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21st Birthday!

So a million years after everyone else, I finally turned 21 last week! I was really rather excited for this birthday because I was going for afternoon tea and to the theatre to see Wicked with my mum, which I’ve wanted to do for so long! I was still living in London, so woke up to some lovely presents and felt very loved, lucky, and slightly sick from all the chocolate and fudge I’d eaten by 10am πŸ˜› After a bit of a wander in Ruskin Park, we returned home and I was surprised with Wiggles the Caterpillar Cake! I don’t think I’ve eaten one for many years and it was definitely the best cake to celebrate my 21st with πŸ˜‰

In the afternoon, I met up with my mum and we headed to the Sheraton Park Lane hotel for our afternoon tea at 3pm!

We were greeted immediately and shown to our table. From the pictures online I was expecting the Palm Court to be a lot bigger, not just a few tables on each side with a walkway down the middle! It was also a bit distracting since the hotel’s guests kept walking behind me to get to another part of the hotel. But there was a lovely harpist who played throughout our tea, which heightened the experience!

There were five tables taking afternoon tea and we were given our menus by a friendly waiter who returned shortly with a complimentary glass of champagne each to celebrate my graduation! No idea how they found out about me graduating, but that’s probably the power of the internet and it being plastered all over my Twitter! Nonetheless, it was a lovely and unexpected touch πŸ™‚

As I don’t drink tea, I was able to order a hot chocolate instead, whilst my mum had English Breakfast Tea (how exciting I know… πŸ˜‰ ). Our sandwiches were all pre-made and waiting to be served as they came out very speedily. The food wasn’t served on a tier like other afternoon teas as everything came out separately. I didn’t really mind to be honest as it’s the same food however it comes out! Our sandwiches consisted of:

– Roast beef, wild rocket, and wasabi mayonnaise on white bread
– Roasted Scottish salmon, dill, and lemon on basil bread
– Free range egg, creme fraiche, and mixed sakura cress on carrot bread
– Salt and pepper corn-fed chicken, celery, and mustard mayonnaise on a mini
ciabbatta roll
– Cream cheese and chive, cucumber, baby watercress on granary bread

Sandwiches

They were all quite tasty but nothing really stood out that much. We had one of each and were offered another plate to share between us, which we quickly accepted! At this point, we noticed that we still hadn’t received our drinks and saw that a lot of other tables were still waiting on their tea too. It’s a bit silly calling it afternoon tea when there isn’t actually any tea being served with it πŸ˜‰

Our plates were then cleared and we were presented with four scones (two plain and two raisin) which were wrapped in a cloth to keep them warm, although ours came cold which was a bit of a shame (but was probably because I’d been talking so much that they’d cooled down πŸ˜› ). There was clotted cream and a selection of preserves which included rhubarb jam, gooseberry jam, and some lemony cream thing. The scones were smaller than I was expecting, but that was probably a good thing since at this point I was definitely feeling slightly sick from all the food I’d eaten so far! Our tea and hot chocolate also arrived whilst we were having our scones and the waiters poured them out for us which was a nice touch.

After we had finished our scones, we were shown a selection of five different pastries and could either choose two each or one of each to share between the two of us. My mum has never really had much of a sweet tooth and said that I could choose and eat most of them, so I went for one of each!


Afternoon tea!

I can’t remember what exactly each of them were but I started off with a pistachio tasting pastry which wasn’t that amazing and tasted a bit like jelly or set custard.

Pistachio cake

The chocolate cake was next, which was probably my least favourite since it was really dark chocolate and I’ve never been a fan. It was also very rich!

Chocolate cake

I then had something fruity in a small glass. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a clue what it was!

The mini fruit tart was next and it was decorated with lots of nice looking fruits πŸ™‚

Fruit tart

I think I saved the best until last since the raspberry cake was light and very tasty!

Raspberry cake

The lights suddenly dimmed and I noticed that the harpist was playing Happy Birthday. I turned round and saw a waitress approaching with a tart topped with a candle πŸ™‚ It was all rather embarrassing but nice!

