Is it Gr8? – Otto Pizza

Next door to Eight Foot Grocer, founded by Chris James, there’s been a bit of activity. First, Chris diversified into The Pop Up Taco Shop (whilst waiting for planning permission). Now Otto Pizza has arrived to take its place.

Sourcing a carefully selected list of suppliers for their ingredients, they keep a short but varied menu in chilled surroundings.

They also have a regularly rotating specials board for pizza, wine and beer. For drinks selections, I chose off the specials board with a Call of Korriban Black IPA from Twisted Barrel Brewery whilst Wifey went for Masons Gin with a Double Dutch Tonic.

My beer was lovely and Wifey (always a fan of G&T) loved the Masons Gin, though Langleys will always be her fave!

For food we had a Tomato and Pesto Flatbread; for mains I chose

Nduja, Mushroom, Marscapone, Mozzarella and Tomato

whilst Wifey picked Mushroom, Marscapone and Truffle Oil.

The flatbread came pre-sliced in a basket.  It wasn’t very strong on the tomato and a little heavy on the pesto, but Wifey is a huge pesto fan which meant it was perfect for her tastes.

My pizza had plenty of spice and oil from the nduja sausage, which was mellowed by the creamy marscapone, the mushroom added texture on a both crispy and doughy base. All in all ruddy lovely, though the oil and spice from the sausage may put a few off.

Wifey’s Pizza came with chunky mushroom, smooth blobs of marscapone and wasn’t too heavy on the truffle oil.  She enjoyed the earthiness of the mushroom combined with the rich creaminess of the marscapone.  The base was midway between ‘deep pan’ and thin and crispy, giving it enough integrity without being too heavy.

For dessert, Wifey went for Daniele’s grandmother’s homemade tiramisu whilst I chose some pistachio ice cream.

Wifey’s Tiramisu was a more than generous portion and in her words was “indulgent, rich, delicious”!  She struggled to finish it but valiantly battled through, it would have been rude not to!

My ice cream verged on the savoury side with the nuttiness of the pistachio shining through. Most people are used to the luminous green pistachio ice cream which I find verges on the too sweet side, whereas this acted as a nice palate cleanser.

Though we were sad to see The Pop Up Taco Shop disappear (which we enjoyed a few times), this is a more than worthy replacement and provides a much authentic experience than the regular chains.

When: 02/03/2017

Where: Otto Pizza, 14 Caroline Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B3 1TR

Who: Otto PizzaEight Foot Grocer

New Menu at El Borracho de Oro

I was invited by Emma Yufera-Ruiz of El Borracho de Oro to go an sample some of her amazing Tapas as part of their menu relaunch, unfortunately I couldn’t make it so instead George Elsmere (Caramel Latte Kiss) bravely stepped into the breach for me…

Tapas is one of my favourite styles of food, so imagine my delight when Ryan asked me to play roving reporter and pay a visit to El Borracho de Oro.

Tucked away in Edgbaston, the restaurant is independently owned with a focus on authentic Spanish cuisine. We were welcomed with an enormous Sangria (just the way I like it) and settled at a table near the kitchen. The main restaurant is cosy without being kitschy, and I always enjoy being able to see the chef working from the kitchen pass.

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We started with a selection of dishes from the tapas menu. Vieria con Morcilla (Grilled Scallops, Black Pudding, Piquillo Sauce) was the real stand-out. The black pudding was packed with flavour without being overly rich, as I often find with the British version. The scallop was plump and tender, perfectly cooked. They could have just kept bringing this dish all night and I think our table would have been happy!

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The Patatas Bravas were crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle. The addition of Aioli alongside the classic Bravas dressing lifted the dish with a little freshness. We also tried Calandracas (Ham, cheese and chorizo parcels cooked in beer batter), Costillas de Cerdo (Slow roasted Pork ribs, sweet potato puree) and Guisantes Salteados con Huevo Cocido (salted garden peas with onion and garlic topped with a boiled egg). Everything we ate was beautifully unfussy with good ingredients allowed to speak for themselves. Deep fried cheese is always a winner with me, and the ribs were so well cooked they were almost hard to serve as the meat simply dropped off the bone.

