1580 Restaurant, Erdington

In 1580, Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe and returned to England bearing treasured silver, gems and exotic spices.  437 years later I made (for me at least) an equally unchartered journey to Erdington to visit a new restaurant named in honor of Drake’s famous expedition.

A joint venture between four friends, it was clear as soon as we arrived the passion and energy that has been put into getting this contemporary Indian restaurant up and running. It was great to see the attention to detail in the decor; from the sailing vessel which dominates the far wall to the beautiful light fittings that give the place an inviting glimmer from outside.

As was to be expected, we started the evening with poppadoms. 1580 have given them a slight twist, serving them in a cone shape. This means they are slightly thicker than usual, a plus for me as they can hold more chutney without collapsing. The accompaniments were excellent, in particular the punchy green dip – hot with mint and coriander flavours running through it.

Our table opted for the non-veg starter, which was a sharing platter of murgh (chicken) tikka, lamb chops, kochi kekraa (soft shell crab) and zaffrani bada jingha tikka (spiced tiger prawns). The lamb chops were faultless; well spiced, tender and even better when combined with the green dip. The chicken was well cooked and flavoured, and the enormous prawns were a hit. I enjoyed the soft shell crab but thought there was a slightly ‘floury’ taste to the batter – maybe a couple of seconds more cooking would have fixed this. 1580 claim to only use fresh, high quality ingredients in their food and I think the meat and fish in this starter proves that this is true.

Again, we opted to try the non-veg main courses; murgh tikka masala, pot pepper lamb curry and bater (quail – yes I had to Google) curry on the bone. Full of flavour and without the dreaded layer of oil, we happily mopped up every last drop of all three dishes. Although the lamb was my favourite, the quail worked surprisingly well and it was nice to see a more unusual meat being used. I would usually avoid chicken tikka masala in a restaurant but this seemed closer to home cooking than the bland, creamy version often served in restaurants.

Throughout the evening, the staff could not have been more accommodating and were always on hand to answer questions about the food or top up drinks. I have no doubt that any visitor would be very well looked after by this team.

A few minor areas for improvement: the toilet is a little tired and could do with an update to bring it into line with the look of the main restaurant area. Personally, I’d also like to see a bit more detail and choice on the wine menu. Maybe this will be something that the team will look into once they have been open a little bit longer.

As a JQ dweller it’s a little far for me to travel regularly but judging by the surrounding food offerings 1580 will be a welcome addition to this area; I would certainly recommend it to those who live a little closer. The owners are lovely and I can see how much hard work they have put into making 1580 a reality. I wish them the very best of luck!

Disclaimer: I was a guest of 1580 and Delicious PR at their blogger’s preview evening. You know the drill: my writing, my opinions always!

Find 1580 at 710 Chester Road, Erdington, B23 5TE. WEBSITE.


A boozy evening at Gusto Birmingham

Now there’s not going to be too much “foodie bullshit” in this post, because quite frankly we were so well looked after – and the company was so good – that I didn’t pay nearly as much attention to the food as I usually do.

That’s not to say that the food isn’t great – it really is (see my previous post here) – but I think that’s kind of what Gusto is all about. Because you can always guarantee that the food, drinks and vibe will be right, you can just concentrate on having a fucking good time with your chosen companions.

I’ve never seen the bar area in Gusto empty. And for good reason. One of the things I like most about Gusto is that it has a proper cocktail menu done much better than many “cocktail bars” I’ve been to. On this occasion, we were treated to a selection of the bartender’s favourites which did not disappoint. The Grape and Cherry Spritz, probably my favourite of all, is less sweet than it sounds and delightfully refreshing. The Vanilla Rum packs a punch without being at all harsh, whilst the Elderflower and Peach Martini is sweet and very sippable. For something a bit different, try the Coconut and Cherry Sour.

What did I eat? To start, I had the creamed garlic mushrooms which I will now order every time I visit Gusto. They are ultimate comfort food, rich, creamy and (unsurprisingly) garlicky, topped with crisp shallots for some added texture. The only time I might make an exception is to order the dough petals instead. Actually, fuck it. I’m going to start ordering both and dipping the dough petals in my garlic mushrooms.