There was meant to be a second afternoon tea sitting at 4:30, but it was already nearing 5pm and there weren’t really any new guests, so we weren’t rushed in the slightest πŸ™‚ We had used Avios vouchers so didn’t have to pay a thing! All the waiters and waitresses were lovely and friendly and I even received a Tweet from the hotel hoping that I was enjoying myself πŸ˜› The only bad things would be that the tea could have been served more promptly and that it was a bit strange having other hotel guests walking past me all the time, but I still enjoyed myself πŸ˜€

After leaving the hotel completely stuffed, we were in need of a bit of a wander and rest! We headed to Green Park and chilled out for a while since Wicked didn’t start until 7:30.

I’d never been to the theatre before so I really wanted to go to see whether I would enjoy it. I also managed to tick off another thing on my Things To Do Before I’m 30! When we got to the Apollo Theatre it was very busy and we were sitting in seats M 16 and 17. I hadn’t realised that we would be so close to the stage! I was sat in the aisle so had a completely unrestricted view of the whole stage which was amazing! My mum didn’t fare quite so well since the man in front of me kept leaning over and talking to his wife the whole time! When Wicked started with a big song and dance, I was a bit unsure whether I’d actually like it, but literally within a minute, the whole stage was lit up and I was mesmerised by it all! Wicked was absolutely amazing and I was truly sucked into the story. Now I’ll have to decide which theatre production I want to see next!!

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Sanderson Hotel’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea

I was lucky enough to be invited to my cousin’s hen party yesterday and we headed for afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel! I was extra excited because I’d never been to a hen party before and because I’ve wanted to go for afternoon tea for ages! Another thing to tick off my list of Things To Do Before I’m 30! I’m seriously whizzing through them this month!!

Sanderson Hotel do a Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea which is pretty cool and one that I’ve always wanted to try. There was seating outside which looked quite nice, but we were all very thankful to be sat inside with the air-con as it was a very humid and sticky day! Our napkins had riddles written on the piece of paper holding them together, and all the plates and saucers were different with joining up designs.

We were given the menu and a selection of four teas to smell (apple pie, strawberries and cream, rhubarb and custard, and chocolate and mint) and were also offered normal teas to chose from. I don’t normally like tea that much but the tea leaves smelt amazing and I could have sat there sniffing the pot all day long, so I tried the strawberries and cream tea. All of us felt that they were a bit watery, but a sugar cube definitely improved it πŸ™‚

A while later, we were presented with our massive tier of food! It all looked incredible and definitely too good to eat! The waiter was trying to explain what everything was, but it literally went in one ear and out the other! So I’ve grabbed the menu off their website πŸ˜‰

Savoury:
– Smoked Cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard on sundried tomato bread
– Cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread
– Cold smoked salmon and lemon butter on dark rye bread
– Egg mayo with watercress and smoked sea salt on lemon bread
– Daily quiche (ours was courgette)

Sweet:
– Carrot meringue served on a bed of pea shoots
– Strawberries and cream homemade marshmallow mushrooms
– Tick tock traditional Victoria sponge
– Melting mango cheesecake
– Matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse served in a chocolate tea cup
– ‘Drink me’ potion

Scones:
– Cheese scones
– Raisin scones
– Herb butter and fruit preserves with clotted cream

So delicious!

So delicious!

I started with the sandwiches and chose the cold smoked salmon and lemon butter on dark rye bread which looked suspiciously like a chocolate mini roll! I think out of the four sandwiches, my favourite was the smoked Cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard on sundried tomato bread. I didn’t think I’d like the mustard part but I couldn’t taste it and the bread was definitely the highlight! The other sandwiches were all very nice too and were a nice combination πŸ™‚

Sandwiches and quiche

Sandwiches and quiche

The scones were pretty mini, but it’s probably a good thing that they were since I was already quite full from just the savoury stuff!! Unfortunately they came cold, but they were still very tasty and not that crumbly when I cut into them πŸ˜€ I’m a sucker for clotted cream and jam so slathered mine in it hah!

