Archive for ‘Luxe: Fashion, beauty, cocktails, restaurants and all things that glitter.’

February 13, 2014

George & Joseph cheesemongers, Leeds.

It’s safe to say that avoiding supermarkets is a lot easier if you have brilliant local alternatives. Specialist shops might mean that you need to go from place to place rather than buying everything from under one roof, but the pleasure you can take from buying your food from someone who really knows their stuff turns food shopping from being a chore to a delight.

In North Leeds, one such shop is George & Joseph, a cheesemongers in Chapel Allerton. Tucked away down Regent Street in LS7, this little gem specialises in Yorkshire cheese and warm welcomes. I’ve been in a few times now, and always come away with gorgeous wax paper-wrapped cheese which we’ve thoroughly enjoyed. There’s something for all palates ranging from soft, mild goat cheese to strong blue cheeses as well as the crackers, chutneys and platters you need to serve your cheese on.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Fleming

Photo courtesy of Stephen Fleming

The first time we visited, Stephen the friendly owner of George & Joseph recommended the Old Winchester cheese which has become a firm favourite. It’s not a Yorkshire cheese—it’s from Lyburn cheese makers in the New Forest— but its firm, almost crunchy texture and strong nutty, Parmesan-esque flavour have got me firmly hooked. It’s genuinely my favourite cheese of all time. And that’s not a thing I say lightly.  Also, the cheese is made with a vegetarian rennet, which means its great for those looking for an Italian style hard cheese without the animal rennet that Parmesan always contains.

I’m thinking that a George & Joseph themed cheese tasting evening might be round the corner. Although don’t expect me to share the Old Winchester…

Do you have great local stores near you? Are there any other places in Leeds I should try too? Let me know!


Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

January 30, 2014

Restaurant review: COSMO, Leeds.

As I promised in my Shiny New Blogging Timetable Thursday will now include ‘going out in Leeds’ posts and so here’s the first of them.

The new COSMO restaurant on Boar Lane in Leeds is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. I know what images might spring to mind when I say that, because they appeared in my mind too. However, COSMO is a lot more impressive than I was expecting. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the overall impression of the venue is one that’s bright, clean and nicely designed. The wavy wooden ceiling was a well-designed detail and I really liked the wall of booths along the back. You’re not prepared for the size and bustle of the place when you first walk into the small, street-level entrance. On descending to restaurant level it feels more like a street market than a restaurant; there are several places where you can choose to have food cooked freshly for you and there’s lots of people walking around, browsing the array of food on offer.

COSMO restaurant Leeds

Image courtesy of COSMO

When we arrived for our special bloggers’ evening, the place was packed, with the diners ranging from couples on a night out to groups of people who’d arrived straight from work. A birthday party was taking place in one corner, complete with candle-festooned cake and singing. People were clearly enjoying the experience and the attentive staff were making sure that the place was kept tidy, despite the fact that people could have plate after plate of food!

What’s great about COSMO is that it addresses two big problems when eating out. Firstly, my terrible ordering indecision. I approach a menu like it’s my last supper. Every time. With a buffet, I’m free to choose a little of this, and a little of that without impunity. Excellent. The second  positive about COSMO is that everyone can find something they’ll enjoy. Global influences from sashimi, via pizza, curry and stir fry all the way back to British roast beef, mean there’s something to suit everyone’s taste. Which makes it the perfect place to take a big group of people. Add the dessert wall to that mixture and you’ve got a recipe for success.

COSMO restaurant Leeds

Image courtesy of COSMO

Of the food I tried, I particularly enjoyed the Chinese dumplings and the freshly cooked teriyaki salmon. There was a decent vegetarian selection too, which I largely chose from, as my diet is mostly veggie or pescetarian.  The paneer tikka was very tasty! I do think that the fresh food stations are where the difference between COSMO and many other all-you-can-eat places lies. It’s reducing the likelihood of all the food sitting there for ages —and I noticed that the staff were paying lots of attention to changing food over, covering it up and generally ensuring that it was all as clean, fresh and tidy as it could be.The chocolate pudding I finished with was pleasant and covering marshmallows in chocolate from the fountain was lots of fun!

So, is COSMO fine dining? No. But it’s great at what it does. Which is provide a giant range of food to suit every audience in an enjoyable setting. And I already know my children would love it…

With thanks to COSMO for the evening.

