Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Food Review: The Lyttelton Arms, Hagley


The Lyttlelton Arms in Hagley has something of a reputation. Despite being located in a quaint village in Worcestershire, just outside of Stourbridge, it's always been known as one of the classier, more established drinking establishments. The food offering has always been around, but has never been as talked about as the drinks, atmosphere and outdoor terrace. Could this be about to change though?

With a new menu and total makeover, the pub has been transformed into a glamorous and premium spot for food and drinks, with the addition of regular live music, events and brand partnered parties. 

The interior "styling is based on the concept of Champagne bubbles and the decadent colour palette inspired by the deep greens and poppy blues of peacock feathers." 

Parking up in the on site car park and walking through the outdoor seating area on a warm day, you can see why The Lyttelton Arms has always been popular, especially on a warm summer evening. Up until this point, not much had changed, but walking into the restaurant and turning right to the bar seating area it was clear that there was a lot more glam on offer. With beautiful turquoise plush velvet chairs and brass fittings, it was a feast for the eyes.

We headed to the bar for our drinks and I took full advantage of the Tanqueray Gin Bar set up especially for the occasion. Here, we could add our own flavours from citrus to fruits.

Back at the table, we nibbled on a serving selection of starters, and I was given my own little plate of gluten free starters to try.

Then, we were royally spoilt with a selection of oysters. Although they're not for everyone, I adore these salty delicacies and they added to the glamour and indulgence of the evening.

We moved over to the main restaurant seating area and sat down to take a look at the new menu. With the usual starters, mains and desserts and plenty of classics such as steaks, burgers and cod and chips, the starters were organised handily into meat free, sea and land as well as sections for healthy mains and rotisserie and grill to help you decide. 

For starters, we ordered the Duck Liver Parfait, Panko-crusted Fried Brie and Tempura Squid. I ordered the Parfait and they had gluten free bread on hand to ensure I had something to spread this smooth and buttery parfait onto. The squid was delightfully light and crispy, whilst the brie was just as you'd expect, hot and gooey. All three dishes came with generous portions of sauces and condiments (a pet hate of mine is to receive too little or none at all!)

Onto main courses, we chose some rather meaty dishes of Steak, Four Bone Lamb Rack and Panko Crumbed Chicken Milanese.

The steak was especially impressive, coming with chips, confit tomato, parsley butter and caramelised onion, stilton and panko crumbed tart as standard. This is before adding the optional extras of sauces, prawns or scallops.

The Chicken was again, crispy and light, whilst my lamb dish was perfect; a little pink, very tender and very filling. My lamb dish was also gluten free, which was impressive as the dauphinoise potatoes so often are not.

All of our mains were again, generously sized, with plenty of sides and sauces coming as standard meaning theres no need to shell out on extras to bulk out small portions here.

Finally, we ordered some very classic desserts of Apple and Rhubarb Crumble,  Creme Brulee and Frozen Berries and Hot White Chocolate Sauce.

All were delicious, and the creme brulee even came with a few Amaretti biscuits (not gluten free) on the side (see what I said about those all important extras?)

It doesn't end here, there was tea and coffee to round up the meal which also come with a few treats, but alas we were far too full to enjoy them. A note, the biscuits were not gluten free.

My thoughts on The Lyttelton Arms? It's been a while since I had a meal as enjoyable as this. The whole evening was so well thought out and everything had been considered. There were tours, an interactive gin station and then just impeccable service from start to finish.

The food itself was fantastic, generous portions, a great selection of everything from meat and chicken to veggie options and plenty of gluten free options too.

There were plenty of delicious gin cocktails on the menu to enjoy that were inventive but drinkable, with no duds to be seen.

Would I come back? Absolutely. From the interiors, to the service, to the drinks menu to the food itself, everything here is worth enjoying alone. From summer drinks outside that are a step above your usual pub standard G&T to starters and sharers to nibble on that beat peanuts hands down, there's so many occasions where The Lyttleton Arms would be the perfect pick. Whatever you thought you knew about The Lyttelton Arms, I promise you it's worth a trip to see just how far it's come.

*GIFTED MEAL. All food and drink was complimentary. With thanks to The Lyttelton Arms.

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.