Happy Midsummer!

This weekend is the Swedish Midsummer, an annual festival to celebrate the beginning of summertime and when flowers begin to flourish. Midsummer is so big in Sweden that it often rivals Christmas and is hugely celebrated by the majority of the population. The festivities includes wearing floral crowns, dancing around a maypole and singing traditional songs while drinking schnapps and eating Midsummer cuisine which usually consists of herring, cheese and potatoes.

Like many ancient festivals, there are many legends and rituals that come with Midsummer. One particular ritual is that young, single women are asked to pick seven different flowers and lay them under them pillow on Midsummer's eve and that night their future husbands will appear to them in a dream. Midsummer is known as a romantic time period for the Swedish - possibly due to the beautiful summer's day and everyone enjoying themselves and because of this, Midsummer is a 
popular time of year to tie the knot.

The Swedish Midsummer celebrations is something that is definitely on my bucket list as it consists of a lot of my favourite things - dancing, singing, alcohol and food, what's not to love? If like me, you cannot make it to Sweden this year, there's still time to celebrate. There's also lots of celebrations going on in the UK, giving you the chance to learn a little bit more about Swedish culture and join in the fun and if that's still too far, why not don a floral crown, get a glass of schnapps and create your own midsummer festival at home? Happy midsummer to my all my Swedish followers and friends, I may not be there this year, but I'll definitely join in one year.

Have you celebrated midsummer before?

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Surf & Turf Restaurant Review, Guildford

A Surf & Turf restaurant isn't usually the first place that you would envision a vegetarian visiting, but as my husband had a hunger for a good steak and the Surf & Turf restaurant was part to our hotel in Guildford, we both thought we would give it a try. The Surf & Turf restaurant in Guildford is part of the Guildford Harbour hotel and as the name suggests it is primarily a steak and lobster house. The restaurant is headed up by the Group's award-winning Chef Patron Alex Aitken, who has a series of foodie accolades such as runner-up for the Caterer's '2015 Seafood Restaurant of the Year'.

From the moment we arrived at the restaurant until the minute we left, service was impeccable. The staff were incredibly attentive and polite and they went above and beyond to make you feel welcome. For starter I opted for the Vegetable Tempura, which was actually considered a 'nibble', but I found the portion size to be just right for my liking. The Tempura batter was really light and non-greasy and the vegetables were al dente giving the dish the perfect crunch. My husband chose the Charcuterie and while he isn't usually a fan of cured and cold meats, he thoroughly enjoyed it and managed to work his way through the majority of the large portion.

When it came to main dishes my husband went for a steak, which tends to be his usual dish of choice and I chose, out of the two vegetarian options, the mushroom risotto.  My mushroom risotto was flavoursome and very moreish. The sauce was really rich and it had a really intense mushroom flavour, which I really enjoyed as sometimes mushroom risottos are overcooked and tend to lose their flavour. For a steak restaurant, I was very impressed with this dish. My husband asked his for his steak rare and it came out perfectly pink and there were no complaints from him. It's always a good sign when both diners are speechless and both of us didn't look up from our dishes.

By the time it came to deciding whether we wanted a third course, James and I felt full, but as we were on holiday, we both felt like we deserved a sweet treat to finish the meal. I couldn't resist the Creme Brûlée and when it arrived, I wasn't disappointed. The heart shaped shortbread biscuit was an absolute delight and the Creme Brûlée was light, yet filling. My husband opted for the cheesecake and he really enjoyed his dessert too. It was the perfect end to the meal.

Overall I was really impressed with the Surf & Turf restaurant and the only thing I could fault the restaurant on was the lack of vegetarian options, but then again vegetarian people aren't Surf & Turf's primary demographic. Would I visit again? Yes.

Have you been to the Surf & Turf restaurant in Guildford?

*This meal was complimentary in return for this review, all views are my own.
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Fibre & Hide Clutch - My New Travel Companion

Finding a decent size clutch that not only has a lot of space, but also looks stylish can be very hard to come by and if you're packing hand luggage for a quick weekend away, size is everything. I admit, I'm one of those people that tends to hoard items in their handbags - the last time I cleaned one of my handbags out I found three full sized perfume bottles and 10 lipsticks, so tiny clutch bags and I don't get along. When it comes to clutch bags, I need something that will fit more than a just a credit card.

Fibre and Hide is a UK based design studio founded by award winning textile designer Geri Copsey. Each item is delicately woven by Geri in her Yorkshire-based studio using yarns which are dyed in the UK and spun from natural fibres for a more sustainable, economical product. The studio specialises in designer clutches and purses and I was kindly asked a few weeks ago if I would like one. As I love championing British products and local designers, I was eager to try one of Geri's designs and from the moment it arrived, neatly wrapped in the Fibre and Hide luxury handmade packaging, it was love at first sight.

The clutch I received was the large Leyburn hand woven clutch bag with leather back which retails at £130.00. The moss green, cream and navy geometric fabric has been handcrafted with perfection to give a versatile and timeless design, perfect for any occasion from leaving the office to after work events. The Leyburn clutch has an ample amount of space perfect for housing all your night essentials such as makeup, a decent sized purse, a phone and even a small bottle of perfume. The streamline envelope style of this particular clutch makes it perfect for taking away on holiday as it takes up very little room in your suitcase. Overall, it's a perfect all rounder and a great accessory for all year through. As someone who isn't usually a fan of clutch bags, this one may have converted me.