I followed this with the white crab, chilli and garlic spaghetti. Simple, tasty and with a generous helping of crab, it was a lovely main. Although I admit that by this point, @barrysherwin61 had fed me so much red wine that I was losing interest in the food and agreeing to all kinds of things…

Sticky toffee pudding satisfied my craving for a sweet ending. Big enough to satisfy, without being so heavy that I couldn’t extricate myself from my chair after the meal. I would have liked a tiny bit more sauce, but my dad tells me that it’s not civilized to eat dessert from a bowl so I guess I need to up my standards. Forgive me, I’m from Macclesfield.

Gusto regularly change up their  menu, with the next one due in April, but all the dishes above have a permanent slot (for good reason). Come and try them; come and try the cocktails. If you want to eat and drink somewhere buzzy, relaxed and really well decorated then Gusto is your place.

Disclaimer: We were guests of Gusto so dinner was on them. However I’ve been many times before before and paid, and I will again – I genuinely rate it. 

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





Tacos & Tequila at The Plough, Harborne

The Plough is one of those pubs that everyone should have on their doorstep. Hip-but-cosy interior, great food, relaxed vibes, and very, very good looking staff…

The latest addition to their menu is “Boca Grande”, a tacos and tequila night held on Wednesday nights. I was invited down with a few of my friends to try it out, and was impressed to find that even on a mid-week evening the place was brimming with people eating, drinking and being merry.

Tequila is not my drink. Anyone who has drunk tequila with me will know this is true. I bloody love Sangria though, so I couldn’t resist trying a Tequila Sangria. And then another one. Although I’m sure they’re far from authentic, they were satisfyingly boozy and went down very easily. The tequilas are listed in order of  strength/maturity so if you prefer a more oaky flavour go for the Anejo, which has been aged for longest. If not, go for the Blanco, which isn’t aged at all.

Suitably refreshed, we ordered our food at the bar. The menu has five tacos to choose from – I think the selection changes regularly – and you get four for £12.50. Clearly this means you need to eliminate one; a difficult choice for someone as indecisive as me. On this occasion I went for the spiced pork belly, hot smoked salmon, mixed bean chilli and slow cooked brisket. Sorry chicken.

I started with the mixed bean chilli, which turned out to be my favourite. The heat of the crushed beans worked perfectly against the fresh and zesty lime and avocado, with a hint of tangy feta rounding off each mouthful.

The beef brisket was tender and moist and the blue cheese gave it a nice twist. I drizzled mine with pineapple and habanero chilli sauce which was a definite winner. On the subject of chilli sauce, The Plough has put together a mean selection of chilli sauces to accompany their tacos. From classics through to the more unusual (Wet Fart anyone?) there’s definitely something to suit everyone, including a special Boca Grande edition of Pip’s Hot Sauce.

I found the hot smoked salmon disappointing; I thought it was a little bit bland and could have done with more chilli, ginger, and smokiness. It was far from terrible though – I still would have eaten another if you’d given it to me.

The pork belly was another favourite, with the sweetness of the apple and caramelised nuts giving it a nice warmth and fruitiness. Pork and apple is a classic combination, so it was interesting to see it in a taco rather than a classic pub-style dish.

To finish off the evening, we went for some classic Mexican desserts; Eton Mess, chocolate bread and butter pudding and pecan pie. Oh, wait…

They were all delicious – the perfect level of sweet and stodgy – and with portion sizes as large you’d expect from a pub. A particular mention needs to go to the pear and brandy Eton Mess, which was so big you could use it to put someone’s window through.

Throughout the whole evening, the staff were friendly and attentive and the atmosphere fun and buzzy. It was perfect for a casual dinner with friends and I’ll definitely be going back – with so many specials and offers our next challenge is ‘A Week at The Plough’!

Disclaimer: We were invited for dinner as guests of The Plough so weren’t charged for our meal. But don’t worry, my reviews are always honest – I would hate to give a bad recommendation! 

Find The Plough at 21 High Street, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9NT. WEBSITE.

The Plough Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato