Giggling Squid leaves you with plenty to smile about

Giggling Squid leaves you with plenty to smile about

WHEN it comes to authentic Thai dining at a chain restaurant, it doesn’t, in my opinion, come much better than Giggling Squid.

So I didn’t need asking twice when I was invited to head down to their newest venue, in The Royal Priors in Leamington.

Giggling Squid, Leamington Spa, review

Bold flavours and exotic ingredients take their inspiration from the Thai traditions and legends and have their own personality and story to tell, celebrating the abundance of ingredients found across Thailand.

I was told: “Giggling Squid is all about how people eat their food and spend their mealtimes in Thailand. Generous food to share and celebrate together, whether you have more adventurous tastes or prefer something simple and satisfying; an all-involved, love of food, living for flavour, being together experience.”

I’d say, based on my experience, that sounds like a fair assessment.

Reason to celebrate then as locals can now enjoy in the vibrant Giggling Squid menu, which is cooked by expert Thai chefs and served with true Thai generosity.

Giggling Squid, Leamington Spa, review
The Sharing Platter

Our party kicked off this feast with Chicken Satay, Pork Dumplings and the Sharing Platter for two. (Don’t judge – there were four of us!)

While all were flavoursome, it was the platter which won the highest praise – and are definitely the dish of choice for the hungry diner!

With 18 dishes to choose from, I guarantee there’ll be something for even the fussier of diners – I know because we had one with us.

And if decision making isn’t your strong point, you’ll be challenged by the Mains menu which offers nearly 30 dishes – all equally tempting.

We opted for the Wholesome Cashew Stir Fry (with chicken); Sticky Chicken Stir Fry, Chubby Cheek Pork and Crying Beef. Be warned though this is served on the rare side despite not being asked your preference. I guess this is how they recommend it be taken. Regardless, rare may not be to everyone’s taste although, luckily, in this instance, it was still devoured.

Desserts here are all about quality over quantity which is fine by me. And those of us who left enough room were rewarded by the indulgence of Melting Heart Chocolate Dessert and Sweet Heavens Above Trio (a mini Salted Caramel Souffle, Melting Heart Chocolate Dessert and Pineapple and Coconut Finger.) Delicious.

Other options include Caramelised Mango Cake, Prosecco and Muddled Berry Cheesecake, Coconut Pudding with Berry Compote and a variety of exotic ice creams.

Giggling Squid, Leamington Spa, review

Other stand-outs on the creative evening include Samui Zingy Prawns (prawns with a fresh, citrusy sauce), Betel Leaf & Ginger Lime Salmon Morsels (salmon pieces nestled in lemongrass, lime cubes, ginger and roasted shredded coconut wrapped in betel leaf) and Pad Cha, a popular Thai seafood stir fry with a fiery flavour combination of pounded chilli, garlic, thinly sliced krachai and fresh peppercorns delivers a zingy punch of flavours.

Giggling Squid, Leamington Spa, review

A dedicated vegan menu and wine list is also available alongside a large selection of vegetarian dishes.

The popular tapas lunch menu offers an extensive selection of small plates and includes Giggling Squid favourite Salt & Pepper Squid alongside the fiery Som Tam Papaya Salad and the Big Flavour Mushroom Larb (a speciality salad from Isan Province with juicy, exotic mushrooms tossed in fresh mint, dried chilli flakes, ground toasted rice and shallots).

Wholesome Cashew Stir Fry (with chicken)
Wholesome Cashew Stir Fry (with chicken)

A welcome change from other high street offerings, families will be able to enjoy the ‘Little Tapas for Little People’ menu (£5.99 for two dishes) with the option to add a pudding for £1.99. Designed to encourage children to be more adventurous with their food choices, the menu features smaller versions of popular dishes including Chicken Satay, Pork Dumplings and Pad Thai.

Giggling Squid’s fresh and stylish interior, celebrates its ingredients from the sea and land while including a subtle hint of Thai. Hand-pressed flowers in vintage frames and hand-painted stencils combine with bold, floral wallpapers to add a subtle splash of colour. It really is one of the most stylish and comfortable High Street restaurants I’ve experienced.

Prices for main courses range from £10-£16.50 and in that sense, are perhaps not suited to all pockets. (A three-course meal for a family of four will carry a not insignificant price tag.) However, if it’s authentic tasty Thai food at its best that you’re craving, it’s worth every last penny.

www.gigglingsquid.com

Revving up for the new year!

Revving up for the new year!

NEED something to blow away the post-festive season cobwebs but feeling too chilly to venture outdoors?

Coventry’s newest state-of-the art go-karting track is fuelling a lot of excitement – and ticks all the boxes.

Teamsport Karting, Coventry,

Eager to get a piece of the action, we geared ourselves up to take the wheel for a spin around TeamSport’s latest venue.

Even seasoned karters will be impressed with the lengthy 500m circuit on multiple levels, featuring more bends, ramps and straights than your average track.

But it’s geared to all ages and abilities, whether you’re looking to improve your skills or take part in a team event, the karts – and the team – are revved up and waiting.

www.team-sport.co.uk/go-karting-coventry

So there’s as much scope for competitive adrenalin junkies to showcase their skills in the 200CC petrol karts as there is to simply enjoy some family fun.

