Tag: restaurant

The Moseley Decline into Commercialisation, part 2 – Prezzo

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.

Wow!

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!

Are you a Prezzo fan?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x (more…)

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Restaurant review – Saba Birmingham

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.

Saba persian restaurant interior

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.

Saba persian restaurant feta and walnut salad

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.

Saba persian restaurant mashed aubergine

Saba persian restaurant naan bread

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.

Saba persian restaurant skewer grill chicked and lamb

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.

Saba persian restaurant lamb shank and fragrant 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.

Saba persian restaurant tea and baklava

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.

Saba restaurant persian tea

Saba persian restaurant tea

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.

Have you eaten Persian or Afghan food?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

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Restaurant review – Fahrenheit at Genting Casino, Edgbaston

This week the husband and I did something a little different, and went for dinner at the Fahrenheit Restaurant at Genting Casino just outside Birmingham city centre.

The reviews were great and it’s nice to mix things up a little sometimes. Neither of us are gamblers, so casinos are not our usual stomping ground (I’ve been to one a couple of times, many years ago for work Christmas parties).

What a great decision it was!

The whole experience was fabulous. On arrival we were asked if we would like to join, and advised that we couldn’t bet more than £1400 without ID. Funnily enough, that wasn’t a problem! Photographs were taken for security (fair enough) and then we were shown through to the venue.

I was a little concerned that the atmosphere might be a bit brash, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The gaming area is on one side of the space, with an opulent bar area in the middle, and the restaurant tucked away offering a quiet and sedate dining experience at the other side. We were welcomed by the manager who invited us to take a seat while he brought drinks to our table. We were given menus to peruse and then ordered our meals before being shown to our table in the restaurant.

Bar area Genting Casino Edgbaston

Drinks in the bar

The menu comprises a good selection of starters, a grill section of steaks and burgers and a mains section with various fish and meat dishes. For starter we both ordered the black pudding scotch egg; in fact this was one of the reasons we decided to eat at the restaurant because I’ve been raving about them to the husband for ages, and he’s a big black pudding fan.

For main course I ordered yuzu glazed pork belly with pea and potato salad, and husband chose the chicken burger with chorizo and halloumi served with sweet potato fries.

First the starters – they lived up to expectations and then some.  A crispy coating, not too thick or crunchy gave way to a layer of flavoursome black pudding encasing a soft boiled egg. It was cooked to perfection, the juice of the yolk spilling out and mixing with the accompanying delicately flavoured mustard aioli to give an extra bit of moisture to an already juicy dish. Just stunning.

Black pudding scotch egg

Main courses were well presented ; husband’s burger on a wooden board with a metal basket full of sweet potato fries and his extra side order of the house chilli and bourbon sauce.

Chicken burger

I sneaked a chip (because, why wouldn’t I?!) and they were so good; crispy, crunchy, fluffy and extra delicious dipped into the sauce which was a mix of sweet and fiery and rich. The burger toppings of halloumi and chorizo were plentiful, although he did comment that the chicken was slightly too overcooked around the edges rendering it a little crispy. A small thing to deal with in the grand scheme of things.

Close up of chicken burger

My meal was served in a glazed bowl; two thick pieces of pork belly on top of peas, broad beans, purple baby potatoes and pak choi. The crust of the pork was slightly dry in places, but the meat was incredibly succulent and fell apart on the fork. The salad lacked seasoning and was quite bland, but a good helping of salt resolved that and the freshness was a perfect foil against the indulgent pork.

Yuzu pork belly

Yuzu pork belly close up

Now, generally when we go out to eat I’m not a dessert person, but the dessert menu was very good and peanut butter cheesecake was too tempting an option to not try. Served with a smear of strawberry jam, freeze dried raspberries and salted peanut brittle, it was just divine.

Peanut butter cheesecake peanut brittle

Like contort-your-face-into-all-sorts-of-enjoyment poses divine. The topping was light and fluffy, with a distinct taste of both the peanut butter and cream cheese, on top of a sweet biscuit base. The brittle was crunchy and sweet and savoury all at the same time, and the sweetness added an extra zing.

