Wagamama – White Rose Shopping Centre

We were invited along to Wagamama at the White Rose Shopping Centre, Leeds, to taste some of their new menu and write about my experience in eating there with a 4 year old!!

Firstly, the restaurant is pretty much open plan and so there are lots of things for the little ones to watch before the food arrives. This, coupled with the free (and fast) Wi-fi throughout the White Rose Centre and the children’s placemat and crayons mean that it shouldn’t be difficult to keep the children entertained before or after eating, which is always a problem!!

 

In terms of the children’s menu, there are no starters on the menu, but from the adult menu, the pork ribs went down quite well, as they are tangy rather than spicy.

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Pork Ribs in Korean barbecue sauce

We also went for the wok friend greens starter and these were very juicy and refreshing, but there are a couple of parts which have a soy sauce taste and so you might need to be careful.

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Wok Fried Greens (broccoli and bok choi)

However, the children don’t really need a starter as their main course is HUGE!!! We shared a chicken noodles meal and a cod balls meal between us and we struggled to finish them!

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soba noodles with grilled chicken with carrots, sweetcorn, cucumber and amai sauce

There were no overpowering flavours, which is ideal for a young palette, but, the fish cod meal came with a side of curry sauce, which meant that you could spice it up if you wanted and you could experiment, which is the perfect thing about going to somewhere a bit more adventurous for the little ones.

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Cod cubes in crispy panko breadcrumbs with sticky white rice, sweetcorn, carrots and cucumber

Both meals came with large portions of vegetables and they were fresh, crisp and juicy. However, sweetcorn is very difficult to eat with chopsticks!! The rice was surprisingly a bit easier to eat.

However, the little ones have an advantage as Wagamama’s provide child-friendly chopsticks which can be customised into characters – additional points if you find a more creative name than my lame attempts of “Snappy” and “Choppy”!! There is traditional cutlery available as well, both for adults and children!

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Practising with traditional chopsticks!

Somehow we found room for dessert, and I couldn’t get near the children’s ice cream, so it must have been very good! The chocolate layer cake was wonderful – I just wish I had a little bit more room for it!

 

In terms of other facilities, there are high chairs available and the toilets are individual cubicles and are decently sized so parent and child can go in together comfortably (major plus for single parents!). We went at 5pm on a Friday and about half of the groups had a child aged under 8 and so it is somewhere where you can happily take your child and they will have a freshly cooked, healthy meal.

I have to admit that my eyes were opened at how a restaurant famed for its spices could adapt for the younger taste buds and Wagamama’s did it very well and I’m sure that we would visit again, in no small part, because of the excellent way the staff treat the little ones.


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Fairfax House, York

We were invited to visit the Georgian Fairfax House nestled in York City Centre and had a wonderful time exploring a hidden gem in the city.

Essentially Fairfax House is a Georgian House that time forgot and it has been lovingly maintained and preserved by the staff and group of volunteers that help run the house.

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Inside, your self-guided tour takes you through the various rooms of the house to see how the Georgians of a certain “class” lived at that time. There are helpful information notes throughout the house to help you learn more about the house and the time.

However, the star of the show was the children’s guidebook which followed the path of the house mouse, Gregory, throughout the house and helped point out particular things of interest to children and ask them questions/activities. This comes as part of the child’s admission and really does help children be enthused about the venue. (Adults without children would also find it useful!)

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Gregory the mouse (on the right!)

The attraction is essentially a piece of history and so there is very little that the children can touch and so it might not be suitable for children of a certain age. Also, as the house is from the Georgian times, pushchairs have to be left at Reception.

Besides Gregory, the house mouse, the other star of the show were the volunteers/staff who were based in each room. They were really enthusiastic about the house and were willing to spend a lot of time talking to everyone (both young and old) about the house and the particular nuances of the house. This will also help the littler ones  maintain interest and learn as they go round.

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There are loads of Christmas events going on in the house, including mince pies and story telling, which can be found here: http://www.fairfaxhouse.co.uk/whats-on/

All in all, we spent about an hour at Fairfax House and as it is situated in the city centre, it means you could make a day of it and couple it up with a visit to Jorvik, which is about 100 yards away, or a trip to the barbican theatre, which is 5 minutes walk away.

As at December 2017, the ticket prices are:

Adult: £7.50

Concession: £6.00 (applies to over 60s and students)

Children: £3.00 (over 6 and under 16) and include the Townhouse Mouse Trail or Townhouse Mouse Quest.

Family ticket: £17.50 (2 adults and up to 3 children)

and you can visit as many times as you like in a 12 month period – bargain!!! (Taken from http://www.fairfaxhouse.co.uk)

If you visit, please leave a comment telling me how many clocks you found, I lost count at 15!!!!

As photos are not allowed in Fairfax House, they have kindly allowed me permission to use some of theirs for this post 🙂


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Scrooge’s Christmas Carol – Rainbow Factory

“Scrooge’s Christmas Carol” is the Rainbow Factory’s third Christmas Show and we have been privileged enough to see all three and the performances have been outstanding each and every year.

