Inferno – Preview Day at Buffalo & Rye with Brumderland

You may remember I was invited to attend a special bloggers event at Bodega Birmingham, part of the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted group hosted by Brumderland. They now have a new sibling right next door called Buffalo & Rye which offers a taste of Americana in the City Centre – perfect if you want to get away from the overload of German tat one street away during this festive period.

 

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Breakfast Banquet – Birmingham Breakfast Club at Simpsons Restaurant

It’s not often Wifey and I go somewhere a little different. With one of the most prestigious pedigrees in Birmingham, and Britain, this time was going to be a rather special breakfast…

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Founded in Kenilworth by Chef owner Andreas Antona, then relocating to Edgbaston, holders of a Michelin Star since 2000, Simpsons is not normally known as a breakfast destination.

However, Simon S of Birmingham Breakfast Club (reviewers of breakfast locations far and wide around Brum) arranged two special seatings .Wifey and I naturally jumped at the chance for a visit and it was a great chance to look around the recently refurbished restaurant.

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For those not up to date on happenings at Simpsons, former Head Chef Matt Cheal left after 16 years on and off,and two years as head chef under Chef Director Luke Tipping, to establish Cheals of Henley.

Recently, Nathan Eades has taken over Head Chef duties after a successful run at his own, Epi @ The Courtyard in Bromsgrove, and pop ups at The Kitchen Garden (Kings Heath) and The Pickled Piglet (City Centre).

To go with the change in the kitchen, Simpsons has had a makeover too, with a full refurbishment giving the place a lighter, ‘Bauhaus’, Japanese, Scandinavian, mix of light and airy style:

After removing our coats, we were ushered to take out places in the beautiful dining room:

 

But before I ate, Simon had arranged a very rare treat for fellow bloggers and I – a look behind the curtain and watch these food maestros in the kitchen:

It was a privilege to see how much effort the team were putting into our breakfast, especially considering they were still conducting normal service in between fitting us in.

After that, it was back to the table for a spot of tea, toast and juice for Wifey and I and time to look over our three (!) course breakfast menu:

 

The bread, a crusty crunchy sourdough, was very generous and served with a delicious pale and soft butter. The juices were all amazing quality (as expected) and tea was served in beautiful clear glass pots.

Our first course was a twist on the classic breakfast dish of Kedgeree, smoked haddock risotto accompanied with capers, parsley and quails egg:

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I usually hate capers; the bitter, salty, sour medicinal taste usually sends me running.

But this kedgeree was something else. Well presented chunky flakes of smoked haddock, glossy quails eggs and wet but perfectly done rice meant I was in heaven. Wifey was apprehensive as rice for breakfast reminded her of childhood memories of Congee but she fell in love with this also, heaping praise on the delicate smokiness of the fish.

The ‘main’ was another twisted dish, a Full English featuring crispy duck egg, chorizo & coco bean, confit tomatoes, walnut puree and smoked bacon emulsion.

This miniature masterwork came with an egg hidden in a birds nest, waiting to be opened like a treasure chest. Silence descended on the table whilst we dove in and you could hear nothing but the scraping of knives and groans of delight!

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The egg was exceptional and surpassed the quails egg from the previous course, a hard challenge to beat. The bacon emulsion providing a tang, a nice earthiness and zing supplied by the chorizo and coco bean. The twist on brown sauce was amazing too.

Our final dish on the breakfast tour was Granola, with toasted almonds, English apples and yoghurt:

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I wasn’t expecting a foamed yoghurt but this was delightfully pleasant. It was  a refreshing end to the meal with a balanced apple compote peppered with hidden huge blueberries.

After our big repast, Wifey and I patted our contented bellies and with goodbyes done, started the day with a sense of contentment. Wifey will definitely be back for another meal soon.

The Birmingham Breakfast Club held a second event last Saturday (28th November) which had a different (but likely no less superb). Luckily, for you readers, Vicky from Brumderland attended and you can read her experience soon!

