A Men's Lifestyle and Family Blog | North East England

Monday, 20 November 2017

10 Burgers to try in the North East

I have long been a lover of burgers and I'm a bit of a dab hand at making some great homemade burgers (just ask Mrs. Cool) but I love having someone else make me a burger. The North-East has no shortage of burger joints so I've decided to share with you 10 burgers to try from around the region.

10. West Coast Classic
MEAT: STACK @ No.28, Newcastle
Credit - The Twin Thing
This one features last on the list as it's a place I've not personally tried yet. It is next on my list though as quite literally EVERYONE I've spoken to who has been have said it is amazing. This is the West Coast Classic, the melted cheese, the onions, OMG!

9. Avocado Club Burger
Smashburger, Newcastle

Toppings really make a good burger great. As a big fan of avocado it was inevitable there would be a burger with avocado on this list. The Avocado Club is the most salad heavy burger on the list but it ain't a healthy option, the ranch dressing and bacon are also great. On a side note Smashburger also have some of the best fries I've ever had.

8. Trio of Burgers
South Causey Inn, County Durham

What's better than a burger? Three burgers. These sliders are made with different meats. One is Game, one is Lamb and the third is Beef. Each has different toppings and aren't too overwhelming as each one is only a couple of bites.

7. Turnbulls of Alnwick Burger
Hawthorns at the Crown Plaza, Newcastle

This is the most expensive burger at £16 but totally worth it. You can tell the meat is the highest quality as the patty is from Turnbulls of Alnwick. The Gruyere cheese is sooo good and has a great melt and really goes brilliantly with the Maple Smoked Bacon.

6. Cheesemas No.1
Byron, Newcastle

This one was a special that Byron had last Christmas and I really hope they bring them back this year. Smoked Bacon, Mature Cheddar and an onion ring, a proper filling burger. A double patty with this one so you may not be able to move afterwards.

5. Sloppy Joe
Fat Hippo, Jesmond

This one is on the secret menu and you need to be in the know. Join The Herd and get the herd card and when you go just ask for the secret menu. The Sloppy Joe is two patties topped with chilli and jalapenos and sour cream, so unctuous, so messy, so good.

4. Capital B
BURGER. Newcastle

The newest place in Newcastle and it is already getting a good reputation. This is the signature burger the Capital B. A Beef patty topped with Slow Cooked Brisket, French Brie and pickled red onion. These burgers are seriously juicy and you need a good pile of napkins handy when having this one.

3. Cheesier than the 80's
The Dirty Bottles, Alnwick

This was the most recent burger I've had and I really love this place. A meat lovers paradise and the burgers are incredible. Two Beef patties, Black Pudding, Bacon Blue cheese, mushrooms and lashings of blue cheese sauce the topping just keep coming. Try this one and you will definitely start getting the meat sweats.

2. Chilli Burger
Evans Bistro, Whitley Bay

Another secret burger that makes an appearance on the specials board from time to time. A Beef patty with chilli and the cheese is somehow melted right into the chilli (I'm drooling just writing this) it's topped with onion rings. A mammoth task trying to finish this and you will probably make a mess if you try and eat it with your hands (but that's what you want in a burger).

1. PB&J
Fat Hippo Underground, Newcastle
Credit - Fat Hippo
Ah, my true love. My go to burger whenever I get the chance, The PB&J. The rest of the list have come very close but this is still my favourite. Double patty topped with peanut butter and Bacon Jam. I might have to nip to toon to get one right now.

Have you already tried any of the burgers on the list? Do you have any favourites I haven't mentioned?

Well, that's all for now.

S


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Friday, 17 November 2017

Paddington 2: A Review


In these times of strife you sometimes need a little bit of old fashioned, non-threatening family fun and what better than a polite little bear in a duffel coat and a dusty red hat. Paddington 2 is a great film for the whole family.

The film starts with a flashback to Paddington as a cub being found by his Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo when he is adrift on a log about to go over a waterfall. We then see Paddington (Voiced by Ben Wishaw) in London with the Brown family looking for a present for his Aunt Lucy's birthday. He finds an old pop up book of London and decides it's perfect as Aunt Lucy always wanted to see London. The problem is that book is very rare and quite expensive.

