Thursday, 5 July 2018

Food Review: Jailbird New York Seafood and Steak

Nosh and Quaff is no more! But have no fear, Jailbird is here. Still part of the Lasan family, Jailbird has taken over what was once Nosh and Quaff on the corner of Colmore Row, staring at the back of the Floozy in the Jacuzzi.

Reimagined as a New York Seafood and Steak restaurant, I was invited to try it out for myself in some delightful company.

The ground floor has been completely reimagined, with the focus now on creating a bar lounge complete with a large bar and booth seating. The bar itself has moved away from the right hand side by the entrance and onto the left hand wall. The upstairs is now more of a dining space, flipping things around from before.

We were welcomed at the bar and offered a cocktail. The bar team whipped up something brand new for me, based on preferences for citrus and a little sweetness. I personally love it when a bar team is allowed to exercise their creative muscles, so this was good to see.

Upstairs, we took in the new look space, complete with quirky features and a decidedly green theme complete with plenty of plants.

Our table was wooden and roomy, whilst the seats were plush and comfortable; a good thing considering it may take you a little while to get through the gigantic steaks on offer.

As my fellow diners were browsing the menu, they were offered Bread and Cheese (£5.50), although this was sadly not gluten free. I had a feeling I wouldn't mind once I'd clocked that the smallest steak on the menu is a mere 16oz! Interestingly, between visiting and writing this review, the menu online now includes smaller 6oz, 8oz and 14oz steak options.

Spoilt for choice since I adore both seafood and steak, I opted for a seafood starter and steak main, although I had seriously considered the whole lobster.

I chose the Black Risotto with Prawns (£8.95), although the Black Risotto with Confit Black Garlic was also available for vegetarians.

My starter was absolutely divine; creamy black rice risotto infused with rich butter, topped off with juicy, succulent prawns. I tried the non prawn version too, and this was also delicious and well worth ordering as either a starter or main. Another diner had ordered the Scallops'n'Bacon, one of the most popular dishes on the menu, which also looked succulent.

Onto the mains, I decided to try the 16oz Flat Iron Steak (£26), which comes served with Thick Seasoned Hand Cut Chips.

Believe it or not, I've never ordered a 16oz steak, but when it came to the table I was seriously impressed by the size of it! Although I did eat almost all of it, most people would probably struggle which is why I'm glad to see there are now smaller sizes available. The taste was good, with a lovely glaze on top to add flavour. The chips were absolutely huge, and could perhaps be cut down. I would also recommend ordering something green such as the Creamed Kale with it to add some variety to the dish.

If you're not one for steak, I would recommend the Black Risotto as a main or perhaps the Flat Iron Chicken or Whole Lobster if you've come with an appetite. 

By now, dessert was definitely off the menu, but there were plenty of options including Coconut Panna Cotta and Ice Cream for gluten free diners, or Cherry Sponge, Chocolate Tart and Banana Mess if not.

There are also some dessert wines and port if you prefer to round off your meal with a little bit of something sweet in liquid form.

The new Jailbird is a sophisticated dining spot that commands attention. Conveniently placed for the business district and Snow Hill station, it's a spot for both drinking and dining with an air of old world sophistication. Meals here don't come cheap, but neither would you expect them to considering the steak is sourced from the same supplier as Fiesta Del Asado. The portions are exceptionally large in true American style and the service throughout was good. If you're looking for a slap up meal, somewhere special to celebrate or to impress on a date, Jailbird is a great choice.

*With thanks to Jailbird and Paul Fulford for the (huge!) complimentary meal. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Food Review: Don Diego Edgbaston

Tucked away opposite the White Swan is Chad Square in Edgbaston, near the border with Harborne. Home to a few small shops, this is where you'll find Don Diego restaurant.

A family run restaurant serving up Spanish food, run by two Spanish brothers, the restaurant bills itself as serving "well balanced, sunny flavours with a focus on basic quality ingredients and beautifully presented colourful food."

I headed to the restaurant with a Spanish friend to put them to the test.

Ready to welcome me before I'd even headed to the door, I was busy snapping pictures of the exterior when I was greeted by one of the owners.

