belfast

Looking for 'The One'

 I thought I would tell you the story of how I went about finding my wedding dress and share some of my favourite dresses that are still available to purchase from Blush - the gorgeous Belfast-based boutique where I bought my wedding dress.   This is perfect timing, because Blush are about to have a major refurb and are currently selling off about 80% of their bridal stock at huge discounts.  This includes dresses from their 2018 collection!  There are loads of dresses that are suitable for every season, so if you or a friend are looking for a wedding dress, now is the perfect time to shop the Blush collection! Go, go, go!

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I had no idea what style I wanted for my wedding dress, which made shopping for it all the more fun because I could try on everything until I found 'the one'.  

My approach to planning our wedding was simple.  I wanted to make the whole process as stress free, as laid back and as fun as possible.  I knew it was a once in a life time (fingers crossed) opportunity and I didn't want my experience to be tainted by any hint of bridezilla. 

Blush was the first boutique that I visited on my hunt.  On entering, I was greeted by huge smiles and welcoming faces.  I was so nervous and felt completely clueless about what I was looking for.  Being so used to wearing black, I thought that wedding dresses would be totally unflattering and unforgiving!  I took along my best friend, my two sisters and my mum.  The women in my family know what they like and they're not scared of giving their opinon (nor am I - you might have realised this by now), so I knew that my trying on process would be quick, it would be a Marmite reaction, love it or hate it. 

My bridal consultant, Fiona (great name), took us into the bridal room and immediately made me feel at ease.  When she asked what style I liked or who my favourite bridal designers were, I looked at her blankly - I had no idea.  All I knew was that I didn't want a traditional A-line wedding dress and wanted something that would suit our rustic Italian wedding.  Fiona took me over to the rails and we started to hunt through the beautiful fabrics, until I found a few (eight) dresses that I wanted to try on.  The thing that made it easy is that Fiona and I had exactly the same taste. 

The styles that Blush choose are stunning. They house some well known desginers. such as, David Fielden, La Sposa and Martina Liana.  Being a princess at heart, I was immediately drawn to this showstopper with a full tulle skirt.  La Sposa's "Penelope" dress is pretty exquisite.  It has a two-piece effect with a sheer lace body that can be played down with a detachable lining.  Personally, I much preferred it without the lining.  I didn't think it looked too bare at all andI felt completely comfortable in it.  If I were getting married in the winter, I would race to buy this dress.  I took a few (five) Boomerangs of me swooshing this skirt, so I can confirm that this is an Instagram-worthy dress!

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They also have a few U.K. based designers, such as, Alan Hannah and Kevan Jon.  It means that if you choose a U.K. based designer, almost every dress can be completely customised to your taste.  So if you like the shape and style of one dress, but prefer the fabric of another, they can customise it so that you have your dream dress!  In fact, one of my favourite dresses from this year is Alan Hannah's pink strapless ballgown called "Anna" and it is exclusive to Blush!  I love a wedding dress that has a wow factor and shows your best assets, and for me, this ticked all the boxes.  The dress is corseted and makes your waist look teeny tiny, which is a dream for someone like me because I have very little waist and would love an hourglass figure.  The colour is just an absolute dream - picture this with a cathedral length ivory veil.  It is just stunning.  

If you're like me and think a wedding day is a great opportunity to get a new pair of designer shoes, you'll want to show them off!  Jimmy Choo's slogan of 'Say I do in Choo' complete won me over and I decided that they were the only shoes I wanted. Alan Hannah's "Cherie" is an ivory silk organza dress that sweeps high to low - beautifully showing off any new shoes.  The dress is dramatic, but simple.  The gingham print on the organza is so unique and something I really didn't think I would like, but I was immediately drawn to it.  There's something about this design that reminded me of Carrie Bradshaw's wedding dress (Google it, you will see what I mean) - but of course, this dress will come with a lot more luck than hers did! 

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If you haven't noticed by now, I am a sucker for a backless dress.  This Martina Liana "Lexi" dress is made from seven different types of lace - talk about intricate detail! The low sweeping back leads to tiny little buttons, which are framed by the dramatic lines of the lace.  It is a pretty great shape around your bum, which is complimented by long flowing train.  The sweetheart necking is the sexy cherry on top.  This dress longs for an entrance.  I can just imagine someone walking up a long aisle with the piles of lace following behind.

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During my first visit to Blush, the second dress that I tried on was a David Fielden, ivory, hand-sewn lace dress.  It was simple, elegant, a little bit sexy and perfect for an Italian wedding.  Everything that I thought I wanted in a dress disappeared, this was my wedding dress.  My bridal party swooned and said it was 'The One'.  I totally agreed, but who finds their dress in the first boutique they visit?! 