The staff were exceptionally good – from the manager who gave us his personal welcome to the two waitresses who served our table; they were polite and keen to please without being too over the top or in your face (I hate that when I’m eating out). The ambience of the restaurant was really lovely; softly lit and welcoming.

Fahrenheit restaurant Genting Casino

Interestingly, the bit that put me off (that it’s in a casino) actually intrigues me for our next visit. I had a wander around the gambling area and it’s all very enticing – not in a “gamble your house” kind of way, but in a “this is something a bit different after a meal” kind of way. Obviously they’re equipped for big betters (and I’m sure that’s their preference) but minimum stakes on the roulette table start from just 50 pence so even just a tenner could be a fun way to round off a night.

I already can’t wait to go back.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Amalfi and Positano (aka the day we wore kagouls)

I mentioned during my packing post that the forecast for Italy wasn’t great and that I had invested in waterproofs. In the first few days I’d only used mine to walk from the bedroom to the bar (and therefore it was already a worthy investment!) By Thursday, it was worth it’s weight in gold.

The Amalfi Coast drive is renowned as being absolutely beautiful, with sheer cliff drops, sea views, and towns precariously built into the rockface. There are the usual organised trip options, which we always avoid where possible, plus the local SITA buses and the red sightseeing bus. The SITA bus, although cheaper, makes quite a lot of stops between Sorrento and Amalfi and is renowned for being very busy and hot. The red sightseeing bus stops just once at Positano and then again at Amalfi – a 90 minute journey overall. It also has the benefit of audio description in 5 different languages, which is useful for finding out what you’re seeing and a bit of history.

By the time we got on the 10.45 departure there were only 4 seats left – all of which were on the left side of the bus, The right side is the place to sit on the outward journey for the best views. Luckily, at Positano (which is where the best views of the coastline start) some people got off, so I pushed the husband into grave jumping action and we got to see more of what was going on.

It had looked overcast when we had breakfast that morning but seemed to be brightening up (in my little optimistic head) by the time we left the hotel. I’d checked the forecast and Positano looked to be getting better weather during the day than Amalfi, but I was confident (in my own naive manner) that we’d get away with it.

My little optimistic head was wrong; alas it wasn’t to be. I’d be lying if I said the weather made no difference, as visibility was reduced and everything looks better in the sunshine, but the coastline was beautiful nonetheless.

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast 2

Amalfi Coast 3

Amalfi Coast 4

Amalfi Coast 5

Amalfi Coast 6

Then came the rain. Full credit to the driver, who’s dexterity around the sharp bends and twisty turns made for a comfortable drive as we meandered our way along the coast.. I couldn’t have navigated it in a car, let alone a great big bus! Just look at them!

Amalfi Coast winding road

As we headed down towards Amalfi the weather took a distinct turn for the worse and the wind started to howl; leaving the harbour looking grey and uninviting rather than the pretty blue sea we’d imagined. The harbour itself was a myriad of buses and coaches, and people huddled under canopies to escape the weather – not the picturesque scene we expected and made for a rather gloomy destination.

We hadn’t planned to spend too long in Amalfi anyway, wanting to get back to Positano, but the weather made our decision easier and we stayed just long enough to snap a few pictures and christen our kagouls before jumping back on a dry bus.

The cathedral is a fabulous building.

I don’t want to do Amalfi a disservice, as I’m sure on a dry day it’s absolutely beautiful, but it’s not much fun squelching around and getting rain in your eyes while trying to sightsee (believe me, I tried). I would definitely give it another try next time I’m in Italy.

Frantically looking for the light at the end of the tunnel (literally!) I used the wifi on board the bus to check the weather forecast in Positano, which suggested the rain would definitely be stopping! Clinging to that hope we took the 45 minute drive back along the coastline, laughing and freaking out at some of the terrible driving on this crazy road!

