El Borracho de Oro, Edgbaston

Autumn has definitely arrived in Birmingham. And whilst I love a scarf and a pumpkin spice latte as much as the next basic bitch, one thing I really can’t get on board with is the lack of daylight. Dragging myself out of bed has become an impossible task; one that requires more willpower than I happen to possess and a fancy sunrise simulating alarm clock. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s miserable, it’s shit, and I’ve used up all my holiday at work.

With a trip to Spain off the cards, the next best thing was a trip to El Borracho in Edgbaston, somewhere I’ve wanted to visit ever since eating at their brilliant 1000 Trades pop-up. It’s a lovely space; warm, welcoming and expertly presided over by the wonderful Emma.

We start the evening with Catalan bread. Simple flavours of tomato and garlic soak into the top of the bread, whilst the bottom retains it’s crunch. It’s almost definitely the best rendition I’ve ever had and puts the one we have two days later to shame; it’s half the price and definitely twice as good. To accompany it comes the house red (Pez de Rio, excellent at £17.50) which I quickly recognise as one I often drink far too much of in Bar Opus..

Skewers of chicken marinated in red mojo sauce are our first meat dish. The tender meat is packed with flavour and sandwiches chunks of pepper and onion that still retain a little bite. Drizzled with garlic aioli, it’s a perfectly formed plateful and – happily – a sign of things to come. Lamb is slow cooked and falling apart in the tomato and pepper sauce, whilst the tang of baked piquillo peppers stuffed with goats cheese balances brilliantly against the richer dishes.

The pork cheek is rich and comforting, the pork perfectly cooked and served with a red wine sauce that cries out for every last drop to be finished. It’s perfect for cold Birmingham evenings; a hug in a dish. The butterbean stew with smoked black pudding, chorizo, pancetta and red pepper has a similar vibe. It’s all kinds of warming, the kind of dish you want to eat tucked up on the sofa, mopping up the last of it with bread.

We order the potato churros with blue cheese because they sound intriguing. They are fantastic. Out of this world, life altering, fight-to-the-death-over-the-last-one fantastic. If I was a potato, I’d be pretty happy to end up in this particular afterlife.

Regrettably, we have no room for dessert. The bill for two barely reaches £70 including wine and we roll home full of some of the best Spanish food I’ve ever had. The value is further driven home a couple of days later, when we pay a considerable amount more for an underwhelming meal at a much-acclaimed Spanish restaurant in Manchester.

So thank you, El Borracho, for bringing some sunshine to my dreary Thursday evening. You really are a gem.

El Borracho de Oro is on Harborne Road, Birmingham, B15 3BU. WEBSITE.

El Borracho de Oro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Electro Brunch at Gaucho, Birmingham

Daytime drinking is a dangerous pastime. Daytime drinking in the low lit underground Gaucho even more so. You see, despite being bottle fed on gravy and real ale, I’m more Southern Softy that Notorious Northerner when it comes to booze. Give me three drinks and I’m giddy, four and you’ll find me fast asleep in the corner spooning a dog. The latter is not a metaphor for my relationship, my boyfriend would like to point out. The idea of bottomless brunch appeals to me, even more so when it’s the glorious Gaucho offering a two hour spree of unlimited dishes and drinks, but it’s also slightly terrifying.

As it turns out I did find myself tucked up in bed by 2pm sleeping off the Aperol Sptritz, but not before I had a pretty brilliant start to the day at brunch. They really know what they are doing here, with a menu packed with things I want to eat and a team of polished waiting staff happy to replace my empty glass at a seconds notice. Go on, fill me up again please.

Little croissant style pastries greet us at the table, along with an peanut butter dulce de leche which is about as addictive as crack and slightly more calorific. These disappear in seconds. From here it is a free-for-all of food with one rule; finish your plate before ordering the next one. I am ravenous. This is easy work for a pro like me.