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This was the point we found our eyes were bigger than our bellies. We’d previously decided that we’d like try two kinds of paella at our table of four, but all the tapas dishes were so generous in portion, we were already feeling pretty full. The Chicken and Chorizo Paella was full of huge pieces of chorizo (so often skimped on), and was a rather huge portion. Designed to share between two, this would be plenty for a dinner out if you’re in need of a treat on a budget, priced at £15. The Seafood Fideuà was equally generous, chock full of prawns and mussels. We were less convinced by ‘fideos’, which is a type of toasted pasta. It was a bit Spaghetti like, and our table were in agreement that we would have preferred paella rice. The flavours were delicious though, and we made a good dent in the huge dish.

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Almost full to bursting, we found a corner for tasters of Brownie, Tarta de Santiago (almond cake) and of course, Churros y Chocolate. I love Churros, and these are excellent. Light and crisp with a good helping of liquid chocolate for dunking.

El Borracho are producing truly excellent, authentic food, and the experience is heightened by their truly outstanding staff. Every single person we spoke to was incredibly friendly, passionate about the food and ready with recommendations. Owner Emma is exactly the same, and it’s clear her staff are carefully selected for their customer service skills.

In short, go. Let your waiter suggest some food, and roll home, full and happy.

Disclaimer: For this visit, George was a guest of El Borracho de Oro, 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.

When: 07/02/2017

Where: El Borracho de Oro,  Harborne Court, Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3BU

Who: El Borracho de Oro

#BloggersBites at Chung Ying Central

As it’s Chinese New Year tomorrow, it’s only fitting that I write about a visit to the CBD’s Chung Ying Central, fast becoming a darling of Colmore Row.

Since opening in early 2014, it’s been a fixture of the Colmore Food Festival and won numerous awards including ‘Brummies Choice’ Best Restaurant in 2016’s Birmingham Mail Poll.

The restaurant has no shortage of pedigree either as part of the Chung Ying Group, which has been established for over 35 years.  It started with Chung Ying itself, then branched out to Chung Ying Garden a few minutes walk away and now, Chung Ying Central.

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Central offers a differing selection to the main two restaurants, focusing on a more business-like crowd.  The main menu focuses on one of the widest dim sum menus ever seen, with over 100 options paired with a selection of delicious cocktails (such as the Shanghai Rose above).

Tonight’s evening was about introducing myself and some fellow bloggers to some of the wide range of cuisine on offer, ranging from Cantonese to Thai to Szechuan and Japanese. Central understands that people’s tastes are steering away from the traditional sweet and sour chicken.  Consumers are a little more savvier nowadays and wanting to experience a wider range of tastes in their cuisine, alongside a selection of teas (Iron BuddhaOolong (Bao Li to the wife and in-laws), Jasmine and Pu-Erh) or Asian Beers (Sapporo, Tsing Tao and Chang).

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Post snacking on some moreish Prawn Crackers paired with a sweet and spicy chilli dip, it was time to get down to business with our selection of food for the evening which I decided to go with Oolong to pair up.

To start off:  Szechuan “Dan Dan” Noodle. Originating (as you guessed) from the Szechuan area of China, know for their liberal use of spice and pepper. The noodles are usually served in broth, accompanied with pickled vegetables and minced meat, usually pork.

According to Wikipedia, the name refers to a type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by walking street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by. The pole was carried over the shoulder with two baskets containing noodles and sauce attached at either end. As the noodles were affordable due to their low cost, the local people gradually came to call them dandan noodles, referencing the street vendors. Literally, the name translates as “noodles carried on a pole” but may be better translated as “peddler’s noodles”.

