No Ordinary Afternoon NovelTEA at Lumley Castle

Everyone loves a bit of luxury in their lives right? especially if it comes with an affordable price and that’s exactly what’s on offer at Lumley Castle Hotel in the form of their recently launched No Ordinary NOVELTEA – a delightful Afternoon Tea with a difference!

Afternoon tea has been one of the most popular dining experiences of the past few years and doesn’t appear to be losing it’s popularity, as even the most humble of cafes now seem to offer a version of this traditional British fayre. However, I love the decadence of taking afternoon tea in a sumptuous setting and they don’t come much more inviting than the grand rooms of Lumley Castle Hotel, where a few years ago I enjoyed the what I’d describe as my favourite afternoon tea experience, and I’ve sampled a fair few! So imagine how delighted I was to be invited to preview their latest afternoon tea experience – No Ordinary NOVELTEA – which sees the traditional sweet and savoury treats served up with alcoholic tea!…yes, you did read that right, alcoholic tea!

23062017-DSC_1072-Modifier

Lumley Castle have teamed up with the founders of NOVELTEA, an alcoholic tea product, to offer a new afternoon tea experience to their customers. As explained by Claire Mitchell, Sales Director at Lumley Castle ‘afternoon tea has always been very popular here at the castle and as soon as we tried the NOVELTEA products we knew our customers would love them’.

Lumley Castle boasts an enviable elevated position over looking the Durham countyside whilst being easily accessed thanks to its proximity to good transport links including the A1 motorway and rail links of nearby Chester-le-Street. Approaching the imposing 600 year old Castle by car is always a thrill as it appears from the dappled cover of the tree lined driveway and the interior is even more impressive. It really is a step back in time and even after visiting the hotel several times, including a stay in one of the beautiful castle rooms, I’m always enthralled by it’s historic grandeur and it’s easy to understand why they brand themselves a No Ordinary Hotel.

IMG_0959

IMG_0956

IMG_0952

Afternoon tea was being served in the Garter state room. Described on the hotel website as ‘the largest and most ornate of our State rooms’ it was very grand but with a serene air. I attended the event with my Husband Ron and we were met with a glass of chilled prosecco or soft drink on arrival and invited to sit at any of the large circular tables, which were simply decorated in white with ornate candelabras as a focal point. The soft glow of real candles, which is a rarity these days, was lovely.

IMG_0933

As the tables filled up with guests we were given an over view of the partnership between Lumley Castle and the founders of NOVELTEA from both Claire Mitchell, Sales Director at Lumley Castle and NOVELTEA creators Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passia.

Lukas, Vincent and Claire (Pic1) (2)
Claire Mitchell, Sales Director at Lumley raising a glass with NOVELTEA founders Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passia

These two ‘Geordies by Choice’ are Newcastle University graduates who hail from Cologne in Germany. Having now settled in the North East, their observations of popular culture gave them the idea of combining the Brits love of tea and craft spirits to create Noveltea. The pair have infused selected teas and popular spirits to brilliant effect to create two very appealing drinks: ‘The Tale of Tangier’ inspired by the ceremonial tea culture of Tangier and ‘The Tale of Earl Grey’ which celebrates Earl Charles Grey and the history of this famous tea blend. These drinks with a difference have come to the attendtion of trendy bars and 5 Star establishments and can be found in many Artisan Food Halls including Fenwicks department store in Newcastle.

23062017-DSC_1171-Modifier
NOVELTEA founders Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passia

It was now time for the main event of No Ordinary NOVELTEA and I must admit to being a bit disappointed to find that for this event it was presented buffet style, instead of being served at the table in the traditional way. I can understand that it may not have been the most practical way for the organisers to deliver this event considering the number of guests however, I felt it would have been better to experience the afternoon tea as it will be served to customers.

That observation aside, the selection of fayre on offer looked delicious and consisted of the following treats:

Assorted Finger Sandwiches Ham & Dijon Mustard; Poached Salmon, Cream Cheese & Cucumber; Cheese Savoury with Vine Tomato; Roast Beef & Rocket with Red Onion Marmalade

Scones Fruit Scone served with Butter, Fruit Jam and local Clotted Cream

Cake Selection Nutmeg Egg Custard Tart; Chocolate Caramel Cupcake; Blueberry & Lemon Cake with Lemon Icing; Rhubarb, Raspberry & White Chocolate Fool; Strawberry Macaroon with White Chocolate Ganache

IMG_0946

Taking our seats to enjoy our selection, whilst listening to the lovely voice of live singer and musician Jessica Avison, it was time to sample our Novetea tipples!

