Who can you trust? Transparency in food and travel blogging

Eating out, traveling, leaving the house – it isn’t cheap. Wow… [Mr. H. pauses for a few seconds to look at his latest bank statement…] It really isn’t cheap. Um…it’s understandable people turn to the Internet to glean insights from fellow diners’ or travellers’ experiences… TripAdvisor?! Good or bad, there’s not exactly a stringent verification process. Local media? Well, they’ve got bills to pay… Mainstream media? There’s a character to be built if they are going to judge the next MasterChef… Bloggers? Surely, they’ll just say it how it is…

I’ve been following Cardiff’s and Bristol’s food and travel blogging communities for far longer than this blog has been in existence (and I’ve been getting blocked by people on Twitter). I’d toyed with the idea of starting my own – usually after reading the latest menu description or sycophantic review of an establishment I knew was bang average at best.

Eventually, I gave up on having a life and roped the missus in for some ‘quality time’. However, you don’t have to go quite as far yourself.

Here are a few things to look out for when trying to decipher who’s a blogger worth your time (and trust), who’s blagging it, and who just wants to feel loved…

 

It was free – but you can trust me… honest, guv’ner!

I don’t think food bloggers are that naive to think they are going to make a living out of their blog (if they did, I’m sure they’d have forked out a tenner for a domain by now – or at least turned it into a travel blog!), but if they can save themselves a few quid on a meal – ka-ching!

glasses-food-group-freebie-transparency

I wouldn’t go as far as to say everyone who accepts free dinners can’t be trusted – I don’t have the lawyers – but it certainly raises questions about the validity of their reviews.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come across opening or closing statements along the lines of, “this meal was provided complimentary… we were under no obligation to review… or say anything positive…”

It just so happens that it was the Tastiest. Meal. Ever!

And pretty much everything they’ve ever eaten, anywhere has been wonderful – and, believe me, I’ve trawled back through more tedious articles than is healthy looking for a hint of dissent.

“It’s not an accurate reflection of a regular service.”

They are a food blogger, which suggests they at least think they know a thing or two about cuisine and dining out – I don’t doubt many are knowledgeable and impressive wordsmiths. If anything, you’d think they were being more critical than the average diner. But they’ve ‘lucked out’ every time?

Ok, maybe they just don’t publish the negative ones. You’d have to be insensitive to take a free meal from an independent and then highlight its flaws in return.

Maybe it’s a fear of reprisal – even at a subconscious level, if you’re motivated by free meals, then your instinct will be to keep ‘em sweet.

And let’s not forget, even if they are being “transparent,” this is a ‘guest night’, it’s not an accurate reflection of a regular service.

Let’s be fair a meal out doesn’t cost that much (surely their time and effort is worth more – mine definitely is) – and if you want to help build a healthy food scene, you’d pay your way, right? So what’s the motivation?

But I’ve changed my ways (worth a h-tag interruption)

Ah, maybe this was one of them.

I find it amusing when a blogger goes to great lengths (or keeps banging on about it on Twitter) to highlight that they no longer accept guest invites…

It’s effectively an admission that accepting freebies hitherto had influenced their content – in fact, they’ll state that was the case.

If nothing else, it reeks of arrogance – “Now I’ve got nearly 8000 Twitter followers…” [even they realised how ridiculous it looked and stopped following other people at 4000] “I can write what I want…”

If they are now claiming 100% honest critiques, then what were they providing before?

Never mind, they’ve now established themselves as an a-list blogger, so “whatever.”

 

Show me the money

Sponsored posts and #presstrips are more prevalent in those food/travel hybrids (ahem, not like mine… of course). You’ll have seen them on Instagram: “Oh, wow – McDonald’s do table service now, so helpful I didn’t have to stand up for a few minutes…” – cue comments from 10 individuals who clearly have no interest in the ‘advert’, but are keen to take any opportunity to boost their Instagram followers in the hope they’ll get a free night away.

Again, you won’t see a negative word about anyone or anything on these websites or social media profiles (unless there’s a social media outcry they can take advantage of) – lots of nice visuals; happy, smiley thoughts, but it’s all very calculated and depressing…

“I don’t doubt their commitment to pitching and ensuring a good ROI for the PR company.”

Unquestionably, the motivation is self-gain vs. reader education.

