Exciting Times for Birmingham in 2015

Now, I apologise that I’m a little behind the times at the moment. There are tonnes of exciting new things planned for Birmingham over the next few months and apart from telling you about Marmalade, I’ve not been very good about getting the news out there about them. I’m so snowed under in the day job that I’m constantly chasing my tail keeping up with the blog too. There’s been lots of tit bits of leaked info about new openings for Brum and I’ve got press releases coming out my ears! The guys over at Out in Brum have done a brilliant job rounding up all the news in one of their recent posts, so I’m just going to tell you about a few things that have piqued my interest!

1. GAS STREET SOCIAL

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The above is an artists impression of the new Gas Street Social, set to open in March in the location of the old Bar Room Bar. With an urban and industrial vibe, they are planning on serving up a range of sharing dishes, grazing boards, small plates, stone-baked flatbreads and locally sourced meats and seafood, along side a speciality drinks menu and hand crafted cocktails. Gas Street Social will feature large sharing tables, intimate booth areas and a cosy ‘snug’ area, and heading into the weekend, the venue will provide late night drinks and dancing until 2am complete with the world’s first DJ Kitchen (now I’ve no idea what this might be, but I’m intrigued…!) Follow them @GasStSocial on twitter to find out more!

2. THE DRINKS BUS

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Taking al fresco drinking to the next level, the Drinks Bus is about to take the Midlands by storm. This 1977 Open Topped Bristol Bus comes with a downstairs dispensing bottom deck with 20 taps including real ale, and a versatile top deck, with options for a bar, seating or even a live stage!

The Bus is available fully stocked, with various drinks packages including bespoke cocktails, or for dry hire, the perfect addition to your event! Follow @TheDrinksBus on twitter to make sure you don’t miss the Bus!

3. CAU

With several restaurant already across the south of England, Cau, a restaurant inspired by the cuisine of Buenos Aries is rumoured to be coming to Birmingham soon. With an interesting looking menu, this is one I’ll be intrigued to try. Follow @Caurestaurants to keep up with the news.

4. THE BOTANIST

A new opening for the Living Ventures and New World Trading Co in the CBD, bringing a wide selection of food and cocktails for us to try. If I’m honest I’m most excited about the cocktails – this brand is also behind one of my favourite places, The Alchemist in Manchester. Its only a hop skip and a jump from my best mates flat in Spinningfields in Manchester and so I’ve spent a fair few nights drinking their wares and its fabulous!

5. AMANTIA

Another new addition on the food scene, opening on Bennetts Hill soon is this Spanish & Mediterranean Restaurant. With the Chefs having pedigree in both San Carlo and Cucina Rustica, I can’t wait to see what they have on offer

6. 130 COLMORE ROW

Lastly, and certainly by no means least, its the new opening from the Lasan Group, headed up by Akhtar Islam and Jabbar Khan. Following in the footsteps of the uber successful Lasan, Raja Monkey Cafe and Fiesta Del Asado, I cannot wait to find out what they’ve got up their sleeves for the place.

So thats a quick run down of a few things that have excited me, but there are plenty PLENTY more including Master & Margarita at the Cube, Cosy Club on Bennetts Hill, Big Papas residency at the Sunflower Lounge and the opening of the EVERYMAN cinema (which looks fab) and will be a big rival to my favourite, the Electric Cinema. There’s so much going on that there really is something for everyone to enjoy! If you know of any other new openings or exciting projects  you think I should know about, please do feel free to contact me about them on email at roz_jeynes@hotmail.com or on twitter

Roz :)

 

Review: Bar Opus

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Bar Opus is the latest in the Opus dynasty, following the flagship Opus restaurant, and Café Opus. Housed in the modern new development in Snow Hill, it’s perfectly situated for the afterwork crowds, as well as those seeking a refuge from the shops, just like Lee and I just after Christmas. This was our first visit during the day, and were looking forward to seeing what their lunch/all day menu was like.

