If you’ve not read my previous post about Cheval Blanc, you may not know they’re a little bit obsessed with wine and pairing it with great food.
So when I was invited to see what Cyd was cooking in the kitchen as part of their new spring menu, I pretty much ran to Moseley there and then!
From the creative minds behind The Humble Pub Co, the establishment is ran by GM / Sommelier Abigail Connolly and Chef Cyd Tachdjian. The decor is light, eclectic and, like most things Moseley, a touch on the bohemian. Not forgetting the most fabulous wine cellar in the area:
Anyway, onto the menu. Cyd has highlighted some fantastic sounding dishes such as Cured Cold Smoked Mutton Leg, Chicken Liver & Port Pâté, and Poached Duck Egg Meurette & Sourdough Toast.
After a meet & greet and a touch of wine in the front, we were taken into the back room for a more private dining experience. Cyd was cooking just behind us whilst we settled down into our seats.
Cyd took us through a whistle stop tour of the menu and mixed up a few of the dishes, whilst Abigail paired them with aplomb.
First up was a Earl Grey Tea Cured Salmon, Celeriac & Granny Smith with a grain mustard dressing, paired with a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a Domaine Masson-Blondelet 2014 Les Angelots (Pouilly-Fumé).
The Earl Grey salmon was delicately smoked with a delightful bergamot edge to it, paired with a sharp tang of the apple and celeriac, lifted by the sweet-hot mustard dressing.
The Sauvingon Blanc was strong on a lime acidity but tempered by a rich green fruit nose.
Next to the table was my favourite dish of the evening, Confit Duck Wings with Honey, Orange and Ginger Glaze& Rocket Salad paired with an Australian Cabernet Franc, a Jamsheed Wines 2016 Ma Petite Francine, from the Yarra valley.
The wings were in, a word, amazing! I would’ve been very happy with a bucket of these, a bottle of wine and a corner to park myself in for the remainder of the evening. Duck is a favourite meat of mine but it seems to be used mainly in French (as with Cyd) or Chinese cuisine and not much else in between, as it’s a gloriously flavoursome meat. These were no different: deliciously sticky and scattered with sesame seeds, and like manna from heaven. I tried to be polite and use cutlery but alas, like the savage I am, fingers soon got messy! I’m not a massive rocket fan (I find it too bitter for my palate) but I can understand the need for it to cut through the honeyed dressing.
The wine was a perfect compliment to Cyd’s gastronomy, a Cabernet Franc, made in Beaujolais style. It’s bottled after four months in a clean style, no finings or filtration for this one. What this means to the wine is it retains a lot of the fruit and tannins; it bursts with juiciness with a lilt of herbs. This would be a wine which, if not careful, would disappear by the bottle quickly.
If Abigail and Cyd wanted to make an absolute fortune, a bucket of these wings, maybe a sharing dish of Boulangère Potato (or Pomme Frites if I could be so vulgar), and a bottle of Ma Petite Francine on a table for 4 in the sunshine would make a very, very, happy evening for all involved!
For our third course, a Red Mullet Fillet, Tomato Compote, Green Olives and Capers and Crab Arancini paired with a South African Chenin Blanc, the AA Badenhorst Secateurs.
Whilst serving, Cyd told us he thinks mullet is a hard done by fish. It has a light delicately flavoured flesh but requiring pin boning, it’s one that doesn’t appear on menus too frequently, which is a real shame. This portion was delicious and happily bone free. The fish broke up almost on contact with the fork and had a lovely clean flavour on the tongue. The crab arancini was well stuffed with seasoned crab meat. I loved the compote and the olives but capers are my enemy: sour, salty and a flavour I’ve grown to have a deep personal dislike of, so they were quickly marshalled to the side of the plate.
The Chenin Blanc was fresh with an almost fruit crumble nose and taste to it, a gently spiced fruit flavour which went well, balancing between the light mullet and rich crab.