To be fair, it’s not like their intentions are cleverly disguised – I’m more surprised by how many participate in the charade (PR companies must have a lot of surplus budget to get rid of).

Many admit that they are obliged to deliver a return on the company’s investment – arguing that they couldn’t afford it otherwise, and they put a lot of time and effort into it. They’ll admit it’s their job.

I don’t doubt their commitment to pitching and ensuring a good ROI for the PR company (these are impressive marketeers) – but I don’t see the value to the reader.

Sure, like one of their pics (they tend to be quite sensitive – I was blocked instantly on Twitter by The Rare Welsh Bit for innocently replying to the hyperbole from one #presstrip) but move along.

It’s not for you.

 

But people love me!

Wow – 6000 followers…

And they only follow… oh, 5500 accounts.

But their latest post got… 1 like.

Ahem!

You don’t need me to spell it out for you.

Some bloggers have highlighted the problem of purchasing fake followers, but there are other questionable tactics being adopted to elevate numbers.

If you’re wondering why they’d bother following that many accounts, when they are unlikely to ever see them in their news feed, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention – scroll back up!

 

Do you want to join our gang?

I don’t want to say it’s a bit cliquey, but…a friend did when I first started this blog.

You don’t have to dig deep (@cdfblogs – hint, hint) on social media to know who’s in ‘the circle’ and which restaurants you’ll never read a bad word against (if you do investigate, you may find that they work in PR… for some of those very restaurants… okay…).

If it’s a travel blog, it tends to be more obviously premeditated and fake.

heart-pancake-transparency

For out’n’out food bloggers, I’d argue it’s less calculated – they love food and food people, feel a sense of community and support, and celebrity selfies? Well, apparently, that’s a joy.

They may even fear the repercussions, of being ostracized by ‘the community’ – even in the short-time I’ve been running this blog (before I even published this particular blog), there have clear attempts to undermine me (some sly, some just funny as…). But that’s for another blog…

Whatever the reason, once someone becomes allied to individuals or venues, through fear, friendships or financial incentives, there’s a conflict of interest – an inevitable compromise.

Update: After/despite posting this article, I was contacted by a restaurant who wanted to discuss ways we could “mutually support” each other – apparently it’s an agreement they have in place with other bloggers (you can’t make this stuff up!).

 

But look at what we were given…you miserable git!

I appreciate you may just want to look at nice pictures and read nice things from someone’s VIP meal or night away…

No, I don’t – I think you’re daft. You’re going to learn more from the comments on a company’s Facebook page.

It’s advertising – plain and simple.

But it’s not just the lack of value on offer to the reader that I have an issue with. When it comes to the food scene specifically, I’d argue it’s damaging for the chefs and the restaurants that are offering great food and dining experiences. Diners feel disappointed when they get the ‘reality’ of an endorsement, and the good restaurants lose custom to the bad.

As I said in my previous random burp on the perils of food blogging, I’m keen to ensure every review that appears on this website is completely independent. I hope people find that refreshing, but I know some may find it a challenge – highlighting faults in an independent restaurant isn’t easy. Either way, I’ll have at least paid for my meal (I won’t have a choice with articles like these). 

Follow us on Instagram if you like Mrs. B.B.’s sexy (food!) photos – and Twitter if you’re not the sensitive type!

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Barnaby Sykes Pie Maker - Festival Food at Green Man.

Who ate all the pies at Green Man 2018?

With The War on Drugs and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (come on – who cares what they sound like with a name like that?) headlining on the main stage, and Brød headlining on the pastry stage (I’ve made that up), there was only one choice for this year’s weekend of long-term health damage: Green Man. 

You wouldn’t know, but, in another life, I was winging it as a music hack – with a failing bank balance but an infallible musical opinion (some would call me arrogant… I married her).

Whilst a move into digital marketing was necessary to ensure we would still be able to eat (life suddenly became very expensive post-2010), freelancing has allowed me to keep a finger in the pie.

With this blog, I also get to eat pie – and sometimes to combine that figurative pie with the actual pie (yeah, I’m confused as well)…

 

A proper base…

Green Man has been on the bucket list for as long as I can remember – primarily because it’s 45-minutes’ drive away, which means I’m only 45-minutes’ drive away from getting into bed when it’s over.

