Green People | Vegan Beauty Review

When I made the pledge to take part in Veganuary my aim was simply to adopt a vegan diet, which I have since committed to carrying on permanently. For February I decided to take the next step, to begin educating myself on the processes and ingredients that go into the beauty products that I own so as to make it easier for me to make good, ethical decisions on my future purchases.

Whilst it’s fairly straightforward to work out whether the food you’re eating contains animal derived ingredients or not, in the beauty world things are far more complex. For example, did you know that just because something has the Leaping Bunny logo (shown below) and is labelled cruelty free, that doesn’t neccessarily make it 100% vegan? That’s because whilst it may not have been tested on animals, its ingredients still might contain them.

Leaping Bunny Logo

If you flip it around, a product can be vegan (i.e. not contain animal derived ingredients) but may not be cruelty free as it could still have been tested on animals. To make things even more confusing, lot of brands which claim to be cruelty free on their websites aren’t really cruelty free at all because they choose to sell their products in mainland China, where it’s law that foreign manufactured cosmetics must undergo animal testing. Whilst the testing is usually carried out by the government it is agreed to and funded by the brand. Thus they are very much complicit in the practice despite their protestations to the contrary.

When it comes to buying beauty products, I definitely want to move away from supporting brands that are not cruelty free or that contain animal derivatives. Realistically though this isn’t going to happen overnight. I need to carry on with my research to work out which of my beloved, tried and tested products can stay, and which ones I need to find affordable alternatives for.

Green People | Vegan Beauty Review

Green People* have already helped me to make a few swops. They are a certified organic health and beauty brand who do not test their products on animals and who strive to make as many products in their skin, hair and makeup range as possible suitable for vegans and vegetarians. They reached out to me at the start of Veganuary to introduce themselves and offered to send me some of their hair and beauty products which are certified by the Vegan Society.

The Vegan Society logo (shown below) tells you that the product has never been tested on animals in any capacity and does not contain animal derivatives. In other words, it certifies that a product is 100% vegan and cruelty free.

Vegan Society Logo

Here’s how I got on:

Haircare

Starting with haircare, I received the Quinoa and Artichoke Shampoo and Conditioner. I wasn’t sure what to expect scent wise (quinoa and artichoke didn’t sound all that appealing to me) but they smell fresh and citrussy. The shampoo is deceptive as you don’t need much at all, a small blob works up into a really good lather. I tend to spend quite a chunk of my beauty budget on haircare and get through bottles quickly so anything that makes things more economical for me is a winner in my book.

Green People | Vegan Beauty Review

The shampoo has been somewhat of a revelation for me. It leaves my hair feeling clean and light and it has given it such a lovely shine! I’m not planning to return to my previous shampoo. In fact, I’ve already purchased another bigger bottle of this stuff to make sure I don’t run out!

The conditioner is also very lightweight and yet does a good job of sorting out my tangle prone hair. I tend to use an intensive hair mask most of the time so I’ve still got plenty of this left but I would definitely consider buying this again when it runs out to complement the shampoo.

By the way, these haircare products are also gluten free so they are suitable for those with gluten sensitivities too.

Shower Gel

The Daily Aloe Shower Gel has been another big hit with me. It doesn’t smell as strongly as the highly scented shower gels I tend to go for but it has a lovely consistency.It is really gentle and leaves my skin feeling nice and soft after use. I’ve noticed that it’s also great for those times in between my IPL treatments when I need to shave my legs in the shower, as it just glides along my skin with no bother and helps me to get a really close but comfortable shave.

Green People | Vegan Beauty Review

At £12.50 though this one is a bit out of my budget for an everyday shower gel sadly, I usually spend between £2 and £5. However I’d liken it to the L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil which I’ve tried samples of in the past and costs £18.

Gentle Cleanse & Makeup Remover

I have incredibly sensitive skin around my eyes but I have used this to remove my eye makeup without any resulting stinging or puffiness. I think I react to some of the chemicals in standard creams so maybe I got on well with this because the ingredients are so natural. All I know is that it works really well, tackling my heavy eye makeup and mascara with ease. I’d consider it reasonably priced for what I usually spend on cleansers, at £19 for 150ml.

