(Review) If you go down to The Hippodrome today. . .

(Review) If you go down to The Hippodrome today. . .

Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome, review
The cast of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Picture by Simon Hadley.

Review by Clare Brennan

THERE haven’t been many times in my life when a show has genuinely left me speechless, but Goldilocks and The Three Bears at the Birmingham Hippodrome is so good it’s almost difficult to put into words – oh yes it is. . .

For my family and I the magic started long before the curtain rose.  Being our first night out at the theatre in a very long time, just taking our seats in the auditorium was exciting enough. But our first glimpse of the set – a circus-themed kaleidoscope of colour and light – showed we were in for something rather special.

From the opening number, this show is an absolute delight. It’s two-and-a-half hours of colour, music and pure fun. Yes, it’s a panto, but it’s also so much more than that!

Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome, review
Andrew Ryan as Dame Betty Barnum in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. 20 September 2021. Picture by Simon Hadley.

There were showgirls, acrobats, circus performers, a magician and daredevil motorcycle stunt riders, who brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation long before the final curtain.

The fun-filled story follows the adventures of Dame Betty Barnum (Andrew Ryan) and her daughter Goldilocks (Samantha Dorrance) whose circus is under threat from rival circus owner, the Evil Ringmaster (Jason Donovan). Cue a madcap mission to rescue their Big Top from ruin. Will they succeed? – Oh Yes they Will. . .

I cried laughing at Matt Slack, who was without doubt, the star of the show as Ringo The Ringmaster. His comic genius borrowed from some of the all-time greats of light entertainment was sometimes risque, but perfectly positioned for this family audience.

Former Neighbours actor and 80s heartthrob Jason Donovan was deliciously devilish, marking his pantomime debut as Count Ramsey of Erinsborough, and Andrew Ryan’s portrayal as the vibrant yet endearing Dame Betty Barnum was exquisite.

And if it’s tapdancing bears you’re after(!) The Brummie Bears trio of Ewan Goddard, Georgie Anderson and Jessica Daugirda is an irresistible delight. And Samantha Dorrance brings a fresh-faced charm to the iconic title role.

At just a couple of weeks shy of her fifth birthday my youngest daughter was perhaps a little young to enjoy it all, my eldest daughter, aged ten, was in her element – shouting out, singing and gasping in awe. It was wonderful to be able to share the joy of theatre with them both again.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the show’s description as ‘The Greatest Panto on Earth’ is a bold one – but the team behind this exceptional extravaganza have more than justified this billing.

This circus-themed spectacle proves to be a night of magnificent family fun we won’t forget in a hurry – and the perfect antidote to blowing away those post-Christmas – and pandemic – blues.

Goldilocks and The Bears runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday, 30 January. For tickets call 0844 338 5000 or visit here.

London Burger Kitchen: A feast for the senses (review)

London Burger Kitchen: A feast for the senses (review)

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

Warwick is a town geared up for foodies.

Whatever your culinary preference, it’s accepted that there is the widest possible choice of quality eateries on hand.

Or so I thought. Because it wasn’t until I experienced the new LBK (London Burger Kitchen) in High Street that I realised what the town had actually been missing all along.

In an already overcrowded marketplace, there was still an ‘appetite’ for a quality burger restaurant, so I’m sure this will be a good fit.

First impressions were good – an exciting vibe and bustling atmosphere greeted us. If early signs of popularity were anything to go by, this place would flourish.

Bright and breezy London underground-themed décor added a fun element to the experience – and room has even been made for a pool table at the rear of the former cavernous Ask Italian unit.

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

But what of the menu? First of all, it’s important to remember that this place does what it says on the tin. It’s a burger restaurant, so if this isn’t your thing – or you’re counting the calories – it’s not the best choice.

But there’s no need for vegetarians in your group to feel left out, with a couple of options available.

If you are a burger – or hot dog – lover, you’re in for a treat with their range of handmade fresh burgers using locally sourced beef. For the traditionalist, the classic Double Cheese, Bacon Double Cheese and Chicken Burgers of course feature. Or there’s the more unconventional Lamb and Mint and Pork and Mac & Cheese Burgers.

I took the opportunity to try something new by ordering the delicious-sounding Pork and Apple Burger, pictured below, which was extremely tasty.

My guests’ Bacon Double Cheese Burgers were polished off with equal gusto.

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

Our burgers were complemented by our choices of free fries – Cajun Fries, 3 Cheese Fries and Hunters Chicken Fries. There are numerous sauces and other sides to choose from as well. (The gravy alone was enough to get me back!)