Scones

Scones

I have a severe sweet tooth, so I definitely saved the best until last! I went for the ‘Drink me’ potion which everyone loved and seemed to taste a bit passionfruity. Shame it was so small as I could have probably drunk a whole litre! The Victoria Sponge was very soft and moist and definitely one of my favourites! I was a bit unsure about the matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse at first, but I could hardly taste the green tea and the mousse was so lovely and fluffy. The others said that the cheesecake was really tasty, but quite sickly, so I left that until last. It tasted amazing! I love cheesecake anyway, so when you combine it with mango (another one of my favourite things), then you’re definitely on to a winner! The cheesecake was encased in a white chocolate decoration and when you cut into the middle of the cheesecake, the mango part exploded and oozed temptingly all over the plate. I agreed that it was a bit sicky, but I loved it nonetheless!

Sweet treats!

Sweet treats!

The carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows were a nice touch and looked rather interesting at the top of the tier of food!

Carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows

Carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows

There was also a table with two jellies that we could help ourselves to. I think that they were apple and cherry flavoured and were quite grainy, and tasted almost like fruit puree or baby food! This was probably all our least favourite thing in the afternoon tea!

We were offered refills of the sandwiches and scones and were more than happy to accept even though we were all pretty stuffed! The scones came pretty swiftly, but the sandwiches took a while, so we had to remind them and then they ended up bringing out two sets! There were so many sandwiches! We weren’t able to eat them all, so we took a lot of food away with us.

At Β£38 per person plus 15% service charge, it is a bit pricey, but it is on par with a lot of other hotel afternoon teas. Since it was my first one and one that I’d always wanted to try, I didn’t mind and I had a lovely time with my cousin and meeting all her friends πŸ˜€ Shame the service was a bit casual and slightly slow though, but we all left very much stuffed and ready to head on and celebrate! I’m very much looking forward to my afternoon tea with my mum to celebrate my 21st birthday in just over a week!!

All of us

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A Sunny Riverside Walk

Last Monday was absolutely glorious as the sun was shining and it was very warm! We decided to do another Books About Town bench hunt and wander along the river east of London Bridge since I’ve never gone that way before (ticking off one of things on my Things To Do Before I’m 30Β list πŸ˜€ ). We started off at Blackfriars again and wandered right towards Shakespeare’s Globe, where the first bench was. Since it was a weekday, it wasn’t as crowded as it would normally be which was great as we could walk at a leisurely pace without being jossled around!

We passed Southwark Cathedral and stopped for a few photos at the Golden Hinde before heading to Borough Market which I still can’t believe I’ve never been to! It was a shame that not all the stalls were open but it was still really cool to slowly wander through all the different butchers, bakers, etc! I don’t know what it is about markets, but I really do love them! I think it’s the buzz and variety of things on offer that really appeals and draws me in.

The next two benches were Paddington Bear and Great Expectations which were close by, and then we found the Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson bench whcih wasn’t too far.

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Luke showed me another part of London which I never knew existed. Hays Galleria was originally a warehouse and wharf and was redeveloped in the 1980s. It’s now home to many offices, restaurants, shops, and flats and is a pretty cool little place!

We were heading towards More London and since it was near midday, all the workers were flocking down for their lunch. Unfortunately a lot of people were sitting on the four benches that were dotted around this area, so we had to wait a bit before I could get a decent shot of them, but I didn’t really mind waiting around as it was such a lovely day πŸ˜€

After strolling through a nice looking road, we got to Butler’s Wharf which was just really unexpected!! There were some amazing apartments right by the river (which I one day hope to own πŸ˜‰ ) and loads of cool looking boats. I just couldn’t believe I’d never ventured this side of the Thames! What a lot I’ve been missing out on!


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We had passed a lot of very posh looking restaurants along the riverside which had tablecloths and wine glasses set out. I don’t think they’d be that welcome to my slightly sweaty self in flip flops! Instead, we headed to ASK, which was equally as lovely, and were sat outside with stunning river views. It was great being able to just sit there all content and watch the world go by! Since I was by the sea (the Thames counts as being part of the sea right? πŸ˜‰ ), I went for their seafood pasta which was so good!

