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Restaurant reviews

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Bistro 1847’s new menu*

    We all know the story; vegetarian food has had a bad reputation as being stodgy plates of food either gracing the righteous movement and full of lentils or being distinctly ordinary food minus the meat.  Then along comes along chefs who actually seemed to know what they’re doing.  I don’t know about you, but I’m bored of the cliche.  And that’s where Bistro 1847 comes in.  Since opening in Manchester, and then in Birmingham last year, they’ve joined a wave of restaurants redefining what we know of vegetarian cuisine.  And thankfully so.

    When they first opened in Brum their menu, a standard a la carte affair, was playful, quirky and the meat wasn’t so much missing as never really invited to the party to start with.  However their new concept has gone a little further with two menus.  The ‘Grazing, Sharing and Exploring’ menu has a range of smaller dishes which are designed to encourage a more communal dining experience, similar to tapas.  The First Date – Taste of 1847 menu is, as the name suggests, a taster menu which compromises of five courses during the week and seven course taster menu on Fridays and Saturdays.

    Eager to see what Bistro 1847 had up their sleeves, I went down mid-week and samples some dishes from their Grazing, Sharing and Exploring menu.  It’s recommended to have 2 – 3 dishes per person, so my guest and I tried six of them between us: Tarragon polenta crisp, pickled wild mushroom, goats’ curd, baby aubergine, tahini and petals; Baby heritage potato, crispy bean curd skin, carrot seedlings, breakfast radish, onion ash and textures of coconut; Crispy potato & Old Winchester dumpling, herbed sauce, toffee apple, mead reduction, caramelised celery and foraged herbs; Heritage tomato & preserved lemon, pearl barley with Yorkshire fettle; Beer-battered halloumi, seashore herbs, mushy pea emulsion, smoked lemon curd, gin pickled shallots; and Garden pea mousse, broad bean, Yorkshire fettle and sesame filo shards.

    Each of the dishes was beautifully presented, think more a molecular-gastronomy and fine-dining than soggy mushroom pastry.  A particular favourite was the baby heritage potato, crispy bean curd skin, carrot seedlings, breakfast radish, onion ash and textures of coconut, which had a delicious laksa style taste, moreish yet satisfying.  The Tarragon polenta crisp, pickled wild mushroom, goats’ curd, baby aubergine, tahini and petals dish was truly lovely, but somewhat confusing as it felt like a dish which straddled main course and pudding, being quite sweet and therefore somewhat confusing on the palate.

    We spoke to Bistro 1847’s development chef, Alex Claridge, who said that the menu had been designed, with careful consideration, to take advantage of seasonal and foraged produce.  Each dish had a number of components which were designed to complement each other and for the most part they did superbly.  The only item we found that didn’t really seem to add much to the overall dish was the toffee apple, which didn’t have much apple flavour, though with the crispy potato and cheese dumplings were delightful by themselves.

    The puddings have a similar sharing element to them, suggesting 2 – 3 dishes between two people.  We were quite full after six dishes for dinner so opted for two between us; the Peanut brittle, slow-roast pineapple, Hoxton gin snow, white chocolate crème fraiche; and Foraged blackberry & almond sponges with hay cream.  The peanut brittle and white chocolate creme fraiche were delightful, interesting and unusual and very in-keeping with the innovative new menu.  The blackberry and almond sponge was a little more conventional, something you might expect to see on a standard menu but still perfectly pleasant.  Although we were too full to order it, we saw an Allotment Aero pass by, which looked high on the whimsy scale and definitely worth trying next time.