Without giving too much away of the story (after all, adults are meant to enjoy it as well as the kids!) why should you choose to see this show over any of the others in the area?

  • The performance is accessible to all. The children sit on cushions on the floor and can move and wiggle as much as they like. No need for binoculars or climb a mountain of stairs to get to your seat. You are so close you can touch the actors and have photos taken afterwards.
  • It is made for children. It is “only” 40 minutes long which means younger children can enjoy it wouldn’t being bribed to stay still/quiet and there is childish humour involved.
  • It is also for adults. This performance has more quick witted puns than the previous shows and so you will enjoy it as a show in it’s own right.
  • It is cheap! Tickets are only £6 each and with money tight at Christmas, it is so much better value than some of the bigger theatres in the region who seem to charge a small fortune for the Christmas pantomime. (parking is free as well!)
  • The staff and performers are wonderful, genuine people. Rainbow Factory is almost our second home and without them, Heidi would not have developed as she has done. The Rainbow Factory is a small, local business and they put so much in so it is only right to support them in whatever way possible.

So what about the actual show? Well, as you would expect, it is fast paced, but probably unlike any version of the story you have seen enacted before, with the use of puppets, songs and various other effects (not wanting to spoil the surprise at the end!)

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There is a slightly scary part 10 minutes in with a ghost, which is quickly forgotten about but something just to bear in mind.

However, the most upsetting part was with about 10 minutes to go, Heidi asked if it was nearly the end, because she didn’t want it to end at all!! Only bribery stopped a minor meltdown!!

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This blog post could best to summarised by Scrooge himself when he said “Christmas is about grabbing as much joy as you possibly can” – and he is correct. As such, one of the best ways of doing that this Christmas is to go and see this show!!

And because you’ve made it so far, here is a sneak peek of the show…


DISCLOSURE: We received 2 tickets for this show, although there was no influence on this post.


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Santa’s Post Office – Sheffield

We decided to kick off the run-in to Christmas by visiting the free (yes, free!) Christmas Post Office, in Sheffield City Centre (Chapel Walk).

For non Sheffield locals, Chapel Walk is about a 5-10 minute walk from the train station right in the city centre, very close to the Crucible and Lyceum theatres. As you can see the outside of the Post Office is beautifully decorated and not easy to miss!!

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Inside, the children can write a letter to Santa (or parents can do it!) and the letter gets put in a post box and magically ends up in Lapland!

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Spoiler alert: Then an adult goes to the magical elf and gets a letter from Santa to give to their child at an appropriate time. You might want the elves or another adult to keep your child occupied whilst you get the letter!!

The post office is quite small so there may be some queues, but the staff make sure there is enough room for everyone to do their letter so while there might be a wait, it is for a reason.

All in all, it will take about half an hour to an hour to do the letter and use a good quota of stickers to decorate the letter which leaves enough time to enjoy the other things in Sheffield City Centre.

There is a Christmas Market with possibly the largest Santa’s Grotto you have seen, Andy Day (him from Andy’s Dinosaur Adventure) is starring in Mother Goose at the Lyceum Theatre, the Wizard of Oz is on at the Crucible Theatre and you can play “Find the Elephant” at the Winter Gardens (that is my made-up game!)

For more information about all the other events in Sheffield, check out the “Alive after Five” website – http://www.sheffafter5.com

Now off to find a flying unicorn for Santa…..!!!


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Odeon Luxe Leeds-Bradford

I was invited to the official opening of the Odeon Luxe Leeds-Bradford to watch “Murder on the Orient Express” in absolute luxury, with more than half an eye as to how the venue would be suitable for a family evening out.

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View from the back row

The cinema itself is the first Odeon in England to have the “Luxe” treatment, with reclining seats, extending footrests and tables for each seat. One of the benefits of this is the extra legroom meaning that if little ones (or big ones!) have drunk too much, they can get out without the entire row having to stand up to let them out!

 

One thing we didn’t realise until the end of the film is that the seat arms move up, so it is possible to have a family hug in the spacious seats and get all cosy in front of a film!

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Yummy nachos!

The venue is quite isolated in terms of other attractions (there is only a curry house next door) but there is an excellent snack bar/restaurant on site serving traditional snacks such as nachos, pizzas and hot dogs. Above and below are a few pictures of the food that we were given to sample!

Of course, there are other snacks available including child-focused slushy machines and the cinema favourite, popcorn! I can confirm that it is a challenge to eat a box of popcorn during a film, but they do taste just as nice the following day!!

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As the venue has been rebuilt, the facilities are top notch, including the toilets and so if you’re still at the stage of taking your children to the toilet, there is plenty of space and more importantly, very clean.

All in all, it is really good to see a national brand invest in the region and the venue really raises the bar in terms of what is expected of the cinema experience and is perfect for an evening night out for all the family.

For more information about what’s on and special offers, go to: http://www.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/leeds_bradford/103/

Full disclosure: I received 2 tickets to the film/event for the purposes of this review, but no influence has been made as to the content.


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Valley Centertainment

Ok, when it comes to going to Sheffield for family entertainment, what do you think of? Meadowhall, Sheffield Arena or maybe something like the Elephants which were in Sheffield in 2016 (link here)?

