Open House at Itihaas

Birmingham is well known for a curry, being the inventors of the Balti. There is a growing trend, however, for a more sophisticated curry, away from the usual experience, for those with a slightly less ‘rustic’ palate.

In these restaurants, there is no short supply in Birmingham either with well known names such as Lasan, Pushkar and Asha’s, with Itihaas being one of the founding members of this group.

Itihaas is currently refreshing their menu and earlier in the month, I was invited to try it. The restaurant claims to offer an ‘authentic Royal Indian dining experience’ and ‘a culinary journey through the North of India with a couple of stops through Kenya and vibrant Mumbai’, and I curious to see what dishes were on the table.

The restaurant is just outside the city centre in the Jewellery Quarter, on the corner of Newhall Street and Fleet Street, a few minutes walk from Snow Hill railway station.


We started off with a welcome cocktail featuring Torunska vodka; one of the night’s special cocktails with the guys from Torunska showing off some creative Mixology.

We headed downstairs to the ‘Maharaja’ suite.  With its opulent interior and views over the canal, the decor certainly matched their concept of fine dining with garnishes of 18th and 19th century Indian artefacts. I also popped a quick sneaky peek behind the 300 year old Indian wooden doors into the Tiffin Room, which seats 12. It came complete with a bar, library and your very own dedicated butler if you choose to dine in there.

We were served a delicious range of canapés whilst a sizeable portion of Birmingham’s Food blogging community filtered in.  Some of the treats we tried included:

  • Tempura Cod in a Spiced Paprika Batter served with a Tomato Chilli Relish
  • Spiced Mini Potato cakes served with curried chickpeas, yoghurt & mint tamarind chutneys
  • Scottish Smoked Salmon with Goats Cheese in a filo pastry casing
  • Chicken Tikka in Naan wrap with spicy mayo and green salad
  • Minced Lamb Meatballs roasted with mint and coriander
  • Crispy Pastry topped with gram sev, onions, potato and pomegranate pearls

My favourites to try were the Tempura Cod and the Crispy Pastry Sev. The cod was very moreish, hot little battered parcels of delicate cod which matched well with the spicy relish.  My hand dipped into the basket as it went past on more than one occasion!  The crispy pastry was a new experience to me, topped with crunchy noodles made from a chickpea flour.  They added a really nice crunch to counterbalance the soft  onions and potato.

We had a quick chat from Raj, the Executive Chef of Itihaas, who explained how the new menu was to take us on a tour of the subcontinent and highlight the range of cuisine available. We were also introduced to Torunska vodka. Hailing from the birthplace of Copernicus, Toruń, it’s billed as one of Poland’s best kept secrets and as a vodka for whisky drinkers with a complex palate.

With that on to the mains, I was prepared!


To try, we had:

  • Lobster Panchporan – a whole lobster simmered with five spices in a creamed mustard powder
  • Nalli Gosht off the bone – lamb off the bone stewed in a hot masala gravy
  • Scallop & Prawn Masala – pan seared scallops and freshwater prawns cooked in a sauce tempered with mustard seeds
  • Roasted Salmon in a Banana Leaf – salmon fillets in a marinade, roasted in banana leaves.
  • Butter Chicken on the bone – chicken cooked on the bone & blended into a smoked tomato sauce with cream and yoghurt
  • Vegetable Pakistani Pulao – basmati rice cooked with spiced vegetables and saffron in a dum style
  • Pomegranate Raita – thick Greek yoghurt decorated with pomegranate pearls
  • Garlic & Coriander Naans – don’t think you need a description for this one!

The lobster was delicious; the meat had been removed from the shell, simmered in a delicious curried sauce, then returned to the shell for presentation. Not too spicy but flavourful, and it really enhanced the sweet lobster meat.

The salmon was also a great pleaser, cooked well and presented beautifully in the banana leaf. The butter chicken was also well cooked, with the rich creaminess as you’d expect.

I was, however, slightly disappointed in the Nalli Gosht.  The lamb had taken on a bit too much of a cinnamon flavour for my liking.

And finally, after another quick cocktail break, we sampled some desserts for what little room was left in our bellies.

We tried:

  • Sambuca flamed Gulab Jamun – golden brown milk dumplings doused in rose water sugar syrup and flambéed in Sambuca
  • Chai Masala Mousse – milk mousse infused with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg
  • Apple & Cinnamon Samosa  – apple compote infused with cinnamon enveloped in pastry
  • Pomegranate & Pistachio Rasmalai – a creamed sponge pudding in a rich milk pistachio base, sprinkled with pomegranate.

I was a big fan of the Gulab Jamun, already one of my favourite desserts, which I had became enamoured with when working in Mumbai for a short while. The sambuca added a really nice aniseed element to the dish.

The Apple Samosas were like miniature apple turnovers, dusted with icing sugar and paired with some of the Pistachio and Mango Kulfi ice cream.  I thought they would have benefited more from a sweet dipping sauce or chutney to balance the sweet-sour fruit.

I will definitely be returning to Itihaas, and it was nice to see a modern twist on a menu in an opulent setting.

Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Itihaas and East Village 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: 02/08/2016

Where: Itihaas, 18 Fleet Street, Birmingham B3 1JL

Who:  Itihaas, Torunska


Sunday Best at The Almanack Kenilworth

A few weekends ago, Wifey and I swapped out Birmingham for somewhere a little different. Kenilworth is just over 20 miles drive or a train ride away from Birmingham. It’s a great destination for a day out with the renowned Kenilworth Castle and Stoneleigh Abbey nearby.

