Thursday 27 October 2016

Food Review: The One Elm and Sunday's in Stratford

A lazy Sunday is a rare treat isn't it? The chance to take a trip away from the hustle and bustle and find a spot for Sunday lunch and perhaps, relaxation.

Stratford-upon-Avon is one of my favourite places to visit on a Sunday for some real rest and relaxation. Walking along the canals, watching the swans as they glide elegantly across the water, and feeling inspired at the Royal Shakespeare Company are all reasons why I love to visit the town.

It was on one such Sunday that I was able to combine some of my favourite Sunday activities; a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, an opportunity to eat out and to spend time with family.

The One Elm is a gastropub in Stratford that is full of history. It's located in a beautiful historic building that is far enough outside of the centre to be away from the masses, and yet central enough to walk to from Shakespeare's Birthplace.

With a focus on fresh, seasonal food, and of course hospitality, I was invited to dine there on the last glorious sunny Sunday of summer.

First of all, the clan and I wanted to work up an appetite by walking to the RSC, across the river and exploring the town centre complete with quirky shops such as The Nutcracker Christmas Shop.

After we'd satisfied our exploratory urges, we walked over to The One Elm and were ready to tuck into a hearty Sunday roast.

Following a warm welcome, we were shown to the dining area at the pub which was already busy with families and locals enjoying both the food, and of course time together.

The interior is rustic and warm, and we took a look at the Sunday Best menu, featuring a smaller selection of dishes available in the week as well as a number of variations on the roast dinner itself.

Explaining that I am gluten-free was simple and the staff were great at pointing out what I could eat and what could be amended.

After much deliberating, the family decided on what to eat, with some opting for the Sunday Roast and others, for starters and mains.

Wanting to save myself the main event, I decided against a starter but watched as my dining companions tucked into Warm Crispy Camembert, Fig Relish and Rocket £6.50, and Smoked Haddock Fishcakes and Pea Mayonnaise £6.75.

The Camembert came huge, round and perfectly cooked, with plenty of oozing cheese to satisfy any cheese fan. The fig relish was a welcome touch, and something that I felt was perfect for breaking up the flavours.

The fishcakes were again, well cooked, crispy on the outside and soft inside, with haddock combined with potatoes to make a satisfying starter.

Onto the main event, I had a gluten free roast beef dinner (£15) which came without the Yorkshire Pudding and I also couldn't eat the Cauliflower Cheese. As you can see, there was still plenty for me to eat, and my father had the standard beef roast complete with a huge Yorkshire.

The portions were again, hearty, and I was especially pleased to see the trimmings served separately on a wooden board. These included gravy and seasonal vegetables, which come as standard, as well as Cauliflower Cheese (£3.75) and Stuffing (£3.50) which we ordered as extras.

For my remaining dining companions, there was steak all round. Although this isn't normally available, it was served on the day we visited to substitute another dish. This came with a choice of Peppercorn Sauce or Bearnaise.

Finally, it was time for dessert, and I'm not normally one to shy away. The highlight of dessert was most definitely the crumble of the day (£5.75), which is served at the table with custard. Arriving at the table was a whole, entire apple crumble along with a serving spoon. Our waiter served this at the table, and my father asked for ice cream instead of custard, which was duly served. This was definitely the best value item on the dessert menu and I'd recommend it for anyone else dining at The One Elm.

I opted for the Creme Brulee (£5.50), which came served with a shortbread biscuit (not GF) , whilst my mum chose the Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart with Chantilly Cream (£5.75). My mum was very impressed and was on the verge of a re-order!

We rounded off the meal with coffee and espresso, not wanting to leave this oasis of warmth and hospitality.

Eventually, it was time to leave behind The One Elm and return to the city, but we spent a good few hours enjoying the hearty food and great service.

If you're visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, why not step away from the busy streets and find yourself in this corner of quiet?

*With thanks to the team at The One Elm.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Event: Henry Wong Harborne Gluten Free Menu Launch

Eating out Cantonese style is notoriously difficult as a gluten free diner. Sauces, batter and seasoning all make it a minefield for anyone who is avoiding wheat and gluten.

If you're looking for gluten free Chinese food in Birmingham however, your prayers have been answered. Henry Wong Harborne is one of the very few Chinese restaurants in the UK where gluten free diners can eat with ease, and I was invited to a blogger dinner to try it out.

Located on the high street in plush Harborne, we were greeted with a cocktail reception at the bar before making our way to the table. I'll apologise now in advance that it was pretty dark at our table, but hopefully you'll be able to get an idea of what we tried out.

As always, the hospitality was first class, everyone was asked if they wanted a drink and coats were swiftly removed from the table.

Onto the menu, these were specially created for our dinner, but everything we ate is always available, which means no phoning in advance, as each dish is cooked to order.

There were plenty of starters to try, including Chicken and Shittake Mushroom Yuk Sung with Pine Nuts, Asparagus and Soft Shell Crab.

Yuk Sung is always a crowd pleaser, and this was no exception. The pine nuts made for a very welcome addition to the dish and enhanced an already great dish. We were even offered gluten free soy sauce!

The Asparagus was exactly as I like it, fresh, crisp, and seasoned with salt and some chilli, just enough to liven it up.

