From London To Lancashire: Mitton Hall Hotel


"The country habit has me by the heart" 
- Vita Sackville West

I can honestly say that Clitheroe has never been a place on my travel bucket list and until last week, I was blissfully unaware of its existence. But after stumbling across images of a stunning 15th Century country house hotel set in the heart of a tiny parish called Little Mitton, we decided to travel up North to find out more about this grade II listed building and the elusive Clitheroe. Forever seeking a new adventure, we said goodbye to London and embarked on a 4-hour drive to Lancashire, where Mitton Hall was to become our home for a night.

The quaint Northern village of Clitheroe, home to approximately 16,000 inhabitants, is a hikers’ haven; nestled deep in the Ribble Valley surrounded by miles of rolling hills, it’s an idyllic escape for every man and his dog (figuratively and literally speaking); a place where nature cleanses the soul and troubles are left on the motorway. You’ll find sheep grazing peacefully in the fields. You’ll find the River Ribble meandering majestically through hills. You’ll find the ruins of churches and castles and best of all, you’ll find some lovely country pubs. Amid this rural oasis, Mitton Hall provides a sumptuous 20-acre sanctuary from where Lancashire can be effusively appreciated.



Doused in a rich history, Mitton Hall is every bit as grand as you’d expect of a formally private Medieval residence. Beyond its cream, unimposing exterior lies a labyrinth of personality. The Great Hall is the first room behind Mitton Hall’s doors, dressed to impress with high beamed ceilings, original stained-glass windows, a statement silver rhino wall mount and a spectacular crystal chandelier, all overlooked by the gallery. Large, inviting leather sofas bask in front of a cavernous open fire, while the tartan colour scheme pays homage to its country heritage.


With 18 rooms and suites, Mitton Hall is a boutique residence and all bedrooms are located on the first floor. After being handed the key to the Queen Suite, we climbed the stairs to the gallery which led us to the heavy, oak door behind which lay the Queen Suite. As the name would suggest, the room is spacious and fit for royalty; large windows and high ceilings instantly fill the room with light, creating a tranquil and relaxing environment. The interior - ornate, without being imposing and modern, without being informal – makes for a comfortable yet luxurious stay. The king-sized bed is immaculately made with crisp, white linen and plush, purple pillows, which complement the lilac floral feature wall. Meanwhile, the bathroom comes complete with a roll top bath tub big enough for two, an open walk-in shower and luxury L’Occitane toiletries. It’s almost too lovely to leave – until hunger strikes.


Next to the Great Hall is the restaurant, which serves breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner daily. Spacious and well-lit with a sprinkling of statement furnishings, the restaurant is in keeping with Mitton Hall’s comfortable yet eclectic style, making it the perfect place to sit and sample the cocktail menu before digging into some Great British grub. Although, the food menu is not wholly what you’d expect of a quintessentially British manor house, with the kitchen cooking up a fusion of modern British and European cuisine. 


We sampled gnocchi and scallops for starters and steak and monkfish for mains and while each dish was presented perfectly, we felt that the flavour combinations were slightly out of sync for the environment and perhaps a little overcomplicated. The melting chocolate pudding, however, was very pleasing to the palette and we left the restaurant feeling relatively satisfied. 


After a wonderful night’s sleep in the Queen Suite, we were fully relaxed and ready for a day of exploring – but not before breakfast. Breakfast at Mitton Hall is as traditional as they come, where you can help yourself to a small selection of continental offerings as well as a full menu of classic hot breakfasts to set you up for the day. A Full English and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs were our breakfasts of choice, which both went down a treat.

Overall, our stay at Mitton Hall was definitely a memorable one. The hotel is truly beautiful and every element is put in place for your comfort, right down to the luxurious toiletries, the spare heater and complimentary biscuits. So if you’re looking for a Great British getaway with gorgeous countryside at your disposal, you should definitely add Lancashire to your list. And you never know, your visit might be the start of something great. It is, after all, the birthplace of the jelly baby, white road markings and the Lancashire hot pot.





Where's your favourite country getaway?



Eating Out In St Albans: The Great Northern Restaurant & Pub


“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” 

― George Bernard Shaw


Living so close to London, I often forget there's a food scene happening outside of the capital. Yes, I can't deny that London has a very appetising culinary culture and - rightly so - it's easy to be seduced by the exotic menus, the fusion of cuisines, the unusual ingredients and of course, the enviable Instagrammable interiors that she has to offer but there really is life beyond zone 2.

