Monday, 6 April 2015

Merry Hill SS15 Fashion Preview

My outfit for the evening - Coat and T Shirt - New Look / Jeans - Matalan / Shoes - Primark / Bag -Mulberry

We're at that awkward time of year between seasons, and although we're ready to let go of AW15, we may still be deciding what to wear for SS15.

Help was at hand at Intu Merry Hill shopping centre when they recently hosted a Spring Summer catwalk on the 28th and 29th March. Luckily, I was able to catch a glimpse of the latest looks at a special fashion preview event along with some fellow bloggers.

Hosted in a secret room inside the centre, we made our way into a hidden room to find a bloggers paradise including a photobooth, cupcakes, canapes, champagne....and a catwalk!

Here are some of the pictures taken by Cotswold Allure:




Flanked by mannequins dressed head to toe in looks from some of the high street's best stores, we were treated to a look at SS15 as interpreted by River Island, New Look, Oasis and more.

With everyone perched delicately on front row seats (they know how to make us feel like VIP's!), we watched key looks from 10 retailers strut down the catwalk on the backs of some very glam models.

Styled by Lola Royle, here's a (picture heavy) rundown of what to expect this season:

New Look

Floral Dress and Bright Blazer

Clashing Floral Prints

Tropical Print Co - ord

Phase Eight

Pretty Floral Shift

Tailored Separates

Bright Prints


Warehouse

Jungle Prints and a Duster Coat

Clashing Tropical Prints and a Duffle Bag

Sleek 70's Prints and a Longline Blazer

Tropical Kimono


Oasis

Colourful Cardigan

Wearable Prints


Topshop

Colour and Print


River Island

Pink Floral Coord - my favourite! Image co Cotswold Allure


Festival Tropical - Image co Cotswold Allure

Fringing and Platforms - so 70's!

Diffusion

Paint Splatter Coord

I felt so inspired by the event that I went ahead and styled up an outfit for SS15 based on the denim and 1970's trend.

Dress - Oasis / Boots - Primark / Sunglasses - Peacocks



Now that you've seen some key looks for SS15, what will you be wearing this season?

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Food Review: Gas Street Social, Mailbox Birmingham

The launch of Gas Street Social has been eagerly anticipated by Birmingham ladies and gentleman for many a month. One of the new names to join The Mailbox is Gas Street Social, a social eating ad drinking house with a real focus on social.

Raspberry & Rhubarb Cocktail

With a number of openings taking place, I was invited along to the press dinner along with a number of familiar faces to the Birmingham food scene.

The evening was an opportunity to try the food and drink on offer, explore the venue and also meet managing director, Adam Freeth.


Negrogie

Starting off at the bar, where many a good meal begins, I took it easy with a Raspberry & Rhubarb, a temperance cocktail before making my way over to the gorgeous long, wooden table.

A sidenote here on the interior design; it's all very industrial chic. Inspired by the city's industrial heritage, think rose gold metals, exposed wood, long tables for easy sharing and snug booths for intimate meals. Along with sharing platters, hence the social element of the venue, there are also sharing drinks on offer.

Charcuterie Board

I digress. To whet our appetites we started off with mixed olives the size of walnuts and beautiful charcuterie sharing boards of wild boar, truffled salami, lomo and chorizo sourced from The Forest Pig, served alongside bread from local bakery Peel & Stone and two chutneys (apple and onion). Coupled with a Negrogie cocktail, their take on the classic Negroni, the our tastebuds were truly beggining to tingle.

We managed to squeeze in a glass of Albarino next, with a delicate poached pear flavour and hints of vanilla and cinnamon.

Seared Scallops

Onto starters, I opted for Seared Scallops ahead of the other options of Beetroot Tart, Slow Cooked Ox Cheek, Wood Smoked Loch Duart Salmon Skewers, Crispy Chicken Vol au Vents and Crispy Arancini Balls.

Duck Breast

The scallops were full of flavour, crisped on the top and bottom and rich and buttery. In a classic garlic and lemon sauce and topped off with salty capers, this was a nice little dish.