But there’s always been a bigger pull on our limited funds to a Latitude (Portishead), a Hop Farm (Prince) or a, umm, Cornbury (All Saints?!). Although it would mean missing our annual slip and slide around a muddy field to the Levellers (Beautiful Days), this year – this year! – they had The War on Drugs.

Travel to the site was as easy as we could have hoped for – well sign-posted and bizarrely quiet through the narrow country lanes, despite being absolutely rammed at the box office (we arrived around 11am on the Thursday). The queue wouldn’t let up for the two hours we trekked back and forth between the car park and our pitch (it was more painful on the Monday morning).

“The portaloos weren’t the horror scenes we’ve come to expect.”

The festival site itself is quite compact. At times, we found it quite overwhelming – hoards of people moving between stages, bars, food stalls and portaloos causing bottlenecks (and putting our £9 double G&Ts at risk!). But, actually, as we moved closer to the Mountain Stage, and became braver in the Far Out tent, the crowds were fairly sparse – camping chairs plugging the gaps and providing some ‘Some mothers do av em’-style amusement in the dark.

Health and Safety? Although it did feel busy, the festival itself is very laid-back. No bag searches (to be fair, you are encouraged not to sneak alcohol in given it also hosts its very own beer festival!); a lack of signage (we accidently pitched up in quiet camping – the chap who decided to pack up at 5am, and the couple who decided to pump up their mattress at 2am clearly missed that as well); and, to be honest, I didn’t notice any security or authority figures during the four days we were there.

audience-main-stage-green-man
Ominous-looking clouds – thankfully, the forecast rain stayed away!

I guess they can trust this crowd. There was a good mix – I’d say predominantly teens, retirees and younger families, but outwardly middle class. Put it this way, the portaloos weren’t the horror scenes we’ve come to expect. Still, not quite your “we require a Waitrose onsite” Cornbury types.

 

A packed filling

The War on Drugs were the main attraction, but I had my doubts. How would the beautifully textured but ambient sounds of the band’s last two albums transfer to a closing night’s headline slot.

I had nothing to worry about. Despite three nights of sleep deprivation and four days of beer bloating, I was a man possessed throughout an exhilarating performance. Given the rich, multi-layered soundscape on the band’s recent albums, it was easy to miss Adam Granduciel’s impressive fretwork – now I know just what a dazzling guitarist he is.

“They may only have one trick – but that is to mesmerise you. Job done.”

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have an eclectic back-catalogue (crossing the boundaries of genre on each of the five albums they released in 2017 alone), but they stuck to a psychedelic rock formula for most of their set – in fact, I think they stuck to one song for 90 minutes! Not necessarily a bad thing when you’ve got that groove!

king-lizard-wizard-green-man
King Lizard and the Lizard Wizard

Talking psychedelia – nobody does it better than The Black Angels, and they delivered: big drums and hypnotic riffs! They may only have one trick – but that is to mesmerise you. Job done.

There were disappointments – missing Joan the Policewoman hurt most (damn you, schedulers!).

John Grant was a little more dimensional live than on record; Dirty Projectors overegged it as much I thought they would – but left out most of their fun songs; Whyte Horses managed to go from catchy indie pop to irritatingly repetitious within the space of three songs; and Snail Mail – wow, way to kill the vibes, man!

But Green Man is all about the positive energy.

Wye Oak delivered a perfect blend of rock and dance indie, with Jenn Wasner’s inimitable vocals drawing a big crowd and one of the warmest receptions of the weekend – although it didn’t quite match the love for Cardiff’s own Boy Azooga (they would be huge if this was the ‘90s).

Belgium’s J Bernardt had the look of someone who had been kicked out of the dance tent at 4am. He amused us with his posing and exaggerated dance moves – but he had the vocal chops to get away with it. Baxter Dury entertained (primarily the children) with various foul-mouthed tirades (otherwise known as his back catalogue). And the virtuoso Bluesy guitar noodling and shrieking vocals from King Tuff made an impression – or at least his hat did:

king-tuff-snarl-green-man

No real household names – I suspect much of this year’s attendees were regulars and it’s the festival itself that serves as the big draw – but you couldn’t fault the quality of the artists on show.

But damn those schedulers!

 

A wonderful, shiny glaze

As much as we enjoyed the music, it was the quality of the food that made this a standout festival – and not just the pies (I only had two, but I needed a title!).

