REVIEW | Micatto | Warwick

This spectacularly authentic restaurant felt as though I was stepping off the streets of Warwick and into a restaurant set amongst the bustling streets of Italy. Situated on Warwick High Street, the restaurant is in the perfect location post sight-see visits to Warwick Castle or the Warwick Racecourse which are both just a short walk away. If you're looking for an Italian restaurant that serves the classic pizza and lasagna then this restaurant may not be to your liking as there's no sign of pizzas anywhere on this menu! A classy Italian food and drink haven, Micatto's is definitely worth a visit for any Italian food lover.

The staff make a point of speaking in their first language, Italian (of course). I felt it was a really nice touch to be greeted in Italian and quite fun to try and pronounce the wine and food menu in the correct way (only to be corrected!). Everything about this restaurant is decidedly Italian from the wine to the staff.

I have visited the restaurant a few times now and the food never disappoints. This time I opted for 'Mezzaluna' aka half moon shaped black pasta filled with lobster & prawns with lemon, chive & a hint of chilli served in a light butter sauce with cherry tomatoes, chive & parsley (£14.95) Every bite was a taste explosion. A little on the small side portion wise, I would suggest filling up on breads and olives to start or ordering a side. I paired the meal with a white wine - Vermentino di Sardegna 2014 -Sardegna, it was dry, refreshing and slightly aromatic, truly delicious and very easy drinking. Most of the wines from the wine menu are carefully selected from various regions of Italy and Siciliy along with the beer selection. Again, adding to the restaurants beautiful authenticity. 

Above pictured fish stew that I didn't try myself, however my dad who is also a seafood and shellfish lover really enjoyed it. It's not something he would normally go for and had the rest of at the table very envious as it looked super tasty. If you're a fish fan like we are, I am sure you may like to try this dish too.

The open kitchen situated at the back of the restaurant displays a passionate head chef and kitchen staff hard at work with thorough attention to detail on each and every meal that leaves their kitchen. As a HUGE foodie, it is fascinating and almost majestic watching the all-Italian kitchen staff hard at work prepping my meal.

Would I visit again? Of course I would. Everything about this restaurant has me wanting more. It's safe to say it's actually one of my favourites. The wine selection is fantastic, the food beautifully authentic and the staff kind and attentive. Though ordering every course along with wine can rack up the bill quite a bit and you can easily spend over £100 for a meal for two. Every time somebody asks me for a restaurant recommendation in the area I always point them in Micatto's direction. I hope to be returning very soon.

Thank you for reading. Have you got a favourite Italian restaurant? I am always wanting to try out new places; if so, leave me your recommendations below.


REVIEW | Miss Saigon | Birmingham Hippodrome

Before I had watched Miss Saigon at the Birmingham Hippodrome, I only knew snippets of the story. I knew it was a musical love story, set during the Vietnam War, between a young Vietnamese girl and an American soldier. I love seeing productions that I don’t know much about, as it adds to the magic and mystique of the theatre. The story I then watched unfold was beautifully romantic, not to mention gripping from beginning to  end. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away however, as it is still touring and hopefully you'll be able to nab some last-minute tickets (or alternatively, watch the DVD, which features a number of actors from the theatre production). I will give you one word of warning though: take plenty of tissues as it’s the most I have EVER cried (wept) at the theatre and you will cry bucket loads too, if you have a soft heart like mine.

Miss Saigon is an adaptation of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, although it is a modern take on the original opera. The performance undoubtedly emphasised the clash of civilisations between the Americans and Vietnamese during the War. The West are painted as lustful and sexually fascinated with oriental women, but are simultaneously ignorant of the rich, vibrant culture surrounding them. Lost children and innocence are constants throughout, and these themes were portrayed both powerfully and emotively by the actors involved.

The musical elements of the production emphasised the passion and tragedy of the performance for me. Joreen Bautista, the alternate Kim, was absolutely sensational (may I add that the tour of Miss Saigon is her theatre debut?!). Just a young girl of 17 years old, her breathtaking voice and mature performance depicted the longing, heartache and tragedy of Kim’s character perfectly; she stunned me every step of the way through Kim’s story. The role begins as a 17-year-old girl, who is innocent and in love, who subsequently develops into a strong woman, who is forced to make a very difficult decision in order to protect the people she loves. Being just a young girl herself, Bautista captured the essence of the character and performed the role extremely well, with both maturity and undoubted passion.

The chemistry between the two main characters, Kim and Chris, who were played by Joreen Bautista and Ashley Gilmour respectively, was beautiful to watch unfold on stage. They sang well with one another, were always in time and their voices complemented their partner's respectively. Their clear passion for not only one another during the production, but also for the performance itself, was self evident and captured my heart, as I’m sure it did with many other audience members.

Another character that stood out for me was The Engineer, played by Red Conception. He was absolutely fantastic at playing the role and brought some comic relief to proceedings. He owned the stage, whenever he was on it, and was hilarious with his vulgarity, lust and desire. The performance required him to break up those more powerful, upsetting scenes, which kept me engaged from beginning to end.

Lastly, the music and special effects were also spectacular. The iconic helicopter scene was really brought to life, through special effects and lighting. I literally said ‘WOW!’ out loud. I felt like I got my money’s worth when I watched the performance. There was no expense spared from the effects to the costumes. I would highly recommend that you go and watch a performance of Miss Saigon. It can be a little soppy at times, but it has a great story that hopefully, you will want to watch for yourself.

| Where to eat? |

The Lost & Found - Birmingham
Located just a short walk from Birmingham New Street Station, this quirky restaurant and bar offers a step inside a magical world of food and drink. The cocktails are incredible, along with its delicious food. It's a nice spot for dinner and drinks before the theatre.

