In the heart of the Colmore Business District there’s been a bit of a revamp. First, The Grand finished its face-lift shops and bars; now 55 Colmore Row, the former offices of Wragge & Co, has been re-vamped as part of a £30m refurbishment.
Part of this transformation has been the introduction of a London staple into the Birmingham food scene. Gaucho, the Argentinian beef specialists, has taken up residency in the basement around the corner on Church Street. There are 18 restaurants, 12 of those are in London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Buenos Aires (of course), Leeds and Manchester so it was high time Birmingham got in on the action.
I’d been invited for a Beef and Malbec masterclass, so what a better way to scope the place out than with a few choice cuts and a drop of the red stuff to help me along the way.
For a basement bar, they’ve been very clever with the lighting. There are two giant studded ‘Ombu’ trees providing a focal point, with tasteful and contemporary lighting and decor throughout. After a quick welcome drink and chat with a few familiar faces, it was into the private dining room.
The walls in the room, tucked at the back of the restaurant behind the trees, are lined with bottles of wine all the way around with stunning light fixtures and it comfortably seats 12. It’s also available for free, if it isn’t already booked, so ideal for parties etc.
After taking our seats, we had a drop of Chandon Brut (made in a Champagne style at Uco Valley in Mendoza by Domaine Chandon, owned by Moet & Chandon), which was nice and crisp with fruity notes: a worthy Argentinian sip.
We were introduced to our two hosts for the evening: Phil Crozier, Director of Wines, and Fernando Larroude, Head of Grills.
Fernando took centre stage to begin with and took us from farm to table. His fast paced, natural hosting skill and easy charm made every word a delight to hear.
Starting with the cattle part of the story, he began with the story of how Angus Cattle first came to Argentina via Don Carlos Guerrero in 1879; how Argentina are the second biggest beef eaters in the world, an estimated 55kg per year; and how the calves are born in winter to protect them from diseases, and the life of a Gaucho.
Next it was onto how Gaucho prepared their meat. Gaucho controls which animals are selected for their restaurants. Rather than the traditional dry age, which most British people are used to with their steak, they use a wet age method. The meat is sealed in vacuum packs and matured during shipping. The natural enzymes break down the meat whilst there is no weight loss, compared to the traditional dry age method. The Gaucho steaks are matured by this method for a minimum of 45 days and an average of 60-75 days and are grilled to order.
If you’re wondering what’s under the black table cloth, so were we!
Apologies to those non-meat eaters amongst you but in my eyes, this was a glorious bounty.
The team had laid out a demonstration of different beef cuts from nose to tail, Rib-Eye to Rump with Flank and Fillet in between.
After roping in a brand new member of staff to be his steer for the demonstration, he showed us where each cut came from, how much ‘work’ the muscle would have to do and how this would affect the taste and texture of each different cut.
He demonstrated his impressive knife skills, showing us how to trim the cuts and slice a sliver of both fillet and rump to compare in the raw beef form, with a touch of traditional Chimichurri to heighten the flavours.
Fernando had shown us both cuts before preparations and there was near-as no difference from my view, and it was replicated on the plate. Both were astonishingly tender and exceedingly tender, disappearing with a celerity that would make The Flash blush!
Next was the renowned @MrArgentina himself. Phil Crozier introduced our first Malbec of the evening to try our palate with a few morsels of steak, in preparation of the tasting later on. The three cuts were paired with a wine from their own vineyard, the Vina Patricia, from the Mendoza region.
We tried flank, skirt and picanha. The flank and skirt were surprisingly a lot more gentle and tender than I was expecting, almost as tender as the fillet and rump. The wine was proud and delicious, with a taste heading straight to the hedgerows for some dark fruits.
Phil was the first person to produced a solely Argentinian wine list back in 1999 and he spends a few months in Argentina each year making sure the quality of the grapes is up to snuff.
Argentina, surprisingly, is the fifth largest wine producer but only has 2% of the market, with most Brits being more aware of Chilean wine. Argentinians drink 85% of the wine grown in the country so that is probably part of the reason why we don’t see it as much as we should. Argentina does have a massive area in which to grow its wine, starting in the Andes high to the north, down to the plains in South. It covers an astonishing 20 degrees of latitude and from sea level up to 3km in altitude, giving a wide variety of climates to work with.
(All steaks cooked medium rare)
Rump with Aniello
The rump was the biggest suprise of the evening. Still keeping the slight metallic tang of wet age this was tender beyond belief; light and delicate with a touch of flame coming through on the outside. It was many people’s favourite of the evening. The matched wine is part of a recovery project to return the southern Argentine vineyards of the Patagonian Rio Grande to their former glory. It’s an extremely windy place with low yield vines so the wine is kept close to the fruit as possible, with a fresh plummy taste to pair with the juice of the meat.