I’d read that Positano was a must see for it’s prettiness and higgledy piggledy cliffside development. And so we got off the bus once again, into the rain, with the dogged determination to see what all the fuss was about.

Wearing my kagoul (again!) with an umbrella up (it was that wet) we set off down the hill. The rainwater was running down the gutter and the views across the bay were somewhat obscured by a myriad of tourist umbrellas but it was impossible not to fall in love with the tumble of pastel buildings, ceramic shops and restaurant terraces with gorgeous seaviews.

 

Positano 5

Positano 4

Positano 3

Positano 2

We followed the natural slope of the town down towards the harbour, pleased to note that the rain was easing.

We took refuge in a beachfront restaurant where we ate bruschetta, aubergine parmiagiana (me – boy was this good; one of the best meals of the holiday for me), spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter sauce (husband said this was delicious) and drank wine and beer.

Bruschetta La Cambusa restaurant

Aubergine Parmiagiana La Cambusa restaurant

Spinach and ricotta ravioli La Cambusa restaurant

After lunch the rain had stopped and we had a mooch on the beachfront. There are some great boat trips available including a trip to Grotto Smerelda which I’d love to see.I’d happily base myself in Positano next time in Italy. You can visit Capri by boat, as well as being a short drive back to Amalfi where there are bus trips to other villages along the coast like Raffaello and Maiori.

It’s just so pretty!

Positano painted tables

Positano painted tables 2

Positano walkway

Positano building

Positano flowers

Positano plants

Positano shrub

Positana Santa Maria Assunta

We jumped on the SITA bus back to Sorrento as it arrived just as we reached the bus stop, and it’s fair to say the driver was a lunatic! I was glad we hadn’t taken that bus all the way along!

It’s unfortunate that we did the drive on a rainy day, but it was either that or miss out (as it was our last full day) and I’d rather have seen it not it’s very best than not seen it at all.

Have you ever been to this part of Italy?

 

 

 

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Restaurant review – Sabai Sabai, Moseley

On Monday evening, keen to stretch out the weekend that little bit further, I suggested an impromptu date night. We had pre-dinner drinks and then went for a meal at Sabai Sabai.

Sabai Sabai

One of the things I love about where we live is the range of restaurants and bars; different cuisines and flavours. We haven’t been to SabaI Sabai for ages, probably about 4 years, and I’m really not sure why?

The restaurant is fairly small, probably seats around 40 people, and it’s long and narrow with opulent decoration in purple and gold.

Sabai Sabai Moseley

Sabai Sabai purple and gold

We chose a window seat to watch the world go by and ordered some drinks and prawn crackers (which were so spicy and tasty, with sweet chilli dipping sauce) while we perused the menu.

Sabai Sabai window seat

Deciding on food turned out to be something of a problem. There’s a lot of stuff on the menu and it all sounds really good. As usual I got “the fear” in case I didn’t choose wisely!

I decided to go for something I’ve been wanting to try for a while but haven’t been brave enough – softshell crab. Part of the reason I haven’t tried it is because the husband keeps weirding me out about it! But it sounded delish; covered in breadcrumbs and fried, served with thai salad and sweet chilli sauce.

Husband had the mixed platter which is a selection of different items – great for when you just can’t decide. It included golden bags, chicken satay, prawns tempura, sweet corn cakes and fish cakes.

Sabai Sabai soft shell crab

Golden bags (Toong Tong) always makes me giggle childishly!

Sabai Sabai golden bags

The crab was really good. Quite heavy on breadcrumbs meant that the first couple of bites didn’t yield much meat, but once past the claws there was loads!.

Sabai Sabai soft shell crab 2

Delicate and tasty, perfectly paired with the chilli dipping sauce it was very filling – perhaps slightly too big for a starter (it hurts me to say that!)

For main course I had Ped Makam Jarn Ron, which was duck breast cooked with palm sugar and tamarind to create a really sticky gooey sauce, served on a sizzling platter of onions and topped with dried shallots.

Sabai Sabai duck platter 2

I also had a side order of egg fried rice (to be honest we could have shared,one portion is quite large!)