Wifey and I had another reason for visiting too. It’s also a location for one of the Peach Pubs collection, The Almanack

The Almanack is one of the more modern looking Peach Pubs, nestled in under a new apartment building. It had an impressive decor with lots of nice little touches, including a selection of Sunday newspapers to read if you were there to relax.

We were here to try their Sunday Best Menu, which has a regular selection of roasts and some of the highlights from the main menu.

Not feeling up to a full roast, Wifey and I decided to pick a few from the highlights of the main menu,but first, a bit of bread and butter to get our bellies in the mood.

The bread was a warm wholemeal seeded mini loaf accompanied by garlic butter.

It was served a little like a hassle-back potato, sliced part the way through. It was devoured with relish with the bread hitting the trifecta of soft, airy and sweet. The tangy peppery garlic butter could have done with being a touch less on the garlic flavour.

We skipped starters, to keep room for dessert, and went onto the mains.

For my main, I went for a Chicken Caesar Salad. This came with a free range chicken breast, crispy bacon, anchovies and a classic Caesar salad.

The chicken was moist and tender with a crispy seasoned and blackened skin. The bacon was as expected, crispy and sweet and salty at the same time. The anchovies gave an additional salty blast to the rich dressing. The lettuce was nice, crisp and fresh.

Wifey went for something a little more fishy. Cod (substituted from Monkfish on the menu) and Scallops with Bombay Potatoes, Indian Salad and Mint Yoghurt.

This came to the table with a wonderful smell of the Indian spiced potatoes and the fresh clean smell of great fish. The cod was light and separated on touch. The scallops came to the table with the roe (always a nice touch) and had the clean sweet taste you’d expect. The Bombay potatoes were light, buttery and with just enough spice as not to overwhelm the fish. The Indian salad was made up of Rocket, Tomato, Red Onion and seeds added a touch of colour to the dish and disappeared quickly!

As it was Sunday,we couldn’t miss out on a bit of Apple & Rhubarb Crumble.

This was served at the table from a great big enamel dish full of the stuff.  It came with a decent jug of custard from which you could pour as little or as much as you want to personal preference. The crumble topping was sweet, chunky and packed with oats. The fruit filling was rich and not too sweet and combined perfectly with the delicious sweet custard.

And to wash it all down, we had a coffee with a latte for me and an Americano for Wifey with some Smarties to finish.

And with that bellies full and happy smiles off back to Brum.



Where: The Almanack, Abbey End North, Kenilworth, CV8 1QJ

Who: The Almanack, Peach Pubs

You can read about other visits to Peach Pubs below:

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!


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.


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,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


Bonjour to Le Bistrot Pierre!

Le Bistrot Pierre has been in place over a month. Nestling into the canalside between The Cube and Brindleyplace, it seems to have settled in nicely.


Wifey and I went to the launch at the backend of June (yes, I’m that far behind!). We arrived after a stroll through the Mailbox and entered via the side entrance, which opened onto a walled terrace area.


After some complimentary drinks and canapes, we had an explore around the building which boasts a good sized bar, comfy seating and separate lounge area. There are cosy little alcoves and two good sized terraces, for those braving a British summer, for al fresco dining or little snugs inside with exposed brickwork and dark wood, making it a more intimate experience.

After our wander around, we joined them for their inaugural service (happily, next door to the lovely Adam and Rich from OutInBrum).

Our meal (discounted by 25% as it was opening night), consisted of bread, appetizer, mains and dessert.

The bread (a mini pain) was soft, doughy and warm, with a rich creamy butter. It disappeared fast with Wifey nearby!

Our appetizer was a Tartes Flambée. Described to us as a ‘French Pizza’, it’s from the Alsace region of France and consists of rolled bread dough with fromage blanc or creme fraiche on top. We chose the Traditionnelle which came topped with caramelised onions and smoked bacon lardons. Served on a a wooden platter atop a wire cooling rack, it was extremely moreish. Tasty, light and crispy, the base held up and there was no noticeable sagging. The yin and yang of sweet caramelised onions and salty bacon lardons really went well together and we’d definitely have it again the next time we go.

Wifey’s main was Poulet Printanier: pan-fried chicken breast, asparagus, fricassée of wild mushrooms, tarragon and peas. It came with plenty of sauce, the chicken breast cooked well but remained moist. The tarragon sauce was perhaps a touch heavy but still always a good flavour to enhance chicken.

I chose the Épaule d’agneau à la Marocaine. This was a Moroccan spiced slow cooked shoulder of lamb with pearl couscous, harissa, toasted pine nuts, dried apricots, and a mint and yoghurt dressing. The lamb was well cooked and flaked easily; the pearl couscous was chunky and went well. My only slight disappointment was the thinness of the sauce as it was a tagine style rich sauce rather than a broth.

Accompanying sides were seasonal vegetables of broccoli, carrots and red cabbage which were well cooked and perfectly serviceable. Perhaps a touch of butter may have livened them up. The dauphinoise potatoes on the other hand were worthy of mention, creamy rich and buttery and served in a small frying pan.

Dessert for Wifey was a Crème brûlée (not pictured). A thickly glazed caramelised sugar top, which needed a strong tap to crack into.  The interior was as you expect, a thick yellow custard which slipped down well.

I chose to try their selection of mini desserts which accompanied by an espresso (extra £1 for this option) called the Cafe Gourmand (well, I had to try that!). The desserts were enough to keep me happy and cut through the rich strong coffee, with the sorbet being my fave.

It was a good first experience, bar a few hiccups with service to be expected on opening night. We’ll be definitely be returning again and it’s a good step up from the regular high street French food providers.


When: 30/06/2016

Where: Le Bistrot Pierre, 46 Gas Street, Birmingham, B1 2JT

Who:  Le Bistrot Pierre