Friday, 13 October 2017

Event: Gateway to India, Birmingham

Birmingham is famed for it's curry, and never one to disappoint, we Brummies have another option for dining Indian style.

Located just behind Broad Street on Regency Wharf, Gateway to India is named after a monument built in the 20th Century, known as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai.

Serving traditional Indian street food, tandoori and mixed grills, the decor is very traditional, with plenty of artwork, dark wood and pictures of ancient Maharajas.

The space itself is quite small, with around 80 covers, with a bar to the left and a view of the kitchen at the back of the restaurant.

For the launch, the restaurant was packed with guests enjoying prosecco and beers before we took a seat at our tables for an Indian feast.

To start, we sampled Malai Papri Chaat (Crunchy mini wheat crisps, spiced potato, onion, chickpeas, dash of malai yoghurt drizzled with hot sweet chutney), Vada Pav (Popular Maharashtra street food - deep fried seasoned potato patty served in a roll. Indian version of a chip butty), Pani Puri Gol Gappa (Crispy thin hollow pastry balls filled with chaat masala, chilled mint flavoured water and seasoned potatoes) and Daal Kachori (A delicacy from north India. Spicy puffed pastry filled with urid lentil, coriander, chilli flakes, fennel seeds and mango powder. Served with chefs special chutney).

Served canteen style in a metal tray, the presentation was in keeping with the street food theme. The Vada Pav had quite a few guests stumped as it's quite unusual to find on a menu, but these dishes were all well received.

Sadly, none of these were gluten free which meant more for my gluten eating dining companions! However, the mixed grill that came next was much more up my street.

What came next was a huge portion of mixed grill meats including chicken wings, lamb seekh kebab, chicken tikka and fish pakora. The flavours in this dish were full and rich, with the chicken tikka in particular deserving a mention for delivering unexpectedly big flavours alongside a tasty, juicy texture.  Not even the onions underneath were left untouched and we managed to devour this platter between four. This was served with a variety of chutneys for added flavour and texture.

For our mains, these were served again in metal bowls, alongside rice and yoghurt. These included Saag Paneer (a Punjabi dish of chunked Indian cottage cheese, simmered in a creamed spinach purée with, green chilli, ginger and finally garnished with a small dash of makhan or butter),  Tarka Daal (lentils with garlic, onions, tomato and exotic spices finishing with a sizzling tarka), Tari Wala Murgh (chicken breast slowly simmered in a refreshing and enticing soup of onions, tomatoes and spices) and Mughlai Kadhai Gosht (lamb delicately cooked in a rich curry, infused with whole spices, chilli, peppers, ginger, kala jeera, tomato and onions).

Of these, my favourites were the chicken and tarka daal. The Tarka Daal was creamy and again, flavoursome without being too heavy. The chicken was served in a much lighter sauce, unusually for a chicken curry, but the chicken pieces were a good size.

Luckily for me, all of the curry dishes on offer were gluten free, so I was able to enjoy all of these dishes.

Finally, there was Gulab Jamun on offer but unfortunately I couldn't eat this as it isn't gluten free. Fear not, there were plenty of takers who were more than happy to devour my share.

Thanks for the great night Gateway to India!

*My meal at Gateway to India was complimentary.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Event: Hotel Du Vin Christmas Menu Launch

Can you believe that we're talking about Christmas already? Although we may not be thinking about it yet, Hotel du Vin certainly is, and has already showcased it's delightful Christmas menu.

Held in the courtyard of Hotel du Vin Birmingham, I was able to sample some miniatures from the new Christmas menu.

Starting off the event with mulled wine served on tap, this fruity blend of oranges and spices is just what's needed in the cooler months.

Next, it was on to enjoy a hand massage courtesy of the team at the Hotel Du Vin spa. I adore the spa here as it is such a relaxing space, and it's worth taking a look at their offers as there are quite often packages available.

Onto the food, we began with canapes which included Christmas Cured Smoked Salmon with Pumpernickel and Spiced Pickles, Hazlenut Crusted Goat's Cheese Crottin with Cranberry and Endive Salad, Duck Liver Parfait with Plum and Figgy Chutney and finally Jerusalem Artichoke and Chestnut Soup.

Although I was unable to try any of the bread based canapes, I could try the soup. A rich, creamy, artichoke and chesnut soup, topped off with truffle creme fraiche, this was an absolutely delightful, rich and creamy soup that I could have eaten twice over, full sized. If you are dining at Christmas, this is my top choice for starters.

For mains, there was a selection of minis including Roasted Free Range Turkey Ballotine, Pigs in Blankets and Roasted Potatoes.