The restaurant itself is quite small, with mostly small tables for two and four and velvet sofa seating around the outside. The decor features quirky picture printed wallpaper, red velvet seating and ornate mirrors.

We took our seats and ordered drinks. My dining partner opted for a traditional Alhambra Beer, whilst I had a Gin and Tonic. These arrived super quick, and we ordered some Manzilla Olives (£2.50) to nibble on as my dining partner assured me they are known for their quality.  

For starters, I picked the Smoked Salmon, Red Onions, Lemon Olive Oil (£6.50) and my companion ordered a rustic dish of Rice Black Pudding, Piquillo Peppers and Brava Sauce (£5.95). 

My salmon was a very simple dish of smoked salmon presented well on the plate, with very little else. The flesh however was fresh and sang once covered in lemon juice. 

The peppers came in a spicy tomato sauce, with the sweet exterior housing a well cooked soft filling. 

Our main courses were both fishy, with my dining companion picking the special Octopus Leg Roasted in Paprika Olive Oil (£17.95) and I had the King Prawns, Chillies, Garlic Lobster Bisque (£17.95).

The octopus is a beautiful dish to behold, presented so strikingly that it's become quite iconic in these parts. It was smoky, soft, tender and not at all rubbery.

My prawns were spicy but extremely juicy, and the sauce was delicious with the sides of Patatas Bravas and Vegetables. The potatoes were clearly boiled and then fried, which gave them both a good flavour and crispy texture. 

Wanting to try some authentic Spanish desserts, we also shared the Whiskey Chocolate Semifredo, Berries Dressing (£5.95) and Santiago Almond Tart, Apricot Puree (£5.95). I was suprrised that there was so much choice for a gluten free diner, as so often we're overlooked when it comes to dessert. I was shocked to hear that the Almond Tart doesn't include any flour, and is made from ground almonds, egg white and sugar. This made a delicious sweet treat and I'm so glad we ordered this dessert from the North of Spain. The semifredo was also delicious, sweet, creamy with a little fruit coulis to add to it. 

Don Diego is a traditional family run Spanish restaurant, something that can be difficult to find. As a cuisine, it can be hard to find amongst the hoards of Italian's serving pizza and pasta. With rustic charm and a real sense of authenticity, the food quality meant it was a thumbs up from me and my Spanish friend.

*With thanks to Don Diego and East Village PR for the complimentary meal.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Food Review: Smokey Barrels Birmingham

The American Smoke House is a restaurant trend that you may well have heard of, offering meaty dishes of ribs, burgers and brisket alongside slaw and more.

Smokey Barrels has opened near Birmingham on the Coventry Road and I was lucky enough to be able to make a visit.

Located outside of the city centre in Yardley, the restaurant itself is impossible to miss and clearly signposted from the main road.

With plenty of parking, I parked up by the door (always a bonus) and headed in. The inside of the restaurant heavily features wood, staying true to the American Smoke House theme. With a large bar and a mix of seating from high tables, to booths and banqueting tables, there's plenty of options.

We headed to a high table and had a look at the menu. There's plenty of platters, starters and mains to choose from, including everything from fajitas to salmon skewers if Smoke House isn't your thing.

I opted for the Cajun Prawn Skewers (£5.95) and Smoked Beef Brisket (£13.50). My dining companion opted for the Halloumi and Red Pepper Skewers (£5.95) and Half Slab of Texan Glazed Ribs (£13.95).

Everything arrives smoking hot and by smoking, I really do mean smoking! The food arrived at the table fairly quickly, and love them or hate them, there was plentiful use of wooden boards.

The starters were tasty and a good sized portion. I enjoyed my prawns and they were cooked and seasoned well. I really felt that this starter in particular offered good value for money.

Onto the mains, just check out the size of our plates! Both the ribs and brisket arrived in plentiful portions. Both dishes came wish sides as standard, so for the ribs this looked like skin on fries, grilled corn and BBQ pit beans. For my brisket, this included skin on fries, slaw and pickles.

