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    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Review: El Borracho de Oro


    One of the rubbish things about growing up is the absolute bloody nightmare that is present shopping.  I mean this of course for other people, because I am a simple soul and the only thing I ever want more of, other than food, is books and my mother has put her foot down.  In fact that whole simple soul thing is hereditary and present shopping for my mum is so problematic that I’ve taken to buying her tickets as gifts but there’s only so many times luck will be on my side, theatre wise.

    Going for nice meals, though, that’s something my mum and I both agree on – I get tasty food, mum gets to people watch.  So when the nice folks at OpenTable asked me to check out their gift card option, I thought it would be a great dry run for present season later in the year.  Of course my mum would’ve been the obvious dining companion, but she was on holiday, so I took my friend Andrew.

    Naturally we booked through OpenTable, which is both handy and stops me worrying that even though I’ve called the restaurant and they’ve repeated my booking back to me somehow one of us will get the wrong date.  OpenTable send you an email, and then a reminder, which makes anxious types like me a lot happier.  If you’re buying someone the gift card (which you can buy here) then you have the option to send them the voucher direct – with a nice message from yourself, and they can then go to OpenTable and book a time/date that suits them.


    We arrived around 7pm which is probably a touch early for most people to eat dinner on a Friday night, but meant we got our pick of tables and naturally I went for one with the best view of the restaurant – I am my mother’s daughter after all.  Even at this time it had a nice relaxed atmosphere, and by 8pm the place was full and buzzing, yet the excellent service remained constant.

    El Borracho de Oro has a lovely, relaxed Spanish vibe to the place; terracotta, tiles and lots of yellow and orange hues, without feeling gimmicky…a themed restaurant, without feeling themed, if that makes any sense.

    To start Andrew had a pint of Estrella Damm, a lager brewed in Spain, and I went for red wine Sangria, mainly because I’ve had it at El Borracho de Oro before and it’s delightful.  Forget the cheap crap you get on holiday which needs diluting, El Borracho’s sangria has a lovely honey-like sweetness with a cheerful red wine flavour and none of the alcoholic burn you get with bad wine.  I like it so much had had two…or three.


    We ordered a raft of tapas to share, because that’s the fun of tapas, although I remain terrible at photographing it.  Some dishes we ordered are, in my mind, tapas staples including jamón croquetas (ham croquettes), albondigas (pork & beef meatballs) and patatas bravas (fried potatoes) with spicy tomato sauce and alioli.  The meatballs were a good balance of pork and beef, being meaty without being too dense or tough, and the ham croquettes were crunchy on the outside and melt in the mouth smooth on the inside.  I was a little disappointed by the patatas bravas which arrived in a gimmicky frying baskets; I would’ve liked them to be chunkier but they tasted fine.  The spicy tomato sauce they arrived with was a bit too much for both me and Andrew, definitely higher on the hot-spicy scale than I’d have expected.

    The other dishes we ordered included beef cheek with shallots and mushroom sauce, fried fresh whole whitebait and roasted piquillo pepper stuffed with mushroom, wild spinach and manchego cheese.  The beef cheek was an absolute delight, it cut like butter and paired superbly with the mushroom sauce.  Equally good were the fried whitebait; El Borracho de Oro had sourced good sized fish which retained a delicate flavour and a light, yet right, amount of batter – I could happily eat a bowlful as a snack.


    Pudding was a tricky decision, in the end we went for churros and almond cake.  The churros were great, light and somehow simultaneously crispy and chewy without being stodgy – I didn’t try the chocolate sauce that went with it, but I hear it was pretty good.  The almond cake was also spot on, full of flavour, moist without being soggy, and worked well with the coulis and ice cream.

    And then it was time to try out the OpenTable gift card.  I always hate this bit because I’m worried the restaurant will have no idea what you’re on about, but after clicking the link in the email to the card it was a case of showing it to the member of staff and things were done and dusted, and I was free to enjoy my (third) glass of sangria and head off home, happy and full of food.

    Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with OpenTable, El Borracho de Oro didn’t know I was there to blog about it and as ever views remain my own. Ps don’t tell my mum otherwise she’ll know what she’s getting for her birthday.

    Afternoon tea, Reviews

    Review: The Edgbaston Afternoon Tea


    There’s nothing quite like the promise of a great afternoon tea to get me up from my sick bed.  Despite being off work for nearly a week and not being able to move more than two meters away from my kettle, I bundled myself up, packed a couple of bottles of water and headed off to meet some friends for a spot of afternoon tea at The Edgbaston boutique hotel and bar, on Highfield Rd…in well, the suburb of Edgbaston.

    I’ve been to The Edgbaston for a couple of cocktails before, so I knew what to expect from the wonderfully 1920s inspired art deco lounge, but was surprised to find it as full as it was on a Saturday afternoon, considering it’s just out of the city centre.  There were several people having afternoon tea and plenty more enjoying cocktails, but despite being busy the service was top notch – particularly as I was still ill and needed to keep constantly hydrated, so required plenty of top ups of hot water for the tea and cold water. Frankly I think it would’ve been easier to sit me next to the tap, but bless ’em the staff made sure I always had some sort of water.

    edgbaston_afternoon_tea_teapotsThe table was set out for us on arrival with lovely crockery that we were told was all vintage and had been specially sourced.  We were given a choice of teas (there was probably also the option of coffee but come on this is afternoon tea, after all) and I shared a pot of jasmine tea with Alex…which was actually a trophy.  Yep, an actual trophy (I kind of hoped it might be the missing Jules Rimet Trophy, but sadly not).  The jasmine tea was lovely, fresh and light with just the right hint of perfume notes from the jasmine. Also, points to the waiting staff who managed to play afternoon tea Tetris and find space for everything on the table.
    teapots_smoke_edgbaston_afternoon_teaThe Edgbaston afternoon tea isn’t just any old afternoon tea and if the trophy-teapots weren’t enough to convince us of that, then the palate cleanser to start surely would.  The lemon curd with gin and tonic granita was accompanied by a dramatic display of swirling smoke which engulfed the table and gave a real sense of occasion.  I’m a bit wary of dry ice because it’s a bit overplayed in the whole “molecular mixology” fields and can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but the staff were careful to make sure it was poured into the serving trays of the granita…and bring more to make sure we all got some photos.  It’s probably worth mentioning that they didn’t know we were bloggers, and I expect they get quite used to people taking lots of photos of the smoke.


    After the smoke dissipated it was time for the main show.  I’ve seen various incarnations of cake stands and the clean black tiles with oval trim had a lovely shape to it, showing off its wares but also in keeping with the decor of The Edgbaston.

    I think it’s pretty difficult to be overly excited about the sandwich portion of the afternoon tea, but the ones The Edgbaston served to us were nice, with a good mix of fillings and enough for everyone to have a nibble without being overly full – because where’s the fun in being that full before you get to the scones and sweets?


    The scones arrived on a separate plate with jam and cream (obviously) in little kilner jars.  Of all the component parts of the afternoon tea experience, this was probably the only minor stumbling, as I found the scones a little too crumbly for me.  That said, they were a good size and I think there worked out at being a fruit and plain scone each, but most of us ended up taking a second one home.

    The final course of the afternoon tea was more petit four than stodgy cakes.  For me, this is what makes a good afternoon tea great, as the dainty finger sandwiches and scones should be followed up by something imaginative and delicate rather than heavy carbohydrates.  And this is where The Edgbaston really excelled – macarons, swan shaped choux pastry, chocolate and hazelnut lollipop and mini lemon and blackberry tart.  All superb and as good as they looked – the chocolate and hazelnut lollipop even more so.