Green People | Vegan Beauty Review

This is a great alternative to the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, which is still a fantastic product that I absolutely adore but isn’t 100% vegan as it contains beeswax.

Peppermint and Aloe Organic Mint Toothpaste

Confession: I didn’t start using this until midway through Veganuary because I have really sensitive teeth and I didn’t want to switch from my normal high street one, which I know makes me a bad vegan.

Green People | Vegan Beauty Review

I wish I could tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was when I did finally try it, because obviously I want to move over to all natural products where possible, but I just couldn’t get on with it. The paste was an offputting beige colour and it didn’t taste or feel pleasant in my mouth.

My boyfriend thought I was being a bit of a wuss and tried it too, but didn’t like it either. I’m sorry The Green People, I just can’t get on board with this one despite really, REALLY wanting to!

In conclusion, it has been great to discover a company that makes it so easy to find 100% vegan products that don’t compromise on performance and still evoke a feeling of luxury. I’m so glad that they contacted me as I had not heard of the company previously, but I have a feeling I’m going to be shopping there regularly now!

If you want to know more about the topics I have discussed in todays post this article from EthicalElephant helped me to understand the different ways of classifying the ethical status of beauty products. I recommend giving it a read.

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: I was gifted the items in this post for review purposes. As always, I’ve provided my honest thoughts on them.

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Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

One of the main things that concerned me about going vegan (which you can read more about here) was whether I’d still be able to enjoy dining out at restaurants. The good news is that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of restaurants in my area that now offer vegan choices on the menu so I thought I’d share some highlights with you. Some of them might just surprise you!

Toby Carvery*

This might seem like an odd place to go to as a vegan but the rest of my family are meat eaters who really enjoy a good carvery. The Toby Carvery have a whole section of their menu dedicated to vegetarian and vegan dishes which means that I don’t have to miss family get togethers!

Oliver and I were invited along to try out the menu during Veganuary but hit upon a snag when we put in our order as our waiter very apologetically informed us that the vegan options weren’t available as they’d sold out over the weekend. However after a bit of a wait we were offered a choice of three other suitable mains which were not on the current menu but that they could make for us – lunch was saved!

All of the vegan and vegetarian dishes were really clearly labelled on the menu and there were guidance notes on anything I’d need to tell my server, such as making sure to ask for steamed greens as some are cooked with butter.

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

Oliver had the vegan Root Vegetable Roast and I went for an Onion Tarte. Both were tasty, hearty meals that came with unlimited sides from the carvery. I was a bit limited in my choices once I’d discounted anything made with cheese, milk or butter but still managed to fill my plate. I was over the moon when our waiter told us the vegetarian gravy was also suitable for vegans as it brought the meal together and gave it the ‘Sunday lunch’ feel. I’d forgotten how much I missed gravy!

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

Most restaurants I’ve been to seem to have either forgotten about dessert or just gone with a less than adventurous sorbet option. The Toby Carvery, however have a delicious sounding vegan chocolate and cherry cake on the menu. Due to the slight confusion over the mains we ran out of time for dessert, so I’m going to have to head back and check it out another time.

Verdict: Good hearty food and value for money, great if you crave Sunday roasts!
My top tip: Advise your dietary requirements when booking.

Bella Italia

I love Italian food but it’s something I associate with lots of cheese, cream and butter. A quick check of the menus for my closest restaurants confirmed that Frankie & Benny’s only had one vegan main, Penne Arribiata, but Bella Italia seem to be more on board with providing dairy free options. In fact there are multiple vegan mains in its pasta, risotto, salad and pizza sections as well as a burger.

The starter options are limited to what I’d call ‘healthy options’ of olives, bruschetta and soup, but it’s a start. My bruschetta was really light and fresh actually, and I’m learning that dishes that I’d normally avoid because I’ve always automatically gone for the ‘cheesy’ option are sometimes vastly underrated. This one didn’t leave me feeling too full before my main which a lot of my ‘pre vegan’ choices would have.

