Friday 30 June 2017

Food Review: Tapas Revolution Grand Central Birmingham Summer Menu

Tapas is such a great dish to gather around. A table full to bursting with small, delectable plates of yum should only be shared with great friends.

I was invited to try out the new Summer menu at Tapas Revolution in Grand Central, Birmingham and invited along a relative to join me for some summer bites.

Located in Grand Central, Tapas Revolution is the brainchild of Omar Allibhoy, Spanish chef, cookbook author and a regular on our TV screens.

This talented Spaniard opened Tapas Revolution Birmingham back in 2015, and it is often busy after work as people drop by to try out tapas, sangria and cocktails.

Settling into our booth with a view, we were able to take a peek at the cocktail menu first and went for some fruitier options to start with. We ordered the Passion Fruit and Marzipan Batida and Blood Orange and Cherry Royal.

With an entirely separate gluten free menu, I was pleased to see that many of the dishes on the main menu are perfectly fine to eat for gluten free guests.

With this in mind, we decided to order dishes that were suitable for both of us including the Marinated Beef Skewers with Spicy Sauce (Pinchos morunas con mojo picon), Paella Valenciana, Tiger Prawns in garlic and chilli oil (Gambas al ajillo), Black Rice with Prawns and Squid (Arroz Negro) and of course Patatas Bravas.

The dishes were brought out quickly, and as they were ready, which meant we could tuck into dishes whilst they were hot.

My favourite dish had to be the black rice paella; a combination of salty flavours and meaty pieces of squid, the flavour balance for me was just right.

The classic paella was also delicious, and the prawns were a good sized portion too. Patatas Bravas was well cooked but not burnt, with enough sauce to cover each piece.

The prawns were heavy on the garlic, but still very enjoyable and a good portion.

Finally the beef skewers. The sauce was for me a touch too spicy but still delicious.

By now it was time to order another cocktail! This time we went for matching martinis, I for the Espresso Blanco Martini and my relative, the sparkling Rose Margerita.

I could enjoy the Tapas Revolution version of the Espresso Martini any day of the week, but I probably shouldn't!

A few hours hours later, we left Tapas Revolution feeling very satisfied. The service we received was excellent, extremely friendly and the restaurant has a great laid back, post work vibe. Our dishes were all satisfying and I'm pleased with what we chose. Next time, I would perhaps have had another dish or two depending on how hungry you are.

There are a number of offers worth checking out too, including the £9.95 lunch deal, half price Sangria jugs and two-for-one Gin and tonic's from 4-7pm, Sunday-Friday.

Thank you to the team at Tapas Revolution for a great meal!

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Event: Pirlo's Dessert Lounge First Birthday Party and Gluten Free Cakes

There's a problem with dieting, and here's what it is. No diet food will ever taste as delicious as a chocolate brownie or a red velvet cheesecake.

Now with that out the way, let's talk about desserts!

As much as I try to eat healthily, most of the time, once in a while you just have to treat yourself to a chocolate covered, cream filled slice of heaven. That's where Pirlo's Dessert Lounge comes in. Handily located just behind the Bullring, Pirlo's serves up delicious desserts, monster sundae's and more. What's even better is that they have a pretty good gluten free selection too; it would be rude not to try them out.

I was invited to celebrate Pirlo's first birthday in the best way possible; with cake. I, along with a group of bloggers, made it into Pirlo's to celebrate with mocktails and desserts that were bigger and better than your average restaurant pudding.

Starting off with mocktails and smoothies, we were soon presented with a host of desserts to photograph and enjoy.

This included the Pirlo's Big Waffle, Choc O Holic Crepe, The Wild One Crepe, Red Velvet Cake and Milk Chocolate Fondue.

Onto the crepes and waffles, look at the size of these!

 Choc O Holic Crepe
 Pirlo's Big Waffle
Wild One Crepe

Here's a picture of the milk chocolate fondue too.