My beef came with a little sauce, and I asked for some extra as it was a) tasty and b) added some moisture to the meat. The slaw and pickles were delicious too and it was good to see so many sides included as standard, especially as it was a change from the usual mash or salad option.

My dining companion enjoyed her ribs, although was a little defeated by the size of them! She also enjoyed her sides.

Although we were too full for dessert, there are some tasty looking options available including Chocolate and Peanut Butter Slice, Caramel Cookie Crunch and Doughnut Dippers. Sadly, none of these are gluten free but I definitely didn't leave hungry.

We were also treated to a peek at the in house smoker, where everything is smoked on site.

Smokey Barrels is a themed restaurant. Great for families with plenty of space inside and out, it's a convenient spot for a slap up meal. The starters and mains are a good sides portion, and to be honest, you could happily enjoy just a main course and not feel like you'd missed out because of the sides that are included with the dish. This makes the main courses in particular great value.

The service was friendly throughout, and our waiter was really helpful when it came to catering for my gluten free diet. He was more than happy to check with the kitchen and confirm what was and wasn't suitable and importantly, why, proving the staff know what goes into each dish.

Overall, Smokey Barrels is a fun family friendly restaurant with sizeable portions and a friendly team.

*With thanks to Smokey Barrels and Delicious PR for the complimentary meal.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Food Review: Primitivo Birmingham's new breakfast menu

Primitivo has a long history in the city of Birmingham. A favourite of city boys and bankers, the establishment will celebrate it's 21st birthday in August.

Known as a spot for after work drinks and boozy lunches, what it's not known for is breakfast; until now. Just launched, Primitivo is now serving breakfasts on weekdays from 8am by booking. Will this bar's breakfasts hold up?

Right in the heart of the business district, Primitivo or 'Prim's' as it is affectionately known, is handily close to Snow Hill station on Barwick Street.

Serving up champers and beer on weekday evening's (they're closed on weekends), they're opening early to fill bellies and glasses.

I arrived early on Saturday morning and joined a table full of fellow bloggers. I declined the offer of champagne and sipped tea instead. I was pleasantly surprised to see there are a number of gluten free options on the menu, including gluten free toast in place of an English muffin in the Eggs Benedict and a Rosti, Egg and Mushroom dish that is naturally gluten free. I opted for the Rosti (£7.95) as I thought perhaps you've seen enough Eggs Benedict on here for a while.

The others indulged in a few croissants too (£2.95), and I was generously furnished with gluten free toast and preserves to start (£1.95).

Onto the main event, the potato rosti arrived topped with a huge portobello mushroom, poached egg and a glorious hollandaise sauce. The portion was very generous and the hollandaise was unlike any other I've ever tried (I think there was some additional cheese in here).

The others went for the Full English, a steal at £8.95. The price of the dishes is well worth mentioning. Compared to so many other brunch spots, the menu is very keenly priced, and my rosti was worth at least £7.95 if not more for such a well crafted, freshly prepared dish.

Although the menu is small, it is indeed perfectly formed. My rosti dish was something that I have not tried elsewhere, and I would gladly have this again on any day of the week.

Whilst we were there, we were introduced to not just the chefs, but also the owners and team. The feeling was very much of family, and we were warmly welcomed and treated as friends.

Primitivo has almost legendary status in Birmingham. Guests are welcomed and treated like family, and there lies the secret to it's success. The bar and eatery is there to look after its patrons and this is something that shows in the food, drink and hospitality.

If you're looking for a regular drinking spot in Birmingham, Primitivo could just hit the spot.

*With thanks to Primitivo and Paul Fulford for the invitation.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

My laser hair removal experience at LA Skin Harborne

Unless you're one of the lucky few, you may well have considered hair removal before. For many, the dream of having hair free legs, arms or underarms and slipping into a summer sundress without worrying about shaving or waxing is a very real one.

I was lucky enough to be invited to try out a course of three laser hair removal sessions at LA Skin, Harborne. At LA Skin, they use Soprano Ice Platinum, the most advanced laser hair removal machine available on the market. The machine uses three different wavelengths to target the hair at three depths, making it more effective than other machines which use just one. It also makes is suitable for use on more skin types including darker skins. Described as virtually pain free, a special cooling gel is applied to keep the skin cool and comfortable during treatment.