Sabai Sabai duck platter

Husband had Prawn Geng Massaman which was sweet with coconut milk and peanut sauce, full of big juicy prawns and chunks of potato.

Sabai Sabai Geng Massaman

The bill came to £75, but having worked it out £25 of that was drinks! (two glasses of wine for me, a beer and a double spirit and mixer for husband). So the food itself is very reasonable, with most mains being around the £10 mark.

As I said, I have no idea why we haven’t been for so long, but we won’t make the same mistake again! (if only because I want soft shell crab!)

 

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Cocktails and Curry

You’d think, as Brits, we’d have known better than to make bank holiday plans that involved being outdoors – or at least have a contingency plan – but we, er, didn’t. Which is why we spent a good chunk of a very wet bank holiday Monday lounging on the sofa watching Criminal Minds.

Bank holiday

Not wanting the day to be an entire washout, not least because it’s the last bank holiday of the year, we spent at least an hour trying to decide on a cuisine and therefore a restaurant that we could eat out at in the evening. Otherwise I may well have stayed in my PJs all day and night.

We decided on Indian food – one of our favourite cuisines. We more often eat indian food at home via delivery rather than in a restaurant, but fancied the sense of occasion that eating out brings (and a reason to get dressed!)

And with there being a cocktail bar just 3 doors away from the restaurant, which had reduced priced cocktails all day, it seemed daft not to combine the two!

La Plancha in Moseley is a true gem of a bar.

La Plancha restaurant

La Plancha

Small and cosy with an extensive cocktail menu and great tapas. Like really great. So great that we almost changed our curry plans. It’s one of the only bars in Moseley that doesn’t attract the pub crawl crowd at weekends.

First I had a Myzo and husband had an Old Fashioned.

Myzo and old fashioned

Myzo is one of my most favourite cocktails, and my first choice whenever we’re in La Plancha. It’s both sweet and sour and spicy – vanilla vodka, lemon juice and elderflower cordial, shaken with chopped up chilli and then strained, garnished with a full chilli. It has a real kick to it. I can recommend, from personal experience, not eating the chilli – even if you’re dared to by your husband (very mature behaviour).

Myzo

You may end up in the bathroom with your head under the cold tap for 10 minutes, followed by the staff having to give you milk to cool your mouth.

An Old Fashioned is whisky based (bleugh) and very strong. That’s all I know!

Second drink was a Pornstar Martini for me and a Long Island Iced Tea for husband.

Pornstar martini and long island iced tea

Despite it’s trashy name, a Pornstar Martini is a really nice drink – a mix of passionfruit and vanilla vodka, with passion fruit puree and a shot of prosecco on the side (OK, that bit’s not so classy!) For some reason the barman kept topping up my prosecco shots, which was jolly nice of him! If he’d have topped up the cocktail continuously I’d definitely have stayed all night (and probably not been in work today!)

Pornstar Martini passionfruit

The Long Island Iced Tea has one of the highest booze content out there, with tequila, vodka, gin and rum. A firm favourite with both of us!

Imlees restaurant is definitely our favourite Indian restaurant in Moseley.

Imlees restaurant

It’s been refurbished fairly recently (about 18 months ago) and the interior is lovely, with lots of cream leather, wood and glass chandeliers.

Imlees interior

Imlees interior 2

The food is exceptionally good, with some great unusual menu choices. Plus it’s bring your own booze, which is always useful when there’s too much month at the end of the money.

I had chilli chicken to start – it was sweet and spicy and gooey and tasty and perfectly cooked, with a nice fresh salad garnish for a bit of crunch.

Chilli chicken

Husband had onion bhajis, which I always think are a bit of a waste of a starter selection when there are so many other good options, but I have to say these were fantastic – light and fluffy and very tasty. And, because he couldn’t decide, he also had some paneer (cheese) samosas, which you can see peeking out on the plate as well.

Onion bhajis

After the starters we were served a small lemon sorbet – a lovely refreshing palette cleanser.