We didn’t eat one dud meal over the course of four days – I estimate that over the course of 22 meals (11 each! – come on now!), we must have visited 16 different food stalls. That’s not including braving the hornet’s nest for a Brød pastry every morning, nor repeat visits for chocolate brownie.

Here’s a countdown of the top-5:

Bearded Taco

Neither of us were willing to miss out on Bearded Taco.

I went for the Bahn Mi-guel:

bearded-tacos-bahn-mi-guel

The pickled carrot, daikon and cucumber really cut through the fat of the Vietnamese BBQ pork. A surprisingly clean eat with the fresh coriander and chilies providing plenty of kick.

I was concerned these small, delicate looking tacos wouldn’t suffice two beers in, but they were deceptively satisfying.

Mrs. B.B.’s Let’s Avo Cwtch tacos were arguably even more eye-catching:

lets-avo-cwtch-bearded-tacos

I’d never tried tempura battered avocado before – and Mrs. B.B. did well to keep her lunch once I had.

Again, wonderfully fresh, with a lemon ‘slaw offsetting the grease from the light and crisp tempura – although we couldn’t really pick out the gin and tonic (we’d have to fork out a small fortune for that at the bar!).

Le Bao

I was flying solo at Le Bao (or is it Boas, or Boas Steaming?):

le-baos-pork-green-man

The braised pork belly was simply divine. I’d go as far as to claim it’s the best cooked pork I’ve ever had (and I’ve spent out a fair few quid in many a restaurant) – absorbing all the hoisin flavour, they really packed a punch.

It was obviously quite fatty, but, as with Bearded Taco, the addition of pickles, coriander and chili ensured it was a fresh eat. The powdered peanuts adding a complimentary crunch to the heavenly moistness.

I was concerned the buns may be quite dense, but they were deceptively light and airy. Still, I knew I had been well-fed at the end.

Pieminister

My first experience of a Pieminister actually came at a music festival. And whilst I’ve eaten at their Cardiff restaurant on quite a few occasions, it’s never really lived up to expectations.

This one did.

I went for the festival ‘special’, Hurrikane Pie:

pieminster-beef-green-man

There was a definite cheese flavour running through the pastry – which wasn’t advertised, but I really liked it. A good thick, crisp pastry, with a flaky top (although it had been submerged in peas and gravy), and it was packed to the rafters with tender beef steak and roasted peppers.

Given the strongly minty peas and rich gravy, you couldn’t really make out the ale or red wine, but there was a definite heat coming through from the smoke paprika. It was delicious, and a level up from a Barnaby Sykes Pie Maker who I visited the day prior (in fairness, their pies are pretty decent as well).

Even Mrs. B.B. couldn’t resist – opting for the Moo and Blue pie. You couldn’t miss the stilton, which really complimented the succulent beef and generous filling.

Welsh Venison Centre Beacons Farm Shop

Faggots and peas from the Beacons Farm Shop – it had to be done:

beacons-farm-shop-faggots-peas

Slightly depressed by the couple who had no idea what a faggot was, but these were the ‘posh version’ – and huge (there was enough meat here for four burgers). Not quite as smooth or moist in texture as I’ve become accustomed, there was a nice peppery heat running through and a deep venison flavour, which really elevated the dish.

And there were proper mushy peas!

Chock Shop

We couldn’t go without talking about these beauties from the Chock Shop:

chock-shop-brownie-display

We returned on three separate occasions, which tells you a lot. These pics will you more:

chock-shop-black-forest

chock-shop-white-chocolate

Each brownie had a crunchy thin topping and a moist centre (we like a bit of gooey) – it was pretty sexy, with the warm chocolate sauce and cream just adding to the filth.

We were both particularly taken by their crunchy peanut butter offering (sorry, we couldn’t wait long enough to take a picture by that point), topped with a sneaky slither of Snicker, but I just wish there was time – and room in my belly – to try them all.

 

I’ve run out of workable pie references

It’s fair to say, I’m not a big fan of jeans right now – and pies are off the menu.