Paddington embarks on some jobs to try and make enough money to buy the book. This involves some funny scenes as Paddington tries being a barber and a window cleaner. I could hear my kids giggling away at these scenes and I found the quite funny myself.

Next we meet the villain of the film, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) a once prominent actor whose star is fading and has had to resort to making dog food commercials. Hugh Grant is brilliant and really hams it up and plays Phoenix as a proper luvvy (and slightly unhinged, especially in the scene where he is talking to himself). Paddington tells Phoenix about the book but Phoenix knows more valuable than anyone else suspects (due to a side plot about his grandfather and a travelling fair) he plots to steal the book for himself. Paddington witnesses Phoenix (in disguise) stealing the book and gives chase. After a case of mistaken identity Paddington is accuses of the theft and sentenced to jail.

Paddington being the friendly bear he is he decides to try an make friends with his fellow inmates. He meets Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), The mean, Gruff looking chef at the prison. All the inmates are scared of knuckles but Paddington being the nice bear he is manages to make friends with Knuckles by sharing his Marmalade sandwiches. Paddington, Knuckles and few other inmates plan to escape so Paddington can clear his name. On the outside The Brown family are looking for the real thief and Phoenix Buchanan is using the pop up book like a treasure map to find a hidden fortune. Will Paddington clear his name, will Phoenix get away with it, will Aunt Lucy ever get a birthday present? You will have to see the film to find out.

This is a rip roaring yarn with lots of fun, a lot of laughs and some sad moments too, Mrs Cool shed a tear at one particularly sad scene but ultimately it is a really heart warming film. I haven't seen the first film but I'm familiar with Paddington and know the story. I don't think I missed any thing by not having seen the first one and I think everyone who sees this will enjoy the delightful joy and pure fun that the Spectacled bear from darkest Peru brings to the big screen.

If you're looking for a different family film you can also read my review of Thor: Ragnarok here.

Well, that's all for now.

S



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Monday, 13 November 2017

My Grooming Regime

A little while a go I posted my tips on how I dress to impress and I'm going to follow that up My Grooming Regime. I start by by washing my face simply with a bar of soap and basin of warm water. I'm currently using a bar of Honey I Washed the Kids from Lush it doesn't smell 'soapy' and it moisturises my face so I can keep my youthful good looks. Sam doesn't believe me when I say that other people can't believe I turn 37 next year but it's true!
On to my facial hair. To keep my beard in check I use a Men's Trimmer. Most of the time I let my beard grow and I go through phases of having my beard either long or short. At the minute I'm keeping it quite short and give it a trim every couple of weeks but on special occasions I need to do a bit of styling and a good trimmer will will let you do that too. After trimming I will give it a quick brush with a beard brush. Once I'm happy with how my beard is looking I finish with a little beard oil. I like to use one with a woody or spiced fragrance.

I haven't always had a beard and only started growing one in my 30's. I do very much prefer it though and think a beard gives a more distinguished look. I'm sure you'd agree......
Being a Ginger my hair is the bane of my life and as it is quite thick as well it is constantly not doing what I want it to do. Through my teens and early twenties I used a LOT of gel to keep it in place but as I've gotten older the wet look just won't do any more. I tried wax for a bit but don't like that either. I've decided that I've reached the point in my life where all I need is a good brush and zero product.

Mrs Cool recently got me this little set from Bluebeard's Revenge, the brush really helps tame my unmanageable barnet and the beard brush is a revelation. The beard oil is cuban spiced and I love it.
Do you have any preferences when it comes to grooming?

Well, that's all for now.

S


*this is a collaborative post
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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok: A Review


Many moons ago, before The Avengers first assembled, Kenneth Brannagh made a Viking Opus which brought the God of Thunder to the big screen. Thor was a great comic book movie and got the mix of action and comedy spot on. The sequel The Dark World wasn't quite the success the original was but was a decent movie. Thor: Ragnarok ends the trilogy on a high and for me it's the best Thor movie. Mrs. Cool, who is not a big Marvel fan, enjoyed this one too but said you really need to have watched the previous Thor films to get the full benefit from this one.

