It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since my first post. It started off as a way to highlight some of the the wonderful restaurants and streetfood vendors Wifey and I visited around Birmingham. I never thought anybody would take their time to read it but it was good way to keep track of what was new about town.
Since then it’s been a wild ride! I’ve been to some fantastic places, eaten things I never thought I’d try and met some amazing people. Some personal highlights are:
I’ve been to Bar Opus and Cafe Opus on a multitude of occasions but this was my first ever visit to the big brother, Opus itself, a stalwart of the Birmingham food scene for over a decade. Ran by Ann Tonks, Irene Allan, with exec chef Ben Ternent conducting the kitchen.
I was actually surprised how spacious the restaurant was. Looking from the road, it seems a nice cosy space but the restaurant continues like a Narnian wardrobe taking you further back. Proceeding by the wine wall, bar area and private dining rooms and into the kitchen sits the wonderful chef’s table.
To highlight their focus on sustainability and fresh seasonal and, most importantly British cuisine, they have launched a special Friday evening menu over spring and summer.
From 6pm each Friday evening, a special market inspired menu is available for £25 p.p. including home baked bread, a starter and main or main and dessert and a half bottle of house red or rose.
Prior to our taster of the menu, we had a talk from Ben about how Opus plans their menu, sourcing the best suppliers (Aubrey Allen for example) and making sure their food is sustainable, as locally sourced as practical, and seasonal. Opus is very proud of their 3 star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association and is Birmingham’s most sustainable restaurant.
The kitchen was surprisingly quiet, for those of us who’ve watched films like “Burnt” and “Chef”, expecting much shouting and banging. Instead, the kitchen exudes serenity and calm with a feeling things were very much under control. Our visit over, we sat down and sampled some of the amazing homemade bread and I plumped for a glass of red:
Onto the menu:
I chose to try a starter and main. For starters, the goats cheese, tomato and radish salad:
The dish represented spring on a plate. The goats cheese provided a good hit of cheesy richness and the salad (with edible flowers) was wonderful and light, awakening the tastebuds with zing and bite.
For the main, I picked was the Suffolk Pork Cutlet:
The pork cutlet was cooked to perfection, and it was nice to see a cutlet rather than a fillet. The mustard mash was equally as nice, providing a nice heat to the creamy mash. The other mains were equally as impressive.
Finally was the dessert, which I looked on with small envy as I was already stuffed!
The winner of the desserts was the peanut and caramel delice. It was beautifully presented, and I heard many groans of enjoyment from those who had chosen to go for the pudding end of the spectrum.
For those looking for a great meal and to relax after a busy week in the office, I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy a bit of British excellence in a varied and reasonable menu. They’ve also got some fun events coming up too!
Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of 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.
The Jewellery Quarter is having a bit of a renaissance recently, attracting new and creative independent stores. One of the most recent editions is a new chocolaterie in the form of The Chocolate Quarter.
On #StarWarsDay (aka May the 4th for non-geeks), I had the hardest job in blogging to go and attend a chocolate making class and investigate this little (chocolate) gem courtesy of The Chocolate Quarter team, Kembes, Maninder and Jay, and Susie of Susie81Speaks.
The shop is artfully simple in its decoration to show their wares and gift packs. They’ve made use of the previous occupiers map of Birmingham to great effect showing off happy local customers.
I could even find BG towers on the map!
To start off, we had a cup of Aztec drinking chocolate, made traditionally with just chocolate and a touch of water. It was rich, smooth and unctuous and there was a range of spices, including chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg and inger, to spice up your drink. I picked the ginger, which worked really well.
Following our drink, we had a quick talk about the history of chocolate and how to taste chocolate correctly with samples of three different dark chocolate from Madagascar, Tanzania and Ecuador. All were high values of cocoa mass and all different in taste and texture. The Madagascan is grown in a humid and acidic soil but with a very strong citrusy taste. The Ecuadorian variety came from close to the Equator having a longer day, giving it a much smoother taste. The Tanzanian climate was probably the most closest to what you’d expect a dark chocolate to taste like. We also learnt white chocolate was not a true chocolates (gasp!) due to its lack of any cocoa mass.
