Monday 28 November 2016

Event: New Cocktail Menu Launch at Bar Opus

Anyone who loves cocktails will agree that being given the chance to try 12 cocktails on a school night is an exciting, and dangerous prospect.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a winter cocktail menu tasting at Bar Opus and got to try their new menu. With 12 different cocktails on the list, it was a mammoth task, but someone has to do it!

Bar Opus is just around the corner from Snow Hill station, making it a great option for anyone who wants to forgo a taxi. As it's in the Colmore Business District, it's great for anyone who works in the area and is always a lively choice for after work drinks.

We were given the Bar Opus cocktail masterclass experience, and following a demonstration of how to make each cocktail, we were then able to try a sample of each. 

First up was the Milk Punch, made from Maker's Mark, Kraken rum, vanilla syrup, half and half and nutmeg. As you can imagine, this was quite a sweet and creamy drink, and personally I tend to avoid dairy. However it was a very festive drink so perfect for the time of year.

Next, I thought I'd share with you my favourite of the bunch, the Hereford Scrambler. With Chase Rhubarb Vodka, Chase Blackcurrant Liquer, lime, lemon and soda, this absolutely hit the spot for me. A combination of sweet and sour, this is just right for my tastebuds.   

My second favourite was the Clover Club. A combination of Martin Miller's Gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth, lemon juice, raspberries and egg, this had the same combination of sweet and sour that I enjoyed in the Hereford Scrambler. It did however come in a slightly more photogenic glass!

Here's the Missionary's Downfall, made from White Rum, peach liqueur, lime juice, syrup and pineapple. For me this was a great combination of sweet and sharp.

How about the Old Kokonut? I love Koko Kanu and this is the first time I've tried it in a cocktail. Here it's served with Prosecco, Angostura bitters, mint, lime juice and syrup.

The Opus Manhattan is Bar Opus's take on the Manhattan, featuring Nikka Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Japanese Plum Liqueur, mulled spices and Angostura Bitters. 

When was the last time you saw Port listed as an ingredient in a cocktail? In the Port Cobbler it takes centre stage and is served with Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, Grand Marnier, lemon and syrup.

This is the Cowboy Hoof Martini. I'm not sure why it's called this but it was a very good, strong Martini nonetheless.

The Pear and Cardamom Sidecar includes Cointreau, pear brandy, lemon and Cardamom, and although unusual, really works. 

For Prosecco lovers, there is of course the Ginger Bellini, which is again a great drink for the festive season. 

Sadly, I wasn't able to try the English Collins or Beggar's Banquet due to time restrictions, but hopefully you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Bar Opus.

There was a great selection of cocktails for all tastes, with some sweet, some sour and some dry cocktails on the menu. I loved how inventive the drinks on offer were and the way that the team have found creative ways to use old favourites such as port and Cointreau.

A huge thanks to the team at Bar Opus for having us! 

Thursday 17 November 2016

Event: Cafe Rouge Secret Steak Supper Club

Cafe Rouge is one of my go-to spots for dining. As naughty as the menu can be, I try to pick a steak with salad if I'm in need of a treat.

I was recently invited down to try out the new Autumn menu at Cafe Rouge at The Mailbox as part of their Secret Steak Supper Club series.

Greeted with fizz and canapés, I held out on these as I knew we were in for an evening of dining.

Sitting down at the long banqueting style table, I sat down next to the lovely Sian Victoria and her mum, and we spent the evening talking all things blogging.

After an introduction to the Supper Club, we were invited to choose a starter from the menu before the team from Matthew Clark came around to go through the wine list.

I ordered the Pate, with gluten free bread, my mum ordered the same but not gluten free, and Sian had the Crevettes.

My pate was perfection; a huge portion that was more than enough to cover the two small slices of gluten free toast it was served with, alongside some fabulous spiced apple and pear chutney.

Sian's prawns were large and meaty and had really beautiful colour too.

Next, we were educated a little in wine, with the team explaining that all the wines were picked to be easy drinking styles. We were able to try three reds; a malbec, merlot and cabernet, and these were all native to south France.

By now, it was time for steak tasting! We gathered round to try cuts of sirloin, fillet and cote de boeuf, alongside dauphinoise potatoes, green beans, and more sauces than you can shake a stick at.

Cote de Boeuf



Dauphinoise Potatoes

There was a mad rush for the steak and many approving sounds coming from the assembled audience! Thankfully, I was able to try all three steaks as well as some of the fabulous sauces. I love any kind of steak, but I have to say it was a rare treat to try the fillet; a perfectly pink piece of perfection. 

As for the sauces, if you haven't been ordering them you've been missing out. There are six sauces o accompany steaks on the menu including bordelaise gravy with bone marrow, beef dripping Merlot gravy, snails and garlic butter (I didn't try that one!), peppercorn, Bearnaise and Roquefort. Most of these are gluten free too.

After all this, we were still only halfway through and went back to our seats to order our mains. I went for the Confit de Canard, as it's something I wouldn't usually try. Mine was served without the cherry or orange sauce, as I assume this is not gluten free, but it did come with gluten free dauphinoise potatoes (shock!) and green beans. My duck was beautiful, crispy on the outside, but a rare indulgence. The dauphinoise potatoes were divine, however, and I will definitely be ordering these again.

