Review: Food Attack at The Meat Shack

It’s National Burger Day today, so what better way to celebrate then telling you about my visit to one of Birmingham’s hottest new venues, The Meat Shack at Thorp 17.

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The Meat Shack are not new to the Birmingham food scene, in fact they’ve been established for 5 years as a streetfood vendor, and have served their faithful followers at Birmingham streetfood Mecca, Digbeth Dining Club for a long time. It’s great to see that they’ve put down roots in the heart of Southside so how could we not go down for a visit.

The interior is light and airy with a nice few touches of street  art and corrugated steel to liven things up. We arrived early evening and we were glad we did, between arriving and finishing the place went from reasonably quiet to queuing out of the door. I think the burger smell had got to the Birmingham masses it certainly had got to us, it was also great to see cocktail extraordinaire Gary Anderson settling in to his new role as General Manager, his affable nature shining through whilst taking our drinks order.

I was dining with Wifey and “Award Winning #BrumHour” who joined us to see what all the foodie buzz had been about. The tap ale had ran out so I settled for a Sadler’s Dakota American IPA (yeasty, malty with citrus bite), Wifey on the Fentimans Elderflower (refreshing) and #BrumHour on the Hoxton Cidersmiths Craft Cider (green apple, tangy).

After drinks it was time to choose from the menu

It’s short, but some of the best are, and all the usual bases are covered, including a veggie option.

Between us we covered off:

  • Mr C – beef patty, american cheese, iceberg lettuce, red onion, pickle,  ketchup, shack sauce (Wifey)
  • Bella Emberg marinaded deep fried halloumi, mushroom duxelle, dutch cheese, ketchup, chipayo, crunchy onion flakes, iceberg lettuce, red onion (#BrumHour)
  • Dutch Piggy beef patty, dutch cheese, american cheese, streaky bacon, iceberg lettuce, red onion, pickle, ketchup, chipayo  with an extra Sloppy Kiss shack beef and pork meat sauce on top (me).

I actually was enjoying the burger that much i forgot to take notes, but it was just amazing, it lived up to the stair case with dripping filthy goodness. The bacon was crisp, the ‘hand smashed’ beef patty flavourful, cheese drippy and the sloppy kiss lifted it to a different level with a sweet meaty extra tang, I was half expecting a golden shaft of light to peek out from the clouds and hit the tray, whilst a chorus of angels hummed in the back ground, the contents were THAT good.

My only, very minor, criticism was the bun. Which was very nice and oft with a touch of crisp from a light toasting. It was a touch to tall for my preference, with a slab of ingredients that size it makes a large mouthful  and a slightly less voluminous bun would’ve been appreciated.

Noises from around the table confirmed the others were enjoying their burgers as much as I. Wifey even finished hers which is an unusual occurrence to say the least.

 

For sides we chose both Frickles and Onion Rings and 2 portions of Chipayo Fries, with #BrumHour opting for his Sloppy Kiss to be planted there.

The fries we nice, well seasoned and the Chipotle Mayonnaise added a nice zing to the proceedings. Onion Rings are always a good guide to quality and are Wifey’s default order whenever we go somewhere new and they’re on the menu. These were solid, crispy, golden batter which wasnt oily with a beautiful sweet onion inside which pretty much just melted away on contact. Don’t take my word for it Paul Fulford praises them mightily too here.

And the Frickles, what can I say about the Frickles. British peoples first instinct when pickling is the humble onion, or if you’re feeling racy an egg from the mysterious giant jar at the chippy. My favourite has always been a nice pickled cucumber. It’s sweet, it’s tangy it’s crunchy and it’s heaven with a beef and ham sandwich.

With the light battering supplied on these bad boys they’ve been lifted to an art-form. The batter adding extra crunch and that extra savoury edge. I’d have been happy as a pig in muck with a bucket of these and a cup of that delicious blue cheese dip.

The one thing I’d like to see, and agreed with the next table along, added to the menu would be a nice side salad, or coleslaw or something to just take the edge off the mostly fried nature of the menu and pretend we were at least being somewhat healthy.

Wifey and I had just enough space to get in a dessert. We both plumped for the take on Eton Mess with fresh peaches and mango amongst whipped cream, decadent and delicious. Next door had the Chocolate Torte and reports between mouthfuls were very positive nods. The dessert menu is under development at present so expect to see more options soon.

