Friday 21 February 2020

Food Review: The Barnt Green Inn

AD / Gifted meal

Anyone familiar with Barnt Green will have heard of the Barnt Green Inn. With a reputation as one of the finest watering holes in the area, there's now a new and improved food offering to match.

Rebranded as "the all new Barnt Green Inn - Country Pub and Dining", there has been significant investment in the interior including a new seating section at the bar, a private dining area and an upgraded garden.

It's true, I have been to the Barnt Green Inn before, but sadly only for a drink in the garden on a gorgeous summer's day.

Luckily, I was able to finally enjoy a meal when I visited on a Wednesday evening alongside a select few bloggers and press.

Pulling up a pew at the Hendricks Gin Bar, we were able to pick a gin base (standard or Blood Orange Hendricks) and pimp it up with a selection of fruit and flavourings to make a bespoke G&T. I for one am a big gin fan and couldn't resist trying both a berry infusion and a blood orange and citrus blend of my own creation.

We headed to the back of the restaurant to our table and were greeted by one of the friendliest waitresses I've met. She was knowledgeable about the gluten free menu and guided us on our choices based both on allergen information and also on preference when we dithered.

As we looked a the menu, we were asked whether we'd like some oysters to start. Well, who can say no to oysters? I for one adore them but my dining companion is averse to the slimy sea creatures. No mind, all the more for me.

The oysters were salty and came with Tabasco. I prefer mine as they come or with a shallot mignonette so I swallowed these down whole and plain.

To start, my dining partner had the tempura squid whilst I had the massaman chicken skewers. Portion wise, the squid was exceptionally generous and was crisp on the outside but soft and easy to eat on the inside. My chicken skewers, although unusual to find on a menu, were delicious. The portion size in comparison was not as large but the three skewers were filling and the flavours were light and perfect for spring.

For mains we shared the eight bone free range lamb rack which comes served with crispy thyme baby potatoes, french style peas, sauteed cavolo nero and minted jus. Public service announcement - if you ever come here and eat meat/like lamb, this is the dish for you. The excitement started when the stands came to the table first ready to receive the serving plate, and continued when the huge plate was laid down in front of us. A veritable feast it was, filled with a huge portion of crispy potatoes, followed by rich buttered greens and the lamb itself, alongside two mini saucepans full of the minted jus. This dish has everything you could possibly want, from crispy herby potatoes to chunky green veg and soft lamb served a little pink to meet our preferences in the middle. The best part? The sauce the lamb sits on is a creamy, salty, oniony stew of flavours that went with everything from the veg to the lamb. I do love a meal that comes loaded with sauce and this certainly ticked that box.

For dessert we had an apple, plum and damson crumble and a sticky toffee pudding, both desserts that memories are made of and both gluten free! My sticky toffee pudding was a real childhood favourite, I remember eating these in primary school and I can't remember having one too many times since then. Gooey, warm and served with a caramelised banana and honeycomb ice cream, the presentation was spot on. The crumble was also good but I have a thing for a really overcooked crumble, where the sides are burnt on and the top is slightly crisp. Personal preference but I would still order this again.

From start to finish we had a wonderful night at The Barnt Green Inn. Right from the warm welcome to the great service at the table to saying goodbye, we were treated like welcome guests. The food is well worth coming in for and I'm so pleased that there's more on offer than cool drinks but a really hearty food offering for lunches and dinners too.

I can't wait to come back again and would highly recommend a visit for anyone who's in the area or wants to take a trip out to the countryside for some stylish British gastropub food.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Food Review: Marmalade at The Rep


When was the last time you went for dinner and a trip to the theatre? If you're anything like me, perhaps it's been a while since you enjoyed the relaxed pleasures of an evening spent at dinner followed by a a long sit down at the theatre taking in the action on stage.

I was lucky enough to be invited to sample the pre-theatre menu at Marmalade before watching The Lovely Bones at The Rep.

The pre-theatre menu is available from 6pm on show days and includes two courses for £19.50 or three courses for £24.50.

The starters include soup, pate and calamari, the mains include sea bass, burgers and jambonette and the dessert selection includes lemon tart, apple and rhubarb crumble, ice cream and cheese.

I arrived with my dining companion at 5.30pm which gave us plenty of time to eat before the show started at 7.30pm.

Handily located just off Broad Street, we parked at one of the nearby multi-storey car parks before walking down and taking in the sights of the newly revamped Centenary Plaza.

Inside, the restaurant is spacious and was busy with people buzzing with excitement in anticipation of the evening's entertainment. Located besides the ICC, it was great fun to watch as people walked past in tuxedo's and ball gowns.

We took a seat and were offered water first before taking in the menu. The team were really knowledgable about what I could and couldn't eat as a gluten free diner, and I picked the Mackerel Pate whilst my dining companion picked the Calamari. Both were gluten free and I was especially excited to try the Calamari as it's so rare to find a gluten free version of this.

They arrived quickly and well presented. The Calamari was hot, light, crispy and well paired with the zesty mayo dip. The pater felt like a healthier option but was also delicious, and needed no bread thanks to the handy vegetable boats it came presented in.

Onto the mains, I went for the Catch of the Day which happened to be Seabass (I like to pretend it's not as naughty as the other menu options) whilst my dining companion went for the Blade of Beef.

Again, they arrived hot and quickly and were both full of flavour. My fish was a lighter option, served with a little veg but much improved by the addition of some side dishes. The beef was a much heartier option however, served with a delectable sauce that was full of much more flavour than I'm used to.

We couldn't resist dessert and I picked the Lemon Tart which is miraculously, gluten free. I love it when there's a seemingly gluten-full dessert on the menu that actually turns out to be gluten-free. We also ordered the Apple and Rhubarb Crumble with coconut ice-cream. This was also happily gluten free, meaning I could eat/share them both.

A few gin goblets and a jazzily named Brum Punch were also served over dinner.

By the time we'd polished off our three course meal, it was time to take our seats and enjoy the show.

The Lovely Bones is a pretty sad story, and one that I'd read before watching the play. This interpretation was very different to how I had imagined and probably not for the faint hearted.

Overall, we had a great evening. Relaxed and a little bit naughty, there's something so civilised about taking in dinner and a show and yet I don't do it enough. The menu itself offered superb value for money and I would come back for this again. Three courses for less than £25 is great value, and I'd urge anyone who hasn't been to Marmalade to try it as you won't be disappointed.

Thank you to Marmalade and The Rep for the complimentary meal and theatre tickets.

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.