Friday, 3 May 2019

Food Review: Hyatt Regency Spring Menu Launch at Aria

There's nothing like stepping foot in a hotel to make you leave behind your day, slow down and unwind.

That's exactly how it feels walking into the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham city centre. Central it may be, but that doesn't stop you from taking a big deep breath out and releasing the tension that city life so easily creates.

Enough about the city. The Hyatt Regency Hotel is, as well as being well located, stunning to look at. The main entrance brings you into the central lobby which is overlooked by balconies from above where conferences and events are usually held.

Aria Restaurant has recently launched a new spring menu. Full of green, lighter dishes such as fish and desserts with an airy texture, I was invited in to try it.

For starters, I chose the Spiced Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup. A light but flavoursome dish, I was also served an individually wrapped Gluten Free roll to accompany it. Together, this was filling and just right for a spring menu.

One of my dining companions went for the Duck Egg, Asparagus and Mushrooms which also happened to be Gluten Free. As you can see, the presentation here was exceptional and light of hand. 

The Scallop and Black Pudding starter was sadly not Gluten Free, but I could see the scallops were slightly charred, just how I like them, whilst the Black Pudding is presented on the plate as a hint of flavour in crumb form. 

Onto the mains, I ordered the Goosnargh Chicken, whilst my companion opted for Spring Lamb. Both were a sophisticated play on the traditional meat and vegetables offered up on many a British table. 

When it came to dessert, I was delighted to see that the Chocolate Orange Sphere was Gluten Free. This was by far the best dish on the menu; inventive, surprising and delicious. My dining companion had the Rum Baba, and although delicious, did not have quite the same impact as this shiny chocolate coated ball.

The experience at Aria was perfect from start to finish. From the welcome to the relaxed informal drinks reception, the way in which we were seated, the drinks and food service and the knowledge shared with us from the Head Chef himself, time almost stood still whilst we were in such great company. The food, ambiance and service all came together to make this an extremely enjoyable experience, created by a team that clearly cares about the guest experience and has considered the details.

I'd wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Aria for a relaxed evening; just make sure you're not in rush because I promise you won't want to leave.

UNPAID AD - This meal was kindly gifted to me by the Hyatt Regency Hotel. 

Monday, 18 March 2019

Food Review: Wing Wah, Birmingham

Wing Wah is a well known name in Birmingham. Recently relocated to the city centre having previously been found in Nechells, it's now much easier to find and reach thanks to its central location.

I was invited to dine here with a group of bloggers and press folk and upon arrival, was greeted with a welcome drink. My sparkling was swiftly swapped for a G&T (thanks guys!) and we gathered round to see the stunning display table that had been arranged for us.

After much oohing and ahhing at the intricate and delicate nature of many of the dishes and decorations, including the fanciful dim sum, we headed downstairs to the private dining room.

Arranged as a large circular table, the room is downstairs along with more karaoke rooms than you could ever imagine. With themed rooms including the K Pop room, the Buddha Bar and the Apres Room, there's a karaoke room for everyone!

Onto the meal itself. Meals were brought out to the table regularly and placed in the middle for us all to share. There were more dishes than I can even count, but according to the menu an incredible 35 plates came out even before the fruit and coffee.

The first dish to appear was the Steamed Fresh Scallop with garlic and glass noodles in shell followed by the King Prawn Summer Roll and Chicken and King Prawn Summer Roll, all of which were gluten free.

The menu was fantastic in that it was clearly labelled for Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian and Gluten Free diets.

There were plenty of dumplings (none of the others were gluten free as they were in wheat pastry) as well as Mixed Seafood Aubergine Towers, Fillet Steak with Black Truffle in Birds Nest, Crispy Duck with Plum Sauce, Stir Fried Crab with Garlic and Chilli and Chinese Green Gai Lan with Garlic and Shaoshing Wine.

The highlights for me were the dumplings, which were softly steamed and the Yuzu rice. Something which I'd never before experienced, the Yuzu rice was so delicious that by the end of the evening we all ended up eating it plain from the bowl; it was that good.

For the non gluten free diners, there was plenty of choice including Beef Ribs, Fresh Cream Egg Tarts, Roast Pork Buns and more.

Afterwards, there was karaoke and shots of something called Joybo, a Chinese liquor aimed at a younger market.

