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ALM1
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    • More +
      16.02.2011 14:04
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      Useful stand-by mix, but not a patch on freshly cooked couscous dishes.

      I like to have a few items stored in my kitchen cupboard for 'emergency'. When I say 'emergency' I don't mean an invasion of marauding forces or some kind of disaster blocking my route to Asda. Oh no, I have far more mundane 'emergencies' in mind. An unexpected visitor staying to eat or a return from holiday so late in the evening that even the take-aways have closed. Even just a day when I feel like being lazy in the kitchen, for that matter! And so I like supplies of foods which are quick to prepare but also have a long shelf-life without the need for refridgeration. That is how I came to try Ainsley Harriott's pre-mixed flavoured couscous. I saw a selection of these mixes in my local "b&m bargains" store at the extremely attractive price of only 39p per pack and thought that they could make a very good addition to my stash of stand-by supplies. I chose two varieties: Roasted Vegetable Style and Moroccan Medley. Curiosity got the better of me so rather than wait for a real 'emergency' I just decided to have a lazy evening and make up one of these mixes to go with some roasted chicken portions I had planned for dinner.


      ~~~First Impressions~~~

      I suppose the first impression comes from the appearance of the packaging. It's a neatly styled glossy cardboard package which contains an inner sealed sachet of the flavoured couscous. (Two sachets in this case.) Brightly coloured bold lettering announces the flavour of the mix (each variety has a different colour theme) and as it's set against a black background it grabs your attention quite readily. A photograph of the made-up product is printed on the front of the packet but, as you would expect, it's in the form of a rather more elaborate 'serving suggestion'. A monochome photo of Aynsley smiles back at you as you select his product from the store shelf.

      The packet is laden with information and if I tried to relay it all I would still be typing next week! To summarise then, we are provided with a description of the product, a clear list of ingredients, extensive lists of nutritional information and allergy advice, a recipe suggestion, manufacturer's contact details and, of course, instructions on how to make up the mix.


      ~~~The couscous - "Roasted Vegetable Style"~~~

      The next thing to strike me about this product, as I opened the packaging and tipped the contents into a mixing bowl, was the lack of aroma. But as this is a dried food that was, perhaps, to be expected. Couscous - which is simply granulated pasta - never looks all that exciting in its 'uncooked' form and this is no exception. At least the dried pieces of vegetable add colour which gives it a more promising appearance. Preparing it is a doddle. The instructions are to add 160 ml of boiling water (and the "boiling" is stressed), to stir the mixture well and then to leave it for five minutes. Finally you must "fluff the couscous with a fork to separate the grains" and it is ready to serve. There is one more optional action to take, and that is to add a knob of butter or a drizzle of olive oil at the end of preparation in order to add "extra richness". I did the latter.

      I had expected that once it had been prepared there may have been some whiffs of an appealing aroma from the couscous but I was disappointed. I could definitely smell tomato and a hint of onion but not in a way I found appetising. There was no sense of freshness about the scent. The colour of the mix was now a rich reddish golden and quite appealing and the texture of the couscous itself was every bit as fluffy as the dish should be. There was no clumping of the grains nor any stickiness. The vegetables pieces, though, seemed very small and I wondered if they had completely re-hydrated. The taste test would clarify that concern. I tried a fork-full. What an utter let-down! My guess that the vegetables had not plumped up sufficiently proved to be correct. I could certainly detect the tomatoes, the peppers and the onions but in the sense that I was tasting a concentrated and 'dried' flavour rather than one of fresh vegetables. I thought the flavour was very 'flat' in that every mouthful seemed exactly the same as the last rather than offer a different vegetable taste with each bite. I did eat most of the couscous on my plate (I was hungry!) but it became a bit of a chore and there was no real sense of enjoyment. I asked my husband what he thought of the couscous. "Pah!" came the reply. I took that to be an indication of disapproval.

      For the record, I did eat a little of the remaining couscous cold the next day for lunch and I thought that there had been an improvement in the flavours. Whether being eaten chilled or whether just standing for longer and therefore allowing the flavours to develop was the key to that improvement is something I can't answer, but I much preferred this as a salad accompaniment than with hot food.


      ~~~Ingredients and nutritional notes~~~

      For those with specific dietary requirements, the ingredients of this mix are as follows:

      Dried Cous Cous (85%) (from Wheat), Tomato Powder and Dried Tomato (2.5%), Dried Peppers, Pepper Powder and Roasted Peppers (2%), Roasted Onion and Roasted Onion Powder (1.5%), Vegetable Oil, Yeast Extract, Sugar, Salt, Maltodextrin, Dried Mushrooms, Dried Garlic, Natural Flavourings (contain Celery), Lactose, Dried Herbs, Colour (Paprika Oleoresin/Extract), Milk Protein.


      Nutritional Information (per serving):

      Energy 763kJ (180kcal)
      Protein 7.3g
      Carbohydrate 3.2g (of which sugars 2.3g)
      Fat 2.0g (of which saturates 0.7g)
      Fibre 3.4g
      Sodium 0.29g

      (Two separate lists of nutritional facts are given on the packet - this one, which is for UK consumers and a second list intended for Australia - which provides different values! If anyone can explain to me how that works I would be most grateful!)


      The "Allergy Advice" is that wheat gluten, cow's milk and celery are present in this product and that it "may" contain egg and soyabeans.

      The package carries the statement that this product contains "no artificial colours, preservatives, flavours".

      Each sachet is said to provide two portions but I would question that, depending on what the couscous was to accompany.


      ~~~A Second Try......~~~

      Undeterred by my disappointment, I tried the other packet I had bought, the 'Moroccan Medley' on a later occasion. I hoped that the couscous, essentially a North African dish, would lend itself better to a blend of 'Moroccan' spices and flavours. Unfortunately I had pretty much the same experience with this blend. The aromas were dull, the colour was dull, the taste was dull and the flavours I could detect seemed to clash somewhat. (Apple, tomato and cumin?) The only thing which lifted this version out of total blandness was the (very) mild warmth of the spice but it I didn't think it was well enough balanced with the other flavourings to produce a good end result. The inclusion of sunflower seeds added unexpected texture and crunch but possibly a bit too unexpected to my taste - too much at odds with the softly textured couscous.

      (The list of ingredients in this blend is very similar to that already shown, just remove the peppers and mushrooms from the list and replace with apple, cumin and sunflowers seeds and you will, more or less, have the picture of this latter product.)

      The "Allergy Advice" for the Moroccan Medley is the same as that given above, with the exception of celery which is not present in this version.


      ~~~Further Information~~~

      Both of these varieties are labelled as being suitable for vegetarians.

      All of the packs appear to include a recipe suggestions using the mix as a base which, I have to say, sound quite appetising but I didn't try either of the recipes on the packets I bought so I can't comment on them further.

      The company which manufacturers this product is Symingtons and they can be contacted at the following address:

      Symingtons Ltd
      Dartmouth Way
      Leeds
      LS11 5JL


      Further information about these and other products in the Aynsley Harriott range can be found on a dedicated website:

      http://www.ainsley-harriott.co.uk/


      ~~~Price and availability~~~

      I bought this product for 39p from 'b&m bargains' but this is the kind of store which does not always stock particular lines with consistency so it may not be possible to repeat my bargain buy. I should also be clear that the packs I bought contained two inner sachets of the mix and the contents totalled 200g in weight.

      Asda normally stock this product for 68p per packet and currently have a 4-for-£2 offer. This, however, is for only 100g which appears to the newer style of packaging. Sainsbury's are currently charging a hefty 90p for one of these 100g packs.

      On the face of it, these little packs can be obtained for a fairly small outlay and so give the appearance of being quite good value. However they work out somewhere in the region of five times the cost of plain couscous. Many home cooks will already have jars of herbs and spices in their kitchen cupboards and so it would be no great difficulty to make up couscous with a flavour likely superior to these mixes and for only a fraction of the price. From that angle, these mixes seem to be poor value. (Sorry Ainsley!)


      ~~~Conclusion~~~

      So you may have concluded that I will not be buying these mixes again. Well, surprisingly, I could be persuaded to make a repeat purchase if I came across another attractive offer. I think part of my disappointment stemmed from an unreasonable level of expectation. This is not fresh food, it's dehydrated convenience food and as such it is bound to be limited in how fresh or appealing it can taste. Although I would not plan to make this part of a meal, I do think products of this type have a place. They have a relatively long shelf-life, they can be made up very quickly and they could be very useful in situations where the cook has very limited facilities - camping say, or holiday accommodation with limited equipment. It is still, to my mind, a useful product for the 'emergency' cupboard though I think I may experiment with other brands in the search of something with better flavouring.

      I suppose these mixes could also be used as a base to which you could add fresh ingredients and flavourings but if you are going to do that, why not just buy plain couscous in the first place given the marked price difference? For a cook who likes to eat couscous on a very regular basis, I would definitely recommend buying plain couscous as the cost savings would be considerable and the end results far superior!


      (NB - this review appears on other sites under the same username)

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      • More +
        08.02.2011 19:16
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        A very simply styled restaurant serving freshly cooked food at reasonable prices.

        A couple of months ago we were in Bergen town centre and it was cold - somewhere in the region of minus nine degrees and with a gentle breeze blowing into our faces, it felt colder than that. When we had completed everything we had set out to do we decided it was time for a coffee or hot chocolate to warm and revive us. We gave some thought to where we might go and realising just how hungry we felt we wondered if we should opt for a full meal instead. After all, a coffee and sandwich for two in Bergen could leave you with little change from twenty pounds. By spending just a little more than that we could obtain better value for our money and have a lazy, non-cooking evening when we got home. We were standing at the "Blue Stone" ("Den blå stein") the popular meeting point in central Bergen where Torgallmenningen meets Ole Bulls plass and so we remembered that it would take a walk of only about two minutes to reach Hot Wok - a fast service Chinese restaurant.

        We had walked straight passed this restaurant on so many occasions before first venturing in. In fact we had been faintly amused by the fact this Chinese eatery also sold pizza. Working on the "Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none" theory, we reasoned that neither the pizzas nor the stir-fries could be particularly good. I am not quite sure what convinced us finally to give it a go but were very glad that we did. We have now eaten there on several occasions and have never once been disappointed.


        ~~~The Restaurant~~~

        This is a simple, cafeteria-style establishment in a very convenient city-centre location. Its corner position, with the two exterior walls containing full-height windows, gives it a very bright and airy atmosphere. Only the two interior black walls and the red painted service counter allude to an oriental theme. Scandinavian simplicity is otherwise the dominant feature of the interior with a white tiled floor, black-topped, wooden edged tables and downlighting over the counter area.

        Table settings are very simple. The plates, cutlery and drinking glasses used are plain and functional. Chopsticks are provided - but only in the form of those pre-wrapped and conjoined sticks you need to snap apart before use.

        High-chairs are available for young children and staff seem eager to help families get themselves settled at tables. Where space allows, there seems to be no objection to buggies being pulled up close to the parent's seats - a practice which is commonplace in Norwegian cafes in my observation.

        The restaurant's website states that the menu represents the style of cooking from South China and also neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore where Cantonese cuisine has had some influence.


        ~~~The Menu~~~

        I will begin by stating that we have never eaten pizza here so I can't comment at all about the quality, flavour or value for money of this part of the menu. I haven't even seen a pizza being served within the restaurant but I can say, if the throughput of people visiting the counter and carrying away flat cardboard boxes is anything to go by, that this restaurant's pizzas are very popular. The eating-in menu shows eight choices of pizza, each priced at 99 Norwegian Krone (NOK) which equates to roughly £10.50. (The menu also informs the diner that these are 30cm in diameter!)

        The menu is very simple in both appearance and content. It is, essentially, a laminated and folded sheet of A4 paper with clear sections displayed. It mirrors the type of layout often seen in Chinese restaurants in that the lists of dishes are displayed with the sauce variations being repeated, to some extent, in other sections. (For example: beef with mushroom and onion and chicken with mushroom and onion, and so on.) Incidentally, there only seem to be Norwegian language menus provided on the tables but the staff will bring an English version on request - or even offer it to a customer immediately if they assess that the diner is not Norwegian.

        There are four options under the "Starters" heading and also three varieties offered in the "Soup" section. The soups are priced at 34 NOK (about £3.70) and starters range from 34 to 48 NOK.

        Meat dishes are divided into lists of beef, pork chicken. They cost 98 NOK (roughly £10.50) and come with boiled rice included in the price. Meals containing either duck or king prawn are more expensive - the equivalent of £16. A selection of noodle and fried rice dishes provide further options. There are also a few non-Asian meals on the menu - other than pizza - offerings such as chicken and chips or steak and chips with Bearnaise sauce. These are priced at 89 NOK and 98 NOK respectively.

        The choice for vegetarians is limited. There is no separate section for vegetable dishes per se, in fact the only meat-free options I could find on the menu were a couple of the noodle dishes, one fried-rice dish and a single pizza variety. That said, I think it would be worth asking if the chef could rustle up a specific combination if the listed meat-free options come with a sauce you didn't fancy.

        As far as I am aware, alcohol is not served in this establishment. Branded soft drinks can be had for 30 NOK (just over £3) which is very pricey by UK standards but pretty much par for the course in Norway. Don't forget that Norwegian restaurants are required to serve plain tap water on request and without charge. Tap water in Norway is not only safe to drink but of a high standard and, I find, a surprisingly enjoyable accompaniment to a meal.

        I have never eaten a pudding or any kind of sweet offering here and I have absolutely no recollection whether such things are even served. (There are none in evidence in the restaurant's menu which can be viewed online.)

        In addition to all of this, there is a lunch menu which is served from 12 noon to 5pm from Monday to Saturday. The choices are very limited, but it represents a price reduction of somewhere between 25 - 30 % of the main menu price. (That's an estimate, by the way, I didn't get my calculator out!) Everything on the main menu can be bought to take-away and costs about 10% less than eating in.


        ~~~The food!~~~

        We have now eaten several dishes here with my husband usually opting for something with beef and for me, chicken. The meat has always been flavoursome and tender, the vegetables fresh and cooked to retain crispness and the portion sizes reasonable. The sauces - and we have previously tried Szechuan, mushroom and onion, garlic and ginger and also pepper - have never lacked flavour. We have enjoyed every dish but I should mention that the chef is quite generous when it comes to adding chilli or any type of flavouring with spicy heat. In fact the menu has a coding system to denote the degree of 'heat' of the food in the form of one or two red bars next to the meal description. Those with two red bars are, indeed, hot. Be warned!

        The meals with rice accompaniment come to the table 'plated up' but every time we have eaten there we have been approached by our waiter to ask if we would like to have more rice (we usually say yes!) and then a large bowl of steaming rice has been brought for us to help ourselves.

        On our most recent visit we noticed large bowls of noodles being served to a nearby table just as we were settling at ours and this virtually removed the need for us to study the menu. We both ordered noodle dishes, mine with chicken and vegetables and his with beef in a curry sauce. The chicken was as tender as I have come to expect and I was pleased with the variety of vegetables in the sauce. It was cooked to perfection. My husband's choice was not to my taste - I've never been keen on Chinese style curry sauces - but he enjoyed the succulence of the beef, the freshness of the vegetables and the powerful flavour of the sauce.


        ~~~Service~~~

        Service is friendly, fast and responsive, not overly formal and attentive without being overbearing. I have noticed that one of the staff members (could he be the owner?) takes an active role in taking orders and delivering the food to the tables but also takes a few moments out every so often to circulate amongst the diners, jug of iced water in hand, to top up drinks and check that everything is as it should be. All staff we have met speak English.


        ~~~Facilities~~~

        The building doesn't appear to be the easiest of places for anyone using a wheelchair to negotiate. There are three small steps at the restaurant entrance (I have included a photograph - shown above - to show this more clearly) and I have never asked staff about this, but it could be worth asking if they own a removable ramp to overcome this obstacle - something I often see done in Bergen.

        The toilet is very clean but if my memory serves me correctly there is only one for all diners and I did not see a separate cubicle for disabled customers. Again, it might be worth checking with the establishment if you need to be sure about this.


        ~~~General information~~~

        It should be noted that there are two branches of Hot Wok. The one under discussion in this review is Hot Wok City. (Hot Wok Sartor is located on the island of Lille Sotra in the archipelago to the west of Bergen.)

        The address of the restaurant is:

        Hot Wok City
        Vestre Torggaten 1
        5015 Bergen

        Telephone: (0047 from outside Norway) 55 21 85 88


        The restaurant has a website but only in Norwegian: http://www.hotwok.no/

        The full menu can be viewed (again, only in Norwegian) online: http://www.hotwok.no/city.html


        The opening hours, as stated on the website are as follows:

        Monday to Saturday, 12 noon to 11pm
        Sundays, 2 to 11 pm.

        There is a notice on the restaurant door, however, which states a slightly earlier closing time of 10 pm (every day). I don't know which notice is correct - it could be that it varies according to season. (I don't stay out that late any more in Bergen, the amount of public drunkenness is quite a problem - the late evening scenes in the city can make Newcastle look like a meeting point for teetotallers!)


        ~~~Just one more thing~~~

        Anyone who visits this restaurant in very cold weather may be greeted, as we were recently, by a sight which may seem slightly odd to a UK tourist. Dotted about the dining area were a series of mobile oil-filled radiators. This type of heater is used frequently in Norway - in fact I have been surprised to learn how few homes have central heating in this chilly country. It isn't an indication that something has gone wrong with the plumbing - it's just a Norway thing!


        ~~~In conclusion~~~

        This is a simply styled city-centre restaurant which is popular with locals and tourists alike. The menu is not extensive but the food is freshly cooked, filling and tasty. Norway is very expensive and tourists from other countries often find that the search for good quality and good value food can be something of a challenge. With this in mind, Hot Wok represents good value for money and serves enjoyable meals in a simple but bright and clean environment.

        (NB: this review appears on other sites under the names ALM1 or "The Travelling Geordie")

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        • More +
          05.02.2011 21:52
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          A gentle and reasonably effective roll-on which can often be obtained for a very good price.

          Some months ago, while in my local Lloyds chemist, I noticed a display of reduced priced goods. Among the selection were two lines from the Sanex range of roll-on deodorants. Two things particularly caught my eye. Firstly, they were in plastic bottles so they would make a perfect addition to my stash of 'supplies' to take abroad with me. And then there was the price. Already reduced to 60p per bottle, an additional offer of three-for-the-price-of-two had been applied. At 40p per bottle, in perfect packaging for travelling and from a company I believed would come up with a reasonably good product, how could I lose? I cleared the shelf.

          The two variations were "dermoinvisible" (the pink one) and "dermosensitive" (the peach-coloured one). I will review the latter today.


          ~~~The bottle~~~

          I don't know whether Sanex were the first company to design an "upside-down" roll-on deodorant dispenser, but they were certainly among the first to do so. It is rather a short, squat bottle with a bulbous, peach-coloured top which sits inside a translucent, colourless base. The top part is actually the receptacle which holds the deodorant, but by resting upside-down into the lid/holder, it allows the liquid to constantly bathe the roller ball and thereby prevent the ball from drying out and sticking. (It also means that it is easy to use the very last drop of deodorant.) The shape of the bottle makes it easy to hold and the larger-than-average roller ball allows easy and smooth dispensing of the liquid. Just a little twist is needed to detach the bottle from its base - and to close it.

          I must say I find the label rather annoying. The Sanex logo - the dark blue rectangle with white lettering is clear enough, but beyond that I find the design with its superimposed script and images cluttered and difficult to read. And that's just the label on the front of the bottle. The rear label has information in three languages crammed into a small space and the printers have resorted to using the tiniest typeface in order to achieve this. The end result, for me anyway, is that much of the information is illegible without using a magnifying glass - and I have neither the time nor the inclination to go to those lengths!

          I can make out three logos though, one to indicate the contents should be used within 12 months of opening, the old-style "Keep Britain Tidy" image of a man disposing of his litter responsibly and a final one to indicate the bottle can be recycled.


          ~~~The deodorant~~~

          The liquid is smooth, almost creamy and very pale peach-coloured. The perfume is distinctive. It is sweet, floral, 'powdery' and very slighly 'fruity' in aroma. I have a fancy I can smell something akin to peaches/apricots in the scent but that could be nothing more than my imagination playing tricks - given all the hints at 'peachiness' suggested by the product and package colouring!

          The deodorant spreads easily, does not sting and the time it takes to dry seems to be about average for this type of roll-on. I haven't gone so far as to time it but it must take somewhere in the region of a minute or two to dry. (The manufacturer's do instruct the user to allow the deodorant to dry before dressing.)

          In terms of maintaining dryness throughout the day, I find it to be very good. Not perfect though - there have been a couple of occasions following strenuous work on a hot day when it has not managed to maintain total dryness. However for the British climate and in normal, everyday circumstances I thought that it performed adequately. The fresh smell lingers throughout the day too, which was reassuring, but I wondered at times if the fragrance was just a little too pervasive. I thought it could have the potential to 'clash' with any perfume which may be worn.

          The manufacturers claim that this deodorant has moisturising properties and I must say that after continued use my skin did feel very soft and smooth and quite soothed. At no time when using this product did I encounter any hint of stinging, soreness or irritation. It does not contain alcohol which is, in my view, a positive thing. Although no details are offered, the label states that the product has been "dermatologically tested".

          As with most products of this type, the makers instruct that anyone who experiences irritation should stop using the deodorant.


          ~~~Ingredients~~~

          For those who need to know exactly what is in their personal care products, the ingredients list is as follows:

          Aqua, Aluminium Chlorohydrate, Glycerin, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Steareth-2, Cyclopentasiloxane, Steareth-21, Parfum, Talc, Lactis Proteinum, Dimethicone, BHT.


          Anyone who experiences allergic reaction to aluminium is not going to find this product suitable.

          Lactis Proteinum - milk protein - is said to have skin conditioning properties.


          ~~~Company contact~~~

          If you have any questions regarding Sanex products there is a contact number where staff are available to help: 01753 508123

          The company's address is

          Sara Lee Household & Bodycare UK Limited,
          225 Bath Road,
          Slough,
          SL1 4AU,
          United Kingdom.


          ~~~Price and availability~~~

          I have a feeling that the superb offer I chanced upon in Lloyds was due to a decision to discontinue the line from this store - I haven't seen it in that shop since! You can buy it from Boots though and they are currently charging £1.73. Sainsbury's usually stock this for £1.32 but I noticed in my nearest store only last week that it was on offer for 66p. A quick check tonight confirmed that it is still available at that price from Sainsbury's Online.


          ~~~In conclusion~~~

          This is a gentle and soothing roll-on deodorant. I find it adequately effective in terms of the freshness and dryness it provides under normal usage conditions but I would question whether it could stand up to more rigorous testing. The fragrance is rather strong and it really is down to personal taste whether this could be considered a boon or a detraction!

          Despite the near-useless labelling and - in my view - rather tacky and cheap looking packaging, I do find the bottle to be extremely practical and easy to use. It is particularly handy for anyone who is going to be travelling as the packaging is very light but also seems quite robust.

          I wouldn't like to pay the full recommended price but it would appear that by keeping an eye open for current offers in different stores there is no need to!


          (NB this review also appears on Ciao! under the same username)

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          • More +
            17.01.2011 16:40
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            Cleans your hands and leaves them soft.

            I like bar soap. I like liquid hand-wash. Before this descends into a 'Harry Hill' moment, I'll just say that I buy both - or either. I don't have a favourite and for a product which is an everyday essential and used up so very quickly it really is a case of seeing which brand or line is on offer when I'm shopping. The last time I bought hand-soap it was a liquid version - 'Cotton Soft' Moisturising Hand Wash from Cussons Imperial Leather.


            ~~~The Brand~~~

            The Imperial Leather brand has been around for longer than I had realised. I have been familiar with that distinctive presentation box and uniquely shaped bar of soap with the little foil label ever since I was a small child, but I had not realised that the range was launched during the second world war. The scent on which the range was based had a history going back even further - to 1768 when "Imperial Russian Leather" was created following a commission from a Russian count. The perfumers who had created that fragrance were taken over by the chemists firm Cussons who themselves had a history dating back to the 1870's. So that little bottle of hand-wash with its modern styling has quite a heritage.


            ~~~Presentation and Product Information~~~

            The bottle is asymmetrically styled and, I assume, shaped in such a way as to make it easy to hold though it must have been fashioned for a hand slightly larger than mine. The design of the bottle's base allows it to stand quite steadily and pressing on the pump dispenser with one hand will enable you to deposit the right amount of liquid into the palm of your other hand with ease and good control. The bottle is clear and colourless so it is easy to see the white liquid within.

            The front face of the bottle is not overly cluttered. The Imperial Leather logo - white lettering on the red stylised ribbon - is immediately noticeable, as is an artist's impression in blue and grey shades. (I am sure my first attempts to interpret this design could have occupied a psycho-analyst for hours. Was it a deformed butterfly? A cumulus cloud? Turns out it is an artist's impression of a cotton boll burst open to reveal its fluffy innards.)

            The rear of the bottle is packed with information. Much of the space is taken up with descriptions of the product, a full ingredients list and company contact details but other useful items of information include advice that this product has been '_dermatologically tested_', that it has a '_skin-friendly pH_' and that it is hypoallergenic. A logo containing the cipher '_18M_' advises that it should be used within eighteen months of opening. (I only wish I could get my bottles of hand-wash to last that long!). The plastic bottle is suitable for recycling. As with all products of this type, if any should get into your eyes then you should rinse them well with water.


            ~~~The Wash~~~

            Opaque in appearance in the bottle but nearer to being translucent when a small amount is put on your skin, it has a consistency similar to a lotion and has, to my mind, a really lovely fragrance. It's a mix of floral and herbal aromas but I just can't pinpoint any one component. It lathers easily, cleans very well and leaves the skin feeling softened. Like many at this time of year, I am suffering from dry, 'tight' skin on my hands and while this hand-wash is no substitute for using a hand cream I find it goes a long way towards helping to minimise the problem. Frequent hand-washing using this product certainly does not exacerbate the problem of dry hands, in fact they feel really soft and smooth immediately after washing. Most importantly I feel that my hands have been thoroughly cleaned. If I have been cooking and my hands feel rather oily, this 'soap' tackles the greasiness with ease. I find that only a small amount of the liquid is needed to provide an adequate wash and although I have not kept any records to enable me to be more specific, I have a feeling that this wash is lasting longer than some other brands I have tried.