When it comes to seeking out good food, there is no road too long for me to travel (unless I'm hangry). My boyfriend and I spend much of our free time together embarking on food pilgrimages, travelling as far and wide as humanly possible in search of new and exciting culinary experiences. So when we were offered the opportunity to dine at The Great Northern Restaurant & Pub in St Albans, we jumped straight on the train out of St Pancras and prepared ourselves for a feast of Great British fare with a twist.


Just 20 minutes later, we arrived at The Great Northern Restaurant and were immediately welcomed into the intimate yet lively space. At the bar, we were handed the drinks menu and after a quick glance, we realised that this is not your average working man's 'pub'. The Great Northern serves a vast selection of pale ales, lagers, ciders, spirits and whiskies but has an even greater selection of wines, dessert wines and champagne, offering tipples for the most sophisticated of drunks.

To officially start the evening, we cheers-ed with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a San Miguel and were shown to our table in 'the snug'. The Great Northern has three definitive areas for dining: the snug, which seats approximately 20 covers, the bar area for those wanting a more relaxed service and in warmer weather, the spacious garden. Our table was located at the back of the snug, offering us a panoramic view of the dining room and optimum viewing for people-watching (my favourite).


After settling into our home for the next few hours, we began to prepare ourselves for making the most important decision of the day: what are we going to eat? The Great Northern's food menu is small but perfectly formed, priding itself on serving a locally-sourced, seasonal Modern British cuisine. One thing to note is that the kitchen is keen to cater for those with special dietary requirements, making it a great dining choice if your loved ones struggle to find places who cater for a more precise palate.

For starters, I ordered poached trout with soy and chilli while Tom chose the braised brisket with pearl barley and beef consommé. In my wealth of dining experience, the starters usually set the bar for the rest of the meal and both were plated up beautifully on big, circular, Scandinavian-inspired crockery. The trout was delicate and flaky fused with fresh flavours from the tomatoes and a perfect amount of chilli, while Tom practically inhaled his brisket (I take that as a sign that it was as delicious as mine).


Being pescatarian, I often order fish followed by more fish if I'm not immediately struck by the veggie alternatives, so for my main dish I ordered the lemon sole (on the bone) cooked in a lemon butter sauce and served with seaweed, baby leeks and artichoke crisps. Tom, being a man of his meat, ordered the seared duck breast with Jerusalem artichoke and boy choy. As The Great Northern has such a tempting wine list, to accompany our main courses, we made our way through a bottle each of the Semillon, Mon Vieux 'Aquifer' 2015 Swartland and the Bordeaux, Chateau Montlandrie Cotes de Castillon 2012, France. If I'd have not known that I was sat in a restaurant in St Albans, I could've closed my eyes and easily been in a vineyard in the South of France but I digress...

Like the starters, the presentation was faultless and I have no problems with my fish being served on the bone. This may sound slightly odd but to me, there's something rather satisfying about sliding the fish delicately off the bone before you taste its wonderful flavour. And the lemon sole was as delicious as it looks in the picture: simple, locally-sourced ingredients created a main course that was balanced, wholesome and full of the subtle flavours that you want from a fish dish. However, the crunchy artichoke crisps are not something you typically see at your local pub restaurant but they added a touch of elegance to the dish and the texture worked perfectly with the flaky fish.


Last but not least, dessert. I can never resist a chocolate brownie after a good meal and The Great Northern's take on my old favourite was a smooth chocolate ganache-style brownie topped with cashew nuts. It was my idea of heaven: decadent, chocolatey and nutty. My only qualm has to be that it wasn't quite big enough (but I'm greedy and there can never be too much of a good thing when it comes to chocolate brownie).

Not wanting the feast to end, we ordered glasses of the Moscato d'Asti DOCG dessert wine and reflected on our first impressions of dining in St Albans. It seems that great food and even better wine can be found outside of London and the passion shown by The Great Northern for good, quality, well-priced food is unmistakable. They truly take pride in their food, serving a familiar Modern British menu with a sprinkling of creativity. We loved every element of our visit: the homely setting, the welcoming staff and each delicious forkful of food that passed our lips. So much so, we missed our train back to Essex.



How far would you travel for some Great British grub?

Belgian Bistros: A Guide To Eating Out In Bruges



“After a full belly all is poetry.” 
― Frank McCourt

For me, one of the most exciting things about travelling is living like a local - and that means eating like a local too. I love food at the best of times but when I'm somewhere new and exciting, my taste buds go into overdrive! Whether I'm tucking into a culinary masterpiece created by top Michelin star chef or some local street food from a roadside truck, it all adds to the flavour of the experience. 