Fans of a good milkshake will want to give this place a try too. With nine flavours to choose from (including Nutella, Oreo and Reese Peanut Butter Cup), these are not to be missed.

Talking of not to be missed, you may want to give the Chocolate Lovin’ Spoon Cake (pictured below) a taste test when you’re next passing. One of five desserts on the menu, it came recommended by the manager – and we could see why!

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

I am confident LBK will quickly become a popular destination for family and friends looking for a great meal out that won’t break the bank.

And, with current special offers on their separate breakfast menu, (currently buy one, get one free) there’s never been a better time to check it out.

Visit: Home – LBK (londonburgerkitchenltd.co.uk), call 01926 770614 or email: warwick@londonburgerkitchenltd.co.uk

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

About LBK

Joe and Natalie have been in the food and drink sector for over 30 years, as their mother and father on both sides of the family were. Joe and his family started out doing frontal catering to the general public, backstage and VIP catering alike to all major events, such as Glastonbury, Pheonix Reading, V Fest, and T in the park, Silverstone Grand Prix, Donnington Superbikes, the Chelsea Flower Show and many more, building up the company into the largest outdoor catering company in the UK.

He then ventured into the restaurant trade, training at the London Chef Academy and opening various sites in the Midlands. He then met Natalie who had her own catering company specialising in football stadiums, so they combined both companies and decided to sell up before relocating to Dubai and working in part-time consultancy roles for various catering companies.

Joe being the creative brain behind LBK, had spent part of his childhood in the USA working with his father. He always wanted to develop an American dirty burger concept so LBK began its life.

LBK is opening stores in all major cities around the UK, including Coventry in the autumn.

  • I was gifted this experience but all views are honestly held and my own.
Indian dining experience to surpass the rest (Review)

Indian dining experience to surpass the rest (Review)

My involvement in the recent Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards brought me into closer contact with some of the best food and drink businesses and chefs in the region.

I have felt privileged to enter a world of exceptional culinary talent which has also has prompted a new list of must-visit destinations over the coming weeks and months.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry, Jay Alam

But the place to start was definitely a trip to the winner of the Restaurant of the Year category Turmeric Gold in Spon Street, Coventry.

As well as being a local gem, Turmeric has already earned lots of national and, even, international recognition since it opened 20 years ago. And my experience last week soon confirms why.

Located in a stunning 13th-century cottage in the heart of medieval Coventry, the restaurant more than lives up to its setting. The interior is decked out to resemble the authentic Indian dining experience and the friendly greeting at the door sets you up for what you immediately know is going to be a memorable experience.

Here, owner Jay Alam lives by his ethos that ‘food does not conform to the norm but challenges your taste buds and provokes the senses in exciting and sublime fashion. A labour of love and passion.’

Turmeric Gold, Coventry, Jay Alam
Turmeric Gold Railway Lamb & Aloo Bharta

Indeed, that passion radiates from every plate of food placed in front of us.

Set aside your previous notions of Indian restaurants because this venue raises the bar considerably. The Turmeric Gold experience (or should I say ‘Gold-standard’) fills a void I have only just realised exists – the opportunity to appreciate fine dining standards of Indian cuisine. Think taster menus as well as a la carte!

Three-way Chicken Jalfrezi

If you’re not a curry aficionado though, all the favourites are there – they’re just that cut above. There’s a particularly impressive vegetarian selection as well. If you are, however, a curry aficionado, you’re in for a real treat. If you’re relatively local to Coventry and haven’t yet visited, what are you waiting for? This place will deliver in abundance on food quality and will have you returning again and again.

But it’s also that attention to detail and those unique touches that help make this place so special, from the mango yoghurt appetiser through to an amuse-bouche selection which puts a cleanse on our palate as well as a smile on your face.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry, Jay Alam
Vegetarian Green Korma

Little wonder then that Turmeric Gold is the proud recipient of so many awards across the past two decades, recognising everything from food quality to service, ambience and overall experience.

Jay Alam said: “We have always taken pride in not only delivering the highest quality of service, but having the ability to evolve to ensure we meet the ever changing needs of our customers, but never losing sight of our commitment to providing the ultimate dining experience.”

Turmeric Gold, Coventry, Jay Alam
Our amuse bouche

There’s also an emphasis on creating healthy food and only minimum oils, colouring and salt is added to their dishes. Always good to know you are enjoying good food without too much of the indulgence factor!

A slightly higher priced menu is more than outweighed by the high quality of cuisine and overall experience and it is a winning choice for any special occasion.