These wheat noodles (also available with egg noodles for those wishing to avoid the gluten) weren’t as spicy as expected but still rich in flavour, and a healthy portion of minced pork gave a good umami texture to balance them out.

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Next up was Honey and Garlic Chicken Karaage.  Steering away from the ubiquitous Korean fried chicken technique, this Japanese style is done in a tempura style batter and then deep fried in oil to get the crisp just right. Chung Ying uses chicken thigh rather than breast meat as they believe (and I agree) the flavour is much richer.

This was my favourite dish of the night; the smoked garlic and honey were in harmony and the chicken had just the right amount of crisp for my personal taste. I’d have been happy with just a bowl of this for the night and a quiet corner to tuck myself away in.

To follow was the Pei Par Tofu, named after a pear-shaped Chinese string instrument. Though you may think this dish would be vegetarian due to the tofu, you’d be mistaken. These were deep fried with prawn and pork mince inside, served with spring onion and mushrooms. Delicious and moreish.

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The next one along was Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Steamed Bao. The char siu bao are my biggest weakness in life.  Those sticky sweet fluffy white balls of heaven are my all time fave dish and I have to restrain myself when we have them at our fairly regular dim-sum trips. This version was a little different: sweet dough served open with a savoury pork and vegetable filling. Some may find sweet and salty an odd combination but I always like a mix up with my tastes.

If you have been wondering what my header image was, this was perhaps the most left field of the nights dishes: Stuffed Pork Intestines in Salt and Chilli. Now this might sound like a nightmare to some but that’s what most sausages (well good ones) were made from for centuries.  I mean, black pudding and faggots are a Midlands staples so we can’t say much on that front! These were stunning, not dissimilar to pork belly in texture and taste, with a slightly more offal-like note to them.  These were nice and had a spicy topping of finely chopped chilli.

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The final savoury dish of the night was X.O. Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Colloquially known as ‘Chinese Sausage’, this covers a wide range of cured meats. This version was a dried hard sausage with a rich taste, which was laced throughout the fried rice with the usual peas. I do love Chinese Sausage so these was perfect for my taste.

We also had some desserts to round off; some traditional, some not so traditional. Originally Chung Ying Central didn’t serve desserts on opening but the clamour about the lack of pudding put change to that tactic pretty sharpish.

Covering the brownie side, these were supplied to Chung Ying Central from Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. Having met them at a food event, James and Will were impressed enough to have them start regularly supplying the restuarant. Good call I think! The Salted Caramel Brownie was my fave of the two but the Triple Chocolate Brownie was no slouch either.

On the more traditional side of the desserts was the Steamed Caramel Bun and Pan Fried Water Chestnut Paste. Again, I’m no stranger to a good custard bun, made with sugar and rich egg yolk to give that golden colour with a hint of caramel flavour. The chestnut paste was a new one on me. From the outside, its colour and shape reminded me of raw honeycomb; lmost jelly like in texture with big crunchy pieces of water chestnut (which I’d associate with a sir fry) buried inside. For a dessert, it was mild on the sweetness and quite pleasant as a palate cleanser.

This was perfect as we had one last little treat to try. I’ve previously had Canadian ice wine but Will introduced us to Changyu Golden Diamond Vidal Ice Wine. This fruity dessert wine had aromas of pear, lychee and honey. The process of icing allows a cleaner taste than usual.

And with that it was “joy geen” to Chung Ying Central until the next week but more on that soon…

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Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Chung Ying Central & East Village 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.

When: 18/01/2017

Where: Chung Ying Central, 126 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AP

Who: Chung Ying Group

 

Tom’s New Post at the Mailbox

Tom’s Kitchen has four locations in London already, another in Istanbul and one soon in Dubai. He’s finally branching out further up north to the newly refurbished Mailbox.

They had the soft launch late last year and a couple of weeks ago, I got to pop down and have a nose.

