Category: Food Glorious Food

Try these – your tastebuds will thank you!

I never had peanut butter as a kid, and always assumed I didn’t like it (although I liked peanuts). In fact I only tried it for the first time fairly recently, maybe a couple of years ago. And then I realised I’d been missing out for all those years.

We don’t actually keep it in the house because neither of us can be trusted not to eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon, and that’s the kind of calorific behaviour that can get out of hand quickly!

No wonder then that I was drawn to two sweet peanut-y things lately that I just have to tell you about.

Ben & Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream

Ben & Jerry's peanut butter cup ice cream

I’m sure this has been around for ages, but I’ve never seen it before. I’m not a big ice cream eater but when I spotted these little cups I thought I’d buy a couple. Wowsers. Creamy ice cream with a salty sweetness and little chewy peanut butter cups running all the way through. Delish.

Cadbury’s salted peanut crunch fingers

Cadbury's salted peanut crinh chocolate fingers

More wowsers. Bearing in mind that chocolate fingers are right up there with my fave biscuits, and that I can eat a whole packet in one sitting, these were never going to last long. They’re sweet without being sickly, with just the right amount of salty kick. Yum.

Do yourself a favour and try one or both of these if you get chance.

You can thank me later!

Some pictures of food. I like food.

I’m off to a barbecue today, so to celebrate a foodie day here are some snaps from my phone of stuff I’ve enjoyed recently.

Weekday lunch – garlic and herb chicken, pastrami, Heinz firecracker sauce and cress in a white tortilla wrap.

Chicken and pastrami wrap

Just fancied a sandwich – pastrami, wholegrain mustard, jalapenos, tomato and jalapeno relish, red onion and iceburg lettuce, on fresh white bread.

Pastrami sandwich

Afternoon snack – British strawberries and blackberries, one of the things I love about summer.

Strawberries and blackberries

Black country chip shop chips!

Black country chips

Weekday lunch – garlic and herb chicken, grated carrot and homemade purple slaw.

Purple slaw carrot and chicken

The perfect burger dressing and accompaniment – white roll with pickles, red jalapenos, blue cheese and garlic sauce, and homemade purple slaw on the side.

Homemade purple slaw and burger toppings

Weekday lunch – peri peri chicken, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and sweetcorn

Piri piri chicken and spinach salad

Iced ring doughnut with hundreds and thousands (guilt free too, because I ate it on a Friday – everyone knows calories don’t count on a Friday)

Iced doughnut

Ginsters scotch egg bar – not gourmet in anyway but absolutely delish!

Scotch egg bar

Mediterranean prawns

Mediterranean prawns

Sweet chilli turkey burgers on big mushrooms with homemade coleslaw and jalapenos

Turkey burgers and corn on the cob

Cocktails in the South of France – OK, technically not food. But good nonetheless! An Old Fashioned for husband and a frozen Strawberry Daquiri for me (read about my trip here, here and here)

Old fashioned

Frozen strawberry daquiri

God, I’m hungry!

Back from beautiful “Betsy” – what a weekend!

Wow, what a fab time I’ve had in North Wales. The beautiful Betws-y-Coed, or “Betsy”, is the gateway to Snowdonia National Park and is a pretty green and mountainous haven for a City girl like me.

We spent a weekend there last year, with my Mother in Law for her birthday, and were so taken with the village, the guesthouse and the scenery that we vowed we’d be back. Despite my wobble a couple of weeks ago (and thanks to Lisa for talking words of wisdom to me!) we approached it with much excitement. It turned out to be even better than expected.

The River Llugwy runs through the middle of the village, and can be crossed by one of two bridges – the iron Waterloo bridge at the entrance to the village, and the stone Pont-Y-Pair bridge in the middle.

River Llugwy Betws y Coed

Pont Y Pair bridge Betws y Coed

St Mary’s church is a big imposing structure right in the middle. It dates back to 1873.

St Marys Church Betws y Coed

St Marys Church 2 Betws y Coed

As well as being picturesque and well placed for sightseeing, mountain climbing and venturing further afield to the Isle of Anglesey, the village has some really good restaurants, which we were surprised at last year. The quality of the ingredients and imaginative menu listings aren’t what you would expect from a small Welsh village.