No pictures of mains but they were bloomin’ lovely. I had peppery chicken which I’ve never seen on an Indian menu before; it was thick and saucy with chunks of green pepper and chicken flavoured with black pepper. Really really tasty and one I’ll definitely have again.

Husband had king prawn madras which had lots of huge juicy prawns and a bright red sauce.

The side orders were also different to the usual offerings – a naan bread with both keema and garlic (delish) and fried rice with chicken (also delish).

I wore an F&F floral teadress that I bought in last year’s sale, and my new ASOS 70s leather studded platform clogs which are currently in the sale at just £20. So much love for these!

Floral dress ASOS clogs

ASOS clogs

ASOS clogs and floral dress

I love unexpected nights out that come from nowhere and become a resounding success! And I love living somewhere that affords me so many options right on my doorstep.

And I love food. Obvs.

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Top tips for buying restaurant and hotel voucher deals

It’s no secret that I love a bargain. I don’t see why anyone would be averse to saving money on something when the discount is there for the taking. The advent of sites such as Groupon and Wowcher and nCrowd means we’re now overwhelmed with opportunities to experience places at much cheapness. I like cheapness.

Voucher site logos

My husband used to get really cringey about vouchers; often going to the toilet at the point of me handing one over, ha! Then I explained it to him in real terms (saving money in one place = more money to spend on beer) and he was very much converted (although the voucher transaction is still very much my domain).

I love a good voucher deal! It’s a great opportunity to try somewhere new or different, or even revisit somewhere you’ve been before at a much reduced price. We’ve had good ones, bad ones, and indifferent ones.

Here are my top tips:

Research the venue
I can’t stress this highly enough. I’ve seen some deals that look great then you Google them and the good folk of Tripadvisor tell you to avoid at all costs. Have a look at a cross section of reviews – I read somewhere that you should generally ignore the top and bottom 10% as they won’t be truly indicative, but you can generally get a feel for whether a place is a gem or a doghole. Remember, some establishments are resorting to special offers on voucher sites just to be able to make some money, because they can’t get people through the doors by other means. If there’s an overwhelming consensus that a hotel is dirty or the food is cold, step away.

Check the validity
If you can only use it for lunch Monday to Friday, or a Sunday to Thursday overnight stay then it might not be right for you. Make sure the timescales fit with your own. If it’s a hotel then it’s a good idea to call and check availability before you buy your voucher and get your hopes up. If it’s a popular one then all weekend rooms may have been booked (plus sometimes there are only a handful of rooms / tables allocated to voucher deals while others are for full paying customers).

Check for menu restrictions
If it’s a set menu then beware, there’s a chance the choices will be low end to make it worthwhile for the venue. We once stayed at a gorgeous hotel which included a 3 course meal but the main menu options were things like pasta or sausage and mash! (which weren’t even on the standard menu). Don’t automatically expect the full menu. Also beware of surcharges for choices like steak or seafood if those are the items you would usually go for.

Book sooner rather than later
Most voucher companies will not refund you if you can’t find a date or time to suit you, so don’t leave it until the last minute to book the deal and then discover they can’t accommodate you. In most cases you only have a 7 day money back window.

Remember to bring your voucher!
Some places will accept a code from your phone or a QR code via an app, but do check the small print and if it says bring a printed voucher with you, then do it. Don’t risk having to pay for a meal or hotel room in full because you forgot the piece of paper.

Leave feedback
Remember that, in most cases, these vouchers are being sold as a loss leader to gain new patrons, in the hope that you will return in future. For that to be the case you would expect exactly the same treatment as a full paying customer. If not then they’re not doing their job properly. I had that experience at Purnell’s Bistro when all of the people dining with vouchers were in one side room, while the rest of the restaurant remained empty. We were also in and out – including being seated, ordering and eating 2 courses – within an hour. There was a definite feeling of being rushed. I left a review on TripAdvisor expressing my disappointment.

Follow those tips and there’s no reason why you can’t behaving a great time and saving money!

Happy vouchering!