When: 31/10/2015

Where: Simpsons Restaurant, 20 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3DU

Who: Birmingham Breakfast Club, Simpsons Restaurant

 

 

 

Deliveroo Round 3! – Rub Smokehouse

It’s Friday again and just before we were away for a weekend, it was time for more of Birmingham restaurants to our home.

As you may have read previously (coughcough), Deliveroo supply a delivery service for a wide range of some of the best eateries in Brum: what I’d like to term a ‘restaurant concierge service’ providing ordering, payment and delivery services for some of Birmingham’s biggest independents with a few chains too.

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This time, our choice was Rub Smokehouse, a Southern US BBQ style restaurant who’ve expanded from their original restaurant in Nottingham to Regency Wharf off Broad Street earlier this year.

We’ve heard the reputation of Rub for supplying large portions, so Wifey and I went for a main each and a side to share.

Like the last few times, ordering with Deliveroo is simple. Select your food and order time, the website keeps a running total whilst you tot up your total and adds a reasonable £2.50 for Deliveroo. There’s even space for a driver’s tip too if you’re feeling generous.

For starters, we went with the classic of Nachos to share, accompanied with sour cream, guacamole, pulled BBQ pork, Monterey Jack, salsa, cheese.

For mains, I fancied something a little different from a burger or ribs and chose a Reuben sandwich. Consisting of low & slow cooked beef brisket in special Jack Daniels BBQ gravy with Monterey Jack cheese, pickles and slaw on sourdough, to which I added extra bacon and American cheese.

Wifey went a little lighter with a Cobb Salad, which was pulled BBQ free range chicken, smoked bacon, egg, sweet pepper, tomato, avocado and blue cheese.

The order went in at 19:44pm and an ETA given of 20:30pm. In actual fact, the food arrived at 20:29pm so top marks on time prediction. A short mobile call from the driver and I was ready to meet him as he pulled up downstairs. When I arrived, I found our Deliveroo driver had come via pushbike! A quite smart and eco friendly for delivery.

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Back upstairs, even though we were prewarned, Wifey and I weren’t expecting the size of the portions!

There was an issue, however, with my Reuben as the box was cardboard the gravy had breached the side and caused a bit of a mess:

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I mentioned this on Twitter and got a quick response from the team, stating they’ll be looking into the packaging to prevent the same happening in the future.

The contents, however, we still mainly intact:

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The brisket was well braised in the gravy and topped off with fries and slaw; the sourdough did seem to be missing, though.

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Wifey’s cobb salad, equally as massive, was really nice with the sweetness of the pulled chicken offset with the pungent strength of the blue cheese. Wifey couldn’t handle the blue cheese so instead I pinched it and combined it with my Reuben (which was great, by the way).

We finished off with the starter, the nachos:

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Oozing with guacamole , sour cream and salsa, the nachos had got a little bit soggy by the time we had got there but still tasted amazing.

Next time when we’re in the mood for a BIG appetite, we’ll have to make our way down to try the restaurant!

When: 15/10/2015

Where: BG HQ, Birmingham

Who: DeliverooRub Smokehouse

Veggie Heaven at Bistro 1847 – Xmas Menu Launch

Before I started blogging, I never particularly thought about vegetarian restaurants properly before. I’ve always assumed everywhere catered for omnivores and a small selection for those of the vegetarian and vegan variety. However, after meeting the passionate foodie Andy Hare of  vegiefoodie.com, (who finds the best veggie places in and around Brum), I’ve realised it’s actually a problem. There’s not many places that cater for a vegetarian/vegan audience without resorting to nut roast or risotto…

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Mediterranean Delights – The Upper Room at Byzantium

For the first time in a while, it was nice to get out of the city centre and mosey on down to the suburbs on a foodie adventure.

On this occasion I was invited by Byzantium, an independent family-run restaurant which serves up a wide variety of tapas, to join them for the opening of their upper room.

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A good crowd had turned out to try the new food, not surprising since this is one of Kings Heath’s little gems. The upstairs room had been tastefully decorated in neutral colours, with a Mediterranean theme, and was surprisingly spacious!

