Food & Adventures

Thursday 29 November 2018

St Mary's Inn Stannington | Saturday Lunch Menu Review (with kids)

*This is a collaborative post

I've visited St Mary's Inn a fair few times in the past and even stayed over for two nights during New Girl in Toon and Simon's wedding celebrations (Mrs Cool doesn't want to mention the fact that I took advantage of staying over and sampled one too many of the pub's fine ales during the pre-wedding dinner so we'll brush past that point). Anyway, I've always been a fan of the place and was disappointed to hear that it had closed for a year while the surrounding building work was able to gather pace. That didn't last long though and St Mary's Inn is now very much open and back in business again. We were invited over to sample their family lunch options last weekend.

St Mary's Inn Stannington | Saturday Lunch Menu Review (with kids)

Thursday 22 November 2018

Fourteen Drops and Macbeth

This week me and Mrs. Cool had a night out in Newcastle to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We have already had a celebration with the kids at Matfen Hall but this was a night out for just the two of us. If you haven't been to STACK on Pilgrim Street in Newcastle then you really need to get down there. There are loads of food vendors serving some amazing food. We've already tried Sushi me Rollin' for probably the best sushi in the North East. This time around we headed to Fourteen Drops which is a Charcuterie and Wine Bar.

Monday 12 November 2018

Post Box | Ponteland | Lunch Review

*This is a collaborative post

Me and Mrs. Cool were in Ponteland this week to have lunch at the Postbox in Ponteland, we were also planning on a trip to Belsay Hall only to find out that it is now closed during the week during the winter months (annoying!). However we still made it to The Postbox, this is a great little cafe with a lot of character, the interior is very homely with paintings of Newcastle landmarks like the Tyne Bridge and St. James Park.


Monday 5 November 2018

Dining Options at Matfen Hall

*This is a collaborative Post

This November Mrs. Cool and I celebrate our 12th Wedding Anniversary, we decided to mark the occasion with a stay at Matfen Hall in Northumberland. We spent all day and night at the Hotel and Spa so were able to try the menu at all of the Dining Experiences available at Matfen Hall.


Thursday 25 October 2018

Exploring the North Tyneside Coast with Tyne and Wear Metro

*This is a collaborative post

Growing up in Wallsend in North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear metro played a big part in my life. Whether it was going to spend my pocket money in Eldon Square or Monument Mall as a teenager or travelling to Whitley Bay or Newcastle for nights out with my mates in my late teens and early twenties, the Metro was such a convenient mode of transport. Where I live now (in Northumberland) doesn't have a Metro line but does have some great bus links to Metro stations. I was recently asked by Tyne and Wear Metro to visit some of the bars and restaurants in various locations in and around Metro stations and to try out their Pay as You go Pop Card.

Monday 22 October 2018

Monday Munchies: Pigs in Blankets Mac and Cheese

It is never too early to start thinking about Christmas snacks. I've already had a few mince pies and I'm getting ideas for what to have leading up to the big day. This week I rustled up this little festive corker, this will serve four and maybe my new favourite Yuletide treat.

Pigs in Blankets Mac and Cheese Recipe by Big Stevie Cool

Thursday 18 October 2018

5 Horror Films to watch with teens this Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner and it's time to decide which scary movie to watch when all the Trick or Treating is finished. I've decided to compile a list of horror films I enjoy that I think would be ok to watch with your teenage kids. I have a love/hate relationship with the horror genre, I really love a good horror film but most of the time I'm disappointed as most horror films (especially more recent ones) are pretty boring and predictable. These choices are films I'm ok with letting my 12 year old son to watch, the list may be controversial as contains a few 15 rated films and one which is rated 18 but I look at the BBFC rating as more of a suggestion than an actual age limit.

Monday 15 October 2018

Date Day in Craster | Northumberland

It was time for one of mine and Mrs. Cool's regular date days and after mix up with our National Trust cards scuppered our planned visit to Cragside we decided to visit Craster instead. Craster in Northumberland is one of my favourite places on Earth. Dunstanburgh Castle is my favourite Castle in Northumberland (probably my favourite anywhere) and I love the walk along the coast from Craster to Dunstanburgh. We didn't have our walking boots on so we didn't do the mile and bit walk this time so instead we decided to have lunch at the Jolly Fisherman.

Monday 8 October 2018

La Yuan | Newcastle | Sichuan with Style

I love Chinese food but I'm usually disappointed when we get a Chinese at home. There is never anything exciting, Chicken Curry, Duck in Pancakes, Sweet and Sour Chicken... BORING! Well this little gem of a place is a million miles away from a Chinese take away. La Yuan on Gallowgate in Newcastle is something very special. Bringing dishes from the Sichuan Province of China, La Yuan has some of the best food I have had in Newcastle. The restaurant itself is really slick with a contemporary interior and it has a great location in Newcastle City Centre within a few minutes walk of some really good bars.