It’s been a visual and gastronomic delight.

Where we stayed  Mount Garmon View Guest House

Mount Garmon View Guesthouse Betws y Coed

This is, without doubt, the best guesthouse I’ve ever stayed in. It’s perfectly located, beautifully decorated and extremely relaxing. More than that, the owner is fabulous! One of the reviews of TripAdvisor describes her as the Welsh Mary Poppins. Nothing is too much trouble – from special breakfast requests through to lending maps and advising on days out; she always has time for a chat and her wealth of knowledge and passion is amazing. Afternoon tea and scones on arrival, fresh mineral water and biscuits in the bedroom and fresh flowers everywhere make for a delightful stay. I absolutely cannot recommend this place enough, if you were thinking of visiting the area.

Where we ate, evening one Ty Gwyn

This 17th century coaching house is positioned at the entrance to the village and is very popular – booking is essential.

Ty Gwyn Betws y Coed

We missed out last year as we didn’t book in advance and so were determined to not make the same mistake again. There is a restaurant – which is slightly more formal – a lounge and the alcove, which has just three tables. The menu is the same across all three rooms. They also have rooms, including romantic four poster bed rooms and a honeymoon suite. The decor is rustic and welcoming; white washed walls, oak beams, lots of brass and rugs and low lighting.

Inside Ty Gwyn Betws y Coed

We both started with king scallop, prawn and crayfish gratin; followed by lamb and duxxel wellington for husband, and fillet mignon roulade for me. The roulade, rather than being wrapped in pastry, was wrapped in bacon! And stuffed with cheese and spinach before being smothered in creamy peppercorn sauce. There were lots of yummy noises coming from our table. Because I was on holiday (!!) I had already decided I was indulging in a dessert and the honeycomb, ginger and chocolate cheesecake did not disappoint.

Cheesecake dessert at Ty Gwyn Betws y Coed

I magnanimously shared it with husband, even though I could have happily wolfed the lot. Delish.

Where we ate, evening two Llugwy River restaurant

This restaurant is part of the Royal Oak Hotel; there is also the Grill Room and the Stables Bar. We hadn’t booked, stupidly, but were told that if we just turned up we’d be seated when a table became available. We ate in the Grill Room last year and the food was very very good, although the restaurant was very hot. The River restaurant looks more formal, but that’s where we seated this time. Actually we needn’t have worried, because although the restaurant itself is decorated quite opulently, the clientele is very laid back. After all, “Betsy” is a base for walkers, climbers and outdoorsy types, so no-one is dressed up. We ordered from the Grill Room menu – scallops with black pudding and pulled pork, slow cooked rump of lamb with braised red cabbage and really really slow cooked pork belly. More yummy noises. There is also an a la carte menu served in the restaurant, which we’ll be sure to try next time.

As well as restaurants there are pubs and cafes – something to suit all budgets. I had a rather delicious lunch of beef and ale pie in the Stables Bar when we arrived, and a good old cheese and pickle sandwich in the beer garden at the Pont-y-Pair Inn on day two. Both were great!

I already can’t wait to get back there; I have a feeling it will become a yearly pilgrimage for us, and would happily go for longer next time. I’ll post tomorrow about what we got up to during our time there; the scenery is outstanding.

My current favourite things

Nivea fruity shine lipbalms. These are just gorge on my lips. I reviewed them here.

Nive Fruity Shine

Selling on ebay. It’s such a pain but worth it when you make a few pennies (because that means guilt free future shopping by reinvesting the profit!)

Ebay logo

Rodizio Rico. A Brazilian churrascaria in the Mailbox in Birmingham. Basically a full on meat fest. Men with meat on skewers carve it on to your plate at your table. I took my Dad for Father’s Day. He went caveman!

Rodizio Rico

Platform sandals. Way easier to wear than you expect, because the height of the sole offsets the height of the heel. These are my most recent ones, part of a mini haul from from Matalan.

