Foodie Things to do in…Stratford Upon Avon

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Stratford upon Avon is a really lovely town. Yet it’s somewhere we don’t go all that often as we know it will always be packed with tourists seeking out Shakespeares house and everything that goes with it. That being said, if you pick your time carefully, it’s a great place to while away a day or an afternoon, especially for a foodie.

Theres an abundance of cafes and restaurants, a lot of them being independent, although there’s the obligatory chain thrown in too. We’ve not eaten in too many places in Stratford, and I was disappointed to see that the Italian we liked had disappeared on our last visit a few weeks ago. Lambs is quite an old school place, I had good food there a while back but I’ve not been recently. A friend of mine enjoyed their food not too long ago at Wildwood Kitchen as well. Another place that we saw that really appealed to me that I want to try really soon, is Giggling Squid. It serves Thai tapas – sounds like my idea of heaven!

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You will find a large branch of Patisserie Valerie – always a good bet for a cake or two and pretty good pasties in Pasty Presto.

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As well as this you can find some fab little specialist shops. The retro sweet shop, a fudge parlour, chocolatier and my husband and I’s absolute winner – a branch of Paxton & Whitfield the Cheese specialists. On our last trip here were found some great new cheeses to try.

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When you’re all shopped out, you can collapse with a cuppa in The Fourteas, a 1940’s teashop who transport yoiu back to olden times with friendly service and great cake!

If you like buying local, you can also find a farmers market alternating Saturdays, and once a year the Stratford Food Festival (which I wrote about here)

Oh and lest I forget, there’s also an outlet of Lakeland. Need I say more. Perfect.

Where’s your favourite  foodie haunt in Stratford? Have you tried any of these I’ve mentioned?

Roz :)

Review: Rajdoot Tandoori, Birmingham

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Situated at the gateway to the Jewellery Quarter, Rajdoot Tandoori is jewel in Birmingham’s curry scene, and have been in the business for 40 years.

I had never visited before, and was stunned by the design of the restaurant, the decor in the bar and lounge area was ornate and beautiful, and the dining room spacious and elegant. Rajdoot even won the award for Best Restaurant Design at the 2013 English Curry Awards.

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We were ushered on arrival to the bar and lounge area where we ordered a drink, perused the menu and nibbled on bombay mix. I liked this touch – like being in a fine dinging restaurant. We ordered whilst in the lounge and then were taken through to our table, where a fresh basket of poppadoms were awaiting us, along with a selection of traditional accompaniments.

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The service we received at Rajdoot was second to none – I’ve never met such a polite group of people, and I could see this was across the board around the room, and not just for us. Starters arrived, and I’d chosen the Fish Tikka, the fish flaked apart beautifully and the flavours were gorgeous. Lee had the Shish Kebab which were moist and tender. Both starters came with little piles of salad and carved veg – which I can take or leave but it was at no detriment to the food.

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For the main event we ordered 2 dishes from the Chef Speciality Section – Rajdoot Chicken and Makhan Chicken. The Rajdoot chicken was coated with sesame seeds which gave it an unusual texture, and the sauce rich and deep in flavour. The winner of the night though had to be the Makhan Chicken – individually one of the best flavoured curry dishes I’ve had in quite a while. Just writing about it is getting me hankering for another! The Garlic Naan we had to mop up the remains was also of extremely good quality, thin and light and heavy on the garlic. Just how we like it!

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A delicious curry all in all, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Here’s just a few more pics of their dishes to whet your appetite…!

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Rajdoot are currently offering a great deal on their Executive Lunch – at a price of only £10.95, a brilliant deal.

Disclosure: We were invited to dine at Rajdoot and the meal was complimentary. As always, views and opinions are all our own and totally honest. Unwatermarked photos are courtesy of Delicious PR

Review: The Rose Villa Tavern

The Rose Villa Tavern is a quirky contemporary pub in the Jewellery quarter in Birmingham. Filed with vintage furniture and unique fitting including a stained glass window, you’re never short of something to look at.

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The menu is American Diner-Style, plenty of burgers, hot dogs buffalo wings…. if done well, mouthwateringly good.

I went for one of their Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches while Lee had the Juicy Lucy Burger  – a burger stuffed with monterey jack cheese. We also had a side of beer battered onion rings and some Blue Cheese Dip. 

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My sandwich was spot on, juicy slightly pink steak with cheese smothered fried onion and peppers. Lee enjoyed his burger, and gave it 8/10. Just to let you all know, his scoring system is based on the best burger he has had in recent memory – a Meatshack Burger (10/10) and the worst he has ever had (0/10 – Wetherspoons) So a pretty decent score! The onion rings were also very good – there was a herb in the batter ( oregano we thought) which really elevated them. Unfortuntaly the blue cheese dip was quite nasty – the consistency of water and tasted similar. Apart from this though, a great lunch.

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On weekday evenings they do some great deals on food too..have a look below.

