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

Bistro Du Vin - Hotel Du Vin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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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.

Tapas Revolution Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

A Valentine’s Gift Guide for the Brummie Foodie in your life

Basically, just buy these things for me.

It’s Valentine’s Day next week and, love it or hate it, it’s pretty much unavoidable. So skip the cringey roses and teddies and get your other half something they’ll actually enjoy (food) whilst supporting local Brummie businesses – Clinton’s make enough bloody money.

My boyfriend once bought me a Rooster House for Valentine’s Day (a number 2 meal for me please..) but if your date has slightly higher expectations/standards than I do, these gifts will definitely get you in the good books.

If you’re feeling sweet…

Chocolate from The Chocolate Quarter, from £5 to £65

If  you’re going to go for traditional chocolates, you need to buy the best. The Chocolate Quarter have created a wide variety of cocoa-based gifts to suit any budget and they taste SERIOUSLY good. Browse their selection in their Jewellery Quarter shop, or online here.

Heart shaped macaroons from Miss Macaroon, £15 for a box

Miss Macaroon hearts

Miss Macaroon have given their macaroons a cute Valentine’s Day twist with these heart shaped macaroons. Okay, they’re a little bit cheesy but who could resist a delicious box of macaroons?

If you want to spice things up…

Pip’s Hot Sauce, from £3.50

If your ideal Valentine’s Day is hot and saucy, this is the perfect gift for you. Available in a range of flavours, you can get your hands on this small batch hot sauce at a wide range of Birmingham venues including The Eight Foot Grocer, The Plough and Peel and Stone.

If you’re drunk on love…

Beers from The Indian Brewery, various prices

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There are loads of amazing breweries in Birmingham – Indian Brewery is just one of them, so why not get your other half a selection of Brummie beers for Valentine’s Day? Guaranteed to be 100% more romantic than grabbing a bottle of Tesco prosecco.

If you’ve been up all night…

Coffee beans from Quarter Horse Coffee, from £6.50

The intense love I feel for anyone who brings me a cup of coffee in bed is pretty unbeatable. Gift your lover a bag of Quarter Horse coffee, and if they really love you they might get out of bed and make you a cup.

Quarter Horse also do a range of mugs, keep cups and other coffee paraphernalia for serious coffee fans.  Buy in store or online here.

If you’re feeling cheesy…

Just buy them some cheese. Like seriously, who wouldn’t want cheese for Valentine’s Day? Cheese is the best.

And finally, if you want the gift that keeps on giving…

Independent Birmingham card, £15 (or 2 for £20)

For only £15, this card will give you a whole year of discounts on the best independent restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs in Brum – what a great way to spread the love. And even if you don’t believe in Valentine’s Day, just think of all the money you’ll save on dates…

Carluccio’s, Brindley Place

With so many amazing independents in Birmingham, I always feel a little bit guilty visiting chain restaurants, especially as they often disappoint (Ask Italian, I’m looking at you..). But I’m always happy to be proven wrong, so when Carluccio’s invited me along to try out their revamped menu I went along with an open mind and an empty belly.

We started with ‘Lemon Spritz’ cocktails – limoncello, Limonata and prosecco. I’m not a huge limoncello fan so would never have picked this from the menu, but it was light, refreshing and not too sweet – a promising start to the evening.

Before sitting down for dinner, we were treated to a chefs table full of cheese, olives, charcuterie, vegetables…so basically everything good ever. It also included bite-size versions of some of the new starter dishes for us to try. One of the development chefs was on hand to tell us about everything on the table – some of which he had been out to Italy to help source – and it was great to hear about the food from someone who was clearly passionate about it.

Highlights of the table included the beautiful parma ham and the caponata, which I’ve never tried before. It’s a Sicilian sweet and sour aubergine-based dish, served with bruschetta. I absolutely loved this & have already spotted a recipe for it in the Antonio Carluccio ‘Vegetables’ book so I’m definitely going to give this one a try at home!

Carluccio’s menu has been redesigned with the ‘mof mof’ (minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour) concept in mind and there are about 50 changes in total. Here’s our menu for the evening, which gave us a taste of some of these changes:

I wouldn’t have been disappointed with either of the starters if I had ordered them off the menu. The crab flavour of the macaroni was quite intense (in a good way) and it wasn’t as heavy as I thought it might be. Although I enjoyed it, I’m not the biggest fan of the fish + pasta combo so I have to admit I would have preferred straight up mac and cheese!

The arancini were much more up my street. They were generously sized, crispy on the outside with a rich, gooey risotto inside. They were served with a delicious pepper sauce which cut through the richness of the dish perfectly. I could happily sit and eat a whole bowl of these…

Mains-wise, one of the big changes Carluccio’s have made to the menu is that they have replaced the pancetta in their carbonara with guanciale (made from pork cheeks). This is apparently more authentic, and it definitely works – this was my favourite dish of the night. The guanciale is smoky and salty and worked perfectly with the rich sauce without being too heavy. I rarely order carbonara in restaurants as the sauce is often too stodgy and thick but the Carluccio’s version was lovely and moreish.

The duck pappardelle tasted good but the duck could definitely have been stronger – it got a bit lost within all the other flavours. Similarly, the rum in the chocolate and rum dessert was nowhere to be seen.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the food – so much that I returned a few weeks later and ordered pretty much exactly the same thing…adventurous I know.

As an extra starter, we had the calamari which was pleasant but unremarkable. The seafood linguine got good reviews from us, as did the rosemary and garlic potatoes (although definitely not needed alongside the large portions of pasta!).

The one big disappointment was the mixed salad. At £3.95, this was a pretty mean little portion. A side salad is certainly not a night ruiner but a little extra lettuce to pad out the salad would have left us feeling a lot more satisfied.

Carluccio’s serve up good, hearty Italian comfort food in a relaxed setting. With so much choice in Birmingham I don’t think I’ll be a regular visitor to Carluccio’s but, if I was in the vicinity and in need of dinner, I wouldn’t hesitate to dine there.

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited by Carluccio’s to their new menu tasting event, which was complementary. I was not obliged to write a review, and as always my writing and opinions are mine, all mine!

Carluccio’s have a number of restaurants in Birmingham. I ate in the Brindley Place restaurant at The Water’s Edge, Birmingham, B1 2HP. WEBSITE.

Carluccio's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

JoJolapa Nepalese Bar & Kitchen

Review of JoJolapa Nepalese bar and kitchen in Birmingham, United Kingdom. The set menu of curry house favourites was excellently cooked and good value at £24.50.

Unsurprisingly, one of my favourite ways to celebrate is by eating. When my boyfriend got offered a new job this week my first question was of course “So where shall we go for dinner?!”.

We settled on JoJolapa, a Nepalese bar and kitchen at the top end of Newhall Street. The weather in Birmingham has taken a decidedly chilly turn this week, so walking into Jojolapa felt like a welcome ray of sunshine. It’s a fairly big space but there are lots of little corners to tuck yourself away in, and along with the rich red of the walls it manages to feel warm and cosy.

JoJolapa is a Nepalese word that means “much more than welcome…JoJolapa is the warmth of a smile, JoJolapa is the pleasure of seeing you” – how cute is that?

Feeling hungry and a little bit lazy, we chose the JoJolapa Gorkhali Special set menu. It’s great value at £24.50; you get a mixed starter (tandoori chicken, shish kebab, tandoori salmon and chicken choyla), a selection of mains (Rogan Josh, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chilli Garlic Prawn, Saag Aloo), rice and naan, dessert AND tea or coffee. For any veggies out there, they also do a vegetarian set menu for £19.95.

We really enjoyed everything we ate. The chicken and salmon in the starter were fall-apart tender and the spices were delicate and perfectly balanced, meaning the dishes had bags of flavour without being overpowered by chilli. Another notable dish was the Saag Aloo, which can sometimes be a bit bland but at JoJolapa it was seasoned to perfection and reminded me of all the incredible veggie dishes I had when I visited Rajhastan a few years ago. The one dish that split opinion was the Chicken Tikka Masala. Ollie thought it was too mild and creamy, but it was one of my favourites (I am a secret Korma fan though..shhhh).

Most of the dishes on the set menu are firm curry house favourites, so if I return to JoJolapa it would be nice to try some of the more unusual Nepalese dishes such as the Steamed Momo dumplings or Chatamari pancake. However, judging from the quality of our meal,  I doubt you can go far wrong whatever dish you pick!

Aside from the food, we had a lovely waiter who looked after us really well and managed to make us laugh every time he visited the table. Rather than piling the food out of the kitchen as soon as it was ready, he checked with us before each course whether we were ready to move on or wanted a bit of a break. The great service really rounded off the whole evening and we left stuffed and smiling.

In a city which is well-saturated with curry houses, the food and service at JoJolapa were one of the most enjoyable I’ve experienced in Brum so far. I’ll definitely be returning next time I need my South Asian fix. For bargain hunters I also noticed their express lunch menu; at £6.99 it includes two courses and a soft drink. Definitely worth a try!

What are your thoughts on JoJolapa? Have you got any other recommendations for great curries in Brum? Let me know in the comments!

JoJolapa can be found at 55–59 Newhall Street, Birmingham B3 3RB. WEBSITE.

Jojolapa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato