Category Archives: Cardiff Stuff

Mary Poppins at the Wales Millennium Centre – Practically Perfect!

For one nine year old girl, it has been a l-o-o-n-g few days. Exhausted from a busy first term in Year 5, and then last week her school concert and drama club Christmas showcase, she has been looking paler by the day. There were moments this week, as she dissolved into tired tears over nothing at all, that I had my doubts as to whether a late night seeing Mary Poppins at the Wales Millennium Centre was a wise move.

I’m so glad that she persuaded me otherwise, with promises of early nights for evermore (ha, we’ll see how that goes!) and even an offer to write a review herself ‘because that would be really good for my English, Mum’. Her written review may or may not be forthcoming – but we’ve had a pretty much non stop verbal review since the minute the curtain came down, mostly along the lines of ‘Best. Night. Ever.’

And you know what, for a tired little girl and her frazzled mother, it really was. From the second the curtain went up to reveal the chimneys of Cherry Tree Lane and Bert – lovely Bert – chin-chim-cheree-ing, we were captivated.

The set alone was truly outstanding. Cherry Tree Lane opened out like a doll’s house, inviting us to get up close and personal with Banks family and their trials and tribulations, starting of course with Katie-Nana’s sudden departure and the apparently doomed quest for the perfect nanny. When Mary Poppins arrives, as we know she will, the children are whisked spit-spot up to the nursery and here we’re given a first taste of the Mary Poppins magic, including the bottomless carpet bag as well as the tape measure pronouncing Mary Poppins to be Practically Perfect, and Michael and Jane to be, uh, well, not.

From here the production intertwines familiar and favourite aspects of the film with newer songs and situations written specifically for the stage musical – this has the effect of making the story wonderfully comforting and familiar, while holding the audience in thrall to the next adventure, not knowing quite how or where it might occur.  There was plenty to engage adults, not least in the world of work as Mr Banks reflects that ‘making money from money’ does not seem to bode well for the future; but of course the lessons about what children really need from their parents are the most poignant – I’m sure that I wasn’t the only adult in the audience resolving to fly more kites, be they metaphorical or real.

The energy level of the show was amazing from start to finish – while the songs themselves would have carried the show, the choreography really took it to another level; how the cast managed nearly three hours without appearing to fade even a little bit is beyond me. There were a few gasp-out-loud moments which had my girl (and, ahem, me) enthralled in our seats – but no spoilers here!

While my girl’s favourite part of the show was the high-octane Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the standouts for me were ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ (look out for yet another fantastic set), and ‘Step in Time’. The number that we’ve both been humming along to today though is one that doesn’t appear in the film, ‘Anything can Happen (if you let it)’. It was a wonderfully uplifting song to end the evening on, and we left with the thought that though the show was over, the magic needn’t be. And in these times, that’s a truly lovely thing.

**HUGE thanks to the Wales Millennium Centre who gave us a chance to enjoy the magic of Mary Poppins**


Mary Poppins at the Wales Millennium Centre

Mary Poppins.

Even just saying the name is enough to bring back my childhood, and my worn out copy of P.L.Travers‘ first Mary Poppins book (I never loved the others quite so much). My sisters and I watched the film as often as repeats on TV would allow (must explain to my kids the concept of telly-NOT-on demand sometime) and we listened to the LP over and over again, becoming word and action perfect. I do not know how old I was when I stopped secretly hoping that it would one day be possible to clean our wreck of a bedroom with a finger click and a spoonful of metaphorical sugar, but I suspect it was far older than I’d care to admit.

Of course I did eventually grow out of hoping that Mary Poppins would descend from the sky, and also realised quite how loooong and weird the film actually is, and that was that. Right up until I found myself having had three kids in a little under four and a half years. And then, believe me, a random umbrella wielding nanny bringing a sense of order to my life was ALL I hoped for. For months, possibly years.  (I may or may not have tried clicking my fingers frantically at the mess through a post natal haze of tears. Certainly nobody saw me do it, so, uh, probably I didn’t).

I’ll tell you what I did do most definitely do though, was a little dance of joy when the Wales Millennium Centre contacted me to ask if I’d like to bring one of the kids to see Mary Poppins next week. Not only because I’ll get to sing along to all my childhood favourites, but also because it will be a lovely treat for my ever patient girl-in-the-middle who in her own way, does an awful lot of Mary Poppinsing and smoothing over between her brothers. What a lovely way to start the Christmas Holidays!

If you fancy a bit of chimchimney magic and a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious evening out to boot, you can book to see the show at the Wales Millennium Centre here – it’s on from December 14th – January 14th 2017. Enjoy!

**Disclosure – the WMC kindly invited me to see Mary Poppins free of charge in return for a review**


Purple Poppadom, Cardiff – Review

One of the really lovely things about this blogging lark is that sometimes, extra special treats come your way, and one such treat appeared on the horizon recently when the Millennium Hotel Group asked me to pick my favourite thing to do in Cardiff for their popular Millennium Guide.

I did think long and hard (well, for about 30 seconds) about choosing a family experience that we could enjoy with the kids, since this blog is technically mostly about them. But then the voice of reason pointed out that this might be a perfect opportunity for the Husband and I to actually spend some time together, in a date night type fashion. Get us!

It didn’t take long to choose our favourite Cardiff activity – we both love eating out (or used to, before it became a wallet busting test of logistics, patience and endurance) and we both love Indian food. There’s no shortage of excellent curry houses in Cardiff but our absolute favourite is Chef Anand George’s award winning ‘The Purple Poppadom‘, which has been reviewed in glowing terms by Jay Rayner for the Observer among others, and which also gained a spot in the 2014 Michelin Guide.

If you’re visiting Cardiff, the Purple Poppadom is right in the middle of what Jay Rayner called ‘the endearingly scuffed Canton district’.  Very handy indeed for us endearingly-scuffed type people who live in Canton,  however it’s also an easy 20 minute walk from the centre of town, and well worth the trip. And what better than a brisk walk to set you up for the feast that awaits you!

The à la carte menu is a mixture of familiar sounding dishes along with more unusual options, and seafood is strongly represented, not least in Chef Anand’s signature dish, Tiffin Seabass. I’m indecisive with food choices at the best of times, however help was at hand with the newly introduced 5 course Christmas Tasting Menu which offered a mouthwatering range of dishes, along with suggestions for the best wine to match each course – great if (like me) you’re nervous with a wine list!

Our amuse-bouche (delicious) was followed by Tiffin Cup Hake – named for being the dish that won the prestigious Tiffin Cup earlier this year. The hake was served delicately balanced on a bed of tapioca mash, surrounded by a coconut and smoked tamarind sauce, and a petite naan that literally melted in the mouth – it was a million miles from any naan I have tasted before!

A platter of tandoori chicken, curried lamb ball, pig’s tenderloin sheekh and Bombay Chat followed – this sounds an overwhelming dish but in fact the portions are the perfect size for enjoying the different tastes and textures; the dish was complemented by another petite naan, this one laced with garlic.

The penultimate dish was Varutharachia Beef, served with rice and thoran – the latter is a sort of dry curry made with cabbage, carrot and coconut. Light, crunchy and flavoursome, this offered a perfect contrast to the richness of the beef; I enjoyed it so much that I’ve even found a recipe so I can give it a go at home for my packed lunches – not that my efforts will be anywhere near as special as Chef Anand’s but hey, a girl can dream!

Though the five course menu is undoubtedly a lot more food than I’d ever usually eat in one sitting, the sensible spacing of the courses meant that we were still able to do justice to the final course – and wow, what a final course it was! Have a look at the picture at the end of the post – in case you’re wondering, that is in fact a triangle shaped bomb of chocolate ganache – flanked by a crême brulée and a piece of tandoori pineapple – oh my goodness, perfection on a plate.

At this point Chef Anand popped out to say hello – I must admit to being a little starstruck by this! I needn’t have been nervous – like the whole Purple Poppadom team, he was absolutely lovely, and was very keen to know our thoughts on the new menu, particularly whether we thought that five courses was the right amount for a meal. I was amazed to learn that due to customer demand, a seven course menu was also available – I honestly do not think I could have managed another mouthful, let alone another two courses!

An evening at The Purple Poppadom is so much more than a curry.  It’s a very special treat indeed, and one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Cardiff. And if you live here, and you’ve not visited yet, then take it from me – you’re missing out!


Purple Poppadom Cardiff

**Disclosure – Millennium Hotels and The Purple Poppadom invited me to a meal in exchange for an honest writeup for the Millennium Guide to Cardiff**