            ~~~Ingredients~~~

            I will include a full list of ingredients for those who have specific intolerances or preferences:
            Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Polyquaternium, Parfum, Gossypium Herbaceum Seed, Avena Sativa Kernel Extract, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Lactic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Polysorbate-20.


            The " Avena Sativa Kernel Extract" is the oat extract and the "Gossypium Herbaceum Seed" is the botanical name for cotton seed - both of which are reported to have emollient and skin conditioning properties.

            Anyone who experiences skin irritation when using products containing Sodium Laureth Sulphate (or who just prefers to avoid it) should take note that it is present in this product.


            ~~~Company Contact Information~~~

            If you have any queries about this product or the company which makes it, you can contact

            Freepost RSGU-JUZT-ZCJU
            PZCussons UK Ltd
            MANCHESTER
            M22 5TG

            Tel: 0800 581001

            Website: www.imperialleather.co.uk


            ~~~Price and Availability~~~

            I can't remember where I bought this or how much I paid though I have a vague recollection of it being a two-for-one offer. (I wouldn't have bought it if had not been of offer!) Is on offer right now at Asda online for £1 per bottle (usually £1.59) Sainsbury's are selling it for £1.62 per bottle. (the bottle contains 300ml.)


            ~~~In Summary~~~

            This is a lovely hand-wash with a fresh and pleasing fragrance. Even after frequent washing with this product my hands remain soft, smooth and feel soothed. Most importantly, perhaps, it offers good cleansing qualities. I will certainly buy it again - and would not hesitate to recommend it to others - but I would be on the lookout for a special offer as I feel the full price is not really competitive.

            (NB: this reviews appears on other sites under the same username.)

            Comments

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            • More +
              03.01.2011 12:32
              Very helpful
              (Rating)
              4 Comments

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Good food, great service and all the facilities of a large store at hand.

              So many retail outlets have in-store eating places now - supermarkets, garden centres, bookstores, chocolate shops - and it is clear that there is a demand for them. I rarely see such cafés completely empty as shoppers make a brief stop at these convenient re-fuelling stations before they get on with their spending. They provide a useful and often good value service, but how many would you associate with really good food, excellent service, a relaxing dining environment and a well thought-out menu? The brasserie in John Lewis, Newcastle is one which I think meets that description. The brasserie offers a flexible menu ranging from light meals such as salad or morning toast right through to a three course meal with wine.


              ~~~How to find the Brasserie~~~

              The John Lewis department store is situated within Eldon Square indoor shopping complex in Newcastle's city centre. There are several ways to gain access to the store - perhaps the the simplest route for a visitor to the city would be to enter the shopping centre from Northumberland Street and then to take a very short walk along Eldon Way to one of the store's main entrances. Alternatively, the entrance at basement level which is adjacent to Eldon Square Bus Station is another route which could be convenient to use.

              The brasserie is on the first floor of the shop and can be reached by escalators, stairs and wide-access lifts. The entrance of the restaurant would be easy to miss as it is tucked away amongst displays of ladies' clothing and the signage is quite understated. Regular menus are displayed on the wall and additional cards showing the day's lunchtime menu are available to peruse at the reception desk. A member of staff will greet you and find a table for you.


              ~~~Style and ambience~~~

              The brasserie is situated on a balcony which overlooks Chevy Chase (that's one of the shopping centre's walkways and nothing to do with an American comedy actor by the way!) so there is a very open feel about the place. It's modern, fairly uncluttered and it uses a mix of materials and colours to create a comfortable environment. Some tables are granite-topped, some are of dark wood. Seating is provided in the form of wooden/leather topped chairs and upholstered bench seating. The tables are arranged in fairly close proximity to one another so it may not be the best setting for a romantic meal for two though a series of panels composed of wooden pillars do go some way to providing a little seclusion and break up the openness of the restaurant space to some extent. On the whole , though, it produces quite a lively setting and families and groups of friends can usually be heard chatting animatedly . At the same time, a lone diner would not feel uncomfortable or out of place in any way.

              A granite-topped reception counter is placed at the entrance forming a separation between the brasserie and the main shopping floor area and another similarly styled bar counter is located about midway into the restaurant. This latter area doubles up as a payment point if you prefer to approach a desk to pay. (Staff will also take payment at your table.) The bar area is immediately adjacent to the kitchen entrance and in fact it is just possible to watch kitchen staff at work behind a partition. I like the fact that I can see the kitchen but it is not an overbearing or dominating feature of the restaurant.Overall there is a very, very relaxed feeling about the place. There is an air of professionalism from the staff which is palpable but without any hint of aloofness or stiff formality.


              ~~~The Menu~~~

              The standard menu changes every so often and the daily lunch menu seems to be changed most frequently - not weekly perhaps, but I have noticed that two visits, say a month apart can mean you notice different lunchtime choices.

              Prices are certainly more than we might have come to expect from an in-store eatery but they appear to be fairly standard for a brasserie. Starters are priced at £4.25 to £6.50, mains range from £6.95 for a salad through to £12.95 for a sirloin steak or 'fish of the day'. Puddings are £4.50. Breakfasts items are available from £2.50 to £6.95 and afternoon teas are £5.95. A bottle of wine will set you back around £14 - £16 (more for champagne, obviously) but glasses of wine are now served in three sizes.

              The menu choice is not the most extensive I have come across but there is usually at least one dish with meat, one with fish and a vegetarian option. (Vegetarian dishes are marked on the menu with a "V".) Breakfast choices can be as light or indulgent as you fancy with several items from toast to Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon being offered.

              Every day a set lunch is offered at £12 for two course or £15 for three.

              If I were to be pushed into finding any negative point about the menu I might only request that an even greater emphasis could be placed on locally produced ingredients. (Or if the ingredients are from the region, then more information about them could be included on the menu.) To give an example, the cheeses used are superb but I would love to eat some of Northumberland's excellent cheeses in this restaurant - I have in the past but they don't appear on the menu at the moment.


              ~~~The food~~~

              To try to convey the style of the cooking and the quality of the food, I shall concentrate on describing my lunch choices on a most recent visit.

              I don't often eat a pudding in a restaurant as savoury foods are by far my favourite and I would normally opt for a two-course option of starter and main. However the menu on this occasion was offering cheese as a final course so I chose to begin with the main dish.
              From the main course I chose 'slow braised beef on horseradish mash and roast baby carrots'. I wanted only a small glass of red wine to accompany the food and was delighted to be told by the waiter that a 125ml serving was now being offered. That really is a small glass of wine but for lunchtime and on a day when I had quite a lot of tasks to complete in the afternoon, it was ample. I appreciated the opportunity to at least have the flavour of the wine but without the risk of feeling sleepy or slowed-down afterwards.

              My glass of iced water and small glass of Chilean Merlot arrived before the food and the powerful scent of the red wine hit me before the glass even touched the table - plummy, chocolately, spicy and the colour the deepest of reds with a tinge of purple. If the intensity of the flavour could match that of the aroma then the wine was going to be spectacular! Unfortunately it wasn't, it was a good deal lighter in flavour and body than the aroma had suggested but with its cherry-like sharpness and slight tannic bite it proved to be quite a good match for the food. And it did leave a warmth and a spicy aftertaste which was welcome on that cool day.

              A large white plate arrived and the quantity of the food looked about right for lunch. I had the impression it would be sufficiently filling without leaving me feeling overly uncomfortable or needing to leave large amounts of the meal uneaten. One very thick slice of beef was nestled against a generous mound of soft mashed potato with two halves of a roasted carrot (definitely an adult carrot and not a baby carrot) arranged at a jaunty angle on top. The beef was bathed in - and surrounded by - a generous pool of rich, glossy gravy.

              Sometimes with beef I find there can be a trade-off between tenderness and flavour but in this case both qualities were present in abundance. The meltingly tender meat was bursting with a rich flavour which was manifest equally in the gravy. To call it 'gravy' does not really do it justice. It was smooth, just the right consistency to coat the food and had a beautiful gloss. The carrot had been gently roasted which had accentuated its flavour and sweetness but allowed it to retain just the right degree of firmness. The mashed potato was perfectly smooth, soft and expertly flavoured with horseradish - not so much that it overpowered the delicate potato flavour but just enough to enhance and add something really interesting and lively to an old favourite. The portion had proved to be more of a challenge that I had anticipated! It was very filling. I was determined not to miss out on the second course I had been looking forward to, so I just asked the waiter for a 'rest' before continuing and spent some time sipping at my wine and people-watching.
              When I felt ready, the plate of cheese and oatmeal biscuits arrived and it looked as if it was another meal in itself. Four oatmeal biscuits - crisp and of good quality - were accompanied by three wedges of English cheese - an Oakwood smoked cheese, a Wensleydale-style cheese flavoured with berries and a piece of creamy, mature stilton. A ramekin containing home-made chutney ('real ale chutney') was served alongside and this provided a better foil for the cheeses than I had imagined it might. I thought the sweet, fruity yet sharp chutney would 'clash' with each of the three differing styles of cheese. Clearly the chef knew more on the subject than I did. The biggest surprise was the way the sharp fruitiness combined with the salty, smoky flavour of the Oakwood. All quite enlightening really. A few pieces of fresh apple and celery added not only visual appeal but a refreshing and juicy crunch to the platter.

              I must have arrived at the restaurant at around two thirty for a late lunch. It was over one and a half hours later when I left - replete and in good heart ready to tackle the rest of the day's activities. I did not eat another thing for the rest of the day. A hot drink before bed-time was all that was needed.
              On reflection I thought the menu - or at least my selection from it - ran the risk of seeming a little staid. However the key for me was the fact that that very fresh and flavoursome ingredients had been used and they had been cooked with care to highlight the flavours. The presentation was sleek and attractive but never in danger of putting style ahead of substance. It was classic British food well executed and with modern twists. The menu does often include such British classics but also shows clear signs of European influence.

              On that occasion my choice had been filling, hearty food but lighter choices are available too. In the past I have enjoyed risottos of perfect consistency and flavour, beautifully cooked fish dishes (salmon and Artic char ), home-made pate packed with flavour, light and crisply-battered prawns served with aoili and also smaller items such as a warmed scone and clotted cream. (Yummy!) Every meal I have had has been beautifully presented and of the highest quality.


              ~~~The service~~~

              Once you have been seated your waiter/waitress will allow you as much time as you need to make your choice. Even at the busiest times there is no feeling of being rushed. Staff are happy to explain dishes or ingredients to customers and manage to do this in a way which is informative but never condescending. If you ask them a question they are unable to answer, they will go back to the kitchen to get the information for you.


              ~~~Facilities for disabled customers~~~

              Being in the heart of a modern department store means that useful facilities for disabled customers are available. Toilets are to be found on the same floor as the Brasserie and these are accessible with a RADAR key. If you do not have your own key, ask store staff for assistance. Accessible parking is also available near to the store. All areas of the store are accessible to wheelchair users due to the installation of short-rise lifts in addition to the main elevators.


              ~~~Facilities for families~~~

              Again, the store location provides excellent facilities for parents with babies and young children. All floors are accessible for parents with buggies and pushchairs and facilities including a nappy changing area, a babies' feeding room and what is described as a 'rest area' is provided - also on the first floor.
              Within the brasserie staff make it easy for parents to get settled at a table with the pram or buggy alongside if the child is sleeping or too young to be seated in a high-chair - though these are available too should they be required. I have noticed that staff go beyond merely arranging seating, but take an interest and interact with the baby or child. The Brasserie appears to be very popular with parents and it is not difficult to understand why.


              ~~~Store opening hours:~~~

              On weekdays the store is open from 9am to 8pm (10am to 5pm on bank holidays)
              Saturday's hours are 9am to 7pm and Sunday, 10.30am to 5pm. (There are some variations over the December/January holiday period.)

              The restaurant serves breakfasts from 9am to 11.15am and then lunch from 11.30am until the stores closes.


              ~~~Contact details and further information:~~~

              John Lewis
              Eldon Square
              Newcastle upon Tyne
              NE1 7RR
              Telephone: 0191 232 5000


              Some photographs of the brasserie and a sample menu can be viewed online though I notice that the prices are currently a little higher than those shown and the menu is similar but not exactly the same as that currently on offer.

              The web address is as follows:

              http://www.johnlewis.com/Shops/DSTemplate.aspx?Id=430


              ~~~In summary:~~~

              This is not the cheapest venue to visit while you are in town shopping. However the quality of food on offer is in a different league from simple in-store coffee shop fare. It offers a very relaxing atmosphere and I would recommend the brasserie even if you are not planning to shop. If you are in town and looking for a brasserie-style meal I would thoroughly recommend making a detour into Eldon Square just to visit this restaurant. The food is of a consistently high standard and the service is excellent.


              (Please note this review - or edited versions - appear on other sites under the same name (or The Travelling Geordie)).

              Comments

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              • Travelodge Feltham / Hotel National / 31 Readings / 31 Ratings
                More +
                14.12.2010 21:58
                Very helpful
                (Rating)
                5 Comments

                Advantages

                Disadvantages

                Low cost accomodation with good public transport links.

                We were going to an event at Twickenham and wanted accommodation close to the venue but also wanted to stick to a modest budget. An email offer alerted me to the fact that Travelodge were running their (from) £19 per night offer so I decided to give their website a look to see what they could offer. I had also received an email alert from British Airways and I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that we could fly for a fare similar to the cost of rail travel - at least on the dates and times of our choice so it seemed logical to book accommodation somewhere between Twickenham and Heathrow airport and in a locality which is well served by public transport to both of those places. We chose Feltham which is two and a half miles from Heathrow and four and a half miles from Twickenham.


