Monday 25 January 2016

Cocktail Masterclass at Bar Opus and Afternoon Tea Launch

I haven’t been to Bar Opus since our Dine Birmingham get together a while back where we shared a few nibbles, drinks and also took pictures for the website.

However, I was recently invited to join a cocktail masterclass with a difference. Not only did we get to make cocktails, but we also got to play a game of dares and crown the King or Queen of Bar Opus. There was event a sneaky surprise in the form of… Afternoon Tea! But more on that later.

We were greeted by Sam, the Bar Manager, who took on the role of MC for the afternoon, showing us around two cocktails, a number of dares, crowning a winner and also generally keeping us on track. Tim from Bar Opus was also on hand to demonstrate each drink and help us out.

Taking our places, we were each given a work station, ready set up with everything we needed to make the first cocktail, a Mellow Yellow. 

The Mellow Yellow is an existing drink on the menu that takes it's name and colour from Limoncello. I'm partial to a sip of this after a long, Italian meal, but I've never had it in a cocktail before.

Here's the recipe in case you wanted to make this at home:

25ml Limoncello
12.5ml Chase Great British Gin
12.5ml Sugar Syrup
12.5ml Fresh Lemon Juice
Topped with lemonade

I couldn't wait to get tucked into this drink as I have a sweet tooth, and this did not disappoint.

However, there was more to come. Next we made a Chase Me, a cocktail which is soon to be introduced to the cocktail list. Named after the gin, this was similarly sweet, and after following Tim's lead, I took a sip and couldn't believe that this cocktail was even more delicious than the last. Flavoured with rhubarb and vanilla, this tasted like a beautiful vanilla panna cotta with a rhubarb coulis. Delicious!

50ml Chase Rhubarb Vodka
25ml Monin Vanilla Syrup
12.5ml Lemon Juice
75ml Apple Juice
Shaken and strained

Next, Sam judged the King or Queen of the bar based on mixology, knowledge, taste, presentation and free pouring. After a little deliberation, Chloe was crowned Queen of Bar Opus!

Throughout the class, we'd also been playing a version of Ring of Fire, where we had to chase rhymes, act out dares and answer questions. Whoever failed a task had to choose an element to add to our group drink. At the end of the class, the last person left to lose a dare had to drink the drink. In this case, it was Vicky from Brumderland, but us being us, we had actually managed to make a rather nice little cocktail.

Finally, out came a giant martini glass from behind the bar, named a Floozie in the Jacuzzi after our very own local landmark.

Unbeknownst to us, we were also treated to Afternoon Tea, something which Bar Opus has just launched. Including finger sandwiches, cakes, scones, clotted cream and preserve, it's offered with unlimited tea for £15pp, with Juniper, a Spanish style G&T or a Martini for £17.50pp, or for those wishing to really push the boat out, with a glass of prosecco for £18.50pp.

The afternoon tea was very generous, and I even got to try my own gluten free version too.

Big thanks to Sam, Tim and the team at Bar Opus for hosting us.

Cocktail masterclasses are available to book at £15 per person and last 1 hour.

Monday 18 January 2016

OOTD: Grey jumper and a bomber jacket

How to keep cosy and stay stylish? That's a good question. Without the LA weather, it's hard to style up an outfit when inevitably you'll have to throw a coat and scarf over it.

This outfit manages to be warm, stylish and pretty comfortable too. The secret weapon here is the roll neck jumper; no scarf required!

The jumper has been my absolute saviour this winter and kept me so cosy, whilst the jacket is great for days off and to wear casually.

I've only just realised that I've paired a pair of Nike trainers with a Prada bag, how's that for Sports Luxe!

Outfit details: Bomber Jacket / Jumper / Trainers / Jeans /Bag (similar available here)

Images c/o Emily

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