IMG_0931
Jessica Avison

Now I’ll admit I’m not really a ‘traditional’ tea drinker with my preference being coffee or a glass of something sparking to accompany my afternoon teas, so I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised! These two alcoholic teas were both tasty and refreshing, we tried ours served over ice, though you can have them served hot too which I think would be equally delicious, especially if enjoyed in front of the open fire in the Library bar!

The Tale of Tangier

A blend of Moroccan green mint tea and rum which when sipped reveals hints of exotic fruit and citrus flavours.

IMG_0936

The Tale of Earl Grey

A bergamot infused black tea and gin delivering a smooth, distinctive drink, thanks to it’s infusion of hand selected botanicals.

IMG_0935

Personally The Tale of Tangier was my favourite but being a rum drinker that wasn’t a surprise!

The drinks service to our table was quietly efficient but it would have been nice to experience the full service a customer would receive. With that in mind I can only reflect on my previous experience when I can honestly say the service, setting (Library bar) and afternoon tea itself was faultless and I’d like to think that remains the same.

Claire and the team at Lumley Castle certainly seem to have their finger on the pulse of what their customers will enjoy which goes a long way to explain why Lumley Castle has remained a popular venue for many years. They offer a wide range of entertainment options from the immensly popular Elizabethan Banquets (we enjoyed this for Ron’s 40th Birthday) to hosting special celebrations to weddings. Lumley Castle is certainly a spectacular setting for a wedding and offers Wedding Packages starting from only £2500!

If you’d like to experience the luxury of a No Ordinary NOVELTEA in the fabulous setting of he Library Room or Black Knight Restaurant* the afternoon tea will be priced at £23.95 per person, based on 2 people sharing and will be served with a small bottle of either the Tale of Earl Grey or Tale of Tangier.

Have you enjoyed the No Ordinary NOVELTEA or another of the afternoon teas at Lumley Castle? I’d love the hear about your experience. Or perhaps reading this has tempted you to try it, let me know about your plans to visit! if you’ve tried the NOVELTEA drinks, tell me your favourite!

Thanks for reading and bye for now

June xx

*On busier occasions this may also be served in one of the State Rooms.

**I recieved food and drinks as described for me and a guest in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

Exploring Singapore

Highlights of my ‘Singapore Fling’

Singapore is one of the most exciting cities in Asia. I’ve visited Singapore on two occasions, not as a main holiday destination, but as part of a cruise. Singapore is a small city state that is certainly big on personality. It was formerly a crown colony of the British Empire which went on to become a part of Malaysia before gaining independence in 1965. It is the world busiest port in terms of shipping tonnage and on sailing in our captain informed us that some ships can be anchored outside port for up to three months waiting to dock! On our first visit for a day in 2012, I wasn’t sure what to expect as my only experience of Asia at this point had been Pattaya in Thailand, which bears no resemblance except similar weather. I can honestly say it’s one of the nicest cities I’ve ever visited which is the reason why we took advantage of adding a 3 night stay to the end of another cruise which disembarked in Singapore. It is easily reached from the UK with several regional airports offering flights via Dubai with Emirates Airlines.

The city is clean and very modern, the local people are very friendly and it’s easy to get around which is great as there’s so much to see and do. From both visits, I have several fantastic memories and these are my highlights which you could easily fit into a 2 or 3-night stay.

Gardens by the Bay

Before we visited Singapore for the first time I researched where to go as our time was limited. The Gardens by the Bay were recently opened and sounded really interesting, so they were top of our list and we weren’t disappointed! It is a national garden and first class horticultural attraction for locals and visitors alike. The aim is to showcase the plant kingdom in a totally new way with garden artistry and horticultural innovation and to offer a calendar of exciting events to both entertain and educate including Christmas Wonderland of which I’ll cover more later.