                ~~~The Travelodge Website and Booking Process~~~

                Starting at the home page, you'll find a 'quick book' option. Type in a location, dates, number of rooms and visitors. Clicking on 'search' brings up a selection of hotels in the area you have chosen. This page also displays a small map of that area with the hotel options clearly marked on it, which I find quite handy. At this point you can click to read 'more hotel information' for each of the options offered or you can simply proceed straight to booking. The next page displays the prices for each of the nights you have selected for your stay. When you are satisfied with your choice, simply click 'book now'.

                You are then presented with a list of charges for an array of possible add-ons. (At this stage the booking process is beginning to feel slightly Ryanair-esque and you being to wonder how greatly the final bill will differ from those attractive starting prices!) At the top of the page, however, the basic cost is displayed clearly and it may be that you have no need to add anything further but the optional extras are as follows:

                Room Cancellation Insurance
                This costs £1.50 per stay. It will cover UK residents' reservations costs in the event of a 'non-refundable room cancellation'. The terms and conditions are very detailed and I would recommend that you read this section in full, if this insurance is of interest to you.

                Breakfast:
                The cost of breakfast will be discounted if you pre-book online. Breakfast options vary depending on which hotel you have booked. Some - such as Feltham - have a Bar Cafe within the hotel and offer an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. This costs £6.50 if you book online, saving £1 on the cost if you pay on the day. (For each full breakfast purchased, two children may eat free of charge, something families may find to be particularly good value.)

                Other Travelodges are adjacent to restaurants and the hotel itself will offer only a light breakfast which is delivered to your room in the form of a 'Breakfast Bag'. (Such an appetising description!) This contains breakfast cereal and milk, a croissant with a jam portion, a (American style) muffin and orange juice. This costs £4.05 when booked online which, apparently, represents a 10% discount on the price were you to order it on arrival at your hotel.

                Dinner:
                Dinner may be pre-booked for hotels with a Bar Cafe only. The cost is £6 for two courses per adult.

                Early Check In:
                Normally you may check in to your room from 3pm onwards. For an additional £10 you may gain access to your room from 12 noon.

                Late Check Out:
                You will need to vacate your room by 12 noon. However, should you wish to remain a little longer you can pay an extra £10 and the room is yours until 2pm.

                (Note the conflict of interest between the latter two room options! For this reason, the website does add the caveat that early check-in and late check-out are 'subject to availability'.)


                WiFi:
                You may purchase WiFi 'vouchers' in denominations as follows:
                60 minutes - £5.00
                24 Hours - £10.00
                1 Week - £20.00
                1 month - £30.00
                (I didn't use this service so I can't vouch for the reliablity or quality of it. The voucher is valid for one year.)

                SMS Test Confirmation:
                You can opt to have the details of your booking sent to your mobile phone. There is a fee of 15p for this. (While this cost is next-to-nothing I find it staggering that the company charge at all for a simple service which is now standard with airlines and some other hotel groups.)

                Pets:
                You may take up to two pets (cats or dogs) with you. The fee is £20 for one animal and £40 for two. The company states clearly that Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs will incur no cost at all.

                The payments page offers the opportunity to apply any discount vouchers to your final bill.


                ~~~My Mistake - and how to avoid it!~~~

                All of the above is a description of the simplest and quickest way to book - but not the cheapest. I took a different route. Having been tempted by the appealing (from) £19 per night offer, I clicked on the 'Find our lowest prices' option. This produced a table showing a range of dates and a selection of ten hotels within a 6 mile radius of the location I had entered onto the search 'form'.

                I clicked on the grid where my chosen date of arrival crossed with the Feltham option - an action which elicited a jump to the next page offering a 'button' to go ahead with that booking. I booked. It took me a while to twig that all I had done was book for one night even though it was our intention to stay for three. So I needed to repeat this process twice more before I had completed the full booking. And so I was left with three separate bookings with three individual booking references. What I had failed to notice was that at the very bottom of the 'Room Price/Customise your stay' page there was a very small 'add another stay' message. Had I clicked on that I would have been able to put all of my nights' bookings in one 'basket', made one payment and had one booking reference. That said, I would have still been forced into going back and repeating at least part of the search'n'book process for each night. While this was my own error, it struck me that this booking method is quite clumsy and doesn't really help first time users to avoid making this mistake. So, watch out for that point should you want to book!


                ~~~Getting There~~~

                The hotel is located in the centre of Feltham and in a shopping precinct.

                If you are arriving by rail the walk couldn't be simpler. On exiting the station turn immediately to your left and you will come to a level crossing. Once you have crossed the railway track, continue straight ahead along Bedfont Lane until you reach the junction with High Street where you should turn right. Walk past a few shops until you reach 'The Moon on the Square' pub and turn right here. From here you walk straight ahead through the shopping precinct to the hotel. It would be easy to miss the unprepossessing entrance but if you notice a large Asda store to your left, then you have found the right place. The walk from the station should take about 5 minutes.

                (There is an alternative route which is even quicker - when you leave the hotel entrance turn sharply to your left and enter a covered walkway where there is an escalator. This will lead you to a covered bridge across the railway and then there is only a ramp to descend and a road to cross to reach the railway station. Three minutes should do it - not sure how you do that in reverse though, what with the escalators to negotiate!)

                Feltham railway station is served by South West trains and has direct links to London Waterloo (approx 30 minutes), to Twickenham ( 5 to 7 minutes), and an extensive network throughout Surrey, Hampshire and the South Coast. For further information: http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/

                The number 285 bus runs from Heathrow Airport Central Bus Station (for Terminals 1,2,3) every 10 minutes at peak times and up to 30 minutes intervals off-peak. The journey is approximately 30 minutes and it stops at Feltham railway station. The fare is £2 per adult for a single journey.

                The number 490 bus serves a similar route to Feltham Railway Station but serves Heathrow Terminals 4 and 5. The fare and the journey time are the same. The frequency is 12 to 20 minutes.
                Feltham appears to be well served by other bus routes - further information can be obtained from Transport for London: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gettingaround/maps/buses/

                Drivers are advised to use an NCP car park located - and I quote - '160 meters' (sic) from the hotel. (I have read about these parking facilities on several review sites in addition to Travelodge's own site and I have to say I find the mix of information rather confusing, conflicting even. I would recommend that anyone who wants more information about this telephone Travelodge for clarification.) The address of the car park is as follows:
                NCP Ltd,
                The Centre at 135A,
                High Street,
                Feltham,
                TW134BS.


                ~~~Reception and Check In~~~

                You enter the building at ground level and walk into a corridor with two lifts. Take the lift (or stairs) to the second floor to reach reception. The lifts are very clean but fairly small and I wondered how easy it would be for a person in a wheelchair. I don't think it would be impossible but not especially easy either.

                The second floor corridor and reception is not spacious but clean and tidy and every time we approached the desk there was either a receptionist ready and waiting or in an adjacent office so we never had to wait for attention.

                On arrival I simply handed over the booking confirmation printouts. That incident I'd had - the complicated booking 'thing' - reared its head immediately. To avoid boring you with the details, let's just say that this really complicated the check-in process and highlighted the importance of avoiding my booking mistake!

                I asked straight away for an iron and it was handed to me immediately. I was promised a board would be brought to the room later. (It never did arrive. In fairness, I didn't raise the matter any further as the clothes were fine when I unpacked and I simply returned the iron to the front desk the next morning.)

                We were given a plastic card with which we could gain entry to the building during hours when the main door would be locked (whenever that might be) and also to our room. The pass was not needed to access the lifts to the accommodation floors.

                Bedrooms are located from the third floor up to the eighth floor. We were on floor seven. The lift arrived quickly - and moved quickly - and soon we were stepping out onto the seventh floor lobby. Our hearts sank. The heat was overwhelming, the smell was stale and there was a large, old and unidentifiable stain on the lobby carpet. We hurried through the fire door to get away from the lobby but noticed that the corridor beyond was bright and looked and smelt clean. Over the next day or so we realised that the lobby area suffers from a 'greenhouse effect'. The floor-to-ceiling windows really intensify the heat and the smell seemed to be due simply to lack of ventilation. We noticed it less as time went on.


                ~~~The Room~~~

                I was surprised by the bright and pleasant appearance of the room - not because I had been anticipating something especially awful but simply because I was expecting to see the old, rather tired dark blue and white colour theme. Instead, most of the walls were painted what I would call a 'sand' colour and the wall where the bed-head was situated was painted dark orange. The colour scheme seemed to be aiming for a warm Mediterranean effect. One of the curtains was half hanging off the rail when we arrived which elicited groans and gestures of despair from my husband but I quickly climbed up on the chair and re-attached the hooks. Problem solved.

                The room was quite small but it would be harsh to describe it as cramped. We had no difficulty in accessing each side of the bed or the desk/wardrobe unit. (This room was a 'double'. Travelodge also offer what they term 'family' rooms. These have an additional day-sofa which may be made up to create an additional bed and in my past experience of using this chain, these rooms are usually more spacious.) The carpet appeared fairly new and was spotlessly clean.

                Clean, bright, fresh white bedlinen provided the simple adornment for the queen sized bed and a light oak coloured bed-head extended beyond each side of the bed to form a backdrop for small, neat bedside 'tables'. Each side of the bed had a wall mounted and individually controlled reading light.

                There was a double casement window in the room and, as you would expect on an floor above ground level in a building of this type, each window is limited in opening by restrictor stays. More on that later.

                There was an all-in-one unit - also light oak colour - running the width of the room underneath the window and this acted as a desk and a stand for the rather chunky TV. I'm not sure which company provide the TV service but during the small amount of time we used it, we found rather more channels than the standard terrestrial five. At one end of the unit there was an open hanging and shelving unit with plenty of hangers provided for clothing. There was one chair placed at the desk. At the opposite end of the unit there was a 'hospitality tray' with a kettle, cups, and spoons. Small sachets of Nescafe coffee were left for our use - both caffeinated and decaffeinated which pleased me - along with a few individually wrapped teabags. A few individual portions of longlife milk were provided but not sufficient. We asked for more at reception later in the day. (Travelodge bedrooms don't have telephones, so if you have any requests you will always have to go to reception in person to make them.)

                The bathroom - or shower room as I ought to call it - was fairly small but by no means the smallest I have encountered, even in considerably more expensive accommodation. It contained a toilet, a wash basin and a shower. There was no bath. There were plain white tiles on the walls - which I always think give the impression of a public lavatory! They were, however, functional and spotlessly clean. In fact the whole bathroom, very large mirror included, was very clean. Even the plain white shower curtain - so prone to mildew and discolouration - could not be faulted. A small waste bin was lined with a disposable bag and ready for use. Travelodge make it very clear that they do not provide toiletries but 'sample sized' bar of soap was provided along with an ample supply of lavatory paper. There was one white bath towel and one hand towel for each person and these were changed daily. The bathroom flooring was typical Travelodge style - that rather utilitarian almost industrial looking stuff (I have no idea what it's made of) which is not attractive but it is non-slip and easy to clean.

                Taking a shower really was lovely though - that's one thing you do expect of Travelodge. There were no problems with the water pressure or the consistency of the water temperature. You just have to remember to take your own gel and shower cap! The tiled shower cubicle had a grab-rail fitted to the wall in case you needed to steady yourself on the way in or out and it was in a blue contrasting colour to make it clearly visible.


                ~~~The Night's Sleep~~~

                The mattress was really quite comfortable. Not the largest bed nor the most sumptuous but good enough. We were provided with three pillows - two on the bed and one spare stowed on the storage shelf - you must ask at reception if you want more.

                We stayed in July and though the temperatures were not 'scorching' outside - maybe 20 to 24 degrees - the room was too warm for us. It also felt rather stuffy. As there is no air conditioning we left the windows open to sleep for the first night. Although my husband slept through it, I found the noise made it impossible to sleep soundly. Strangely enough, although the lights of Heathrow were clearly visible from our window, aircraft noise was not the main cause of disturbance. The proximity to the railway station was a major contributor to the noise levels. I could hear general road traffic noise too and we also realised that we were immediately above the loading bay for the Asda supermarket. Oh, those reversing warning beeps!

                For the next two nights there was no option but to sleep with the windows closed. We encountered little noise from other guests passing in the corridor so that left only the stuffiness of the room to contend with. This hotel is badly in need of air conditioning facilities. The laws governing window restrictors in hotels mean that you cannot even open the windows wide in order to 'air' the room before you sleep. I realise that Travelodge is a budget chain but the 'luxury' of improved ventilation really is a necessity in this building.


                ~~~Food Options~~~

                We did not eat at the hotel so we can neither recommend nor advise against the food offered in the hotel's Bar Cafe. For what it's worth we thought the dining area in the hotel looked bright, clean and every time we passed we noticed families dining or breakfasting there and they appeared to be quite happy.

                We used the adjacent 24-hour Asda store for breakfast The supermarket has a well stocked chilled take-away cabinet too if you want to eat on-the-hoof.

                As mentioned earlier there is a pub very close at hand. The "Moon on the Corner" is a Wetherspoon's. I'm not a fan of this chain at the best of times and I have to say this one, although it does serve food, looked (and smelt) more of a boozy-bar than a dining emporium so we didn't fancy it in the evening and they weren't open early enough in the morning to consider breakfast.