Matalan brown platform sandals

Turquoise and silver jewellery. Perfect combination, and surprisingly versatile. Looks great with a tan (which I unfortunately don’t have at the moment; thanks for nothing summer 2015). Lots featured on my Pinterest bejewelled page. This one is a recent purchase from ebay (I’m buying as well as selling!)

Silver and turquoise necklace

My Naked Flame balcony burner. A Christmas present from the husband. Fill it with burning gel and set it alight – it’s mesmerising to sit outside in the dark and watch it flicker away.

Naked Flame gel burner

What are you loving right now?

Digbeth Dining Club – Original Patty Men, Manila Munchies, more Canoodle and Esmie’s

After last week’s tum tickling fabulousness, we decided to head to DDC again on Friday to sample the delights of some food vendors we hadn’t tried before. My husband classes a good burger as right up there in terms of his favourite food items, and the Original Patty Men recently won a UK burger battle challenge which was held in Birmingham, so their wares were on his must try list.

OPM

Obviously lots of other people had the same idea, because when we got there at around 7.15 the queue for their stall was huge. It didn’t look huge, until you got closer and realised they’d put metal barriers out so people were snaking round and round like a queue for the funfair. And then, when you got to the front to place your order, you were given a ticket and had another 10-15 minute wait after that. All in all we waited an hour and 20 minutes to get our mitts on a burger. Although it was payday, so probably more people out than usual, but still.

I had a Bean Bean King – burger topped with pulled pork and spicy beans and cheese.

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I was all up for trying their Krispy Kreme burger (basically a glazed doughnut in place of the bun) but they’d already sold out by the time we were half way through the queue. Other choices seemed fairly tame compared to what I’ve seen on offer before, which was a shame considering they’re known for unusual and innovative toppings.

Was it worth the wait? Well, in my opinion nothing is worth waiting that long for. It was good, it was tasty, it was fresh and juicy and well cooked. The burger bun was sturdy enough to hold the contents and the flavours worked well together. But really, an hour and a half? I’d say Original Patty Men have become a victim of their own success. And obviously that’s not their fault in any way. But queuing for that long on a Friday night (or any night) is just daft. Although the burger was very good.

Husband had a bacon cheeseburger – the bacon being flavoured with maple. And here it is!

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The queue was so long that I used the time as an opportunity to grab something from one of the other stalls. Manila Munchies serve Filipino street food.

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The menu looked good, with 4 different offerings (including one vegetarian). I opted for the pork liempo, which was slow cooked belly pork in spicy sauce served with rice and vegetables.

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Very tasty – the meat was delicious and cooked to perfection, tender and succulent with just the right amount of bite. The vegetables and rice were a great accompaniment. It was a fab starter! (although service was slow; I waited around 10 minutes and there were only 3 people in front of me. You’ll get the picture that I don’t like waiting for food!)

Finally I returned to Canoodle for more tasty goodness following the success of the previous week, this time trying their Sri Lankan pork curry.

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Again the meat was cooked amazingly, and the rice and pickled veg worked perfectly as an accompaniment. Overall the dish was slightly too citrusy for me as it was flavoured with lemongrass (not a favourite of mine) but there was no denying that it was very tasty and well executed (and I ate it all anyway!)

Being on different food wavelengths (as in I’d had three dishes to husband’s two) he wanted one more thing, and decided on Esmie’s.

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The queues for this Caribbean food vendor had been consistently long all night and he was drawn in by the scallops. They were in a tortilla bowl (an edible dish, brilliant!) on a bed of rice with asparagus spears and he also ordered fried plantain.

Plantain

Naturally I had to try it, purely in the interests of research, and it was delish. A few people had been caught out by the hot sauce which they’d smothered all over their meals and then had to counteract with lots of cooling yoghurt sauce, but by exercising caution the kick of the dressing was a delicious accompaniment to the subtle seafood.

Pricewise: burgers were £7 each, Manila Munchies Pork Liempo was £7, Canoodle’s Sri Lankan pork curry was £6.50 and the Caribbean scallops were £7, plus £2 for fried plantain. Not cheap, but certainly good quality and cooked right in front of you.