The vegetarian option of Cauliflower and Parmesan Crumble was also presented beautifully in mini dishes.

Finally, for dessert, we tried out some very traditional desserts of Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies.

The Christmas Menu is available from 24th November until 24th December, priced at £29.95 for lunch and £43.95 for dinner. This includes three courses and tea, coffee and mince pies. For the quality of the food and the time of year, it's a great price and perfect for any work, family or social gathering.

*With thanks to Hotel Du Vin for the invitation.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Food Review: Gluten Free Gaucho Electro Brunch

Ever since brunch became "a thing", I've always thought it to be one of the most decidedly decadent activities any self respecting blogger could partake in.

There's something about the idea of a long lie in, following by a breakfast that slips into a lunch that spills over into either a trip to the shops or a few more drinks that screams "me time".

Needless to say, this doesn't happen very often; but when it does, my is it delicious.

Aperol Spritz, Bloody Mary, Domaine Chandon

Electro Brunch at Gaucho is described as "the ultimate bottomless brunch". Served between 11am and 4pm, Electro Brunch is a chance to sit and enjoy two hours worth of wining and dining, all to the soundtrack of cool melodic beats provided by the in house DJ.

The menu includes not just Gaucho's famous Argentine steak, but everything from Eggs Florentine to Banana Pancakes. Stepping it up from the usual Avocado Toast, Eggs Florentino and Eggs Benedict, there's also some Argentine twists such as Gaucho Benedict and Medialuna or peanut butter dulce de leche. There's also the Choripan Sandwich, chorizo sausage and chimichurri, and Beans on Toast with Spanish Chorizo.

The team were very helpful when it came to Gluten-Free offerings, and I was given a run through of what I could and could not eat.

I started with the Gaucho Benedict made gluten free. Served with Egg, Hollandaise Sauce and the addition of Salt Beef made this an unusual but delicious dish. The Salt Beef adds not just a different flavour, with the salt working well with the creamy sauce and smooth yolk, but another texture too. It's worth noting that the Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and Eggs Royale can all be served on gluten free toast.

Next up, I had to try the steak and eggs. I asked for mine to be served medium, and it came cooked just right and topped with a fried egg. At 100g it is a manageable size for brunch too.

Finally, I tried the Beans on Toast, topped with mini hunks of cheese to add some flavour and salty seasoning.

There is another gluten-free option which is the Choripan Sandwich, which I did not try but I did manage to photograph. As you can see, this is a protein based breakfast of fried egg, sausage, mushrooms and tomato served in the pan.

Onto the non gluten-free options. My dear friends were lucky enough to have these delicious banana pancakes, a great sweet option. This can be served with either Nutella or maple syrup as it has been here.

Then there was the French Toast served with peanut butter dulce de leche and topped with strawberries and flaked almonds. I wish I could have tried this dish because it looks devine!

There is also a cheese dish on the menu, the fried provoleta served with caramelised onion chutney that was very well received.

As for the drinks; what brunch would be complete without a Bloody Mary? Sadly I'm not one for such a fortified drink, but I did get to try the Orange Zinger from the Juice Bar, which made me feel positively virtuous, and the obligatory fizz, the Domaine Chandon. My favourite naughty drink of the day was the classic Aperol Spritz.

The atmosphere was indeed, electric, when I visited a few Saturday's ago, and the interior lends itself to ear whispering and intimate conversation. That being said, I did dine as part of a very lovely group of bloggers, so fear not if you're visiting with friends and family.

Bottomless drinks, unlimited small plates and a spot in one of the city's sexiest spots, make Gaucho's Electro Brunch a top tip from me.

*I dined complimentary, with thanks to Gaucho.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Food Review: Fiesta del Asado

Fiesta del Asado is a rare jewel in the city. The upmarket steak house is part of the Birmingham-based Lasan Group, the name behind Nosh + Quaff, Raja Monkey, Izza Pizza and of course Lasan.

The Argentinian steak house, the first to open in Birmingham, has a loyal following and is well known for its steak, all of which is seasoned with their house dry rub and served with fresh chimichurri.

Dining on a Monday night, I was surprised to see that the restaurant was still busy with groups of work colleagues and the occasional couple.

Taking a seat at the front of the restaurant, in the bay window, I started off with a full-bodied glass of Rioja to whet my appetite.

Wanting to save ourselves for mains, my companion ordered a few nibbles including the Jamon iberico de bellota (£6.89) and pimientos del padron (£2.99). The peppers come pan-fried and salted, whilst the jamon came neatly laid out on the plate and is from free-range, acorn fed animals that have been cured for three years minimum.