After a very warm welcome from the owners Efua and Antonello and the team, I got to work quickly on the lovely drinks on offer and then, chatting to the other lovely guests of the evening.

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We were taken on a whirlwind tour of the Mediterranean with some amazing tapas, including

French bread with caramelised onions and Camembert and Moroccan Zalouk; Italian Arancini balls with prawns and mozzarella; Greek halloumi souvlaki; crispy pork belly with a balsamic glaze, anchovy and black olive tapenade; courgette fritters; quinoa salad; chicken ballotine with black olives and chorizo; and albondigas with a spicy tomato sauce.

My favourites of the evening were:

  • The crispy pork; paired with an amazing balsamic glaze the sweet, sour and umami flavours played delightfully on the tongue.
  • The albondigas; well seasoned mince meatballs partnered with a powerful spicy tomato dip, which left tendrils of warm heat after the first taste.

I would’ve been happy with them all to be honest and it’s definitely encouraged me to drag Wifey down one evening, so we can have a nice relaxed evening out of the bustle of the city centre.

The Upper Room seats up to 40 people, catering for a wide range of functions. Byzantium’s special party menu has something for all tastes.

Their xmas menu can be viewed here, and bookings are now being taken on 0121 444 5444.

Byzantium is open Tuesday to Saturday 12-2:30pm for lunch, and Monday to Saturday 5:30pm-10pm for dinner.

Disclaimer: For this evening, we were guests of Byzantium who provided all food and drinks; this provides no bias to this 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.

When: 13/10/2015

Where / Who:  Byzantium, 11 York Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham

Wrath – Feel the Heat! at Bodega Birmingham

You may remember I was invited to attend a special bloggers event at The Jekyll & Hyde a few weeks back, hosted by the wonderful Vicky Osgood of Brumderland, and the team at Bodega.  The name of the event was Greed and it was particularly apt with the amount of food I ate!

Tonight was Wrath and the host venue was Bodega Birmingham, another part of the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted group. They are currently in the process of having a menu tweak, introducing some seasonal specials and supplying some tasters. Along with a special Tequila master-class, I couldn’t say no to that! So it was a descent to the Sugarloaf bar to immerse myself in South American cuisine & liquor.

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It’s hard to think Bodega has already been in place for 5 years! Wifey and I moved into the city centre about 5 1/2 years ago. It’s the first time I’d been downstairs into the Sugarloaf bar. The décor was inspired by Dia de Meurtos with lots of sugar skulls on the wall.

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We were welcomed with a Margarita to kick off proceedings.

Odu, the GM, welcomed us in and explained the ethos behind the menu and their plans going forward. They’re keeping the fusion of South American cuisine; next year, the core menu will be kept but a range of seasonal specialities will be introduced. Some of the big hitters were on for tasting tonight such as Xim Xim, Veggie tacos and Dirty Rice.

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First up was the Brazilian Xim Xim. The dish originated in Africa as a stewed combination of dried shrimp, ground nuts and coconut. It’s now arrived at Bodega, by way of Brazil, and has changed a little. Tonight’s dish was a mix of chicken, prawns, peanuts and coconut cream, served with dirty rice and tortilla.

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The dish reminded me slightly of a Chicken Korma with the creaminess of the coconut. There were soft chunky chicken pieces, which partnered well with paprika peppiness of the dirty rice.

Next on the tasters were the vegetarian tacos, served in soft tortillas and stuffed with sweet potatoes, black beans and avocado.

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It was a slightly healthier option and with a beautifully fresh flavour. iIt can even be done gluten free with lettuce instead of a tortilla.

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A mango salad was next on the agenda with a zingy raspberry vinaigrette

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The sweet savoury punch was different to your usual side salad but I would have been happy with just a bowl of that all night!

Pre-desserts, it was time for a masterclass with Marcelle, the head bartender.

The three spirits we were to learn about were tequila, rum and a drink I’d not come across before, cachaca.