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Birmingham bashing – yeah, whatevs

Birmingham bashing is such a cliché. It’s not even funny. Small minded, regurgitated bullshit, usually from people who’ve never been here (or certainly not for many years).

Want a fresh look at the City? This is a great article – a real visual treat.

50 Reasons to Stay Away from Birmingham

Birmingham skyline at night

Birmingham is buzzing right now. There’s a whole heap of redevelopment in the city; from the refurb of the high end Mailbox shopping centre, to the new train station, John Lewis department store and shopping/food area, to The Cube (love it or hate it, it’s certainly iconic). We have theatres, great restaurants, museums, cathedrals, concert venues, street markets, food and more. We have a world famous cricket ground. We have premiership football clubs. We have miles of canals. We have the oldest working cinema in the UK.

Here are just some of the great things I’ve done in Birmingham so far this year.

Had dinner at Cucina Rustica

Visited the rag market

Watched Fast and Furious 7 at the new Everyman cinema

Saw Richie Ramone at the Oobleck

Watched my food being cooked in front of me at Shogun Teppanyaki

Been to an outdoor festival headlined by world famous hip hop act Public Enemy

Eaten at Digbeth Dining Club multiple times (here, here and here)

Plus, there’s still more to come!

I’ll be heading in to town for the Big Hoot, which is running until September – 5ft individually decorated owls dotted around the City

We have Moseley Folk Festival in September, featuring The Monkees

Oktoberfest is taking place in Digbeth

The Frankfurt Christmas Market will be back as usual – the biggest one outside of Germany

I’m happy to live in Birmingham and thrilled by all the opportunities it affords me as a resident. Long live Brum!

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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.

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Restaurant review: Cucina Rustica, Birmingham

Cucina Rustica is an italian restaurant in Birmingham, just outside of the city centre near the Jewellery Quarter. I hadn’t heard of it until my Dad mentioned it last week, and last night he took us there for dinner.

The outside is deceptive in terms of size – it looks quite small but opens up inside to a large dining space. Dad had requested a table in the window which is housed in one of 2 booths and was perfect for the two of us, my husband and Dad’s wife. The front area of the restaurant has a more cosy rustic feel, while the larger rear dining area is more modern and stylised.

The menu is extensive and, as usual in a restaurant environment, I turned into Mrs Indecisive for fear of making the wrong choice (I’m always worried that I’ll prefer the look of everyone else’s food and spend the meal regretting my own decision – food is that important). I think I get this from my Dad, who was still deciding on his main course when the waitress was taking our order!

To start, I ordered “Capesante” – gratinated king scallops, parmesan, parsley, garlic butter & shrimps. The presentation was stunning and the flavours were perfectly balanced; I was so excited that I only managed to get a photograph once I’d finished!

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For main course I ordered veal. I know it’s still viewed as a controversial meat by some, but its so rare to see it on a menu that I couldn’t possibly have ordered anything else once it caught my eye. “Involtini di vitello”, to give it proper credit, was veal, parma ham, asparagus, mozzarella, marsala wine. The ham, asparagus and mozzarella was wrapped inside the veal, with a generous helping of deliciously rich sauce. It could have benefitted from a little more cheese for extra gooeyness, but the flavours were great and the side order of saute potatoes I decided on were the perfect accompaniment (and great for making the most of the marsala wine sauce). No picture, I was too intent on getting it in my tum!

The restaurant itself is finished to a very high standard, and our waitress was incredibly friendly, helpful and patient (we spent too much chatting and not enough time perusing the menu when we first arrived). We were served complimentary bread and olives as an appetiser, and drank rose wine by the bottle.

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I rarely go to Italian restaurants, mainly because I always think Italian cuisine is easy to recreate at home (which is pretty dumb and insulting to Italian chefs) and I wouldn’t think of ordering  pasta dish for the same reason. But I’ll definitely dine at Custina Rustica again, and will be keen to try “Fagottini al cinghiale” (wild boar filled pasta with light cream porcini sauce) – how delish does that sound?

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