Not only did we get try to try all of this, I was also able to try out some of the gluten free options; the gluten free chocolate cake and the gluten free chocolate brownie.

Now, excuse me whilst I head to the gym!

*With thanks to Delicious PR for the invitation

Monday 12 June 2017

Event: Hotel Du Vin Spring Menu Launch

With a name like Hotel Du Vin, it's no surprise that a new menu tasting at the Birmingham branch of the hotel involved copious amounts of the red and white stuff.

A firm favourite in the city for pre work breakfasts, after work drinks and everything in between, Hotel Du Vin has just released it's Spring Menu; and invited a bunch of bloggers along to try it out.

Starting off the evening with a little blind champagne tasting, we were invited to taste test a Champagne, English sparkling, prosecco and a French Cremant. Simon Carlo from Meat and One Veg was undoubtedly the winner in this game, but the taking part was pretty fun too.

We were invited into the main restaurant to sit at a King Arthur style round table, where there was food and wine flowing throughout the evening.

Presented with both the A La Carte and Fixed Price Spring Menu, we were spoilt for choice. Although a difficult decision, I chose from the main menu, but made sure to take photographs of some of the other options available to give you a taste of what's available.

The Spring Menu is a steal at £17.95 for two courses or £20.95 for three. With starters including octopus, watercress and spinach soup and air dried ham, the main selection includes mackerel, gnocchi a burger and a salad option.  

I opted for the Salmon and Wye Smoked Salmon Classic, which was recommended to me by the waiting team. What arrived was a plate covered in delicious slithers of smoked salmon, topped off with soft yolked quail eggs and scattered with greenery including shallots, capers and cornichons. A delicious, protein packed and healthy summer starter, this was all the more delicious when eaten with the mounds of fresh bread we were provided with. The smaller bread basket is my own special portion of gluten free bread, whilst the larger basket contained choices such as tomato and walnut breads.

This was also accompanied with a choice of white wines; I opted for the Pinot Blanc.

Some of the other delicious looking starters included the Scallop Ceviche and Soft Boiled Goosnargh Duck Egg with Asparagus Soldiers.

Onto the main course, I opted for the Rack of Yorkshire Dales Lamb, pea, bean and goats curd salad. At £26.95, this is one of the most expensive main course options from the menu. However, the dish that I ate was absolutely delicious. Pink, moist, tender lamb cutlets nestled on a light curd and vegetables, this was again, a filling but light option, which is exactly what you'd want from a summer menu.

A few other notable menu options included the Black and Blue burger, featuring a distinctive black bun, and the Aubergine Caponata and Grilled Halloumi.

Our mains were served with a selection of sides including Parmentier Potatoes, Chantenay Carrots and Sauteed Spinach, along with a red wine selection.

Finally, it was time for my favourite wine choice of the day, the dessert wine. Both of these wines were delicious, the Royal Tokaji was light and honey tainted whilst the Alcyone was rich and syrupy.

I couldn't decide on a dessert, but went for a light option of Peach Melba from the Fixed Price Summer Menu.

Others, however, went for the Crepes Suzette, which was an inspired choice as it meant we were able to watch the show as the trolley was wheeled out and the flames started leaping. 

The Chocolate Bombe was also a theatrical affair, with a caramel sauce that was dripped onto the chocolate sphere to melt it away and reveal the insides.

By now, having eaten our way through the menu and tried some of the best wines Hotel Du Vin has to offer, our meal had come to an end.

Hotel Du Vin offers up a warm and relaxed dining experience in comfortable and refined surroundings. Although civilised, this is a place that isn't pretentious, but is still special. All of the food we enjoyed was good quality, delicately cooked, and with attention to detail. The presentation of every dish was carefully considered, and the service was faultless. For a special meal that's not going to leave you hungry for more, I'd be back in a heartbeat.

