Thursday, 15 March 2018

Food Review: Indioz Indian, Moseley

Moseley is a great place for a night out, pub crawl or brunch; but is it known for its curry? Sure, there's Zindiya, but that's more popular for its street food bites than bowls of balti.

I headed to Indioz to try out the menu. Described as "well-crafted Indian food", we arrived on time and sat at the bar before heading to the table. Serving soft drinks only, the restaurant is unlicensed meaning it's a great affordable option for anyone who likes a tipple, whilst also avoiding those awkward "who drank what" conversations over the bill.

Promising to cater for allergens, the team was very knowledgable on what was and wasn't gluten free.

The first thing to arrive was a plate of poppadums and dips to go with it, before the starter of Samosa Chaat came out. Although this isn't gluten free, a portion was made up for me without the crispy topping so I could try this too. A mix of chickpeas and onions, this was a fairly spicy dish.

We also tried the Chilli Chicken which was again, fairly spicy, with some sweet flavours that are unusual for an Indian restaurant. The same goes for the main course dish of Zanzibar Chicken, which was an extremely mild coconut based chicken dish, best suited for anyone who would normally order Butter Chicken.

Next, we sampled Lamb Chops and Spiced Cod, both of which were good with plenty to chew on. The lamb chops in particular were meaty and tender, and the cod was also well cooked.

Onto the main courses proper, we were served two large sized Thali's, one vegetarian and one meat, alongside a very traditional Chicken Balti.

This was the highlight of the meal for me, with a fantastic variety of dishes included in the Thali, both of which were well flavoured, varied and filling. Both included naan, rice, raita and an onion chutney, whilst the meat version also included lamb and chicken curry, whilst the vegetarian version included saag, daal and aloo gobi.

The Chicken Balti was also as you would expect, hearty, medium spiced and with good sized chunks of chicken.

All of the main courses were gluten free and there was plenty of rice on offer to go alongside the curry dishes.

For dessert, the rest of the party sampled Halwa, although this is not gluten free. However, I unashamedly headed to the giant box of mint chocolates by the bar to finish off the meal with something sweet.

Indioz in Moseley is a great spot for a reasonably priced meal with friends and family. The more traditional dishes including the Balti and Thali were the most enjoyable dishes on the menu, and the hospitality and service were second to none. The atmosphere is family friendly and suitable for all. making it a great pit stop.

*With thanks to Indioz for the complimentary meal 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Food Review: Sabai Sabai Thai Birmingham City Centre

For a city as into it's food as Birmingham, there really aren't too many places to go for Thai. However, Sabai Sabai, the local chain that started off in Moseley before spreading to Harborne, Stratford and now Waterloo Street in the city centre, is now on hand to cater for all your Thai food and cocktail needs.

With a good sized bar offering diners or simply drinkers a place to perch, there is a great selection of cocktails on offer from classics to something different. We started off with the Bangkok Fizz (£8.25), a prosecco based cocktail with citrus flavours. This was a great way to kick off the night, where bloggers from the city and beyond had gathered to try out the new joint. 

At the table, we were treated to sharing portions that weren't really that. I'm pretty sure we all had more than one dish each, which meant that we could avoid the awkward "oh no, you take the last one" situation because there really was plenty to go around. The portion sizes themselves were also extremely generous.

The first dish to arrive was the Meat Sharing Platter (£12.95 each), a mix of lamb chops, spare ribs, chicken wings and crispy duck rolls. The lamb chops were served pink, which is how I like them, and were very, very meaty. The chicken wings were again, thick and meaty and seasoned with chilli and salt. I was also treated to a warm bowl of Tom Yam Goong, Spicy and Sour Prawn Soup to cater to my gluten free dining requirements.

Next, we moved onto the main event, where the table was laid out with Monkfish Thai Green Curry (£17.95), Short Rib Beef Massaman, Papaya Salad (£9.95), Weeping Tiger Steak (£16.95), Pad Thai (£10.95), Tenderstem broccoli and Garlic Rice. 

