce on top and scallops in basil butter. The turf was white pudding discs.

Main course was turkey and pork Ballantine, roast potatoes, carrot and parsnip battons and shredded sprouts and gravy, not to mention pigs in blankets.

The meat was prepped the day before. I used two turkey breast steaks, a pork fillet and good quality, flavoured stuffing. This was rolled, tied, seasoned and doused in honey before being rolled in foil and refrigerated.

Suffice to say it was a fab meal!!!