Lobby on Hill Street Preview Evening

Moving, decorating & exams have wreaked havoc with my blogging recently and it seems like forever ago that I was invited to the Lobby on Hill Street preview evening!

It has now been open for around a month and is part of a plan by developers The Cairn Group to turn the Holiday Inn building into a ‘resort style’ destination which will in future include a sky bar, gym and more (as well as the revamped hotel).

I had a really fun evening & was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and drink on offer. As it is literally located in the lobby of the hotel, I’m not sure I’d specifically come here to eat and drink, however for anyone staying in the hotel it would be brilliant to find this menu rather than the usual rubbish.

Here’s some pictures from the preview evening:

We started the evening with canapés and champagne (the evening was kindly sponsored by Veuve Clicquot)

We also got to try our hand at making some cocktails. If I say so myself, I make a mean passionfruit daiquiri..

I loved this black pudding bubble and squeak – the egg was perfectly cooked and the sauce was lovely and rich – perfect winter comfort food!

We tried a selection of their ‘street food inspired’ menu, including cheesy chips, chicken wings, chip butties, faggot sliders and monkfish nuggets.


Lobby on Hill Street is located (unsurprisingly) on Hill Street, Birmingham, B5 4EW. WEBSITE.

Otto Pizzeria

Since moving to Brum last year I haven’t come across any really great pizza places. Granted, with such a huge choice of bars, restaurants & cafes on my doorstep I haven’t been deprived of a good meal, but sometimes only pizza will do!

Step forward JQ favourite The Eight Foot Grocer, who have converted next door into a wood fired pizza restaurant named Otto, Italian for eight (see what they did there?). AND IT’S LESS THAN 100 METRES FROM MY FLAT!!! They opened last weekend so we headed there on Sunday evening to see if my pizza dreams really had come true.

Inside the decoration is simple and laid back with lots of exposed brickwork and Birmingham inspired artwork – perfect for a casual pizza place. The all important wood fired pizza oven takes pride of place at the back of the room.

I was really pleased to see bottled beer from my favourite Jewellery Quarter brewery, Rock & Roll Brewhouse, on offer alongside their draft beer, spirits & vino.

The menu is short and sweet with an emphasis on quality ingredients and flavours. To start we shared the Charcuterie Board which is served with flatbread and combines cured meats, sundried tomatoes, roasted vegetables and olives. Everything on the board tasted fresh and delicious and the presentation was really pretty. If I was going to be super picky, I’d say that the olives could have had a bit more flavour and I would have liked to have a bit more of the meat on the board but overall we really enjoyed it.

There are six pizzas on the menu plus two seasonal specials. On our visit there was a pumpkin, pine nut and honey special on which I was very tempted by. The pizza only takes 90 seconds to cook in 500 degree heat and it comes out piping hot with a beautifully crisp but soft crust – absolutely perfect!

He chose the Hunter’s salami, seared pepper & olives topping. This mirrored lots of the flavours from the charcuterie board and was really tasty. However it was beaten by my ‘Nduja (spicy pork salami) pizza which was outstanding. The simple tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil base really let the gorgeous ‘Nduja take centre stage whilst complementing it perfectly. The chef told us it was his favourite and I can 100% see why!

The prices range from £6 to £9.50 which is pretty good. I think they also do takeaway and I would definitely order this rather than a Dominoes in future – cheaper, more delicious and closer to my flat!

The service was a tiny bit slow but to be fair a) it was their opening weekend b) there was a huge group eating at the same time as us and c) I was feeling hangry so time was going slowly! The staff were all lovely and friendly and I really liked that the pizza chefs came and chatted to us at the end.

Otto has definitely solved my pizza dilemma and I now feel utterly spoilt having such great pizza within metres of my flat. You guys really ‘otto’ check this place out!

Otto can be found at 14 Caroline Street, B3 1UG. TWITTER

Cheese & Charcuterie Boards at 1000 Trades

Call me crackers (wahey) but I really, really love cheese. It’s one of my favourite foods and I can’t help but regard anyone who doesn’t like it with slight suspicion (see my recent text below). So when Jon & John (the big cheeses at 1000 Trades) invited me round to try their new cheese and charcuterie boards, you cheddar believe that I was excited! Okay, I promise there are no more cheese puns from this point on…

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This new offering will sit alongside their rotating kitchen residency as a permanent menu option. Reflecting the ethos of the wine, the cheeses are sourced from small, artisanal producers both in the UK and continental Europe. The selection currently includes Brie de Meaux, Black Bomber, Applewood Smoked Cheddar, Blacksticks Blue, Manchego and French Goats Cheese.

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My personal favourite was the Black Bomber, an extra mature cheddar made in North Wales by the award-winning Snowdonia Cheese Company. It has a beautiful rich flavour and creamy texture, and is a million miles away from the boring cheddar you get in Tesco!

I was already a fan of Blacksticks Blue as a pub I used to work at serves it in their cheeseboard. It’s handmade by Lancashire based company Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, who also produce the famous Kidderton Ash Goats Cheese. It has an amazing tangy taste, but the distinctive blue colour marbled through the golden cheese means it also looks great on the board.

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I loved seeing the Manchego on the cheeseboard as I rarely get to eat it unless I’m in Spain and it’s so underrated. Along with the classic French soft cheeses (brie and goats cheese), it gave a really nice balance to the board; there’s definitely something for everyone here!