155

Azamara Asia Cruise 553

Admission to the beautiful and extensive outdoor gardens is free however, there is a charge to enter some areas such as the conservatories, flower dome and skywalk. The gardens are home to the ‘Super Trees’ and it was love at first sight for me (how can someone be smitten by giant metal trees? I don’t really know myself but I am!) hopefully you can see why from these photos! These Super Trees stand up to 16 storeys high and over 200 species of plants form a ‘skin’ growing vertically up the trees. It was wonderful to see the difference in growth between our first visit in 2012 and our second in 2015!

157.JPG

158.JPG

Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay

On our second visit to Singapore we were joined by my son and daughter-in-law and we were keen to introduce them to some highlights of our first visit. So along with a daytime return to Gardens by the Bay we went along in the evening to enjoy the spectacular Christmas Wonderland…and wow! they certainly don’t do things by half in Singapore!

Azamara Asia Cruise 615
The rather grand entrance to Christmas Wonderland

This was an extravaganza of all things festive including stunning light installations, an ice rink, Christmas market, fairground stalls, live musicians and more! Best of all admission is FREE although some attractions inside had a charge such as the ice rink.

Azamara Asia Cruise 614

Azamara Asia Cruise 620

Azamara Asia Cruise 635

This picture below is of a really cool attraction where people were positioned on the floor beneath a huge mirror. This, in turn, produced the image you see in this photograph which could be purchased as a momento.

Azamara Asia Cruise 637

This was Christmassy heaven and felt a bit like I was walking through Disney World, humming along to the festive music that filled the air and with a warm, happy feeling inside. We also enjoyed listening to a choir singing Christmas Carols in the most magical of settings! click here to see the video on my YouTube channel!

Azamara Asia Cruise 611

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

This architectural gem of a building is located right next to Gardens by the bay with a elevated walkway into the Gardens. This is accessed from an external glass elevator which is an experience in itself!

Azamara Asia Cruise 554.JPG

153

The hotel has its own retail experience too – The Shoppes – a luxury shopping centre with a canal running through it on which you can take a gondola ride. The MRT station here connects you to many areas of Singapore.

162.JPG

The hotel has several appealing bars and restaurants which are open to the public.There is a viewing platform on the 57th floor too and from there you can enjoy spectacular views over the bustling shipping lanes of the Singapore Strait. Entry costs SD$23 Adult; SD$17 Children (Singapore dollars) at time of writing however, here’s my tip to enjoy most of the same view for FREE!  From the lobby take a lift in tower one up to level 57 where you’ll step out onto a smaller viewing platform right next to the bar and restaurant on the bay side.

Azamara Asia Cruise 540.JPG

 

If, like us, you want to enjoy a Singapore Sling while in town then it’s a good idea to try one in the bar here. This way you get to enjoy the outdoor seating area which curves around to the other side of the hotel and offers fantastic views over the city itself and a chance to check out the 57th floor infinity pool.

177.JPG

182.JPG

180

Newton Food Centre

This fantastic food court was a recommendation from a helpful Australian guy living in Singapore who we chatted to in the MRT station. How fortunate to have that chance encounter as we wouldn’t have known about this place. This is one of what are known as Hawker Centres, where you are approached by hawkers from each stall offering you a menu and asking you to sit at a table and…as there are lots of stalls, there are lots of them! We were approached almost immediately by more than one hawker and this can seem a bit overwhelming when you haven’t even had the chance to look around, especially as the atmosphere is quite bustling. If like us, you want to check out some of the stalls before making your choice, just politely decline.

IMG_3694.JPG

The large outdoor dining area is surrounded by a perimeter of stalls (over 50) selling a variety of Asian and Singapore dishes, so there’s something for everyone. When you’re ready a hawker will escort you to a table and from there they will look after you with all your food and drink orders. As it’s a while since we visited I can’t remember exactly what we ate but it was all lovely and reasonably priced. One of the most popular dishes is the chilli crab which I didn’t try but others in my company enjoyed it. On our visit this dish was priced by weight rather than by serving, so it pays to check before you order. The hawkers were friendly and the atmosphere was lively. Popular with locals and visitors, it’s a great unfussy place to relax with a cold beer and sample local food!

