Wednesday 29 March 2017

Food Review: 1580 Restaurant, Sutton Coldfield

What's significant about the year 1580? 1580 is in fact the year that Sir Francis Drake set off to circumnavigate the globe, becoming the first Englishman to do so.  On his travels, he discovered gold and silver as well as more significantly, spices.

Back to Sutton Coldfield. 1580 restaurant opened its doors a few weeks ago. Located on the Chester Road, the restaurant offers up a contemporary Indian dining in a perfectly formed restaurant adorned with images of boats and sails.

I was recently invited to sample the dishes on offer at a blogger night, where we were treated to a wide selection of dishes.

First up, appetisers. We were able to choose between meat and vegetarian options, and my table opted for meat. Before the Murgh Tikka, Lamb Chops, Kochi Kekraa and Zaffrani Bada Jingha Tikka was served up, we were first of all treated to a delicious and unusual plate of Masala Cone Poppadums (£1.95). These spicy cone shaped poppadums were served with plenty of condiments.

Our appetisers were soon with us, and we were soon tucking into dishes such as soft shell crab (£8.45), chicken tikka (£7.95), grilled jumbo tiger prawns (£11.45) and lamb chops (£9.95).

The chicken tikka pieces were large and tender, and the lamb chops were a standout for me thanks to the generous helping of warm spices applied generously.

For our main course, we again chose a meat option that included Bater Curry (£9.95), Murgh Tikka Masala (£8.45) and Pot Pepper Lamb Curry (£8.95), as well as two vegetarian options, Paneer Tikka Masala and Dal Makhani.

The Bater Curry was something very unusual; a quail dish. A tiny bird served whole and on the bone, this was a tasty, tender meat that had been carefully marinated in lime and spices.

All of the meat dishes were well cooked and included plenty of sauce, and my favourites were the vegetarian options.

Finally, there was also Gulab Jamun for dessert, which I skipped, but did of course photograph, served sundae style in a glass.

As well as excellent, attentive service, what marks out 1580 from other Indian restaurants is the more unusual dishes available. For example, the quail and the pork madras, a meat that is rarely seen on most Indian restaurant menu's, is what makes this restaurant different. This, alongside the fact there are plenty of family and group friendly platters available are what makes this a great choice for local, casual dining.

*With thanks to 1580 for the complimentary meal

Thursday 9 March 2017

Event: Pizza Making at Bardolino Birmingham with a Gluten-Free twist

If you're gluten-free or gluten-reducing, you'll know that pizza eating isn't always as simple as dialling up the nearest pizza place and picking your favourite topping. Instead, it's a carefully considered decision based around strategically identifying the nearest or best gluten free pizza provider and hoping your dining companions will agree to go along with your decision.

However, Bardolino Birmingham has come to the rescue, and as well as being popular for it's standard pizza's, is also offering gluten-free pizza for all you gluten-free girls!

I was invited along to a pizza making class at the canalside restaurant recently, where we were able to roll, toss and sprinkle our way to pizza joy.

When we arrived at Bardolino, we were able to prepare for our pizza making session and really get in the mood by donning chef's hats and some very classy navy and white striped aprons to keep our togs flour free.

In the middle of the room, the table was laid and laden with all manner of pizza toppings including mushrooms, spinach, salami and bresola as well as cheese and passata of course.

The team were really accommodating, and explained that although I was welcome to roll and throw my own normal pizza along with the rest of the group, when it came to eating, the chefs would prepare my gluten-free base in the kitchen to ensure there was no cross contamination.

Once we had taken our places at our stations, each place had a fresh ball of pizza dough ready to be kneaded. Our teacher showed us exactly how to mould out the dough, tease it out into a round pizza shape and finally, throw it! I only managed a very small throw for fear of it ending up on the floor!

Step 1 - Dough ball

Step 2 - Tease out the dough into a circle

Step 3 - Throw it!

Step 4 - Add passata

Step 5 - Add cheese

Step 6 - The final product (nearly)

Now onto the toppings, we were like children in a candy store! With so many fresh toppings to choose from, it was tough to decide exactly what to put on my pizza. In the end, I decided to go for symmetry and added spinach, tomato and prosciutto.

This one was just for show however, and my pizza was expertly made in the kitchen and featured spinach, mushroom, bresola beef and an egg in the middle.

Finally, after all that hard work, we were able to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labour; don't worry, the pizza I made did not go to waste! My gluten-free pizza was delicious, very crispy, light and the ingredients were delicious and high quality.

I had a great time making pizza with the Birmingham bloggers and would definitely come back again.

*With thanks to Bardolino.

Monday 6 March 2017

Event: Making Mussels at Cheval Blanc, Moseley

A warm bowl of steaming hot mussels is a rare treat, especially in landlocked Birmingham, where seafood is a speciality rarely enjoyed.

But wait! Cheval Blanc in Moseley invited myself and Emily from Good Girl Gone Brum to learn how to make this delicious delicacy.

A weekly addition to the menu, mussels can be enjoyed at Cheval Blanc every Saturday and Sunday in a variety of forms for just £5. Served with crusty sourdough bread, it can also be matched to a delicious wine for an additional fiver.

Prior to the hard work commencing, we were able to sit at the bar and enjoy a tipple or two. Despite Cheval Blanc being a wine bar, I decided on a G&T instead whilst Emily went for a more traditional approach and enjoyed a glass of wine.

Back to our lesson. We were invited into the kitchen with Cyd to learn how to tempt these fleshy morsels to flavour greatness. At the back of the Moseley restaurant is the kitchen where Cyd whips up dishes such as venison carpaccio, pate and arancini. 

Here, Cyd went through the process of showing us how to make a beautiful bowl of Curry Madras Mussels. 

(Serves two)

500g mussels per person
15g finely chopped shallots
15g grated carrots
1tbsp chopped chives
2 tsp curry madras powder
10cl white wine
10cl double cream


Warm up 1tbsp clarified butter in a pan. Raise the heat to 220 degrees, add shallots and carrots followed by curry madras. Add white wine, let it reduce, add double cream and let it reduce until almost dry. Cook for a few minutes. Add a sprinkle of chives and voila!

The lesson was filmed for the Cheval Blanc website and the link to the video is here if you'd like to see Cyd in action and hear me talk about the evening.

Of course, we had to taste test the final product and I can definitely say that I will be back for another serving of these delicious delights.

*With thanks to Cheval Blanc Moseley for the cookery class and complimentary mussels.