Dim Sum and fun? That'll be Wing Wah.

*Gifted meal courtesy of Paul Fulford and Wing Wah.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Food Review: The Summer House Bar and Grill, Hall Green

For the first time in a long time, I took a trip outside the city centre (where the food scene is still flourishing I'm happy to report) to try out the Summer House Bar and Grill. Not on my usual patch, it's located in Hall Green. My sat nav got me there quickly enough and once I was on the right road, it was easy to find as it's helpfully lit up.

A large former pub that's been lovingly converted back in October 2018, there's also a rather good sized car park which makes life easier for all the drivers out there. 

Stepping in from the car park, we first entered the pub area before moving further in towards the restaurant seating area. There's also another room at the back for live sports. The restaurant itself is comfortable, with quite a few tables, a bar and a view to the kitchen.

The menu is really diverse, with options from curry to Chinese and even classic pub, making sure you can avoid that awkward "where shall we eat" conversation.

For starters we ate the Tandoori King Prawns and Lamb Seekh Kebab. The lamb arrived sizzling and was juicy and tender, whilst the prawns were huge in size and expertly cut.

For mains, we ordered traditional curry since we'd had a sizzling lamb seekh for starters. I ordered a Chicken Biryani, which was such a big portion that I even got to enjoy it for lunch the next day. My dining partner had the Chicken Tikka Masala (sorry to be such a cliche!) and we shared a veggie dish of aloo as well as some plain rice.

Our mains were delicious, smooth, creamy sauces lapped up with plenty of rice for me and a naan bread for my companion (not gluten free). 

The portion sizes were so plentiful, the restaurant offers real value for money in a very laid back, homely environment.

For anyone heading towards the area looking for a tasty pit-stop, The Summer House ticks all the boxes. In summer, the restaurant is even better thanks to the outdoor space and cleverly designed kitchen allowing service from indoors and outdoors. The owner was also there to greet us and was a wonderful warm host too. Overall? This is fast, friendly and great value dining that's relaxed with a family feel.

*Gifted meal. With thanks to The Summer House and Delicious PR for the complimentary meal. 

Friday, 25 January 2019

Food review: Fiesta Del Asado, Solihull

Most foodies in Birmingham will have heard of Fiesta Del Asado, the Argentinian steak restaurant on the Hagley Road. What many people don't know however is that Fiesta Del Asado has a new little sister; Fiesta Del Asado in Solihull.

On the main High Street in Shirley, this Fiesta Del Asado has a markedly different look and feel. Whilst both restaurants retain a masculine, dark wood interior, this site also has large windows and plenty of indoor foliage. 

The Solihull restaurant also has a slightly different menu, with an after school family platter available for two adults and two children to share between 3pm and 5.30pm.

The space itself is also more varied and more accommodating to different group sizes and different types of diners. For example, the cosy window nooks are great for smaller or more intimate groups.

Onto the meal itself; we arrived and propped up the bar for a little while whilst we rounded up everyone's Christmas and New Year. I opted for a gin and tonic since I'm not doing Dry January. Just in case you were wondering why, it's because I don't go out much over Christmas anyway, so there seems little sense in it for me personally.

It will become apparent that I'm also not partaking in Veganuary. I'm gluten free already and lactose intolerant, although I try to pretend I'm not (cheese anyone?) and the thought of giving it all up for leaves and berries is not an appealing one. However, stranger things have happened so perhaps one day I'll give it a shot. Until then, I'm still on the meat bandwagon.

I digress. We made our way to a table with velvet covered bench seating on the balcony area. The interior is very spacious and wide open, unlike the nooks and crannies that can be found at the sister site.

We started off by ordering Padron peppers and olives, both of which had a kick. I tried not to eat too many as I knew what was coming next; steak.

I ordered the Marucha Flat Iron, a 20oz flat iron steak taken from the feather muscle, chuck and blade. I seem to remember hearing that this was a flavourful cut. We also ordered fries, pepper and squash asados and potato criolla to share.

My dining companion Paul Fulford also ordered steak and Helen from Positive Fridays ordered the Chicken Parilla. 

