Summer Menu Tasting at Hotel du Vin

Everyone knows the best way to welcome someone in from a torrential rainstorm is with a large glass of fizz. At (ironically) their summer menu tasting, Hotel Du Vin went one better, welcoming us with a blind tasting of four different varieties; the challenge was to identify Champagne, French Cremant, Prosecco and English sparkling wine using only our eyes, noses and tongues.

I’m definitely more of a gin girl so it was no surprise that I put in an abysmal performance, scoring a solid 1 out of 4. More surprising was the fact that the Nyetimber, the English sparkling wine, took the title of all round favourite. Maybe this Brexit thing will be okay after all. Sod off France, and take your inferior fizz with you.

Actually…please, please don’t. After tasting the French-inspired summer menu I want to stay mates with our closest neighbours more than ever. There are two menus in play at Hotel Du Vin; the à la carte and the Prix Fixe menu, which is obscenely good value at only £17.95/£20.95 (2/3 courses). It’s also served in what is, in my opinion, one of the loveliest dining rooms in Brum. High ceilings, and panelled walls adorned with lots of art gives it a traditional, intimate feel without straying into stuffy territory.

I start with the English charcuterie board. Whilst not as pretty as some of the other starters which arrive (the smoked salmon, for example, is served theatrically under a glass cloche filled with smoke), the generous helping of meat is well sourced and flavoursome. I personally don’t love the pickled carrots and cauliflower that accompany it – I think they’re too big and clunky – but I still enjoyed the dish. I claimed a mouthful of the Scallops Ceviche from my neighbour/boyfriend (relationship perks); they are light, fresh, and very much deserving of their place on a summer menu.

My main is a rack of Yorkshire Dales lamb, served with pea, bean and goats curd salad. It’s a tried and tested flavour combination, cooked well, although it will set you back £26.95. If it were me, I’d save £11 and plump for the crispy porchetta dish, my favourite of the entire evening. Roasted pork is served with a thick “French Onion Soup” sauce, apple sauce and crackling. It’s rich, simple and utterly delicious.

For dessert I opt for Crepe Suzette, served with a side of theatre as they flambé the pancakes with butter, brandy and orange at the table. Classic and fun, it’s a great end to the meal.

As is to be expected from a place who’s name literally translates to ‘Hotel of Wine’, dinner is accompanied by an abundance of naughty grape juice. For summer, Hotel du Vin have curated a collection of wines made from the Pinot grape. Featuring bottles from around the world, it’s great to see some more unusual regions sitting alongside the classics. A Slovenian Furmint-Pinot Blanc is one I’ve tried before and happily revisited, though a Brazilian Pinot Noir failed to impress. Their main wine list is extensive, and their sommeliers knowledgebale, so you’re sure to find a bottle to suit when you visit. And you should visit. Hotel du Vin is serving up good, solid Gallic-style food, in a beautiful setting, with lots and lots of wine; it’s a no brainer.

Thank you to Delicious PR for the invite. As always, my honest views and opinions. 

Find Hotel du Vin on Church Street, Birmingham, B3 2NR

 

Spring Menu tasting at The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield

Ambition is a trait I really admire. Therefore head chef of the Ryder Grill, William Dimartino, is someone I immensely admire. Rather than taking the easy route and slinging out the same dishes month in, month out to his captive audience of golfers and businessmen, he has introduced a seasonal a la carte menu. Each menu will be launched via a two night, seven course tasting menu – priced at the ridiculously generous £40 (with wine pairing at £25) – and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the first summer menu tasting.

We start the evening with amuse bouche which come in the form of pork cheek croquettes, topped with a burnt apple puree and wholegrain mustard. Classic flavours, with tender pork enclosed in a crisp shell, these are a winner with the whole table.

Lichfield asparagus, duck egg mayonnaise, brioche crumb and burnt onion powder combine in my favourite dish of the evening. Served chilled, it’s light and refreshing whilst still packing a huge amount of flavour. I also get some serious plate envy at this point.

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A solid rendition of a chicken liver parfait is up next, made more interesting by it’s companions: savoury granola, pineapple, vanilla gel, demerara sugar, rum and garlic flowers. Nice, but if I was choosing a starter from the a la carte menu the asparagus would win hands down.

Sea trout divides the table, with nearly half of us professing their hatred for trout. The chef happily whips them up an alternative, but their loss is my gain; the sea trout topped with a chorizo crumb works perfectly, although I’m not so keen on the almond puree that accompanies the fish.

Up next is confit shoulder of lamb and rack of lamb, served with artichoke hummus, sweet red pepper oil, broad bean and feta. It’s probably the only dish of the evening that doesn’t work in the tasting menu – although I do think it would be fine as an a la carte main, here there is too much food. The cooking of some elements wasn’t quite right, but I’ll chalk that up to first night nerves. The artichoke hummus was bloody outstanding though. I’m still dreaming of it weeks later.

The entire table agreed that both desserts were outstanding. ‘Creme Brulee’ appeared as a bite sized puff of pastry, with beautifully sweet poached strawberries, dehydrated strawberries, basil and creme fraiche. My companion’s plate was licked clean before I’d even taken a photo – that’s how good it was.

Passion fruit tart was served with meringue, mango gel, brioche breadcrumbs, chocolate and coconut sorbet. Tropical flavours and faultless execution, this was declared a star of the evening.

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Service struck a perfect balance between being friendly and formal, with the staff clearly passionate and all knowing their stuff. I can’t tell you too much about the wine – I was too engrossed in the food – other than that they were all lovely and very well matched. Dimartino’s ambition has led to a an interesting and well-executed menu which I would happily eat again. Especially for £40 bloody quid – it’s criminally good value.

I was invited to the taster evening as a guest. Information about The Ryder Grill and details of the next taster evenings can be found here. The Belfry Hotel can be found on Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield, B76 9PR.

Tapas Revolution, Grand Central

Incredibly, I had not been to Tapas Revolution prior to this visit.  I don’t know why; I bloody love the food of Spain.  In fact, thinking about it now, I haven’t been to any of the Spanish restaurants in Birmingham (bar the excellent El Borracho pop up at 1000 Trades).  I am a disgrace. I hold my head in shame.  Now this means that I can’t directly compare Tapas Revolution to its local competition, but what I can do is tell you that at times it transported me back to Valencia, where the food and wine are plentiful.  Oh, and owner Omar is dishy.  It’s little wonder they have his face everywhere.

We take a seat at the long copper counter (just like proper Spaniards, only more pasty) and dive straight into the new cocktail menu.  A blood orange and cherry royal is excellent, as is a boozy julep made with wild strawberry and pomegranate.  From the tapas menu we start with bread which is generously topped with garlicky tomato sauce and serrano ham.  It is wonderful; punchy and meaty, the ham impeccably sourced.  Pork belly, probably my favourite dish of the evening, arrives pan fried to a crisp, with a heady sauce that makes me want to lick the plate clean. I don’t, but only because I am in company and my mother would be ashamed.



Padron peppers are one of my favourite things in the world; if they are on a menu I order them without fail.  These do not disappoint.  They are blistered by heat and sprinkled liberally with sea salt.  They pretty much dissolve in the mouth, leaving behind the warmth of a very mild chilli heat and the smug feeling of discovering the best way to consume one of your five a day.  Paella is technically very competent, the rice accurately cooked, the dish boldly seasoned.  The chicken is still tender and the bite of the green beans is welcome.  Like all well-made paella the joy is at the bottom of the pan where the rice has gone crunchy and absorbed all the flavour.  If you were unaware of that before, claim that shit as your own next time.  It’s where the party is at.



Cocktails three and four are a margarita with sparkling rose that reminds me a little of my favourite Aperol Spritz, and a Batida which sounds like it should be far too sweet but delivers plenty of grown-up flavours.  We finish up the savoury courses with a solid rendition of patatas bravas and the only misstep in the meal, a cod loin that had been cooked a minute too long, with an underwhelming pea puree.  Not even sobrasda, the spreadable chorizo paste straight from the Gods, could save it.  It’s not a bad dish, it just wasn’t as good as the previous dishes.

We finish off by sharing churros. Not because we need anymore food, but because the lovely waitress insists on it.  We’re pleased that she did – they are lighter than they look, with a decadent chocolate sauce that induces sadness when it finishes.  I forgot to take a picture; this is proof of my enjoyment. And with that we’re off, brimming with food and a little more tipsy than we arrived.  We had a really lovely meal – one where the flavours were authentic and the service well led – and it has reignited my love for Spanish food.

Spanish restaurants of Birmingham, I’m sorry. It wasn’t you, it was me. Let’s get it on.