                If you are willing to go for a ten minute walk you will come to a leisure complex and there you will find not only a cinema and a bowling alley but dining options too - there is a Frankie and Benny's, a Pizza Hut and a Chiquito's.
                The address of the complex is:

                Leisure West
                Browells Lane
                Feltham
                TW13 7EQ
                Feltham High Street offers yet more food outlets within a few minutes walk from the hotel.


                ~~~Hotel Facilities~~~

                It's a Travelodge. It doesn't have any.

                No, that's unfair, this one does at least have a Bar Cafe so you can escape from the confines of your room without leaving the building. This chain though, never usually offers large reception halls or guest lounges.


                ~~~Safety and Security~~~

                We were able to walk straight into the main hotel entrance, enter the lift and exit on the accommodation floors and corridors without having to use a pass, a key, a buzzer or even to be seen by a member of staff and I didn't much care for that arrangement. There was a card reader at the entrance, presumably for entry during night-time hours but the latest we made it back to the hotel was about nine thirty and we never needed to use this. Nothing untoward occurred while we were there but it felt just a little too accessible with its unlocked and unmanned entrance.

                The vicinity around the hotel has all the sights and sounds you can expect in an urban environment and that is bound to include the occasional drunk but I can't say I noticed anything threatening or disconcerting. If anything, I thought that having a 24-hour store made the area feel a little safer given the flow of people around the shop entrance - as opposed to the feel of a quiet and deserted mall.

                In general, within the hotel building, the corridors were well lit, the fire exits well marked, the fire doors self-closing and never wedged open and the restricted opening of the windows met Building Regulation standards for safety on upper floors.


                ~~~Prices~~~

                This is the greatest appeal of the Travelodge chain. Book more than 21 days in advance and you can get a room in many of the hotels for as little as £19. Even if you take a family room and fit a family of four into it, it would still cost only £19. The nearer you get to your day of travel though, the higher the price can rise. Had we booked on our day of departure our room would have been £66 instead of the £25 we paid. (I checked ....... I know, I should get out more.) The room, location and facilities did not justify the higher price, in my opinion, but then it's all down to demand. Just book early is my advice and if you can't book early then spend your money elsewhere and get more extensive facilities for the price paid.


                ~~~Further Information and Contact Details~~~

                The address, phone and fax of the hotel is
                Res Centre
                High Street
                Feltham
                Middlesex
                TW13 4GU
                Tel: 0871 984 6319
                Fax: 02088 900664

                Travelodge Website:
                http://www.travelodge.co.uk/index.php

                Travelodge Website - Feltham Hotel:
                http://www.travelodge.co.uk/search_and_book/hotel_overview.php?hotel_id=308


                ~~~In Summary~~~

                I don't think I will offend the residents of Feltham by saying that this is not a holiday resort. It's simply an ordinary, rather busy town in Middlesex. You will only be coming to stay in Feltham Travelodge if you have a specific reason for doing so but it is a useful base if you are planning to attend any event at Twickenham Rugby Ground as it is so well served with a direct and fast rail link.

                I would also go as far as to recommend that if you are having difficulty finding a a budget-priced stopover for Heathrow airport, that this hotel should not be ruled out. The bus journey isn't that much longer than many an airport hotel shuttle bus and the cost of transfer is relatively low. The only point to bear in mind in this respect would be the weight and manoeuvrability of your luggage. Although close to the railway station/bus stop, you are not going to be dropped off or picked up right at the hotel entrance.

                At a push it might even be considered as a base from which to explore London - but the cost of train fares would have to be balanced against any saving made on the hotel price.

                To put it in a nutshell, I would go there again - if I had a very specific reason for visiting the area - but not alone unless I knew that the security arrangements within the building had been tightened.

                (Please note: this review appears on other sites under the same username. Edited versions appear under the name "The Travelling Geordie".)

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                  06.11.2010 23:24
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                  Lovely soup for winter months - only if you like spice and parsnips though!

                  The temperatures have been dropping recently and it's that time of year again. Soup time. Actually, for me, it's soup time all year round but when the days draw darker and colder there is something very comforting about a steaming bowl of soup packed with root vegetables.

                  I normally make my own vegetable soup as it must be one of the simplest things to make but we have been very busy this last week or so and having something which can be ready quickly has been very welcome. Over the years since the brand was launched I have tried many lines in the New Covent Garden soup range - with varying degrees of success - but I am quite taken with the latest one I have tried.


                  ~The company ~

                  The company started making fresh soups for sale in shops in 1987. The idea - novel at the time - was that they would make soups which were as good and fresh as those you would make at home but saving you the time and effort of cooking them yourself. The idea - contrary to my assertions at the time - took off and the brand is now something of a 'household name'.


                  ~The Presentation ~

                  The rows of cardboard tetra-packs bearing the New Covent Garden logo and sporting a depiction of the main ingredients are now a very familiar sight in major supermarkets' chilled cabinets. This carton has a (nearly) white background with an image of one butternut squash and one sweet potato on the front. The product title is printed in black lettering on the front so it is quite easy to spot.

                  The rest of the carton is crammed with various pieces of information - nutritional values, how to store or freeze the soup, how to re-heat it and the various ways in which you can get in touch with the company.

                  It's easy enough to heat the soup, either in a saucepan for about five minutes or in the microwave for about seven minutes, including standing time. The advantage of heating the soup in a microwave is that it can be left in its own carton to warm, thus saving washing up. The disadvantage is that the heated and therefore slightly wobbly carton must be handled with great care to avoid being scalded by the hot soup.


                  ~The aroma, texture and colour ~

                  I would describe the colour as an earthy golden shade with tiny red flecks of the chilli flakes.

                  The overpowering aroma comes from the parsnips, followed by a scent of softly cooked onions and then cumin and coriander.

                  The texture is velvety but not totally smooth. There is a slightly powdery feel from the potatoes and every now and now then just a hint of a more fibrous texture - likely from the sweet potato or the squash. Very small residual pieces of onion have managed to evade the blender too.

                  The flavour pretty much reflects the soup's smell. Parsnip dominates, onion gives body to the flavour and the warmth of the cumin and chilli and fragrance of the coriander shine through. The flavour has, for me, a perfect sweet/savoury balance with the immediate aftertaste being quite fresh, almost with a lactic bite which I assume comes from the addition of the mascarpone cheese. The peppery warmth soon emerges and lingers though it never overpowers.

                  I find it quite difficult to detect any flavour coming specifically from either the butternut squash or from the sweet potato. To me, both vegetables have a sweet but also very delicate flavour. It seems difficult for these subtle tastes to stand up to the equally sweet but far more robust flavour of the parsnip. I do think though, that the squash and the sweet potato must add something to the colour and texture of the finished product.

                  The scent, the colour, the texture and the flavour conspire to produce a soup with a truly home-made taste and appearance. Had I first tried this soup in a 'blind' tasting I would have accepted readily that it had been made in a home kitchen. It is well seasoned with pepper and spices but salt has been added with a light hand.


                  ~Ingredients and nutritional notes ~

                  Water, butternut squash (18%), potatoes, onions, parsnips, cream, sweet potato (2%), wheat flour, butter, vegetable oil, mascarpone cheese, salt, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, paprika, ground coriander, white pepper, red chilli flakes, turmeric.


                  Each 600g carton contains two servings and the nutritional value for each serving are:

                  192 kCal, 3.0g of protein, 20.7g of carbohydrate, 10.8g of fat, 3.0g of fibre and 1.5g salt.


                  The calorie count of this soup seems rather high when compared with vegetable soups in general, but with the addition of cream and mascarpone cheese I suppose we could expect little else! There is a lovely creaminess about this soup and I really do think it has benefited from the addition of these luxurious ingredients. (I have a fancy to make up a similar recipe myself and I'm wondering if crème fraiche would be a suitable alternative in order to give a healthier result and possibly an interesting extra degree of freshness.)

                  A warning is given to allergy sufferers that the soup contains milk, wheat and gluten. It also advises that it may contain nut traces. It is suitable for vegetarians.


                  ~ Cost and Availability ~

                  The retail price for the 600g carton of soup is around £2. (But I'm sure you've already guessed that I didn't pay full price for mine - it was of course taken from Morrison's clearance shelf at the end of the day and set me back 35p!)

                  I think £2 is a bit steep given the ingredients used in this soup. Though butternut squash and sweet potatoes are not the cheapest of vegetables, they only constitute 18% and 2% of the soup, respectively. Potatoes and onions are far cheaper ingredients and even parsnips are not highly priced when they are in season. I will concede that cream and mascarpone cheese add to the cost of the product but I can't help but think that a large batch of a home-made version of this could be made for considerably less. I suppose the convenience - or in this case the combination of the freshness, the quality and the convenience is what the customer is paying for - not merely a pile of ingredients.


                  ~ In summary ~

                  I would not hesitate to recommend this soup to anyone who likes an autumnal style root vegetable soup and especially one with a lovely richness and a spicy kick. I must add, though, that anyone who does not like the flavour and smell of parsnips is not going to be keen on this.


                  (NB This review may also appear on other sites under the same username.)

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                  • More +
                    01.11.2010 02:20
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                    A British version of tapas-style eating.

                    15 November 2010 : please note before reading this review - when I visited this restaurant a few weeks ago, I signed up to receive news messages via email. I have now received an email which, sadly, announces that the restaurant is closing. I have included a web address in this review and that site now also appears to be closed.

                    ~~~~~


                    I wasn't sure what to make of 'Starters & Puds' after it opened in Newcastle in 2008. I read press articles and reviews as they emerged and I noticed that opinions were mainly positive. The restaurant went on to win awards -Head Chef Lee Campbell won the title 'North East Chef of the Year' in 2010 for example. More recently, I began to notice occasional customer reviews which were less glowing but finally, I tried the restaurant for myself.


                    ~~~The Concept~~~

                    The notion behind the name is that any diner should not be restricted to eating a three-course meal or even a main course. If two starters and a pudding is what they fancy, then that is what they shall have. In reality it is a British take on the concept of Spanish-style Tapas dining or of Greek Meze - that is, to eat from a selection of smaller dishes instead of ploughing through a structured progression of starters, main meal and dessert courses. I like the concept, but with the British climate, where perhaps you might like to have each hot dish hot and where the produce and style of cooking doesn't lend itself so readily to the dishes sitting on the table waiting to be picked at, it could be tricky to pull off successfully.


                    ~~~The Menu~~~

                    The menu is extensive. It all kicks off with nibbly things for you to go at while you are perusing the menu - things such as bread and oil/vinegar/tapenade or a selection of marinated olives. Take note that these are not complimentary but there is a £2.60 charge for each. You can even splash out on a pre-starter plate of antipasti (cured meats, cheese, breads, oils and so on) for £11.20. The price seems oddly high but that platter is designed to share. (It's not something I've tried so it would be worth checking how many diners this could be expected to serve.)

                    The next part of the menu is where it really deviates from British tradition and offers something nearer to a meze selection. In fact, this section is headed as "The starters and before bit" and there are fourteen choices. If you are interested in knowing about all of these options, I am going to include a link to the restaurant's website later on, but for the time being I will just pick out a few examples. Shellfish Mariniere, Black Bream, Cassoulet, Chicken Terrine, Braised Daube of Beef, Wild Mushroom Casserole. Ratatouille Tart - so fish, meat and vegetable dishes are well represented. The prices range from £4.95 to £7.95. I gather the idea is that these are not large 'main course' portions but modest sizes which would allow you 'room' to try other dishes.

                    There are ten side dishes, all priced at £2.75 which include four salad choices, three potato dishes - four if you include sweet potato wedges - garlic bread and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

                    There is a choice of ten puddings all at £4.90 each or you may select any three for £12.20. A selection of local cheeses served with biscuits and chutney is available at £5.95. Three pudding wines are included in this section of the menu and they will cost you either £2.95 a glass or around £16 per bottle depending on your choice.

                    The wine list offers thirty two choices ranging from £13.90 to £48 per bottle. (The latter refers to Moet et Chandon Rose though, so that price list is not quite as scary is it sounds!) Many of the wines are available by the glass at £3.60 -£4.85)

                    A simple coding system on the menu denotes which dishes are gluten free and which are suitable for vegetarians.


                    ~~~The Food and the Service~~~

                    I called in one afternoon for a late lunch and a lunchtime menu of £9.95 for two courses was being offered. There was a reasonable selection of starters and whatever I am supposed to call the next course and I opted for mushroom pate followed by pea and mint risotto. I say "followed by" but that isn't strictly correct as the menu did warn clearly that both dishes would be brought to the table at the same time. I felt a little unsure of this system of service but decided to give it a go anyway.

                    The young waiter who took my order was informative and friendly (if you view being called 'darling' by a lad half your age as friendly rather than overly familiar - though I have to say this young man's all round demeanour meant that I did not take any offence).

                    I knew that I would be driving very soon afterwards so I didn't have any wine and as I wasn't in the mood for a soft drink I simply asked for plain water. A tall, slender and rather elegant glass of ice and water was brought to the table promptly.