Separate from the upstairs collection of chains, it’s nestled into the corner of the first floor right next to the entrance to Harvey Nichols. It’s an 80 cover restaurant (with an “outdoor” dining area outside the eatery that seats 30). There’s also two private dining rooms, one with a large window facing the kitchen and even a serving hatch straight from the pastry section. The other private dining area has a view over the wine store and looking over the ‘al-fresco’ area. Both rooms have pictures of Tom’s suppliers to tie you back to the food.

The main restaurant is a bit pricier than others in the Mailbox, pushing past both Harvey Nichols and the Malmaison with mains ranging between £15 and £26.  With high end brands nearby such as Gieves & Hawkes, Paul Smith and LK Bennett, they’re aiming for a premium crowd.

 

 

For those on the lookout for a quick bite, there will also be Tom’s Kitchen Deli in The Urban Room of The Mailbox with food choices at a less substantial price. Located in the main Mailbox concourse, the Deli offers a grab and go style lunch deal of a sandwich, crisps and a drink for £5, express food as well as coffees and alcoholic beverages from breakfast through to the afternoon

Tom’s Kitchen is open now. For bookings or more info, visit the website.

 

Disclaimer: For the launch event, I was a guest of Tom’s Kitchen and Rewired PR who provided canapes and drinks; 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.

Brunching out at Chez Mal Brasserie, Malmaison Birmingham

Chez Mal is no stranger to Wifey and I, we’ve enjoyed a few brunches with family in the past. When we were invited to go and try it out, how could we say no.

Their brunch is billed as “The Biggest Sunday Lunch in Town”, a substantial selection of three courses including an unlimited chef’s table of hors d’oeuvres, a choice of either a main plate or a brunch option and dessert – for £19.95 per person (£9.95 for little ones)!

Prior to sitting down, we had a quick drink in the relaxed bar area before going into the Brasserie, which has been recently updated with cosy booths and more relaxed lighting.

After Wifey and I took our seats (we were dining with the lovely Ting and Mr Ting), we wandered over to the Chef’s table.

 

The table had a cornucopia of canapes (including the soup of the day – Cream of Cauliflower), Caesar, Caprese, Greek and bespoke fresh salads, shellfish and seafood cocktails, hand carved serrano ham, ibérico, chorizo, salchichon, terrines, Artisan breads, dressings, cheeses and chutneys.

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The trick is to not eat too much before the main course!

Talking of main courses, Wifey and I went split choice, with me picking from the brunch menu and Wifey went for the main plates.

My selection was California Eggs; two poached eggs, crushed avocado and chilli on char-grilled Altamura (Italian) bread.

 

The eggs were perfectly poached and the yolk was deliciously runny. The bread was nice and crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. I found myself wanting an extra slice to help with the runny yolks. The crushed avocado was rich and buttery with flecks of chilli, though I would have preferred a touch more heat.

Wifey on the other hand chose USDA Black Angus; Picanha (rump cap) cut, thyme & rosemary Yorkshire pudding, served with gravy, buttered greens, maple glazed root vegetables and dripping roast potatoes.

 

The beef was well done (Wifey’s personal preference, against my protestations!).  The gravy sauce was rich in flavour and the vegetables were nicely glazed, and to share with the other roast dinner care of Mr Ting.

From the dessert menu, Wifey chose the blackberry and pistachio trifle.

 

The trifle was beautifully presented with the lady fingers, blackberry jelly squares and pistachio crumb on top instead of the bottom. The custard & cream were not overly sweet and was balanced well with the textures of the jelly and lady fingers.

My dessert was a sticky toffee pudding with pecan caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

 

The pudding was rich, comforting and topped with crunchy walnuts, and glazed in a glossy, sweet and gloriously sticky sauce. The ice cream was rich and flecked with vanilla; it paired well with the hot dessert.