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I really like the uber sleek and modern interior, the the high ceilings, zig zag flooring, a mix of seating at high tables and a banquette all down the front of the building and a very open kitchen.

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The All Day Menu is compact, but with decent variation among the options, with some twists on breakfast dishes as well as more hearty choices, two of which we went for. First up the Slow braised free range pork cheeks root vegetables,cheddar mash, Alsace jus. Lee adored this dish – the cheeks were melt in your mouth, and it was a perfect comforting winter dish. I had the Crab linguine; Brixham white crab meat with chilli & Nantoise sauce. Again, this was an excellent dish, a creamy slightly fiery sauce that clung to the pasta just like it should without swimming round the plate, and well cooked pasta with a touch of bite.

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The portion sizes were perfect for lunch, and very reasonably priced too. Service throughout was very pleasant and timely, although they weren’t too overrun with customers when we dined. I would thoroughly recommend the food & drink at Bar Opus, both in the daytime and the sharing plates they offer later in the day. Oh and don’t forget their cocktails too which are up there with the best.

http://baropus.co.uk/

 

Disclosure: We paid in full for our meal, and the venue were not aware that we may be blogging about them

Mega Quick Pea & Ham Soup

PMIMG_5969 This soup is a super quick, super easy one, to pull together. I usually only tend to make it when we have a joint of ham which we have poached, therefore creating a vat of ham stock that it would be a travesty to waste. We always have a ham at Christmas, and so its usually a staple leftover meal for us at this time of year! If you haven’t got the stock from a recently cooked ham or gammon, then you can use pork stock if you can find it in the supermarket, but I don’t feel it tastes quite as good. Serves 4 Ingredients:

  • 1 litre ham stock
  • 500g peas – fresh or frozen
  • 1 onion – finely chopped
  • 4-5 mint leaves – chopped
  • 20g butter
  • handful fresh/defrosted frozen peas (for garnish)
  • handful of sliced ham – either from the joint you’ve cooked and leftover, or good quality packeted (for garnish)
  • salt and black pepper to season
  • dash of cream/creme fraiche (for garnish)

Method: 1. Heat a large heavy based pan, then add the butter. When melted add in the onion and sweat lightly for 2-3 minutes, be careful not to let it colour. 2. Add the peas, cook for another 30 seconds then add the stock 3. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. 4. Blend until smooth, adding the fresh mint at this stage, along with salt and pepper to taste then pass through a sieve 5. Return to a new pan and bring up to temperature, then serve, adding the ham fresh peas and cream to garnish. Happy eating :) IMG_5968   DSC_0021 IMG_5969

Review: Lunch at Epi Restaurant

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After ‘popping up’ all over Birmingham in 2014 and the start of 2014, since June last year, Epi Restaurant has been in residence at The Courtyard in Bromsgrove, serving elegant and tasty food, in quaint surroundings. 

From this January, Epi are also opening at lunchtime Thursday through Saturday, and to celebrate this they invited us to their press lunch to sample a taste of what they will be offering. Their lunch menu comes in at £25 for 2 courses, or £29 for 3, with a couple of choices for each course.

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Very well made sourdough bread was served to start.

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I then chose the Pork Terrine, Gribiche Sauce & Rye to start which was lovely – and came with a tangy apple pureé as well. Lee opted for the Leek & Potato Velouté and thoroughly enjoyed the homemade soup

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For the main we both chose Hake Fillet with Tomato Ragu Chorizo & Gnocchi. We both felt this was an outstanding dish – a perfectly cooked piece of hake, a lovely kick to the ragu and meltingly soft gnocchi.

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Desserts were both really pretty plates of food; Chocolate Ganache & Caramelised Milk for me, Poached Rhubarb, Lemon Curd & Spiced Ginger Cake for Lee. We really couldn’t fault anything on the plates, truly yummy.

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We’ve eaten the food of Nathan a few times now, but this is the first since their residency began and I feel that the food, which was always good, has come a long way and is now a lot more refined and extremely enjoyable.