January 23, 2014

Five gift ideas for Valentine’s Day.

In a couple of weeks it will be Valentine’s Day.  A day with a murky history involving the Roman feast of Lupercalia, a few executions and those pesky greetings card-makers getting us to spend our money — apparently it’s the second largest card giving day of the year after Christmas. However, even though I haven’t received a Valentine’s Day gift since a boy at school gave me a pack of Parma Violets (cue sad violin music) I’m not going to let that stop me from feeling optimistic about a day dedicated to love. 

For those of you looking for gift ideas for Valentine’s Day — or any day in which you might choose to declare your love through the medium of presents!—here are a few ideas.

One: Tattly tattoos.

Ok, so your idea of romance may not include a new tattoo (though I know a good number of people for whom a new tattoo definitely falls into ‘great gift’ territory) but these ones won’t hang around for long. Perfect for a new romance? And these pink hearts from Bekka Palmer at Tattly are glittery

Tattly sparkly heart tattoo

Image: Tattly

Two: David Austin roses.

Ah, roses. Ubiquitous on Valentine’s Day. If you’re going to buy roses, get them right. And the ones from David Austin are expensive but utterly glorious.

Three: A beautiful edition of a favourite book

For me, there’s nothing that says ‘I love you’ more than a special edition of a favourite book. Partly because books are the key to my heart but also because if someone takes the time to know what your favourite book is, they’re really rather special. For me, that would be ‘I Capture The Castle’ or a first edition Ruby Ferguson ‘Jill’ book, to help me complete my collection. The clothbound editions of classics from Penguin are also gorgeous.  I’ve chosen my favourite Austen novel, but the collection ranges from Emma to Dracula and Dante’s Inferno if you want to make some kind of point about a relationship!


Image: Penguin

 Four: The Nutter

I’ll admit, this list is getting very personal, because I’m assuming that you might have someone in your life who cycles. And if you do, then this would make them very happy indeed. The Nutter is a cycling multi-tool from Full Windsor (crowd-funded through Kickstarter, incidentally) presented in gorgeous leather roll. It’s both beautiful and useful.  I’d love one…and then I’d love someone to teach me how to use it!

The Nutter

Image: Full Windsor

Five: Time

The gift of time together is something that money cannot buy. A special date night, a long Sunday afternoon walk, a night at the cinema or cooking dinner with a glass of wine. Put aside your phone, switch off the TV and spend some quality time together. Perfect.

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day, however you choose to spend it.

January 16, 2014

REN Rose Otto Bath Oil

Like many of you, I was given beauty products as Christmas gifts. Luckily for me, the people who bought them know my taste and so there’s nothing that I don’t love.

REN Rose Otto bath oil tops my list of the best beauty gifts ever. (Thank you to my lovely boyfriend!) The smell is incredible, and because it’s an oil, it moisturises so well that there’s no need for any additional post-bath moisturiser. REN make wonderful products, without many of the nasties such as parabens, sulfates or mineral oils. The base oil for this product is sesame, and the fragrance is based on the Rose Otto and Palmarosa oils it contains. I’ve been feeling ill for a week now, and bathing in this oil has helped relax and soothe my poor body like nothing else.  The bottle is glass, so can be recycled, although I tend to keep mine and reuse them as tiny posy vases.

As you might imagine, I’ve been using this oil quite a lot since Christmas. In fact, I’m about a third of the way down the bottle already. Many Christmas beauty and fragrance gifts will now be still unopened, as people wait for special occasions to use them. My advice to you? Open the packaging and use the products. Be lavish! My mother is notorious for keeping special beauty and fragrance products for ‘best’ – and so many times the products have spoiled before she’s even had the chance to use them. Shelf lives for ingredients are not indefinite, especially when it comes to natural ingredients like essential oils. They need to be stored appropriately and used within a certain time.

And, the best day of your life is today. It’s the only day of your life. What’s already gone is history and who knows what the future holds. So, open your special beauty products and enjoy them today. And while I’m on the subject, wear your favourite clothes too. Put your best shoes on to do the school run. Wear your favourite dress to the cinema. Or just to potter around the house. If your favourite things make you happy, you should make today a great day and use them…

REN Rose Otto Bath Oil (image from REN)

REN Rose Otto Bath Oil (image from REN)

December 9, 2013

Beefayre Candle

At the Country Living Christmas Fair, I came across a lovely company called Beefayre.