Fully stuffed, Wifey and I went for a stroll down the canal to burn off some of the calories we’d built up on the Sunday feast. For just under £20 a head, it’s absurdly good value and a great way to catch up with friends. No doubt we will be visiting again soon.

 

Disclaimer: For this brunch, I was a guest of Malmaison & East Village 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.

When: 13/11/2016

Where: Chez Mal, Malmaison,  1 Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 2JR

Who: Chez Mal

 

Megashake-it-off at Cafe Opus

Wifey and I are not strangers to Cafe Opus housed in the Ikon Gallery, located conveniently off Broad Street in Oozells Square, Brindleyplace. It’s a favourite for a spot of breakfast or a light bite when visiting the Ikon.

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But tonight’s visit was for something different. Cafe Opus have recently brought Megashakes to the menu. These oversized milkshakes are gaining popularity and are designed to kill the craving for serious sweet-tooths.

For tonight, I and fellow bloggers had been given chance to add to their current menu with our own creation, and it was a challenge I couldn’t say no to.

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An array of additions had been laid out for us including 3 base milkshakes, ice cream and a row of toppings.

Sitting down with my selection, I went to work with a caffeine theme in mind.

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My creation was the Cafe Gourmand:

  • Vanilla milkshake
  • A shot of Espresso
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Caramac Buttons
  • A cookie
  • Chocolate sauce

The inspiration for this was the French rapid dessert and Espresso combination. Unfortunately, I didn’t win but there was some tough competition – I did get ‘Most Creative’, though.

 

The other ‘runner up’ was Sarah + Laura‘s ‘Finding Love in a Sweet Treat’ shake! It won the ‘Most Attractive’ category: vanilla milkshake, strawberry and vanilla ice cream, Haribo, popping candy, fizzy laces, and a cookie hidden somewhere…

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The eventual winner was George Elsmere (Caramellattekiss) on behalf of Brumhour, a very worthy winner:

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It was great fun having a go at creating our own and I’ll definitely be back soon to try the winning drink.

Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Bar Opus and Clive Reeves PR who provided all food and drinks; 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.

When: 06/11/2016

Where: Cafe Opus, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace Birmingham B1 2HS

Who:  Cafe Opus, Opus Group

Mâcher at Miss Macaroon

Great Western Arcade is attracting a lot of food highlights to its Victorian arches. From some of the world’s best sandwiches in Anderson & Hill deli, fresh sushi in Sushi Passion, great coffee with York’s Espresso Bar, award winning Loki Wine, vegetarian speciality restuarant 1847 and soon to be opening The Charter Rooms (Langley’s Gin‘s cocktail bar), it’s turning into a foodie destination rather than just a walkway.

 

Newest member to the throng is Miss Macaroon and Wifey and I were lucky enough to be invited to their launch night. Founded by former Purnell’s Patisserie chef Rosie Ginday, this is a business with a heart, as well as a sweet-tooth.

 

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Created not just to sell sweet treats combined with prosecco, it’s also a social enterprise. They provide employment and training programmes aimed at youngsters, who may have slipped through the education system, are care leavers or find themselves homeless, through every macaroon sold in the shop or their online store with even customisable options available.

 

 

Whilst Rosie talked to us about Miss Macaroon’s mission to make the world a better and sweeter place, we munched on some of the delicious treats, with Salted Caramel, vanilla and dark chocolate. Light yet packed full of flavour, they were delicious and went well with a glass of prosecco.

 

We also had chance to have a go at decorating our own with edible cold paint and some very delicate painting brushes. I had a go at the Twitter bird but failed, whilst Wifey did better with her geometric pattern.

 

We also had an opportunity to create our own recipe and whilst I was waiting, I grabbed a few snaps of possibly the world’s most colourful counter. The decor in such a bijou shop was artfully done, with a beautiful window display.

It was then my turn to lend a hand with my creation, and choosing my ganache from the spinning record desk display!