And my time in Bruges recently was no different. So without further ado, here's a little list of the places that you should stop by, if you're ever in Bruges, to taste what Belgian really has to offer. 

Fred's Belgian Waffles

Located just off the Markt, Fred's Belgian Waffles is the perfect place for you to get your Belgian waffle fix on the go. With over 27 years in the waffle industry, Fred knows exactly how waffles should be done - the Belgian way. Whether you're craving plain waffles, caramel waffles, waffles with cream, waffles with ice cream, filled waffles or the full works, there's a waffle waiting just for you. And you won't be sorry.



Depla Chocolatier

Nothing will ever prepare you for the amount of chocolate shops you will encounter during a visit to Bruges. And I mean nothing. As you walk the quaint, cobbled streets, your senses will literally have a meltdown as every other shop beckons you to see, smell and taste their chocolatey delights. A few of the shops, including Depla Chocolatier, The Chocolate Line and Sukerbuyc, make their chocolates on site and offer a sneak peak into the heavenly world of chocolate-making. From hot chocolates and truffles to personalised chocolates and giant boxes of goodies, there's something to satisfy every chocolate-related desire. So, whether you're a chocolate fiend or a chocolate foe, a real life Belgian chocolate shop is definitely worth your time. 


Bistro Den Huzaar

If you're looking to dine at a traditional Belgian restaurant, look no further than Bistro Den Huzaar. Tucked away from the main Markt Square, it's easily accessible without crawling with tourists. On arrival, you will be greeted with the warmest of welcomes and invited to take a seat in the large, open restaurant. 

The most charming thing about Bistro Den Huzaar is that it feels like home; or rather, your Grandma's home. Cream and white vintage furnishings create a cosy ambience, while soft 60s music filters in from the stereo ("These Boots Are Made For Walking" being amongst the favourites). Freshly pressed table cloths sit joyfully atop each table and offer a home to adorable checked napkins, while a candle stands elegantly as the centre piece. It's granny chic at its best - without being pretentious. 

With a restaurant that boasts so much charm and heritage, it seems only natural that Bistro Den Huzaar serves up a menu filled with Belgian classics. Mushrooms on toast, shrimp croquettes, cheese croquettes, pork cheek casserole, Flemish stew, steak and mussels are a handful of the dishes on offer, and showcases a seasoned insight into Bistro Den Huzaar's best bits. Although much of the food is presented very simply, the portion sizes are more than sufficient while the flavours remain true to their origins. You'll undeniably feel like you've stepped back in time - but all for good reason. 




Aquarel 

Located in the heart of Bruges' Simon Stevinplein, you will find Aquarel; a fashionably rustic restaurant serving up a savoury storm of contemporary European cuisine. In the summer months, you can choose to dine al fresco on the patio on the square but as coldness takes over, the restaurant remains as the heart and soul of the dining experience.

Unlike many of the restaurants in Bruges which are steeped in tradition and heritage, Aquarel welcomes its guests into an intimate, modern area of calmness and serenity. Grey, muted tones and wooden furnishings create a wholesome environment for dining, while soft melodic tunes add to the idyllic ambience.

And Aquarel's menu is just as stylish its surroundings. As well as serving traditional Belgian dishes, including Flemish stew and several flavours of croquettes, Aquarel also offers a hearty helping of Italian-inspired pastas. After gorging on a decadent goat's cheese croquette with a generous side salad, the shrimp tagliatelle with pesto and lasagne bolognese boldly made their way to our table. While it's true that the presentation of the food is rather simple, it's the undeniable freshness and honest flavour combinations that truly make the dishes delightful. The perfect restaurant choice for a dignified lunch.



Bistro Brugis

From the outside, Bistro Brugis may look like a traditional Belgian restaurant but its influences are unlike any other in Bruges. With a legacy that traces all the way to Nepal, Bistro Brugis incorporates traditional Nepalese spices into classic Belgian-French dishes to create a unique fusion of flavours. French onion soup, cheese croquettes, Flemish stew and traditional mussel flavours are served side by side with chicken momos, chicken lumpias, Himalayan scampi, king crab and Himalayan mussels, offering the locals a special South Asian twist on their all-too-familair cuisine. 

