Where to eat in Bath: The Green Rocket, Yak Yeti Yak, Chapel Arts Café

Bath_eatsWhen it came to choosing places to eat while visiting Bath, we were spoiled for choice. Well known for being a foodie destination, the city attracts restaurants serving up just about every cuisine you can think of.  Our limited time meant we had to be selective about the places we ate, so we ended up choosing places that we felt offered something unique – and weren’t disappointed.

We made a beeline for our first lunch stop as soon as we stepped off the train; Chapel Arts Café was conveniently located halfway between the station and our hotel. Although it’s right in the centre of town, you’d be forgiven for skipping past this quaint little vegetarian joint, which is hidden away in the basement of St James’s Memorial Hall on Lower Borough Walls.

delicious-the-farmerVenturing in from the stone steps outside, the space is a hip and cosy combo of mismatched tables and chairs, gig posters, chalkboard menus and artsy knick-knacks. The café’s signature is its wood fired flatbreads, so naturally we both opted for one. Mine was was topped with a perfect balance of goats cheese, caramelised onion and roasted veg, while Amy’s was a spicy concoction of houmous, harissa, salsa and tabbouleh. Both were delicious, and combined with a coffee and a cuppa came to £20 – not bad for a wholesome lunch in one of England’s poshest cities.

This filled us up nicely until our evening meal at the hotel (I could write many more paragraphs on how incredible that was, but you should probably just check out the review I wrote here).

Lunch at Thermae Bath Spa’s Springs Café the next day took relaxed dining to a new level. Straight from the steam rooms and into the light, airy eatery, we sat eating serrano ham sandwiches and an olive salad in our robes and slippers, surrounded by similarly dressed down guests. The salted caramel and chocolate cheesecake at the end of the meal was undoubtedly the highlight – an extra slice of indulgence that I couldn’t resist in the midst of a seriously decadent day.

yakyetiyakBy dinnertime we were feeling adventurous, so decided to mix things up with a cuisine neither of us had tried before: Nepalese, courtesy of Yak Yeti Yak. Similar to Indian food but switching the blistering heat of traditional curry houses with subtle and smoky spice combinations, it was exciting to visit a restaurant where veggie food received equal billing to the meaty choices. Our mains consisted of Chyauko Tarkari (stir-fried mushrooms with earthy spices and tomato) and Pork Sag Aloo (slow cooked with potato, spinach and coriander). Both, however, were outshined by their irresistible accompaniment, Musurko Dal (mildly spiced orange lentils and garlic infused vegan ghee). It was so moreish that we had to order an extra portion.

We probably saved the best for last by squeezing in a visit to award winning café The Green Rocket before catching our train back to Cardiff. This vegetarian and vegan wonderland serves up an unpretentious array of fresh, healthy and original recipes, from satisfying mains to tempting home baked cakes.

IMG_7564IMG_7542 IMG_7545Everything on the lunchtime menu sounded good, but our individual choices really stood out to our respective tastebuds. Amy’s mezze offered a refreshingly different variety of light bites, from the mild and smooth baba ghanoush to the warm and soft dukkah flatbread. It looked incredible, but nothing could distract me from my awesome mushroom, sundried tomato and basil rice burger. Combined with halloumi and a cool green salad, even the stubbornest hamburger purists couldn’t have turned down this animal-free winner.

There were so many highly rated restaurants in Bath that we couldn’t possibly visit them all, and we’re already hungry for our next trip back to this flavoursome city. We’d love to hear about your foodie recommendations in a comment or a tweet @Creative_Hacks.

Matt

Vintage restyled: Cardiff’s Castle Emporium

Cardiff Castle Emporium general outside shotFor the past two years, the old converted cinema opposite Clwb Ifor Bach was home to Cardiff Fashion Quarter, the go-to place for vintage clothing and knick-knacks. While it had a lot to offer fashionistas, it was perhaps quite limited, both in its offering and the layout of the space.

Relaunched by new owner James Morgan-Rees, CFQ has transformed into The Castle Emporium. While some of the old traders remain (Rock-ola Reborn, Eagle Eye Vintage, AMARAS), there is a new range of stalls, i.e. a whole lot more vintage-gem-hunting to get excited about.

We took a walk around the Emporium, snapping some of the independent businesses that have set up shop.

