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Jewellery Quarter

    Masterclasses, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Making chocolates at the Chocolate Quarter

    piping_caramel_chocolate

    I know, writing about chocolate in Birmingham, that’s never happened before…but this time it’s not the big purple monolith, but a cute little family-run boutique chocolatier in the Jewellery Quarter, also known as The Chocolate Quarter.

    Jay, Maninder and Kempes run the Chocolate Quarter and they have the sort of warmth and friendliness that is infectious.  I’m generally a sort of take it or leave it person when it comes to chocolate, but it’s hard not to get wrapped up in their eagerness.  You know that sort of giddy enthusiasm which helps you absorb information so much better because you know this is less transactional and more a genuine love of the product?  Yeah, that.  And there was lots to learn; the basics about cocoa mass and white chocolate not really being chocolate, but also about beta prime crystals and tempering chocolate, and how higher percentage of cocoa mass doesn’t necessarily make better chocolate, if cheap beans are used.  But you know, in a fun way, that didn’t make it feel like a year nine science class.

    pouring_hot_chocolate

    A few of us went down to hear about what they do, what they sell and check out one of their chocolate making masterclasses.  We started with hot chocolate, because it would be rude not to, then Jay took us through the process of chocolate making and explained that we’d be having a go at making our own caramel truffles; piping in caramel, sealing, then tempering some chocolate to ensure once we dunked the truffle, the chocolate wouldn’t go gritty.  We were given a few options on how to display the truffle, from a smooth look to something a bit more rustic, dusted with icing sugar, cocoa or coconut.

    jay_explaining

    Most hands on masterclasses I’ve been to have either been alcohol-filled or the sort of specific and detailed thing that I can’t see myself doing outside of the class.  I’ve made truffles at home before and the tips I picked up were useful, but mainly it was just a really lovely way to spend an evening.  There’s the option to BYOB if you like, somewhat dangerous I expect given how close they are to Hard to Find Whisky, or just enjoy hot chocolate, which gives it a nice option if you want to do something fun but the group are less about the drinking.  This could totally work as a birthday party of hen/stag do, or just a good excuse to get a group of friends together.

    filled_chocolates

    After we made our chocolates, Jay and Maninder used us as guinea pigs to check out some of their experiments for Father’s Day; whisky, bacon and stout chocolates.  I’ve had bacon cupcakes before and whilst it’s a bit weird, the chewy texture didn’t quite work for me, but the salt and chocolate flavours worked.  The whisky chocolate was great; I hate it when things are flavoured and it’s a bit shy but this had a great hit of whisky.  And then it was time to collect our chocolates, pick up a few more (it would be rude not to) and then head home, with a new found respect for chocolate. 

    gold_chocolate Disclosure: This was a free event for a small group of bloggers, but I totally bought chocolate too because it was gooooooood. And we got a free Darth Vader chocolate too.

    Pub grub, Reviews

    Rose Villa Tavern new(ish) menu

    chicken_wings_rose_villa_tavernIf I was the sort of person that felt ashamed about the food they liked, then fried chicken wings would be a total guilty pleasure.  But life is too short to feel embarrassed about the food that makes you happy.  And chicken wings, with their crispy batter encasing juicy meat, with no airs and graces but to get in and use your hands, are a simple, but delicious pleasure.  The Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter has been gaining a bit of a reputation for their chicken wings for a while now, so when they mentioned a new menu was brewing and specifically mentioned those chicken wings, I knew it was about time to revisit the place.

    Their new food menu has built on the Americana vibe that they’ve been rocking for a while.  Sure it’s a bit weird that this glorious Victorian Grade II listed building has a menu which would be more at home in a town in Texas, but somehow sat in the sunlight streaming in from those glorious glass windows it sort of works.  There are some dishes that you’d expect on such a menu; burgers, hot dogs, classic American sandwiches, nachos and fries, as well as a few dishes that you don’t see quite so much.

    chilli_cheese_fries

    Anyway, those wings.  The Rose Villa Tavern’s crunchy fried chicken wings are definitely what they promised.  They can be ordered in batches of six, twelve or eighteen with a number of sauces.  Personally though, I like my fried wings to have enough flavour to cope without the need for sauce and these lived up to that.  If you’re feeling generous, the wings (which feature as part of the small plates), would make a good accompaniment to some of the sharer options, like the chilli cheese fries which come loaded with chilli (meat or three bean), melted cheese, onion and American mustard.  Personally though, I’d just order some all to myself.