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I went for:

  • Chocolate Shell
  • Tiramisu Ganache
  • Smoked Sugar
  • Poire William Syrup

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I named it  Café Gourmand in honour of the French combination of mini desserts and coffee, to match the chocolate and tiramisu combination.

Whilst Wifey went for:

  • Matcha Green Tea Shell
  • Dark Chocolate and Passionfruit Ganache
  • Smoked Sugar
  • Mango Syrup

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For her fruity  combination, it was Matcha Made in Heaven.

It’s  great to see something different from the normal cafe or bar. The Miss Macaroon shop currently seats eight customers inside, and a further six alfresco are to be added in spring next year.

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To keep those customers occupied, 30 different flavours of macaroons, all freshly hand piped, baked and hand filled at its dedicated kitchen in Hockley will be available. On the beverage side, Prosecco, carefully matched to the sweetness of the macaroons by Connolly’s Wines, is available, along with hot chocolate by Valrhona and ‘Aurelio’ golden artisan beer by Two Fingers Brewing Co, who direct their profits to Prostate Cancer UK.

With a world first ‘personalised’ option, where customers can have logos, words or even their face printed on their macaroons in under one hour, they even can do a pantone colour matching service. It’s great to see Birmingham being their first location and I look forward to many more with their aim of 100 stores  by 2021.

Disclaimer: For this evening, I was a guest of Miss Macaroon, 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.

 

When: 28/10/2016

Where: Miss Macaroon,  Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham. B2 5HU

Who: Miss Macaroon

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Menu at Henry Wong’s Harborne

Gluten free and Cantonese cuisine aren’t usually synonymous. With soy being a large component in Chinese cooking, not many dishes get away from the gluten.

img20160908185019It can be pot luck when looking for a place that can cater for a range of dietary and intolerance requirements, so it’s nice to find a restaurant with a wide choice for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and those with an intolerance alike.

Henry Wong’s menu highlights both contemporary and classic Cantonese dishes and as the ingredients used are fresh, they can be adapted where needed.

To highlight the gluten free options available, a few fellow bloggers and I went along for a taste.

We were treated to a  variety of dishes accompanied by gluten-free wine. To begin, it was a fun twist on an old classic – Chicken & Shiitake Mushroom Yuk Sung with Pine Nuts.

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The Yuk Sung came with crispy fresh lettuce and was surprisingly filling. The pine nuts and shiitake gave it a nice earthy flavour.

Next up was Soft Shelled Crab with Chilli and Garlic, Spinach with sesame seeds, and Asparagus.

The (mound!) of soft shelled crab was definitely a highlight. Sweet juicy crab meat was lightly battered, with a chilli and garlic sauce drizzled on, and was enjoyed by all around the table. The spinach and asparagus were also cooked well with a touch of al dente bite, and not overcooked and floppy.

Next was the mains consisting of Honey Pepper King Prawn, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Spring Onion, Pak Choi in a Garlic sauce, Sizzling Beef Fillet in Black Pepper Sauce, accompanied with Egg Fried Rice. 

The honey pepper king prawns were delicious. These prawns were HUGE , something you don’t see often nowadays with most restaurants.  Soft and crispy at the same time, these were dripping in a sweet and spicy honey pepper sauce.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with sweet and sour chicken. With Chinese food, I have been spoilt by having wonderful in-laws who cook amazing home-style dishes which kind of puts me off the usual restaurant staples. This was a pleasant surprise, neither too sweet or salty, with good sized chunks of chicken.

The sizzling beef fillet in a black pepper sauce is another Chinese classic and this one was great.  The beef wasn’t dry and had a really nice umami flavour, enhanced by the black pepper.

My personal fave of the mains was the sea bass. I love a bit of meaty fish and this was done in a traditional style, relying on fresh produce with minimal intervention to get the best flavour. Simple, fresh, clean and delicious.

To finish was a trio of desserts. Strawberry Cheesecake, Alabama Fudge Cake and a Fresh Fruit Platter, specially selected for gluten free customers.

