Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t fail to notice that most of the UK has had some snow. You’ll have noticed this because it’s a fairly unusual occurrence in most parts of the country, so we all get a bit giddy and excitable, schools are closed, people take the day off work and we post ALL the snow pictures over social media.
Excuse me for jumping on the bandwagon, but this one is a little different.
A few years ago the Church of Scientology bought a building in Moseley, where I live, and they’ve just recently finished the grand refurbishment, spending millions of pounds in the process. The goodsane majority of people in Moseley don’t welcome the presence of Scientology, mainly down to their cult ways (yes I did say cult!) and their propensity for wangling money out of vulnerable people.
So, it was with much mirth that I and the majority of Moseleyites came across this picture on a local Facebook forum.
Cock off, Scientology!
Hope everyone is safe in the snow, and has been building more PC snow figures!
You may remember a while ago (in what actually turns out to be more than “a while” when I looked back at previous posts) I wrote a review about Pizza Express in Moseley (where I live), which had caused great controversy by arriving in what is traditionally a very “independent” area and daring to lower the tone of the village into high street chain territory (!!!) My conclusion was that they hadn’t done a great job, and I wouldn’t be in a rush to return. Which is why I’ve been putting off going to Prezzo, which opened at a similar time.
I’ve never been to a Prezzo before, but last week curiosity got the better of us so, armed with Tesco vouchers for “free” food, we decided to check it out.
When expectations are low it’s not difficult to surpass them. I had honestly pre-judged Prezzo on the standards set in my head by Pizza Express, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The restaurant is large – it used to be a Halfords service and MOT centre which I used to use, so I’m familiar with the space and location.
There’s an attractive outdoor terrace and a big interior which has industrial elements, lots of light, lots of mirrors, cosy intimate booths, small tables, good lighting and an open kitchen area to the rear. The décor is really well done, the whole place has a high end feel that I hadn’t expected.
We were greeted warmly, shown to our choice of table (it was late-ish on a Thursday evening so not very busy) and given menus. Prezzo has an Italian focus so there are lots of pizzas and pasta dishes, alongside some chicken and fish and a range of side dishes too. The kind of place where there’s something for everyone.
I ordered an Aperol Spritz to drink ( a new find of mine!) and the husband ordered a Negroni.
I nipped to the loo and when I got back the husband regaled me with one of the best acts of customer service I’ve ever known in a restaurant. After delivering our drinks, the waitress returned to ask if everything was ok, and the husband said he wished he hadn’t ordered a Negroni, because he didn’t like it (he’s never tried one before). The on duty manager came over and told the husband to order another drink of his choice, and that he wouldn’t be charged for the Negroni. He didn’t want our visit to be spoilt by a bad decision. How amazing is that? (I was all for drinking the Negroni as well, but apparently that would have been bad etiquette).
Next came the food – starters of crab cakes for me (delish, with a tangy garlic mayonnaise for dipping) and giant meatballs for him (also delish, made from a mix of veal, beef, pork and pancetta; oh and how we laughed at giant balls, we’re nothing if not immature).
Main course was a “posh pepperoni” pizza from the Prestigio section of the menu for the husband (crisp, light, fresh and oh so tasty) and Chicken Calabrese for me, with a side of truffle fries which were new to me, and an absolute taste sensation.
Neither of us had any space for dessert, but were both in agreement that we’ll most definitely return. We spent £40 in vouchers on food (which, with Tesco’s clubcard boost was only £10 worth of points) and £13 cash in addition, plus a healthy tip for such great, friendly and welcoming staff.
Great experience, that has made me very hungry whilst writing this post!
A couple of miles outside of Birmingham, right in the middle of Moseley is a beautiful hidden park. I say hidden, because you wouldn’t know it existed unless you knew, if that makes sense. The main entrance can be found down an alley way that runs between two shops, and the only other two entrance gates are hidden away from view on two parallel roads.
At 11 acres, with a huge pool, it’s been in existence as a public space for over 100 years (previously being part of the gardens of Moseley Hall) and is now part of a charitable trust, meaning it can never be sold off or developed (phew!)
It costs £45 a year to be a member of the park, or free day keys are available for a returnable deposit of £10. By charging for membership the Trust is able to raise valuable funds, and it also means the park is looked after and respected by those using it.
Last Monday the husband and I took an unscheduled day off work to sort some estate agent stuff, and went for a lovely Spring wander round.
It was a lovely sunny and still day, and the reflections in the pool were magnificent.