    I was already a fan of Bistro 1847’s stellar efforts to showcase vegetarian food as a cuisine in its own right, but their new menu is something else.  Whilst the taster menu might have the moniker First Date, this is a place to savour and enjoy over and over again…we certainly fell in love again like it was the first time.

    http://bistro1847.com/

    Bistro 1847 invited us down to try the new menu free of charge in return for an honest review – we were not obliged to write a positive review but were pleased to do so.  The views expressed here remain my own (with some input from my guest) and the photos are mine too.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Review: Revolution Birmingham’s new food menu

    Broad St wouldn’t be my first thought for a food destination in the city.  With its heavy concentration of pubs and bars, I can see why a lot of people head to it at weekends to drink and dance the night away, so when I was invited to Revolution Birmingham to check out their new food menu I was curious.

    photo 1 (1)The new menu has been developed by executive chef, Mark Rush and his team, and has an Americana inspiration, which is evident when you look at the menu – there’s burgers, nachos, burritos and pizzas, diner food meets Tex-Mex.  They’ve also upped the amount of food that can be easily shared – sliders, a selection of small plates and three types of chicken sharers (fried, on the bone, and grilled).

    After quizzing our waiter on the new menu, I opted for the Sliders.  My housemate, who’s American and therefore surely qualified to judge the authenticity of Tex-Mex food, went for the Chicken Burrito.  We also ordered a portion of skinny fries and on recommendation, fat chips with chorizo ketchup.

    photo 2

    I was a little surprised by the presentation of the sliders.  The buns looked liked they’d been cut out of larger ones, which was certainly rustic but didn’t offer a great first impression.  The meat patties looked homemade, which is a plus, and though crispier on the outside that I’ve have liked they were juicy.  One slider was topped with pulled pork, which was moist and had a lovely light sweet-BBQ taste.  The skinny fries were as all skinny fries are, perfectly adequate.  My housemate said the chicken burrito was warming, tasty and filling, although the spicy red rice was a little too much and could’ve done with some more salsa to balance it out.  We both agreed the fat chips and chorizo sauce were delicious – the sauce had a smoky tasty which would’ve gone equally well with nachos, and the chips were crunchy yet fluffy, definitely the best choice for chips on the menu.

    photo 3

    Although quite full, I was curious by the Chocolate & Blueberry Fluffwhich – think a sort of eggy bread sandwich stuffed with chocolate sauce and marshmallow fluff, with a blueberry sauce dip.  Our waiter cautioned us to give the blueberry sauce a try before pouring it over our fluffwich, and he was right to do so, it was tart and contrasted the creaminess of the chocolate and marshmallow, which I enjoyed but I could easily see this being off-putting for chocoholics.  Though described as a sweet batter, it didn’t weigh the dough down and had a sort of eggy bread thing going for it, which really worked.

    With bars up and down the country, it’s clear Revolution have hit upon a concept which allows people move from dining to drinking with ease.  Whilst Broad St might not be a destination spot for me, Revolution would be a good place to start your night off there and line your stomach…and I might even be tempted to forgo the popcorn at the nearby cinema and pop in for a fluffwich instead.

    http://www.revolution-bars.co.uk/

    Disclosure: My meal was provided for free by Revolution bar. I was under no obligation to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    EastzEast Birmingham

    Birmingham is synonymous with curry, so opening an Indian restaurant in the heart of the city was always going to be a brave thing to do.  But with successful restaurants in Manchester and Liverpool and plenty of awards under their belt, EastZEast opened on Broad St early last month.

    With around 200 covers, it’s a large restaurant but the contemporary interior is nicely balanced so it feels welcoming yet still has a sense of occasion.  The menu is also impressive; billed as ‘the home of punjabi cooking’ there are a lot of familiar dishes on the menu but there is also a section of traditional Punjabi Desi dishes which are perhaps less familiar.