Jay took us through making our own chocolate truffles and how to fill our truffles with caramel, then tempering the chocolate from 45 to 33 degrees for sealing and coating our filled truffles. The tempering was the hard part, requiring constant stirring and the addition of beta crystals to give the chocolate that firmness and shine. The bloom most people see in chocolate is where the beta prime crystal melts away, allowing the fat to come to the surface and discolour the chocolate.
Then it was our turn. We had 4 little hollow spheres to fill and coat…
I tried my best but still managed to get messy! After filling, we dipped them in the molten tempered chocolate and then rolled them in our choice of coverings. I went for icing sugar, cocoa powder, coconut and one just chocolate.
We went through a few flavours created especially for Father’s Day gifts, which we tasted and reviewed.
The three flavours were Stout, made with Jewellery Quarter’s own Jewellery Porter from Two Towers Brewery; Smoked Bacon made with real salty bacon and a dash of Laphroaig to give it a smoky kick; the final was Whisky made with Hard to Find Whisky of choice Glen Garioch. My favourite was the Stout which was rich and creamy. Whisky was very whisky and the Smoked Bacon was a touch too smoky for me. There was enough variety for everyone and I’m sure there’ll be some very happy dads come Father’s Day!
To finish off proceedings, we had a very tasty chocolate fondue with a selection of things to dip in, my favourite being honeycomb. After that, I waddled home very slowly and let the choco-coma seep in!
Chocolate Quarter also offer private events and parties, including those after a delicious stag or hen do twist, and can even create bespoke chocolates! You can also buy delicious Chocolate Quarter delights online here!
Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of the Chocolate Quarter 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.
Pop ups are becoming a big thing in the foodie world. Allowing chefs creativity before establishing roots and letting them be experimental with dishes for the curious.
Former Turner’s chef Ben Tesh is moving into Birmingham city centre to host a new Summer of restaurant pop-ups at Urban Coffee Company in Church Street.
To launch the new dinner dates, Ben is hosting a special event on Saturday 28 May. From 7pm, he will be serving six courses for £39.50 alongside a wine flight for £20 and is promising the finest seasonal ingredients.
Ben is creating a menu where dishes such as Langoustine, lamb with seaweed and sea kale, plus Yorkshire Rhubarb with preserved cherry blossoms could feature and intends to delight diners with his culinary skills honed at Michelin starred restaurants.
Excited about being able to cook for Birmingham foodies, Ben says: “Pop-ups give me the ability to be more creative, flexible and experimental with my food. I love how they break down that barrier that separates the chef and customer in most restaurants, so allowing me to be really interactive with my customers, which is something I love. The direct feedback is great way to keep learning and keep evolving my cooking for people to enjoy.”
Marmalade is located just under The Rep on Broad Street and is wonderfully eclectic in its decor with quotes from well known plays on the wall.
In keeping with the other Bitters’n’Twisted venues, Marmalade has chosen a flagship spirit, this one being Vermouth. Vermouth is a fortified wine spirit used in a surprising amount of cocktails including the Negroni, pictured above, named ‘Better the Devil You Know’. With Vermouth, Spritzer and Blueberry Syrup, it’s on the B’n’T cocktail trail where you can experience something different at each of their venues. The cocktail menu is quite comprehensive covering twists on modern classic, all with literary twists on the names…
To pair with these cocktails, Marmalade are now offering what they’d like to call a Flexitarian menu, catering for carnivores, omnivores, pescatarians, lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegetarians and vegans. So a pretty comprehensive choice then! It’s served small and main plate style to encourage social dining. There will be themed drinks to match shows on at The Rep, so keep an eye out to see what comes up.
To help you choose your dish and cocktail combo, the staff will assist to pair your choices to suit all tastes.
Our first pairing was the La Vie en Rose cocktail (Beefeater gin, Creme de Cassis, Picpoul Dry White Wine, Peach Bitters, served with an edible flower) accompanied by fried, sesame coated Halloumi in a bed of crispy rocket. It was very delicious and disappeared quickly, the crispy crunchy coating went well with the meaty cheese. The cocktail was a bit sweet for my palate but balanced well with the salty cheese.