Chinatown

We had been recommended to visit Chinatown by relatives of ours. This historic area is a melting pot of old and new where you’ll find an abundance of traditional shops and markets alongside trendy stores and cool cafes all vying for your attention. This area is home to the colourful and ornate Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. Here you’ll find Chinese temples sitting alongside Hindu temples and Mosques.

Azamara Asia Cruise 562

On the day we visited China Town we weren’t really prepared for the amount of rain  we encountered which meant our exploration of the area took the form of hopping from one shop awning to another as we tried to keep dry. The rain soon developed into a ‘mini monsoon’ just as we’d decided to sit down in a cafe…phew! what great timing! It’s a shame we didn’t see more of this historic district however I was happy just to take in the atmosphere through a curtain of rain at this point!

Azamara Asia Cruise 564.JPG

Little India

This is a vibrant historic centre where traditional trades rub shoulders with modern boutiques, hotels, restaurant’s, temples, churches and mosques. It’s very busy with a great atmosphere and fabulously colourful! If you like shopping or sniffing out a bargain then you could spend hours here. Shopping isn’t a pastime high on my list when on holiday but observing day to day life is something I enjoy, so a spot of people watching while enjoying some fabulous Indian cuisine was the order of the day after we’d finished exploring.

singapore-805548_1920.jpg

It’s hard to know where to choose as there’s so many great looking (and smelling) options. Usually a place where you see several locals eating can be a good indicator, so that’s what we did! The dishes on the menu weren’t what you’d typically find in the UK, so we asked the server to recommend a good mix of dishes for the four of us. The result was that we enjoyed probably the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted. This wasn’t a flash place but that wasn’t the experience we were after. What we got, more importantly, was great authenitic Indian cooking.

Raffles Hotel

This is one of the most famous hotels in the world so while in Singapore we just had to visit out of curiosity! If you haven’t heard of the hotel here’s a potted history: This beautiful colonial style hotel opened its doors in 1887 and is named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles the founder of Singapore. It is synonymous with luxury and renowned for the famous faces who have frequented the hotel over the decades including celebrities, dignitaries and royalty. Azamara Asia Cruise 572.JPG

The popular cocktail ‘Singapore Sling’ was also created in the Long Bar of this hotel and to sip on this famous cocktail at bar is on many a traveller’s ‘Bucket List’. We didn’t do this for two reasons firstly, we’d already tried a Singapore Sling while enjoying views from Marina Bay Sands hotel and secondly, I don’t particularly like them so preferred to save my $15!

Azamara Asia Cruise 588 (2)

Azamara Asia Cruise 596
The Long Bar

It is a traditional hotel which surprises you with its oasis of tropical planting around the central courtyard and grounds. Many of the bedrooms opening out onto verandas surrounded by exotic plants. It’s certainly a contrast to the modern high rise buildings surrounding it. Azamara Asia Cruise 587.JPG

It’s perfectly OK to walk around the public areas of the hotel and enjoy a drink or food in the beautiful restaurants, bars and coffee shop should you wish. If you like a spot of shopping (or window shopping in my case) The Raffles Arcade features around 40 speciality boutiques with beautifully decorated window displays. This is where I had my second ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ moment..the first was in New York..although I wasn’t eating breakfast at the time like Audrey Hepburn in the movie. We had a spot of brunch in the coffee shop Ah Tengs where you can choose from a visually appealing range of sweet and savoury treats.

Azamara Asia Cruise 580.JPG
The stunning festive Tiffanys window display

At the time of writing the hotel is undergoing a restoration programme in certain areas so a quick of their website ahead of a visit I advised.

Clarke Quay

Hugging the banks of the Singapore river, Clarke Quay is a thriving hub of bars, restaurants, live music, street entertainment, shops and more. We visited twice enjoying a great value set lunch on one day however it’s in the evenings that it really comes alive and you are spoilt for choice with numerous restaurants featuring a variety of local and international cuisines and bars for enjoying a live music and entertainment or just conversation and a quieter drink. The atmosphere is fantastic with visitors being a mix of ages and made up of locals, city workers and tourists. There are shops aplenty too, although you’ve probably gathered by now that I don’t really shop much on my travels! In many of the bars the drinks were on the pricey side compared to other areas with a pint of lager coming in at around SD$15 (about £8.50 at the time) so it pays to ask first, especially if you’re on a budget. We could walk to Clarke Quay from our hotel however, you can reach the area by public transport such as taxi, water taxi or MTR (I won’t comment on the bus system as we did not use it).