Onto the main event; the steak. There are so many places to eat steak in the city now, but Fiesta del Asado was indeed an early player on the scene. There's plenty of choice from the smallest steak, the 8oz bavette to the largest, the 20oz marucha sin hueso, taken from the feather muscle, chuck and blade. 

There is even a hearty 40oz steak for sharing, the bife de costilla which comes in at £55.99. 

I opted for the 10oz sirloin as I prefer a leaner cut, whilst my companion opted for a very modest 8oz bavette.  I also added a fried egg, as is traditional, and we ordered a side of fries. 

As I was choosing my steak, the waitress was incredibly helpful when it came to understanding my preferences, and advising based on size and cut. This level of knowledge is something that truly marks an eatery out as specialist, and it's safe to say that the staff here were well versed in cut and cooking.  

What can I tell you about the steak? Well for starters, let's talk about the seasoning. Yes, the steak itself may look plain, but it is in fact full of flavour. Remember that rub I mentioned earlier? Although I couldn't say what's in it, let's just say that it is beyond doubt, one of the tastiest, most flavoursome steaks I have ever eaten. Add to this the fresh chimichurri and that delightful oozing egg, and there is plenty more than just steak going on here.

I would advise ordering a side each at least, as the steak's do come with salad and a little roasted vegetable, but if you have a larger appetite it's well worth adding on the very reasonably prices extras. 

The fries also deserve a special mention, for their delightful seasoning of salt and parsley. These crispy fries were very moreish, and we couldn't stop nibbling on these even after the steak was just a memory.

For desserts, alas there is not much by way of gluten free, so I opted for a double espresso.

What makes Fiesta del Asado stand out? For me it's the service, attentive staff, and unforgettably seasoned steak. Next time, I'm coming back for the bad boy itself, the 40oz bife de costilla, and I may not need any help.

*My meal at Fiesta del Asado was complimentary. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Event: Chung Ying Blogger's Banquet

Chung Ying Garden is one of Birmingham's best known Chinese restaurants, with a reputation that stretches back over 30 years.

I was invited to sample nearly 100 dim sum at the Chinatown restaurant alongside some of Birmingham's finest food bloggers.

Famed for the variety of dim sum on offer, Chung Ying Garden serves up nearly 400 different dim sum, and we were able to try nearly 100 of these on the night.

Above the main restaurant on Thorp Street is a banqueting suite that's available for private hire. A great location for birthday's and celebrations, the room is big enough for a sizeable function.

After a welcome drink, we were seated at the table and the food began to come in. One by one, each dish was laid out on two long tables, and it was clear that nobody would be leaving hungry.

As a gluten free diner, William Wong was able to easily talk me through each dish and exactly which ones I could and couldn't eat. Many of the dumpling dishes are made from rice and not wheat, with the tell-tale sign being that many of these where white and steamed.

Char Siu Braised Noodles

Chicken Feet

It was great to see someone so knowledgable available to guide me through the menu which made the whole experience so much easier; thank you William!

Dry Beef Ho Fun

Egg White and Diced Vegetable Fried Rice

Singapore Noodles

Seafood Fried Udon

Onto the dishes; there are too many to go through individually, but I will share with you my favourites and also some of the more unusual dishes.

Singapore Noodles

Some of my favourites included the Pan Fried Turnip Paste, King Prawn and Vegetable Crystal Dumplings, Steamed Beef with Ginger and Spring Onion, Dry Beef Ho Fun, Steamed King Prawn Dumplings and Singapore Noodles.

Steamed King Prawn Dumplings

I tried the Ox Tendons and this may sound scary, but was actually delicious. Similarly, who knew that Pan Fried Turnip Paste could be so delightful? It was sweet and had a great texture; don't be afraid to try either next time you're in!

Steamed "Rabbit" King Prawn Dumplings

Steamed Sponge Cake

Won Ton Soup Noodles

Some of the more unusual dishes included Chicken Feet (I tried just a tiny bit of this but sorry guys, I still can't stomach it!) and Steamed Honeycomb Tripe in Satay Sauce (sorry, I couldn't even try this!)

Steamed Ox Tripe with Ginger and Spring Onions

Steamed Ox Tendons

There was also Congee on offer, a kind of rice porridge, which was a very healthy option and something I have never seen before.

It was great to try so many new dishes at Chung Ying Central and the hospitality was, as always, a pleasure. The team and dirctors here are incredibly friendly, helpful and knowledgable, and I always thoroughly enjoy my time at any of the Chung Ying Group restaurants.

*Thank you for the invite EV Agency and Chung Ying. I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant.