Restaurant Review: Upstairs at the Grill

Last summer, the GCSE Exam question was entitled, “The Best and Worst Meal you have ever eaten.” I mark that particular GCSE Exam paper. Steak, it transpires, is your average 16 year old’s favourite meal. I must have read close to 200 descriptions of the perfectly cooked steak. By the end of the marking time, I was an expert on what a good steak should be like.

So when Tim booked a steak restaurant for our date this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder, would the steak live up to those descriptions?

He needn’t have worried (I don’t think he was particularly concerned). For the first time since he was born, Ben had a night away. He went to stay with his Auntie Suzie, Uncle Matt and their children, who kept him entertained every moment. We took advantage of a hotel deal and stayed in Chester.

We’ve had a few date nights since Ben was born, but often we’ve rushed to fit everything (meal and dinner) in, and be back at a reasonable hour for our babysitters. With Ben at a sleepover, we were able to stay out late! Both of us were able to have an alcoholic drink! And (best of all) both of us could have a lie-in the following morning! Amazing.

The restaurant Tim chose was Upstairs at the Grill in Chester. From the outside, it looks small and cosy, and that’s fairly true. But it has a real sense of decadence about it, as a good steak house should. We arrived at 9pm, with a reservation for 9.30pm, and went upstairs to the cocktail bar, which should probably be described as intimate. However, the cocktail menu was extensive, and the cocktail waiter was slick and entertaining, as a good cocktail waiter should be. The cocktails we sampled were excellent, and our bar-side stools gave us a good view.

Halfway through our cocktails, we were invited to watch a ‘Steak Presentation.’ For a good five minutes, a waitress held a board with different cuts of beef on it, and went through the different types of steak on offer at the restaurant. She was keen to emphasise the feeding of the cattle – most were grass-fed on the Welsh hills. There was also steak (grain-fed) from Texas and Australia on offer. Perhaps most usefully for me, was her recommendation that the more marbled cuts of steak (e.g. rib-eye) are best cooked medium rather than rare. Since having Ben, and avoiding rare meat during pregnancy, I cannot eat very rare meat without getting ill. So this was excellent news for me, a former rare-steak lover.

According to her recommendation, both Tim and I had the rib-eye steak, with accompaniments of triple-cooked chips, onion rings and sugar snap peas. All was excellent. The steak was beautiful. The wine (the house Merlot) was delicious. The chipotle-spiced bread and bone-marrow flavoured butter was a nice touch.



Perhaps because we were dining late, Tim and I were seated at a 4-person size table. I don’t think we’ve put on that many pounds over Christmas! However, this made the meal much more comfortable, and I wonder if it would be a bit too cosy with four around a table that size. The waiters were attentive but not overbearing, and the price was reasonable for such a good meal in Chester.

It is a rare day that I turn down dessert, but I really couldn’t have managed dessert after that steak and its accompaniments. So I can’t review the desserts, I’m afraid. However, for the cocktails, wine and steak, I can definitely recommend Upstairs at the Grill.


All photos in this post were taken by Tim. As you can tell, the restaurant was dark!



Pinspired! Green Smoothies

Green Smoothies.jpg

I may have mentioned my obsession with Pinterest before. I must have spent hours, often in the middle of the night, pinning recipes, quotes, pictures of beautiful homes, tips to make your life simpler… It’s brilliant.

Incidentally, I saw this on Facebook the other day, and loved it. 1522117_10151919373846297_1320135790_n

However, when I first saw Green Smoothies being pinned, I thought, “Yuck, disgusting. Why would anyone add spinach to a smoothie?”

But then, I read about them. I thought about it a bit more. And in my New Years Health Kick, I decided to give them a go.

What do you know? They are delicious. You honestly can’t taste the spinach. There’s possibly a slightly grassy freshness to the smoothie, and yes, it is definitely green, but it tastes just like a normal banana and strawberry (or whatever fruit you choose) smoothie.