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Tequila takes its name from the city of Tequila and is made from the agave fruit nectar. Apparently if you drink good quality tequila made from pure agave nectar, you won’t get a hangover the next day. Bodega stock over 50 types of tequila. These include a range of tequilas from the highland region of Jalisco. Jailsco is the only other area allowed to brand their agave spirit as tequila; anything else is a Mescal.

Tequila is enjoyed in Mexico like a good malt whisky and is served neat. You can find good inexpensive tequila; it just needs a gimlet eye to sniff out a bottle.

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Next up on the spirit tour was cachaca, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice. It’s Brazil’s favourite spirit and forms the basis of quite a few cocktails such as a caipirinha.

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Caipirinha is the most popular cocktail in Brazil. Invented in Sao Paulo in 1918, it was designed as a remedy for Spanish Flu with cachaca, honey and garlic. The garlic was quickly replaced by lime. It’s probably one of the most easy cocktails to make, with sugar and lime crushed together, then liqour, ice and a slice.

A little break before the final part of the masterclass meant it was time for pudding.

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We tried a white chocolate and mojito cheesecake, served with a raspberry coulis.

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The bitterness of the lime, mint and raspberry really took the edge off the sweetness of the white chocolate mousse and had a chunky crispy base.

The final dish was a Pastel de chocolate pegajoso, served with a vanilla ice cream and pistachio praline and It was also gluten free!

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A flourless sticky chocolate cake, it had a peculiar texture, almost a cross between cakeand mousse. Its rich flavour tasted of intense dark chocolate, which was lifted by the vanilla ice cream.

Back to the masterclass and onto the Navy’s favourite, RUM! Rum is made from the same plant as cachaca, the sugar cane. However, it’s made from the by product (usually molasses) of refinery rather than distilled from fresh sugar cane. The most well known rum based cocktail is probably the Mojito.

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Made from white rum, sugar, lime juice, mint and ice it’s apocryphally attributed to Sir Francis Drake. Whilst in the Caribbean, an epidemic of scurvy occurred on board. It was known that the local South American Indians had remedies for various tropical illnesses; a small boarding party went ashore on Cuba and came back with ingredients for a medicine which was effective. The ingredients were aguardiente de caña (a crude form of rum) added with local tropical ingredients, lime, sugar cane juice and mint. It’s now Britain’s most popular cocktail.

We finished off the evening (bar a few more cocktails and a photo I can’t remember taking).

Anyone know who these two are?

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If you know who they are, please let myself and brumhour know 😉

Sugarloaf holds up to 75 people and has its own bar, dance floor, DJ booth and sound system as well as the convenience of its own toilets.

They’ve hosted birthdays, anniversaries, product launches, corporate mixers, sporting events and even wedding receptions, offering full buffet facilities as well as a sit down meal for 30 people. Plus, you can add one of their cocktail master classes to your event!

Sugarloaf can be hired at most times during the week except Friday nights.

Disclaimer: For this evening, we were guests of Brumderland and Bodega who provided all food and most of my drinks; this provides no bias to the review. 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.

When: 05/10/2015

Where:  Bodega Birmingham, Bennetts Hill, Birmingham

Who: BrumderlandBodega Birmingham, Bitters & Twisted

Meaty Delights at Rib Nights – Cafe Opus

I previously went to Rib Nights at The Church Inn back in my pre-blogging days of November last year. It was a great experience and I looked forward to the next one, so when I heard it was returning at Cafe Opus, I booked in straightaway.

Cafe Opus took over the space in the Ikon Gallery back in February 2013, and  part of its profits goes towards the gallery. It’s one of Wifey and I’s favourite brunch spots, especially with the view of cherry blossom over Oozells Square in late spring.

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Blooming Marvellous Art & Grub – BMAG & Edwardian Tea Room

Not your typical invite for a foodie event but the team at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG for us locals) wanted to show off their Edwardian Tea Room and a few new galleries as part of their update.

Wifey & I had visited the tea rooms prior as part of Birmingham Cocktail Weekend and we’re big fans of the ‘Birmingham: its people, its history’ exhibit.

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