There were so many great places serving food over the festival that I haven’t mentioned, but I can only recommend you head along to an event if you see any of the following in attendance: Smoking Buns (the fries were stunning); The Chai Shop Organic (lovely mellow vegetable korma); Café Dish (fresh-tasting butternut squash and goats cheese tart); Manna (Singapore red curry tofu noodles with a serious chilli kick); Dosa (chilli cheese dosa wrap with masala paneer and a cracker of an onion bhaji); Flavors of Africa (fried plantain to die for); Made of Dough (lovely thin, crispy pizza dough); and Wrappers Delight (thick but light flatbreads packed with falafel, halloumi, hummus and salad).

I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful ales from Wales’ finest independent breweries that also contributed to my weight gain.

But now it’s time for a few weeks of salad 

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from Green Man and to keep up-to-date on our other adventures.

Seren Diemwnt beef main - tower of meat.

The perils of writing an honest food blog: What I’ve learned

Writing a South Wales food blog – and letting my personality loose on social media – was always likely to ruffle a few feathers. Without the desperation for sponsorship revenue, event invites or selfies with the latest chef to appear on Great British Menu, I’ve been liberated to write honest accounts of my dining experiences. But there’s been more than the wrath of an angry restaurateur to deal with…

Note: this blog was last updated on 30/10/2018.

12 August 2018. The date I published my first properly negative review after a disappointing dining experience at Seren Diemwnt – two days later, I shared this post on Twitter:

seren-diemwnt-twitter-joke-post

(Gulp)

Returning from five days of intermittent digital connection (otherwise known as trying to manage my phone’s battery at Green Man 2018) to find my character had been under siege, I realised something: I had a new blog!

From giving up all of my free time to defending myself against false accusations, this is what I’ve learned from food/restaurant blogging (in a very short space of time):

 

It can feel like a second job

(That doesn’t pay.)

I’ve been a music critic for the best part of 15 years. I ran a movie website for nearly four years. I work in digital marketing. I KNOW (what was I thinking?!) how time consuming even the simplest task becomes.

“Creating and publishing our reviews provides the light relief.”

Still, I wasn’t prepared for this amount of commitment – from the initial planning to managing the ‘banter’ on social media, it’s consumed both my own life and Mrs. B.B.’s.

In fact, creating and publishing our reviews has often provided the light relief – and I can assure you, they are significant undertakings.

We’re trying to be as descriptive and professional as possible, so there’s the note-taking and photography throughout the meal; the post meal discussion; draft writing; numerous reviews and edits; photography transfer and edits; website upload; the final proof-read and edits; the fixes when WordPress randomly adds in or removes paragraphs or moves photographs up and down the page… Aargh!!!!

Kicking off with a couple of lengthy travel pieces and trying to keep up the momentum with a couple of blogs a week added up to: we’re knackered!

I’m just glad I abandoned the original intention of developing the website from scratch (yes, I’m also I was learning to code) – even if this WordPress template is a little sensitive INFURIATING!

 

I’ve got a life

I’m as surprised as anyone!

We started with good intentions – to build an extensive library of honest reviews covering the vast majority of restaurants in South Wales. They were going to be insightful, witty…

Hmm, maybe there’s a reason the most prolific writers also produce the least inspired content.

What’s worth sacrificing to dedicate my time and effort to a local food blog?

I could just follow the majority: type out what was on the menu, add ‘it was nice’ or ‘it was good’ (they can’t go lower than that if they want to stay in the PR’s good books!) a few times, and illustrate it with a few filtered photographs.

“I’m not planning to say (under no obligation, of course) how brilliant every meal is.”

But this blog isn’t a vehicle for me to get #invitation meals (my time is worth far more than any Michelin-starred restaurant, so getting a freebie from Park House Restaurant adds little motivation), so I’m not planning to churn out any old review just to ensure I’ve said (under no obligation, of course) how fantastic my meal was.

I also don’t need it for my CV – I’ve been a full-time hack and, without a shadow of a doubt, I have no desire to return to being one.

So if a meal was just ‘nice’, ‘good’, probably not really worth the price but it was ok, then what’s the point? What’s the value to the reader (TripAdvisor will tell you whether a restaurant exists in your chosen location)? More importantly, why I should spend what little spare time I have promoting that restaurant? I’ve paid for my meal after all.

If a meal/experience is particularly special, then I’ll blog about it – I’ll want to champion the restaurant and encourage as many diners as possible to visit.

If it’s awful or nowhere near its lofty reputation (or what the blaggers would have you believe), then I’ll blog about – hopefully, I can save someone a few quid.

