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Broad St

    Masterclasses, Reviews

    Revolution Birmingham’s cocktail masterclass

    enjoy_frappe_blue_cocktail

    I was talking to someone the other day about looking back on old blog posts; one of my earliest posts was on the cocktail masterclass at Revolution Bar on Broad St, so when they mentioned that they’d revamped their and asked me to come along, I thought it would be a great chance to compare and contrast.

    To start off the class we had a Bubblegum Daiquiri which was singularly the most disco cocktail I’ve seen in a while, what with it being bright blue and in a frappe style plastic glass and garnished with flying saucers.  It was pretty sweet, as a lot of flavoured daiquiris tend to be, and whilst not something I’ve overly keen on, the sweet-toothed will no doubt adore.

    mixing_mojitos

    Cocktail masterclasses are those things which really work well if you’re in a group of friends, celebrating someone’s birthday or as a hen/stag do.  As a blogger you tend to get thrown together with a group of people you might or might not know, but thankfully it was a great group of girls and Paul the bartender hosting the masterclass made everyone feel relaxed and made sure we all had fun.

    Now, I used to book in cocktail masterclasses in a previous job and the question I got asked the most was “How much alcohol will we get” which always used to annoy me, because if it’s volumes of alcohol you’re after then go drink cheap spirits in a park.  If you want to get merry whilst having fun and doing an activity, then masterclasses are a great way to go.  But even if you’re not drinking they can still be a lot of fun, and during our masterclass one of the group was a little wary how much alcohol would be flowing so started off with non-alcoholic cocktails, which Revs were pretty chilled about.

    pipette_cocktails

    Each of us got to have a got at making a cocktail, from the well known Cosmopolitan and Mojito (or super-fruit mojito for a non-alcoholic version), through to a Guava Colada.  One of the drinks, the Blank Canvas, seems to take inspiration from the molecular mixology craze that went round a few years back; it’s essentially a Vodka Collins infused with a concoction decided on by the drinker via a pipette into the drink.

    proud_cocktail

    To keep everyone engaged throughout the class there are mini challenges and after everyone has made a drink it’s time to split into teams.  The party games were similar to the last class I did, in that they were joint efforts to make cocktails, but they’d switched them up a bit and added a new one which involved a group effort, balloons and a lot of fun chaos.  They’re all a sort of good natured competition, which has a great atmosphere.

    And then to end it’s the Revolution classic; a vodka line, where shots of flavoured vodka, made from triple-distilled vodka handcrafted in Rev’s own vodka factory, are lined up and tipped, domino style, into lemonade.  It’s one of those spectacles that looks visually brilliant and is a fun way to end.

    vodka_bombs

    We finished up with something to soak up the alcohol.  It’s been a while since I last ate at Revs, mainly because it’s a menu of burgers, pizza and sandwiches which is decent enough, but not really enough to make me want to wander out to the end of Broad St for it.  That said, they do a 50% off deal on Mondays which is something to remember next time I go for an impromptu Monday night cinema trip.

    revolutions_food

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

    Disclosure: I was invited to the masterclass free complimentary, but given it was a masterclass I think we mainly did all the hard work anyway right?

    Food and Restaurant News, News

    Rub Smokehouse Birmingham opens

    Remember ages ago when I mentioned that Rub Smokehouse was coming to Birmingham?  Well it’s finally here and the launch party on Wednesday saw monumental trays of meat and cocktails a’flowing.

    Located in the old Living Room venue (or briefly Duelling Pianos, if you remember that), Rub Smokehouse has a lovely view over the canal or great for people watching on Broad St (and lets face it, that could be really interesting of a Friday and Saturday night).

    It never really seems fair to review places based on launch parties, so I’m hoping to go back soon and do a proper review.  Sadly I managed to leave my SD card for my proper camera at home, but here are a few shots from my phone to give you a glimpse as to what the place is like…

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    5 new openings for the city centre?

    comingtobrum

    2015, it’s the beginning of a new year and already I’ve been hearing some pretty substantial rumours about a raft of openings in the city.  It seems a shame to keep them to myself, so here are some of the stronger rumours I’ve heard – and where possible, links to more info!

    Bitters n Twisted’s 7th Birmingham venue

    Birmingham bar and restaurant group Bitters n Twisted are set to open their seventh Birmingham based venue next month with Marmalade, a bistro bar in the Birmingham Rep Theatre on Broad St. Their website is more of a holding page at the moment, but there is an example pre-theatre menu on their website which looks pretty tasty – seems seasonal, homemade dishes will be the order of the day. I’m looking forward to hearing more!