Digbeth Dining Club – Low ‘n’ Slow and Canoodle review

On Friday evening we made a last minute decision to head to Digbeth Dining Club for food and drinks. It’s been a couple of months since we were last there and there were some vendors we hadn’t tried before, so off we popped into the sunshine armed with hungry tummies!

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Low ‘n’ Slow’s offerings are all based around slow cooked barbecue meat. Brisket cooked for 24 hours, baby back ribs, the most tender pulled pork – this guy knows his meat. He’s also made “baconaise” a thing – triple oak smoked bacon mayonnaise which is used as a dressing on burgers. I mean, I don’t even like mayonnaise, but I would bathe in that stuff.

We headed straight to the Low ‘n’ Slow area and ordered. Husband went for a chilli beef brisket burger; I tried to get a picture but he was too quick for me. Judging from the looks on his face and the yummy noises he was making, it was very good! (he confirmed as much afterwards).

I ordered pig cheek tacos.

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Delish! Tender juicy smoked meat with spicy sauce and fresh tomatoes, served up on fresh soft tacos. I’ve never had pig cheek before but I’d definitely have it again. Such a lovely texture, a firmness that melts in the mouth, and a sweetness from the dressing.

Next stop was Canoodle. Their pan Asian menu was one of the reasons I wanted to go on Friday night. Unable to decide what I wanted, I coerced husband into having one thing and me having another so I got the best of both worlds! He ordered Malaysian Beef Rendang with soured mango, and I had Chilli Pepper Squid with Vietnamese dipping sauce.

Both dishes were served with steamed jasmine rice and pickled vegetables. The rice alone was fragrant and delicious, I’d have eaten a plate of it with no sauce! We both expressed concern about the pickled vegetables before we tried them, but their sharp crunch were a perfect foil to the spicy falvours of both dishes.

Malaysian Beef Rendang was a delight – thick rich sauce with tender chunks of beef; loads of meat and really really tasty.

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Chilli Pepper Squid was amazing. The thickest most succulent pieces of squid I’ve ever seen (or eaten) in a light batter, with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. Squid can be very hit and miss, and if not cooked well can resemble tyre rubber, but this was a joy.

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And then, something terrible happened. We were both full up! No room for even another dish between us. Gutted! I had hoped to have a burrito from Habanero Café, and then also spotted a new vendor – La Grande Viande – who had the most tantalising sounding lamb dishes, but stomach said no.

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Also on site were Spectacular Goat pizzas and Delizie Italiane.

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Only one thing for it – go back again soon. How terrible for us!

Restaurant review – Loch Fyne, Knowle

On Friday night we went out for dinner with my mother in law, for her birthday. She’s rather a fussy eater, so it’s rare we go to restaurants – usually opting for a nice pub meal instead – but somehow I persuaded my husband and he persuaded her that Loch Fyne would be a good choice, because fish is one of the (only) things she does like.

Having never been to a Loch Fyne before I was looking forward to something different. I know it’s technically a chain restaurant, but the prices are certainly higher than most chains, and it’s not very often you get lobster on a menu – chain or not (well, certainly not at the places I frequent!)

I always used to say I didn’t like seafood – fish and chips aside – but my tastes have definitely evolved as I’ve got older and I have to say that the mussels at my local Moroccan restaurant, cooked in chilli, is one of my favourite meals. So I was looking forward to eating at a seafood specific restaurant where they (you would hope) know their stuff.

The restaurant itself is lovely. Whitewashed walls, lots of wood – I’d describe it as high end rustic. The fish is on full view in refrigerated displays; a good sign of freshness and openness with nothing to hide. Similarly there is a wide window into the kitchen, which again inspires confidence. Lighting is subtle. The tables are ever so slightly too close for my liking, but commercially it obviously makes sense, as the restaurant was very busy.

Service was prompt and well delivered, even though the waiter had such an effected delivery it sounded like he was auditioning for local radio (small things, I know).

I ordered the starter of tempura prawns with chilli jam.

Loch Fyne tempura prawns

It was a good choice. The tempura batter was light and crispy, delicate and not overwhelming of the juicy prawns. The portion size was good, and the salad and chopped fresh chillies gave a nice texture contrast. The chilli jam was very spicy; not one for the mild of tongue, but for me it was perfect.