Sirloin with Luigi Bosca D.O.C.
The sirloin was, in all honesty, a slight let down to follow straight after that rump, but it was still very, very good. I wouldn’t be upset ordering this in the restaurant, with a slight more bit of a char to the meat. The matched wine was from the southern Mendoza region with a warmer climate than the previous. It’s a rare wine to be seen with a D.O.C. in Argentina due to the difficulty in getting the coveted mark. This was a very deep red in colour and its oak ageing really came through in the taste, as it was quite heavy on the tannin.
Fillet with Finca Sophenia ‘Synthesis’
The fillet perked me right back up again and was my favourite cut of the night, going against the consensus of the crowd who picked the rump. I thought if it was just a touch more tender it would’ve melted away on my tongue deliciously. The matched wine was another bold, dark wine with a peppery note amongst the rich red fruits.
Ribeye Steak with Colomé ‘Lote Especial’ El Arenal
The Ribeye was rich, with more a metallic tang to the palate due to their dry aging method, but wholesome in flavour and probably the most complex in palate of the meats we tried that evening. The matched wine was from one of the highest vineyards in the world at two and a half kilometres above sea level. A more purple tinged then deep red, it was intense on the dark fruits with a very complex palate.
The accompanying sides were also delicious with a Humita Saltena, steamed sweetcorn and mozzarella served in a corn husk, and a side salad using lovely flavourful heirloom tomatoes.
We were also treated to a lovely little dusted Chocolate Truffle to round out the night with a glass of Malamado, an Argentinian interpretation of Port. A sweet and perfect end the evening.
I’ll be back to Gaucho again with Wifey in tow, though as their evening are filling up at a rapid pace, the Electro Brunch looks to be an appealing alternative at £45 per head and unlimited food and drink in a 2 hour window.
Gaucho do multiple themed nights throughout the year, (at the time of writing there was one slot left on their Beef and Malbec masterclass at Broadgate if you’re quick!). However, they are more than happy to provide a tailored experience on request.
Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Gaucho Birmingham & Rewired PR, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.
If you’ve not read my previous post about Cheval Blanc, you may not know they’re a little bit obsessed with wine and pairing it with great food.
So when I was invited to see what Cyd was cooking in the kitchen as part of their new spring menu, I pretty much ran to Moseley there and then!
From the creative minds behind The Humble Pub Co, the establishment is ran by GM / Sommelier Abigail Connolly and Chef Cyd Tachdjian. The decor is light, eclectic and, like most things Moseley, a touch on the bohemian. Not forgetting the most fabulous wine cellar in the area:
Anyway, onto the menu. Cyd has highlighted some fantastic sounding dishes such as Cured Cold Smoked Mutton Leg, Chicken Liver & Port Pâté, and Poached Duck Egg Meurette & Sourdough Toast.
After a meet & greet and a touch of wine in the front, we were taken into the back room for a more private dining experience. Cyd was cooking just behind us whilst we settled down into our seats.
Cyd took us through a whistle stop tour of the menu and mixed up a few of the dishes, whilst Abigail paired them with aplomb.
First up was a Earl Grey Tea Cured Salmon, Celeriac & Granny Smith with a grain mustard dressing, paired with a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a Domaine Masson-Blondelet 2014 Les Angelots (Pouilly-Fumé).
The Earl Grey salmon was delicately smoked with a delightful bergamot edge to it, paired with a sharp tang of the apple and celeriac, lifted by the sweet-hot mustard dressing.
The Sauvingon Blanc was strong on a lime acidity but tempered by a rich green fruit nose.
Next to the table was my favourite dish of the evening, Confit Duck Wings with Honey, Orange and Ginger Glaze& Rocket Salad paired with an Australian Cabernet Franc, a Jamsheed Wines 2016 Ma Petite Francine, from the Yarra valley.
The wings were in, a word, amazing! I would’ve been very happy with a bucket of these, a bottle of wine and a corner to park myself in for the remainder of the evening. Duck is a favourite meat of mine but it seems to be used mainly in French (as with Cyd) or Chinese cuisine and not much else in between, as it’s a gloriously flavoursome meat. These were no different: deliciously sticky and scattered with sesame seeds, and like manna from heaven. I tried to be polite and use cutlery but alas, like the savage I am, fingers soon got messy! I’m not a massive rocket fan (I find it too bitter for my palate) but I can understand the need for it to cut through the honeyed dressing.
The wine was a perfect compliment to Cyd’s gastronomy, a Cabernet Franc, made in Beaujolais style. It’s bottled after four months in a clean style, no finings or filtration for this one. What this means to the wine is it retains a lot of the fruit and tannins; it bursts with juiciness with a lilt of herbs. This would be a wine which, if not careful, would disappear by the bottle quickly.