    I’ve had a lot of afternoon tea in Birmingham now and I think The Edgbaston afternoon tea ranks as one of the best, if not the best, in the city.  The level of detail from the crockery and teapots to the dramatic palate cleanser and petit four was just superb.  Whilst we went for the regular afternoon tea, they offer a number of different serves, including The Moseley Serve, which involves cocktail in teacups and would definitely be more Great Gatsby than Austin.  Alternatively add a couple of cocktails from their extensive menu.  Either way, I doubt you’ll be disappointed – it really was a superb experience.

    Disclosure: We didn’t tell The Edgbaston we were bloggers and paid for our afternoon teas ourselves. Also, don’t trust anyone that calls themselves a molecular mixologist.

    Breakfast and brunch, Reviews

    Simpsons and Brum Breakfast Club

    simpsons_full_englishI’ve already admitted how much I don’t like getting up early on a Saturday, but after the last Michelin-starred breakfast, organised by the Birmingham Breakfast Club, I knew it would be worth sacrificing my lie in for.

    This time round it was the newly refurbished Simpson’s who were serving up breakfast.  The Grade II listed building in Edgbaston has undergone an extensive change, some ten years after their previous major refurb.  The main dining room has been extended to one big room rather than a collection of smaller ones, and the interior is crisp and contemporary.  Nathan Eades, formerly of Epi at The Courtyard, has also recently become Simpson’s new head chef, under the guise of chef owner Andreas Antona and chef director Luke Tipping.

    simpsons_toastIf the previous Michelin-starred breakfast at Adam’s was the best version of a fry-up I’ve ever had, then Simpson’s went for a completely different tack – but equally good.  Nathan and his team created a three course breakfast, where each dish an example of a typical breakfast; kedgeree for a starter, full English as main and granola for pudding.

    Ahead of the first course we were given juice, tea or coffee and delicious, delicious toast.  Seriously, toast is entirely underrated but if you get it right, it can make a great start to breakfast.  Service was impeccable, which is typical of a Michelin-starred restaurant, admittedly, but this wasn’t over the top either – don’t you just hate it when you feel like you’re on show whilst trying to eat?  Thankfully this wasn’t the case, but everything was tended to as needed.

    simpsons_kedgereeThe first course of kedgeree was re-interpreted as smoked haddock risotto, with capers, parsley and quails egg.  The risotto element meant it was a wetter version than usual kedgeree but a lovely twist on it.  In fact the twisted on a classic was echoed in the main course of full English too, which was a crispy duck egg, chorizo and coco bean, confit tomatoes, walnut puree and smoked bacon emulsion.  I loved how the duck egg was wrapped in a nest, ready to be cracked open with a deliciously oozing egg yolk.  The chorizo and coco bean were a clever alternative to baked beans and their twist on brown sauce was delightful.

    simpsons_granolaAnd to finish we had breakfast pudding.  I’m really coming round to the idea that all means should have some sort of pudding to them.  For the Simpson’s breakfast pudding we had granola – English apples (and some blueberries, I think), yoghurt and toasted almond granola.  I went through a bit of a phase of granola about a year ago and for some reason haven’t eaten it since, so this was an excellent reminder.  The sweet yet slightly tart fruit with the creamy yoghurt and crunchy granola was a superb end to a great meal – and definitely worth getting up early on a Saturday for.

    The Birmingham Breakfast Club have organised another of the Simpson’s breakfasts, but I think tickets are sold out.  However, if you’re interested in attending one of their special event breakfasts (and I’m really hoping there’s a third version) then it’s worth keeping an eye on their twitter account @BrumBrekkieClub.

    Disclosure: I paid for my own ticket to the Simpson’s and Birmingham Breakfast Club event. So there.