singapore-123337_1920.jpg

Singapore MRT Trains

The MRT (mass rapid transport system) is modern, clean and efficient and a fast way to get around the city with many of the major attractions of Singapore within walking distance of an MRT station. It really was a pleasure to travel on the bright and airy trains. The stations themselves are spacious and clean with most featuring colourful décor and interesting artwork which make your journey to the train a more enjoyable experience. We bought an EZ-Link card which gives you unlimited travel on the MRT and bus network for 1, 2 or 3 days at a great value fixed rate, find out more and current prices here.

singapore-214738_1280.jpg

There are a multitude of attractions to explore in Singapore but there’s only so much you can squeeze into a 3 night stay!. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my highlights and that I’ve given you an insight into this amazing destination. Have you visited Singapore? I’d love to hear your about your favourite things to do so drop me a comment.

Thanks for reading and bye for now. June x

 

Vallum Farm – Festive Fridays Menu Review

Yes…at last! I finally made it to Vallum Farm in Northumberland, after a planned visit was foiled by me leaving my back pack in one of the visitor centres along Hadrian’s Wall. A one hour around trip to retrieve it meant Ron and I, sadly, ran out of time.

Vallum Farm Tearoom and Restaurant had been on my radar for a while due to all the good reports I’d heard, oh and did I mention I LOVE Christmas too! so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited along to preview their new Festive Fridays Menu in the surroundings of the fabulous new Chefs Room.

IMG_9195 (2).JPG

Although known by many as Vallum Farm, the impressive facilities on offer have grown so much over the last 12 years that the venue is now known simply as Vallum – The Foodie Gateway to Hadrian’s Wall. Owners Peter and Vicky Moffitt bring you a welcoming, award winning Tea Room and first floor Restaurant with expansive countryside views, a Patisserie & Deli, an Ice Cream Parlour and a of course the Chefs Room, our venue to experience the delights of the Festive Fridays Menu…and my goodness, what a delight it was!

img_9192

I was one of a group of bloggers invited along and on my arrival, I was met with a friendly welcome by Nick Smith, Vallum’s Restaurant and Events manager, before being escorted into the wonderful setting of the Chefs Room and what a perfect setting it was! The room is beautifully rustic and befitting of the Christmas fayre to be sampled, it was decorated in a cosy, festive style.

img_9173-2

As I took the opportunity to take some photographs my fellow bloggers started to arrive and it was evident from the broad smiles, oohs and ahhs, that they were as impressed with the Chef’s Room as me.

img_9183

We were asked if we’d like to try one of the two new cocktails created to compliment the Festive Friday’s menu: Blackberry Bramble – a blend of gin, Chambord, blackberry juice and ginger ale with a blackberry and mint garnish; and Winter Crumble – a blend of martini bianco, apple juice, ginger ale and Mama Buci honey. Being a Martini Bianco fan I opted for the latter and I found it refreshingly tasty, so much so, that I’ve since bought some ginger ale to recreate my own!

img_9188

Nick then joined us to give an overview of the Restaurant and Chefs Room. Here, the ethos is to provide visitors with exceptional heart-warming dishes using only the finest ingredients from their own site including seasonal produce from the kitchen garden, or sourced from local artisans. For example, their fresh eggs come from Ian, just up the road from Vallum. The Chefs Room aims to provide an informal, relaxed atmosphere, with many dishes served on sharing boards. The room is available for casual dining and can also be hired for events, special occasions and weddings. The head chef and team are also happy to create a bespoke menu for your event.

img_9176

I was enjoying a lovely chat with the other guests when, what can be only be described as a procession of tasty treats began to appear from the kitchen, all beautifully presented on rustic wooden platters. This was the taster board from the menu which included shots of Vallum Kitchen garden celeriac soup; House smoked salmon blini’s; Ingoe scotch egg with black pudding and plum ketchup and crispy rabbit rillette with Anne’s apple chutney. I can honestly say I enjoyed each bite sized morsel of loveliness, with the scotch eggs being as far from the shop bought type that you could imagine…absolutely melt in the mouth yummy! and the celeriac soup far exceeded my taste expectations. I know for sure that Ron would have loved the rabbit rillettes which were oh so moreish.

