Sunday lunch at the Cook and Barker

The Cook and Barker describes itself as 'A Real traditional Northumbrian Country Inn'. I couldn't describe it more perfectly myself. Nestled away in the picturesque village of Newton on the Moor, you would never believe you were just minutes away from the busy A1. I usually work every Sunday so a proper Sunday lunch is a real treat for me and when it worked out I would have last Sunday night off, I wanted to make the most of it and book somewhere nice.

I asked for recommendations of the best place to go on my facebook page and The Cook and Barker was a name that appeared over and over again so we booked at table for the five of us at 5pm on Sunday evening.

The Cook and Barker feels warm and inviting and I loved how friendly the staff were. We were seated in 'the snug' which was a lovely little hideaway from the main bar. The pub was busy with locals but not too full that we felt rushed. 

Our food was amazing but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. The roast beef melted in the mouth, the roast potatoes were crisp, the vegetables were cooked to perfection and there was so much to go around. The gravy was packed full of flavour too. There is no children's menu as such but we were made to feel very welcome and there was a lovely family atmosphere. Children can order half portions of anything from the main menu.

Everybody was really good and ate all of their greens so we could not resist some homemade desserts which finished off our meal perfectly.

Our bill was just short of £60 for two courses, wine and drinks which is a good price considering the quality (A Sunday lunch is £8.95).

I cannot wait to visit the Cook and Barker again. I think it would be the perfect place to escape from it all and stay over for an evening. I also really like the look of their special evening menu which is only £45 per couple for 3 courses, coffee and a bottle of wine on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday evening. Bargain!

To find out more about The Cook and Barker, you can visit their website here: 


An afternoon at The Science Museum, London

The Science museum is located next door to The Natural History Museum and across the road from The V&A museum. All of these fab attractions are FREE and very easy to find on the doorstep of South Kensington tube station. I knew my son would love to spend his 8th birthday here so after a whistle-stop tour of the Natural History museum in the morning, we made our way over to The Science museum. There was no queue which is always a relief and again, no pressure to make a donation (although always good to do this if you can).

As soon as we entered I was completely blown away. There was so much to see and do and I really didn't know where to look first! We picked up a map from the information desk (free) and made our way along the ground floor. This featured lots of inventions that have shaped the modern world and a space section which was fantastic - I especially loved the model of Apollo 11.

The Science museum features new technology too and it was great watching the 3D printers in action and looking at some of the fab items that have been created (including a whole bike!).

Next, we stopped on the third floor and spent quite a bit of time in their 'futures' exhibition. There were lots of interactive computer games designed to make you question the future. Questions such as, 'Should parents be allowed to track their child's location through satellites or is this an invasion of their privacy?' were posed and explored using fun games (I loved pretending to be a child, sneaking out and dodging the satellite beam so I wouldn't get caught).

Next, we walked through the fly zone which featured lots on lots of planes from throughout history up to the modern day. It was very interesting looking at a cross section of a modern-day jumbo jet (they are huge!!) compared to the very first flying machines. There were some paid-for experiences in this section such as a 4D flying with the red arrows experience and flight simulator's that looked like lots of fun.

The main part of the museum I had wanted to visit was the launchpad which is where most of the hands on fun is. It is designed for ages 8-14 years but my 5 year old also loved it. It was fairly busy but I must say all of the children were very polite and everybody took their turn fairly. There are over 50 hands on exhibits that were lots of fun including looking through a brick wall (this had me stumped for a while until I figured it out!), launching a rocket, learning about viscosity through experiments, making waves and learning about magnetism. We had a fab time in this area and all absolutely loved it. 

There is a learning room within the launchpad where free demonstrations, talks and experiments occur throughout the day. There is no need to book a place, just listen out for the announcements. We watched the FLASH, BANG, WALLOP show which was all about explosions. Very exciting! The show lasted about 20 minutes and was very engaging with lots of audience participation. Lots of things were blown up and barbie was even fired from a canon! The show was really lots of fun and the presenter skilfully sneaked some learning in too - my children now know all about the combustion triangle!

At 3:30pm we hadn't eaten anything since lunch so decided to eat in the energy cafe by the entrance. In future visits I will definitely plan ahead and take a packed lunch to enjoy in one of the museum's picnic areas (including one right next to the launch pad) as the prices were very high. One small slice of cheese and tomato pizza was £6 and a can of coke was £1.70. Still, we enjoyed it and were in a rush and £32 for lunch for 4 didn't break the bank.

We left through the gift shop and again found some of the prices to be very high. A Rubik's cube for example was £18. There were lots of good pocket money toys to choose from though around the £2-£3 mark. My daughter loves her slime ball!

We left The Science Museum after 2 hours as we needed to catch our train home but could have easily spent a lot longer here. We all really enjoyed taking part in the hands on experiments and I loved how the exhibits were all modern, relevant and engaging. We will definitely return to The Science Museum in the future.

You can read more about The Science Museum here:-


2 hours at The Natural History Museum

When in London this weekend for my son's 8th birthday I could not decide between taking him to The Natural History museum which to me is something every child should see in their life or The Science museum which is next door and I think my son would enjoy too as science is his favourite subject at school. I have been to The Natural history museum before with my husband so we were very aware of how huge it is but still, we took the decision to try and see them both in the same day. I am pleased to say, it can be done!

The Natural History museum is very easy to find - simply exit South Kensington tube station and it is right in front of you - you will probably spot the queues first! We got there for just after 11am and queued for approximately 20 minutes - the queue was very fast moving.

The Natural History museum IS FREE! and nobody hassles you to donate (although of course it is good to give what you can). Maps can be purchased for £1. There is an impressive model of a diplodocus in the museum foyer but don't forget to look around at the stunning architecture too. We paused for a moment to consult our map and decide upon the main sections we wanted to see.

Our first stop was the blue zone on the lower floor which is home to the famous dinosaur exhibit. This was definitely the busiest part of the museum with the flow of people regularly coming to a standstill. We still managed to see everything though and take a few pics. The dinosaur exhibit is spread over one floor with a mezzanine level which you walk along first. It is packed full of information and I think if you wanted to look at everything properly you could expect to spend 3 hours in this section.

We are big dinosaur fans in our house and it was lovely watching our children putting their knowledge to the test as they were naming the dinosaurs and consolidating everything they have learnt at school. The highlight of the dinosaur exhibit for us was definitely the moving T-Rex - very scary!

The exhibit questions whether T-Rex's were killers or scavengers amongst other things, is full of up to date research and really makes you think. We loved it and there is something for all ages.

Next, we quickly walked around part of the Green section (sorry - no photos). It was lovely walking amongst the planets, models of cells and fossil collections. Although we didn't stop to read anything it was enough to just walk around and take the environment in.

After the Green section we headed to the red zone which was the other part of the museum we really wanted to see. This section is all about our ever changing planet and featured lots of interacting ways to learn about weather, erosion, volcanoes and earthquakes. I was really inspired to read that weather is never actually destructive - it simply changes part of our world. Certainly food for thought!

How fantastic is the entrance to the red zone! Loads of fun and very exciting. I can't believe this is free!

The volcanoes and earthquakes area was amazing with lots of hands on fun - the highlight being the earthquake simulator. We all got to stand in a mock shop and the floor moved as if we were in a real earthquake - such a fantastic way to learn about what happens.

We spent about two hours in the Natural History museum but only probably covered about 1/8 of everything there is to see. You could easily spend two days here but if you want to, you can also break it down and spend a few hours there only visiting a few sections of interest. We certainly learned a lot during our two hours - everything was so visual and interactive. I would really like to visit the museum again and see more.

We left the museum via the gift shop - some things were expensive however these cuddly dinosaurs were only £8 which I didn't find too bad. There is a huge selection of fantastic books available to buy too and certainly worth a browse.

You can find out more about The Natural History museum here:-

The museum is situated next to the Victoria and Albert museum and The Science museum.


How to surprise your children with a trip to London

As you may have read, this week we are attending the MAD blog awards in London. The awards happened to fall on the same weekend as my eldest son's 8th birthday so we hatched a plan to take Harry and Heidi to London for the weekend but keep it a complete surprise.

When I noticed Wrapped for you* on twitter (follow them here) who are a local firm based in Gosforth specialising in creating bespoke personalised chocolates I just knew this would be the perfect way to reveal the surprise to the children.

I contacted Kerry, who runs wrapped for you with my idea and she loved it. It was fantastic to hear somebody as enthusiastic about my plan as I was. You can browse lots of different designs and order your chocolates on the wrapped for you website.

You can also design your own chocolate bars and even upload photographs or you own company logo. We decided to leave the whole design to Kerry and I could not have been happier with the results. Large chocolate bar's cost from £4.95 each.

Don't they look fab!

So on Friday morning the children dragged themselves downstairs fully expecting to sit down to a bowl of cereal but instead found these beautifully wrapped (wrapping is included) chocolate bars instead.

Here is their reaction:-

Now I don't normally allow my children to have chocolate for breakfast but today I did make an exception and they loved it! It really didn't last long.

Thank you to Kerry for such a wonderful service and great product. I will not hesitate to use your service again.


On the eve of the MAD blog awards

So tomorrow is the big day. The MAD blog awards are the UK's biggest and brightest awards for Mum and Dad bloggers and it will be an honour to share my evening with my fellow nominees. When I started blogging 18 months or so ago I would never have dreamed I would be writing this post. Blogging is seriously hard work and it will be lovely to let my hair down for the evening with people who go through and understand the same trials and tribulations that I do.

North East Family Fun are finalists in the best family fun category. We are such a new blog and quite niche to the North East so from the bottom of my heart I really do not believe we will win - it is just fantastic to be invited along to the 5* Royal Garden Hotel Kensington for the evening and be entertained by Cbeebies Dr Ranj as he presents the awards (also very much looking forward to some top notch food and drink).

The MADS will be my first ever bloggers event! Although quite a confident person, it is daunting entering a room full of strangers and you can't help but wonder if everybody might seem like they already know each other? I also wonder if I'll be a bit star-struck meeting bloggers in person who I already feel like I know so well after reading their blogs for what feels like forever or in the case of Noel and Sue, watching them on 16 kids and counting.

I am sure after a glass of wine or too, I will feel a lot better but please if you do see me, come and say hi! You won't miss my mass of red curly hair and I'll be wearing a floor length turquoise dress and will probably be the only person there with a typical Geordie accent.

This is me - Sam! Please Come and say hi!

If you would like to follow the evening, events kick off at 6:45pm on Friday, with the awards starting at 9pm. You can use #Madblogawards hashtag on twitter. Make sure you follow the award sponsors Parentdish on twitter too.

I would also like to say a huge thanks to Visit Northumberland who have helped to make it possible for us to attend the awards.

To all of my fellow finalists, I wish you the very best of luck. I can't wait to meet you all and I'm looking forward to a fantastic fun-filled evening. If you do happen to see me drinking too much wine, please remind me that I am taking my children to The Natural History and Science museums on Saturday and I really don't think dinosaurs and hangovers mix!

A family meal at Browns Brasserie

Browns Brasserie* on Grey Street in the heart of Newcastle has been on my radar since it opened. I have often walked past admiring the stylish 1830's architecture and elegant interior. We were looking for somewhere to celebrate our son's 8th birthday this week and the children's menu at Browns looked a little bit special so we decided to book a table as an after school school treat and finally sample what they have to offer.

I was immediately impressed with the stylish surroundings - a meal or drinks and Browns certainly does feel like a treat. Although the interior is elegant, our children were made to feel completely welcome. The atmosphere is very relaxed and families are not out of place at all.

We ordered our drinks and browsed the menu. Browns offer a wide selection of menus from brunch, to afternoon tea. It is always worth checking out their special offers page before you visit as there are some great deals to be had including a very good value £9 lunch deal.

Our children ordered a chocolate milkshake each which we were told are made in house with real chocolate pieces. They loved them and it's safe to say they didn't last long! I am a bit gutted they didn't last long enough for me to have a try!

Our starters arrived shortly after our drinks. You can order 3 courses for £9 from the children's menu which gave us the perfect excuse to indulge ourselves.

King Prawn Cocktail

Feuillete of Mushrooms

Carrot and Ginger soup

I was impressed that the children's starters were the same portion size as the grown ups meaning older children would certainly not leave hungry. The soup was our favourite - perfect for an Autumnal evening and we loved how it was served with a generous wedge of bread.

Children's Cheeseburger

Children's Tempura cod and chips

Our mains were a real hit - everyone cleared their plates. I was extremely impressed with the quality of the children's meals - everything seemed to have been made in house - the chips and homemade burger were fantastic. My son was very pleased that it was served plain (I don't know any child that will eat a gherkin!) and arrived with a dish full of tomato ketchup. Perfect! The tempura cod also looked delicious and I am very tempted to order this for myself on our next visit.

Roast corn-fed chicken

The Brown's steak pie

I had ordered the Mint Crusted Rack of Lamb which is Wednesday's plats du jour however it was unfortunately not available so I opted for the roast chicken dish instead. As you can see the presentation was superb and it was very impressive - it was perfectly seasoned too which is all to often forgotten about.

Hubby ordered the signature steak pie which was bursting with flavour and something he would definitely order again.

Salted caramel cheesecake

Children's chocolate brownie

Peach and Cherry crumble

Our desserts really were the star of the show and we all agreed they were the highlight of our meal. I have never struggled so much when deciding what to order - I wanted to try them all! I was very tempted to order the sticky toffee pudding as this is my all time favourite dish however in the end I opted for the peach and cherry crumble as it is something I have never tried. It arrived with it's own jug of warm custard and was absolutely perfect for a colder evening! Hubby adored his salted caramel cheesecake and our children thoroughly enjoyed their desserts - the highlight being the chocolate brownie which again, I would order myself next time as it tasted wonderful. 

There was only one waitress serving our entire section during our visit (and she was getting to grips with a new ordering system). She was super busy ensuring everybody in our section was happy and could not have been more attentive. She checked back at the right times during our evening to ensure everything was ok and took the time to chat with our children. Our tables were cleared efficiently and our three course meal took about 1 hour 30 minutes which is an average length of time. 

Browns is perfectly located opposite the Theatre Royal and I will definitely book with the family again before we watch the pantomime later this year. We were very impressed with the service and quality of our food plus loved the relaxed but stylish atmosphere. Browns also offer afternoon tea from only £15 for 2 and I can really see myself trying it out with my daughter after a days shopping too. 

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