Our final savoury dish of the evening was a Corn Fed Chicken Mousseline, Crispy Chicken Skin, Potato Gratin, Beans and a Morels Mushroom and Cognac Cream Sauce and paired with a Turkish Öküzgözü A 2011 Kavaklıdere Prestige.
It’s not often you see a creamy sauce on chicken nowadays, it’s usually accompanied by a “jus”. But this was delicious, the well cooked chicken mousseline was liberally doused with the creamy congac and morel mushroom sauce, morels with that unique enigmatic nutty flavour combining well with the rich cognac. The rosti was also a delight, crisp on top but soft in the middle, yum!
Three words you wouldn’t have heard half a decade ago but now gives happiness whenever it’s heard: Crispy Chicken Skin. Not exactly sustenance, this crackling of the poultry world is a delight wherever I see it, and this was no exception. Even though it was more of a garnish for the dish, I put it aside till last as it’s that much of a favourite and I savoured every last microsecond (a little secret but don’t tell anyone, try gribenes!).
Öküzgözü, means “bull’s eye” in Turkish and its a grape variety grown throughout the Anatolian region. I’d never heard of it before this meal but it’s a big, bold red to counterbalance the richness of the dish. The main flavours I could get were cherries and raspberries.
Trio of Desserts
To finish, Cyd spoilt us with not one but three desserts. We had Chocolate & Pear Cake, Rhubarb Tart & Blueberry Cheesecake, and an Australian Muscat, Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat.
All three desserts were sweet and decadent but my personal highlight was the blueberry cheesecake. I’m a glutton for a cheesecake at the best of times but this was fantastic with big bold blueberries oozing down the side, a little mouthful of bliss.
The muscat was also delicious with a rich raisin and nut flavour, and a perfect round off to an almost perfect meal.
I’ll be looking forward to a future return to Cheval Blanc soon. Hopefully it will feature a bucket of duck wings and some crispy chicken skin… …excuse me whilst I put on a couple more stone in mentally!
Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of The Humble Pub Co, Cheval Blanc & Paul Fulford, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.
Coming from the creative minds behind The Humble Pub Co, owners of The Prince of Wales, The British Oak and next door neighbours The Dark Horse, Cheval Blanc comes with an estimable pedigree.
Run by GM Abigail Connolly and Chef Cyd Tachdjian their aim is to bring a wine bar with impeccable food to Moseley. Wifey and I heard about their special weekend offer on Mussels and a glass of Wine for £10 (also available as Mussels only for £5), so we took the brother and sister-in-law over for a taste on one of their rare visits from Jersey.
The decor could be described as eclectic, with bottles for light shades, vintage lampshades and mismatched chairs, all tastefully done. The star of the show is the wine cellar. Positioned in front of the bar and topped with thick glass, it’s a nice touch to look down and see some of the bottles on offer.
The wine to the accompany the mussels was Clip, a Portugese Vinho Verde. Made by two friends, Pedro Barbosa and João Maria Cabral, they are aiming to celebrate the local variety Loureiro grape. This is done by following a policy of minimal intervention and care for the ecosystem, in order to grow grapes that ripen well and can display the terroir from which they come. The wine wasn’t dry but crisp, at the same time with a slightly floral taste and a complex almost mineral aftertaste.
The mussels themselves were no small portion – a huge bowl, full of large juicy morsels in a chilli and lemongrass broth. The mussels were very fresh with no overpowering ‘fishy’ taste. The broth was heavy on the lemongrass but enough chilli to make its presence known. Perfect for Wifey but brother-in-law would have preferred a touch more heat (maybe some chilli flakes on the table as an added extra would have allowed us to adjust for taste).
The accompanying crusty bread was delicious and soaked up the broth nicely, my only disappointment was there wasn’t enough! After munching through the mussels, there was still plenty of broth which I would have loved to dunk an extra slice or two into like the savage that I am! Maybe an option to pay a pound or two more for an additional portion of bread for the table would be welcome.