    We started with an array of appetisers.  The EastzEast Mixed Starter for two includes lamb chops, fish tikka, seekh kebabs, chicken wings, and samosas.  It’s a lot of food, but each item feels like it’s been carefully thought through and the spices and flavours for each item give it a lovely, individual taste.  The fish, cod, was light and still retained moisture, but the spices gave it a lovely taste and whilst lamb chops might seem like an strange addition, it oddly worked.  I also tried the Vegetable Mixed Starter with aloo tikka, mushroom pakora, paneer pakora, mixed vegetable pakora and aloo pakora.  It sounds like a lot of pakora (aka fried food), but again it felt like each was give careful attention to detail.  I had a lovely slice of aubergine, which had been fried but retained its flavour without being greasy.  The paneer was chunky, yet utterly delicious.

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    I love bread, so the arrival of a table/family naan was welcomed.  As table naan should be it was an impressive sight and though they can sometimes be a bit disappointingly dry, this wasn’t.  We also tried some of the smaller flavoured naan, which are well worth getting if you don’t want to share your bread.

    As I mentioned before, there are a number of main courses, some familiar and some not.  We tried a lovely Biryani, which had a lovely lightness to it, rather than a heavy stodgy which some can befall.  A particular favourite dish was the Keema Aloo Mutter, a minced rice, potato and peas; medium spiced which gave it a good flavour without overpowering the individual ingredients, this was one I’d be happy to eat again.  Our table was too full so I didn’t write down the names but we also tried some seafood dishes that usually I’d steer clear of in curry-houses, but these were delightful.

    27  29

    Sadly I had to leave at this point so I didn’t get to try and of the desserts, but if the starters and mains were anything to go by they’d be well worth trying.  EastzEast has an impressive menu, which offers a great variety that is all well executed.  It also caters well for vegetarians and points out the dishes that contain cream as well as more healthy options.  Whilst the Balti Belt might be the go-to for a casual curry in Brum, EastZEast is well worth checking out in you’re in the city centre and looking for something authentic, that suits a variety of tastes.

    http://eastzeast.com/

    Disclosure: I was invited down by Delicious PR to help eat the props after a promotional photo-shoot.  I wasn’t obliged to write a positive review, all views are my own.  Photos by Jas Sansi – https://www.facebook.com/jassansi.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Review: Sushi Passion Birmingham

    The countdown to the opening of Sushi Passion in Birmingham was like an advent calendar with most of my friends.  Either through rumour, recommendation or just sheer excitement, we’ve all been a bit excited about this place opening..with constant updates since the sign when on the door.

    Mere days after it opened (I’m delayed in blogging, sorry) some friends and I went to see what the Great Western Arcade’s newest resident had to offer.  Unlike its bustling, but tiny, sister venue in the Indoor Market, there’s something delightfully serene about this place.  With enough to sit around 35 people there’s a mix of traditional Japanese-style lower seating, standard table-and-chairs and also seats at the bar.  We were sat at the bar which was a good view of the restaurant, the chefs and the slightly ominous mannequin in full samurai get-up…and the train; love a good train in a restaurant, which also proved to be useful in delivering miso soup.

    There’s a nice range of sushi, both in variety and prices, and enough description that if you’re not a connoisseur you’ll still be able to order – thankfully!  Two of us went for a couple of the meal deals, priced at about £14 and £20 approximately, which I foolishly forgot to write down what they were…so here’s a photo of it instead:

    IMG_3818.JPG

    The presentation was simple but effective and we’d managed to order enough food between the two of us for about three people.  But it can’t just be us who are never really sure how much sushi you can manage in one sitting.  And it was very enjoyable.  I’d like to pretend that I know more about sushi other than it’s tasty, but really I’m still learning.  And with Sushi Passion round the corner from work, I can see this being a thorough lesson indeed.