I’m always up for a cheesecake; this was nice, sweet and rich with a sweet strawberry coulis marbled through. The Alabama fudge cake was as expected: chocolatey with a rich sweet ganache.

The fruit platter was a sight to behold with a sphere of ice as its centrepiece.

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I even found time to squeeze in a  Virgin Strawberry Mojito too!

 

Disclaimer: For this evening, I was a guest of Parm and the team at Henry Wong and Six Peg 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.

When: 08/09/2016

Where: Henry Wong, 283 High Street, Harborne, B17 9QH

Who: Henry Wong

Choc-A-Block at Colmore Food Festival

Has it really been a year since the last food festival? Time flies fast in the second city!

The Colmore Food Festival is one of the highlights of Wifey and I’s year. Bringing the cream of the Colmore BID‘s bars, restaurants and cafes in a showcase over two days.

You can read last years posts here and here.

This year the stage had moved to the side of the Town Hall, giving wider avenues to progress down and choose your particular solid or liquid treat, a very sensible move. In the centre, there was a garden with seating hosted by The Opus Family (more on them later).

Wifey and I visited 3 times over the weekend, Friday lunch, Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, but still didn’t get around to trying half of it!

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First stop was the marvellous Gary of Gingers Bar (located in Purnell’s Bistro). With a whisk of his magic fingers, 2 non-alcoholic cocktails were presented to us of G2O, a blend of Orange, Passion-fruit and Lime. This was a perfect refresher and helped with the brisk walk we both had from the other end of Colmore Row in the summer sun.

After slaking our thirst, we popped into the Opus Garden for a spot of lunch via Opus at Cornwall Street. Wifey and I both had an Opus classic: this was a Lincolnshire Leek and Haddock Fishcake, topped with a Poached Egg and butter sauce.

I’m not normally a leek fan but this was great with the haddock. The poached egg was perfect with a rich golden yolk.

Then, it was back to the office for a few more hours until the freedom of the weekend.

For our return, it was straight to Purnell’s Restaurant, always a firm favourite at the Food Festival. We were glad we got in when we did as they sold out pretty sharpish afterwards.

We went for the Pork Belly, accompanied by Pickled Pineapple, Black Pepper and Pork Crumble. We were impressed by crispy, crumbly, spicy pork belly accompanied  with the sweet sharp tang of pickled pineapple. I’m now sad to be waiting another year before seeing what they cook up next year!

Next stop was to an old favourite, The Jekyll & Hyde, serving a wide selection of gin based beverages. We went for a portion of Dr Jekyll’s Fruit Punch, it definitely packed one and was very moreish.

A few stalls away was Asha’s for a Lamb Saffron Biryani, this Lamb Biryani is cooked with three year mature basmati rice, green cardamom, saffron and cloves, served  with poppadoms, raita and gravy. As expected from one of Birmingham’s most renowned restaurants, very moreish and didn’t last long between Wifey and I.

Next, a break from the food, Seekasaurus was in attendance at the food festival with lots of coloured Dino’s lurking about the stalls and one midway up a lamppost. Wifey and Laura from Full to the Brum went for an explore whilst I popped back to Gingers Bar for another quick beverage.

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This was a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri Slushie, deliciously sweet and boozy.

That about wraps it up for Friday evening.

After compèring the hour of radio that is The Geeky Brummie Show on BrumRadio.com,it was time for visit number 3 for lunch and maybe some more alcohol!

First stop of the day was Jake’s Coffee Box, it’s  great to see an independent as good as Jake’s get to showcase themselves like this, and it’s at the heart of what the Festival is designed to be.

We chose one of Jake’s Picnic boxes, the first being the Savoury Box, with 2 Mini Gourmet Sausage Rolls (Pork, Shropshire Blue & Caramelised Onion, Pork Leek & Sage), accompanied by a homemade Scotch Egg, Rocket Salad, Cherry tomatoes and Black Pudding Crumb. The sausage rolls were delicious especially the caramelised onion one, which Wifey was particularly fond of. The Scotch Egg was also  great with a smooth creamy yolk and a hard albumen.