Turmeric Gold is open Monday-Saturday between 5.30-10pm and Sunday 5.30-9.30pm. Takeaways are also available for delivery or collection via their website: https://www.turmericgold.co.uk/

The restaurant’s website boldly claims that Turmeric Gold offers ‘a culinary experience not to be missed.’ I certainly wouldn’t disagree with that – and will soon be back.

  • I was gifted this experience but all views are honestly held and my own.

For more about Turmeric Gold’s win at The Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards, click here

Turmeric Gold, Coventry, Jay Alam
Roaring Tiger House Special Biryani
Enjoying the lap of luxury at Winchcombe Farm (Review)

Enjoying the lap of luxury at Winchcombe Farm (Review)

THE phrase five-star luxury is much overused when it comes to holiday accommodation. But never have I before considered it to be an inadequate description for somewhere I’ve stayed . . .until now.

The newest lodge at Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe, is quite simply, luxury on another level.

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation
Photos by Dave Fawbert Photography.

As the paint was literally drying on their newest lodge, I was lucky enough to be among the first to experience the most ambitious project yet, Ben’s Burrow which sleeps up to nine.

Set on two storeys, both indoor and outdoor space is in abundance with a design that makes the very most of its idyllic environment. And we were spoilt for choice for resting spots from which to enjoy the beautiful views – so, over the course of the weekend, we chose them all!

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

Luxuriating in a hot tub on raised decking is undoubtedly one of the best possible spots from which to soak up the rolling Warwickshire hills. But, determined to make the most of every inch of the private area exclusively reserved for Ben’s Burrow guests, we also spent time hanging out in the hammocks, and relaxing in the loungers, deck chairs (yes, there’s even a small makeshift beach area!) and geodesic dome. Partly suspended over a duck pond, the dome is the most exquisite spot for peaceful meditation and reflection. I defy anyone not to drift off to sleep on the daybed under the stars if left to their own devices for long enough!

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

And for when you can’t sleep – because you’ve been daytime dozing -there’s even a telescope so you can stargaze at the night skies in unrivalled comfort.

Unique to this lodge, you can also enjoy access to your very own fire pit, surrounded by log stump seats. What better way to appreciate the great outdoors than bonding with friends and family over some toasted marshmallows beneath the stars!

Plus there’s also a private patio enclosure to the rear complete with ride-on toys for the littlies.

When indoors the environment’s not too shabby either. The spacious open-plan kitchen and lounge features all the mod-cons including American-style fridge freezer, dishwasher, microwave, SMEG kettle and toaster and oven-grill.

Central feature is a grand dining table as well as plenty of sumptuous seating in which to kick back and enjoy the 55inch Smart TV and DVD player after a busy day out exploring – or, in our case, bubbling in the hot tub.

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

If the weather is kind – as it was for us – you can make the most of the alfresco dining area, which even boasts a charcoal pizza over and six-burner gas barbecue.

But it’s owner Jo Carroll’s keen eye for detail and thoughtful touches throughout the property that help really set this place apart. From the welcome basket containing fruit and cake on arrival, to the stylish interior décor statements, you feel like you are guest in her own home – a home that’s been lavished with a great deal of love and attention to ensure ultimate guests satisfaction.


But none of it’s at the sacrifice of practicality as Jo has thought of everything. For instance, the downstairs double room, which has been equipped with parents of young children in mind, includes a cot, rocking chair and even a Teasmade, for those disturbed nights.

While the downstairs king-size room affords its own adjoining en suite featuring shower and toilet.

Another corridor reveals a stairway to access the triple bedroom, with its own freestanding bath, double-width power shower and separate toilet.

And there’s the most delightful adjoining self-contained studio flat, fully equipped with twin beds, kitchenette and private bathroom – perfect bolthole for in-laws or teenagers seeking some independent space.

Ben’s Burrow is an absolute triumph and is set to become a hugely popular addition to the Winchcombe property stable

The other properties are:

Will’s Tree House – The only treehouse in Warwickshire, it is ingeniously architect-designed to sit among the canopies of four supporting trees, which rise through the decking and kitchen. It sleeps four people, blissfully combining indoor and outdoor life with every imaginable comfort.

Bob’s Lodge – a two storey house for six but has space for another two in a geodesic dome with a super-king-sized circular bed and stargazing equipment.

Chicken Shed Lodge – Equipped with another geodesic dome and a wrap-around veranda, the third property is a stylishly restored retreat for five people.