Cardiff Castle Emporium aerialThe view from the first floor – the colourful stalls are a treat for the eyes

Cardiff Castle Emporium candle tinsRoughneck Candles recycle pocket sized tins by turning them into kitsch homeware

Cardiff Castle Emporium minotaur booksJust some of the bookshelves at Minotaur Books, who stock everything from popular poetry to obscure dystopian literature

Cardiff Castle Emporium Al's Musique BoutiqueCardiff Castle Emporium bow ties suitcase Cardiff Castle Emporium horse whiskyAl from Al’s Musique Boutique poses alongside vintage clothing and accessories for gentlemen

Cardiff Castle Emporium mario kart yoshi playstation 2Cardiff Geek Party‘s shop houses games memorabilia, retro consoles and stacks of bargain computer games

Cardiff Castle Emporium Super Mario Bros gaming stationWe’ll be heading back here for the Mario Tournament. There’s a different game leaderboard each month; Matt’s hoping he gets a chance to show off his Crash Team Racing expertise

Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan chocolate cake Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan snacks chocolateSo many yummy treats at Simply V, including marshmallows, wagon wheels and chocolates – and they’re all vegan!

Cardiff Castle Emporium vintage clothes Rock-olaCardiff Castle Emporium vintage jumpers Cardiff Castle Emprium shelves of bric a bracFor fans of upcycling and vintage fashion, there are stacks of menswear, womenswear and accessories to dig through

With the rejuvenated vintage haven sitting firmly at the top end of Womanby Street, it makes what is already a culturally busy passageway even more exciting. Take a stroll winding around the Emporium then down to Urban Tap House; you won’t be disappointed.

Know any other great spots in Cardiff for finding vintage treasures? Comment below or tweet your suggestions @Creative_Hacks.

Amy sig

Where to stay in Bath: The Queensberry Hotel

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We adults have it pretty tough at this time of year – short days, miserable weather and no half term to look forward to. For those reasons, taking a couple of days off last week for a short but sweet visit to one of our favourite UK cities was much needed.

Bath is barely an hour away from Cardiff on the train, but stepping out of the station and onto its iconic brown stone streets reminded us why tourists flock from all over the world to see it. Because the entire city is a World Heritage Site, its striking mix of Roman and Georgian architecture has been preserved beautifully. We probably could have spent the whole trip strolling up and down the streets marveling at the impressive buildings, but drizzly weather convinced us to seek refuge in one of Bath’s equally alluring boutique hotels.

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We couldn’t have picked a better base than The Queensberry Hotel on Russel Street. Converted from four terraced Georgian townhouses, the hotel is a tastefully curated clash of old and new – period furnishings are mixed up with touches of contemporary luxury and the owners’ love of classic English wit.

After being welcomed by a smiley member of the concierge team, we were led to our luxurious room. With a mighty king sized bed taking pride of place, we couldn’t resist faceplanting gleefully on to its cushty mattress as soon as the door was closed. You haven’t known comfort until you’ve spent ten minutes lying on one of these beds while Classic FM blares triumphantly from the bedside digital radio; nibbling complimentary chocolates as you allow your eyes to roam around one of these incredible bedrooms.

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It was the small touches that made this room really special, from a stately trio of winged pugs soaring up the wall to an indulgent (and free) overnight shoe cleaning service. This was much needed after our soggy roaming around the city; waking up to find two pairs of spotlessly polished boots next to our complimentary newspaper made both of the mornings we were there feel like Christmas.

The generosity continued downstairs in a cosy drawing room, where Teapigs tea and fresh coffee is freely available from 8am until 8pm every day. We made a habit of spending at least an hour in here each day, sipping our hot drinks in front of the fire while collaborating on a crossword. Old fashioned, perhaps, but timelessly satisfying.

drawingroom
For us, the jewel in the crown of The Queensberry had to be its restaurant, The Olive Tree. We had the pleasure of meeting head chef Chris Cleghorn, whose résumé includes time with Michelin Star chefs including Heston Blumenthal and Michael Caines. Chris told us that his menu was all about treating the diner to bold and well-matched flavour combinations, without leaving anyone bloated or overfed. After three sublime courses, this was exactly how we both felt.

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The kitchen aptly accommodated for our resident vegan, from the creamy butternut squash soup starter to an intensely savoury salt baked celeriac main and three scoops of sweet sorbet – blackcurrant, chocolate and mandarin – for dessert. Having been faced with countless humdrum veggie options at other restaurants, Amy really appreciated being able to choose from a range of original and thoughtful vegan dishes.