After fuelling up, we crossed over Tower Bridge which is another thing I don’t think I’ve ever done! After taking a million photos and getting in the way of the genuine tourists, we reached St Katharine’s Docks, which I never even knew existed until I read about it on Time Out! It’s central London’s only marina and is now home to many restaurants, shops, flats, and offices. The weekend before, there had been a Clipper Round the World sailing race, so we were able to catch a glimpse of a couple of lingering boats. It was rather peaceful and it was great being able to take a casual meander around the area.


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There were a million benches this side of the river, but we weren’t really in the mood to do a massive search again since it was rather hot! We headed towards the Tower of London and found the Katie in London bench and the Noughts and Crosses bench which was close by, before heading home after a wonderful day out πŸ˜€

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Books About Town Bench Hunt

It’s been a busy couple of weeks filled with lovely wanders around London, results day, and graduation! I’ve ticked off another thing off my Things to Do Before I’m 30 since I’ve definitely explored many new places around London in the past couple of weeks!

Earlier this month, Books About Town started where 50 unique bench sculptures appeared around London which were designed by local artists and famous people to celebrate London’s literary heritage. In the past couple of years there have been loads of cool hunts around London like the Easter Egg hunts and Phone Box hunts, so I was rather excited to hear about this new one! Thankfully, they had maps of where all of them were on their website so last week I ventured out to find some.

We started off at Blackfriars and wandered along the Southbank. They always hold random festivals and this time it was the Festival of Love. There were many random installations and bits and pieces dotted around the area!

Our first stop wasΒ Waterloo to find our first bench. Unfortunately, there was a guy who seemed completely oblivious to the fact that he was sat on a piece of art and had set down all his bags and made himself very comfortable. Undeterred, we headed off to find Around the World in Eighty Days which was a bit of a challenge as we didn’t know that it was inside a shop.

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We wandered around the Bloomsbury area and found many other benches. Sadly, one bench which looked really cool had been taken away for repairs 😦 It was right outside Birkbeck University, so I’m going to blame them for damaging it πŸ˜‰

The benches all looked amazing, some more intricate and detailed than others, but all great to look at nonetheless! I think from that day’s hunt, my favourites are probably Peter Pan and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe benches!

Peter Pan bench

Peter Pan bench

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Graduation!

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since my last exam in June! It’s gone so fast and so much has happened including my relief on results day last Tuesday and my graduation on Friday from the London School of Economics! There’s another thing that I can tick off my list of Things To Do Before I’m 30 yay! There were seven graduation ceremonies in total running from Wednesday to Friday. Mine was at 10:45 on Friday and I arrived earlier to collect my gown, certificate, and tickets with plenty of time for photos before it got too hectic later on. My parents and Luke came along to watch my ceremony which was lovely πŸ™‚

It was about 31Β°C so I was absolutely boiling and rather lovely and sweaty in my heavy, black gown!! My ceremony consisted of students from Economic History, Economics, and Management (my degree). The ceremony started with a procession of academics to the stage which did feel a bit cheesy, not going to lie! I had to stop myself from laughing which wouldn’t have been so good since I was in the front row of students so when the camera panned across, my face was projected on the large screen above the stage.

Our director, Craig Calhoun, then gave a bit of a speech and then it was time to start with the handshaking! I was near the end of the ceremony and throughout it, me and many other girls around me were worrying that we would trip over in our heels and make fools of ourselves! It was time for me to line up and thankfully there was lady to help sort out our gowns as I was looking a mess with my gown hanging in a rather dropped shoulder style due to being crammed in my small seat. Loads of people before me did amusing things like take selfies with our director, high five him, hug him, and kiss him πŸ˜› My time on stage was all a bit of a blur as I was concentrating so much on getting up the steps, giving my name card to my Head of Department, walking across the stage, pausing to shake hands, then walking back down the stairs without falling over! It was all very quick and I didn’t trip up phew! Loyd Grossman (yes, the sauceman) is a LSE alumni and he gave a bit of a speech afterwards and told us to make the most of our parent’s niceness towards us and and then it was all over! It then suddenly hit me that I had graduated! How very surreal!