Beefayre sell a range of beautifully packaged skin care, candles and honey, pollen and propolis. At the Christmas Fair they were selling a special winter collection that smells perfectly Christmassy. However, I decided to treat myself to a Bee Garden (Watermint & Rosemary) candle, which has a lovely delicate scent.  I’m burning it to relax in the evening. Although, generally speaking, both mint and rosemary have an uplifting, energetic scent, this version is gentle and I’m really loving it. The UK produced candles are hand poured natural wax (no petrochemicals here), with a 50 hour burning time – and you can also use the warmed wax as a massage oil.

I really loved the glass jar that the candle comes in, which will still be beautiful once the candle has finished, used either as a tumbler or with a tea light dropped into it. Different scents have difference images on the glass, so a collection together would look fabulous. The rest of the packaging is cardboard which can be composted or recycled, which is really pleasing to me, as I’m trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce at home.

Bee Fayre candle

As well as being beautiful products, free from nasties like parabens and sulphates,  the company also give 3% of all profit to bee conservation and research too, and are supporting a great collection of charities such as Buglife.  I can really see it becoming a favourite brand for me and I really recommend you take a look, as all their products would make Christmas gifts too.

PS: On a recent visit to a wonderful local store, Chirpy, I saw they were stocking the aforementioned Christmas candles – so I might treat our home to a few for the festive season too!

December 8, 2013

Photo of my Week.

Pink bar tape

Pink nails and pink bar tape: the perfect ‘Margot and Barbara’ combination…

December 2, 2013

REN Rosa Centifolia review

I’ve been a fan of REN for a long time. Their famous Rose Otto bath is my favourite bathing treat of all time. I love the combination of the clean, simple packaging and high-tech, yet natural formulas. They’re also free from synthetics, mineral oils, sulphates. And, probably the most important thing, on a day to day basis, they just feel great to use and I’ve never never had a bad reaction from any of their products.

I’ve worked my way through a few of their facial products, but this summer they’ve introduced two new ranges, and I was keen to try some products from the Rosa Centifolia range. Luckily, the way they’ve decided to show the world these new products is by attaching samples of them to the cover of magazines. (Red, earlier this year and InStyle’s October edition) and so I decided to buy the magazines purely for the products. That might sound odd, but given that the products are worth more than the magazines, and I was pretty sure that they’d be great, I decided that it was a good idea. And, of course, with my long battle with a magazine addiction, clearly I was going to, wasn’t I? But I bet I’m not the only person who buys magazines purely for the beauty freebies – it’s genuinely how I’ve got my last three mascaras…

REN skincare

REN Rosa Centifolia Cleansing Gel: This was initially from a sample on the cover of Red, but I liked it so much, I bought a full sized version. I like to use a wash off cleanser at the start of the day to wake me up properly and this one is gentle, with the beautiful fragrance of rose. It doesn’t foam up, doesn’t leave my skin feeling too tight and is a great product.

REN Vita Mineral Day Cream: This is a lovely, simple day moisturiser. I’ve used the sample up, but I’m not going to buy a full sized version, as I’m  likely to replace it with something a bit more luxurious (I’m old, you see, I need something for my wrinkles!) but if you’re looking for a nice, every day moisturiser, this could well be it.

REN Rosa Centifolia 3-in-1 Cleansing Water: I bought this product to use at the end of the day, and I love how clean my skin feels once I’ve used this product, with the cotton wool pads clearly showing the grime that’s been removed! Unfortunately, it doesn’t work terribly well on waterproof eye make up, so I need to find something else to remove that. (Incidentally, I recently bought Boots Botanics All Bright Soothing Eye Make Up Remover to do that job. It makes my eyes really sting. I should have guessed from the warning not to get it in your eyes. Of all the products I use, eye make up remover really is the one that’s likely to get in my eyes, isn’t it!) Micellar waters have been really popular in Europe for years but we only seem to be seeing them more recently in the UK. I really like how simple they feel to use, literally like using just water, and I’ll buy one again. Though there are a few others that I’d like to try, this REN one is really nice.

REN ClearCalm 3 Replenishing Clarity Serum. I struggle a bit with the fact that my skin is dehydrated yet I have breakouts and blemishes. This product helps deal with the dehydration whilst also helping to reduce any spots I might have. It’s really simple to use, morning and evening on cleansed skin and is relatively frangrance-free. Unlike many spot clearing type products, it’s not astringent, as it’s adding moisture rather than removing it, and I absolutely love it. I’ll definitely be replacing this one once I’ve used it all up.

So, all the new REN products I’ve been using are firmly recommended. I’m going to try a night cream next, so if there’s one from the range that you recommend, do let me know!

Do you use any REN products? Are there any you’d recommend?  And do you buy magazines because of beauty freebies? Or is that just me…

November 22, 2013

What’s in my Wardrobe? #BEDN 22

I missed the ‘fashion’ prompt for Blog Every Day in November, but I thought I’d return to it, even though I’m late! Goodness knows what subject I’m missing today, but it’ll all work out one way or another. Anyway, here goes.

Last week, I was listening to a podcast about simplifying your life. It’s a subject that I return to often, and the podcast, about a simple capsule wardrobe, promised to be interesting. After a few minutes, the woman who was speaking on the subject – who was basically offering instruction – mentioned how many pairs of shoes she had in this ‘capsule’ wardrobe.  Forty pairs. Forty… Needless to say, I rather took offence at this and, after a little rant about how the hell she was supposed to lecture anyone on simplicity owning forty pairs of shoes (and eighty items of ‘workout gear’, apparently) I stopped listening.

My shoe list?

  1. Red Converse All Stars. Worn almost daily.
  2. Sam Edelman sandals for the summer.
  3. One ancient pair of Office sandals, much loved, falling apart and destined for the bin, as I don’t think I can mend them again.
  4. One much loved and oft-repaired pair of knee-length boots for the winter
  5. One pair of smelly, yet comfortable trail running shoes. I should probably replace these, as I think much of the support in them has been all compressed over time.
  6. My new walking boots.
  7. One pair of red, painfully expensive Bottega Veneta intreccio flats. Cared for as though they were my third child. Worth every penny.
Favourite red shoes.

Favourite red shoes and black trousers.

Take that, simplicity lady! I will admit though, I have a handful of other pairs of designer shoes that I keep in storage for my daughter. I was planning to sell them off, but second-hand shoes don’t sell well, even those as barely worn and well looked after as mine. So, we’ll see if she ever wants them…

These Louboutins are in storage for my girl!

These Louboutins are in storage for my girl!

When it comes to clothing and fashion, I think I’m an odd combination. I love fashion, utterly adore clothes and yet I have a tiny wardrobe. I was reading yet another article about capsule wardrobes recently (I’m on a bit of a roll with this subject) and the author stated that you should take your ten favourite pieces to use as a basis. In all honesty, I think I’d struggle to come up with ten things that I own that I really love.

Let’s see…

  1. Arcteryx softshell jacket. A gift from my lovely boyfriend. Perfect outdoor gear. Not exactly on-trend but cut really flatteringly around the waist and hips unlike so much outdoor gear.
  2. French Connection skinny jeans. Recently repaired. I love these, and I can’t find a replacement pair. Fingers crossed that they make some similar ones soon. Often skinny jeans are cut so low the world can see your underwear when you sit down. Not so with these.
  3. Reiss sequin-backed long sleeved grey top.  Not really everyday wear, but perfect to put with jeans to make me feel dressed up yet comfortable. Gorgeous.
  4. Long sleeved navy blue dress. Also from Reiss. The kind of dress that works equally well with my red flats in the summer as my long boots in the winter. Plus, it has pockets. Dresses with pockets are awesome.
  5. Whistles stripy linen top. Worn all summer, now full of holes. I have no idea where the holes have come from, but I’ve sewn one of them up twice now. Destined for the bin. Sad…
  6. Black Calvin Klein jersey wrap-around dressing gown and matching trousers. Because being comfortable at home is very important. I quote often get changed into these when I come home after work, it helps me feel as though I’m in a place to relax. Plus, feeling a tiny bit put-together whilst curling up on the sofa watching a film and eating chocolate is rather nice. Obviously the elasticated waist helps with this too! Ha…
  7. Ancient black biker-style jacket from Next. Cost per wear must be utterly nothing now. It’s falling to bits but I like it so much.
  8. Black slim capri trousers from Gap. Also ancient. Worn with red Bottega Veneta flats to fool myself that I’m gamine in an Audrey Heburn-like way. I’m laughing out loud as I write that. I’m about as gamine as a hippo. Still, they feel flattering, and go with lots of other things. I think they’re in dire need of replacement though as they’re rather a faded black now.
  9. My underwear. I have a thing about matching underwear, and I know I’m cheating a bit here as it’s not one item, and feels more of a philosophy than is practical, but I feel like I’m a properly organised grown up if I can get my underwear to match everyday. This includes socks, which more often than not I fail at.
  10. My brand-spanking new Whistles jumper, which is a beautiful blue with black lace cutouts.
  11. Ooh, look, I’m on eleven! My, also-new, peter-pan collared top from Hobbs. Black, with a white collar, it goes well with both jeans and black trousers.
  12. Old green belted mac from Zara. Torn in a handful of places and in need of a bit of TLC. I love it, but I think it’s time might be up.
  13. Yup. That’s it…
Whistles navy jumper with black lace cutouts.