As for me, I purposely went for food that I’ve not had the chance to try before – a melt-in-your-mouth crab lasagne, an exquisitely British take on duck à l’orange and, finally, a super indulgent chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream. It took a shot of espresso to rouse me from my flavour-induced stupor to truly appreciate what I’d just eaten – an absolute sensation, matched with impeccable service that made the evening unforgettable.

The next morning, The Olive Tree’s similarly delicious but more relaxed breakfast was chance to reflect on what an experience staying in The Queensberry had been. We can’t imagine anywhere else in Bath being more accommodating, comfortable or uniquely charming – a real treat for anyone seeking something special enough to rival the vibrant personality of the city.

We did manage to tear ourselves away from The Queensberry to experience some of Bath’s other attractions – look out for some of those in another blog post!

Matt

14 alternative date ideas for couples on Valentine’s Day

15018392488_59306af6c0_kIf you’ve got someone to share the annual day of love with (wahoo!), you’ll want to make the night memorable. Picking one of these alternatives to the traditional wine-and-dine dinner date will ensure you both have lots of fun, get to spend quality time together and have something to look back on in the future. There’s no expiry on these ideas, by the way, so even if it’s not February 14th you can still win hearts in a creative and thoughtful way that beats the norm.

1. Complete a jigsaw puzzle

indoorAs a society, we have forgotten the joy of connecting oddly shaped pieces of cardboard together to create a picture. Yes, jigsaw puzzles are still as fun as they were when you first assembled those 25-piece pre-school masterpieces. Allow your date the honour of putting the magical final piece in place and watch their heart melt.

2. Buy tickets for a band you’ve never heard before

Discovering something new together is always memorable. Seek out a hotly-tipped band that neither of you have listened to and buy a pair of tickets. If the band’s great, you can show off your best (or worst) dance moves, pretend to know all the words and listen to their album together next time you hang out. If they suck, you can chill by the bar and discuss your superior music tastes over rounds of shots.

3. Borrow a dog

Dog walkies on lead - credit to amtaylorphotographyIf you and your date both love dogs but aren’t able to have one due to other life commitments, Borrow My Doggy is for you. The website links up dog owners with eager animal lovers, hosting a massive network of pooches that need someone to play with. It’s a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and do something different together while bonding over a shared love of puppies.

4. Host a themed movie night

Cuddling up on the sofa and sticking on a DVD is cosy, but we know you can do better. Take your movie night to another level by preparing themed drinks and snack foods to nibble on while you watch. For example, a viewing of The Big Lebowski can be accompanied with a pair of classy White Russians, while Tarantino fans can knock up their own version of the infamous ‘Five Dollar Shake’ or build a tasty ‘Big Kahuna Burger’ while watching Pulp Fiction. Bonus points if you wear fancy dress.

5. Enrol in a class

Watercolours and brushEven if you have completed your formal education, that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Plenty of extra-curricular classes are out there to teach you skills and help you to find new hobbies. It can be nerve-wracking going alone, but invite a date along and you’ll have a great opportunity to reveal a different side of your personality.

6. Volunteer for a cause you both support

Doing good for somebody else is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. If you don’t have a lot of money to spare for charities, volunteering can be a great way to support a cause you care about. If you and your date are passionate about the same issues, helping to make the world a better place while spending time together is an absolute win-win.

7. Play board games together

7366181556_9201aa0f3d_kDust off those classic board games in the cupboard (or find some treasures in a charity shop) and prepare to get competitive. If you want to get really geeky with it, draw up a league table and invite other couples along for regular board game nights. Plenty of pubs and bars keep a collection of games for punters to play with if you fancy getting out of the house – our favourites in Cardiff are Brewdog and Porter’s.

8. Watch live action sport at a local arena

It doesn’t matter if neither of you are hardcore followers of your regional wrestling team or even whether you know the rules; it’s the taking part (in the crowd) that counts. Buy last minute tickets on the cheap, pick a side and shout along with the devout fans around you. We tried this at a Tiger Bay Brawlers roller derby bout. I had no idea what was going on but had an absolute blast.

9. Venture somewhere new

338796_10150984867020270_496608346_oGrab a map of the local area and pick somewhere at random to walk or drive to. Treat the excursion as a mini-adventure, taking photos of landmarks along the way and any funny incidents that happen. One of my favourite pictures of Matt is one of him cleaning cow dung off his shoe, partly because it was hilarious (sorry, Matt) and also because it was taken on a lovely walk we did (mostly the first point).