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Coming Soon #5


    So this latest edition of Coming Soon (see editions one, two, three and four) is also a list of places that opened but I was too busy moving house and pretend to have a life to tell you about them.  Here are a few more soon to open and at the bottom are a few ones that you might have missed, as well as a goodbye to an old favourite…


    In the venue that used to be Kinnaree, opposite the Cube, Vivaanta is due to open at the end of July.  An Indian restaurant which will feature familiar dishes, there is said to be a fairly extensive seafood menu, and they’re also planning on specialising in cocktails.  They’re pretty active on Facebook, so worth having a look for updates;

    Eli’s Restaurant in Bearwood

    Whilst nearby Harborne might be claiming the area’s culinary crown, Eli’s restaurant might just make diners trek a little further.  Calling themselves an artisan restaurant, Eli’s aims to put itself at the heart of the community, welcoming diners to become part of the family and allowing them to discover and support local artists and crafts people.  From the looks of it, they’re aiming to open towards the end of August.

    Harvey Nichols

    With a fairly extensive refurbishment going on, Harvey Nics’ new look will include a large food market area and their restaurant is a collaboration with the Yummie Brummie himself, Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell.  Whilst I haven’t seen any official details on the place, a little bird did let me sneak a peek at their menus and it looks like it’s going to be pretty exciting.

    Mockingbird Bar & Bistro

    The cinema and theatre space in the Custard Factory has always seemed a little quiet, but fresh off the back of their success at the Sunflower Lounge, Big Papas are relaunching it as a bar and bistro.  The focus will be on fresh seasonal produce, with locally sourced produce and a drinks menu which takes inspiration from cocktail bars in Harlem but focuses on independently crafted drinks and the local breweries.  The bar and bistro is set to launch in August.

    Viva Brazil

    This award-winning restaurant and authentic Brazilian-style steakhouse is heading to Bennetts Hill in September, taking over the former Isaacs on the corner of Waterloo St.  They’re certainly going big with this are the two floors are set to seat 200 people, with 15 kinds of meat and 20 choices of salads on offer to hungry diners.  A variety of other Brazilian dishes will also be served and a menu which puts the Caipirinha at the heart of its cocktail menu is going to make it an interesting neighbour to fellow South American bar and cantina, Bodega.

    Adam’s is on the move

    This is more of an FYI, as Michelin-starred Adam’s restaurant, which always claimed its Bennetts Hill location was a temporary space, is set to move round the corner to Waterloo St. If proposals get the go ahead, their new home will be the locally listed art deco building, New Oxford House.

    Eagle and Ball

    Birmingham City University have been building like demons on the Eastside of the city centre.  Thankfully though, they’re incorporating the Grade II listed pub on Gopsall Street as part of their student hub.  It’s due to reopen in September this year.

    Celebz diner

    Currently based in Longbridge, Celebz is branching out to the old Sound Bar near the Children’s Hospital for its second venue.  They bill themselves as an All American Diner, with milkshakes, build your own burgers, peri-peri and southern fried chicken, and an extensive waffles and sundaes list for dessert.

    Meating Birmingham

    Taking over the old Mono bar in the Arcadian, Meating calls itself a steakhouse on Facebook.  It also says to “expect rare breed steaks, the best burgers, kebabs, all cooked on our bespoke charcoal BBQ” along with an in-house “Gelato parlour serving waffles, sundaes and shakes”. Due to open in September.

    Opened recently…

    Sunny’s Soul Shack at Sunflower Lounge

    With Big Papas moving on to the Mockingbird, Sunnys Soul Shack has taken over the kitchen and is keeping with the soul food cuisine.  Think rump steak beef mince burgers with rough cut chips, buttermilk chicken breast in a brioche roll and their signature Sunny’s Hash.

    Umami in Harborne

    This Indian kitchen and cocktail bar opened last month in Harborne with ex-Itihaas chef, Mandeep Bajwa at the helm.  I’ve already reviewed it here.

    El Borracho de Oro in Edgbaston

    I haven spectacularly failed to mention this new tapas restaurant in Edgbaston on any of the coming soon posts, which is an utter shame because their previous venture Don Diago had rave reviews. Also they’re now doing breakfasts called the ‘Full Spanglish’ which are available throughout the week and on the third Sunday of the month too.

