Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Review: Annie at the Wales Millennium Centre

Review: Annie at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff {Cardiff Theatre/Shows/Things to Do}

thelittlecardiffblog wales millennium centre theatre review cardiff

When I stepped into the Wales Millennium Centre on my way to see Annie, it was the busiest and most bustling I'd ever experienced it! As a musical running during school holidays with children leading the cast, it was to be expected I suppose. I've heard of the musical and film from years ago (have never seen either!) and know it's an award-winning a smash hit, but I didn't know it was still as popular as this! 

Set in the 1930s, Annie is the story of an 11 year old girl living in an orphanage in New York. It's not the nicest of places, to say the least - she and the other orphans are scrubbing the floors all the time, surviving on 'hot mush' for every meal and worst of all, have to put up with a horrendous guardian who should definitely not be in charge of looking after one child, never mind a whole troupe of them. 

annie the musical uk theatre review 2019

Craig Revel Horwood was unrecognisable transformed into the man-hungry, evil Miss Hannigan, the orphanage owner who revels in making the girls' lives as miserable as possible. I thought he was hilarious and for me his performance (think panto villain but with an edge) will be the most memorable of the show. He can sing, act and dance - I had no idea he was so talented! You completely forgot it was the Strictly Come Dancing Judge on stage and completely bought into his portrayal of a devilish alcoholic who is devoid of any morals and basically a real lost cause.

As the story develops, Annie manages to escape the orphanage when she is picked to spend two weeks with local billionaire "Daddy" Warbucks, played by Alex Bourne. Bourne was another stand out for me. He played the part so well, I found his performance felt very effortless and moving. Carolyn Maitland oozed warmth and loveliness as his personal assistant Grace and also stood out for her vocals - what a beautiful, faultless voice!

annie the musical uk theatre review 2019

Three young actresses alternate as the title role of Annie. On our night, the plucky heroine was played by Mia Lakha. She was so sweet and lovable in the role, we kept commenting constantly about how cute she was, full of smiles and an infectious positive outlook. Lakha played Annie perfectly with bundles of feisty confidence and endless optimism. Her performances of "Maybe" and 'Tomorrow'  conveyed real emotion and you fell in love with her more and more as the show goes on.

All of "The Orphans" (played by members of The Chrysler Company on the night) gave a tremendous performance and lit up the room with their stage presence. I don't like having to say anything negative, but I did find the younger cast members' singing voices rather shouty and shrill, so for me this was a bit distracting - I couldn't make out a lot of the words in their songs. They were all super talented and I don't want to be critical about kids but...my ears hurt a little bit at points! But I guess that's what you get when there are so many youngsters in a cast and it didn't detract from the overall impact of the songs, 'It's a Hard Knock Life' was still my favourite.

annie the musical uk theatre review 2019

Choreography was fabulous and they were all such brilliant dancers. The ensemble gave stellar performances as well (favourite scene with the board meeting with the President when everyone breaks out into song). Jenny Gayner and Richard Meek as Lily and Rooster made me feel angry whenever they came on the screen - they definitely nailed it as the 'baddies', I absolutely despised them, real 'love to hate' characters!

I'd highly recommend you take the little ones along for this cheery production with themes of friendship, family and resilience; it's a captivating show which would serve them well as their first introduction to musical theatre. The plot is simple enough for a young audience to follow, with lively musical numbers ensuring they won't get bored. There are also enough wit and subtle undertones of humour aimed at a mature audience which will make sure you won't get bored either. Annie is a really solid, well-put together musical and I can now see why it's so beloved all over the world.

annie the musical uk theatre review 2019

You can catch Annie in Cardiff up until 31st August 2019 at the WMC, some tickets still available hereTour dates for the other locations can be viewed here.

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

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Review: The Customs Shed at Novotel Cardiff

Review: The Customs Shed at Novotel Cardiff {Cardiff Food & Drink}

girl sitting in customs house cardiff novotel

(Invited to dine in return for social content)

The Customs Shed is located in the Novotel Cardiff, just a ten minute walk from central station. I think more people need to know about this place - it’s underrated and such a good choice if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre for some tasty food. My friend Sophie (and dining partner for this meal, along with Sabrina) commented in her post recently that people tend to regard hotel restaurants as dull and uninspiring. The use of local products and ingredients teamed with the relaxed, trendy decor here definitely set it apart from that general perception. 

the customs shed novotel cardiff restaurant

I liked the bright, airy setting and the high ceilings. Tables are quite far apart from each other, so if you work nearby you can have some space, bring your laptop and have a bite to eat on one of the comfy armchairs and sofas. Also would work well for an informal business lunch. Or, if you want a sit down meal there are tables on one side with a funky, eclectic mix of chairs that fit with the industrial, quirky decor. I sometimes come here and just chill for an hour when I want time to myself on lunch.