My steak was very big and very tasty, seasoned with a rub that I am dying to get the recipe for. I ordered this medium rare, as recommended, which worked well with this particular cut. It was by far and away the best steak I have eaten in a very long time, probably since having dined at the original Fiesta. As much as I love to eat steak, too often I find that I'm disappointed or that the piece I've been served is too tough even when served medium.

The chicken also went down well, and looked very well seasoned. 

All of the accompaniments were delicious and I tried to steer myself away from the chips, as delicious as they were.

We ordered a main course each and skipped the starters and desserts. I would recommend this tactic if you're thinking of dining here and want to make the most of the delicious steaks on offer. As a gluten free diner, this makes a lot of sense as many of the starters and desserts are not suitable for a gluten free diet, with the exception of the chicken wings, padron peppers, olives and sausage.

The quality of the food is always exceptional at Fiesta Del Asado. As tempting as it is to go elsewhere and compromise on price, it always results in a compromise on taste.

A meal at Fiesta Del Asado is always special and never disappoints. For committed carnivores, the steak is always high quality and flavoursome, cooked just right to respect the cut and flavour of each steak. There are of course, other options on the menu, but when they do steak so well, it seems a shame to skip the star of the show.

*With thanks to Fiesta Del Asado for the complimentary meal. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Food Review: Aluna Birmingham New Menu

Whilst there's plenty of choices when it comes to eating and drinking in The Mailbox, Aluna is one of my favourites for the inventive cocktails, great service and smart but chilled vibe.

Many of you will know Aluna as a cocktail bar, and whilst they've always offered food, they've upped their game big time with the arrival of the new food menu.

Designed by London consultancy Kinkou, the new menu features Asian fusion dishes inspired by the teams travels and training in London, New York and Shanghai. 

Tempted to try more? I was treated to a first look at the new menu.

Arriving at the Canalside bar and restaurant, I headed straight to the bar and ordered a Flaming Ginberries (Beefeater, Hayman's Sloe, Blueberry, Cranberry and Lime) cocktail to get things started. Aluna is well known for it's expansive cocktail menu, so picking a drink is harder than you think.

I was then seated in a booth style table with a host of Birmingham's finest media stars. The staff came straight over to explain the menu, the difference between the small plates and large plates and how many to order of each. In the end, we decided to share many of the plates within smaller groups so we could all see and taste the new menu.

The new menu is split into appetisers; plates to share, small dishes, salads and sides meaning you have the option to either share or order individually.

Some of the plates to share we ordered were the Red Scallop Curry, Mitsuba Fillet Steak and Wasabi Lamb Chops.

We also ordered some small dishes including the Chilli Salt Squid, Pan Roasted Scallops, Spicy Chicken Wings and Tiger Prawn Cookies (not GF).

Sides included Skinny Fries, Sweet Potato Fries and Steamed Seasonal Vegetables (I ordered these in the interests of being healthy!)

The staff were really helpful when it came to checking what was gluten free, and although the menu is not marked, our server checked with the chef what I could and couldn't eat. Please bear in mind that I can eat soy sauce though!

My favourite dish from the above has got to be the Red Scallop Curry. Rich, creamy and full of balanced flavours including sweet and sour, this was an absolute showstopper. Everyone who tried it agreed it was delicious, so definitely try this if you do come in.

Next, the Mitsuba Fillet Steak and Wasabi Lamb Chops. Great quality meat, a little spicy seasoning and great cooking just the way I like it (pink please).

I also tried the Pan Roasted Scallops, which were perfectly translucent, plump and chargrilled to bring out the flavour, and Chilli Salt Squid, which had quite a kick.

Onto the desserts, the rest of the table ordered the Praline Mi-Cut and Lemon Ginger Cheesecake. The Praline looked incredible, with an oozing rich chocolatey nutty centre.

I ordered a French Martini for dessert, as you do.

Overall, I was really impressed with the new menu. I haven't eaten at Aluna before so although I can't compare, the new menu is exactly right for the venue. As stylish as their signature cocktails, these dishes are picture perfect, light enough or filling enough to be eaten with or without a drink and more importantly full of flavour.

I would happily come back to eat here and order a few meat and fish dishes, although I'd probably admit defeat on the vegetables next time!

Aluna has seriously upped its game on the food front, offering not just tempting cocktails, but food that wouldn't be out of place in the trendiest of London bars.

*With thanks to Aluna for the complimentary meal