See the houses over yonder in the pics above? If you’re very lucky very rich and you live in one of those, you have a gate to the park right at the bottom of your garden! Although the key costs you £10 extra per year than us mere mortals who have to use the tradesman’s entrance.
Watching ducks floating so serenely is very…serene, isn’t it?
Look at the colour on that mallard’s head. So shiny – I wonder what conditioner he uses?
Although the trees are all still very bare, we spotted some burgeoning blossoms and spring flowers.
The air felt full of promise that spring is truly upon us. The continuing good weather last week and this has proved it! It feels so nice to know that winter is on it’s way out and there are light nights and (hopefully) sunny days ahead.
I’m not technically supposed to support Pizza Express expanding into where I live, because Moseley is and always has been a village that prides itself on supporting independent retailers and being a bit different to your usual High Street.
In fact, when Pizza Express announced it would be opening a restaurant, local campaigners and Moseley stalwarts were up in arms (they seem to forget that we already have a Wetherspoons, a Boots and a Sainsburys local).
I, on the other hand, was quietly delighted (shhh, don’t tell anyone) because it means I can use my Tesco clubcard points to pay for food! I’m nothing if not cheap!
On a serious note though, it’s much better to have thriving businesses than empty premises, and one thing Moseley does have a habit of doing is pricing itself out of the market with high rents, so it’s no wonder that chains with big bank accounts are going to find their way in.
I’ll start by saying I rate Pizza Express pretty highly. OK, so it’s not an authentic Italian experience. But I find the food to be good, with lots of choice, low calorie options and the (few) restaurants I’ve visited have always been quite quirky and cosy with a nice feel. So I had high hopes.
The interior has been designed in tribute to Frederick W. Lanchester, who lived in Moseley and ran a factory at nearby Sparkbrook. The Lanchester Motor Company Ltd was started by Frederick and his two brothers in 1899 and elements of the restaurant’s design take inspiration from the early Lanchester cars, including the large air inlet grills.
Which is a really nice idea.
Imagine, therefore, my disappointment to find that the Moseley restaurant has no charisma. Personally I just found it bland and lack lustre. It’s overly bright, there were only a couple of other diners (not their fault I know, but the atmosphere was non existent), the waiter was too cocky and overly friendly for my liking (I enjoy a bit of banter with restaurant staff but this was too much), and the décor was quite insipid.
Almost worst of all, their Christmas tree was pathetic!
What a missed opportunity (and I don’t just mean the tree).
The food was ok, standard fare, we tried the Christmas special starter of a Manzo croquette and some calamari (is it just me who thinks the starters are very overpriced? If I hadn’t been paying in points I’d have definitely questioned the value). There was a special offer on for a free dessert with a starter and a main course, but we were a bit too tipsy full after our starters and pizzas, so we asked the waiter to give our desserts to an elderly man and his son who were also dining (I did ask them if they wanted them, didn’t just send them over unannounced!)
We also now have a Prezzo and a Costa, much to the disgruntlement of some locals. Costa doesn’t interest me in the slightly because a) coffee and b) we have loads of pubs where I’d rather spend my money on wine! But I’m sure I’ll give Prezzo a visit, in the interest of fairness and all that (and because they also accept Tesco vouchers!)
Do you like chain restaurants? What’s your favourite? Let me know!
Because I’m nosy and like knowing what’s going on in people’s lives, I thought I’d share my latest and greatest.
My car passed it’s MOT. Hurrah! It was the first one, with it being just 3 years old, so I didn’t expect anything bad to happen, but you just never know with cars. I need some new tyres, but it’s not urgent.
We’re decorating our spare bedroom. It’s been a cross between a dressing room/music room/junk room for the past couple of years, but we’re converting it back to a bedroom ready for my Mother in Law to come and stay at Christmas. I’m excited by this. My Mother in Law is ace.
My toenail came off after the argument with the door. I thought I’d be totally weirded out but in the end I removed it myself. I just kept trimming and trimming as it wasn’t attached to the skin underneath anymore and I was worried about catching it on something and ripping it clean off. It didn’t hurt, and then I was left with just millimetres of stubby nail so I got rid of the lot. The underneath is very very odd. I thought it would be soft squishy skin, but it feels almost like a toenail, but thinner. Hard to explain. I’m going to paint it (the strange thick skin stuff) and wait for a new one to grow. Apparently it can take up to 18 months??