the customs shed novotel cardiff restaurant

Everything about this meal was delicious. If it wasn't, I'd give a lukewarm review and get back to the restaurant with my honest feedback on ways to improve (please always do this rather than just bashing them online - how can a business move forward if you don't give them that?). But I had zero complaints and it was one of my favourite meals this year. Between the three of us, the only thing I can recall was that Sabrina's dish could have done with more potatoes. Which is a compliment really, as the potatoes were so good.

the customs shed cardiff chorizo and prawn skewers

Grilled prawn skewers with chorizo, sauteed baby leeks and garlic mayo

Up there with my favourite starters of the year. We agreed that the starters are worth the price for sure, such high quality. Chunky prawns and salty chorizo are such a good combination!

the customs shed novotel cardiff buffalo chicken wings

Buttermilk marinated chicken wings with hot pepper and tomato sauce

I got to try a whole one of these as my friend was so generous! I thought it was sublime, I have had a huge craving for wings ever since.

the customs shed novotel cardiff restaurant lamb kofta starter

Minted ground lamb koftas with hummus, toasted seeds and grilled pitta

Lamb kofta is something I'm not so keen on, but my friend who ordered it loved it. I cannot believe this was on the 'nibbles' section though - it was about the size of a small main! Could definitely suffice as a light lunch.

the customs shed novotel cardiff lamb cutlets

Chargrilled lamb cutlets, potato gratin, tenderstem broccoli and green beans

Again not a meal I'd ever go for, but my friend was hugely impressed. Fresh, al dente vegetables and potato gratin that wasn't overly saucy or rich, just soft and delicious with a bit of crispiness on top. A wonderful choice if you like lamb, so balanced and feels quite healthy.

the customs shed novotel cardiff king prawn noodles

King prawn noodles, stir fried vegetables, soy and ginger

A lovely flavour, not too acidic. They didn't skimp on the amount of big, juicy prawns. My friend hasn’t stopped mentioning this since she had it and would go back to get it again.

the customs shed novotel cardiff rib eye steak

8oz rib eye steak, portobello mushrooms, vine tomatoes and fries (I swapped for salad and opted for garlic butter instead of a sauce)

A belter of a dish! Steak with garlic butter is my number one meal right now. They didn't have it on the menu but they kindly knocked it up for me. This plus the steak was unreal, had a huge smile as I ate J

the customs shed novotel cardiff blueberry cheesecake

Baked blueberry cheesecake with frozen blueberry yoghurt

I had wanted the cheeseboard since this was booked in 6 weeks ago and so I ordered it instantly. But my savoury stomach was so very full. I admitted defeat, I could no longer deny my stomach's true feelings. I don't have much of a dessert stomach but something about the cheesecake did appeal to me, so I changed my order last minute. That frozen blueberry yoghurt was something else! Baked cheesecake was a very good flavour and we agreed this was the best dessert

Double chocolate brownie with honeycomb ice cream

the customs shed novotel cardiff carrot cake

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and caramel sauce

the customs shed novotel cardiff cocktails

Cocktails were a dream! They have a 5-7pm week day happy hour here which we thought was really decent for a hotel restaurant. A bottle of Prosecco is £15, glass is £3.50, large glass of wine £4, pint of lager £3.50 and a few others were on there too. Cocktails are two for £10 at Happy Hour and they’ve gone for quality over quantity with a handful of choices. I particularly enjoyed the pear one Sabrina opted for, I don’t see the flavour of pear in many drinks and it’s such a subtle fruity flavour that went so well with the ginger ale. The other two pictured are ‘Slow Gin Fizz’ and ‘Jerry Loves Ginger’.

If I have to think of any constructive feedback, I would say after another look at the menu, so many things appeal but it would be good to get something a bit more inventive on there or maybe make use of the specials board. They've played it quite safe but I do get it, being a hotel restaurant you would want there to be something for everyone - and I think there is. 

This collaboration has lead to me developing a real fondness for the Customs Shed! It’s somewhere I can go to get some peace and quiet during the day and treat myself to a nicer bite to eat than a meal deal on my lunch break. You can pay at the bar first, so you aren’t hanging around for a bill and service is swift, they acknowledge that over lunch, people don’t always have much time. I went back here twice in a week, once for a glass of Prosecco and the other time for a tasty chicken wrap. I just wholeheartedly recommend the food; we were really surprised with the quality - not that we assumed it wouldn’t be good, but we didn’t expect it to feel as special and memorable as it did for us!

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Sophie, Sabrina and I

Myself and two friends attended this review - if you want to follow our Instagram accounts where we endeavour to let you know about the newest restaurants, events and everything else in Cardiff, you can find us on:

If you have any enquires please contact me on thelittlecardiffblog@gmail.com !

Follow the restaurant here or call 029 2047 5000 for enquiries.

menu for the customs shed cardiff novotel

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