Husband and mother in law had scallops with haggis.

Loch Fyne haggis and scallops

Obviously I had to try some, purely in the interests of research. It was delicious. The haggis was tasty and flavoursome and the scallops were perfectly cooked.

So far so good.

Mother in law was delighted to see dressed crab and French fries on the specials menu, as it reminded her of her youth, and is also simple and unfussy food which suits her palate. For a fussy eater she certainly didn’t leave much!

Loch Fyne dressed crab

Husband went for the whole lobster. Having only ever eaten lobster tail before, his face when the waiter brought over the “tools” was a picture! But it was served in two halves, making it much easier to eat. Served simply with fries and mayonnaise, he declared it a resounding success – succulent and juicy.

Loch Fyne whole lobster

I had struggled to decide on a main course, purely because there were lots of things that appealed to me (not least the belly pork, but it seemed a bit daft to order meat in a fish restaurant), eventually settling on lobster spaghetti. Unfortunately I found it to be disappointing. The sauce, which showed so much promise on the menu, was pretty bland. There was none of the expected richness of brandy, or flavour of tarragon. It was just a rather ordinary cream sauce. There was not a lot of lobster meat, just the odd flake here and there. The dish was garnished with the empty lobster shell, seeming to indicate half a lobster’s worth of meat in the dish, but I’d doubt that, The pasta was well cooked, but that’s hardly a compliment at restaurant level! At £19.99 it totally under delivered.

Loch Fyne lobster spaghetti

Would I go back? Yes. The ambience was lovely and the food was most definitely fresh. There’s other stuff on the menu I’d like to try, and the starter was an absolute hit. Being a chain restaurant there are often mid week discounts to be had, making it more palatable on the wallet too! But I’d definitely avoid the lobster spaghetti.

A hearty and healthy weekend breakfast or brunch

I always refer to this as an omelette, although it isn’t really because the cooking method is different. I suppose, technically, it’s more of a frittata. But who cares what it’s called as long as it tastes great?!

The basis of the recipe is always two eggs per person and then you can really add what you want. It’s a great way to use up leftovers.

Whisk two eggs in a bowl.

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Chop your choice of fillings fairly small – I used spring onion, cherry tomatoes and a mix of white and chestnut mushrooms.

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Add them to the whisked egg, mix in, and season.

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Heat a small amount of oil in a pan. I use a small frying pan/omelette pan so the finished result is nice and thick. If you use a standard frying pan you will get a thinner finish.

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Pour the mixture into the pan and spread it out evenly.

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The next bit is just a judgement call really – keep an eye on it until the egg looks like its starting to cook through.

At this point I add cheese, although you can put it right into the mixture at the beginning if you prefer. I sliced up a low fat babybel.

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To cook the top it’s easiest to just slide the omelette (I know I said it isn’t really an omelette, but I don’t know what else to call it, ok?!) onto a plate, then hold the pan over the top and flip it back in, uncooked side down.

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Cook for about a minute, just to set the egg, then fold and serve. Just look at that gooey cheese!

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I usually eat mine with a spicy ketchup for a bit of a kick – Heinz jalapeno sauce is delish. But it’s really just down to personal choice.

As for fillings, again use what you like. Ham works well, or you could use chopped up cooked sausage. Peppers for a bit of a Mexican spin. Spinach adds nutrients.

This also makes a great lunch or light dinner – just add a green salad or fries. You could use a different set of fillings like chopped chicken, sweetcorn, red onion, fresh chillies, even chopped up cooked potato.

Enjoy!

A quick and simple mid week stir fry

There can be a lot of snobbery in cooking – leaving you feeling like you have to use multiple ingredients, spend ages preparing and then use a combination of baking, roasting, blending, fancy presentation and magazine quality photography to display it at its best.

As mentioned previously, I’m a healthy cook, mainly due to guilt about high calorie ingredients. Couple that with time constraints during the working week and anything that makes my life easier while enabling us to eat well is very welcome.