Having worked in Sheffield for 4 ½ years, I had only ever heard of Valley Centertainment and never actually went until I was invited down to see what was on offer.

Well, truth be told, there is loads there!!  There are 12 places to eat (yes, 12!!) including good old favourites such as Nando’s, but also loads of entertainment such as Cineworld (apparently the busiest Cineworld outside of London) and Hollywood Bowl.

Obviously you can’t do all of this in one day (would be a good challenge) but we did try and do as much as possible! We started off with Paradise Island Adventure Golf, which has 2 full 18 hole courses. We did the downstairs course, and if truth be told, it was very difficult! If you have smaller children, it might be best to go for the upstairs course!

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The course is clean and well kept and there are enough quirky bits and pieces to keep the children entertained if the attention span is beginning to be stretched! Next-door is “Monkey Business” which is an indoor play area which looked quite large and so you could easily combine the two if you have younger children. Also, the toilets are of good quality and number  so you don’t need to worry about that side of things if your little one drinks too much too quickly!!

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In the same building is Laser Quest, and i have to confess that I have never done this before! You get about 15 minutes to walk (don’t run!!!) and try to shoot the other players. You really need 6 or more to make a good game of it, but they try to group smaller groups together to get a better atmosphere and game. There is a minimum age of 7, probably due to the dark and the effort it takes shooting the laser, so it’s something to bear in mind.  Sadly, taking pictures in the dark doesn’t really work that well!!

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Ok, I look a bit geeky!

In terms of food, we went to Nando’s (another first!) for wings and while we went on a Wednesday evening, it was busy, but the line did move quickly. If you have a large group, it might be an idea to see if you can book in advance!

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Very, very mild wings!

Also on the food front, we went to Frankie and Benny’s for our main meal and the service was very quick and the food was as good as ever. There is always a family friendly atmosphere at Frankie and Benny’s, although I would recommend having the milkshake after doing the laser quest and certainly not before!!

I called it quits for the evening then, before the others went to Cineworld, but I did notice in Hollywood Bowl a “Colouring Station” for children to colour and draw – something that I have never seen and is a really cool idea.

Parking is free at Valley Centertainment (post code: S9 2EP) and can be found all over the site (probably best near the laser quest, or Cineworld) and has its own Supertram stop. To find more information on the venue, check out their website (http://www.valley-leisure.co.uk/) and you can find a page full of offers for the various attractions on site.


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Hotel Chocolat – Children’s Workshop

 

We were invited to attend the Hotel Chocolat “School of Chocolate”, which is a children’s workshop to show them all about how chocolate is made, why it tastes and looks a certain way, as well as have a lot of fun at the same time!

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Hosted by the fabulously child-friendly Dan and Sam, we were guided upstairs and after a hand-wash (good start!) the children were sat around a table and the adults had their drink orders taken and let Dan and Sam take over!!

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You HAVE to have a hot chocolate at Hotel Chocolat!

The children were asked about how chocolate was made and I think it’s safe to say that the adults learnt just as much as the children! Then the taste testing began, with buttons of various kinds of chocolate being passed around. With children being children, and Hotel Chocolat being Hotel Chocolat, all of the chocolate was amazing (adults were jealously looking on at this point!)

After half an hour, the sugar was really kicking in and the children were led downstairs to look at the conch (who knew!) and how the beans were cooked and then the chocolate made. Then, they were up close watching how the tempering process took place, although the children were genuinely scared that the mix was about to be thrown onto a marble table top!!

The tempering process can be seen below.

It is best if you follow your child down for this bit because, well, would you leave a child in a sweet shop?!?! Seriously, they are looked after well but the adults get as much out of it as the children!

Going back upstairs, the really hands-on part came, with decorating a slab of chocolate and a chocolate lolly. This is the part where adults get involved a bit, depending on the age of the child, but remember the chocolate is for the children and not the adults!!

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After that, the decorations are put in the fridge and the children get to have a warm drink of salted caramel (not to my taste, but it went down well with the children!) and they got to decorate a box for their chocolate slab.

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After that, it was time to go with our goody bag and into the shop – you get an in-store discount and so it would be rude if you didn’t buy a little something extra!!

As of October 2017, it costs £20 for a place at each workshop and whilst that might seem a little steep, you probably get £5 of chocolate to take home, plus a drink, plus a discount in store. As a result, the course might pay for itself if you are buying Christmas/Easter presents there in bulk!! In terms of age range, they suggest ages 5-12 and that feels about right – the child has to be confident enough in conversation on their own as it is effectively a learning experience. The class size is limited, so it is a special occasion for all concerned.

Talking to Dan and Sam afterwards, they do suggest that it is better to come as a group, as it gets a better atmosphere in the session, but if you have a confident child, they will be fine on their own. It did make me think that it could be an ideal birthday party venue – especially if you don’t want to invite too many kids!!

We are extremely lucky to have this in Leeds, as the only other location where Hotel Chocolat is doing this workshop is in London and fingers crossed it will be a success, and it deserves to be because it is a wonderful one-off experience.

 


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