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Like a typical stereotype, I felt the need to visit more boutiques in different cities and try on over 20 more dresses before racing back to Blush to get my dress.  What sealed the deal for me, is the moment I visited a very popular wedding boutique and dealt with a monster of an owner.  I was greeted with a plastic smile, shown dresses that she thought I would like (I didn't get to choose) and then made comments about my body while I tried on wedding dresses.  It wasn't the dreamy bridal experience I was looking for.  After the game-changing experience of shopping in Blush, and all of their wonderful words of encouragement, I knew I had to go back to get my dress.  I longed to be back in the gorgeous little boutique that made me feel like the only bride in Belfast and I was ready to commit. 

My dress fitted me perfectly, it didn't need taken in or altered - it only needed taken up because my legs refused to grow to super model length.  It was effortless to wear, I could walk with ease, eat loads, drink more and dance the night away - all while being completely comfortable. 

The best thing was seeing Andy's face when I walked down the aisle.   The church must have been dusty, because my non-emotional husband, let a single tear (almost) escape from his eye.  I knew by his face that I had picked the perfect dress.

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It was so amazing after months of keeping it secret, finally getting to show him my dress!  I couldn't wait to have some time alone together to hear what he thought about it.

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When I was trying on dresses, I would dance about the shop a bit, sit down, do a little wiggle, etc. because I wanted to make sure that whatever dress I chose, I would feel like I was wearing the dress, instead of the dress wearing me.  I felt totally at ease in my dress - I think it is key to feeling relaxed on your wedding day.  Never once did I feel it nip me at the waist, rub at my shoulders or be so tight that I couldn't eat.  I didn't think about it at all, and that's maybe why the smile didn't leave my face all day long!  

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I wanted to choose bridesmaid dresses that complimented the design of my wedding dress.  My friend is the owner of Jarlo, so I was delighted to choose bridesmaid dresses from her range.  I two different designs in soft grey.  Both backless and both incredible around the bum - my girls could have given Pippa Middelton a serious run for her money!

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One of my favourite elements of my dress were the tiny lace polka dots.  When the girls at Blush told me that the lace on my David Fielden dress was all made by hand, I could only imagine the hour of work going into each and every single little polka dot - it made me appreciate it that much more!

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I would recommend making an appointment as soon as possible to shop the Blush sale.  If you book a private appointment, you can even bring along a bottle of bubbles to make the experience even more special.  This isn't something that you can normally do in Northern Ireland and at least when you find your dress, you will have something to cheers over! 

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Make sure to let me know if you find your dress in Blush!  Happy dress hunting - enjoy every moment of it (and don't forget the bubbles!).  A huge thank you to Aileen, Fiona and all of the girls at Blush for making my experience so incredible!

Fx

Gluten Free Take Aways in Belfast

If there’s one thing I hate to hear from people following a gluten free diet it's, “I can't eat that!”.  If I want something to eat that I had before I was gluten free, I will research it until I can find a gluten free version, or I will make it myself!  One thing that you can never ‘make yourself’ and that I get asked about a lot is good take away food.  I’m sorry, but sometimes a quinoa salad just won’t cut it and you need a hit of something dirty and carbilicious.  Gluten free people of Belfast, I am here to help you!  I have tasted so many gluten free delights in Belfast and I am going to share my favourite take aways with you!  

Macau (Ormeau Road, Belfast) - Chinese food

Macau Restaurant is the holy grail of gluten free Chinese food.  It is not your typical Chinese – the food is very authentic and their specialty, in my opinion, is the beautifully fresh seafood dishes.   In particular, the salt and chilli king prawns, the monkfish & picked veg hotpot and the slow cooked cod.  The owner, Sue-Lynn, is incredible.  All you have to do is ask if a dish can be made GF and she will make sure it is done for you!  If you are eating in the restaurant, I would recommend booking ahead – Macau is always busy!

Available as a BYO restaurant, or as a takeaway (collection only).

http://www.macaubelfast.com

Slow Cooked Cod

Slow Cooked Cod

ATTACK

ATTACK

Mandarin City (Ballyhackamore, Belfast) - Chinese food

When I have my girlfriends over, we order a Mandarin City.  It brings me back to the days of being 16 and having a sleepover with your besties, because this Chinese serves typically ‘westernised’ Chinese food – it doesn’t taste like gluten free food, because it is bloody good and ticks all of the boxes for a dirty (and I mean that in the best possible way, like durrrty) takeaway night!  Their menu is very GF friendly because they mark on the menu everything that is gluten free, which makes it hassle free dining because you get an idea straight away which of the dishes you can order.  I always order a GF black bean chicken (not on the menu as a GF option, but they will make you one!) and the crispy chicken in a spicy & garlic Peking sauce.  My friends are kind enough to order everything GF so I can share – we are never short of dishes, because there are so many options!

