Portraits of Cheltenham: The Rock Climber

I went for a walk up Cleeve Hill with an idea in mind for my next portrait. I was hoping to come across a couple of walkers that I could capture with the views of the whole of Cheltenham behind them. Instead, I stumbled upon a rock climber seated at the edge of one of the cliffs.

You often see the adrenaline junkies up Cleeve Hill, they’re either riding bikes up and over the steep slopes or snowboarding when the ground is blanketed in the white stuff, this was the first time I’d seen rock climbers.

I captured him as he was adjusting the wires so that his friend below could climb up. I often prefer these kind of shots where the subject is not posed. What do you think?

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The Suffolk Kitchen, Cheltenham

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This time last year Alan and I were sunning ourselves on a beach in Tuscany. I say sunning, it was a little less glamorous when I got really bad sunburn on my backside and stomach… I digress, the main reason for my reminiscing is that it has been a year since Alan got down on one knee in the sand and asked me to marry him. We chose to use this as an excuse to go out for a nice meal in town.

It’s normal to have random anniversaries in your relationship as a reason to go out for fancy food, yeah?

We were going to go to one of our favourite Italian places but at the last minute I suggested we try somewhere we hadn’t been before. Cheltenham has so many nice independent restaurants, there are new ones cropping up all the time and some staple establishments that have a regular following. The Suffolk Kitchen has been around for a few years now, so it was about time we gave it a go.

The menu prides itself on being the best of British, offering seasonal dishes with ingredients being sourced locally and across the UK. We couldn’t wait to delve in and pore over our options.

Once we had been seated we were given some water for the table and a plate of homemade bread. Always appreciate these added extras – especially when you don’t need to ask. We had two types of bread, one was salt and pepper flavoured white bread, the other mustard wholegrain bread. Both delightful and fresh.

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We chose our food from the small but varied menu and toasted our one year engagement with a glass of rosé.

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The atmosphere inside is cosy and inviting, with warm lighting aided by candles dotted around. The space is narrow but long which adds to the intimacy.

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We were in the midst of discussing honeymoon ideas (he wants Vegas, I want Asia = we may have to go alone), when our starters arrived. I had ordered the warm duck confit, served with coriander pancakes, a creamy celeriac slaw and a plum and spring onion sauce. A tasty twist on duck pancakes.

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Alan went for the mini crab cakes, which were tossed in a spring onion dressed salad with a lemon and lime aiolo dip. The crab cakes were bursting with fish and the dip complemented them perfectly.

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After our starters we had high expectations for our mains. Luckily, they did not disappoint.

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I went for the chilli glazed salmon with ginger rice and coriander dressing. The fish was juicy and I loved the ginger rice.

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Alan had to go for the steak. They had run out of rib-eye, so treated himself to the fillet. The steak was perfectly cooked, tender and came with an oxford blue cheese bonbon that melted in your mouth.

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We opted to just look at the dessert menu and both conveniently found something we liked. I had the vanilla pannacotta with berries and Alan had the raspberry and dark chocolate marquise.

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Both went down a treat and the evening was finished on a high. If I haven’t convinced you already, you must try Suffolk Kitchen. The atmosphere, service and food was splendid.

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You can find The Suffolk Kitchen along Suffolk Parade or visit their website here.

Portraits of Cheltenham: The Retired Footballer

I didn’t have much of a chance to go out and take photographs of any unsuspecting Cheltonians last week, so whilst out on a Sunday evening walk I decided to use the fiancé as my subject.

Alan’s passion for football is so strong I often refer to it as ‘the other woman’. I will never fully understand the fascination but at least know (and have accepted) it’ll always be a big part of his life.

To give an outsider an idea of the man I am going to marry, there is no better place to take his portrait than on a football pitch.

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Top Cocktail bar destinations in Cheltenham

All in the name of blogging, I completed a cocktail bar crawl this weekend to compare some of the best places to go for an Appletini (among other drinks) in Cheltenham.

I know I’m too kind, right?