    Gas Street Social

    From the ashes of Bar Room Bar in the Mailbox?  From the team behind Shaker Group, Gas Street Social restaurant and bar is set to launch mid-March on Wharfside Street in the Mailbox. With 250 covers, this venue is set to serve simple, seasonal and modern European food, described as an urban neighbourhood kitchen. Given the Birmingham-based Shaker Group also run Shaker & Co bar and BarSchool in London, and run a consultancy for bars and restaurants internationally, Gas Street Social’s drinks list, containing cocktails, regional and international beers and fine wines should be something well worth checking out too.

    Mailbox Tavern

    John Bright St has rediscovered it’s roots as an entertainment hub; with The Victoria, Cherry Reds and Brewdog joined by Turtle Bay last year, it’s rapidly becoming a dining and drinking hotspot once again. But rumour has it the old Rosie O’Brien’s (the building in between Turtle Bay and Brook, with the red railings outside) has been snapped up by a Staffordshire based pub group and if all goes through, will be known as the Mailbox Tavern.

    The Botanist

    New World Trading Company’s first foray into Birmingham was announced last year, but I’m patiently awaiting it’s first offering to the city; The Botanist, due to open on Temple St – in March, if rumours are to be believed. Already proving popular in Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, their deli and BBQ inspired food menu and selection of botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, sounds pretty tempting!

    Spanish restaurant for Bennetts Hill

    And hot on the heels as another contender for food paradise is Bennetts Hill, with everything from fine dining to real ale, curry and South American cuisine. But rumour has it there’s a Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant that might be joining them.  Details are very scarce but there seems to be something cooking up at 9 – 10 Bennetts Hill in the shape of Amantia.

    Any that I’ve missed? Feel free to email me, send me a tweet or drop me a Facebook message!

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Coast to Coast Christmas preview

    It might be a little too early for Christmas, but I love it and what better way to start the count down than with a restaurant whose cuisine is inspired by a country who does Christmas on overdrive?!

    Located on Broad St, Coast to Coast Birmingham is the largest, flagship of the group. It’s an American restaurant and bar, serving up what you’d expect – burgers, fries, wings and Cajun-inspired dishes. It’s a lot bigger than it looks from the front; the dark wood and low lighting give the place a nice vibe. But being a bit of a Christmas purist, I was interested to see how they were going to marry Americana with more British traditions.

    On meeting up with a couple of other Birmingham food bloggers, Emma and Taylah, we were treated to a hot spiced cider – which give the temperature outside was well received. I find hot spiced cider can sometimes be a little too sickly, but this was just the right level of sweetness with a nice alcoholic kick.

    C2C_xmas_drinks
    We were then led over to a small bar at the back of the spacious restaurant, where Coast to Coast’s beverage consultant Andy Pearson took us through the Christmas tradition inspired cocktail menu. The cheeky Christmas morning tipple was replaced with a Mimosa; think bucks-fizz with more class (or just an extra hit of alcohol from the Grand Marnier). Andy’s take on Egg Nog used Mount Gay rum infused with raisins and gingerbread syrup, rather than cognac and Madeira. Rum and raisin is a classic pairing and Mount Gay is elegant enough to let the raisin flavour through without overpowering it. The final drink, a Chocolate Orange Martini, was served up in a frosted glass – very festive!

    After drinks it was time to sample some of the Christmas menu – although sample really is underselling it! Executive chef Jim Dickenson told us he had the best job in the world and with the passion and amount of food we were given, it was clear he meant it! We sampled wild mushroom risotto, pretty standard but well made and bruschetta with homemade pesto which was light and fresh, something which I’ve found sadly isn’t always the case.

    c2c_xmas_dinner
    The options for mains have something to suit most people. Their maple bacon burger that was gloriously indulgent. I’m a sucker for maple bacon and the bacon drizzled in maple syrup and baked had a lovely sweetness against the 28-day aged chuck & rump steak beef burger. Why this isn’t on the full-time menu is beyond me; it’s surely an archetypical American burger. The ‘small’ sample of the turkey roast dinner was delicious with the turkey steak pan-seared and baked to keep it moist and give it a lovely flavour – again, a nice surprise given how terrible the treatment turkey usually gets at this time of year.

