I was invited to a complimentary three-course meal on Saturday at eXchange Food & Drink Lounge, which is located in Novotel on Dickinson St. I took along my housemate Deborah as my +1¬†ūüėȬ†she loves food just as much as I do!

We caught an Uber to the restaurant because it was raining, but you can easily get the bus or Metro into town and it’s only a short walk. It’s just off Portland Street, which has a lot of lovely bars and restaurants- a great selection of food and drink options if you are in town.

I didn’t get the name of the member of staff who initially served us, but he was really friendly and accommodating- showed us to our table and gave us excellent food and drink recommendations. Most of the people about were watching the Man U match that day and the bar was pretty busy, but it wasn’t a terribly long wait for food.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge

We ordered three cocktails in total: a tequila-based cocktail for Deb and two gin ones for me that I really enjoyed. Ask for the Pink Lady! It’s delicious ūüôā

I feel like the food portion will dominate most of the review so I must stress that the pictures honestly do not do them justice! I personally was very impressed by the drinks- they’ve got the balance of flavours right and I’ve not had nicer ones elsewhere!

The prices are pretty reasonable (around ¬£7-8 for most cocktails) and I’ll definitely be back for more¬†ūüėȬ†not sure if they do a happy hour promotion but that would be perfect.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge, selfies

Exhibit A of why I am¬†not¬†a fashion blogger- I can’t pose to save my life. Deb was coaching me through poses and I couldn’t do any. Ah well.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge

Food-wise, we picked out a few small plates, which are £5 individually and £12 for three.

Our choices: Salt & Pepper Calamari, Garlic Mushrooms with Parmesan Crust, Batter Halloumi Fingers, and the Superfood Salad. The staff member recommended the Chorizo and Potato and the Korean BBQ Wings, which we did order but never arrived.

We left it since we had enough food, but I do want to come back to try them next time!

The superfood salad was pretty different from generic salads- avocado, baby gem lettuce, beets, blueberries, seeds, sugar snap peas, quinoa- lives up to its name indeed! I didn’t expect to like it when it was recommended to us, but I really did.

I would suggest upsizing the salad if you are sharing it- it wasn’t quite enough for the both of us. Having it upsized to a main will be¬†¬£10, which I’m not quite sure I’d get if I were eating out- but for the quality of ingredients in it I think it’s worth paying¬†¬£5/10 for. I wouldn’t get the other salads here individually.

I really liked the calamari and the garlic mushrooms. The halloumi¬†is nice but the batter was quite salty on top of the cheese and after it went cold it wasn’t very nice to eat. Get in there while it’s still hot, folks.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge

We had a Florentine pizza as our main (£12). All the pizzas are 12-inch. It was a great pizza and I liked the egg in the centre (huge weakness for eggs here). It came hot and crispy and really filled us up! I think getting three small plates and a main will be a perfect amount of food for two people with large appetites, or you could get some add-on sides like chips or other finger food with a main.

I think we ate a lot¬†ūüė≥¬†there was a lady at the table behind us rolling her eyes and giving us very judgemental stares. Sorry lady, you must be jealous¬†ūüėČ

We had a really nice chat with Rich, the other staff member that served us- Deb picked up on his accent and asked if he was from the Philippines! I’m from Singapore, as you guys know, and Deb is from Malaysia. We’re all neighbours!

We talked about some of the hidden bars in Manchester and other potential haunts as well, and he told us a bit about his family and his time in the UK (over ten years!). I don’t really want to go into detail for his privacy but it was nice hearing him speak so fondly of his country and his experiences living here.

He tried to offer us more drinks and dessert but we felt like we had our fill and didn’t want to impose (ah, Asian mentality back again), so we hung about for a bit, chatting and taking a couple of pictures before leaving.

All in all, I think it was a really wonderful experience and if you’re lost with the amount of options available, just ask a member of staff for help. I think some dishes may be a bit pricier if you don’t purchase them in a set but I think you have to consider the location and convenience- the drink prices are reasonable and I’ll definitely be back for those.

Make a stop during your bar crawls- it’s a little off the long stretch on Portland Street, but well worth going! It’s open 24 hours which is a plus. Drop by anytime or ring them on¬†0161 235 2200 to book.

+ Bonus videos of us messing about with the Snow app, because there’s no such thing as too many pics. #awww

Here is my post about graduation…. two months late! (typical me!)

It’s been a long journey, but I’ve finally done it! I hate to be clich√©, but let me just say life’s full of ups and downs- and if you get discouraged, there’ll always be another opportunity around the corner!

I didn’t do great for my A levels, and going into a course I liked locally was near impossible due to how competitive the arts and humanities were at NUS/NTU. Psychology is pretty much an AAA/A requirement and Journalism an AAA/B or AAB/B.

I was convinced I was good at science and math then and was too stubborn and prideful to switch when my grades started slipping early on. Everything was easy until junior college, since I never felt the need to study for anything except the bare minimum at exams.

I actually did well enough to feel like this state of things was sufficient and got really complacent ¬Į\_(„ÉĄ)_/¬Į so obviously I did badly for A levels because there are so many subjects, you shouldn’t be messing around with that.

Back then I was too lazy and too proud to admit I was struggling.

Now, if you tell me I’m shit at maths, I will happily agree and go along with it as if it is something worth being proud about lol!

I think I’m becoming self-aware wow wow ūüėā I shouldn’t feel proud of it like I do with all my other bad habits- messiness, laziness, chronic procrastination- and it will come back to bite me in the butt again like it did at A levels, but I don’t bother with all the what-ifs.

I don’t think I would have done it differently given my indifferent attitude towards studying for subjects that didn’t come to me easily.

I made my bed and I must lie in it, and I honestly applaud anyone who works hard enough to pull themselves out of a rut and go against all the people who doubt them.

But anyhow- I got onto the University of Salford through my aunt’s recommendation, my extra-curricular activities, and writing portfolio.

It wasn’t a highly-ranked university by any means, but the teaching was excellent. The lecturers were passionate about the subjects they taught, seminars were never just about them talking to a silent room. I enjoyed myself greatly and for the first time in years, genuinely enjoyed learning/ acquiring more knowledge in the subject.

My future ambitions have also shifted a little during the course of my university degree- I no longer wish to pursue journalism, but I am nevertheless glad I had the opportunity to learn about the processes involved.

Some of my coursemates and the other pure Journalism students got the chance to experience what a newsroom situation was like, which I’m slightly envious about. Ah well. I guess it’s not meant to be.

I start my MA in English Literature and American Studies at the University of Manchester this September, an opportunity I never thought I would have; and I am immensely grateful for everyone who has encouraged me to broaden my horizons and make that leap to an overseas university.

I’ve never been an independent person at all, but this made me grow up very quickly in some ways: I had to learn to cook, clean (arguably a feat that yet escapes me), navigate unfamiliar territories and get out of my cushy comfort zone.

housemates

I’ve met some amazing people along the way- my housemates, coursemates, and random friends I’ve picked up through the university/ my travels- something I would never have got with a local education, not to the same degree of immersion.

I was never the most confident person and hated inane small talk but now I could probably talk about anything under the sun and conjure up enthusiasm about a subject I know nothing about.
I think of it as a necessary part of Adulting‚ĄĘ.

I thought of it as being “fake” but as my friend pointed out: by taking interest in things that people you care about, care about- it makes it a sweet gesture *mindblown*

There are other ways in which my worldview has changed while at university, and others reinforced, but we shall not go into detail about that at this point.

This has been an embarrassingly retrospective post, but it feels nice to get all my thoughts out there.

Until next time xx

Everyone wants to eat delicious and healthy food at home, right? But this pesky thing called life often gets in the way. It’s not that easy to throw together an amazing recipe every day and if you don’t cook for a huge group of people, restocking the fridge is a decision that has to be made carefully.

I can’t count the number of times I find a recipe online and proceed to raid my local Tesco for all the necessary ingredients excitedly… and end up with a lot of fresh food that can’t last more than a couple of days. Cooking for one is tough!¬†Luckily, I don’t lead a very hectic¬†university life most of the time but many busy working adults will face an additional struggle to find the energy to buy groceries and prep home-cooked meals after work.

Recipe boxes like Gousto resolves all these issues: ingredients delivered right to your door in the perfect quantities, easy recipes with instructions laid out on cards. Can we get a hell yeah for convenience, no food waste, with a great variety of cuisines, every week?

Presenting…. the Gousto box!

gousto box, gousto, food

ta-daaaa~!

The trial box costs £5.49, which worked out to 4 servings of two different dishes. I chose the chicken cacciatore and the blackened cod tacos.

blackened cod tacos, mexican, food, gousto

Cod tacos

chicken cacciatore, potato, italian, food, gousto

Chicken cacciatore

It honestly was such a hard decision picking just two recipes- there was so much variety and they all looked mouth-watering. The menus change every week, by the way- so don’t worry about ending up with the same dishes week after week! Although, given how amazing my experience was, I wouldn’t mind eating the same thing every couple of weeks really.

cod, tacos, herbs, food, gousto

cod, tacos, food, gousto

chicken cacciatore, food, gousto, italian

chicken cacciatore, food, gousto, italian

My iPhone camera pictures don’t do justice to how delicious they are. I’ve been a bit more experimental in the kitchen as a result, and I’ve gone out to get ingredients to replicate the chicken cacciatore again this week!

(I had to tell them, I loved it so much)

The quality of their ingredients also deserves a special mention: they put effort into sourcing ingredients from British farms and vegetables are organic if possible.

The meat was delivered in a¬†wool insulated bag filled with ice packs to keep ingredients fresh, and the ice packs remain cold throughout so even if you get back late the food won’t spoil on your porch. It was my first time seeing a wool insulated bag and my housemate told me I could probably make a cushion¬†or something craft-y, but I don’t think I am quite that creative. I’d imagine you could sell it by the yard if you racked up an impressive tally of weekly boxes.

Who knows what you could do with it though. Maybe Gousto could do a recycling drive- if you send the wool and reusable ice packs back/ drop it off at a local collection centre, you get a bit of money off your next order? Being sustainable and eco-friendly and all that jazz.

I hope you enjoyed my review of the Gousto box! Remember, you get a huge discount off your first box (and second, if you stay) so give it a try if you’d like some kitchen inspiration.