Located just off the beaten track, the restaurant offers a cosy escape for diners. The deep red curtains open to reveal a simple yet sophisticated setting; the large open fireplace is warm and comforting, bringing the dark wooden tables and leather-backed chairs to life. The rest of the furnishings are similarly uncluttered and fuss-free, other than the swanky chandeliers that hang gracefully from the ceiling. 

But what's hard not to notice is the gloriously triumphant bar. Stocked with a variety of local Belgian beers, including Leffe, La Chouffe, Brugse Zot and Liefman's cherry beer, as well as an impressive selection of gin, it appears that a good beverage is as important to Bistro Brugis as their food. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. An evening filled with too much beer, gin and deliciously hearty Nepalese-inspired Belgian cuisine sounds marvellous to us.




Bar'N

Whatever your poison - be it beer, wine or spirits - Bar'N is the perfect place for a tipple. With fur throws scattered across high leather sofas and an enormous bison head overlooking all shenanigans, this cosy, cattle-inspired bar oozes cool and is best known for its distinctive selection of cocktails and gins. Other than a few nuts and nibbles, you won't find any food here (just pure unadulterated booze) and with only a handful of tables, avoid peak times if you want get comfortable. Tucked just out of sight of the main Markt square, it's excellently positioned for you to stop by before or after your evening dinner reservations. 



Groot Vlaenderen

If lavish, low-lit, sophisticated cocktail bars are your calling in life, Groot Vlaenderen will feel just like home. Step through the perfectly symmetrical doorway and enter a bar that overflows with style, opulence and mystery. Lose yourself in a glass of champagne or a deliciously divine cocktail - or both - and make it a night to remember. With a drinks menu full of familiar favourites and new obsessions, you won't ever want to leave. 





Where's your favourite place to eat or drink in Bruges?


Tale As Old As Time: A Winter Weekend In Bruges, Belgium


“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life. ” 

For as long as I can remember, Belgium's historic city of Bruges has been on my travel bucket list and a few weeks ago, Tom and I spent four (terribly rainy) days enjoying the sites and exploring the quaint cobbled streets. Beer, hot chocolate, waffles, Flemish stew, gin and moules frites all made an appearance and only now can I fully appreciate what all the fuss was about. 

From the South East of England, Bruges is easily accessible. We hopped on the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels Midi, then boarded a local train to Bruges; in total, a 3 hour journey. From Bruges station, it's a short walk to the centre of Bruges (approximately 15 minutes) and super easy to navigate, so we began our tour of Bruges tottering along with our suitcases - like the ultimate tourists - until we reached our hotel

Having been kissed by Christmas, Bruges looked absolutely magical and there's no doubt that this is one of the most romantic cities I've visited. Feeling like a medieval maiden hand-in-hand with my knight in shining armour, we walked, dined, got merry and Instagrammed our way through this beautiful city. So if you plan on visiting Bruges (and you definitely should), here's what you can expect from the city that claims to have invented french fries (but don't tell France). 

Shopping

With Christmas Spirit lighting up every shop window, it's hard not to be drawn in by the magic. Although shopping in Bruges is unlike shopping in any other city; instead of fashion taking centre stage, it's chocolatiers that line every street, tempting you with their sweet treats. One of the most famous chocolatiers in Bruges is The Chocolate Line, which is not only a culinary leader in its field but offers customers a sneak peak into how their chocolates are made. 


The Belfort, Bruges' Belfry Tower

Standing proud at 83m tall, Belfort is Bruges' tallest and most important tower. With 47 symphonious bells, it graciously sings every 15 minutes and indulges all the senses. Overlooking the famous Markt, you can choose to admire the glorious Gothic tower from afar or brave the 366-step climb to the top. But during busy periods, be sure to leave plenty of time to queue and enjoy the experience; the panoramic view from the top is not one to be missed. 


The Windmills

On the outskirts of the city, you will find 4 historic windmills: Bonne Chiere, Sint-Janshuysmill, Nieuwe Papegaai and Koeleweimill. Archived maps the 16th Century show that originally, there were no less than 23 windmills guarding the walls of the city. Today, only one of the 4 remaining mills, Sint-Janshuysmill, stands in its original place - the rest having been moved from other locations. Built in 1770, it's also the only working mill and houses a small museum which is open to the public. 