Do check them out if your over Bromsgrove way,or take a little detour to eat there, it will be worth your while!

Disclosure: We were invited to sample Epi’s food at the Press Lunch and therefor did not pay for the food. We did pay for our drinks ( a couple of lovely glasses of red wine if you’re wondering). We were not asked to write about the experience in return, but wanted to because we enjoy the food at Epi and want others to as well. 

Review: Oaka @ The Barton Arms, Birmingham

A few weeks ago after work we headed out to a slightly less salubrious area of Birmingham to try out the Barton Arms. This is a place that had been mentioned several times on social media when I’d been asking for tips on great Thai food. The Barton Arms is a public house, and has been for over 100 years, and remains a great display of Victorian architecture and is a grade 2 listed building. In 2002 it was purchased by Oakham Ales and boasts a huge selection of award winning ales. Part of the restaurant has been converted by the Thai born landlords to house a Thai restaurant, Oaka, also claiming to have some of the best authentic Thai food in Birmingham.

It was quite quiet when we arrived, but filled up nicely during the evening. The decor I loved – dark wood against the opulence of stained glass windows. The service throughout was very attentive and you couldn’t fault it.

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To start we ordered the Oaka sharing platter, which consisted of chicken satay, chicken wings, honeyed ribs and Tod Mun Talay (Fishcakes) along with a selection of dips. The ribs were melt in your mouth, wings huge and juicy and the satay nice and moist. The fishcakes we found a little average and a bit rubbery, but when paired in the dips which were excellent, this became not very significant. The 3 dips all seemed perfectly balanced, and I wished we had ordered some prawn crackers to mop them all up.

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As usual, as with most menus, I had trouble deciding on a main course, but eventually settled on the Tamarind Duck. I’m always wary of ordering duck for fear of it being badly overcooked/rubbery/nasty non rendered fat, but Oaka did really well – the skin had been beautifully rendered down and was crispy and the meat meltingly soft – it wasn’t pink so I wondered if it had been slow cooked at some point, but either way, I wasn’t complaining. And the sauce was perfect.

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Lee went for the Massaman Curry, a favourite of his, and it was certainly up there with the best he’s had.

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All in all, very good food. Definitely a Thai I would recommend and return on many an occasion.

Disclosure: We paid in full for our meal 

Review: Tasting Menu at Lasan, Birmingham

Lasan, as I’ve told you before on the blog, is an excellent Indian Fine Dining Restaurant in Birminghams’ Jewellery Quarter. Amongst their accolades, they’ve won Gordon Ramsays ‘F Word – Best Local restaurant and Chef Aktar Islam has featured on the Great British Mneu on the BBC, and they’ve even been included in The Sunday Times Top 100 UK Restaurants. They are certainly a credit to the Birmingham Food Scene and we recently returned to try out their tasting menu. The interior of Lasan is modern and spacious, with a lovely mezzanine level as well. The decor is simple, but with a few nods to Indian culture, such as the small statues and a couple of Citars on the wall.

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As always, the service in Lasan was second to none, you can certainly see they have focused on this, with a lot of emphasis on a fine dining style of service, such as the dishes being explained to you on arrival at the table, and the refilling of wine and water glasses when the levels are dwindling, and the staff have an extensive knowledge about the food and it’s origins. This was really interesting to us on this most recent visit, with Brajesh taking the time to explain each dish, where in India it originated and how it came about.

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Lasan also do a wine pairing flight to go with their tasting menu, but the double whammy of bringing the car and it being a ‘school’ night meant we couldn’t indulge in this. I did however have a single glass of their prosecco, which was the matching drink for the Amuse and the first course. Our Amuse Bouche was a North Indian Broth of reduced lamb stock, Black Cardamom and Cream. This was delicious, and you could almost feel the restorative properties of the broth seeping into your system!