I also tried some further sides for extra vitamins, including the Spinach and Green Beans.

My mum opted for another steak and Sian went for the tart.

I did of course steal a few chips, and I adore the crispy french fries served at Cafe Rouge.

If you thought we were skipping dessert, you'd be wrong, and we did manage to try some of the desserts thanks to a mini sharing platter. This contained the Rum Baba, Tarte au Citron, Creme Brulee and Tart aux Pommes.

Incredibly, the Creme Brulee and Tarte au Citron are both gluten free, and it was a real pleasure to enjoy the lemon tart as it's so rare to find this made gluten free.

The whole supper club experience was really fun and friendly, a great way to meet people and socialise, and a good opportunity to try out new dishes.

I'd really recommend trying out the new autumn menu, especially for any gluten free readers as there was plenty of choice, and the main menu itself is marked G or GO to indicate dishes that are gluten free or can be made gluten free.

*Thank you to the team at Cafe Rouge for inviting us to dine complimentary.

Friday 11 November 2016

Dining in style at Bullring

The Bullring is renowned for its fabulous array of stores, from Selfridges to Topshop and everything in between; but even the most seasoned shopper needs to rest and refuel.

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, the centre is open from 10am-8pm most days, which means there’s plenty of opportunity to dine in style. Whether you’re craving a breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner, there’s something for every taste at Bullring.

Here's my cut out and keep guide to dining at Bullring.

10am – Breakfast at Bill’s

Since arriving at the centre last year, Bill’s has fast become a popular spot. Famous for Bill’s Breakfast, their version of a full English, there’s also a great pancake stack and even granola and porridge available. I recommend the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast at £7.95 (gluten-free for me) for a picture-perfect breakfast.

That’s not to say you can’t visit later on of course, as Bill’s serves a regular lunch and dinner menu after 12pm and even cocktails and mocktails in the evening. What’s great about Bill’s is the beautiful terrace outside overlooking St. Martin in the Bullring Church. It doesn’t get more Instagram worthy than this!

Breakfast is served at Bill’s until 12pm Monday-Friday and until 1pm on weekends. Prices start from £3.95.

12.30pm – A pick me up from Boost

Boost juice bars serve healthy smoothies and juices across the UK. We’re lucky enough to have a Boost in Bullring too, which is great for those times when you want a healthy treat. As well as serving juices, low fat smoothies, super smoothies and fruit crushes, you can also grab a booster or wheatgrass shot if you’re feeling extra virtuous.

My favourite is the Wild Berry Juice (£5.10) made from freshly juiced pineapple, apple, raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants plus an extra energiser and booster for a guilt-free and lactose-free treat.

3pm – Afternoon tea at The Balcony

By now you should be suitably weary and in need of a sweet treat or two. Thankfully, The Balcony in Selfridges serves a fashionable Afternoon Tea that comes served in a hatbox! Overlooking the Centre and operated by Searcy’s, the focus is of course on Champagne, cocktails and even skinny cocktails. Just like fashion, the food follows the season and changes regularly, but you can always rely on the afternoon tea.

Served from 3pm, the Afternoon Sweet Shop, as it is known, serves two and includes scones, clotted cream and jam, a selection of mini cakes and a selection of seasonal sandwiches. If you’re feeling indulgent, there is also the option to add a glass of Champagne too. Afternoon Tea starts at £35 for two people or £56 for two, including Champagne. Dietary requirements can be catered to if called in advance.

7pm – Dinner at Chaophraya

After all that eating, any shopper should be satiated until evening; luckily, Chaophraya is open until 10pm, like much of Spiceal Street, the food hub of Bullring.

Chaophraya is a Thai restaurant with style, featuring a contemporary interior, open kitchen and a beautiful terrace for outdoor dining. With all the Thai favourites you’d expect including starters such as Chicken Satay, Spare Ribs, Chicken Spring Rolls and Tom Yum, you’ll be spoiled for choice. I went for the Chicken Satay (£7.95) and Pad Thai (£9.95) but I also especially love the Thai Red Prawn Curry. My companion dined on the Crispy Pork Belly with Thai Basil (£9.95) served with Jasmine Rice. If you’re heading here for lunch instead, don’t forget to take advantage of the set lunch menu, offering two-courses for £11.95.

8pm – Closing cocktails at The Balcony

If you’re visiting the Bullring from Thursday-Saturday, it’s worth popping into The Balcony for a nightcap before closing time. By now, you should have shopped to your heart’s content and refuelled enough times to maintain the stamina required to explore every single store!

Cocktails average £9.95 but include the fabulous Size 0, made with vodka, watermelon, cucumber and cranberry juice.

I was able to enjoy one of the daily specials when I visited, but I’d highly recommend the Selfridges Passion, available exclusively at The Balcony, made of Absolut Blue Vodka and Passoa with fresh passion fruit, grenadine, mint, apple juice and a hint of lime.

Hair by Umberto Giannini Selfridges

Make Up by Bobbi Brown Selfridges