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Almost as important as the cheese are the accompaniments. 1000 Trades do a great job here, serving up an unusual choice of quince jelly, cornichons, balsamic onions and Peter’s Yard Crispbreads (sometimes including a fantastic black charcoal variety) which complement the cheese perfectly.

The cheeseboard is priced at £8. After checking out some other Birmingham bars & restaurants, where prices ranged from £6.95 to £9.50 for 3 cheeses, I reckon this is pretty damn good.

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Alongside the cheeseboard I also tried the Spanish charcuterie board (£10), which contains a selection of cured meats imported from small scale producers in Spain. With generous portions of quality meats and big flavours, this board was a winner as well. The charcuterie board is served with the same accompaniments as the cheeseboard, apart from the quince which is replaced with basil & garlic olives.

We NEED to talk about these olives because they are seriously amazing. I don’t think I’ve had better in the UK, and Ollie will vouch for the fact that I can’t stop going on about them. It’s worth getting the board for these olives alone!

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I can see these boards being a good lighter dinner for two, or something to share in a group over drinks; you can try some fabulous meats and cheeses and make yourself feel all sophisticated and continental.

Considering 1000 Trades’ emphasis on quality organic wine, I think this is a perfect addition to their menu and it will be difficult to resist ordering one after a few glasses of wine. After all, is there any combination on earth better than wine and cheese?!

Disclaimer: I was invited along to try the cheese by 1000 Trades, so did not pay. Of course, all opinions are honest and my own.

1000 Trades can be found at 16 Frederick Street, B1 3HE. WEBSITE

First look at Gusto Birmingham

When details of the new Gusto restaurant appeared on the boarded fronts of The Grand Birmingham I was super excited. I’m originally from Cheshire so grew up visiting Gusto in Alderley Edge – I even remember it as ‘Est Est Est’ before it was rebranded – and it has always been one of my go-to restaurants whenever I am home.

As if I needed an excuse to visit, the opening coincided with my last day at work, so we booked a table for Saturday to celebrate. When we arrived, we were greeted by the wonderful Adam Hayes. We sat right by the floor to ceiling windows which are so, so good for people watching. I could sit there all evening with a glass of wine watching the world go by. As with all Living Ventures venues the interior had been beautifully thought out, and included the signature olive tree covered in fairy lights. Something else I liked was the way the restaurant had been split into three zones, meaning the noise from larger groups didn’t overwhelm smaller tables!

Onto the food: to start, we ordered the oven roasted pork ribs and the meatballs in spiced tomato sauce. We also had some baked rosemary focaccia bread to nibble on; this was good but a little thick for me. I would recommend the dough petals or garlic pizza bread over the focaccia as when I’ve tried these before they’ve been perfect.

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The meatballs, served with a rich, thick tomato sauce and topped with cheese, were a lovely comforting starter without being too heavy. The pork ribs came smothered in a delicious tomato and barbecue sauce and was accompanied by a crunchy (possibly pickled?) vegetable salad. The salad was beautiful, it was light and fresh and really lifted all the flavours in the dish.

To drink we ordered a bottle of ‘Gomila’, a Slovenian wine. I had no idea that Slovenia even produced wine but apparently they do, and it’s good! Another thing I like about Gusto in general is that they always give you a separate ice bucket so that the wine doesn’t clutter up the table. I had been out on Friday so didn’t fancy anything more than wine but they do have a brilliant cocktail menu as well!

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I am a huge pizza and pasta lover so I usually stick with those but I thought I’d branch out a little for our main course. Firstly, we had the pan fried fillet of sea bass. To my immense joy, the crispy vegetable salad made another appearance in this dish. Seriously Gusto, can you put this on the menu as a side so that I can order it every time?! The sea bass was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Usually I have a phobia of eating fish skin because so often it’s soggy and slimy and disgusting, but here it was crisp and lovely and I ate it all!

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We also ordered the slow cooked pork belly which was equally amazing – I think this is my top pick of the evening. The pork belly was gorgeous and soft, and perfectly complemented by the crisp texture of the crackling and the sweet sharpness of the apple sauce. Pork belly dishes can sometimes be really heavy but Gusto cleverly serve it with gnocchi rather than potato, and add hints of basil. This stops the dish being too stodgy and, most importantly, means you have room for dessert!

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Sticky toffee pudding is my absolute favourite dessert EVER and I know that the Gusto version is damn good. However I was intrigued by the almond milk panna cotta, served with honeycomb, flaked almonds and lemon curd so decided to go for that. I was slightly disappointed that it came in a bowl rather than standing up (not as fun and wobbly) and if you had a mouthful without any of the toppings it didn’t have much of a standout flavour. However in combination with the sharp lemon curd and berry flavours and the crunchy texture from the honeycomb and almonds it was a nice fresh dessert and I can see it working really well in summer.

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He had the chocolate & hazelnut brownie, served with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce – could you get a more perfect combination?! Brownie desserts are often way too sweet and artificial tasting but this one was brilliant. I loved the slight bitterness of the chocolate sauce, it made the dish feel like it was made with good quality chocolate rather than just being a sugar overload!

I’m so pleased Birmingham now has its very own Gusto, the team have done a great job and I look forward to many more visits in future. And also, before I finish, can we just mention how beautiful the toilets are!?

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Gusto is located at The Grand Hotel, Colmore Row, B3 2DA WEBSITE