The second pairing was tequila marinated salmon with wasabi dressing with an, as yet unnamed, tequila cocktail! The salmon was delicious with the wasabi dressing and a kick of heat. The tequila cocktail was heavy on the grapefruit to give it the tequila a citrusy kick, and partnered well with the heat of the wasabi. Maybe instead of the too easy ‘Tequila Mockingbird’ they could call it ‘A-Citrus Pinch’.
Next was marinated Beef Skewers paired with Captain Ahab’s Grog. Captain Ahab’s Grog is a heady combination of Ginger Preserve, Brugal Dry Spiced Rum, Apricot Liqueur, Lime, Plum Bitters and Pomegranate Juice, this toed for my favourite cocktail of the night with a delicious spicy kick from the ginger and Brugal. The steak was deliciously chewy and partnered with mediterranean vegetables, a great dish to get you into a summery mood.
The final dish was a vegan option and (surprisingly for me) my favourite dish of the evening. It was a delicious chestnut mushroom and hazelnut pate on toast with red onion jam. It was quite close in texture to your usual liver pate and enhanced by the sweet onion jam. The paired cocktail was a ‘Midsummer Day Dream’ with Aperol, Limoncello, Fresh Lemon, Raspberry, Homemade Rose & Orange Bitters, topped with soda and served with orange. This was my other tie cocktail, it’s very floral but worked perfectly with the earthiness of the pate.
The new menu, which features all of the dishes above, has already launched. So if you fancy a visit to a place where they can cater for all dietary types or if you’re seeing a play and want to grab a quick bite (and a cocktail) beforehand, I’d recommend it.
Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Brumderland and Marmalade 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.
For the first time, I let Wifey loose without me to find out about a new exciting dessert venue in Digbeth…
When Ryan was invited to the grand launch of Pirlo’s Dessert Lounge, due to a prior engagement, he asked me to step in and go sample some delights from Birmingham’s newest dessert lounge.
My knowledge of dessert cafes & lounges is practically non existent. A couple of work colleagues have raved about the ones in Ladypool Road, so I was looking forward to trying some sweet treats in this new city centre venue and see what all the fuss was about. The lounge was about a 5 minute walk from Selfridges, located on Coventry Street, hidden behind the main Moor Street car park.
The interior is classic New York loft-style, creating chill out high-backed booths, copper light fixings and the obligatory exposed brickwork. The impressive neon sign adds a touch of warm to make a cosy interior, suitable for enjoying your time.
Mohan Singh, the head pastry chef, came over and introduced himself. He was clearly passionate about producing desserts for everyone to enjoy, offering vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, gluten free and nut free options.
The extensive menu of desserts covered favourites such as New York style lemon cheesecake, waffles, crepes, gooey sundaes and a wide variety of gelato flavours.
Along with fellow bloggers (The Ting Thing, Positive Fridays, Nutella Tasha, Sophie Etc), we sampled Mixed Berry Pavlova; Victoria Sponge; Carrot Cake; Red Velvet Cake and Chocolate Brownie, all beautifully presented. My favourite was Red Velvet Cake as it was moist, with a brownie like soft and rich texture and not overpowering in its sweetness.
We also sampled the Raspberry & Chia Seed Verrine and the Walnut Treacle Tart (unfortunately, I did not get photos of these). The Verrine was smooth almost yoghurt like in its consistency and delicious; I cannot recall having tried Chia Seed before, only knowing it’s a superfood and super healthy. The Walnut bites were very moreish, with a chewy texture and reminded me of flapjacks.
I, personally, was looking forward to trying the waffles and these did not disappoint, they were crispy and light. We had two different ones: Blueberry Compote and Chantilly Cream, and Fresh Strawberries & pouring cream.
The light & fluffy crepes had a gooey salted caramel sauce, and had a good balance between pancake and sauce.
Pirlo’s is open 12pm to 12am, extending to 1am on Friday and Saturday so if you are in the city centre, in need a late night sugar fix or don’t fancy going for a drink, this is ideal. All within a stone’s throw of the Bullring.
Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Pirlo’s and Delicious 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.