For my main I tried the Lenticchie on my first visit which is a smoky lentil ragu that I highly recommend. It was packed with rich complex flavours and left me full, happy and with a massive food baby, just the way Italian food should! It was a fabulous dish in its own right that just happened to be vegan.

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

Upon my return a few weeks later, I opted for the Risotto Funghi (mushroom risotto with tomatoes and a balsamic vinegar glaze). Again, this was a lovely little dish in its own right but this time I did think ‘this would be even better with a bit of cheese’. Not dairy cheese of course, but maybe a grating of some Violife (a vegan cheese which I’ve come to adore) would have given it that extra something to satisfy my craving.

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

You can veganise your pizza at Bella Italia by asking for it without mozzarella, but it would be great if they could offer a vegan alternative instead.

Verdict: A great option if you want plenty of choice, go here for proper comfort food.
My top tip: Maybe bring your own vegan cheese until they add it to the menu? I’m tempted to next time! Also there are no vegan dessert options, so bear this in mind.

Wagamama

My friend Sian got a promotion last week (woo hoo!) so we celebrated with a feast at Wagamama.

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

First of all, let’s give a round of applause to Wagamama for having a vegan starter which isn’t just vegetables or bread and olives! I had Yasai Steamed Gyoza, which are served grilled to give them a crispy outer coating which is perfect for dipping into the mildly spicy dipping sauce.

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

They too have a diverse range of mains to choose from which makes the experience so much more enjoyable. Part of the pleasure of going to a restaurant for me is that time spent deciding what to eat, and at some places due to the severely limited options for vegans it’s just not there. Not so at Wagamama thankfully.

I opted for the Kare Burosu for my main, an absolutely delicious dish consisting of shichimi coated silken tofu and grilled mixed mushrooms on a bed of udon noodles. This all sits within a curried vegetable broth which I drank every last drop of, it was just so good!

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

Sian, a meat eater, also went for a vegan option in the end, the Yasai Samla Curry. It’s a vibrant dish of fragrant, spicy lemongrass and coconut curry with tofu, peppers, shiitake mushrooms and baby plum tomatoes which is good if you like things a bit spicy!

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

Verdict: These guys know their way around a block of tofu and use it in all kinds of inspiring ways.
My top tip: If you struggle with chopsticks ask your server for cutlery when ordering your food to avoid any messy mishaps!

Pizza Hut

Whilst it’s easy enough to make a vegan pizza at home, it’s just not the same as a proper deep pan fresh from the pizzeria. I was excited to see Pizza Hut announce that they’d introduced a pizza with vegan cheese nationwide just in time for Veganuary – my heroes!

Tried and Tested - Vegan Meals at your Favourite Restaurants

There’s currently only one vegan option available on the main menu but if you don’t like the toppings you do have the option to customise your pizza and choose your own for a bit extra. Plus you get to load up your side bowl at the salad bar and they have ‘bacon bits’ which, ironcially, are completely vegan, so I was happy before I’d even started my pizza!

Oliver tried some of my pizza and amazingly, his comment was that it tasted more cheesy than his non vegan version, just not quite the same oozy texture as with regular cheese! It certainly hit the spot for me. Who says vegans just eat leaves and chickpeas huh?

Verdict: It’s the Pizza Hut pizza you know and love, just vegan. Hooray!
My top tip: Plan ahead to make sure you know which salad bar options are vegan friendly, as it’s not so easy to tell with sauces and dressings. Veganuary have a list of what you can eat here: Pizza Hut Vegan Options

Why we should support restaurants, even when choices are limited

Whilst the number of vegan choices at restaurants is still most definitely limited, I think it’s great that so many popular restaurants are now providing some options. If we all support the vegan menus and, like with Toby Carvery, they see an increase in demand as a result it can only lead to good things – more vegan choices and greater understanding!

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: We were provided with a £20 voucher towards our meal at the Toby Carvery in return for providing an honest review. All other meals were paid for by ourselves.

