Friday 8 January 2016

Food Review: Amantia Birmingham

Happy New Year folks! For my first post of 2016, I'll be talking tapas and sharing my experience of dining at Amantia in Birmingham city centre.

Bennett's Hill is home to plenty of new restaurants, including Cosy Club and of course Buffalo and Rye. But how about Amantia? A truly independent addition to the Birmingham food scene located on one of the city's prime dining and imbibing spots, the restaurant has some serious competition. But what lies behind the unassuming frontage?

Walking off the busy street into the restaurant, you realise that the space is bigger than it appears. With a small bar area to the right of the room, the main dining area is on the left, separated into two by a clever abstract wall.

Dining early on a Monday lunchtime, the restaurant was not busy, but we were there to try the lunch offer and not for a buzzy evening of cocktails. Recently launched, the lunch offer is for two tapas and a drink for £9.99. At such great value, I was lucky enough to try a whopping seven items from the menu of ten, plus a cheeky extra for my companion who loves calamari.

A little about Amantia. Family run by a husband and wife team, the food is all fresh, with everything from the stock to the sausage and ribs made in house; even the bread is made fresh every morning. Much of the food is sourced from Spain, including the wine. The concept is modern too; there is no fussy furniture here, just simple clean decor and fabulous fresh food.

Back to the food. Nibbling on Habas Fritas (fried broad beans) and supping on cranberry juice and Spanish beer, we were treated to a wide selection of dishes from the lunch menu. We ordered every single gluten free item on the menu (yes, unbelievable) and there were an incredible seven out of ten which were suitable for gluten free diners.

The owner, Marta, was wonderful and explained what was in each dish and which were suitable and weren't suitable. For example, whilst the patatas bravas are gluten free, they are fried in the same oil as non gluten-free foods, so I opted to avoid these.

We ordered: Manchego Cheese with home made red pepper marmalade, pollo al ajillo (chicken in garlic sauce), chorizo al vino (spicy mini chorizo sausages cooked in red wine), champinones al ajillo (sauteed garlic mushrooms), tortilla de patata (traditional Spanish omelette), ensalada de queso de cabra (goats cheese salad, honey mustard dressing) and finally, lentejas con chorizo (spanish lentil soup). Off menu, we also ordered the calamari especially for my companion.

Which were my favourites? The tortilla for one was absolutely huge and such a great dish for lunch. Spongy, light and very filling, this is a great one for office workers nearby.

The salad was also delightful, full of flavour with thinly sliced ribbons of carrot, the dressing lifted this to new heights. There was also a very generous helping of rind on goats cheese which made this satisfying in its own right and definitely not an afterthought.

I also adored the cheese, and the quality here was evident. For a true cheese lover like me, the sauce was not needed, but I can imagine that most people would appreciate the added flavour. The presentation was also fantastic.

The next standout was the lentil dish, which was incredibly flavoursome! Add to that that fact that it tasted clearly homemade, this is Spanish comfort food at it's best. 

The chicken was again, a generous portion packed with garlic as was the mushroom dish.

My companion confirmed that the calamari was lightly battered and soft, not rubbery which all too often is the case. 

This was all served with homemade bread, which I'm assured is good.

We rounded off with an espresso each, which came served with a piece of amaretti.

Amantia offers warm and friendly service in a cool and casual environment. The warmth of the food is exactly what you'd expect from a traditional, family run Spanish restaurant, and the passion and love for the food is evident in every mouthful. Rich in flavour, every dish has been carefully thought out and prepared each and every time.

I don't know about you, but I spend £10 whenever I grab a salad and drink from a chain, and for the same price I'd much rather sit down and enjoy a meal properly.

If your resolution was to escape the office at lunch time and you work in Birmingham city centre, I can't recommend Amantia highly enough.

*I was invited to dine as a guest of Amantia

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