Monday 1 October 2018

The Best Burgers in Newcastle are Underground

I've spoken many times about my love of Burgers and I said here how I rate Fat Hippo Underground to be my favourite restaurant in Newcastle. Well it's been a while since I visited but last week we were going to the theatre so me and Mrs. Cool decided to take the kids and I can confirm Fat Hippo Underground still has the best Burgers I've ever had.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Puy Du Fou | A Theme Park Like No Other

We recently had our summer holiday in France, I've already written about the amazing food we had (you can read about that here and here). The main part of our holiday was at Puy du Fou, this is a theme park like none I've been to and was recently awarded Tripadvisor's best theme park in Europe and I have to say it is well deserved. While there are no roller coasters or log flume, what Puy du Fou does have is some incredible shows recreating the the history of France (and more broadly Europe). The whole park recreates history right down the food on offer at the restaurant to the hotels you stay at. Here are some of my highlights from Puy du Fou.

Monday 24 September 2018

Coastline | Blyth | Breakfast Menu

When I think of Blyth beach I think of the beach huts and some of the best fish n chips in the North East. But it turns out out that Coastline, the chippy at South Beach also serves breakfast. Mrs. Cool had been told the breakfast were pretty good and at a reasonable price so we decided to check it out.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp Review

After the emotional trauma I suffered when watching Avengers: Infinity War I was ready for something a bit lighter from the MCU. When the first Ant-Man was release it immediately became one of my favourite MCU movies and I was hoping the sequel would continue with the humour from the first film. Paul Rudd returns as Scott Lang/Ant-Man along with Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne/Wasp, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Michael Peña as Luis. This time they are joined by Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster, Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch, Randall Park as Jimmy Woo and Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne.

Monday 13 August 2018

Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey Part Deux

Bienvenue, Mes Amis. After our time at Camping Les Ecureuils came to an end we drove a few miles up the road to Puy Du Fou in Les Espesses. Puy Du Fou is a medieval theme park which according to trip advisor is the best theme park in Europe and 3rd best in the World. Puy Du Fou is like nothing I've been to before, our hotel was literally a castle.

The Medieval theme continued in our first meal which was a medieval banquet at the hotel restaurant with various meats, vegetables, cheese and pastries on a buffet but we were so tired and hungry when we arrived that we forgot to take any photos.

The next day our main meal was a bit of a spectacular experience at one of the park restaurants called Le Café De La Madelon. The restaurant is like a 1914 Café, where the wedding meal of La Madelon is taking place. The food itself is amazing and you get entertainment in the form of an immersive cabaret involving actors and even the waiters as the food is brought out as part of the show.

For starter we had Salmon Medallions with garnish of salad and boiled eggs. The main was Chicken Parcels with Rosti Potatoes and Tomato Provençal. The dessert was the wedding centre piece of Gourmet Choux Pastries. The food was all really good but the spectacle of the show really made this an dining experience like none I've had before.

Our next meal was at another of the hotels called Les Deux Couronnes where we could feast on King Francis I's favourite meats cooked on the fire in the Camp Du Drap D'Or. This was like the best Barbecue I've ever been to. Beef Skirt cooked rare with mushrooms, marinated pork ribs, pork and mushroom sausage, barbecued chicken thighs along with grilled vegetables were the mains we went for. Desserts were Chocolate Torte, Lemon Meringue Pie and Macarons along with a cheeseboard of Brie, Mizotte and Camté. Honestly this beef was the best I've ever had, so full of flavour from the fire pit. Amazingly tender and so juicy.

The following day we were back in the Park and our lunch was La Mijoterie du Roy Henry a renaissance style dining hall. You get a wooden board with grooves cut into it to hold your starter, main and dessert dishes, you take your wooden board u to the serving area and choose you meal. The mains are served in cast iron pots which I thought was really cool.

I went for the Octopus Carpaccio with Potatoes, Marinated Peppers and herbs to start. Raw octopus may not be to everyones liking but this was really good I just wish there had of been more octopus but it was only a starter.

For my main I had Sausage with Mashed Potato, Bacon, Tomato and Haricot Beans. I was in two minds about what to have for main as there were a few I liked the sound of but when I found out the Sausage was Blood Sausage I went for that. It was like a french version of a full english breakfast, the sausage was like really good black pudding.

My dessert was Lemon Cream, Cumble and Vanilla Mousse. Some lemon desserts can be a bit too subtle but that was not the case here the lemon cream was really punchy with citron.