The film starts with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) imprisoned by a fire demon called Surtur whose destiny is to cause Ragnarok, the destruction of Asgard. You soon find out that this film really plays it for laughs and while Thor takes the piss out of his captor he manages to effect his escape. Thor heads home to find not everything is as it seems as he finds Odin (Anthony Hopkins) taking it easy watching a theatre performance depicting the end of the last Thor movie as a Shakespearean play (watch out for a few cameos as the actors in the play).

Odin has really been left on Earth by Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) trickery and with the help of Doctor Strange Thor tracks his father down only to be told that his time is almost up and Odin's death will allow the return of the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett). Hela shows she means business straight away buy destroying Mjolnir and sending Thor and Loki tumbling out of the bifrost as they are trying to get back to Asgard.

The pair end up on a trash pile of a planet called Sakaar where Thor is captured (again). This time by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who plans to offer Thor up as a contender to a Gladiatorial style combat arena to the leader of the planet, The Grandmaster. Loki has been on Sakaar for longer than Thor due to timey-wimey reasons and has wormed his way into The Grandmasters good books. Now The Grandmaster is played by Jeff Goldblum but I get the feeling he isn't playing a character, The Grandmaster essentially IS Jeff Goldblum and was my favourite part of the film. Thor impresses Jeff who will pit him against the planets champion in one on one combat.

The champion turns out to be The Hulk, if you have seen the trailer you know how their first encounter turns out. Hulk has been on Sakaar since the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron and has been Hulk the whole time. Theres is no explanation for this as most of the early scenes with Hulk he seems to quite calm. The interaction between Thor and Hulk is what makes this film so great and turns it into an unexpected Buddy Movie. Thor, Hulk and Valkyrie manage to escape from Sakaar and leave Loki behind after he tried to betray Thor again. They head back to Asgard to take on Hela and her forces.

The supporting cast is also great with Jeff Goldblum being the highlight, Karl Urban pops ups as Skurge an Asgardian who helps Hela, the films director Taika Waititi provides the voice of Korg, one of Thor's fellow Gladiators who is made of stone and provides some more comic relief.

The film is bathed in 80's-esque neon glow and moves along to an electro-synth score the breaks with recent tradition. Movie soundtracks have been incredible of the past few years with amazing collections of iconic songs slotted into every scene to help tell the story. Thor: Ragnarok, however,  goes the opposite direction and relies almost exclusively on the Led Zeppelin Epic Norse Anthem The Immigrant Song and it fits perfectly as a Viking Battle Cry.

Marvel have been hitting them out of the park and Thor: Ragnarok continues with this being the best MCU movie I've seen since Civil War (maybe even better after a few more watches). It is also the Hulk movie we've all been waiting for. It might be Thor's name on the poster but it's Hulk who steals the show in every scene he's in. This film along with the next two Avengers movies have been mooted as a backdoor Hulk trilogy and I can wait to see what Marvel have planned for everyones favourite Green Goliath.

Well, that's all for now.

S



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Monday, 23 October 2017

BURGER. The newest burger joint in Toon


Burgers are very much in at the minute and may the world rejoice (well, I do anyway, hurrah!). Newcastle has it's fair share of burger joints and the latest is BURGER. At The Gate in Newcastle City Centre. I had been at work until 17.30 so I met Mrs Cool and the kids in toon for us to give it a try.

We were shown to our seats and had a look at the menus. Our waitress took our order and brought our drinks out. The Kids had Chocolate Milkshake which came in a little metal cup, all the kids loved their drinks and almost finished them before our food had even arrived. Me and Mrs Cool ordered a Coca-Cola (standard when you have a burger). I need to make a special mention of the tumblers we were given for our Cokes. They were pretty cool and I want them for home (They'd be great for Whisky).