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One worth checking out next time you’re in the Jewellery Quarter!

http://www.therosevillatavern.co.uk

Ameretti & Chocolate Crunch Cake

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This cake originated from trying to use up some random ingredients we have had lying around for a while that weren’t going to last much longer, an almost full but open pack of ameretti biscuits and a half a jar of chocolate spread! I had a little google search and found quite a few recipes that used ameretti biscuits in sponge, a bit like you might used ground almonds, so decided to have my own go. I’ve used nutella in buttercream icing before, so thought this would work for the filling. I’ve since made the same sponge again and filled it with Baileys buttercream which also works really well..there’s pics of both below!

The cake was lovely and light, had a great sweetness to it, and loved the slight crunch from the ameretti biscuits. For me who loves a good chocolate cake, this was a great alternative, with maybe marginally less calories! (very marginally…!)

Ingredients:

For the cake

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 75g crushed ameretti biscuits
  • 15g roughly crushed (slightly bigger bits) ameretti biscuits
  • cocoa powder/icing sugar/vanilla for dusting – I used icing sugar and my madagascan vanilla grinder for this one.

For the buttercream

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 150g softened butter
  • 300g ( or more for a stronger taste) chocolate spread/nutella
  • 2 tbsp water

For the baileys buttercream, incorporate  60ml baileys liquer to the icing sugar/butter and you may need to let it down with a little water to the desired consistency

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Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 190degrees C. Grease and line 2x 20cm round cake tins.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, each with a tbsp full of flour, beating well, this helps prevent curdling

  4. Fold in the remaining flour with a large metal spoon, then stir gently through the all of the ameretti biscuits

  5. Split the mixture between the two tins and bake for around 20minutes, until golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins before turning out

  6. For the filling, beat the icing sugar and butter together until well combined, using an electric mixer will do this well. Add the chocolate spread and water and mix well. You can add a little more or less chocolate dependent on your taste.

  7. When completely cool, spread the buttercream on the bottom layer and then sandwich over the top layer. Dust with cocoa powder if using.

Happy eating :)

Cake with CHOCOALTE FILLING

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Cake with BAILEYS FILLING

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Review: Bistro 1847, Birmingham

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Located in the Great Western Arcade In the business district area of Birmingham, Bistro 1847 is an innovative vegetarian restaurant trying to change the way vegetarian food can be perceived. Originally opened in Manchester a few years ago, the Birmingham branch has been open almost a year.

Obviously Lee and I are both blatant meat&fish lovers so it takes a lot for us to enter into an evening where we know that we can’t get our fix, but after hearing so many good things from many sources over the past 10 months, felt it was time we popped down.

The Bistro is small, with plain clean decor and simple furniture, with the odd quirky touch such as the salt and pepper flasks.

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The wine list is compact, but with several available by the glass, the Viognier we went for was a great wine.

I’ll start by saying I love the witty names the dishes have been given – it draws you in immediately. I went for the Hit me Bhaji One More Time – Spiced Shallot Bhaji with pea emulsion, greek yoghurt , tomato and coriander salad. A great start to the meal for me with a light bhaji and some subtle and delicately spiced accompaniments. Lee had The Most Fun you can have with Cheese – a salted caramel vintage cheddar bruleé with apricot relish and dippy soldiers. He loved the premise of this, and the relish was delicious. He felt the cheese flavour could have been a little stronger, but then he likes his cheese mature and running of the plate usually!

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Main courses were a huge huge hit. My Great British Fish & Chip Shop – Beer Battered Halloumi Lollipop, hand cut chips, smoked lemon curd, sailors ruin port ketchup, mushy pea mayonnaise, pickled tomatoes& sea vegetables was outstanding. The ketchup and lemon curd tasted amazing and cut through the halloumi really well, and I loved the sea vegetables scattered on top. Not to mention chips that were dead on perfect. Lee had the Hens Egg – panko soft-boiled with seasonal greens, shallot, crispy potato and a whiskey sauce. He wolfed it down and I daresay would have eaten it all a second time over too given half a chance.

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Puddings, and a good time to mention the great service we had all night. This was topped off by an offer of a glass of milk it my pud – because  ‘it just goes so well’ He must know me, coz I love a glass of milk with chocolatey puddings, so I gratefully accepted! My Chocolate and Ale cake, with a muscavado & malt ice-cream was very moreish and yummy.  Lee had the Who lives in a Pineapple under the Sea? Ingenious name, and a lovely dish.

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At the end of the meal we were lucky enough to meet and have a chat to Alex, the head development chef and it was great to hear his passion about the food he cooks. The menu set up of Bistro 1847 will soon be evolving and changing, with some parts having an even bigger emphasis on local and foraged foods, which sounds really exciting. Alex was even kind enough to send us away with a  goodie bag of some rosemary from the allotment and some foraged ‘chicken of the woods’ to play with at home. Whilst we are never going be converted away from eating and enjoying meat & fish, we loved our meal at 1847 and can’t wait to see what the new menu launch brings.

http://bistro1847.com

 

Disclosure: We paid in full for our meal, but our goodie bag of mushrooms and herbs was a gift! all opinion thoughts and images are our own

 

 

Review: Las Iguanas, Leamington Spa

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It’s been quite a few years since I last ate at Las Iguanas, and my memories if I’m honest aren’t that good – the food always sounded good but was never executed that well in my opinion. Although the cocktails were always pretty good….