                    I didn't have to wait very long for the food to arrive (between ten and fifteen minutes, perhaps) and three plates were put before me. The pate, the risotto and a small bowl of dressed salad leaves, the latter being included in the lunch menu. Then came the dilemma. Would I eat the risotto first? I do not like my food cold and risotto is often eaten as the first part of meal. On balance, I didn't fancy finishing the meal with the pate so that is the dish I tried first.

                    There was a generous slab of smooth, velvety, rich and intensely flavoured pate served with a helping of home-made chutney. (I'm assuming it was made in the kitchens. If not, the fruity, raisiny, softly textured, mild flavoured chutney was the nearest thing to home-made I have tried in a while.) Two hefty slices of softly textured bread accompanied the pate, one white and one brown. I gather that the bread is also made in the restaurant kitchens. I always think that pate is such a simple thing to make but if it is well made and well flavoured it can be a real treat. This was. There tiny pieces of mushroom left unpureed to add a hint of texture and the flavour really was excellent. One point of interest to any vegetarian readers - when I ordered the pate, the waiter asked immediately if I was vegetarian. I replied that I was not but he explained he needed to check as this is not a vegetarian dish as the name could imply, but is a meat based pate flavoured with mushrooms. Although this did not affect my choice, I liked the way the staff respected and considered the customer's feelings on the matter.

                    Next came the, er, next course, the risotto. As soon as the dish had been served I could see that this was not going to be a hit. Not for me, anyway. I like my risotto creamy textured - almost soupy. Now I realise that you can't have hard and fast rules about risotto consistency as you will find slight differences in the various Italian regions, but I know how I like mine. The risotto served to me was firm and there no 'spare' liquid in the dish. I could draw a fork through the rice and see the bottom of the bowl clearly. There was no movement of the rice to fill the gap I had just created. The flavour, however, was excellent with the freshness of the peas and the mint and a subtle sharpness with I'm guessing came from added parmesan. The consistency of the rice grains - definitely al dente - was good even if the overall consistency of the dish was not to my liking. I must also add that the risotto was only lukewarm by the time I ate it and this was quite an unappetising feature. Although the flavour was good I knew that I would not order this again if I were to return to the restaurant. I have to confess that I looked at my watch to try to work out if there had been time to cook a freshly made risotto serving. (If my concern that the risotto had been pre-prepared can be assuaged, I would be willing to listen!)

                    I decided against ordering any additional dishes or pudding.


                    ~~~The Style and the Ambience~~~

                    The restaurant is situated in a basement. That means it could be hugely atmospheric - cosy, secluded, intimate feeling. On the other hand it could feel cramped and claustrophobic. For me, it hovers somewhere between the two. There are some areas - take the bar for instance with its low, barrel-vaulted ceiling - which are very atmospheric and intriguing.

                    Other areas such as the more open dining area I occupied seem to lack definite character. It was fairly dimly lit but not in a way which suggested cosiness or romance or intimacy. It was just dimly lit. The fixtures and décor seemed a clash of styles to some extent. Victorian style cornice work, tapestry fabrics and a gothic fireplace work quite well together. But not with terracotta-coloured floor tiles, exposed brickwork and black pillars. Additionally, the practice of writing captions and quotes on walls in restaurants really spoils the décor in my view - at least if it is overdone - and I felt quite irritated by the script emblazoned on the wall opposite me. I think there will be some diners who love this eclectic style but others, like me, might feel rather ambivalent toward it.

                    I called in at a very quiet time of day. Only two other tables were occupied when I arrived and I was alone in the room when the time came to leave. The waiter was attentive and helpful but the absence of people left a bit of a void really, in terms of ambience. I would be interested to experience the ambience during an evening service. Perhaps the restaurant full of life and voices would feel quite different.

                    The ladies toilet is compact. The nature of the building means that space - and what you can do with it - is limited of course. The toilets were adequately fitted out and very clean but I had somehow expected something a little more luxurious given the image of the restaurant.


                    ~~~How to find it~~~

                    If you can find your way to Newcastle's Theatre Royal you are almost there. If you leave the theatre and turn left, then left again into Shakespeare Street and then look across the road and you will see a distinctive canopy heralding the entrance to the restaurant.

                    The restaurant is open from 11am to 11pm.


                    For bookings or further information contacts are as follows:

                    2-6 Shakespeare Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 6AQ

                    Telephone: 0191 233 2515

                    Website: http://www.startersandpuds.com/


                    You are only a couple of minutes walk away from the nearest Metro station (Monument) and the area is also well served by buses. For further information on public transport (including ferry and rail services) use the following website: http://www.nexus.org.uk/home

                    Car parking is available in adjacent streets - payable by meter.


                    ~~~Disabled Access and Facilities for Parents~~~

                    This is a basement restaurant accessed by narrow and quite steep stairs. Due to the age of the building there is no lift. Unfortunately there is little which can be done to some older buildings - especially if they are 'listed' or in a conservation area which I believe this could be - and it would not be accessible for wheelchair users or anyone who has difficulty using stairs.

                    At the time of my visit, I did not notice any young children or babies accompanying their parents so I cannot say what facilities there may be for families. It would be worth telephoning the restaurant if you have any queries in this regard but bear in mind you would have to get a buggy down those stairs. Frankly, there are other brasserie style restaurants in Newcastle in a position to cater for young families with far more ease and comfort.


                    ~~~In Summary~~~

                    I think I am going to have to treat this review as a 'work-in-progress'. Perhaps one great dish and one which didn't quite hit the mark do not provide sufficient 'evidence' to form a really rounded review. I would also like to experience the atmosphere of the restaurant when it is better filled and likely offering a more lively ambience.

                    If you do try the restaurant, I would suggest giving careful thought to which dishes you would be happy to eat as they gradually lose their heat. Alternatively, take an even more sensible approach and order dishes one-by-one, if you have plenty of time, that is. If you are booking ahead check which dining room you will be seated in. Have a look at the website first and if you think you might have a preference ask the staff to accommodate you.

                    I am not completely convinced that the idea of 'British Tapas' really works but I would be willing to go again and try more dishes. When I do, I will report back!

                    (NB: this review appears on other sites under the username of ALM1 or The Travelling Geordie)

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                      16.08.2010 19:02
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                      A not-too-sharp marmalade made by traditional methods in Scotland.

                      A little while I ago I wrote a review on a brand of marmalade....and I took my own advice. As that line was on a half-price offer at my local supermarket, I 'stocked up'. Sadly, it didn't take too long to work our way through our stockpile so last week I was off in search of a further supplies. Of course, that particular half-price offer was long since finished and though I would have been satisfied to pay full price for our favourite, some other in-store offers tempted me into disloyalty. We tried some another brands one of which was Mackays Three Fruit Marmalade.


                      ~Mac-Whose?~

                      This is a family run business founded in 1938 and operates from the Dundee area of Scotland. This is a region with a long history of marmalade production (dating back to 1797 when the Keiller family built a factory for that purpose) and the Mackay family proudly advertise the fact that they still use traditional methods of preserve making. Open copper pans are used to boil the marmalade to setting point. The company currently offer ten varieties of marmalade with a further specialised range of marmalades containing branded whiskies. In addition, they produce a range of jams, chutneys and relishes. They are also the makers behind the "Mrs Bridges" range of preserves.


                      ~The Marmalade Experience~

                      I like the fact that the jar's labelling is printed on a base which is colourless and transparent. Although it does make it a little difficult to read the information on the label, which is in small print and white, it does allow you to see the lovely colour of the preserve. The Mackays name and logo (dark green ribbon edged with gold forming a base for white typeface) appear on the front of the jar along with a clear description of the contents. Images of whole lemons and cut oranges and a grapefruit further adorn the label. An image - in pen and ink style - of a worker busy at the preserving pan adds a nostalgic touch and a band of tartan along with the "Product of Scotland" logo prevent you from forgetting this brand's roots. The lid has one of those 'safety button' devices (or a small indentation) which rises when the seal is broken - thus ensuring the jar you are buying has not been damaged or tampered with.

                      The marmalade is mid golden in colour and the first time I removed the lid from the jar I was not hit by a very strong aroma, in fact I needed to pick it up and give the contents a good sniff in order to discern the smells. There was a gentle citrussy fragrance but a slightly stronger smell of caramel - almost of burnt sugar.

                      The set is fairly soft, it isn't at all runny but nor is it a stiff consistency. It spreads easily and, as long as you have not overloaded your bread or toast, the preserve should not be in any great danger of running off! The pieces of peel from the eponymous three fruits are clearly visible. The lemon and orange peel come in a finely cut form but the grapefruit peel is a little more chunky. There is a moderate amount of peel in total which is distributed evenly throughout the jelly.

                      When you taste the marmalade the most powerful flavour to hit you first is the sweetness. This is not very 'sharp' marmalade. The burnt-sugary sweetness lingers for a while until the subtle sharpness of the citrussy bite comes through. I thought the blend of the three fruits was interesting in that it is evident that there are oranges, lemons and grapefruit in the preserve but one flavour does not seem to dominate the others. Only when you bite a piece of peel does the individual fruit flavour really emerge. Chewing the peel also releases a sharper 'bite'.


                      ~Ingredients~

                      The company explain that their cooking methods give the marmalades a home-made flavour. I certainly would not dispute that claim and the ingredients list seems to be as simple and additive-free as any used in a home kitchen:

                      Sugar, Thin Cut Oranges (9%), Grapefruit (8%), Lemon (8%), Gelling Agent: Fruit Pectin, Lemon Juice
                      Prepared with 25g of fruit per 100g
                      Total sugar content 65g per 100g

                      Further nutritional information is provided on the label:
                      Per 100g
                      Energy: 1079kJ / 254 kcal
                      Protein: 0.2g
                      Carbohydrate: 63.2g
                      Fat: 0g

                      A 'best before' date is printed on the edge of the lid.


                      ~Company contact details~

                      If you wish to obtain further information about this or any other Mackays product, the address is as follows

                      Mackays Ltd.
                      James Chalmers Road
                      Arbroath
                      DD11 3LR
                      Scotland
                      Tel: +44 (0)1241 432500
                      Fax: +44 (0)1241 432444
                      Email: info@mackays.com

                      I also found the following website useful: http://www.mackays.com/index.html


                      ~Price and availability~

                      I found this marmalade in my local Morrison's, usually offered for £1.09 for a 12 ounce (340g) jar so that would place it in the 'average' price bracket when compared with a variety of other brands. As mentioned, though, it was being offered at 58p on the day I bought it which was surely a bargain! (The offer seems to be closed now, unfortunately!)

                      I have not seen this brand in other supermarkets but Amazon are offering what I would term 'job lots' of the product. (I think 'catering packs' may be the more correct expression.)


                      ~In conclusion~

                      This is a jolly pleasant marmalade. My own preference would be for something darker, sharper and with chunkier peel but I did think that this product was of a good quality and was a very tasty alternative to the brands we might normally buy. I would have no hesitation in recommending it.

                      (NB: this review appears on other sites under the same username.)

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                        12.08.2010 15:36
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                        Clean adequately and leave skin soft but can't cope with stubborn waterproof mascara.

                        I had forgotten to buy facial cleansing wipes prior to our recent London trip, but it hardly mattered as our hotel was surrounded by shops. We even had a branch of Boots opposite the entrance to the hotel which was particularly convenient considering that their 'Botanics' range offers the wipes I like best. Or at least it would have been convenient had I not fallen into a deep sleep shortly after arriving at the hotel! By the time I emerged to go shopping Boots was closed. There was, however, a twenty-four hour Asda store right next to the hotel so that seemed a promising venue to find an alternative brand of wipes. I ended up choosing a packet of Nivea Visage Gentle Facial Cleansing Wipes priced at £2.


                        ~~The Pack~~

                        The packaging is standard for this type of product - a soft plastic packet sealed to retain moisture but with a pull-up tab to open (and then close and re-open) an aperture from which you can take one wipe without disturbing the remaining cloths. The pack is a shade of soft pink and bears the dark blue and silver "Nivea Visage" logo so it is quite easy to spot on the store shelf as it nestles amongst the throng of competing brands. The description "Gentle Facial Cleansing Wipes" is printed on the front of the packet in quite modestly sized typeface and smaller print goes on to describe the features and qualities of the wipes contained within. Further information explains that this product is designed for "dry and sensitive skin", informs that there are 25 wipes within and that the wipes contain almond and calendula oil.

                        The information on the rear of the pack offers more detail regarding some of the active ingredients and how the product should be used. A full ingredients list is provided along with the company's contact address. A further statement re-assures that the product is "alcohol-free" and that it is "compatibility dermatologically and opthalmologically approved".


                        ~~The Claims~~

                        Nivea states that these wipes "Cleanse, soothe and hydrate in one easy step. Removes make-up and waterproof mascara for a soft skin feeling." I found most of that statement to be accurate.

                        When I took the first wipe from the pack I noticed that the sheet had quite a strong and 'stretchy' quality about it. These wipes are not going to tear easily. It wasn't dripping in liquid but it certainly wasn't dry. It didn't feel quite as wet as some other brands I have tried but it was adequate for cleansing. I noticed quite a strong floral smell which was not unpleasant but I might have expected something made for sensitive skin to be less heavily perfumed.

                        I started as I always do - eye make up first. A very gentle wipe removed the mascara with ease. There wasn't a trace of blackness left behind. Going on to smooth the moist wipe over my face I noticed a tingling or rather a very faint 'scratchy' feeling. I found the texture of the cloth very slightly rough. I continued to use the wipe, however, making sure that I cleansed thoroughly. The prickly feeling vanished to leave my skin feeling very smooth, soft, clean and not in the least 'tight' or dried out by the cleansing process.

                        For the few days I was away from home I found these cleansing wipes to do an excellent job of removing dirt and make-up and providing a light moisturising effect and I formed the opinion that I would be happy to use them again - for a short duration.

                        I am very much a stickler for my cleanse/tone/moisturise regime at home, but I used the wipes after returning home a little longer to see how they performed. I tried them to remove waterproof mascara. This time the cleanser struggled. Repeatedly wiping over the make-up made an impression on it but there did seem to be a little left behind. Sure enough, black flakes on my cheeks the next morning provided the evidence that the wipes can't cope entirely with a more resistant eye make-up.


                        ~~Price and Availability~~

                        I bought the pack for £2 and I have seen them since in other stores where the price was the same - give or take a couple of pennies. They are not a budget range product but I think that the price compares quite well with other branded lines. They seem to be readily available in supermarkets, some department stores and in High Street pharmacies.


                        ~~Ingredients~~

                        As is my custom, I will include a full ingredient list for those who have specific intolerances or preferences:

                        Aqua, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Isohexadecane, Isopropyl Palmitate Methylpropanediol, Calendula Officianalis, Prunus Dulcis, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Sodium Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Glycine Soja, 1,2-Hexanediol, Trisodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Limonene, Linalool, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionene, Geraniol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Benzyl Salicylate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Parfum.

                        Clearly this is not a brand which makes any claims to be 'organic', 'natural' or additive- free. It does, however, utilise the properties of two plant-based items - both of which are reputed to have excellent benefits for skin. The calendula oil being known for its soothing and moisturising properties and being especially good for dry skin and the almond being useful to soften and moisturise skin.


                        ~~The Verdict~~

                        I think that, on the whole, these are good quality wipes. The cleansing was more than adequate but I couldn't help comparing them with my favourite brand and I realised that I was missing the 'refreshing' feeling I am used to. The emphasis with these wipes is on treating the skin gently and not stripping away moisture, so although I may prefer something with a slightly more freshening effect, I can understand how this product could suit dry skin very well. They made a superb job of tackling make-up and 'normal' mascara though the waterproof variety did prove to be more of a challenge. My conclusion is that someone with drier skin could well find these cleansing wipes very useful.

                        (NB: this review appears on other sites under the same username.)

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                      • Decleor Cleansing Milk / Skin Care / 30 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                        30.06.2010 07:18
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                        A very gentle cleanser using plant essences, but may be too gentle for some.

                        A while ago I wrote a review on Decleor's Tonifying Lotion. Tempted by an in-store display, I ended up heading home with one bottle of the toner and another of the company's Cleansing Milk (or 'Lait Démaquillant' to use its French name). Finally, I have got around to reviewing this cleanser!


                        ~The Company~

                        This thirty-five year old company has a network of beauty salons and spas and sells its products in over 80 countries. The company claims "a holistic approach to beauty based on natural ingredients". Decleor state that they do not test their finished products on animals, use no animal extracts, that they will not exploit protected or endangered plant species and that they test their products under "dermatalogical conditions".


                        ~The Ingredients.~

                        The active botanical ingredients in the cleanser are lavender, petitgrain, orange, kiwi and mallow. Lavender, an anti-inflammatory, is soothing and healing. Petitgrain, which comes from the leaves of the bitter orange tree, softens and smooths. Kiwi is an anti-oxidant and can improve skin radiance. Orange water moisturises and mallow softens. It certainly sounds promising!

                        A full list of ingredients is printed on the rear of the bottle in extremely small print. So for those who have allergies, intolerances and personal preferences, but may not have a magnifying glass to hand, I will print a list here!

                        * Water (Aqua), Octyldodecanol, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Water, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Water, Polysorbate 20, Dimethicone, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Oil, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Extract, Polyacrylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Fragrance (Parfum), Laureth-7, Tetrasodium EDTA, Lactic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben.

                        I note the inclusion of parabens in this list which will be of interest to some consumers due to allergy or other concerns about this preservative. However Decleor states that the use of parabens (and ethanol) in their products is "minimal".


                        ~The Cleanser.~

                        Described as a cleansing "milk", I had expected a thinner, more fluid consistency. It is opaque and pure white but the likeness to milk ends there. I would describe it more as a lotion of medium consistency. If you put a small amount of it onto the palm of your hand, you could turn your hand over and the lotion would not run off. I have to say I like this consistency for facial cleansing. Rather than squirt the cleanser onto a pad, I prefer to smear it directly onto my face, leave it a while, and then remove the lotion with a cotton pad. This cleanser works to perfection with that approach as it is thick enough to stay in place but is still easily removed and it is not in the least sticky. The smell is very similar to the toning lotion in that there is something 'botanical' about it - something akin to the smell of orange flower water - but the fragrance of the cleanser is more subtle.

                        After cleansing, my face feels smooth, soft and comfortable - by which I mean there is no sensation of stinging and certainly no tightness or dry feeling. My face also looks perfectly clean. But this aspect - the question of how effective the cleansing is - is the one negative factor I found with this lotion. When I reviewed Decleor's matching toner, I mentioned how effectively the toning lotion removed remaining traces of make-up. I was left in no doubt that the toner was superb at completing the cleansing process. However I was also a little disappointed that so much of the make-up had been left behind after the initial cleansing stage. At the end of a make-up free day I thought this cleansing milk did a good job of clearing away the accumulation of grime and natural oil. I was less convinced at the way it tackled make-up - and not 'trowelled-on' make-up at that!

                        The manufacturers state that this cleanser is suitable for face and eyes. I found that it did an adequate job of removing some of the brands/lines of mascaras I use but in some cases, notably a waterproof mascara, I did need to use a specific eye make-up remover to clean it away completely.


                        ~Further Information.~

                        For further information about the company or the product range there is a website: http://www.decleor.co.uk/

                        The image shown here on 'DooYoo' is now out of date. The new bottle shape is a little more rounded, the top is metallic coloured in place of the older white design and the print on the bottle is pink instead of the grey used formerly.

                        Two logos are printed on the rear of the bottle - one to indicate that the container may be recycled and the other showing that the product will remain at its best within 12 months of opening.


                        ~Price and availabilty.~

                        It is available directly from the Decleor website and also from major department stores at a price of £19 for a 250 ml bottle. Several online retailers sell this cleansing milk and it is worth shopping around for a lower price but with some caution as Decleor have issued a warning that counterfeit products are being offered for sale in the UK.


                        ~In summary.~

                        This cleansing milk is pleasant to use and one bottle lasts a long time (almost a year in my case) so despite the high purchase price it can prove to be quite good value in the long run - if it suits your skin of course. It is described as being suitable for all skin types and I thought my skin felt lovely after using it but I did have some concerns about how effectively it cleansed. Though it cleansed adequately, I was disappointed to have to rely so heavily on toning lotion to be sure of a complete clean. It's just a little too gentle for me, but might be worth a try for those who prefer a mild cleanser.

                        (NB: this review appears on other sites under the same username.)

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                        • More +
                          29.06.2010 12:03
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                          A niche market product - may be too strongly favoured for family use.

                          Some years ago I started to use AloeDent toothpaste. I liked its flavour which was strongly minty but without the sweetness which many pastes have and also the lack of 'frothiness'. Regular use seemed to help improve my gum health markedly. Brief periods of using an alternative paste were accompanied by a return of the gum problems so this confirmed my suspicions that the AloeDent was suiting me very well. When I spotted a bottle of AloeDent mouthwash in a store I was delighted. If this wash had the same flavour and effect as the paste it would suit me perfectly.


                          ~What's in it?~

                          Some people have allergies or intolerances - so I will include the full ingredients list:

                          Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis, Sorbitol, Polysorbate 20, Citrus Patadisi (Grapefruit Seed Extract), Mentha Piperita, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Aroma, Menthol, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea tree oil), Phytonadione (Vitamin K), Escin (horse chestnut), Centella Asiatica (Indian pennywort), Xylitol, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Citric Acid, CI75810


                          The manufacturers highlight some of the ingredients and offer a brief description of the benefits they are said to offer:
                          *Aloe Vera : for its soothing qualities
                          *Vitamin K, Grapefruit Seed Extract and Tea Tree Oil : for their antibacterial and antiseptic qualities
                          *Escin (from Horse Chestnut seed) and Indian Pennywort : for healthy gums
                          *Peppermint Oil and Menthol : for a natural, minty taste.


                          (When I review personal care items, I try to mention whether the product contains parabens - preservatives used widely in cosmetics. I have friends who have sensitivities to parabens and therefore need to check the ingredients before trying a product. This product does not contain parabens (a few mouthwashes do contain these). However, AloeDent mouthwash contains sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (a mouthful all on its own!). This may be added to products as an alternative to parabens but unfortunately, it appears that some people are susceptible to irritation from this component too.)


                          ~What does it look like?~

                          The clear, colourless bottle contains 250ml of the emerald green liquid. The label displays an image of a cut aloe leaf and provides a list of the positive effects which the manufacturer's claim the mouthwash offers, namely; strong teeth, healthy gums, fights plaque, bad breath and tartar. Apparently the basis of these claims is that it "protects against bacteria" which is one of the underlying causes of such problems. A logo depicting an opened pot and bearing the cipher "12M" indicates that the product should be used within twelve months of opening. It also carries the instruction that users should "fill the cap rinse around mouth thoroughly and spit out".


                          ~What does it taste like?~

                          The bottle's label announces that this mouthwash is "Extra Strong - Minty Fresh". They're not kidding. Familiar with the fairly strong mint flavour of the toothpaste, I expected something similar from this wash but I was surprised at the intensity of the mint/menthol taste. It gives a really powerful hot-yet-cold minty feeling in your mouth. If that were the only aspect of the flavour I could quite like it. It certainly offers the freshness I am looking for in a mouthwash. But there is an aftertaste - a quite different flavour - and the most diplomatic word I can use to describe this is 'challenging'! Have you ever eaten a fresh grapefruit, but accidentally taken a piece of membrane or pith into your mouth and chewed it? You know that mouth-puckering, dry, sour taste? Well that is how I would describe the aftertaste of this mouthwash. That bottle stood on the bathroom shelf for weeks before I mustered up the courage to give it a second try! I did try again though, and persisted in doing so, simply because I had been so pleased with the results of another product in the same range. Frankly, if flavour alone had been the deciding factor then it would have been discarded.


                          ~Does it work?~

                          It works well in terms of delivering a long lasting freshness. I also noticed an extremely clean feeling in my mouth after using it. My gum problems stayed away but there is no practical way of determining whether that was the result of using the toothpaste alone or if the mouthwash gave additional gum protection.


                          ~A personal note.~

                          Since childhood I had been plagued with frequently recurring throat infections and this persisted well into adulthood. However, after I adopted a regime recommended by an ENT surgeon I have never looked back. The advice was to adopt a stringent approach to mouth hygiene - brushing my teeth and using a mouthwash after every occasion of eating a meal or snack no matter how small. But there was a proviso. When using a mouthwash with this frequency, it should be chosen with care. I was advised to avoid a wash containing fluoride and under no circumstances should it contain alcohol. These criteria are not impossible to meet, but they certainly do limit the options. AloeDent mouthwash contains neither fluoride nor alcohol and it is also free of saccharin which means it could be a reasonable choice for such frequent use. On the other hand one of the ingredients - the sodium hydroxymethylglycinate can cause skin irritation to those sensitive to it as already noted.


                          ~Which shops stock it...and for how much?~

                          As with the other items in the AloeDent range, this mouthwash appeared first on the shelves of 'healthshops' but is now more widely available. Waitrose and Holland & Barrett sell it instore and it is availailable from several online retailers including Amazon. The price is around £3.49 at these outlets. At the moment Waitrose online are offering it for £2.32. (I don't know whether that offer price is also available in Waitrose stores.)


                          ~Further information.~

                          For any further information, the distributor's address is:
                          William Ransom & Son
                          Alexander House, 40a Wilbury Way,
                          Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG4 0AP
                          Tel: +44 (0)1462 437615
                          Fax: +44 (0)1462 420528
                          Email: info@williamransom.co

                          The company website is: www.williamransom.com/home.asp?nid=152&pid=3

                          An additional website gives further information about the product range:
                          http://www.aloedent.co.uk/our-products.aspx


                          ~In summary.~

                          Given the price, which is considerably higher than average for a mouthwash, and the very strong and distinctive flavour, I would not recommend this mouthwash for general family use. I would class it as a product with a 'niche market'. I am not disappointed with the results of using the wash but I am on the lookout for something with similar characteristics but a more agreeable taste!

                          (NB: this review has appeared on other sites under the same username.)

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                          • Decleor Tonifying Lotion / Skin Care / 23 Readings / 23 Ratings
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                            25.06.2010 14:38
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                            A good quality toner, but expensive and may not suit all skin types.

                            Some months ago I felt like a change in my night-time cleansing and toning routine. Let's call it boredom. So, on a shopping trip to replenish my bathroom cabinet stocks I found myself examining the wares on the Decleor counter in a local department store. I had noticed previously that this counter always had an impressive look about it - clinical looking and orderly. The published policy of this company includes a statement that it "combines the purest, most potent and natural ingredients". This seemed a reasonable place to seek out something new. The "Lait Démaquillant" and the "Lotion Tonifiante" were recommended for my skin type and so I left the store clutching a bottle of each.

                            The idea of a toning lotion which contained lavender, kiwi, petitgrain, orange, lime-tree and mallow extracts sounded very appealing. I adore any cosmetic or toiletry product which contains lavender - not only for that distinctive, restful fragrance but for the impressive range of benefits this plant provides. It has anti-septic, anti-inflammatory properties and helps to soothe and heal skin. Mallow too, is a favourite ingredient of mine. This plant also has healing and soothing properties. Orange oil has been described as nourishing and hydrating by some skin-care companies. Petitgrain essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the bitter orange plant and this is said to be useful in treating greasy skin. Lime tree essential waters will soothe the skin. Kiwi fruit contains a high level of vitamins C and E and so can contribute to skin moisture and also has antioxidant properties. This content list seemed very promising.

                            The bottle (250ml) is a simple and attractive tear-drop shape and is easy to hold. The small dispenser insert in the bottle top allows you to squeeze or shake a very small amount at a time onto a cotton pad. The transparent bottle is a pretty pale shade of pink but the liquid is so pale as to appear almost colourless. The smell surprised me. I had expected lavender to be the dominant scent and at first I found it difficult to identify the fairly strong, herbal smells from the bottle. Then I remembered that distinctive aroma - it reminded me of orange flower water. Not sweet, not floral but fresh.

                            One of the claims made by the manufacturer is that this toning lotion will "complete the effective removal of make-up and impurities from the skin". I have no way of measuring the removal of impurities but it certainly does remove last traces of make-up. After using the cleansing lotion thoroughly - or so I had thought - I was amazed at the colour of the cotton pad after using this toning lotion. Very make-up coloured! It was extremely effective in getting the last remains of make-up removed. There is a lovely cool, clean feeling when you are actually using the lotion and then, for me at least, a very slightly tingly sensation as the lotion is evaporating. I was a little less enthusiastic about the way my skin felt after the lotion had dried. I thought there was a feeling of tightness in my skin. This product does not contain alcohol so you might expect it to be quite gentle - in fact it is recommended by Decleor as being suitable for all skin types. I wondered if it was just not gentle enough for my needs. I persevered with it and now after a few months of use I can give a more rounded opinion. My skin has remained clear, blemish-free and appears very fresh and healthy looking. The promise of a refreshed complexion is delivered without a doubt, and of course very clean skin is the best foundation (if you'll pardon the pun) for any skin-care routine. I noticed as the year progressed that I felt differently about the lotion in different seasons. In hot, sticky weather - either in England or while abroad in warmer climes - the feeling of freshness was lovely. In winter I liked the feeling rather less. I felt that the toner was just a little too ....how can I describe it....robust when my skin was in need of a gentler approach.

                            I have friends who are keen to know about the presence of parabens in cosmetics and they may be pleased to learn that Decleor promise "Minimal use of Parabens" in their products. However, I must concede that this does not help anyone with an allergy to these components as they are present in this lotion.

                            A list of ingredients can be found on the rear of the bottle but the print is extremely small. The bottle is clear and coloured and the content is also clear and this combination forms the background which makes it really difficult to read the information. Decleor's website has an information page which lists the active botanical ingredients of this product but this is by no means a complete list of ingredients. So if the ingredients are important to you, you will have to get out your magnifying glass!

                            So will Decleor's Tonifying Lotion take over as a permanent resident in my bathroom cabinet? Maybe not. I have used other products which have suited my skin better. I would recommend anyone with normal to oily skin to at least give this product a try. For anyone with a more sensitive or dry skin I would suggest asking for a sample before purchase or maybe trying another product from the range designed for sensitive skin.

                            The recommended price for a 250ml bottle of the Tonifying Lotion is £19.00. I wouldn't call this cheap but it is a quality product. You may be able to get the product for less from some outlets but please be aware of a warning currently being issued by Decleor on their UK website - that counterfeit goods with the 'Decleor' label are currently being offered for sale in the UK.

                            (NB: this review has appeared previously on other sites under the same username.)

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                          • More +
                            18.06.2010 13:16
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                            Gentle, effective cleanser, free from unnecessary additives.

                            I have had the same night-time cleansing routine for a couple of decades. You know how it is - if you find something which really suits your skin you tend to stick with it. Only boredom or a very tempting special offer can coax me away from my familiar old favourites. My morning routine, however, is a different story. I used to use the same cleansing and toning lotions in the morning as I did in the evening but I really missed the refreshing, awakening feeling of water on my face and tried a series of rinse off gels, lotions, washes and creams over the years. You name the brand, I've probably tried it - budget range, premium range, brands bought overseas - I've had a go at dozens of them! How surprised I was two years ago to find something which suited me to perfection. The cosmetics department in one of my local department stores (Fenwicks) had started to stock a brand I had only vaguely heard of previously - Caudalie.

                            I have friends and relatives who have problems with allergies and others who are very keen to search out products which are "natural" and use as few "artificial" ingredients as possible. It occurred to me that this range may interest them so I gave the products a good look. I picked up a leaflet and read about the company. It was founded more than fifteen years ago by a French couple, Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas in collaboration with Doctor Vercauteren (now a Professor of Pharmacy) when they had been working together on the family wine estate in the Bordeaux region. The concept of this company is to harness the properties contained in the vine - the grape, the seeds, the sap and the vine-stalks. (Grape seeds are a rich source of polyphenols which are said to have an anti-oxidant effect and therefore can help to fight skin ageing.)

                            Those who have a problem with paraben allergy will be pleased to know that Caudalie removed parabens from all of their products in 2005. The products are also free from sodium laureth sulphate, artificial colourings and animal ingredients. The company operate what they term an "eco-friendly" policy by using as much recycled paper as possible and strive to reduce CO2 emissions and to reduce waste. Now all of this may conjure up an image of a somewhat austere product but the makers state their belief that "...it is possible to formulate ultra effective and Natural beauty products with refined, luxurious textures inspired by the vine." By the way, the word "caudalie" is a French term for the length of time the flavour of wine lingers in your mouth.

                            The item I decided to try was the Instant Foaming Cleanser (Mousse Nettoyante Fleur de Vigne). It comes in a translucent, colourless plastic bottle containing 150 ml of the cleanser. Remove the cap to reveal a press down dispenser which is easy to use and therefore makes it easy to control the amount flowing out. The plain, green lettering is functional rather than attractive. The ingredient list on the rear of the bottle is clear and informative. Two logos are printed on the bottle; one indicating that the bottle may be recycled and the other which, along with the cipher "18M" explains that the product will remain in good condition for up to eighteen months after opening.

                            The foam which emerges from the dispenser is light, airy and smooth and has a slightly "botanic" smell which does remind me of the aroma of crushed grape seeds. The cleanser, while still in liquid form, has a very pale yellowish colour. Now I must be totally honest here. For the first few times I tried this product I was disappointed. I found my skin felt quite tight and a little dry after use. It was certainly refreshing and cleansing but just a little severe for my skin. I was so disappointed I mentioned this to a member of staff the next occasion I visited the store where I had bought it. She asked me a question. Was I following the instructions properly? Had I been applying the foam to dry skin? My attention was drawn to the instructions on the rear of the bottle: "use...on damp skin". Oops. (The lettering may be clear but it's only useful if the consumer bothers to read it!) So I tried again. I splashed my face with warm water, then applied a thin layer of foam and then removed it with a wet, warm face-cloth. Problem solved. I never looked back. I found the cleanser to be effective and yet gentle. My skin felt extremely refreshed and clean and not in the least tight, dry, irritated or uncomfortable. Over the next few weeks of use I noticed an improvement in my pores - they were less blocked, never became inflamed and even appeared a little smaller. The texture and condition of my skin was excellent and very healthy looking.

                            My search for a morning cleanser is over - this is the one for me. In time I intend to try out more products in this range - maybe when a further supply of Amazon vouchers arrive! I can find no negative feature of this cleanser. If I was pushed to think of something I suppose I may say that the packaging is a little uninspiring, more "up-market-health-food-shop" than "premium-cosmetic-house" in style. But the contents work - so that is hardly a valid complaint.

                            At first I thought it was going to be really uneconomical as I seemed to be going through the bottle so quickly but I tried using a lot less and found the result to be just as effective. The bottle I am using is coming up to its first anniversary since it was started. It's almost finished now, but I think that indicates that although the initial purchase price is undoubtedly high, the value in day-to-day use is good. The recommended price is £14.50 per 150ml bottle and you can probably expect to pay this full price at John Lewis, Fenwick and Boots Online. It may be possible to get it for a little less at Amazon or other online retailers.

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                          • More +
                            07.06.2010 15:10
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                            Excellent quality, additive free, good value stock powder.

                            If you were asked to name ten essential kitchen store-cupboard ingredients, what would you include? Flour? Salt? Sugar? My guess is that most cooks would include some kind of instant stock on their list. Even the keenest of cooks is unlikely to have sufficient time to make their own stock for every occasion. In the years when we were entertained by that wholesome family in the TV ads who sat down to yet another of mum's imaginative culinary creations each evening there were fewer brands of instant stock from which to choose. Now the array is staggering though the quality is not universally impressive. Some brands are quite acceptable while some items lurking on supermarket shelves are little more than little cuboid chemical fests. Over ten years ago a friend introduced me to Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder. I tried it and I have never looked back. Marigold is the only brand I now use.

                            When I started to use Marigold, I could only find it in "healthfood" shops. Within a few years it began to appear on supermarket shelves and now all of the major stores sell the standard version. In some supermarkets you can also find a wider choice from the range - the organic and the reduced salt varieties. For the moment, though, let's stay with the standard version.

                            The size of pack you are most likely to find on a supermarket shelf is the 150g drum. (500g and 1 kg containers are manufactured but are less easy to find.) The neat pot will have a green label background (standard version only) with an orange plastic lift off/snap on lid. The first time you open a new drum you will see a foil seal which is easy to remove. Then you will see an attractive golden yellow powder flecked with small, green flakes of herbs. The recommendation is that you use four teaspoons per litre of water to make a basic stock but my recommendation is to experiment! Find out what suits your taste. Discover how easy it is to adjust the strength of the bouillon according to the dish you are making. For me, the total control and flexibility of how much powder you use is one of the advantages of this product. If I am making a small quantity of a delicately flavoured sauce then perhaps only a half or even a quarter of a teaspoon is all I need. No more carefully re-wrapped, half-cubes going claggy in my cupboard! It is so much easier to taste-and-add a little at a time until the intensity of the flavour you want has been reached. Which brings us to the next point, the flavour.

                            The flavour is rounded, full, balanced and yet remains delicate and natural. The balance of herbs in the mix is just right - enough to provide depth of flavour but never so much as to overwhelm or dominate the dish you are creating. It will perfectly season the most delicate sauce, risotto or light soup right through to hearty casseroles and gravies. I no longer need an array of stock choices on the shelf. Marigold is excellent for vegetable dishes but also for fish, poultry and meat dishes of every type.

                            So what about the ingredients and nutritional values of the powder? In these respects, Marigold was years ahead of other instant stock brands. Other manufacturers may be catching up now in terms of reducing additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), but Marigold has always been additive-free. The company state that the whole range of bouillon powders are free from preservatives, colouring, artificial flavourings and genetically-modified material. Each of the powder varieties differ in terms of nutritional details and this is something that is particularly important for anyone with dietary needs or preferences to note.

                            ~The "standard version" (green drum) is also free from yeast, nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten and MSG. (Great news for allergy and intolerance sufferers!)

                            ~ The"reduced salt" version (purple drum). This is free from yeast, nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten, MSG and dairy ingredients and is labelled as "vegan".

                            ~The "organic" version (red drum). This is also suitable for a vegan diet. It is also free from yeast, nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten, MSG and dairy products.

                            ~The "organic reduced salt" version (the grey label). Again no nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten or dairy product is to be found in this powder. It does, however, contain yeast.

                            Older versions of the powder bouillons contained peanut oil, apparently, but the stock now contains palm oil which, as you would may now expect, is obtained from a sustainable source.

                            Marigold have a very useful website where you can find further information about the range of products:
                            http://www.marigold-health-foods.com.au/home_page.htm

                            An excellent comparison table of nutritional facts about the Bouillon range is provided in pdf format. From the homepage click on "Product Info" and from that page click on "Marigold Bouillon Product Content Table". This table is presented in a detailed and very clear style indicating which product contains what and therefore it assists you in choosing which of the range is right for your dietary needs.

                            You will notice from this page that the product also comes in the form of 'cubes' for cooks who prefer that style.

                            Explore the website further and you can read a detailed description of the production process of this Swiss made bouillon. Other products in the company's range are also shown. There are recipe suggestions - with meat and without. Some are even provided by Delia and Nigella! The tempting ideas include Lemon Risotto, Saffron Spiced Lamb and Prawn Laksa.

                            Given the excellent quality, I find this product to be really good value for money - expect to pay £1.54 to £1.88 for the standard Bouillon and a few pennies more for the reduced salt or organic varieties. They can be found in most supermarkets and they are still available in 'healthfood' stores. One 150g drum lasts me longer than a pack of 12 standard stock cubes. It is economical, high quality and I would not hesitate to recommend this versatile and additive-free ingredient to all cooks.

                            (NB: this review has appeared on other sites under the same username.)

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