All in all, we loved the experience and will look to return again soon. Cyd will be rotating the recipes for mussels with other flavours such as chorizo, paprika and madras sauce. There’s enough temptation to keep returning…
If you weren’t aware, Stirchley has had a bit of a revitalisation in the food world. Loaf has been leading the way to change up the run of traditional Balti houses.
More recently, The British Oak has joined the area with a focus on great food and drink in a traditional pub setting. It has been taken over by The Humble Pub Company (owners of The Prince of Wales, The Dark Horse and Cheval Blanc) and was refurbished throughout earlier this year, whilst keeping the vast majority of its original features. Under the eye of Executive Chef Paul Maders, it’s also had a revival in the kitchen too.
I’d been invited along to try out their Game Night: a 5 course tasting menu from their A la Carte Menu (available Weds -Sat, 5:30 pm -9 pm), highlighting the best in game with a few sweet treats too. It was also partnered with a choice of Wine or Beer, selected to gel with the courses, and hosted by the Restaurant Manager, Helen Morton.
First up was the Pigeon:
This came served with carrot puree, roasted shallots and a celeriac remoulade. The pigeon was served pink and the meat remained moist throughout. My favourite accompaniment was the celeriac remoulade. It had a great tangy mustard flavour to it, which I believe came from a bit of horseradish lurking in there. The shallot was sweet, and the carrot was sweet with a touch of warmth from spice in there.
Partnered drinks for this course were:
Wine: Cote du Rhone
Beer: Crafty Dan 13 Guns
Our second course was Roast Pheasant:
This was a breast of pheasant accompanied with a confit leg bon-bon, fondant potato, apple, pear and root vegetables. The breast had retained its moisture well and was very tender, whilst keeping its gamey flavour intact. The fondant potato was excellent, and the bon-bon just melted away happily in the mouth.
Partnered drinks for this course were:
Wine: Forgot to write it down (sorry!)
Beer: A Belgian Dubbel
The final meat course of the evening was Loin of Venison.
The meat was cooked rare, my personal preference, and was delicious. It was complimented by a crunchy potato rosti, tart wild berries, wild mushrooms, braised red cabbage, spinach and a deliciously rich red wine sauce.
Partnered drinks for this course were:
Wine: A Coffee Pinotage
Beer: Purity Ubu
Our ‘Pre Dessert’ was a Cherry Sorbet.
Topped with a fresh raspberry, this was a delicious and luxuriant smooth sorbet which reminded me of a cherry bakewell tart. The only thing missing to complete the effect would be a touch of amandine. It went down well and prepared our taste buds for the final course.
Partnered drinks for this course were:
Beer: Cherry Lambic
This is one not usually seen on British menus, a shame with the amount of pumpkin flesh wasted at this time of year by Jack-O-Lantern carvers. The pumpkin pie wasn’t too sweet and hit the right balance for me, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, vanilla ice cream and a berry jus.
Partnered drinks for this course were:
Wine: Argentinian Torrentes dessert wine
Beer: Titanic Porter
I was really impressed by what was on offer and it’s worth a trip out of the city centre to visit here. I certainly left into the chilly Autumnal evening, radiating with an internal glow, stuffed and happy and am making plans to return again with Wifey so she can experience it too!
Disclaimer: For this evening, I was a guest of Paul Fulford and the team at The British Oak, 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.
Where: The British Oak, 1364 Pershore Rd, Stirchley, Birmingham B30 2XS. 0121 458 1758.
I’m no stranger to the Opus group (you can read about previous experiences here, here, here, and here). So I was very happy when they invited me down to try out their new cocktail menu at Bar Opus.
Situated just past Colmore Row, nestled next to Snowhill Train Station, the bar has become a firm fave with the CBD crowd with a modern interior.
We were going to be looking at 12 new cocktails over the evening, with a demonstration of the preparation for each drink and a taster so we could capture the flavour.