The Markt

Since 958, the Markt has been a bustling hub for trading, festivals and entertainment - and today is no different. Every Wednesday, it hosts a weekly market of fresh produce and handmade gifts but from the end of November to early January, its daily Christmas market is open. With everything you expect from a festive market - traditional wooden chalets selling arts and crafts, twinkling frost-inspired fairy lights, an impressive ice rink and hot mulled wine being served by the gallon - it's sure to get you feeling festive. And if you fancy being whisked off your feet, it's the place to pick up a horse-drawn carriage for an enlightening tour around the city. 


The Canals

With its romantic, meandering canals and beautiful bridges, Bruges is often referred to as 'Venice of the North'. Whatever the weather, take a stroll along the canals away from the hustle and bustle of the main square and discover the authentic Bruges. Find hidden gardens, picturesque parks (Minnewater Park is a favourite), quaint streets and admirable architecture. And if you'd like to see the city from a different perspective, the canals can also be enjoyed by boat, where you will reach inaccessible areas of Bruges to those on foot.


St John's Hospital

One of the oldest hospital buildings in Europe, St John's Hospital has an impressive 800-year old history of caring for the sick. Officiated by nuns and monks until the 19th century, the original infirmary building currently houses a contemporary art exhibition focusing on themes of dance and death, as well as fine art paintings from the Flemish artist Hans Memling. It is also home to a collection of gravestones which honour some of the nuns who dedicated their lives to helping those admitted to the hospital.


Burg Square

Once the political and religious epicentre for the Flanders region, Burg Square is steeped in history and adorned with breath-taking Gothic architecture. Home to the Stadhuis, Bruges' town hall, the Old Civil Registry and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, it's a sight to be seen and to learn about Bruges long history.


Where To Stay

To be able to explore Bruges easily and conveniently, it's recommended to stay in the heart of the city close to the centre. Wanting to enjoy a tranquil sleep after busy days exploring, we decided to stay a short walk away from the Markt and next to St Salvator's Cathedral at Hotel de Castillion, a luxury boutique 4* family-run hotel. The 16th Century corner house, which once served as the home to Bishop Monseigneur Joannes Baptista Ludovicus de Castillion in the 18th Century, recently underwent a complete renovation to provide a contemporary oasis of calm for its guests, while allowing them to experience at first hand the rich history that Bruges has to offer. 


After being greeted by the warmest of welcomes, we were shown to our deluxe room on the first floor, overlooking the courtyard. With a spacious queen-sized bed complete with ivory drapes, a sparkling chandelier, beautiful furnishings and a soothing royal blue and gold colour scheme, we couldn't wait for bedtime. The room was immaculate and even had a small glass bowl of Belgian chocolates for us to devour (which, of course, we did immediately). The perfect amalgamation of luxury, style and comfort, we were blessed to be able to call this room home for the next 3 nights.  


The bathroom also offered every comfort possible: miniature toiletries, plush cotton dressing gowns, a hairdryer, a powerful waterfall shower, a deep concealed bathtub and double sinks. It was perfect for us (and the hairdryer was even good enough to dry my thick hair in a reasonable amount of time - the ultimate hotel bathroom test) but for those who may have difficulty stepping over a small wall into a deep bathtub may want to choose another room which allows step-free access to the showering facilities.


As Bruges has so many great restaurants to offer, the fact that Hotel de Castillion doesn't have a restaurant on site isn't an inconvenience but it does offer breakfast every morning. A continental buffet including fresh breads, eggs, smoked salmon, cheeses, fresh fruit, meats, waffles, cereals, cakes and pastries, is served from 8am to 10.30am in the Medieval basement. 

Before you can even acknowledge the food, the breakfast room itself is a sight to behold. Never have I dined in a Medieval basement that's as charming as this. Fairytale foliage adorned with glass baubles lines the ceiling, while soft classical music creates an idyllic breakfast ambience. Having appreciated the surroundings, we can now move on to the food. I started my days with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs followed by fresh fruit and a cheeky pastry. Every bite I devoured was fresh, delicious and left me wanting to go back for more. When it's done right, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and Hotel de Castillion know exactly how to wake your taste buds from their slumber. 


Overall, Hotel de Castillion is an exquisite place to stay and we'd go back in a heartbeat. For us, it encapsulates the spirit of Bruges perfectly; enchanting, romantic and luxurious. Its location is great for anyone wanting to explore Bruges on foot and for easy access to the station, it offers complete comfort after long days exploring and every member of staff provides exceptional customer service. Our first experience of Bruges was truly phenomenal and we can't wait to visit in the summer months.   Maybe it won't be raining then... 

Until next time, beautiful Bruges. 




What's the most romantic city you've ever been to?


© Rosie Romance

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