Shocker; I eat almost everything, taking in a drinks flight that amounts to an Aperol spritz with every course. Steak and eggs are unsurprisingly brilliant, this being a rather brilliant steak house. The meat blushes pink, the egg oozes with rich yolk. I’m tempted to say I could have eaten twenty of these but I could have if I wanted and I never. I only managed two. Pathetic.

The Eggs Benedict, served with salt beef, is a triumph; the salty meat perfectly balanced against the creamy sauce and crisp muffin. Apologies for the Ainsley Herriot style innuendos. But it really was good. Next is a breaded chunk of gooey Provoleta cheese, with a caramelised onion chutney to cut through the richness. Cheese for breakfast should definitely be more of a thing.

A chorizo sausage sandwich with chimichurri is not that chorizo-y, but I’ll forgive that because it’s delicious. The beans on toast with chorizo is, for me, the only disappointing dish. There’s not enough chorizo and I make a much better version at home.

I’m stuffed by this point, but it would be rude not to try the dessert (and another Aperol Spritz). Banana pancakes don’t quite reach the highs of the ones I devoured daily in Indonesia, but that’s probably not a fair comparison. These did come with another hit of that peanut butter dulce de leche crack though, so let’s call it a draw.

We emerge, blinking, into the sunlight from the dark mouth of Gaucho. I have an exam four days later so it’s home for a nap I go; for others, it’s the perfect start to an all day drinking session. I can’t pretend I’m not jealous.

At £45, the brunch is certainly not cheap, but definitely worth it for a special occasion. The food is brilliant, the drinks free flowing and the service polished. Go hungry and thirsty – preferably with no exams scheduled – and worry about the waistline later.

I was invited to the Gaucho Electro brunch as a guest of Red Kite PR (thank you!). Gaucho‘s Birmingham branch is at 55 Colmore Row, B3 2AA.

Bar + Block, Birmingham

I was a weird child. Still am. Amongst the many childhood tales my mother has recounted to me, the first word I chose to utter is one of my favourites. It wasn’t mama, or dada. Not hello, bye-bye, yes or no. It was moo.

My boyfriend might point to this as an early warning sign of my infamous moods, but I prefer to think of it as a first declaration of my love of steak.

You see, a properly cooked steak is a thing of beauty. I personally like mine dry aged, charred on the outside and so rare that it could be returned to life with a defibrillator. Properly rested so that the juices disperse across the protein, not the plate. But this beef nirvana is rarely achieved; far too often my rare steak is overcooked, or the meat has been cooked on too low a heat so that the exterior is a sweaty, muddy grey. Cooking a bit of cow shouldn’t be that difficult yet it so often misses the mark. Luckily, my visit to Bar + Block proved they know how to handle a piece of meat (whey).

I know I’m in the minority, but I have a real issue with meat flavoured crisps. It’s just. not. right. I won’t pretend, then, that the arrival of beef popcorn to start the meal filled me with joy. Fortunately, in this case I was wrong; these little pops of meatiness would make even the cheapest of Cineworld seats bearable, and had completely disappeared by the time our wine arrived.

We choose three small plates from the menu to start us off. A gammon and pineapple scotch egg gets a mixed response; I like the nostalgic flavours of ham surrounding the egg, studded with sweet pineapple and the occasional tingle of chilli, but my dining partner brands it a complete bastardisation of a classic. I reckon I’m right.

Mac and cheese bites do exactly what they say on the tin; deep fried bits of molten cheese and pasta. They’re good, but better eaten with burnt ends; smokey, sweet and crispy bits of slow cooked brisket, with a hint of heat lurking in the background.

I’ll gloss over my boyfriend’s odd decision to order a chicken burger in a steakhouse, because it was a decent burger, but if you’re here it should be about the cow. And it was for me; a hunk of 10oz fillet, exactly how I asked for it. The exterior had a nice crust, the centre still gently moo’ing, with a tangle of samphire bringing welcome saltiness. I like it a lot, and it’s a bargain for it’s size at £22.95.