A veritable feast, and something I would heartily recommend to anyone dining in a large group, please do order as we did and get stuck into a variety of dishes; it really is the most fun way to dine!

The stand out dishes here were the Massaman Beef, a delicious, thick nutty curry sauce poured over the softest piece of short rib beef you'll ever try paired with the garlic rice, with nutty flavour hints that complemented the sauce.

For fresher flavours, it was the Papaya Salad and Pad Thai that worked well together. Pad Thai was exactly as you'd expect it to be, a consistently good dish that never fails to deliver just the right balance of sweet, nutty and sour. The Papaya Salad was something little different, with shredded papaya and veg brought together by some big, crunchy peanuts and a touch of sour and sweet from the lime, chilli and palm sugar. 

For dessert, we opted for the prettiest Espresso Martini, just because food bloggers don't do Dry January. Cheers!

*With thanks to Sabai Sabai for the complimentary meal

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Food review: Fressh Food Birmingham

Happy New Year folks!! Welcome to my first post of 2018. Excuse the delay, but sometimes it's good to take a break :)

Back to food. Fressh opened up last year in a prime location, close to Corporation Street in the City Arcade (also home to Tilt Coffee).

Hailed as a vegan cafe, it seemed fitting to talk about Fressh in January, also known as Veganuary, the movement that's taken the country by storm whereby followers opt to adopt a plant-based diet for the month.

In keeping with the name, Fressh adopts a colour scheme of mainly white with touches of green, making it look instantly calm and zen.

Walking in, the first thing you'll notice is the fresh salad bar area as well as the seating, which is varied between small tables, larger communal tables and benches; always good for when you're dining solo.

After receiving a very warm welcome from the manager, who went through the concept, menu and how to order, I picked out a few dishes to try.

First of all, I had to get the Taco Bowl (£4.75) if only to try Walnut Taco. This can be served as either a salad or a wrap; I opted for a salad. I then pontificated between the What the Guac? and Son of a Bun burger, finally opting for Son of a Bun (£5.95) because it's less spicy.

A word on gluten free options. The team were well versed in the gluten free options on the menu, which always makes me happy. What's also great is that the main menu is helpfully annotated with GF and GFO to make it really easy for us Gluten Free folk when picking from the menu. For example, the burgers are both GFO because the bun can be switched out for a gluten free bun for an extra £1, whilst the salads can be made gluten free by being served as a salad and not a wrap and by removing items such as croutons.

There are plenty of gluten free choices on the menu, from the burgers and salads to the butternut squash curry. Breakfast also affords much choice, with the porridge and smoothies also being gluten free.

Back to my order, I also picked the Turmeric Latte (£3.25), which can be served with soya, coconut, oat or almond milk, as well as a bottle of Organic Kombucha (£2.95).

My food was freshly made to order and arrived served on a tray and artfully arranged (I get the feeling they're used to being Instagrammed).

First of all I tried my Turmeric Latte. Although I'm not one for milky drinks, I really anted to try out turmeric as it's such a hot topic right now, with health benefits such as its antioxidant and inflammatory properties. For me, I just wanted to see if I could stomach the stuff, and thankfully the answer is yes! Smooth and warm, this tasted like a cup of warm golden sunshine. Now, I just need to figure out how to get it into my diet.

I really enjoyed the kombucha too, and I'd definitely try it again. I'm quite fascinated by it as it's actually a living thing, don't ask, just look it up.

Onto the food, both items were hearty portions, and the salad in particular is plenty big enough to fill you up at lunch time.

They were great at being able to customise your items too so don't be afraid to ask for the team to hold the onions for example.

My Son of a Bun burger was a big, thick, "meaty" burger, piled up high with a black bean and sweet potato patty, onion, gherkins, vegan cheese and a Fressh sauce. The patty itself was very thick and the rice content made it especially filling. The gluten free bun was also tasty, and the sauces added just enough flavour without being overpowering.