Rib Eye Steak

Next came the Rib Eye Steak, which I chose instead of the Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Duck Breast, Seabass Fillet and Mushroom Gnocchi. A hefty 10oz portion served with a choice of sauces (herb butter for me), this was very tender. The sides here deserve a very special mention. We shared the triple cooked chips which were good sized, extremely crispy and by far the best I've ever eaten as well as root veg and creamed kale which was divine! Please do try the sides because trust me, they are delicious.

Slow Cooked Pork Belly

Finally, we rounded off the meal with dessert, which for me was Poached Pear to cater to my gluten free diet. This was an absolute delight, perfectly cooked, not too hard and not boiled away to oblivion either with some fantastic cinammon and vanilla flavours. I would heartily recommend this dessert, and it's fruit too which means it's allowed. For my fellow diners, the Pistachio Creme Brulee went down very well.

Poached Pear

Popping Berry Parfait

Pistachio Creme Brulee

This was all rounded off beautifully with an Old Fashioned, just to ensure we'd been given a taste of the fabulous drinks available too, served from a casket at the table. How very social.

The menu is a great combination of small plates for one or for sharing, as well as larger plates just for you. I have a feeling the sharing plates are going to be a huge hit, and the charcuterie board in particular is just a world away from wasabi peanuts.

The guys behind Gas Street Social are encouraging visitors to share their moments on Twitter and Instagram using #iamsocial and it's already becoming quite a well used hashtag in our fair city. At the next available opportunity I will be back to carry on what I've started and work my way around the cocktail menu and try out the Cheese Baord, Fish Board and Seabass.

Thank you for having us Gas Street Social - we will be back! You can take a look at the menu here and the website can be found here.

*With thanks to Adam, Vicky and Natalie for inviting me to the meal.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Pastel Coat OOTD ft New Look, Topshop and Matalan

Coat - New Look // Top - Topshop // Jeans - Matalan // Heels - Fiore // 

As you know, I rarely do an outfit post, but I wanted to share this gorgeous coat with you! The weather has been pretty cold lately and although we're all hoping for Spring, a coat is still a necessity.

I picked this pastel blue number up from New Look and it's really helped me break out of darker clothes into lighter colours.

Excuse the poor picture quality and weird epxression!




Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Food Review: Big Papa's at Sunflower Lounge Birmingham

The Sunflower Lounge is a popular spot for live music and drinks in Birmingham City Centre, but did you know it is also serving up Southern American food too?



Perfecting their recipes and honing their skills on the street food scene, the boys have now taken over the kitchen at The Sunflower Lounge and are serving up Big Papa's soul food seven days a week.

Along with a host of beautiful Birmingham bloggers, I was lucky enough to try out the food first hand at the press dinner.

The menu is small but perfectly formed and features many of your favourite Low and Slow dishes including Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Mac and Cheese, Sweet Potato Fries and Pork Chops.



The best way to enjoy the menu is probably to go for the £10 deal, where for this very reasonable price you'll receive a main and two sides, beautifully presented on a wooden crate! There are also starters including Hot Wings, Fried Okra and Blackened Shrimp available for £5 and sides for £3 each including Onion Rings, Salad and Sweet Potato Fries.

I love the fact that the menu is so simple, as it means that ordering is quick and easy (in theory).

I also loved the presentation and the fact that the food is served in a crate. It's a really unusual style of presentation that I don't think I've seen elsewhere in Birmingham, so it's unique! 


The attention to detail and thoughtfulness behind the food is evident from the carefully selected menu to the presentation and finishing touches on every dish. From the paprika on top of the mac and cheese to the twist of lime on the fried chicken, there is real passion behind the food. 


 
I took pictures of a few dishes to give you an idea of what's on offer.

I had the Pulled Cola Brisket Bun, minus the bun to accomodate my Gluten Free diet served with Blackened Shrimp (usually a starter) and Greens. The Cola Brisket was unlike anything I've had before. Cola gives a sweet, rich flavour to the meat whilst the hours of slow cooking meant the meat was tender and soft.


The blackened shrimp was a good portion of small shrimp that was simply cooked in butter and seasoned with lemon juice and herbs, and the Greens were tasty and very soft.



Here is an example of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Mac and Cheese, Sweet Potato Fries and two sauces, one spicy and one BBQ. The Buttermilk Fried Chicken was super crispy and not greasy; the same could be said of the fries which were very crispy indeed and yet soft and sweet inside.