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The first of the courses was a Smoked Duck Somosa, bound with Aubergine Caviar spiced with Ginger and Ground Raw Mango with a Sweet Tamarind Chutney and Cucumber. The tamarind chutney was the star of this dish, I would give my right arm for a jar of that stuff to have at home!

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Next up was Soft Shell Crab dipped in Ajwain and Kashmiri Chilli Batter, a Devonshire Crab, Green Pea and Potato Cake with a Tomato and Sour Raw Mango Chutney. The batter on this was so crispy and light, and all the flavours were spot on, contrasting and complimenting each other really well.

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After this followed a Tandoori King Prawn marinated in Mustard Tumeric and Lemon, served with Grapefruit, Orange and Fennel. The sharpness and bitterness of the grapefruit and orange really complimented the sweet flesh of the prawn, which was perfectly cooked. Even my non prawn loving husband really enjoyed this!

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Our main fish course was a Pan Fried Seabass Fillet, on slow cooked Aubergine Spiced with Tumeric and Green Chilli, with a Fenugreek, Coconut and Tamarind Sauce. The Seabass was a perfectly cooked piece of fish with a lovely crisp skin. It was so beautifully presented, and the sauce that accompanied it was one of the most delicious things I have tasted in a long long time. They left a mini copper pan full of the sauce on the table, and it was all I could do not to drink the sauce straight from the pan!

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Next was a speciality from Hyderabad – Mutton cooked slowly with pearly barley and lentils, finished with Ginger, Fried Onion and Lime. The presentation of this is a gorgeous copper pan was lovely. There was a great use of texture in this dish with little bits of crisp and crunch amongst amongst the soft meat and lentils.

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Our last savoury course was a Slow Stewed Venison Haunch and Roasted Loin, Curried Pumpkin Pureé, Shallots, Wilted Chard and Okra with a Mughlai Style Pickling Gravy. Another really well rounded dish packed full of interesting flavours, and the pureé was outstanding.

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Dessert was a Bombay Mess, a playful twist on the English Classic. This one consisted of Mango Mousee, Raspberry Sorbet, Berries, Mango, Meringue with a hint of Cardamom and Thai Basil. A lovely fresh way to end the meal. 

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I can honestly say we adored every bit of the tasting menu, and would thoroughly recommend it to others. It’s pretty well priced at £59.95pp with the win flight coming in at £24.95. A perfect idea for that special occasion, or just if you feel liking splashing out on some fantastic food. http://www.lasan.co.uk   Disclosure: We were invited to Lasan to try their food complimentary, but we paid for our own drinks. As always all opinions are honest and our own. 

Preview: Marmalade from Bitters ‘n’ Twisted to open at the Rep

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It’s recently been announced that The Bitters ‘n’ Twisted group, behind some of Birminghams most successful offerings such as Bodega, The Rose Villa Tavern and The Jekyll & Hyde are teaming up with the Rep Theatre to bring a new Bistro & Bar to the Birmingham Food Scene.

The venue, which will overlook centenary square, will feature an eclectic mix of furnishings and bold décor and include a relaxed dining area serving great value, simple yet tasty food. They will offer a bespoke pre-theatre menu, priced at £15.95 for two courses and £19.95 for three and the bar will offer a varied choice of light lunches and snacks alongside handpicked wines, local ales, craft beers and cocktails.

Trina Jones, GM at the Rep states that ‘Our partnership with Bitters ‘n’ Twisted heralds an exciting time for us.  We’ve worked closely with Matt Scriven and his team to create a catering offer that will appeal to all of our customers, whether it’s a couple wanting to sit down for a meal pre-show or professionals who want a coffee over a meeting or those simply wanting to enjoy a drink after work.’ 

Sounds good to me!

Marmalade seems to be offering a much more relaxed and fun dining experience for pre theatre as well as all through the day, quite a bit different to the previous high offerings from Searcys, who ended their contract with the Rep back in 2014. I look for ward to trying it out!

Here are some of the artist impressions of Marmalade – keep your eyes peeled on social media for their opening date and more news!

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