I usually make a stir fry once a week; often on a Monday as all the healthy veg help us to recover from the excesses of the weekend. Today I went for the super quick option, using a pre-packed bag of veg (2 of your 5 a day per half bag). I used to use stir fry sauces for flavour, but they’re full of sugar and empty calories so these days I stick to flavoured oil and soy sauce (not too much, due to high salt content)

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I also used the convenient option of dried seasoning.

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To start, a splash of Chinese stirfry oil heated in a wok, and veg (a mix of Chinese leaf, beansprouts, carrot, sweetcorn and a bit of red pepper)

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I bulked it up with some extra mushrooms and more red pepper.

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Splashed in soy sauce and sprinkled in spices. Fresh chillies work well, but I forgot to buy them this week, so crushed were a fine alternative. I also added dried garlic pepper – a mix of black pepper and garlic granules – which is a new find for me, because, to be honest, I couldnt be bothered with prepping fresh garlic!

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To mix it up, instead of the usual salmon or chicken, I used prawns and mussels. The prawns were frozen, defrosted before use, and the mussels were fresh and already pre-shelled. Both low fat and excellent forms of protein, as well as quick to heat through and flavoursome with the mix of vegetables and spices.

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Ensure the seafood is heated through, add some more chilli and garlic pepper for a kick, and it’s ready to be eaten. I added a sprinkle of sesame seeds for texture and flavour.

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From prep to plate in less than 15 minutes – what’s not to like?!

Bar review – One Trick Pony Club, Moseley Birmingham

Moseley is a suburb just outside of Birmingham with lots of restaurants and bars. Its always been fairly bohemian and cool, and has plenty of individual retailers, standalone coffee houses and eclectic cuisines. Unfortunately, on Friday and Saturday nights it can attract the pub crawl crowd due to the proliferation of bars in a small area, but outside of those times it has a lovely laid back atmosphere and plenty to choose from on the food and drink front.

I’m not sure where the time has gone, but 3 whole weeks ago today, on the first day of my redundancy, we popped out with the intention of having a late lunch.

One Trick Pony Club is the newest addition to Moseley. Previously O’Neills, it used to attract the football and cheap beer crowd but its had a superb makeover and is now home to Ruby Jeans Diner food. The interior is fab; lots of wood and exposed brick and industrial features and great lighting.

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We accidentally stumbled into the opening night back in January where the proprietors were offering free food and drink (what’s not to like about that?!) My husband was especially excited about the arrival of One Trick Pony Club as their menu comprises mainly burgers (his fave), with some unusual combinations (monster munch and emmental cheese anyone?) as well as a build your own option. And we have also eaten there on one other occasion, to further test the quality. Sad to say, it didn’t live up to the hype. Too much bread, not enough meat was our first comment. Burgers were overcooked and not juicy enough, They didn’t taste like the gourmet offering we had expected (and should have been served for the price). And so we haven’t eaten there since.

But it’s a great bar for drinks. And so we settled into the comfy sofas at the front of the bar, and had some drinks. And then some more drinks. And we looked at the menu, willing ourselves to like it because we were cosy and happy. But it just didn’t tick the boxes. The alternatives of fried chicken, ribs or mac ‘n’ cheese – all good American diner offerings – weren’t what we desired. So we ordered some nachos which would tide us over whilst we decided where else to eat.

Well. There are two nacho options – one at £5.75 (standard) and one at £9.25 (grande, loaded with chilli). For an extra £3.50 purely for chilli you’d expect a whole heap of it, right? And loads of nachos? Wrong! We were served a piddly little basket with maybe two spoonfuls of chilli. Poor show.

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This is a cool looking bar with great décor and some unusual features (the lighting is especially well done) but it massively lets itself down on food offerings, and at £11.25 for a pint and large glass of wine, it’s pretty pricy for drinks too.

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Not willing to write the place off (because we love Moseley) and wanting something sweet after Sunday lunch yesterday, we popped in for dessert. OMG! Salted caramel chocolate cheesecake. If you look closely you can see the sea salt sprinkled on the top. The dollop of whipped cream was smooth and the drizzled chocolate sauce was sweet. The cheesecake. Well. Words fail me.

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Suffice to say I will return for the cheesecake alone. And a cheeky drink, of course.