The Taco Bowl salad had a really unusual taste, almost cheesy but I can't be sure. The salad itself was huge and varied, and I loved the sweetcorn to keep it from being too bland.

Overall, Fressh offered great service, a great environment and a great menu. The prices are really affordable, which is good to see as so often healthy food can come at a high price. There was plenty of choice and everything is easy to swap around and customise. Would I come back? For a midweek lunch yes! My top tip? Grab a burger and go!

*With thanks to Fressh for the complimentary meal

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Event: Hotel Chocolat Birmingham Launch featuring real Hot Chocolat

For a long time, I've been jealous of the city of Worcester for being the nearest Midlands city to be graced with the presence of a Hotel Chocolat cafe.

How things have changed! Now, our very own second city has a Hotel Chocolat Cafe of it's own, and I was invited along to indulge and experience this chocolate temple for myself.

You'll all be familiar with Hotel Chocolat, purveyors of fine chocolate and cocoa inspired gifts and treats since 1993, with the doors of the first high street store opening back in 2004.

Since then, they've gone on to become famous for everything from huge, thick-shelled Easter Eggs to Cocoa Gin, and have even opened a hotel in Saint Lucia. In line with that very same spirit of originality, they've also been opening up cafe's since 2015.

This is where Birmingham comes into play, and just in time for Christmas, we've been lucky enough to get our very own Hotel Chocolat cafe at the newly opened New Street store.

Fighting my way through the German Market crowds, I stepped into the store and away from the madness. Inside, I found an oasis of chocolate and a warm welcome as the team were ready for my arrival.

The store manager came to greet me and and I was presented with three, yes three, slate trays full of chocolate samples all to myself! Fighting the urge to devour the lot, I did manage to make quite a dent on the three samples; Illegal Gianduja, Mulled Wine and Salted Espresso Martini.

All three were delicious, and I definitely tried more than one of each (oops!) but my favourite was definitely the Salted Espresso Martini. These were moreish bites of smooth melting chocolate infused with Turkish coffee, cocoa vodka and sea salt sealed in caramel chocolate.

Next up, the hot chocolate itself. At the back of the store, there is a seating area where I settled in and made some big decisions! As well as offering a number of different flavours including White Chocolate, Chilli and White Vanilla, I was also able to choose from three different types of milk, skimmed milk, whole milk or coconut milk and have it served with or without chocolate whipped cream.

It's worth noting that there is also Iced Frappes, Coffee, Tea, Tealot and Coffee Chocolate Lattes on offer, as well as Ice Cream of the Gods and two Christmas Specials; Salted Caramel and Clementine and Winter Spiced.

First of all, I picked a flavour, which was the Hazelnut Hot Chocolate and then opted for coconut milk topped off with chocolate whipped cream. I picked the small size and I'm glad of it!

Served on a wooden tray, my hot chocolate was every chocoholics dream! Piled high with whipped cream and oozing down the side, this was quite clearly a decadent treat. I really enjoyed the taste of the coconut milk and the hazelnut flavour was subtle.

I then managed to made room for just one more small Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate which was also delicious. Both were chocolatey and subtly flavoured.

Made with real chocolate and milk, Hotel Chocolat don't use powder and it's clear when you try them that this is the case as the flavour is so much more chocolately than anything from a packet. Topped off with whipped cream and depending on the flavour, more chocolate flakes or a biscuit decoration, these are hot chocolates on a whole other level!

You can also buy the ingredients yourself to make hot chocolate at home, which would make a great gift!

Regardless of whether you're feeling virtuous or not, it's easy to adapt your drink by changing the milk, asking for toppings or none, or even forgoing the chocolate whipped cream entirely.

A naughty treat, but a nice one, Hotel Chocolat Cafe is a welcome addition to the city. Handily located close to New Street train station, there's no better way to warm up than with a real Hot Chocolat from Hotel Chocolat.

* I was invited to sample the Hotel Chocolat cafe as a guest of the store

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Food Review: Lasan, Jewellery Quarter Birmingham

There have got to be very few restaurants in Birmingham that I haven't dined at; so when the invitation came through to experience Lasan I was pretty excited.