Available as a licensed restaurant, or as a takeaway (collection only)

http://www.mandarin-city.co.uk

A dreamy takeaway from Mandarin City

A dreamy takeaway from Mandarin City

John Dory’s (Ballygowan Road, Ballyhackamore, Dundonald, Carryduff and Lisburn) - Fish & Chips

On a winter’s evening there’s nothing quite like sitting down to fish and chips in front of the fire.  This was never an option for me until John Dory’s introduced a gluten free menu (thank you!).  With a fryer dedicated to gluten free food, it limits any worries about cross-contamination.  After receiving a delivery, I have phoned up so many times to double check that the food I ordered was definitely gluten free – that is how good the batter is!  The thing I love most is how dedicated the owner was to getting the gluten free batter ‘just right’.  It has been developed consistently since they released their GF menu and they have really done so well.  It is light, perfectly crisp and sticks to the food perfectly.  John Dory’s fish & chips was our Valentine’s meal of choice this year.  We picked up a takeaway and took it to the beach to eat in the freezing cold!  I would recommend the battered haddock, cod bites, chicken goujons, battered mushrooms (with a huge tub of garlic mayo, of course!) and their onion rings!  The best option for a cheap and cheerful meal!

Take away only - delivery available.

http://johndorys.co.uk

Boojum (Botanic Avenue, Victoria Square & Great Victoria Street) - Mexican Food

The first time I tried a Boojum, somebody got their herbs mixed up and put parsley in the guac instead of coriander.   I didn’t visit Boojum again for perhaps another year because, “Why would a Mexican restaurant make a bad guacamole?!” .  I feel like that is a year of my life that I have wasted and will never get back.  Everybody makes mistakes – I have bought flat leaf parsley instead of coriander before too, it happens.   The second time I was forced to order a Boojum, I realised that being stubborn isn’t a good trait and you should always give food another chance.  The only way I can describe it is as a little fiesta in your mouth!  I order a Burrito Bowl, which has all of the contents of a burrito, but without the wrap.  The lime and cilantro rice (the only GF rice option) adds a delightful freshness to the smoky depth of the meats and spiciness of the salsa.  This is my hangover option as a friendly Deliveroo cyclist brings it to the comfort of my own home.  Each time the Deliveroo rider arrives at my front door, I have to remind myself that I have a husband!

Available as a licensed restaurant, delivery (through Deliveroo) and collection

http://www.boojummex.com

Boojum Burrito Bowl with Lime & Cilantro Rice

Boojum Burrito Bowl with Lime & Cilantro Rice

Nandos (Boucher Cresent, Dublin Road & Victoria Square) - Portuguese

Nandos is one of the meals I used to get the most sick after eating.  Anytime I had one, I would be crippled with pain (because I was eating pita bread and was an undiagnosed coeliac), so I always had a negative association with it.   That all changed when I realised I was coeliac and that Nandos had GF options.  I love the butterfly chicken, the whole chicken platter (to share, I'm not THAT bad), macho peas, spicy rice, peri peri fries and slaw.  Oh, and platefuls of halloumi!!!

Available as a licensed restaurant or takeaway (collection only).

https://www.nandos.co.uk

Picture source: Pinterest

Picture source: Pinterest

 

Green’s Pizza (Lisburn Road & Ballyhackamore) - Pizza

The pizza choices are SO fun! Fresh Fig & Basil, Chicken Fajita or Fennel Sausage & Tender Stem Broccoli?  Pizza options like this are endless at Green's Pizza.  The meatball pizza I had below was just outstanding.  The only thing I need them to do is to invent a gluten free "Dragon Tongue Supreme" - it's a garlic bread with cheese, garlic and a sweet chilli sauce and it smells bloody increcible - then my life will be complete.

http://www.greenspizza.com

 

The Pizza Co. (Botanic Avenue, Finaghy) - Pizza

The gluten free pizza from The Pizza Co. is pretty damn good!  The only problem is that we have nicknamed them 'The Forgetful Pizza Co.' because they always forget something from our order.  Honestly though, they always deal with it so well that I forgive them (every. bloody. time) and after the first slice of pizza, all is forgotten!  Another perk...they open late night, as in reeeally late, so this immediately puts them to top of the poll in my books for 'drunk snack' options.  I never ever order Domino's because I feel uncomfortable every time I eat it and my stomach is a good gluten detector, so there must be some kind of cross contamination.  So it's nice to have a pizza company that I can trust (even after a few drinks!).

http://www.thepizzaco.co.uk

 

Pizza Express

Two words: Garlic. Doughballs.  Yes, gluten free garlic doughballs with the most gorgeous little pesto dips, fantastic pizza and garlic bread options.  Pizza Express continues to knock it out of the park with their gluten free options!

I hope this helps you in your search for the ultimate gluten free take away food!  If you have any questions or would like any advice on where to eat or what to order, please leave me a comment!

Fi x