Rodizio Rico - Birmingham
Situated within The Mailbox, a short walk away from The Hippodrome, this Brazilian restaurant serves all-you-can-eat meat with a twist; the meat is brought to your table and you can eat and eat until you've had your fill. It's delicious but isn't really suited for vegetarians!

Happiness | A Gentle Reminder

I am a worrier. It’s just what I do. I can’t help but overthink every little detail in life which usually ends up in me feeling very overwhelmed and overcome. Recently though, I’ve been channelling my inner peace and zen through writing.

REVIEW | The Nightingale | Kristin Hannah

What's it about?

You will most definitely need a box of tissues close by when you read this heart breaking tale of two sister's set in the depths of France, World War II. The story is told of two very different sisters - Vianne is content living in the French countryside with her husband and young daughter and Isabelle is fearless, thriving on adventure, living in the heart of France in Paris.

As the War unfolds, both are tested, faced with challenging decisions and frightening situations. They act in ways in which they never thought possible, acting with bravery, love, resistance and the need and want to survive. The resounding question the narrative asks 'When would I, as a wife and mother, risk my life…and most important, my child’s life…to save a stranger?’ slices right to my core after reading this heart wrenching tale.

My opinion:

I loved that the tale told the story of the women of World War II; the heroins left behind by their men that went to fight on the front line. Although there were aspects of a love story within the novel, this was not the focus. The focus was on the strength, courage and bravery of these two women that put their lives at risk to save others. The way in which their story was told was gripping and exciting but also heart breaking and emotional, a real turbulence of emotions.

The tale has left a lasting impression on me as I have a younger sister myself and I questioned how we would both take effect if such tragedy ever struck. Despite the characters differences, much like myself and my sister, Hannah portrays their unconditional love for one another perfectly. It evoked powerful emotions for me from start to end. By the end of the book I was sobbing my eyes out, it was such a vivid story and at points I felt as though I were there along side the characters, smelling the baked breads and smokey ash filled air.

Praise for The Nightingale

"Beautifully written... packed with action and emotion."
- Sara Green, bestselling author of Water for Elephants

“I loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. She has captured a particular slice of French life during World War II with wonderful details and drama. But what I loved most was the relationship between two sisters and Hannah’s exploration of what we do in moments of great challenge.” 
Lisa See, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
I would love to know your thoughts on this book when you read it/if you have already so please do let me know. If you have enjoyed reading it and would like to read something similar then I recommend Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See which I have also written a review about here.

REVIEW | The Pirates of Penzance | Warwick Arts Centre

If you have never been to see an opera before and you would like to ease your way in with something a little more whimsical - a performance that offers the typical love story, fabulously written music but all inclusive of comicality then The Pirates of Penzance is the one for you. I went to see this production recently by Opera Warwick at the Warwick Arts Centre and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

The tale of a love story involves 21-year-old Frederick, a young apprentice to be released of his obligations by tender-hearted pirates on his 21st year, only to realise that he was born on the 29th February of a leap year and is in fact technically only 5 and a bit years old. He battles with his love for the Major Generals daughter and 63 years of duty left to serve with the Pirates of Penzance.

Music written by Gilbert and Sulivan - the orchestra played superbly and the cast was strong too. In the lead comic role of Major-General Stanley, Charlie Cooper perfected the 'Patter-Song' and his timing was spot on. A truly talented young woman, Eleanor Sterland played the part of Mabel and dazzled the audience with her bel canto melodies.

The opera was made by the intimate studio stage setting. The production was up close and personal amongst a small audience which meant that the production was very engaging and added to it's comicality. The orchestra (pictured above) were in plain sight on their very own stage, higher up at the back of the performance which I found delightful as it is not often you are able to watch both actors and musicians perform.

An entirely captivating evening from start to end, I could not recommend seeing this opera enough when you get the chance. Written with brilliant humour and clear-cut wit, it makes for the perfect night out. The rendition of The Pirates of Penzance by Opera Warwick was only on for a couple of days throughout June 2017 so be sure to keep your eye out for a performance of this opera near you.

I look forward to watching more of Opera Warwick's performances. They have a varied range of actors and strong operatic and expressive singers. If you would like to read more on Opera Warwick, ran by a University of Warwick society, and what's on next take a look here.

| Where to eat? |

I chose to eat pretty much on campus, just minutes away from Warwick Arts Centre at the Varsity pub. It's got a nice chilled out student atmosphere but attracts the business park clientele as food might be cheap but the drinks are not!

I would also recommend Hickory's Smokehouse in Burton Green. Around a 5-10 minute drive away. This place will certainly fill you up before/after visiting the Art Centre. It's like stepping into America's Deep South with mouth watering ribs, steaks, briskets and much more!

Lastly, The Bear Inn Berkswell, a Chef and Brewer chain pub around a 10-15 minute drive away. It's a classic country pub and the food is always great and a firm favourite of my families.

Time for Tea

I absolutely love tea. I’ve explored lots of hot drinks over the past year or so and have found different teas to suit how I’m feeling. Whether I’m feeling happy, sad, stressed or a little run down, there is always a perfect tea to match how I’m feeling and make me feel content again. As it’s such an important part of my life, I thought I’d share my tea feels with you to help you in your time of need too.

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