One of the things going around the foodie scene is if there’s enough Birmingham foodies to support two amazing burger restaurants in the city (these guys and the Digbeth chaps, OPM). In a city with over a million people, and a food scene which has exploded over the past few years, it’s daft to think that both wont thrive and co-exist happily.

For me and my cohort it was a very happy, fulfilling and positive first visit. It certainly wont be our last if we can beat the queues. I’m a man who needs his dripping filthy goodness after all, I mean how else do I maintain my figure.

If you’ve not been yet, GO NOW, today’s as good as any…

 

When: 18/08/2017

Where: The Meat Shack, Upstairs @Thorp17, 17 Thorp Street, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4AT

Who: The Meat Shack

 

Siamais-ing

Now, Chinese food is a bit of a problem for me. As Wifey’s parents owned their own restaurant for many years, I’m a little bit spoilt when I go over for dinner.

However, Thai food, that’s a treat that I don’t often get to do, which is rubbish as there’s plenty of restaurants in Birmingham offering amazing Thai food.

The newest restaurant on the block is Siamais at Oozells Square Brindleyplace.

The new owner is Nishil Nathwani, creator of the Aluna cocktail bar at The Mailbox.  His parents previously ran Thai Edge, who occupied the space prior to Siamais.

The cocktails pedigree from Aluna has carried over as part of the dual concept of Siamais, accompanied by a range of South East Asian dishes.

The decor is a mix of traditional items like baskets and lanterns but in a modern setting. The reason for tonight’s visit was part of a ‘blog date’ arranged by Birmingham Bloggers. I’d decided to catch up with a good friend in the shape of Mr David “BrumHour” Massey.

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After getting settled down, we started off the evening with a bit of a show. The Bang Pai Falls  is from their Book of Siam, their specially themed cocktails. The description was “Overproof Rum with Cherry & Vanilla notes and cranberry juice. Names after the clear blue waterfall, you’ll see why!” It was a bit of a showstopper and there were a lot of onlookers in the restaurant (for the first time) when it arrived:

We decided to call him Steve as I thought it looked a little like the monkey from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’!

Onto our starters, I chose Soft Shelled Crab, a deep fried soft shelled crab smothered in chilli and salt.  Dave went for Chicken Tom Yum Soup, a Thai classic with chicken, kaffir lime, lemongrass, mushroom, galangal, chilli and coriander.

My Soft Shell Crab had a crisp batter with the nicely balanced flavour of crab coming through.  A touch of black pepper would have possibly lifted if further. The crunchy legs were my favourite part, with a flavour akin to a crab version of pork crunch, if you get what I mean.

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Dave was certainly enjoying his Tom Yum Soup. I snagged a piece of chicken and some broth. The chicken was delicate, with the lemongrass coming through as a strong note, and the heat of the galangal and chilli following in quick succession. One thing I would’ve loved on the side was a prawn cracker or two to steal some of the broth from Dave when he wasn’t looking.

Our second set of cocktails, which turned out to be our first (more on that later) arrived:

Mine was the Dark Side of the Moon, Glenmorangie, blood orange and cherry. It was sweet and silky with a citrus finish and a whiff of whisky to the nose, but it didn’t linger on the palate as some whisky cocktails can.

Dave plumped for an Apple & Kiwi Mojito, white rum, mint, kiwi and apple syrup. I snagged a sip and it was a nice take on a classic mojito, with the kiwi adding an extra dimension and green apple keeping the bite.

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For main I chose Lamb Massaman Curry.

I’m actually reminded of another visit to a Thai restaurant a few years back, when four of us ordered rice and three mains to share as we’d stopped for lunch. I was insistent on ordering Lamb Massaman, much to the grumbling of my fellow diners who wanted one each of red, yellow and green curries. I’d nipped to the loo just after the food arrived and upon my return to the table, one solitary piece of lamb was sitting in a small puddle of the middle of the dish. I was most upset!

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If you’ve always stuck to green or red curry, I’d really suggest giving this a try. It’s a completely different dish to the others. Made, in this case, with coconut milk, potato, peanuts and onion along with star anise. It’s one of Thailand’s most popular dishes and I can see why, it’s certainly one of mine. I was happy to devour the lot and the accompanying sticky coconut rice quickly to avoid a repeat of my previous experience.

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The erstwhile #Brumhour chose a Chicken Red Curry, chicken, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, aubergine, basil and red chilli. I once again did the blogger thing of darting my fork in to relinquish a piece from his plate. The chicken was again tender with a velvety spicy sauce.

