Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Blissful Child-free Weekend Part II

The weekend before last, I was lucky enough to enjoy another child-free weekend away! What on earth is going on?? Two weekends away from the children in the last 2 months, after 6 years of never having left them hardly??

This time is was to celebrate husband's 40th birthday. His birthday was back in May, but this was the first available booking I could get for the restaurant he has wanted to go to for years. My original plan for his birthday celebration was to take him to Villa Park (he's a life long Aston Villa supporter!) to be wined and dined in their restaurant, have a guided tour and a meet and greet with some old players, before watching Villa v. Sunderland. It was costing a small fortune, but I knew he would absolutely love it (not sure I was looking forward it too much though, as I'm not really into football, and the last time that husband had taken me to see Villa play I'd fallen asleep!!). I kept the whole thing a surprise and was looking forward to seeing his reaction when he found out where we were going. A few weeks before the event though, I got a phone call to tell me that the match had been moved to the Monday night and did I still want the hospitality package. Obviously, I had to cancel and I was totally gutted! What on earth I could I arrange now at short notice that would be anywhere near as good as Villa? After wracking my brains a little, I remembered that Husband has been longing to go to Purnell's Restaurant in Birmingham, ever since he saw Glynn Purnell on the first series of the Great British Menu. As a fellow Brummie, he loved Glynn and the look of his culinary creations. Being a michelin starred restaurant however, it gets booked up way in advance.

And so this is why we had to celebrate Husband's birthday in July instead of May. Our good friends (the one who I went away on my last child-free weekend with) offered to have the boys for us for the weekend, so I booked a nice hotel in Birmingham city centre, close to the Bullring, for a weekend of shopping, eating and drinking.

The hotel I booked was Hotel La Tour. I had originally wanted to stay at Malmaison at The Mailbox, but after reading some recent reviews on Tripadvisor saying that it was looking a bit shabby and could do with a re-furb, I opted for a newer hotel which had excellent reviews. And I was glad I did. Hotel La Tour is a five minute walk from the Bullring and all the shops. It is a lovely new, modern hotel with everything absolutely spotless. We didn't eat at the hotel at all, so can't vouch for the standard of the food, but the cocktails were good! The rooms are lovely, with fancy touch-screen lighting controls and the most fantastic shower. And at only £85 for the room for the night for a 4 star hotel, I will defintely be staying there again.

Cocktails at the hotel

The weather was amazing - the start of the really hot spell we have been having. And we shopped 'til we dropped! The sales had all just started, and we got loads of great bargains. I have to confess that my converse addiction took hold and I succombed to buying 3 - yes 3! - new pairs (you can read about my Converse addiction here). I even managed to talk Husband into buying a pair on the sale - green ones like he originally said he would get. He wore them on Sunday and LOVES them! Result!

Before we had children, I remember shopping trips with Husband as being stressful events often involving bickering and stroppiness (him, not me!), and something that we avoided if possible, unless it was Christmas or something! This time, it was positively blissful! We glided around the shops perusing the sales rails at our leisure - no screaming, fighting kids, no need to carry bags of snacks/drinks/bribery with us, and no need to go into any toy or child-friendly shops! We even skipped lunch in favour of a coffee and more shopping time!

Our booking at Purnell's was at 7pm, and we were really excited about it. I can tell you, we were not disappointed! We opted for the 9-course Purnell's Tour which included courses entitled 'Emotions of cheese and pineapple on sticks "Soixante-dix"' and 'Burnt English custard egg suprise'. That last one was the one he won the dessert course on the Great British Menu with. All of the food was amazing, apart from the amuse bouche, which Husband said tasted like a leek and potato cup-a-soup! We got chatting to one of the waitresses who was a brummie (a lot of the staff were French-sounding), and explained that it was Husband's birthday and he was so pleased be eating there. She promptly returned from the kitchen with a signed menu - Glynn Purnell was actually in the kitchen cooking that night. Husband was chuffed to bits!

Burnt English custard egg surprise

The signed menu

Shortly afterwards, the man himself dashed out of the kitchen over to our table to shake hands with Husband and wish him a happy birthday! Husband was even more chuffed! So much so, that we ordered another bottle of wine! I was starting to lose track of courses by now, after cocktails at the hotel, followed by a vodka martini as an aperitif and then wine, but hey, we could have a lie-in the next morning!

At the end of our fantastic meal, Husband sent a note to the kitchen telling the chef how much we'd enjoyed the food and service, and asked if it would be possible for Glynn to come out and have a picture taken. Despite being flat out in the middle of service, he duly popped out for a photo, which made Husband's day!

Glynn Purnell and Husband

Needless to say, neither of us felt on top form the next morning! The plan had been to do some more shopping and have a leisurely lunch before heading back to collect the boys. After eventually getting some breakfast at Cote Brasserie (for free, after such appalling service and having to repeatedly complain and when the food finally came, send it back as it was burnt!!), and a wander around The Mailbox (a waste of time - most of the retail unit are empty, so don't bother going there), we decided we may as well head for home and watch Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final instead. The boys hadn't missed us at all, as they were having so much fun with their friends, and didn't want to come home!

 Murray's win at Wimbledon really was the most fantastic end to a wonderful weekend.

Me and the old man!

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