Look at my giant hand! New Whistles jumper.

So. I can get to twelve things, if I include my nightwear, my underwear and a top that I’m about to throw away.. And, really and truly, that’s about all that’s in my wardrobe, save a couple of vests, dresses and jumpers, a couple of old things that I use for working on the allotment and more specialist stuff like running or horse riding stuff.  There are a handful of reasons behind my tiny wardrobe, which I think I’ll return to later in the month.

But for now, I’d love to know what your favourite pieces of clothing are…

November 10, 2013

Something Different: BEDN #10


I’ve never had poetry on the blog before. This excerpt (from ‘A Few Figs from Thistles’ by Edna St Vincent Millay) was letterpressed by one of my fellow students on the West Yorkshire Print Workshop course and given to me.

Not only is it beautiful, I think it sums up my life rather well…

October 28, 2013


Many of you know of my current fascination for all things letterpress, and so when I was approached by Freya of Witshop about some of their products with the words “we’ve done some work with Nick, your letterpress tutor” I was definitely interested in finding out more.

Witshop is a Brighton based design duo, who formed in Leeds in 2011. They work with a range of UK based specialist craftspeople to produce their beautiful products and I was really impressed to see such specific information about who they work with and where the products are made, over on their website. Sustainability is really important to me, rather than products with a short ‘fashionable’ lifespan and so I really like this ethos.

And, it’s fair to say that I love the products I was sent too. The tea towel, which has been screen-printed and stitched in Yorkshire, comes in recyclable paper packaging, which creates a very positive first impression. It’d make a lovely gift.  The print reminds me of the old French educational posters that I’m always lusting after on Etsy and I love the colour combination. In a bold green (which I’m told is Pantone Green 578) black and white, it’s made on 100% unbleached cotton and has the all-important loop for hanging. I’m really looking forward to taking it to my new home. (As, an aside, yes – I’m moving house, more on that in another post) I’m currently using mine to do the drying up, rather obviously, and it’s doing a grand job, but this photo suggests that it’d look great hanging on a wall too.

Fishy Tea Towel (image from Witshop)

Fishy Tea Towel (image from Witshop)

The notecards come in a set of five, each with a different fish printed on the front. They’re lithograph printed in Yorkshire, and have a perforated fold so you can tear off and keep the fish-based recipe that’s printed on the inside of each one. The card they’re printed on feels thick and good quality, and it’s also recycled, which I like.  I’m sure that lots of my friends would love them too, but I’m currently torn between posting them and putting them in a frame to display, because I think they’d look great in a kitchen. Although perhaps if I posted them to friends, I’d be invited over for dinner using one one of the lovely recipes written inside…

Fishy Notecards (image from Witshop)

Fishy Notecards (image from Witshop)

Overwhelmingly, these Witshop products are a stylish blend of design and sustainability, with lots of thought clearly being put into each element of the product.  I really love them and would recommend them for yourself or as gifts, if you can bear to part with them!

If you’re lucky enough to live in Leeds, you can buy Witshop products at Colours May Vary. For the rest of the world, these and other great products can be found in the Witshop online store (see the link above). As you can tell, I was sent these products to review, but I love them so much I shall buy more for myself.