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Finding ways to destress with a day at Y Spa! (In the snow)

Last month the Y Spa managed to tempt me out of Winter hibernation with the promise of luxurious warmth and relaxation on another level at their thermal spa. It did not disappoint!

The Y Spa, which is situated at Wyboston Lakes, had invited me to visit them at Christmas time to try out their ‘Escape For A Day’ package and Oliver and I had been counting down to it for months. You can’t predict English weather of course and so as the day dawned Cambridgeshire saw its first substantial snowfall in years. By the time we arrived it was a blizzard!

Finding ways to destress with a day at Y Spa! (In the snow)

I did try and take a super cute totally cliched Instagrammable picture in the snow but I really don’t know how anyone pulls it off. Within 3 seconds my nose was bright red, my teeth were chattering and my hair was saturated. We rather wisely gave up and ran into the warmth!

Y Spa cafe

After checking in and collecting our wristband locker keys (giving us access to plushy bathrobes and slippers) our first port of call was the Spa Cafe. Although breakfast wasn’t included in our chosen spa package we hadn’t managed to stop en route for any food due to the weather so we treated ourselves to some fresh pastries and drinks to set us up for the morning, which only cost a few pound each – not bad for a spa retreat!

Y Spa Cafe

I’ve been to the Y Spa once before in a large group of girlfriends which was a really fun way to spend a day and relaxing in its own way, but as we spent most of the day chattering away and being social we didn’t make the most of the chillout areas of the spa. On this occassion Oliver and I were both feeling rather sleep deprived and in need of some ‘me time’, so we headed straight to the relaxation rooms.

Y Spa Chillout

After a long drive in the snow I can’t tell you how good it was to warm my toes by a gently flickering fire, then climb into a warm bed and have a nap for 20 minutes. I wish we had a room like that at my workplace – taking myself off for an 11am powernap would be amazing!

Afterwards we headed to the ChillLounge with our Kindles to curl up in comfy egg shaped chairs and read for a while.

Y Spa reading room Y Spa reading room

I’d forgotten how good it feels to get stuck into a good book and unwind without phone or tv distractions. Since I’ve been back home I’ve been making much more of an effort to go to bed earlier so that I can carry this on good habit and it has definitely been helping me get to sleep earlier.

After a very chilled morning we enjoyed a hot and cold buffet lunch in the Waterfront Restaurant which had lovely views out across the lake…

Y Spa Waterfront Restaurant

…and a seasonal visitor too!

Y Spa Waterfront Restaurant

I was about to start Veganuary at the time of our visit so I opted for the closest fit on the menu, a warming soup followed by vegetarian lasagne, whilst Oliver went for a classic roast with all the trimmings. We toasted our relaxing getaway with a crisp glass of Prosecco which felt exta luxurious enjoyed in our bathing robes!

Y Spa Waterfront Restaurant

As part of our spa package we each had one treatment included and had booked in our time slots well ahead of the date. However due to the inclement weather lots of guests had cancelled so we decided to make the most of our day by booking in some last minute additional treatments.

Y Spa

Oliver raved about his Soothing Scalp Treatment so much that it made me regret not opting for that one myself! Whilst he enjoyed a hand massage from the Men’s Treatment menu I opted for the Y Spa Fresh Face Treatment. If you’ve never had a facial before and you need to destress go book yourself one pronto, I find them utterly blissful! (Plus of course you end up with rejuvenated glowing skin that smells divine!)

For my second treatment I had a hot stone massage. I’ve always wanted to try one but wasn’t too sure what it actually involved as you only ever see a picture of someone lying down with three stones along their spine! What actually happens is that you lie face down under warm plush towels and the beauty therapist massages you with the hot stones in the palm of her hands. It’s an odd sensation at first but once I got used to it I found it very soothing.

My favourite part of the day had to be heading out into the open air heated eleven metre Hydrotherapy Pool… in the snow! The pool is toasty warm so you’re never in any danger of getting cold but it feels wonderful being outside in the elements and the added snowfall made it extra special that day.