George’s Getaway –This sleeps up to eight people in three bedrooms (and a geodesic dome) and boasts twin freestanding bath tubs.

With staycations on the rise, Winchcombe is the perfect destination of choice for a COVID-safe oasis of rest and relaxation.

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

If you want to stake your claim I suggest you get in double quick. Check out the website here

Classic British dishes with exotic influences

Classic British dishes with exotic influences

ONE could be forgiven for overlooking pretty Preston Bagot in Warwickshire. It is home to little over 100 people, a church, Manor House and beautiful 17th-century pub.

But it’s this very pub, The Crabmill, just a mile-and-a-half outside Henley-in-Arden, that puts the hamlet on the map.

The Crabmill, Preston Bagot

As a relative local (I live in neighbouring Warwick and schooled my children in Claverdon and Henley), The Crabmill has long been on my radar. But recent new ownership and subsequent refurbishment, piqued a renewed interest, so it was time for a return visit.

Now a part of the Brunning and Price stable of pub restaurant businesses, the early signs are positive.

Arriving early for our meal, the outside tables were already all taken (admittedly it was a rare sunny evening) and the friendly vibe helped my husband and I quickly unravel from our busy days at the ‘coalface.’

The convivial atmosphere and mine hosts’ warm welcome settled us in nicely for the experience ahead. We had high expectations for head chef Gareth Evans’ mouth-watering menu. The South African, who hails from a Michelin starred restaurant background, offers a wide choice of classic British pub fare complemented by some more exotic influences, including Sri Lankan fish curry, Jerk-spiced chicken wings and Steam Prawn Din Sums.

The Crabmill, Preston Bagot
Pan-fried Jon Dory with tomato and beurre blanc, saffron boulangere potatoes, courgette and asparagus.

But it was one of the evening’s fish specials that caught my husband’s eye (as a non fish-eater myself, he often takes these opportunities to indulge!) and he wasted no time after heeding the warning that there were only 10 portions of the Pan-fried Jon Dory (with tomato and beurre blanc, saffron boulangere potatoes, courgette and asparagus) up for grabs – an advantage of dining early).

This followed his Crispy Baby Squid starter (he really was taking full advantage!) – both dishes on which he lavished praise.

On the non-fish side of the table, my Roast Chump of Lamb (served with parsley potato cake, asparagus, herb tomato and minted hollandaise) delivered on all fronts. It was cooked to perfection and oozed freshness and flavour.

Both the lamb and my preceding Smoked Chicken and Herb Terrine were beautifully presented and went down a treat.

The Crabmill, Preston Bagot
Roast Chump of Lamb served with parsley potato cake, asparagus, herb tomato and minted hollandaise.

So far, so very good, we agreed. Dessert had a lot to live up to – but earlier glances of the menu’s sweet treats (I know I’m not the only one who looks at desserts first!) it was clear I was going to be in for the toughest decision yet.

From the eight or nine dishes on offer I think I’d managed to whittle it down to four. Was it to be the Sticky Toffee Pudding (with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream); Warm Chocolate Brownie (with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream); Cherry Chocolate Tart (with sour cherry sorbet) or Toasted Waffle (with caramelised banana and honeycomb ice cream)?

I was more than happy with my eventual waffle selection, which was polished off with gusto. I’m often too full to appreciate a third course, but these were just too tempting!

The Crabmil, Preston Bagot
Toasted Waffle with caramelised banana and honeycomb ice cream.

Meanwhile my husband’s Crème Brulee with shortbread biscuits didn’t disappoint either.

Not for my sweet tooth on this occasion, but worthy of mention, is the impressive Cheese Board, made up of your choice of three – or six – local cheeses, including Berkswell Cheddar and Croxton Manor Stilton!

A Light Bites and Sandwiches menu is also available, options including Open Smoked Salmon Bagel; Coconut, Lime and Coriander Poached Chicken Salad; Roasted Red pepper, Sun Blush Tomato and Goats Cheese Quiche and Rump Steak Sandwich. So, a real contender for lunch next time you’re in that neck of the woods.

The Crabmill, Preston Bagot

A meal for four here will not be light on the pocket, but prices are not uncompetitive with similar restaurants in the local area.

The Crabmill can trace its roots back more than three centuries – and it still bears the marks of its history today – with its tiny leaded windows, weathered half-timbered exterior, crooked beams and flagstone floors.

Fitting then that this cider mill is once again at the centre of purveying fine food and drink to locals. Long may it continue.

Visit their site at: www.brunningandprice.co.uk/crabmill/