To make sure I didn’t become too inebriated and drop my camera in a Strawberry Daiquiri I split the crawl over two evenings, one with my sister, the other with Alan. I believe we came up trumps on both nights, having sampled some tasty cocktail concoctions in places I’ll definitely be returning to.

1. Lily Gins, Regent Street

http://www.lilygins.co.uk/

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First up, Lily Gins. A relatively new cocktail bar on the scene with the theme of an old Victorian bordello bar. Both upstairs and downstairs follow this theme in decor and atmosphere, with cosy sofas and deep hanging fabrics.

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The menu is full of a unique blend of cocktails, as well as wines and spirits and runs the same Victorian theme with the naming and explanation of their drinks. I would also like to add I love their choice of font.

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They offer 2-4-1 on their cocktails most days of the week, varying on times depending on the day. We visited on Saturday, so had until 8pm to sample a couple at a bargain price. Our first choice was the ‘Twinkle’, which was a mix of prosecco, elderflower and vodka. For me it was the perfect blend as I love elderflower and a bit of fizz.

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Next up, Alan wanted something a little more manly so opted for the ‘Apple Sinthe’. This mix of Pernod, Apple juice and fresh passion fruit also went down a treat.

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Lily Gins is a great addition to Cheltenham. The style and atmosphere suits the town perfectly, I’d highly recommend a visit.

2. Coco Beach, Cambray Place

http://cocosbeach.co.uk/

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Coco Beach impresses as soon as you step through the door with a giant fish tank lighting up the floor. To your immediate right there is an intimite section with a couple of tables and chairs made out like a beach hut. How have I never been here?!

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The seated area nearest to the bar has several cosy rounded leather sofas and chairs, with a screen above the bar showing some amazing surfing clips.

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I’m a big fan of any strawberry flavoured cocktails so decided to try the ‘Strawberry Wave’. It did not disappoint with it’s unique flavour and refreshing addition of strawberry pieces. Alan had a gin flavoured cocktail but I can’t remember the name – however it was presented in a great beach-style mug.

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I was really impressed with the quality of cocktails in Coco beach. It’s a fun theme too, you can almost pretend you’re somewhere a little more exotic even if it’s raining outside.

3. Six Degrees of Separation, Regent Street

http://www.6degreesofseparation.co.uk/

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Another relatively new establishment is Six Degrees of Separation. Set in the centre of town, only a stones throw away from Lily Gins. There is a great vibe as soon as you walk through the door, it’s friendly and easy-going – you almost feel like you’re walking into your friend’s house.

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The decor is minimal but works really well. There is a bike hanging on the wall in the entrance and suitcases perched on shelves and an amazing image of a stag across one of the walls upstairs.

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After a quick look around, my sister and I perused the menu. Six Degrees of Separation also offer 2-4-1 on cocktails everyday, we managed to nab a flyer so we could enjoy the offer until 10pm. It’s not on all the cocktails but you are able to mix and match.

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My first choice was ‘The White Flower’. A mix of vodka, limoncello, elderflower and lychee juice which was lovely and sharp. Nat had the ‘Strawberry Mojito’, with added mint making it hugely refreshing.

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They both went down a little easily, soon enough we were deciding on our next choice.

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I got cocktail-envy so opted for Nat’s strawberry mojito, whilst she went for a ‘French Martini’ which was made up of vodka, chambord and pineapple juice.

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I think it’s safe to say she enjoyed it..

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Just before we were about to leave we were treated to a little live music. Every Friday night Six Degrees invites live musicians to a ‘busk-off’. You are given several chips to hand in at the bar and vote for your favourite.

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We only saw the first guy so he got our vote, as did Six Degrees of Separation.

4. Crazy 8s, The Promenade

http://www.no131.com/crazy-eights

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Crazy 8s bar is part of a new restaurant with rooms (as it likes to be called) in Cheltenham, No 131. It too hasn’t been around very long but is already the place to be seen in town. The striking exterior stands out along the Promenade and gives the impression of being grand yet informal.

