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With Storm Caroline taking the country by storm this weekend, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been hiding inside, enjoying copious amounts of tea. One of my new favourite brands to sip on has been The Tea Leaf Co – a company which prides itself on celebrating the history of tea, as well as providing absolutely delicious options. I’ve been testing out four of the available 15 options, and I’m not going to lie – I’m obsessed!

All of the teas come packaged in sturdy little tins, which makes storing them in the cupboard an absolute breeze, and the screw-top lid means that the tea inside stays super fresh. The first of the options I tried was No 10 Apple & Cinnamon. I’m an absolute fiend for anything spiced at this time of year, and I was not disappointed. A teaspoon full popped in my tea pot created a brew which was rich and couldn’t agree more!

Royals & Rogues is the brand’s Earl Grey mix, and is a witty nod to the Boston Tea Party. I’m partial to a cup of Earl Grey in the morning – and this is a heavenly start to the day! The Tea Leaf Co’s mix includes a generous dash of bergamot oil (and how beautiful are the tiny little petals included in the leaves) so I drink it black, with a slice of lemon.

No 07 Ti Kuan Yin is perhaps the most exotic of my collection – an Oolong tea with notes of Orchid, it’s a luxurious way to enjoy something of an afternoon pick-me-up! It’s named after the goddess of mercy Ti Kuan Yin who, legend has it, appeared to a farmer in a dream and gifted him a single, precious tea shoot to plant. It’s gorgeous with a dash of honey if you need something a little sweeter.

Whenever things are feeling like they’re getting a little too much, I’ve been turning to No 26 Lotus Jasmine. A fabulous Green Tea with Jasmine, it’s an incredibly soothing, delicious choice. The Tea Leaf Co’s offering is created through an intricate and time-consuming process that dates back more than 1000 years, and it’s a wonderfully fragrant treat!

The Tea Leaf Co teas start at £4.99 per tin, and the whole range is available here.

I’m not sure about you, but at this time of year, I’ll do pretty much anything to get out of the house. Work in a coffee shop? Peruse the overly full stores packed with Christmas shoppers? I think it’s probably just me trying to enjoy the few hours of sunlight we get per day, but possibly the best use of a day I can think of? A trip to Dalkeith’s Restoration Yard!

Last night we headed through to the Restoration Cafe to try out their new Christmas Menu. I’ve written about Restoration Yard before, and honestly it’s an absolute haven at this time of year. Children can play on Fort Douglas (i.e. the country’s coolest tree house) and you can shop to your heart’s content in the store – they have a beautifully curated section of home wears, fashion and stationery as well as incredible food hall stuffed full of goodies. I feel like a kid in a candy store every time I visit, and my wish list grows considerably each time!

The whole of Restoration Yard is decked out for Christmas – it’s all twinkly fairy lights, pompom garlands and decorations.

The Restoration Cafe pride themselves on offering a seasonal menu full of locally sourced produce, so when I had the chance to sample the new Christmas Menu, I knew it was going to be great! Served Monday-Friday, until December 24th, the choices on offer mix traditional favourites with dishes which are sure to impress!

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After a busy day, we were both absolutely famished when we sat down, but the staff were so accommodating, bringing crackers to the table, and letting us decide what took our fancy.

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The Baked Pear and Stilton Tart sounded too good to resist! A beautifully thin, crisp pastry held chunks of spiced baked pear and melting stilton. A real update on a classic flavour combination, the addition of the peppery salad and mustard dressing was delightful! The pears had been delicately spiced, lending the dish a thoroughly festive flavour, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll be trying to recreate at home soon!

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I opted for the Confit Duck Ballotine, which came alongside caper berries, beetroot and a port syrup. This was an absolute masterclass in winter cooking.

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The duck was perfection – moist and flavourful, and the combination between it and the earthiness of the beetroot was divine. The caper berries were a welcome addition of tartness, whilst the port syrup leant some sweetness.

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We moved onto main courses, and of course, we couldn’t not order the Turkey. A real celebration of everything traditionally festive, the Ballotine of Turkey wrapped in Parma Ham, served with pork and sage stuffing was a real show stopper.

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Piled high on the plate, the turkey was the star of the show! Wrapped in a crisp blanket of Parma Ham, and filled with the most delicious sage-y stuffing, it paired perfectly with the spiced cranberry sauce, and was perched above the most delicious candied carrots and roasted Brussels sprouts.

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Since Dalkeith source their produce locally, I couldn’t resist the Roast Breast of Pheasant. Served on a mushroom, chestnut and bacon ficasee as well as the most delicious roast potatoes and Brussels Sprouts, it was a tasty alternative to the more traditional turkey offering.

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The meat was delicately flavoured, and worked with the rich sauce, and felt perfectly seasonal! If you’re looking for a bit of a change from the norm, I’d seriously recommend it. It’s the absolutely perfect choice for a hearty winter supper!

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Since we were going for the full festive experience, we couldn’t not order the Christmas Pudding! Served in a creamy brandy sauce and topped with an orange compote. Since I’m a real fan of spiced, wintery puddings, this was absolute heaven! The Christmas Pudding itself was abosolutely heavenly – super moist, and wonderfully  fruity! The fresh orange compote gave the dish a hit of acidity and freshened up what could be an incredibly rich dish.