    C2C_xmas_dessert

    By this point we were all well and truly stuffed, but Christmas is all about indulgence so it was time to roll out the desserts; pecan pie, Oreo cheesecake and hazelnut chocolate brownie sundae. It’s unusual not to see a sponge pudding or Christmas cake on the menu, but the desserts were good, with the pecan pie being particularly delicious. I’m not really a fan of sundaes and with that much cream I gave it a miss, but the Oreo ice cream was he kind of thing I’d be happy to eat as dessert in its own right.

    I was a little skeptical about Coast to Coast. Perhaps it’s my own prejudice but a chain restaurant on Broad St with an American theme wouldn’t be my first thought for Christmas. However, having tried a lot of their Christmas offerings, I’m happy to be proven wrong. I love turkey and I’m so pleased to find somewhere that gives it the care it deserves. With several venues in Birmingham offering turkey-free Christmas meals it’s nice to see somewhere that is including turkey, but also offering festive meals in keeping with their original cuisine.  Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to book somewhere for a festive meal.

    http://www.c2crestaurants.com/find_a_restaurant/birmingham

    Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Christmas preview for free, in exchange for an honest review.  I wasn’t obliged to give a positive review, but was pleased to do so – particularly about the turkey which was pretty great.

    Restaurant reviews

    Tiger Bills Birmingham

    I must keep my eyes closed when I walk to the cinema, because I go there a lot, but I’ve never really noticed Tiger Bills Birmingham.  Perhaps it’s because I walk, head down, along Broad St and if I’m going to eat before/between films then it’s a quick trip to cheap and cheerful Nando’s.  But when Tiger Bills emailed me a voucher for a free main course it seemed like as good a place as any to catch up with my friend Jo-ann.

    thaigreencurryTiger Bills Birmingham is part of the Lifestyle Hospitality Group who operate a number of venues mainly in the south west of the country, although the Tiger Bills brand seems to be their fastest growing concept.  With eight other branches around the country, they describe themselves as ‘East meets West dining experience’ which is one of those descriptions that grates on me for being a bit too vague.  Although, to be fair, their menu does seem to take inspiration from a lot of East Asian dining with noodles, stir fries, soups and a fair few Thai-inspired dishes.  But there are also some ‘West’ dishes in the form of burgers, steaks and grills – and inexplicably fajitas, which feel a bit of an anomaly.  Still, it’s got the sort of range that should mean everyone can find something they like.

    That said the menu is not the easiest to follow.  Being a bit of a font nerd, the typeface they’ve chosen is an atmospheric one which works for titles and posters, but in a restaurant setting it’s just a bit hard to read at the table.  I’d had a craving for Thai green curry for a while and almost missed that it was on the menu – partly due to the font choice, but also because it was entitled by its Thai name.  It’s also worth pointing out that the curries come with chicken or vegetables and with jasmine rice, but if you want to upgrade to beef or duck you can do for £1.50…and if you want to upgrade your rice to egg fried rice that’s free, but garlic or coconut rice is 50p more.   Our waitress patiently explained this to us, but the upgrade options just feel a bit clunky.

    wafflesI had the Thai green curry (£8.95); the sauce was thinner than I was expecting, but had a nice flavour to it and the bamboo shoots, beans and peppers gave it a nice freshness.  The chicken was a little too dry, but not massively so.  The rice was lovely, but the separate dishes for them felt a bit overkill.  Jo-ann had the Tamarind Duck (£9.95), which came on a bed of deep-fried noodles that she wasn’t overly keen on but I didn’t mind, although egg noodles would probably have been better.  The waitress that cleared our plates said the deep-fried noodles had a sort of marmite reaction with people either loving or hating them.

    For dessert I went for the All American Waffles (£4.25) which I suspect are brought in and heated up, but they were fine and though not a massive amount of ice cream, it had just the right amount of sweetness to it.  Jo-ann’s Banoffee Cheesecake was super sweet, but then that’s sort of the point of banoffee cheesecake, isn’t it?

    Tiger Bills is fine, but that’s about as far as I can go with it really.  Nothing bothered me, but nothing really wowed me either.  Now that I know it’s there, I’d go as an alternative to Nando’s, but that’s what I’m measuring it against.  It’s a perfectly fine concept to roll-out nationally, but it just doesn’t have the same unique charm as some of the places in and around the Arcadian (aka Chinatown).  It’s a great location near two cinemas and Broad St and it’s got more atmosphere – and cocktails than Nando’s, but wow factor, not so much.

    http://tigerbills.co.uk/location/birmingham/

    Disclosure: I was given a voucher for free mains – dessert and drinks we paid for ourselves. I wasn’t required to write a positive review and opinions, in this case very middle-of-the-road, 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.

    16  02

    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

    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).