  • 1 handful baby spinach
  • 50ml fruit juice or milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 handful blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or mango (or a combination)
  • 1 pot yoghurt (individual serving)
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons oats


  1. Put the spinach and fruit juice or milk into the blender. Whizz until it is completely blended. You want to do this first because getting chunks of spinach leaf in a smoothie is gross.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

It really doesn’t taste of spinach, and it has loads of vitamins. You kind of feel super healthy from drinking it. Enjoy the glow.

Resolutions for 2014

Well, better late than never, I guess.

1. Consume less caffeine

Since having Ben, and especially since stopping breastfeeding, my caffeine consumption has got a bit ridiculous for me – I feel dependent on it. I think I’m averaging 5-6 cups of tea or coffee each day. I’m not happy with this, and know I want to cut down.

Update: I’ve cut out caffeinated drinks completely where possible. Decaff only for me!

2. Consume less sugar

Ah, sugar, the new evil. It’s definitely addictive, and I am definitely addicted. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but I know I can’t eat a whole packet of biscuits anymore and get away with it. The sugar highs and sugar lows are too much. The additional pounds are going to creep on. And with the news that diabetes can lead to dementia, I think it’s time to get off this sugar wagon.

I’m not giving it up completely – I do, after all, love baking – but I need to find a way to make it less of a daily thing, more of an occasional treat.

3. Work less

Technically, I work 3 days a week. The current reality is that I’m working 40 hours a week. Most evenings, significant chunks of the weekend. In fact, I’m writing this on a Sunday night where I feel like I’ve spent my whole weekend either doing housework or working. I don’t want to feel like that any other weekend in 2014.

So, I’m going to try two strategies: firstly, to create more resources that are more generic. Lots of my resources are used for one lesson only, and that’s not time-efficient. So I might need to put more time into making one resource that can be used 6 times and less time into making 6 different resources for 6 lessons.

Update: I’ve created a really useful writing Success Criteria activity, and a writing Planning Sheet which I’ve used with 3 different KS3 classes.

The second strategy is a marking code. The idea is that you use symbols to mark statements instead of writing them out. In fact, the students then write them out – and hopefully, pay more attention to them. I’ll be trialling this next week.

I also need to think carefully about when I allow myself to work. If I’m not careful, work can be stretched out to fill the time you have. I need to work out when, during the week, I am willing to dedicate time to work – and not to work outside of those times.

4 Blog more

I love this blog. I spend a lot of time composing blog posts in my head which never make it to the screen. Again, it’s a time and priorities issue – I have a toddler, a demanding job, friends and family, a home to run etc. But I love reading back over the posts and reminding myself of what we did, what I learned, how I’ve changed. I also started it originally as a bit of an aide-memoire for when we have another child, or for when friends ask what we did with Ben. I don’t want that to tail off because he got to 12 months!

Last year, I only managed one blog post a month in October and November. That’s not enough. Ideally, I want to aim for at least 1 a week, but I’m going to set myself the target of 5 a month, and see how we go.

5. Have more adventures

When I think back to my own childhood, I remember wishing we had gone out more as a family. Weekends were so often dominated by commitments at church, and then, as we got older, horse riding and drama classes. We would go for a long walk on Bank Holidays, but, in Britain, we don’t get too many of them.

So I am determined that Ben should have more adventures. I think it’s easy to think, “We’ll just stay at home and have fun,” but that can be boring. Often, it’s more energising to get out and do something. Ideally this would be out of doors, but we do live in Manchester.

I’ve kind of scheduled in Sunday afternoons as ‘Mummy and Ben adventure time,’ because Tim often watches football on a Sunday afternoon, but this resolution is about more than that. It’s about saying yes when we’re invited to do something, even though the logistics may be tricky. It’s about doing things as a family, away from the housework and  routine. It’s about creating memories. It’s about having more fun.

I suppose I should probably put some things in here about saving more money, progressing in my career, learning a new skill and things. But, honestly, I think I put enough pressure on myself. I’ll just concentrate on this.