    Vegan Store for Kings Heath

    It’s a wondered it took South Birmingham so long to acquire one of these, but they’re finally open in the cluster of shops just a bit further up the Alcester Rd from Kings Heath high st. Whilst they’re still a bit of a work in progress they seem to be stocking a fairly decent range of vegan products.

    Java Lounge in town

    After ten years, Independent Moseley based coffee shop has expanded to the city centre to take over the well-loved Hudsons tea house.  They have freshened the place up and whilst it doesn’t have the old world charm Hudsons used to, it has a nice nod to the history of coffee and the wide selection of cakes, milkshakes, sandwiches and coffees as their South Birmingham branch.

    Goodbye to…

    Yorks Bakery Cafe recently announced the closure of its Newhall St venue in a slightly bizarre news item on the website.  However it doesn’t seem all bad news at their Colmore Row venue is due to stay open and from their twitterings and article, it seems like it’s more of a Doctor-Who style metamorphosis into something new and exciting.

    Have I missed somewhere?  Birmingham seems to be awash with new venues this year so most likely!  If I have, please drop me an email hello @ FulltotheBrum or send me a tweet or Facebook message.

    Restaurant reviews

    The Highfield, Edgbaston

    Edgbaston has started morphing into a real food destination.  With Michelin-starred Simpson’s, The Deli at Edgbaston and the arrival earlier in the year of boutique hotel and cocktail lounge, The Edgbaston, it was already beginning to take shape.  But with Peach Pub’s first foray into Birmingham in the shape of gastropub The Highfield, it’s knitted the place together.  With a soft launch a week before the official launch party, I took the opportunity to head down and check it out.

    Sunday nights at 7pm aren’t traditionally busy times for pubs, but word of The Highfield’s doors opening had clearly spread and the pub was as full of people and had a great vibrancy to it.  The pub is open plan; the first half of the venue’s interior containing the well-stocked bar; the back half of the pub which is presided over by the kitchen has more of a dining area feel to it.  Decor is subtle but effective and the inclusion of booths, tables and barstools means the transition between the two spaces is seamless.

    DSC_2476Choosing a booth beside the kitchen meant we were able to peak in.  My friend Andrew, a food technologist who can spot a pre-prepared meal a mile off, enjoyed noting that everything that came out of the kitchen was made on site.  Given it was a Sunday we each ordered a Sunday roast.  I went for the organic roast pork, which was served with an enormous Yorkshire pudding, which kept two very salty pieces of crackling nice and crunchy and away from the gravy.  The pork and pudding sat on a bed of carrot puree and roast potatoes with cabbages and broccoli being served in a side dish.  Each component part was expertly cooked and whilst it doesn’t look like a mountain of food it was a decent portion – plus extra potatoes were on offer.

    DSC_2489For pudding Andrew and I shared a Sunday Sundae and an Apple & Blackcurrant Tart with Coconut Crumble.  The sundae was made with Chantilly cream which made it much more interesting than usual sundaes, although I’d have liked a little more brownie.  The apple and blackcurrant tart was more of a bakewell tart which despite having a very tough base was delicious and not too heavy after a large roast.  And where there is cake there ought to be tea, which is Yorkshire tea and served by the pot and arrives with proper mugs, which can be actually quite rare!

    With 16 other suburban pubs, Peach should certainly know what they’re doing and with The Highfield, even in its infancy, they seem to be on to a good thing.  Service was efficient and friendly, food was fresh and homemade and though I didn’t try any of the drinks (pre-dinner drinks at The Edgbaston had sorted that side) the bar was well stocked with a good variety of spirits and wines.

    Whether it’s post-drinks after Simpson’s, a spot of lunch after shopping at the Deli, or heading there for the whole experience, The Highfield is well worth checking out – but book, it’s already proving to be a popular destination!

    Disclosure: Like many others, we received free main meals during The Highfield’s soft opening phase.  We paid for our drinks and desserts and were not obliged to give a positive review.