Y Spa Waterfront Restaurant

Before we left, I made my way to the Y Spa shop with a voucher I’d been gifted so that I could pick out a treat from their Christmas selection. It was so hard to choose as they had goodies from some of my favourite tried and trusted skincare brands, but after much deliberation I chose a Neom Scented Candle set.

Y Spa Neom Y Spa Neom

Both candles smell divine but I still haven’t lit them yet. Why? Because they’re so pretty. Isn’t that daft?!

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary stay and gift voucher to spend at the Y Spa in return for hosting an ‘Instragram takeover’ on their feed that day to show my experience live as it happened. I have chosen to write a post on my personal blog because I really wanted to share it with you.

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Why the blogging world is so upset right now 2In case you missed it, this week has been rather a controversial one for the world of social media after a company’s Facebook post publically criticising a Youtuber/Instagrammer went viral.

If you haven’t heard about it, the Youtuber sent a private email to a very popular lodge explaining that she was heading to their region for four days and enquiring as to whether they would be interested in collaborating with her. She offered to provide social media coverage via her channels (87,000 YouTube subscribers and 76,000 instagram followers) in return for free accommodation. The email in its entirety (other than her name being blocked out) was then shared by the establishment on their Facebook page with an open letter from the owner. In essence he called her out for having no self respect and told her to pay her way ‘like everyone else’.

A flurry of comments to the Facebook post followed in support of the company. They all followed a similar theme, commending the lodge owner for taking a stand against ‘freeloaders’ and denouncing this particular Youtuber as a ‘self entitled millenial’ who just wanted a holiday for free.

Why the blogging world is so upset right now 2

Unfortunately if this wasn’t bad enough, things escalated pretty quickly.

Here’s a summary of what happened next:

  • Someone worked out who the influencer was and directed her to the Facebook page, where she was able to read all of the comments criticising her and the wider blogging community.
  • She took to Youtube to record a response to the company, whom she claimed publically ‘outed’ her private correspondence in an unneccssary manner. She also criticised the company and the commenters for judging others life choices and for shaming rather than supporting young entrepreneurs.
  • In amongst her off the cuff, clearly unscripted counter attack, she also made some of her own generalisations, citing that anyone over thirty did not understand the industry.
  • Most bloggers entering the debate read her initial email to the company and saw it this way: The blogger was reaching out to the brand to pitch a potential collaboration and suggesting initial terms which would then be followed up and fleshed out in further discussion emails if the brand responded with interest to the proposition.
  • Most non bloggers (and even some bloggers) saw it another way: An embarrassing demand for free accomodation from a ‘blagger’.

The email has been disected into minute detail by those both for and against the influencer and massive assumptions have been made on both sides. For example because the blogger mentioned the dates of her visit and was not specific in what she was requesting lots of people have assumed that she was asking for her whole stay to be covered. This may or may not be the case. More likely she was intending on a one or two night stay before moving on, although of course this is conjecture on my part. On the other side, most in support of the blogger have assumed that those making judgements against her do not work in or have any knowledge of the industry themselves and are of a certain age.

Much has been made of the influencer’s followers. Those in the blogging industry see the numbers as sizeable – 180,000 followers across two platforms is an impressive feat and and takes time and effort to build. Others see the numbers as ‘tiny’, with the view ‘I’ve never even heard of her, so who does she think she is?’ or worse ‘well anyone can buy followers and fake their way to being seen as influential’.

The Cafe also turns out to be notorious for being outspoken and regularly calling out behaviour it does not agree with to its substantial social media following, which is actually larger than the blogger’s own numbers (likely numbers gained due to the promise of controversy based entertainment such as this). When comments began to be added in defence of the influencers saying that he could have privately just said no his response was: “Well it wouldn’t have gone viral then would it? Silly girl.”

Why the blogging world is so upset right now 2

It has to be said that the pitch from the influencer wasn’t very well worded in this case and thus at a first glance if looking at it sceptically it does read badly. For example, it doesn’t explain how her coverage may benefit the company, nor does it state what that coverage would be. This led many to surmise that she was offering a guaranteed favourable review in return for the free stay and therefore her review wouldn’t be trustworthy. We shall never know whether she would have followed up with clearer terms and conditions in the next email, or whether she would have demonstrated the value she could provide in return for the stay.

Now I tell you all of this not because I want to debate whether either party was right or wrong. What I really want to talk about is how shocked I’ve been at the level of general hatred and anger directed towards the blogging industry as a whole following the post going viral and the assumptions and stereotypes made not just about this influencer but against every blogger/Youtuber.

When the news first broke I sent a tweet to the girl on Twitter expressing my disappointment at the comments regarding blogger ‘freebies’. I told her to keep going, by which I meant: Learn from it and move on (it was hard to fit it all into the number of characters allowed in a tweet!). I came home yesterday to find that other Twitter users had been going through all of her tweets (and thus replies), had picked up on my comment and decided to reply to me on it.

One of them, from a complete stranger had gotten over 100 likes and been retweeted several times. It basically said that she was asking for a free five night stay and that I shouldn’t be supporting her, before explaining to me (or should I say mansplaining?) how a ‘genuine marketing professional’ would guarantee sales through traditional advertising whereas a ‘niche blog’ never could. That led to more strangers jumping on the bandwagon to tell me that the industry I’ve chosen to work in has no value and that I, as a blogger, also have no value or anything to offer. Here are just two of the tweets I received:

“As a blogger your bottom line is to get what you can get for free…free is the bottom line not anything else you and everyone else knows that is the truth of the matter…”

“She wanted a free weekend away with her boyfriend. We’d all love one of those. And a photo/blog on her SM of which the demographic is young teenage girls with low disposable income & not able to jaunt oversees would give the hotel how much in additional bookings? Very very minimal.”

Let’s take the comment on her demographic being ‘young teenage girls with low disposable income.’ Well I am a 36 year old woman with a full time career alongside my work as a blogger. I own my house and with no children have a reasonable disposable income each month. What I like about social media is that unlike traditional reviews and advertising, you get a more personal insight into people’s experiences and I follow people from their teens to their sixties. A well done blog post or YouTube video takes you on a tour and shows you what you can do during your stay too, all fleshing out why you might want to stay there so that you can make a decision on whether it appeals to you or not. That’s why I, as a consumer, find it a useful tool when looking for ways to spend that disposable income of mine!

Thus these tweets sum up my frustration with this whole debacle. Yes, the individual Youtuber may have made an mistake in contacting a brand whose marketing strategy is certainly not in line with her proposal and yes the pitch is flawed. I take no issue with that. This brand didn’t WANT to utilise Bloggers, it didn’t fit their strategy and they had every right to turn down a proposal that wasn’t right for them. However by sharing the letter publically and then later stoking fuel on the fire with later posts and comments, the focus has shifted from the one blogger who wrote the letter, to every single blogger whether part time, full time, paid or not. The view of us being ‘only after freebies’ has been picked up and repeated in parrot fashion thousands of times.

Where it gets even more complicated is that some bloggers have made matters worse by rallying others to join them in leaving fake, negative reviews on the cafe’s site, or else leaving horribly offensive comments on the cafe’s Facebook post, all of which the cafe owner shared on Facebook to illustrate his point that bloggers are awful human beings!

As the furore rages on and the comments pile up I have had to keep reminding myself of a couple of things:

Whilst everyone is entitled to an opinion, it doesn’t mean that it’s anything I should concern myself with. My job is to keep writing my blog because I love to do it, and to act with a code of ethics if I do post reviews that may encourage others to spend their hard earned money upon my recommendation. I also know that despite the comments, there IS value to be had from brands working with bloggers in the right circumstances and it is NOT a bad thing to approach a brand with a well thought out pitch if you are offering a valuable, mutually beneficial service. Not every collaboration is about guaranteed sales, a company may be looking to increase brand awareness, engage a new audience or simply to utilise the skills of the blogger to create beautiful content which they can feature on their own channels too.

However even knowing these truths about the industry and also telling myself that the opinions of complete strangers are just that, the very idea that people are judging me in a bad light merely because I identify as a blogger has still really gotten to me.