Returning to the subject of #Steve, he had been bubbling away quietly in the corner of our table whilst we tried our others and got on with munching our starters and mains. We ordered dessert and I was moving Steve into position (he’s a sharing cocktail after all) and I dropped him…

… right on top of another glass, and contents pouring freely…

…and the whole restuarant paused for a breath.

Luckily the staff, probably warned that two of the most clumsiest and cloddish bloggers in Birmingham were due to visit, were marvelous. Within mere seconds, we’d been ushered to a new table and the disaster recovery team had swept the glass, mopped up the moisture and cleaned the table and chairs, whilst Dave and I were still rigid with adrenaline and embarrassment. I turned redder than Dave’s curry!

Thankfully nerves were returned back to normal with the arrival of #SonOfSteve and dessert:

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For dessert, I selected the Coconut Cup, a half coconut shell filled with coconut ice cream

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It was a really nice palate cleanser after a couple of heavy dishes, a light fragrant ice cream with nice chunks of coconut flesh throughout.

Dave went for something, in his words ‘photogenic’, so he had the Chocolate Ghirlanda, a coronet of dark chocolate with crunchy meringue, rich chocolate ice cream, white chocolate sauce and dusted with cocoa. Now if that doesn’t sound decadent, I don’t know what is!

It was rich, sweet, unguent and gooey, chocolate and all in all, deliciousness.

And that was it for our #mandate.  We survived and so did #Steve (less his innards). I’ll be back again, with Wifey in tow, when I next get a craving for Massaman… mmmmm… Massaman…

When: 27/07/2017

Where: Siamais, Six Brindley Place, 7 Oozells St, Birmingham, B1 2HS.

Who: Siamais

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Spray Marketing and Siamais, arranged by Brum Bloggers, 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.

 

 

 

 

#McDeliveryDay – A tale in being cautious about hype.

McDonalds and UberEats have been shouting a lot about their partnership, even coining the 26th July Global #McDeliveryDay. A celebration of how you can order your MaccyD’s online via their McDelivery service.

There are now 150 locations across the UK where you can get your food delivered for £2.50, and you could even win some natty merchandise too on this special day too! From a cursory search, a lot of local and national press picked up the story, a few examples:

From this level of press, you’d expect it to be a national campaign across all 150 locations? I certainly did today, when I ordered lunch for Wifey and I.

The food finally arrived (after the delivery driver went to the wrong entrance and in lukewarm fashion). I was a little bit miffed there was no freebies included but ho hum, it’s a lottery and not everyone’s a winner. That’s when I went online to check the number of participating restaurants that were participating?

 

5

Yup, that’s right FIVE:

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For a population of 65 million, with more than 1200 restaurants and 150 that offer delivery, 5 were participating in the giveaway!

My day job involves lots of statistics so I thought I’d have a bash to see how this compares with some of the other countries featured in #McDeliveryDay

This is in comparison to:

UK unsurprisingly does the worst with 1.3m per store, whereas Amsterdam comes out best with 102,500 population per store.

The delivery radius is 1.5 miles so with a bit of old math (remember πr squared?), I worked that out to be roughly 35 sq miles of the UK covered by this global event, out of 94,060 sq miles out of our glorious isle (or 0.04% of the country covered).

That’s being a little bit unfair though, they only have 150 stores that deliver remember? But that’s still just 3.3% of the UK stores who could participate who did.

But maybe that’s still unfair,  these are dense urban areas so surely that’s weighted in these 5 stores favour? Going from the nomis website (2011 census) the population density of the five locations is:

  • London W2 – 48,372
  • London SE1 – 67,037
  • Basford, Nottingham NG7 – 58,012
  • Nottingham NG1 – 12,897
  • Leeds LS2 – 10,120

Now postcode area is probably disingenuous as some delivery areas will not cover the whole area but some will cover more.  It’s a fairly good guess and gives us about 200,000 people close enough to qualify for the free #McDeliveryDay swag.  Now 200,000 divided by 65 million is… 0.3%

Hmmmm….but again that’s unfair, there’s only 150 shops with delivery. So, I was sad enough to calculate the total population reach of these 150 stores (excluding commuters too, this is just residents) is 4.05 million. So out of the reachable population, that’s 5%.

This is just a bit of fun remember and I make no claims to any kind of accuracy. I just feel it’s a bit unfair for a ‘Global day of Celebration’, covered in the UK national press, to be only accessible to a small part of the population, and the number of locations kept hush hush until 24 hours before launch.