A course of six treatments is usually recommended, because hair grows in cycles and only 10-15% of hair is in the growing cycle at any one time.

I'll be posting throughout the experience and keeping you updated on my progress, but for now, here's my first thoughts.

Located in Harborne, I parked up and headed to Knightlow Fitness Studio where the clinic is based and was welcomed by Poonam.

Heading upstairs, the treatment took place in a calming space that looked like any other beauty therapy room; clean, serene and dotted with candles and calming trinkets.

After chatting to Poonam, I filled in the consultation form which asked for some details around my health to check my suitability for treatment and headed to the couch. I decided to treat my underarms and after turning on the machine, Poonam applied gel to the area and decked me out in a visor. The machine head was then run over my underarms in a series of quick movements and the whole process took minutes. Although it did feel warm, I can honestly say I didn't feel any pain at all. The process was repeated on the other side and after the gel was removed, that was the end of the treatment.

The whole process was quick, easy and pain free. I booked in for my next treatment four weeks later, and really look forward to seeing a difference between the first and third session.

Have any of you tried laser hair removal? How did you get on?

*With thanks to LA Skin for the complimentary treatment 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Food Review: Brunch at The Ivy, Temple Row, Birmingham

The opening of The Ivy, Birmingham, is one of the most exciting to happen in the city this year.

Located on the former Louis Vuitton site overlooking the Cathedral and park, we’ve been longing for the opening of those iconic green doors.

I was invited to an exclusive blogger brunch in the private dining room, the Spencer Room on the opening weekend.

Walking into the reception area, guests are greeted in the hallway before being able to pass through to the main restaurant. Here, you’ll be given a wait time or told if you can head straight through.

The bar is the first thing you’ll notice, a chic little hotspot for cheeky drinks and rendezvous.

From here, there is a ground floor seating area, leading up to a mezzanine space, which overlooks Fumo.

If you continue up the stairs, you’ll find the private dining room. Beautifully laid out and ready to host any number of formal occasions and celebrations, the room is large enough to seat around 20 guests. The corner houses a very photo ready backdrop of a large palm, two stunning blue velvet chairs and a side table. The walls are adorned with botanical art, mirroring the lush green of the park it overlooks. The lighting is spectacular, overflowing with natural light from the windows.

Onto the food and service, as soon as I sat down I was attended to with an offer of a drink. Between Beet It Juice (beetroot, carrot and apple) and Green Juice (avocado, mint, celery, spinach, apple and parley), I chose the former.

There was also a selection of pastries, which I declined on the basis that they weren’t gluten free, but I did enjoy some tea whilst I picked from the menu.

We were offered a selection of treats from the breakfast menu, including hot buttermilk pancakes, avocado tomato and sesame on toast, eggs royale, eggs benedict, avocado on toast or coconut yoghurt with berries. Had I been in the mood to count calories, I should have opted for the yoghurt. However, I picked the Eggs Royale on gluten free toast instead.

Everything miraculously arrived at the same time, and was gracefully served to the table so that we could start papping each others meals quickly before eventually digging in.

My Eggs Royale did of course look different to everyone else’s as it came on gluten free toast and not a muffin. It was however, delicious. The salmon was fresh and plentiful and the Hollandaise sauce was tasty but not too heavy or overpowering.

We then had an opportunity to sit and chat around the large table, and make use of the beautiful lighting to take pictures by the window and in the “made for instagram” chair corner!

Overall, I cannot fault the service and experience at The Ivy, Birmingham. The service was polite but friendly, and exceptionally professional.

The food itself was good quality and not at all overpriced compared to what you’d expect to pay for a similar meal in any of the city’s many brunch spots.

For me, the stand out element of The Ivy is not just the perfect service, but the beautiful interior. I would describe it as an Art Deco jungle, with metalwork, art and plenty of greenery, it’s a very chic jungle in there.

I can’t wait to go back, in fact, I already have.

*With thanks to Rewired PR and The Ivy for the complimentary meal