If Abigail and Cyd wanted to make an absolute fortune, a bucket of these wings, maybe a sharing dish of Boulangère Potato (or Pomme Frites if I could be so vulgar), and a bottle of Ma Petite Francine on a table for 4 in the sunshine would make a very, very, happy evening for all involved!
For our third course, a Red Mullet Fillet, Tomato Compote, Green Olives and Capers and Crab Arancini paired with a South African Chenin Blanc, the AA Badenhorst Secateurs.
Whilst serving, Cyd told us he thinks mullet is a hard done by fish. It has a light delicately flavoured flesh but requiring pin boning, it’s one that doesn’t appear on menus too frequently, which is a real shame. This portion was delicious and happily bone free. The fish broke up almost on contact with the fork and had a lovely clean flavour on the tongue. The crab arancini was well stuffed with seasoned crab meat. I loved the compote and the olives but capers are my enemy: sour, salty and a flavour I’ve grown to have a deep personal dislike of, so they were quickly marshalled to the side of the plate.
The Chenin Blanc was fresh with an almost fruit crumble nose and taste to it, a gently spiced fruit flavour which went well, balancing between the light mullet and rich crab.
Our final savoury dish of the evening was a Corn Fed Chicken Mousseline, Crispy Chicken Skin, Potato Gratin, Beans and a Morels Mushroom and Cognac Cream Sauce and paired with a Turkish Öküzgözü A 2011 Kavaklıdere Prestige.
It’s not often you see a creamy sauce on chicken nowadays, it’s usually accompanied by a “jus”. But this was delicious, the well cooked chicken mousseline was liberally doused with the creamy congac and morel mushroom sauce, morels with that unique enigmatic nutty flavour combining well with the rich cognac. The rosti was also a delight, crisp on top but soft in the middle, yum!
Three words you wouldn’t have heard half a decade ago but now gives happiness whenever it’s heard: Crispy Chicken Skin. Not exactly sustenance, this crackling of the poultry world is a delight wherever I see it, and this was no exception. Even though it was more of a garnish for the dish, I put it aside till last as it’s that much of a favourite and I savoured every last microsecond (a little secret but don’t tell anyone, try gribenes!).
Öküzgözü, means “bull’s eye” in Turkish and its a grape variety grown throughout the Anatolian region. I’d never heard of it before this meal but it’s a big, bold red to counterbalance the richness of the dish. The main flavours I could get were cherries and raspberries.
Trio of Desserts
To finish, Cyd spoilt us with not one but three desserts. We had Chocolate & Pear Cake, Rhubarb Tart & Blueberry Cheesecake, and an Australian Muscat, Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat.
All three desserts were sweet and decadent but my personal highlight was the blueberry cheesecake. I’m a glutton for a cheesecake at the best of times but this was fantastic with big bold blueberries oozing down the side, a little mouthful of bliss.
The muscat was also delicious with a rich raisin and nut flavour, and a perfect round off to an almost perfect meal.
I’ll be looking forward to a future return to Cheval Blanc soon. Hopefully it will feature a bucket of duck wings and some crispy chicken skin… …excuse me whilst I put on a couple more stone in mentally!
Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of The Humble Pub Co, Cheval Blanc & Paul Fulford, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.
At the end of last month, Wifey and I took a trip down to the big smoke for a few days for geeky pursuits (more on that side will be at GeekyBrummie) and, of course, food.
Our second stop off in London was a completely different kettle of fish to Pizza Pilgrims. A Shoreditch staple since 2009, The Blues Kitchen is all about live music and soul food.
Surprisingly for a Monday, the place was full to the brim but Wifey and I were lucky enough to grab a couple of seats at the bar.
After getting ourselves comfortable and having ordered drinks from our very hospitable bar man, we learnt why: Monday night is their Rib Night with a stack of ribs for £10. It was an offer I couldn’t say no to.
Cajun Popcorn Squid served with sriracha mayo & burnt lime
Cornbread with honey butter
Blackened Chicken & Ranch Salad (for Wifey) – crispy bacon, manchego cheese, mixed leaves, boiled eggs & heritage tomatoes served with a side of buttermilk ranch dressing
And for me, the Rib Special – short beef and St Louis pork ribs; according to the menu, all the barbecue is slow smoked in-house using a blend of hickory, oak, mesquite and fruit woods.
The Popcorn Shrimp was in a tempura style batter and crisp, but the shrimp itself was a touch overdone and verging on the chewy. The sriracha mayo was more sweet than spicy but with enough of a tang for Wifey’s tastes. I took full advantage of the sliced chillies on top for my lust for heat.