If it’s ok, nice, good… well, we’ve got Twitter and Instagram (there’s no way I’m getting Mrs. B.B. off that now!).

Just don’t expect me to keep a regular or consistent schedule.

 

Writing about food can be pretty boring

At the end of the day, it’s just a meal someone has cooked.

Unless a meal is inspired or shocking, it’s a pretty tedious task to have to write about it afterwards.

There are more important things going on in the world, and I have plenty of uncultured opinions on them. When I do find the time, expect a few of them to find their way into ‘Random Burps’.

 

It costs a few quid!

We’ve always spent far too much on food – it’s one of the reasons we wanted to document it. But it’s gone up a level now… Mrs. B.B. has discovered Instagram!

When she’s away, the packed lunches are abandoned in favour of an expensive Instagrammable opportunity:

instagram-penylan-pantry-salad-box

There are other costs, such as the hosting and domain names, as well as lost earnings to factor in – I could be using whatever time I spend here to freelance, and someone would filter my hate mail…

 

I will upset people

I’ll leave Mrs. B.B. out of this one – she’s much nicer than me.

Probably the biggest motivation for this blog was to create something completely independent – uncompromised by event invites, chef fandom or a desire to supplement my income with McDonald’s endorsements (as soon as a review opens with, “the food was complimentary” or “we dined as guests,” it’s completely irrelevant – a ‘show off’ at best).

“As soon as a review opens with, ‘the food was complimentary’ or ‘we dined as guests,’ it’s completely irrelevant.”

Because the existent of this blog means so very little to me in the grand scheme of things, I can say what I want. I can say if a meal at Tommy Heaney’s is shite, if that’s the case; I can highlight the dodgy tactics adopted to elevate a blogger’s status; I can call out a dishonest review…

I’m aware it’s not the way to win friends or social media followers (well, to be fair, if I had the time, I could just sit at my laptop and follow 100 accounts a day and get 4000 followers by Christmas… Err, you really thought those numbers were an indicator of quality?!).

If I want to accurately capture the negative feelings and emotions of paying a small fortune for something subpar, then some may view this as “harsh” or “scathing” (there appears to be more leeway if it’s a chain – as long as you spend a few weeks prior bemoaning the fact you won’t get any PR invites!).

I haven’t received death threats (yet), but…

 

People will get very ANGRY!

Some restaurants are going to feel the need to defend themselves.

I completely understand that these are people’s livelihoods and passions run high. It’s a tough industry: long days, financial pressures, etc. I would be more than a little sensitive in their shoes – and we all saw what happened when Bully’s took umbrage with a no-show (I hope my next meal there is as good as the first and not like the second!).

As a music critic, I’ve been threatened with physical violence on more than one occasion. As a food blogger, there’ll just be plenty of untruths flying around on Twitter to undermine my credibility and make me look like a bad worse person – but more on that in a later blog!

 

We look like massive losers

Mrs. B.B. can come back for this one as she’s the chief culprit here. Mrs. B.B. manages Instagram – hence it’s more positive in tone and you get to look at lovely pictures like these:

instagram-seren-diemwnt-dessert-praise

(Even if the other five courses were poor…)

The time we spend photographing each dish, from every possible angle, is ridiculous – but when you’ve got our phone cameras, you need at least 10 shots to guarantee one usable image.

Other diners must wonder what on earth is going on!

Ah, no – everyone wants a sexy shot to show off Instagram these days, so nobody’s noticed. Phew!

 

Social media – I’m on shaky ground

Social media – and Twitter specifically – is an extension of my personality.

That part of me that likes a bit of a wind up and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Not everyone will ‘get it’ (the wife still doesn’t and it’s been nine years) – the social media manager at Wales Online certainly didn’t seem to appreciate my ribbing.

Sometimes my comments will be inappropriate, sometimes they’ll rub people up the wrong way, sometimes people are just too sensitive, sometimes they’ll have an agenda to be too sensitive (more on that below)… But I’d rather have a few hundred followers who appreciate it’s genuine vs. following a few thousand people who follow me back in the hope our elevated numbers will earn us a guest invite to the next pop-up…

 

Watch your back!

Seren Diemwnt’s reaction… Well, I’d have preferred they spent more time mocking the size of my…

…Twitter following!

seren-diemwnt-twitter-size-diss

vs. posting a number of untruths… But at least it was understandable – and expected.