    Sushi Passion’s Facebook page

    Cafe reviews, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Shirley High St

    It feels a bit lazy writing this all as one blogpost, but having only really dipped my toes into the delights Shirley has to offer it feels right.  For years Shirley High St has been a bit, well, rubbish.  I remember trips to the Bank of Ireland as a child as my mum once inexplicably held an account there, waiting in the car because there was simply nothing else to do.  Fast-forward a few years and other than venturing to the rather delightful Crust, a pizzeria which is really worth a trip, I hadn’t bothered with the high st for years.  But the Parkgate development seems to have brought a new lease of life to Shirley, and in the last month or so, I’ve visited twice for lunch.

    photo 3On my first visit it was lunch at Desco Lounge, part of the Loungers group, which also has venues in Kings Heath and Harborne.  Despite having one on my doorstep, I don’t really visit a lot, but my mum wanted to go for lunch and as she was paying I wasn’t arguing.  The Loungers venues in Brum have this whole faux-shabby-chic thing going for them, but the high ceilings at Desco give it more grandeur.  I went for their Jambalaya, which was a little disappointing.  The chorizo was, at points, tougher than I’d like and the inclusion of the chicken on top of the rice mixture meant it lacked flavour.  The jamba itself was very spicy, a little too spicy for me, but still pretty tasty.  My mum went for a Goat’s Cheese salad, which she said was one of the best she’d had in a long time.

    photo 5After some errands we stopped for coffee.  Shirley has an assortment of chain coffee shops and my health conscious mother had vetoed the idea of trying Shake, Waffle & Roll, but did point out her new favourite place to stop for coffee – a furniture charity shop.  No, seriously.  Betel has a restored furniture shop on the high st which has some lovely pieces…and also a charming little coffee shop.  I asked for a soya milk latte, which given the size of the shop I wasn’t convinced they’d have, and they couldn’t be more accommodating.  Also, a Christmas mug…these people know their customers well (I LOVE Christmas).  The foam on the latte was luxurious and the coffee delicious. Top marks.  I’m looking forward to going back and trying some of their cakes, many of which cater for food intolerances.

    photo 4

    Our second visit saw us at Pizza Express.  We both went for the Warm Vegetable and Goats Cheese Salad, only I had mine minus the goat’s cheese and with chicken.  With aubergine, red & yellow peppers, roasted tomatoes, artichoke, cucumber, Italian lentils, mint and basil this was another of those salads-I-don’t-hate; full of flavour and texture, with plenty of veg and just a little bit of lettuce – very enjoyable.

    Just like my mum and her banking, Shirley high st has moved with the times.  There are some interesting places to eat and it’s developing a nice buzz.

    Well done Shirley, I’ll be back soon.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Revolution Birmingham’s Cocktail Masterclass

    A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a cocktail masterclass with some fellow Birmingham-based food and lifestyle bloggers.  Having previously worked for a cocktail bar in a non-bartending role I felt a bit like a spy, but the aim of the game was to make some drinks and have some fun, so that was soon forgotten.

    cosmosandflames

    We were introduced to our bartender for the class, Michael, who was charming, friendly and made sure our group had a lot of fun – not easy when most of us had just met that night.  Revolution had also laid on some canapes from their new menu to complement the drinks we were sampling too.

    We started the night with a Strawberry Woo-Woo.  Not my favourite cocktail, I find the raspberry vodka, peach liqueur, strawberry and cranberry mix a bit too sweet, but it’s a fairly inoffensive drink to get the evening underway.   This was paired with a cheese bon bon, which actually sort of worked.

    Up first was possibly the world’s most well known drink, the Mojito.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to take this drink seriously after hearing “slap it, rim it, stick it in it” used in response to the mint (also, bit confused by the addition of puree to the drink, which I’ve not seen before).  The pairing of the Mojito with tempura prawn was an excellent choice, however.  Next, another well-known drink, the Cosmopolitan, was paired with a tortilla chip and guacamole, which wasn’t nearly as interesting as watching the bartender teach us to flame orange over the drink.  The dairy-ladened Tennessee Mud Shake wasn’t for me, but its sickly-sweetness seemed to leave the rest of the group impressed.

    groupchallenge2

    If that was the theory, it was time to put our lesson into practice and make our own drinks!  I’d found all the previous drinks too sweet for my tastes so I opted to make a more classic cocktail; a Whisky Sour using Monkey Shoulder whisky, egg white, lemon and a dash of bitters. Yum!  We passed around each other’s drinks to give people a chance to try them all and when we were suitably merry it was time for the party games, which were particularly entertaining considering most of us had only just met.