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We walked around the side to the entrance to the bar where there is a lovely intimite seated outside area. The large marble bar is stocked full of various bottles and you can perch on little bar stools whilst you choose your beverage. There is also a DJ playing music at a reasonable volume, so you can still talk to friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

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The cocktails are a little more expensive which is to be expected so I enjoyed a glass of prosecco, whilst Nat tried a Dry Daiquiri – a mix of rum, lime, sugar, campari, and passion fruit. By far one of the stronger cocktails of the two nights, so at least you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

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We finished off our cocktails outside the front of the restaurant and enjoyed watching the world go by.

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So those are my favourite places to go for cocktails – let me know if you can recommend any others, I’d be more than happy to try them out.

Portraits of Cheltenham

I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs of people. You can get so many different emotions from an image based on the subjects expression, how the photograph was taken, where it was taken, the lighting etc.

My dad and I attended a Street Photography course run by Lacock Photography, here we learnt all about how to approach people when wanting to take their photograph. I badgered the photographer who ran the course afterwards for advice on lenses and with this he also provided an idea for my blog. Welcome, Portraits of Cheltenham.

Here I will document people in and around Cheltenham I meet on any given day. Most subjects will be random but if you would like to be featured, get in touch.

The lovely gentleman below allowed me to take his photograph today, whilst sat on a bench outside one of Cheltenham’s most prominent features, Neptune’s Fountain.

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I hope to make this a weekly feature on the blog, so keep an eye out for more portrait photography posts.

Father’s Day at The Slaughter’s Inn

After a trip to Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival, we made our way to Lower Slaughter to celebrate Father’s Day at The Slaughter’s Inn.

It’s always an aim of mine when looking for somewhere to eat for a special occasion to find a place we haven’t been before. This was especially hard as Dad prefers the country pubs. We’ve not only been to a lot of them but I struggle to find a happy medium between good food and good prices. After a bit of googling I came across The Slaughter’s Inn.

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Set in the quaint village of Lower Slaughter, surrounded by Cotswold stone and a small stream flowing through – it was right up Dad’s street.

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We crossed the stream and set about finding our table. That morning I had driven back from a Hen Do in Norfolk so presented Dad with his gift (wrapped in beautiful pink wrapping paper I might add) whilst we perused the menu.

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The restaurant inside was modern yet countrified. They had some lovely features, mum and I loved the bookcase wallpaper. Annoyingly I didn’t take any photographs as I was too interested in the food – as usual.

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On a Sunday they offer a set menu, where you can have either one, two or three courses. With three courses at only £23.95. For starters most of us had the salmon and Nat had the soup.

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For mains we had a couple of roasts round the table, Nat had fish and I had a try of Gnocchi. I can’t compare to any others but it was delish.

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Finally the piece de resistance, and maybe the reason I picked The Slaughter’s Inn… the puddings. I’m not a huge fan of desserts but these just ticked all the boxes. Sticky toffee pudding won most of the table over but I indulged in the Eton Mess.

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After feeling well and truly stuffed, we headed outside to the gardens for some tea and coffee to wash it all down.

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I was on my green tea which I like to think sped up my metabolism enough to burn off at least half the Eton mess…

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You can find the The Slaughter’s Inn website here.

Cheltenham Food & Drink festival

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The Cheltenham Food & Drink festival comes around once a year, having missed it the last couple of times I was chuffed to be able to go this year. It was also Father’s Day so we made it part of the treat before heading out for lunch (blog post to follow on that).

The weather started off a little temperamental but soon improved, unlike most years where Montpellier park has looked mainly like a field of umbrellas.

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There are so many stalls set up to suit all tastebuds, it’s hard to just indulge in one thing. The freebies and tasters on offer often mean you can have a little bit of everything. There are several larger tents containing all kinds of treats, which is where we headed first.

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Mum and Dad were thoroughly enjoying the free wine and beer tasters. They were quite disappointed we didn’t have long enough to stay around for the wine tasting event.

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We checked out some of the smaller tents that were cooking up some mouth-wateringly good looking food.

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Once we’d had our fair share of nibbles and bought Dad some speciality beer, we headed off to our Father’s Day meal.

Make sure to check out the Food & Drink Festival next year. I’d recommend going with an empty stomach.