There are all kinds of Burgers available (you can view the menu here). I was torn between the Katsu, the Blues and the Capital B. In the end I went for the Capital B, Scottish Beef with Slow Cooked Brisket, French Brie, Pickled Red Onion, Beef Tomato and BURGER. Sauce, I also got a side of Sweet Potato Fries. The Scottish Beef Pattie was lush, really juicy and the brisket was amazing. My only criticism would be that it needed more Brie.


Mrs Cool wen for the Bacon Cheese, which is Scottish Beef with Red Leicester and Crispy Maple Bacon. She also got a side of Onions Rings and she said it was the best Bacon and Cheese Burger she has ever had and was really pleased that when she asked for no pickle on hers the staff said it was no problem. If you're looking for a 'regular' burger then this is a really good one as it was easy to eat unlike some of the large 'stack' burgers you can get which ca be a bit messy.


The kids menu is limited as the only choices are either plain Burger or Cheese Burger so if your kids don't like burger then probably best to go somewhere else. Harry freakin loves a burger so he was happy. Heidi and Jack can sometimes be a bit fussy but even they loved the burgers they got.


After our meal we had a chat to the manager who was telling us that they only use the highest quality Scottish beef in their patties and you can really tell as these burgers are insane (in a good way). I also enjoyed the ambiance as the music playing (from the DJ) was great, it's quite lively and I think it fits in well at The Gate.

Well, that's all for now.

S


*This is a collaborative post
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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049: A Review


I'm going to start with a confession, I've only seen the original Blade Runner maybe two or three times. I like it and can appreciate the impact it has had on Sci-Fi and the influence it has had on cinema in general. That being said it's not one of my favourite films. The sequel is definitely a film for the fanboys.

The film starts with a quick summery of what has happened in the interim since the first film. The Protagonist K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner who is tracking down a replicant (Bio-engineered Humans used for labour) who has gone on the run (Played by the hulking behemoth that is Dave Bautista). Straight away we find out that K is also a replicant and once he has found and retired (killed) the replicant he is looking for he find something buried by a tree that gets the film going. A replicant has died in childbirth.

K heads back to check in with his superior (Robin Wright) and is tasked to track down the child and retire it as the consequences of replicants reproducing would cause anarchy. We then see K go home where his only company is his In House AI, a hologram, called Joi (Ana de Armas). I liked the relationship between K and Joi but I did feel that I had seen this concept before in 2013's Her. I did however like how it explored how in house AI such as Alexa and Siri might evolve in the future.

The film explores themes such as what it is to be human, whether it is the fact we are born that makes us human or if it is our experiences and memories. K wrestles with memories he has as he is not sure if these are true memories or if they have been implanted to help him make better decisions in the line one work he has been designed for.

As K investigates he meets Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) another replicant who is the PA for Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) whose company now makes the replicants. Luv I found to be quite a boring one dimensional character as she didn't really do anything other than kill people in her way. Wallace was a bit more interesting as a blind, mad scientist who can see the benefit of replicant that can reproduce.

As both K and Luv try to find the replicant child they track down Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who has been living in hiding in a run down hotel and eventually Deckard is taken by Luv to Wallace who makes him an offer to help find the replicant child.

Some of the performances in Blade Runner 2049 are really great, Ryan Gosling plays K with the brilliant angst of his torturous existence. Ana de Armas also puts is a good performance as naively innocent Joi. There are a few performances that don't hit the mark, mainly Harrison Ford. It feels like, as with his return to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, there just wasn't the same effort put onto the part as there was first time around.

The tone and pace are very much in keeping with the original. The aesthetics are spot on and I think this film is one of the most visually stunning films I've seen in a long time. The sound editing is also brilliant and you really feel immersed in the world you're presented with. If you loved the original you will love this one. If, like me, you thought the original was good but weren't blown away by it then you will probably find this one OK.

For me film does have some problems, personally I felt it was too slow and a lot of the scenes could have been cut down. My immediate thought when I finished watching was that I could easily have had around an hour cut from the runtime. Also some of the 'twists' I could see coming a mile away and eventually I thought the film was just going the the motions of hitting the plot points.

Well, that's all for now.