Dessert is definitely not needed, but we order it anyway. The sundae comes piled with churros, honeycomb, brownies and other things your dentist warns you about. It’s mammoth and would defeat the hugest of appetites for only six English pounds. The baked cheesecake with cherry is the only real disappointment of the meal. The texture is all wrong, a mass of bland, dense sweetness that tastes like it’s been defrosted. I should have ended on the steak. Serves me right for being greedy.

Bar + Block is never going to be my favourite restaurant, the place that I rave about to everyone who’ll listen and take all my friends to when they visit. But it does what it sets out to do extremely well; it serves up tasty, well cooked food at an extremely reasonable price. And for that I can’t fault it.

Bar + Block is at 6 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, B2 5PG.

Food was complimentary for review purposes.

Gateway to India, Regency Wharf

The last time I visited the Gateway to India was in Mumbai; it was a little different there.  Perched on benches we ate cheap and tasty food, and watched men wearing little clothing pass by with bedazzled cows, whereas here, just off Broad Street…Okay, I take it back. Thinking about it, Mumbai really isn’t that different to Broad Street at all; give or take a few pitchers of Sex on the Beach, a visit to either will guarantee colourful characters, a riot of noise and hordes of taxis.

Gateway to India, then, is a fairly apt name for this newcomer. Could this possibly be the inspiration behind the name? We may never know.*

What I do know is that Gateway to India are serving up some seriously impressive street food, with a menu inspired by favourites from Mumbai and beyond. And when I say seriously impressive, I mean dishes that are up there with the best in the city. Look beyond the traditional interior and you’ll discover a menu more akin to the Zindiyas and Indian Streaterys of the city than your standard curry house.

I was there a couple of weeks back and I’ve been thinking non-stop about some of the dishes I ate.  Chole Bhature is everything that I love about Indian street food; take one puffed up piece of fried bread, tear, and fill with a chickpea curry that has the right balance of zing and heat.  It’s that visceral, hands-on type of eating that I love, a far cry from the well mannered world of cutlery that we survive in.  It’s the same with pani puri. Delightfully light, crisp, puffs are drizzled with tamarind and a punchy mint and coriander sauce. Fill them and then pop in the gob in one piece to release a world of goodness.

My Northern tendency to put anything and everything between buttered bread is satisfied by the Pav Bhaji; a vegetable curry accompanied by a buttered bun to spread or dunk as you choose. It’s bloody brilliant.  Aloo Tikki are deep fried mashed potato patties, a concept that could easily have originated from Glasgow (the home of haggis pakora). These are delicious, fragrant with spice and served with the same chickpea curry that formed the Chole Bhature.  It’s at this point I should tell you I am madly in love with the vivid green mint and coriander sauce; I would gladly elope with it had it not been frowned upon to do so with a liquid.

And there’s more – I’ve saved my favourite dishes for last. Bhel Puri is an addictive combination of crispy rice and noodles, dusted with spices and finished with onion, tamarind and yogurt. Samosa chaat is the best rendering of the dish I’ve tried to date; a pungent and warming mixture of that chickpea curry and torn samosa that demands your immediate attention. Best of all is the dosa, a wrapping paper-esque tube filled with the most addictive potato spiced with mustard seed and cumin.  It is this that I have been dreaming of recently, all seventeen foot (a possible exaggeration) of it with the loose vegetable curry and tomato chutney.  At just a fiver for the vegetarian one it is the obvious lunch of choice, even when your work is twenty minutes walk away like mine is. Trust me, it’s worth it.

We tried other dishes – curries, grills and a brilliant lobster dish – but it is the above street food menu that for me really stands out. With ever more Indian streetfood joints popping up in Birmingham, I can truly say that this is one deserving of your time.

*It’s true, we may never know, but I’m 99.99% sure this is not the case.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Anita at Delicious PR for the invite. The meal was complimentary, my opinions are honest as always (ask my boyfriend – I haven’t shut up about the dosa since!).