    Finishing the evening was a Revolution classic – a line of flavoured vodka shots balanced on top of glasses, domino style.  We were told Revolution has its own vodka factory up north which makes a lot of the flavoured vodkas – though thankfully none of us had to try the chilli vodka.

    shot-train

    There’s no denying it this masterclass is a lot of fun.  Sure, if you want to learn the history of cocktails this isn’t going to be the class for you and there were a few slip-ups with info.  But if you’re looking for a fun activity for a hen/stag do or a birthday then this is a good way to start the night.

    Masterclasses start from £24.95 per person and there’s more information at their website:  http://www.revolution-bars.co.uk/cocktail-masterclass/

    Disclosure: I attended the masterclass free of charge but was under no obligation to write a positive review – all opinions are my own, as are the photos (please don’t use them without permission).

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Five Guys in Birmingham

    I love burgers.  Deliciously juicy meat sandwiched between fresh, fluffy bread; there’s just something so simple but mouthwatering comforting about a good burger.  I’ve tried a lot of burgers in my time, but when I heard American burger chain, Five Guys, was coming to Birmingham I was excited.

    Located in the epicentre of the city’s shopping centre, The Bullring, Five Guys have taken over the old Del Villagio location and turning it into a traditional red-and-white checkered burger joint.  All that white and bright lights feels a bit of a mix of clinical and greasy spoon, but it’s not the venue we’re here for, it’s the burgers and it feels like that’s what the decor is getting at.  And if you don’t get it straight away, all the glowing reviews and soundbites on the wall will spell it out for you.

    Anyway, the food.  The menu is pretty simple; burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and fries.  There are a few variations, but the main thing is the toppings of which there are many, 15 to be precise.  I opted for a regular burger with BBQ sauce, lettuce and mushrooms; regular fries; and a soft drink, which came to £13.25.  Once ordering you walk round the counter and wait for your food.  Or rather visit the drinks machine whilst your food is being cooked.

    I probably should’ve been marvelling at the Fordist-machine-line preparation of my food, but the drinks machine had me mesmerised.  Said to have 100+ drinks options I can well believe it and I went for Diet Coke with vanilla and cherry, which was just delicious.  If I ever win the lottery I want one of those installed in my house.  Oh yes, and there’s free refills.

    After a short wait watching the production line put together my food I wondered how well this works on a busy Saturday lunchtime, but more pressing was the guy on the fries counter who was portioning chips into drinks cups and then adding another portion and a half into the bags.  If you thought £4 was steep for a regular fries, you’d be mistaken – it’s actually a pretty good deal considering what you get for your money.

    After collecting my grease-spattered brown bag I took a pew and dived in.  I’d heard stories that the fries were over-seasoned and I didn’t find this to be the case; I thought they were pretty good with or without sauce, but I think it’s probably personal preference – personally I like someone else to sort it out for me.  The burger, wrapped in tin-foil didn’t look like the messiah of burgers I was expecting, but tasted pretty good.  I was a little disappointed at the amount of BBQ sauce particularly as there wasn’t any sandwiched between the two patties (I didn’t realise a regular burger had two of them).  But it certainly wasn’t the worst burger I’ve ever had; I’m just not sure it was the best either.

    Overall the experience was fine – think the environment of fast-food queue & wait mixed with the quality of gourmet/handmade co/kitchen style burger restaurants.  I wasn’t blown away by my experience, but I didn’t feel particularly short-changed either.  I just expected something a little more wow.  Five Guys is a welcome addition to the city and I’m sure I’ll be back, I just can’t see myself making a special trip to go.

    https://www.fiveguys.co.uk/