A secret cocktail venue, a curious, dimly lit oyster bar and a cake shop opening its doors at night? Intrigued? Keep reading to find out about my experience at the mysterious Nottingham Secret Dinner club.

Last month I was sent an invitation by It's In Nottingham to the first ever Nottingham Secret Dinner Club. The invitation was very elusive, only including a date and time and stating that the event would be hosted across three 'top-secret' venues. Then as the date drew closer I was sent another email revealing the meeting point for the night; the left lion on Market Square. When I arrived on the evening of the event I was greeted by the Its In Nottingham team, as well as a dozen or so other bewildered but excitable bloggers. Once we were all gathered it became clear that the details of the night would continue to remain a mystery and we would only find out where we were going once we arrived at each venue. Exciting!

Venue #1 | Boilermaker

We were led from Market Square towards Hockley, until we finally came to a halt outside a . .boiler room? It took me a couple of seconds to realise this was in fact the infamous Boilermaker, a cocktail bar hidden behind the guise of being a rundown boiler room. We walked through what looked like a toilet cubicle door and found ourselves in a pretty, fairy light and candle lit bar. There were tables set up for us, decorated with rubber ducks (ducks being integral in Nottingham culture) and candles. We were given bowls of snacks to nibble on whilst we settled down and mingled. And then finally we were presented with cocktails, which had been custom made for the night. Each cocktail was presented with an origami lion, which was a nice touch. The Left Lion cocktail - we were told - was a tribute to Nottingham. And the cocktail itself contained locally sourced ingredients representing the best of the city. The ingredients of the cocktail included Outpost Coffee, Brokers gin, Tonka bean liqueur, and even Doughnuts from Nottingham Doughnut Company. I loved this ode to Nottingham, especially coming from such an integral Nottingham drinks venue.

Venue #2 | The Curious Tavern

After our time in Boilermaker we were led around the corner to The Curious Tavern. I had been intrigued by the Nottingham's Curious venues for a while and this was my first time setting foot in one. The Curious Tavern was dimly lit with a suave interior; the moody yet comfortable atmosphere very in keeping with the theme of the night. The Curious Tavern specialises in oysters, but also has a variety of other wholesome foods on the menu. We were first served the colourful 'Selfie' cocktail, complete with attached selfie paraphernalia including retro sunglasses and fake moustaches. The cocktail itself was gin based with rhubarb liqueur and raspberry puree and was very tasty. Then we were served our main meal of the night; a beef and stout pie with a side of mashed potatoes and pea puree (vegan options were also given). Pie isn't something I would normally choose from a menu, but the meal was in fact really good and I'm very glad I got to try it.

Venue #3 | Homemade

By the time we were done at The Curious Tavern we had guessed that the next place would be somewhere where we'd have dessert. And that place turned out to be Homemade cafe, a cake shop and cafe in the direction of Market Square. Once we got to the cafe we were greeted warmly and found our tables already set for us. Each place was already served with a plate containing a range of delectable looking cakes with an accompanying sparkling pink drink, and each seat was aligned with a generous goodie bag signifying the night coming to a close. Once we were all comfortably sat down we were told that the cakes in front of us were After Eight brownies, Raspberry and Lemon cakes and Oreo cheesecake slices. There were also other choices for those with dietary requirements.
I was actually amazed at how good the cakes tasted. The After Eight brownie was so rich and indulgent in the best way possible. The Raspberry and Lemon cake tasted crisp and refreshing and surprisingly flavoursome, despite seeming simple on paper. It was also vegan. The Oreo Cheesecake was less sweet in comparison to the two others but just as good. I left Homemade very full but also anticipating trying more from their cake selection in the future.

All and all I had a great evening and really enjoyed the concept of the night. Thank you to It's In Nottingham for hosting the event and to the three great venues for having us and providing such great food and drinks!

Click here to check out It's In Nottingham's Food and Drink Finder

Amani x

Nottingham Secret Dinner Club

12 Oct 2017

Two weeks ago around twenty bloggers and I were invited by The Body Shop to an event at their Bridlesmith store in Nottingham's city centre.