Onto the Soft Shell Crab, this was the real knockout. Served on an almighty platter that was enough for a large group of ten, I had to try this. Even though I love seafood, I have always disliked crab. I'm happy to report though that I couldn't get enough of this dish of crunchy, lightly battered crab. I would highly recommend this starter in particular to anyone.

For our main course options, we sampled Sweet and Sour Chicken, Sizzling Beef in Black Pepper Sauce, Pak Choi in Garlic Sauce, Honey Pepper King Prawns and Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Spring Onion.

The absolute star of this course was the Honey Pepper King Prawn. Sweet, crispy, and huge, this is another dish I would highly recommend to anyone.

Seeing Sweet and Sour Chicken on the menu was a huge surprise, and I happily devoured these as I haven't eaten this dish since going gluten free years ago.

Finally, onto dessert. As a gluten free diner, dessert is something that I would normally pass on. I'm not a huge fan of ice-cream or any other creamy dessert to be honest, and I'd rather sacrifice a dessert and eat a start and a main course usually, as gluten free options are so limited.

At Henry Wong, I couldn't believe the amount of choice available. As well as an enormous fresh fruit platter, there was also Alabama Fudge Cake and Strawberry Cheesecake.

The only problem here was that I had overindulged and by this point, it was too late to turn back. The owner was keen to explain he had searched high and low for the best gluten free desserts, and I too am confident that they've done well to find these two particular cakes. The chocolate cake was soft, spongy and although rich, not too sickly. The cheesecake was also sweet but fresh and again, delicious. Neither of these cakes tasted like a gluten free substitute, and I'm sure anyone would be hard pressed to know the difference.

In amongst all this delicious food, there was also plenty of wine on offer which I'm afraid I didn't try. However, I was also made a very special variation on the Pornstar Martini with a Raspberry twist, which was also very well executed and not too sweet.

Everything from service, to portion sizes, quality of ingredients, taste and variety was exceptionally good at Henry Wong. Star dishes such as the Honey Pepper King Prawns and Soft Shell Crab are worth making a special trip for, and it's incredible to see dishes that have been created to be gluten free without compromising on taste. These are dishes that any guest would be delighted to eat, and not just an afterthought. Henry Wong is clearly a trailblazer in the field of gluten free Cantonese food, and I would go so far as to say it is probably one of the best restaurants for gluten free Cantonese food in the country.

I would definitely dine here again, and in fact, will be back in November to celebrate a family birthday; I'll just have to try and get the others to keep their hands off my gluten free dishes!

*With thanks to Henry Wong Harborne for the meal.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Food Review: Zen Metro Gluten Free Menu

Whilst we are usually spoiled for choice when it comes to curry in Birmingham, it can be somewhat harder to find a great spot for Thai and Pan Asian food in the city.

Recently opened on Cornwall Street in the Colmore Business District, Zen Metro has been newly refurbished and transformed into a stylish Zen space.

Open for lunch and dinner, by evening this has fast become a favourite for after work drinks amongst the stylish Colmore set serving delicious cocktails and more from the long bar.

However, I was invited to try out the menu and as always, was on the lookout to see how gluten free friendly the restaurant is.

Round the corner and past the bar lies a beautiful restaurant space, and at it's centre, a stunning cherry blossom tree. Behind here, in the glass walled private dining space, we sat down to enjoy our thai dinner.

Starting off with the obligatory crackers, we took a look at the dinner menu and I was helpfully given my very own gluten free menu; we were off to a good start.

I noticed the set menu for £24.95 (minimum four guests) which seemed great value for two pre-starters, four starters, four mains and a choice of dessert, especially since it includes many favourites including Tom Yum, Chicken Satay, Green Curry and Massaman Curry. 

There was a huge amount of choice on the gluten free menu and I was glad to see my favourites were on there, including a whole host of Thai curries.

I opted for the Chargrilled Jumbo Prawn (£8.95). Usually served on fried noodles with a garlic and chilli dressing, my dish was altered slightly to exclude the noodles and instead come with a sweet chilli sauce.

The prawns were absolutely huge, meaty and tender topped off with a sweet chilli sauce. They were that good, I could have eaten them plain and they would have still been delicious.

I quickly polished these off before our mains arrived. I opted for Green Curry, with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, green beans and basil leaves (£13.95) with steamed jasmine rice (£3.25).

As well as coming out at a very generous portion size, my Thai Green Curry was everything you expect from the dish. Smooth, creamy, with large pieces of soft chicken, this was perfect with the plain rice. Besides a few spicy peas which made this spicier than normal, the dish itself is creamy and mild.

Although we could have stopped here, we couldn't help but take a peek at the dessert menu. Although there were a few gluten free options including ice cream, creme brulee and creme caramel, I decided instead for a glass of dessert wine which was a delicious sweet way to end the meal. 

Throughout the evening, the service was fantastic, with the waiters topping up our water glasses and very well versed in the gluten content on the meals.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at ZEN Metro. From the stylish, luxurious and comfortable surrounds to the quality and taste of the food, as well as the portion sizes, I wouldn't hesitate to come back here again for a fabulous Thai meal.

*Thank you to the team at ZEN Metro for the meal and for looking after us.