I’m within sniffing distance of finishing my Christmas shopping. I pretty much know everything I need to buy. After all my moaning a couple of weeks ago it turned out to be not as stressful as I thought. No need for the drama!
We missed the Christmas light switch on where we live last weekend but had a little festive wander round after eating at the Dark Horse this week (read my review here) and finished off with a cheeky cocktail (and a photo in front of the Christmas tree!)
Life is steady; nothing to freak out about, which is pretty good 2 weeks before Christmas.
I’m going to see Dynamo tonight! How exciting? I bought tickets for the husband as a birthday present, which means I get to go too (sneaky, eh?)
I’ve been going to the Dark Horse in one form or another for over 10 years. It was where the husband and I had our first official date (when it was The Cross) and I’ve had many a boozy Sunday lunch with friends, mid week burgers and £1 sambucas over the years.
Late last year, or early this, The Cross was bought by the owner of the Prince of Wales (also in Moseley – read my review here) and everyone got superexcited because Keith (the owner of both establishments) has great flair for being a publican. The Prince is testament to his vision.
The Cross underwent a quick makeover to become a pop up restaurant called Mo-Dough for a couple of months (the name being a play on Moseley and pizza base), before turning into it’s current incarnation of the Dark Horse.
The focus of the Dark Horse is very much on cooking well. No sub standard pub food here. They’ve invested heavily in a wood fired pizza oven and a meat smoker to make sure things are done properly. Ingredients are all fresh and locally sourced. The place has a quirky, cosy homely feel with mismatched sofas, exposed brickwork walls and decorations such as a saxophone and a road lamp on the walls, and the outside is lit with hundreds of fairy lights sparkling and inviting you in.
Drinks wise there is a focus on craft beers and an increasing wine collection alongside draught and bottled lagers, traditional wines and spirits.
We went out for food and drinks this week and there was no question of where we were headed. Parked in the front window with the twinkly lights and a view of our beloved Moseley, we set about choosing from the menu.
It was a no brainer for me as soon as I saw the low & slow smoked beef brisket. Served with chipotle sauce, pickles and skin on chips, it’s the most tender and tasty brisket I’ve ever had.
It’s was so squishy that if cows were actually made that way, they wouldn’t be able to stand up. The sauce was sweet and smoky and the pickles sharp and crunchy. The portion size was huge, with loads of chips, and piles of meat. Super impressed.
Husband went (as he so often does) for a burger – the Big Kahuna. With pineapple and candied bacon, it wouldn’t be to my taste but he was very excited and proclaimed that excitement to be justified.
A big well stacked burger with plenty of toppings, all of which could be tasted individually. The pattie was, he said, juicy and succulent.
With small plates such as mac & cheese topped with pulled pork (hello!), and God’s own fries (skin on chips smothered in chilli, pulled pork, burnt ends, jalapenos, sour cream, guacamole and cheese sauce) there’s a smorgasbord (I love that word!) of flavours to experience, as well as Sunday lunch and desserts like warm chocolate brownie and baked cheesecake.
The Dark Horse knows meat, and knows what to do with it.
Saba is a Persian restaurant just outside Moseley. I’ve driven past it many times and not really paid much attention. Then I saw it listed on a voucher website and the offer was really good, so I checked out the menu and TripAdvisor reviews (which are excellent) and purchased the deal.
As is often the case with vouchers, we end up leaving them until they’re about to expire and then toy with whether or not we can be bothered to go. Never was that more true than on Sunday evening, on a rainy windy night when the temptation to stay in and decorate the Christmas tree was really strong!
But I’m so glad we did. Because the food was outstanding.
The restaurant seats maybe 30-40 people. It’s nothing fancy; nice but not a posh night out, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s unlicenced, and doesn’t offer a BYOB policy either.
There were no other diners when we arrived and the waiter was very attentive; happily talking us through the menu and making suggestions based on flavours and tastes we like.
Oh, and the menu really doesn’t do the food justice. At all.
To start, the husband ordered Naan Panir Sabzi, which included feta cheese and walnuts. The colours were vibrant and fresh, the food tasty.
I ordered Kashk-e Bademjan which is mashed aubergine – not very exciting, right? Wrong! It was incredibly tasty with lots of flavours and one of the biggest naan breads I’ve ever seen.
For main course husband ordered a skewer with rice and salad – I can’t remember if he went for chicken and added a lamb one, or the other way round.
Either way, it was delicious (I had to try it, purely for research purposes, obvs). The meat was tender and juicy and succulent.
I had lamb shank with rice.
The lamb was smothered in a thick succulent sauce and was some of the most tender lamb I’ve ever had; it quite literally fell off the bone.
To finish we were served baklava and Persian tea.
The baklava was sweet and flaky with a nutty honey taste. The tea was served in a beautiful ornate pot and poured into tiny glass mugs.
It was clear and fragrant with both sweet and spicy flavours. I tried to guess some of the ingredients- the waiter wasn’t keen to share all of them as it’s a secret apparently – but he did tell me that cardamom and rose are two of the flavours.
We had a fabulous evening and will definitely return in the future without a deal voucher. In fact I’m already wondering what to have next! The menu also includes Afghan options, which definitely pique my interest.
If you read yesterday’s post about one of my local pubs, you’ll have seen me mention Chillidogdogs.
In keeping with the nation’s current obsession with streetfood, Chillidogdogs deliver a pared down menu done really really well. They serve from their little premises in the beer garden at the Prince from Thursday through to Sunday and boy is their food good!
These pictures come from 2 different visits (not that I care whether you think I’m greedy, just saying that I have tested for consistency and been delighted both times).
Nachos to start – I’m going to put this out there and say these are some of the nicest nachos I’ve ever had. The balance is right – enough topping to last right until the last delicious crunchy triangle. The chilli is sweet and meaty, not hot or spicy, just really really tasty.
The hotdogs are hot-damn! Sausage spilling over the end of the roll, there’s just enough bite to the skin followed by the juicy meaty filling – these are quality ingredients! Lashings of afore-mentioned chilli and mustard with just enough kick. My mouth is actually watering as I type.
The husband is something of a burger aficionado and has a lot of experience in eating them. He has declared this to be right up there with the best burgers he’s ever tasted. Smothered in juicy pulled pork, oozing with cheese, there were yummy noises aplenty (he was so impressed he had the same both times).
Chilli fries kind of speak for themselves really. If they could speak they’d say “eat me”. They’re so good. The kind of thing you wish you weren’t sharing. I’d happily lie down in them like a big cheesy chilli potato pillow and eat my way out. Too good.
So, there you have it. As you can tell I’m rather indifferent to the whole shebang and could take it or leave it. By which I mean order and eat all of it. All of the food. All of the chilli topped products, until I slumped into a meaty chilli cheesy carb coma. That sounds good.
If you’re in or around Birmingham and haven’t visited the Prince of Wales and Chillidogdogs, have a word with yourself!
When the bar is as traditional as this, and serves an ever changing selection of craft beers, ales, wines and spirits
When it has a cosy snug which has real log fires in winter
When it has traditional Victorian details like this tiled mirror and walls
When it has a massive beer garden that’s half covered and heated so you can use it all year
When it has a purpose built cigar hut – La Choza – selling Cuban cigars
When it has a tiki cocktail bar serving traditional cocktails and house specials
When it has a “Shed du Vin” selling bottles of wine and snacks
When it has it’s very own street food vendor onsite – Chillidogdogs (more on that in my next post).
When it’s the most creative, cool and unusual pub you’ve ever been to!
The Prince of Wales dates back to 1861. The current landlord and landlady have been there since 2007, and transformed it from an old man’s boozer into the unique, charming, fun place it is today.They have recently been named UK Licensees of the Year, beating 50,000 others across the country.
There’s a plot of land next to the pub which has been earmarked for development into apartments. If that happens there’s a good chance the new residents would complain about noise and the Prince would get closed down.
That would be a travesty. It was ‘ere first.
I never understand people who move in near to a place they know will generate noise and then complain. It’s already happened to a couple of places in Birmingham City Centre.
Did I have a fab weekend or what? Food, drinks, owls, canals and a ferris wheel! We didn’t venture very far, but we saw new things, old things, friends, acquaintances, ate curry, ate meat, drank cocktails, drank fruit beer and generally just mooched around and about the city and suburbs we call home.
Here’s a pictorial round up
Still dressing for summer (it was a nice day on Friday, honest!)
Chilli cheese fries
The Big Hoot
Finding a new (to us) pub – The Old Joint Stock in Birmingham. The interior is stunning. I can’t wait to go back and try their pies!
A stroll along the canal
Beer garden (how pretty is that colour combo?)
Cherry beer – slurp
I’m the world’s worst for always wanting to go on far and wide adventures, but sometimes all you need is right on your doorstep.