I hadn't been to The Body Shop for years, possibly since I was a teenager. And upon re-entering the Bridlesmith store my impressions were that it's reminiscent of an apothecary. There was a huge array of intriguing lotions and potions, and I wanted to play around with it all. To pinch my skin with their hibiscus cheek stain, to lather my face with their gooey, potent looking rose mask. And I did spend a lot of time testing out many of their products over the course of the night.

Unfortunately I was a few minutes late to the event, so I missed most of the talk that was given at the start. But I did hear a glimpse of The Body Shop origin story, and it was also later relayed to me that The Body Shop are currently petitioning for cosmetics to become cruelty-free across the globe.

Annoyingly I also missed the memo that we were granted 40% off all products for the night - if I had known this at the time I would have definitely taken advantage of the offer. But that's my fault!

There was also a competition for us bloggers to take part in. Those of us who had the right colour star drawn at the bottom of our party cups - which held a pretty pink, sparkling fruit-infused drink - were to be gifted certain Body Shop products. Sadly I didn't win!

The store's team of skin and make-up specialists were around on the night, providing personalised advice and product intel. We were also privy to a sneak peek of The Body Shop's new Vanilla Pumpkin collection, which has just been released in time for autumn. Spoiler alert: the combo smells amazing.

Two things in the store that really piqued my interest were the cheek and lip stains and the range of fragrances. I ended up purchasing the Lip and Cheek Stain in Pink Hibiscus  (also available in shades such as Dusty Rose and Dark Cherry), and am considering returning for the Vanilla Body Mist (vanilla is my favourite scent at the moment, and The Body Shop's brand of vanilla is warm and sweet).

Even though I didn't take advantage of the bloggers discount, The Body Shop still have some great deals available in store, such as 3 for 2 offers. And since the event I have picked up a points card, which I learnt will enable me to receive a free gift of my choosing (worth up to £5) on my birthday, which conveniently is in a couple of weeks time!

Overall I enjoyed the event and am glad I was re-introduced to The Body Shop. I will surely be paying more visits to the store.

Amani x

The Body Shop Showcase | Nottingham

10 Sep 2017

Thrive: Feel Stress Free is an app dedicated to reducing stress and anxiety. It was created by mental health professionals and contains clinically proven techniques. The app offers quick fixes to acute anxiety as well as aiming to significantly reduce anxiety over a period of a few weeks, when used consistently. Severe anxiety is, unfortunately, something I've dealt with most of my life, so I'm always up for exploring new ways of treating my anxiety. So I was very happy when Sam at Thrive kindly reached out and offered me a free trial of the full program, in exchange for an honest review. Here's what I thought. 

When logging onto your Feel Stress Free app you are transported onto a serene island (soothing ocean sounds included) where you are guided through various anxiety-reducing exercises by a friendly little robot. The available techniques include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, meditation, mindfulness, CBT and more. Some of the methods offered I was already aware of, but this app enables a more compact and pleasing way to access them, making it less likely to neglect to practice the techniques (which I'm guilty of). There were also some methods that I hadn't come across before and that I found helpful. 

The app also tracks your mood when you use it and identifies what factors influence your mood and stress levels. And with that information it suggests the most effective exercises for you to do in that moment. What I really like is that, even when you're seemingly feeling okay, based on the answers to your questions the app can identify when things might be about to escalate, and then helps you nip potential anxiety in the bud by suggesting appropriate exercises. The app seems to learn about you as it goes along and customizes itself around your unique needs. You are also able to track your process over time. 

A nice extra feature that the app has is the zen garden - where you can build and maintain your own peaceful little garden on the beach, making for the perfect relaxation activity or distraction when feeling anxious. Another cool detail is being able to send out affirming 'messages in a bottle' to other users of the app.

In conclusion, I found the Feel Stress Free app very effective and enjoyable to use, and I would recommend it to anyone who suffers from either stress or anxiety (and will be doing so). A monthly subscription to the app is only £5.99, which I believe is a small price to pay if you're serious about combating your anxiety or stress. There's also a basic version of the app available for free on the app store.

To download Thrive: Feel Stress Free click here.

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

Amani x

Thrive: Feel Stress Free | Review

19 Aug 2017

Latest Instagrams

© Amani Carson. Design by Fearne.