    bacon_cheeseburger_rose_villa_tavernOf course burgers feature heavily on the Rose Villa Tavern’s new menu, with eight different varieties and the option to add bacon, friend onion and/or cheese and to switch regular to sweet potato fries.  There is a classic House burger, a chicken burger, and a vegetarian burger which comes with friend minted halloumi.  But the menu also includes a Bacon Cheese which includes American cheese, candied bacon and love…take of that what you will.  The Codfather burger is a beer-battered fried cod fillet which makes a nice alternative to a fish finger sandwich (although I bloody love fish finger sandwiches).  The American Meat burger comes with a beef patty and beef brisket, which always struck me as a lot of food but I guess that’s sort of the point.

    blackened_chicken_cobb_salad

    If burgers, hot dogs and the like aren’t your thing then the new menu has expanded out the lunch offerings with sandwiches and salads too.  Salad wise it’s mainly the Cobb salad which can have blackened chicken, cod or halloumi added to it to make a more substantial meal.  Frankly ordering salad whilst dining out always felt to me like a strange thing to do but the blue cheese, crispy bacon and avocado make it more indulgent – and the blackened chicken was nicely cooked on the one I tried.  There’s also a grilled avocado, chorizo and warm cherry tomato salad which sounds nice, if you like that sort of thing.

    hipster_vegan_pasta

    Whilst the menu is chockfull of meat, there are some surprises on the menu too – namely the Hipster Pasta Option, which is a vegan twist on a carbonara.  It uses pureed cauliflower and almond milk which isn’t quite rich enough to recreate cream and felt a bit powdery to me, but it is a decent effort at creating a vegan option on a pub menu.  It’s interesting to see that catering for vegans is becoming something of a thing on pub menus these days, which is never a bad thing.

    It’s also worth mentioning the house specials which include pulled brisket cannelloni, ribs, gammon and crab cakes, as well at meatloaf.  Maybe it’s just me, but years of watching American TV shows has made me wary of meatloaf, but the one we tried wasn’t nearly as dense and impenetrable as I’d been led to believe and had a nice flavour alongside the white gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans.

    I wasn’t really sure what to expect beforehand, given American diner menus have been popping up all over the city, which seems like a bit of an excuse to make a menu full of burgers, fries and hot dogs.  Sure the Rose Villa Tavern’s menu includes these, but there are also some nods to other traditional American dishes which give it a much more rounded menu.  And those wings…it’s worth going back for them alone.

    http://www.therosevillatavern.co.uk/

    Disclosure: I was invited along to a complimentary menu tasting, although admittedly this was a while ago.  There was no obligation to blog about it and certainly none to say nice things, but when I’ve dragged myself to the JQ and brought my camera, it would seem a shame not to post something.

    Pub grub, Reviews

    Temper burger at the Lord Clifden

    lord_clifden_temper_halloumi_burger.JPG

    Burgers are great aren’t they?  They’re so simple but done right they are delicious.  But some times, I’m convinced if I don’t keep an eye on myself I’d just order burgers every time.  So a few weeks ago when I was at the Lord Clifden in the Jewellery Quarter for my lovely friend Molly’s birthday, I decided to try something different; the veggie burger.

    Frankly, if it had been one of those miserable mash of miscellaneous vegetables I wouldn’t have bothered, but the promise of halloumi with cajun seasoning, rocket and red peppers was enough to make me curious.  And it didn’t disappoint.  A nice big chunk of halloumi which tasted fresh and salty which was nicely balanced with the generous slices of sweet red pepper and rocket on what tasted like a brioche bun.  I didn’t get much from the cajun seasoning, but this wasn’t a great loss as the burger itself was pretty spot on.

    I stuck to soft drinks as it was a school night for me, but my the drinks range at the Lord Clifden is pretty good (they even had Hooch if you’re feeling nostalgic).  The food menu was varied and their Sunday roasts are famous within the city, so it’s well worth visiting.

    http://thelordclifden.com/

    Disclosure: I paid for my burger with my own money and wasn’t obliged to write anything at all but that would make running a food blog kinda tricky.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Lasan, Jewellery Quarter

    Talk about famous Birmingham restaurants and bets are someone will mention Lasan pretty quickly.  It’s not hard to see why, with it’s Indian fusion, fine dining cuisine and nationwide recognition from being voted Best Local restaurant by Gordon Ramsey’s F Word to inclusion on BBC’s Great British Menu and several British Curry Awards.

    After enjoying food a few times as Lasan’s sister venues, Fiesta del Asado and Raja Monkey, I was keen to try Lasan for the first time and so my friend Ed and I ventured down to see what all the fuss was about.  We had a look at the menu, but after hearing rave reviews about the tasting menu we decided to treat ourselves.