Our final meal at Puy Du Fou was at Le Bistrot a Belle Epoque Brasserie in the Village of Bourg 1900 at Puy Du Fou. The bustling bistrot was like stepping into a french film and felt quintessentially French. For starter I had a Salad of Frisée Lettuce, Bacon Lardons and Croutons, then for main I had Confit Duck Leg, Shallot Sauce, Potatoes and Garden Peas. Like the Duck I had in Vendée this was falling apart and tender but the Shallot Sauce gave it and extra dimension and really took this to another level. For dessert I had Three-layered Chocolate Crunch Torte with Red Berry Coulis and I think this was my favourite dessert of out whole trip, so over the top indulgent.

We never had a bad meal in France and considering we went to a camp site and a theme park this is pretty impressive if you think about the kind of food you would get at these types of places in the UK. Our short stay has won me over to French cuisine and I can't wait to head back to France for another culinary adventure.

Au revoir.


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Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey Part Two


Thursday 9 August 2018

Incredibles 2 Review

If I ranked all of the Pixar movies I would probably have The Incredibles on the mid to lower end of the scale. Admittedly I have only seen it a couple of times and the last time was about 10 years ago, also my kids haven't been as obsessed with it as they are with other Pixar movies but when the trailers for Incredibles 2 started doing the rounds they were pestering me to take them. In anticipation we decided to watch the original again and it's actually a lot better than I remember so I decided to go to the sequel with some optimism. Returning The Incredibles are Craig T Nelson and Holly Hunter as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl along with Samuel L Jackson as Fronzone. They are joined this time by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener as Winson and Evelyn Deavor

The film picks up exactly where the first film leaves off with the Incredibles chasing down The Underminer who is using his tunnelling machine to rob banks. The damage that is caused leads to renewed calls for Supers to remain illegal. The family are then contacted by a rich businessman (Winston Deavor) who says the problem supers have is bad PR as people only see the damage they cause and not the good deeds that lead to the damage. They decide that Elastigirl should do a few missions with body cam to try and turn public opinion.

With Elastigirl busy Mr. Incredible has to be a stay at home dad trying to work out son Dash's homework and daughter Violets love life as well as juggling Jack-Jack the Superpowered baby. These were some of my favourite scenes as being a father of 3 children myself,  I found them very relatable. During Elasitgirl's missions a new villain emerges called the ScreenSlaver (Pixar really nail the superhero/villain names). The ScreenSlaver hypnotises people using computer screens and eventually hypnotises some supers to ruin all the good work Elastigirl has been doing.

We all really enjoyed Incredibles 2 and it is, in my opinion, better than the original. Yes, the story is a bit predictable but the comedy is great and all of the characters are likeable. I really liked Jack-Jack and the best scene in the film is his fight with a racoon where all of his powers come to the fore. Mr. Incredible stressing about trying to be a good dad is also great.

My only criticism is that the plot is pretty generic and some of the plot twists were obvious but then again it is principally a kids film and kids are stupid. Will there be an Incredibles 3? With this film pulling in pretty impressive box-office numbers I thinks it's inevitable there will be. But, how else can The Incredible family develop? I would like to see something a bit more imaginative along the lines of UP! and Monsters Inc. Will Jack-Jack have a bigger role in the next film? I certainly hope so.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday 6 August 2018

Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey Part One

Bonjour, Mon Amie. You may or may not know but I have recently been on my hollybobs to France. For the first part of our holiday we went to Vendée which is on the west coast of France not far from Nantes. As you would expect the food was phenomenal, even though French cuisine has a reputation for high quality I wasn't expecting it to be this good.

We stayed at Camping Les Ecureuils which is a Eurocamp campsite a short walk from the beach. We were having pretty lazy days, having late mornings with brunch on the decking of our lodge. The onsite shop doubled as a bakery and we could get fresh bread and pasties so Croissants and Pain Au Chocolat was the usual choice.

Now, a campsite might not sound like the best place to get good food but there was a restaurant on site called Amy's House, we went here a couple of times and were really impressed. Mrs. Cool's favourite dish was the Pizza Chevre, this is a Pizza with Goat's Cheese, Oregano and Honey she said she had never had a pizza like this back home and the combination of Goat's Cheese and Honey was a taste sensation and everyone needs to try it.

Now I couldn't come all the way to France and not have snails. I've had them before about 15 years ago when I took Mrs. Cool to Paris for the weekend and I really liked them, Amy's House has Escargot Farcis (which is Snails with Garlic Butter) as a starter so I ordered six. Snails have a similar texture to mussels but taste a bit meatier and with the Garlic Butter are really good they can be a bit tricky as the slimey little bugger's don't want to come out of their shell.

My favourite main course here was Le Confit de Canard au Miel which is a Duck Leg with Honey. The duck was so full of flavour and because it was Confit it was falling off the bone and tender. The duck came with a kind of honey glaze which was really good too and came with skin on French Fries and these were the best french fries you will ever have.