*With thanks to Delicious PR for the invitation

Friday 2 June 2017

Event: Gaucho Beef and Malbec Evening

Beef vs Malbec; which is your favourite? Thankfully, I didn't have to pick when I was invited to a beef and Malbec evening at newly opened Birmingham city centre hotspot, Gaucho.

Just around the corner from Colmore Row, Gaucho is a dark and brooding addition to the City dining scene, offering up a sensual serving of wine, beef and of course some lighter options.

Under the inquisitive gaze of our fellow diners, I along with a select group of bloggers was invited into the private dining room to learn a thing or two about steak and Malbec.

Hosted by Phil Crozier, affectionately known as Mr Argentina and Fernando Larroude, Gaucho's in-house beef expert, we were able to try out different cuts of steak, as well as matched wine to go with each cut.

Starting off with a little history of cattle farming in Argentina, Fernando explained how Angus breeding was taken from Scotland to Argentina in 1879, when two cows and one bull were taken over. There are now roughly 30 million Aberdeen Angus in Argentina, all grazing freely in the countryside. 

Next, we learnt that cows are on birth control (!) and that it's better to calf in winter as there is less disease around at this time of year.

Onto the hard stuff, the male cows are castrated at a few months old because this affects the meat, making it more tender, before being slaughtered at 24 months on average.

Interestingly, beef can be dry or wet aged; whilst dry aged beef loses weight, creates a dark crust and a more intense flavour, wet ageing is used when the beef is vacuum packed and sent abroad, thus keeping the meat in its own juices.

As you can see, we were then shown a whole range of beef cuts, presented in anatomically correct order; veggies look away now!

These are; the rib eye, sirloin, the flank at the top, the skirt at the bottom, the fillet which is under the sirloin, the rump cap at the end which is coated in fat, and the rump.

Onto the wine; Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, with 85% of produce remaining in the country. Argentinian wine represents just 2% of the UK wine market, however. The first vines were planted in in 1553; seven varieties from France including two white and five red. These vines are the oldest in the world as a disease wiped out Europe's vines. All the wine on the Gaucho wine list is from Argentina, of course.

Back to the beef; we taste tasted a rump vs a fillet, with surprising results. We took the plunge and conducted this test on uncooked beef, topped with chimichurri; and it was delicious! Both cuts were beautiful, even raw, but it was interesting that the rump was more flavoursome than expected.

Our next taste test was conducted on cooked meat, where we tried picanha, skirt and flank. Apparently, flank is the most popular cut of in Argentina, and I can see why. Although I've never tried this particular cut before, I can say for certain that I would happily order this again on my next visit.

We were then able to try even more cuts, including rump, fillet, sirloin and rib eye. By this point, we were pretty much in steak heaven. We also matched the beef to the Malbec, pairing the rump with a Aniello Mainque Rio Negro 2015/16, the fillet with Finca Sophenia Anti Synthesis Uco Valley Mendoza 2014, the sirloin with Luigi Bosca DOC Vistalba 2014 and the rib eye with Colome Lote Especial El Arenal, Payogasta Salta 2014.

For me, as much as I love all steak, it was interesting to see how much more flavoursome these cuts were at gaucho than at other restaurants. Personally, I usually prefer a less fatty cut, which can sometimes dry out easier than say a rib eye. However, at Gaucho, every cut was delicious, flavoursome and moist; this was steak perfection.

The wine matching was also interesting, as we learnt that the fattier the steak, the more tannin needed in the wine to balance it out.

Finally, after a brief sojourn to mix and mingle with our fellow guests, we were also able to try the most delicious chocolate truffle matched to a Port style Malbec; Malamado Malbec. This was a sweet, liqueur wine that I am dying to try again.

What's the verdict on Gaucho? Great food, great wine and an even better atmosphere make Gaucho a welcome addition to Birmingham. By day, Gaucho will do well with the Colmore Row crowd, whilst by night, I can't think of anywhere better for a naughty date. 

*With thanks to Gaucho and Rewired PR for hosting the Beef and Malbec masterclass.