You may have seen previously on the blog Wifey and I went to the Rofuto opening a few weeks back.
I mentioned then I would be returning for a more generous sample of the menu, so buckle up and enjoy the ride! My guest and I arrived at 7.30pm so we also got to enjoy watching the sunset as we worked our way through the Izakaya style menu, divided into sushi, starters, tempura, robata grill, mains and sides.
We had the opportunity to try a good selection of what was on offer; we tried to sample a dish from each section, first up was the sushi, probably the jewel in Rofuto’s crown.
Our two choices were the Seared Black Cod, Lime Dengaku Nigiri and the Sea Bream Nigiri, served with kimchi, fresh wasabi and soy.
Rofuto source their fish daily and fresh as much as possible. This is demonstrated in the quality of what was on offer. The fish was beautiful: the sea bream was delicate in flavour and there was no ‘oily’ fishy taste, which gave the meat a chance to shine. The cod had more of a velvety texture as it had been lightly blowtorched to add firmness to the fish. My only slight quibble was that the black sesame seeds, though nice, did overpower some of the fish flavour.
Special mentions must be made for the sides. The kimchi was a perfect balance of sweet and sour on the tongue. The wasabi was a revelation in comparison to the overpowering shop bought stuff; this had a gentle low heat but punchy enough to fizzle on the tongue.
Their soy also is wonderous, no wonder they’re going through a couple of gallons a week! It’s made on-site and sweetened with mirin and a touch of water. I’m sure there’s an added ingredient too, possibly some Dashi? My fellow diner wanted to get a bottle for home, he loved it that much!
Next up was something from the Tempura and Robata selections.
The Beef Kushiyaki smelt amazing and was still bubbling away when it reached the table. I expected it to be sweet, due to the caramel soy, but instead the main taste was umami. They were delicious but a touch too well done for me, probably because I left them resting too long to enjoy the smell more!
The Tiger Prawn tempura were HUGE! The photo above doesn’t really do them justice, they were light, crunchy and had retained their internal heat well. The prawns were meaty and well flavoured. On the side, there was moolie which was stirred into the sauce, giving a nice clean and fresh kick.
To accompany the tempura, I also had a touch of Sake.
This was a Hakurakusesi Junmai Ginjo, served chilled between 6 & 8 degrees to enhance its flavour . It was beautiful with plummy notes and was very clean on the palate with no harshness. The most apt comparison is probably an exceedingly good vodka.
Next it was onto the mains and sides.
The Katsu curry is a difficult beast to get right. When it’s great, it’s one of the most comforting dishes known to mankind. The chicken was firm and crispy yet melted on the palate. The rice was nice and sticky and went well with the chicken, but perhaps the black sesame seeds were a little too liberally scattered as they overpowered the rice in flavour. The Katsu curry sauce was nice and gently spiced, though all I could taste was star anise which masked most of the other flavours. I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again, though I was slightly disappointed by the sauce as I expected more from it to live up to the chicken. Hopefully, it’s something that may taste different the next time around.
To accompany the Katsu, we chose the Asian Slaw which was made of tomato, red onion, carrot and garnished with mango. The mango countered the sharpness of the onion and it was very refreshing, actually working well as a palate cleanser. The onion content, though, could be reduced slightly.
The other main we had was a Chicken and Prawn Yakisoba. The chicken yet again melted away on the tongue (how do they do it‽). The prawns again were fleshy and huge. The noodles we perfectly cooked and had an earthy quality to them.
The side to go with the Yakisoba was the Duck Egg Rice. It was well seasoned with the nice umami egg flavour coming through. The carrot added a touch of sweetness but felt slightly out of place.
And, of course, we couldn’t leave without a quick visit through their excellent dessert menu.
The trio of sorbets above (apologies for the meltiness in the picture, that’s down to me not Rofuto!). The flavours, from left to right, are Raspberry, Sweet Potato (yes, really sweet potato) and Coconut & Cardamom.
Raspberry: this had a really nice tang to it which really cut through any lingering flavours from the main.
Sweet Potato: this was simply wondrous, a rich earthy taste to start with a nice rich sweetness. I’d recommend trying it if they ever have it in stock as they run out quickly!
Coconut & Cardamom: this started off with a BIG hit of coconut flavour to start, which dissolved into a cardamom after kick on the end, very pleasant!
The final thing we had to try was the Matcha Green Tiramisu, which I’d previously had in shot glass form. It was almost a savoury dish with a generous dusting of green tea and a nice crunchy topping. The dessert itself was a soft, light, airy creamy delight and the perfect ending for any meal.
The meal overall was a great demonstration of their expertise and the menu is flexible enough to cater from a light lunch to a sushi platter, all the way through to a six course extravaganza. I’d be happy to take business colleagues, family and friends alike there and the menu certainly matched that stunning decor and view!
Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Rofuto and Neil Reading 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.
Those in Birmingham’s foodie scene are probably aware of Josh Porter, former Chef de Partie and co-founder of one of last year’s hottests pop-ups, En-Place.
With new partner, food writer and blogger, Jade Hollingworth, taking over front of house duties, Josh has stripped back the menu with a twist on early Prohibition era 20th Century dishes.
This was Josh & Jade’s first pop up and it was situated at the 6/8 Kafe in Millennium Point. We had a great view across Millennium Point, which felt very empty at that time of night. Jade and Josh, however, had made the space feel inviting with candles on the tables, background music featuring acoustic takes on modern songs and low lighting to make it feel like a cosy living room.
For drinks, it was a case of BYOB (bring your own bottle) if you wanted alcohol. I chose a very nice Chateauneuf du Pape, whilst Wifey went for an English Rose.
We had a surprise to start!
Josh had added an extra little touch to the menu with an Amuse Bouche of Parmesan Gougères, and Chicken Liver Parfait garnished with Beetroot Gel and a tiny touch of Thyme. The parfait was delightfully creamy with the beetroot gel adding a touch of acidity. The Gougères reminded me a little of a savoury coconut macaroon in texture. These warm little parcels were surprisingly light and the parmesan came through well, like a cheese version of fluffy eggy bread.
Wifey didn’t know what to expect with the Princess Style Consommé, a dish she had not come across before. The broth came presented in a stunning glass teapot which unfortunately, I didn’t get a snap of bit you can see on their Twitter
Instead of the traditional chicken breast, a period appropriate chicken mousseline was accompanied by crispy chicken skin and pickled vegetables. The chicken skin was like, well, a chicken scratching and absolutely scrumptious. The chicken mousseline was very tender and airy on the tongue, whilst the pickled veg gave a delightful crunch all enhanced by the beautifully clear broth.
The next dish was a Ceviche of Sea Trout with edible flowers, accompanied with Pea and Wasabi Sorbet and Rapeseed Oil Powder. Wifey is not a fan of raw fish, but the ceviche method had cured the fish and it was smooth and tasty. The flower texture tasted great but I would have liked a bit more bite in the pea and wasabi sorbet (perfect for Wifey).The rapeseed oil powder was very subtle and blended well with the fish.
The ‘main’ for the night was Breast of lamb with asparagus, buttery potatoes and Sauce Paloise (a twist on Bearnaise with mint instead of tarragon). The asparagus was slightly charred and tasty, the potatoes were salted and tasted like miniature jacket potatoes. The lamb was crispy on the outside yet still tender and went really well with the Paloise.
To finish was a lemon tart, made by Jade. It was served on its own and therefore, not overshadowed by the fripperies of ice cream, sorbet or cream. The tart was delicious, with a crisp pastry case. The filling was set well, tangy and topped with caramelised sugar. A simple dessert done well, which some restaurants could learn that overblown accompaniments usually hide the main focus.
A final, unknown until presentation, treat was a Petit Fours of Financier with sliced and pickled pear & treacle sauce. The almond cake was light and airy whilst the pickled pear and treacle sauce were sharp and rich, creating a great flavour profile when combined.
Josh and Jade popped over at the end of the meal and it was good to see a couple so passionate about what they are providing, and bringing back some hidden gems from days gone past. Their next pop up is on 14th May with a different menu to that above, which you can find more information and get tickets for here.
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