Do you often struggle to find a decent size clutch bag?

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The Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival

Yesterday Leeds Town Hall played host to the Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival, one of the biggest vegan festivals in Yorkshire. It featured a massive 180 stalls, live cooking demonstrations, animal rights discussions, plenty of yummy, vegan samples to feast on and the entry fee was only £3. Hundreds of people queued up outside to enter the building and inside the venue was packed, but it was such a wonderful day and I'm glad I went.  I have been vegetarian for over 10 years now and often wondered whether I could go fully vegan, hence my fascination with this particular festival. Vegans regularly get a lot of scrutiny from people who eat meat about their lifestyles and what they actually eat, but this festival just goes to show how far veganism has come in the last few decades and the variety of food now available. 

There were hundreds of stalls featuring a variety of food from delicious vegan cakes to vegan pies and even vegan 'steak kebabs'. My husband who is as carnivorous as they get, enjoyed feasting on his vegan hotdog and I thoroughly enjoyed my schnitzel. It was a fun day for all the ages - I saw young kids being mesmerised by all the food and likewise older, retired looking people also enjoying the atmosphere.

There was something for everyone and a lot of opportunities to try vegan food not just from Leeds, but from around the country. The atmosphere was great - the people were incredibly friendly and it was nice to envision what it is like to be part of the vegan community. Although I'm not ready to take the plunge just yet and go fully vegan, after this festival I will be trying more vegan food and making a conscious effort to limit my animal products - not because I felt pressured, it's because I want to be more experimental with my food and I've realised there's so much out there to try.

Have you been to a vegan festival before?
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Guildford Harbour Hotel & Spa

Over the last few months I have stayed in many hotels and I've somewhat got accustomed to the hotel life, so much so that it takes a fair amount now to impress me. When I book a hotel, I want something that screams character and gives me more of an experience rather than a comfy bed. I know that when you go away, you only spend a small proportion of your time at the hotel, but if I'm paying a good price for the hotel, I want that 'wow' moment even if it is for a few minutes. I want a hotel that gives me those hotel 'fuzzy feelings' - like butterflies in your stomach when you meet someone you like, I want to fall in love with a hotel from the moment I see it. It doesn't take much to provide a comfy bed and a nice breakfast,  I want a hotel that goes beyond that.

While recently visiting Guildford I stayed at the Guildford Harbour Spa Hotel and from the moment I walked in the door and saw the giant red stag, I was impressed. The Harbour Hotel group that predominantly has properties on the south coast such as Cornwall (hence the Harbour name) has recently acquired this Radisson Blu hotel and is currently undergoing a renovation project to change the branding. The bedrooms, spa and reception have all been newly furbished, but there's still work going on downstairs - which, I'm happy to say, did not disturb our trip at all. 

The Guildford Harbour Hotel & Spa is a luxury 183 bedroom, four star hotel that features a stylish restaurant and bar, an alfresco dining terrace and an accompanying Harbour Spa available to guests.

When we entered the hotel, we were greeted with a beautifully decorated, arty and quite unique reception area. Upon entering the building there was a bright red stag on the left and a retro wooden bookcase on the right with books you can read at your leisure in the lobby. Above was a large, impressive glistening chandelier that lit up the room and provided a focal feature when you immediately entered the hotel.

While staying at the Guildford Harbour Hotel we were booked into one of the business class rooms on the first floor. The room was spacious with a living area, large bathroom, a very comfortable kingsize bed and plugs on both of the bed sides, which is a complete bonus as I often wake up in the middle of the night to check my phone. Despite the room being really comfortable, clean and tidy, I did feel like there was a few things that didn't bode too well with me. For a start, I feel like the colour scheme is just too dark for my personal liking and I was a bit 'miffed' when I noticed the tea tray lacked biscuits. However, I was impressed with Harpers Bazaar magazine placed on the table top next to the window, it was a nice little added touch.

The bathroom continued the dark colour scheme, but I felt like it really suited this particular room. The black and white colour scheme in the bathroom looked quite luxurious coupled with the stainless steel taps and the wonderfully scented toiletries that make you feel like you're at a spa. I had a bath on the first night and shower on the second and both times the temperature was just right, I really couldn't fault this part of the room.

On both mornings of our stay we had breakfast at the hotel and it consisted of the usual, continental style buffet with the option of a hot cooked full English breakfast. The breakfast was nice and warm and pleasant, but I did feel that the options were lacking for vegetarians like myself. Nevertheless, I had a full stomach when I left in the morning and couldn't grumble at what I did eat.

Finally, on the morning we checked out,  we decided to check out the spa before leaving for our train. I was booked in for a facial, which was lovely - the therapist addressed all my skincare problems and made me feel ease and then we played around in the pool and steam rooms. The spa is incredibly small, but it was a lovely little luxury added on to this hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed laying on the pool side chairs looking at the morning sun through the glass in my swimming costume and the swim was nice and refreshing first thing in the morning.

Overall I had a wonderful stay at Guildford Harbour hotel & spa and I would definitely go back. The service was impeccable, the room was cosy and comfortable and it was a lovely, relaxing weekend.

Price: Approx £105pn
Location: Central Guildford

Have you visited the Guildford Harbour hotel before?

*This stay was complimentary in exchange for this review. All views are honest and my own.

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