So when I was invited to go and sample their cooking at the newly opened branch over in Leamington Spa, it sounded like a good opportunity.

We headed over for lunch on Bank Holiday Monday and found the place already quite busy, ok it was tipping it down outside, so maybe people were seeking shelter, but very busy none the less! The interior decor I actually found really appealing, maybe as it is all brand spanking new, but it was worlds apart from what I remembered, it reminded me a bit of the Wahaca chain in London.

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The menus are quite extensive, choices of nibbles, starters, tapas style dishes and mains from across Latin America, with Mexican staples and the more exotic.

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We started off with a Brazilian Bellini - a twist on the classic using mango and passionfruit as the base – really delicious, but then it’s rare I’m going to criticise something containing prosecco! During Happy Hour you can two of these Bellinis for just £6.95, an offer that spans a lot of their cocktails.

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Our service on the day was friendly and professional – the hostess was knowledgable and made sure we knew our way around the menus when seating us, pointing out the special offers and deals etc and our waitress also lovely and friendly.

I chose a Fish Taco to start, which came with a corn and sweet chilli salsa. This was an excellent start to the meal – the fish was soft and flaky encased in a really light batter and the salsa was really flavoursome. Lee chose the Chicken Wings. There was a variety of sauce choices with this, but he went for the BBQ Jerk Sauce. The wings were large with lots of meat on them, cooked well and the BBQ sauce was really good too (I kept sticking my fork in it much to Lees displeasure!) So far and definitely so good.

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With so much to choose from for the main course I was struggling with decisions and in the end went for the Blazing Bird – a marinated half chicken with fries or salad and their special slaw. I chose mine to come with the Honey Peri Peri sauce, which was a good choice – sweet and spicy. The chicken itself was still nice and juicy with crispy skin, and I enjoyed the slaw which was flecked with jalepenos. The salad unfortunately was a little limp and drenched in a bit too much oil which was a slight down point. Lee went for the Mexican Classic – Chilli Con Carne. He liked seeing actual chunks of slow braised beef in this as well as mince and enjoyed the flavours, although it didn’t set his world alight. He had a side of Frijoles Refritos with his chilli, with again, great flavours. We also had a side order of Patatas Bravas, which came deconstructed as a pot of twice cooked potato cubes and a dunking pot of spicy tomato chipotle sauce and aioli. The potatoes were over coated in spices for me, but plunged into the sauces – gorgeous. In some places the presentation of the food could be tweaked a bit, but they are a chain restaurant catering to the masses, and not fine dining. By now I was eating my words a bit, a decent and enjoyable meal at a chain restaurant? With only a few slight down points here and there, none big enough to impact on the meal as a whole. Who would have thought? We were too full for dessert – a big shame as I had my eye on the Dulce du Leche Macadamia Cheesecake, one for next time maybe!

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So in conclusion, maybe branded restaurants, at least for some part, are making a come back and upping their game, in my opinion anyway. Las Iguanas in Leamington seems to be!

http://www.iguanas.co.uk

 

Disclosure: We were invited to Las Iguanas to sample the menu at the new branch and the meal was complimentary. We were not under obligation to write a review, positive or otherwise, and as always all views are our own and totally honest.

 

Review: Barceloneta, Leicester

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A couple of weeks ago I joined some foodie blogger friends for a tapas feast. Even though I don’t quite live in Leicestershire, I met up with other bloggers from this area, Emily and Alex who are now firm foodie friends and Charlotte & Lindsay who’d Id not met before. Be sure to check out all their blogs as they’re all fab :)

Our destination for the evening was Barceloneta, a little tapas restaurant on in the Queens Road area of Leiscester. Being food bloggers we ordered far too much tapas and took waaaaay too many photos amongst a lot of gossip and foodie chat!

I went for 3 tapas dishes, as did most of the others and we also ordered a couple to share – Patatas Bravas and a Veggie Paella.

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I ordered the Monkfish and Prawn kebabs, Goats Cheese Balls with an Onion Jam, and lastly, Beef Steak Bruschetta with a Mango & Chilli Dip.

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A few other dishes going on round the table were pork kebabs, broad beans with bacon, crab croquettes, garlic & chilli prawns, calamari, meatballs, chorizo stuffed mushrooms and much much more!

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On the whole the food I had was pretty good  – the fish kebabs and more notably the goats cheese balls were lovely, as was the paella and the patatas bravas, although I didn’t enjoy my beef that much as it was overcooked and quite tough. I think the food on the whole was a bit of a mixed bag, listening to the comments of some of my friends – some dishes very good (seemingly the fish and veggie ones) but the meat ones didn’t hit the same heights, and some of the sauces were quite lacking in flavour.

The atmosphere of Barceloneta was great, and the service really friendly. I think a really great meal could be had here with a few little tweaks here and there, but ours that day was a little hit and miss.

http://www.barceloneta.co.uk