There’s been a bit of  a backlash on Twitter under the #McDeliveryDay hashtag feed, as the list of restaurants only went live yesterday (25th July). To be fair to McDonalds, they’ve also given some away on Facebook (15 or so by the picture they put up), who were outside the delivery areas.

Now, this is not meant to be sour grapes; just a bit of a tale to make sure you read everything fully before buying into the hype of two global brands, perhaps not expecting those to check beforehand.

Anyway, back soon with an actual food review. Toodles!

 

 

 

 

 

Colmore Food Festival 2017

It seems to be coming around quicker every year.

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 a Friday and Saturday.

You can read previous years’ posts herehere and here.

My photography skills seem to have forgotten about anything but food and drink this year but it was a similar set up to last year, with the stage next to the Town Hall and a central seating area with the stalls looping around it.

Wifey and I went both days (of course!) and we tried a fairly decent selection, photos below:

Day 1

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My first dish of the day (prior to Wifey’s arrival) was the Slow Cooked Ox Cheeks from Purnell’s Restaurant accompanied with watercress puree, pickled shallots and wasabi crumble.

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Chicken Katsu Curry, breaded chicken, mild katsu curry sauce and sticky rice from the lovely chaps at Chung Ying Central.

We tried both dishes from Nosh & Quaff , usually found on their starters list, The Rib Tips (a very popular dish for the festival), deep fried lumps of pork belly tossed in their house BBQ sauce, and their Buffalo Wings, Free-Range Cotswold Chicken Wings with a smoked butter and Habanero sauce.

After that much food, it was time for a beverage so we popped over to the cocktail maestro from Purnell’s Bistro, Gary Anderson (on what we learnt was our last time getting a cocktail from him, prior to his move to The Meat Shack as their new GM). We had a Strawberry Feels, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Elderflower, Lemon, Apple & Mint, and Pineapple & Sage Daiquiri, Bacardi Rum, Lime, Pineapple, Sage & Pink Peppercorn.

And that was the end of Day 1

Day 2

After a fun day in the radio studio (for Geeky Brummie, it’s worth a listen, I promise!), it was time for more food and booze!

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First stop of the day was Opus  / Bar Opus Wifey had the Pork Belly with spiced cherries and I had a Parma Violet with gin, creme de violette, lemonade and parma crystals.

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Next it was time for our now traditional Colmore Food Festival must-have from Jojolapa, the Momo’s (chicken dumplings).

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My next stop was Gaucho and their Beef Empanada and (not pictured) Vacio (bavette) steak which came accompanied with Humita Saltena (creamed sweetcorn).

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Then it was a return to Purnell’s Bistro, and another Strawberry Feels, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Elderflower, Lemon, Apple & Mint, the third variety of cocktail we had was their Summer Lovin with Grey Goose Vodka Peach, cranberry, Orange and Lime.

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Wifey also popped to Purnell’s Restaurant, with the Ox Cheek swapped out for Beef Blade accompanied by watercress puree, pickled shallots and wasabi crumble.

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There was also time for a bit of Dim Sum, from Chung Ying Central.

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The final dish of the day was Black Forest Cake from The Bureau, and some Tom Collins from The Jekyll & Hyde (not pictured) we were pretty much done for the year. and with that, it’s on until waiting for 2018’s Food Festival!

When: 30/06/2017 – 01/07/2017

Where: Victoria Square, Birmingham City Centre

Who: Colmore Business DistrictPurnell’s Bistro / Ginger’s BarChung Ying CentralNosh & Quaff, OpusBar OpusJojolapaGauchoThe Bureau and The Jekyll & Hyde

 

#GBTour – Chase Distillery at The High Field

I like gin and I’m very glad it’s currently having a revival. It’s a curious spirit, being made from another (vodka, if you didn’t know) and steeped with a variety of botanicals.

So you can imagine how happy I was when this appeared through the post from the people at Chase Distillery.  There was also an invite to sample their wares at their #GBTour, part of the 10th anniversary of Chase Distillery, which highlights the crisp and dry Williams GB Gin. The Birmingham stop involved a supper at The High Field, an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Arriving at The High Field in glorious sunshine, I saw their transportation for the evening (a lovely Land Rover Defender 90, if I’m correct; why did they ever stop making them?). After a few snaps, it was inside to have a quick globe of G&T on The High Field’s terrace, before settling upstairs (happily seated next to the estimable Paul Fulford).