The Cornbread was dense, crumbly, rich, and honeyed butter almost verging on a dessert. It’s the nicest cornbread Wifey and I had both had for a long time.
Wifey’s Blackened Chicken salad came hidden under a mound of breast meat. Wifey’s feedback was the chicken was well cooked and on the right side of blackened not burnt. Her ranch dressing was, rich, creamy and tangy, and suited the crisp salad well.
My Ribs were absolutely humongous, the photo doesn’t do it justice. Even I, with my rapacious appetite, struggled by the second pork rib! The meat slid off the bone and had a complex but delicate smoke to it. If my belly wasn’t straining so much, I could’ve gone back for a second helping.
A special mention must be made for their whisk(e)y and Bourbon selection, try the Starward, it’s like a Dessert Whisky! There’s also live music every night, which we didn’t stick around for after a long day exploring the city. We’d more than likely return there again whenever we’re back in the area…
Firstly, apologies for being away for a month. A few things outside of the blog got in the way but regular service has been resumed now!
At the end of last month, Wifey and I took a trip down to the big smoke for a few days for geeky pursuits (more on that side will be at GeekyBrummie) and, of course, food.
First stop off for Wifey and I was Pizza Pilgrims. Set up by Thom and James Elliot after their tour of Italy, it’s a London chain going since 2011, with a Piaggio Ape and several locations including Shoreditch, which opened in March this year.
We chose Pizza Pligrims on a whim whilst wandering up Shoreditch High Street and Wifey was getting peckish. There was no room to sit upstairs so we were ushered into their basement seating area, past a wall of pizza boxes decorated by customers.
The tables were mainly decorated in classic restuarant style: green gingham tablecloths to match their green tongue and grooved walls, accompanied by old style school chairs of laminated wood. There was also a football table converted into a dining table (not pictured) and a TV showing an overhead view of the pizza chef’s prep station, which provided an interesting view to waiting for your food.
Before ordering, we were told by the staff the place is BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle), which basically means they don’t sell alcohol. You’re welcome to bring your own but they’ll charge you £2.50 per head for the privilege.
Now, I understand if it’s not a licenced premises but to charge a corkage fee for customers to bring their own is a touch mercenary in my opinion. A corkage charge is usually restricted to private events, where you want to bring different alcohol than what the venue supplies, and I fully agree with that. However, £2.50 per head for a venue that doesn’t supply alcohol feels slightly larcenous; £1 would be a much more reasonable amount covering service and glassware.
They’re upfront about it and it’s mentioned on the website so kudos to them. At this price, this is a trend I wouldn’t want to see replicated in Brum.
Anyway, onto the menu:
It’s a simple affair, not a bad thing: ten pizzas, one guest pizza, two starters, three dips and five sides.
I ordered the Nduja; tomato, fior di latte (cows milk mozzarella), parmesan, basil & olive oil with nduja (spicy Calabrian pork sausage), whilst Wifey chose the Marinara, tomato, oregano, fresh garlic, basil & olive oil. We shared their ‘Simple’ Green Salad, romaine lettuce with a lemon & parsley dressing, and their Pesto Aioli, and a couple of cans of San Pellegrino Blood Orange as we hadn’t pre-purchased alcohol.
Service was brisk and came across as professional rather than welcoming, giving the feeling that they wanted to turn tables as quick as possible. The pizzas arrived very quickly but the sides needed an extra few minutes to join the party.
My Nduja was minced rather than the usual slices you see and ‘blobbed’ onto the pizza in a ‘rustic’ fashion with a few basil leaves scattered. The ingredients were good quality but the dough seemed over-proved and too ‘chewy’. The sauce had little tomato character to it, tasting mainly of herb mix and not much else. The parmesan did heighten the fior di latte past just creamy, by adding a touch of sharpness.
Wifey’s Marinara had a massive blowout, which is usually the sign of under-proved dough. However, in this case, I feel it’s more likely to have been an uneven temp or crowded oven. If it had been me in the kitchen, back in my days of slinging pies, I would’ve more than likely got it remade. However, Wifey’s report was that whilst the dough was chewy, it was light and there was plenty of sauce. A few more basil leaves would have been appreciated to balance it out.
Onto the sides. The Simple Green Salad was crisp lettuce and sharp with the lemon and parsley dressing. For the price paid, another leaf (spinach? rocket?) would have made a nice choice to add to the mix or even a touch of watercress to go with the description of salad, or for them to change it to dressed lettuce on the menu.
The Pesto Aioli, was all pesto, no aioli. We thought it was actually guacamole as it was chartreuse in colour. All taste of garlic had been wiped away by the pesto and even Wifey, a big pesto fan, said it was too much for her.
Overall, I was firmly in the unimpressed camp. It felt more a case of appearance rather than taste, hopefully better things later on during our trip!
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.