Friday, 31 May 2019

Review: The Newly Refurbished Bill's, Mill Lane, Cardiff

Review: Bill's, Mill Lane, Cardiff {Cardiff Restaurants}

bills restaurant at cardiff mill lane

{Disclosure - we were invited to review in return for our coverage}

Link to the dinner menu

Bills at Mill Lane has had a fresh refurb. It had never crossed my mind that it needed one, but as soon as I stepped in, it was clear that it was long overdue! Even just from the outside, the flowers make it more inviting and on entering you’re instantly hit with how much more modern and vibrant the space is.

bills restaurant at cardiff mill lane

With all of the quirky touches bringing more character to the venue, I think people will feel more relaxed here with the new comfy seats and splashes of bright colour. I never even noticed before that there are booths near the back, on one side of the restaurant, they look so intimate and cosy and would be amazing for a date night.

bills restaurant at cardiff mill lane

Before even mentioning the food, I want to mention that the service was impeccable here and everyone was so warm and attentive! I love to ask the people who work there what their thoughts are on the menu as they often get to eat a lot of it, so we had fun chatting about that with our lovely waitress Christina. I realise when you’re invited to review, readers might be sceptical that we receive “special treatment”. This isn’t the case here, as after checking Trip Advisor I noticed when you search ‘Christina’ you’ll see comments in a similar vein spanning over the past four years, which is a testament to much of a credit to the team somebody is.

She was one of those people who made you feel like you’d known her years after five minutes and she spoke with great fondness about the job and her colleagues, which was refreshing to hear. Knowing that the company treat their staff really well and look after them just gives you more faith in a restaurant. All of the staff were really great in fact, helpful and good-natured. Sometimes it is people that make a visit really memorable!

bills restaurant at cardiff mill lane

Food also exceeded expectations. The menu is fairly eclectic and they have some lighter, healthy options to satisfy people who like that sort of thing.

bills chicken and sesame dumplings in cardiff

CHICKEN AND SESAME DUMPLINGS with Bill's spicy chutney - £5.95

I wasn’t too keen on trying these because the term ‘chutney’ made me imagine something thick from a jar, but it was much thinner in consistency, like a dipping sauce. In the end I wished I could have eaten the lot myself (we split two starters and shared), they were so beautifully crisp and addictive. I don’t work too far from the restaurant and I’m already planning to go and treat myself to a plate of these one lunch time.

bills crumbed halloumi sticks in cardiff

CRUMBED HALLOUMI STICKS with lime aioli - £5.95

Their halloumi sticks were the slender, more delicate type, quite light and very tasty with the tangy dip. I was impressed and very happy, big smiles all round as we tucked into the starters. To note as well, they also do a sharing starter which sounded wonderful but my desire for halloumi won and it wasn’t included in the sharer.

bills king prawn risotto in cardiff

KING PRAWN RISOTTO cooked in a shellfish stock, with smoky tomato, lemon thyme and a fennel & lemon salad - £14.25

Well presented, nice portion size with al dente rice and a good amount of plump and tasty prawns. The salad on the top added a bit of freshness and a more interesting texture to each bite. I polished it off and scooped up every stray grain from the sides of the bowl, delicious.

bills restaurant at cardiff mill lane

As a new part of the dinner menu, Bill’s are also offering a daily special. Wednesday’s was pan fried salmon with long stem broccoli, herb rosti and smoky tomato mayonnaise. My friend went for this, we usually try a bit of each other’s but I don’t think it crossed our minds as we were engrossed in eating, so I can’t say what it was like but she thoroughly enjoyed.

bills chocolate and hazelnut praline sphere in cardiff

BILL’S CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUT PRALINE SPHERE - Indulgent salted caramel ice cream with chocolate & hazelnut mousse, velvety chocolate sauce & golden pearls - £7.50

I really wanted the port and stilton but sadly they didn’t have this on the day. I didn’t fancy a sweet dessert, but I had a couple of bites of my friend’s chocolate sphere. Ice cream always helps me enjoy a chocolatey dessert more, the coolness a welcome contrast from all the indulgence. It was very nutella and ferrero rocher - amazing.