The track can accommodate younger drivers (under 13) in specially designed Cadet Karts and offer birthday party packages as well, in the dedicated party room. Older party-goers aren’t forgotten either and Stag and Hen celebrations are also welcomed.

The flexibility and inclusiveness is great. But the most impressive feature of Coventry’s venue is the track itself. And with multiple short sessions to familiarise oneself with the layout, there’s plenty of opportunity to build your confidence and put your pedal to the metal for a genuinely thrilling ride.

Team Sport Karting, CoventryAll that said, nervous onlookers are quickly put at their ease as it’s clear safety is also at the forefront. No drivers are permitted on track until they’ve watched a lengthy safety video where, amongst other things, the all-important flag signals are explained. Plus the karts are slowed on the track at the first sign of a driver experiencing problems. But that doesn’t mean the brakes are continually put on the fun. The marshals are sensible about when they feel the need to intervene so the ‘flow of traffic’ can be maintained wherever possible.

Balaclavas, to be worn under helmets, are compulsory. With a choice of material ones for £2.50 or disposable ones for 50p, the reusable washable variety are better value if you’re likely to return – and, let’s face it, look way cooler on your teenagers!

Teamsport Karting, Coventry,

It’s a pleasant experience for non-participants as well with a comfortable bar area with food and drinks are available for purchase and a balcony area with seating for the perfect viewing platform. (Take a jumper in the colder months though as the cavernous building isn’t particularly warm for long periods spectating.)

The minimum age for taking part here is as low as eight and there are family karting sessions available so you can all compete against each other. (How many dads dare open themselves up to a thrashing from their fearless offspring?)

Great fun and highly recommended. Check out regular offers on their website. For further details and to book visit: www.team-sport.co.uk/go-karting-coventry

Dressed for success at the RSC

Dressed for success at the RSC

I SUSPECT it won’t have escaped your notice when David Walliams’ best-selling 2008 children’s book was brought to Stratford’s RSC stage with a fanfare a few weeks ago. (If so, where were you?)

This much-anticipated adaptation of The Boy In A Dress by Mark Ravenhill (with music by Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams) is a cheery tuneful unapologetic celebration of individuality and non-conformism – a delicious message that’s embraced at every spot-lit turn.

The Boy In The Dress, RSC, David Walliams, Robbie Williams
Jackson Laing as Dennis.

Williams’ score, written with collaborator Guy Chambers, is a splendid fit, with its pleasing medley of soul, funk and brit pop — with even some rap thrown in – to complete the package.

The show’s score stays true to the simplicity of the show (simplicity is a compliment in this instance!) from the wistful nostalgia of A House Without A Mum to the rousing anthem of You Can’t Expel Us. And the beautifully phrased opening number Ordinary is effective in quickly setting the tone as we settle down to a two-hour journey of emotional exploration.

The story centres on 12-year-old Dennis, a star striker in the school football team but who is struggling to come to terms with his mother’s sudden estrangement.

His life takes on a new direction when he discretely purchases his first copy of Vogue magazine after being drawn in by its fashion shot cover. Dennis’s fascination with fashion triggers a friendship with Lisa James, the much swooned-after fellow pupil, who charms him into trying on a dress of her own design. From that moment he is hooked on female fashion – and his much-maligned alter ego is born.

The Boy In The Dress, RSC, David Walliams, Robbie Williams
Grace Wild and Tabitha Knowles as Louise and Lisa

RSC director Gregory Doran’s renowned golden touch keeps things moving at pace with the assistance of Aletta Collins whose inventive football scene choreography ‘scores’ a theatre first as far as I’m aware.

Robert Jones’s set design beautifully catches the enchanting spirit of Quentin Blake’s book illustrations and, all aspects of the production combine to permeate the passions and emotions of even the hardest of hearts.

As such, it’s the perfect antidote to the new year blues, a simply irresistible family feast of entertainment that won’t fail to have your feet tapping and your heart skipping in equal measure.

One of four young actors in the role, ‘our’ Dennis was played on the night by the excellent Jackson Laing. An assured yet immediately loveable portrayal that offered real resonance as a boy overcoming ridicule – and his own insecurities – to champion individualism.

He was more than ably supported by Alfie Jukes as his older brother John and Tabitha Knowles as warm-hearted Lisa James.

The Boy In The Dress, RSC, David Walliams, Robbie Williams

These are characters that children and parents across the land are all too familiar with so it was important we warm to them – and we did. As one such parent, I was excited to finally ‘meet’ a living breathing version of Raj, the only consistent character throughout Walliams’ stories (and I’ve read most!) And Irvine Iqbal didn’t disappoint as the whimsical corner shop keeper, who prompted many of the night’s belly laughs.

Could the new artistic pairing of Williams and Walliams be the start of something big? If this dazzling production is anything to go by, I certainly hope so. Does the West End beckon?

The Boy In The Dress plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until March 8th. Tickets are still available for some shows at: www.rsc.org.uk

Can you outwit The Outfitters?

Can you outwit The Outfitters?