    First up was an Amouse Bouche, an Indian broth of reduced lamb stock, black cardamom and cream with a sort of na’an breadstick on the side.  This was deliciously creamy and certainly set me up for the next few courses.  After that was a smoked duck samosa with sweet tamarind chutney and cucumber.  Although tiny this was delicious and a little sweet, with perfectly cooked pastry and I’d certainly have been happy to eat this again.  Our third dish was Kekda, soft shell crab dipped in ajwain and Kashmiri chilli batter which was inspired by the winning fish course on the BBC’s Great British Menu and so I had high hopes.  It was nice and the crab was beautifully light and dainty, but if I’m honest I wanted a bit more spice.

    Continuing the fish theme was Sarson ki Jhinga; a fresh water prawn marinated in mustard, turmeric and lemon, served with grapefruit, orange and fennel shoots.  The prawn was lovely and meaty with the turmeric giving it a nice flavour without being overpowering.  The accompanying salad garnish was also a lovely zingy contrast to the prawn and its marinade.  The Nellore Chappa, a pan fried fillet of wild Cornish bass on slow cooked aubergine was equally delightful with a lovely crisp ship and flavoursome meat.

    Until this point everything I’d eaten had been lovely, but a real standout dish for me was the Haleem; a speciality from Hyderabad of mutton cooked slowly with pearl barley and lentils, with fresh ginger, fried onions and lime.  Named after the Persian for ‘patience’ because of time needed to cook it, this was a wonderful, complex mix of savoury mutton with a hint of heat from the ginger and a nice twist of citrus.  I would go back for this dish alone.

    The last savoury dish was Hiran Achari – slow braised haunch of venison and pearl onion bhuna and tandoori spiced loin of venison with Bengalo sauteed chard and okra bhajee and picked pumpkin puree served with Achaar gravy.  Beautifully cooked with a lovely pink hue to the meat this was a close runner up for me in terms of favourite dishes.  I’m not sure the dish really needed the rice and na’an bread, but I was pleased to see their inclusion and would certainly allay any fears someone might have of fine dining being tiny portions.

    IMG_1418.JPGTo finish the sweet course was Bombay Mess, a twist of the classic Eton Mess with mango mousse, raspberry sorbet, berries, mango, pineapple and meringue with a hint of cardamom and Thai basil.  I much preferred this to Eaton Mess with its fresh flavours, contrasting textures and bright colours, it had a lovely simple playfulness to it and beautifully executed dessert.

    By this point both Ed and I were pretty full, which is a bit of an unusual feeling after a fine dining menu.  Each of the dishes had its own unique flavour and whilst the Haleem was a particularly favourite, I would struggle to pick one I didn’t like.

    The tasting menu was a great introduction to the breadth and complexity of flavours in the dishes at Lasan.  Having eaten there it’s easy to see why they’re rated so highly amongst Brummies and a host of celebrities, as well as chefs.  I’m looking forward to returning and trying some dishes from their menu soon.

    http://www.lasan.co.uk/

    Disclosure: I was invited down to Lasan by the team to give my honest opinion on the food.  A certain portion of the bill was deduced and the rest Ed and I paid for ourselves, although this didn’t mean I had to be nice about the food. Please note, that the photo of Hiran Achari also includes what is apparently becoming a sort of ‘photo-bombing’ of food blogging photography where your dinner guest partially ends up in the photo. Although Ed made me re-take this photo because he didn’t like the first one.

    Events

    Glitz, Glamour & Gangsters at the RVT

    RVTThere’s one thing that Brum hasn’t really fully embraced it’s the 1920s Speakeasy concept.  Sure, there’s The Site Office, but call me nostalgic I want 1920s glamour and an excuse to dress like a Flapper (no really, I have the perfect dress).  So when a friend told me the Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter is having its own Glitz, Glamour & Gangsters night, I had to share the news.

    This Friday (21 November) from 10pm, the RVT is having a night of “vintage glamour as we re-live the 1920s with music, passwords candlelight & moonshine.”  And they’re going all out with live music from a jazz pianist & singer, swing band C@ in the H@ and vintage sounds from Zest FX, plus vintage cupcakes and a prohibition-era inspired cocktail menu.

    I got a little preview of the drink and one which will hopefully make the shortlist is the South Side.  The original recipe predates the era but it was Al Capone’s favourite drink and renamed after the area of Chicago he ran amok in, so it would be rude not to include it.  It contains gin, lime, sugar and mint, either served long with soda (think a gin-Mojito) or straight up (aka the Al Capone way).

    If any of this has whet your appetite then check out the Rose Villa Tavern’s Facebook event for more details or call 0121 236 7910 to get your password.  They’re requesting you dress to impress, so think flappers, dappers, gansters and crooks…it’s time to dress to kill!

    Glitz, Glamour & Gangsters at the RVT Facebook event page.