I opted for an ice-cold caffeine hit instead, a classic espresso martini. My friend didn’t find it sweet enough, but I favour a strong black coffee as my ‘usual’ so this cocktail was perfect for my taste. We were going out for more drinks after, so it felt like a good way to end the meal and give us a bit of a boost for the rest of the evening.

bills restaurant at cardiff mill lane

It was packed in Bills that night (a Wednesday), so it’s clearly still very popular. It wasn’t too noisy in restaurant, ideal ambience really - busy with a buzz but not overbearing or too loud that you couldn’t hear yourselves speak. It was a very fun evening and I think the sprucing up after the refurb will appeal to everyone. It just has a lot more charm and colour than before; I'd be more inclined to book a table here now. Check it out and see for yourself!

bills restaurant at cardiff mill lane

Monday, 6 May 2019

Review: Calendar Girls at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Review: Calendar Girls at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff {Cardiff Theatre and Shows}

calendar girls at wales millennium centre cardiff train
(Calendar Girls poster at Cardiff Central station I snapped a pic of)

The promotional imagery for everything "Calendar Girls" has always put the nudity at the forefront. You can't really blame the marketing team - a giant poster featuring multiple naked bottoms parading around a field of sunflowers incites a double take in most people I'm sure - but nakedness really is a tiny part of the story. An inspiring tale based on true events, it is a lot more than a fluffy show about middle-aged women getting their kit off and hiding their bits behind currant buns.

I saw the film a fair few years ago and can recall becoming quickly engrossed in the story, with memories of getting that teary-eyed warm and fuzzy feeling by the time the credits rolled. So with that in mind, I settled down in my seat at the Wales Millennium Centre, pleasantly full from the chicken dinner and pancakes I'd just demolished across the road at Cote Brasserie, curious to see how Calendar Girls would translate from screen to stage.

review calendar girls wales

The award-winning musical features the music and lyrics of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, performed by an ensemble cast made up of familiar faces including Sarah Jane Buckley, Lesley Joseph and Lisa Maxwell. The plot follows members of the Yorkshire Women's Institute who rally together to raise money for a comfortable sofa in the local hospital's visitors lounge, by posing for an 'alternative' WI calendar. 

As someone who usually gets excited by a more grand, spectacular type of musical, I wasn't too sure if this would be my cup of tea. But I found the simplicity of the story allowed for so much exploration of each character individually, which is something some musicals fall short with. Through covering themes of grief, friendship, marriage, raising  children and ageing, the show didn't need to be hugely dramatic or high-budget to succeed in entertaining an audience and keeping them engaged. There's so much warmth there and the joy expressed in some of the scenes is infectious, it's a little gem of a show.

beautiful photo of wales millennium centre cardiff bay
Beautiful WMC at night

I did go into it a bit worried that the songs would be too cringey or 'forgettable' as some reviews had mentioned they were it's downfall. I actually felt the songs were pleasant, sweet and fitted in naturally. They won't stick with me for years to come, but they were well-crafted and lyrically impressive. A good mix of feel-good tracks mixed with some more tender and thought-provoking numbers. I enjoyed the feeling of "oh gosh I might be about to cry" at the saddest ones; (a little weird, but I find it to be an impressive feat for a show to have that effect on me).

cardiff bloggers and instagrammers thelittlecardiffblog cardifffoodiefan
Getting ready for the show to start with @cardifffoodiefan in the comfy seats in the WMC!

I loved how each woman had their own moment to shine with a solo, based around a personality trait or insecurity that gave them added depth. Showing them at their most vulnerable made you applaud them more when they developed more courage and tenacity as the show went on. Every member of the cast bounced off each other with impressive comedic timing, the second half of the show particularly had the audience in fits of giggles. I have a soft spot for any form of theatre or media that delves into female friendships too; me and Soph kept joking that we'd be like some of the characters when we get to their age and I did come away from it feeling inspired to to keep my friendships as strong and loving as those shown by the ladies in the story.

Gentle in some places, lively and vivacious in others, Calendar Girls is a solid, uplifting musical that will bring tears to your eyes one minute then have you laughing out loud the next. As for the question everyone keeps asking me: "Do they actually get naked then?"'ll have to book a seat for yourself and find out...!

Tickets for Calendar Girls at the Wales Millennium Centre are still available online by clicking here, it's showing up until Saturday 11th May.

Here's a list of what else is coming up over summer! I've got my eye on Annie and Grease!

(*Tickets provided in return for review on press night)

cote brasserie crepes
Food at Cote Brasserie before the show - two minutes walk away from the WMC, speedy service, highly recommend! Also enjoyed stuffing my face with peanuts and thai chilli rice crackers during the interval.

calendar girls review 2019
Go girls!!! (Please note, Gary does not appear in the show, sorry for any false advertising).

Top Local Bakers in Cardiff

I've neglected my blog for a while and now I find myself in a certain predicament (unable to post on Instagram for at least a week - lon...