Lasan has always had a reputation as one of the finest Indian restaurants in the city, cemented by winning "Britain's Best Local Restaurant" on The F Word in 2010. 

Now, the eatery has come a long way with a whole new look and a whole new menu; one that's world's away from what you might expect.

Located just off Saint Paul's Square in the Jewellery Quarter, Lasan is hidden from the main square where you might find revellers enjoying a drink or two at the weekend. 

Inside, the restaurant has been renovated to create a bigger bar area, enabling guests to enjoy a drink at the bar, pre or post meal in a space that's quite separate from the main dining area. The restaurant itself is beautiful; light, bright and airy with giant mirrors and an air of grandeur (press pictures, not my own).

Settling on a bar stool, myself, Paul Fulford and Brummie Gourmand sat and enjoyed a drink before heading to the table. This space is great not just for drinking, but for waiting for your guests to assemble before being seated. On this occasion, I was last to arrive (sorry guys!) having driven into the city, but it's worth noting that there is street parking available close by. 

I did however have one drink here, a classic gin and tonic made with Hendricks pink gin and slimline tonic water. Served in a goblet, just how I like it, I sipped this slowly so as to savour the light, refreshing flavours.

At the table, which was laid out with crisp white cloths and napkins, we took a look at the new menu. Although I had never eaten at Lasan before, I got the feeling that this menu was simplified and easier to use.

I had been recommended the paneer to start, so I ordered the Ananas Paneer first of all followed by the Murgh Kari. Brummie Gourmand ordered the Haleem and Punjabi Makhan Chicken whilst Paul picked the Shakarkand Kofta for mains.

Before we began our meal in earnest, Pani Puri was brought to the table along with some poppadoms whilst my dining companions were able to enjoy on my behalf!

When my paneer starter arrived, it was love at first sight. Three large flat squares of paneer, grilled enough to see the colour changing on the corners and add a smoky flavour, served with a fresh pineapple relish and beetroot to boot. If the presentation hadn't already won me over, then the flavours would have; grilled tangy paneer served with fresh pineapple, this dish was a delight and could have happily been served as a delicious vegetarian main course.

Onto the main course, my Punjabi Makhan Chicken and the Murgh Kari arrived looking very similar, with the most visible difference being that the Murgh was served on the bone whilst the Makhan was served in enormous chunks.

Thankfully, the flavours of the two dishes were completely different, as the Makhan had a sweeter, nuttier flavour and creamier texture whilst mine (pictured second) was more tangy and flavoured with curry leaf and mustard seed.

I also tried a little of the sweet potato kofta, a light, smooth, vegetarian kofta that was equally delicious, and we also shared the cauliflower side which I highly recommend.

Onto dessert, there was far too much to tempt me. In the end, I was able to order the Beetroot Halva and have this adapted to be gluten free. Described as "slow cooked beetroot with caramelised nuts, apple crisps and dreamy pistachio ice cream", this for me was the star of the show and worth a visit alone. It is rare to find an unusual Indian dessert, with most restaurants treating dessert as something of an afterthought. At Lasan, I was overjoyed to see that finally, someone has taken the humble Indian dessert and put the time into developing something that is innovative whilst maintaining integrity.

Presented like a work of art, there was everything to play for on this plate, from the sweet dehydrated apple crisps to the contrasting soft and crunchy sweet caramelised cashews.

Lasan is a restaurant that you'll want to save for a special occasion and find yourself going back to just because. A great location, wonderful service and delightful food that's raised more than a few notches by the presentation makes this a must visit for any curry lover. This is no ordinary Indian restaurant, so don't expect dated decor and one choice of gin.

I adore the interior, with it's refined feel and minimal but warm styling; it makes the food stand out against the palate cleansing white background.

Need another reason to visit? The picture perfect dishes make it a must visit for any foodie photographer!

*With thanks to Lasan for the complimentary meal and drinks.