The behaviour of a couple of Cardiff-based food bloggers was an eye-opener.

Keen to capitalise on the momentum generated from the initial Tweet (liking and posting comments in kind – in fact, some of the comments made me feel for the restaurant, and I had to eat their food!), they suddenly switched allegiances. Stirring the pot and ratifying the false statements posted online by the restaurant.

One even unfollowed me (shame, I’m sure she had been keen to hear what I had to say… alongside those other 5500 accounts she follows?!). And after joining in with the initial criticisms, went as far as to endorse the restaurant… based on a pop-up night… with a completely different chef…

Err…

 

Some bloggers take things way too seriously

I thought musicians had egos. A blogger with 5000 followers – now that’s something to behold. I’m just glad their influence only extends as far as their fellow blaggers – and a few foodies in Cathays!

Let’s be honest, when I first published this blog, I knew why these bloggers allies had behaved in such an underhand manner. But I was happy to play along and speculate as to their motivations.

Since then, A Rare Welsh Bit contacted this blog to confirm that her actions were the result of a light-hearted comment I made on an Instagram post she was paid to place by McDonald’s (or to quote, “the negative comments you left on my Instagram post a few weeks back may have had something to do with it”).

Wow.

Really?!

Wow.

Now, a better person than me (well, someone who is worried about losing out on PR invites) would just laugh it off.

Don’t get me wrong, I have found it very amusing.

But it does baffle me that the person who is now running Cardiff Blogs (a channel/group that is supposed to create an inclusive community for all bloggers to support their endeavours) not only sought to damage the credibility of a new blogger because they didn’t toe the line, but then censored them.

Why? Because I was drawing attention to something that she wanted to keep a secret?

Am I that much of a threat? (Even with my measly 400 followers?!)

It’s not just one account – and it’s not just me.

I do enjoy the comedic value provided by a passive (or just downright) aggressive Twitter comment or private message, but I also find it sad that some bloggers are that insecure – come on, just pay for your food!

It has created more questions about cliques and transparency in the food and travel blogging communities.

Ultimately, I’ll do what I want, when I want. The rest of the time, I’ll be noshing on average grub!

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Next: Who can you trust?

Heck sausages cooking on a pink BBQ

Mr. B.B. gets his pink Barbie out to play at Hideaway Campsite… Oh, Heck!

Our first (hopefully not our last) camping trip of 2018. Two tents (just in case), a pink bucket BBQ, pack of sausages, beer and prosecco – let’s rock’n’roll…

After a lengthy internet search (well, the length of the England v Sweden World Cup quarter final – zzzzzzzzzzz!) for campsites that fit my specific requirements – i.e. small with cute animals nearby – the Hideaway Campsite near Narberth in Pembrokeshire sounded promising.

 

So how well is Hideaway hidden?

Hideaway Campsite is located at Whitley Farm, about quarter-of-a-mile down a track, just off the A478 in to Narberth. Well sign-posted off the road, further signs along the track reassure you that your destination is nearing.

No sign of life at the farmhouse when we arrived – besides the dog who was trying to hitch a lift – we did spot a sign that informed us we could pitch up if we’d pre-booked (we had, through pitchup.com). Otherwise, it’s ring the bell and make your presence known!

The big appeal was the strictly tents only policy and just 10 pitches – there were 3 left when we arrived, although it took us a few hours to spot two of the signs, so we didn’t really have a choice.

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It’s a decent size field but you can still hear other campers – we strategically placed the car to create a private area for ourselves. In fact, the only life we could then see were these friendly creatures:

hideaway-field-fence-sheep-grazing

…and to be fair, they made most of the noise!

We were on a slight slope (the downside of arriving later in the day and lose the prime spots), but not enough to risk human pile up at one end of the tent. Generally, the field was flat and well maintained.

 

How strong is the tent – and our marriage?

Eager to get set-up and relax in the natural surroundings (and, for Mr. B.B., to crack open one of the ambers he’d bought en-route), we quickly put our marriage to the test – i.e. it was time to erect the tent!

And it was the big boy – the four-manner which we last used about 3 years ago!

We weren’t confident we could do it (we brought the 3-man as an emergency back-up just in case), let alone if we’d be on speaking terms for the rest of the evening (we brought the 3-man as an emergency back-up just in case)… But… we had it up in record time (well, quicker than the first and only time three years ago). Go Team H!

big-blue-tent-field-grass

 

It was playtime!

It was too late to walk into Narberth (and we didn’t fancy the long walk down the narrow farm track and main road – shame there’s no shortcut through the fields), so Mr. B.B. popped open his first cold beverage of the evening and I eagerly (you may want to say childishly) ran down to say hello to the farm animals.

Three alpacas with an attitude problem (although looking very cute after their summer shave), a pair of friendly Shetland ponies, two ostriches, one very large pot-belly pig, two bunnies and a coup of chickens were in in residence.

Mr B.B.’s highlights:

My highlights:

campsite-field-animals-alpaca-pet

97% perfection

Once I had satisfied my curiosity grown up, I returned to find Mr H. playing with his pink Barbie.

Clearly not feeling the need to prove his cave-manliness, Mr B.B. had also gone for instant light charcoal so our meatylicious sausages (we checked the content of every Morrisons sold pack of sausages and Heck seem to be in a league of the own – 97% pork!) were already coming along nicely

The sun was out, a cool breeze was blowing, the sheep were baaing (and trying to steal Mr B.B.’s beers – more on that later), and Mr. B.B. was on BBQ and DJ duties (well, his phone was connected to two mobile speakers and Spotify was on shuffle).

To complete this contented scene, I proceeded to indulge in a nicely chilled bottle of prosecco:

camping-prosecco-glass-table-view

The sausages were charred but wonderfully moist – and went surprisingly well with the garlic butter (the only option at Morrisons if we didn’t want to consume or bin the best part of 200g). We also couldn’t resist the soft cheesy rolls – or a good helping of ketchup.

hot-cooking-barbeque-pork-sausagesbarbeque-sausage-ketchup-fresh-bap

Ah, the simple life…

 

Beer + flip flops + woodland = why am I here?

After our sausage feast I wanted to join our friend in the next field for a nap.

sleep-asleep-field-grass-tired

But, Mr. B.B. had renewed energy and wanted a little adventure by exploring the farm’s small woodland.

In flip flops!

I’ve no idea why I followed Mr B.B. along the overgrown path of soft leaf-strewn ground (probably teeming with spiders) and brambles in inappropriate footwear.

Fortunately, the wood is so small (or perhaps it just turned into complete wilderness, it was hard to tell) that the danger didn’t last too long, before we came out to say hello to this fine-looking chap:

big-fat-hairy-pig-muck

We returned to our abode (surprisingly, without any broken bones – although a thorn had pierced through Mr. B.B.’s right flip flop stopping just before his foot – lucky boy!) to be entertained by the neighbouring sheep who were enjoying a good scratch on the fence.

One cheeky youngster even attempted a grab at the empties lined up along the fence ready for binning (I was happy to find a glass recycling bin on site!) – clearly ready to wean off its mother’s milk and try something stronger.

 

Early birds ensure early birds

After nightfall, the campsite was exactly what I had hoped for – i.e. peaceful… well, until 4am.

Those cute cockerels I’d clocked earlier in the evening got a bit mouthy in the early hours. They were cock-a-doodle-doing it with gusto – only stopping once the sheep stirred at around 5am to take over the racket.

For me, it’s all part of the camping experience – but I could imagine some fellow campers lying there cursing.

As early risers we were the first to use the facilities: a single toilet and single shower.

The toilet and free shower were both housed in their own little cabin room.  The toilet was very clean, loo roll was adequately stocked, and hand wash was also readily available.

toiler-shower-building-table-chair.gif

I didn’t use the shower myself, but Mr. B.B. reliably informs me that it was surprisingly powerful and clean, although he did have to share it with a few creepy crawlies (including a spider on the shower curtain!).

Post 7.30am, a queue did start forming for the facilities, so we were glad we’d already moved on to our Shredded Wheat.

camping-breakfast-bowl-cereal-milk

Also available were use of a communal freezer and phone charge point, pot wash, dog wash, and small kids play area. I believe BBQs and fire pits were available to hire and coal and/or logs for sale on site.

It was only a short stay, but Hideaway made a good impression overall. It was easy to book, well-priced (just £16.50 per pitch – max 4 adults and kids tents for free), and the location made us feel like… well, that we were in our own little hideaway. 

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