We also saw the Sweet Box, this contained a Triple Chocolate Brownie, Strawberries, Raspberries and Clotted Cream.

Next stop was booze! And a return to the Opus Garden. We were on the flip-side this time and visiting Bar Opus.

I chose a Marmalade Frozen Kalippo, which was Chase Marmalade Vodka, Lemon Juice, Orange Juice and a touch of Rosemary. Wifey chose The Great Chase, which was Chase Vodka, Chase Elder-flower Liqueur, Lemon Juice and Soda.

After that bit of booze, we made ourselves comfy in the deckchairs and watched a cooking demo by Jojolapa and hosted by Phil Oldershaw.

After that, Wifey couldn’t resist getting a portion of Momo’s, which nice and doughy and packed full of delicate chicken. They were accompanied by spicy rich tomato sauce.

Finishing off with another pair of cocktails from Gingers Bar (of course), it was time to bid a fond farewell to The Food Festival for another year!

When:08/07/2016 – 09/07/2016

Where: Victoria Square, Birmingham City Centre

Who: Colmore Business DistrictPurnell’s Bistro / Ginger’s BarOpus @ Cornwall StreetJojolapaPurnell’sThe Jekyll & Hyde,  Jake’s Coffee Box & Bar Opus at One Snowhill

 

A Round of Art – Portraits Untold at BMAG

BMAG (Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery) is one of my favourite gems of the city.  An extraordinary place for art with some stunning pieces, and plenty to do for all the family. Next Saturday (16th July) will be a little extra special as the Portraits Untold project visits the Round Gallery.

antiquities5Portraits Untold sees acclaimed award-winning disabled artist, Tanya Raabe-Webber, undertake four live portrait sittings with high profile sitters. The idea is that the sitting will fuse digital, traditional drawing and painting techniques in an interactive live environment, inviting audiences to take part in person and online.

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At BMAG, Tanya will be painting John Akomfrah, a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works investigate memory, postcolonialism and the African diaspora in Europe and the USA.

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The sitting will take place in front of a live audience, who are encouraged to draw their own portraits of the sitter through traditional drawing and the use of digital drawing apps.

Drawing materials will be provided and audience members with mobile devices are encouraged to download free drawing apps before coming to the event.

 

The event, which will also be streamed live online, has been devised to reach new audiences through a variety of platforms to make art more accessible. Audiences, both live and watching online, will be able to send their digital and digitized drawings through to the artist on the day through social media.

Throughout the sitting, Tanya will fuse digital and traditional drawings, and versions of the audience’s drawings with her own to create a multi-layered portrait. The sitting will also involve a series of discussions about the lives of the two artists and their thoughts on diversity, which audiences will be able to take part in.

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Portraits Untold will take place in the Round Gallery at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery across three two-hour sittings.

For more information, visit www.portraitsuntold.co.uk, like Portraits Untold on Facebook at www.facebook.com/portraitsuntold and follow @PortraitsUntold on Twitter.

 

 

Tanya Raabe otherwise known as Tanya Raabe-Webber, was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, has been a practising Visual Artist, devising artworks exploring and challenging identity, a disabled self and the nude in contemporary Art since 1987. She gained a BA(HONS) in Graphic Design at Leeds Polytechnic, an MA in Communication Design at Manchester Metropolitan University and a PGCE in Higher Education from Huddersfield University. Tanya has exhibited as a solo artist and in group shows nationally including screening Who’s Who at National Portrait Gallery, Exhibitions at Holton Lee, Dorset, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, The Bluecoat, The A Foundation, Liverpool, Oriel Wrexham, Laing Gallery Newcastle since 1990.

John Akomfrah is a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, postcolonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explore the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today.