After my ceremony, there was a drinks reception. Management’s was held in the Shaw Library which I’ve never really been in before. It’s all rather small and quite grand looking with large portraits dotted across the walls. There was also a nice little terrace area which I never knew about and we chilled outside for a bit. After more photo taking, I was rather glad to be rid of my heavy robe, and we headed to Cafe Rouge for a lovely lunch (I was definitely making the most of my nice parents, just like Loyd Grossman told us to πŸ˜‰ ). Afterwards I gave my parents a bit of a tour around LSE and itf felt very strange that I wouldn’t be coming back in September! At least LSE is literally in the middle of central London, so if I do get a bit sentimental, I can always return at any time!

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Three years has flown by and I’ve met some amazing people who will be in my life forever. I’ve learnt so much, not just academic things, but about myself and how to handle myself in different situations, which I never would have learnt if I had never gone to university. I’ve definitely grown up and matured a lot more. I’ve also probably learnt one of the most important lessons in life which is to never give up, no matter what life throws at you, you will get through it. Yes, things will be hard and you’ll want to give up, but there is no shame in leaning on others for support. Whether things happen for a reason or not, or whether things do end up the way you want it or not, I’ve learnt that whatever life throws at you, you need to take it, learn from it, and grow from it, because things will turn out the way they are meant to in the end and it will all be worth it.

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The Beginning of Something New

It’s been ridiculously long since my last post due to exams and having my head crammed full of strategy and market research amongst all other bits and pieces. I had my last ever university exam on Tuesday and it definitely still feels a bit surreal that I’ve finished my three years and that there are no more exams at all! It’s genuinely so nice waking up in the mornings knowing that I can do whatever I like and not feel too guilty because I have revision to be doing instead. In a way, it’s kind of like I’m still getting used to this new sense of freedom that I have now…as sad as that sounds haha.

It’s nearly been a week since I finished, yet it feels like the past days have been such a blur. Many things recently have made me think and I’m just really looking forward to making the most of the next two and a bit months before I start in the big, wide world of proper work. I haven’t had a proper summer off for about three years since I worked all last summer and the majority of the one before, so it’s good being able to have so much freedom to do whatever I want!

The past three years have gone so quickly and as cheesy as it does sound, I have definitely grown up a lot and learnt so much. There was a point in my first year where I really wanted to drop out since it all just seemed so difficult and overwhelming, but I reasoned with myself and saw sense because there was no point throwing away the past year. I decided to persevere and make the most of my time at university…and I’m so glad that I did! It’s also strange and rather sad that after like 16/17 years of being in education, it’s all coming to an end and I’m heading off into the scary world! Definitely the end of a chapter in my life and the start of a new one πŸ™‚

The thing is, we none of us know what’s round the corner. Fate can be a giver or a taker. Sometimes she’s kindly, and sometimes she causes terrible pain. Things happen and we’d rather they didn’t – and however desperate we are to change them, we just can’t.”

I came across this in a book I’m currently reading and thought it was rather nice. Strange how perfectly timed I always seem to come across gems in a book that sum up my life a lot of the time! I guess it’s true what people say about life being a rollercoaster, with all the ups and downs, and twists and turns. With the parts that can make you feel horrible and sick, and those that are really unexpected but make you feel on top of the world. I guess what I have learnt is that life can suck at times, but the good times definitely outweigh the bad, and whatever happens, life is about learning and about growing as a person.

There are many lovely bits and pieces that I’m looking forward to in the coming months, and I guess sometimes I do forget that I’m only 20 and that there is such much still left to do πŸ˜€ (Better get going on my things to do before I’m 30 then!). So here’s to the beginning of something new!

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Fox on the Hill Wetherspoons (Review)

Number 37 on my List Of Things To Do Before I’m 30 is to eat in a restaurant on my own. It sounds like a bit of a weird thing, but when I was younger I always used to think that people who did that were a bit of a loner. Now, my opinion’s changed and I don’t see the problem with it. I think it takes quite a bit of courage to eat out, visit the cinema, etc on your own since there will always be judgemental people, like I used to be, thinking that you have no friends if you sit on your own.