10. Seek out something neither of you care about

Here’s the logic: by going to something neither of you would ordinarily opt to go to, you’re both starting on the same clueless and neutral footing. Pick a film at the cinema that sounds like something you’d usually ignore, watch a play by the local am-dram circuit or wander around a random exhibition at an art gallery. You may both love it, both hate it or have different opinions. Whatever the reaction, it’ll get you talking and experiencing something new together.

11. Complete a computer game together

crash3Video games are not just for boys. Game-fearing girls, now is your chance to impress. Grab the second controller, speed-read the manual and let your other half guide you through the imaginary pixel world that stole his heart years before you were on the scene. Once you know what you’re doing (or even just kind-of get it), kick digital butt together. You’ll probably find you have your own special role in the tag team. I like collecting things and running away from the baddies on platform games (pacifist/sucker for animated trinkets).

12. Visit an animal sanctuary

2604954713_9c0859548d_b“So cute!” “So cuddly!” “Awh, look at his face!” You too could find yourself cooing over fluffy friends with your other half. Feel the fuzzy excitement and mushiness that comes from perusing corridors of big-eyed pets calling out for an owner. A word of advice: leave your bags at home, or else risk the urge to sneak off with a kitten on your way out.

13. Get crafty for each other

Gather some crafty bits from your old art cupboard (or some items with crafty potential out of the recycling bin, like cardboard or bottles), Google an easy craft project and follow the tutorial together. Your lucky partner will be the proud owner of your masterpiece and vice versa, so even if it’s ugly as roadkill it doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts, right?

14. Set up camp

marshmallowIt’s relatively easy to book an overnight stay in a nice hotel, but it’s also costly and somewhat traditional. Go off the beaten track to a luxurious campsite – one with running water and hot showers. Here you can bond while putting up your tent, heating a hearty meal on the fire and snuggling up under the stars. Bring plenty of yummy food and travel games to keep it fun, and lots of wet wipes so that you both feel fresh.

If you find success with any of these, or if you have your own recommendation for a humdrum-free date, share it with a comment below or tweet @Creative_Hacks. Spread the love!

Amy sig

Café Pure: guilt-free indulgent food in Cardiff Bay

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If healthy eating summons up images of protein-guzzling hulks downing their powdery shakes during a relentless gym sesh, it’s time you paid Café Pure a visit. This Cardiff Bay eatery has a varied menu of super nutritious breakfasts and lunches, packing barrowloads of flavour into every portion.

Good health and good eating are combined here. Every meal on the menu is accompanied by a clear indication of its nutritional information, with a massive grid at the back indicating the presence of common allergens. If only all restaurants were this considerate.

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This labeling system also means you won’t necessarily feel guilted into going for the salad after a particularly gluttonous Christmas period – more or less everything on the menu makes for a well-balanced treat. That said, salad was the first choice for both of us. I’m not usually one to go for leafy greens over a burger or pizza, but the Paleo Fuel option mixed up loads of my favourite things in one massive salad – topped with a tuna steak and served with a sweet teriyaki dressing on the side, it was seriously scrummy.

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Amy’s Superfood salad with tofu and ‘Café Pure Sauce’ (a surprisingly nice blend of berries and balsamic vinegar) went down just as well – it’s always refreshing to eat somewhere with an abundance of choice for vegans, and she wasn’t disappointed here.

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Both our meals were washed down with vitamin packed drinks – the Berry Beauty smoothie and Tutti Fruitti juice jar were filled with anti-oxidants and meant we both had the majority of our five a day in a single delicious drink.


Feeling brave after such a wholesome lunch, we both decided to try one of Café Pure’s signatures before leaving: wheatgrass shots, squeezed from blades of the plant grown on-site and served with a juicy slice of orange to counteract the bitterness. Each shot contains the same nutritional clout of 2.5 pounds of dark green vegetables. It wasn’t the tastiest of tipples – Amy definitely wasn’t keen on the earthy tang or potency – but it did leave me feeling energised and ready to face the bracing Bay weather outside.

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A quote on the back wall of Café Pure reads “You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.” A visit here means you can fill yourself up with a nutritionally balanced meal made from fresh ingredients, prepared with care and full of natural flavours.

Matt