Our first cocktail of the evening was a Milk Punch. Created with Makers Mark, Kraken Rum, Vanilla Syrup, Half and Half with a dash of nutmeg. The rich creamy drink definitely had a Christmassy feel to it, with the dash of nutmeg.
Next up was the Hereford Scrambler. Consisting of Chase Rhubarb Vodka, Chase Blackcurrant Liqueur, lime, lemon and soda. As you can expect from the Rhubarb Vodka, this was a very tart little number full of autumnal flavour, the blackberry kick giving it a sweet aftertaste.
Next was a drink named The Clover Club; this had Martin Miller’s Gin, Nolly Prat Vermouth, lemon juice, raspberries and an egg. This was a sweet fruity drink, which had the vermouth come through to warm the insides.
Next up up was a Pear and Cardamom Sidecar, with Xante Pear brandy, Cointreau, lemon and cardamom. This smelled like a big bag of peardrop sweets and the cardamom tingled the back of the throat.
Next was the Ginger Bellini. A simple combination of Ginger Liqueur, Ginger syrup and Prosecco. This worked really well and I’m surprised I’ve not seen it more often! Warm, spicy and sweet, I can see this being a hit on a chilly autumnal evening!
After a few snacks, it was on to the second half of the tasting.
The second half began with Beggars Banquet made with Makers Mark, Agnostura Bitters, Peaky Blinder’s Ale, maple syrup and lemon. The bitters and syrup gave it a nice mulled flavour and reminded me of a nice Christmas Market.
We moved onto a Cowboy Hoof Martini made with London Dry Gin, Orange Bitters, mint and syrup; a very minty cocktail with a rich sweetness.
Continuing our Cocktail Crawl was a Missionary’s Downfall, consisting of White Rum, Peach Liqueur, lime juice, syrup and lemon. This had a citrus punch with the sweetness of the pineapple and peach coming through and was the most ‘summery’ of the cocktails we had that evening.
Next, a Port Cobbler. The cobbler can probably lay a good claim to being one of the oldest cocktails in the world and this was an interesting twist. Combining Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Grand Marnier, Port, lemon and syrup, this reminded me of a boiled sweet with a rich, velvety flavour which slipped down nicely.
Next was a slice of the Caribbean in the shape of the Old Kokonut. Made with Koko Kanu Rum, Prosecco, Agnostura Bitters, mint, lime and syrup. This reminded me a touch of a more elegant version of a Malibu Bellini and would work nicely on a beach with a few palms in the background.
The final cocktail (I got a picture of) was an Opus Manhattan. A signature twist on an Old Faithful, this was made with Nikka Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Japanese Plum Liqueur, Angostura Bitters and mulled spices. It was my favourite of the evening, being the whisky fan that I am, with rich deep plummy notes complementing the high notes of the bitters and spices.
The final cocktail for the evening was an English Collins, combining Martin Millers Gin, Elderflower Liqueur, lemon juice, cucumber and soda water. Very refreshing and a great way to finish off the evening.
If you’re in the CBD and looking for a cocktail, there’s enough variety in flavour on the list to suit anyone’s palate and in great surroundings too!
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.
Stilnovisti is the oldest alternative investments company in Central and Eastern Europe, and manages investments for private and corporate clients in Poland and abroad,
focusing on assets such as wine, whisky and art. Their whisky portfolio is not usually released to the public so tonight was a special treat to dip into this elusive collection.
Colin gave a remarkable talk on his own career, starting off with becoming a photographer for The Scotsman in 2001, moving to the Times, FT and Conde Nast and then moving onto having his fine art photography in galleries by 2008.
His other passion, whisky, led to the creation of Whisky Quarterly magazine. Perhaps the most exclusive Whisky magazine in the world, available only through subscription. Rather than just whisky reviews, it concentrates on stories of the people who run distilleries and who work within the field, covering the heritage of the whisky and the lifestyle that surrounds it. Previous issues are made available 2 quarters behind for free on their website!
Back to the beverages, we tried 4 whiskies from the Stilnovisti Private Reserve:
Mortlach 4th fill sherry hogshead (315 bottles) 58% – this was a very young and very pale whisky, and given as an example given of how bottling a young whisky may not be the best idea. It was a touch on the harsh side and felt very ‘raw’
Aultmore 2008 6yr old 1st fill sherry butt (534 bottles) 64% – our second taster was a much more rounded and balanced drink, which shows the alcohol content is not the only factor when it comes to taste.
Ledaig 2005 8yr old 2nd fill (280 bottles) 58% – this was my personal favourite of the night. From Tobermory distillery, this was their peated expression. I’m a huge fan of peaty whisky and this was no exception, smoky and floral it was a superb dram.
Rage Whisky [Peatside] – 4yr old Bourbon / Madeira casks (490 bottles) 63% – the final taster for the night, this was a very nice drop with a well rounded flavour.It was a different experience to the others but was my second favourite from the evening.
Stilnovisti is now on its third bottling and is a large investor in especially new make whisky, with over 10,000 casks purchased in the previous few years. It was a fascinating chance to see some whiskies which you’d never see again in the wild, presented with wit and charm and genuine love by Colin.
English wine has had a bad rap in the past few years. Though English sparkling wine has started to gain popularity, there is now a wide range of reds whites, roses and dessert wines for all occasions.
After wandering through the main hall with a wide range of wines on display.and making a few purchases, we popped outside to have a snack from the amazing team at Peel & Stone:
We picked up Aunt Sally’s picnic box, with cheddar, honey and mustard roasted ham, pork and apricot sausage roll, pickles, sauerkraut, beer chutney and a hunk of sourdough (which we were greedy and grabbed some New York Deli and Raisin multigrain too).
Wifey loved the sausage roll, the apricot adding a sweetness to the meaty filling inside a light pastry. My favourite bit was the bread, we loved it so much we bought a sourdough and a New York Deli to take home after being advised it freezes and keeps really well.
Back to the wine and we were lucky enough to snaffle the last two tickets to the Gusborne Sparkling Wine Masterclass hosted by Laura Rhys.
Based in a small village in Kent and starting with a 20 hectare plot (expanded to 40, and a second vineyard in West Sussex) and growing a variety of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, classic champagne grapes. These three are used across their range of wines. They first planted in 2004 and released their first wines in 2010 to critical acclaim.
We sampled 4 of their selection:
Brut Cuvee – A classic blend of 40%+ Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and the remainder Pinot Meuiner. It was rich and velvety with a complex nose.
Blanc de Blanc – Made from 100% Chardonnay and pressed in a champagne press to give the grapes a gentle squeezing. The wine is aged for a minimum of thirty six months on lees and three months on cork with two fermentations to get the best out of the grapes. This was much softer and fruitier than the first with a clean citrusy palate.
Blanc de Noirs- This was a blend of 80%+ Pinot Noir with the remainder Pinot Meuiner – This one was a stunner, with a strong acidity, really making the Pinot Noir shine
The final taster was their award winning English Rosé, which had beaten our the Bollinger Rosé at a blind taste. Made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Meuiner, it was an astounding little beverage and one of the best examples of a sparkling Rosé I’ve tasted
It was a very fun and informative talk from Laura and it made us appreciate how good English Sparkling Wine can be.
Feeling lifted by the wines, we had another wander around the producers there and even got to taste a non-sparking Gusborne White and Red.
It was a thrilling introduction to the world of English wine and mine and Wifey’s english wine knowledge was expanded immensley by our visit.
Birmingham Whisky Club runs regular Whisky events throughout the year and discounted for members, you can find their website here, and regular updates on twitter at TheWhiskyMiss and WhiskyMsJnr
The Food and Drink Events Company also run a variety of events throughout the year which you can find out more on their website and Twitter.
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