I had the opportunity to go to my local Wetherspoons, the Fox on the Hill, to do a mystery dine, and I thought I’d do it this afternoon to take a bit of a break from work. I went on my own since my friends were all out at uni and thought it would be a good stepping stone to the world of eating alone, since I feel a pub is a slightly less intimidating place to eat on your own as people come and go, and generally do their own thing. I’d been to this pub a few times before in the past, with my mum, and my friends, and each time I’ve received mixed service and mixed food standards. I never really have that high expectations of Wetherspoons since I knew someone who worked there who said that they basically microwaved everything, but I’m not too sure how true that is. But nonetheless, it is pretty cheap and they do a pretty wide range of food!

The pub wasn’t that busy considering it was lunchtime, and I found a spot in one of their booths and made myself comfortable. Since it was Friday, I decided to go for their Fish Friday deal which cost Β£5.09 for fish and chips and a soft drink. I also debated over onion rings or garlic bread, and opted for the garlic bread at Β£2.19 since I’d never tried the Wetherspoons ones before. The guy who served me at the bar was a chirpy guy, who was a lot friendlier than any of the other people that have ever served me at that Wetherspoons! Within about 10 minutes, my food was served (which was pretty speedy, so it does make me think whether they do microwave all their food).

I wasn’t expecting too much from my fish and chips as sometimes you get a meager bit of fish covered in really greasy batter. However, this piece of fish exceeded my expectations and was pretty big! I find that the best part of fish and chips is the batter. I’d be pretty happy if all they had was batter on the menu! I tend to scoop out the fish and eat it first, before eating the batter (weird I know…) and this way I saw that there was a pretty decent amount of flaky fish inside which was good! The batter was lovely and crisp too and the menu said that the fish was “freshly battered”. I chose peas over mushy peas and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked them since a lot of the time peas can be overcooked and take that lovely shade of slime green (a bit like my old primary school lunches…). But these peas were bright green and tasty. The chips were…well chips. I got a standard amount and they filled me up quite well.

Fish and chips

I also got two slices of garlic bread which were a bit disappointing. Definitely the worst part of the meal. At first I was quite optimistic since the slices were rather large, but the bread was pretty hard in places, it was quite chewy, and I could barely taste the garlic-ness of the garlic bread, so I left most of it.

Garlic bread

I had also ordered a carrot cake for dessert and went up to the bar to collect it. This time, a lady served me, who seemed in quite a bad mood, and gave me the typical grumpy Wetherspoons service that I was expecting! It cost Β£1.99, or Β£2.49 with a large filter coffee, tea, or other small coffee. The size of the cake was pretty average and it tasted quite nice and moist. I wasn’t a big fan of the nuts on the top, but that’s just personal preference.

Carrot cake

Previous times that I’ve visited this pub, I’ve had the original gourmet 6oz beef burger that has bacon and Stilton, Shropshire blue and spring onion sauce, chips, six onion rings, and a soft drink for Β£5.89. I’d say that it is pretty tasty, although the standard has varied each time I’ve had it. One time, my onion rings were so burnt that they were as crunchy as crisps. They did do me another batch though, which was appreciated. I’ve also had the BBQ pulled pork sandwich with chips, onion rings, and a soft drink, also for Β£5.89. It sounds rather appetising, although when it did come I was a bit disappointed as the burger itself looked pretty pathetic and anorexic. It was literally bits of pork slopped inside a bun. The pork did taste quite nice though, but the lack of filling in general let it down. I’m also not a big fan of the wooden boards that they serve the gourmet burgers on. They may look all decorative and give a rustic and more upmarket feel, but it’s really hard to keep everything on it and it ends up being quite messy!

Gourmet beef burger

On the whole, Wetherspoons is pretty cheap with a good range of food, but the food standards and service do vary. It’s one of those pubs that I would return to, but wouldn’t be my first choice of places to visit if I was to eat out. As for eating in a restaurant on my own…doing it at Wetherspoons was fine as everyone tends to keep to themselves, but I can’t see myself having the courage to dine alone in a more upmarket restaurant just yet!

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