The evening promised to be a celebration of gin with a ‘Ginfused’ three course meal tied with three cocktails, each a different take on how to use gin.

Our first course was Gin Cured Salmon with Cucumber Salad and Lime Mayonnaise accompanied by a Gin Twist (GB Gin, Cucumber, Lime, Elderflower Liqueur, Tonic), served chilled than the traditional hot cocktail.

The salmon was light with juniper notes, and the zesty lime mayo perked up the dish remarkably. The Gin Twist reminded me of cucumber water cut with lime cordial. It was very refreshing and took the edge off the heat.

Our second course was Braised Lamb Shank, Rosemary Gnocchi, Broad beans, Peas and Juniper Jus, accompanied by a GB Fruit Twist (GB Gin, Red Vermouth, Chase Blackcurrant Liqueur).

The lamb, braised for 24 hours, was tender as you’d expect and fell off the bone. The greens delicious, with a crisp al dente bite. The rosemary gnocchi was a tad disappointing.  I know they can come baked, boiled or fried (fried in this case), but as flavoursome as they were, I found them a tad cloying to the roof of my mouth. I hankered for a roast potato or two, especially to go with the wonderful lamb and tart juniper jus.

The GB Fruit Twist was a nice cooler with the vermouth giving a red wine vibrancy, undercut with fruits, and a dry finish coming from the gin.

Our final course was a Gin & Raspberry Summer Pudding with Clotted Cream, accompanied by Rasberrilicious GB (GB Gin, Lemon Juice, Raspberry Juice).

The summer pudding really cheered me up, as Bill Bryson says

“It’s a funny thing about English diners, They’ll let you dazzle them with piddly duxelles of this and fancy little noisettes of that but don’t f#ck with their puddings, which is my thinking exactly.”

Mine too Bill, mine too! This was a lively example of a proper British dessert, thick carb-olicious bread, stuffed with fruit (and a not inconsiderate amount of gin) and unctuous, glossy, rich clotted cream, evoking memories of happy Sunday lunches at my Nan’s.  The plate was polished back to the ceramic!

The cocktail, on the other hand, was a touch too tart for my tastes with lemon and raspberry juices giving an acidic edge.  As an dessert, this could have done with a touch of sweetness

And the evening came to a close, all gin heavy but hangover free the next day (wonderful!). Goody bag in hand with a miniature G&T to make at home and a summer pudding recipe (inserted below), I stepped out into a sweet summer twilight as my carriage in the form of my long suffering Wifey awaited.

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When: 14/06/2017

Where: The High Field, 22 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, B15 3DP

Who: Williams Gin, Chase Distillery, The High Field

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of the wonderful team at The High Field & Chase Distillery (who also sent me a natty bottle and book), 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.

 

 

 

Bourbon meets The Bulls Head

Davenports. that’s a name a lot of Brummies will remember (and a hell of a lot wont…). For nearly two centuries until the late 1980’s Davenports was the brewery of Birmingham, just off Broad Street, and their ‘Beer at Home’ slogan was known across the country.

It’s great to see the name come back (alongside sister brand Dares), with a planned 6 venues across Birmingham & The Black Country. The closest of which to me is The Bulls Head, just off Broad Street itself.

People may remember this pub as The City  Tavern, but it’s been converted into a beautiful traditional pub, with plenty of classic features and nods to the history of the Davenports name across the venue.

Anyway, back on subject. The reason for this evening’s visit was an invite from Gerard, the Manager, who had invited myself and a colleague down for a bourbon or four in the company of Bulleit and Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

Before that, time for Mint Julep (mint leaf, bourbon (Buffalo Trace), sugar syrup, and crushed ice), a nice, clean and simple palate cleanser to prep the taste-buds, whilst we ensconced ourselves at the rear of the bar.

Out hosts for the evening were Gavin Jones and Matt East, covering Bulleit and Buffalo Trace bourbons respectively. and taking us on a journey through how Bourbon came to be, the rules around producing and the distinctiveness of each of the bourbons for tasting.

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First up we were told both tales of how Ireland and Scotland both claim to have invented the oaky spirit. The Irish claiming to have learned it via the spice road and the distilling of perfume for men, whilst the Scots claim to have made it via accidentally fermenting grain in horse saddlebags.  Whoever made it first is lost in the annals of history and much grumbling.