Why the blogging world is so upset right now 5

For 3+ years I’ve been creating content I love and sharing it with the world for no greater purpose than enjoying myself and hopefully entertaining some of you along the way or providing reviews that are useful. I don’t earn money from my blog and I pay hundreds of pounds each year to host it and keep it running, investing my time and money into creating content and purchasing photographic equipment and supplies, self funded competitions etc. I know my blog isn’t life changing and won’t help find a cure for cancer, but I never started my blog for that reason. The thought that even with the best of intentions and using a VERY stong moral compass that I’m construed by some as greedy, worthless and ‘just after freebies’ just because I blog in my spare time is hard to reconcile.

I think a lot of the blogging industry feels the same hurt, confusion and frustration right now.

LovedByLaura

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Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

I once spent an evening smashing and scoffing Easter Eggs in the name of a blog review and I thought that life couldn’t get any better. Oh how wrong I was! Queensgate Shopping Centre in Peterborough topped it by inviting me to their headquarters to sample all of the festive food and drink the major retailers and restaurants have on offer this Christmas.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

It was a super fun evening and I discovered all sorts of delectable festive food and drink. I’ve whittled it down to my top picks below and have tried to include a little of bit of everything, from dinner party treats to Christmas Day must haves and even some festive restaurant menus too!

Warning: the following post contains an excessive amount of photographs of highly delicious food – reading on an empty stomach is not advised! 🙂

John Lewis

I’m going to start with alcoholic drinks because John Lewis have gone above and beyond this year!

First off, they have baubles containing Pickering’s Gin. Yes that’s right – gin! They look pretty enough to get away with being regular decorations, but unscrew the top and you have an instant tipple!

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

Keeping with the gin theme, how awesome does Unicorn Tears Gin Liqueur sound? The liquid is iridescent and shimmers as you swirl it in your glass to add to the festivities.

(I’ve been assured that no unicorns were harmed in the making of this product.)

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

Food wise, if you eat in a John Lewis cafe this Winter you’ve got to try the Chocolate and Orange Cake! It’s like an amped up version of a Jaffa Cake Bar and the flavours are insanely good.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

If you’re not a big fan of chocolate orange they have a whole range of other cakes and slices too including millionaire shortbread and lemon drizzle. (I’ll repeat again though, you MUST try that chocolate orange cake!!!)

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

Lakeland

Moving on to Lakeland, these guys take the prize for having some of the most fun and innovative treats this Christmas.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

My favourite find this year has been Lakeland’s Candy Cane Peppermint Bark – white and dark chocolate with minty candy cane shards sprinkled on top. It is just divine and totally moreish!

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

There are actually four whole bars inside the pretty tin packaging so it would make a great gift to give you your hosts if you’re going somewhere for Christmas, or you could just as easily make four lovely presents from the chocolate bark by rewrapping each seperately in cellophane and ribbon, then keep the tin for yourself!

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

I also made a beeline for their Rose Gold Shimmer Popaball For Prosecco because you should all know by now how much I love ANYTHING rose gold! Seriously though, at my friend Tiffany’s wedding earlier this year they had a ‘pimp your prosecco’ stand with some of this stuff and we all loved it.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

Another great idea I picked up from Lakeland is to use a slow cooker for hot chocolate, something I’ve never thought of doing before but it makes perfect sense really! Rather than making individual servings that can go cold quick, you just make up a batch with hot chocolate and milk/dairy free alternative and keep it gently bubbling away to serve as and when needed. PLUS, Lakeland have only gone and made a hot chocolate version of the peppermint bark – hallelu!

Marks and Spencers

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

You can’t beat a good mince pie at Christmas and whenever I eat an M&S one I have to put on the voice and do the: “This isn’t just a mince pie, this is a MARKS AND SPENCERS mince pie!” quote because it’s true, they are always that extra bit delicious!