We finished off with a couple of hot drinks (since I’m such an adult, I couldn’t resist a Hot Chocolate. It was such a dreamy evening, and the absolutely perfect start to the festive season. The food was, as always at the Restoration Cafe, absolutely incredible, and I would seriously recommend heading over to check it out!

2 Courses are priced at £20 per person, while 3 courses are priced at £25. You can see the whole menu here.

 

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If you’ve been in Edinburgh recently, you’ll know that the city is quite the fan of Christmas. From the famous Princes Street Market, to the new light attractions in George Street, there are so many spots to celebrate the festive season, but perhaps the most luxurious spot to toast Christmas is Edinburgh’s Waldorf Astoria, who are hosting a Festive Afternoon Tea all through December.

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Hosted in the hotel’s iconic Peacock Alley, the Festive version of the tea comes with a glass of mulled wine, as well as tea and it has to be one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful spots!

Peacock Alley has been transformed with towering Christmas trees, and the whole hotel is decked out with nutcrackers and ballerinas – it’s absolutely stunning, and it’s the place to be if you want to take those festive photos!

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You can enjoy the Festive Afternoon Tea from £40 per person. You can see the whole menu here

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When I was down in the Cotswolds last month, we took a day to drive through to Oxford and spend the day at the Ashmolean Museum. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for years, and I am happy to say, it did not disappoint! We spent the whole day weaving from exhibit to exhibit – the museum has everything from Egyptian mummies to modern art, so as you can imagine, there was a lot to see!

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So to fuel up, we headed around the corner to new Oxford spot Franco Manca. The restaurant only opened up a couple of months back. Located in the centre of town, it’s a roomy spot, which was filled with a mix of students, locals and tourists, all munching on Oxford’s best pizza.

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If you are a student, Franco Manca has an incredible offer currently going on – every Monday & Tuesday, students can receive a No Logo beer or Aperol Spritz on the house when you buy any pizza! Just use the buzz word ‘Brixton 2008’ & show your student card. This is running until 31st December, so there’s still tonnes of time to enjoy!

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As we perused the menu, we munched on Green Olives (£2.35). I love how simple the menu at Franco Manca is – mains consist of 7 main pizzas, as well as a few daily specials, and some salads.

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We were absolutely famished after day spent at the museum, we couldn’t resist starting off with a Garlic Bread with Mozzarella (£4.95).

Served piping hot, it was the definition of melty, cheese and garlic-y goodness! We shared one between two of us, and it was a seriously generous portion! Made with the same slough rising sour dough as the pizzas, it was a perfect start to the meal.

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In what can only be classed as something of a review fail, neither of us could resist Pizza 6 (£7.55)- which comes with tomato, cured chorizo [dry + semi-dry] & mozzarella. For some reason I developed something of a chorizo habit on the trip, and the promise of it on a pizza was too much to resist.

Franco Manca cook their pizzas in wood burning ovens which reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees, so when they get to the table, they’re piping hot, and covered in the most glorious of toppings.

Ours, topped with copious slices of chorizo was equal parts cheesy and spicy. I just loved how the meat was quite thickly sliced, so you could really appreciate all that great flavour. The wood stove gives the crust a delicious flavour – and Franco Manca want to make sure you eat them all up! If you’re not usually a crust lover (which, admittedly, I am) you can order a selection of homemade dips to enjoy!

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Even though we were absolutely stuffed from the main course, we could resit in indulging in a little Italian dessert. As with the menu for the main course, the choice of dessert is wonderfully simple – for us though, there was only one choice – a classic tiramisu (£3.95) to share!

Presented simply, the slab of pudding was an airy cloud of whipped cream and boozy sponge. Topped with a dusting of cocoa powder, we savoured spoonfuls of it with coffee, as we planned our days ahead. It was an absolutely wonderful way to refuel after a day spent in Oxford’s best museum!

You can find out more about Franco Manca, and see their menu here.

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Anyone who knows me, knows I have something of a coffee habit. It’s a rare day that I don’t pop into Starbucks for a vent latte, and I’ve been known to pop in for a second on particularly hectic days. I know all that caffeine can’t be great for you, so recently, I’ve been making a real effort to introduce teas back into my routine.

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Clipper very kindly sent over a trio of minty options, and I cannot tell you how addicted I’ve become to them! I’ve been starting my mornings with a cup of the Organic Green Tea & Mint, for a refreshing kick-start to my day. Ii’m not going to lie – a latte still tends to sneak in if things are busy, but I’ve been finding the Clipper teas far more refreshing.

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The range of teas and flavours that Clipper offers is incredible, so even if mint isn’t quite your (tea)bag, there will be something for you! All of this lovely new tea, obviously necessitated the purchase of a lovely new mug! I’m obsessed with this Anthropologie option. It’s much bigger and more colourful than my regular options, but I’m just obsessed with the pink ombre and the gold rim!

Clipper teas are available here and the mug is available here