We then learnt about its birth in the US with the frontiersmen making moonshine through to the categories we know today. We also learned their varied categories of whisk(e)y such as Rye (at least 51% rye), Malt (at least 51% malted barley), Bourbon (at least 51% corn  / maize), and Corn (at least 80% corn / maize), with bourbon and corn both requiring virgin oak barrels.

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Our first neat drop of the evening was Bulleit Bourbon (65% corn 28% rye, 4% malted barley). revived in 1987, by Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr. Inspired by his great-great-grandfather Augustus Bulleit, who made a high-rye whiskey between 1830-1860. It has a high Rye content compared to most bourbons, allowing for a spicier finish than most bourbons, there was heady wood-smoke and peppery to begin then descending into an almost marmalade flavour, a very agreeable drop.

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Next to taste, the Buffalo Trace, a Kentucky straight bourbon, and a well regarded, well rounded one at that. It’s aged 8 years, a rarity for a US bourbon, and rigorously checked by 14 tasters at the distillery (what a great job to have). The flavour could be described as smooth, and went down like velvet.

As we were mid way through it was time for a food breather:

Our sharing platter had spicy lamb burgers, bourbon glazed chicken wings, asian slaw and sweet potato fries. The lamb burgers were absolutely delicious, made with the same meat as their lamb koftas. The wings were slathered in a rich, sticky glaze and were deliciously tender inside. They were served with a refreshing mint and cucumber dip which i couldn’t stop dipping the crunchy (yes actually crunchy for a change) Sweet Potato Fries. It was a great sampler of their street food inspired menu , one which I’ll be back to revisit.

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Back to the whisk(e)y. Our next dram was a Bulleit Rye. This ‘frontier’ whiskey is made with a 95% rye and 5% malted barley mash, and a winner of many gold medals. This whiskey pulled no punches in flavour,. deceptively soft to begin with it hits with an  exceptionally oaky flavour and descends into a toffee / caramel flavour.

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Our final neat whisk(e)y of the evening was an Eagle Rare, a premium blend from Buffalo Trace, aged 10 years, from carefully selected barrels. A very very complex, enigmatic and expressive flavour which I  struggled to pull any individual notes out of, but overall, slightly sweet and spicy.

To round out the night we had a Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned, one of the most classic of whisk(e)y cocktails, and one that will earn your the wrath of many a bartender on a busy night if ordered in great quantities. Muddled in bitters and that zesty orange citrus burst, always a lovely way to take your whisk(e)y.

Post all this lovely Bourbon, Gerard was nice enough to have a sneaky peek at the upstairs suite, in the final touches currently. It’ll be hosting live music and relaxed dining and looks to be a gem of a location, and one I’ll be revisiting, I mean it’s almost a local…

When: 23/05/2017

Where: The Bulls Head, 38 Bishopsgate Street, Birmingham, B15 1EJ

Who: The Bulls Head, Davenports, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit Bourbon

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Gerard and Davenports, 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.

Feliz Segundo Aniversario! Brummie Gourmand is 2!

It’s hard to believe it’s been TWO YEARS since my first post. I gave an update on what the first year had held so I thought I’d give you an update on Year 2!

This year has been an interesting one so far, having been shortlisted for the Midlands Food Drink and Hospitality Awards Blogger of the Year, the first anniversary of Geeky Brummie on Brum Radio, the launch of the Geeky Brummie Podcast, and lots and lots of blogging.

Some personal highlights have been:

and

  • Enjoying Beef & Malbec at Gaucho

Choosing just a dozen of the things I’ve been up to was difficult so head on through the archives to read more!

To finish, a quick thank you, again, to long suffering Wifey and thank you to all those who’ve taken time to read my little corner of the internet. Here’s looking forward to year 3!

The Spring Menu has sprung at Cheval Blanc

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!

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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:

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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!

When: 10/05/2017

Where: Cheval Blanc, 145 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8JP

Who: Cheval Blanc

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.

 

 

BrumGoesLon Part 2 – The Blues Kitchen, Shoreditch, London

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.

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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.

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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.

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From their rather extensive menu, we chose the following:

  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

When: 24/04/2017

Where/: The Blues Kitchen, 134 – 136 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3AR.

Who: The Blues Kitchen

BrumGoesLon Part 1 – Pizza Pilgrims, Shoreditch, London

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

When: 23/04/2017

Where: Pizza Pilgrims, 136 Shoreditch High St,  London, E1 6JE

Who: Pizza Pilgrims