As always they have a massive amount of buffet style nibbles that promise a quality table spread. At our festive feast we were treated to turkey and cranberry sausage rolls and a seasonal sandwich selection with delicious sounding fillings such as Turkey Feast, Brie and Grape, Prawn and Smoked Salmon and Ham Hock and Golden Beetroot Piccalilli.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

Ever one for pretty packaging however, my top picks are this beautiful Christmas cone filled with yummy shortbread biscuits that we made VERY short work of, and Gold Creme Brulee Liquer which I can imagine enjoying in front of the fire after Christmas dinner.

Some of the restaurants at Queensgate Shopping Centre had also sent along some of their festive menus for us to try on the night. Here’s a roundup of my favourites!

Carluccio’s

Carluccio’s have a Christmas menu available until the 3rd January with 2 Courses for £17.95 (or add £3 to include dessert). I can highly recommend the Pere e Gorgonzola, a starter of pears & gorgonzola served with radicchio, green beans and walnuts, tossed in a lemon dressing. It’s light and fresh and yet at the same time gave me all the festive feels.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

The Tomato Bruschetta was also absolutely delicious with slices of grilled ciabatta topped with fresh baby plum, yellow cherry and beef tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, baby basil and garlic. I want the recipe for the tomato dressing, it was so good!

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

If you can fit in dessert the Coppa di Limoncello Mascarpone is another winner – mascarpone limoncello cream drizzled with limoncello syrup and served with raspberries, crumbled amaretto biscuits and mint.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

The Handmade Burger Kitchen

As someone about to transition to a plant based diet (read more on this here) I was absolutely delighted to see a festive vegan burger on the Handmade Burger Kitchen menu, the Veg-Mex. Well done guys, this made me extremely happy and gives me hope that once fully transitioned, I’ll still be able to enjoy Christmas meals out!

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

It’s a veggie patty with handmade Mexican salsa, hand crushed avocado, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato & red onion and I tell you what, as someone who has eaten their fair share of meaty burgers, this one holds up against them! It has a bit of a kick to it, it’s packed full of flavours and textures and is extremely filling.

For the meat lovers there are PLENTY of festive burgers to choose from – the avocado and bacon burger seemed to go down a treat with the non veggie bloggers!

Pret A Manger

Pret are also complete stars in my book this year for putting out a vegetarian Christmas lunch consisting of roasted chunks of butternut squash, spicy rocket and nutty Christmas pesto made with walnuts and pecans. It’s served with a spoonful of yoghurt & mayo dressing and a sprinkling of crispy onions on malted bread.

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

Excuse the blurred picture of Melvin The Melted Snowman but isn’t he so fun? Made with a marshmallow head, a puddle of icing and a gingerbread cookie base, he was adorably cute but not enough to stop me giving in to temptation and scoffing him before I managed to get a decent photo!

Hotel Chocolat

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

Hotel Chocolat assortments are always epic and The Christmas Gift Box is no exception with 42 of the finest truffles, pralines and caramels to choose from. Each chocolate in the selection is so beautifully detailed with little extra elements such as a crunchy topping for the Treacle Tart and a liquid centre for Mulled Wine, ensuring that there are no duds in this box! My favourites are the ever classic Champagne Truffle and the Christmas Mess!

Grasmere Farms

Last but by no means least, the artisan family butchers at Grasmere Farms had provided a selection of freshly handmade sausage rolls, pork pies and scotch eggs (including a ham and scotch egg version) for us to enjoy. I didn’t partake (being the awkward veggie at the party!) but I know that a lot of you enjoy a good sausage roll so I’ll pass on the other blogger’s comments and tell you that these were exceptional!

Queensgate Festive Food and Drink This Christmas

For anyone local to Peterborough you can find them in Queensgate’s Westgate Arcade but a good selection of their produce is now available online for those of you further afield too.

So there you have it – my 2017 Festive Food and Drink Roundup! My thanks go to the wonderful hospitality of Queensgate Shopping Centre and all of the lovely stores who plied me with food and drink all evening!

Have you spotted anything here that takes your fancy for Christmas?

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: As noted above I attended an event held by Queensgate Shopping Centre to sample the festive food and drink available in stores this year. I was not paid for this post and all items selected are hand picked by me because I absolutely loved them! (In the case of meat items I was given reliable reviews from my fellow bloggers on the night!).

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