img_9204

img_9200

img_9202

img_9201

During our tasting we were joined by Vicky who was happy to answer any questions about the menu. Her enthusiasm and passion for delivering great food and a fantastic experience for visitors is evident and it was a pleasure listening to her explaining how Vallum has developed, local suppliers, the kitchen garden and plans for the future including making their own ice cream (once Rose the cow is joined by her soon to be born calf in December). She also explained about Vallum’s latest collaboration with Mama Buci honey, a project, endorsed by ambassador Bear Grylls,  which helps to improve the quality of life of communities in Zambia through beekeeping. To find out more about this inspirational project, click in the link above. The honey is available to purchase in the Deli.

Just as we were all exchanging nods of agreement with each tasty mouthful the kitchen doors opened again and the tables were filled with the main offering of Braised Beef, mashed potato and horseradish dumplings. At this point we all sat down and it all began to feel even more like a big family Christmas dinner. A harvest of fresh from the kitchen garden vegetables accompanied our meal and included carrots and kale.

img_9209-2

img_9211

Even though braised beef isn’t always my first choice, I can honestly say this was melt in your mouth tasty as was the gravy and probably the best I’ve had the pleasure of tasting in a long time. The vegetables were ever so tasty too, which reflected the fact they are home grown. At this point I was starting to feel full when even more festive fayre was bestowed upon us in the form of platters filled with turkey, ham, pigs in blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon), stuffing, bread sauce and roast potatoes. Well, as I said, I was just ‘starting’ to feel full, so I managed to find room for one of my all-time favourites, roast potatoes, which I’m delighted to say didn’t disappoint and I managed to enjoy a little try of the other moreish morsels.

img_9213

img_9214

There are also vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu and of those, I sampled the delicious homemade sunflower loaf and roast potatoes.

img_9210

Now came the only time I was disappointed in the whole day – disappointed as I had to leave early (pre-arranged grandkids school run) and miss the rest of this wonderful Vallum experience!

As Vallum had so far provided me with a wonderful array of irresistible dishes, of which I had enjoyed everything, I, and my waistline, was starting to think it was probably just as well that I wasn’t going to be around for dessert! (a moment on the lips…as the saying goes) But oh no, Vallum’s wonderful hospitality was not going to see me leave empty handed and within minutes I was offered a ‘doggy bag’ (well, box) containing Christmas Pudding and Brandy Sauce (another favourite), Chocolate Delice and Poached pear with Stem Ginger Ice Cream!! so you can guess what I had for my supper. Well, I had to share it with Ron, but that just meant double thumbs up for the Festive Fridays desserts too!

image1
Vallum’s Christmas Pudding (image courtesy of Mandy Charlton Photography)
image2
Vallum’s Chocolate Delice (image courtesy of Mandy Charlton Photography)

I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Vallum and although I didn’t get to stay and meet Rose the dairy cow (who is expecting a calf in December) or view the event Marquee, it means I have another reason apart from the fabulous food, to return soon. The quality of food, great hospitality and friendliness of the team at Vallum make for a great combination. They delivered an exceptional experience that I feel makes them deserving of the tagline ‘the foodie gateway to Hadrian’s Wall’

Vallum’s position on the Military Road, East Wallhouses means it is well placed not only for visitors to Hadrian’s Wall but those visiting Northumberland National Park, the Metro Centre, travelling through Northumberland or just seeking a venue that serves fantastic food.

The Festive Friday Menu is available in the Restaurant and Chefs Room during December on 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd 6pm – 9pm. I’d advise booking early to avoid disappointment. You can also enjoy Sunday Lunch in the restaurant between 12pm – 4pm.

I travelled to Vallum by car and from Sunderland. My journey at midday took only 35 minutes and just slightly longer on my return mid-afternoon, not far to experience food at its home produced best.

Have you visited Vallum? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading and bye for now.

June xx

*My meal and drinks were complimentary in exchange for an honest review.