We were able to have a chat with chef Anthony at the end of the night and found out more about the food, such as the fact that the Mango and Chilli sauce is homemade and that the food is all bought in fresh from the nearby Bullring Markets.

It also gave us an opportunity to see how passionate Anthony and Craig are about the food, the business and the city. Food always tastes better when there is real passipn behind it and these guys have it in spades.

Thank you to Anthony for inviting us down to try Big Papa's!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Food review: Gourmet Burger Kitchen - GBK Mailbox Grill Warming

Interior

Birmingham is an exciting place to be in 2015. There is a host of new places to eat, drink and shop opening up later on this year, with The Mailbox being one of them. Expected to open in Spring, the destination for food, drink, shopping and staying is now home to the recently opened Everyman Cinema and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), which opened its doors last week.

Nuts

I was super lucky and received an invite to the grill warming on Thursday 12th March, the day before the official opening. The grill warming is an opportunity for the staff to try out the new systems, tills and grills before the official opening, but the evening ran smoothly and the atmosphere was electric!

Following a four-week closure, the Mailbox restaurant has had a £350,000 makeover both inside and out, and now boasts design features such as dark oak panelling and industrial elements.

Drink

Chocolate Milkshake

Between myself and my two companions we ordered Elderflower Fizz (£2.35), Chocolate Milkshake and a Diet Coke (£2.40). My friend was incredibly happy with her Chocolate Milkshake (£4.10) and enjoyed every mouthful of the cold, thick shake with big chocolate pieces. There is also a good selection of beer and wine on the menu but we were good :)

Food

Camembert and Cranberry The Bunless Burger

The three burgers we ordered were: Avocado Bacon (£9.15), The Don (£9.75) and Camembert and Cranberry Chicken (£9.55). We tried nearly every variation of fries available and ordered the Skinny Fries (£1.65/£2.95), Chunky Skin On Fries (£3.25) and Sweet Potato Fries with Baconnaise(£3.95). Next time we will be sure to try the Rosemary fries too!

The Don with Extra Bacon - Gluten Free Bun

Myself and another friend are both gluten free and this is where I was super-impressed. GBK actually gives gluten-free diners a choice of either going for "The Bunless Burger"for an extra 50p and having the homeslaw and either salad or chargrilled corn on the side, or going for a gluten free bun!

Avocado Bacon

I had the Camembert and Cranberry burger and asked for grilled rather than breaded chicken and went bunless to make it gluten free. The chicken was really soft topped off with a generous portion of melting gooey camembert cheese and cranberry sauce. I opted for the Skinny Fries which were super thin but incredibly moreish. The homeslaw is also a winner for me, made with lots of veg such as cabbage, carrot and celeriac and vinaigrette instead of mayo. This makes for much lighter slaw with a tang rather than a creamy taste, but I love how fresh it tastes against the burgers.

Gluten Free Menu

My other gluten free friend went for The Don in the Gluten Free Brioche Bun with extra bacon. This was again, a very tasty burger with plenty of cheese, onion and sauces including baconnaise and onion jam, making it bursting with flavour. The brioche bun was an absolute winner too. This was not a soggy ode to gluten free bread, but an actual, fresh, bouncy brioche bun! The sweet potato fries were exactly that, sweet and crunchy.

Ice Cream

Finally, the Avacado Bacon burger was quite simple in comparison, offering a juicy patty, topped with plenty of creamy avocado and a crispy piece of bacon. The Chunky Skin On Fries were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

Espresso

To follow, I ordered an Espresso (£1.95) and Greek Yoghurt and Honey Ice Cream (£2.50). The espresso came in a very stylish glass cup and the ice cream was tasty, but came out in a carton so could have been better presented.

Service

The staff here are so friendly and we made sure to enter our feedback on the night as no request was too big. Extra bacon? You've got it! Take out the onion in your burger? That's ok too!

The restaurant was full to the brim and yet all the staff remained calm, friendly and efficient, getting everyone's orders out as quickly as possible.

Atmosphere

The restaurant was packed and very lively and this is a great venue for dinner with friends.

Value

Burger, fries and a soft drink comes in at around £15 which includes all the monkey nuts you can eat and lots of water at the table. Fantastic.




Thank you to GBK for inviting me!