S




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Monday, 16 October 2017

Dinner and Breakfast at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill Newcastle

Once in a blue moon me and Mrs Cool get a child-free night and we like to have a good night out. This happened recently when we went to see Katherine Ryan (Hilarious by the way) at The Tyne Theatre and Opera House, we also spent the evening at Hotel Indigo. The focal point of the hotel is The Marco Pierre White restaurant on the ground floor.  The Steakhouse, Bar & Grill is the Marco Pierre White's only restaurant in the North-East, there are a few menus to choose from (you can find them here).

Dinner:

As we were staying at the hotel there is an inclusive dinner menu we chose to dine from. It changes regularly and this is the one we had.

This being an evening out we obviously had to start with wine. We both love a merlot and this is the one we went for. It was very smooth and had a slight chocolatey taste, lush.


Mrs Cool loves a bowl of soup so she immediately went for the Cream of Carrot Soup. She said it was deliciously sweet and served with with some nice bread to dip in. A perfect warming dish for a cold Autumn evening.

I went for the Ham Hock Terrine, what really made this dish stand out was the pickled vegetables. I loved the sharpness of the pickles. The terrine itself was lush, I often choose a terrine as it's one of my favourite starters and this one was particularly good.

For her main Mrs Cool went for Slow Cooked Pork Belly. Sam loves a bit of pork especially when it has some crispy skin. She said this skin was very crispy and the meat was great as it was falling apart.

I had the Chicken Ballotine, The chicken was nice and moist and the pearl barley it sat on was delish and went well with the wild mushrooms. The crispy bacon and the pea shoots finished the dish off nicely.

For dessert we both opted for the Chocolate Tarte. Which was very luxurious and not too heavy which was good as we were starting to get a bit full by this point.

Breakfast:

The next morning we were up and ready nice and early for breakfast. I don't get hangovers, Mrs Cool however, was not as lucky. They had my favourite breakfast which is Eggs Benedict so I had to choose that. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the hollandaise was delicious.

If you would like to find out more about what else we got up to during our stay check out Mrs Cool's post here.

Well, that's all for now,

S

You can follow Big Stevie Cool on Instagram here.

*Disclosure: Sam and I we invited to stay at Hotel Indigo and dine at MPW on a  complimentary basis
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Thursday, 12 October 2017

I never expected theme park food to be this good


You may have seen, if you follow me on Social Media, that a few weeks ago my family and I had the trip of a lifetime to Florida, USA. We had a pretty packed schedule visiting SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove during our trip. All of which were incredible and the whole family have some great memories from all of the parks but for me, the unexpected highlight was how good the food was.

Theme park food has a bit of a reputation of being a bit... bland. Well that certainly isn't the case at the Parks we visited so I have decided to share with you my top 5 foodie treats from Florida.

5. Sultans Sweets (Busch Gardens)

If you have a sweet tooth you must pay a visit to Sultans Sweets. They have all manner of cakes, pastries, biscuits and tray bakes. The decorated cookies are amazing and the rice crispie cakes looked pretty incredible too. There is also a selection of ice creams to choose from which are great for cooling down in midday heat.



4. Dragonfire Grill and Pub (Busch Gardens)

If you're in a large group and can't all decide on what type of food to have then head over to Dragonfire Grill and Pub. They have five different food styles to choose from. You can have sandwiches and salads from The Market, something with an oriental spice from The Asian Wok. Chicken, Burgers and Ribs from The Grill, Loaded Nachos, Chips and Salsa or Cinnamon Churros from Southwest or you can get Pasta or Italian Flatbreads with various toppings from The Italian. We went to the Asian Wok, I had The Thai Pepper Steak and Sam had the Orange Chicken Tempura we both had Asian Noodles as our side and both were delicious. The Thai Pepper Steak wasn't too spicy but still had a nice little heat. The Orange Chicken Tempura was very succulent with a tangy sauce and tasted very authentic.



3. Pretzels (Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens)

I've grouped a few places together for Pretzels as they were available in a few parks and all were great. The Salted Pretzels at Discovery Cove are available at the food and drinks kiosks dotted around the park and you can help yourself to as many as you like at your leisure as food and drinks are included in the cost of entry (I also recommend the Slushes available at the kiosks as well, White Cherry Fanta was my favourite). I need to make a special mention for the Pretzels at Busch Gardens as there were so many to choose from. Of course there were regular Salted Pretzels but also Bacon Pretzels and even Cheeseburger Pretzels. We went for the Bacon Pretzel because, well, it's bacon!



2. Dine with Shamu (SeaWorld)

If you want a meal with a bit of a show then Dine with Shamu is perfect. The Buffet is all top quality with Roast Beef, Roast Pork, Chicken, Fish, Pasta, Salads as well as some amazing cakes. I've never really liked Carrot Cake but the one I tried here has converted me, it was delicious. The kids were able to pick what they wanted from the buffet and Jack went a bit OTT with Chicken Nuggets and had about 20 on his plate, he still finished them all and even had room for a brownie too. Although the food was amazing what made this extra special was that you're sat poolside and halfway through your meal you're joined by a Pod of Orcas who give a great display and their trainers are on hand to answer any questions and have a lot of interesting facts about the Orcas.



1. Sharks Underwater Grill (SeaWorld)

The reason why Sharks Underwater Grill is my Number 1 is it is a dining experience like nothing I've ever experienced before. Your table is next to a large window that looks into an aquarium full of all kinds of marine animals. We were joined by a large grouper who stayed by the window for our whole meal (probably eyeing up our food) but there were all kinds of sharks and other fish going about their business while you eat your meal. While the setting is great, the food really is the star of the show. Easily surpassing the quality you can get in a 5* restaurant. The menu has everything you could want from a seafood restaurant, Sam had the Mussels to start and then the Tempura Shrimp. I had the Godzilla Roll (which is a giant Sushi roll) to start and then had the Swordfish Steak from the Specials menu. My Swordfish was the best thing I have eaten for a long time. Jack loves fish, it's his favourite food, and he was full of praise too saying that his battered fish was the best he had ever had.



Well, that's all for now.

S


This is a collaborative post. 
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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Porterhouse Butcher and Grill at Fenwick Foodhall

A few months ago I was a little bit sad as I found out that Ko Sai at Fenwick Food Hall was closing down. I loved the little Thai street food place and had been many times, but I need not have worried as it has been replaced by something rather special.
Credit: Porterhouse Butcher and Grill
Porterhouse Butcher and Grill is an amazing little gem in the centre of Newcastle. It's part of Fenwick Foodhall so there is a proper butcher shop where you can get all the quality meat you want (I'll come back the meat in a bit). There is also a Bar and a seated restaurant, The restaurant serves meat straight from the butchers counter and as their website says Porterhouse has a philosophy of "We cook what we sell, we sell what we cook". I love this kind of of ethos from a restaurant and you really get the impression that everyone there is really passionate about the quality of their produce.

Anyway, back to the meat. The butchers counter is fully stocked with all the cuts you could possibly want. We didn't buy anything from the counter this time (we were just there for lunch), but I will definitely be going back next time I'm in town. The menu focuses on a few Steak dishes but also has a wide selection of other mains, small plates and a raw/cured selection. The menu changes on a regular basis so keep checking their website for the latest update.

All of the steak dishes come with a side of fries and and a selection of mustard and bearnaise sauce. The chips were incredible and had a real meaty flavour, I assume there were cooked in beef dripping (it makes all the difference).

All the steaks are cooked medium but you can ask for it to be cooked to your liking (please don't ask for well done, I would be disappointed in you if you did). Mrs Cool loves a bit of meat and she went for the Sirloin Steak.

I love an egg when I have a steak so when I saw the Minute Steak with two Fried Hens Eggs on the menu I knew I had to have it. The Steak was perfection and the eggs had runny yolks (always a must) and mine came served with HP sauce.

I you're a meat lover you have to try this place. The food is amazing and the price isn't too bad either. We had two steak mains with chips and two bottles of Coca-Cola and it came to £46 including tip.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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