The desserts at Amy's house were great too, my favourite dessert of all is Crème Brûlée and was happy to see this on the menu. The portion was canny big too and I could have easily shared mine with Mrs. Cool (If I wasn't being a greedy pig). Mrs. Cool is a sucker for chocolate cake and she went for the Chocolate Fondant. Both desserts were gloriously unctuous and the Chocolate Fondant was rich and perfectly oozey.

Just a short walk up the road was the resort centre where there was a waterpark, mini golf and a row of restaurants. The place we visited was a crêperie where Mrs. Cool had a classic Crêpe Au Sucre et Citron (Heidi also went for this) and it was the best Crêpe they have ever had. Mrs. Cool said there are no words to describe how good it was.

I don't have as much as a sweet tooth as Mrs. Cool so I went for a savoury Galette au Jambon de Vendée et œuf which used local ham and a fried egg and was incredible. The yolk of the egg was one of the best I've had (why are ingredients always better abroad?).

That brought this part of our French Adventure in Vendée to an end and we moved on to Puy Du Fou where the food continued to be amazing. Check soon for Part Two of Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday 16 July 2018

Stevie's Simple Soda Bread Recipe

Is there anything as nice a freshly baked bread? I don't bake bread as often as I would like as making a conventional loaf is a bit of a faff on (who has time to wait a few hours for the dough to rise?). However this is a really simple and quick bread that still has that great fresh bread smell and only takes about 40 minutes from start to finish.


250g Plain White Flour
250g Plain Wholewheat Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Salt
400ml Buttermilk


Put the Flour, Salt and Bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and mix together. make a well and add the buttermilk. You might not need all the buttermilk so start by adding half and mixing it in and keep adding more until all the ingredients have combined into a dough.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and form into a ball, transfer the ball onto a pre-heated baking tray (covered with baking parchment). Cut a deep cross across the middle of the dough and then dust with flour.

Bake for 30 minutes at 200ºC, you can check the bread is cooked through by tapping the bottom and it should sound hollow. Let the cooked bread cool on a wire rack, I like to have it when it still warm with some butter or toasted with my favourite breakfast ingredients.

Well, that's all for now.


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Thursday 12 July 2018

Sea & Soil | Amble | Brunch Review Menu

Last weekend Mrs. Cool was asked to try out a bus route from Newcastle to Berwick (It was more fun than it sounds) and one of the stops was Amble, one of our favourite coastal towns in Northumberland. I've written before about a restaurant in Amble (see here) and this was a chance to try somewhere new.

Sea & Soil is a restaurant on Queen Street, literally 2 minutes walk from the harbour. The decor is just the type I like, contemporary but with a rustic twist, they have the specials on slate tiles hanging on the wall and wooden tables for insanely instagrammable foodie pics. We managed to bag a table by the front window, gotta have natural light for that perfect shot.

We ordered our drinks first, Americano for me and Mrs. Cool, Blackcurrant Juice for Jack, Milk for Heidi and Coke for Harry. The coffee is really good, nice and strong and the biscuit was great too (you can buy the coffee beans for home from Amble harbour pods). The Brunch menu has a great selection and so many of the dishes tempted me. Next time we go I'll have to try the Eggs Bennie as this is one of my favourite Breakfasts. Mrs. Cool chose the Breakfast Roll and went with Sausage and brown sauce (the correct type of sauce for a sausage sarnie). Harry and Jack also went for this and they all loved it. The sausage was really good you tell they were good quality and it was a good sized portion.

Heidi has been going through a bit of a vegetarian phase at the minute (although she will still have chicken nuggets) so she went for the Pancakes and Syrup. Again the portion size was perfect and Heidi really loved the pancakes.

I was in the mood for Black Pudding so I went for the Sea & Soil Special which is described as "The Chef's Favourite Breakfast Ingredients" so I knew there would be Black Pudding (All Chefs love a bit of Black Pudding). I was really impressed with this, it was presented perfectly with all the items you would expect on a breakfast. Sausage, Bacon, Black Pudding, Hash Brown, Wilted Spinach, Tomato, Mushroom and Poached Egg all topped with Hollandaise Sauce. The Sausage was amazing, the Bacon really crispy and the egg was cooked to perfection. The Hollandaise was something I haven't had before on a full english but it worked great with all the meaty flavours and the Black Pudding was just what I was looking for crispy and black on the outside but still slightly red in the middle.

I'm sure we'll be back in Amble soon and the main menu at Sea & Soil looks really good too so I think we will be back to try something else.

Mrs. Cool has made a video of our day out in Northumberland, You can watch it here:

Well, that's all for now.


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