IT’S 1926 Chicago and depression is still rife. Jobs are few and far between and the Prohibition has been in force for six years now.

Everyone still drinks so nothing has changed. But now the mob control the streets, the supply and the money. The influence of the Outfit is far reaching. Most of the cops are even under their control. It’s down to you to put them in the joint!

 

Hatton Escape Rooms, Tulleys, The Outfitters

And so the scene is set for The Outfitters, Hatton Adventure World’s second themed escape room game, where you are part of a specially assembled task force whose mission is to infiltrate the mob’s network and gather the evidence needed to put them away forever – without your cover being blown – and within just 60 minutes!

Sounds simple enough? Well that sort of depends how escape room savvy you are.

Even for those who’ve thus far evaded the escape rooms phenomenon, there’s no denying they have grown massively in popularity over recent years and it’s a concept we’re now all familiar with.

For my family, it is not so new however. We’re seasoned ‘escapees’ now having succeeded – and failed – in a wide variety of themed rooms over recent years.

Hatton Escape Rooms, Tulleys, The Outfitters

The Outfitters is one of the new Tulleys escape rooms which recently opened around the corner from us at Hatton Adventure World in Warwick. And, after escaping Tulleys’ other room Mutiny with merely seconds to spare just a couple of weeks ago, there was little optimism upon our return when we were informed this was the more difficult of the two!

While being careful to avoid spoilers, a series of clues and codes lead us through themed rooms which, if we’re to progress, demand teamwork and methodical thinking in abundance.

Thankfully(!) clues are available on request and don’t be too proud to ask for them sometimes when, as we did, you hit a mental block on certain puzzles. You’re ultimately in control of the game (although it sometimes doesn’t feel that way!) so can ask for as much or as little help as you like.

As seasoned escapees, The Outfitters is among the more creative of our experiences – even though we narrowly failed to complete our mission in time.

The clue setters have been particularly imaginative in their approach to this game with a huge variety of code-cracking methods and lateral thinking required. And we were frustratingly close to unravelling everything the rooms threw at us. We felt better to learn then that we were actually among the majority – to fail.

Hatton Escape Rooms, Tulleys, The Outfitters

For true escape room fans I would definitely recommend The Outfitters. The game welcomes teams of between two and eight players – and for this one I would say the more brains the better. In what’s now a crowded market, this experience stands out among the best, so I wouldn’t want it to escape your notice!

Tulleys also offer gift vouchers so a nice present option for that difficult-to-buy-for friend or relative.

More information can be found at: https://hattonescaperooms.com/

The review of Mutiny can be found here

A show to really immerse yourself in!

A show to really immerse yourself in!

JUST when you think you’ve seen all types of show after nigh on 30 years of reviewing, along comes Club 2B – a theatrical experience like no other.

Club 2B, Belgrade Theatre

This immersive performance not only smashes through that fourth wall but actively encourages the audience to become a part of the story and even explore the room as the action unfolds around you.

Seated at cabaret-style tables in the Belgrade’s flexible B2 auditorium, the scene is immediately set for an interesting – and intriguing – night ahead, complete with food, drink, live music and gaming tables.

First the story. It’s a bit loose to be honest. It’s a retelling of Zeus and Hera’s search for happiness via godly embodiments of historical figures such as Lady Godiva and Marilyn Monroe. Yes, you read it right!

Club 2B’s mysterious owner Z is not all he seems. This larger-than-life, charismatic figure is none other than Zeus, the Greek king of gods and men, descended from the heavens in human form and driven by his love for the goddess Hera. Taking on the form of any man or woman, we watch as their story of passion, jealousy and revenge plays out across the ages.

Berlgrade Theatre, Club 2B
Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Corey Campbell (Zeus). Photo by Robert Day.

It does take a while to get going. The snack plate (don’t skip your dinner for this) and interaction with cast members mingling at the tables, goes only so far to detracting from this, but one does find themselves wondering when the show has officially started.

The good news is, when it does, it’s worth waiting for and we are in for a treat. The talent of this small but strong cast shines through with a stunning mix of music and storytelling all around us, capturing our imaginations.

Belgrade Theatre, Club 2B

The addition of gaming tables (you are given playing chips) is a clever touch – although it’s easy to lose your focus on the action around you. Still, I won a glass of wine for my troubles so worth it!

The show is helmed by Strictly Arts Artistic Director Corey Campbell, his first developed at the Belgrade since his appointment as one of the Theatre’s three Co-Artistic Directors for Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021.

Iona Coburn, Meg Forgan, Aimee Powell, Charis McRoberts and Katy Anna-Southgate make up the rest of the cast but it’s Forgan’s stand-out vocal segment as Marilyn Monroe that stole the show for me – and many others – on the night. The girls also share an obvious rapport and joy in their roles, which is definitely infectious.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Club 2B
Iona Coburn (Hera), Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Charis McRoberts (Godiva). Photo: Robert Day.

It’s not one for the introvert. Anyone is fair game to be pulled up for a dance or become part of the performance, but it’s part of this show’s charm.

This marks a proud world premiere for the Belgrade Theatre, running until 31st December. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.club2b.co.uk.